Posts By Scott Kelby

PROGRAMMING UPDATE: I’m sharing a great strategy for backing up your photo library and LR catalog – another of our free live Webinars (normally just for Kelbyone members, but we’re opening it to all photographers) today at 11:00 AM ET. Taking your questions, too https://kelbyone.com/livewebcast

OK, I may have mentioned in a previous post that this would be a four-part series, but as it turned out, it’s a five-parter, and this is Part 4 (of 5), but this one won’t take you too long, and though you may not realize it yet, this actually helps to move you closer to making the kind of images you want to be making. Also, if you missed, Part 1, Part 2 or Part 3, well…there are the links. Ready to jump into Part 4? Let’s go!

Here’s what we’ve done so far:

(1) We went to Instagram and identified around 20 or so images that are the exact type of images we want to be making.

(2) We played detective and I gave you a list of how to break down those images to their basic elements.

(3) We went through that list one-by-one and gave a 1-5 ranking for which things we left were the most important elements in making each image special. What were the things the photographer did that make that image what it is.

Now, here in Part 4, go back through that list you made last week and look for a common thread that runs through your picks. Look at your #1s and #2s, and see if they share a common thread? Do you see the same type of comments appearing over and over.

Here’s a sample list as an example:

So, above I went through a bunch of shots I liked, and briefly noted the #1, and #2 most important things to me — the things that I think made that photo special. OK, what can we learn about our photography from this list of shots you admire?

I highlighted in red each time I noted the LOCATION was one of the two most important features. That tells me, for the type of images I want to be making, the location of the shot is a very important factor. Are the location landscape locations or travel locations? Are the shots you choose portraits, and you feel it’s the background or environment that made all the difference? Make note of each time you wrote location, and then write down where or what those locations were. Is there a common thread? Are the indoors, outdoors? Maybe sweeping coastal landscapes, or are they portraits in a studio. Write this down on paper, and look for the common thread. I’ll bet there is some common denominator that is typing them together somehow.

OK, let’s keep digging it a little further:

Look at how many times (above in red) I chose that Light, or Lighting, was one of the two top features. If the shots are portraits, is the lighting in those shots dramatic? Bright and high key? Is it one light, two lights, more? Or, if they are landscape shots, is it dramatic light? Beams of light? Dawn light or sunset light? Mid-afternoon light. Try and define exactly which type of light is happening in each, and see if there’s a common thread — some type of lighting that you’re drawn to.

Another feature that pops up on my list quite a bit, is color. I always knew I’m drawn to color, and this list just confirms it. The color in these shots really drew them to me. Now, can I find a common thread between them? Is the color I’m drawn to a warm color? A cool color? Contrasting colors. If I can determine exactly which type of colors, that will help in Part 5.

Look at how many times “people” (or people related things, like clothing or expression) show up in the list above? What does this tell you? It looks like you’re (well I am) drawn to people. Look at the people shots and see if you can see a thread — something that repeats. Is it the clothes? The styling? The location where the shots are taken? You know how that you’re drawn to lighting, so is it the lighting? How about the over color or the color of the clothes they’re wearing. Is it that they’re great subjects? Maybe a fantastic model, or a person with an interesting or fascinating look? Find that common thread that runs between those shots.

Here’s another common theme from my list – simplicity. I’m obviously drawn to shots that have a simple composition or simple lighting, or maybe both. Maybe instead of trying to add things to my photos to make them better, maybe I should try taking things away, and simplifying the scene that’s in front of me?

You know what to do next…

For this to work, you have to write this stuff down. On paper, on your phone, or your iPad — you have to write it for it to stick. If you do, it will start paying off very soon. In fact, I think you’ll find that it already has started to reveal things to you about the type of images you want to be making. More to come in Part 5.

Stay healthy, stay indoors, and keep pushing your learning forward, so that when this awful virus is behind, you’re set up for success.

