Category Archives Guest Blogger

Photo by Levi Sim at Photoshop World 2016

10 Years of Lightroom Help Desk Advice

On Feb 19th, 2017 Lightroom celebrated it’s 10th anniversary, which also happens to be the
day I celebrated 10 years of providing Lightroom Help Desk support. Huzzah! I’ve had the honor
and pleasure of helping a lot of people in that time, and I owe that all to Scott. Being invited
back for a second guest post here is a privilege, and I figured it was the perfect opportunity
to share back some of the most important (and hopefully useful) Help Desk advice I’ve given in
that time. Here are the top 10 things every Lightroom user should know*:

*Disclaimer, these tips are intended to be helpful, but don’t just do them without
understanding all of what is involved. If you have any questions feel free to reach out to me
directly before you act, and I can help you with your specific situation.

1. Set Your Default Catalog

The most important thing every Lightroom user needs to know is where your Lightroom catalog
is located on your system. Even if you think you know, it’s worth taking a moment to make sure
(you’d be surprised how many people find it is not where they expect). With Lightroom open,
go to Lightroom > Catalog Settings > General (Win: Edit > Catalog Settings >
General), and note the name of the catalog and the path to where it is located. Is it where you
expected? If so, great! If not, here’s how you can move it to a new location:

  1. Click the Show button on the General tab of the Catalog Settings to open the folder
    containing your catalog in your file browser.
  2. Quit Lightroom. If prompted to backup, click skip for now.
  3. Copy the folder containing the Lightroom catalog (.LRCAT) and its associated preview
    caches to the location you want it to be stored (pick a locally connected internal or external
    drive).
  4. Once the copy operation is complete, double-click the catalog file to open it back
    into Lightroom. This way you can make sure all is working fine, and the new location will be
    included in the preferences.

Now, whether you moved your catalog or not, this next step is important. I highly recommend
that you manually configure this catalog to be the Default catalog (in other words, don’t use
Load most recent catalog). To do this, go to Lightroom > Preferences > General (WIN: Edit
> Preferences > General), and set the When starting up use this catalog option to the
specific catalog you just opened.

Remember, if you moved your catalog to a new location, don’t forget to go back and remove
the original folder containing your old catalog. Having a good backup in place is good idea too
(which I’ll cover in a bit).

2. Know Where Your Photos are Located

It is equally important for all Lightroom users to know how to find exactly where a given folder
or photo resides on your drive from inside Lightroom. There are a few ways to identify where
your folders and photos exist on your drive. The easiest is the good old right-click contextual
menu. Go ahead and right-click any folder in the Folders panel and choose the Show in Finder
(WIN: Show in Explorer) menu. This will open your file browser right to that folder and show
you where it exists on your drive.

Similarly, you can right-click any photo and access that same Show in menu to take you right to
that photo in your file browser. You don’t have to go that far to find that information though. If
you just hover your cursor over a folder you should see its path revealed in a tooltip popup. So
take a moment to make sure you know exactly where all of your photos are located on your
drive.

If they’re not where you want them, then let’s look at how to move them.

3. Know How to Use Lightroom to Move Photos and Folders

Now that you know where your photos are located it is in your best interest to use Lightroom to
move them if you need to put them somewhere else (with one exception that I’ll cover in tip 5).
Moving photos between folders or moving entire folders is as easy as drag and drop. By using
Lightroom to do the moving it not only moves the photos to the new location, but it also keeps
the catalog up to date with where the photos can be found. You see, Lightroom stores the
complete path to each photo in the catalog, and if anything in that path changes outside of
Lightroom you end up with a situation where Lightroom tells you that your photos are offline or
missing (here’s a link to an article I wrote on how to reconnect missing
photos
). This is easily avoided by doing the moving inside of Lightroom.

So to move a group of photos (or even just a single photo) from one folder to another try this:

  1. In the Folders panel, select the folder containing the photos you want to move.
  2. Press G to jump to Grid view.
  3. Select the photo(s) you want to move, and drag/drop them on the folder you want
    them to be moved into. The destination folder will highlight in blue to signal it is the target of
    the drop.

Lightroom will then do the moving, and update the catalog accordingly. You do need to have a
destination folder already showing in the Folders panel to complete the move, so let’s look at
how to add a folder next.

4. Keep All Photo Folders Within a Single Parent Folder

I have found it incredibly useful to always keep all my photo folders within a single parent
folder on each drive I use to store photos. The reason is that it makes my life so much simpler if
I ever need to move the entire photo library on that drive, or if I need to reconnect the catalog
to the photo library in the case of a primary drive failure/loss.

In typical Lightroom fashion there are a couple of ways to create new folders. To start, you can
go to the Library menu and choose New Folder, or click the plus sign at the top of the Folders
panel and choose Add Folder to launch the Choose or Create New Folder dialog. From here you
can either choose an existing folder you may have created in your file browser or you can
create a brand-new folder. For example, let’s say I want to add a new drive to my catalog and
want to select/create a folder on it:

  1. Connect drive.
  2. Go to Library > New Folder, to open the dialog for finding and creating a new
    folder at the location of your choosing.
  3. Create a new folder or select an existing folder. In my case, I had previously created
    a folder on this drive in Finder.

