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DxO Introduce PhotoLab 5 With Improved Local Adjustment Tools & Support For Fujifilm X-Trans Sensor Cameras

DxO Introduce PhotoLab 5 With Improved Local Adjustment Tools & Support For Fujifilm X-Trans Sensor Cameras

Sreenshot Photolab 5 U Point Sensitivity Copy |

DxO has updated its popular photo editing software, PhotoLab 5, with enhanced tools, a more powerful PhotoLibrary and for the first time, Fujifilm cameras with the X-Trans sensor are supported. 

It might only be in BETA but Fujifilm fans will be happy to hear that 18 Fujifilm cameras are now supported by PhotoLab 5 which includes the X-E4, X-S10, X-T4, and X100V. Plus, 605 DxO modules have been made available along with support for newer Canon, Olympus, Pentax, Sony and Panasonic cameras.

“We are very happy to finally open our doors to the community of Fujifilm photographers,” said Jean-Marc Alexia, VP Product Strategy. “Our goal is to offer them the best solution available in terms of image quality. To this end, we have created a website specifically dedicated to collecting their feedback. We can’t wait to hear what they think.”

Fujifilm photographers are welcome to submit their feedback and comments via the DxO website

As for tool upgrades, DxO users now have access to Control Lines when using the retouching tools that harness DxO’s U Point technology. Previously, Control Points could be used to apply specific edits but now, with Control Lines, these adjustments can be applied to larger areas. Plus, Control Lines and Control Points are now equipped with sensitivity settings. RAW editing is now also up to 4X faster for MAC uses and 1.5X quicker for those using Windows.

In the PhotoLibrary, PhotoLab 5 now processes IPTC and EXIF data and a keyword tree has been introduced that orders keywords alphabetically and tells you how many images have a particular keyword applied to them. If you’ve used PhotoLab software previously, you’ll also notice that the tools in the PhotoLibrary have been reorganised so they’re easier to access. 

To learn more about the new tools and updates found in PhotoLab 5, take a look at our reviewDxO PhotoLab 5 Software Review

You can also win a copy of DxO PhotoLab 5 or FilmPack 6 in our latest competition


Pricing & Availability 

DxO PhotoLab 5 (PC and Mac) is available now from the DxO online store at the following introductory prices until 14 November 2021:

  • DxO PhotoLab 5 ESSENTIAL Edition: £99.99 instead of £129
  • DxO PhotoLab 5 ELITE Edition: £149.99 instead of £199

The DxO PhotoLab 5 license does not require a subscription and can be installed either on two workstations (DxO PhotoLab 5 ESSENTIAL Edition) or three workstations (DxO PhotoLab 5 ELITE Edition).

DxO PhotoLab 3 and DxO PhotoLab 4 users can purchase an upgrade to DxO PhotoLab 5 by logging into their customer account. Users who have a version of the software older than DxO PhotoLab 3 are not eligible for an upgrade and will need to purchase a new license.

A full, one-month trial version of DxO PhotoLab 5 is available on the DxO website.


From DxO: 

Sreenshot Photolab 5 Control Line Copy |

DxO PhotoLab now sets the standard for image quality. The software offers users the most powerful correction and processing solutions on the market, with automated features that can be turned off and adjusted as required. The software offers unparalleled optical corrections through its exclusive lens sharpness technology and many other tools, all of which are designed to inspire artistic expression without compromising on image quality.


U Point technology: New pointer – Control Lines – and improved sensitivity settings
DxO is further advancing the most efficient and intuitive local retouching and adjustment technologies available by adding a second type of pointer: Control Lines. This new tool complements the technology’s existing Control Points by allowing users to carry out touch-ups on large areas with an easy-to-use selection method. To make them even more precise, Control Lines and Control Points are now equipped with sensitivity settings. Photographers can easily adjust the effect of their edits based on the luminance and chrominance of the targeted areas.


A PhotoLibrary packed with metadata and keyword management features

PhotoLab 5 now processes IPTC and EXIF data and third-party application synchronizations. It also includes advanced means of keyword prioritization via an interactive tree structure. In addition, this new version optimizes the software’s photo library management tools by reorganizing them.


Sreenshot Photolab 5 Iptc Copy |

DeepPRIME: more efficient and up to 4 times faster
Trained by deep learning methods using millions of images analysed in DxO laboratories over the past 20 years, DxO DeepPRIME technology uses artificial intelligence to develop RAW files. It drastically improves digital noise reduction while ensuring more efficient demosaicing. Traditionally, these two operations have been carried out separately, each introducing flaws that adversely affect the quality of the other. With deep learning, DeepPRIME takes a holistic approach that combines the two steps into one.

The deep-learning approach of DxO PhotoLab 5 and DeepPRIME, in particular, has been significantly optimized in terms of reactivity as well as processing and export times. These improvements are available to everyone and are up to 4 times faster for Apple Silicon Mac users and 1.5 times faster on the best Windows architectures.


Support for Fujifilm X-Trans sensors (Beta)
For the first time ever, DxO PhotoLab 5 now supports Fujifilm X-Trans sensor cameras. From the recent X-E4, X-S10, X-T4, and X100V through to the older X-E2 and X-70, no fewer than 18 Fujifilm cameras are now supported. In addition, 605 new DxO modules have been made available. Created through the exclusive DxO Labs calibration process, these modules automatically remove optical defects such as distortion, chromatic aberrations, vignetting, and lack of sharpness.


Support for even more equipment
DxO PhotoLab 5 supports 26 new cameras: Canon EOS Ra, DJI Air 2S & Mini 2, Fujifilm X-E2, X-E2S, X-E3, X-E4, X-H1, X-Pro2, X-Pro3, X-S10, X-T1, X-T2, X-T20, X-T3, X-T30, X-T4, X100F, X100T, X100V, X70, Nikon Z fc, Olympus PEN E-P7, Panasonic GH5 II, Pentax K-3 III, Sony ZV-E10.

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12 Unusual Light Shaping Tools for Creative Portrait Photos

12 Unusual Light Shaping Tools for Creative Portrait Photos

12 Unusual Light Shaping Tools for Creative Portrait Photos 1

One of the most frustrating things I see is photographers limiting their knowledge of light to one modifier. So much so, that there are people who can build whole portfolios with just one single type of light. While this is not wrong, it must get boring for the viewer after some time. That is why I went searching for some of the most unusual light shaping tools.

