Category Archives Guest Blogger

Focus Your Fall Portfolio:
Work with a Theme to Create a Unique Collection of Images

When autumn photography season approaches, I start to anticipate the making of new photographs. I have some ideas to share that may help you develop an excellent portfolio for the fall season. I have found it useful, for myself and for teaching my students, to think about creating a story line, or clear thematic focus, for your work.

Autumn Elm and Sunbeams, Cook’s Meadow, Yosemite National Park, California 2014

Consider what specific locations or aspects of autumn inspire you the most. The location could be your backyard, a nearby park or reserve, or a travel location where you can spend at least a few days to explore the area fully. A favorite aspect might include colorful reflections, or the patterns of fallen leaves, or a series focused on branch-filled tapestries of color. This approach of specialization will help distinguish your autumn images from other photographers’ work.

Two key elements needed for your selection of an autumn theme are passion for the subject and easy access during the season. Passion is a must-have ingredient for creative, insightful imagery. Repeated access to your location will build your knowledge of the light, weather, and seasonal changes, helping you find the best conditions for making great photographs. One idea would be to photograph the transition of autumn in your area, from the first hints of color in green trees to the last clinging leaves. This transition offers us great opportunities to communicate that visceral sense we all feel of time and the season moving forward.

Instead of trophy hunting for singular, spectacular scenic images, I like to explore around for quiet images, ones that don’t shout too loud. In Yosemite, for example, I often find exciting details on the forest floor, in river reflections, or on cliff faces. Finding unique images often involves photographing small sections of the landscape rather than the wide views. However, even though I usually focus on intimate details, that doesn’t mean I will avoid those epic, rare events where weather and/or light explode with drama and energy.

I have included some examples here from recent seasons in Yosemite Valley. Over a two-week period in late October and early November, I worked with private students in Yosemite Valley. I greatly enjoy the one-on-one process of helping photographers find their own vision, and sharing mine with them. 

On one dramatic morning, an amazing confluence of peak autumn color and morning mist rising off a frosted meadow unfolded before my student and me. We started out photographing from one excellent vantage point, then raced to where the sun was directly behind the extraordinary tree pictured in the opening image, where we witnessed sunbeams bursting through the graceful branches.

Knowing that the mist would burn off soon, we worked rapidly to find the best camera position for him to block the rising sun with the tree’s limbs. Even though the lens was shaded, the high contrast and rapidly changing situation called for bracketing exposures to ensure a full range of data was captured. The end result, for both of us, were top portfolio “keepers” that portray the symbolism of “a new day,” and “light shining through the darkness.”

But just as exciting to me were several quiet Yosemite images I photographed that fall. In my opinion, quiet intensity in an image can endure and engage the viewer for longer. With subtle imagery comes a depth that can be enjoyed more over time. 

When I pull together a group of photographs, such as from that autumn, I edit the collection by looking for the highest and most consistent quality, as well as for a balance of scale, light, weather, and subject matter. I might use a few wide-angle views to set the context of the portfolio as Yosemite Valley.

However, my main focus would be my intimate landscapes, such as the river with tree reflections, or leaves floating through autumn-colored river reflections, as shown in the photograph Maple Leaves Along the Merced River. When you see the selected images as a group, such as in an exhibit or online gallery, they should create a visual story, a personal exploration, a creative viewpoint. 


Here I have created a small selection of recent autumn photographs from Yosemite.

Maple Leaves and the Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California 2016
Merced River Reflections, autumn, Yosemite National Park, California 2018
Cottonwoods, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California
Autumn Reflections, Yosemite National Park, California 2019
Autumn Oaks and Snowstorm, Yosemite National Park, California 2015
Black Oaks and Sunbeams, Yosemite National Park, California 2016
Fallen leeaves and ferns, Yosemite National Park, California 2013
Autumn Sunset on El Capitan and the Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California 2013
Oak reflections, El Capitan and the Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California 2012
Cottonwood leaves and grasses, Yosemite National Park, California 2012
Black oaks, autumn, El Capitan Meadow, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California 1984

Autumn Light

What light is best for autumn photography? When I look through my favorite fall images, I see that I’ve favored two main types of light. The soft, even lighting of an overcast day, especially a rainy one, is prime light for forest scenes. Generally, the even tonalities make it easier to see the strong colors and details of leaves and branches of most forest scenes. 

