Camera Focus Techniques: The Key To Super Sharp Photos with Larry Becker Learn all about focusing with Larry Becker! You’ll hit the ground running in this class, as Larry starts off with some basic concepts and terminology before digging deeper into everything related to focus techniques, tips, and best practices. Beginners and experienced users alike can benefit from learning how to take advantage what your camera (regardless of manufacturer) has to offer to help you get super sharp photos in all kinds of situations and subject matter. You’ll learn how to set the diopter for your vision, how to control depth of field, the differences in focusing when using the viewfinder versus live view, the benefits of back button focusing, and so much more!
In Case You Missed It Whether you are a professional or a hobbyist, there’s no getting around the fact that photography gear can be expensive. Join our Larry Becker as he shares all kinds of cool ways you can save money on a wide range of photographic accessories. Larry is always thinking of clever alternatives to conventional gear and do-it-yourself ways to make the things you need at a much lower cost. Sometimes we can save money just by learning from the cautionary tales told by our peers. In this class Larry has gathered up a ton of his favorite tips, tricks, and projects to help you find low cost solutions for things all photographers need and use. By the end of the class you’ll be ready to head out to your local hardware store and start experimenting with your own solutions and alternatives, so that you’ll have more money to spend on the important things.
On Feb 19th, 2017 Lightroom celebrated it’s 10th anniversary, which also happens to be the day I celebrated 10 years of providing Lightroom Help Desk support. Huzzah! I’ve had the honor and pleasure of helping a lot of people in that time, and I owe that all to Scott. Being invited back for a second guest post here is a privilege, and I figured it was the perfect opportunity to share back some of the most important (and hopefully useful) Help Desk advice I’ve given in that time. Here are the top 10 things every Lightroom user should know*:
*Disclaimer, these tips are intended to be helpful, but don’t just do them without understanding all of what is involved. If you have any questions feel free to reach out to me directly before you act, and I can help you with your specific situation.
1. Set Your Default Catalog
The most important thing every Lightroom user needs to know is where your Lightroom catalog is located on your system. Even if you think you know, it’s worth taking a moment to make sure (you’d be surprised how many people find it is not where they expect). With Lightroom open, go to Lightroom > Catalog Settings > General (Win: Edit > Catalog Settings > General), and note the name of the catalog and the path to where it is located. Is it where you expected? If so, great! If not, here’s how you can move it to a new location:
Click the Show button on the General tab of the Catalog Settings to open the folder containing your catalog in your file browser.
Quit Lightroom. If prompted to backup, click skip for now.
Copy the folder containing the Lightroom catalog (.LRCAT) and its associated preview caches to the location you want it to be stored (pick a locally connected internal or external drive).
Once the copy operation is complete, double-click the catalog file to open it back into Lightroom. This way you can make sure all is working fine, and the new location will be included in the preferences.
Now, whether you moved your catalog or not, this next step is important. I highly recommend that you manually configure this catalog to be the Default catalog (in other words, don’t use Load most recent catalog). To do this, go to Lightroom > Preferences > General (WIN: Edit > Preferences > General), and set the When starting up use this catalog option to the specific catalog you just opened.
Remember, if you moved your catalog to a new location, don’t forget to go back and remove the original folder containing your old catalog. Having a good backup in place is good idea too (which I’ll cover in a bit).
2. Know Where Your Photos are Located
It is equally important for all Lightroom users to know how to find exactly where a given folder or photo resides on your drive from inside Lightroom. There are a few ways to identify where your folders and photos exist on your drive. The easiest is the good old right-click contextual menu. Go ahead and right-click any folder in the Folders panel and choose the Show in Finder (WIN: Show in Explorer) menu. This will open your file browser right to that folder and show you where it exists on your drive.
Similarly, you can right-click any photo and access that same Show in menu to take you right to that photo in your file browser. You don’t have to go that far to find that information though. If you just hover your cursor over a folder you should see its path revealed in a tooltip popup. So take a moment to make sure you know exactly where all of your photos are located on your drive.
