•  

David Peterson

David Peterson is the creator of Digital Photo Secrets, and the Photography Dash and loves teaching photography to fellow photographers all around the world. You can follow him on Twitter at @dphotosecrets or on Google+.

rss feed Author's Website

David Peterson's Latest Posts

How to shoot monochromatic color photographs

How to shoot monochromatic color photographs

When you think of monochromatic photographs, you probably instantly think “black and white.” Black and white is the most obvious type of monochromatic image—the first photographs ever produced were monochromatic black and white photos, and black and white continues to be popular today, because removing the color from an image is a powerful way to encourage the viewer to think about detail and contrast rather than the specific hues within a scene. But black and white is not the only way to shoot a monochromatic image. The word “monochromatic” can also refer to color images, specifically, images that that use only one color in various shades, tints, and tones.
Continue Reading »

All about wide angle lenses

Filed in Lens, Tips by 0 Comments
All about wide angle lenses

If your primary camera is a point-and-shoot, you probably have a general idea of the what the phrase “focal length” means, but you may not really have a practical understanding of it. If you have a DSLR, your experience is going to be a little broader, but depending on how long you’ve been using your DSLR you may still not know exactly when to use that short or long focal length lens and under what circumstances. So regardless of which type of camera user you are, here’s a quick overview about focal length and, specifically, when and why you might want to forgo that longer lens in favor of a wide angle.
Continue Reading »

City Swap

City Swap

You know your own town so well, you could probably walk blindfolded down the street and know exactly how to get to your favorite café. All of the photo-worthy spots are not only ingrained in your memory, but well-documented in your photo album as well. In fact, you’ve probably got photos of the same spots taken at different times of the day and in different seasons, too. As far as photography in your local area goes, you are the expert.

Now, I’d like to challenge you to step outside of that very comfortable comfort zone and consider exploring new territory. Your town is a fabulous place to take photos, but it’s familiar, which means that you may not always be thinking creatively about how to take pictures of those well-known places. For this photo challenge, we’re going to do a little bit of traveling — I’d like you to think about some of the towns that are within driving distance of your local area. Pick the one that you are least familiar with and plan to spend the day there.
Continue Reading »

Numbers Project

Numbers Project

Are you running out of ideas? Don’t worry, every photographer goes through a period of time where he’s in a rut—he’s bored with all the usual subjects, he’s shot every landscape in his area at every time of the day and in every season, and he’s just not feeling very inspired. If you’re experiencing a little bit of photographer’s block yourself, now is the time to embark on a new project. Assigning yourself a photo project is one of the best ways to force yourself into creative mode and bust out of that photographer’s block mode for good. Keep reading for some ideas.
Continue Reading »

Photographing other cultures

Photographing other cultures

We live in a global society. There is no longer a single culture in the community where we live — influences from other cultures are everywhere, from China Towns to mosques to Native American community centers to cultural festivals. If you are lucky enough to be well-traveled, you have encountered many cultures outside of your own. But how effectively were you able to capture them with your camera? Capturing people of other cultures and the symbols of those cultures is challenging and requires great sensitivity. Keep reading for some tips.
Continue Reading »

Photograph your camping trip

Photograph your camping trip

Everyone loves camping. Well maybe not everyone – some of us love our showers more than we love the great outdoors. But the fact remains, camping is one of the most popular family pastimes. If you are a part of a camping family, and if you have ever had the experience of looking at all of your camping photographs and wondering why they all look the same, keep reading for some tips and tricks on how to capture unique camping photos every time you go on the road with your tent (and your camera).
Continue Reading »

Photographing Spiders Webs

Photographing Spiders Webs

Animals, insects, and moving creatures of any kind can be difficult to photograph, for different reasons. But if you are like the 30% of Americans who describe themselves as arachnophobic, spiders can present an especially difficult photographic challenge. Now, I’m not a psychologist nor do I pretend to know much about the treatment of arachnophobia, but if you simply cannot imagine yourself getting close enough to a spider to photograph it, then I have an alternative suggestion for you. Why not photograph a spiders web instead? Read on to find out how.
Continue Reading »

