Photoshop Tip: Use Layers to Create Super Realistic Shadows

Photoshop Tip: Use Layers to Create Super Realistic Shadows

create shadow in photoshop

A good drop shadow is hard to come by. There is no shortage of Photoshopped “shadows” on the web that are nothing more than a grayscale circle with a little Gaussian blur.

In their simplest form, shadows are obstructions of light produced by the object casting them and the light surrounding it – but their shape, color, and intensity is dependent upon a whole goody bag of variables. The distance between the object and the start of shadow and the direction and intensity of the light all impact how a shadow appears. Which means people wanting to replicate their dynamism in Photoshop have their work cut out for them.

Lucky for us, Aaron Nace of Phlearn fame has a Photoshop tip: “The real key to make them look realistic is many, many layers.”

Aaron demonstrated his process for producing realistic-shadows from scratch during his Retouching Product Photography class. Using a photo of ear buds against a white backdrop, Aaron taught how to mimic shape and convey distance using some very simple techniques.

To make your own shadows less flat and more believable, check out the complete tutorial below:

Harness the power of Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom and take your creative potential to the next level. Get the entire Photoshop Week bundle for just $99.

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Spark Your Creativity with Lindsay Alder’s 10-Week Portrait Challenge

Spark Your Creativity with Lindsay Alder’s 10-Week Portrait Challenge

Join CreativeLive and Lindsay Adler for a 10-week long series of free photography challenges designed to bust you out of your comfort zone. You’ll try new techniques, pick up new skills, and expand your photographic creativity. Sign up for free, and get these challenges delivered right to your inbox once a week!

How the Creative Portrait Challenge works:



  • Upload your photos and tag it on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter using #creativephotochallenge.
  • Have questions or want to check in with fellow photographers? Join the Creative Photo Challenge Facebook group.

3. Winners

  • For the month of April and May we’ll be reviewing submissions via #creativephotochallenge and choosing the best representation of that week’s challenge.
  • Winning photos will be featured on CreativeLive social feeds and will win one free Lindsay Adler class.
  • At the end of the 10-week challenge one grand prize winner will be chosen based on participation, creativity, and execution and win a free year of CreativeLive’s Creator Pass and access to our entire 1,500 course catalog.

Step outside of your routine, see the possibilities and discover what you love to capture!

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Choosing The Best DSLR Camera For Beginners

Choosing The Best DSLR Camera For Beginners

Perhaps you clicked on this headline eager for the answer that’s been plaguing you since you decided to step up your point-and-shoot camera for a DSLR camera. What camera should I buy? What’s the best beginner DSLR camera?

And we could comb through all the options and shine a light on one particular model, then you’d go out and buy that camera and get started and, more than likely, do just fine. But there’s a problem with that. First, the best beginning DSLR camera for a beginning portrait photographer isn’t the best camera for the beginning sports photographer. Cameras aren’t a one-size-fits-all deal.

But there’s another issue too—learning how to choose a camera is a great first step to learning about photography and how to become a photographer. Great cameras don’t take great pictures any more than a great paintbrush painted the Mona Lisa—you need creativity, and you also need to know how to use that camera. And the best way to learn how to use your camera? Start by learning how to choose a camera. Don’t worry, those tech specs aren’t as daunting as they seem. For a more detailed breakdown, be sure to check out the full free course on choosing your first DSLR camera.

Ready to use your new DSLR Camera? Sign up today to learn the basics of photography with John Greengo. Learn more.

Brand: Nikon Vs. Canon Vs. The Little Guy

Should you buy a Nikon or a Canon? Or perhaps a camera from a smaller brand, like Pentax or Sony? What features make a camera the best entry-level DSLR?

Brand is a bit more important when buying a DSLR compared to a compact camera because once you start acquiring lenses and accessories, it becomes rather expensive to switch. But that doesn’t mean one brand is better than the other. Nikon makes great DSLRs. Canon makes great DSLRs. Pentax makes great DSLRs. And so does Sony. Sure, one year it seems like one brand is beating out the competition with every camera they release—but the next year, it will likely be the other way around.

Brand matters, but probably not in the way you think. Choose a camera based on its features, not its brand. Then, before you buy, explore the different lenses and accessories that are available. If you want to learn how to take wildlife pictures, for example, make sure the camera you choose has a compatible telephoto lens. That’s where Nikon and Canon are great, because they’re so popular and well-established, that there are plenty of lenses, flashes and other accessories to choose from to add on to the camera body. That doesn’t mean you should stay away from smaller brands though; Pentax also makes some great cameras with features like weather sealing that are tougher to find at a similar price point from the bigger manufacturers.

Which is the best DSLR for beginners?

Sensor size and design for the best beginning DSLR camera

When you take a digital photograph with a digital camera, light enters through the lens, then hits the sensor—it’s that sensor that records the image. Sensors come in all different sizes. The sensor in your smartphone’s camera is very small, while a DSLR camera sensor is much larger. Larger sensors are better for a number of different reasons. First, images captured on a larger sensor have a higher resolution, because a larger sensor equals a larger photo and better image quality. Bigger sensors also handle low lighting scenarios better. Even when the amount of light coming into the camera doesn’t change, a larger surface area allows the camera to collect more light. Larger sensors also make it easier to get soft, out-of-focus backgrounds.