If they’re not where you want them, then let’s look at how to move them.
3. Know How to Use Lightroom to Move Photos and Folders
Now that you know where your photos are located it is in your best interest to use Lightroom to move them if you need to put them somewhere else (with one exception that I’ll cover in tip 5). Moving photos between folders or moving entire folders is as easy as drag and drop. By using Lightroom to do the moving it not only moves the photos to the new location, but it also keeps the catalog up to date with where the photos can be found. You see, Lightroom stores the complete path to each photo in the catalog, and if anything in that path changes outside of Lightroom you end up with a situation where Lightroom tells you that your photos are offline or missing (here’s a link to an article I wrote on how to reconnect missing photos). This is easily avoided by doing the moving inside of Lightroom.
So to move a group of photos (or even just a single photo) from one folder to another try this:
In the Folders panel, select the folder containing the photos you want to move.
Press G to jump to Grid view.
Select the photo(s) you want to move, and drag/drop them on the folder you want them to be moved into. The destination folder will highlight in blue to signal it is the target of the drop.
Lightroom will then do the moving, and update the catalog accordingly. You do need to have a destination folder already showing in the Folders panel to complete the move, so let’s look at how to add a folder next.
4. Keep All Photo Folders Within a Single Parent Folder
I have found it incredibly useful to always keep all my photo folders within a single parent folder on each drive I use to store photos. The reason is that it makes my life so much simpler if I ever need to move the entire photo library on that drive, or if I need to reconnect the catalog to the photo library in the case of a primary drive failure/loss.
In typical Lightroom fashion there are a couple of ways to create new folders. To start, you can go to the Library menu and choose New Folder, or click the plus sign at the top of the Folders panel and choose Add Folder to launch the Choose or Create New Folder dialog. From here you can either choose an existing folder you may have created in your file browser or you can create a brand-new folder. For example, let’s say I want to add a new drive to my catalog and want to select/create a folder on it:
Go to Library > New Folder, to open the dialog for finding and creating a new folder at the location of your choosing.
Create a new folder or select an existing folder. In my case, I had previously created a folder on this drive in Finder.
Note, my screen capture shows the dialog on a Mac, but on Windows you’d get a Windows dialog. This is one of the few visual differences in Lightroom due to the operating systems.
That drive and folder will now appear in my Folders panel. I can drag and drop photos or folders into that folder from anywhere else in my catalog.
Another common scenario is the need to create sub-folders within existing folders to help with your organizational needs. This process works in a similar fashion, but you start by selecting the parent folder you want to create the subfolder within.
Select the folder you want to create the subfolder within.
Right-click to open the contextual menu and choose Create Folder Inside “foldername.” This opens a smaller Create Folder dialog box where you can give the subfolder a name and click Create to complete the process. The subfolder will then appear in the Folders panel. These folders are ready for me to add photos, and even new folders as my organizational needs demand.
Now that I have a parent folder, and a subfolder within it, I can move folders from another drive into this drive by dragging and dropping on my new folder.
5. Know How to Move Your Photo Library to a New Drive
This is useful if you are wanting to move your entire photo Library from an internal drive to an external drive, or if you are running out of space on one drive and want to move to a new larger drive. Now, you could use Lightroom to move the folders as I just did in the previous tip, but I don’t recommend doing that when your entire library is at stake. Using a move command is risky, because if anything goes wrong in the middle of the transfer you could lose data. I prefer a technique that involves copying the folders to the new drive outside of Lightroom, updating Lightroom to this change, and then later manually deleting the files from the original location. Here’s how:
Open Finder (WIN: Explorer).
Copy the entire folder structure (as-is without changing the structure) to the other drive.
Once the copy operation is complete, right-click/ctrl-click the top-most-level folder in the Folders panel and choose Update Folder Location.
In the resulting dialog box, navigate to and select that same top-most-level folder in the new drive (the one you just copied over there).
