Monthly Archives June 2020

Creating Landscape Composites with Bret Malley

Anything you can imagine you can make happen with landscape composites! Join Bret Malley as he takes you on a journey of creativity while teaching you the techniques and concepts you’ll need to use to create eye catching composites of outdoor scenes. You’ll learn the importance of key blending modes, how to replace skies, multiple techniques for blending graphic elements into a scene, how to use selections and masks, tips for fine tuning your creations, and how to add atmosphere and final touches.

This is a great way to learn powerful Photoshop techniques while breathing new life into your landscape photographs.

In Case You Missed It…
Fantastical Compositing: Combining Multiple Images to Create Fantasy Fine Art

Learn how to do a family portrait with a magical twist! Join Bret Malley as he teaches you all the steps, from shooting to post processing, needed to create your own fantasy fine art composite. Bret takes you through the gear he uses, his process for pre-production, how to communicate and work with the subjects, his lighting setup, how to photograph each element of the composite, and then how to bring it all together in Photoshop.

The first half of the class is a live shoot where Bret creates all the pieces, and in the second half he teaches you his tips and techniques for creating a seamless composite that brings your imagination to life.

Why It’s Hard To Discuss Racism

A while ago, some friends were visiting from America and wanted to meet for dinner. Since it was their first-time visiting Japan, they wanted to try some of my favorite Japanese foods and have an authentic experience. I’m from New York but I’ve lived in Japan for the last four years and have fallen in love with the culture, lifestyle and yes, the food.

For dinner, I took my friends to a non-touristy spot with amazing selections of Japanese food but when it came time to place our orders, my friends asked for something that was not on the menu, chicken teriyaki. I’ve witnessed situations like this time after time and when it comes to decisions (or discussions) outside our comfort zone very often we stick with what we know.

It’s hard to try eating something you’re not accustomed to and it’s hard to discuss or understand being treated differently based on the color of one’s skin if you have not experienced it first-hand. Racism is not a comfortable topic to discuss because it hits at our core and makes us look deep inside ourselves. For some it can be a complex issue and easier to simply ignore. This behavior is something (Samuelson & Zeckhauser, 1988) attributes to the status quo bias

Last week, I published my weekly photography podcast which has focused on the art of photography for the past 163 episodes. However, with the current state of the world, I could not make the 164th episode of the Master Your Lens podcast about photography, it had to address a bigger world issue.

A snippet from episode 164 of the Master Your Lens photography podcast focused on the racism in America. The full episode can be downloaded here.

COVID-19 vs Protesting

When I was seven years old, my family moved from Brooklyn, New York to Columbia, South Carolina where, for the first time, I experienced racism firsthand. That was fifty years ago and still, today, the issue of racism plagues America. Even as the world fights a global pandemic that has brought much of the world to a stand-still, many would rather risk catching COVID-19 in order to protest against an older virus that seems to have no cure.

In the 1960’s, the declaration of the day was I AM A MAN. Photographs of protesters during that time period show predominately African Americans marching for equality. In contrast, today people of all backgrounds march together, united in protest to open dialog that brings about action to end racism.

So how do we turn things around and begin having meaningful conversations about racism that lead to lasting solutions? When it comes to things we don’t understand, it’s comfortable to stay with what we know but we only grow when step outside of our comfort zone. I believe change first begins with empathetic listening and taking to heart the lesson of the golden rule.

You can see Matthew’s work at, and keep up with him on Instagram and Twitter. And be sure to subscribe to his podcast, Master Your Lens.

#TravelTuesday comes again, which means I’m back! I’m Dave Williams and I’m here every Tuesday. For the past nine weeks or so I’ve lacked motivation. I’ve had to suspend projects and slow down a lot, and I’ve had to cancel trips. I’m busy writing a book and even that’s been hard to focus on because, for me, this whole pandemic has severely dented my creativity. In a twist, now that we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, I have plans to go north as soon as possible. It’s picked me up, and it’s meant I can make a plan.

“The plan” is exactly what I want to talk about today. “The plan” is the thing that motivates and inspires us to achieve big!

When I say “have a plan,” I mean a specific plan and an overarching “grand plan.” What I mean by this is we need to have targets, and we need to work out a way to achieve them. If we have a big target, the best way to get to that point is to break down the journey into smaller targets, so we have more successes along the way, and a shorter fall if we fail one small step versus falling the whole way to the starting point if we’d had one big goal alone. I’ve talked about that all before, so this time let’s go over how to have a plan for a small step and why it’s so important.

