River City Camera Club
Helpful Information for Photographers

Using the Spot Removal tool in LR

  1. In the Develop module, select the Spot Removal tool from the toolstrip, or press Q.
  2. Select one of the following:
    1. (Optional) In the Spot Removal tool options area, drag the Size slider to specify the size of the area that the tool affects.

Heal Matches the texture, lighting, and shading of the sampled area to the selected area.
Clone Duplicates the sampled area of the image to the selected area.

You can scroll up/down to increase/decrease the radius of the tool. Or, your can use the bracket keys on your keyboard to change the brush size:

  • Left bracket ([) reduces the tool radius size.
  • Right bracket (]) increases the tool radius size.
  1. In the photo, click and drag the part of the photo to retouch.
  • A white marquee area designates your selection.
  • Another white marquee area with an arrow pointing at the selection designates the sampled area.


Identify the part of the image to clean and then use the Spot Removal tool to paint the area. Use the pins to reposition the selected or sample areas.


  1. (Optional) To change the sampled area that is selected by default, do one of the following:
  • Automatically Click the handle of a selected area, and press the forward slash key (/). A new area is sampled. Press the forward slash key until you find a sample area that fits best.
  • Manually Use the handle of the sampled area to drag and select a new area.

When you select larger portions of an image using longer strokes, the right sample area match is not found immediately. To experiment with various options, click the forward slash (/), and the tool auto-samples more areas for you.

  1. To remove all the adjustments made using the Spot Removal tool, click the Reset button below the toolstrip.

Keyboard shortcuts and modifiers

Circular spot:

  • Single click creates a circular spot, and automatically finds a source.
  • Control/Command + click to create a circular spot; drag to set the source of the spot.
  • Command/Control + Option/Alt + click to create a circular spot; drag to set the size of the spot.

Delete a selected area or spot:

  • Select a pin, and press Delete to remove the adjustment.
  • Press Option/Alt and click a spot to delete it.
  • Press Option/Alt and drag the mouse to draw a marquee, and automatically delete spots that are within the marquee.

The ‘Odd Rule’ of Composition

“Odd numbers are better than even ones in photography.” I heard about this ‘odd rule’ years ago in a magazine and laughed it off as the author having some sort of obsessive compulsive disorder – but ever since I heard it I’ve noticed that in the shots I take it is true. I’m not exactly sure why it works – but it does. Perhaps it’s about the balance that odd numbers create (there’s always one thing in the centre to give balance)? I find that three objects in a shot are particularly good. Five, Seven or more can work but you run the risk of clutter. Give it a try – it works!

The Adjustment Brush in Lightroom

The Difference Between Flow and Density

When using the Adjustment brush, the Flow sets speed of the adjustment made when painting. For example, if you set the Exposure slider to +2 and then set the Flow down to 25 and paint in the image, you will notice that it takes a longer to build up that +2 stops than if you had left the Flow setting at 100 (eventually though, it will get there). A low Flow setting can help when trying to slowly dodge and burn in an area of an image.

The Density slider caps amount of change that can be applied with a paint stroke. If you set the Exposure slider to +2 and then set the Density down to 50, no matter how long you paint, you will never get more of a change than 1/2 of the +2 (or +1 stop). At first I thought why not just reduce the slider to cap the maximum amount, but then I realized that I can set the sliders at the highest point I need for the image, then prevent overdoing the adjustment by setting the density slider to cap the adjustment in certain areas.

Long Exposure Noise Reduction

LENR  is based on the fact that two identical exposures that are shot successively will display the same noise characteristics. As long as the shutter speed, ISO, and temperature are the same, and as long as there has not been a long interval between the shots, each photo will have almost precisely the same noise. The noise records regardless of whether there is any light coming through the lens. In other words, you could put the lens cap on for one of the exposures and both photos will still display the same noise.

This is important because it gives the camera a way not only to measure the noise, but also to remove it. With LENR enabled, you shoot the photo just as you normally would, but after the exposure is finished, the camera takes a second exposure, using the same settings, but without allowing any light reaching the sensor. This second exposure records only the noise, the same noise that recorded on the first shot. So now the camera has two photos to work with, one with the image you shot, which we call the “light frame” and one that shows only the noise. The second frame is referred to as a “dark frame” because it did not record any light.

