6 Secrets to Scoring Big at Photography Competitions

6 Secrets to Scoring Big at Photography Competitions

Photography competitions put your images in front of a group of highly skilled photography experts — and offer more than just the possibility for an award. But how do you submit images that stand out among thousands of other excellent photographs?

Newborn and portrait photographer Kelly Brownhas won 18 industry awards across the span of just six years — but when just starting out, she had no idea how to navigate the world  of photography contests. Now, she’s sharing her photography competition tips to help others find success — and feedback — in the contests.

Photo by Kelly Brown

Feedback is more valuable than an award.

Most photographers enter a photography contest to win — but Kelly says that the feedback from judges is much more valuable than the award itself. The judging panel is creating a set of standards that determines what’s a professional image and what goes above and beyond the usual professional caliber.

Even if your photograph receives a low score, the feedback that comes along with that less-than-stellar outcome will help you improve your work, giving you the tools to know where to focus your efforts. While an award has value, finding areas to improve your work is even more valuable.

Photo by Kelly Brown

Understand the guidelines and what the competition is looking for.

In her first image competition she tried, Kelly admits she didn’t even understand what, exactly, the competition was looking for. Each photography contest is different. Some focus on a specific genre, others a certain technical aspect and some hone in on a specific theme that changes from year to year. The first step to entering a photography competition is to understand what that specific contest is looking for.

An image can be great but fail at an image contest simply because it’s not what the judges are looking for. The winning images in any given contest are both great — and perfectly suited for the contest theme or focus.

Photo by Kelly Brown

Capture the life stories of your subjects. Join internationally renowned photographer, Kelly Brown for a distinctive exploration on how she captures her subject’s individual story. Learn More.

Nail the technical aspects like lighting and color balance.

A bit of inappropriate blur or overexposure is the fastest way out of the running for a top prize in a photography contest. The technical aspects should be spot on. Factors like a proper exposure, sharpness, color balance and lighting are essential to winning a photography contest. Creativity is important, but often the winning images are both creative and technically correct. 

The exception? Intentionally breaking a “rule” to make a statement — and even then photographers taking this approach should be cautious. For example, look at this image that won a category in the WPPI print competition, using blur to obscure the couple’s identity and make the image look like a painting.

Photo by Kelly Brown

In the same way, make sure any editing is perfect too. An imperfect healing brush or clone job will be quickly recognized by judges. Get that image as close to perfect as possible in editing, while following the contest guidelines (some have strict restrictions on edits, so be careful of that).

Photo by Kelly Brown

Creativity and style is key.

In any given competition, judges sift through thousands of technically correct images —  creativity and style start to push images towards the top of that pile. Getting creative with composition is one way to set an image apart. Getting creative with color and tones is another. Adding elements that helps a single image tell a story gives an image loads of creative energy, something many of Kelly’s award winning images use.

Importantly, the creativity should suite the genre. The image should still fit into the category the judges are looking for.

Photo by Kelly Brown

In print competitions, the paper and viewing conditions matter too.

Images are usually submitted to photography competitions in two ways: digitally, or in print. If you enter a print competition, there’s even more to consider. Paper choice can play a subtle role on the final quality. For example, Kelly suggests that a highly textured paper won’t work as well in a newborn photography contest because the texture won’t quite work well with soft baby skin. An off-white paper will look warmer than an image printed on a pure white paper, while paper with more texture can help an image to look sharper.

Before entering a print competition, Kelly suggests printing a smaller size on a handful of different papers. Then, view them in a softbox or across from a window to simulate the lighting conditions that the judges will be viewing the images in. Different paper types can even obscure some of the finer details that give an image that big impact. 

Photo by Kelly Brown

Impact is essential.

The images that win top prizes in photography competitions are the ones that make the judges get out of their chair. Judges look at hundreds of images at a time — an image with impact gets the judges to look closely at the details even after seeing hour after hour of new images. When a judge gets out of their chair, they see those smaller details that push the image above the rest.

Creating an image with impact often involves several elements working together — creativity, story, lighting, composition and more. Often, these images are often stand-out, unique images, not the shots that simply follow the trends, but the photographs that make new trends.

Yes, winning a photography competition is about creativity and impact — but its also about understanding the contest and the judging process. In her class, Capturing Story in Portrait Photography, Kelly shares tips for both capturing those creative portraits and insider insight on finding success in photography competitions.


Capture the life stories of your subjects. Join internationally renowned photographer, Kelly Brown for a distinctive exploration on how she captures her subject’s individual story. Learn More.

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Creative Photo Challenge No. 9 – Printing on Alternative Surfaces

Creative Photo Challenge No. 9 – Printing on Alternative Surfaces

Transferring your images to an alternative surface allows you to preserve your image in a unique and lasting way. The alternative surface also adds a layer of depth and uniqueness to an image that makes it timeless. In our next Creative Photo Challenge, Lindsay will create a photo transfer on to stone, walking you through each step of the process.


