Monthly Archives August 2017

Newborn Photography Master Class with Tracy Sweeney
Join Tracy Sweeney for a masterclass in newborn photography! Filmed on location in Tracy’s studio, you’ll learn the essentials for getting started photographing newborns. Safety and comfort is job one in newborn photography, and Tracy starts off sharing her methods for keeping babies safe, warm, and soothed. From there, Tracy takes you through her choice of gear and lighting, and then gives you a front row seat for a series of newborn sessions. You’ll learn how to wrap the baby, how to pose the baby on a variety of props, and how to maximize the time spent on set to give you a variety of looks in a short amount of time. Family photos are part of the package, and Tracy shares her process for working with the family in a variety of configurations. After the shooting is done, you’ll learn Tracy’s workflow in Lightroom and Photoshop for creating the final polished images that go on to become timeless heirlooms for the family.

In Case You Missed It
Learn how to cultivate beautiful memories for your client families! Join Tracy Sweeney as she shares her years of experience as a family photographer to help you prepare for success in this business. Tracy starts off the class with a focus on planning, preparation, and scouting; all of which will help you get the most out of your session while feeling confident and looking professional. From there you’ll witness Tracy at work with two different families in a park and on the beach. Tracy talks through her approach to lighting, to working with the families, the importance of building a relationship with the family members, and how she poses them as a group and one-on-one. After the shooting is done, you’ll head to the studio where Tracy teaches you her post processing workflow from Lightroom through Photoshop to create the final images that go on to become family treasures for years to come.

Five Lessons Learned from Hosting the Behind The Shot Podcast

First things first, thanks to Scott and Brad for having me as a guest here, a blog I have read so many times over the years. My name is Steve Brazill. I’m a Southern California based music photographer, and the host of a podcast called Behind the Shot (BtS). Hosting the podcast has taught me more about being a photographer than any of the research I have done, not necessarily the technical aspects, but the heart of photography. Let me explain…

Don’t just take a shot, make one. Everyone else was shooting from the right, but I wanted to get the festival logo, and position the jump between the lights. One OK Rock at Self Help Festival.

I have always been fascinated by the path people take in the pursuit of learning photography. When we first start taking photos we seem to just be happy if we capture something… anything. Then, as we develop our technical skills, learn about composition and exposure, and refine our photographic eye, we actually start to critique our own shots in the hopes of improving further.

The problem is that the better we get, the more issues we find in our own images. Sometimes I look back at my early work and cringe, but at the time I loved those shots. Now that I have been doing it awhile, there are days I come from back from a shoot feeling like I don’t like anything I shot, like I have lost my touch. Why?

Because I have a broader knowledge base to critique from, and a better eye to judge from. While that can be frustrating sometimes, it’s what makes photography amazing! You will never fully learn photography. Yeah, you may get better at the technical aspects, but there is always something you can refine.

Be prepared! I always have a 15mm on my second body for times like these. Barb Wire Dolls at Vans Warped Tour 2017.

When I started learning photography, I found information everywhere I could. I used KelbyOne, browsed YouTube, bought some great DVDs, and became a huge podcast fan. I was already listening to a few tech based podcasts, and once I turned my attention to photography I found Scott’s shows, like The Grid, as well as podcasts by people like Rick Sammon, Scott Bourne, and Frederick Van Johnson.

I learned so much from those shows, but I also found a hole in my studies – the images. I would listen to these great interviews, with some of the best photographers and educators in the business, but never saw their work.  That’s like watching a cooking show and wondering if the food really tastes as good as the people on the show say it does (if the chef is Bobby Flay, yes, it does).

Another example of “making a shot.” When Heart played with Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience I knew I needed to document that story. I positioned myself to fit Nancy Wilson and Jason in the frame.

Don’t misunderstand me. There is a place for the type of interview where you learn about some talented person, but I found myself wondering if I was listening to talented photographers or just friends of the host. The reason a photographer is interesting to us should be because of their work.

That got me thinking…. every time I see an image, I have questions about how it was made. And that’s when it hit me. What if we flipped the interview around. What if we interviewed a photograph to get a better understanding of the photographer’s mind. Why did they make the choices they made, did they pre-visualize, how did they create and edit the shot, and what issues did they overcome? So often I see a shot where I feel I could learn a lot if only I could ask the photographer a few key questions. And so I started Behind the Shot. Now I get to ask the questions I want, and get to learn more about the art of photography.