When it comes to DSLR cameras, there are two options for sensor sizes. APS-C is the smaller type and the option that’s typically best for entry-level DSLR photographers. An APS-C sensor is usually plenty for new photographers to work with, and they’re often found on cameras that are easy to use and much more affordable.

A full frame or 35mm sensor is a bit larger—these cameras are usually considered professional DSLRs. They offer more resolution, but also a much higher price tag. If your camera budget exceeds $1,500, they could be an option, but a full frame camera is likely overkill for most beginners. So why mention it at all? Most lenses are sold for either full frame or APS-C sensors, so this is another scenario where changing later on may require updating your lenses too.

While sensor size is important, sensor design is too. Backlit sensors are designed with most of the gear and the circuitry at the back, so it’s easier for the light to reach the sensor. Sensors that are backlit perform better in low lighting than sensors that are not.

Many manufacturers are now also eliminating what’s called the optical low pass filter or sometimes the anti-aliasing filter. This filter helps prevent distortion in patterns called moire—the most common example is a shirt with fine stripes that start to bend and whirl together when photographed. Sensor technology is allowing some of this distortion elimination to be done without the use of that filter. Why is that important? The filter is one more thing between the sensor and the light. Cameras without the optical low pass filter tend to have more detail and richer colors. Many camera manufacturers are doing away with the filter entirely, like in most of Nikon’s newer DSLRs. Canon’s approach has been to make two different models of the same camera, one with the filter, and one without. That enhanced detail is a big help, though if you would like to do a lot of fashion photography or product photography for a clothing boutique, that extra moire prevention may be the better option.

Megapixels: Are they really important for an entry-level DSLR?

Too many people buy cameras on megapixels alone—and that’s a horrible way to decide on a new camera. But, that doesn’t mean that they’re not important. Megapixels determine how much resolution your camera has. The number of pixels along one side multiplied by the number of pixels on the other side gets you a megapixel count. Cameras with more megapixels produce higher resolution images, so you can print bigger photos or crop without ruining the photo.

Megapixels are not as important as sensor size in determining image quality. That 42 megapixel smartphone still isn’t going to beat out a DSLR, even if the DSLR only has 16 megapixels. But, since we’re looking at DSLRs for beginners, let’s assume all the sensors are APS-C size. Then, the camera with more megapixels will have the higher resolution. Keep in mind that a higher resolution doesn’t necessarily mean better images. Cameras with high megapixel counts are more prone to noise at high ISOs, although many modern cameras have high megapixels with excellent noise reduction.

One more thing to consider—more megapixels means bigger image files. That’s certainly not a deal breaker, after all bigger files are more flexible in post-processing. But, keep in mind that you’ll want bigger SD cards for high megapixel cameras, and also a pretty large hard drive to store them on too.

Best beginning DSLR camera

Shooting speed: How fast can you snap?

How fast can you take a photo? Choosing a camera with good speed is essential for sports photographers, but speed is good for any photographer who’s interested in continuous shooting. If you’re a parent taking pictures of your kids, speed is essential for capturing the action. If you’re a budding portrait photographer, speed will help you capture the best expressions.

A camera’s speed is a bit harder to measure on paper, however. A good indication of a camera’s overall speed is the burst speed, or the number of photos it can take per second (or fps) if you continue to hold the shutter release.

There’s a lot of gear that has to be moved every time a DSLR camera takes a picture—like the mirror mechanism that even the best mirrorless cameras don’t have, for example. And there’s also those big images to consider—it takes some time for a camera to process digital images, especially ones with a higher megapixel count. Because of all this, most DSLR camera’s have burst speeds around 5 fps—they can take five images in one second. A 10 fps burst speed is an excellent speed for a DSLR camera.

The more photos a camera can take in one second, the more likely you are to capture the shot at the perfect moment. But, burst speed is also a good indicator of how fast the camera operates in general.

Ready to use your new DSLR Camera? Sign up today to learn the basics of photography with John Greengo. Learn more.

How much speed do you need? DSLRs with 10 fps burst speeds are excellent for capturing sports, as well as anything that moves quickly, like wildlife or little kids. A faster burst speed will increase your chances of capturing the perfect moment, but you can certainly still shoot little league games and other sports with 5 fps if there’s not enough room in the budget for a faster camera.

One more speed to consider—the maximum shutter speed. The shutter speed determines how long the camera’s shutter stays open to capture the picture. Budget DSLRs typically have a 1/4000 shutter speed—that’s plenty fast enough to freeze action and works for most types of photography. More advanced models will hit speeds of 1/8000 or even 1/16,000. Keep in mind though, that a shutter speed that fast requires a lot of light. Those top shutter speeds come in handy when shooting outside on a bright day with a wide aperture camera setting without overexposing the shot.

Learn more about how this all works with the best-selling Fundamentals of Photography course.

best beginning dslr camera

Prices for an entry-level DSLR camera

Buying a camera isn’t about finding the best one on the market—it’s about finding the best one for your style and your budget. There are several DSLRs on the market that cost the same as a small car and are packed full of the top features, but there are also several for just a few hundred dollars that do a pretty good job and have a feature set that’s ideal for beginners.

