The dPS Ultimate Guide to Landscape Photography


Landscape photography is one of the most challenging and most rewarding hobbies a person can have. One of the things I like most about it is that there is always more to learn. It keeps our brains active! Between learning about what type of gear you need, how to use it, understanding light and composition, and learning to process your photos, you will quickly come to the realization that making a striking landscape photograph involves a number of essential ingredients.

Note: this is one of the most comprehensive articles we’ve written – get a free downloadable copy to print and/or refer to later above.

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The goal of this guide is to touch on each of these essential ingredients because you need to know a little about each one before you’ll start making the quality of images you are after.

My journey in landscape photography began 25 years ago, and since then I’ve constantly thought about what makes a truly great landscape image. I hope that you will take what I have learned over the past 25 years and use it to jump start your own journey in photography and start making striking images you are proud of.

Gear Essentials

I want to emphasize that gear is not the most important factor in landscape photography. The other chapters outlined in this guide are all more important when it comes to making striking images. However, you do need some gear, and it can be hard to make the right choices when you are just getting started. This chapter will help you understand the most important things to look for when buying your gear.

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Your Camera

There are three basic categories of digital cameras: point-and-shoot; digital single lens reflex (DSLR); and mirrorless.

Point and shoot cameras are the small digital cameras that most people start with. These cameras do not have interchangeable lenses, and they have tiny sensors that have limited image quality. Point-and-shoots are used for making snapshots. If you are getting serious about your photography, you’ll want a camera that has a bigger sensor for better image quality, manual functions, and one that accepts a variety of different lenses.

DSLRs are the most popular type of camera for landscape photography for a number of reasons. They allow you to shoot in RAW format for maximum data capture (more about that later). They have a variety of shooting modes including fully manual. DSLRs have large sensors and you can use a huge variety of lenses with them.

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Mirrorless cameras are relatively new technology. They have all the same features as a DSLR, but they don’t have the internal mechanism that includes the mirror, which is why the camera bodies are smaller and lighter. However, they are not cheaper! But if weight and size are important factors to you, you may want to check out a mirrorless system.

Sensor size

When it comes to image quality, the only thing you should concern yourself with is sensor size. Megapixels are not nearly as important as sensor size.

The largest sensor is known as a Full frame because it is the same size as a 35mm film negative. You’ll pay the highest price for a system with a full frame sensor, whether it is a DSLR or mirrorless system.

Sensor sizes smaller than full frame are known as Cropped (or Crop) Sensors. The largest cropped sensor is an APS size. You’ll find a wide variety of cameras with these types of sensors at a more affordable price.

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The next smaller size is the four-thirds sensor. There are actually quite a number of sensor sizes in between the three I have mentioned, but these are the most common. Sensors smaller than these three are what you find in point-and-shoots and mobile phone cameras.

Personally, I use a mirrorless camera with an APS sensor for my landscape photography because the weight of the kit makes a huge difference for me when carrying my gear on long hikes.

I recommend that when you are choosing a camera, you pick the sensor size you can afford, then choose the camera that feels good in your hands and has a menu system that makes sense to you. These days, all of the DSLR and mirrorless cameras available are capable of making great images so don’t worry about whether Canon, Nikon, Sony or another brand is better. They are all good.


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Once you have your camera picked out, you’ll want to pick a few quality lenses that give you good focal range from wide-angle, which puts everything in your field of view into the frame, to telephoto, which will allow you to zoom in to something in the distance.

Lens choice is important because your photograph is influenced much more by your lens than by your camera. Sharpness, contrast, depth of focus, clarity, and detail are all determined almost exclusively by the glass (lens). It forms the image, while the camera simply captures it.

While it may seem absurd to spend more on a lens than on the camera itself, most photographers agree that they would always prefer to have a less expensive camera with a quality lens, rather than the other way around. And because lenses don’t depreciate in price as quickly, the investment is far more worthwhile.

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Prime versus zoom lenses

Lenses come in two forms; prime and zoom. A prime lens has one fixed focal length, such as 35mm. A zoom lens has a focal range, such as 18-55mm. Prime lenses are often slightly sharper than zoom lenses. However, zoom lenses are much more versatile and allow you to carry fewer lenses in your bag.

I recommend that you start out with three zoom lenses that cover a focal range from 10mm to 200mm for maximum versatility. These are the three that I use for my landscape photography:

  • Wide Angle Zoom 10-18mm
  • Regular Zoom 18-55mm
  • Telephoto 55-210mm

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For landscape photography, a tripod is an essential piece of gear. When you have lots of light, you might get away with hand holding your camera. But if you want to make images in low light situations such as sunrise or twilight, you’ll need a tripod so that you can use longer shutter speeds.

This is the purchase where everyone seems to make the same mistake. Buy cheap, buy twice. Most landscape techniques require long shutter speeds – sometimes very long. A bargain bin tripod is not strong enough to hold your camera steady with a telephoto lens on it. It’s not strong enough if there is any wind. It’s a waste of money. On the other hand, if you purchase a sturdy, well-built tripod from a reputable brand it can last you a lifetime.

Make sure you check the load capacity of your tripod and ensure it can handle your camera with its longest (heaviest) lens attached. Expect to spend as much money on your tripod as you did on your camera.


Many landscape photographers also carry filters, which can help you enhance your images. The two most commonly used are a Polarizing Filter and a Neutral Density (ND) filter. Graduated ND filters can be helpful as well, but become tricky to use if you do not have a clean, straight horizon.

