This is one of those questions I give to myself over and over. Should I or should I not use watermarks in my photos. It’s a hard question, and one that every photographer has to answer for him/herself. But to give you something to think about, here are some of my thoughts on this.
Lamp on the bridge

Why yes?

  • You put your mark on the photo, showing that you are the author.
  • It will discourage some (mostly unskilled) thief’s from using you photo.
  • In some countries, the removal of a watermark is against the law and its then easier if you want to sue someone.
  • It’s easier to find you from any of your photos. Of course that can also be done through search engines, just by searching for a photo, but having the info already there, make it much easier.
  • You are always credited for every use, as the credit is just there

Why no?

  • It can be a really big distraction. You would think that a small watermark on the bottom, or a partially transparent one would not be, but it is. Especially in photos with less detail, or the ones that try to convey a certain mood. Once the eye sees the watermark, you will always notice it.
  • It can degrade the photo, taking away part of the artistic value.

What to do

  • It’s hard to suggest what to do, as everyone has a little different view of this. I would suggest finding yourself a discrete way how to add watermarks to your photos. You can try either, as also I do, to just add your name and a web address to the corner. Or you can bee more elaborate, and be inspired by Klause Herman’s photos where he blends the watermarks directly into the photo.
  • The best way to protect published images, is just not to post a big version. A small photo can’t be really used for much. Of course it takes a little experimenting before one finds a size one is comfortable with. One that is big enough to represent a photo, but small enough so it’s worthless to anyone but you.
  • Try thinking about starting using CC license. You give away some rights, but you have less people to chase because of photo usage. Especially social media shares are a great example here.
  • And in the end, if you are really scared that someone will steal your photos, and really want to prevent that, just stop sharing them. What’s not online, can’t be stolen. For instance, show only prints, never the photos.


What not to do

  • Don’t just put a huge watermark over you photo. Just don’t. Once the watermarks becomes more dominant than the photo behind it, the photo has lost all meaning. It’s a little interesting, that I seen this mostly on photos of beginners, which were not always of a very high quality. If you do this, you don’t even respect your own work at that moment.
  • Also don’t bother with blocking right click on webpages. You just making a visit to your page more frustrating and print-screen makes the whole thing worthless anyway. Once you publish a photo on the web, there is no way you can stop people from downloading it.
  • Don’t be crazy protective about your photos. There is such thing as fans, and they share your photos because they like them. They make no profit on it, and they just wan’t for more people to see your work. Attacking them will bring you nothing.

Why I use watermarks

For a long time I haven’t used watermarks. I even started sharing bigger images in that time, as HDR’s just looks better bigger. But around two years ago, there started appearing people, who shared the photos without credit, and even added their own watermark to them. I usually just look the other way when no credit is given (I would have to send many emails every day to notify everyone, and I’m in no mood to do that), but the adding of watermarks just insults me. How can someone think that adding their logo to a photo they didn’t take is OK. So I added my own watermark to my photos, and even that you could actually remove it quite easily, most of these people stopped taking them. Their skill in Photoshop was probably really minimal.

Actually, somewhere there is the line  for me, when it goes for photo usage. Once someone starts modifying them or making profit on them, they better have a bought licence from me :)

One of the great things about photography, is the ability to influence time. Just by changing the exposure time, you can freeze motion, or blur all the moment into a soft blur. And a special part of this is long exposure photography with the use of an ND filter. And that’s what I will be looking at in this post.

ND filter

What is a ND filter

A ND filter is very dark piece of glass. The purpose of it, is to block a certain amount of light to enter the cameras lens. There are different types of filters with different strengths. They can range from filters that block 50% of light up to filters that block 99.9% of light.

All the filters are named based on how much stops of light they block. So you have a ND1 filter, that blocks 50% of light. That means you will have to use an exposure that is twice as long, so it’s one stop of light blocked. The ND2 filter, will block 75% of light and you will have to use a 4 times longer exposure , and so on  until ND10 (ore even more). Sometimes the filters are not named based on the stops, but on how much they multiply a 1s shot (at least I think that it :)). So you have a ND1, ND2, ND4, ND8, ND16 until ND512, ND1000 (should be 1024) and similar. But when you buy a new ND filter, always check how many stops it blocks, as that’s the important information.


There are different qualities of ND filters, and the two most important parameters are, if they introduce a color tint and if they create additional chromatic aberrations. The priciest ones out there create almost none in both cases. The cheap ones on the other hand, will usually create a strong green or purple tint, which needs to be removed in post-processing.

Marina reflectionHow to take a long exposure photo

Using lighter ND filters, like the ND2, ND4, ND8 is quite simple. You just put the filter on the lens and take the photo. They make for a longer exposure, but the difference is not so big, and you can usually fit the shot under the 30s that every camera allows. It get’s a little more complicated by the darker ND filter, especially by the 9-stop and higher. With a filter like that on your camera, you will not see anything through the viewfinder, and mostly not even through the live view (depends on the camera). So what to do then?