Entry-level DSLRs are available for as little as $300 for an older model, though $500-$1,000 is a bit more realistic. The price heads up from there as you add features, like faster speeds and more megapixels.

You can also save a bit by buying a DSLR that’s not the current model. Older DSLRs are still great cameras and sometimes you can pick up an older mid-level DSLR for the same price as a newer entry-level DSLR and get more features. Be careful though to compare features carefully, newer cameras often get a boost in image quality as technology improves. There’s usually not much difference in models that are a year old, but more than two years old and there’s often a noticeable difference in image quality.

Kit lens or camera body only?

Once you decide on a DSLR, you have one more choice to make—buy the kit, or camera body only? Most beginners buy a DSLR camera with a kit lens. Kit lenses are great because they often cover the most common zoom range, usually 18mm to 55mm. They’re inexpensive and a good way to get started in photography.

Kit lenses are often a bit limited, however. Most kit lenses have a maximum aperture of around f/3.6. What does the aperture do, you ask? Aperture determines how wide the opening in the lens is. A wider aperture, like f/1.8 is better for taking photos in limited light or getting a softer, out-of-focus background. Upgrading to a f/1.8 or f/2.8 lens often makes a big difference in image quality, however, it is significantly more expensive than opting for the kit lens.

Ready to use your new DSLR Camera? Sign up today to learn the basics of photography with John Greengo. Learn more.

Choosing the Best Beginning DSLR Camera: 2019 Recommendations

Choosing a DSLR for beginners is about picking a camera that suits your style. If you take pictures of sports or other action, for example, you’ll want to place a higher priority on speed. If you photograph landscapes or other still scenes, resolution from the sensor size and megapixel count is more important. Before you choose a DSLR camera, you should understand sensor size, megapixels, speed and price. If you’re nervous about learning photography, look at pictures of the camera and choose a model with fewer buttons and dials so using the camera doesn’t seem so overwhelming.  Understanding these features to choose the camera that’s right for you is important, but here are some of the best DSLR cameras for beginners on the market right now:

Nikon D3400

The Nikon D3400 is great for getting into photography and is the cheapest model Nikon makes. It also works with the SnapBridge app to establish a connection with your smart device via Bluetooth

-Sensor: 23.5 x 15.6 mm CMOS sensor

-Megapixels: 24.2

-Speed: 1/4000 shutter speed

-Price: $450

Nikon D3300

The Nikon D3300 is great for getting into photography without a huge price tag. It’s the cheapest camera Nikon makes, but is a good starter point since it’s simple to use.

-Sensor: APS-C, no optical low pass filter

-Megapixels: 24.2

-Speed: 5 fps, 1/4000 maximum shutter speed

-Price: $446 with 18-55mm kit lens

Want to learn how to use this camera? Good news, we have a fantastic Fast Start course for this specific camera model.

Pentax K-S3

DSLRs from smaller manufacturers shouldn’t be overlooked. The Pentax K-S2 has an excellent price, along with features that are hard to find on entry-level models, like weather-sealing and wi-fi.

-Sensor: APS-C, no optical low pass filter

-Megapixels: 20

-Speed: 5.5 fps, 1/6000 maximum shutter speed

-Price: $529 with 18-50mm kit lens

Canon Rebel EOS T6i

The Canon EOS T6i is an affordable DSLR that still includes features like wi-fi and a tilting touchscreen. 

Sensor: APS-C, with optical low pass filter

-Megapixels: 24.2

-Speed: 5 fps, 1/4000 maximum shutter speed

-Price: $949 with 18-135mm kit lens

Want to learn how to use this camera? Good news, we have a fantastic Fast Start course for this specific camera model.

Nikon D5500

The Nikon D5500 is the D5300’s big brother, with a tilting LCD screen, wi-fi and a better autofocus system, but similar specs where it really counts in image quality and speed.

-Sensor: APS-C, no optical low pass filter

-Megapixels: 24.2

-Speed: 5 fps, 1/4000 maximum shutter speed

-Price: $746 body-only, $846 with 18-55mm kit lens

Want to learn how to use this camera? Good news, we have a fantastic Fast Start course for this specific camera model.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II 

Canon’s EOS 7D Mark II is the fastest APS-C DSLR camera currently on the market with a 10 fps burst speed. It’s pricer than most entry-level models, but that speed may be well worth the extra expense for sports and other action.

-Sensor: APS-C, with optical low pass filter

-Megapixels: 20.2

-Speed: 10 fps, 1/8000 maximum shutter speed

-Price: $1,499 body-only, $1,459 with 18-135mm kit lens

Want to learn how to use this camera? Good news, we have a fantastic Fast Start course for this specific camera model.

Learning How to Use Your New Camera

Whichever entry-level camera you buy, one thing remains constant: you will only be able to use it to take quality pictures if you take the time to understand the camera’s buttons, features, and menus (everything from its battery life to the electronic viewfinder or built-in wi-fi and low light).