Note, my screen capture shows the dialog on a Mac, but on Windows you’d get a
Windows dialog. This is one of the few visual differences in Lightroom due to the operating
systems.

That drive and folder will now appear in my Folders panel. I can drag and drop photos or folders
into that folder from anywhere else in my catalog.

Another common scenario is the need to create sub-folders within existing folders to help with
your organizational needs. This process works in a similar fashion, but you start by selecting the
parent folder you want to create the subfolder within.

  1. Select the folder you want to create the subfolder within.
  2. Right-click to open the contextual menu and choose Create Folder Inside
    “foldername.” This opens a smaller Create Folder dialog box where you can give the subfolder a
    name and click Create to complete the process. The subfolder will then appear in the Folders
    panel. These folders are ready for me to add photos, and even new folders as my organizational
    needs demand.

Now that I have a parent folder, and a subfolder within it, I can move folders from another
drive into this drive by dragging and dropping on my new folder.

5. Know How to Move Your Photo Library to a New Drive

This is useful if you are wanting to move your entire photo Library from an internal drive to an
external drive, or if you are running out of space on one drive and want to move to a new larger
drive. Now, you could use Lightroom to move the folders as I just did in the previous tip, but I
don’t recommend doing that when your entire library is at stake. Using a move command is
risky, because if anything goes wrong in the middle of the transfer you could lose data. I prefer
a technique that involves copying the folders to the new drive outside of Lightroom, updating
Lightroom to this change, and then later manually deleting the files from the original location.
Here’s how:

  1. Open Finder (WIN: Explorer).
  2. Copy the entire folder structure (as-is without changing the structure) to the other
    drive.
  3. Open Lightroom.
  4. Once the copy operation is complete, right-click/ctrl-click the top-most-level folder
    in the Folders panel and choose Update Folder Location.
  5. In the resulting dialog box, navigate to and select that same top-most-level folder in
    the new drive (the one you just copied over there).

Lightroom will update the catalog to point to the folder in the new location (and everything
inside of that folder). If you have all your folders/photos in a single parent folder then you are
done, but if there are additional folders at the same level as that top folder you just need to
repeat steps 4 and 5 with those folders. Give it a test run to make sure everything is as it should
be before removing the originals. Again, having a good backup in place before you do this is
always a good idea.

6. Know How to Back Up Your Catalog

On the subject of backing up, there is a lot to say about backup strategies in general, but in the
context of Lightroom catalogs I simply want to address the built-in functionality Lightroom
provides. On the Catalog Settings dialog (see first tip) there is a place at the bottom where you
can configure Lightroom to create a duplicate copy of the catalog at some interval of time. This
is a set-it-and-forget-it type of feature, and its sole purpose is to create an exact duplicate of
your working catalog file in a location of your choosing (no photos are included in this backup).

I will assume you already have some sort of full system backup running that regularly backs up
all your important files, and so you may wonder if you really need this option running too.
Based on the experience of helping people with Lightroom problems over the years I feel that it
is in your best interests to take advantage of this built-in functionality. Sure, it may be
redundant, but it is free, it is easy, and it may just one day make you weep with gratitude. I set
mine to run every time I quit Lightroom, which make Lightroom throw up this prompt every
time I exit.

It is only in this prompt that I can choose where I want my backup copy to be saved by clicking
the Choose button and selecting a location. I recommend that you choose a different drive than
the drive where your working catalog is stored. In my case, my laptop has a single internal
drive, so I direct the backup to be saved to my Dropbox folder, which is automatically synced
with the cloud and my other computers. I also take this opportunity to check the boxes for
testing integrity and optimizing the catalog. Now, just because it prompts me each time doesn’t
mean I backup every time. There is a Skip button that I use when I’m in a hurry and just want to
quit.

I try to create a backup at least once a week or after I’ve done a whole lot of work. Each time
this function runs it saves a copy of your catalog to the folder you chose. Lightroom does not
overwrite existing backup copies. As a result you end up with a folder of iterative copies of your
catalog. This can be very handy for recovering from self-inflicted problems or from the rare case
of catalog file corruption.

7. Know How to Restore From Your Backup

Since a backup copy of the catalog is an exact duplicate of your working catalog at the time the
backup was created all you must do to restore from the backup is the following:

  1. Close Lightroom (if open).
  2. Open the Lightroom folder containing your working catalog file in Finder/Windows
    Explorer.
  3. Move the “bad” catalog file out of that folder to another location for
    safekeeping.
  4. Move the latest/greatest “good” backup catalog copy into the Lightroom folder to
    replace the bad one. Starting with Lightroom 6/CC 2015 the backup copy is also compressed
    into a zip file to reduce file size (and keep people from accidentally opening a backup copy), so
    you may need to unzip the backup before you can move it into the Lightroom folder.
  5. Once placed in the Lightroom folder, double-click the catalog file to open it into
    Lightroom and take it for a test drive.

The backup copy of the catalog has the same name as your working catalog, so you should be
good to go. It will only contain all the work up until the moment you made that backup copy, so
backup frequently. If restoring from the backup solved your problem, don’t forget to delete the
“bad” catalog that you moved out earlier.

