Category Archives Photo Shoots

I’ve talked a lot in my live seminars about photographers whose plan to make great photos is based on sheer luck. They’ll go out shooting and hope that something just comes their way – some great photo just falls into their lap, because they’re not really doing anything to make a great photo happen on their own.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for getting lucky (I call it “Getting even” because so many times there are things we can’t control, like the weather, that destroy the best laid plans), but it doesn’t make a very effective strategy.

The reason I’m thinking of this now, is because I’ve been watching photographers like Erik Kuna, or my buddy Paul Kober, who work really hard to make a shot happen, and it’s in such stark contrast to what I see so many of us do. For example, Paul had a shot he wanted to create of marathon runners and he wanted to use a really slow shutter speed so the runners would be blurred with a backdrop of downtown Chicago right along the river. So, to get this shot he envisioned, here’s what he did.

  1. Two weeks before the Chicago Marathon, he drove from his home in Michigan to Chicago to scope out locations along the route.
  2. The week before he set up his camera rig in his driveway and keep running by it, each time firing the camera wirelessly and trying different shutter speeds to see which one would give the right amount of blur.
  3. The day before the Marathon he drove back to Chicago and tried out his set-up at different locations (he wound up strapping his Platypod to a pole) and testing out different angles and positions.
  4. He got up at dawn and got in place before anyone was there for the race to make sure he could get the location he wanted.

Did he get “the shot?” He did (that’s it above), and it’s definitely a solid shot, but he feels like it was just his first try at it, and he learned a lot, and he’s already planning his next blurry runner marathon shot so the best it yet to come, but the important thing is that he’s working to get the shot, and that means it’s just a matter of time, and effort, not luck.

He’s not hoping a great shot falls in his lap – he’s out there trying to make it happen (like Erik Kuna does when he plans an entire family vacation around getting to locations where he can shoot the Milky Way with a great foreground).

So, this week – ask yourself this question, “Are you working to get the shot, or are you waiting for it to fall into your lap?” If it’s the latter, you might be waiting a long time. Put in the work. It’ll pay off.

Here’s to a week of hard work, learning lots, and making some great shots!


P.S. It’s just two weeks to the Portrait Photography Conference. I’ve got some killer classes lined up, along with an absolutely top-notch instructor lineup – it’s going to be epic. Details and earlybird discount tickets right here.

We are very excited to announce a new two-day, two-training-track, all online conference November 2, 2021 with an incredible team of instructors and it’s all to help you create your best portraits yet. We just announced the conference and hundreds of photographers have already signed up, and you can can too (it’s open to everyone), and if you sign up now, you’ll save a ton with our Early Bird special ticking pricing.

Best of all – the entire conference is archived for a full year so you can catch any sessions you missed or rewatch any sessions, any time – all streamed on demand for a year That is sweet! :)

Details, the full class schedule, instructor list, and tickets are available right here. I’m super psyched, and I hope I see you at the conference!

Have a great weekend everybody! #GoBucs, and #RollTide! :)


Watch the short video below and you’ll see what it’s all about and why it might be just what you’ve been waiting for:

Joe shared the news about the conference in his newsletter earlier this week, and here’s what he wrote about the event:

“After these two days, your conversation with light will be in a different place, and your confidence with the tools of light will be accelerated.”

Wow. If I wasn’t already going to be teaching, I’d definitely be going. What an incredible opportunity!

The official dates are:

November 16-17, 2020 with a special pre-conference session for flash beginners the day before (open to all registered attendees). 

Here’s the link to get your tickets. It’s going to be something very special (Joe is one of the most amazing photographers on the planet, and the King of Flash), and you don’t want to miss out.

Hope you can join us in November — it’s going to be (wait for it…wait for it)…epic!


P.S. Did I mention it was going to be epic? Cause it is. Going to be epic. You know what I meant, right?

I had such a great time yesterday shooting with the Falcons (such a great crew to work with). The game was in Tampa, and it was hot! You’d think by nearly January it would be at least in the low 70s, but it was hot as blazes, especially in the first quarter, but even so, it was still so much fun.

Deion Jones celebrates as he crosses the goal line securing the win for the Falcons in overtime with a pick-six off Bucs QB Jameis Winston.

