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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

Mastering Selections and Masks in Photoshop with Dave Cross

There’s no better time to be alive than now when it comes to making selections and masks! Join Dave Cross as he teaches you the key tools and techniques for ending up with great selections and masks. In this class you learn the relationship between selections and masks, the fundamentals of selections, how to use the main manual selection tools, how to get the most out of the automated selection tools, specialized selection techniques, how to work with masks, and so much more.

Dave gives you a chance to put all of this theory into practice by downloading the course files and following along on two projects designed to help you master these techniques.

In Case You Missed It… Mastering Layers: Beginner Techniques

Join Dave Cross to learn how to become successful using Photoshop’s layers. Aimed at beginners, this class is designed to help you understand what a layer is, discover what types of layers exist and the ways they can be used, navigate the Layers panel, learn how to manage your layers, and much more.

Understanding layers is the key to unlocking Photoshop’s tremendous capabilities for all manner of creative pursuits. By the end of this class you’ll have the confidence to take on more challenging projects.

Image courtesy of Chris Steppig

Conquering the Sport of Kings

Arguably known as the oldest team sport in the world dating back to 247BC, the Persian army used polo to train the elite cavalry before conquering through the many kingdoms in the Middle East.

Word of mounted armies quickly spread across the eastern hemisphere, soon adopting this training method as the most noble of pastimes by kings and emperors, thus giving it the nickname “The Sport of Kings.”

Coming from an extreme sports background, I had no idea what I was getting into when I found an opportunity to make pictures of an equine sport that I knew little of, other than the cool silhouette on my cologne bottle.

After years of hanging around a polo club on Sundays, learning the sport, making pictures, failing on pictures, and sharing the best, I am now into my third season as the official club photographer at Sarasota Polo Club located in the Tampa Bay area of Florida. 

Equestrian sports can be tricky dealing with two completely different species of athletes working together as one unit; but rewarding if you know the basic guidelines on how to make a great horse action picture. These five tips might come off as Polo specific, but many things can be applied to other sports or genres of photography. 

Start The Day Following Action Outside Of Your Viewfinder

Get a feel for the pace of the game and you’ll start seeing things happen consistently, which is where you can hone in on making a particular image. The overall atmosphere will dictate how fast the game is played with important details like player proficiency handicap, crowd size, weather, and time of day all to be considered. Understanding these factors will help when planning on your vantage point to make a stellar image. 

Be Aware Of Your Surroundings

Horse grooms are usually found on a corner of an end-zone, anticipating mallet changes and ready for athletes to come storming in and switch horses. This can make a unique horse switch image. Know if you are in a prime zone for hit flying balls coming your way.

Wind can play a crucial factor in how far back these world-class athletes will hit the ball, sometimes soaring more than 60 yards before making it through the goal posts. Be cautious of the side boards and the safety zones, which are meant for athletes to slow and turn horses before returning to play.

The end zones make for great images but is the most dangerous place to be as you usually have multiple horses nudging and racing in at speeds of 30mph battling for possession all the way to the goal line.

Tell The Story 

Move and make different images. Standing in one place will really get you the same types of action, but moving to a different part of the field can have huge benefits. The regulation polo field is the size of nearly five football fields combined, measuring in as the largest field in organized sport. That’s a lot of space where neck shots, back shots, blocks, chase-downs, and breakaways can occur.

Use the space to tell the story and take advantage of the action when it comes closest to you. Also, be on the lookout for the classic tea party hats, mallets, horse-grooms, bright colors, and champagne to make interesting images of the atmosphere of the day.

Research

Go to USPA and learn about the game. The goal direction for each team switches after each goal is made. This is to give each team equal conditions for fair play in regard to weather and sunlight.

There are six chukkers (similar to periods) in a regulation game. Each chukker is 7 minutes and 30-second-long, with breaks in between each to allow riders to switch horses, mallets, adjust strategy, and grab a drink of water.

There is usually a halftime between the third and fourth chukker where fans walk out on the playing field and help the staff stomp down divots that the horses make when they turn and/or kick up hard. There are lots of opportunity to make different types of images.

I suggest reaching out to the club to see if they have a photographer that would be willing to go over basic club rules. Remember these clubs are all private that hold a public event on a Sunday or Friday, so the club has the final say on what is permitted and where you can photograph from.

Research horse imagery. Look at the leg/hoof placement, facial expressions of both horses and people, tack details, polo mallet, and ball location. Think about slowing the shutter way down and getting a nice motion pan.  