If you have a DSLR camera, but don’t know how everything works on it yet, chances are CreativeLive has a Fast Start course on it. These short video guides are so much better than trying to read the manual and manual controls.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all best DSLR camera for beginners. But, there’s a handful of excellent options on the market that are well-suited for inexperienced photographers, some faster or with more features. And by learning how to choose a camera, you’ll have a good start to learning just how to use that camera with this popular photography for beginners course.

Ready to use your new DSLR Camera? Sign up today to learn the basics of photography with John Greengo. Learn more.

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Sue Bryce Blogging Tips: Blog Like It’s A Wedding

Sue Bryce Blogging Tips: Blog Like It’s A Wedding

photography blogging advice

For photographers looking to grow and retain an online audience, a blog and the right blogging tips are absolutely essential. Not only is blogging a great tool for boosting the SEO of a site that could otherwise be too static to rank highly on Google search, it’s also a great way to develop a rapport with potential clients long before and after you actually may work with them. This is especially true for photographers who specialize in a kind of photography that centers around life’s monuments, like newborn, wedding, or senior photography; even before a customer is ever engaged or pregnant, showing up in their Facebook feed with a fresh new post is a great way to ensure that when the time does come, they’ll want you and only you.

But what to blog about is an ongoing issue for many photographers who will be the first to admit that they aren’t writers by trade. That’s why we got some blogging tips from pro wedding photographer Sue Bryce.

Her approach to blogging? Think of it like preparations for a wedding. “I always do old, new, borrowed, blue,” she explains. Here’s what that means:


For a post about something old, you have your pick of topics. This could be a story about your first camera, or the relative merits of film vs. digital. Or, it could be a throwback post, says Sue.

“We take something old that’s from our past, we repost an image we took 20 years ago, we talk about an old style of photography…we talk about something old that’s relative to my industry,” she says. When you’re hunting for ideas, it’s a good idea to look back in time.

blogging advice for photographers


Or, you can look back to just a few days ago. For your new posts, share “something from a shoot we’ve just done,” or a recent experience. Talk about a new piece of equipment you’ve just added, or a new person you’ve just met.


This can also have a wide range of meaning, but mostly, Sue says, “something borrowed is inspiration. It’s a featured post, where you feature somebody else in a post.” Look to other photographers that you admire, then write about what it is that you like about their work.


“Blue is from the heart,” she says. “It’s when I write something personal.” Your personal content shouldn’t be the bulk of your blog — remember, your SEO keywords are probably more about photography than they are about your tastes in music or your emotions — but it’s great to pepper in every now and then.

Rotate through these ideas to keep your blog full of interesting, relevant content that’s surprisingly and delightful for your followers and readers. Include a mix, as Sue says, of advice and position opinions, as well as self-promotion and insight into who you are, both as a photographer as a person. Then, just remember: Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.

Want to learn more from Sue Bryce? Tune in now for a free stream of her course 28 Days of Wedding Photography

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Brooke Shaden on Lighting: It Doesn’t Have to Be Fancy to Look Good

Brooke Shaden on Lighting: It Doesn’t Have to Be Fancy to Look Good

Who needs diffusion cloth when you have a bare bulb and a piece of paper? Brooke Shaden doesn’t.

Brooke is known for her down-to-earth teaching style and her other-worldly imagery. In Fine Art Compositing she needed to create a light source that mimicked the light on the background she planned to drop her model in and she opted to go basic – very basic.

Believable composites are achieved by matching light levels and angles – in the Fine Art class, Brooke demonstrated that you could create the perfect lighting setup for a composite with very inexpensive gear.

“We’re not working with anything fancy here,” Brooke explained as she asked a student to hold up a cheap Ikea lamp up to counterbalance the window light she was using to light the model’s face.

Want more Brooke? Learn more about her online workshop Fine Art Photography: The Complete Guide.

 When the bare bulb made the light source too obvious, Brooke surveyed the room for a low-tech diffusion option. Brooke accepted two sheets of notebook paper from the woman in the front row. With a little experimenting Brooke got the separation from the background she was looking for not from notebook paper but by using a single tissue – yes the Kleenex kind – and the bare bulb.

“If I were home I would just get a pillowcase or something.”

Once the separation issue was solved she turned to another low-tech solution to cure the drop-off she was getting from the window light: another cheap lamp. Some window light, two lamps with bare bulbs, and a tissue was all she needed to get the effect she was after. Now that is low-tech lighting.

If you want to watch Brooke in action, you can check out the video below or go to the course page for your complete guide to compositing with tips on using fancy and not-so-fancy gear.

Want more Brooke? Learn more about her online workshop Fine Art Photography: The Complete Guide.

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7 Awesome Ways Illustrator is Being Used Today

7 Awesome Ways Illustrator is Being Used Today

Who uses Adobe Illustrator? The better question might be—who doesn’t? Utilized across a vast array of industries, this vector-based graphics software has something for everyone who has a role in the wide world of design. From a company logo to a highway billboard to a birthday card—it was all probably first designed in Illustrator.

But being the versatile app that it is, here’s how designers across many industries are working with Illustrator in 7 very different and fascinating ways:

3D printed objects

It’s an exciting time as 3D printers for home use continue to expand their capabilities and drop in price. Crafters, entrepreneurs and creators of all kinds are using Illustrator to design their visions before printing them out to use as a prototype or to sell on Etsy.

