Archivi categoria: Tutorials

How to Find the Best ISO for Astrophotography: Dynamic Range and Noise

ISO is one of the three major exposure settings in the exposure triangle of a digital camera — shutter time, f/number, and ISO. Of the three, it is ISO that is probably most misunderstood. Even more so than f/number. In fact, it is a common misconception that higher ISO settings will cause images to be noisier. In fact, the opposite is often true. Wait, what?

That’s right, higher ISO settings alone do not increase image noise and higher ISOs can even be beneficial to low-light photography. In this post, I talk about the craziness surrounding ISO settings, how ISO actually affects exposure, and how to find the optimal ISO setting on your camera for astrophotography.


Learning how to optimize exposure settings is one of the most helpful skills when attempting astrophotography. “What exposure settings should I use?” is probably the most common question I get. For beginners who are new at trying astrophotography with their regular digital camera and lens, I usually recommend starting with my Milky Way Exposure Calculator. That calculator will provide an excellent starting point when making your first attempts at shooting the night sky.

Once you’re comfortable making your first exposures, the next thing I recommend learning about exposure is how to optimize your ISO setting. That’s what this article is all about. To begin, here are a couple of glossary items that will hopefully help:


In digital photography, ISO is a standard (specifically ISO 12232:2006) for exposure brightness developed by the International Standards Organization (ISO). Different camera sensor models have different sensitivities so we need some way to correlate them so like exposures yield like brightnesses. Some people pronounce each letter (aɪ-es-o) but I think it’s easier to just say it like a word (aɪso).


Signal is the part of the photograph that we want. Light is signal. Signal is the image. Without the signal (without light), we can have no image. The more light that we can gather, the more signal we have. In general, the more signal, the higher the quality of the photo.


Noise is the part of the photograph that we do not want. Noise is interference appearing as speckled grain that obscures the signal and thus the details of the photograph. Noise is usually generated by heat or imperfections in the behavior of the electronics of our digital cameras. Some noise is random with every shot (shot noise) and some noise is produced consistently by the camera’s sensor (upstream read noise) or produced by the electronics after the sensor’s signal has been amplified (downstream read noise). In general, the more noise, the lower the quality of the photo.

Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR)

The ratio of signal to noise in an image. The higher the signal-to-noise ratio, the higher the quality of the image. More light = more signal = good. More noise = bad. Collecting more light is the best way to increase signal-to-noise ratio.

Higher signal-to-noise ratio is the best way to improve image quality. Sony a7S, 55mm f/1.8 @ f/2.8, 48x5s, PP7, ISO 12800

Dynamic Range

The full range of light of a scene, from the darkest darks to the brightest brights. A high dynamic range scene has extremely bright highlights (such as the sun) and extremely dark darks (such as a fully shadowed black rock). A low dynamic range scene has relatively uniform light across the scene where the brightest parts of the image are not much brighter than the darkest parts of the image. Cameras only capture a limited dynamic range of light. If the dynamic range of a scene is high enough, anything outside the range of the camera’s sensor will either be blown out to pure white (in the case of very bright areas) or crushed to pure black (in the case of very dark areas). In general, a camera sensor capable of capturing a higher dynamic range of light is more desirable.

A disclaimer: I’m an engineer, but I’m formally and primarily trained in mechanical engineering. I have some relevant experience, but electrical and computer engineering isn’t my main mode of expertise. My intention with this article is to simplify these concepts in a way that hopefully makes sense to a larger, non-technical audience. If you’re familiar with this topic and you see any glaring mistakes in this article, please feel free to let me know.

Also, all of the points made in this article apply to RAW image files. It’s very important to shoot astrophotos in RAW format to preserve the best data collected by the sensor. Don’t start complaining when you try any of the tests in this article on your JPEGs. Also, much of the benefit of optimizing ISO selection applies primarily to low-light shooting (like astrophotography) where we have a relatively small amount of signal competing with the various noise sources that encroach upon our photographs.