Here are 12 that I found and tested, in no particular order. Note that some products may be discontinued, so you may need to find them on the used market or rent them if you’re interested in trying them yourself.

#1. Narrowbeam Reflector

12 Unusual Light Shaping Tools for Creative Portrait Photos 2

The Profoto Narrow-Beam reflector is made from highly reflective metal and can be used to create either very even light patterns with little falloff or the opposite. Because it can create even patterns with no falloff, it’s perfect for lighting backgrounds. On the other hand, when used as a modifier with dramatic falloff, it can produce a narrow beam (pun intended) that will light up just the face of a model such as in the image below. In order to light her up purple, I focused a narrow beam of light on her.

12 Unusual Light Shaping Tools for Creative Portrait Photos 3
Photo: Illya Ovchar // @illyaovcharphoto @wonderfulmachine
Hair&Makeup: Alice Högberg // @som_alice
Styling: Alina Ellstrom // @Alinaellstrom
Model: Sanna Bjelm // @sannabjelm
Agency: Sweden Models Agency // @swedenmodelsagency
Post-Production: Zahar // @justlike_magic

#2. Cine Reflector

12 Unusual Light Shaping Tools for Creative Portrait Photos 4

The Profoto Cine Reflector is a rather versatile light shaping tool originally made for video usage. In simple terms, it’s a regular Profoto zoom reflector to which you can attach various lenses, barn doors, and even a PAR. Out of the 5 lenses provided, I used the Fresnel in order to create the dramatic falloff you see. Further, I attached barn doors to get a horizontal penumbra. Lastly, a PAR (mirror-like cone inside of the reflector) increased my light output and gave it even more specularity.

12 Unusual Light Shaping Tools for Creative Portrait Photos 5
Photo: Illya Ovchar // @illyaovcharphoto @wonderfulmachine
Hair&Makeup: Alice Högberg // @som_alice
Styling: Alina Ellstrom // @Alinaellstrom
Model: Sanna Bjelm // @sannabjelm
Agency: Sweden Models Agency // @swedenmodelsagency
Post-Production: Zahar // @justlike_magic

#3. ZoomSpot

12 Unusual Light Shaping Tools for Creative Portrait Photos 6

The Profoto ZoomSpot is a modifier that uses optical lenses to produce very fine light patterns. In a way, it is a very advanced version of an optical snoot. The beauty of a ZoomSpot is that it has controls that let you adjust focus and shadow edge width. I used the ZoomSpot for two images to show two functions.

Firstly, I used the ZoomSpot’s four metal shutters to create the strip of light you see on the model. Making it slightly out of focus let me have an interesting transition between the red fill and white key.

12 Unusual Light Shaping Tools for Creative Portrait Photos 7
Photo: Illya Ovchar // @illyaovcharphoto @wonderfulmachine
Hair&Makeup: Alice Högberg // @som_alice
Styling: Alina Ellstrom // @Alinaellstrom
Model: Sanna Bjelm // @sannabjelm
Agency: Sweden Models Agency // @swedenmodelsagency
Post-Production: Zahar // @justlike_magic

Secondly, I wanted to create a theatrical effect with it. Here I used the iris which let me create the circle you see.

12 Unusual Light Shaping Tools for Creative Portrait Photos 8
Photo: Illya Ovchar // @illyaovcharphoto @wonderfulmachine
Hair&Makeup: Alice Högberg // @som_alice
Styling: Alina Ellstrom // @Alinaellstrom
Model: Sanna Bjelm // @sannabjelm
Agency: Sweden Models Agency // @swedenmodelsagency
Post-Production: Zahar // @justlike_magic

#4. Striplight

12 Unusual Light Shaping Tools for Creative Portrait Photos 9

The striplight is like a stripbox, but it is a lot more expensive and a lot more niche in its application. The problem most softboxes have is that they can never produce a perfectly straight and even light. Despite the double layer of diffusion, there is still a noticeable hotspot in the middle and a gradual falloff towards the edges. It doesn’t make a difference if the light you use has a recessed or exposed flash tube, all the matters is that light is concentrated in one spot.

A striplight solves that problem by having an even light distribution. This, essentially means three long flash tubes that create a perfectly even narrow strip of light. This does imply needing several generators to run the system. Striplight XL needs two generators, while M and S need one.

12 Unusual Light Shaping Tools for Creative Portrait Photos 10
Photo: Illya Ovchar // @illyaovcharphoto @wonderfulmachine
Hair&Makeup: Alice Högberg // @som_alice
Styling: Alina Ellstrom // @Alinaellstrom
Model: Sanna Bjelm // @sannabjelm
Agency: Sweden Models Agency // @swedenmodelsagency
Post-Production: Zahar // @justlike_magic

This is useful when reflections are crucial, such as when working with latex or other shiny surfaces.

#5. HardBox

12 Unusual Light Shaping Tools for Creative Portrait Photos 11

The hardest light you can get. The Profoto HardBox is essentially a modifier that minimizes the size of your light source. The way it works is by making the flash tube smaller. Every flash tube has a horseshoe shape which is relatively round. The beauty of a HardBox is that it takes that round tube and turns it into a small strip of light by turning the flash tube sideways. The HardBox has a black interior, so a lot of light is absorbed. Because of this, it can get very hot, I was in for an unpleasant surprise.

12 Unusual Light Shaping Tools for Creative Portrait Photos 12
Photo: Illya Ovchar // @illyaovcharphoto @wonderfulmachine
Hair&Makeup: Alice Högberg // @som_alice
Styling: Alina Ellstrom // @Alinaellstrom
Model: Sanna Bjelm // @sannabjelm
Agency: Sweden Models Agency // @swedenmodelsagency
Post-Production: Zahar // @justlike_magic

The light it produces has razor-sharp shadow edges and can be perfect for bringing out detail in your subject. It can also be used with gels as I did in the image below. In order to create this look, I had just one HardBox placed far away. In order to create the red color effect, I found a large gel and placed it as close to the model as I could. In fact, you see a little bit of the gel in the top right corner. Nonetheless, that way, I would get a sharp edge from red to white.

#6. Ringflash

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The ringflash is another must-try light shaping tool. It’s an easy way to get a “soft” light without taking up any space. The magic of the ringflash is that it creates a perfect shadowless light. Well, there are shadows but we don’t see them because they’re precisely behind the model. This is because the light direction is coaxial with the lens. You can try achieving a similar effect by placing a Speedlight very close to the lens, however, the result will be far from a ringflash. An easy way to tell a ringflash was used is by looking at the catchlights. In my photo they are round.