8. Manage those Backup Copies

The only downside to running the catalog backup function (aside from the time it takes to run)
is that Lightroom will keep putting new copies of the catalog into that folder until the drive is
full. The management of the backup folder falls on us. Since we only value the most recent
version(s) of the backup copies I periodically go into that folder and delete all but the most
recent 2 or 3. Note that Lightroom doesn’t backup the preview caches because those can
automatically be regenerated if lost. I’ve seen people regain hundreds of gigabytes of free
space after clearing out old backup copies.

9. Know How to Rename Your Catalog

I often hear from people who are using the most up to date version of Lightroom, but have a
catalog file named with an older version of Lightroom and it may also have some other
numbers in it, such as Lightroom 5 Catalog-2. They wonder if this is a problem, and they want to
know how to rename the catalog. First, it is not a problem at all. You can call your catalog file
anything you want to call it. Lightroom doesn’t care. However, if you want to rename it to
something that makes more sense to you, here’s how:

  1. With Lightroom closed, go to the folder where the catalog resides using your
    operating system’s file browser; Finder on Mac, and Windows Explorer on WIN.
  2. Using your file browser you can rename the catalog file, but keep the file extension
    the same (.LRCAT). Then rename the Preview cache and Smart Preview cache (if applicable) the
    same way, but retain the word Previews and Smart Previews in the name along with the
    original file extension.

So, for example if your catalog and preview cache was named:

Lightroom 5 Catalog-2.lrcat
Lightroom 5 Catalog-2 Previews.lrdata

And you wanted to change it to “Lightroom Catalog,” you would end up with:

Lightroom Catalog.lrcat
Lightroom Catalog Previews.lrdata

Once renamed, double-click the catalog file to open it into Lightroom. Now you can give it a
quick test drive to make sure all is well, and this writes the new catalog name into the
Lightroom preference file. Be sure to update your Default catalog setting to point to this
renamed catalog (see Tip 1).

10. Create a Custom Camera Raw Default

OK, all those tips were focused on library management, so let’s end on a Develop tip that could
speed up your workflow. Lightroom has a set of default processing settings that are applied to
all raw photos after import. Did you know that you can customize those settings to start your
raw photos down the processing pipeline using your preferred choices? I’m not talking about a
preset selected on the Import screen, but rather the built-in default settings. Save your import
presets for something creative, and customize the baseline settings.

Let’s go through the steps to customize the default settings to include two of the most common
adjustments people ask me about, lens corrections and camera profiles, but feel free to add any
other settings you want to customize your process (or not include these if you’d rather not).

  1. Select a raw photo that has not been processed at all beyond the default settings
    and press D to jump to Develop. Click the Reset button for good measure to ensure it has no
    other settings applied because every adjustment (even set to 0) is included in the default
    settings.
  2. Expand the Lens Corrections panel, click the Profile tab if not active already, and
    check Remove Chromatic Aberration and Enable Profile Corrections.

Note: Including profile corrections can be resource intensive, so exclude this from your
defaults if performance is degraded.

  1. Expand the Camera Calibration Panel, click the Profile drop-down menu and choose
    the camera profile you prefer to be the starting point.

Note: The list of camera profiles varies with the camera model used to create the selected
photo.

  1. Go to Develop > Set Default Settings to open the Set Default Develop Settings
    dialog box. Default settings are specific to each camera model, in this case a Nikon D610, so if
    you are using multiple camera models you will need to update the defaults for each model
    separately.

Tip: You can also hold the Option (WIN: Alt) key and watch the Reset button change to Set
Default and click that button to open the Set Default Develop Settings dialog box.

  1. Click Update to Current Settings to customize the default settings to include the
    changes you made.

Note: While it states the changes are not undoable, this just means that you can’t revert
back to the Adobe defaults via the Edit > Undo menu. You can always open this dialog box
and click Restore Adobe Default Settings if you want to go back to the original settings.

This will only affect raw photos from that specific camera model as they are imported in the
future, and if you hit the Reset button on a previously imported raw photo from that specific
camera model. You must repeat that process to set defaults for any other camera models you
are using. This does not change the settings on any previously imported photos.

I hope you’ve found some of those tips helpful. Please feel free to reach out to me with any
questions you may have, or come see me at Photoshop World, where I’ll be teaching, and
answering questions at the Expert Bar.

You can see more from Rob at photofocus.com and follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Aside from also being a KelbyOne Help Desk Specialist, and Adjunct Professor at NHTI, he is a founding member of Stocksy United (a stock photography co-op). Rob writes the “Under the Loupe” column for Lightroom User Magazine, and is the author of many photography related books. His latest book is Taming Your Photo Library with Lightroom.

10 Ways to Help Find Clients Find You

The hard truth about this industry is never really advertised. The gap between hobbyists and professional photographers has never been smaller. Technology has leveled the playing field when it comes to focus, exposure, timing, and even post processing. More capable photographers means more available imagery and thus lower prices. This presents a challenge when attempting to build and grow a successful photography business. It’s no longer enough to compete solely on skill, talent, or experience. It’s about showing your viewpoint, selling your ideas, creativity, and professionalism.