I was definitely rusty not having shot all year, but my knee held up nicely (I babied it), and I just had a ball. I got to see and spend some time with my dear friend Rob Foldy (who now leads the photography team at the Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta United & Mercedes-Benz Stadium).

This is why I don’t take selfies. Of course, Rob looks great. He looks like a model. I look like…I dunno but it’s not good. Perhaps I shouldn’t stand so close to Rob in pictures.

I also got to shoot once again alongside the Falcon’s own Kara Durrett and sports photographer Mark Brown (both real pros, great shooters, and really awesome people), along with Adler Garfield (just met him — seems like a cool dude). Also, I met Jordan and Max who were part of the Falcon’s crew working the game (very cool, super helpful guys).

I’m just going to share a few shots and then head off to bed. I’m pretty whipped (that Tampa heat takes it out of you. So do all those interceptions).

The big man celebrating after taking it to the house for six.
Everybody goes airborne once in a while.

It case you were wondering if I got that shot where the ref walks right in front of my field of view and draws my camera’s focus point….well, you would not be disappointed (see below). I wish I only had this one.

Referees: Friend to players and the photographers alike

Yup, that ref is sharp as a tack. Too bad he had nothing to do with the play.
Here I was able to stay locked on the players, but as soon as one of the refs saw I had a clear shot during a fumble, he immediately raced into the scene, as shown above.

Shooting In Pick County!

This guy threw no picks. He’s from out-of-town. Georgia, I believe.
This guy is setting records for throwing picks, including one on the first play of overtime to lose the game for the Bucs. I don’t know how Bucs fans feel about him, but the teams the Bucs played this season absolutely love him, and badly want him to get a contract extension.

It was so great to be back out there shooting football again. Thanks to Rob, Kara, and the Falcons for asking me to shoot with them — I really loved the opportunity and congrats to the Falcons on the win.

I believe I can fly….

Gear Info

I took two camera bodies (as always); both Canon 1Dx’s. On my main body I used my 200-400mm f/4 (which is currently for sale by the way) with a built-in 1.4x tele-extender; supported with a Gitzo monopod. On the 2nd body, I had my 70-200mm f/2.8. I also had my Hoodman Loupe, which is worth its weight in gold during day games like this.

Camera Settings

I shot at f/4 all day on the long lens (except for times when I kicked in the tele-extender, then it automatically jumps to f/5.6), and I left my 70-200mm at f/2.8 all day. I shot in Aperture Priority mode with Auto ISO turned on and set to a minimum shutter speed to 1/1000 of a second. I used focus case 1 and shot in RAW (I usually shoot in JPEG for football, but the Falcons requested RAW so RAW it is).

Next stop — Orlando for the Alabama vs Michigan bowl game on New Year’s Day. Not shooting — just watching — for Christmas the wifey bought my son and me great seats for the game (#rolltide!), and we’re both super psyched.

Have a great week everybody — I’m chillin’ till after the first of the year, and then I’m back hitting it hard for 2020!



I think a lot of photographers these days are taking the old adage about “Shooting at Sunrise” too literally, and because of it, they’re missing out on a lot of great shots.

Here’s what I mean: The best light, and amazing skies, and empty streets, and tourist-free areas — the dream of travel photographers everywhere, all happen well before sunrise. The sunrise itself is silently signaling “Here comes the end of your shoot — time for breakfast!” But unfortunately, that seems to be when all the photographers start showing up — right after all the good stuff just ended.

Just before sunrise. Beautiful light and you’re all alone. (photo by Erik Kuna)

Erik Kuna (Rocket-photographers and my co-host on ‘The Grid’) and I were in downtown Chicago a few weeks ago leading a local photo walk as part of my annual Worldwide Photo Walk. During the walk, we went through Millennium Park, and its most famous feature, the giant chrome-covered “Bean” sculpture (it’s actually named the ‘Cloud Gate sculpture,’ but I’ve yet to hear anyone call it anything other than “The Bean”). Anyway, around 70,000 people visit The Bean each day — it’s absolutely packed with people from morning to night. But Erik decided to get up really early to shoot it. Ya know how many people Erik found when he went to The Bean well before sunrise? Just one.

