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Tutorial: Time Stack

Published by Alexandra Kim · March 7th 2014

Today I’d like to introduce the brilliant Matt Molloy, photography enthusiast and budding professional. He’s the author of those amazing impressionist inspired photos. So many people have asked how to do this technique, and he’s been gracious enough to share it here with us! Please enjoy this Time Stack Tutorial.

I've always been amazed by timelapse photography and the unique perspective of time it gives you. Once I got into photography, it was a natural direction for me to go. The more I explored timelapse photography, the more I realized how versatile it is. You can get so much out of a timelapse; an interesting video; the perfect shot (selected from several hundred photos of the same scene), enhanced details and distortion correction (often done in astrophotography); or removing elements from a scene (like cars or people). Last, but not least, my favorite is often what I call "time stacking". This technique of layering multiple still photos has been used for years to create "stars trails" from timelapse sequences.

Here is an example of a "star trail" image I created from a series of 305 photos.

Once I made a few star trail images, I wondered why I've never seen this technique used on daylight timelapses. I tried it and, after a little tweaking here and there, I was astounded by the resulting images! They are kind of like a super long exposure, showing a large chunk of time in a single image, which is very much like the Impressionist movement that some clever painters came up with around the year 1870.

Here is my very first attempt at a daylight "timestack".

Here's what you need to make a "time stack" yourself:

1. A camera and an intervalometer (a device to make your camera take pictures repeatedly at a given interval). If you have a Canon camera, like I do, there's a good chance that you can download free software called Magic Lantern that gives you lots of new features including an intervalometer built right into your camera. Perhaps there's similar software for other brands of cameras, and if not, most cameras will be able to use a remote control that includes intervalometer function. Here's a bunch of different remotes.

2. Something to fix your camera in position while it shoots multiple photos, such as a stable tripod. The sturdier the better! I've found that a weight on a rope attached to the center of the tripod helps a lot when it's windy. I am speaking from experience here! It doesn't take a lot of wind to blow your tripod over, sending your precious equipment for costly repairs. I use a good size stone block with a hole drilled through it hung on the tripod, just below my camera.

3. Photo editing software. I use Adobe's Photoshop, so that's what I will demonstrate in this tutorial, but I'm sure there's lots of other software that can achieve the same effect. I've even seen mobile apps that do everything you need to make a time stack.

4. A little time and patience. (Photography aside, I think most of us could use a little of both.)

Here are a few things to keep in mind regarding timelapse source material for creating great "timestacks":

1. Source Material.
I have found that my best results come from shooting a scene which contains both fixed and moving elements. For example, a field with a barn and clouds moving overhead. A sunset thrown in the mix makes for some beautiful, colourful, smeared clouds.

2. Exposure levels.
Your exposure levels play a significant role in the successful creation of a great "time stack". Set your exposure based on the brightest moving elements. For example, with bright moving clouds, expose for the clouds. Aside from the sun, the clouds are usually the brightest part of my photos, so I use them to judge my exposure levels. If they are overexposed your "timestack" will have pure white streaks in the sky. Add too many of those together and you'll have a solid white sky when it's all said and done.

3. Interval.
Figure out the speed things are moving. You don't need a radar gun, just take a few test shots (2 or 3) and take note of the interval (time between shots) I'll use clouds as an example, but this applies to any moving or changing elements in the timelapse.

The speed that the clouds are moving along with the interval between shots can drastically affect how a time stack will look. For smooth looking, painterly strokes (made by the clouds) you'll want to keep the distance that the clouds travel very short from one shot to the next. If the clouds are moving fast you'll want to use a shorter interval between shots.

If the clouds are moving slow, you'll want to user a longer interval between shots so you don't end up with a ton of photos that show little movement of the clouds. For a different look, you can set an interval that allows the clouds to move further between shots. This gives an interesting stepped, repetition to the moving elements in the resulting "time stack". I know this can sound a little confusing, but it all becomes very obvious once you try both methods.

Stacking multiple photos into one image

Like I said before, there's lots of different programs that can stack photos. I use Photoshop, so this is the program I'll be talking about, but some of this stuff might relate to other programs as well.

Here's the basic idea. Open the first photo of your timelapse, this will be your bottom layer. Add the second photo from the timelapse on a new layer. Change the top layers blending mode to lighten. Merge both layers together. This adds only the parts of the second image that are brighter than the same area on the original image. Repeat with as many photos from the timelapse as you like. You will get used to selecting the right number of pictures for the effect you want.