After 15 years of surviving then building a business in a post-newspaper apocalypse, why would I move from Florida to Denver? Change and growth. I needed a jump start, wanted to go back to what I felt was “home,” and start seeing differently. What I didn’t know was how to find an entirely new group of clients while satisfying my old base in a way that would allow me to keep working in both states.

The solution was a new brand, LOCK + LAND. In order to succeed I needed to elevate my business beyond a dude with a camera who likes to make colorful photos. After many long hours on the phone and many beers in person, I decided to go into business with my friend and fellow photographer, Peter Lockley. This would allow me to move beyond just waiting for the phone to ring, shooting something random, cashing a check, and repeating that cycle over and over. It would give me accountability, someone to collaborate with, and more opportunity to shoot.

I’ve had the luxury of a pretty amazing core group of clients in Florida – LEGOLAND Florida Resort, ESPN, Universal Orlando, The Player’s Tribune, New College of Florida, and Florida Department of Citrus, to name a few. They, along with a steady stream of weddings, kept me busy and fit my vision. In Colorado I had none, so how do you go about that mid career and find new ones? They’re not just going to start calling once I hit the Colorado border.

Peter and I took a very deliberate approach to growing LOCK + LAND. Here’s 10 ways we are approaching growing our business and finding new clients:

1. SOCIAL
Social media is the easiest way to get your work out there, but it’s also a challenge to reach the right people. Apps like Instagram and Facebook regulate the number of people who see each post and they charge if you want to “boost” it to a larger audience. We don’t pay to boost our content, but depending on your target audience, those channels could be very helpful. We treat it as a tool for keeping our clients informed of what we’re doing if they do pin, but it is a small piece of what we do to attract clientele.

2. EXCEL AT CUSTOMER SERVICE
This is a lost art. One of our big focuses is keeping our clients happy in Florida, to keep them using us as we grow. Most of them stuck with us during the transition, so we fly back there a lot and go out of our way to make sure they are happy. Superior customer service, having fun, and adding value to what we do with either digital library management or new services is a priority. Good customer service can lead to new opportunities. When someone in the position to hire you leaves one company, there’s a good chance they’ll end up in a position to hire you in their new job, and your client tree grows.

3. FOCUS ON BEING A GOOD PEER
Make friends in the industry. I would have never landed the LEGOLAND Florida Resort account without the recommendation of a friend for a simple press conference years ago. We also might have lost that account if not for a heads up to a change in marketing personnel from another colleague. Work is often thrown back and forth between photographers. Most importantly, do a great job if someone sends work your way. A personal recommendation is often more powerful than a great portfolio, so try to network as much as possible. We give back, we speak at colleges, we participate in photo gatherings, and we try to meet as many people as we can.

4. RESEARCH + TARGET MARKET
It’s easy to subscribe to a service that emails thousands of art buyers on your behalf. It’s a shotgun approach, and you hope that something sticks, but it rarely does. It’s not to say that you shouldn’t mass market, just be aware that there are limitations and a ton of competition in that space. We’ve talked to art directors who get hundreds of postcards every week. What we’ve done now is a create a local dream client list of 20 ad agencies and companies here in CO and find out who the actual person is that can hire and do a slow introduction to our work and familiarize themselves with our brand while at the same time learning theirs. We want to put all our marketing efforts and money into finding not a bunch of clients, but a few of the right ones. Clients who fit our vision, are fun to work for, and have potential for long-term viability. What we recommend is knowing your market, the work that is being produced there, and focusing your efforts on finding clients who are a good fit. Research every potential client. Who have they worked with in the past? Does your style fit their brand? Do they NEED your work? What can you offer?

5. MAILER, COLD CALLS, and EMAILS OH MY
While most of the time you never know if a card gets thrown out or put on a bulletin board, you still have to make sure people know you exist. You can’t expect one mailer to generate a large volume of work, but repeated impressions on a potential client have the opportunity to pay off in the long run. We try to put our work in front of a target client 4-6 times a year. Sometimes it will be a postcard, sometimes it will be a bigger promotional kit, sometimes it may just be a phone call but our goal is consistency.

6. BUILD AN AMAZING TEAM
We hire a lot of photographers, lighting assistants, digi-techs, and producers now and they’re people we could absolutely trust in any situation to knock it out of the park. In the end you’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with, and if they are giving it their all, you will be energized to do the same.

7. PERSONAL PROJECTS
This is key. I came to Colorado with a portfolio of beaches and palm trees. I didn’t have anything that spoke to the western audience. There’s no reason to sit on your butt when you could be out shooting pictures. Our desire is to do creative projects so we just started doing them. We identified some key potential clients and industries (beer, weed, travel, lifestyle, sports, etc…) and came up with some cool concepts to execute together. This not only gave us great content for the site, but helped us create a stronger working dynamic. It doesn’t matter who presses the shutter. It’s about the concept that drives the image.

8. SHARE WORK WITH THE RIGHT PEOPLE
One of the personal projects we did was within the craft brew industry. In Denver alone there are almost 300 breweries. It’s huge. You can’t really go a block without hitting a new place. What a better place to start meeting some people? We came up with a concept of deconstructing beer recipes and instead of just doing it on our own we recruited the help of 21 of the best up-and-coming breweries to pick one beer for each that used unique ingredients like ghost pepper, kale, and pineapple. In the end, we had a fun gallery showing in one of the breweries and gave all the brewers a print and copies of a time-lapse for each shot as a thank you for their help. We met some awesome people, made some future contacts for work we’re doing now, and built up a gallery to go to bigger breweries and market conceptual work.