12 Unusual Light Shaping Tools for Creative Portrait Photos 14
Photo: Illya Ovchar // @illyaovcharphoto @wonderfulmachine
Hair&Makeup: Alice Högberg // @som_alice
Styling: Alina Ellstrom // @Alinaellstrom
Model: Sanna Bjelm // @sannabjelm
Agency: Sweden Models Agency // @swedenmodelsagency
Post-Production: Zahar // @justlike_magic

The image I created using a ringflash is an intimate portrait. Because the light produced is so soft, it was perfect for capturing a flattering image of the model. It was also crucial for me to focus only on the face, allowing the rest to blend. In order to achieve this, I placed 2 flags on either side and used a black background that was very far away from where the model was sitting.

#7. Flooter

12 Unusual Light Shaping Tools for Creative Portrait Photos 15

The Broncolor Flooter can be described as a Fresnel lens is a modifier that creates a classic movie light. A Fresnel lens is ideal for creating a contrasting light with a long throw and dramatic falloff. Another useful feature of a Fresnel is the ability to focus the beam. The Flooter can be used to light up large sets as well, for you can create wide beams with it.

12 Unusual Light Shaping Tools for Creative Portrait Photos 16
Photo: Illya Ovchar // @illyaovcharphoto
Hair&Makeup: Karina Jemelyjanova // @karinajemelyjanova
Model: Francesca // @frxnciska
Agency: Face Model Management Hungary // @facemodelmanagementhungary
Post-Production: Zahar // @justlike_magic

#8. P45 Reflector

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Broncolor’s P-series reflectors have a numbering system where the digits reflect (pun intended) the light spread. Tightest of them all: P45. It is not very common to use such a long throw reflector, but that depends on what your goal is. The beauty of a long-thrown reflector is that it can be used to produce hard contrasted light.

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Photo: Illya Ovchar // @illyaovcharphoto
Hair&Makeup: Karina Jemelyjanova // @karinajemelyjanova
Model: Francesca // @frxnciska
Agency: Face Model Management Hungary // @facemodelmanagementhungary
Post-Production: Zahar // @justlike_magic

The image you see is a prime example of using a P45 reflector. Because of the narrow light spread, I placed it fairly close in order to get a dramatic falloff on the neck. Further, I used barn doors to limit spill on the hair and the rest of the model’s body.

#9. Satellite Staro

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The Broncolor Satellite Staro is a large perfectly round modifier that is diffused. Being large helps it create soft light while being diffused works towards evening out the light spread. As you can probably tell, it will be one of the best modifiers to use for classic beauty photography.

12 Unusual Light Shaping Tools for Creative Portrait Photos 20
Photo: Illya Ovchar // @illyaovcharphoto
Hair&Makeup: Karina Jemelyjanova // @karinajemelyjanova
Model: Francesca // @frxnciska
Agency: Face Model Management Hungary // @facemodelmanagementhungary
Post-Production: Zahar // @justlike_magic

This is exactly what I did. The makeup look had very soft tone gradients which begged for a soft beauty light. Unlike the beauty dish, the Satellite Staro produces a perfectly even light, while the beauty dish has a “sweet spot” in the middle.

#10. Pulso F4 Spotlight

12 Unusual Light Shaping Tools for Creative Portrait Photos 21

The Broncolor Pulso F4 Spotlight is a modifier that can have multiple functions. By default, it comes with a Fresnel lens which will let you focus the light to some degree. To be an absolute control freak with your light, you will need a projection attachment. It will be like an optical snoot, but this one (unlike the ZoomSpot) is designed for much finer patterns. As you can clearly see, the circle is perfectly focused with a razor-sharp edge. In fact, you can create your own gobo masks and project them using the Pulso F4 Spotlight.

12 Unusual Light Shaping Tools for Creative Portrait Photos 22
Photo: Illya Ovchar // @illyaovcharphoto
Hair&Makeup: Karina Jemelyjanova // @karinajemelyjanova
Model: Francesca // @frxnciska
Agency: Face Model Management Hungary // @facemodelmanagementhungary
Post-Production: Zahar // @justlike_magic

#11. Mini-Satellite

The Broncolor Mini-Satellite is a highly reflective large modifier that creates a focused beam of light. In a way, it acts as a mirror. The light created is exceptionally hard and contrasted, moreover, it is closest to real sunlight. A Mini-Satellite will bring out every detail, as well as catch any reflections.

For the image I took with the Mini-Satellite, I was looking for a modifier that would give me detail in the white gesso on the face, as well as catch the metallic texture in the makeup. I deliberately placed it rather low in order to get a sharp triangular nose shadow.

12 Unusual Light Shaping Tools for Creative Portrait Photos 23
Photo: Illya Ovchar // @illyaovcharphoto
Hair&Makeup: Karina Jemelyjanova // @karinajemelyjanova
Model: Francesca // @frxnciska
Agency: Face Model Management Hungary // @facemodelmanagementhungary
Post-Production: Zahar // @justlike_magic

Lastly, because the mini satellite produced a very focused beam of light, I was able to direct it away from the hair, which added more form and structure to the whole image.

#12. Boxlite

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The Broncolor Boxlite is yet another specialist modifier used commonly for product photography. The reason being is that it produces an even light spread with fine edges which is exactly what one needs when working with shiny reflective surfaces. The Boxlite I used was rather small, and I placed it close to the model to get dramatic falloff on the neck as well as a clearly visible straight reflection edge on the brush.

12 Unusual Light Shaping Tools for Creative Portrait Photos 25
Photo: Illya Ovchar // @illyaovcharphoto
Hair&Makeup: Karina Jemelyjanova // @karinajemelyjanova
Model: Francesca // @frxnciska
Agency: Face Model Management Hungary // @facemodelmanagementhungary
Post-Production: Zahar // @justlike_magic

Closing Thoughts

These are just some of the unusual modifiers that exist out there. In fact, there is an infinite number of modifiers. You could even use an IKEA flashlight and a glass prism to make some very unusual and unique light. So, what is an unusual light modifier? Everything that light interacts with that you use for your photo. Moreover, these modifiers mentioned in this article are all expensive and all bar one cost north of one grand. Hence, it rarely makes sense for you to buy them.