Experiment when you can. I had no idea if it would work, but with no front light I thought a silhouette, with the name KORN on the fan, would be cool.

Has it worked? Oh yeah. I thought I would share some of the things I have found as common threads throughout the shows. Most are just simple things, things we may all know about but forget under the pressure of a shoot.

Don’t Just Take A Photo, Make A Photo
This is one concept that shows up over and over when I talk to great photographers. I have heard Rick Sammon say something like this so many times over the years, and in the episode below he uses that approach perfectly to capture his image “Sunrise at the Blue Swallow.”

Travel photographer Peter Levshin used this idea to great effect when photographing a young monk in Burma. I’ve never done this trip, but I have always heard how dark some of the temples are. Peter, rather than do what most people would and just take the shot, asked if they could bring in more candles. So simple, and the final shot turned out fantastic.

Know Your Gear
The second episode of BtS I recorded was with London based music photographer Christie Goodwin. Christie is one of the best there is, and the shot we discussed was an iconic image of singer Katy Perry called “Fireworks.” This image is amazing, but once you hear how little time she had to capture it, and the fact she had no idea what the fireworks would do to the exposure, the shot seems almost impossible. Knowing her gear made a difference because she was able to adapt quickly enough to capture the shot.

Be Prepared
I mean really, this almost goes without saying, but sometimes it’s the little things. Wedding Photographer Troy Miller was shooting a wedding on a rainy day in Southern California. It happens, but he was ready. He knew he needed to get some images of the bride and groom outside, so he used an app that gives up to the minute rain status. When the app told him there was about to be a break in the rain he got the couple ready, and then just as predicted the rain stopped. The result was a beautiful photo, with amazing colors and sky, he calls “Stormy Kiss”.

The lighting for Judas Priest was very dynamic. Knowing your gear makes adjusting to changing conditions much easier.

Don’t Be Afraid To Be Creative
Sometimes we forget that photography is a visual art. We could capture the most technically perfect and well composed image, and it might speak to no one. A great image has impact, a story, and feeling. When doing a shoot with rocker Tommy Lee, of Motley Crüe fame, photographer Dustin Jack did everything right. He made sure he got the safe shots he needed first, but then he asked Tommy to put on some glasses. Seems simple, right?

Those glasses unlocked Tommy’s personality, and the results were great on their own. But the experimenting didn’t stop there. Dustin had an idea to combine three of the shots to tell a totally different story, resulting in his image “See No Evil, Hear No Evil, and Peace.” Sometimes, it just takes being willing to experiment.

Stay Relaxed
This one sounds so easy. You most likely already know photographer Alan Hess through KelbyOne, this blog, or through Photoshop World. The first time I shot a music festival with Alan Hess was a huge learning experience for me. I walked up to him to introduce myself, but honestly was a bit star struck. Alan is one of the best music photographers out there – he literally wrote the definitive book on it. He was so amazingly nice to someone that was a fan of his work.

The rest of the day, while photographing the bands, I watched Alan and tried to learn whatever I could. The one thing I noticed more than anything was how calm and composed he was. Everyone else – myself included – was scrambling to get tons of photos during the limit of the first three songs. Not Alan. His shooting was relaxed and calculated.

When I had him on the podcast we dissected one of his Pro Bull Riding shots, and the same thing came through. The fact that he was able to stay relaxed, calm, and composed during 8 second rides was a key to his success. He was able to adjust his technique, position and gear on the fly to make the images he wanted through careful thought. Yes, there is that idea of making, not just taking, an image again. Amazing how often that comes up.

I know I said five lessons, but here is a bonus…

“Be Aware, Be Astonished, Share Your Astonishment”
OK, so this is one I almost didn’t include because the episode won’t air until about 3 weeks after this post goes up – it should go live on 9/21/17. Why include a tip from an unreleased show? Because it stopped me in my tracks when my guest said it. Trey Ratcliff is such an amazing talent, but you knew that already. When I got him on the show, thanks to Rick Sammon, Trey was so generous with his thoughts on photography and technique.

