Category Archives Photography

It’s one of the hardest things we have to do as photographers — to look at our work and decide whether it’s a good image or not. Is it good enough to put in my portfolio? Good enough to share with my photo club? Good enough to put on 500px.com, or on Facebook? Is it good enough to enter a competition or submit to a magazine? Can I get client work with this image?

Part of the challenge of evaluating your own images is that you have emotion attached to those images. You see and feel things in that image the rest of the world doesn’t see. For example, when you look at your image, you might remember:

  • How hard it was to create.
  • How much fun you had the day you took that shot.
  • Maybe it’s a type of shot you’ve always wanted to take.
  • Perhaps you were with your family when you took it, and it reminds you of a great vacation?
  • You’re proud of the post-processing you did. It’s the best you’ve done so far.
  • Maybe it was the first shot you made with that new lens you bought.
  • Or maybe there’s just “something about it” that strikes you.

You see some or all of that in the image you took of that tree. But to everyone else, your cherished photo of a tree is just that — a photo of a tree.

We’ve all seen trees before. To you, it’s a special tree in some way (maybe one of the reasons I listed above). To us, it’s just a tree. That’s part of the reason why it’s so hard to evaluate your own images, and why it’s so easy for others to quickly see if it’s a good image or not — they have zero emotion attached to that shot — it’s either a good photo, or it’s not, and that’s instantly clear to people who have no emotional attachment to it.

It helps to know there are two sides to evaluating any image…
…and they couldn’t be farther apart from each other:

(1) Technical or Foundational evaluation
These are the easiest to identify because we have a basic set of guidelines about whether an image is technically correct. Stuff like “Is the horizon-line straight?” or “Is the image sharp?” This is the stuff that often ruins good photos, but on the other hand, if you get every one of the technical things right on the money, it can still be a boring, soul-less, nothing of a photo. Nailing all the technical stuff won’t, by itself, make a good photo but making technical mistakes sure can sink a good one.

(2) The Artistic or Creative Side
This one is 100% totally subjective. One person can love a particular image, and another person may not like it at all. It’s art. It’s subjective. If you did the technical stuff in number one correctly, then you can focus on evaluating the photo’s artistic merit. One way is to honestly ask yourself if someone was looking at this would they find it fascinating or beautiful or intriguing? Does the image tell a story they would want to know more about, does it have that special something that moves them in some way? Does it have something that elicits an emotional response of some sort? Happiness? Sadness? Anger? Laughter? Joy? Longing? Interest? Pride? Surprise? Wonder?

If it’s a picture of the old bridge in your home town — one that the locals pass by every day, it had better be a pretty awesome photo, showing that bridge from an angle or perspective they haven’t seen before, or it has to be in unusually dramatic light or beautiful light that it’s seldom seen in, or something that makes this photo of the bridge special, or they’re going to look at it and say, “Yup, that’s the old bridge.”

That’s why the technical side of evaluation is so much easier 
It’s well defined. You either did the right thing right or you didn’t. However, a technically correct image is only the foundation of how images are evaluated. It’s that “other stuff” – the creativity, the light, the moment, the story, or a magical combination of all that that creates an image that makes people say “wow.” I wish I could tell you exactly how to make an image like that. I wish it was that easy. I wish it was as easy as the technical side, but it’s where the real magic of photography lies.

Let’s Start With The Technical Part
The foundational stuff. I think I can help with that, but before I get to that, I have to tell you this: Once a month on ‘The Grid’ (my weekly photography show) I ask our viewers to submit images for a “Blind Critique” (it’s blind because we don’t know or reveal the photographer’s name on the air. The reason is so we can give honest critiques without publically humiliating or embarrassing anyone). It’s hard to get an honest critique of one’s work these days. Your spouse isn’t going to tell you the truth about your images. Neither are your friends or co-workers. Neither will people online (well, there’s always that one guy, right?). So, we try and give an honest critique and give pointers on how to make that image, or that photographer in general, better. Sometimes people send in images that are so good all we can say is “keep up the good work,” but most times we’re able to help with suggestions of what they could do to improve, both in camera and in post processing.