ISO is Amplification or Gain

It’s a (very) common misconception that increasing ISO increases the sensitivity of a camera sensor. ISO doesn’t change sensitivity. Increasing ISO simply increases the brightness of a photo by amplifying the sensor signal. In the electronics world, amplification is sometimes called “gain.” Like we can “gain” weight if we increase our eating, we can “gain” brightness if we increase our ISO.

ISO in no way affects how much signal (light) the camera can collect. If we actually want more sensitivity with a camera, we need to either increase shutter time or aperture size (lower the f/number).

Higher ISOs Don’t Increase Noise

OK, to the main point: Higher ISOs won’t increase the visible noise in a photo.

Read that again, realize that it contradicts what you probably think you know about ISO and then let me elaborate:

All other things being equal, a higher ISO will do the following:

  • A higher ISO will increase the brightness of an image
  • A higher ISO will decrease the total dynamic range of the image
  • And, in many cases (like astrophotography), a higher ISO will actually decrease the visible noise

OK, I know what you’re thinking: “How come when I use a higher ISO, I get more noise?!” Here’s why:

For most imaging situations, photographers will usually use P (Program), A/Av (Aperture Priority/Aperture Variable), or S/Tv (Shutter Priority/Time Variable) modes on their camera. In these exposure modes, using a higher ISO setting will result in an image with more relative noise. What most people don’t realize is that the increase in noise is not because of the increase in ISO.

The increase in relative noise when using a higher ISO in an automatic exposure mode (like P, A/Av or S/Tv) is actually due to the reciprocal decrease in shutter time or the decrease in aperture size as a result of using an automatic exposure mode. Most people are misattributing the increase in noise to the ISO when it’s actually caused by lower signal-to-noise ratio due to the shutter or aperture.

When setting a higher ISO on one of these autoexposure modes, the camera tries to achieve a neutral exposure and compensates for the increase in ISO by decreasing the amount of light entering camera. This reduction in light is done automatically by the camera by either decreasing the time the shutter is open (when in A/Av mode) or by using a higher f/number and thus decreasing size of the lens aperture diaphragm and letting in less light at a time (when in S/Tv mode), or by a combination of both (when in P mode).

So a reduction of light by the shutter or the aperture is the reason that the image appears noisier. It’s not noisier because of the higher ISO. This reduction of light is a reduction of signal and a reduction of signal yields an overall lower signal-to-noise ratio and thus a noisier photo.

How Do Shutter, Aperture and ISO Affect Noise?

A simple comparison test can show that relative noise levels are primarily affected by shutter and aperture and not affected nearly as much by ISO. In these tests, all settings are kept identical except the one that we wish to test which is adjusted by two stops. Then, in post processing, the images are equalized in brightness and compared.

Here’s what one of my complete test image looks like. It’s a RAW shot of Orion from a city suburb, made on a Sony a7S with the Zeiss 55mm/1.8 lens:

Constellation Orion, Sony a7S, 55mm

How Shutter Time Affects Noise

  • 8s, f/2.8, ISO 3200
  • 4s, f/2.8, ISO 3200 (+1 stop in post)
  • 2s, f/2.8, ISO 3200 (+2 stops in post)
How Shutter Time Affects Noise – Sony a7S, 55mm, f/2.8, ISO 3200

Conclusion: Shorter shutter time = less signal-to-noise ratio = noisier photo

How Aperture (f/number) Affects Noise

  • 8s, f/2.8, ISO 3200
  • 8s, f/4.0, ISO 3200 (+1 stop in post)
  • 8s, f/5.6, ISO 3200 (+2 stops in post)
How Aperture (f/number) Affects Noise – Sony a7S, 55mm, 8s, ISO 3200

Conclusion: Higher f/number = less signal-to-noise ratio = noisier photo

How ISO Affects Noise

  • 8s, f/2.8, ISO 3200
  • 8s, f/2.8, ISO 6400 (-1 stop in post)
  • 8s, f/2.8, ISO 12800 (-2 stops in post)
How ISO Affects Noise – Sony a7S, 55mm, f/2.8, 8s

Conclusion: Higher ISO ≠ more relative noise

So of the three tests on my Sony a7S, shutter speed and aperture very obviously directly affect the apparent levels of noise in the photograph while ISO has nearly no effect. This is completely contrary to what many people would expect when they think about higher ISO.

