Shooting After Dark: Overexposing the Foreground

Overexposing the foreground

Another great way to capture powerful images after dark, especially with the night sky is to do separate shots for the foreground and the sky and overexpose the foreground image. You can also have a sharper image overall by focusing on the foreground image separately before shooting it or even do multiple shots and focus each one separately and then focus stack them. I use the app PhotoPills to let me know what the correct exposure will be for the foreground image, depending on how much I want to overexpose the foreground. Using a layer mask to paint in your overexposed foreground is a great way to eliminate a nice amount of the darkness that can overwhelm large parts of our images. It’s more work, but often it gives a more powerful and realistic looking image. You have to be good at masking and knowing something about channels definitely helps, when you can also use plug-ins like Topaz Remask that can definitely make life a little bit easier. Below are a few examples of overexposed foregrounds that I combined with the images of the sky.

Two images combined in Acadia National Park

Two images combined in Acadia National Park


Two row star trail panorama with overexposed foreground

Two row star trail panorama with overexposed foreground

Two images combined in Acadia National Park

Two images combined in Acadia National Park

Other light sources:

Often, you don’t have to worry about light painting or the moon or anything else because there might be nearby light sources such as mercury vapor, halogen, metal halide or other lights that might be in the perfect position to give you some beautiful lighting. I look for this all over the place and often, the light level and color temperature from these light sources can be absolutely fantastic. Sometimes though, they might be a little bit extreme and that’s when you can do a little bit of selective changing of their brightness and color temperatures in postprocessing. But I love looking for these possibilities all over the world and the following images show a few different examples.

The first two shots, on my friends property, were from a very powerful mercury vapor light high up on a post above the property. That huge light lit up all of his antique trucks and vintage gas station, and I was able to balance the exposure with the night sky. I also put a red headlamp inside the gas station on the second image to give a nice glow inside.

Friends’ property in the Palouse

Friends’ property in the Palouse

Friends’ property in the Palouse

Friends’ property in the Palouse

In the next image below, I was on my recent Italy workshop in Venice, where I showed my group how the light from the lamppost, by the gondolas could give a beautiful quality of light all across the gondolas. I told them they could also include the light in the overall composition as sometimes that can at a great focal point. But we really got lucky when lightning started in the distance, and I made sure their settings were set correctly for a longer exposure so that we could all capture the lightning. Was a pretty rare experience for Venice and we were in the perfect place at the perfect time!

Lightning storm in Venice, Italy

Lightning storm in Venice, Italy

In the next two images below, also in Italy, the powerful lights above Manerola in the Cinque Terre and the Grand Canal in Venice, gave a beautiful and ethereal light quality everywhere, but especially in the water. Reflections from artificial light sources can be just off-the-wall gorgeous, especially in unique locations. Scouting out locations is key.

After dark in the Cinque Terre

After dark in the Cinque Terre

Panorama after dark in Venice, Italy

Panorama after dark in Venice, Italy

Stay tuned for Part IV!

-BPSOP Instructor: Scott Stulberg

Scott Teaches:

Eye to Eye: Capturing the Face

Shooting After Dark: Lightpainting vs Car Headlights

Car headlights in Jackson Hole

Car headlights in Jackson Hole

Lightpainting vs car headlights

I have experimented with light painting and car headlights for many years and sometimes, the lights from car headlights can be absolutely amazing. Often, while I’m in the middle of shooting a shot after dark, and using my flashlight, a car will drive by somewhere close by or in the distance, and sometimes it can ruin the shot but sometimes you get what I call a “happy accident”.  It can give you a look and feel that you really could not have gotten any other way. Often I hope a car will come into my night shot and other times, I have to have someone drive their car to get the look and feel I am hoping for.

The shot below of the Mormon Row Barns and Tetons in Jackson Hole Wyoming, we were teaching a workshop and how to light paint the barns and houses.  Out of nowhere, a car drove by and his lights lit the bushes and houses just beautifully. He drove towards the homes and then turned left and was out of the picture as fast as he came into it. Although we tried to re-create it afterward with our own car, we could not get the same beautiful look that he had given us by accident.

I love car headlights and sometimes, like I mentioned, I have students or friends drive in the perfect spot or I will wait for a car to drive by, although sometimes you have to wait forever for a car to pass by. But for me, it is worth the wait. The following two shots show the difference between using lightpainting and car headlamps.  The first image below with the Milky Way is one in the Palouse of my friends old abandoned house using just my flashlight.

In the second image below, I shot star trails with my students and I had my friend drive about a quarter mile away and talked to him by telephone,  and guided him to drive to the perfect spot to give me a great light source and angle with his car headlights, all across the wheat fields and the house. We shot that shot first before the star trails and later used that to layer mask it into the star trails final shot.

