Tag Archives: Photography Tips

Repost: Improving Your Photography by Having Go-To Places

Hi Friends,

It’s been so long since I have posted any tips here, been way to busy with work, play, fun–life in general. Having said that, I found a great article that I thought was worth sharing. What this article is essentially saying, is that by having a specific location that you love, you can improve your photography by visiting it over-and-over again in various conditions (lighting, weather, season) without having to go out and look for somewhere to shoot. When you have a particular place to go, you are not wasting precious time looking for that particular place.

While not an actual spot (there are way too many), my go to place is Mt. Rainier in Washington State. I live about an hour or so from 2 different entrances, so it is very convenient for me to get in the car and go at just about any time.

The link below will take you to the article. Hope you enjoy.




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SLR Lounge Lightroom Preset Review

Over the years, many people have asked me about my workflow for my images. I generally tell them about Lightroom and Photoshop, leveraging those tools to get the best images possible. I also tell them that with Lightroom, finding a “recipe” or a preset that work for their style will greatly improve their overall workflow and speed up their finishing process.

I own a few presets packages for Lightroom, with one of them standing out above all the rest: the SLR Lounge Lightroom Presets. Without question, these presets are the best that I have found and always provide me with the results that I envisioned when I originally pressed the shutter button on my camera. Their presets have saved me countless hours of finishing work (moving from hours to minutes) and saved me from having to spend a lot of time in Photoshop (something I don’t like to do). The lessons that come with the system not only taught me how to use their presets but gave me confidence to use Lightroom as my primary edit tool.

I have been using SLR Lounge presets for about 2 years now, and will continue to use them as long as I take photographs.

Below is a before/after example of a photograph I recently took using the HDR SLR Lounge Presets for Lightroom.

Good job guys!

If you are interesting in purchasing them for your own use, you can purchase them at this link: http://www.slrlounge.com/lightroom-presets



Before-After SLR Lounge






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Shooting Locally

As you are aware, I love landscape photography. The lure of a faraway place-someplace of beauty, splendor, or mystique-often calls me. But like most people, I have a very limited budget for travel, and thus never get quite the opportunities, not to mention the time away from work and other obligations. So, when the itch to take a photograph strikes I have to scratch it. But I get bored, bored, bored of the city I live in–there is really nothing here and what is here are all quite familiar. I have to find another way to satisfy the craving.

One way to satisfy the craving is to find a new way to photography the same subject.

Because local locations are, well, local, our perception is that they are not the “once-in-a-lifetime” experience. And because of that, it should remove the pressure to get that shot we all seek. This should give us the freedom to explore without the fear of coming away with nothing. If we do come away with nothing, that’s OK since we can always go back. This will give you the opportunity to learn from the mistakes you made. And as an added benefit, exploring the same area during different times of day or season of the year presents you the opportunity to see how things might change and give you the opportunity for a different look and/or feel to the subject.

Anyway, I hope that you can see that shooting locally is a good alternative to shooting nothing when shooting at the “exotic locale” is not an option and a great way to hone your skills without breaking the bank. I am trying to live by my own advice and get out in my town a little bit more, I hope you do too.

Happy shooting and as always, blessings.



Posted in Architectural, Landscape and Nature Photography, Photography Tips & Techniques Also tagged , |

How to Save Big Money by Not Hiring a Professional Wedding Photographer

Good morning, Friends.

Talk to any professional wedding photographer and they will tell you that one of the biggest challenges they face two fold: first, the notion from potential clients that I can save big money if they do it themselves (that is taking your own photographs) and a very closely related second, the cost of a professional photographer is just too much money. Well, I’m not going to get into the why a professional wedding photographer costs money (there are plenty of blog postings that break down everything from the cost of professional knowledge and expertise, marketing, equipment, time, etc., etc.) but I would like to share something that came across my desk yesterday.

As you know, I am not one who regularly reposts other’s blog, but every once in a while something comes along that is worth sharing.This post will explain the monetary benefits you will reap by doing your own wedding photographs. I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did. Click on the link below to view the post.


Keep in mind my post is not intended to offend anyone, just provide a good humored look at things to take into account when considering taking your own wedding photographs. I can’t speak for the intent of the original author, however. 🙂



Posted in Event Photography, Photography Tips & Techniques, Wedding Photography Also tagged , |

15 Must See Cheatsheets and Infographics For Photographers

Good day friends.

I hope that you have had as enjoyable a Monday as you could possibly have. It’s hard to ease back into a week after a gorgeous weekend-isn’t it? But we do what we can to make it better. For me, it is sometimes looking at pictures I took over the weekend or perhaps even reading through blogs and posts. When looking around, I usually find something that makes me chuckle, makes me mad, makes me sad, and sometimes ponder a question or think about a subject and contemplate on it.