Video Game Development

Some of the most complex video games out there today were first formed in Illustrator. If you’ve ever played Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest, then you’ve seen the work of Japanese video game developer Square Enix. This global video game giant just so happens to use Illustrator for much of its design work.

Create Graphics, Drawings And Logos Quickly And At The Highest Professional Standard. Learn more.

Wearable Devices

With the advent of the IoT (Internet of Things) and connected gadgets like wearable devices, there’s been a need for increasingly smaller screens. Thinking outside the usual mobile or tablet box, many user interface (UI) designers are working in Illustrator to push the UI into diminutive dimensions while maintaining an emphasis on simplicity and productivity.

Package Design

Every time you buy something from Amazon or from your grocery store, it probably comes in some sort of packaging. But that package doesn’t design itself. From a basic pizza delivery box to an elegant light bulb case, this design is the result of a professional package designer who is most likely using Illustrator.


Someday, you might be reading articles written only in emojis. 😀 To feed the world’s insatiable hunger for emojis, Illustrator is being used by emoji enthusiasts and professional designers alike to developing new emojis and refresh old ones.


Did you know that Nike shoes, Victoria’s Secret lingerie and Ralph Lauren shirts are designed in Illustrator? If the world of fashion is where you envision yourself, whether you want to launch your own fashion line or design for the hottest in haute couture, it’s time to get working on your Illustrator skills!

Motion Graphics

The demand for motion graphics is on the rise, as more companies big and small turn to this medium as a way to liven up their online presence and to create more emotionally engaging branding and advertising. Motion designers tend to use Illustrator as the first step in the process before importing files into After Effects.

Create Graphics, Drawings And Logos Quickly And At The Highest Professional Standard. Learn more.

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Watercolor Painting for Beginners

Watercolor Painting for Beginners

Starting a new hobby in watercolor painting doesn’t need to be daunting; watercolor is a versatile painting medium that’s been around even before the invention of watercolor sets in the 18th century or the influence of the English school that helped popularize the craft in continental Europe. With just a few simple art supplies and techniques, you’ll be on your way to creating stunning watercolor paintings akin to Paul Cézanne in no time.

The great thing about watercolor painting is that there are several price points available as you’re learning. You can get a great 36 color watercolor set to get going and then expand your collection of colors easily by purchasing tubes, and drying them out in watercolor pan sets or other paint pans to create your own customized set. When making the jump into professional-grade tubes it’s a good idea to get a set with colors from a basic color wheel (look out for promo codes or free shipping sales online).

Starting a new hobby in watercolor doesn't need to be daunting. Check out our guide to watercolor for beginners from Natalie Malan on the CreativeLive blog.

Winsor & Newton paints are great paint manufacturers to start with if you are looking for professional quality pigments. They are vibrant and bright, and worth the investment. My first picks are usually primary colors: Scarlet Lake, Lemon Yellow and Manganese Blue Hue. They work well for most people and are my most frequently used red, yellow, and blue. Building out from that set into some secondary colors, I love Sap Green, Winsor Orange (Red Shade), and Cobalt Violet. Prussian Blue and Opera Rose are also great colors to add to your art supplies. There is a handy color wheel printable available here that you can fill in and use as a reference when you are watercolor painting.

Starting a new hobby in watercolor doesn't need to be daunting. Check out our guide to watercolor for beginners from Natalie Malan on the CreativeLive blog.

Creating a reference chart specific to your palette is always a good idea, and it’s a fun watercolor workout to get you started. Simply paint blobs onto a piece of watercolor paper to see what the watercolor colors from your palette actually look like on paper. Then keep it around while you are painting so it’s easy to remember exactly which color is which.

Start Working With Watercolors Today with Rhode Island School of Design instructor Mary Jane Begin. Learn More

Starting a new hobby in watercolor doesn't need to be daunting. Check out our guide to watercolor for beginners from Natalie Malan on the CreativeLive blog.

If you decide to purchase a budget-friendly watercolor set, you may be happier prewetting your colors with a spray bottle filled with water. Sometimes the less expensive colors need more water to get the colors flowing and give you a real watercolor consistency, so don’t be afraid to add lots of water at first if your paints appear opaque. Watercolors should have a transparent quality to them, so to make a lighter color all you need to do it add more water.

Paper towels or an old terry cloth rag are great for blotting wet brushes. And scraps of paper to test your colors on are always a good idea to have around while you are learning the ins and outs of mixing your colors with a new palette.

Starting a new hobby in watercolor doesn't need to be daunting. Check out our guide to watercolor for beginners from Natalie Malan on the CreativeLive blog.

Taping down your paper is a good idea to keep it flat as the paint dries. Watercolor paper likes to curl up and contort when it’s introduced to water. Using painters tape or masking tape usually works well. Make sure to leave it taped down until all the paint is completely dry. Flat paintings are much easier to frame and look more professional than a painting that is buckled from the water.

Round brushes are pretty versatile, but there are some nice budget friendly kits out now that come with a variety of shapes like this one from Ranger which includes a set of both rounds and flats.

Aren't these colors gorgeous? Check out our guide to watercolor for beginners from Natalie Malan on the CreativeLive blog.