I would, however, encourage you to rent as many as you want to and create photos using the modifiers I mentioned in this article.

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Preview: New masking tools for Lightroom & ACR

A screenshot of Adobe's new masking tool

New versions of Adobe Lightroom, Lightroom Classic and Adobe Camera RAW (Photoshop’s RAW processing engine) are coming on October 26th. Part of the update includes a completely re-engineered suite of masking tools with a new user interface.

For those not familiar, masking is used to select portions of an image to apply localized adjustments. Let’s take a look at what’s changed.

A new panel

A screenshot of Adobe's new masking panel.
The new “Masks” panel in Lightroom. Adobe

Adobe has removed the “Brush,” “Linear Gradient” and “Radial Gradient” local adjustment buttons and replaced them with a single “Masks” button that pulls out a new “Masks” panel. Users can then click “Create New Mask” to select which tool they’d like to use. 

This is now where you’ll find the “Brush,” “Linear Gradient” and “Radial Gradient” options, as well as “Color Range,” “Luminance Range” and “Depth Range.” There are also two new AI-powered options: “Select Subject” and “Select Sky.” More on that below.

AI-powered selections

A screenshot of Adobe's updated masking tool
Users will be able to create a mask of the sky in the new Lightroom/ACR with just a click of their mouse. Adobe

According to Adobe, the reason for the change is to bring Photoshop-like AI and machine learning functionality to Lightroom and ACR. We first saw the “Select Sky” feature this time last year and it was officially added to Photoshop CC in August.

However, because existing masks in Lightroom/ACR were vector-based and the AI selections require bitmap masks, there had to be a total overhaul of the underlying image processing engine—which gave Adobe the opportunity to add a load of new features. 

The two AI-powered masking options, “Select Subject” and “Select Sky” are both pretty self-explanatory. Though it’s worth noting that Adobe claims “Select Subject” works regardless of whether your subject is “a person, animal, or inanimate object”. Click the relevant button and Lightroom creates a best-guess mask. These features are pretty solid in Photoshop (and you can always make adjustments) so we’re optimistic they’ll be really good in Lightroom/ACR. 

Workflow changes

The above video, from Adobe, shows off some of the new masking features coming to Lightroom and ACR on October 26th.

While Adobe likes to trumpet their AI work, the most exciting changes are the basic workflow tweaks. One of those tweaks—the ability to name and organize masks—is a huge deal for Lightroom/ACR users. This means no more hovering over your photo with your cursor looking for the random adjustment pin that corresponds to one of your brush selections. You can now just select it from the panel. 

How the selection tools work together has also been improved with “Mask Groups”. You can now use one tool to create your initial mask then select “Add” or “Subtract” to use another mask to, well, add or subtract from it. This enables you to make incredibly complex selections, as shown in the video above.

Using the example in the video, let’s say you want to darken everything in the image except for the boy and the sky. In the new Lightroom/ACR you can do this by using the “Select Subject” option to create a mask around the boy. You can then invert that selection to have a mask around everything but him. Next, you can use the “Subtract” function and the “Select Sky” feature to remove the sky from the mask. And voila!

Or you could combine a “Brush” selection, a “Luminance” selection, and a “Color Range” selection to only select the colored bokeh in the background of a portrait. 

Masking everywhere

Adobe has also taken the opportunity to make masking a consistent experience across all the Lightroom apps (plus ACR). You now get the exact same options whether you’re using Lightroom on the Web or your iPad, Lightroom Classic on your laptop, or Photoshop on your desktop. 

When can I use the new tools?

The new masking features will be released on the 26th of October. Update your Lightroom and Photoshop apps to install them. 

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One of Lightroom’s Most Powerful Tools

For years, Lightroom’s tools for selective adjustments left something to be desired. The “detect edges” feature often adds noise to soft areas like clouds, whereas the standard brush and gradient tools can affect too much of the image. Range masking fixes those problems.

What Is Range Masking in Lightroom?

Range masking was added to Lightroom a few years ago and has since become one of my favorite post-processing tools. Lightroom has two types of range masking: luminance (which selects portions of the image by brightness) and color (which does the same by color). Both are very powerful ways to apply local adjustments to the exact areas of an image you want.

For example, say that there’s a bright cloud in your photo that you want to darken without affecting anything else in the photo. You don’t need to worry about painting a perfect mask around the cloud with the brush tool. Instead, you can use a range mask to tell Lightroom to selectively edit the bright tones in the cloud and completely ignore the rest of the sky. Here’s how such a thing looks in practice, starting with the original photo:

Landscape with Bright Cloud
Panasonic S1R + 24-105/F4 @ 105mm, ISO 100, 1/125, f/8.0

And then Lightroom’s preview of the range mask I created:

Range Mask Selection of Cloud in Landscape

At this point, any edits I make will affect only the areas highlighted in red, which allows for very nice selective post-processing. That’s what makes range masks so powerful.

How to Use Luminance Range Masks

The process of using range masks in Lightroom is fairly straightforward. Here are the steps if you’re planning to create a luminance mask:

With Lightroom’s gradient or brush tools, paint over the entire area that you want to affect. It’s fine to include some extra areas, but make sure to get 100% of the regions you need.

General Selection of Cloud in Landscape

Look at the bottom of the local adjustment panel. You’ll see a section called “range mask. Change it from “off” to “luminance,” and this full dialog pops up:

Luminance Range Mask Dialog Lightroom

Click “show luminance mask” to see Lightroom’s preview and get a good sense of what areas you’re affecting. Then, use the “range” slider to tell Lightroom which tones to affect. For example, if you set the slider from 0 to 30, you’ll only be affecting the dark tones – and if you set the slider from 35 to 65, you’ll only be affecting the midtones. In this case, I chose a range of 68 to 100, which isolated the brightest tones in the clouds. (You can also use the eyedropper tool to select tones, if you prefer.) Again, this is the mask I ended up with:

Range Mask Selection of Cloud in Landscape

After that, use the “smoothness” slider to soften the mask or give it harsher edges. The default value of 50 is usually good, but feel free to adjust if you’re getting halos or harsh effects.

Now it’s time to turn off “show luminance mask” and start actually making your edits! Any editing you do will only affect the tones you’ve selected (and, of course, only in the area of your brush/gradient).

How to Use Color Range Masks

The color range mask works in a similar way, except it selects areas based on color rather than brightness values.