  • Circular polarizing filter – This is an essential piece of equipment when photographing water to allow you to remove reflections and glare from the water’s surface and allow you to see through the water to any interesting rocks underneath.  It can also help enhance the richness of a clear blue sky, or remove reflections from windows and other shiny surfaces in urban settings.
  • Neutral density (ND) filter – If you decide to shoot a long exposure and it happens to be the middle of the day when there is a lot of light, you will need this gray-tinted piece of glass placed in front of your lens. It blocks some of the light from hitting your sensor, allowing you to use a slower shutter speed. These are sold in varying strengths, and can be stacked for different levels of light absorption.

Make sure to get the right filter size for your lenses. Better yet buy one for your biggest lens (look inside your lens cap for the filter size) and step down rings to your smaller ones.

Recommended Camera Settings

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Shooting in RAW

Most people are used to shooting pictures that come out as JPG (jay-peg) files since this is the default setting on most cameras. JPG is a compressed format meaning that some of the data the camera captures is discarded to make a smaller file size. Raw format, on the other hand, is completely uncompressed with no information thrown away.

What results from this is a digital negative – a large file that can only be accessed through Adobe Camera Raw, Lightroom, Photoshop and other compatible image editing software products. We’ll talk more about processing your photos later, but start off by capturing a RAW file so you have more information to work with when you process your photos.

Shooting Mode

Your camera will likely have a mode dial on the top where you can choose your shooting mode from one of the following; auto; aperture priority; shutter priority; program; or manual. For landscape photography, I highly recommend shooting in aperture priority mode, likely marked on your camera’s mode dial as “A” or “Av”.

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The reason for using aperture priority is because aperture controls the depth of field in your image – the amount of the scene (in your image) that will be in focus. Generally, for grand landscapes, you will want everything from the foreground to the background sharp, so you’ll pick an aperture like f/11 or f/18. But sometimes, you might want only your subject to be sharp and everything else to be blurred and out of focus. For this, you might pick f/4 or f/5.6.

More information about how aperture affects depth of field is coming up in the chapter on exposure below.

Using aperture priority shooting mode allows you to make this choice based on your artistic vision and the camera will choose the corresponding shutter speed to give you a good exposure.

Metering Mode

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Evaluative or Average metering is the most common metering mode to use in landscape photography because the camera reads the light information from the entire frame. This is your best bet most of the time when the highlights and shadows are spread relatively evenly throughout the scene.

However, if there are very dark blacks or very bright whites, this can throw your camera’s meter off. In this case, you might want to switch to Spot Metering. Using Spot Metering, your camera will take its reading based on one single spot in the frame, which you choose. Choose the most important part of the image, likely the main subject, and let the rest of the scene fall where it may.

Note: Just a word of caution. Make sure you are familiar with how your camera meter works and how to do Spot Metering before you attempt this. Remember, your camera meter will always try to measure for medium or 18% gray. Therefore, if you meter off something that is black or really light in tone, your camera will compensate and try and make it gray. So you will need to adjust accordingly by using Exposure Compensation

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Focus Mode

Your camera likely has at least four focus modes, they are; single shot autofocus; automatic autofocus; continuous autofocus; and full manual focus. If you have good eyes and focusing comes easy to you, use manual focus. For the rest of us, one of the autofocus modes is better.

For landscape photography, single shot autofocus is the best option because it will focus the camera once (and lock on) when the shutter button is pressed halfway down. The other focus modes are good when you have something moving in the frame that you want to lock on to, as you would with wildlife photography.

Location Scouting

Now that you have your equipment sorted out, you’re ready to do some shooting! But how do you find those specific spots where you can make images with impact?

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The first step is to research the location to get a good overview of the place and see what kinds of scenes are on the menu. These days, my favorite tool for doing this type of research is Pinterest. Keyword searches on Pinterest will bring up loads of photos of any given location. You can create a Pinterest board, which is like a virtual scrapbook, where you can collect these images in one place for future reference.

The next step is to map out the specific locations you have chosen so you know how to get there on the ground. You can look on Google Maps or pick up a hard copy map at a visitor center.

Next, visit the location in person and have a walk around looking for good compositions. I like to do this during midday when I’m not likely to be photographing due to the bright, harsh, light. Finding your spot during the day means you will know exactly where to go and you’ll be ready during the limited hours on the edges of the day when the light is just right.

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Helpful apps

Speaking of good light, the final tool you can use in your location scouting is something that will tell you sunrise and sunset times, when moonrise and moonset occur, and the direction that those things will take place. This will help you immensely when thinking about the direction the light will be coming from on the edges of the day.

My favorite tool for this part of my research is an app called The Photographer’s Ephemeris. You can use it on your desktop or mobile device. It will tell you exactly what is happening in the celestial sky at a particular time. So if you want to get a photo of the full moon rising behind a bridge, you can find out when the full moon is, exactly when it will rise, its position in the sky and then it will calculate where you have to be to get the point of view you want.

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Making the Most of Natural Light

Understanding natural light is a critical aspect of landscape photography. Even when you’ve done everything else right, if the light isn’t right for your scene, your photos are not going to look their best. That is not to say there is such a thing as “good light” and “bad light”. You just have to know what to do with various types of lighting situations.

Remember, you can change the direction of light simply by moving around your subject. Or, you can photograph subjects that are in the shade.

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Sidelighting occurs when light hits your subject on one side casting a shadow on the other. It is often thought to be the most pleasing type of light for landscape photography because the contrast between light and dark emphasizes texture and shape.