9. BUILD A SITE THAT SAYS “I DO THIS”
If you don’t want to shoot sports, then why put that on your site? If you want to do lit portraiture for magazines, then get your friends to pose and build a portfolio. You may be the best damn French fry photographer out there, so load it up with all the golden goodness and own it. For us, we want to be hired for our creativity, and we rock the visuals to back up those ideas whether it’s photo, video, or social. Fill your site with your own unique vision.

10. HAVE FUN, KEEP DIGGING, and SEE WHAT OTHERS DON’T
Photography should make you want to get out of bed every day. Look to your friends and colleagues for inspiration. Read blogs like this and always keep learning about your craft. It’s an amazing thing to be able to do photography as a career. In order to keep doing that you have to dig, you have to create, and you have to shoot how the hell you want and how no one else can.

In the end, only you have your vision, so find the right people to help you share it with the world.

You can see more of Chip’s work at LOCK + LAND, and can follow LOCK + LAND on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Dave Black working with Nikon SB-5000 Speedlights

Your Questions & My Answers
Hi and welcome to Scott’s blog … It is an honor to be asked to write a Guest blog for Scott … many thanks Scott for the opportunity.

I receive dozens of questions via my website’s Contact Dave page every month from passionate photographers eager to learn, and so this guest blog will be Your Questions and My Answers to a variety of my Instagram and Portfolio images.


“Alpine Shadow” … Nikon D3s, ISO1000, 1/500 at f/14, Nikon 24-70mm lens, SanDisk 32G Extreme Pro Flash Card

Q: Hi Mr. Black, Greetings from Switzerland. I really enjoy your Instagram pictures/mini photo lessons each day, and in particular the Alpine Shadow picture from Switzerland. Please can you elaborate with some backstory? Kind Regards. Francois – Zermatt, Switzerland

A: Hi Francois. So glad that you are enjoying my Instagram posts @daveblackphoto and the mini photo lessons that often accompany each IG picture.

As mentioned in the IG post, Rotenboden Station is a familiar location for those who are climbing, hiking or photographing the alpine sunrise at the Matterhorn in Switzerland.

The backstory is an exercise in patience. I had completed making my sunrise image of the Matterhorn from a location about 1 kilometer away from the Rotenboden Station and had just hiked back to the alpine railway station.

While I was waiting for the train to return and continue my journey up the mountains the sunlight and shadows on the station were beautiful and seemed to be begging for a human element to enter the scene.

The train arrived and I let it go without me. Then, after about 15 minutes, the shadow moved to reveal the cross and a minute later a fellow hiker (with backpack) approached the railway platform and his shadow was cast onto the station wall … thus offering a “different” image of the Matterhorn.

We often go out “looking” for a picture, but we must always be aware of the changing light and shadows around us… and be ready to capture a “moment” when it happens along.

Thanks for your question Francois, hope the backstory is helpful. Cheers. Dave


“Red Rythmic” … Nikon D5, ISO4000, 1/800 at f/13, Nikon 24-70mm lens at 45mm, WB 6250K, 4 NEW Nikon SB-5000 Speedlights with Radio Control, Manfrotto light stands, XQD Card

Q: Hi, Dave! I always check out your three portfolios on your website to see what’s new. Thanks for adding new pics each month. Can you explain where you placed your Speedlights for the Red Rythmic gymnastics image in your Creative Lighting Portfolio on your website? Thanks. Kevin – London.

A…Hi Kevin. Glad you are enjoying my portfolios. I really enjoy adding new images each month to the three collections!

I purposely underexposed the scene by -2.0 stops and then illuminated my subject with FLASH. I used 4 NEW Nikon SB-5000 Speedlights with Radio Control, all of which were in High Speed Sync mode.

The main SB-5000 had a Grid to help spotlight my athlete and was set to FULL power and placed high on a light stand 15 feet away.

I placed a second SB-5000 on a small rock about 20 feet out in front of the athlete and about one foot above the ground cover. This SB-5000 was set to 1/2 power and illuminated the foreground vegetation and the tail ends of the red ribbons.

Because of the uneven terrain, I had an assistant hand hold two SB-5000 Speedlights about 35 feet behind the subject. These two Speedlights, each set to FULL power illuminated some of the vegetation behind her, but not the forest background which I wanted to remain dark.

The subject was an Olympic athlete who was amazing to work with. She performed multiple leaps on the boulder despite it being a very cold, early morning shoot in the Yamanashi Forest of Northern Japan.

Thanks for a great question Kevin.  Cheers. Dave


“Winter Coyote” … Nikon D500, ISO2000, 1/1000 at f/8, Nikon 200-500mm G VR lens with Nikon TC 14E III 1.4x teleconverter, SanDisk 32G Extreme Pro SD Card.

Q: Dear Dave, I’m a longtime fan and very much looking forward to attending your classes at Photoshop World in Orlando this April. I just love the Winter Coyote picture in your Planet Portfolio. Can you tell me the how you captured this picture. Thank you. Debbie – Jacksonville, FL.