Rather than using a simple slider to include or exclude certain tones, the color range mask tool uses an eyedropper tool instead. It looks like this:

Color Range Mask Dialog

All you need to do is click on the eyedropper tool, then click on something in your photo of whatever color you want to adjust. Lightroom paints a mask over those colors and excludes everything else. Pretty easy!

You’ll notice that the only slider involved is called “amount.” When the slider is at 0, only the areas of the exact color you selected will be included in the mask. On the other hand, when it’s set to 100, Lightroom barely takes your color selection into account and instead applies the gradient/brush almost at full strength – almost as if there were no range mask at all. 50 is the default value and usually a good choice, but you may want a lower value if you want more isolated edits to the exact colors you’ve selected.

There are also two extended ways to use the eyedropper tool if the one-click method isn’t working well enough:

  1. Hold down the Shift key while you click a color, and you can choose up to five colors for Lightroom to add to the range mask.
  2. Rather than just clicking, you can click and drag to select a much larger area of the image for Lightroom to analyze the colors. (This can be used in combination with pressing the Shift key if you want to have multiple such areas selected.)

If you’ve added multiple color range mask eyedroppers, and you’re unhappy with one or more of them, you can Alt+Click (Option+Click on Mac) to delete any that are bothering you.

I used range masking for the image below because I was finding it difficult to brighten the yellow flowers selectively any other way. This version is before I added the range mask:

Flowers before foreground brightening
Canon EOS R5 + RF 35mm F1.8 MACRO IS STM @ 35mm, ISO 100, 1/80, f/10.0

I couldn’t use the HSL panel for the image above because it was adjusting the yellow colors in the sky as well (and adding some color noise). A standard gradient tool – with or without luminance masking – wasn’t a terrible option, but it selected a bit too much of the flowers’ stems for my taste. So, the color range mask was the way to go.

In this image, I created a gradient that only affected the foreground. Then I used the click+drag method in the color range mask to isolate the yellow tones:

Click and Drag with Color Range Mask to Select Colors

You’ll note that this does include a few of the green tones as well, but is mainly focused on the yellow flowers. Then it was a simple matter of adjusting the sliders in the gradient panel to brighten the flowers to my liking. Here’s the final result:

Yellow Flowers with a Distant Mountain
Canon EOS R5 + RF 35mm F1.8 MACRO IS STM @ 35mm, ISO 100, 1/80, f/10.0

Note that with the color range mask, there is no “show color mask” option, so it can be a bit harder to tell what areas you’re affecting. You can get around this by simply pressing the “o” key on your keyboard, which is the shortcut for showing your local adjustment mask in Lightroom.

What Are Depth Range Masks?

You may notice that there’s a third option in Lightroom’s range masking tool, alongside luminance and color: depth. With most cameras, this option is going to be grayed-out, and you won’t be able to use depth range masking at all. 

However, if you shot a .HEIC image file with a camera that supports depth mapping, you’ll be able to use this tool to selectively mask areas by how far away they are. This applies to some Apple iPhones when shot in portrait mode but generally isn’t found on DSLRs or mirrorless cameras yet. In the future, we may see it become more commonly available.

Downsides of Range Masks

In general, range masks don’t have very many downsides and cause very few artifacts in a photo. It’s one reason why I prefer them over the “detect edges” tool or the HSL panel most of the time. Still, if you do an overdramatic edit, you can end up getting some halos with range masking that may not have shown up with a more standard gradient or soft brush too.

Another minor downside is that the tools may not perfectly mask your subject in every situation. For example, different parts of people’s faces – their eyes, lips, hair, skin, etc. – are generally so different from each other in luminance and color that range masks can’t select everything at once. If you want to make broad edits to people’s faces or other such subjects, it’s better to use a standard brush tool than to rely on range masking.

Portrait photo with peace sign
NIKON D7000 + 17-55mm f/2.8 @ 55mm, ISO 2800, 1/200, f/2.8

But the biggest issue with range masking is more general. After years of editing in Lightroom and a lot of other post-processing software, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s better to do fewer local edits whenever possible, including range masking.

This isn’t some ethical crusade against local edits. There’s nothing wrong with them in theory, and they often can lead to results that are impossible to achieve any other way. But they demand a high degree of care. In practice, it is very easy to use local edits with bad results (not just range masking, but even gradients). 

Specifically, if you have a large number of local edits, they can overlap and compete with each other in unwanted ways, leading to color shifts, halos, and other artifacts. Finding the source of these issues can be almost impossible without deleting all your local edits entirely. Not to mention the slowdown penalty in Lightroom once you exceed about a dozen local adjustments.

The process I recommend instead is to try to bring an image as far as possible without any local edits. Only once you’ve achieved that is it time to edit the image locally – and even then, I’d aim for just a few well-placed gradients or soft brushes if possible.

This applies to any local adjustments, including range masking. Just don’t overdo it. Local adjustments are great features (and range masks in particular), but if you let them become your primary editing tool, you may find that your process becomes unmanageable.


I consider range masking to be the best feature added to Lightroom in years. It offers an elegant way to edit selective parts of an image without adding excess noise or other artifacts. And once you get the hang of it, it’s very easy and intuitive.

While I still prefer to use global sliders as much as possible, range masking is a helpful tool when you need to make precision edits. I’d go so far as to say that a majority of gradients and brush edits in Lightroom can benefit from a range mask restriction. It’s a tool that I highly recommend learning for almost every Lightroom-based photographer.

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If Cameras Are Just Tools, Why Shoot On Leica?

If Cameras Are Just Tools, Why Shoot On Leica?

Leica is the butt of many photography jokes for making some of the most expensive cameras and lenses on the market. So if cameras are just tools, why would anyone shoot on Leica with so many other options available?

Having the “best” or most expensive camera doesn’t necessarily make photographers better, but they can change perspectives. In the above video from Ted Forbes of The Art of Photography, he discusses how when he first started shooting all of his idols shot on Leica M systems and since he couldn’t afford one, so he shot on anything cheap he could get his hands on. Now, years later looking back, he is actually quite proud of what he achieved.

By using “lower tier” gear he actually was able to truly “learn” photography. He did not become a worse photographer by not following in the direct footsteps of his idols, of course, since the camera has little to do with technique and growth in the art. But in the midst of 2020, which was a tough year for everyone, Forbes was feeling very creatively burnt-out. He says most of this stemmed from the work on his YouTube channel covering camera after camera with very little time to actually get to know the systems and be comfortable with them.