The process is simple, but of course a tripod and a shutter release remote here are mandatory. The steps are:
1. Frame the shot without the filter
2. Focus, either manually, or use auto-focus and turn the auto-focus off after that.
3. Go to the Manual (M) mode
4. Set your ISO and aperture that you want to use
5. Meter the exposure by half pressing the shutter button (remember it :))
6. Switch the camera to Bulb (B) mode, make sure the ISO and aperture are set the same
7. Put on the filter.
8. Calculate the needed exposure time
9. Take the shot by holding the shutter button (preferably on the remote) pressed for the required amount of time.

Let’s look at step 8 now, how to calculate the exposure time. You can either do it your self, by multiplying the exposure time you metered before you put on the ND filter. Fore each stop of the ND filter, you multiply it by 2. So if you have a 1s exposure and a ND9 filter, you mulltiply it as 1*2*2*2*2*2*2*2*2*2 so 9 times, which gives you 512 seconds. Of course that is quite simple by 1s exposures, but what if you exposure was 1/400s? That makes it a little harder to calculate. But since everyone caries a phone these days, you can help yourself with any of the available apps that do this for you. You just need to download one of the available ND calculators, and enter the starting exposure and the ND filter stops and it will give you the result right away. Here is one of those apps for Android and one for Windows phone, there are many more, of course also for iOS.

NDsND filter calc for Android
NDND converter for Windows Phone

Also, regarding the remote, you should use one that allows to lock the shutter button, so you don’t have to hold it for the whole time. By 30s this is still manageable, but by a 5 minute one, you will no longer  feel your fingers after you are done :)
White fluffy clouds

Making it easier with Promote remote or Magic lantern

If you have a Promote remote, or other programmable remote, you can make it easier for yourself, as you can just program the desired time through the remote. You then don’t have to check the time on the camera, as it will do that for you.

With the Magic lantern firmware, you can do it even easier, as you can set up the exposure time even directly in the camera. It also boosts the brightnes in live view, so making it easier to focus even with the filter on. And it also removes the 30s limit for HDR brakceting, so you can do a HDR exposure series even with the filter. If you don’t know how to take a long exposure photo with Magic lantern, check my video on it. You can find it at the end of the How to take multiple exposures video on my Videos page.

That’s all for this post. Feel free to ask any questions, and btw. the two photos included were of course taken with a 9 stop Hoan ND400 filter.

One needs to check a lot of thing before going out to take photos and since I seen many people doing the same mistakes over and over (and I did some myself :)) here is a short list, of what one should check before going out to take photos. This is more for the beginners, as I hope pros don’t do these mistakes :)

1. Check the battery status

First thing that needs to be checked. And not even the battery in the camera, but also all the backup batteries one takes. As batteries can loose their charge over time, if you haven’t used a backup battery for a while, it can be completely empty. Also, cold environments tend to kill the batteries quicker, so have at least one spare.


2. Check that you have a memory card

First check if you have a memory card in the camera, then if you have at least one spare. Even if a memory card works, that does not mean that it wont fail on you during a photoshoot, and it’s very hard to continue without a new one. Also check if the cards are empty. A card full of photos you haven’t copied to your PC yet, is the same as no card at all.

3. Check that the camera works

One never knows what could happened after the last time you took photos. Always turn the camera on and at least try to focus. Electronics can fail unexpectedly, and finding it out after you spend time and money to get to a location, is just to late.

4. Check the camera settings

This is something that I always forget to do. Especially, if like I, one shoots in the same settings all the time. Especially things that one does not see immediately. A crazy white balance, auto ISO selected, wrong shooting mode, bracketing turned off/on, self-timer and similar. If one had to shoot something different, and then goes back to the regular stuff, it’s very easy to forget about one or more of these being changed.


5. Check the lens setting

There are actually only two settings here. Auto-focus and image stabilization. Again, checking if these are properly set, can really help avoid one or few bad photos. For instance, if one tends to shoot a lot of landscapes with manual focusing and then goes to shoot some people shots, it’s easy to forget to switch the Auto-focus on. And it’s even easier to forget to switch it back off again afterwards. Same with the images stabilization switch. Forgetting to turn it one when shooting handheld and forgetting to turn it off when shooting from a tripod can really easily happen. Also, don’t forget to clean the lens every time :)

6. Check the tripod

Here I don’t mean to check if you have the proper plate on the camera (even if that’s also important :)), but that one should check if the screws on your tripod are properly tighten. One does not have to do this all the time, but it still should be done regularly. You never want to do a long exposure, just seeing the camera slowly moving down due to a loos tripod leg. Not all tripods are the same, and not all need to have the screws tightened. So do this based on what type you have.

7. Check that you have all you wan’t to use

And last but not least, all the other stuff. Make sure you have your remote, filters, leveling cube, and anything else you think you may need.

If you have ever worked with Photoshop, you know what blending modes are. One just can’t get around them. If you haven’t, the blending modes are different options how a layer can behave, in the relation to the layers under it. There are many blending modes, varying from very useful, to not so much. And in this post, I will go through some of them, through the ones I think are most useful when editing photos, and what I use them for.