Every once in a while, I stumble across information that is just incredible and must share (most of it not on this blog but through facebook or twitter). However, as you are keenly aware, I am very hesitant to plug anyone else’s products or services, or even their information for that matter on my own blog. I don’t want my blog to become a message board for others to peddle their wares or a cornerplace for spam and junk. But when I do find something that is worth sharing to my audience, I first wish that I had come up with it myself 🙂 but then I want to give credit where credit is due and share that information.

Such is the case with this tidbit of information: 15 Must See Cheatsheets and Infographics for Photographers. Click on the link below to go to it.

15 Must See Cheatsheets and Infographics For Photographers

There is a lot to know when it comes to photography, everything from color temperature to depth-of-field, from tonal range to the 3 elements to exposure, and everything in between. This post does a wonderful job of graphically illustrating some of those various topics.

I strongly encourage you to take a look and glean whatever information you can.

Blessings to you (and enjoy the remainder of your day),



Posted in Photography Tips & Techniques Also tagged |

Macro Photography Extension Tube Review

Back in April, I posted a tip about cheap macro photography. Well, I broke down and had to try it myself. Not owning a Macro lens, I purchased a series of extension tubes and some close-up filters for my 24-105mm Nikkor lens.  The results? Mixed.

This particular post is about the macro extension tubes I purchased: Vello Auto Extension Tube Set for Nikon cameras. You can purchase them at B&H Photo for $79.95 (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/787224-REG/vello_ext_nd_auto_focus_ext_tube.html)

I am posting here a series of photographs that I took using my Nikon D800 DSLR camera and a variety of lenses. I used a 50mm, a 70-200mm, a 24-105mm (all Nikkor) and a Tamron 28-75mm. And for the most part, I tried to photographs flowers in the garden, which posed numerous challenges such as lighting and wind. Over the course of the 3 days I tried to photograph, I could not get the wind to cooperate–it would just not stop blowing. That is until I put everything away. Another challenge that I had was the precise aiming of the camera and lens while on the tripod. You see, my tripod is just not designed to fine tune height and direction.  And of course, I had to do this with all the extension tubes on the camera.

The next test was to remove two of the tubes and use just the 50mm Nikkor lens. These results were much more satisfactory, although I could not get the zoom I want. Exact focus is an issue that must be dealt with too. Of course, read any text on macro photography and focus and Depth-of-Field will always be an issue. The answer: focus stacking, that is taking multiple exposures with different focal points and then combining those photographs in Photoshop or another program (that subject is out of scope for this blog).

Now, keep in mind that I did not try just one of the elements on any of my other lenses, just the 50mm.

Light is another issue that must be considered. Even though I was shooting in full daylight, I had to pump up my ISO to 800. And even though Vello claims that the lens info will be passed onto the camera thus being able to I found that my camera’s metering got somewhat out-of-whack and I had to make adjustments to exposure.

I was pleased with the results-I mean what more could I ask for for $80. I would still like to try a true macro lens, but I think that I will wait a while before shelling out the bucks to buy one and just make use of these tubes.

So the photographs posted below, the flower photographs are with the combined use of the 3 tubes, while the remainder are with just the 12mm tube. The only adjustments I made to these photo’s are exposure, contrast, a bit of sharpening and noise reduction. I did not crop any of these so you can get a sense of the magnification.

Next blog post will be about the close-up filters.



P.S. The photograph of the dogs eye has the camera reflection of Lynette digging in the garden. Awesome!

Posted in Landscape and Nature Photography, Photography Tips & Techniques Also tagged , , , |

Fireworks 2013

So for years I’ve always posted and reposted tips on getting great firework photographs and have yet to post any of my own (that is without having to dig through the archives). This year was going to be different-a trip out to the big firework display with lots and lots of new and exciting photo’s to post. But, the dogs wouldn’t hear of letting us go away. If any of you are aware, the last 3 years have been especially challenging for us with keeping our animals under control during the days leading up to and following the holiday (they have escaped the yard the last couple of years and have been lost and gone for hours and hours). So once again we were forced to be at home.

Nevertheless, there are usually plenty of opportunities to get cool photographs of fireworks around your own house. The pictures I post here are just a few of the ones that I shot just around my own abode. Ok, they are not as spectacular as those you might capture at a large fireworks display, but still cool.

Anyway, enjoy and perhaps next year we can post some photographs from a larger display.



