How To Make Magical Kids Portraits with Natural Light with Tracy Sweeney

Go behind the scenes with Tracy Sweeney during a sunset beach photo shoot with her two five year old daughters. Tracy shares her process and thoughts for guiding and directing the girls during the shoot, as well as her choices in gear and camera settings.

After the shoot Tracy takes a deep dive into her post processing workflow using Lightroom Classic and Photoshop. Sharing her techniques for bringing out the beauty, light, and color in the photos from her sunset shoot will reveal how you can apply that to your own photography. Tracy wraps up the class with a demonstration of how to breathe life and color into photos that were taken in less than ideal natural light.

In Case You Missed It… Family Photography: Sibling Shots

Join Tracy Sweeney to learn how she creates authentic and dynamic photos of siblings in rain or shine. In this class Tracy shares from her treasure trove of secrets to ensure you can achieve the shots that parents just cannot create on their own.

From the importance of managing expectations and planning a session to capturing the final images, Tracy teaches you what she’s learned from years of experience. You’ll even get to watch Tracy work her magic during several on-location shoots. By the end of the class you’ll be on the road to developing an effective workflow that’s guaranteed to give you confidence and wow those family clients.

A few weeks back I was on Instagram and saw that Frank Ockenfels was selling a print of his for $100 and it made my head spin! I love Frank’s work and I also have a continually growing print collection on the walls of my home and studio so I jumped at the chance! That’s when I saw that Frank and many other artists were a part of a campaign created by Tim Tadder called “Art for Assistants” aimed at raising money for photo assistants out of work due to COVID-19.

I think I speak for all the photographers in Nashville when I say our assistants are family and an essential part of our teams. With that in mind, I wanted to find a way to join in and help our crews. After speaking with a few Nashville photographers and then with Tim Tadder, we ended up joining forces and put together AFA- Nashville.

AFA-Nashville is a local branch of “Art For Assistants” out of Nashville,TN featuring 13 of the city’s top image makers.

We will be offering 100 limited edition, 11×14″ prints (per photographer) from thirteen of Nashville’s top photographers. Prints are $100 each, but of course, donations of any size are welcomed.

I’m so thankful for the Nashville photographers that joined in on this effort, and for Tim Tadder for creating this and putting so much effort behind the initiative!

Here is a look at the Nashville images that are currently up for sale.

Questlove by Eric Ryan Anderson
Questlove by Eric Ryan Anderson

Eric Ryan Anderson

Questlove: This contact sheet comes from a cover story shot for Brooklyn Magazine. Questlove and our small crew took a stroll through Central Park, just like old friends. Quest was one of the kindest, most engaged subjects I’ve ever worked with. Purchase Print

The Valley of Elah by David Bean
The Valley of Elah by David Bean

David Bean

The Valley of Elah: This is a photo I took of IDF soldiers walking through the Valley of Elah; which, according to the Bible, is where the battle between David and Goliath took place. Purchase Print

Imogen Heap by Jeremy Cowart
Imogen Heap by Jeremy Cowart

Jeremy Cowart

Imogen Heap: This image of Imogen Heap was shot in the very beginning of my career in 2006 and has since been an all-time favorite image. It was also the first time I really experimented with a portrait in post-production, using mixed media. Purchase Print

Billy F. Gibbons by Alysse Gafkjen
Billy F. Gibbons by Alysse Gafkjen

Alysse Gafkjen

Billy F. Gibbons: Photographed in Nashville, TN a few days after meeting him and the rest of ZZ Top at the Ryman Auditorium. Shot on a Rolleiflex camera on Tri-X 400 film. Purchase Print

Crows Funeral by Michael Gomez
Crows Funeral by Michael Gomez

Michael Gomez

Crows Funeral: Purchase Print

Robert Plant by Russ Harrington
Robert Plant by Russ Harrington

Russ Harrington

Robert Plant: I shot this image of Robert Plant at my studio in Nashville. It was to promote the Grammy- award winning recording, “Raising Sands,” a collaboration with Alison Krauss. Purchase Print