Lightroom will update the catalog to point to the folder in the new location (and everything inside of that folder). If you have all your folders/photos in a single parent folder then you are done, but if there are additional folders at the same level as that top folder you just need to repeat steps 4 and 5 with those folders. Give it a test run to make sure everything is as it should be before removing the originals. Again, having a good backup in place before you do this is always a good idea.
6. Know How to Back Up Your Catalog
On the subject of backing up, there is a lot to say about backup strategies in general, but in the context of Lightroom catalogs I simply want to address the built-in functionality Lightroom provides. On the Catalog Settings dialog (see first tip) there is a place at the bottom where you can configure Lightroom to create a duplicate copy of the catalog at some interval of time. This is a set-it-and-forget-it type of feature, and its sole purpose is to create an exact duplicate of your working catalog file in a location of your choosing (no photos are included in this backup).
I will assume you already have some sort of full system backup running that regularly backs up all your important files, and so you may wonder if you really need this option running too. Based on the experience of helping people with Lightroom problems over the years I feel that it is in your best interests to take advantage of this built-in functionality. Sure, it may be redundant, but it is free, it is easy, and it may just one day make you weep with gratitude. I set mine to run every time I quit Lightroom, which make Lightroom throw up this prompt every time I exit.
It is only in this prompt that I can choose where I want my backup copy to be saved by clicking the Choose button and selecting a location. I recommend that you choose a different drive than the drive where your working catalog is stored. In my case, my laptop has a single internal drive, so I direct the backup to be saved to my Dropbox folder, which is automatically synced with the cloud and my other computers. I also take this opportunity to check the boxes for testing integrity and optimizing the catalog. Now, just because it prompts me each time doesn’t mean I backup every time. There is a Skip button that I use when I’m in a hurry and just want to quit.
I try to create a backup at least once a week or after I’ve done a whole lot of work. Each time this function runs it saves a copy of your catalog to the folder you chose. Lightroom does not overwrite existing backup copies. As a result you end up with a folder of iterative copies of your catalog. This can be very handy for recovering from self-inflicted problems or from the rare case of catalog file corruption.
7. Know How to Restore From Your Backup
Since a backup copy of the catalog is an exact duplicate of your working catalog at the time the backup was created all you must do to restore from the backup is the following:
Close Lightroom (if open).
Open the Lightroom folder containing your working catalog file in Finder/Windows Explorer.
Move the “bad” catalog file out of that folder to another location for safekeeping.
Move the latest/greatest “good” backup catalog copy into the Lightroom folder to replace the bad one. Starting with Lightroom 6/CC 2015 the backup copy is also compressed into a zip file to reduce file size (and keep people from accidentally opening a backup copy), so you may need to unzip the backup before you can move it into the Lightroom folder.
Once placed in the Lightroom folder, double-click the catalog file to open it into Lightroom and take it for a test drive.
The backup copy of the catalog has the same name as your working catalog, so you should be good to go. It will only contain all the work up until the moment you made that backup copy, so backup frequently. If restoring from the backup solved your problem, don’t forget to delete the “bad” catalog that you moved out earlier.
8. Manage those Backup Copies
The only downside to running the catalog backup function (aside from the time it takes to run) is that Lightroom will keep putting new copies of the catalog into that folder until the drive is full. The management of the backup folder falls on us. Since we only value the most recent version(s) of the backup copies I periodically go into that folder and delete all but the most recent 2 or 3. Note that Lightroom doesn’t backup the preview caches because those can automatically be regenerated if lost. I’ve seen people regain hundreds of gigabytes of free space after clearing out old backup copies.
9. Know How to Rename Your Catalog
I often hear from people who are using the most up to date version of Lightroom, but have a catalog file named with an older version of Lightroom and it may also have some other numbers in it, such as Lightroom 5 Catalog-2. They wonder if this is a problem, and they want to know how to rename the catalog. First, it is not a problem at all. You can call your catalog file anything you want to call it. Lightroom doesn’t care. However, if you want to rename it to something that makes more sense to you, here’s how:
With Lightroom closed, go to the folder where the catalog resides using your operating system’s file browser; Finder on Mac, and Windows Explorer on WIN.