“I wasn’t creating images for myself anymore and got really burnt out. So a friend suggested I get a camera I was not used to shooting on and don’t do anything for YouTube about it,” he explained.

He took it as an opportunity to try Leica, years after he pined for one growing up. So, for the past year, Forbes has quietly been shooting with a Leica M10P and a 50mm Summilux-M f/1.4.

The experience didn’t necessarily make him a better photographer and wasn’t supposed to. Instead, it did reignite his desire to take photos again.

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Effectively, taking a step back using a new and unfamiliar system reinvigorated his love of photography and got his creativity flowing once more.

To revisit the original question, why would anyone shoot on Leica? As much as it is a cliche to say — especially when it comes to Leica — it’s for the experience. Using a rangefinder is so different from the traditional digital camera that it can have a positive influence on how a photographer sees the world. Arguably, the same could be said the other way: if a photographer only shot on a rangefinder for years and wanted a change, swapping to something like a Sony Alpha 1 might prove to be an invigorating experience.

Burnout is real, and how photographers can successfully deal with it varies from one person to the next. For Forbes, shooting Leica was his cure.

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For more from Ted Forbes, subscribe to the Art of Photography YouTube Channel.

Image credits: Photos by Ted Forbes and used with permission.

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The latest Adobe Photoshop CC update includes Sky Replacement and other tools

photoshop sky replacement tool

The latest update to Photoshop adds some more options to the Sky Replacement tool (you can find it by going to Edit > Sky Replacement). There are now more pre-installed presets, and you can add up to 5,000 skies at once through Adobe’s Discover website.

The Transform Warp tool has also been updated to give users, and especially product designers, more control. Adobe claims the new Split Warp options make it possible to do previously-impossible transformations for things like transferring a mockup logo to a photo of a book, bottle, or other real object. You’re now able to Split Warp Horizontally, Split Warp Vertically, or Split Warp Crosswise. For more on using these new features, check out Adobe’s guide to the Transform Warp tool.

Or you could use the new Discover Panel, which is designed to make using Photoshop’s wide array of tools easier for everyone. It combines suggested articles, links to tutorials, and a search function for all the different features into a single panel. Having played around with it a bit, I don’t think it’ll help established Photoshop users all that much but it’s nice to see Adobe continue to try and make Photoshop more accessible.

There are also a few other smaller features in the latest update, like improvements to the Neural Filters options, and some under-the-hood bug fixes. 

What’s New in Photoshop for iPad?

Photoshop for iPad is starting to lag less behind the desktop app. The Magic Wand tool joins the recently added Healing Brush tool as an option when editing your images. Like on your computer, it makes selecting objects quicker and easier—so long as they are distinct from the background. 

Also, it’s now possible to project your canvas onto an external monitor or TV screen via HDMI or USB-C. Connect your iPad, then go to App Settings > General > Canvas Projection, and the project you’re working on will be mirrored on the display without any of the Photoshop interface so you can get a better overview or demonstrate what you’re doing.

New Camera and Lens Support in Adobe Camera RAW and Lightroom

As well as the headline new features, the latest update to Photoshop also brings support for a handful of new cameras and lenses. (There’s also an update for Lightroom that adds the same profiles.) 

Some of the now-supported gear is:

  • Nikon Z fc.
  • Canon RF 400mm F2.8L IS USM.
  • Canon RF 600mm F4L IS USM.

You can see the full list of supported cameras and lenses on Adobe’s website. 

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9 Free Tools To Produce Your Next Photo Shoot

9 Free Tools To Produce Your Next Photo Shoot

Eventually, as we progress in our commercial photography careers, we will become a part of sizable shoots with producers attached. Your first shoot with an experienced producer will feel like flying first class for the first time; you will never want to go back.

I am so grateful to all the producers I get to partner with (“partnering” being the keyword) because they allow us photographers to focus entirely on the creative challenges and not the logistics of a project.

In the beginning, however, every photographer has to wear the producer hat. This on-the-job training is a good thing, as every shooter should know what it is like navigating all the logistical traps as a producer. We all should keep fresh in our minds how difficult that job can be to appreciate the support and even lend an experienced hand when needed. 

The truth is, no matter how experienced you are, you will always find yourself a part of shoots that do not have a producer attached a few times a year, especially during more challenging economic times, such as what we are experiencing now when budgets are tighter. Keeping your photoshoot coordination skills sharp will make you more marketable and save you hours of preparation in the run-up to your shoot.

What Does a Producer Do?

To grossly oversimplify, the goal of a producer is to get all of the members of a project on the same page with schedules, art direction, and communication. Everyone should know when to show up, where to show up, and precisely what is expected of them when they arrive on set. This alone is a full-time job without covering usage rights, talent fees, permits, location management, prop budgets, shooting schedule, insurance, food, parking, release forms, and COVID safety protocols.

While smaller shoots without a producer should be a lighter workload and less pressure, every shoot deserves a level of pre-production due diligence. Below are some of the tools I use in my process in order of use.


1. Pinterest ( Free )

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Probably the most obvious choice, but Pinterest is where a lot of shoots begin. Let me be clear; a mood board is not art direction. It’s just a tool to get the conversation started. The planning should move away from Pinterest and mood boards after the first creative call/email. Combining your Pinterest board with a customer profile and brand analysis are the key ingredients to creating a treatment in Step 3.

2. Concord Now ( Free Version )

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There are a ton of features in this contract platform that I love, but what Concord Now does differently is allow for contracts to be collaborative, transparent, and easily understood in the process. Stakeholders can make changes, comment on sections, ask questions, and of course, submit signatures for approval. Any changes made to a contract are tracked and can be subject to approval by the key team members.  Adobe’s contract signing platform, Adobe Sign, looks interesting to me, but I have yet to try it out. Payment is integrated directly into the contract to confirm a booking. Has anyone tried it yet?

3. Google Slides ( Free )

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Google Slides can be where the principal creatives do most of the preparation and idea generation. I usually start by making a treatment that informs the client of what I would like to bring regarding art direction, lighting, casting recommendations, locations, etc. The images in the treatment include as many shots that I have taken myself as possible. As the pre-production process moves forward, I use aspects of the treatment to create a hybrid concept deck and shot list. As flexibility is vital in any production, all the head creatives share editing rights over these documents. Want to know more about treatments? Check out this example courtesy of Photographer Jason Little.