P.S. If you are an individual that likes to set off fireworks around your house, please be responsible and clean up your mess. Lynette and I took a walk around our neighborhood yesterday and both of us were disgusted at the amount of firework trash left to rot in the street. Do the right and responsible thing and clean-up after yourself please. Your neighbors will appreciate it

Posted in Event Photography, Photography Tips & Techniques Also tagged , , , |

7 Ways to Combat Photographers Block

I am stuck in the middle of some serious photographers block. Winter can do that to you! Not a lot of clients, gray and rainy skies, shorter days, etc. all leave one wondering what-in-the-heck to shoot. And if you live it in a city like I do-extremely boring-there is never anything going on around town to provide great opportunities to shoot (ok extremely boring city is debatable at a few times each year). So its natural to fall into the photographers equivalent of “writers block.”

I think that every photographer goes through this from time-to-time. It’s how you deal with it that separates us from the casual photo buff. For me, I fall into training mode and take the opportunity to brush up on the fundamentals or learn a new skill. This year, I am learning HDR photography and am excited to jump into spring and summer with this new skill (I’ll post a few practice photographs in a little while).

Well, when scouring the net looking for some inspiration, I found another blog post on this same phenomenon. I liked it so much, I thought that I would link to it to let you read it too. Click on the link below for that post.


In it, the author gives seven specific things to do to combat block. Those are:

7) collaborate with others;
6) go somewhere new;
5) shoot technical photography
4) shoot street photography
3) shoot feelings;
2) find a color;
1) Just go out and shoot.

I am not going to rewrite here what’s pointed out in that article, with one exception: Just go out and shoot. Many times, just walking up and down the street and seeing something interesting (or not) can inspire an idea. Shooting something random or within your line of sight, no matter how interesting or dull, can lead you to somewhere unintended.

And if nothing else, shooting gives you the opportunity to sharpen your skills.

Blessings and happy shooting.


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What Makes a Photographer a Professional?

Is it just a nice camera? Or perhaps something more? This is a question that I have been asking for a number of years as I see more and more “amateurs” entering the market place and calling themselves professionals.

First and foremost, a nice camera does not make you a professional photographer. Just as a nice set of kitchen knives does not make one a master chef, buying a nice camera will not make you a professional photographer. Certainly, a nicer camera will take a better quality picture than a cheaper version, but I have seen some truly wonderful photographs taken by master photographers using the worst of cameras. Likewise, I have seen some absolutely horrendous photographs taken by amateurs and hobbyists using top-notch equipment. Therefore, it takes something more than just a nice camera.

Having said that, there is a place for proper equipment. Having the right camera, the right lenses, the right lighting equipment goes a long way to call oneself a professional. And a true professional will work withing the boundaries of their equipment and the circumstances to make their photographs the best. There is nothing worse than someone would doesn’t know the boundaries of what their equipment will do and won’t do and try to make a situation work regardless.

Several years ago, a couple buddies of mine were getting married (different weddings) and they didn’t want to pay too much their photography-so they sought out and found a “cheap” photographer. Both of these photographs had no idea what the heck they were doing and were trying to take their “formal” shots in a dark church using their little camera flash. The result-disastrous! The photographs were some of the worst formals I have ever seen. With the exception of central figures being overexposed in every photograph, the remainder of the subjects were dark and looked to be standing around in a dark room.

A professional photographer would have known what to do in this situation. The easy solution would have been to have the right lighting equipment, but excluding that they could have selected a better and more evenly lit area to take their formal photographs. Or using a tripod, these photographers could have adjusted their camera in a manner to make the formal shots more acceptable. (Note: neither of my buddies exercised their option to create an album of their wedding photographs since they were so bad).

A photographers eye is probably the single biggest fundamental quality that goes into making one a professional. Certainly, anyone can take a decent photograph. And as one of my mentors likes to say, “with today’s DSLR and the ability to “machine-gun fire” your camera, everyone is bound to take a good photograph now and again.” However, it is knowing when to press the shutter button, knowing how to compose (and sometimes pose) the subject, knowing details like your depth-of-field and how to make the adjustments to get that image out of your mind and onto the image sensor is what makes the difference.

“Chimping” is an expression that a lot of photographers use to describe one of two things: the instant review of a digital photograph on a camera viewfinder (followed by some verbal expression to express a positive emotion) or the action of an amateur following a professional around and shooting over the professionals shoulder.  It’s the latter that I want to talk about.  In this, the professional does all the work of composing the shot, posing the subjects, adjusting the light, etc. and then someone else steals a shot. First of all, this is not cool! If you are doing it-stop it! We’ve had more shots and many fun surprises ruined by people chimping, stealing shots and posting them on Facebook before we can deliver our finished photographs. Second of all, anyone can get great shot when someone who knows what they are doing sets it up. The real test of a professional is someone who can set it up themself.