Ed Helms by Robby Klein
Ed Helms by Robby Klein

Robby Klein

Ed Helms: Photographed for Billboard magazine. I got to spend the day with Ed at Bonnaroo back in 2017 making fun photos and this was a particular favorite from the day. Purchase Print

Dolly Parton by Slick Lawson
Dolly Parton by Slick Lawson

Slick Lawson

Dolly Parton: Purchase Print

Joseph Llanes

Lisa Marie and Priscilla Presley by Joseph Llanes
Lisa Marie and Priscilla Presley by Joseph Llanes

Lisa Marie and Priscilla Presley: Photographed in the music room at Graceland. Purchase Print

Maren Morris by David McClister
Maren Morris by David McClister

David McClister

Maren Morris: Photographed for Garden & Gun. Purchase Print

Sojourn by Cameron Powell
Sojourn by Cameron Powell

Cameron Powell

Sojourn: Purchase Print

Keith Urban by Gregg Roth
Keith Urban by Gregg Roth

Gregg Roth

Keith Urban: Purchase Print

Dave Grohl by John Shearer
Dave Grohl by John Shearer

John Shearer

Dave Grohl: The Foo Fighters frontman was photographed during an MTV VMA promo shoot in Hollywood. Purchase Print

All prints can be viewed and purchased at, with all proceeds going to help Nashville’s photo assistants who have been without work since COVID-19 arrived.

With things slowly easing up the world over, it’s time #TravelTuesday got more travel focussed again. I’m Dave Williams and I’m here again, crossing my fingers and checking airline and government notices daily to see when I can go explore again!

I want to share with you the way I find the most cost-effective ways to get shots when I’m self-assigned. When someone else is commissioning a shoot it’s easy—just wait for the tickets and reservations to land in your inbox. But, for self-assignment when shooting stock, for example, it’s a little trickier and every penny counts. That’s why I have developed a system for finding the best prices for flights, hotels, and cars, and it’s this system I want to let you in on today. Being based in the UK it will vary slightly for those of you in the US or other parts of the world, but the system remains similar in all locations.

First up, I need to work out where I need to go. If I’m flying from London to Paris, there are many options, which means there’s healthy competition. London has several airports: Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton, Stansted, and a couple of others. Paris, similarly, has multiple airports. Charles De Gaulle and Orly, serving the city from the north and the south. This range of options means airlines are competing to get you there, and this reflects in the price. Take a look at Stockholm, Sweden, and notice there are three airports: Arlanda, Skavsta, and Bromma. Similarly, New York has JFK, La Guardia, and Newark. Most major cities have multiple airports, which helps to drive the prices down and the options up. But how do I find the best options?

I constantly monitor Hopper to find out the best time to book, and what I mean by this is how far in advance. There’s a whole load of mystery around flight pricing and we know there are controls in place to fill the flights up to make the most profit for the airlines, but what Hopper does is it monitors the prices for major worldwide routes to suggest the best time to book a specific ticket. Once I know this, I know how far ahead to be planning.

Next up, I can do the searching. I tend to start with Skyscanner to gauge the routes available. Skyscanner lets us input a city or an airport, and allows us to select dates or view a range of dates to compare prices. The result is the cheapest ticket. We can select different airlines for different legs of the journey and even different airports for each direction. When I see the results I will go to the airline’s own website to check their price, because although Skyscanner is usually the cheapest option, there is the odd occasion when the airline’s website shaves a couple of quid off the price.

With the flight sorted, I’ll source accommodation. Knowing that I’ll be spending a lot of time out rather than in, it’s more important to me to choose a tactical location than it is to choose the services, etc., that may be available. Some of my favourite places to stay have been in the middle of nowhere, waking up to the sounds of sheep bleating at the door of a mountain in Iceland, with nothing but a bed and a lamp in the room, but perfect positioning to explore the landscape. The best places to find these sorts of accommodations are,, and AirBNB. The way I use these is to search the dates and locations, then switch to the map view to view the results geographically, selecting the most appropriate option in terms of price and location to ensure I can get the job done, on-budget. I have an account with each of these companies, and this gives me access to cheaper rates and extras, like early check-in and late check-out, which I’d definitely recommend.

