Today I would like to share a journey to one of the most challenging and fascinating places on earth.
Want to stand on the edge of a crater and watch lava flowing beneath your feet?Want to explore the ancient churches of Lalibela?How about witnessing the culture and rituals of the lip plated Mursi people?Well, then this place is for you – welcome to Ethiopia.
I first learned about Ethiopia when a friend showed me a photograph of Erta Ale– one of only six active lava lakes in the world. At the time I had no idea there is a place on Earth where you can stand right on the edge of an active volcano.How exciting! I knew right then and I must visit this place.
Little did I know how much more there is to see here – I explored centuries old churches of Lalibela,survived the scorching heat of the Danakil Depression and witnessed unique customs of the Omo Valley tribes.
Traveling in Ethiopia is not exactly comfortable – extreme heat and humidity, long hours in the car to get to most places, very basic accommodations with electricity and running water not always available.Almost every day I was pushed to my limits physically, emotionally and photographically.
Some of you may wonder if it was worth it? There were moments on the journey when I wondered the same.What I have learned as a travel photographer is how important it is to test your own boundaries.Just when you think you cant take that next step,when you just want to give up and go home, when you are feeling frustrated and exhausted – that’s when you need to push yourself even harder, that’s when you will grow the most and transform.Your whole world opens up and you are never the same. One of the rewards of travel I welcome even more than breathtaking landscapes – learning to live in the moment.So is it worth it – absolutely! Never stop pushing yourself beyond the boundaries.
The Salt Trade of Northern Ethiopia Each day the salt miners make a 100km journey to Mekele – the nearest hub of the “white gold” trade.Starting from the Danakil Depression where the salt is mined, it’s a three day trek through one of the hottest and cruelest places on earth with temperatures rarely falling below 40-60 C (104-140 F) during the day. This has been the livelihood of the Afar people for hundreds of years, and still continues to this day.Barren landscape, dust storms, unbearable heat and lack of water – after spending just a few days here – I’m truly fascinated by the resilience of the people living in this region.
Erta Ale Volcano – Staring Into The Mouth Of Hell After a nine hour drive over lava fields, salt flats and sand, it’s a three hour hike in the dark until you finally reach the rim of the caldera. Not too far in the distance, you see the red smoke and ash coming from the ground – a mere 500 meters and you will witness what you’ve traveled so far to see – Erta Ale’s active crater.
Excited, you forget about exhaustion and want to run to it as fast as possible, but the local guide cautions you that this is the most dangerous part. As you descend there is no trail – you are walking on freshly crusted lava that cracks under your feet, one false step and you can fall into an air pocket – who knows what’s underneath?Finally you made it – it’s a live volcano right in front of you – you feel the heat, hear the lava bubble, see the ash and sparks flying up in mini explosions… It is one of nature’s most mesmerizing and dangerous shows.
The Faces Of Lalibela Lalibela – the center of Ethiopian Christianity – is famous for its monolithic churches built underground. To this day the exact details of their construction remain a mystery. All the churches are active and priests still use century old books to pray, with the only source of light shining though small windows cut in the massive walls.
The Tribes Of The Omo Valley Over 20 tribes live in the Omo Valley in the south of Ethiopia, close to the border with Kenya.Each tribe still follows unique rituals and traditions passed on from one generation to the next.Decorative scars, lip plates, being here feels like a time capsule to a foreign traveler.
I hope you enjoyed reading about Ethiopia. For those interested in joining me on adventure trips to some of the most unique corners of the world, feel free to send me a message at email@example.com.
Natalia Stone is a travel photographer based in New York City. Her passion for adventure and photography has taken her to over 40 counties and some of the most remote corners of the world. Whether standing on a rim of an active volcano in Ethiopia, photographing the northern lights in Norway or navigating through glacial waters of Greenland, her goal is to tell visual stories of the incredible treasures our planet holds.
Perfecting Selections in Adobe Photoshop with Dave Cross Perfect your Photoshop selection powers! Join Dave Cross as he equips you with all the information you need to know to create accurate selections as efficiently as possible. Dave goes through all of the various selection tools, discussing their pros and cons, and demonstrating how to get the most out of each one. From learning pre-selection strategies to mastering techniques for fine tuning your selections, Dave will provide you with the key elements needed to choose the right selection techniques for the job at hand to end up with a great selection.