A: Hi Debbie. Gad you like the “Winter Coyote,” and please come up and say hello during Photoshop World Orlando. Your question fits into one of my favorite classes at PSW 2017: THINK Before You Press the Shutter a class teaching pre-visualization.

This image was made recently when I joined good friends Keith Ladzinski and Doug Ladzinski for a fun photo safari on a snowy January day in Rocky Mountain National Park.

We had been slowly cruising around the park photographing elk when Doug saw four coyotes way off in the distance, braving the winter storm on a small ridge about 150 yards from the road. With the snow storm and the long distance to the coyotes, I sensed this could be an opportunity for a very special picture.

Let me emphasis that, before I stepped out of the vehicle, I set the in-camera Set Picture Control menu of the D500 to standard and also reduced the contrast and saturation levels slightly. Then I increased the clarity level to help define the snow flakes and Coyote.

I kept my distance on purpose as I wanted to shoot through more volume of the falling snow. The camera-lens combination of the Nikon D500 cropped sensor and 200-500mm f/5.6 lens (at 500mm) with a 1.4x teleconverter gave me a visual lens length of about 1,050mm.

All these preparations: 1,050mm, Set Picture Control adjustments and keep my distance from the coyotes in order to shoot through as much falling snow as possible, but still see my subject clearly… were “pre-visualized” in my mind in just a few seconds. THEN I stepped out of the vehicle onto the snow.

I used manual exposure and chose to nearly overexpose the snow, but not quite. Once this single coyote moved away from the pack and ventured out onto the ridge with the falling snow and head-down posture, the “click” of the shutter was all that was left to do… Voila! “Winter Coyote.”

This process of creating the scene and technical scenario in my mind first is called “pre-visualization” and is what I believe to be the “key” missing component for many photographers trying to make the memorable pictures they want.

Hope this answer is helpful and I look forward to meeting you at PSW. -Dave


“High Riders” … Nikon D810, ISO1000, 1/2500 at f/10, Nikon 14-24mm lens, three Profoto B1 strobes in High Speed Sync mode with Profoto Tele-Zoom Reflectors and Clear Protection Plate, three C-Stands, and Articulating Boom Lift for me to shoot from, SanDisk 32G Extreme Pro Flash Card.

Q: Hi Dave, Your sports portfolio has an insane moto shot with one guy flying and another guy upside-down. Can you tell me what flash was used and how you pulled this picture off? Brandon – Louisiana.

A…Hi Brandon. Thanks for a great question, glad you like the shot.

This Freestyle Motocross image of Team FMX stars Travis Willis (white) and Ed Rossi (blue) was a commercial project that was quite an undertaking for myself and my #1 assistant, Julio Aguilar to accomplish.

I typically use my Nikon SB-5000 Speedlights with radio control for about 90% of my flash work as they are small-portable and have High Speed Sync. But occasionally I need a BIGGER blast of FLASH from a long distance to override the bright ambient sunshine and illuminate my athletes against the underexposed background or sky… so I bring in the Profoto B1 Air strobes.

As mentioned in the image caption above, I used three Profoto B1 Air strobes in High Speed Sync. Each is equipped with Profoto Tele-Zoom Reflector and Clear Glass Protection Plate (instead of the factory frosted plate).

These two modifications that I’ve incorporated with my B1 strobe system have helped make the factory 500 watt second power of a B1 illuminate my subjects more like a 1200 watt second power pack. That’s a HUGE increase in illumination simply by using the Tele-Zoom Reflector and clear protection plate on each B1 unit.

To get up where my athletes perform, I used an Articulating Boom Lift (king size Cherry Picker) to have maximum stability in the bucket, and to access my athletes at about 70 feet in the air for this particular shot.

Travis and Ed made a dozen “tandem” jumps, but this jump in particular was performed with them only a few feet apart and nearly on top of each other at the landing area… CRAZY and AMAZING skill. The icing on the cake was the full moon rising in the upper right corner in front of the lead rider’s boot.

A really awesome photo shoot and a blast to pull off … Thanks for asking.

Adios, Dave


“NFL Game Day” … Nikon D800, ISO4000, 1/1250 at f/5.6, Nikon 600mm f/4 G VR Zoom lens, WB 6250K, SanDisk 32G Extreme Pro Flash Card.

Q: Hello Dave, I am a student looking for a direction to take my life. I was very interested in photography which I really enjoyed and achieved high grades. As an enthusiastic sportsman, I was considering merging the two and becoming a sports photographer. Would you recommend this, and do you have any advice? Gavin – Houston

A: Hi Gavin. The road to being a professional SPORTS photographer who makes their entire living from their craft is not usually achieved overnight, but is an extremely rewarding occupation to pursue.

If you are currently enrolled at a university, or if you have graduated, consider assisting a local sports photographer as a way to learn the profession. Some assistants make good money assisting someone until they are ready to set out on their own business.

Just so you know, the notion that all a SPORTS photographer does is go to a game for three hours, take pictures, and collect a check is far from accurate. “Speedy” computer skills and business savvy are just as important as photographic skills if one is to “make it” in today’s sports photography market place.