The software looks at the dark frame, measures all the noise, and determines precisely where it is located on the frame. Then it goes back to the light frame and plucks away all the noise that it measured. The process is called “dark frame subtraction.”

Unfortunately, LENR is not always a good thing. Since it doubles the exposure time, you can’t use it for some types of shots. For instance, you can’t shoot star trails. With star trails, you need the shortest interval between exposures as possible to prevent gaps between the trails. If you’re shooting 60-second exposures with LENR, you’re going to end up with 60-second gaps between the trails. Not good.

LENR also doesn’t work when shooting time lapses with an external intervalometer. LENR screws up the signal and causes the camera to shoot short exposures in between the desired ones.

Similarly, if you’re shooting a meteor shower or Lightning, you want your camera exposing for as much of the night as possible. You can bet that if you shoot meteors or lightning with LENR, the biggest and brightest fireballs of the night will occur while the camera is performing its dark frame subtractions.

The 500 Rule - The Secret of Sharp Stars

The Earth revolves on its axis once every 24 hours, at the equator it is rotating at an absurd 1000mph. This is why the stars appear to move across the sky every night; of course, they’re not moving, we are. The amount of apparent movement is a factor of how long the exposure is. There is a great guideline for how long you can open the shutter and STILL have sharp stars, that is, before the movement is visible in a final print or web post.


14mm                                   35.71 seconds

17mm                                   29.41 seconds

24mm                                   20.83 seconds

35mm                                   14.28 seconds

50mm                                   10 seconds

100mm                                  5 seconds

200mm                                 2.5 seconds

300mm                                 1.67 seconds

500mm                                  1 second


These times are just a guideline, because in a small web post you can get away with a little longer because the stars are so small. In a 60” print however, you may want to be even more cautious than these figures. The second consideration is in what direction you are pointing the camera. Around the poles, North and South the stars seem to move less, whereas East and West towards the Celestial Equator the stars will appear to move a lot more. For small prints or web posts, the 500 Rule guidelines can be relaxed and you can use the 600 Rule. The exact same principle with slightly longer exposure times.

How to Create a Watermark Brush in Photoshop

We’re going to look at two types of watermark here, using a logo (for those who have them) and a simple text-based brush.

Method 1: Use a Logo

Open your image or logo in Adobe Photoshop and make sure it’s of a large resolution on a transparent background. Click Edit and Define Brush Preset

Click Edit > Define Brush Preset

Name your brush something logical. Maybe "My Logo Square Large."

Hit OK. It really is as simple as that. Now to use your brush on an image, open up that image as you would usually, then select your brush tool:

Select your brush tool

Open up your brush options at the top (where the brush size is):

 Select your new watermark brush from the brush options

When you scroll down, you should see your new brush. Select it and pick an appropriate size. 

Create a New Layer (Control-Shift-N) and stamp the watermark on your image on a separate layer.


You may want to lower the opacity of the layer to blend the watermark more pleasingly.

Method 2: Use Text

If you don’t have a logo, or don’t want to use it for your watermark, then start a new document (make it a large one) and select the Type tool (T):


Use the Type tool to create your watermark

Type out what you’d like as your watermark (again, on a transparent background). If you’d like to use the copyright symbol a handy short cut is Alt-0169 which will give you a ©. Once you’ve done that, crop it in quite tight off and then follow the directions as in the method above: 

Edit > Define Brush Preset and there you have it.

Whether you choose to watermark or not is up to you and there is no right or wrong answer. Just consider what kind of watermark you have, its placement and its size so as not to put people off looking at your image.

The love of photography ....... blessing or curse -

 by Kevin Povenz

Sunday morning....... my alarm is set for 5:00 AM as the weather report from last night said partly cloudy with a chance of thunderstorms at daybreak. This to me is a perfect situation for an interesting sunrise. And me being me, I do not want to miss an opportunity. Well....my internal clock goes off at 4:30 this morning, not sure why this always happens, maybe it is the anticipation of going out and taking some photos. I shut my alarm off and as soon as my dog hears the click of me shutting off the alarm clock he is up and ready to go. My kids tell me that I must be the only one on earth that does not use their phone for an alarm clock. Call me old school but that is just the way that I am.