Using your file browser you can rename the catalog file, but keep the file extension the same (.LRCAT). Then rename the Preview cache and Smart Preview cache (if applicable) the same way, but retain the word Previews and Smart Previews in the name along with the original file extension.
So, for example if your catalog and preview cache was named:
Once renamed, double-click the catalog file to open it into Lightroom. Now you can give it a quick test drive to make sure all is well, and this writes the new catalog name into the Lightroom preference file. Be sure to update your Default catalog setting to point to this renamed catalog (see Tip 1).
10. Create a Custom Camera Raw Default
OK, all those tips were focused on library management, so let’s end on a Develop tip that could speed up your workflow. Lightroom has a set of default processing settings that are applied to all raw photos after import. Did you know that you can customize those settings to start your raw photos down the processing pipeline using your preferred choices? I’m not talking about a preset selected on the Import screen, but rather the built-in default settings. Save your import presets for something creative, and customize the baseline settings.
Let’s go through the steps to customize the default settings to include two of the most common adjustments people ask me about, lens corrections and camera profiles, but feel free to add any other settings you want to customize your process (or not include these if you’d rather not).
Select a raw photo that has not been processed at all beyond the default settings and press D to jump to Develop. Click the Reset button for good measure to ensure it has no other settings applied because every adjustment (even set to 0) is included in the default settings.
Expand the Lens Corrections panel, click the Profile tab if not active already, and check Remove Chromatic Aberration and Enable Profile Corrections.
Note: Including profile corrections can be resource intensive, so exclude this from your defaults if performance is degraded.
Expand the Camera Calibration Panel, click the Profile drop-down menu and choose the camera profile you prefer to be the starting point.
Note: The list of camera profiles varies with the camera model used to create the selected photo.
Go to Develop > Set Default Settings to open the Set Default Develop Settings dialog box. Default settings are specific to each camera model, in this case a Nikon D610, so if you are using multiple camera models you will need to update the defaults for each model separately.
Tip: You can also hold the Option (WIN: Alt) key and watch the Reset button change to Set Default and click that button to open the Set Default Develop Settings dialog box.
Click Update to Current Settings to customize the default settings to include the changes you made.
Note: While it states the changes are not undoable, this just means that you can’t revert back to the Adobe defaults via the Edit > Undo menu. You can always open this dialog box and click Restore Adobe Default Settings if you want to go back to the original settings.
This will only affect raw photos from that specific camera model as they are imported in the future, and if you hit the Reset button on a previously imported raw photo from that specific camera model. You must repeat that process to set defaults for any other camera models you are using. This does not change the settings on any previously imported photos.
I hope you’ve found some of those tips helpful. Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions you may have, or come see me at Photoshop World, where I’ll be teaching, and answering questions at the Expert Bar.
You can see more from Rob at photofocus.com and follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Aside from also being a KelbyOne Help Desk Specialist, and Adjunct Professor at NHTI, he is a founding member of Stocksy United (a stock photography co-op). Rob writes the “Under the Loupe” column for Lightroom User Magazine, and is the author of many photography related books. His latest book is Taming Your Photo Library with Lightroom.
The tip is simple. Don’t do what you see above. Don’t go too far.
When people submit images for blind critiques on “The Grid” and we say “That’s some bad retouching…” it’s not that they don’t know the Photoshop techniques, or don’t understand how to retouch a photo — it’s that they always take it too far. Their eyes are “too white” – the skin is like plastic (see above) with no visible pores – everything is just simply too much.
If you want to have better, more realistic-looking retouches, you don’t need to learn some fancy new technique. You just need to do “less” of the ones you already know. If you’re fairly new to retouching, and you think you’ve got it looking about right, go and back off everything by about 35% and you should be “there.”
Hope you find that helpful. :)
P.S.Only 4-days left to save $100 on a Photoshop World 2017 Conference Pass using the early bird sign-up special. The conference is next month in Orlando, Florida (April 20-22, 1017). Tickets and more details here.