One of the most frustrating parts of being one of the critiquers (if that’s even a word) is that we see people making the exact same fundamental, technical mistakes each time we do critiques. Worst of all, some of these images could have been really great images if they had just paid attention to some of the technical parts, because those technical flaws are so obvious, that it kills the creativity and art of the image.

Some people would argue that it doesn’t matter if there are technical problems however, I would offer that those are the very people who are making technical mistakes and don’t want it held against them or their images. I would say to them — why would you let basic technical mistakes in your image take the viewers mind off the story you’re trying to tell, or the scene you’re trying to capture, or the emotion you’re trying to share?

Sometimes, an image is so strong that we can look past the fundamental technical aspects and just enjoy it for what it is. Sometimes we get lucky and capture an incredible frame despite doing a lot of things wrong, but luck isn’t a good strategy for creating wonderful images (though I’m happy to welcome luck with open arms anytime it appears in front of my camera).

Harder Than I Thought
I wanted to help all those folks who struggle with the fundamentals, so on Friday of last week, I went into our studio and recorded one of the hardest courses I’ve taught in a while. It was hard on a lot of different levels. One part was that I had to share over 100 of my really bad images throughout the class to use as examples of what not to do (including some really cringe-worthy stuff). Stuff I shot years ago. Some more recently, sadly. All that sharing of awful images with an audience of other photographers — that isn’t fun. The other part was conveying the message in a way that wouldn’t make the viewer think that just nailing the technical stuff was enough. It’s not.

I also fretted a lot with my idea of creating downloadable checklists the students could download for each genre I covered in the course (they included Landscape, Natural Light Portraits, Studio Portraiture, Travel, and Location Portraits using Flash). I finally decided to do it but I was careful to remind my students that it is NOT a checklist for seeing if you made a great image. It’s a checklist to see if you covered the fundamentals, and sidestepped some of the traps that ruin otherwise great photos. It’s a learning tool. Not a set of laws.

My video team tells me it’ll be about six weeks before the course comes out because we already have a bunch of courses in the production cue. I am really looking forward to getting it out there, because I think it has the potential to help a lot of people (plus, seeing 100+ of my worst images is probably just good for people’s souls). ;-)

I hope this post helps you realize that the technical stuff, this ground level stuff of photography, is important enough that you should be taking it into account when you’re making images. The technical parts of photography are not laws written in stone, and some of the greatest photos in history have some of these same flaws. Sometimes when I see one of those, I think, “Man, that is an amazing photo! Too bad they didn’t…” – see what I mean? Don’t let there be a “but…” after your photo. Learn the fundamental stuff, and apply it when you can to get that technical junk out of the way, so we can enjoy your story, the emotion, the light, the scene, and viewing your image without any “buts.”

Hope that got you thinkin’ :)

Best,

-Scott

P.S. I’m in Los Angeles today teaching my Lightroom seminar. Between LA, San Francisco on Wednesday and Seattle on Friday, I’ll be training just over 1,000 photographers. I hope you’re one of them. :)

Happy Friday, everybody! One quick thing, then Photoshop time!

I’m going back to Cali…
I’m teaching my Lightroom seminar on Monday in LA, Wednesday in San Francisco, and Friday in Seattle. It’s not too late to come out and join me. :) Sunday night I’m doing a talk at the Canon Experience Center in Costa Mesa. It’s gonna be a busy week!

Photoshop Buried Treasure Time
I’ve got another in my series on Photoshop Buried Treasure, and this one is about two little known “Recently Used” menus — one for recently used brushes and one for recently used color swatches. Best of all, it’s all automatic (you just need to know where to look).

If you open the Brush Presets panel (under the Window menu); if you look at the top the panel, you’ll see the last seven brushes you’ve used appear across the top of the panel (as seen above).

Same thing with the color Swatches panel (also found under the Window menu); it puts your last 13 color swatches right across the top of the panel (seen circled above).

Kinda hidden, but kinda handy! :)

We’re only a week in, and things are jumpin!!! Here’s a quick look at some stats, as of yesterday:

> We have 856 Leaders approved for walks

> We have nearly 400 Photowalks up and active

> 66 Leaders have created walks, but haven’t released them publically yet

That’s an awesome start for Week One (can’t believe we already have 400 Photo Walks up and running — that is outstanding! Way to go everybody!