In low-light photography, there is one aspect of ISO that can greatly affect the amount of perceived noise for any given ISO setting: downstream electronic noise. Let’s see how different types of cameras can be affected by downstream electronic noise.

ISO-Invariance and Downstream Electronic Noise

There are variations from sensor to sensor and camera model to camera model in how ISO affects low-light images. Understanding how your camera sensor behaves can help you find the optimal ISO setting for astrophotography. There are two fairly common configurations that we see in most modern digital cameras so we can split most cameras into one of two camps, ISO-variant and ISO-invariant.

ISO-Variant Cameras

Cameras use varied levels of analog amplification to adjust ISO. In a simplification of this case, the amplifier boosts the electronic voltage readout from the sensor by 2x for each ISO: 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600 and so on. Higher ISO means more amplification of the sensor output data.

After the sensor data is amplified by the ISO, it’s sent through some (downstream) electronics (such as an analog to digital convertor) to ultimately change our data from voltages into a digital file of numbers that’s readable by a computer. One of the distinct characteristics with ISO-variant cameras is higher contribution of noise from these downstream electronics.

If there is relatively little signal to begin with (e.g. in low-light situations), the lower ISO settings might not apply enough amplification for the voltages of the sensor data to overcome the contribution of electronic noise made by the downstream electronics. That means that in low-light situations like astrophotography, ISO-variant cameras will actually show more noise at low ISO settings and less noise at higher ISO settings. The Canon EOS 6D, still one of my favorite choices for a DSLR for astrophotography, is highly ISO-variant and actually shows its best low-light noise performance at ISO 6400 and higher!

The Canon EOS 6D is highly ISO-variant and achieves its best low-light noise performance at ISO 6400 and higher.

Most Canon DSLRs are highly ISO-variant. There are a few exceptions to the Canon lineup that are not as ISO-variant including the new Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and the Canon EOS 80D.

ISO-Invariant Cameras

ISO-Invariant cameras have lower downstream read noise such that in low-light shooting conditions, the signal to noise ratio stays more constant as ISO settings change. In a simplification of this case, the sensor data is already amplified above the minimal contribution of downstream read noise sources before being converted to a digital signal. The result is a camera with low ISOs that tend to have less shadow noise and less of a variation between ISO settings. Most of these types of cameras are considered relatively ISOless or ISO-invariant. One camera that shows a great example of ISO-invariance is the Fujifilm X-T1. An example of the X-T1’s ISO-invariance test is available at the end of the article.

Modern digital cameras made by Sony and Fujifilm tend to be relatively ISO-invariant.

Notes and Exceptions

Okay, it’s not all black and white: many ISO-variant cameras eventually act like an ISO-invariant camera above a certain high ISO setting. Above some threshold ISO, these cameras fully overcome their noisy downstream electronics and show minimal difference in signal-to-noise ratio with higher ISOs. Most Canon cameras act this way above about ISO 1600. Knowing what that threshold ISO setting is can help us achieve the best low-light performance.

Similarly, many ISO-invariant cameras may have one or two distinct jumps in gain that will affect the overall read noise contribution to the image. In this case, there may still be a threshold ISO above which it is beneficial to shoot in low-light conditions. The Sony a7S acts this way with changes from approximately ISO 100 to 200 and 1600 to 3200. The Sony a7S’s best low-light performance is actually around ISO 3200 and above. Otherwise, the differences between ISO settings in low-light conditions on the a7S is relatively minimal.

Ultimately, both configurations achieve the same goal of brightening the photo to correspond with the particular ISO setting but the end result can be quite different, especially when shooting in low-light scenarios. ISO-invariance is a distinct enough trait in the behavior of a camera that DPReview has added an ISO-invariance test to most of their latest camera reviews. I personally think it’s very helpful to know how a camera acts in order to find out where it will perform best in low-light photography.