Turn your child into a photographer

Turn your child into a photographer

Sometimes I feel sorry for the children of photographers. It’s a hard life. From the time of their birth, they have had that camera constantly in their faces, through every milestone, birthday party, and major and minor life events. Yes, the children of photographers need never worry about forgetting anything that happened to them during their childhoods. Chances are, whatever it is, it’s stored somewhere on a memory card or hard drive somewhere inside their shutter-happy parents’ home.

Besides being eternally tormented by mom and her DSLR, the children of photographers do have something going for them, and that is exposure to photography at an early age. The chances are pretty good if your child has grown up in the presence of a camera, she’s also developed somewhat of an interest in photography. Your job as a parent is not only to make sure that you capture a ridiculous number of photographs of your child as she’s growing up, but that you also teach her how to use a camera herself.
Continue Reading »

What is a stop?

What is a stop?

Even if you’ve only had your camera for a short period of time, you’ve almost certainly heard people describe exposure in terms of a “stop.” It is a pretty typical expression used to describe a change in camera settings, but what exactly does it mean? Read on to find out.
Continue Reading »

Camera Aperture Versus Camera Phone Aperture

Camera Aperture Versus Camera Phone Aperture

Even a die-hard DSLR owner has to admit, smartphone cameras are useful tools. After all, almost no one wants to lug a heavy DSLR around all the time, and sometimes a photo-worthy moment arrives and that smartphone camera is all you have. And you know what they say, “The best camera is the one you have with you.”

And the great thing about phone cameras is that despite their simplicity, you’re not just limited to pointing and shooting. You can download a lot of pretty cool photography apps for your smartphone, whether it’s an iPhone or an Android phone. But one thing you may have noticed is that you can’t use any of these tools to adjust the aperture. That means that you don’t get to choose between a shallow depth of field and a broad one. And no matter how hard and how long you search the app store, that’s not likely to change any time soon. Why is that? Read on to find out. Continue Reading »

What should I upgrade next? Lens/Body/Flash?

Filed in Lens, Tips by 0 Comments
What should I upgrade next? Lens/Body/Flash?

When you got your first DSLR, the chances are pretty good that it came with what we call a “kit lens.” A kit lens is a mid-range zoom, usually with somewhere between an 18mm to 70mm focal length. A typical kit lens doesn’t tend to be the best quality piece of glass, and usually has a fairly narrow maximum aperture. But, it’s a good, versatile beginner’s lens that lets you take good photos in most of the situations you’re likely to encounter. Your kit lens is a great tool for when you’re first starting out, and when you’re first learning your way around your DSLR. But at some point, you’re going to start to realize that your kit lens is holding you back a little bit, and it may be time to expand your gear. But where do you begin?
Continue Reading »

Representing invisible subjects: How to photograph music

Representing invisible subjects: How to photograph music

What? That’s craziness. You can’t photograph music–music is something you hear with your ears, it’s not something you see with your eyes. So how can you photograph sound? Read on to find out.

Music is common to every human culture, just as visual art is. Music soothes us, from infancy to old age. When we are introduced to a new person, one of the questions we often ask that person is, “What kind of music do you like?” Everyone has an answer, whether it’s country, classical, or hip-hop, and everyone who loves music also appreciates photos that represent music, whether they are album covers, photos of our favorite musical stars, or abstract images that feature instruments.

##How to capture the idea of music

Yes, it is true, music is something we hear, it is not something we see. However we do have very strong visual associations with music, for example, we know what sound the piano makes, and when we see an image of a piano we don’t have to be told what kind of music will come out of that instrument. Even instruments from other cultures that we may not be familiar with can still spark the imagination. Musical instruments, even strange ones, are easy to identify as musical instruments, and it’s therefore natural for us to imagine the sounds that they might make. Even if we are wrong, it doesn’t matter—we’re still inspired to think about sound when we see images of those things with our eyes.