In Case You Missed It Learn the core fundamentals of retouching hair! Join Kristi Sherk as she teaches you how to retouch hair smarter, not harder. From removing stray hairs to changing your subject’s hair color, and from creating custom hair brushes to adding dimension and shine, Kristi will show you how to do the best things possible in the fastest amount of time. Every photographer working with people can benefit from adding these hair retouching techniques to their set of skills, so that you can deliver outstanding work to your clients and get back behind the camera. By the end of the class you’ll know how to make your clients look red-carpet ready and how to do it faster than ever.
First of all, I would like to thank Scott Kelby and his wonderful team for this amazing opportunity.Like many photographers I am self taught.The classes and learning resources Scott has made available through the years has served as a foundation from which I built a career doing what I love.
I have so many passions in life but three bubble up to the top: photography, travel, and teaching. I’m truly blessed to be able to do all three full time. They feed off of each other, as I write this blog post I’m in a motel in West Virginia making my way across the country from NYC, working on a personal project and scouting several locations for future workshops.
I have a very close connection with my students; there’s a real bond there. I understand that fiery passion of the creative process, that unyielding obsession and the frustration that inevitably comes with it. They’re two sides of the same coin. That frustration, that struggle, as Scott has said once, is a good thing. The frustration is the result of the recognition that we’re not where we want to be creatively. Yet! It’s also, however, an acknowledgement that we have a creative direction, we know where we want to be, if only (fill in the blank here).
That frustration is an acknowledgement of our potential. Imagine the alternative. Take the top performers, in any creative endeavor, if there’s one thing they have in common, they’ll tell you their work is not finished, there’s more to the story. It’s a game of continuous improvement, with each step up the ladder a result of struggle, failure and success. There is no top to this ladder, it just gets higher and higher, the view just gets better. We’re all at different points on this latter. Joe McNally has a great view. No matter where we are and how good the view, we all get stuck.
The Unplayable Piano In Cologne, Germany in 1975, American jazz legend Keith Jarrett, already world famous, sat down to give the performance of his life. The recording of this session produced the best selling piano album and best selling solo jazz album in history. Just hours before however, he refused to play. There was a problem; the piano was the worst he’d ever seen, half the size of a typical piano, the keys stuck, the pedals broken. It was an unplayable piano. Sitting in his car outside the concert hall, listening to the pleas of a desperate teenage promoter standing in the rain, begging him to play, he agreed.
Playing in the middle of the range, no pedals, standing up and literally banging on the keys at point for bass and to project the sound, that unplayable piano allowed him to give the performance of his life. This story is recounted in a recent Ted Talks by Tim Harford, which I highly recommend. During the talk, he states, “We don’t want to be asked to do good work with bad tools. We don’t want to have to overcome unnecessary hurdles, but Jarret’s instinct was wrong.” Had he been playing on the best piano, if everything was finely tuned and working perfectly, that magical night never would have happened. He certainly wouldn’t have chosen those circumstances intentionally. None of us would. Perhaps we should. That frustration, that limitation, that hurdle makes us more creative.
Last year I discovered my unplayable piano.
Apple reached out to me last year and asked me to give a presentation for them on iPhone photography, to simply inspire people to go out and shoot more with their iPhone. And so I did, using it as an excuse to embark on a road trip with my DSLR and my iphone and put it to the test. Before then, honestly, I would never have considered shooting with my phone. I’m a professional photographer, I take what I do very seriously, no self respecting photographer would… My instinct, like Jarret’s, was wrong.
Over the past year, my unplayable piano has taught me much about photography, about the creative process, about myself as a photographer. Ultimately, the experience has helped me to reflect who I am as a photographer and what is important to me, the quality of the image and the quality of the experience.
It’s still crazy to me how we’re supposed to capture our vision, our unique vision with this ridiculous piece of glass and metal and circuits we call a camera. I now know what every setting is, I know what every menu means, I know what every dial does. Who cares? Now what? The ability to create a meaningful image is much different than actually creating one. If you’re like me, the achievement of technical perfection and gear lust and acquisition is a comfortable safe distraction. Technical mastery is not the top rung of the latter, it doesn’t even have a good view.It’s the start of something more. I feel like I’ve been stuck on this rung of the ladder for a while now, pursuing perfection over creativity, knowledge over experience. My unplayed piano helped me climb higher.
My iPhone is handicapped compared to my full frame 42 megapixel DSLR in every way. Paradoxically however, these limitations, the lack of choice and options, are the very things that have challenged me, inspired me and helped me grow as a photographer. The limited resolution has forced me to carefully consider my compositions, the fixed focal length, severely limiting my options, has forced me to use my feet more, the lack of depth of field has required me to pay more attention to all of the details at the edge of the frame as well as more carefully considering the background.