If you have a round object with light hitting it on the side, it will have a shadow on the other, and the gradation of light will emphasize the round shape. Similarly, subjects with textures will have shadows that serve to emphasize the texture. Without the shadows, the texture will be more difficult to convey in an image.

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In this photograph from the Palouse region in Washington, sidelight emphasizes the curves in the hillside.


Backlight occurs when the light source is directly in front of you, hitting your subject from behind. It is a bit more difficult to create a good exposure in these kinds of high contrast situations, though.

Backlighting is wonderful when your subject is somewhat transparent, like the petals of a flower for instance, because it will make your subject appear to have an inner glow (image below left). This is especially effective when you have a dark background. In this situation, make sure you meter on your subject and allow the rest of the image to fall into shadow.

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Backlighting is also useful when you have a subject with a great shape that you can make into a silhouette (image above right). To do this, meter on the sky portion of your frame so the sky will have a proper exposure and your subject will go completely black.

When you have backlight and you want to meter on a specific portion of the frame, this is a good time to use spot metering instead of evaluative metering mode. It’s a little bit more difficult but well worth the effort for the dramatic images you can create using this method.

Front Light

Front light occurs when the sun is behind you hitting your subject directly in front of you. This is my least favorite type of light because it is often intense and unforgiving causing a scene with a lack of texture and depth.

However, used at the right time it can be the best kind of light! When the sun is low in the sky, such as at sunrise and sunset, the light is not so harsh and it can cast a golden glow on your subject, especially when your subject is tall such as a mountain or a cityscape. The golden light will fall on the tallest part of the scene, casting its golden glow, while the rest of the scene remains in shadow creating a dramatic shot.

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Diffused Light

Diffused light happens on an overcast day or when your subject is in the shade. Under this type of light, your subject will have soft pastel colors and soft or no shadows. You will not get the same sense of shape and texture that you would under different types of lighting situations. As well, your scene will have very low contrast.

However, this is the best type of light for creating soft, gentle images. For example, flowers and colorful scenes work especially well under diffused light.

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But remember, when you have a bright overcast sky, it is best to exclude it from the frame and get in closer to your subject.

Getting a Good Exposure

Getting a good exposure means using a balanced aperture, shutter speed, and ISO so that you don’t have any areas of the frame that are too bright (known as blown out highlights). The problem is that if you have blown out highlights, there is nothing you can do in post processing to fix it. It will forever be a white spot. You may also want to make sure that you don’t have any areas that are too dark unless solid blacks are what you are after as in the example of creating a silhouette.

When you make an image, you can see the areas of light and dark using your camera’s histogram. Using a histogram is easy! It is simply a graph with the darks on the left and the brights or white on the right.

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All you really need to do is make sure there is not a spike on the right edge of the graph. If it spikes before the edge, that’s okay. You only need to be concerned if the spike touches the right edge. If your image is too bright, you can use your camera’s exposure compensation to reduce the brightness.

The Aperture is Key in Landscape Photography

So, how do you get the right exposure balance? For landscape photography, we are usually most interested in aperture because it affects the depth of field of the photo, so let’s start with selecting the correct aperture for the scene.

Aperture is the variable opening through which light travels to your camera’s sensor and its size is expressed in f-stops.

The smaller the f-stop number, the larger the opening. That’s kind of confusing, isn’t it? It’s because the f-stop number is actually a ratio. But I don’t want to get into too much mathematics here, just remember it’s like a fraction and 1/2 is bigger than 1/8 so f/2 is bigger than f/8.

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The larger the opening the more shallow the depth of field. In other words, the amount of your scene that will be sharp, measuring from the object you focused on, is smaller.

Here are three images that illustrate the effect of aperture on the depth of field.

Ultimate landscape photography guide aperture f4point5Aperture: f/4.5 Ultimate landscape photography guide aperture f11Aperture: f/11 Ultimate landscape photography guide aperture f29Aperture: f/29

Once you have the aperture selected, the other two factors in exposure are ISO and shutter speed. ISO is the sensitivity of your sensor to light. A low ISO is good when you have lots of light. A high ISO might be necessary if you are shooting hand-held in low light situations. However, increasing the ISO causes noise in your image, so for landscape photography, we usually use the lowest ISO and if we need more light we reduce the shutter speed and use a tripod.

When you are in the field, set your ISO to 100. This is usually the lowest setting on most cameras. Then set your camera to aperture priority shooting mode and set the aperture you want for the depth of field you desire in the image. Then, the camera will calculate the appropriate shutter speed to create a balanced exposure. Remember to keep your eye on what that shutter is, because if it is any slower than about 1/100th of a second, you’ll need to use your tripod.

Composition Tips

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When you are just getting started in landscape photography, it can be hard to know what to include the frame to make a compelling composition. In this chapter, I’ll show a few different types of compositions to help get you started so you know what to look for in the field.

Of course, there are many more composition options than these to explore, and some that you’ll discover on your own through experimentation. But this will give you a starting place on which to base your own vision in photography.

Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is probably the most well-known “rule” in photography. I like to think of it as more of a guideline. As you grow in your photography, you’ll probably start to break these rules and come up with your own unique ways of composing images. But you have to understand the rule before you can break it.

Using the rule of thirds, the frame is divided into three vertical and three horizontal sections, like a tic-tac-toe game. The idea is that your main subject should fall on one of the lines in order to create a dynamic and interesting composition. Locating your subject on the intersection of two lines is ideal.

