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Getting the best color from your digital camera is an essential part of the photographic process. Though you may be tempted to use the automatic white balance setting of your camera or to let your editing software adjust color for you, neither may provide the best results.

Instead, it’s the making of conscious choices both in camera and in software that will really ensure that you are getting the best color. Here are some tips to help to achieve just such results.

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Here’s something completely absurd: apparently, a Utah high school has taken it upon itself to Photoshop its students yearbook photos to look, uh, more modest….

Let that sink in a little.

Yup, while the rest of the world has been using Photoshop as their go-to tool for creating sexier, more attractive versions of their subjects, the school administrators at Wasatch High School in Wasatch County, UT thought it a brilliant idea to use the tool to manipulate its FEMALE students photos to look more appropriate and befitting their conservative values and practices. While we’re definitely not surprised that this kind of thing is can happen in Utah, this school’s action only makes sense to uber conservatives (you know the type).

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All photographs taken by and used with permission from Handy Andy Pandy.

In a perfect world, we’d all be amazing at our craft. Everything around us would be picture-perfect, we’d take a shot and it would always be a great one, and we wouldn’t have bad photo days, at all.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), we don’t live in a perfect world. Most of the things around us are mundane, most of our shots wouldn’t come out as great as we think they would, and we’d wake up to days when we just can’t seem to get a shot right. Even Ansel Adams admitted, “Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.”

About a year ago, Melbourne-based photographer and F-Stop Lounge writer Handy Andy Pandy found himself in this same bad rut that most photographers are only too familiar with. He confessed that he felt disconnected from his camera, that there were many days when he’d go out and take hundreds of photos only to come home without any good ones.

It got to the point where he actually considered selling his gear and give up photography altogether. Instead of giving up on his passion however, he decided to throw himself into a 365 project that’s even crazier, even more ambitious than usual.

He started cultivating his skills by watching a ton of Photoshop tutorial videos from Phlearn.com and experimenting with lighting setups, cramming many years worth of photographic and post-processing techniques in just a few months. And instead of waiting for perfect shooting opportunities to come to him, he started making things happen, taking inspiration from everyday life, movies, Shakespeare, and even coffee.

The results were almost instantaneous. Suddenly, his shots went from being just ok to incredible and fulfilling, from normal to insanely awesome. 265 days in and he still hasn’t missed a single day. And if you scroll through his project from the earliest to the latest, you can literally see the change in his photography.

The success of Andy’s 365 project just goes to show just how far perseverance and plenty of practice can take you. It also proves that Adams was spot on when he insisted that “you don’t (just) take a photograph, you make it.”

See some of the shots from Handy Andy Pandy’s project after the jump and check out the entire set on his Flickr page.

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All images by Michael Bilotta. Used with permission.

Mike Bilotta is a photographer that hail from Boston, MA and was the winner of Canon’s Project Imagination 2013. Mike’s portfolio grabbed at us because of the dark surreal world that he tries to put forth that has beautiful aesthetics to it upon first glance. He uses the venerable Canon 5D Mk II and prime lenses along with speedlites to create the world that he presents in the images before putting them into Photoshop CS6.

“Ideas can come from anywhere. They usually come after the model has left though.” says Bilotta. “I never plan shoots – I never have a lot of ideas going into a session. I think the few times I have, it always ended in a bad result.” Because of this, Mike tends to focus on capturing moods and emotions while adding props into the shoot. He likes to build things around a photo after he’s photographed the model (which sometimes takes three hours). Everything is usually shot on Thunder Gray seamless. Often, they are influenced by science fiction.
Because of this, Mike has gone on to develop his newest venture: One on One Photoshop Tutoring via Skype.
Here’s more of Mike’s work.

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Agfa Vista 800 Cool (Image courtesy of VSCO)

Agfa Vista 800 Cool (Image courtesy of VSCO)

The Visual Supply Co, short VSCO, has made it a habit to regularly update their series of film simulation presets for Adobe Lightroom, ACR and Photoshop. What began with Film Pack 01 and a number of then current-production film emulsions such as Fujifilm 400H, Kodak Portra 800 or Ilford HP5+ now comprises a total of five issues that cover both color and b&w negative film emulsions, slide film emulsion and even a couple of Instant films.

With Film Pack 05, VSCO now introduces a set of what they call ‘archetype consumer films’, that is lower-end emulsions that you’d typically find in a huge discount bin in your local supermarket. The collection comprises emulsions such as the classic Kodak Gold 100, the cheap and cheerful Agfa Vista series, and Fujifilm’s legendary Neopan 400, whose death we mourned not long ago.

VSCO Film Pack 05 is now available in the VSCO store for either Lightroom 5 or ACR and Photoshop (CS6 & CC), and is currently on discount. For a limited time–two weeks, to be exactly, until March 11th–you can get the collection at the reduced price of US-$ 89.25. After that, it’ll be back up to its regular price of US-$ 119, just like VSCO’s other products. A detailed description of the contents of each VSCO Film Pack can be found here.

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Want more Useful Photography Tips? Check them out here.

New cameras often bring with them a bevy of new features that can at times feel overwhelming. Whether it’s swanky built-in Wi-Fi or split-image focusing, there’s a great deal to explore, but the core functions are often the same across cameras. Out of the box, that new camera of yours is set to save images as JPEGs.

If you’re serious about your photography, mosey on over to the menu, and set your camera to save your images as RAW files. For those who don’t know, RAW images have loads more information than JPEGs, and more can be done with them in Lightroom and other editing platforms. JPEGs don’t have that much latitude in post-production. With a RAW file, you can save an image that would otherwise be thrown in the trash. So, setting your camera to RAW straight out-of-the-box means the difference between an image that can be salvaged and one that can’t.

Granted, you’ll have less shots to work with, but you can always buy another SD card.