ISO vs. Dynamic Range

One of the distinct negative aspects of using too high of an ISO is reduced dynamic range. The more that we amplify the data that makes up a digital image, the more that we risk brightening it so much that it blows out the brightest parts of the image to pure white and loses detail in those parts of the image.

In the dynamic range test below, I made exposures of the star Antares at the highest ISO settings of my Sony a7S using the same exposure settings and varying only the ISO. As the ISO increases, the star appears to get larger because it’s being gradually more and more overexposed with each higher ISO. In practice, with the Sony a7S, the reduction in dynamic range doesn’t become too much of an issue until about ISO 51200 and higher but the difference in each stop is still apparent.

As a side-note, notice how similar most of the ISO settings between 1600 and 204800 look to each other in terms of noise, especially relative to the Canon EOS 6D sample above. The Sony a7S is a fairly, although not completely, ISO-invariant camera.

ISO Dynamic Range Test on the Star Antares – Sony a7S, 50mm, f/2.8, 8s

In my experience, except for the brightest stars, blowing out any part of an astrophoto to the point where we’re losing a lot of data is very, very rare. The bigger risk of using too high of an ISO in landscape astrophotography occurs when there is a larger, brighter (usually artificial) light source in view of the shot such as a street lamp, light pollution from a nearby town or your buddy’s headlamp.

Since we lose a little bit of highlight data with each higher ISO, choosing the optimal ISO for astrophotography is a little bit of balancing act between using a higher ISO for better noise performance (especially in the case of an ISO-variant sensor) or a lower ISO for better dynamic range.

Finding the Optimal ISO for Astrophotography: The ISO-Invariance Test

Stand back, we’re going to try science! In order to find the best ISO to use for astrophotography, I recommend doing an ISO-invariance test. Most of the samples shown in this article up to this point were made with an ISO-invariance test. It’s a super easy test to run: all we need to do is to take about 7-10 RAW photographs, one at each whole-stop ISO and then we match the exposure brightnesses in post processing. This test is easier to perform in a low-light scenario so I recommend doing this test outdoors at night or in a dimly lit room. Maybe make it an astrophotography trip.

If you’re performing this test while shooting the dark night sky, use my Milky Exposure Calculator to determine the shutter time and aperture setting. If doing the test in a dimly lit room, first use your camera’s (P) Program exposure mode at ISO 3200 to determine your shutter time and f/number.

Example: Canon EOS 700D

For my example, I’ll be testing out the Canon EOS 700D/T5i. Here’s a summary of the test:

  • Shoot in dark conditions: a dimly lit room or outdoors at night
  • Shoot in RAW file format!
  • Use (M) manual exposure mode
  • Set “daylight” white balance (just so it doesn’t drift)
  • Disable all forms of noise reduction (Long Exposure NR, High ISO NR)
  • Shoot one exposure at each whole stop ISO (100, 200, 400, 800, etc.)
  • Keep all other settings the same, change only ISO
  • Match exposures in post processing and compare

For my test on the T5i, here’s what the complete images looked like with the crop of the test area highlighted. I cropped the results of the test to a small area that included some midtones and some shadows.

Straight out of the camera, the crops of the RAWs looked like this:

ISO Comparison – Canon EOS T5i / 700D, 18mm, f/3.5, 25s

In terms of noise, this comparison is deceiving because the brightnesses don’t match between exposures. In order to level the playing field, we need to match the brightnesses. To do so, I used Exposure adjustment slider in Adobe Lightroom to match all of the exposure brightnesses to the ISO 3200 exposure. The ISO 100 image was pushed all the way to the max +5EV setting on the Exposure slider, the ISO 200 +4EV, the ISO400, +3EV and so on…

Here’s the complete summary of how we match all the exposure brightnesses in Adobe Lightroom.