That method takes a long time! (Trust me, I've done it a few times.) I tried to write a script to automate the process, and I got pretty close, but in the end I couldn't figure out how to make it work. Luckily, I found a website called that offered a photoshop script that did exactly what I wanted. I bought it for a small fee and I've been using it ever since. It's faster than stacking photos manually and you can do other things while it's running.

I usually try stacking all the photos from a timelapse first, and if that's too much (they can get messy sometimes) I take some out and try again with less photos. I'll keep doing that until I find the sequence of photos that look best.

Once I've got the photos stacked, I make a few adjustments with shadows/highlights to bring back some details in the bright areas, and I add some contrast, or use levels to make the blacks darker, because things can get a little washed out when stacking with the lighten blending mode.

There you have it. Now go shoot some timelapses, and try it for yourself if you like. I'm curious to see how your time stacks turn out, so head over to my Facebook page and post a link to a time stack you made. Also, feel free to send me a message if your having trouble, and I'll do my best to help you out.

Best of luck and happy snapping!


One To Watch: Roberto Campos On Street Style

Published by Klassy Goldberg · March 6th 2014

With Paris Fashion Week happening with right now, let’s turn our gaze towards an emerging form of photography that is becoming more mainstream in pop culture — street style. You’ve probably seen this type of photos in magazines, blogs (like The Sartorialist and Face Hunter), and social media. In our own community, we spotted a budding new photographer, Roberto Campos, who has an eye for capturing on-trend and colorful street style. His page even includes some fashion show backstage candids.

We recently sat down with Roberto, and asked him about his thoughts on fashion, what it’s like to snap some stylish people during Fashion Week, and his favorite gear. If you’re curious about photographing street style, then read on!

Hello Roberto! I understand you just got back from Paris Fashion Week. What was your craziest Fashion Week experience while shooting street style so far?

ROBERTO: Honestly, Fashion Week is a time where reality distorts entirely. People behave in a way people don’t in the real world. Things that seem normal there are not normal four blocks away. The craziest thing of them all would be the amount of suffering some of these girls put themselves through — physically speaking. You see them in photos smiling and looking gorgeous in front of the cameras, on a mini skirt when it’s freezing cold outside, and it’s better if it’s windy because then, their hair moves and it looks nice. Then when the show is over, and the crowd dilutes or migrates towards the next location, these girls curse their feet, maybe change shoes to some sneakers a good friend has been carrying around for them all day, and go inside the first Starbucks they spot just so they don’t freeze to death. All for what? I wonder. This obviously only happens during the cold-weather Fashion Weeks. The ones during summer are more forgiving. But to this day, this just puzzles me. I wear sweaters, jackets, and coats — scarves too — and some of these girls go around as if it was the hottest day of the year. I don’t know if the attention they get is worth it or not.Personally, I think fashionable people can be chic and warm at the same time.

Head-to-toe look: Givenchy wedge boots with turnlock detail, tweed moto coat, and a bright lip.

Wow. That sounds intense. Why are you drawn to shooting street style in the first place?

ROBERTO: Christmas of 2011 was the day I gave myself the gift of photography. I got myself the Sony NEX-5, my first “real” camera. Before then I got to admit I knew close to nothing about photography. I knew Josef Koudelka’s photo of the black dog walking on the snow mesmerized me to no end, and that it is my favorite photograph of all photographs, but I did not understand why. I started photography for two reasons: Architecture school is a place where you need a decent camera, one of the only places I know where using your phone to quickly snap something important is just not acceptable, one lives and dies by the size of their DSLR even if 99% of people shoot automatic. Secondly, my significant other’s passion for fashion. She runs a pretty amazing fashion blog called OntoMyWardrobe. At some point I started helping out with her photography needs. I started being the Plus One to a few events here and there, and getting familiar with what fashion photography was, what studio fashion photography is, and what street style is, but also I finally was understanding what photography is — to me at least. And then I realized that most of the “street style” you see out there is not photography; it is just snapshots of looks and trends, which is totally fine, but not what I saw myself doing with my photography. I decided I wanted to shoot street, like those journalists of yore, going around with a rangefinder, not asking people to stop and pose but just shooting. Timing and framing and composing in a heartbeat. And I wanted to combine that with street style photography, making photos that are not just about the clothes, but also about the picture being a good photograph overall. I don’t crop my pictures and I don’t use anything other than color correction. I want it to be a halfway compromise between shooting digital, and pretending I am not. Street style for me is half being a good photojournalist, and half having a good eye for spotting interesting people and fashion. It is also exciting and very personal.