When we have a plan and we succeed at it, it gives us a huge psychological boost. The resulting confidence helps us to achieve the next goal, as part of the next plan. Look around at the photographers you follow and you’ll see that they all have a shot list—a plan—and this is their measure of whether they’ve succeeded or not. If Paul Nicklen, National Geographic and Sea Legacy photographer, wants to shoot leopard seals he plans meticulously. He scouts locations, checks weather forecasts and maritime forecasts, and he prepares his kit. Alongside this and many other things, he has a shot list. On this shot list, which may be quite minimal, there’ll be that one shot he wants to achieve from the project. The planning all amounts to one thing: getting the one shot. Secondary to that, there may be other locations or other shots, and together these make up the shot list. When it all comes together and the shots on the list are attained, the project is a success. Tertiary to the “one shot” and the rest of the list, any extras which become keepers, which we may call “lucky shots” in our business, are a bonus. It’s a kind of “above and beyond” scenario if this happens, but the goal is the goal, and combining all these projects together pushes us along on our master plan.

Paul Nicklen, Scott Kelby, and all the other successful, working photographers out there today follow these principles, albeit through slightly different iterations. There’s a master plan, then there are all the little plans, and in the little plans, there’s a shot list. Success with a shot list means success with the plan, and success with the plan means success with the master plan.

As life goes back to normal and your camera sees more action again, make a plan and make a shot list. Trust me, having small, simple goals—like which mountain you want to shoot at sunrise, or which setting you want to shoot a family member’s portrait in—will help pick everything back up again and the success will push you to work harder and achieve more, and lead, in turn, to the next goal, and the next, and the next. As the sights close in on the success of the master plan, move the goalposts and aim higher.

Much love

We’ve never had more choices for photography gear than we do today — thanks to Kickstarter, and Indigogo and all the tech advances, we’ve got an got incredible array of choices. This is why reviews are so important, but I cannot tell you how much time I’ve spent reading or watching reviews that at the end leave me with little more info than I started with.

A buddy and I were talking about this very topic — how so many useless reviews are out there today that aren’t really helping anybody (but perhaps the reviewer). So, today I thought I’d outline the things that make a gear review really useful (and what makes them useless and things to avoid):

I only want to read reviews from a reviewer that uses that brand of camera or lens

I don’t want to read a review of the new Chevy Camero from a Ford Mustang enthusiast, but a similar things happens in photography reviews incredibly often. I want a read a review from someone who’s not “camera brand biased” from the very start. I’m done reading reviews about a Nikon or Canon camera, from a reviewer who says they are a Sony shooter (or vice versa). I know, right up front, at the end of the review they’re going to share why the product isn’t that great, and that that it’s not as good as their Sony version, and that they’re not switching from Sony, etc.. I don’t want them to tell me how it compares to their Sony, any more than I want to hear what the Chevy lover thinks of a Mustang (Spoiler alert; I can pretty much tell you before I read the review).

If it’s a new Nikon camera, I want it reviewed by a real Nikon shooter and they can tell me how it compares to their current Nikon and that is actually very valuable to me. If it’s a Canon lens, I want to hear from a real Canon shooter and how it compares to their current Canon lenses. If it’s a Sony mirrorless body, I want to hear what an existing Sony mirrorless shooter says about it. There’s only one thing worse — when you read a review and they don’t tell you they’re brand biased, and then later you found out they shoot an entirely different brand than what they were reviewing, and they give it a less than stellar review. I’ve had it happen more than once.

I want them to give me a final bottom line. Not “Well, it depends on what your needs are”

There is nothing that drives me crazier than a review that looks at several different products, with a headline like “Our pick for the best super wide angle lens of 2020” and then at the end they tell you why each lens in their “shootout” has good points and bad points, and why each may be right for you depending on what you shoot. Basically they say, “They’re all good, it just depends on what you’re shooting.” Nope — that’s not why I read the article. Take a stand. I want the reviewer to tell me, straight up, “This is the best one of the bunch! Buy this one!

An unboxing video is not a review. Neither is a “first impression”

So many videos on YouTube have the word “Review” in the headline, but they turn out to be an unboxing video — literally , somebody filming as they unbox the product; set it up, and try it out for two minutes. I need a “field report.” Shoot it for a while and let me know what the experience is really like. How does it work after two weeks, two months? Opening it on Day 1 is not a review. You’re really just giving an initial impression – it’s day 1 – you haven’t run into the problems yet. I want to hear about it a few days down the road. Do you still love it?

It needs to include really clear specs

I can’t tell you how many reviews I’ve had to wade through just to find out how many megapixels a camera has, or the size or weight of a camera or lens. It seems like basic stuff, but then I find myself having to go to B&H’s Website because they have a spec tab where they list all the specs that should have been in that initial review. At the minimum, give me a link to the manufacturer’s specs page, or even B&Hs, but it’s gotta be in the review, right up front — don’t make us go searching for it.