  • ISO 100 gets pushed +5EV
  • ISO 200 gets pushed +4EV
  • ISO 400 gets pushed +3EV
  • ISO 800 gets pushed +2EV
  • ISO 1600 gets pushed +1EV slider
  • ISO 3200 has no adjustments made
  • ISO 6400 gets pulled -1EV

Another way to do this in Adobe Lightroom is to select all of the exposures, then highlight the ISO 3200 exposure and select Photo > Develop Settings > Match Total Exposures or press Command+Option+Shift+M (Ctrl+Alt+Shift+M).

Once equalized, here’s what the exposures look like:

ISO-Invariance Test – Canon EOS 700D / T5i

Upon comparison of the exposures, it’s immediately apparent that the Canon EOS 700D/T5i is not completely ISO-invariant. It appears as if that the camera reaches its best low-light performance at ISO 1600 and higher. ISO 1600, 3200 and 6400 look almost identical meaning that the 700D might be ISO-invariant from ISO 1600 upwards. Below ISO 1600 is a different story: As the ISO lowers, image quality degrades until the point of being nearly unusable at ISO 100. In order to preserve some dynamic range, but still get the best low-light performance on the 700D, it’s clear from the results of the test that ISO 1600 is the optimal setting.

Example: Fujifilm X-T1

Just for comparison, I ran a separate ISO-invariance test on my Fujifilm X-T1, this time at 30 seconds and an aperture of f/2.8. The results are distinctly different from the Canon.

ISO-Invariance Test – Fujifilm X-T1

The difference is that there is no difference… between the ISO 200 setting (the lowest it goes on the X-T1) and the ISO 6400 setting, noise levels are identical. This means that the Fujifilm X-T1 is completely ISO-invariant. The noise levels across the ISO range don’t change in the slightest. This means that it doesn’t really matter which ISO you use on the Fujifilm X-T1 and the optimal setting might even be ISO 200 in order to preserve dynamic range.

That said, there’s also a little bit of impracticality if attempting to shoot astrophoto at ISO 200 as the image preview on the back of the camera would be very dark and evaluation of other important factors like focus and composition would be difficult at ISO 200. Luckily, we’re usually not risking too much dynamic range by bumping ISO up to a moderately high level, assuming there are no bright artificial light sources in the photo. So using ISO a slightly higher ISO might be the more practical choice, keeping in mind our tolerance for reduced dynamic range.


Contrary to popular belief, higher ISOs don’t create more noise and using a higher ISO can actually be beneficial when shooting in low-light scenarios, especially on cameras with ISO-variant sensors. Run an ISO-invariance test on your camera to determine the best ISO setting to use when shooting astrophotography. ISO behavior varies from camera model to camera model and testing out each ISO setting can help determine the best ISO to use for the best noise performance in your astrophotography.

It’s important to understand that ISO-variance or invariance doesn’t necessarily make a camera better or worse at low-light, it’s just different. Knowing how a camera behaves is an important step to achieving the best image quality.

More and more cameras manufacturers tend to be making their cameras more and more ISO-invariant, as they develop sensor technology with reduced downstream read noise and improved dynamic range at low ISO settings.

Do you know which ISO on your camera gives the best low-light performance? Do a test to find out!

About the author: Ian Norman is the co-founder and creator of The Photon Collective and Lonely Speck. Ian is a full-time traveler, photographer and entrepreneur. In February 2013, he called it quits on his 9-to-5 to pursue a lifestyle of photography. Follow Ian’s photography adventures on Instagram. This article was also published here.

How to Turn the Sky Into Pyramids by Rotating Your Camera

My latest photo series, Pyramids In The Sky, was inspired when my wife and I visited the Mayan Ruins of Chacchoben while on a cruise in 2015. I have always been intrigued by ancient civilizations and how they were able to build these massive structures, seeing the pyramids in person was an inspiring experience.

The way the sunlight was coming off the pyramids got my mind racing thinking of how I could create a similar vision using light painting techniques. The next night we were back on the ship and I was sitting on the balcony just after sunset when inspiration hit me. The ship was out to sea so the deep water was dark, the horizon was clean, and the dusk sky had an orange and blue glow to it. Luckily I had brought along my CRT (Camera Rotation Tool) so I set it up and started trying to make a pyramid design using nothing but the available ambient light.