I get up out of bed because there is no way I will even get 20 minutes of sleep before the alarm goes off. I check my phone for the morning forecast and the radar shows that there is a line of thunderstorms moving across the lake. This looks very promising as I start to move about and get ready. The forecast is for the storm to arrive around 6:30, let’s see its 4:45....perfect. As I am getting ready I am constantly checking the radar as to what direction the storm line is moving and where would be a great spot to photograph the storm from. I decide on a spot that is about 10 miles straight south from my home. I have used this spot before that is on a dirt road by a farmer’s field to shoot lightning. It is one of the higher spots around that is open.


I get my gear in my Jeep in hopes that I will still be able to catch the sunrise and then the incoming storm. I open the garage door and check the clouds, a little thick but there are still some openings. So I head out at 5:15 thinking I will get into position around 5:30 (1/2 hour before sunrise) perfect to catch the morning sunrise. As I am driving closer to my spot I am noticing a change in the weather as the clouds close up and fog is developing. The closer I get the more fog we are getting. By the time I get to my spot it is pretty foggy and cloudy, this is not good. I check on my phone with a lightning app that tells you where all the lightning strikes have been in the last hour or so. I see that where I am located now there won't be much lightning from this incoming storm cell to photograph. Crap....


I continue to study my weather apps and figure I must drive to the north side of town to get a chance at lightning. Before I take off I attach my lightning trigger to my Canon 7d Mark II and set up my Canon 60d for time lapse photography. I am all set as I carefully set the cameras on the front seat and head back north. As I am driving and looking I notice that this line of thunderstorms is moving more north and I probably will not be able to catch it. Then all of a sudden it starts to rain, this is not good when trying to capture lightning as your camera is better off not getting soaked in a downpour.


Well....I pull into a school parking lot and sit, going to wait it out and see what happens. Looking again at my weather apps I see that the rain clouds are increasing and will not stop raining for quite some time. How depressing!!


I got up way to early, drove around hopelessly trying to find a location to shoot an incoming storm only to have the rain arrive before the storm clouds do and the lightning fizzles out. Such is the life of the weekend photographer. As I am sitting there I begin to wonder about this love of photography that I have, is this a blessing or a curse. You see I could be back home in bed not worrying if I might miss "the shot". I have to admit that this happens more times than I want to admit. Well I head back home disappointed that all I got was a photo of raindrops on the windshield, maybe I can catch a couple hours of sleep on the couch before church.


Blessing or curse???


You bought a professional piece of camera equipment. You purposely didn’t buy a simple point-and-shoot, and you want something with more creative control than your iPhone. But you can’t expect to master that complicated piece of equipment by going out and shooting once or twice a month.

1.      Get out and shoot more. It’s a really simple time-tested formula that works every single time you try it: Practice = Improvement. It’s easy… the more you shoot, the more you’ll start to remember and understand those settings.

2.      However if shooting more really isn’t an option. Sit down with your camera every day for 2-3 weeks (for 10 minutes), and go through the menus and settings that you use a lot. At the end of those two weeks, you’ll feel so comfortable with your camera that you won’t think twice about changing settings the next time you go shoot.

Memory Card Data Recovery

You have been traveling in Europe and have some great photos of the Rhine River. You have been sightseeing in South Dakota and have some great shots of the Badlands. Or you spent a weekend at the beach with the Grandkids and you captured some priceless memories.

You get home and you put your memory card into the computer and you find that the card is corrupted. Or you accidentally delete some photos by mistake. Or you format over the wrong card by mistake.

Do Not Panic. Most important of all, do not write to this card.

It is possible that your photos can be saved. There are many software tools available today that can recover photos and files from memory cards that are at this state.