Training is another key attribute of a professional. I am not going to spend much time on this as it is fairly self-explanatory, but even master photographers get themselves into workshops and seminars from time-to-time. The aim here is to make oneself better than they currently are-even if they have reached the apex of the industry.

Nothing can substitute for experience. This will include the time one is training to be a photographer, working with another photographer either as an assistant or second camera, and ultimately venturing out on their own. I know that everyone has to start from somewhere, and I don’t begrudge anyone getting a start in the business. Where I draw the line is someone claiming experience when they have none–and believe me, I see this a lot! This is not fair to the photographer, the industry, and most of all the client. That client is expecting someone who knows what they are doing, and it is a travesty to have their event marred by someone who claims to be something they are not.

Proper experience will put the photographer in many different situations, some of which will require quick thinking and problem solving. Proper experience will show a photographer their strengths and highlight their areas to improve. And proper experience will ultimately make that individual a true professional.

There is some debate in the photographic community as to whether or not product offerings should be part of the equation. On one hand, a real professional will have access to good printers, book and album binders, canvases, and other specialty products that others may not have access to (keep in mind I am not talking about the Costco or Walmart quality prints and canvases and such, but high-quality, professional level suppliers). And on the other hand there are/were many professional photographers that do not use these services to the general public (but could if they wanted). Either way, your garden variety amateur will not have the access to the types of products and services that professional will, so I leave it up to you to decide if that is an important factor.

Professional ethics, or a ‘code of conduct’ is an area that is often overlooked today. Many times, if one were to ask someone whom they are doing business with or intend to do business with what their own personal business ethics might be, more times than not you would get a blank stare or some non-thought-out answer such as “be fair, be courteous.” But ethics is something than that-something that everyone really needs to be concerned with-and we are! Our code is as follows:

  • We will conduct all business transactions with honesty and integrity. We will treat each customer with respect, making sure they fully understand the services for which they have contracted. I will regard fellow photographers and other trade professionals with respect.
  • We will strive at all times to produce work of the highest possible quality.
  • We will constantly advance and improve our skills as a professional photographers. Further, we will share our knowledge with fellow photographers, students, and others who aspire to become professional photographers, so as to attempt to raise the standards of the industry.*
  • Engage in fair and honest business practices, adhering to local, state/provincial, or federal laws and rules.
  • Use dependable equipment and accessories, which I will maintain in good working condition. I will also maintain and have available back-up equipment, wherever possible.
  • We will conduct ourselves with grace and professionalism at any House of Worship, or other facility, that we enter. It shall be our goal to establish a positive working relationship with other professionals and clergy. My attire and demeanor shall be appropriate to the dignity of the occasion.

So hopefully you can see that being a professional photographer is more than just owning a nice camera. As the saying goes, “owing a camera will just make you the owner of a camera-it doesn’t make you a photographer.” Certainly, equipment has a place, but knowing how to use that equipment properly, what your strengths and limitations are, how to think and successfully overcome obstacles, training and experience, and respectfully and fairly working with and within the photographic community are all factors that make one a true professional.

I hope that you found this posting helpful. If you are searching for a photographer, maybe it will give you something to think about before hiring “uncle charlie” for your event and if you are a photographer, aspiring or otherwise, my hope is that will challenge yourself and portray yourself in the marketplace as yourself and not as something you are not.



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Learning to Shoot With Film Can Help Improve Your Digital Photography

I love this line: owning a camera will only make you the owner of a camera-it doesn’t make you a photographer! But how many people believe they are a photographer just because their digital image turned out good or that there actually is an image to begin with? Too many, in my opinion. They may be able to turn their camera on and push the shutter button, but that doesn’t make you a photographer in the “real meaning’ of what photography demands.

Possessing skills to become a better photographer requires a great deal of knowledge and the best place to start your learning may be learning about film photography. A good understanding of film will teach you about proper lighting, contrast, color balance, tones, etc. As a film photographer, you are required to think before you snap your shot and you have to get it right. If you don’t, unlike digital photography it could be days or weeks before you find your error. And the amount of money spent on film and processing, not to mention the cost and embarrassment of a blown photo shoot can be quite expensive. You have to get it right!

But if you are serious about photography and desire to become a better photographer, learning and studying film photography will help you become stronger. The more you learn, the better you will become. Your images will not only be stronger, but perhaps more creative and memorable!

Happy shooting,



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