Photographed from left to right: YouTube fashion vlogger Chriselle Lim and superstar style blogger Aimee Song of Song of Style.

"(Street style) requires no crew, no lights nor flashes, no reflectors, and no assistants. It is just you and your weapon of choice out there, trying to figure out the boundaries of just how far you can go to get a photograph — without making people notice you and turning around."

- Roberto Campos

A head-to-toe stylish gent and his best friend.

Sounds like you found your passion. Out of all the Fashion Week locations — New York City, Paris, Milan, London — which city is your favorite to photograph?

ROBERTO: I have only attended Fashion Week in Milan, Paris, and Mexico so far. I think of them as tennis tournaments — you’ve got the four grand slams: New York City, London, Milan, and Paris, and then the rest, not as important and not the same, but they are what they are. Being based in Milan makes it easier for me to move around. I know where things are, and which are the good locations to shoot. It is great but I have to say — just because the added thrill of traveling, and having to switch subway lines to try to make it on time to a show — that Paris is my favorite of those. In Paris, certain shows get “secret locations” disclosed only to guests and insiders prior to the events. You feel a bit like Sherlock Holmes trying to get a bite out of your phone contacts. Everybody likes winning playing as the guest team, I guess.

A model waits backstage during Milan Fashion Week.

What are your favorite fashion trends to shoot?

ROBERTO: Thanks to the fact that I regularly shoot fashion bloggers, I tend to be somewhat informed on what is hot and what is last season. Fashion seems to work as a chain of command starting with the big brands selling a trend and it watering down until you can find basically the same kind of thing a year later on your local cheap clothing store for next to nothing. I tend to avoid photographing people wearing looks I have seen before. Sometimes, it becomes an army of girls wearing the same kind of looks, and that’s how you know that is not “in” anymore. I shoot the looks I haven’t seen before — the looks that make me go “Wow, that’s something else!” Find the randomness in the crowd. Like a needle in a haystack, there will always be someone who somehow thought of something before everybody else did, and she doesn’t even know it yet.

A modern twist on the little black dress.

What do you think of famous street style blogs like The Sartorialist or Street Peeper?

ROBERTO: I have mixed feelings about The Sartorialist. I used to look at it, but I think it got to the point where everybody did, and on every other street style site you would go, they had the same exact people, the same exact outfits. Less quality photos, but you get the same content. So he changed and now tries to post things that are unique to his site, started doing more editorial-like things, and relying more on his random street finds. I think he had a good eye for spotting new trends, but somehow got too big, too commercial, and he started shooting the same people, people he knows already, people he says hi to outside the shows. He stopped spotting people, and then it became a site I don’t visit often at all. It doesn’t take it away from him — his blog is the Vito Corleone of street style blogs, don’t get me wrong; it’s just something that doesn’t inspire me anymore. Recently, I discovered the Face Hunter, and I’m enjoying the ride. It’s something fresh for me, more interactive, and he also posts other things — things he does, things he sees. Watching him go around during Fashion Week, you can tell he has fun doing it. Somehow it feels more real to me. You know who is behind the lens. You take the decision to trust this person to show you what he thinks is cool. I like this approach better, and hopefully it will catch on, so these photographers get recognized by their abilities as content producers as much as regular fashion bloggers do.
A classic cold-weather chic look.

What advice would you give to aspiring street style photographers?

ROBERTO: This is a very difficult question I must admit, since I consider myself also an aspiring street style photographer to begin with. The best advice I ever got said something like, “f8, and be there.” I seldom shoot f8, but that’s the less important part of the idea. A lot of people think street style photography is for those with amazing equipment, expensive cameras, and massive lenses, but it’s not. Today, cameras are good enough that if you know yours well you can make do in most situations. The hardest part is being there, and I’m not talking only about traveling or attending events. Going out to the streets, walking for hours on end with a camera in hand, with your finger on the trigger, ready to react is something that takes certain amount of commitment. And commitment is the focal point of street style photography. One cannot just rely on shooting Fashion Week or events — one needs to roam the city, know where the cool kids hang out, know the streets you’re more likely to find someone interesting, and which streets have the good light at which times. Street photography takes practice more than anything. Luckily, or unluckily, the only way of practicing is actually doing it — going out there and shooting. Some days you might get nothing, but perseverance is key in this game. Street style is a lot about waiting and spotting things going on, anticipating, framing, and finally photographing. I guess it’s a bit like hunting in the city if you want to look at it that way. So my advice is to go out there and don’t give up. Maybe bring a friend; it can get lonely at times.

Stylephiles make friends in between shows.