Include LOTS of your own photos

Don’t just repost product shots from the manufacturer. By the time I’ve found your review, I’ve already seen lots of shots from the manufacturer. If you’ve reviewing the gear, and you’re a photographer, take your own photos of it and show me what it really looks like — not a shot of it on a white background, perfectly lit, with a reflection below it. One thing manufacturer’s shots don’t really show you is scale. Take a shot of you holding it in your hands, so I can really see its size. Also, if you’re going to show sample photos you took with a particular camera or lens, take some good shots. Not shots you took in your backyard in harsh lighting conditions. Some of the sample shots I’ve seen posted by big time reviewers make me feel like they’re tech nerds, but not actually photographers. The shots often literally look like snapshots and it makes me think either the gear isn’t good, or you’re not a real photographer, in which case I’m not sure I want to take the word of someone who isn’t a decent photographer about which piece of gear I should buy. Make your sample shots look great, so we get a real idea of what the product can do.  

Give advice

Really great reviews give advice. For example, if I’m reading a review and there are three sizes for the particular product, tell me which one to get ane why. For example, if the Small Size is really a better deal, or easier to work with, say so. Something like this is so helpful: “If I was going to order one, I would go with the Small size — you’ll save money and it’s so much easier to store and take with you,. The medium size doesn’t easily fit in your average camera bag, and the large size needs really needs two people to carry it.” That’s the kind of advice that is absolutely invaluable.

The most important aspect is honesty

At the end of the day, we are searching for an honest review. If something’s bad, say so. If the product has an Achilles Heel, tell us so. If there’s a deal breaker, let us know. There are very few products that are so perfect that nothing can be improved upon, so let us know the good stuff and the bad stuff. If all you do is tell me all the good things about it, then you come off as a fan boy. If you only tell us the bad stuff, you come off as a hater or biased from the outset (See #1 above). Here would be a great question or statement to make to your readers: “If you used this gear for two months, and it got lost or stolen, would you buy this same piece of gear again?” That would be a really valuable thing for us to know.

There ya have it — I’m hoping some of the folks out there that review gear take some of these points to heart — it could help us so much in making smart decisions on gear (and most gear ain’t cheap these days). Maybe you know a reviewer you should send this to? By all means, do.

Here’s wishing you lot of reviews that actually help you make a good decision. :)


I took this shot at the Venice Opera House before my workshop there. I miss doing location workshops.

Want to do something for you and for your photography journey that will absolutely, positively make you happy on so many levels? Then stop what you’re doing, and right now take two minutes and let’s make this a weekend to remember…by making a print. You have to, it’s “Make a Print Friday!” (I created this fake holiday last year, and it lasted…well…about a year, so…it’s official now).

If you don’t have your own printer, send it to an online lab (I use both BayPhoto Lab and — both make great prints and both have world-class customer service, and if you don’t already have a lab, try either of these — you’ll love them). You just open an account, upload your image, choose your size and they take it from there. In a few days, your print arrives. Couldn’t be easier.

If you upload a print to a lab, not only will you feel awesome today because you stopped and actually sent off one of your images for printing, but you’re setting up a major boomerang effect because that feeling is coming right back again in an even bigger way in just a few days when your beautiful print arrives.

Don’t just get a print. Get a big print!

You can get a 16″x24″ print from or for around for $24. There are few ways you can spend $24 today and effect you or someone you love (a gift?) that can have a bigger impact than a print.

If you’ve ever wanted your work to live on, to have a bigger impact than it does by just sharing it on Facebook, and if you want those pixels on screen to become something real, something you can hold in your hands, something that will make you feel great inside, join me today (I’m doing it!) for “Make a Print Friday.” :)



Newborn Photography: From Concept to Completion with Tracy Sweeney

Take your newborn photography journey to the next step! Join Tracy Sweeney as she takes you through six different live newborn shoots from concept to completion.

Tracy starts the class with a look at her lighting and gear, and then quickly moves on to the hands on tasks of creating props, attention to styling and posing, wrapping each newborn for their comfort and for creativity, how she works through each photo session, and then a close up look at her post processing workflow techniques from Lightroom Classic to Photoshop. By the end of the class you’ll have new skills for creating timeless artwork that your clients will treasure.

In Case You Missed It: Proven Techniques for Repeat Business with Tracy Sweeney

Ignite more enthusiasm in your photography business! Join Tracy Sweeney as she shares time tested and proven techniques to help you create a sustainable business with repeat clients.

Tracy is all about the client experience, and in this class she shares her secrets for building lifelong clients through attention to detail, creating emotional connection, setting clear expectations, developing consistency in branding, and so much more. By the end of class your head will be swimming with new ideas you can infuse into your own business!