Wishing you good health. :)

-Scott

This week, Erik Kuna and I did an episode of “The Grid” (our weekly live podcast) that we’ve been told was super helpful to photographers who have their portfolios online. We did a critique of the design, usability, and layout of their sites, and when you watch it (it’s embedded below), you’ll see a lot of photographers making the same mistakes again and again, and you’ll see why certain layouts and designs work, and which ones don’t.

Even though we may not have gotten to your site if you submitted one, you’ll still pick up a ton from seeing what works and what doesn’t.

Hope you found that helpful, and we’ll catch you here on Monday for the final part of my four-part series on learning more about your photography (where you want to go, and how to get there).

Have a safe, stay-indoors, wash your hands kinda weekend. :)

Cheers,

-Scott

P.S. My book editor Kim Doty is giving away some copies of the eBook edition of my “Natural Light Photography Book” today over on her Facebook page. Here’s the link (and good luck). :)

OK, last week’s was a bit of work, took a bit of time, but at least today’s Part 3 (of 4 total) is much easier. It does require some thoughtful decision-making on your part, but it sets you up for success in the next and final part of this journey.

NOTE: If you’re just reading this journey for the first time, you’re welcome to join in — just start with Part One — it’s a critical step.

In Part 2, we essentially played “image detective” using a checklist I gave to help you down that path. Now, let’s take this a step further for this step.

Go to your list, and assign a numerical value to which of those things you wrote down in Part 2 and decide which of those things you wrote down was the most important to making that image work. Was it the location? The subject? The person? The lens the photographer used? The Lighting? The composition? The perspective? One of these is the most important — the key thing that makes that image that image. There are probably multiple things that make it great, but you have to rank them in the order you feel they affect the image.

You only need to do the first three or four, but you can do all 11 if you want (the 10 on the list plus the bonus), with 1 being the most important attribute of the photo, and 11 being the least important.

What will help you get started is that last week the bonus question was, “What is the single most important thing in this image?” So that will probably automatically be #1 in your rankings, so just three or four more.

Here’s an example:

If this was my shot (it’s not — it’s a stock photo from Adobe Stock), how would I break this image down (image detective wise) and then how would I rank the top five in order of importance of what to me makes this a great image?

  1. So, for me what makes that shot is the location. I think it’s the Palouse, but it could possibly be somewhere in Tuscany, but I’m going with Washington State’s Palouse region. It’s pretty unique geographically, and I’ve always been drawn to The Palouse since I saw my first shots of it (though I’ve never had a chance to shoot it.
  2. After the location, I think the light is really wonderful. It’s low, so directional, and I think this same location was photographed at high noon, it never would have made my list, so take that great location and add really interesting, almost dramatic light, and it’s a winner.
  3. One reason the light is so awesome is that the sun is obviously very low in the sky. Not late enough that it turned the scene orange, but low enough to rake across the scene. Very late in the day sun, I’m guessing.
  4. The composition is really nice, too with the two lone trees set off to the far right and that made the whole shot more interesting as the image pulls your image to the trees. All that negative space to the left helped a bunch to draw your eye, too.
  5. The shot has a wide-angle look, and I would have guessed that the photographer used a wide-angle lens, but I’ve been told by friends who have shot the Palouse that to get the classic shots you need to use a very long lens, so I’m guessing that what they did here, but it is in a wide format versus tall, so let’s just say it a wide shot that’s not necessarily shot with a wide-angle lens.

TIP: Did you notice that I didn’t choose “camera settings” as an important aspect s what makes this shot great? Spoiler alert: for most images, you’ll analyze, camera settings will be almost irrelevant to the success of the shot. There’s an important photography lesson in there. :)

So, that’s the next stop. Number the ones from last week in the order that you think they contributed to the success of the shot. You can do three, four or five, but you can see from my list, by the time you get down to numbers four and five, they’re just not as important as those top two or three.

Good luck, and we’ll catch you maybe on Friday (if all goes as planned, but nothing is going as planned these days, so…).

