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4.2 Rating
When to Use Graduated Neutral Density Filters

How to use a graduated neutral density filter to decrease extreme light to…

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4.5 Rating
Six Steps to Lighting Magic with Joe McNally

Follow lighting expert Joe McNally's instructions for easy flash photography…

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3.3 Rating
Getting the "Cool" Look

My daughter, Kiara, wanted some pictures of herself with her new guitar. She was looking for some…

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3.6 Rating
Setting White Balance

How do I set my camera’s white balance for different lighting situations?

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4.6 Rating
Cliff Mautner: King of Hearts

Cliff Mautner's unique style has made him a successful and in-demand wedding photographer.

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3.0 Rating
Taking Pictures at Dusk and at Night

How do I take pictures at dusk and at night?

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4.3 Rating
Using Variable Neutral Density Filters to Adjust Exposure in DSLR Video

Adjusting exposure with Variable ND filters

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4.6 Rating
Using the Highlight-Weighted Metering Mode

When to use the D810 and D750's highlight-weighted metering

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4.5 Rating
Take Better Portraits

Tips for taking a good portrait photo

Beginner

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4.0 Rating
One Shot: On the Beach

Deborah Sandidge on shooting crashing ocean waves

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Photograph Family and Friends During the Holidays

The holidays are prime picture-taking time. Get some great tips on…

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4.6 Rating
Canyon Country Shooting

Tips for taking great photos of the Southwestern United States

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3.7 Rating
Chromatic Aberration

Chromatic aberration is a phenomenon in which light rays passing through a lens focus at different…

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4.5 Rating
Moose Peterson: How to Photograph Winter Landscapes

Exposing so the Snow’s White and Six Other Tips for Great Winter…

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4.3 Rating
Prime Lenses

What is a prime lens? Well, it's a lens that isn't a zoom. A prime lens has a fixed focal length which means…

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4.6 Rating
Underwater Photography

Tips for getting started shooting underwater with David Doubilet

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4.5 Rating
How a Sports Illustrated Photographer Shoots his Kid's Games

What can a Sports Illustrated photographer teach you about…

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4.3 Rating
Polarizing Filters Add POW to Pictures

An Easy to Use Accessory, Polarizing Filters Bring out the Color and Definition in…

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4.4 Rating
Understanding Focal Length

Focal length, usually represented in millimeters (mm), is the basic description of a…

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4.3 Rating
Zoom Lens Maximum Aperture: Fixed and Variable Apertures

Zoom lenses can have either a fixed maximum aperture or a…

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4.2 Rating
Using Teleconverters

Teleconverters let you extend your photographic reach

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3.7 Rating
7 Tips & Tricks to Taking Better Wedding Photographs

Joe McNally on how to take better wedding portraits

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3.8 Rating
Photographing the US National Parks

Chris Nicholson on photographing in the US National Parks

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4.4 Rating
Shooting Spectacular Sunrises and Sunsets

Jim Harmer’s tips for photographing at dawn and dusk

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Tool Talk

The Building Blocks of Light

I can get the light there, no problem. I can bring in the Speedlights, the stands and all the accessories I'll need to take the pictures I need to take. I know the Speedlights will be versatile and powerful enough to handle the job. And then comes the more interesting and creative part: I build the idea of the image, and then I shape, control, direct and finetune the light to express that idea.

No matter how much I know ahead of time about the setting and the subject, I know I'm likely to run into the unexpected. Will I be lighting to match the mood of the room, or will I be creating a mood to overcome the limitations of the room? Because I don't know that beforehand, I come prepared with all the right tools.

The basic ones are my Nikon Speedlights—my SB-900s, SB-600s and SB-R200s and the color gels that come with them and the stands that'll hold them right where I want them. And the SU-800 Wireless Speedlight Commander that allows me to use any or all of the Speedlights off the camera.

Then comes an army of light modifiers: diffusers, snoots, grids, umbrellas and more. How big an army depends on what I think I'll be facing, but at the very least there's always a snoot and a grid. The purpose of these invaluable accessories is to give me the greatest possible control over the light—control of where it goes and what it looks like when it gets there; control of how it makes my subject look. With these tools, I can choose the degree of dispersion and diffusion. I can make the light go wide or tight, get softer or harder.

The right tools for the job are vital, but what I've learned along the way is that the photos you take aren't the result of having the right tools; they're the result of knowing how to use them.

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