Throughout the interview he would share bits of knowledge that left me speechless. He talks about his editing, and even touches a little bit on color theory, but this phrase was the one that got me. It immediately meant something to me. I’ve been in radio for almost 40 years, and there was an old story I’d heard related to doing Voice Overs. The way it’s told, a legendary Voice Over artist was asked how he finds inspiration when he has to do a commercial for some common and mundane product.

His answer was that he imagines he is hearing about the product for the first time. In that sense even shoes are amazing. These three things Trey mentions are the same concept, but for photography. A Voice Over lesson I have shared hundreds of times, and yet never thought to apply it to photography. “Be aware, be astonished, and share your astonishment.” Wow. So watch for the episode, or subscribe over at the This Week in Photo site.

The Art of Photography is alive and well, and we can learn and become better photographers with every image we see.

Again, thanks to Scott and Brad. Such an honor to share this space.

You can see more of Steve’s work at, listen to his Behind The Shot Podcast, and follow him on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

#Love #Me—two of the current top three hashtags on Instagram. Perhaps that follows suit with what many of the population think of hashtags being overused as narcissistic, vain, attention-grabbing props, but let me tell you that that isn’t (always) the case and the correct use of hashtags can boost your performance and reach on Instagram. Your chances of tantalizing and captivating new followers, collecting likes, inducing comments, and generally increasing engagement are vastly increased with the correct use of hashtags.

Here’s how they work: 

Every post on Instagram can be accompanied by a caption and up to 30 hashtags. It’s down to these hashtags, along with geolocation data, that photos are discovered by non-followers and potentially appear in the Explore section. Basically, if you want to achieve maximum reach and target a specific, active audience in order to grow, then you need to wise up to hashtag use (coupled with posting things that people actually want to engage with).

The problem is this: Let’s say you’re a travel photographer, like me. If I post a photo, I could hit the caption with the hashtag #travel and expose it to Instagrammers, searching among the approximately 205,296,724 (give or take) photos bearing that tag, and the audience that comes with it. To help with the point I’m going to make, in the time it took to write that last sentence, and progress to this one, there are now 205,296,962 posts with the #travel tag—138 photos posted with one tag within the space of fewer than 30 seconds. So, before the lesson, here’s the point: if you post using a popular tag, you potentially open yourself up to a massive audience, but that audience is very, very quickly lost because that photo of yours shoots straight down the Most Recent feed, constantly replaced by other posts. There are 205,297,745 now—another 783, as well as our initial 138, since I typed out the first number! So, in the time it’s taken me to compose this one paragraph, there have been nearly 1,000 posts onto Instagram with the #travel hashtag, and if we also use it, we’ll likely just get lost in the feed. Let’s beat that!

The trick is this (and there is a trick!): if we want to beat the system, and keep our posts in a place where they are more likely to be seen by people searching tags, then we need to use a less-common tag, but one still appropriate to our post. How about this for an idea to get started: let’s say that our post fits the Travel category and that photo is this one.

I took this shot last November in Eastern Iceland.

This photo could be accompanied by #snow or #reindeer, just as a couple of examples of tags which fit the content. But, in order to get maximum exposure to the people who search the category, we could also use #IcelandTravel #VisitIceland #BestOfIceland, which span between the categories of Iceland and Travel, or get more specific and go for something like #MyStopover, which is a hashtag drawn up specifically for photos of Iceland as a marketing campaign by IcelandAir.

Keeping up? So, if we use a less-common hashtag, we’re still hitting an active, searching audience, but that audience will see our photo for a longer time in the feed than one we post in #travel. If we were to take a moment when posting to consider hashtags and use #ig_iceland or #absoluteiceland, instead of #travel, we’d really open up our reach and our opportunities.

Here are a few more examples:

Rather than #Instafood, how about #CleanEating?


Rather than #Instatravel, how about #Italian_Vacations?


Rather than #DogsOfInstagram, how about #SquishyFaceCrew? (Credit to Kaylee Greer —with permission.) 

The more specific the hashtag, the more engaged the users are! Let me know how you get on, and go check out my Instagram feed to see my tactics—I’m @HybridDave.