Up until recently, shooting RAW wasn’t an option, shooting compressed jpegs required a more careful consideration of color balance and exposure control. The lack of a viewfinder has been incredibly helpful in breaking the habit of pulling the camera up to my eye and taking every picture from the lofty perspective of 5’7”. Holding the camera away from my body, the very thing we’re taught not to do, has allowed me to see a scene and compose with much greater freedom of movement. Also, a funny thing happens when you don’t have a big camera and lens in front of your face… you’re more approachable. This is me banging on the keys, flexing my creativity, making the system work for me.
Consider again Jarrett’s performance. What made it the best selling solo jazz record ever, was how much it resonated with the audience. It was that what was being played was much more important than how it sounded, the bass was muffled, the treble sharp, it didn’t matter. If we can just suspend the importance of edge to edge sharpness, frame rate and ISO performance long enough, then maybe we can focus on what really matters; our vision, what initially caught our eye. Then, the light, the color, the composition, the gesture, the moment.
These are the timeless ingredients that truly comprise a great photograph and they have so very little to do with the camera we sling around our neck or the lens attached to it. If we can redefine, for ourselves, what image quality truly is, then maybe that camera we all have in our pockets is all we need to create meaningful work. Maybe, like that unplayable piano, it’s exactly what we need to create our best work yet.
I’d like once more to extent my gratitude to Brad Moore, Scott Kelby and the team at KelbyOne for this opportunity as well as Ron Martinsen from Ronmartblog for making the connection.
For those interested in learning more about my capture and post-processing workflow, I will be teaching several workshops this year in NYC and around the world this year. For those in NYC, in March, I’ll be leading my annual two-day Lightroom Bootcamp in NYC, in April I will partnering with world class street photographer Steve Simon in a special iPhone street photography workshop in NYC, October will be a very special and unique photography workshop on the island of Cape Breton in Nova Scotia in concert with the Celtic Colours festival and in November, an active adventure photography workshop in Bhutan with Zephyr Adventures. More information can be found by clicking the links above, signing up for my newsletter or reaching out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org I’d love to hear from you.
The Top Ten Headshot Photography Questions Answered with Peter Hurley Go out and start taking headshots! Join Peter Hurley as he brings you the answers to the top 10 headshot questions he gets asked the most. In this class you’ll learn how to chill out your subject, how to get started with a limited budget, how to make people look their best, and how to fix all kinds of things that come up during a shoot. From gear choices to working with clients, Peter doesn’t only provide the answers, he demonstrates how he works with live subjects, so you get to see it all from start to finish in a series of shoots with a variety of people. To really get the most out of it though, you’ve got to apply it, and by the end of the class you’ll be ready to get started.
In Case You Missed It Mastering Headshot Photography isn’t about the technical aspects of lighting or gear, instead it’s all about learning how to pull expression out of your subject. It all comes down to the communication between you and your subject, and you’re the one responsible for making it happen. Join Peter Hurley in his studio while he works one-on-one with a variety of different subjects and teaches you his favorite tips and techniques for connecting with your clients, building their confidence in front of the camera, and bringing out authentic expression.This is a must-see course for any portrait photographer!
If Your Goal Is Income from Photography, Your Approach MUST Be to Learn and Evolve — That’s Why I Teach Video for Still Photographers
A lot of pro shooters who are making their living with still images, along with shooters who are looking at photography as a source of income, can get discouraged with income potential these days. Sure, a bunch of people are making a good living, but it’s not as easy as it used to be.
A big part of the challenge is because so many people take pictures with their phones. And another challenge is that affordable DSLRs available at big box stores can capture some amazing images. There are all kinds of automation and intelligent algorithms in modern DSLRs and that help average shooters grab some really solid shots. Some could even pass for ‘professional’ images.
It’s no secret that making money as a photographer requires professionals to bring something extra to the table. There’s technique. Customer service. Unique style. Post processing skills. And there’s no question that an understanding of lighting can make your images stand out, especially if you know how to use speedlights or constant lights, and you have a real understanding of photographic principles like depth of field and composition.
The problem is human nature; how we want to learn and understand something and even “master” it, and then we want it to stay that way because we’ve mastered it. Look at the school system… You go there. You learn. You get a diploma or a degree. You finish learning. And then you get a job.
Things don’t work that way. They always change. And if you really did stop learning instead of making lifelong learning a part of your life, you will limit your potential and probably put yourself out of work.
