Techniques Tutorials

A two-stage approach to sharpening

How do you sharpen your photos in post–production?

Bruce Fraser discusses his two-pass sharpening approach that can be summarized into:

  1. Detail/Capture sharpening combined with selective creative sharpening
  2. Output sharpening for the desired output medium

What makes the article very interesting is his use of edge sharpening to make his image marginally “snappier,” sharpening only the important edges of an image to improve local contrast. Just as interesting, he prefers to sharpen for output using the high pass method instead the usual unsharp mask. The article explains everything thoroughly, and one of his previous articles also discusses various sharpening techniques.

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A Better Bounce Card

If you’ve been shooting with a lot with a hot shoe flash, you’ve probably encountered light diffusion gadgets like the Stofen OmniBounce, the Flip-it, or the magical Lightsphere. These attachments were designed to provide good light using flash guns and avoid direct flash at all cost. However, these items don’t come cheap.

A solution for budding amateurs often involves little bounce cards that work in certain situations, though not as versatile as those mentioned above. Enter Peter Gregg’s “A Better Bounce Card” which is meant to be a DIY project. This is something you can do on your own, at home, with just a few dollars worth of materials you’d typically find in art shops. Watch his tutorial video and try this one yourself, I think it holds its own against the popular (and expensive) alternatives.

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How to take good photos with a flash

Flash photography has been looked down by some proclaimed “experts” as a lower form of photography. In fact, these same people instruct beginners to always shoot without the flash, if possible.

In the case of point–and–shoot compact digitals, shooting without the flash can give you better results, but not all the time. Backlit scenes are almost always better shot with a flash. For indoor shooting, it boils down to choosing between blurred no–flash photos, or bad flash photos. Using a flash can make or break a photo.

SLR shooters on the other hand have the luxury of using hotshoe flashes for creative lighting. However, you really have to understand your flash system to make the most out of it. Canon users would benefit much from this article on the EOS flash system.

After learning the technical aspects of flash photography, improve on your skills by learning its practical applications, including the technique involved. To get an idea how certain lighting effects are achieved through the use of a flash, dg28’s technique page should get you running. For more on flash photography and creative lighting, the Strobist blog is a worthwhile regular read.

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Concert Photography


Just like most concert photographers would tell you, shooting concerts is hard. It’s one of the rare photo opps wherein you’re lucky if you get even just a few good photos, and you’re likely to throw away most of the shots you captured.

Many articles on this topic provide the same basic tips: avoid flash, use fast lenses, don’t be a distraction, enjoy the show. You may think that these things would come natural when you’re shooting, but you’d be surprised to find yourself breaking these rules once you’re actually there.



However, just like most photographic rules, there are some you just have to break, at the right time. The photo above was taken around four years ago with my point and shoot Fuji Finepix 2600 with an off-cam optical slave flash on my other hand. Yes, I used flash. Unlike most high profile events, many small–town or college concerts are shot in poorly–lit venues where you have no choice but to use flash. Luckily for me, I was part of the organizing committee allowing me to shoot exactly the way I wanted, and produce a few keepers. :)

For more on concert photography, read these good articles from Photocritic and

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RAW Shooting

Popular web designer Dave Shea discusses the virtues of shooting with RAW instead of JPG. He highlights the flexibility of the RAW format and the wealth of post processing that can be done on the rich data available, especially when compared to JPG.

We’ve covered the JPG versus RAW debate in a previous entry, and I still recommend knowing the advantages of both formats and using whatever is appropriate for specific situations.

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Fake Model Photography

If you’re a flickr regular, you have probably noticed this very interesting photo style: fake model photography. It is a relatively new and unique way of altering photos that renders images like they’re from miniature scale model worlds.

This tutorial by Christopher Phin should get you producing the similar look in just a few steps. He has several contributions to the flickr ’tilt-shift miniature fakes’ group which now happens to have more than a thousand members!

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Do not Focus-Recompose!


The focus–recompose technique is one of the most shared techniques in modern photography, especially with the adoption of point–and–shoot compact digital cameras that use very small sensors producing extremely deep depth of field. Since most compact digitals have mediocre to average autofocus performance, the need for locking onto a high contrast subject of the same distance has been a necessity especially when shooting in low light situations.

However, this method no longer applies to DSLRs both film and digital, since these cameras have significantly larger sensors and lenses that do not focus along a flat plane. This article explains the phenomenon more, and teaches us how to maximize the use of our AF systems and produce tack–sharp focused images.