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The Really Long Exposure

Publicado por Diana Tula · January 10th 2014

We love guest blog posts! Today’s article is by John Ellingson. John has been taking photographs for over half a century, witnessing as photography evolved from film to digital. In the late '60s and '70s John was fortunate to get to know Ansel Adams and spend time with him in Yosemite, working together on an environment project that John started in Washington state. In this article John is going to share his thoughts on photography, friendship and life experiences. Please enjoy. If you want to write a guest blog post get in touch!


I opened the shutter in the 1950s and it is still open. Many interesting things, places and people have passed in front of the lens in that time. Many memories as well as photographs have been created. Probably the greatest treasures are the friendships that photography made. Both as a working photographer and as a hobbyist; holding a camera in your hand can be the ticket to places you would not otherwise get.

Learning to see because you learn to think in images may give you a vision others don’t have. That vision may enable you to be inspired in the ordinary where others are only inspired by the extraordinary.

The inspiration to share some of my experiences in the hope that they may help others along the path to their own long exposure came out of the blue a couple or years ago. I received an email from The Center for Creative Photography. The Center is the repository of the personal photo collection of Ansel and Virginia Adams. It turns out that within this very large collection of photos are three of my images. I had the great pleasure of meeting Ansel in the late ‘60s and though we shared a passion for photography, he played in a different league altogether. Our other shared common passion, which cemented our friendship over the years was our working interest in conservation.

Photography can open doors, create friendships and take us to places we would not otherwise go. With this blog I hope to stimulate others on 500px to share some of those experiences. I’ll kick it off with the surprise from the back of one of my prints from years ago and ask if others have something similar to share…


Photo Tutorial — Create HDR Composite Portraits

Publicado por Diana Tula · January 9th 2014

Want to learn more about photography and grow your photo library of tutorials? Welcome to our ongoing blog series where you can do just that, as we share with you the behind the scenes details and tips on creating world's best photos. Today's tutorial on how create HDR composite portraits will be guided by Maryus Bio, teaching you the technique and the process behind one of his photographs. Please enjoy!


Hi! My name is Maryus Bio and I am going to be your photo instructor for today, sharing with you the tips and tricks behind HDR composite portraits.

In this tutorial, we are going to explore one of the ways how to make a composite portrait — starting from shooting the background, then the model and finally merging all together in order to produce a single image. Let's get started.

Step 1: Shooting the background

For this particular image, the background was shot in an industrial park in my neighborhood here in Quebec City. It's an 8-stops HDR photo shot at sunset. You can see the different exposures below.

Most of the time I shoot HDR because of the details we can get in the shadows and the highlights. To be safe, I suggest you shoot at least 5 to 9 exposures depending on the place and the moment, with 1 stop spacing so the transition and tone mapping look more natural.

Step 2: Tone mapping

Let's start by opening your images in Camera Raw or Lightroom (both are the same) and apply a few basic settings: white balance, lens profile correction, noise reduction. This step is optional but you will get a much better result in your final image. Make sure to sync the settings on all exposures.

Now export them in your favorite HDR software. I use Photomatix Pro to blend my HDR, and the first thing you should do is set everything to default. You can play with the sliders but try to get a very basic blended image and leave major corrections (contrast, sharpening, ...) to Photoshop. Here's my HDR out of Photomatix.

I then go back to Camera Raw and make additional corrections if needed. Now here comes the fun part in Photoshop. If you take a look at the image above, you will notice the moving clouds. I didn't want this effect so I replaced the sky with one of the other exposures. I then added some contrast using the curve and the black and white adjustment layers in soft light blend mode, increased details with the high pass sharpening and the Topaz Details plugin, and added a little more saturation. Here's my final HDR.

Step 3: Shooting the model

I use Joel Grimes' three-lights approach when shooting my models. It helps to match almost any light source when you don't know what your background is going to be. In this case, I shot the background first so I used a 7" reflector with a 40deg grid on camera left to match the sun light and get a little flare. The light on camera right is mounted with a 24" softbox with grid and the main light is a 35" octabox. Check out the diagram of my lighting and the photo right out of the camera.