Looking forward to teaching a bunch of photographers in Houston today (and LA on Wednesday).

We switch my live in-person eminar to a live online seminar (for everybody’s health and safety), so today I’m doing my full “Ultimate Photography Crash Course” seminar to the folks in Houston, Texas today live, just like I would do it if I were there in person. I’m doing the same thing for photographers in LA on Wednesday. I’m looking forward to chatting with those fine folks, and answering questions and spending the day together online.

Have a safe, healthy, stay-indoors kinda week. :)

-Scott

We wanted to do something for all us photographers who are stuck inside with limited shooting opportunities, and so we’re making the Webinars we normally do just for KelbyOne members, available to everyone, everywhere for free until this awful virus is behind us. There’s no credit card required, no sales pitch, etc. — just a bunch of photographers getting together to work on all that stuff we said we’re going to do “once we have some spare time.” :-)

Check out the video for the type of stuff we’re going to do, but we’re kicking it off today at 11:00 AM ET with a Webinar on how to prep your images for printing at a photo lab. I’m going to cover everything from scratch, from the start all the way through uploading the file to the lab (it’s all easier than you’d think), and with now being such a great time to catch up on stuff like this, I think this will help a lot, and you’ll have some fun.

I’m even going to give away the print we’re sending to the lab during the Webinar to someone watching live today.

I’ll be taking your questions live during the Webinar, and we’ve got a lot more coming, so keep an eye out here, or follow me on social (Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook) and please tell your photography friends as everyone is welcome.

WHO: Me and you
WHAT: Free photography Webinars
WHERE: http://kelbyone.com/webcast
WHEN: The first one is today (Friday) at 11:00 AM ET
WHY: Cause we’re all stuck inside, and this is something we can do to help. :)
Keep your hands washed, look out for one another, stay healthy, and we’ll see you online later today. :)

Here’s to a safe, healthy weekend for everybody.

-Scott

In part one of our journey about your photography (link), your assignment was to go on Instagram and find 20 to 25 images of the exact type of photos you want to be making; and then make a screen capture of them and save them to your camera roll.

Step Two (today): 

This 2nd step is harder, and it takes a lot longer, but it’s such an important part of this process. Step Two is you becoming an “image detective” where you analyze the images you chose in Step One, and break them down to their most basic building blocks. Why this takes longer is you MUST write your analysis down. You can do it on a text app, or the notes app on your phone, a spreadsheet if you’re really nerdy, or you can go “old school” and write it with a pen and paper. Don’t waste time on the method you choose — just choose one and get ready to write.

How to Analyze an Image

Well, here’s how I do it anyway, and I use a 10-point system to get me started. It starts with easy questions, and then it gets tougher, but the answers you write are more revealing:

  1. Is the image wide or tall? What basic type of lens do you think it was taken with?
  2. Is it natural light, flash, or both?
  3. What time of day was it most-likely taken? Dawn, Dusk, high-noon?
  4. What is the subject of the image? A person, a mountain, a stream, etc., and what is the overall setting of the image? Do you recognize the location?
  5. How would you describe the overall light in the photo? Describe the direction of the light. If it’s a flash, can you determine where the flash was positioned by looking in the subject’s eyes?
  6. Is the subject interesting or beautiful or intriguing in some way?
  7. Is there an overall tone to the image? Is it warm with many yellow and/or orange or red tones, or cold with more blue or cyan tones?
  8. Can I figure out the f/stop it was taken with (f/11? F/1.8?) by looking at the background?
  9. Explain the composition. Where is the subject in the frame and why do you think the photographer put the subject there?
  10. What kind of post-processing did the photographer apply to the image? Was it retouched? Is there a tint added? Were things added, removed, etc.

    BONUS QUESTION: If you had to choose one thing about this image that makes it special, what would that be?