Lightpainting in the Palouse

Lightpainting in the Palouse

Lightpainting with car headlights in the Palouse

Lightpainting with car headlights in the Palouse

The following image with the star trails was one that I did recently with my students on one of my Italy workshops. We were in Tuscany and I wanted to shoot the Milky Way and star trails over the famous Cypress Grove. I had been lightpainting just the field in some of the Milky Way shots but I realized that I also really liked when cars were driving by on the bridge and their headlights lit up the foreground beautifully. I decided to use one of the headlight images for the foreground rather than my light painting for my final image as sometimes you just can’t be as good as headlights. While we were sitting and talking in the car, waiting for our star trails images, I later found out that I had captured one of the biggest meteors of my life. I wish I had seen it with my eyes but was extremely happy that my camera had captured it. I later put the star trails and meteor in the same image along with the car headlights image as the foreground. Was one fun night in beautiful Tuscany!

Lightpainting with car headlights in Tuscany

Lightpainting with car headlights in Tuscany

Sometimes I really like to use my car’s headlights so give me something special and I place my tripod right in front of my car with my headlights on. That was the case for the following shot when I was shooting the Milky Way with some of my friends above Flagstaff.  I was looking for a perfect road that would coincide with the Milky Way coming straight down. When I found the perfect intersection of the two, I stopped my car and put my tripod in front of the car, between both headlights. I then worked the exposure so that my friend would turn on and off the headlights precisely so that I would get a perfect exposure overall. I could have also tried this with light painting but sometimes there is something just magical about car headlights!

Lightpainting with car headlights in Flagstaff

Lightpainting with car headlights in Flagstaff

In this next image, once again a car did a better job overall then my lightpainting as he drove in from our right and with his super bright headlights, gave me just what the doctor ordered!

Lightpainting with car headlights in Sedona

Lightpainting with car headlights in Sedona

Stay tuned for Part III coming soon!

-BPSOP Instructor: Scott Stulberg

Scott Teaches:

Eye to Eye: Capturing the Face

How to Start Organizing Your Images in Lightroom

Lightroom Online Class

One of the reasons why I am such a Lightroom fan is the organization options. It can be a monumental task of managing a large collection of photos. I know this because I have over 50,000 images now in my Lightroom catalog. You may wonder how I keep track of all of them, and with Lightroom, it’s easy!

Folder Organization

The first part of Lightroom organization is actually your folder hierarchy on your computer. You need to pick a consistent way to name your folders, preferably NOT by date.

You need to think about what kind of photographs you like to shoot. Do you shoot events? Do you like travel photography? Do you shoot pictures of your kids? For example, if you shoot a lot of travel photography, I would create a folder like this: Yosemite 2018_04. This folder will reflect the images you took in Yosemite, April of 2018. Maybe you were shooting your kids at a birthday party. It could be Megan’s Bday 2018_04. However you decide to organize it, make it consistent. For example, that Yosemite folder could be 2018 Half Dome Climb or Mom’s Bday in Yosemite. Do you see that all of these could reflect the vacation you had in Yosemite, but could be hard to find if you don’t have a consistent way of naming your images?

Yosemite Folders

Why You Shouldn’t Organize By Date

There’s a couple of reasons why I wouldn’t organize by date. The first reason is personal, I can’t remember where I was last week, let alone April of 2016! But I do remember that I was in Yosemite sometime in the spring of 2016, so my name of Yosemite 2016_04 would be easy for me to find. As you can see, I have a main folder heading in my Folders of Yosemite. Then you can see all the different trips I have made to Yosemite broken down by date. That is really the first step of the organization of your images.

When you first import images into Lightroom, it will default to organizing by date. Just be sure you change the settings so the destination reflects that you want your images organized into one folder.

Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 2.02.02 PM

Star Ratings

The other important addition to your Lightroom organization is to use star ratings. Star ratings can be confusing unless you use the top ratings sparingly. When I first import my images into Lightroom, I will quickly cull through my images. During this first round, I will mark with one star the images that I like and x to the images I want to throw away. (The x key will tell Lightroom that you are rejecting an image. After you have gone through your images, you can delete all of your rejected images at once.) Go to the Photo menu and choose “Delete Rejected Photos”. You can delete all the rejects at once simply and easily.
Star ratings

Lightroom will ask you if you want to delete it from the hard drive or just remove it from the Lightroom library. Delete them from the hard drive instead of just removing them from Lightroom, that way they will be gone forever.

After I have used the one-star rating, I will go through those images and give a 2-star rating to the ones I want to do further editing. Once I have my editing to those images, I will go back and consider a 3-star rating. This rating would only be for those images that I would want in my portfolio and the 4-star rating would only be given to the best of the best.


My other favorite way of organizing images in Lightroom in using Collections. I would use a collection to store my favorite pictures from a certain shoot. It makes it a fast and easy way to find the best pictures from a shoot especially if you are doing a slide show or want to sync those images to Lightroom mobile. I would use the same naming convention as mentioned above in folders and even create subsets of images from the same location. But you can organize it a little differently in collections.