Some of these options are free and some cost dollar’s. Some places to explore further are:

4 Best Photo Recovery Software for PC and Mac

3 Ways to Recover Deleted Pictures, Fix a Damaged Card and More

How to Perform Free SD Card Recovery


I hope these resources help you save some great photos or possible lost memories.

Focus Stacking

Steps for Shooting Landscapes for Focus Stacking

  1. Place the camera on a sturdy tripod – a must!
  2. Frame the subject and compose the shot.
  3. Determine exposure for the scene, and set the camera to manual mode, to ensure that the exposure is constant for every image.
  4. Set the camera to Live View and aim the focus point on the nearest object desired to be in focus. Use the camera’s zoom (+ button, not zoom on the lens) to preview the focus through Live View. Then switch to manual focus and use the focus ring to fine tune for sharpness if necessary.
  5. Take the first exposure.
  6. Without moving the camera or adjusting any settings, move the focus point to an object mid-way in the image and refocus.
  7. Take the second exposure.
  8. Again, without changing anything, refocus on an object at the farthest point of the intended image.
  9. Take the third exposure.
    To capture landscapes, three images are generally all that is necessary to create sharp focus stacking images, but it’s completely fine to take extra images to make sure that the entire scene is covered.

Macro Photography

Macro photography can benefit from focus stacking more than any other type of photography, because a macro lens has an extremely shallow depth of field.

  1. Place the camera on a sturdy tripod – a must!
  2. Frame the subject and compose the shot.
  3. Determine the exposure for the subject, and set the camera to manual mode to ensure that the exposure remains constant for each and every image.
  4. Set the camera to Live View and aim the focus point on the nearest object desired to be in focus. Use the camera’s zoom (+ button, not zoom on the lens) to preview the focus through Live View. Then switch to manual focus and use the focus ring to fine tune for sharpness if necessary.
  5. Take the first exposure.
  6. Without moving the camera or adjusting any settings, move the focus point to a distance slightly farther away from the lens. Remember that DOF in macro will be measured in fractions of an inch, instead of feet, as in landscape photography.
  7. Repeat step 6 as many times as needed to cover every aspect of the subject’s DOF. This could range from as few as six images to 30+ images.

Processing the Final Images

Processing the files to accomplish the final image may seem like the most difficult part of creating a focus stacked image, but it’s really very simple to do in Photoshop. Here’s how:

  1. Open Photoshop
  2. Get each image on a separate layer: Under File, choose Scripts and Load files into stack. Click Browse and select all the images.
  3. Check the box for Attempts to Automatically Align Source Images.
  4. Click OK and each of the images will open into a new layer in Photoshop.
  5. Open the Layer palette and select All Layers.
  6. Under Edit, select Auto-Blend Layers.
  7. Check the box for Stack Images and Seamless Tones and Colors. Optionally, select Content Aware Fill Transparent Areas, which will fill any transparent areas generated by aligning images in step 3. (Be aware this will increase processing time. Generally, I do not choose this option; rather, I just crop the image slightly later, if necessary.)
  8. Click OK
  9. Flatten the image by selecting Layer/Flatten image and save.


The Dangers of Synchronize Folder

“Synchronize Folder.” Sounds safe enough, doesn’t it. And it IS safe enough… as long as you read and understand the dialog. But how many of us hit OK on dialogs without first stopping to read them? I’ll admit, I’ve done it too. If you do that with the Synchronize Folder dialog, you can get into all sorts of trouble, so let’s take the time to read it properly…

The main purpose of Library menu > Synchronize Folder (also found in the folders right-click menu) is to update Lightroom’s catalog with changes made to the selected folder by other programs, for example, adding or deleting photos or updating the metadata.

  • Import new photos searches the folder and subfolders for any new photos not currently in this catalog and imports them.
  • Show import dialog before importing displays the photos in the Import dialog, to allow you to view the new photos and adjust the import options prior to import.
  • Remove missing photos from the catalog checks for photos that have been moved, renamed or deleted from the folder and removes the missing photos from the catalog. If in doubt, leave this option unchecked, as you’ll lose all of the work you’ve done to the missing photos.
  • Scan for metadata updates checks the metadata in the catalog against the file, to see whether you’ve edited the metadata in any other programs, such as Adobe Bridge. (For a complete discussion of XMP metadata, see pages 128-129 and pages 343-346 in my Lightroom CC/6 book.)
  • The Show Missing Photos button searches for photos missing from the folder and creates a temporary collection in the Catalog panel. You can then decide whether to track them down and relink them, or whether to remove these photos from the catalog.