That’s my starting list, and depending on the image, it might require me to write a few extra descriptive lines. OK, here’s how I would break down the image below:

  1. Is the image wide or tall? What basic type of lens do you think it was taken with?
    It’s wide. A long telephoto lens. Maybe a 300mm or 400mm. It’s pretty close, could even have used a tele-extender.
  2. Was it taken using natural light, flash, or both?
    Natural light outdoors.
  3. What time of day was it most-likely taken? Dawn, Dusk, high-noon?
    Daytime, but the light doesn’t look too harsh so I’m thinking late in the day.
  4. What is the main subject of the image? A person, a mountain, a stream, etc., and what is the overall setting of the image? Do you recognize the location?
    It’s the jet climbing out. There are mountains in the background so I imagine it’s taken somewhere out in the Western US. The setting is probably either an airshow or a Military base.
  5. How would you describe the overall light in the photo? Describe the direction of the light. If it’s a flash, can you determine where the flash was positioned by looking in the subject’s eyes?
    Soft light from the sun on a very cloudy day, so overall diffused light.
  6. Is the subject interesting or beautiful or intriguing in some way?
    Great subject (well, for aviation enthusiasts, anyway). It’s a Navy jet — an FA/18 EA Growler. I think what makes it better is that you see the thrust in the engines, and that it’s “clean” (the landing gear is already tucked away), and the soft light makes a big difference.
  7. Is there an overall tone to the image? Is it warm with many yellow and/or orange or red tones, or cold with more blue or cyan tones?
    It’s got a cool, overall bluish look to it, which makes sense since it’s up in the sky.
  8. Can I figure out the f/stop it was taken with (f/11? F/1.8?) by looking at the background?
    The background is a bit out of focus, so I imagine it was taken with a more wide-open f/stop, like f/4 or f/5.6 (I just went and checked, and I was wrong — it was taken at f/9. Now that I know that, I wish I had used f/5.6 to get those mountain more out of focus).
  9. Explain the composition. Where is the subject in the frame and why do you think the photographer put the subject there?
    The subject is off-center to the left a bit. I think the reason the photographer put it there is so there’s more room in front of the aircraft, so it doesn’t feel boxed-in to the viewer. Also, it’s just below the center vertically, so he wanted to show more sky.
  10. What kind of post-processing did the photographer apply to the image? Was it retouched? Is there a tint added? Were things added, removed, etc.
    Looks like there’s some vignetting around the outside. Also, it looks like either Dehaze or contrast was added in post. It also looks like it was sharpened in post.

BONUS QUESTION: If you had to choose one thing about this image that makes it special, what would that be?
For me, it’s that it’s a photo of a jet fighter. I think the subject is what makes me like the shot right from the start.

So, that’s one example, let’s do another. The previous shot was mine, so that made it easy — this next one is an image from Adobe Stock by photographer Eugenio Marongiu.