Zaria Love, location in Brooklyn, NY (Photo by Eugene Mertz)

My Journey: My Disability Become My Invincibility

On June 5th 2018 I became a different person mentally, spiritually, and physically.  In other words, I was triggered, exhausted, and just plain defeated. All of these feelings came from being diagnose with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

MS is an autoimmune disease that affects an individual’s brain (nervous system) and spine. Being struck with this kind of news lead me into a dark and depressing universe. The first thought that came to mind was “How are you still going to be a photographer and cope with this disease?” Many thoughts popped up with a mixture of confusion.

Before I was diagnosed with MS, photography became my passion, love, and sanity. Photography all started with a trip with my best friend to New York in 2014. Just being able to see New York in its true essence was an eye opener in terms of my creativity. New York became my canvas and the paint brush was my phone camera. Another canvas was Washington DC. Being around the area allowed me to work with other photographers/models and grow as a creative.

Patrick J. Pierre, location in Washington, DC (Photo by Zaria Love)

By August 2018, my disability took a heavy toll on me and the treatment I was on was ineffective. I came to a point where I refused to complete crazy tasks in my condition. Luckily, this all changed when I was scrolling down Instagram; it was like a light blub moment. I figured that I can continue with photography. My new journey started at that moment.

The first photo shoot I accomplished after being diagnosed with MS was when my siblings had to help in regards to my balance while shooting. To paint a better picture, my sister was assisting me by holding my legs and my brother was standing behind me holding my upper body. To the average bystander we all looked silly but it was very much worth it. After that shoot, I knew photography was here to stay evermore.

Wasilat, location in Maryland (Photo by Zaria Love)

Early 2019, I took a leap of faith and moved to Los Angeles, California. The move was to continue my growth in photography and to start a new chapter. Being able to work with other creative individuals on the west coast brought a whole new perspective.

For example, I was able to execute a photo shoot on Will Rogers State Beach. At first, I was very nervous but once both of us were comfortable everything began to flow and go accordingly. My walker was deep in the sand and the currents were pretty high but the photos depicted strength.

Additionally, I find it truly fascinating on how others are still willing to work with me given my condition. It’s a beautiful feeling. Although MS is my disability it did not stop me from living my life and pursuing the love and passion I have for photography.

Kudzanai, location Will Rogers State Beach, CA. (Photo by Zaria Love)

Special Thanks: I would love give a special thanks to Eugene Mertz, who is a great photographer, for inspiring me to get into photography. And a special thanks to Polly Irungu for her support and creating an amazing database for Black Women Photographers.

You can see more of Zaria’s work and keep up with her on Instagram.

Photo by Anna Kuperberg

Big Secrets of Composition 

Have you ever been thrown off by composition? Or more exactly, been challenged by use of the same composition that you’ve used in dozens (if not 1000s) of images? Another way of putting it is, how can you avoid plagiarizing yourself and come up with fresh images?

If so, you’re not alone: how to compose images came up recently in a survey as the number one challenge our community had.

Friends Jumping Off Sand Dune, Moro Bay, CA

And there’s a reason for it: there are two big false beliefs I’ve found that cut right across learning composition. See if you’ve encountered either or both.

  1. There’s no way to teach composition since there are no rules or guides, it is something you just have to feel. I’m not going to name, names here, to protect the guilty, but I’ve heard if often, how one has to just develop this sense of what makes for good composition.
  2. On the other side of this pendulum lives the school of the rules of composition: The rule of thirds being the leading law cited by this camp. It’s almost as though the photo-police will issue you a citation for any violations – ooh, your subject is right in the center, how could you?
Fausto in Window, Sierra Madre, Mexico

As with most things in life, it turns out the answer lies somewhere in the middle. What I have found to be true is, yes, there are no rules, but there are guides that you can follow and from these are able to develop your visual vocabulary.


Newborn Baby Photography

I am so happy, thrilled actually, to be on the blog this week! Thank you for having me.

I am Tracy Sweeney, child/family photographer and owner of Elan Studio in Bristol, Rhode Island. I want to share with you my approach to newborn photography, specifically how I style newborns using various textures to craft natural, sweet, and emotional images. I will teach you how to create multiple images within the same set to maintain efficiency while crafting creative images guaranteed to impress your clients and fans.

I do this specifically through my ONE SET, MANY IMAGES approach. This begins with preparing one full set.


Position baby comfortably in full set. Layer natural textures, soft fabrics to create interest and contrast. Wrap or swaddle baby to keep limbs close to body. Use extra swaddling blankets underneath layers to help position baby, lift head, support arms/legs etc. so that baby is comfortable and his/her body rests peacefully.