I have just four openings left for my Photo Walk in Lisbon, Portugal. :)

Find a walk near you right now, and come join us Saturday, Oct 7th, 2017 all over the world.

Have a great weekend, everybody and we’ll catch ya back here on Monday. :)

Best,

-Scott

P.S. I’m excited to announce we’ve added family and newborn photographer (and KelbyOne Instructor), Tracy Sweeney to the Photoshop World Conference 2018 Instructor Roster. She is absolutely awesome (and a favorite with KelbyOne members). She is gonna rock it! :)

Thanks for the warm welcome and all the feedback from my first post last week! The suggestion was to throw down the hashtag #HybridDaveTuesdays and I’m ok with that ;)

I’ve been shooting for a long time. Since I was 14, in fact. I dreamed of being able to take awesome photos and I was playing around with an old Olympus digital point and shoot 1.3 Megapixel monstrosity until my parents finally realised and got me a Nikon SLR. I played around for years and years before deciding I wanted to take it further, and then the realisation that it cost an absolute fortune as a hobby pushed me to figure out how to make it pay for itself. The transition from hobby to business was ambitious and challenging, but persistence paid off and I learned a lot of lessons along the way which I’d love to snip up and share today. I’ve gotten a lot of really good advice from some really smart and creative people, and we’re all in this together!

Sidetone – This post doesn’t include a sales pitch or affiliate link. I’m just sharing the love because I’m 100% in the “community over competition” squad. Go KelbyOne!

Here is my best advice for new photographers:

Myself with Scott and Peter in London
Myself with Scott and Peter in London

Shoot with other photographers

I cannot stress this enough. Make friends with strangers! Like I said, we’re all in this together. Sign up for photo walks, meet up with people you see online, take photos of your mates, take photos of strangers, take workshops. Honestly, take every opportunity. You will learn so much about how to shoot, how other people shoot, how to network and connect, just get out there and get involved in the photography community. Don’t be afraid!

Find your niche

This is important. Can you name a famous photographer who doesn’t have a specialty? No. Can you name a famous photographer who is very specialised? Of course! There’s a reason for that. There are a LOT of photographers out there in the big, wide world, and subsequently, you aren’t competing on the quality of your photos alone, nor on your price, nor your website, but the WHOLE LOT plus your personality. You may be good, but a LOT of people are good. Your personality is portrayed through your photos, and your niche is your special little area of interest. For me, it’s travel. Even still I’m thinking of changing my genre because that’s very broad. I love to shoot the world as I see it, including its nature and wildlife, its landscapes and people. So what do you want to shoot? Fashion, Architecture, School, Underwater, Equine, Wedding, Food, Aerial, Landscape, Concert, Medical, Baby, Fine Art, there are just so many categories with varied markets out there, so make sure you love what you do and that it fits, so that within that market you can sell YOURSELF and let your photo sales follow.

NB – Note how much stress was placed on that section!

Invest in yourself

Never stop practicing! As I just said, you are selling yourself for a large chunk of this business. I’ve sat and endured hours of tedious YouTube videos just to find out how to do something, but by far the better option is to spend a little bit on some online classes or live workshops and seminars. And it really is an investment. There’s no substitute for being in an audience watching an awesome, talented professional delivering their knowledge and demonstrating their skill in person. It’s a commitment of time, energy, cash, but it’s totally worth it! I wouldn’t hesitate at doing it all again. It helped me to grow into who I am.

Find your squad

Your network. Your tribe. Your connections. Your peers will help you grow and learn, and you’ll reciprocate and help them too. You’ll learn things, you’ll meet people, You’ll pick up clients, you’ll be inspired, and you’ll make friends! If I didn’t have the squad I wouldn’t be anywhere even close to where I am. It’s the advice, inspiration, and criticism that helps you learn from your mistakes and you perhaps wouldn’t have known you made them without the squad there!