Setting up your workspace is another key to success. Please note that this is a left-handed arrangement. Set up the paint and water to the opposite side of you if you are right-handed. An “L” shape usually works best with your paper in front of you, palette to the side with a paper towel below, a scrap of paper for testing colors before placing them on your painting, and two cups of water above the palette. One for clean water and one for dirty water is a pretty standard arrangement.

Starting a new hobby in watercolor doesn't need to be daunting. Check out our guide to watercolor for beginners from Natalie Malan on the CreativeLive blog.

Watercolor paper is another hugely important factor when it comes to watercolor. Arches cold press is an amazing surface to paint on; and an investment. Starting out with a pad of student grade paper to play around with and get comfortable painting on is a good idea at first. Strathmore makes a great student grade paper. Purchasing both is a great way to become familiar with the qualities of your paint, and how it reacts with the paper. If you are an intermediate painter, and had to choose between nicer pigments, or nicer paper, the paper would probably be the better investment.

Some great resources include Periscope (@nataliemalan), Snap Chat and Instagram for simple video watercolor tutorials and tips – and the Facebook page: Natalie Malan Studio are other great resources as well. With these tips, you’ll discover how to be a watercolor artist in no time at all!

Start Working With Watercolors Today with Rhode Island School of Design instructor Mary Jane Begin. Learn More

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7 New Wedding & Portrait Photography Trends for 2019

7 New Wedding & Portrait Photography Trends for 2019

If there’s a single physical place to go to uncover the year’s portrait photography and wedding photography trends, it’s WPPI. The Wedding and Portrait Photographers International Conference takes over Las Vegas at the end of February, bringing photographers from budding new professionals to well-known creatives together in one place. The 2019 show has just wrapped up — but while the conference may be over, the event is still sparking ideas for creatives.

Photo: Ryan Schembri

From the winners of the 16×20 print competition to the lists of speakers and rising stars, WPPI 2019 offers a glimpse at the biggest trends in the industry. While factors like portrait lighting, lens choice, depth of field, and proper camera settings will always be essential, here are the creative trends spotted at this year’s WPPI.

Photographs that pay homage to paintings and traditional art

Several of the category winners more closely resemble traditional paintings than images from a digital camera. Using props, poses, and colors, photographers are bridging modern photography and classic artwork. Brooke Kasper’s second place fine art portrait uses a distinctive posing and props resembling a Renniasance painting; her third place teen portrait uses the dress of a classical painting. Some go beyond the pose and colors — Creative Live instructor and newborn photographer Kelly Brown’s second place family category image of a breastfeeding mother uses painterly textures. 

Photo: Kelly Brown

All three images in the children’s category by Melody Smith (first place) and Julia Kelleher (second and third place) use props for a fairytale feel and colors and textures that feel painting-like. WPPI Grand Master Ryan Schembri‘s first place wedding couples image uses shutter speed blur to obscure the couple’s identity in a way that feels almost like Impressionist brush strokes. Feng He uses shutter speed blur in a sandstorm to create painter-like texture in the first place pre-wedding bridal portrait. Then, of course, there’s Mauro Cantelmi’s first place grand award-winning image where the father of the bride actually mirrors the pose of a large painting of Jesus.

Conceptual photography bringing abstractions to life

Photo: Julia Kelleher, High-Risk Pregnancy

Some stories are more abstract than visual — so when a photographer manages to capture a feeling or another abstract idea, the result is impressive. Julia Kelleher’s winning maternity image of a mother-to-be balancing on a stack of books with twigs strapped to her feet makes perfect sense when you take in the image with the title: High-Risk Pregnancy. Her winning newborn image captures the struggle of post-partum depression. Marja Sullavan’s The Last Tie bleeds emotion with an elderly gentlemen sitting across from an empty chair and an old wedding photo.

Pops of color

Photo: Amnon Eichelberg, Student Work

Sure, photographers don’t have the same color choices as painters, but many of the top images from this year’s WPPI and those from the Rising Stars had an excellent command of color. From bright pink and turquoise backgrounds to brightly colored images, color takes center stage. Take a look at the bright red dress exaggerating sharp feminine curves in Sal Cincotta’s winning fashion image or the reds in Mauro Cantelmi’s composites. The colors don’t have to be bright to stand out if the rest of the image uses dark tones, like Savio Isshak’s boudoir image with the color of the cupboards mirrored in the bowl on the opposite side of the frame.

Harness the power of Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom and take your creative potential to the next level. Get the entire Photoshop Week bundle for just $99.

Photoshop Week 2018

Monochromatic and film-inspired colors

While many images used pops of bright colors, others successfully created a bold statement using neutral tones or keeping almost everything in the same color family. Several photographers didn’t need a black and white conversion to keep tones in one color family. Take a look at Feng He and Chuqing Ye’s bridal portraits, Erich Caparas’ pet portrait, Joseph Cogliandro’s boudoir image, Rocco Ancora’s winning teen portrait, and Belinda Richard’s composite.