What are your go-to cameras, lenses, and gear?

ROBERTO: Finally, after much research and sleepless nights looking at reviews, I recently upgraded from a Sony NEX-5 to a NEX7! In all honestly, the whole NEX line is just fantastic. You get the specs and features you would on a semi-pro DSLR in a pocket-friendly size. I wouldn’t mind a full frame RX1 or A7r, but brand-new toys are pricey and for me the upgrade would seem marginable. I mount an old Canon FD 50mm f1.4 lens from 1971 I took off a Canon A1 on it via a converter and shoot manual focus. Mirror-less cameras are heaven for old glass. Manual focusing seemed like a challenge at first, especially for someone trying to get into street photography. But after a while, it becomes less frustrating and more fun. It also gives you a degree of control over what you’re doing that you don’t feel when auto-focusing. It feels like you’re playing a First Person Shooter videogame, and have half a second to make the shot because either you make it or it’s gone — and it better be in focus! This setup gives me the feeling of shooting with an old rangefinder, while letting me shoot digital for a wallet-friendly alternative to film. Lets just say it’s my rendition of a poor man’s Leica, and I am delighted with it.

Street style star and editor Olivia Palermo decked out in monochrome and fur.

We love having thoughtful people like you in our community. Thank you for participating in this interview and for continuing to share your amazing street style experiences with us. Last question is about 500px! Who is your favorite photographer in the 500px community?

ROBERTO: NIKLÅS KRAUTHÄUSER blows me out of the water each and every time. I added him on Facebook, and even though we have never really talked — my German is rusty at best — I always look at his new photos. He does with portraits what I wish I could do; a genius if you ask me. I hope he doesn’t mind the plug.

Follow Roberto Campos to see more of his street style adventures.

What are your thoughts on street style photography? Do you have any questions for Roberto Campos that you would like to know more about? Know of any other street style photographers on 500px?
Let us know in the comments below.


Open Call For Submissions

Published by Klassy Goldberg · March 5th 2014

This just in: We’ll be launching a new online publication very soon, so keep your eyes peeled for upcoming news about it!

Here at 500px, we love sharing our own personal tips and techniques with our friends, photo and art enthusiasts, and photo gear geeks. We want to bring this philosophy into our new online publication, which is in the works.

Do you have a handy hack or a tried-and-tested technique you would like to share with our community? If you do, then we’re looking for YOU! We’re looking for submissions for step-by-step Photo Tutorials that we can publish — from creating a good HDR portrait to mastering high-speed photos to DIY light reflectors to post-production tricks.

Here are a few examples of great tutorials we’ve collaborated on with community members:

This is an exciting way for you to get featured, promoted on all our social media channels like Facebook and Twitter, get more exposure for your photos, and it might even help your sales!

Interested? Send us your best pitch or ideas to — and if we like it, we’ll get back to you with more details!


A Life in Pictures: Remembering Brian James Ellis

Published by Alexandra Kim · March 5th 2014

Dear friends,

We were so sad to learn that a fellow photographer, Brian James Ellis, passed away on February 21, 2014 after an arduous battle with cancer. We reached out to his very good friend and 500px community member, Ryan Weiss, to help us tell Brian’s story. We hope that his story gives you inspiration to enjoy your lives to the fullest and to treasure each day, as he did.

The photos in the following story are from Brian’s personal collection.

“In loving memory of our friend and fellow photographer, Brian James Ellis. Even with the adversities brought before you by an aggressive form of bone cancer, you ignored the odds and truly embraced life. Like you always said, cancer took your leg, but it couldn't take your spirit.

Brian was a creative and passionate artist. Looking through his photos you can see a visual timeline of his life; from his first black and white photos, to his first rounds of chemo, to eventually marrying his best friend, Ashley. Brian documented everything through the lens of his Nikon DSLR and on many occasions encouraged me to help document his battle with Osteosarcoma. In regards to his personal struggle with cancer, Brian was an open book, and an inspirational one at that.

In 2009, when he was just 19 years old, Brian was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, an aggressive form of bone cancer. Soon after his diagnosis, it was decided that the best way to remove the cancer was to amputate his right leg. The amputation took place in November of 2009 and was followed by many long months of aggressive chemotherapy. Finally, by March of 2010, Brian was declared cancer-free and it was the best news possible; a true sign that he could continue on with his life and pursue a degree in the arts.

Almost two years passed, and by looking at Brian you would never know what he went though. The only outer remnant of his battle with cancer was his clunky prosthetic leg which, like everything in Brian's life, he embraced it's existence and denied it the victory of ever slowing him down.