Know when to invest in your business

When it’s time to do it, you’ll know. Camera gear can cost a bomb, and I’m absolutely not telling you to go and start wildly throwing cash around, but when it comes time to invest in gear, insurance, websites, registering a company, sample products, you’ll know and you’ll see the benefits of the fiscal investment when you’ve nailed all the other points in this post. If you want to be successful you’ll need to do it right, and similarly, when it’s time to be successful you’ll be in a position whereby these things become a necessity. We’ve all read posts on why photography is so expensive, we know the investment behind our images. Just time it right!

Be prepared to work until you cry

Photography isn’t a 9-5. To get the return I put in the hours, and it was a bit of a shock to my system when I was spending all my free time building a website, pushing my social platforms, learning and studying the art, spending out on new glass, and then having no return turn into a few quid (substitute: dollars) and plateau there for a while and trying to figure out why I wasn’t rich yet! If you follow me on social media you’ll know that I put in the time far outside of ‘normal’ working hours, no matter what time zone you’re looking at me from! It’s this dedication and commitment that pushes growth. If you’re seen to be busy, and I mean truly busy rather than just loud on social media, you’ll feel the growth. Personally, on a foreign trip I’ll be up before dawn to shoot the sun coming up, still shooting throughout the morning during the nice light, fuelling up on energy and moving locations, answering e-mails, checking and double checking the evening plans, then shooting again through the afternoon and evening all the way through until it’s dark again, and then some! I might not be at work at 8 am on a Monday, but I may well be working 16 hours a day for 5 days when I’m away on a trip. It takes self-discipline to stick to the schedule I set myself, it hurts, but the satisfaction levels on completion of the project (and when seeing the sales come in!) are through the roof. It’s a job, but I’d do it if I didn’t get paid, so that means it isn’t work.

Be good at what you do

I was never very confident, and when I started doing paid shoots I was so worried that I wasn’t worth the money I was charging. It’s taken some effort to change my mindset to believe in the amount on the bottom of the invoices I send out, and the key points are that your confidence is a cycle. If you don’t feel confident, you won’t be seen as confident. If you act confident, you will be seen as confident. This perceived confidence will boost your actual confidence, which will allow you skill to shine through. Bottom line, if you act confident then you will become confident. Don’t think of it as a dream, think of it as a plan. Make that plan come to life, love going to work, and charge what you’re worth!

Me in Iceland - My favourite place on the planet
Me in Iceland – My favourite place on the planet

We’re all in this together

Much Love,
Dave

Hi everybody, and greetings from Nashville, Tennessee where I should already be in bed because it’s nearly 1:00 am and I’ve got my seminar here tomorrow in the morning and well…I dunno…I should be in bed by now.

Anyway, if you’re out in the greater Los Angeles area, I want to invite you out to a talk I’m doing there next month at the Canon Experience Center in Costa Mesa — it’s called “The Stuff They Don’t Tell You” and it’s an updated version of a talk I gave in England at ‘The Photography Show.’ I hope you can make it out — it’s free (compliments of our friends at Canon USA).

Here are the details:

Who: Me.
What: A free inspirational, motivational, informational, gravitation talk on ‘big picture’ photography stuff
Where: Canon Experience Center  – 123 Paularino Ave, Costa Mesa, CA
When: 6:00 pm – Sunday, August 13th, 2017
How to register (seating is limited): Click here. :)

I hope I’ll see you there, or maybe I’ll see you today in my seminar here in Nashville, or maybe I’ll see you in my seminar in LA the day after that talk at Canon, or maybe in San Francisco a couple days later, or two days after that in Seattle. 

That sentence right there made me want to finally hit the sack.

Hope you all have a great weekend – one packed with fun, and cooler than Florida temperatures. :)

Best,

-Scott

Last week I was very fortunate to have Paris-based photographer and Photoshop/Lightroom expert Serge Ramelli as my guest on ‘The Grid’ and I have to say, he shared some real-world experience and insights about getting work by how you post your images on Social Media that was absolutely just blowing people away! I’ve had people emailing me, tweeting, etc., about this episode and how much insight they gained from what Serge shared. It’s literally money in your pocket if you’ve been trying to sell your work, or get noticed or get hired via social media. Really brilliant stuff.