Look in the reflection – there’s nobody there. (photo by Erik Kuna)

Not only were there no tourists. There were no photographers. All this beautiful light. Great clouds. No tourists, and not a single photographer in sight. As soon as the great light is gone, and the harsh sun is coming up, here come the photographers, streaming into the park right along with the first groups of tourists. What they wind up getting is kind of crappy light and a bunch of tourists milling around. They missed the great light and tourist-free scene by about 20 to 30 minutes.

Right at sunrise, the light isn’t nearly as nice, and the photographers and tourists arrive (seen in reflections). (photo by Erik Kuna)
A little while later; everybody’s there, and it’ll be like this until late, late at night. (photo by Erik Kuna)

The same thing happened this week in New York

The Vessel. We went the day before this was taken. There were tourists, photographers, and instragrammers everywhere. Right before dawn? Nobody. (Photo by Erik Kuna)

Erik experienced this same phenomenon this past week in New York City (we were up there for the Photo Plus Expo). He got up early and walked over to “Vessel” in Hudson Yard (it’s part public modern art piece, part spiral staircase [with its 150+ interconnected staircases], and part observatory. It’s free to enter [you get tickets online] and you can walk-up inside it when it’s open). When Erik got there — sure enough, lots of beautiful light, no tourists, and most notably — no photographers, even though there is a major photography tradeshow being held right across the street at the Javitz Center.

That Dumbo location well before sunrise – nobody’s there at all. (photo by Erik Kuna)
Right before sunrise, still nobody there and nice light. BTW: These NYC shots were taken by Erik with his iPhone 11.
Sun’s up – here come the photographers and Instagrammers.

He also got up early on the 2nd day; went out to that famous shooting location in the Dumbo park area of Brooklyn (you know the one), and ya know what? Same thing — great light; no tourists, and still no photographers. Once the sun came up, with it came the photographers, the tourists, and the Instagrammers with selfie sticks.

This is an easy mistake to avoid

All the good stuff happens well before sunrise. In that 30 minutes before the sun comes up — you need to be out there, in place, on a tripod, ready to capture the tourist-free scenes in beautiful light. Once the sun comes up, you have just a few more minutes where the light is still good — the color is warm, and the sun is touching the edges of things as it rises, but 15 or so minutes after that, the light generally turns pretty bad, and that’s the way it stays, getting worse and worse all day until about an hour or so before sunset.

Just get up a little bit earlier. Don’t time your morning to get there at sunrise. Get there at least 30 minutes early, and the difference in your images will be amazing, you’ll have your choice of spots, no tourists, and you’ll see for yourself why it pays big time to set your alarm clock a bit earlier.

Here’s wishing you a tourist-free, great light week of shooting wherever you are. :)


P.S. I’m off to San Francisco next week for my “Ultimate Photography Crash Course” full-day seminar out there on November 6th. Hope you can join me — you’ll super dig it. Tickets and info here.

Mornin’, gang, and happy Friday! I finally got some of my favorite shots together from my recent workshop trip to rural China, and I shared the final images, with lots of behind-the-scenes shots and videos, and the stories behind it all.

Here’s the link if you’ve got a minute. I hope you can give them a look.

TIP: At the end of the post, I shared how I set up my three Custom Modes on my camera. Most cameras these days have the ability to set up your own custom modes, and man do they make your life easier! Hope you find those helpful.

Heads up: if you participated in the Worldwide Photo Walk last week, Monday is the deadline to enter the photo contest

The contest prizes this year are pretty amazing (including a Canon EOS RP Mirrorless Camera with a 24-105mm lens, and the Adobe Creative Suite, and a B&H Gift Card, a whole bunch more!). Even the finalist prizes are crazy good, so make sure you enter your best shot from the walk. Hey, ya never know, right?

Here’s wishing you all a great Friday, a rockin’ weekend (#rolltide), and hopefully you’ll stop back by on Monday to see what’s going on. :)


P.S. I shared a technique today over at on how to edit in Lightroom Classic on your laptop when you’re traveling, and then how to merge all that you did; the images, sorting, editing — the works, with your main computer back home. Here’s the link if that sounds like something that might interest you.