Step 4: The composite

The final step is blending the background and the model together. This step requires a lot of explanations and could be subject to another tutorial quite soon. Here's the final image.

Equipment and Technical details

You'll need a tripod to shoot the HDR background. Using a tripod also helps you shoot the model at the same height. This way you'll save a lot of work with matching perspective in Photoshop. Although I think it's better to shoot at the same focal length, this background was shot at 10mm while the model was shot at 28mm with a Canon 7D (full frame equivalent are 16mm and 45mm), so she looks bigger than in real life.

When shooting for a composite, I prefer a gray background (light or dark) because I find it's easier to extract the model. Depending on the tools or techniques you have, you may prefer colored backgrounds (blue, green) or solid white.

About The Photographer

I'm a full time software developer living in Quebec City (Quebec, Canada). I've always been interested in art and photography has been my hobby for about 3 years now. I mostly shoot composite portraits and landscapes, inspired by Joel Grimes and Calvin Hollywood's work. As for now, I continue learning new techniques and try to develop my own artistic vision. You can connect with me on Facebook (maryusbiophotography) or 500px (maryus). I wish you a wonderful year 2014!

We hope our tutorial series inspires you to try something new and enhance your own work. Do you have a tutorial that you’d like to share with us on 500px Blog? Email For more related tutorials take a look at the Chiroscuro and Long Exposure portraiture, and to learn about HDR check out this great article by Trey Ratcliff.

Thanks for reading!

When we were young by Caroline GIFE

Publicado por Diana Tula · January 9th 2014

”I'm 25 years old. I live in France. I do photography for 5 years. I find my inspiration around me, my eyes are like a camera, I follow my feelings...”

Caroline GIFE and her portfolio of photos is a celebration of youth. Showing the time when one cared less, rejoiced more, dreamed big and just had fun with life. Let’s be young again!


Photo Tutorial — Improving Your Chiaroscuro Portraits

Publicado por Diana Tula · January 8th 2014

We love guest blog posts! Today’s tutorial on chiaroscuro portraits is a follow-up to the original article on Chiaroscuro Portraiture, where Alex Huff shared the process behind creating these classic portraits. Alex Huff is San Francisco-based studio portrait photographer extraordinaire, super skilled product photographer, and a stellar copy writer. In this post Alex goes into great detail, addressing important exceptions and rules to chiaroscuro portrait photography. Please enjoy!


Earlier this year, I released a tutorial on how I create my chiaroscuro-style portraits. Since then, I’ve received responses along the lines of, “I followed your instructions and my portraits do not look like yours. What am I doing wrong?”

No one is doing anything wrong. However, there is a very delicate dance between light, the shape of someone’s face, and the expression they have on their face. There are lighting patterns that tend to be universally flattering, such as Rembrandt, Loop, and Butterfly lighting, but you can’t depend on positioning alone for every portrait. For every rule, there are exceptions.

Rules & Exceptions

The Rule: Use Rembrandt and Loop Lighting. My lighting style uses a variation of Rembrandt and Loop lighting with a large, heavily diffused light source very close to the subject’s face. This means that the light is slightly above eye level, about 30-45º from the camera, and pointed downward.

The Exception: If the subject has very deep-set eyes then lower the light to more of an eye-level position rather than slightly above eye-level. I find that this helps fill in those sockets, along with reflectors.

The Rule: Use broad lighting to soften problem skin and to widen thin faces and short lighting to bring out a sculpted look and thin the “fat”. I use “fat” in scare quotes because how a face photographs can be very different from actual BMI. In broad lighting, the light is hitting the part of the face closest to the camera. In short lighting, it is just the opposite.

In my draft shot of Gabe on the left, I used broad lighting (light is placed on the side closest to the camera). For my final on the right, I used short lighting.

The Exception: This is my most often broken rule. I light for the person and for their expression. I have photographed very thin people with short lighting and moon-faced people with broad lighting.