I’ve embedded the episode below, but before we got into our topic, we covered lots of other industry news, including Lexar getting out of the Memory Card business; Canon’s new 6D Mark II announcement (and the standard techie whiny that accompanies any new camera announcement), and a bunch of other stuff, so all that is up front, and we really get to the meat of the topic about 1/2 way through the show, but you should still watch the whole thing because…well…ya know…ya just should. :)

Here’s the episode (below) – I really think you’ll get into what Serge has to share:

Well, there ya go. Viva le Serge! :)

BTW: Serge is recording some awesome Lightroom classes for us at KelbyOne, so be looking for those soon (I’ll let you know when they’re released).

Have a great Tuesday everybody, and we’ll catch ya back here tomorrow for Guest Blog Wednesday (it’s a good one!). :)

Best,

-Scott

Each year, on the Fourth of July we celebrate Independence Day. It’s a day where Americans from all walks of life gather together to enjoy massive fireworks displays as our way of celebrating our independence from Dave Clayton and Glyn Dewis, shown above posing with some random American male model).

We celebrate by surrounding ourselves with hot dogs, hamburgers, and mountains of potato chips before settling into a lawn chair with an ice cold beer to watch a glorious fireworks display using fireworks made in China. By the way — they’re “chips.” Not fries. Just sayin’ ;-)

Another great American tradition is the “Sharing of how to take awesome fireworks tutorial” that I do each year here on the blog, and since we’re just a few days away from the fireworks displays, we’d better start ramping up for it now. Here we go:

Here’s what you need from a Gear standpoint:

  1. Tripod: For the best results, you’ll need to shoot fireworks with your camera on a tripod, because you’re going to need a slow enough shutter speed to capture the falling light trails, which is what you’re really after.
  2. Cable Release: This is where using a cable release really pays off because you’ll need to see the rocket’s trajectory to know when to push the shutter button. If you’re looking in the viewfinder instead, it will be more of a hit or miss proposition.
  3. Zoom Lens: Use a zoom lens (ideally a 200mm or more) if you want to get in tight and capture just the fireworks themselves. If you want fireworks and the ground (like fireworks over Cinderella’s Castle at Disney World, or at the beach, or a city skyline, etc.), then use a wider lens, like the 28mm lens I used in the shot above (taken with my brother’s very old Canon Rebel and an 18-200mm zoom).

Camera Settings:

I recommend shooting in full Manual mode because you just set two these settings and you’re good to go:

  1. Set the Shutter Speed to 4 seconds
  2. Set the Aperture to f/11. Fire a test shot and look at the LCD monitor on the back of your camera to see if you like the results. If it overexposes, lower the shutter speed to 3 seconds, then take another shot and check the results again.

That’s the basics.

If you want to take things up a notch (and go all ‘pro’ on me), you could also add these four things:

1. Set your focus to infinity (This isn’t critical, but if your lens can do it, why not). The fireworks are so bright you can use just regular ol’ autofocus for the most part, but if you have a lens that has a distance scale window on the top of your lens barrel; first turn off your auto focus (right on the lens –  switch it to off), then rotate the focus ring on your lens until you see the Infinity symbol [it looks like the number 8 lying on its side], then turn it back just a smidge, so you’re almost right on the infinity symbol. Again, you don’t have to do this, but it might make things a bit easier.

2. A couple of years ago @SuzanMcEvoy (one of my followers over on my Twitter page) recommended also switching your White Balance to Tungsten and it works really well (Thanks Susan for the tip).

3. Lightroom (and Photoshop’s Camera Raw) Dehaze feature works wonders on the extraneous smoke in the background, so make sure you give it a try. It’s like it was made for fireworks shots.

4. This one probably goes without saying, but you’re on a tripod so use your lowest ISO setting for the cleanest shots.

TIP: If your camera has ‘Bulb mode’ (where the shutter stays open as long as you hold down the shutter release button down), this works great — hold the shutter button down when the rocket bursts, then release when the light trails start to fade. (By the way; most Canon, Nikon, and Sony DSLRs have Bulb mode). The rest is timing because now you’ve got the exposure and sharpness covered and you have a hand free to hold the adult beverage of your choice.

Hope you all have a safe, happy 4th of July as we celebrate our nation’s physical distance, in miles and magnitude, from Glyn and Dave which makes it truly a day worth celebrating. ;-)

Cheers!

-Scott

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