The SPORTS photography industry is highly competitive, and your degree of passion should demand a great deal from you, but if you persevere and make GREAT pictures you can have a fine living.

So, do I recommend having a career as a SPORTS photographer….YES, absolutely! It’s the greatest job on the planet. And when you “make it,” you are truly on top of the world each and every time you arrive at the event.

Best to you Gavin. -Dave


“Fire Fighter” … Nikon D500, ISO200 at 30 seconds, Nikon 24-70mm lens, WB 10,000K, Manfrotto Tripod and 410 Geared Head … Lightpainting, SanDisk Extreme pro 32G Card.

Q: Hey Dave, love your light painting portraits. I read your instructional blog about the “soft focus” technique for your portraits but I don’t get it??? Can you explain it. Thanks, Jeromy – Chicago

A: Hi Jeromy. Whether you use Photoshop’s Gaussian Blur tool or my “soft focus” technique with camera and lens, the purpose is to create selected areas in the scene that are soft looking so as to draw attention more directly to the subject’s face which is in focus.

This light painting portrait of a female fire fighter makes use of a manual exposure time of 30 seconds. I used seven seconds to light paint her face, helmet, ax and torso using a small white LED penlight.

For the next 12 seconds of exposure time, I turned off my flashlight, walked to the camera, and manually unfocused the lens to infinity, then walked back to the subject to resume light painting using a small red LED penlight to “soft focus” areas of her arms and helmet.

Finally, with about 11 seconds remaining in the 30 seconds exposure and with my lens still unfocused to infinity, I light painted the backdrop with red LED flashlight while the backdrop was being “fluttered” by an assistant, thus creating a “soft focus” & motion blur… I’m always experimenting.

Hope this answer explains “soft focus.”

Adios. Dave


THANKS again to Scott for having me write this guest blog. Looking forward to seeing many of you at Photoshop World 2017 in Orlando, Florida: April 19-22. See you there! -Dave

You can see more of Dave’s work at DaveBlackPhotography.com, where he shares his monthly Workshop At The Ranch posts like this one. You can also follow him on Instagram and Twitter.

Inspiration for the Sport Grit Look
I’ve had the incredible opportunity of attending every Photoshop World (except for one) since Photoshop World started in 1999. The amount of knowledge taught in a short time is worth more than countless hours trying to learn on your own. Imagine hanging out and collaborating with instructors who have written books on the different styles you want to learn or fellow students that are top in their field. Collaboration and an image Scott took of me inspired me to create the Sport Grit look that I will teach for the first time at Photoshop World this year.

The Sport Grit Look’s Secret Ingredient
The secret ingredient to produce the sports-grit look is to light the subject with harsh light. Harsh light produces strong shadows for a powerful photo. It sculptures the subject in such a way that when applying the Lightroom preset, the grit look is achieved.

Style The Shoot To Change The Mood
I’ve been happy with the look for the past few years, but I felt it was time for a slight change. I wanted to create a different mood. I collaborated with my buddy, Photoshop World and KelbyOne instructor Mike Kubeisy. We came up with adding tape to the athlete’s fingers and wrist to symbolize injuries. Applying eye black added to the tough look.

At this point, the athlete looked like he was preparing for a game. Although it looked good, it didn’t capture the mood I was after. I wanted to show what the athlete would look like after the game. By adding dirt to his face and arms and making sure the white tape got dirty, the style was completed and the mood was set. He looked like he just walked off the field, working through his pain and injuries to capture a hard-fought victory.

Pulling emotion out of the athlete
Athletes are known for being intense when they play. To capture this emotion, have the athlete relive one of their favorite memories from a game, or create a do-or-die game winning moment. The goal is make them look intense. This short video demonstrates how I pull emotions out of an athlete during a shoot.

Finishing the look in Lightroom
To finish the look, use Lightroom to desaturate the colors, over sharpen the image, and change the color temperature along with the tint. To make life easier, you can download my Lightroom Sports Grit preset or you can learn how I created it an article I wrote Shooting Awesome Sports Portraits.

Now you have the lighting foundation and the Lightroom preset for how I create my Sport Grit Look. The final step is to practice and tweak the workflow to make it your own.

You can see more of Vanelli’s work at Vanelli.tips/VanelliAuthor, follow him on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and see him live at Photoshop World April 20-22!

There Is More Than One Way To Skin A Cat

Firstly I would like to thank Scott and Brad for this opportunity to talk a little about my life in the world of interior, architectural and location based photography.

I am based out of London in the UK, and specialize in taking images for a wide range of clients, ranging from architects, interior designers, kitchen designers, cabinet makers, hotels, resorts, and, not forgetting the ‘bread and butter,’ high-end real estate agents for their editorial, advertising and social media needs.

Potted History
I am one of those photographers that started in a black and white darkroom.

Way back when I was sixteen years old, I lucked out and got a job with a company called ‘Brook-Tella.’ They were exhibition printers and possibly the oldest photographic company in the UK back then in the 1980’s.

We hand printed enormous photos and hand developed them in huge vats of developer and fixer. Then the photos were mounted ready for the clients exhibition needs.