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A centered horizon gives equal importance (visual weight) to both the sky and land portions of your image, and the viewer is left with no direction where to look. For example, by placing the horizon along the bottom third line, you will give more visual weight to the sky area and direct the viewer’s eye to that area. A higher horizon placement will have the viewer’s eye going to the bottom of the image where there is more emphasis.


Symmetry is the exact opposite of the rule of thirds. A symmetrical composition has the center of the subject exactly in the middle of the frame with equal weight on either side. The two sides of the image are often a mirror image of each other. This works especially well with subjects that are naturally symmetrical like plants or architecture.

Another way to use symmetry is to put a shoreline in the center of the frame, especially when you have a reflection to balance out the image.

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Leading Lines

Another effective type of composition uses leading lines to draw the viewer’s eye to the main subject. The lines can be man-made such as roads, fences, or bridges, or they can be natural elements such as rivers, shorelines or rocks.

Usually, the lines start from the bottom of the frame and move upward and inward to draw the eye into the image, connecting the foreground and background, and often leading to the main subject.

In the field, when you find a subject you want to work with, take a look around and see what lines you can use in your composition that would lead up to the subject creating depth and perspective in your image.

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Processing Your Photos

Processing your photos is an important part of digital photography. In the old film days, the lab technicians who processed the negatives and printed made a lot of decisions about color and contrast that affected the final outcome. These days, that job has become yours. If you find that your photos look gray and dull, it’s probably because you haven’t processed them.

When you shoot in RAW format, as mentioned earlier, you have collected the highest amount of data you can which will help you when it comes to processing. You’ll need to use Adobe Camera Raw, either on its own or within Lightroom, Photoshop or other Raw compatible software.

I recommend that you go with Lightroom. Not only does Lightroom include Adobe Camera Raw for processing your photos, but it also provides an excellent way to keep your photos organized and accessible. I do all of my basic processing in Lightroom and only use Photoshop if I want to do something unusual with my image.

Note: check out the dPS course Lightroom Mastery here.

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Using the sliders in Adobe Camera Raw, you can make subtle adjustments that will have a huge impact on the end product. For most of my images, I make adjustments to the following settings:

  • White Balance
  • Contrast
  • Vibrance and Saturation
  • Sharpening
  • Noise Reduction
  • Cropping

A little processing can go a long way. With solid ingredients like good composition and effective use of light, a little processing can turn a good image into a great one.

Taking it to the Next Level

If you want to take your landscape photography to the next level, beyond just snapshots and postcard-like images here are a few places to start, and links to articles on this topic in more depth.

Add a Foreground Element

One of the biggest hurdles in photography is the fact that our majestic three-dimensional scene is rendered into a mere two-dimensional image, and the physical depth that we experience in real life is lost. To resurrect this spacious feeling, we can create the illusion of depth where there is none, by using strong elements in the foreground.

Read more about how to add a foreground element to your images here: How to Use Foreground to Create Depth in Your Images.

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Use Shadows to add Depth to Your Images

In music, they say the spaces between the notes are just as important as the notes themselves. Similarly, in photography, it is the spaces that are not in the light that can add impact to an image. Shadows help tell a story and enhance the mood and visual power of a photograph. In fact, they can be so interesting, that they “overshadow” the subject itself!

By focusing your attention on the shadows, you can create beautiful compositions full of contrast, form, and minimalist simplicity. An object and its shadow will strengthen each other. Sometimes you might even want to cut the object out entirely, and play with capturing only the interesting shadows that are cast by it.

Read more about how to use shadows in your images here: Add Impact to Your Photos by Including Shadows.


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Landscape photography can be a fun and rewarding endeavor. Use these tips as a starting point for your journey and continue exploring this wonderful world and all it has to offer and share your images with others to enjoy as well.

Remember, photography is a journey, so continue to learn and grow as a photographer. Look back on your work from a year ago and see how far you’ve come. Then think about what you can learn and master next. Have fun, and enjoy the ride.

The post The dPS Ultimate Guide to Landscape Photography by Anne McKinnell appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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The dPS Ultimate Guide to Landscape Photography

Spark, the Super Customizable Email App, Is Now Available On Mac

Spark, one of our favorite email apps for iPhone and iPad, has made the jump to Mac. Now you can use all of your custom filters, gestures, smart notifications on your laptop or desktop—and it’s still free.

Readdle, Spark’s developers, have finally fulfilled their longtime promise of bringing the easy-to-personalize email client to Macs. And all the features that made it a “Best of the App Store 2015” selection and one of our essential iPhone apps are present. You can still integrate your email with Dropbox, Box, Evernote, and Pocket, create custom alerts for when important emails arrive, customize trackpad gestures for performing certain tasks, and search your inbox with natural language. Also, Spark supports the new Macbook Pro’s Touch Bar. You can download it for free in the Mac App Store at the link below.

Spark | Mac App Store via Fast Company

via Lifehacker
Spark, the Super Customizable Email App, Is Now Available On Mac

WordPress Security: This wp-config.php Protects Your Website

Most people think that their WordPress website was safe just because it doesn’t have any content worth hacking. Unfortunately, that is not true. Websites are often hacked to distribute spam emails, for example. Or the core and theme files are filled with malicious code to infect and hack your website visitor’s computers. It’s possible that you only notice the damage when Google has already removed you from the index. Don’t let this happen, and consider my tips for the perfect wp-config.php.


There are many ways to protect your WordPress-based website from getting hacked. The optimization of the wp-config.php can be considered to be an important part of a proper security strategy. Of course, the site won’t turn into the Bank of England, but you’ve made it a little harder for the hackers.