It wasn't until Christmas 2011 that Brian, at age twenty-one, faced the reality of his cancer's recurrence. This time it had metastasized to his lungs. More chemo and invasive surgeries followed. Like the time before, Brian's cancer was believed to be in remission after his treatments, but by 2012 it reentered his life; and again it happened during Christmas.

On February 7th, 2013, Brian spent ten hours on a surgical table and in that time the doctor's removed fifteen cancerous tumors. They Argon laser-ed his chest, and treated him with a chemical wash for good measure. Brian then spent nine long days in the hospital.

Fast forward to a happier time, August 6th, 2013 when Brian officially made his best friend, Ashley, his wife. An intimate ceremony was held and the joy felt on that day made any problems seem far away, but life has a way of continuously testing ones strength and the months to follow were a true test.

The legions had returned and he was given a multitude of treatments and chemo drugs, but by September of 2013 Brian's kidneys were failing... and again, he was forced to spend more time in the hospital. After stabilizing, he was able to return home.

January 9th, 2014 was the day that Brian's remaining options became clear, there was little left to be done other than live the rest of his life out in comfort. He was given weeks to months with just cancer alone, but with added kidney failure his time was even more limited.

February 7th, 2014 was the beginning of hospice care. “Brian's pain is better managed and he seems comfortable. Now I am just trying to spend as much time with him as possible and enjoy his company while I can”, Ashley writes.

Sadly, after his five year battle with Osteosarcoma, Brian passed away on February 21, 2014 at the age of 23.

Brian's strength and resilience were immediately apparent to anyone who had the pleasure of meeting him. While many would allow such a destructive disease to cripple their last days on earth, Brian fulfilled as many of his dreams as possible and continued to share his love with family and friends. We've established a fundraiser in Brian's name to help cover some of the medical related debt that accrued during his treatments and we would also like to honor Brian by having a gallery showing featuring his photography work.

Rest easy, Brian.”

Please visit Ryan’s Youcaring page to donate to his fund. The proceeds will go towards helping Brian’s family recover some of the medical debt incurred from his hospital stays.

Ryan also told us that if there is enough donations he would like to host a gallery showing of Brian’s photos, a lifelong wish of his.

Edit: Ryan and Brian's wife, Ashley, have made a 500px profile for Brian and have uploaded some of the photos he took. Please feel free to check out his new profile.


500px Prime: Making The World Of Photography A Better Place

Published by Evgeny Tchebotarev · March 4th 2014

Today, 500px is taking its first step into the world of commercial photo licensing. We are launching 500px Prime and giving photographers 70% of revenue from every sale.

I’ve been dreaming of this day for ten years. It was ten years ago that I had just turned 18 and was dreaming of becoming a photojournalist. My ambition led me to a job at a magazine covering design and architecture. After a few years, I worked up to an art director position at another magazine where I bought licensed photos and requested custom photo assignments. This was my first introduction to the stock photo world.

I realized the amazing people who I worked with were having a very hard time making enough money as photographers to do it full time. This is what encouraged us to start 500px. We wanted to help great photographers showcase their work as far and wide as possible to get the recognition they deserve – and that drives every decision that we make here at 500px.

Just imagine – the average photographer with a photo in the Popular stream gets tens of thousands of views and thousands of likes and favorites. The exposure 500px gives to photographers is unmatched.

When we launched 500px we stated loud and clear that 500px puts photographers first. Our terms of service were, and still are, revolutionary in that they protect the photographer. 500px has always stood with the photographers, respecting and protecting their rights. Unbelievably this is still an exception rather than the norm with online communities.

One question was always on the top of our minds – how do we ensure that these amazing photographers earn a fair income? During the months that we have been developing 500px Prime, we talked a lot about how we are going to change the industry. Now, we have a unique opportunity to build a company that fairly gives back to the community.

The stock photo market has been described in recent years as a race to the bottom. The industry is plagued by low royalty amounts – sometime pennies per photo – and the slashing of royalty percentages. It is bad business and it’s simply not fair. There must be a better way to do this.

We approached our printing business the same way. It’s simply unmatched in the industry. We pay our photographers 70% of our net income from any photo sale. We want to bring the same revolutionary approach to commercial licensing, and will pay a 70% royalty on any photo licensed through 500px Prime to photographers. We think this is fair.

We want to give all photographers, amateur and professional, an opportunity to be fairly compensated for their work.

The launch of 500px Prime is another step toward making the world of photography a better place.
Please join us in this exciting journey.

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