The enlargers ran on rails on the floor, and we worked in enormous hanger sized dark-rooms. The enlarging wall was made of metal as we needed to hang large strips of paper with magnets, and often a print was made up of three to four strips of paper 56” deep and up to 15-20’ feet across. Sorry, I’m still not a metric head being British.
These huge images adorned massive trade shows, such as the like of the Major Motor and trade shows in the UK, Europe and America.

This takes me back to how I remember being given a 4”x5” black and white negative and was told to print it day in day out for a week. I can tell you I was ready to walk out after day one, printing the same negative repeatedly; I saw no reason for it. The senior printer explained to me why I was printing this same image time and time again. His name was John, a really nice man, an absolute expert in the darkroom. He sat me down later in the week as I was close to tears and clearly feeling like the rise was being taken out of me.

This is what he said: “Murray, you still don’t know the skills of how to read a negative, the exposure, the grade of paper, what you will get when you burn and dodge different areas. In turn it will give each and every print a different look,” (think Ansel Adams). I swallowed my teenage pride and continued. That lesson has never left me. So, ‘there are many ways to skin a cat!’

I went on to be a fine art printer and then a photographer in my early twenties. Which takes us to date. The reason I tell you about that early experience is that we need to have a lateral and creative mind to get the best out of any situation and each image we create. What we may think is a good way or the best way to get the image isn’t the only way, sometimes it’s just a very simple solution – good clean light.

On Location
When I arrive at a shoot, I never know what will be happening with the light that day or what I may face in terms of logistics of the shoot. It doesn’t always play out as I think it will; all I know is that my clients are expecting quality results.

So I always go with an open mind, a mind that has many solutions to get the results.

First Things First
Each and every one of us has different approach to how we deal with lighting situations. When I give a talk or train anyone I always say that we have to try and make our post work as easy as possible, which means it’s all about getting right in camera first, at least most of it. Not all our clients are happy to pay for expensive post-production work, so workflow is king.

I can tell you that I probably do more post than most photographers in my field, so I am ahead on the learning curve. Down side is that if you start working out your hourly rate you could be earning not a great deal per hour.
But as I said in my heading, ‘There is more than one way to skin a cat.’ So with that in mind, you should approach each shoot with that attitude.

I believe in getting one exposure images when you can. I know many of you go to HDR style stacking, and occasionally it’s the only way. But making it look like a normal image is the difficult part of that style.

Recently when I met a few real estate photographers, I asked them how they went about getting their photos. Here is what shocked me. I heard one say, “I shoot two frames and use HDR.” That’s without anything more than available lighting. So if you think about it, most households and businesses have lighting around 2600Kelvin if you are lucky.

The colour grading in your post is going to be hard work at best with deep brown light mixed in with winter spectrum of blue daylight as we are now in the Northern hemisphere.. Trying to clean up bad light is nearly impossible if you want your client to be happy with your colour grading. So, what do you need to do? Add quality light! I use continuous LED lighting these days, but I have also used speed-lights and studio flash in the past.

Regardless of what you use, you need to add quality light to your interiors, and I promise you, you will be so much happier when you come to your post work.

Stacking, HDR, or one-framers, whatever your poison, just remember that if you want to create a great master file you still need to incorporate some clean light.

Having set workflow routines means you can create a style and know that the results will be scientifically based, giving you confidence in producing high quality work.

In the past I have always had to get my images right on one piece of colour transparency or film, including filtering for different light sources. It was a very methodical way of shooting that has put me in good stead right up to today.

My behind the camera work-flow goes something like this:

  • In the first instance, I choose my angle looking for the dynamic lines in the shot to get the room or space balanced in my viewfinder.
  • With the camera locked down I then look at what needs moving, redressing, tweaking etc.
  • Then I think about the light I am working with or against. I will normally hide some lights out of frame and hidden in frame, all just a soft helping of light, so you can’t see the images have been lit with extra lighting, which is the best way to light a space – subtly. Architects and interior designers often want to see true colour grading and the proper intensity of how lighting plays in a space to be rendered very accurately. Thus, burnt out lights and dirty colors are not an option.

It’s at this point that I decide how the post production will go. Often there will be additions of compositing and blending if need be. So always get a few extra frames exposing for any troublesome areas such as windows and views.

I would very much like to go into the post production side of my work, but that is a whole topic on it’s own, all I want to say is that as photographers we need to own the light.

If you need to go down the route of stacking or HDR, make sure you take images ranging from what looks like a burnt out frame with little detail through to the darkest exposed frame in 1-stop intervals. Two frames just won’t do it. Again, adding your own subtle clean light improves your chances of finishing with a nicely graded photograph.

I’ve got my workflows and I stick to them as I know what I will get, architecture and interiors are less about creative flamboyancy and more about methodical work practice. Knowing the right workflow that works in a certain situation is what we need in our tool kit as interior and architectural photographers.

One size does not fit all. As I said in my heading, ‘There is more than one way to skin a cat.’

You can see more of Murray’s work at RealFocus.co.uk. Murray works out of London, UK. He is considered one of the UK’s leading interior and architectural photographers. His work is published regularly and he is often found riding around London on his motorbike or flying out of the country for international assignments. He can be reached at RealFocusPhotography@gmail.com or you can follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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 natalia@nataliastone.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.

You can see more of her work at NataliaStone.com, and follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

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