But stop! Before you press the Synchronize button, stop and think. If Remove missing photos from the catalog has a number next to it and you synchronize that folder, you may lose the work you’ve done in Lightroom. It doesn’t intelligently relink missing files. Instead, you need to cancel out of the Synchronize Folder dialog and manually relink the missing files.

Synchronize Folder is also the wrong tool to use when moving photos to a new hard drive, or moving to entirely new computer.

So when is it useful? If you’ve dropped photos into a folder using other software (including Windows Explorer/Finder), or you’ve edited a photo in an external editor (e.g. Photoshop or OnOne) and it hasn’t been automatically added to the catalog, then Synchronize Folder saves you navigating to the folder in the Import dialog.

Next time you need to use Synchronize Folder, don’t forget to stop and read the options carefully before pressing OK.

What is Reciprocal Rule?

Due to the fact that we as humans cannot be completely still, particularly when hand-holding an object like a camera, the movements caused by our bodies can cause camera shake and introduce blur to images. The basic premise of the reciprocal rule is that the shutter speed of your camera should be at least the reciprocal of the effective focal length of the lens.

Say you are shooting with a zoom lens like an 80 – 400mm on a full-frame camera. All the rule is stating, is that if you are shooting at 80mm, your shutter speed should be set to at least 1/80th of a second, whereas if you zoom in to say 400mm, your shutter speed should be at least 1/400th of a second. Using such fast shutter speeds should prevent blur by camera shake. Why? Because there is a direct correlation between focal length and camera shake – the longer the focal length, the more potential there is for camera shake.

Effective Focal Length

Please note that I used the word “effective focal length” in the definition and gave you an example with a full-frame camera. If you have a camera with a smaller sensor than 35mm / full-fame, (and most entry-level DSLRs and mirrorless cameras have smaller sensors), you first have to compute the effective focal length, also known as “equivalent field of view”, by multiplying the focal length by the crop factor. So if you use the same 80-400mm lens on a camera with a 1.5x crop factor and you are shooting at 400mm, your minimum shutter speed should be at least 1/600th of a second (400 x 1.5 = 600).


Selective focus is a rather self-explanatory term: you focus on the specific part of a subject you want to highlight or emphasize, and you “ignore” the rest, letting it fall into the blur of the background or the foreground.  Selective focus is often used to draw attention to a subject or part of a subject and evoke a contemplative mood when viewing the subject in context of its blurred but recognizable surroundings. As you might have surmised, selective focus is achieved by using shallow depth of-field. Shallow depth-of-field has a magical way of adding some serious “pop” to an image, from portraits to macros.

In selective focus photography, the in focus parts and out of focus parts are equally important, but nothing about the technique is particularly difficult.

Given that selective focus is about zoning in on a specific part of a scene and throwing the rest out of focus, you’ll want to use a large aperture — at least f/2.8. Be sure to check your focus, as accurate focusing becomes a bit more difficult when working with shallow depth-of-field.

Use your longest lens or a zoom lens extended to the far end of its range. Longer focal lengths create a compression effect that throws the background out of focus.

Keep Composition in Mind - Put the subject in focus in such a place that allows the viewer’s eye to wander off and still be able to enjoy the rest of the image.

The selective focus technique is easily achieved and easily adapted to your own creative vision. Not only will you create images that strongly emphasize your subject, they will also be free of distractions and further augmented by gorgeous bokeh.

USA Photographers Rights

1. You can make a photograph of anything and anyone on any public property, except where a specific law prohibits it.

e.g. streets, sidewalks, town squares, parks, government buildings open to the public, and public libraries.