To optimize the wp-config.php, so-called constants are used. WordPress has a lot of constants that can be employed. But what is a constant? describes constants the following way:

A constant is an identifier (name) for a simple value. As the name suggests, that value cannot change during the execution of the script (except for magic constants, which aren’t actually constants). A constant is case-sensitive by default. By convention, constant identifiers are always uppercase.

Constants are embedded in the define() function, and look like this: define('NAME_OF_THE_CONSTANT', value);

The wp-config.php is the control file for WordPress. It is loaded before all other files because WordPress needs to set up a database connection. The required information is located in the config-file. When changing the value of a constant, or adding a constant, you also change the behavior of WordPress.

Before the Work: Please Create a Backup

Before, editing the wp-config.php, create a backup of this file. Your website won’t work with wrong or missing entries.

Important: Always Update WordPress and Plugins Immediately

You’ve probably heard this a couple of times already. But this aspect is so important that I can’t repeat it often enough. Tons of websites got hacked because WordPress or the plugins weren’t up to date. Updates are the best insurance against hacking!

The Current Security Situation:

The security specialists Sucuri are currently warning against a security gap in the popular Jetpack plugin for WordPress. Malicious code can be implemented via the shortcode-embed-function. Automattic will indeed react soon and release a new version.

How to Close the Security Gap for Now:

If you happen to be using my “optimal .htaccess” file, you are not in danger. There, the great 6G firewall, which can fend off this type of attacks.

The Preparation:

For all the following work, you’ll need an FTP program, as well as an HTML editor. The wp-config.php is downloaded to the desktop, edited within the HTML editor, and uploaded back to the server afterward.

1 – Use the Security Keys

Security keys in WordPress are critical, as the encrypt things like the login information in cookies, for example. Even when your wp-config.php already has security keys, changing them can’t hurt. When the keys are changed, all still outstanding logins of your users are signed out. Subsequently, you’ll be able to log in regularly, using your username and password.

However, if you’ve been hacked already, you should first remove the malicious code from your website. A guide on that can be found in the additional information on this aspect. Afterward, visit the WordPress Generator for security keys, and copy a new set. Replace the old part with the new ones – view screenshot:

The Security Keys in the wp-config.php.
The Security Keys in the wp-config.php.

If you haven’t implemented security keys yet, this is the right time to do so.

Additional Information:

2 – Force the Use of HTTPS

An SSL certificate encrypts the connection between your website and the visitor’s browsers. HTTPS makes it impossible for hackers to trap and steal personal data. If you already have an SSL certificate for your website, you can force the use of HTTPS instead of HTTP. This increases your site’s security significantly. If you don’t have an SSL certificate yet, you should strongly consider using one.

You don’t have to be afraid of major costs, as SSL is also available for free.

The following entries should be used when your website already uses SSL. The uppermost entry is meant for the secured login, while the lowest one forces the browser to make the admin area of WordPress usable with SSL only.

View the code on Gist.

3 – Change the Database Prefix

The database prefix is also known under the label “table prefix.” This prefix is used as an extension of every database table generated by WordPress. Here, the standard is wp_. This standard should be changed to something else. The more cryptic, the better. Don’t worry; you don’t need to remember what you enter here. This value is only placed once.

Thinking about it, the possibility of an SQL injection is not very likely. But it is possible. Thus, alter the value before installing WordPress. Use something like hdr7rf_, for example.

Attention: If you change the value of an already existing WordPress installation, the website is not accessible anymore!

If you want to change the table prefix of an existing WordPress website, the plugin Acunetix WP Security could help you. It lets you change the value easily, and all you have to do afterward is log back in. Nonetheless, you should still create a backup in beforehand.

4 – Turn Off the Plugin and Theme Editor

In every WordPress installation, it is possible to edit theme and plugin files directly within the admin area. Under the menu items “Design” and “Plugin,” you’ll find the respective editor for each file. This editor is very dangerous if it happens to get into the hands of a hacker. Data can be destroyed, and viruses, trojans, spam, and other malware can be added. But the editor is also important for a website’s admin. A single mistake, a single missing semicolon is all it takes for the infamous white pages to show up, and nothing will work anymore.

Changes to theme or plugin files are generally made via (S)FTP, as it is much safer. Thus, the editors need to be deactivated. A single line in the wp-config.php is enough to safely turn off both editors:

View the code on Gist.

5 – Move the wp-config.php

The wp-config.php is the heart of your website. All relevant data, including the database passwords, are entered there. That’s why it is imperative to keep this file as safe as possible. There are two approaches for this. The first one is an access block via .htaccess-file. The second approach moves the file to a different spot, where a hacker would not expect it to be.

  • Moving it may be problematic if the website is in a sub-index, and you are using a cheap shared hosting.
  • It can also become tough if you have a lot of websites in custom directories. If neither of the constellations applies to you, you can move the file.

View the code on Gist.

If you have adjusted the path to the wp-config.php correctly, your website should work afterward.

6 – Force the Use of FTPS

If your web host has activated the File Transfer Protocol Secure (FTPS), you can force the use of FTPS for the transfer of files. This will encrypt the connection between the visitor and your server. Now, it is impossible to access the data on the server with the unsafe FTP protocol. FTP is unsafe, as the access information is transferred to your server unencrypted. Thus, if possible, only use the safe connection via FTPS. Your web host can tell you if an FTPS connection is possible.

Forcing the use of FTPS is this simple:

View the code on Gist.