Photo: Petronella Lugemwa

Others don’t go to a monochromatic extreme but use film-inspired colorization. Many of the winning photographers, WPPI speakers, and the event’s rising stars use dark, contrasty colors, while others favor a style with lighter pastels and a matte finish. Looking at the portfolios of Rangefinder’s Rising Stars like Petronella Lugemwa, Christopher Glenn, Jasmin Neidhart, Phil Porto, Qiya Ng, and Kuoloon Chong, each has a distinct style throughout, in particular with color toning.

The importance of story

Photo: Keren Dobia, The Toy Tinkerer

Images tell a story — but some images have a knack for making that story so real you can reach out and touch it. Like Cassandra Jones’ Triumphant Heart newborn portrait. Some use props to tell that story — like Marja Sullavan’s winning family portrait and Keren Dobian’s environmental portrait The Toy Tinkerer. Whatever the method, capturing a story in a single image is a task that’s tough to do, but creates stunning portraits when done right.

Shape, lines, and repetition

Photo: Aleksi Kallioja, Student Work

While several stand-out WPPI images create their own trends or capitalize on growing fads, others prove that some things just never go out of style. Like using shape, lines, and repetition as compositional tools. Browsing through the entire gallery of winners shows how a simple command of composition creates a good portrait, from the spiral of a staircase to ornate windows. Repetition, too, shows in several images, like work from Chiu Yu-Jing, Celine Law, Pan Alex, and Jerry Ghionis.

DSLRs are no longer first and foremost

Browsing through the WPPI winners, the images inspire thoughts of stories, art and more. What’s not as important are things like whether a Canon, Nikon, or Sony was used, or whether it was a DSLR, a mirrorless camera, or even a drone. The debates between natural light, window light or an artificial light source, between hard light and soft light matters little next to the way the light helps tell the story.

Photo: Zoraya Stern‎, Student Work

Between the speakers, the workshops, and the contests, WPPI helps portrait and wedding photographers grow their craft and find new inspiration. Browse through all the incredible contest images here, or learn more about the 2020 show at the WPPI website.

Harness the power of Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom and take your creative potential to the next level. Get the entire Photoshop Week bundle for just $99.

Photoshop Week 2018

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8 Outdoor Photographers You Should Know

8 Outdoor Photographers You Should Know

Ian Shive is on CreativeLive's list of Nature Photographers to Follow.
source: Ian Shive

Outdoor photography is a powerful medium. It can capture incredible natural locations many people don’t get to see in person. It can enact policy change to preserve the great outdoors. And it can remind us of everything there is to be thankful for. While there are some big names that everyone knows – the Ansel Adamses of the world – there are plenty more who are doing incredible work in the genres of outdoor and landscape photography.

Below a list of some incredible outdoor photographers whose names you may not know, but definitely should. You may have seen their work in outdoor photo magazines like National Geographic, or heard about their conservation work, or maybe glanced their wildlife photography or travel photography in a gallery — or maybe they’re completely new to you.

Either way, add these folks — some iconic, some brand-new — to your must-watch list and discover some of the best images out there. Learn some photography tips from their beautiful photographs or simply allow yourself to be transported to a new part of the world via outdoor photography images that are sure to stun. No matter what, these outdoor photographers will confirm that some of the best photos are the ones that capture the spirit of our landscapes.

Alex Strohl

Alex Strohl is a Madrid-born, French photographer whose adventures around the world in places like Alaska and Canada have informed his unique style of photography.

Instead of creating contrived scenes, Strohl creates authentic moments and captures them as they unfold before him—continually blurring the lines between work and life.

Strohl’s photography has been featured in prestigious publications such as Forbes, Vanity Fair, and Gentleman’s Journal; his client lists includes dozens of household names. He is based in Whitefish, Montana—but spends the vast majority of his time on the road with his life partner Andrea Dabene; they often journey to their favorite places in some of the most remote reaches of the world.

Frans Lanting

Photo: Frans Lanting, Lesser flamingos, Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

Dutch photographer Frans Lanting has spent years living among his natural subjects in remote locations like Africa. “The existence of huge free-roaming herds of elephants in Botswana is a symbol for both the nature of this landscape and for the human decisions that must be made about the fate of wild places and wildlife both here and elsewhere on Earth,” Frans told National Geographic, “How we balance those interests will be the legacy of our time, the path we leave on the land.”

He’s won photo contests and awards including the Sierra Club’s Ansel Adams Award and was awarded the title of BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

Erin Sullivan

Erin Sullivan, aka @ErinOutdoors, is a travel photographer and writer who believes that images and words have the power to inspire meaningful change. Her photos of the great outdoors spark curiosity and her social media channels and blog create a space for connection with people of similar passions to this world and each other.

Erin is a Sony Alpha Ambassador based out of Los Angeles – but you’d be hard pressed to find her there for long. She’s more often than not traveling the world running photography workshops and sharing the incredible diversity that exists on our planet, and the connection each one of us has to it and to each other.

Photo: Ami Vitale

Ami Vitale

After more than a decade covering conflict, photographer and filmmaker Ami Vitale couldn’t help but notice that the less sensational—but equally true—stories were often not getting told: the wedding happening around the corner from the revolution, triumphs amidst seemingly endless devastation.