The Rule: Use a grid to narrow light spread and get more shadows.

The Exception: I use grids quite often but you don’t need them for falloff. Most of the time, I feather my light to get the kind of shadows I am looking for.

The Rule: Find the subject’s dominant eye and light for it.

The Exception: If you have the time to spend, take a shot from all angles.

Shoot from all sides. I did several draft shots of Liana (you can see the final shot here) regardless of what I thought might have been her “good side”.

A Confession

I flounder. A lot. To help with that, I have a system I like to call the “feather shake”. To feather the light, you don’t move the position of the stand so much as change the position of the softbox.

Once I have my subject in place and my light set to a basic just-above-eye-level-45º-from-camera-and-pointed-downward position, I rotate the softbox head back and forth like it is shaking its head “no”. This causes only part of the softbox to be hitting the subject’s face and, when placed very close to them, can produce that pleasing window-like soft light with quick falloff. Practice feathering. It’s a dark art and I have yet to master it.

Basic Problems

1) Dark eyes with no catchlights in them.
Solution: Lower your light.

2) My model is wearing glasses.
Solution: Avoid short lighting.

For Hannah and Obediah, I used broad lighting (light is illuminating the portion of the face closest to the camera). I could have used short lighting but it would involve raising the light higher or tilting the glasses in undesirable ways in order to keep the light outside the angle of reflection.

Here is a draft shot of Obediah with short lighting demonstrating the problem it can be for glasses.

3) My background is getting too much light from the feathering.
Solution: Move your subject away from the background.

Your Subjects

People get hung up on lighting sometimes at the expense of being a director. If you photograph models who know how to pose then skip this section because I don’t photograph models - I photograph everyday people. Peter Hurley’s squinching technique is incredibly effective as is neck-turtling, relaxed jaws, fan-blown hair, and “mood theater” (getting the subject to think of something specific to render a certain expression).

Special Considerations

Some people have asked me to address two specific situations and if I do anything special as far as lighting is concerned:

Dark Skin - The only change I need to make here is with exposure, either with the light itself, in-camera, or simply placing the light a little closer to the subject.

Here are two coworkers I photographed on the same day. All the settings are exactly the same except that Andrea, on the right, is photographed at f/5.6 versus Aubrey’s f/6.3. Also, Andrea’s light is a bit closer. Darker skin tends to need a little bit more light but is otherwise treated the same as fair skin in my experience.

Mature Skin - I use larger light modifiers for older skin. I once pulled out a 7’ parabolic for an older client. A painting expert who knows a bit about light, she jokingly asked, “just how old do you think I am?!” If you don’t have a large modifier, use a heavily diffused one and feather it.

I don’t always have a choice in modifiers. I once photographed everyone at my family reunion with only 1 small octabox. As you can see in the catchlights, my mother-in-law has the modifier placed closer to her and feathered a little more than my young cousin does.


If your romantic vision for painterly lights and darks is all turning into mud during your shoot remember these key things:

1) Stop moving the light stand everywhere like a crazy chicken and, instead, do a “feather shake”.

2) Give your subject more attention than your strobe.

3) Break the rules about broad and short lighting. What looks good on your subject may surprise you.

Your Photos

Have you attempted chiaroscuro photography? We would love to see your results, please share links to your photos in the comments below.

Thanks for reading! Do you want to see your tutorial featured on 500px Blog? Get it touch, just email For more tutorials take a look at the Best Photo Tutorials of 2013 and return to the blog tomorrow.


Meet Emily Baillie

Publicado por Diana Tula · January 7th 2014

2014 is here and we are back with our ongoing weekly blog series, introducing you to the new and upcoming 500px photographers. Today we’d like to share with you the vibrant work of Toronto-based Emily Baillie. Emily photographs travel, landscape and street with her trusty Nikon D3000 and D5100. Please enjoy!

Hey! Are you new to 500px and want to get your work featured? Let us know, just leave a comment below with your favourite photo. We are looking forward to seeing your work :)


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