  1. Is the image wide or tall? What basic type of lens do you think it was taken with?
    It’s wide. The background is way out of focus, and if I had to guess a lens, it would be an 85mm f/1.4 or f/1.8. Could be a 70-200mm as well, but either way, it’s zoomed in tight.
  2. Was it taken using natural light, flash, or both?
    Natural light outdoors. Could have maybe used a fill flash, but I doubt it. More likely, the photographer just over-exposed the shot to fill in her face, or there’s a reflector just out of frame at her chest level.
  3. What time of day was it most-likely taken? Dawn, Dusk, high-noon?
    Daytime, but later in the day (based on where the sun is hitting her hair). Not dusk, but maybe 4:30 or 5:00 pm.
  4. What is the main subject of the image? A person, a mountain, a stream, etc., and what is the overall setting of the image? Do you recognize the location?
    It’s a portrait-style shot. Almost a headshot. Looks like it could have been taken at the beach. There’s almost a surf-vibe to the background surroundings. Also, could simply just be an outdoor park.
  5. How would you describe the overall light in the photo? Describe the direction of the light. If it’s a flash, can you determine where the flash was positioned by looking in the subject’s eyes?
    Overall, nice soft light on the subject’s face, because the sun is clearly behind her. Only a little bit of light is hitting her cheek on the left side of the image. Since the sun is behind her, there’s no direct sun on her face (except that cheek), so the light is soft and flattering.
  6. Is the subject interesting or beautiful or intriguing in some way?
    Great subject who is very photogenic. I would guess she is a professional lifestyle model. She has a beautiful smile and great skin, with great hair. The tilt of her head makes her look friendly — like somebody you’d have coffee with at Starbucks. The more I look at it, the more sure I am that she’s a professional model, not just a friend of the photographer.
  7. Is there an overall tone to the image? Is it warm with many yellow and/or orange or red tones, or cold with more blue or cyan tones?
    It’s got a warmish tone, with greens and yellows split between the highlights and shadows. Very popular look.
  8. Can I figure out the f/stop it was taken with (f/11? F/1.8?) by looking at the background?
    With the background being that out of focus, I’m thinking f/1.4, f/1.8 or f/2.8.
  9. Explain the composition. Where is the subject in the frame, and why do you think the photographer put the subject there?
    The subject is pretty much centered in the frame horizontally, but the top of her head is cut off at the top of the frame, so it has a very contemporary look.
  10. What kind of post-processing did the photographer apply to the image? Was it retouched? Is there a tint added? Were things added, removed, etc.
    There’s definitely some color toning added — either split-toning or some cinematic color grading, or maybe just a Lightroom Creative Profile has been applied that gives it its yellowish/greenish overall tint. I imagine some basic portrait retouching was done as well, removing blemishes, etc.

BONUS QUESTION: If you had to choose one thing about this image that makes it special, what would that be?
It’s the subject’s expression, which gives the whole image it’s vibe.

OK, that’s the idea. You’ve got a lot of work to do before Part 3 of our assignment (luckily, it’s easier, and I’m hoping to do it Friday if all goes as planned, but these days, it’s hard to make solid plans).

Please take good care of yourself; wash those hands for 20-seconds, look out for each other, help folks in our local community who need our help, and we’ll catch you all back here tomorrow for Travel Tuesday with Dave (which probably should be temporarily renamed, “Don’t Go Anywhere” with Dave).

Good luck on your assignment,

-Scott

One of the things I look forward to every year is my live seminar stops in Houston and Los Angeles. Both great cities with some of the most fun and engaging crowds I get to present to all year.

I’m thankful we will be able to do the seminar for the folks in those two cities, but after closely monitoring the rapidly changing COVID-19 virus situation and out of concern for the health of our seminar attendees and our staff, we have made the difficult decision to not gather us all together in person at the convention center. Instead, we’ll be live-streaming the entire seminar online (same dates, same times), but exclusively for the folks in those two cities.

I can’t tell you how disappointed I am that I won’t be there in-person getting to greet everybody and seeing some old friends (and making new ones), but I feel very thankful that we still have a way to present the full day of training, in its entirety without having to worry for one another’s health.

We’ve done live-stream seminars like this before — to photographers in areas of Europe where we weren’t able to bring the tour in person, so we have the technology and experience and the whole day comes off amazingly well from start to finish. Of course, the folks in LA and Houston will be able to see me the whole time, but I’m a bit bummed I won’t be able to see everybody myself. So, while I really wish we could all be together on location, our collective health is more important, and while difficult, you and I both know it’s the right thing to do.

After Houston and LA, we had Charlotte and Raleigh lined up as my next two stops but for now, we’ve made the decision to postpone my seminar in those two cities all together until this is all behind us, and we can head back out on the road live again.

I’ll have more news about our live events on Monday, so make sure you check back then, and I’ll keep everybody updated here on my blog and through my social media.

Until then, stay safe; wash those hands well (for 20-seconds) anytime you go out and when you come back home, and here’s wishing you, our country and the world good health and a stay-at-home weekend with brighter days ahead for us all.

-Scott

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