2. You may shoot on private property if it is open to the public, but you are obligated to stop if the owner requests it.

e.g. malls, retail stores, restaurants, banks, and office building lobbies.

3. Private property owners can prevent photography ON their property, but not photography OF their property from a public location.

4. Anyone can be photographed without consent when they are in a public place unless there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.

e.g. private homes, restrooms, dressing rooms, medical facilities, and phone booths.

5. Despite common misconceptions, the following subjects are almost always permissible:

* accidents, fire scenes, criminal activities

* children, celebrities, law enforcement officers

* bridges, infrastructure, transportation facilities

* residential, commercial, and industrial buildings

6. Security is rarely an acceptable reason for restricting photography. Photographing from a public place cannot infringe on trade secrets, nor is it terrorist activity.

7. Private parties cannot detain you against your will unless a serious crime was committed in their presence. Those that do so may be subject to criminal and civil charges.

8. It is a crime for someone to threaten injury, detention, confiscation, or arrest because you are making photographs.

9. You are not obligated to provide your identity or reason for photographing unless questioned by a law enforcement officer and state law requires it.

10. Private parties have no right to confiscate your equipment without a court order. Even law enforcement officers must obtain one unless making an arrest. No one can force you to delete photos you have made.

These are general guidelines regarding the right to make photos and should not be interpreted as legal advice. If you need legal help, please contact a lawyer.



The healing brush tool in Photoshop is one of more powerful tools the editing software has to offer. It is often used to clean skin, repair walls, or do any kind of work that requires repairing a texture without changing  the color and luminosity of an area. 

Actually, if the healing brush tool is not working for you, there is a good chance that it is because one of those three basic tips is not used.

  • Tip 1: Go back to the 2014 healing brush. Just trust us on this one.
  • Tip 2: carefully select the sampling area alignment with your brush.
  • Tip 3: always use a hard edge with the healing brush.

All those tips are explained in the video above.

21 Tips for Getting Sharper Photos


Image “sharpness” has been the goal of many photographers over the years. Some photographers seem to nail the “razor-sharp” or “tack-sharp” image every time, while some struggle to capture a truly sharp image.


Before we start, know that there are basic ways photos end up not being sharp.


1. Movement Either the camera, or the subject is in motion during the capture.
2. Optics/Electronics Soft focus, soft lens, etc.
3. Atmospheric The amount and quality of air between the camera and subject.


Here we will break down all three and think about possible considerations to increase image sharpness.



1. Movement in the frame, either from a moving subject, or from the camera being less than completely still at the time the shutter is open, will cause motion blur in your image. Depending on the type of gear you are using or have available, there are ways to reduce and/or eliminate this movement.


2. Shutter Speed Shutter speed (a bit of a misnomer) is the duration of time that the shutter is open. The shorter the amount of time that the shutter is open, the less movement can happen during the capture of the image. The downside of a fast shutter speed is that less light makes it to the film or sensor, making it necessary to shoot at a higher ISO or at a wider aperture. Therefore, the maximum shutter speed for any given situation varies but, in general, you’ll want to shoot the fastest shutter speed possible to maximize sharpness.


3. Stance / Brace Even the Queen’s sentries at Westminster Abby move. No one can stand completely still. Using proper photographic technique will help reduce camera movement when taking the photo. Also, if possible, bracing yourself against a wall or other solid structure will help steady your body while shooting.

4. The “Squeeze” In the event you didn’t click on the last hyperlink, please note that the way you depress the shutter release is another important aspect in reducing camera movement. Never stab at the shutter release. This is where we all impart movement into the camera. Squeeze it gently and wait for the click.


5. Burst Shooting Many cameras offer a choice of single-shot or continuous mode. When you depress the shutter release in continuous mode, the first shot could be blurred, but the second, third, or fourth, taken immediately after, without moving your finger, may be better. The downside? More editing time and more memory being taken up on your card.

6. Remote Release The remote release is a tried-and-true best way to reduce camera shake while the shutter is being released. Old-school ones threaded into your shutter release. Today, you can use electronic, remote (IR, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi), or, even use your smartphone to release the shutter.