7 – Force the Use of SFTP

Instead of the FTPS protocol, some hosters have activated the SFTP protocol for data transfer. Here, the connection between the user’s FTP program and the server is encrypted as well. The following line of code lets you force the use of SFTP:

View the code on Gist.

8 – Deactivating the Debug Mode

If you have activated the WordPress debug mode for development purposes, it is vital to turn it back off. In some circumstances, an activated debug mode may pass on sensitive data that could help hackers do their thing. That’s why an activated debug mode is extremely dangerous on a live system. I have made this small, dumb mistake already; humans quickly forget things. That’s why you should take a quick look, just to check. This is how to deactivate the debug mode:

View the code on Gist.

9 – Turn off the Display of PHP Errors

If for some reason, you need the debug mode to be activated, I recommend turning off the public display of error messages. The relevant error messages can also be written into a log that is not accessible to the public. This is the much safer, and more elegant option. This constant is required to leave the WordPress error mode on, and to suppress the public error display:

View the code on Gist.

10 – Turn On Automatic Updates

As I have already mentioned earlier, immediately updating the WordPress core, and all plugins is crucial for the security of the system. With every release of a new WordPress version, the security gaps of its predecessors are made public. This gives a hacker a solid foundation to be able to hack your website. Thus, these weaknesses should be removed as fast as possible.

Since WordPress version 3.7, smaller security updates are conducted automatically. However, this is not the case for primary versions of core upgrades. Main versions still need to be updated manually. However, activating automatic updates for all WP versions is very easy:

View the code on Gist.

By the way, it is also possible to make plugins update automatically. However, that’s connected to a bit of work. It requires the creation of a plugin:

View the code on Gist.

This plugin has to be moved into the folder /wp-content/mu-plugins/. If the folder doesn’t exist, just create it. The folder /mu-plugins/ contains the “must use” plugins. Its content is loaded by all other plugins.

Automatic theme updates can be done the same way. For that, the plugin needs to be extended by the following line:

View the code on Gist.

Please inform yourself about these automatic plugins in advance, and only use the code if you know exactly what it does. Of course, the two filters are only able to keep plugins and themes up to date that originate from the official WordPress index. Themes and plugins from a different source won’t be updated.

Additional Information:

WordPress Codex: Must Use Plugins


All of these aspects together will already increase the safety of your WordPress by a lot and should be part of a good security strategy. The fact that WordPress is the world’s most popular Content Management System attracts many hackers. The situation could be compared to the computer OS Windows. On Windows, you install an anti-virus software, and WordPress takes a bit of manual work. But the safety gain definitely makes up for the small work effort.


via Noupe
WordPress Security: This wp-config.php Protects Your Website

The Puke Mystery

The Puke Mystery - Family Portrait

“During family pictures my bouncy 5-year-old was a little sluggish but I was thrilled that he wasn’t hyper. When my photographer said “Ummm he just threw up,” I thought she meant the baby, so I checked him for spit up, saw none, and said, “No he’s good.” Then I saw the puddle at my feet. We rushed to the car and as we were driving away the photographer flagged us down to show us the picture she had captured. We laughed so hard we cried.

That was the only time he threw up that day, and he was totally fine and hour later, so we were puzzled. The next day, as my husband and I kept discussing that he must have eaten something that upset his stomach, he finally came clean. While we had been upstairs getting dressed, he snuck into the kitchen and ate a whole tub of ice cream. Then he cleaned up the mess and thought he got away with it. Apparently, he didn’t understand how that much ice cream would make him so sick. He learned the hard way! And it made for a great Christmas card!”

(Submitted by Chelsy. Photo by @byeemilyphotography)

“During family pictures my bouncy 5-year-old was a little sluggish but I was thrilled that he wasn’t hyper. When my photographer said “Ummm he just threw up,” I thought she meant the baby, so I checked him for spit up, saw none, and said, “No he’s good.” Then I saw the puddle at my feet. We rushed to the car and as we were driving away the photographer flagged us down to show us the picture she had captured. We laughed so hard we cried.

That was the only time he threw up that day, and he was totally fine and hour later, so we were puzzled. The next day, as my husband and I kept discussing that he must have eaten something that upset his stomach, he finally came clean. While we had been upstairs getting dressed, he snuck into the kitchen and ate a whole tub of ice cream. Then he cleaned up the mess and thought he got away with it. Apparently, he didn’t understand how that much ice cream would make him so sick. He learned the hard way! And it made for a great Christmas card!”

(Submitted by Chelsy. Photo by @byeemilyphotography)

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The Puke Mystery

What I’ve been reading

1. Incarnations: A History of India in Fifty Lives, by Sunil Khilnani.  A highly readable introduction to Indian history, structured around the lives of some of its major figures.  I passed along my copy to Alex.

2. Haruki Murakami, Absolutely on Music: Conversations with Seiji Ozawa.  More for classical music and Ojawa fans than Murakami readers, this is nonetheless an easy to read and stimulating set of interviews for any serious classical music listener.  They are most interesting on Mahler.

3. Elsa Morante, History.  In America, this is one of the least frequently read and discussed great European novels of the 20th century.

4. Miriam J. Laugesen, Fixing Medical Prices: How Physicians are Paid.  Will people still care about these issues for the next four years?  I hope so, because this is the best book I know of on Medicare pricing and its influence on pricing throughout the broader U.S. health care system.

My copy of Joel Mokyr, A Culture of Growth: The Origins of the Modern Economy has arrived.  It is a very good statement of how political fragmentation and intensified intellectual competition drove modernity and the Industrial Revolution.