Now there are number of ways you can approach music photography – you can photograph the instrument, you can photograph the musician, or you can photograph the people who are experiencing the music. All three approaches can be used to communicate the idea of sound and harmony, but you need to photograph these subjects with those ideas already in your head.

Let’s start by taking a look at some examples.

https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/cool-guy-sitting-guitar-on-gray-560464798

In this first image, we see a musician holding his instrument. This is a portrait—it tells us something about the musician but it doesn’t necessarily say “music.” The subject is holding his guitar, so we understand that he is a musician, but the image isn’t really about the music, it’s about the person. Intellectually, we understand what that guitar would sound like if he was playing it, but because he’s not playing it there really isn’t a reason for us to think specifically about sound. Now let’s look at a different example:

https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/this-guitar-sounds-great-handsome-young-145140631

In this image, the musician is strumming the guitar. It’s a nice photo, but even though we can imagine the sound of the guitar being strummed, there’s no emotion in the scene. Music is an emotional experience, which means that we need to see that emotion before we can really make that leap from sound to music. So the expression on the musician’s face can tell us a lot–if there is no emotion in his expression, we can just as easily imagine that he is just tuning up the guitar or strumming a few isolated chords rather than playing an actual song.

##Now let’s take a look at our third example:

https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/portrait-japanese-man-guitarjapanese-musiciana-low-170372363

In this image, the subject is clearly making music. We can see that his instrument is actually being played (he’s clearly not tuning it or just warming up), and there’s an expression on his face that connects the music to an emotional experience. There’s also drama in the image because of the way it is lit. The lighting is low and the image is very low-key, and low-key images tend to come across as being more dramatic. And let’s face it, your favorite songs are probably somewhat dramatic—heartbreak, political outrage, romantic love—these are all dramatic themes that tend to occupy the lyrics of most modern songs. So the light in the scene can help create drama, which will really add to that feeling of actually being able to hear the music that we are only seeing in this photograph.

##Instruments

Here’s another example of a photograph that says “music:”

Strings

Now, why does this image of an instrument on its own seem so musical, while the instrument being held by a musician who is not playing does not? That’s because in the example above, the person is equally as important as the instrument. We automatically assume that the photo is about him, and not about the music that he might create with that instrument, simply because he is not in the process of actually playing. On the other hand, an instrument photographed on its own can only be about one thing–it is about the tool that is used to make music, and hence it is going to feel more like a photograph of the music itself. Again, photographing an instrument with dramatic light will help bring out that those musical qualities in the image itself. We think of music as being a dramatic thing, so dramatic lighting going to make us feel like we are experiencing music as a we look at the tools that are used to create it.

##Now let’s look at a fourth example:

https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/silhouettes-people-concert-front-scene-bright-572251555?src=WD40bBY9JwmGs1IDgu_DCQ-1-33

In this image we see the complete experience of music. Because we are looking at the people who are affected by the music, we are connecting with them. That connection makes us feel as if we are experiencing the music too, even though we don’t instinctively know what the genre is or even what band is playing. But because the photographer has captured the emotion that is often connected with live music, we are getting a very strong sense of sound in this image.

Have you noticed the common thread between all of the examples we’ve seen so far? Is it the light. The light is dramatic, and music is dramatic, so we can imagine that we are experiencing music just based on the way that the scene is lit.

##Abstractions

Another way that you can capture music in a photograph is by taking an abstract or symbolic approach. A musical note is one very obvious way to represent music in a symbolic manner—everyone knows what a musical note is and what it represents. But I know you can be more creative than that—let’s look at an example so you can see what I mean.