7. Mirror Lock-Up The SLR shakes itself when it takes a photo. When the mirror flips up out of the way of the shutter, it does so at high speed and that creates vibration. Mirror Lock-Up mode allows you to delay the shutter opening until well after the mirror is up. Mirrorless cameras do not suffer from the dreaded “recoil” of the mirror.

8. Tripod / Monopod It is not always practical to have a tripod or monopod with you. Or, if you have them, it’s not always practical to use them. But, there is no more surefire way to steady your camera than with a good support. The monopod is obviously not as steady, but it is better for portability and capturing movement.


9. Wind Wind can topple buildings. This means it can buffet you while you take a photo and it can also shake your tripod. Look for breaks that protect you and your gear from the wind while capturing photos on breezy days. You may further stabilize the tripod against the wind by hanging weight from the hook at the bottom of the tripod’s center column (if it has one).

10. Image Stabilization Modern technology has given us a host of electronicimage stabilization gizmos engineered to take the shake out of camera shake. They are getting better and better. However, there are times where these systems can hinder your image (fast motion, tripod, etc.) more than help it. Know when those are.


11. Focus If your photo is out of focus, it will not be sharp. It is as simple as that. Unfortunately, some autofocus systems can malfunction or give erroneous focus. Make sure yours works perfectly. If you are focusing manually, use all the available aids, be they electronic focus indicators, on-screen focus magnification fields, your focus screen prism, or electronic live view.

12. Autofocus Mode Autofocus is a wonderful invention, but it only works when it helps you get the photo you want. Autofocus systems can seem to have a mind of their own. Knowing how to master your autofocus modes and settings means that the parts of the image you want to have in focus will be sharp.


13. Lens Quality Most modern lenses are very, very good. However, there is a difference between entry-level optics and professional glass, and that difference can often be seen in image sharpness (among other things). Sound technique will help get the best possible image from every lens, but you need a sharp lens, first and foremost, to get the sharpest photos. Do not fret—some of the sharpest lenses are very reasonably priced, such as the venerable 50mm f/1.8 lenses made by most lens manufacturers.

14. Lens Cleanliness Lenses can be pretty dusty with no degradation of the image projected, but smudges are one of the enemies of sharpness, especially on the rear element. So, keep your fingers away from the front and rear of your lenses andclean them when needed.

15. Aperture The aperture of your lens has a definite effect on image sharpness. Each lens has a “sweet spot” aperture that provides maximum sharpness. This is, generally, two or three stops from the lens’s widest aperture. Therefore, an f/2.8 lens will have a sweet spot around f/5.6 or f/8. This is not a hard-and-fast rule, so you may want to test your lens. The lens’s widest aperture is unlikely its sharpest and the depth of field shallows as you open the lens. As you stop down toward smaller apertures, diffraction can affect sharpness.

16. Depth of Field A very shallow depth of field—caused by shooting at very wide apertures—will leave only a narrow sliver of distance in the image to be sharp. The rest of the image will appear out of focus. To show shallow DOF image as a sharp image, you need to ensure that the point of interest is that which is in focus… and sharp.

17. Zoom Zoom lenses are a wonderful convenience. The bad news is that they are rarely working at their sharpest at the extreme ends of their zoom range. Again, test your gear, but you will likely find that any zoom lens is sharper in the middle of its zoom range—not at its widest or longest focal length.


18. Optical Filters Filters have countless uses in photography. One thing they do not do is increase sharpness. The more elements of glass (or plastic) (or crystal) through which light must pass before it gets to the film or sensor, the more the light is degraded. For maximum sharpness, skip the filters.

19. ISO Not technically an optical issue, boosting your camera’s ISO to increase shutter speed in an attempt to reduce camera shake is a good thing, but the higher the ISO, the less sharpness you will have. As you raise your ISO from the camera’s native ISO setting, the more digital noise you will get. This digital “grain” will reduce image sharpness.


20. Antialiasing Filter Many digital cameras have built-in anti-aliasing (or optical low-pass) filters covering their sensors. These filters reduce image sharpness intentionally to avoid some unfortunate optical phenomena that occur when light hits a digital sensor, like moiré. Some cameras allow you to remove the sensor, and some have no AA filter at all.