OK, call your friends – get a group together – pack your bags, and I’ll see you in Orlando, April 20-22, 2017. It’s going to be (wait for it…wait for it…) legendary (bet you thought I was going to say epic).
The 20 Time-Proven Rules of Composition with Rick Sammon Don’t just take pictures, make pictures! Join Rick Sammon as he dives deep into his 20 time proven rules of composition. It’s up to you to tell your story with creative composition, and in this class Rick provides you with new ways of seeing when you are holding your camera in hand. Whether you call them rules or recommended guidelines, Rick shares over 250 visual examples to help you understand how to use these tools to make great shots instead of snapshots. In the end you’ll be a better photographer for not only knowing the rules, but knowing when to break them, and have fun while doing it.
In Case You Missed It Composition – What is it? Learn to compose technically and emotionally with renowned photographer Rick Sammon. Take a trip around the world to explore what works and what doesn’t. From leading lines and rules of thirds, to patterns, contrast and viewpoint, you’ll learn the rules before you break them with amazing tips, tricks and techniques for composing photos that tell stories with feeling!
The hard truth about this industry is never really advertised. The gap between hobbyists and professional photographers has never been smaller. Technology has leveled the playing field when it comes to focus, exposure, timing, and even post processing. More capable photographers means more available imagery and thus lower prices. This presents a challenge when attempting to build and grow a successful photography business. It’s no longer enough to compete solely on skill, talent, or experience. It’s about showing your viewpoint, selling your ideas, creativity, and professionalism.
After 15 years of surviving then building a business in a post-newspaper apocalypse, why would I move from Florida to Denver? Change and growth. I needed a jump start, wanted to go back to what I felt was “home,” and start seeing differently. What I didn’t know was how to find an entirely new group of clients while satisfying my old base in a way that would allow me to keep working in both states.
The solution was a new brand, LOCK + LAND. In order to succeed I needed to elevate my business beyond a dude with a camera who likes to make colorful photos. After many long hours on the phone and many beers in person, I decided to go into business with my friend and fellow photographer, Peter Lockley. This would allow me to move beyond just waiting for the phone to ring, shooting something random, cashing a check, and repeating that cycle over and over. It would give me accountability, someone to collaborate with, and more opportunity to shoot.
I’ve had the luxury of a pretty amazing core group of clients in Florida – LEGOLAND Florida Resort, ESPN, Universal Orlando, The Player’s Tribune, New College of Florida, and Florida Department of Citrus, to name a few. They, along with a steady stream of weddings, kept me busy and fit my vision. In Colorado I had none, so how do you go about that mid career and find new ones? They’re not just going to start calling once I hit the Colorado border.
Peter and I took a very deliberate approach to growing LOCK + LAND. Here’s 10 ways we are approaching growing our business and finding new clients:
1. SOCIAL Social media is the easiest way to get your work out there, but it’s also a challenge to reach the right people. Apps like Instagram and Facebook regulate the number of people who see each post and they charge if you want to “boost” it to a larger audience. We don’t pay to boost our content, but depending on your target audience, those channels could be very helpful. We treat it as a tool for keeping our clients informed of what we’re doing if they do pin, but it is a small piece of what we do to attract clientele.
2. EXCEL AT CUSTOMER SERVICE This is a lost art. One of our big focuses is keeping our clients happy in Florida, to keep them using us as we grow. Most of them stuck with us during the transition, so we fly back there a lot and go out of our way to make sure they are happy. Superior customer service, having fun, and adding value to what we do with either digital library management or new services is a priority. Good customer service can lead to new opportunities. When someone in the position to hire you leaves one company, there’s a good chance they’ll end up in a position to hire you in their new job, and your client tree grows.