For example, suppose you took a trip to California. Your folder would be named California 2018_02, but in your California collection, you should only put the best of the best from that trip. Then, you can create subsets of your California folder and name those subsets San Francisco, Yosemite, and Big Sur.

Can you see how this new way of organization could change your whole way of working with your images? It will take a little time to learn, but it will pay off so you will have more time to shoot and be creative doing the thing you love to do, photography!

Learn other ways to organize and edit your images as we go into more detail in the Lightroom Quick Start Class. Learn to use this great program and create more creative beautiful images!


BPSOP Instructor – Holly Higbee-Jansen

HollyHolly Higbee-Jansen is photographer, trainer, blogger, and workshop leader who enjoys teaching and the creative process. Her passions include teaching photography workshops in beautiful locations in California, Iceland, Costa Rica and the American West with her husband Mark. Holly also teaches online classes on Lightroom, Photoshop and photographic technique. Get Holly’s Free E-Book on “Landscape Photography and the Light and find out about her newest workshops at Jansen Photo

Reach Holly by email at and read her blog at:

Holly Teaches:

Lightroom Quickstart


Do you want to learn to create images that show the beauty of the scene you saw when you took the photograph? Do you want to learn the other essential side of digital photography, photo editing and get up to speed quickly?

This course is designed to get you up and running FAST in this incredibly powerful program. In this two week information packed class, you will learn how to import, organize and perform simple and effective editing processes that will let you produce beautiful adjustments to your pictures.

iPhone Photography
In this class, we will introduce you to the magic of iPhone photography using several shooting and editing apps that will give you the ability to make your pictures sing in a fun and easy way.You will learn how to crop, change saturation, brightness and affect the overall look of your pictures with HDR, drama and grunge filters and other techniques. You will be amazed at the simple and effective methods.

Creating a sense of place: Case Study #6

This post is one in a series on how to create a sense of place.



Next time you’re taking photos on holiday or during a celebration, include detail shots to flesh out your story. Details shots, when added together with photos of people, help show the mood of your scene.

Have a look at the images in this case study:

  • Sign
  • Fork about to dive into a piece of chocolate cake
  • View through a rock shandy drink
  • View out the window


Do you see how each image tells part of the story? This is what you’re looking to do with your image series.

Each of these images is like a single idea, and by combining several, a story is created.


  1. Vary the camera angle in each shot. Shoot up, down, out, across, or through a subject.
  2. Frame your subject tightly to omit clutter. Reveal part of the subject.



Amazing Travel Photos Made Easy

Celebrate Your Life in Beautiful Images Part 1

Celebrate Your Life in Beautiful Images Part 2


No post processing skills necessary for any of Brit’s courses. You may even use your phone!


Amazing Travel Photos Made EasyAmazing Travel Photos Made Easy teaches you how to create a collection of images that not only documents your holiday but that conveys how it felt to be there.

This course focuses on the creative side of photography and emphasizes getting all your shots in-camera.

You’ll learn how to get amazing travel photos using any kind of camera!

Learn how to capture these experiences:

  • landscapes
  • seascapes
  • cities & architecture
  • wine & dining experiences
  • nature
  • wildlife


Celebrate Your Life in Beautiful Images Part 1Celebrate Your Life in Beautiful Images Part 1 gets you started photographing how you want your life to look and what you want more of in your life.

Ever wonder if the craziness of your life is, indeed, worth celebrating? The answer is a resounding YES!

Start taking images that that look like they came out of a glossy magazine.

This course focuses on the creative side of photography. You’ll learn how to capture images of your everyday life in a fresh and exciting way.

Celebrate Your Life in Beautiful Images Part 2Celebrate Your Life in Beautiful Images Part 2 takes you further by focusing on capturing the essence of your loved ones — think about the little things that you’ll always remember, such as how they hold their favorite coffee mug in their hands!

Do you wish you had images of your loved ones that capture who they are as a person? What about a series of images that portray your life as nicely as a wedding photographer portrays a wedding?

Get ready to have fun creating lifestyle photos that you can’t wait to share with your friends and family.

This course delves into creative ways to capture even mundane moments and beautifully photograph even camera-shy loved ones. They’ll finally stop saying they don’t like seeing themselves in photos!

Get a taste of how Brit will work with you.

You can also work with Brit privately

Mentoring: Schedule a live session with Brit via Skype

Get a private image video review: Private Video Image Reviews

Find out about all of Brit’s courses, including Photographing Fine Art & Craft

For More FREE Photo Tips…. Subscribe to our Newsletter

  • I want to thank you for this class and for your patience and availability to answer all of my questions. I have learned very much through this class. I have used LR in the past, but mostly for editing images. I now have a better grasp in the organization of my images, an even better understanding of editing images, and an understanding of the value of presets. I still have a lot to learn, but this has put me on the road to be able to improve my photography. Again, thank you! Read More
    Dale Yates Lightroom Quickstart
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