21. Air Unless you are reading this in outer space, we are not photographing in a vacuum. The farther away your subject is from your lens, the more air that light must travel through to get to your camera. Haze, smoke, fog, smog, and more can prevent you from getting a sharp image of a distant object. Get closer, if you can.


Stay sharp! Got other tips and tricks for sharpness?

Guided Upright in Camera Raw
The upper red circle is the transform tool in Adobe Camera Raw. The red rectangle on the right is the transform panel and the yellow circle in the transform panel is the new guided upright tool. This functions the same as the new guided upright tool in Adobe Lightroom.

The life of a weekend photographer -

 by Kevin Povenz

The alarm is set for 5:00 AM…..must be a Saturday. Every week I look forward to the weekend just as everyone else does, except for me it is about getting up early instead of the excitement of getting in a few extra hours of sleep. You see for the weekend photographer like me we only have 2 mornings of good light a week because the other 5 days we are at our jobs, supporting our “money hungry hobby”.


As the alarm goes off at 5:00 AM, actually rarely does the alarm actually go off as I have been laying there wide awake in anticipation for the last 45 minutes. I turn the alarm off so not to wake my wife and quietly jump out of bed. Most Saturday mornings my wife never hears me, but my dog, Tucker he is there ready to go and start his day. That means he has to go to the bathroom…..now! So before I get to go, he gets to go, not sure how that ever started but he is out in the yard before I get a chance to head to the bathroom. After the dog has been taken care of and I am finished in the bathroom it is time to check the weather. Being a photographer everything revolves around the weather. Is it rainy, snowing, windy, cold, hot, cloudy, partly cloudy, no clouds, foggy and most importantly, what time is the sun going to rise? Living here in western Michigan the weather changes fast, so if you thought you knew what the weather was going to be like the night before you better check again in the morning.


Well this morning looks perfect….the best weather report that I have found is the one I perform myself each morning as I take my dog out to do his thing. I leave all the lights off in the house and check the sky for clouds, not too many clouds, just the right amount of clouds to create a beautiful sunrise with, and this morning looks very promising. Just the right amount of clouds spread over the entire sky, I can see the moon and stars, and this is always a good sign. The air is a little crisp, perfect for just a couple layers of long sleeve shirts and a hooded sweatshirt. No rain is forecast and the sun comes up in a little over an hour. I head back to my bedroom get dressed according to my personal weather report and try to be a quiet as possible. You see my wife and I both really look forward to the weekends. But she is one of those people that are looking for that few hours of extra sleep and not caring to see if the sun is going to actually rise today or not. So I quietly give her a kiss goodbye and tell her I will be back when the light isn’t good anymore. She mumbles something that resembles be careful and love you too.


I load up the Jeep with my gear, grab an extra pair of boots (you never know) a handful of cookies for breakfast and a bottle of water and out the door I go. As I open the garage door, I again check the sky for clouds because you know it has been about 20 minutes since the last time I checked them. Cool….the clouds are still there looking promising. As I pull out of the driveway and head to a predetermined sunrise location I am always looking at the sky thinking……did I leave early enough, and I see some light to the east, I knew I should of left 15 minutes earlier, I should have been there by now. So I press on the gas and try to get there as fast as I can, the blood starts to pump a little faster now, as you can just tell that this morning it might be a great sunrise. You head down the dirt road and find your spot by a small lake that has never failed giving you great reflection during your sunrises. When you pull up you see that your photo buddy is already there waiting for you and says about time, where have you been. You quickly get your gear out of your car checking to see how many minutes you have until sunrise. Both of you head down near the edge of the lake in great anticipation of capturing that great sunrise that has been eluding you over the last few weekends. Standing along the water’s edge you have time to rest a bit and talk to your buddy about what the day will bring, where we are headed and what photos we will get. This, to me is one of the best parts of the morning. Both of you start to notice a little coloring starting to develop in the sky and you get ready to start doing what you love to do.

 The rest of the morning is up to Mother Nature……..

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