4. Google Meet/Zoom ( Free/Free Version )

Remote meetings are only going to become more central to communication as time passes. I used to reject this and would even drive hours for a good old-fashioned face-to-face. I still believe it’s the best forum, but it’s not always possible. The combination of Google Slides and Google Meet makes for a powerful tool in any pre-production meeting. I prefer Google Meet to Zoom, as it is integrated seamlessly into other Google products, such as Gmail, Calendar, etc.

5. Slack (The Free Version Is Really All You Need)

“OMG, email is terrible.”

That’s the thought I had five minutes after using Slack for the first time. Slack saves time and prevents mistakes while helping you stay focused on what you and your team need to do. For the past two years, I have created a separate Slack Workspace for each client’s internal team, and doing so has paid dividends. Utilizing this tool has evaporated a lot of challenges of communication and planning. If you have a client with monthly/quarterly shoots, I highly recommend Slack or a product like it.

Pro Tip: Create a separate channel in the workspace for each typical conversation topic, such as Important Links, Call Sheets, Inspiration, Revision Requests, etc.

6. Peerspace (Sort of Free)

Peerspace is an AirBnB for studios and event locations. Each property owner lists their space for an hourly or a day rate. By now, many have had big productions come through and use their space, so the owners have equipped their homes, ranches, lofts, warehouses, etc. with supplies and resources to help with your shoot. Several locations in my experience had their sandbags, apple boxes, and C-stands already on site, which is a game-changer when you are self-producing your shoot.

Pro Tip: Many Peerspace locations are also on Airbnb, so book the space the day before so your team can do a tech-scout, stay the night, wake up, and get started first thing in the morning.

7. StudioBinder (Free Trial, Limited Free Version, and Paid Versions )

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The Free Forever Plan includes a fantastic call sheet platform. I used to obsess over making call sheets, and StudioBinder’s service saves me a ton of time. A good call sheet is packed with a lot of information but is also be easily understood.

The best part is that the call sheet tracks to ensure everyone sees the call sheet. No more stress about ensuring everyone shows up on time; it comes complete with automatic reminders and GPS location. If you schedule three shoots or more a year, I recommend buying into this service to save you hours of your time.

Pro Tip: If you are a part of a one-day photography shoot, send the call sheet out 48 hours before the call time at the latest. A multi-day video shoot is a different, more complex animal, so call sheets the night before is typical and should be left in the hands of a real producer anyways.

8. Dropbox, WeTransfer, Smash, Hightail (Free Versions Available)

Delivery of assets is tricky, as everyone has different preferences for receiving and reviewing images. Personally, every shoot I do calls for a slightly different handoff geared towards a client’s different needs.

Dropbox is the best, but it’s not good. It’s the most common, and you can securely store a ton of files for free to relatively cheap. My problem with Dropbox is that it is slow with a convoluted user interface. Also, the lack of the Proofing and Image Approval process is frustrating, but apparently, they are working on that. 

That being said, Dropbox is the most common way I transfer images because almost all of my commercial clients already use it and insist on receiving their deliverables this way.

WeTransfer and Smash are clean, simple, and straightforward ways to deliver large files. You can set passwords and expiration dates for downloadable links. These two companies understand user interface so well that I will go all in as soon as one launches a full proofing service. Until then, I have upgraded to Hightail.

9. Expensify (Free Trial)

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This is my favorite way to track expenses on a project. Whether you shoot a receipt on your phone or have an invoiced email to you, Expensify will collect and organize all of your project transactions into a professional clean expense report.

Would you mind taking a moment to let us know what tools you use to organize your shoots in the comments below?

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The Ultimate Guide to Softboxes: The Anatomy of Light Shaping Tools

The Ultimate Guide to Softboxes: The Anatomy of Light Shaping Tools

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Softboxes are among the most popular light shaping tools. Few photographers have never shot with softboxes, and more often than not a softbox is a go-to modifier for beginners. In this article, I will break down the anatomy of a softbox, from physics to possible applications for it. Read on to become a master of using softboxes.

What Is a Softbox?

In the simplest terms, a softbox is a light modifier that is shaped like a box and produces soft light. Softboxes come in different shapes, with each one having a distinct function and look to them. Here are the most popular ones:


A square softbox will produce an even soft light that will have gradated shadow edges. A great use for a square softbox would be for creating soft window light since a softbox is shaped exactly like one. The square shape means that both horizontal and vertical shadows will be the same size.

One difference between this softbox and an octagonal one would be the catchlights. The sharp corner in the softbox will produce much more distinct pointy catchlights when compared to a round softbox.

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As one side gets smaller and the other bigger it will produce a somewhat narrower light spread. The light will cover a larger area on one side while covering a smaller one on the other. This shape is very popular among fashion and portrait photographers for it allows to light a half-body shot without spilling light on the background too much.

A word of caution: this softbox will create softer shadow edges on the larger side while creating harder edges on the smaller side. Nonetheless, if you’re using a 4×6 softbox to light a portrait that will be barely noticeable, this will be predominantly seen when using a smaller softbox on longer distances.

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A popular choice for lighting a background, this softbox will create a strip of light. This is a softbox that is narrow on one end while extremely wide on the other. For this, it will create a smooth gradated shadow edge on the longer side and a fine shadow edge on the other.

A stripbox is often used for full-body shots as it covers the whole body on one hand while giving a lot of definition and contrast on the other. A cautious photographer will be wary of using a long stripbox with a flat-end flash as there is a 1-3-stop difference between the center and edge of the modifier.

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A classic among softboxes, the octagonal softbox is preferred to the square one for the round catchlights in the eyes. For all intents and purposes, it gives off a very similar, albeit slightly rounder and wider, light as a similarly sized square softbox.

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Deep (Fake Parabolic) Softbox

It has become quite popular nowadays to purchase deep softboxes because they give an unusual light. However, a deep direct softbox is no different than an octabox. An indirect parabolic softbox, on the other hand, is very useful but it won’t be discussed in this article.

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Accessories For a Softbox

A softbox isn’t complete without accessories, here are some common ones that you can put on most softboxes:


Softbox grids often are 50deg, meaning that they limit whatever light spread the softbox has (often 180deg) to a much finer one. This, however, makes the light harder.

Soft light is defined as a light that hits the subject from a large family of angles which causes the shadow edges to be gradated. Since the grid limits that family of angles, the light becomes slightly harder. Often it is advised to move the softbox closer to compensate for this.