Last on the list is cars. is the winner, but a close second is Hotwire. These are price comparison sites as well, and for some reason, I always find the cars cheaper here than with the rental companies themselves. The off-airport companies are always cheaper, but it’s a trade-off whether you’re willing to wait 45 minutes for the agency to send someone to the airport to collect you and to return the car that much earlier at the end of the rental, as well. My top tip for making this cost-effective is to consider that the full insurance is rarely included, and it’s always worth having. The price of a small scrape can run into the hundreds, so unless you have a permanent rental insurance policy, get the insurance (but don’t over-buy it.) Buying it from the rental company when you arrive is the best way to do it to bring down deposits and excesses, rather than buying it through or whichever company you used in the first place.

Essentially, it’s important to shop around and put in the research to make your trip as cost-effective as possible. When you’re running a business, this will increase your margins. When you’re not, it’ll save you enough money to be able to see more places! I hope this has been useful.

Much love

This weekend, my sports-shooting buddy, and dear friend, Mike McCaskey of the Chicago Bears organization died after a tough battle with cancer. I’m heartbroken.

My shot of Mike at Ford Field before the Bears/Lions game in Detroit.

I met Mike about 15 or so years ago. I was going to Chicago to teach a seminar, and I got an email from this gentleman. He said he was attending my seminar the following day and was wondering if I would consider taking a look at his photography and giving him an honest critique. He added that as his way of saying thanks, I could be his guest at the Chicago Bears football game the following day. I agreed, and we met in the lobby of the DoubleTree hotel in Rosemont, where we found a small table out of the way I gave him a critique.

Mike had two types of shots, landscapes and people. I went through his images, and I was (some might say) brutally honest (which is what he insisted I be). I said, “Mike, look…you’re not a landscape photographer. You’re a people person. Your portraits are just fantastic, but your landscapes…well…you should stop shooting landscapes and focus on people.” He took the critique like a champ, and we became fast friends that day (at the time, I just thought he was a Bear’s fan – I had no idea that the next day I’d be watching the Bear’s game from the Owner’s Luxury Suite. That was pretty mind-blowing).

It was Mike who, later that same season, gave me my first opportunity to shoot a real NFL game. I will never forget walking out of the “tunnel” with Mike, my gear slung over my shoulder, and we walked out onto Chicago’s Soldier Field on a bright, crisp day. It was a moment I’ll never forget.

Me at Soldier Field in Chicago. I wouldn’t have ever shot an NFL game were it for not Mike.

He also got me my first NBA shoot, and we spent a glorious day together shooting a Cubs game and chowing on “real Chicago-style hot dogs” at Wrigley Field. He was such a great sports photographer — way better than he thought he was, but always the most humble guy out there.

That’s us shooting at a Chicago Bulls game.
Mike while shooting the Bulls .

Mike loved photography, and he was an incredible portrait and sports photographer because he was indeed a people person. When I’d talk with Mike about a particular player, what a beast he was last season, and what amazing stats he had, Mike would tell me about that player’s family, and what he did to help the community or about a foundation that player had started. I know Mike loved football, but he loved the people around it that made the game. As we moved through the stadium, he knew everybody by name, from the Elevator operators to the janitors, and he chatted with everyone and genuinely wanted to talk with them. He didn’t care who you were; he loved people.

Mike McCaskey captured these wonderful shots of my wife Kalebra and I adding a “love lock” to the lock bridge in Paris during our trip there a few years back.
Sideline shot of Mike down in Miami shooting the Bears/Dolphins game.

When it comes to Mike, take all the things you know about NFL owners and toss them out the window. Mike wasn’t one of “them.” He was one of “us.” Funny as heck. Humble to a fault. You’d never know he had two nickels to his name. Mike spent two years volunteering in the Peace Corps in Africa. He was heavily involved in Chicago’s Ethiopian community back home. He was a born teacher, and on the faculty at Harvard Business School when he was called back home to manage the Bear’s operations where he became CEO for around 11 or 12 years.