3. FOCUS ON BEING A GOOD PEER Make friends in the industry. I would have never landed the LEGOLAND Florida Resort account without the recommendation of a friend for a simple press conference years ago. We also might have lost that account if not for a heads up to a change in marketing personnel from another colleague. Work is often thrown back and forth between photographers. Most importantly, do a great job if someone sends work your way. A personal recommendation is often more powerful than a great portfolio, so try to network as much as possible. We give back, we speak at colleges, we participate in photo gatherings, and we try to meet as many people as we can.
4. RESEARCH + TARGET MARKET It’s easy to subscribe to a service that emails thousands of art buyers on your behalf. It’s a shotgun approach, and you hope that something sticks, but it rarely does. It’s not to say that you shouldn’t mass market, just be aware that there are limitations and a ton of competition in that space. We’ve talked to art directors who get hundreds of postcards every week. What we’ve done now is a create a local dream client list of 20 ad agencies and companies here in CO and find out who the actual person is that can hire and do a slow introduction to our work and familiarize themselves with our brand while at the same time learning theirs. We want to put all our marketing efforts and money into finding not a bunch of clients, but a few of the right ones. Clients who fit our vision, are fun to work for, and have potential for long-term viability. What we recommend is knowing your market, the work that is being produced there, and focusing your efforts on finding clients who are a good fit. Research every potential client. Who have they worked with in the past? Does your style fit their brand? Do they NEED your work? What can you offer?
5. MAILER, COLD CALLS, and EMAILS OH MY While most of the time you never know if a card gets thrown out or put on a bulletin board, you still have to make sure people know you exist. You can’t expect one mailer to generate a large volume of work, but repeated impressions on a potential client have the opportunity to pay off in the long run. We try to put our work in front of a target client 4-6 times a year. Sometimes it will be a postcard, sometimes it will be a bigger promotional kit, sometimes it may just be a phone call but our goal is consistency.
6. BUILD AN AMAZING TEAM We hire a lot of photographers, lighting assistants, digi-techs, and producers now and they’re people we could absolutely trust in any situation to knock it out of the park. In the end you’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with, and if they are giving it their all, you will be energized to do the same.
7. PERSONAL PROJECTS This is key. I came to Colorado with a portfolio of beaches and palm trees. I didn’t have anything that spoke to the western audience. There’s no reason to sit on your butt when you could be out shooting pictures. Our desire is to do creative projects so we just started doing them. We identified some key potential clients and industries (beer, weed, travel, lifestyle, sports, etc…) and came up with some cool concepts to execute together. This not only gave us great content for the site, but helped us create a stronger working dynamic. It doesn’t matter who presses the shutter. It’s about the concept that drives the image.
8. SHARE WORK WITH THE RIGHT PEOPLE One of the personal projects we did was within the craft brew industry. In Denver alone there are almost 300 breweries. It’s huge. You can’t really go a block without hitting a new place. What a better place to start meeting some people? We came up with a concept of deconstructing beer recipes and instead of just doing it on our own we recruited the help of 21 of the best up-and-coming breweries to pick one beer for each that used unique ingredients like ghost pepper, kale, and pineapple. In the end, we had a fun gallery showing in one of the breweries and gave all the brewers a print and copies of a time-lapse for each shot as a thank you for their help. We met some awesome people, made some future contacts for work we’re doing now, and built up a gallery to go to bigger breweries and market conceptual work.
9. BUILD A SITE THAT SAYS “I DO THIS” If you don’t want to shoot sports, then why put that on your site? If you want to do lit portraiture for magazines, then get your friends to pose and build a portfolio. You may be the best damn French fry photographer out there, so load it up with all the golden goodness and own it. For us, we want to be hired for our creativity, and we rock the visuals to back up those ideas whether it’s photo, video, or social. Fill your site with your own unique vision.
10. HAVE FUN, KEEP DIGGING, and SEE WHAT OTHERS DON’T Photography should make you want to get out of bed every day. Look to your friends and colleagues for inspiration. Read blogs like this and always keep learning about your craft. It’s an amazing thing to be able to do photography as a career. In order to keep doing that you have to dig, you have to create, and you have to shoot how the hell you want and how no one else can.
In the end, only you have your vision, so find the right people to help you share it with the world.