Multiple Fireworks in One Frame

November 16, 2012


Here's a quick and easy tip to combined multiple fireworks in one frame.  For my photos, I've used a tripod and shot each firework explosion with roughly a 2 seconds exposure (shutter speed).  Then with all the photos, upload them in Photoshop as layers.  Below is a summary of steps from the video above.


  1. Starting from the top layer, change each layer to "Screen" blend mode
  2. Add the Curves Adjustment (Window > Adjustments > Curves)
  3. In the Curves Adjustment drag the middle line towards the bottom


Normally to capture more than one fireworks in one frame, the camera should be set to "Bulb Mode" with 30 sec. or longer exposure.  With such a long exposure, any camera movement would blur whatever background/foreground you may have.  Instead, I've took a bunch of capture of the fireworks with a 2 sec. shutter speed.  Combine a few photos in Photoshop to get that dramatic firework show in one frame.

How to Capture a Lighting Bolt

October 28, 2012

Want to know the secret on how to catch a bolt of lighting? Well, it's not much of a secret. It's more of luck. You can increase your luck armed with knowing what settings your camera needs to be at. Also, being at the right time at the right place plays a big role.


First off, having your camera setting to Manual mode is important. Generally, it is dark when you are attempting to capture a lighting bolt. Don't let the camera decide your exposure for you. It will think that the scene is under-exposed and will try to compensate. This would leave you with an over-exposed photo when the lighting appears.


Since it's dark, set the lens to manual focus. This will prevent the lens from hunting around the scene to focus. Use any bright object in the scene to focus. If you shoot with a wide angle lens, most of the scene will be in focus with an aperture higher than f/4.0.


Try to keep a low ISO. Normally, keeping the ISO it below 400 will give you a sharp photo. Any higher than that will produce a noisy photo. As for the shutter speed, the camera should be set to longer than 1 second of exposure. A long exposure will increase your chance to capture a lighting bolt. Of course with long exposure, a tripod is necessary. Careful with too long of an exposure. If the shutter speed is too slow, the lighting bolts will be too dim when you capture it. It is recommended to use a cable release remote to avoid any movement of the camera.


Out of the three main settings: ISO, shutter speed, and aperture, once the aperture is set, play around with the ISO and shutter speed to get the right exposure. If the lighting bolts are close by, under-expose the scene a bit. Once the lighting bolt shows up, it will illuminate the scene like a large studio flash.


The photo above was taken on the 27th of October 2012 in Kuwait. The setting was taken at f/4.0, 2 sec. exposure at ISO 200. A Canon 8-15mm fish-eye lens was used racked out to 14mm. The camera was under-exposed a bit, but when the lighting bolt appeared, the scene lite up.


Even out the White or Black Background

October 19, 2012

Here's a quick trick to verify that you get that even white or black background.  It can be tough trying to shoot an object and get an even white or black background.  Here's what I do to isolate an image.  Using the Info Tool (F8) and Curves Adjustment layer helps me identify where I need to paint out areas that need it.  Below is a summary of steps from the video above.

  1. Use the Info Tool to get an RGB reading (Window > Info)
  2. White in RGB is (255, 255, 255) & Black in RGB is (0, 0, 0)
  3. Duplicate the original layer (Command + J)
  4. Add the Curves Adjustment (Window > Adjustments > Curves)
  5. In the Curves Adjustment drag the black triangle to the right (for black background, drag the white triangle to the left)
  6. Use the Brush Tool (B) and set the Opacity to around 30-40%
  7. Set the foreground color to either white or black depending on which background color you want
  8. Paint on the Duplicate layer
  9. Use the Info Tool (F8) or the Curves Adjustment to aid in getting even white/black background

To Watermark or Not to Watermark

October 13, 2012

Should you watermark your photos?


Here's my take on watermarked photos.  I might change my mind later on about watermarking, but as of now, this is what I believe.  Some people ask me why I don't watermark my photos or that I should watermark my photos.  First off, I see all these creative watermarks slapped on to every photos.  Some are more creative the the photo itself or a simply 'Photographer's Name' Photography.  I think it takes away from the experience of viewing the actual photo.  Some watermarks are so distracting that it's hard to avoid seeing. When I capture a photo, I like the user to view what I saw or what I imaged.  Also, most of the time when I provide the model with a TFP/TFCD (time for print), the model would simply crop out the "Johnny Dao Photography" watermark right out.  I don't blame the model.  I wouldn't want a picture of myself or photo of my family with any logo on it either.


Some people say, "Aren't you afraid others might steal your photo?".   My answer, "Nope".  If someone really wants to steal my photos, they will find a way to do it.  Now and days, just about everyone owns a camera.  Be it a DSLR, point and shoot, or a camera photos from an iPhone or Galaxy.  What this leads up to is that there are so many photos online and it will continue to grow.  My photo is one of many.


"What if you find your photos on billboard or a product?".  Well, it's possible, but I have the proof that the photo is mine.  I have the RAW file, the time the photo was captured, maybe a witness or two of when I took the photo, and even tell you the story of how I came about capturing the photo.  If my photo becomes publish without my consent, the truth will eventually come out and the photography community will know who the photo belongs to.  The photography community is large and there are many who will support each other if a photographer is treated unfairly.


What does a watermark really mean?  All it means is that the photographer press the shutter button on the camera to capture the photo.  The photographer is claiming the copyright and that he/she took the shot.  Does it mean the photographer organize the shoot?  Does it mean the photographer planned the shoot?  Or did the photographer simply showed up to the scene and snapped a photo?  That's the question.