I used the dark water to create the pyramid and the dusk sky provided the rays of light. I was blown away by the result on the back of my camera! The image looked just like a pyramid with rays of light shooting out of the top, it was even better than I had envisioned it. That night started an ongoing addiction to creating Pyramids In The Sky.

The Process

The Pyramids in the Sky photos are all created in real-time and captured to the camera in one single photographic frame. The only light source used to create these images is the ambient light in the sky right at sunset or a little after. This is a form of light painting called kinetic light painting, meaning that the camera is moved to create the design in the frame.

The process for creating these images is fairly simple, I use a custom-made CRT (Camera Rotation Tool) this tool was designed by Alan and Chris Thompson. The CRT allows me to move the camera to any angle during a single exposure.

To create the pyramids, I shoot in bulb mode and use a lens cap to control the light coming into the camera. The first thing I do is I find the angle I where I want to start the exposure. Once I find the right angle I put a cap on the lens and I open the shutter of the camera for a long exposure. With the exposure running I simply remove the cap to let some light in and then replace the cap to block the light.

During a single long exposure I turn the camera to the next angle and repeat the process of removing and replacing the lens cap. I repeat the rotation and capping process until I have an image that looks like a pyramid in the sky that is captured in one photographic frame.

The Gear

Camera: Canon 60D
Len: Tokina 11-16
Tripod: Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB
Other: CRT Camera Rotation Tool
Other: Neewer Intervalometer

The Settings

ISO: 100
Aperture: f/8-f/22
Exposure Time: 18-75 seconds (~40s average)

The Challenges

The most difficult thing was to find a location to create the pyramids. To create them I need a high angle of a clean flat horizon (no city lights) and I needed to have a location where the foreground was darker than the sky. This might sound easy but when you live in South Florida a high angle of a clean horizon is a difficult thing to find.

After some long drives looking for location that didn’t work, I ended shooting most of the series from a lookout tower at Jonathan Dickinson State Park. This spot was perfect and it was just 10 minutes from my house, funny how I drove past it 10 times while looking for the “right” location.

My Favorite Part

My favorite part of shooting these images is all the beautiful sunsets I was blessed to witness. I would talk to people at the tower and most would leave right as the sun dropped below the horizon, the crazy part is that is just when the colors are starting to get good so I would be there alone seeing the most beautiful colorful skies.

I also really love the interesting patterns the clouds add to the images. I started thinking I needed cloudless skies to create the pyramids, but I quickly found that the clouds added some incredible features. For me some of the pyramids have the feeling of a Native American headdress, giving them a deeper and spiritual feeling.

About the author: Jason D. Page is a photographer who specializes in light painting. He’s the founder of and the creator of Light Painting Brushes. You can find more of his work on his website, Facebook, and Instagram.

7 Tips for Making Lightroom Run Faster

Not happy with Lightroom’s sluggish performance on your computer? Here’s a helpful 15-minute video in which photographer and instructor Anthony Morganti shares a number of helpful tips for optimizing your Lightroom’s performance.

The tips are various settings you can adjust and tools you can run inside Lightroom, from Catalog Settings to Preferences and more. Since photographers have different workflows and needs, customizing how Lightroom runs can help make it run faster for your own purposes.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the main performance optimization tips discussed in-depth in the video:

#1. Build 1:1 Previews: Make Lightroom create a 1:1 preview of your photo files, trading extra disk space and slower importing for faster performance while working with your photos.

#2: Discard Previews: Have Lightroom automatically discard your 1:1 previews after a certain number of days to free up disk space.

#3: Preview Size and Quality: Make sure your preview size and quality and set to appropriate settings for your monitor.

#4: Camera Raw Cache Settings: Increase your cache size as large as you can from the default of 1GB.

#5: Use Graphics Professor: Try enabling or disabling the use of your graphics processor to see if that improves performance.

#6: Smart Previews: You can give up disk space and editing quality by using Smart Previews for faster performance.

#7: Optimize Catalog: Use the built-in optimization tool to keep things humming along over time.