I’m thrilled by all the learning that’s available online these days. — No, this isn’t a commercial for KelbyOne, where I have some excellent classes about lots of camera models and DIY money-savers for photographers. ;-) — It’s really my belief system. And it’s the reason I worked at Kelby Media for a decade, and now I’m out on my own, continuing with online training. I see the things that can be done to help photographers be better. To make a great living at photography. And I get EXCITED!!
I happen to believe that simple videos can be added to a still photographer’s business and make clients happier while future-proofing business for photographers. Whether or not you decide to go down that path, you need to do something to keep learning, growing, and staying ahead of the masses. You need to keep learning so you can always be better and smarter than (or at least as smart as) your competition, so you can stay in business and thrive. Lifelong learning will future-proof your success.
Before you freak out and start yelling at Scott’s blog, “Hey Becker!! If I wanted to shoot video I’d go to film school!!” Just slow down for a second and hear me out…
I’m not talking about crafting a film, or learning cinematic camera angles, or cinematic storytelling, or even editing. I’m talking about flipping the toggle on your DSLR while you’ve got a standard portrait setup, and just grab a few minutes of your subject talking. Granted, you’ll need to use constant lights instead of strobes, and you’ll need a better microphone than the one that’s built into your camera, but there’s not much more to it than that.
There’s a kind of very simple video still shooters are uniquely prepared to capture, and it’s in super high demand. In fact, you’re BETTER prepared to do this kind of video than a video production company is. And if you’re a photographer with a modern DSLR and a little experience with headshots, you have almost everything you need to add a simple, profitable service to a regular headshot session. No camera moves or film school techniques.
It’s no secret that video is a HUGE part of web based online marketing and social media. And just about every business out there, small and large, knows that they need professional looking videos for their online marketing. They understand that they can’t get away with smartphone shaky-cam videos.
What those businesses DON’T know, is that you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars hiring a video production company, to get talking-head videos. And most still shooting photographers don’t know that this kind of video is incredibly easy to deliver, and that you can charge hundreds of dollars for a little extra shooting time, tacked onto a standard headshot session. And whatever you charge for your headshots can more than double when you do this kind of video work.
What’s Really Involved and What Can You Charge? First you need to know what kind of video I’m talking about, and what kind of videos I’m NOT suggesting. Then I’ll give you the details so you can add it to your services list starting next week.
The videos I’m talking about are simple promotional videos for your business clients. Videos that are short and can be posted to a company website or social media or a YouTube channel. There are a handful of simple formulas or templates you can follow, to create something your clients will love.
And what I’m NOT suggesting is traditional video production. Things that require camera moves, multi-camera shoots, actors, capturing scenes, or anything approaching cinematography. My guess is, if you wanted to be a videographer, you’d start with film school training. The challenge is that there aren’t many sources of training out there that are designed to help still photographers understand simple business video capture without starting down the slippery slope toward film school.
Some of the formulas/templates you can follow to start making videos are talking headshots, product promotional videos, customer service solutions, and the incredibly powerful Facebook video ads category.
Talking headshots are essentially a standard portrait session with constant lights instead of strobes. Go ahead and do your regular portrait session, and then clip a lapel microphone on your subject, flip your camera dial/switch to video capture, and record the person talking about their business for a minute or two. There’s no need to spend more than $30 on the microphone, and if you already have some nice constant lights, all you need to do is capture your client with video. It’s pretty straight forward.
With product promo videos, you don’t have to be especially fancy. Start by shooting a bunch of good product stills. Then use those stills as visuals during a narrated description of the product. The key with video is movement, so you take one simple step beyond narrating a slideshow. The video should slowly pan or zoom with each image. This is called the Ken Burns effect and it’s a simple, engaging way to craft a professional looking finished video, by using your still shooting skill set.
Customer service videos are “gold” to some businesses. If you’re working with a client who has customers with a common question or problem, you can create a video that answers the question or solves the problem. Typically businesses have FAQ sections on their websites, but if you can create a video that uses the same ‘moving still images’ style as the product demo we just covered, customers will be happier. People are much quicker to watch a video than plow through a bunch of FAQs or a “knowledge base” on a website. And your clients will appreciate the drop in human resources needed to answer all those common questions.
And yet another simple style of video, is to create Facebook video ads. Consider that 70-80% of Facebook videos are watched with the sound off. That means still images with interesting pictures, paired with text on screen, are an incredibly effective style of Facebook video ad. And because of how people consume Facebook ads, photographers are once again positioned to gather the materials for great Facebook ad campaigns.