Using the same set/position, photograph baby from a side angle, focusing on a slight downward profile image. Keep eye closest to you in focus and shoot with a large aperture to soften features.


Use a Macro lens to focus on baby’s bitty features.


Continue to focus on additional features within the pose. Consider alternative angles and closeups.


Being here on a Wednesday is a change of scenery for me. I’m Dave Williams, and I usually write the #TravelTuesday column here on, but today I’m joining you all on a Wednesday for a guest blog post, and I’m pretty excited about it.

I’ve updated my Northern Lights book for the season, which begins now. It’s available right now, but I wanted to give some insight into my relationship with lady Aurora, so here goes.

It begins during a strange part of my life. It was a kind of ‘in-between’ time when I wasn’t sure what my path was. I knew I was progressing with my photography, but I was mindful of it becoming an income generator because it was a passion – it was my ‘happy place’ and I didn’t want that to become labour. What I’ve managed to do is find a ‘happy place’ within my ‘happy place’ – that being the northern lights.

It all started more or less the same time I began to travel. I was in a strange place in my life, and with my photography passion, I had always been interested in unfamiliar landscapes. I began to try and explore them and started with Iceland, with which I immediately felt great affection.

I was in Iceland some years ago, in January, and I woke up early in the morning to drive a few hours from Reykjavik to Solheimasandur. On a pristine, wild black sand beach, there’s a wreckage of a Douglas DC-3 Dakota belonging to the United States Navy. I travelled in darkness to reach it both by car and on foot, trekking several kilometres through slushy black sand, and arrived just in time for sunrise – my first light in Iceland. I was pleased with my achievement and had an excellent time shooting that plane, which set me up for a great day ahead.

The thing is, it was an Icelandic winters day, so it was a concise one. I had just a few hours of daylight to explore and spent much of it exploring as much of the south coast as I was able to before I ran out of time. By the evening, I had reached Thingvellir. I was on the Thingvallavegur, the main road through the park, and began to turn my search skywards for the elusive northern lights.

I was standing in a flowing, pristinely snow-covered landscape with my head turned toward the stars, straining my eyes and wondering whether I was seeing things or whether it was my imagination as I listened to the howling gale or the polar wind. Snowflakes drifted just above the ground at break-neck speeds, and the light of a new moon played tricks on my eyes, showing me reasons why Icelanders may believe in elvenfolk, or elves.

Above me, in the star flooded sky, I was watching what I thought were clouds forming. The dull greyness moved slowly, pulsating in the air, though I struggled to see it through focused, squinted eyes. The clouds seemed to move in a way I’d never noticed clouds move before. They almost swirled and danced slowly, pulsing and changing in opacity as I looked up confused.

I was beside my idling rental car which was toasty-warm, and the stereo happened to be playing Pray by Take That (my musical taste is impeccable) which contains the line, “I’m so cold and all alone.” The feeling, the atmosphere, and the lyrics connected perfectly to me at that moment in time and that moment in my life.


7 Tips for Photographers

Hi there, I’m Polly. I’m a journalist, photographer, and a bunch of other labels.

This past month, I soft launched Black Women Photographers, a global community and database of Black women and non-binary photographers on July 7th, my 26th birthday. Before the launch, I kickstarted everything off with a COVID-19 relief fund — #BWPReliefFund — to help those in the community who have been hit hard by the pandemic. 

I’ve learned quite a bit in a short period of time. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m literally just getting started in my career, however, I want to share seven things I’ve learned along the way.

Tip 1: Remove The Word ‘Aspiring’ From Your Bio

Please, I’m begging you. Are you a photographer or not? If you are, say that. You only have a few seconds to grab someone’s attention. Do you really want to waste it with filler words?

Tip 2: Do It On Your Own Terms

What do I mean by that? I’ve quickly learned that some of my favorite photographers, creative directors, writers, you name it… they all have one thing in common: they do it on their own terms.

You would think it would be easy enough, since there is no blueprint for this, but it is not. With social media being a highlight reel, it creates a false perception that your favorite creative people have it all under control. Spoiler alert: we do not. We are tweeting and Instagramming through it, too.

However, I’ve quickly learned that the more I listened to my inner voice, the more wins I’ve had. I’m doing this on my own terms. Most importantly, I’m having fun with it.

Tip 3: Remove Those Boxes