Watch the video at the top of the post for a more detailed look at how you can make these adjustments and what they can do for you.

The video is episode #92 in Morganti’s helpful Lightroom Quick Tips video series. You can find his entire collection of videos on his YouTube channel.

(via Anthony Morganti via Fstoppers)

How to Create a Simple DIY Smoke Effect for Product Shots

This short DIY tutorial by Caleb Pike over at DSLR Video Shooter shows you how to create a great smoke effect for your product shots or B-roll footage—no fancy smoke machine required.

Smoke is an intriguing component of photography, but it’s difficult to produce conveniently and photograph correctly. The direction and thickness of the smoke is never fully under your control and that makes photographing it a challenge. Fortunately, this little DIY technique helps you reign that pesky smoke in.

To do this at home, you’ll need a simple bulb syringe and a smoke-creating vape device made up of a battery and a tank. In Caleb’s case, he used an Eleaf iStick 50W battery attached to a Nautilus Atlantis tank, that he then filled with some kind of vaping liquid.

(Note: Caleb does NOT use liquid that contains nicotine. Nobody is encouraging smoking. Everyone’s lungs are okay. No baby seals were hurt in the making of this video.)

From that point on it’s pretty simple. You press a button on the vaping device to create the vapor, use the bulb syringe to draw it out (sparing your lungs in the process) and then apply that smoke wherever you might need it.

This simple setup is a great way to create and disperse small amounts of smoke exactly where you want it. It’s particularly useful where a big smoke machine would be overkill, filling up the room and ruining your images.

To see the simple idea in action, check out the video above. And if you like this simple tutorial, head over to the DSLR Video Shooter channel for more like it.

(via ISO 1200)

How to Develop and Push the ISO on Color Negative Film at Home

I finally did it! After sitting in my fridge for a few months, I managed to developed myself a roll of CineStill 800 pushed to 3200 ISO, and the results look great! The great thing: it’s actually pretty easy to develop pushed C-41 film at home.

If you don’t know what pushing film means, let me introduce this technique.

Basically, you purposely shoot a roll of film at a higher ISO than it’s intended for, in order to gain extra stops of light. This means that you underexpose your film, then compensate this lack of light by extending the developing time.

Why Would I Do This

If you are shooting in low light or need a faster shutter speed to freeze an action shot, this technique can be helpful.

Black & White film photographers are usually familiar with pushing film because most of them are processing their own film at home, and can adjust the developing time at their convenience.

On the other hand, pushing color negative film is not as common, simply because it requires manual development and most labs can’t (or won’t) do it because the machines they use are 100% automatic. It’s convenient for them because, when shot at box speed, all C-41 films require the same developing time regardless of their ISO rating.

But that’s not an issue anymore and, like B&W film, you can develop color film yourself too!

Before we get started, let me introduce our partner in crime: CineStill 800.

Initially, this was a film used to record motion picture, hence its legendary cinematic look from. The Brothers Wright later made this film usable in C-41 chemistry by removing a layer called “remjet”. This allows us (and labs) to develop it without ruining our chemicals.

It performs best when shot under tungsten lights (city lights) but you can also get great results in daylight by using an 85B filter to adjust the light temperature.

Another advantage of this film is that it can be pushed up to 3200 ISO, and that’s what interest us today.

These images were all shot at night when I was in Vienna for my birthday. I wanted to travel light so my tripod stayed at home and this was the perfect excuse to push CineStill to its limits. You may have guessed it already, but I used my Hasselblad Xpan and its loyal 45mm lens.

About the exposure. Usually, you want to expose for the shadows when shooting color film, but here it was impossible… there wasn’t enough light even at 3200 ISO. So instead, I exposed for the highlights and then added 1 or 2 stops when possible just to make sure that the darker areas wouldn’t be completely black.

Most of the photos were shot between f/4 or f/5.6 and 1/15 or 1/30 of a second.

Now, let’s talk about the home development process. I ordered a Tetenal Colortec C-41 kit that comes in the liquid version. It also exists in powder version, but I guess there are very similar in the end.