My Favortie Mike McCaskey story…

I could share so many great stories about Mike, but today, in tribute, I’m going to share one of my favorites, and I hope you’ll take the time to read it. It will tell you a lot more about Mike McCaskey than a hundred articles you’ll read about him and his career on the Internet. Here goes:

Above: another buddy of mine, sports photographer Mike Olivella

11-years ago, back in 2009, my buddy and fellow sports photographer Mike Olivella (above) called me with a great idea. He shoots for Florida State University, and they give him a 2nd sideline pass for each game. His idea was to provide an amateur sports photographer the shoot of a lifetime by giving them the opportunity to shoot a top-level college game on the sidelines with us. We’d hold a photo contest (free to enter) and choose the best photo as the winner who would get to shoot on the sidelines as the grand prize. I loved the idea, and offered to fly the winner, get their hotel, meals, etc., and so the “Shoot on the sidelines with Scott & Mike” contest was born. We launched it here on my blog a few days later. 

We had tons of great entries from around the country, and Alex Walker, a really talented sports photographer from Virginia, won the contest with a great shot of his son taken during a soccer game (shown above). We announced the winner and started making plans for Alex to come down to Florida to shoot the game. 

But some sports shooters out there had other plans

For reasons neither Mike nor I still quite understand, a group of very vocal sports photographers got really, really, really mad about our contest. They started some incredibly hateful threads at a popular sports photography site that got so many comments; they had to close the original thread and start a new one so the hating could continue in full force. Besides just generally hating on Mike and me (OK, mostly me), their other gripe was that letting this one “amateur” on the sidelines would make the already hopelessly over-crowded sidelines that much more crowded. Still, worse yet, this amateur would basically “run-amok” endangering himself and everyone around him. This had to be stopped!

Grab your pitchforks. Light your torches. This must be stopped!

These sports photographers were so incensed that Alex would get to shoot this college football game that they went beyond the forums — they carried their angry protest directly to the school. They convinced them that letting this reckless amateur shoot the game was endangering the school, the other photographers, and even the players on the field. Their outcry was so loud the school felt they had no other choice than to revoke Alex’s sideline photo pass.

I wrote a post here on the blog about how these photographers were able to steal Alex’s dream from him in a post called “A great day for Sports Photography.” It was for a long time the most commented-on post ever on my blog. In that post, when I told how Alex wouldn’t be shooting on the sidelines, after all, you couldn’t believe the outpouring of support from friends of the blog. Lots of folks stepped up to send Alex all kinds of goodies, and we sent Alex a “care package” ourselves, but of course, I felt really awful about the whole thing.

The only person that felt worse was Mike Olivella. Here he tried to do something nice, and not only did Mike and I wind up getting barbecued at a level I don’t think either of us had ever experienced in our professional lives, but Alex wound up without a shoot to boot. Luckily, Alex took the news like a pro. He was incredibly gracious, understanding, and was just happy to have won and didn’t want anything else — no replacement prize — nothing. Now I wanted to meet him in person even more.

I hate asking for favors, but I needed a favor…

I hate calling friends for favors, but in this instance I felt I just had to. I picked up the phone and called Mike McCaskey. I told him the whole story about Alex losing his sideline photo pass, and the opportunity to shoot a real college game, and Mike said, without hesitation:

 “The Chicago Bears would welcome Alex on our sidelines!”

I was thrilled, and I called Alex to tell him the news that he was now shooting an NFL game at Chicago’s Soldier Field (Whoo Hoo!!!). It was one of the most fun phone calls I’ve ever made! Alex was blown away (Mike Olivella and I were thrilled beyond thrilled for him), and we arranged Alex’s flights, hotel, and so on, but I asked Alex to keep all this quiet until after the game, so the angry sports shooters wouldn’t try to ruin this shoot for him, too.

A perfect day at Chicago’s Soldier Field on our game day with Alex.