I have only perused John H. Kagel and Alvin E. Roth, Handbook of Experimental Economics, volume 2, but it appears to be an extremely impressive contribution.

Marc Levinson’s An Extraordinary Time: The End of the Postwar Boom and the Return of the Ordinary Economy details what made the post World War II era so special in terms of its economics and income distribution and why it will be so hard to recreate.

Chris Hayes’s A Colony in a Nation, due out in March, he argues that racial equality really hasn’t improved much since 1968.

Guillermo A. Calvo, Macroeconomics in Times of Liquidity Crises is a useful book on sudden stops and related ideas.

Arrived in my pile is Yuval Noah Harati, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow.

The post What I’ve been reading appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

via Marginal Revolution
What I’ve been reading

Ohio State Terrorist Attack Is Why We Need Campus Carry NOW


An Islamic terrorist attack at Ohio State this morning injured 10 before an armed officer confronted and shot the Somali refugee terrorist dead.

An Ohio State University student plowed into a campus crowd with a car, then jumped out and started stabbing people with a butcher knife before being shot dead by police Monday morning, officials said.

Ten people were taken to hospitals after the ambush, and one was in critical condition. The incident was initially reported as an “active shooter” situation, but the suspect did not shoot anyone.

A police officer was on the scene within a minute and killed the assailant. “He engaged the suspect and eliminated the threat,” OSU Police Chief Craig Stone said.

The suspect’s name was not released, but law enforcement officials told NBC News he was an 18-year-old Ohio State student, a Somali refugee who was a legal permanent resident of the United States.

The motive was unknown, but officials said the attack was clearly deliberate and may have been planned in advance.

“This was done on purpose,” Stone said.


Authorities have not named the suspect, but as they’re already alluding, a probable motive seems clear. Islamic terrorist groups, most notably ISIS, have called upon Muslims in the West to carry out terrorist attacks against soft targets using knives and vehicles. School and college campuses are among the easiest targets available, as they contain high concentrations of people made unarmed and defenseless because of short-sighted state laws that have made most campuses “gun free zones.”

99-percent of mass shootings since 1950 have occurred in these “gun free zones.” Far from being a safe space, they are easily-exploitable killing fields.

As horrific as today’s attack was, it could have been much worse if the terrorist had rudimentary targeting skills and technique with a knife or access to other weapons that he clearly lacked. Even though he was largely incompetent he still managed to injured ten people, one of them critically, before a police officer was able to confront and kill him with his department-issued handgun.


Put bluntly, we are very lucky that dozens of Ohio State University students aren’t dead right now.

Do you think I’m exaggerating?

A “lone wolf” terrorist in France managed to kill 86 and wounded 434 in a Bastille Day truck attack by merely driving a truck through the packed crowd. Ohio State had a football game just two days ago that drew a record 110,045 fans.

Had the terrorist rented or stolen a truck and carried out his attack outside the exits Saturday as the dejected crowd left the stadium, we could be looking at many hundreds of casualties instead of less than a dozen.

Of course, we also know that the next attack may not come from someone ineptly using “just” a butcher knife and a vehicle.

Navy SEAL veteran Dom Raso is among many counterterrorism experts you who have warned us that a major Islamic terrorist attack on students is going to happen. It’s just a matter of when. I highly recommend you watch this sobering video five-minute all the way through.

The softest, easiest targets in the United States are unarmed schools.

We will suffer a coordinated attack by multiple attackers. We will see them use firearms.

We will see our children murdered by the hundreds if we pull our heads out of the sand and listen to the experts, and listen now.

Purdue University’s Homeland Security Institute has done the research, and came up with the best defensive solution to active shooter attacks.

They advocate a combination of armed campus security  (armed school resource officers or armed university police) along with concealed carriers in the classroom.

Dr. Eric Dietz, director of Purdue University’s Homeland Security Institute, says that their research indicates that a combination of armed officers on campus with concealed carriers in the classroom will reduce casualties in an “active shooter”  attack on campus by two-thirds.


Implementing armed resource officers in all of our schools is expensive. Campus carry at schools and universities costs nothing but a small amount of political capital in defeating irrational anti-safety radicals in the gun control movement. These zealots are more afraid of law abiding citizens being self-reliant than they are of our students being mowed down by terrorists and the criminally insane.

We must implement campus carry across the country, and we need to do so now.

We got very lucky today at Ohio State today. It was a wake-up call.

Call your legislators now and DEMAND campus carry give our faculty, staff, and students a fighting chance.

The post Ohio State Terrorist Attack Is Why We Need Campus Carry NOW appeared first on Bearing Arms.

via Bearing Arms
Ohio State Terrorist Attack Is Why We Need Campus Carry NOW

How to stop the wave of Apple Calendar invite spam

Over the past few weeks—and particularly over the retail adventure widely referred to as "Black Friday"—many Apple device owners experienced a new form of unsolicited and unwanted messages: a swarm of calendar alerts for online "deals" from spammers. The messages took advantage of the default settings in Apple’s iCloud calendar service, allowing senders to automatically push calendar alerts to Apple iOS and macOS users and bypass e-mail entirely.

Getting rid of these calendar "invites" is a problem in itself, as declining them sends a message back to the spammer—confirming that someone actually is monitoring the iCloud account they targeted and encouraging them to send more messages. Getting rid of the unwanted alerts requires a multi-step workaround. But blocking them entirely only requires a single change to iCloud settings.