Much love,


Happy Monday, everybody. I’m going to tackle a question I get asked a lot while out on my seminar tour, and even though it sounds like a simple one, I think it’s an important one. The question is along these lines:

Q. I’ve heard that hard drives die after a certain amount of time, and so do CDs, and DVDs, and optical drives, and all the stuff we backup our photos onto. I’m not sure there’s any storage media that lasts even for 10 years. What about uploading them to someone else’s digital storage like Google photos? Are they always going to be around? What if Google goes out of business, or somebody buys them? I stilll remember what happened to Kodak (and Kodak Photo CDs in particular). What do you recommend for protecting our most precious photos?

A. First, I agree — I don’t know of a single storage media that I would trust more than just a few years at best without replacing it entirely, and adding a 2nd backup copy, and even then I wouldn’t trust them 100% (same goes for any online backup solution. It feels like they’re just one major internet hack away from being wiped out). All that being said, there is one method that has stood the test of time and I can’t recommend enough (for a myriad of reasons beyond protection), and that is making prints. Simply making prints nearly guarantees that your images will last, probably at least 100 years, if not more. 

I have photos from when my parents were kids, and from when my brother and I were babies, and the only reason I have them today is that my parents made prints back in the day and literally stuck them in a shoebox. Say what you want about that method, but it worked, and the only reason why many of us even have those historical images of our family is that our parents did that simple act of printing and storing them in a dumb ol’ box. Wasn’t that dumb after all.

This begs the follow-up question: What are you doing to preserve the visual history of your family?

If you did nothing but upload the images on your cell phone to MPIX or Bay Photo Lab or even Costco for gosh sakes, and you made a bunch of 4×6 prints when they were on sale cheap, and you took ’em and put them in a waterproof/fireproof box you get at Staples, you’d almost be ensuring that your most precious photos would live on for many, many years after you’re gone (and your heirs could actually find them and have access to them).

This is important stuff. I hope that gets you to thinking this morning.

Have a great Monday, everybody!


P.S. If you’re a Lightroom user, check out my post today on over about edge-to-edge borderless printing in Lightroom. 

Mornin’, everybody! Not sure if you’re following me over on my Facebook page, but I’ve been sharing lots of behind-the scenes shots from shoots over there, along with all the lighting set-ups and camera settings.

They’re really popular so far –  if you get a chance, you can check them out over there on Facebook. 

Are you into guitar? Or Van Halen? Or both! :)

Tonight I’m talking guitars and amps (and even a little photography), with guitar god Eric Broadbent (and btw: if you think they’re going to win any points with me by referring to me as “Photography’s Eddie Van Halen” in their graphic above, well, you are absolutely right. LOL!!).

Who: Me and rockin’ guitar player and show host Eric Broadbent
What: Lots of talk about guitars and amps and music and some photography
Where: Follow this link (the podcast is free and open to everybody)
When: 9:00 PM EDT Tonight
Why: Guitars, Music & Photography? Why the heck not! I’m in!  :)

Have a great weekend everybody! Here’s to breaking your high e-string!



Using Photoshop & Lightroom to Create Amazing Cityscapes with Serge Ramelli
Join Serge Ramelli as he shares his secrets to creating amazing cityscapes. Great cityscapes start with great captures, and Serge begins the class with a discussion of camera settings and his approach to being in the right place at the right time. After the photo is taken, Serge steps through his editing workflow in Lightroom. Starting with the global edits that lay the foundation for a strong cityscape, Serge moves on into a detailed look at how to use all of Lightroom’s local adjustment tools to take your photos to the next level. Whether you are shooting with a DSLR or smart phone, and from stitched panoramas to merged HDR, Serge shares the tips and techniques that you can use in all kinds of situations.

In Case You Missed It
Consider this your very own photographer-friendly guide on where to go for the best photographs of London, England. Join Scott Kelby and Larry Becker as Scott shares his favorite locations to shoot, along with the kind of veteran traveler tips that will help you capture images that you’ll be delighted to bring back home. Timing is everything, so you’ll not only learn where to go, but what times will yield the best chances for great photographs. This is strictly a travel guide for photographers (including a downloadable PDF), so there’s no Photoshop or Lightroom involved, just the kind of information that will aid you on your photographic journey and inspire you to get out there and shoot.