Soft light

Probably the most useful blending mode of them all. Based on the top layer, it either darkens or brightens the bottom layer. There are other that do the same (Overlay, Hard light), but this one creates the softest effect, which blend the most with a photo. It’s very useful when sharpening the photo (using the high pass filter, as 50% grey has no effect), creating glow (just copy layer, blur and choose soft light), dodging and burning (create new layer, set it to soft light, and paint white where you want to dodge and black where you want to burn) and more. Just duplication the layer and setting it to soft light will add you a lot of contrast and color to a photo. Just tweak it with the opacity slider :)

Blend modesSoft light
Blend modesSoft light sharpening


I don’s use Difference directly as a tool to edit a photo, but it helps in a certain situation. What id does, is to show you the color/brightness difference between two layers. It there is no difference, it is just black. This can be very useful, when trying to align two layers manually. Just set the top layer to difference, and immediately you can see if you are aligned or not. Then just move the top layer with the arrow keys, until you only see a small difference. That will always be there, if you try to align images with different brightness. But you can see on these screenshots, what the difference between aligned and not aligned photos.

Blend modesDifference aligned
Blend modesDifference not aligned


These two are a pair, each doing the opposite of the other. The color will show only the color of the top layer, luminosity only brightness values. This is great when you wan to use only one, but not the other. For instance, in these examples, I applied a strong Color Efex tonal contrast on the duplicate of the bottom layer. Once, set to color, it only added saturation. But the second one is more interesting, just set to luminosity, it will add the detail, but the color will not be affected (of course it will be a little different, as you change the brightness).

This is also very useful, when you apply contrast to a photo. You probably noticed, that adding contrast, will also make a photo more saturated. To correct this, one can change the contrast layer to Luminosity, and then it will only affect the contrast.

Blend modesColor mode
Blend modesLuminosity mode


A second set of inverse modes. What both do, is to multiple the color of the top and bottom layer. The difference is, that screen inverses the colors first. So if you use Multiply, the result will be always darker, if you use screen, it will be lighter. In editing, I tend to use this in two ways. One is if I just want to darken/brighten the image by one exposure stop. I just create a new curves layer, and set it to Multiply/Screen. I of course than also can tweak the curve, to get exactly what I wanted.

The second is in combination with luminosity masks. Just duplicating a layer, putting a brights luminosity mask on it, and setting the blending mode to Multiply. This will very nicely darken all the bright areas, and also add to their color. This can create very nice effects on clouds and the sky. Of course one can also do the opposite with dark’s mask and Screen mode.

Blend modesMultiply
Blend modesScreen


And a last series. Again doing the opposite to each other. Both compare the top and bottom layer. The lighten, will always choose the brigher pixel from each, and use that. The darken, will always choose the darker. In the example, I combined a HDR result with one of the original exposures. This is actually exactly how I use this blending mode. Once you have a HDR, and you want to give it a little more natural feel, you can use this. For instace, if you have white objects in your photos, just use the exposure where they look the best, and use Lighten as the mode. They will be replaced, as in HDR white is usually darker, but other parts of the photo wont be affected.

Blend modesLighten
Blend modesDarken

You can of course tweak all the blend strengths by changing the opacity of the top layer, and also by using layer masks, and painting the effect just where you need it.

Feel free if you have any question about any of this :) And if you can’t find the blend modes in Photoshop, here is a screenshot of where to look for them, and the photo with no modes applied to compare.
Blend modes

One usually only needs to edit a photo, but from time to time it can happen, that one also need to edit the exif data directly. And here I don’t mean stuff like the creator info, or copyright information. I mean the exposure time, aperture, iso and similar. You may be wondering when this is required. The answer is simple. Especially in HDR, there are applications (Oloneo Photoengine, Photomatix Pro, PtGui and more) that need to access this information, so they will be able to blend the images correctly. In some of them, like the Photomatix pro, you can override this information, but in other you are depended on it. And it can easily happen, that you have to use an exposure modified in Lightroom, or you used bad settings on your camera, and you just need to change one of the values in exif.

For me this situation happens mostly, when I create HDR panoramas. If you look through my guide on how to do this, you will see that I use PTgui for this. But if one wants to save the result as blended planes, PTgui had to recognize the set of images as HDR brackets. For this to work, each set has to have the exact same values, especially same exposure time. And for some reason, when I take multiple series with the same settings, sometimes, the time on one or more is off. Like having 15s instead of 16s and similar. Not sure if this is a problem with Magic lantern firmware or Canon firmware, but it happens, and so I need to correct it.


The software I use for that is called PhotoMe. It’s a freeware that can be found and dowloaded from It’s a very handy tool, and it allows to see and to edit all of the information in the exif and then save it back as a raw file. Don’t be scared off that the latest version is from 2009. It still works fine, and from the software itself, you get updated until 2012. It works fine for all the RAW files I tried, but if you have a much newer camera, I would suggest to try  first, if the RAW are supported.


Using the software is very easy. You just select the file you want to edit, change the values, either by rewriting them, or choosing from the list of available options, and save as new file. It can’t be easier.

I hope this helps you if you ever need to change the exif, and feel free to suggest other software that can do this, if you know any.

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