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Stripmasks are made primarily for stripboxes. They make the edge finer and the light source smaller (in one dimension) This can be useful when trying to create fine reflections or horizontally hard but vertically soft light. A common use for a stripmask is on automotive photography when long but fine highlights are required.

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Round Mask

A round mask will, as the name suggests, make the softbox perfectly round. Another way to control how light modifier reflections look, the round mask has its use in fashion and portrait photography. Using a round mask will make the softbox smaller, and in order to achieve the same level of softness.

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Other Masks

There are also custom masks that exist for softboxes. Some will block out the center, while others can be customized. In fact, you can make your own softbox masks by creating custom gobos or using flags. The way you mask your softbox is just a matter of imagination. The Ultimate Guide to Softboxes: The Anatomy of Light Shaping Tools 46

How Does a Softbox Work?

The principle behind every softbox is that it produces a light that hits the object from a wide family of angles. This is achieved by taking the point light source and reflecting it inside the modifier first through the first and then the second diffuser.

The role of the first diffuser is to take the direct specular rays and modify the angles at which they travel. However, with particularly large softboxes, this will still leave a hotspot in the middle. Often the difference between the center and side is 2-3 stops. This is unwanted, so a second layer is necessary.

The second diffuser further diffuses the light, which produces a much more even corner to corner illumination. The distance between the two layers of diffusion is relatively unimportant, but if you fancy diffusing the light even further you can shoot the softbox through a scrim placed a meter or so from the softbox.

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Possible Uses

I couldn’t possibly list all uses for a softbox, as it is a very versatile and popular modifier. Here are some common places and setups where a softbox will be appropriate:

Portrait Photography

Being a soft and often large light source, a softbox is ideal for creating portrait light. The soft quality of light of it ensures that skin texture appears smooth, while the large size ensures that the coverage is sufficient for even illumination. A softbox placed at 45deg to the subject will produce a classic portrait light.

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Hair& Makeup @karinajemelyjanova Styling @nagyemesestylist Model @polgar_tunde_official Agency @silverchicmodels

Sports Photography

A classic softbox might not be as useful here, but a strip box is. It will be perfect for lighting a full body shot of an athlete vertically while keeping the punchy quality of light horizontally. The hard light will bring out the muscle and other detail in the subject.

Automotive Photography

Most cars have long lines that define their shape. Bringing out that shape with a directed long strip of light will be pleasant for the viewer as it shows the essence of the subject.

Product Photography

One of the most important ingredients in a successful product image is good highlights and direct reflections management. A softbox will be useful when trying to create even linear highlights. Another use would be as a fill source, or as a source of even diffused light which is great for bringing out the color in images.

Fashion Photography

Fashion photography is another common place for softboxes. As it produces a soft diffused light it is flattering for models’ faces which reduces the amount of retouching required. Moreover, a softbox is used to light certain fabrics such as ones that produce diffused reflections (wool or cotton).

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Model @mirinkoli @tamcsii__
Agency @annelise_arieli @facemodelmanagementhungary
Makeup: @karinajemelyjanova
Retouch @oi_retouch
Styling: @nagyemesestylist

Recommended Softboxes

You can choose your own brand of the softbox, however, I will strongly recommend going with a quality brand such as Elinchrom, Broncolor, or Profoto. Their modifiers are durable and worth it in the end.

Read also: Are Expensive Light Modifiers Worth It?

Here are some sizes that will be useful for your studio setups:

Closing Thoughts

Picking the right softbox is difficult. Hopefully, this guide has been helpful in showing you the uses for each one. Personally, I use softboxes here and there but they are not instrumental to my work. The same can be said about every other modifier. What is crucial is the theoretical and practical knowledge of light that pays a dividend in the form of being able to charge more.

I strongly suggest deepening your knowledge by exploring light just by using one modifier. Pick up a softbox that is most interesting for you and dive deep into exploring it. Have fun!

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How to Create a Realistic Sky Replacement Using Photoshop’s AI Tools

How to Create a Realistic Sky Replacement Using Photoshop's AI Tools

Sky replacement used to be a fairly tedious thing and one that took a lot of careful editing and know-how to get just right, but in recent years, we have seen the rise of automated tools that cut out a lot of the time and difficulty involved in the process. Photoshop now has such tools, and this excellent video tutorial will show you how to use them to create realistic sky replacements in your own images.

Coming to you from Tyler Stalman, this great video tutorial will show you the ins and outs of creating a realistic sky replacement in Photoshop. Personally, I think the new wave of automated tools is a huge boon to photography. There are certain genres (such as real estate and wedding photography) where it is simply not reasonable or sometimes even possible to come back and shoot another day, and knowing you can easily give a photo that extra edge it needs if the weather refuses to cooperate is very beneficial, and it is an extra touch that is sure to be appreciated by a lot of clients. And the automation makes it much easier to explore creative options without expending a lot of time and effort. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Stalman. 

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5 Affinity Photo Tools That We Need in Adobe Photoshop

5 Affinity Photo Tools That We Need in Adobe Photoshop

For most things retouching, Adobe Photoshop sets the pace and has been the industry standard for decades. However, as alternative software improves and innovates, there are some features that Photoshop doesn’t have that would improve it.

I have been using Adobe Photoshop for nearly 20 years, which can’t be true, but sadly is. I picked up the software in my early teens when I wanted to make websites in Dreamweaver and I got a little hooked. Photoshop seemed unthinkably complex and deep to the point of being tantamount to impossible to master. Now, I look back and I see that it was comparatively simple compared to today’s iteration

A big part of why Photoshop has been in the industry standard for so long is because it is the industry standard. That is, to maintain its position at the top of the pile it had to keep improving and innovating to quench the ever-growing thirst of its users. However, somewhere in the last decade or so, we have seen the rise of many alternative programs similar to Photoshop. Some try to do more than Photoshop will ever try to do by becoming a “one-stop shop” for post-production and some try to do what Photoshop does, but offer it to their users at a much lower price. Whatever the case, these lesser-known applications have had to innovate just to get a sliver of the market share, which has lead to occasions like the premise of this video: a Photoshop alternative has powerful tools that Photoshop itself does not.

What tools would you like to see added to Photoshop? I must say, since watching the video, it surprises me that, as Abbey Esparza says, all tools in Photoshop don’t have live previews as they do in Affinity.

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