The guitar king

In this image, the photographer used light painting to represent music. It’s an abstract representation because there are no musical notes or other obvious symbols, but the light appears to dance in the way that we perceive music to dance, in the sense that it rises and falls in a rhythmic way. Because it is so visually close to the way that we hear music with our ears, it’s easy to make that mental translation from visual input to auditory input, even though we’re not technically hearing anything. Now, would this depiction work if there wasn’t also a musical instrument in the image? It might work visually, but it probably wouldn’t remind you of music, because we need that literal cue (the instrument) to appear in the frame in order for us to make that leap from the thing we’re seeing to the thing we might actually be able to hear if we were present in that scene.

Regardless of your approach, the key to capturing great music photographs is to try to make that connection between what you’re seeing and what you’re hearing, and then make sure that you are capturing that connection in your photograph. Most of the time, it’s going to be an emotional connection. Music can make people experience joy, grief, love, anger … there really isn’t an emotion that can’t be expressed through music. But the good news is that all of those emotions can be expressed through photography, too. So if you can capture the visual representation of music at the same time as you capture the emotion that exists in the scene, you can be pretty sure you captured the music itself. If you’re not sure, ask someone. Pass your photos around and ask viewers to tell you the first couple of words that come to mind. If “music” or “sound” is one of them, then you’ve done your job.

##Conclusion

You don’t have to be a musician to be able to hear the music in a photograph, you just have to be a human being who is capable of having the profound experience of connecting to music. Really, doesn’t that describe all of us? As long as you keep that music in your head while you are creating your photographs, and you think about the emotions that are experienced by both the people creating the music and the people listening to it, you cannot fail to capture photographs that seem to sing.

##Summary:

1. Photograph a musician playing an instrument
– Make sure to capture emotion
– Use dramatic light
2. Photograph the instrument
– Use dramatic light
3. Photograph the crowd
– Try to capture emotion and drama
4. Create an abstract representation of music
– Musical symbolism
– Painting with light

How to photograph farms, ranches and rural places

How to photograph farms, ranches and rural places

Even if you live in the city, a visit to a rural place can be cathartic. Rural places are quiet, homey, and down-to-earth. And they have a beauty that is somewhere between the rough beauty of an urban area and the perfect beauty of nature.

The process of photographing a rural setting requires careful attention to detail, because you want to capture a real sense of place as well as a visual interpretation of the place you’re visiting. So it helps to really think about what your goals are and to have them well-mapped out before you embark on your photo shoot. Keep reading for more.
Continue Reading »

How to simulate sunshine

Filed in Sun, Tips by 0 Comments
How to simulate sunshine

There’s a reason why golden hour photos tend to be more pleasing than photos shot at other times of the day, and it’s not just the soft light and gradual transition between shadows and highlights. People love golden hour photographs because they’re warm. That orange light makes us feel as if we are standing out in the sun ourselves, and the sun is one of those universally appreciated sources of energy. It’s no cliché to say that the sun is life-giving, without it, the world would be a bleak and terrible place indeed. We love the sunlight because it’s the light that nourishes and sustains us, and as such we are drawn to golden hour photographs because no other sort of photograph reproduces the sun in quite the same way.

Now here’s a fun fact for you: you don’t have to wait until the golden hour to capture that warm, sunny feeling in your photographs. You can even do it indoors, or on an overcast day. Read on to find out how.
Continue Reading »

What is Auto HDR?

Filed in HDR, Tips by 0 Comments
What is Auto HDR?

Modern digital cameras can do a lot of things that their predecessors even as recently as 10 years ago could not do, but they’re still not perfect. And one of the challenges that digital photography manufacturers have always faced is producing cameras that are capable of capturing a full range of tones in a high dynamic range situation. Even today, the best DSLRs on the market still can’t achieve this in every situation. But there’s good news—many newer model cameras have an automatic mode designed to combat this problem. It’s called “Auto HDR,” but just what does it do and more importantly, should you use it? Keep reading to find out.
Continue Reading »