As a result, she re-committed herself to seeking out the stories within and around “the story,” and remaining independent, so that she would have the freedom to shoot what she believed deserved to be shared.  Her belief that “you can’t talk about humanity without talking about nature” led her to chronicle her journey from documenting war zones to telling some of the most compelling wildlife and environmental stories of our time, where individuals are making a profound difference in the future of their communities and this planet.

Ami Vitale’s journeys as a photographer, writer and filmmaker have taken her to over 100 countries where she has witnessed civil unrest and violence, but also surreal beauty and the enduring power of the human spirit. She has lived in mud huts and war zones, contracted malaria, and donned a panda suit—all in keeping with her philosophy of “living the story.”

Learn How To Photograph Birds With Renowned National Geographic Photographer Frans Lanting.

Ellie Davies

ellie davies
Photo: Ellie Davies

Combining outdoor photography with fine art, UK photographer Ellie Davis creates rich, dramatic images of remote forested areas in ways that are strangely emotional.

“From an early age the notion of the forest is given a sinister and threatening personality in the form of fairy tales and children’s stories. Stepping inside the dense forest feels like entering another world,” she explains in an artist statement. “These sensory experiences often lead to the forest being used as metaphor. The wild and impenetrable forest has long symbolized the dark, hidden world of the unconscious.”

Photo: Michelle Valberg

Michelle Valberg

Michelle Valberg is a renowned explorer, adventurer and wildlife photographer. She is a Nikon Ambassador Canada, a fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, and was the first ever Canadian Geographic Photographer-in-Residence. She started as a generalist photographer, picking up wedding and portrait gigs, but really found her stride in nature.

She now photographs everything from narwhals to ice bears to snowy owls to a field of 10,000 walrus. “As a photographer, it’s important to share with the world what we have to lose if we don’t take better care of our planet.”

Listen as she describes her first time making eye-to-eye contact with a polar bear and how photographing wildlife involves using all of your senses to anticipate the decisive moment in her We Are Photographers episode.

Brian Skerry

You have definitely seen underwater photojournalist Brian Skerry‘s beautiful seascapes in the pages of National Geographic, whether you knew it or not — but you may not be aware of the kind of change his images and work really are inciting. Illustrating important pieces like Joel K. Bourne, Jr.’s “How to Far a Better Fish,” Skerry says that he makes pictures to educate the general population about the environmental concerns facing the ocean.

“My hope is to continually find new ways of creating images and stories that both celebrate the sea yet also highlight environmental problems. Photography can be a powerful instrument for change,” he told National Geographic.

Vincent Munier

French photographer Vincent Munier was named the BBC’s Wildlife Photographer for three years in a row — 2000, 2001, and 2002 — and has had work featured in National Geographic and Audubon Magazine. He’s also the subject of Running Wild with Vincent Munier, a 2012 documentary.

Munier, who has been involved in environmental matters since childhood, says that one of the most difficult parts about photographing nature is being present, without harming it.

“Nature can be so fragile, and mankind can disturb — or even destroy — large swaths of it with very little effort, so when I am in the field, I try to leave the smallest footprint I can,” he once explained.

Ian Shive

Author of The National Parks: Our American Landscape, Ian Shive falls squarely into that category of conservation photographers who are saving the world through landscape images. Through his work in conservation photography, which has been published in National Geographic, Outside, Men’s Journal, Backpacker, Sierra Magazine, The Nature Conservancy, National Parks Magazine, and Popular Science, Ian has helped chronicle and advocate on behalf of the U.S.’s national natural treasures.

Learn How To Photograph Birds With Renowned National Geographic Photographer Frans Lanting.

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Call For Photo Submissions: National Geographic Photographer Frans Lanting Wants to Critique Your Bird Photography

Call For Photo Submissions: National Geographic Photographer Frans Lanting Wants to Critique Your Bird Photography

World-renowned National Geographic photographer, Frans Lanting is a master at telling a visual story with his photos. For three decades he has documented wildlife from the Amazon to Antarctica to promote understanding about the Earth and its natural history through images that convey a passion for nature and a sense of wonder about our living planet.

This March, Frans returns to CreativeLive for an exciting course entitled The Art of Bird Photography, where you’ll have the opportunity to have this  wildlife photography master take a look at how you see the world, and offer constructive and actionable critiques on how to improve your imagery

As part of this incredible course, we are calling on you, our photography students, to submit your images for a chance to have it critiqued by Frans Lanting in his class

Hone Your Wildlife and Bird Photography

In this curated review, you’ll get expert insight into improving your work so you can begin capturing unforgettable images of birds..

Want to see your work critiqued by Frans Lanting live on airImages should be at least 4k pixels on the long side, but keep files under 10MB

Label your JPG files: yourfullname.jpg.

Here are a couple of Frans’s incredible images to inspire you to go through your catalog and submit your work:

Submit an image showing how you see the world, and then tune in on March  to see if your photo made the cut for critique by a true nature photography master.  Even if your work is not chosen, the lessons provided will be invaluable in helping you to take on your next adventure.  

This is an incredible opportunity, so make sure you submit now, because he will only have time to critique a certain number of images during this live event! 


Maximum size 10MB

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See nature photography in a new way. Join Frans Lanting for an in-depth photo critique of landscape, wildlife, and macro photography. Sign up now.

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