Get Challenge No. 9  – Printing on Alternative Surfaces, right here.


Printing on an alternative surface gives you the ability to create beyond your end photo. By transferring your image to wood, tile, stone or even metal you can customize your art to fit any design or room and also give a completely new look or feel to your photograph. It also provides incredible opportunities as you think about installing your photos in unique places, with varying looks and feels. By applying the same image to different surfaces, you can make a room feel truly unique and custom tailored. Check out the video below for a full description of how Lindsay approached this challenge.

Lindsay was interested in transferring her image to stone which required a relatively flat surface and no polish or finish. The image itself has to be a laser printed (not an ink jet). Other pertinent items are a pair of scissors, a paintbrush, a washcloth, a container of water and a transfer medium (like Mod Podge).

Start by cleaning off the stone with a cloth to remove any unwanted debris. Then cut out the edges of the image to avoid extra paper when doing your sealing. You’ll then use the paintbrush to apply the transfer material to the stone itself as well as to the image side of the image you want to transfer.

At this point, you will apply the image to the stone where you want it to lay and remove all air bubbles by pressing the image against the stone firmly (think squeegeeing the image onto the stone). In order for the transfer to be clean – it has to be fully dry, so either let it dry overnight or if you want to expedite the process, you can use a hairdryer.

Once fully dried, you’ll use a damp washcloth to press moisture to the back of the dried image, which will slowly start to lift up the paper, and leave the ink behind on the stone. Once that has dried, you’ll want to seal the image by once again using either the transfer material or varnish.

Let it dry one final time, and your finished product is now ready for display.

Printing on Alternative Surfaces

Printing on Alternative Surfaces

Printing on Alternative Surfaces

Printing on Alternative Surfaces

Printing on Alternative Surfaces

And now it’s your turn to get creative. Make sure to share your work with the community with #CreativePhotoChallenge and join our Facebook group here.

Want more? Get on-demand access to all 10 free Creative Photo Challenges.


Not time to go analog? Learn how to replicate this look during our annual Photoshop Week 2019 online conference. Registration is open now!

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Creative Photo Challenge No. 7 – Collage Portrait

Creative Photo Challenge No. 7 – Collage Portrait

We all need fresh ways of exploring the same creative outlet. New angles, inspiration or even a completely new way to compose and construct a final image. Its this newness that keeps us inspired, on our toes, and ultimately (and hopefully) doing our best work. For this next round of the Creative Photo Challenge – we are pushing the envelope and asking you to do the same. By combining multiple images, angles and maybe even camera settings from multiple images you can create a collage that captures the intimacy of a normal portrait but does so in a uniquely distinct way. Using your photography in new artistic ways can also inspire you creatively and force you to take a look at a new approach to composition and framing.


Get Challenge No. 7  – Collage Portraits, right here.


Lindsay will walk you step by step through creating a whole new piece of art from your photographs. It will also give you the opportunity to use pieces of certain images that you liked to compose one single end result that leverages shots that didn’t necessarily make the cut the first time around, but which, when combined, add up to something greater than the sum of their unique parts.

When Lindsay took on the task, she decided to ‘get physical’, take multiple shots, print them out, tear them up and then arrange her configuration in a way that resonated. She placed her subject in front of a white wall for background, and then took a series of emotive portraits with varying facial expressions, ensuring that when she collaged, later on, it would enable her to have varied results. Once she had the pieces, she tore them up and arranged them until she was pleased with the layout. Then – a simple glue stick and foam core to finalize the composition – and there you have it.

Want to hear it straight from Lindsay herself? Check it out here. 

And now it’s your turn – get creative and collage your own portrait. Full details here.


Harness the power of Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom and take your creative potential to the next level. Get the entire Photoshop Week bundle for just $99.

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4 Ways To Improve Your Outdoor and Nature Photography Skills During Your Next Hike

4 Ways To Improve Your Outdoor and Nature Photography Skills During Your Next Hike

outdoor

As the days get longer, many of us long to be outside. This is especially true for photographers, who know good photographs are waiting to be taken in uncharted territory. If you have the itch to get outdoors, consider going beyond your neighborhood park and tackling a true adventure: a hike.

Once you’ve filled your backpack with the essentials you’ll need for the duration of your hike, it’s time to pack up your camera gear and head out. Before you leave home, though, read through these tips that can help you snap phenomenal photos while also enjoying breathtaking views.

Map Your Route

The first tip is something you’ll need to do before you leave home. Carefully research different hiking spots and choose one that can add to your portfolio. Look for a trail that will add diversity to your portfolio, rather than shots similar to the ones you already have. Once you’ve identified the perfect trail, map your route, highlighting significant hot spots along the way. Apps like MapMyHike can help you plan your journey electronically, allowing you to go offline once you’re on the trail.


Let your camera skills take flight with wildlife photographer Frans Lanting in his new class The Art of Photographing Birds. Tune in for the free premier March 20th. Sign up now.