Share Your Work

Polo clubs and players especially love to see images of themselves defining gravity and chasing a 3-1/2” diameter ball down a massive field. Don’t be afraid to tag the club or athlete when you make a great image. Who knows, it could lead to the horse owner reaching out and wanting to purchase a specific print for their barn or as an advertisement image to rent/sell polo ponies.

Image courtesy of Douglas DeFelice

When I’m not shooting polo, I can be found on the sidelines of major sporting events as a Getty Images photographer, or photographing interior and exterior views of beautiful architecture. I also like to keep a flow of portraiture work to continue learning light and experimenting looks with new athletes.

Along with being a freelance photographer, I have been Dave Black’s first assistant and producer for the past six years, Scott Kelby’s photo assistant for over three years, Photoshop World staff and lighting producer for five years, and workshop staff with Summit Workshops since 2016. 

Thank you Scott and Brad for the opportunity to voice my opinion on a sport I hold so dear to my heart. The action keeps me sharp and in-tune but the connections with the horses is what continues to bring me back.    

Ms. Queenie (left) and Mason Chukker (right) pose beside the Sarasota Polo clubhouse to promote the 2020 Season Mascot partnership with Southeastern Guide Dogs.

The 2020 Sarasota Polo Season runs through April 12, 2020, with public matches held every Sunday and the last Friday of March. 

Where You Can Learn With Me

Find me helping Scott at his May Hands-on Flash Workshop in Florida or at one of the upcoming Summit Workshops including Lighting and Sports where we can work on understanding light, photography tips, assistant knowledge, or general career questions. I’m always willing to sit down and help. 

You can see more of Julio’s work at JulioAguilar.com, and keep up with him on Instagram and Facebook.

With everything that’s happening around us lately, we’re having all sorts of events cancelled, and these events are lost opportunities to learn and network. It’s a shame and it’s a huge loss, but what can we do? If, like me, you were due to attend an event that has been cancelled over Coronavirus issues, there are other ways to continue learning.

Practice every day. Seriously, every day, all day. Whenever you see an opportunity, take it. I find that quite often the shots that end up performing best to an audience aren’t the ones I expected to, and aren’t the ones I’d planned prior. In fact, it’s normally the photos that were completely unplanned, that were completely spontaneous, are often the ones I end up liking the most, too.

While in isolation, quarantine, or simply stuck at home rather than at one of these cancelled events, there’s a great opportunity to learn in other ways, and practicing every day is one of these ways to learn.

Number one on my list is jumping onto KelbyOne.com to watch some courses. If you aren’t already a KelbyOne member, you can sign up for a Free membership and get access to 22 courses, or 800+ courses with the Pro membership.

If you want to enhance your skills in other ways, you could pick up a podcast. I’d start with He Shoots He Draws, Picturing Success, or Behind The Shot. There are tons of creative podcasts out there, and they’re well worth a listen if you want to get the creative juices flowing.

Top of the list is practice. They do say practice makes perfect, and it’s for good reason. Take every opportunity you can to get out and take photos, or to just take photos where you happen to be. We all have a camera on us most of the time, right on our phone. Taking this camera and shooting what we see is a great learning experience. One way to set a challenge is to simply stop somewhere and find five things to take a photo of, forcing yourself to be creative and find composition and subjects. Taking this up a step, we can then use Lightroom Mobile or another app to retouch the resulting image and get used to using the correction tools to deliver a result. All this comes out of nothing.

Team, make the most of the difficulties you face and create a positive from them. We face difficulties and demanding situations, and this period seems to be one of them at various degrees depending on where in the world you are. Hang in there, make the most of it – you got this.

Much love
Dave

Well, technically it’s a prototype of the Platyball — it’s pretty close, but still not a final shipping version ( Their Kickstarter.com campaign ends in six days, so I wanted to get in this field report before the price kicks up to retail).

I know a lot of you already know what a Platyball is (if not, click here), but for those of you wondering what it’s like actually shooting with one, I got a chance this past week (up to that point, I had seen the prototype and held it, but never actually go to use one).

In the video below I share the pros and cons after getting a chance to shoot with it out in the field. Check it out:

I hope you found that helpful.

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I’m In Houston & LA In Just a Couple of Weeks!

My full-day “Ultimate Photography Crash Course” seminar next stops are in Houston on Monday, March 23, and then Los Angeles on Wednesday, March 25th. Hope you can come out and join me for the day. Tickets and info right here. 

Have a good one!

Scott

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