To get rid of the invites without sending a response to the spammer, you’ll need to do the following:

  • Create a new iCloud calendar. Go to the Calendar app, tap "Calendars," then "Edit," then "Add Calendar…" in your iCloud calendars list.

  • I used "Delete Me" as the calendar name.

  • Change the category of spam calendar invites to the new calendar. Open the event, tap the ">" on the Calendar bar for the event…

  • …and select the spam calendar.

  • Once the calendar for the event is changed…

  • Go back to the Calendars list, tap "Edit" again, and then tap on the ">" next to the spam calendar you created. Scroll to the bottom of the Edit Calendar screen, and tap "Delete Calendar."



The spam invites will now be gone without sending a response back to the spammer.

Blocking future calendar spam is less involved but requires a visit to your iCloud account via a Web browser. Log in to iCloud and go to the Calendar Web app, click on the Settings gear icon in the bottom left corner of the Calendar view, and click Preferences.

The pop-up menu on the iCloud Calendar Web view, Pick "Preferences."

The pop-up menu on the iCloud Calendar Web view, Pick "Preferences."

Click the "Advanced" button in the Preferences pop-up window. At the bottom of the window, change the Invitations setting for "Receive event invitations as:" from "In-app notifications" to "Email to [your iCloud account address]."

This will turn off the automatic integration of iCloud Calendar with your Calendar app and allow your spam filters to block unwanted invitations.

via Ars Technica
How to stop the wave of Apple Calendar invite spam

Stop Investing in Firearms and Start Investing in Firearm Training


I love Raw Dog Tactical’s holsters. After seeing their ads on Facebook, I reached out and they sent me a few to test; one in black for a Ruger LCP9, one in hot pink for my Smith & Wesson M&P 9MM Shield and one in Tiffany blue for the Walther CCP. Great clip, comfortable backing, trigger protection, adjustable retention and cant, lifetime warranty, made in the USA and available in 12 really great colors. What’s not to like?

Over the weekend, I also happened to catch a call-to-action video they posted on their website as well as their Facebook page with a message to gun owners: stop investing in firearms and start investing in firearm training.

The video, from YouTuber Jarhead6, was posted with the following message:

Sometimes, we can become addicted to firearms and forget one of the most important aspects of owning a gun. That is knowing how to use it in a safe manner. Therefore, formal training and practice is extremely critical to our survival. We need to ensure we prioritize our money in order to meet this critical requirement.

Please join me in the comment section below. Thanks for watching and God Bless!

So what do you think: Do you agree with the message? Why or why not?

The post Stop Investing in Firearms and Start Investing in Firearm Training appeared first on Bearing Arms.

via Bearing Arms
Stop Investing in Firearms and Start Investing in Firearm Training

This Is Why You Don’t Shoot Them In The Leg

All too often we hear the question “Why not just shoot them in the leg?” This graphic video of a fatal officer-involved shooting of a bank robber is the answer.

An Iranian bank robber armed with a knife is boxed in by a crowd that won’t let him leave, but leery of getting stabbed with his hunting knife, they won’t tackle him, either. A plainclothes police officer shows up armed with a pistol and tries to take the man into custody, but the robber runs around a car. He finally turns towards the officer with a dirt median strip behind him. The officer sees an opportunity to fire a debilitating shot that will impact with relatively safety in the soil of the median instead of of ricocheting off the pavement into the crowd.

He takes the shot at 1:40 into the video.

The round penetrates the man’s leg, striking the femoral artery and either tears or severs it completely. The man takes several steps, then collapses to the ground from blood loss within 15 seconds, woozy but still upright and conscious. A 2:19, approximately 40 seconds after being shot in the leg, the man has lost so much blood that he falls over unconscious.


No one in the crowd—including the Iranian police officer—has any idea what to do. One man finally steps forward and pulls off his belt to make an improvised tourniquet, but it is far too little, far too late.

The bank robber is dead just as fast from a shot to the leg as he would have been from a shot to the heart, and for the same reason; when a major artery or the heart itself is shot, blood doesn’t get pumped to the brain. When the brain can’t get oxygenated blood because either the pump (the heart) or the delivery system (major arteries) are destroyed, a person will quickly die.

So, shoot him in the arm/shoulder instead?

The same thing might have occurred if the officer had fired a bullet into the robber’s upper arm or shoulder, striking the subclavian, axillary, or brachial arteries. The only real difference is that it might have taken a few seconds longer for the robber to lose consciousness and die if those arteries were struck.

Would it have made any difference if the man in the crowd had pulled off his belt and tried to make a tourniquet sooner? Unlikely. A belt alone is unlikely to exert enough pressure on the femoral artery to close it, and it’s unlikely that they (or you) know how to improvise a windlass out of nearby objects in time.

Improvised tourniquets fail far more often than they are successful.


There is a reason I consider a SOFTT-W tourniquet in a PHLSter Flatpack carrier as the most critical part of my everyday carrier gear, every bit as important as my handgun. Despite the conventional wisdom of internet “experts,” you’re not likely to be able to improvise a tourniquet in time to save lives in the event of a shooting, an accident at home or at a job site, or on the road after a collision. As this graphic video makes abundantly clear, you have just seconds to get a tourniquet in place and stop the bleed.

Please consider getting a quality, combat-proven tourniquet (either the SOFTT-W preferred by my Green Beret Medic and trauma management instructor Mike Voytko, or the CAT tourniquet from North American Rescue) and make it part of your every-day-carry.

Tourniquets can save lives when nothing else can.

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This Is Why You Don’t Shoot Them In The Leg