So what can you charge for these videos? Generally, hundreds. Assuming you charge over $200 for a typical headshot session, go ahead and add 150% to it. Consider that the going rate for professionally captured and produced video from a video production company is well over a thousand dollars, sometimes several thousand, if you charge less than a thousand, that’s a big savings for your client and solid income for you.
The only thing we haven’t covered here is editing. This is a lot easier than you might think, but you don’t have to do it yourself if you don’t want to. In the same way that some photographers invest in expensive, wide printers… large format printing could be done in-house or it can be handled by a company like Bay Photo, MPIX, Millers, etc. The same is true for video editing. But since learning video editing might take a little while, start out by using a hired editor while you look into whether or not you want to do your own editing.
I’d suggest looking for a local freelancer or someone online to help. And I’d suggest that you stay away from local video production companies because their prices will almost always be cost-prohibitive. They come at video from a much more involved perspective.
Should YOU Really Add Video to Your Mix? Maybe. If you’re primarily a landscape photographer, your clientele may not be in the market for video. If you have a style of still shooting and a reputation for a particular look, and that’s drawing a solid client base, there may be no need to add video to your mix. But if you’re a portrait shooter, or product shooter, and you have business clients, and you’re trying to stay ahead of the competition… adding simple videos that follow a standard template, could do great things for your bottom line.
Something I Learned from Scott A Long Time Ago – FREE Stuff When you look at online business, it’s getting more common over the past few years, but as long as I’ve known Scott, he has been doing this… To build a following, you have to give away good information. Scott does this all the time on this very blog. There’s The Grid. There are webinars and YouTube videos. KelbyOne is built on a foundation of helping people and I wanna be like that when I grow up.
With that in mind, I’ve started a website, YouTube channel, Facebook page, etc. all hoping to reach out to small business people who need help doing their own videos. And along those same lines, in December I launched a coaching service for professional photographers, to help them do professional videos for their clients and improve their bottom line.
Here’s A Bunch of Free Stuff on the Topic of Simple Business Videos I want to give you links to all kinds of stuff you can use to get going with video. This first set of resources has to do with simple video creation for promotional purposes. These documents and videos aren’t specifically targeted at photographers. Rather, they’re targeted at any entrepreneur who knows they need simple promotional videos and they want to tackle those videos themselves, in-house.
Here’s Even More Free Stuff that’s Normally Paid Content… In December I launched a small private coaching program to help photographers. This included a lot of personal Skype coaching, editing services for shooters who didn’t want to edit their own video editing, and some other stuff. At this point, there aren’t any more openings for this group PLUS, I don’t want this guest blog post to be a commercial for that group. But there are some great resources I created for this group that can be really helpful, and I want to give you access to some of this training for free. No strings attached. The link is below, but just a few things before we get to that.
The main training video is all about helping photographers create their own promotional talking headshot video. The idea is to help them (and you) do exactly what you need to, in order to capture a great promotional video for yourself, and then later turn that experience into a guide for when you capture clients on video, and coach them through their own promotional talking headshot.
There’s a section at the end of the video, that is dedicated to telling my clients how to package and upload their videos for editing. This won’t really pertain to you, so you can stop watching at that point.
Finally, because there are links on my clients’ page, to special resources for them, I’ve created a separate (similar) page on my site with the links I can share to the public, so you don’t need a password to access anything. So to get the training video and the other cool links, just go to LarryBecker.tv/kelby.
Editing and Sequencing Your Work: Learn to Let Go with Stella Kramer Become a better photographer through editing and sequencing! Join Stella Kramer, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photo editor, as she teaches you how good editing and sequencing can help to do a better job of telling a story with your work. You’ll learn the basics of editing and sequencing, the importance of knowing your objective, how to deal with critique, why you should stand behind your work, and the value in letting go. Stella brings all of these points home in a series of live edit and sequencing work sessions with three different photographic projects.
In Case You Missed It It’s all about the edit! You’ve just had an awesome photo session and now you need to narrow it down to just the best ones. How do you do it? Join Peter Hurley as he walks you through a series of live headshot sessions and then talks through his editing process with the subjects at the end. Peter is joined throughout the class by Scott Kelby, and together they edit through multiple different shoots that Scott has brought in. Editing is all about narrowing shots down to just the ones that will go into your portfolio to help you get more work. Learn how to develop this muscle and find your own shabangs!