Basically, you get 3 solutions:

  • The Developer
  • The Bleach/Fixer (aka Blix)
  • The Stabilizer

Each of them has to be used at a specific temperature, which makes it slightly more challenging that developing B&W, but it’s not complicated at all.

On the instructions, you can read that development temperature should be either 30°C or 38°C. Today, we’ll go for the latter as this is the one suggested for pushing film. It says that developing time should be extended by 30 seconds for each stop (no need to extend the fixer or stabilizer time). Here, as the film was pushed by 2 stops, I should have added 1 extra minute on top of the 3 minutes 15 seconds recommended.

Thankfully, Paul from the Facebook group “CineStill Film Users” suggested adding 1 min 15 sec per stop to avoid having negatives too dark. I knew that my images would be very dark anyway, and was afraid to get too much color shifting by extending the developing time for too long, so I went for an average time and developed for 4 min 45 sec total.

The negatives still came out very dark, but I managed to get the grain contained and the colors represented accurately. Then I slightly increased the exposure in Lightroom by 0.5 or 1 stop just to bring back some details.

One last good point for CineStill is that it’s very easy to scan, and the colors look very good straight out of the scanner. That’s not the case with every color film, as you can see in this article where I show you how to correct color negatives scans.

This result are exciting to me. CineStill 800 is a fantastic film that helps to push the boundaries of color film photography in low light, and I will certainly reproduce this experience.

Also, just to be clear with you guys, by no means am I associated with or sponsored by CineStill for this article. I bought everything with my own money, like the grown up adult that I am ;) It’s just an honest opinion on a film that I admire for its characteristics.

About the author: Vincent Moschetti is an Ireland-based photographer who is in the middle of a year-long experiment where he’s shooting only film photography. You can find more of his work or follow along on this adventure by visiting his website or following him on Facebook and Instagram. This post was also published here.

Photoshop Tip: How to Make Eyes ‘Pop’ in 30 Seconds

There’s a simple way to make your subject’s eyes pop in a portrait, and it doesn’t involve touching vibrance, saturation, luminosity, or any other color-based edit. In fact, you can make the full edit in 30 seconds.

This quick Photoshop tip comes to us from photographer Mathieu Stern, who uses a simple sharpening technique to make his subjects’ eyes stand out. Here’s the step by step:

1. Duplicate your background layer (your portrait).

2. Go to Filter > Other > High Pass and apply a High Pass filter with a radius of 10 pixels.

3. Set the layer blend mode to Soft Light

4. Alt+Click on the layer mask icon to create a black layer mask

5. Use a soft brush to pain white over just your subject’s eyes.

That’s it. Done right, the filter will take your subject’s eyes from this:

To this:

Helping them to stand out without that “nuclear eyes” look that so many saturation-obsessed shooters have accidentally created before. Check out the full demo in the video above, and if you like this video, head over to Mathieu’s YouTube channel for more.

Learn Photoshop Tricks in One Minute with Adobe’s ‘Make it Now’ Series

I once read a Quora question that went, “What can I learn in one minute that will be useful for the rest of my life?” I don’t know about the rest of your life, but if you’re a photographer, head over to the Adobe Creative Cloud YouTube channel and check out their ‘Make It Now’ one-minute video tutorials on designing (not retouching) with Photoshop CC.

One of the big problems I have with watching videos on the Web is that, half the time, I get 4 minutes into a 12-minute video that seemed useful before I realize that I was, in fact, totally wrong. There’s another 4 minutes I’m never getting back…

That’s why I love super short tutorial videos like these.

How to Make a Double Exposure

How to Create a Composite

How to Create an Animated GIF

How to Make a Poster from a Template

If you’re new to Photoshop, you may find the video moves too fast for you to keep up; if that’s the case, click on the gear symbol at the bottom right of the screen and select 0.5 speed. Heck, if you want to take notes, go for 0.25 speed.

And that’s it. Congrats! You can now add “Graphic Designer” to your LinkedIn profile! Okay maybe not…

(via Fstoppers)