Jumping ahead to the game

Well, the plan came together, and Alex flew to Chicago to shoot “Da Bears.” We met Alex early that morning for breakfast, and he was just a wonderful, down-to-earth guy, and a very proud dad of his son, who just earned a college scholarship with his soccer skills

We talked a lot about our families, jobs, and life in general, and I really enjoyed getting to know him. Before you knew it, we were at Chicago’s Soldier Field. We met up with Bears Chairman Mike McCaskey as soon as we got to the stadium, and Mike treated Alex as though he was the single most important person at Soldier Field that day. Mike invited Alex to join him for lunch in the owner’s suite and even went out shooting with Alex during the tailgating festivities. He couldn’t have made Alex feel any more welcome or at home than he did. It was a wonderful thing to see.

I know a lot of Bears fans only know Mike as part of the ownership or management group, but I can tell you they would have seen a side of Mike McCaskey, (one that I’ve seen time and time again), that would have made them really proud to have Mike leading their organization. I wrote about Alex’s trip to the Bears game right here (without ever mentioning that it was in place of the shoot Alex had lost. In fact, I just called the post “Shooting On The NFL Sidelines”).

The shot you see above, is (from L to R): Mike Olivella, me, and contest winner Alex Walker, taken on the Bears Sidelines by Mike McCaskey.

McCaskey saved the day

I could share dozens of stories like that about Mike McCaskey, about him helping people, caring for people, and truly being one of the “good guys,” but that surely is one of my favorites.

My least favorite Mike McCaskey story?

It was the time he got the shot and I missed it big time! We’re shooting a Bear’s game together on the sidelines at Soldier Field, and there is a good chance that Devin Hester, (Bear’s wide receiver and Return Specialist) is about to break the all-time NFL punt return record, so Mike and I set up on the opposite end-zone just incase Hester breaks out and heads for six, we’d be in place to get the shot. Sure enough, Hester finds a hole and sprints straight down the field right at Mike and me. We’re in a perfect position, at the right time and the right place, but I started shooting a few seconds too early, and as Hester is at about the 10-yard line the buffer fills on my camera, and I go down from 12-frames-per-second to about 1-frame per second, and I missed the shot. Mike didn’t start too early, and of course, he absolutely nailed it.

So, Mike has this incredible history-making shot — sharp as a tack and perfectly composed, and I’ve got a shot about 2-seconds too soon (seen below). What does Mike do with his shot? He pays to have it printed on a huge pano-sized canvas — and he donates it to raise money for charity. That’s the Mike I knew and loved.

This was my last shot before my buffer filled. I sent a framed print of it to Mike, and he hung it in the owner’s suite at the stadium. His own shot was better.

He was part of “Team Epic”

Every year a bunch of us friends get together and we meet up for a week or so where I’m hosting a local photo walk, and we call this group of friends, “Team Epic.” Mike was part of our little group.

Our Team Epic selfie in Innsbruck Austria about 18 or so months ago (by Dave Williams). That’s Mike on the far left.

What was so cool about having Mike on the team was that he was just “one of the guys.” He wasn’t Mike the Bears guy. He wasn’t Mike the rich guy. He was just one of the gang — just having fun, taking pictures, and laughing throughout it all. We were in Lisbon together the year before, and Mike was a big music lover. In the GIF below, I was playing a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing” from the soundtrack of the movie “Sing” because I knew Mike would love it. Our buddy, Italian photographer Robby Pisco comes up while I’m playing the song. He starts dancing and says, “Dance with me Mike” and without missing a beat, Mike (in the pink shirt and white hat below) just starts dancing, and somehow one of our team epic members caught that moment on video, and it became “A thing” during the trip with everybody wanting to “dance with Mike.” He really was just one of the guys. I loved that about him.

I miss Mike already. I’ll miss our dinner’s the night before my Chicago seminars. I’ll miss shooting alongside him, laughing along with him, having access to his wise council, and singing the Bear’s Fight Song together each time we’d meet. I’ll miss the blessing of having a friend like Mike. He’s “…the pride and joy of Illinois.”

I’ll sign off the same way Mike and I ended every email and text to each other:



Getting Up To Speed Fast In Lightroom 2020 with Scott Kelby

Attention all Lightroom Classic and Lightroom cloud users! It is time to get up to speed on all of the new features that have been added to each of the Lightroom apps in the last 18 months.

Scott Kelby begins with a look at all of the new features added to Lightroom Classic, then moves on to the desktop version of the Lightroom cloud app, before wrapping up the class with a look at what’s new in the Lightroom for mobile app. This is a huge class that will absolutely get you up to speed with everything you need to know about what is new across the entire Lightroom ecosystem.

In Case You Missed It: Mastering Metadata in Lightroom Classic

Learn how to become a master of metadata in Lightroom Classic! Join Terry White as he takes a deep dive into all of the ways you can add, edit, and utilize information about your photographs in your workflow. Metadata is simply information about your photos, and can include information applied during capture by your camera as well as information you add within Lightroom Classic.

In this class Terry teaches you how to create and apply metadata templates, how to manually enter IPTC information, the value of keywording, how name people using facial recognition, how to apply location information, and how to manage that metadata during export. The more information you apply to your photographs the better able you’ll be to organize and find them over time.

I totally 100% recommend getting a real RF wireless controller for your off-camera flash. It will change your whole experience (for the better). However, I hear from a lot of folks who got burned by buying a controller that from the description seems like it would work with their existing flash, but then they find out (after hours of frustration) that it doesn’t work, and will never work.

So, here’s a quick look at how to avoid this whole mess so you wind up with the right controller.

Note: I don’t recommend getting just a wireless trigger. Those only fire your flash wirelessly. Get a controller — one where you can change the power of your flash, or turn it on/off right from your camera (it’s sits on top of your camera, in the hot-shoe mount).

OK, here’s where people get burned:

OK, so let’s say you’ve got a Nikon SB-5000 Speedlight (Flash). You find this Yongnuo manual flash trigger for $39 on B&H Photo (great price by the way — I have one of these and it works amazingly well), and it says it’s for Nikon cameras. You’ve got a Nikon camera, so you buy, and when you try it, it doesn’t work with your SB-5000 flash. That’s because it’s actually for Nikon owners who have a Yongnuo flash — not Nikon owners who have a Nikon flash. You have to have a Yongnuo flash to go with this Yongnuo wireless controller, but of course it’s important to buy the version that matches your camera brand (which in this example, is Nikon), so yes — you need the version of his controller “for Nikon.”

So, what are your options?

You have at least three:

Option 1: If you shoot Nikon, buy a Nikon brand transmitter, like the SU-800 seen above (or if you’re a Canon shooter like me, you’d get the ST-E3-RT Speedlite Transmitter, which is about $30 more than the Nikon version, or if you’re s Sony shooter then the Sony FA-WRC1M Wireless Radio Commander, which is about $100 more). They are designed to work perfectly with your same-brand, and they work like a charm.

Option 2: Find a third-party transmitter that actually will fire your Nikon, Canon or Sony brand flash, like the Godox XproC TTL for Canon shown above (it’s the same price for the Nikon, Canon [shown above] or Sony — $69, which is a great price. The reviews are somewhat mixed with some folks saying it works perfectly and some saying they can’t even get it to fire their Godox brand flash, but I didn’t see any that said it wouldn’t fire their Nikon or Canon or Sony flash, so it may be a problem with Godox flashes, rather than their transmitter. These Godox’s are really popular, with B&H show them as the #1 top-seller in the category for all three top brands of cameras.

Option 3: Go with a PocketWizard TT6 Transceiver for Canon or a Flex TT5 for Nikon. It’s more expensive than the Godox, but less expensive than the Canon or Nikon brand transmitters, but you need TWO of them (one to sit on your hot shoe mount on your camera, and the other to go under the flash itself on your light stand). This is defiantly a pro-level solution as PocketWizard is the gold standard for wireless remotes, but so is buying the name brand transmitter that matches your name brand flash, and that might save you a few bucks since you only need to buy one. But yet, it is an option.

There are other options out there, too, but I wanted to at least give you these three popular options in hopes that you wind up with a solution that works for your camera and your particular flash unit.

Important: Before you actually buy a wireless controller, look on B&H Photo’s page to make certain that whichever brand of controller you get, will work with your camera, and your flash. They list which models each is compatible with, so make sure you check that list before you hit the buy button.

Hope you found that helpful. Here’s wishing you a great day, and a safe, healthy weekend.