Don’t Pass Up a Photo Opp

As you start your journey, it’s important to stop and capture every photo opportunity you see. You may pass something and tell yourself you’ll catch it on the way back, but by then the lighting may have changed or you may choose a different return route. Make plans to arrange your hike around the photos you’ll capture and you’ll find you don’t rush past the highlights. If capturing the perfect shot means varying from your route slightly, make sure you can safely do so, then go for it. Some of your best shots will be completely unplanned.

outdoor 2

Look for Unique shots

Nature scenes are so prevalent, they can tend toward mundane if not handled correctly. Develop an eye for noticing a picture that will stand out and take your hike as the opportunity to capture unique images. Along your hike, search for long streams or tree lines that span the length or width of the photo, drawing the viewer in and creating a unique, interesting look. Use leading lines and the rule of thirds for photos that will stand out in your portfolio and possibly even get you noticed.


Let your camera skills take flight with wildlife photographer Frans Lanting in his new class The Art of Photographing Birds. Tune in for the free premier March 20th. Sign up now.


Avoid the Obvious

Thousands of photographers have snapped photos of streams and mountains. Your goal as a photographer is to find a way to portray nature in unique ways. Look for reflections and shadows that add interest to an otherwise average photo. Even the way the sun peeks from behind the clouds can make an ordinary photo extraordinary. As a photographer, you already have an eye for the unique. A hike merely gives you new ground to explore, where you can potentially find something unique every step of the way.

As a photographer, your portfolio can be dramatically limited if you stay within the same area every day. By venturing out and taking a refreshing hike, you can expand your portfolio with shots that stand out. With a little careful planning and an open mind, you’ll come back with more than a full portfolio. You’ll also have made a few memories that will last a lifetime.


Let your camera skills take flight with wildlife photographer Frans Lanting in his new class The Art of Photographing Birds. Tune in for the free premier March 20th. Sign up now.


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Full Time You: How To Discover What Makes You Unique

Full Time You: How To Discover What Makes You Unique

Meg Lewis is all about making the world a happier place.

As a value-based designer, Lewis helps cultivate positive emotional connections between companies and their communities. She coaches brands on becoming happy companies, as well as individuals on how they can profit off of simply being themselves. Whether she’s working with brands or individuals, she helps them discover what makes them unique and how they can succeed in the world just being themselves.



Currently, Lewis, who most recently taught at Adobe’s 99U Conference, is a CreativeLive instructor, and part of the Ghostly Ferns collective is teaching creatives like you how to carve out a creative identity and brand that is unique to you. She does this by explaining how to identify and integrate your distinct traits into a career and figure out your life’s purpose – which will drive your personal and career decisions.

These kinds of skills are extremely helpful in a time when only 14% of American workers think they have the perfect job, while the rest of us are looking to change careers.


“It’s important to find out who we are because we’re constantly being told who we are is wrong.” – Meg Lewis
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“We are taught [from] childhood to not be ourselves,” said Lewis. “We’re taught to be the perfect vision, the perfect human, look like ‘X,’ how to speak, what our job should be and what our hair should be. It’s important to find out who we are because we’re constantly being told who we are is wrong.”

Photo by Ryan Muir for 99U

Lewis knows what it’s like to not feel special. When she was a kid, she was made fun of as many of us were. At 18 years old, she set out on a journey of fulfillment by leaving her hometown and eventually moving to New York City, where she started to discover her true self. Now that she knows who she is and what purpose she brings to the world, she wants to help others feel the same.

“I think the self-confidence boost of just knowing, or figuring out something that you can provide the world that no one else can, is extremely empowering. Most of the time our brains are telling us ‘No, I can’t do this,’ ‘No one will care,’ ‘I’m an idiot’ ‘or ‘I have nothing to offer to the world’” she said. “Take the time to empower yourself and give [yourself] a little pep talk. ‘No, this is something that I need to do. Because if I don’t do it right now, someone else might. Someone else is going to do it. And that’s what fuels my decision-making. I could do this so well if I just put my head down and do it.’”


The first step to just “doing it” may be to enroll in Lewis’ class, which is a series of helpful tips and pep talks on topics like discovering your unique differences, defining your strengths, crafting your new career mission. Learn More.


For instance, your differences are your superpowers, and she encourages students to use these differences to their advantage. If you have trouble determining what makes you unique, she recommends reaching out to loved ones for insight.


“So many times our brains are such a skewed version of reality and we can’t see ourselves for who we really are.” – Meg Lewis
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“So many times our brains are such a skewed version of reality and we can’t see ourselves for who we really are, so it’s so helpful to ask friends and family ‘What makes me special? What makes me be amazing?’ and allow them to answer,” she said. “Because that is helpful for people that are self-conscious.”

Download the full bonus material workbook in Lewis’ online class.

“A life’s purpose should be tailored just for you,” says Lewis. “We shouldn’t all have the same purpose. It shouldn’t be as easy as my children, or my family or my friends. It should be something that’s made specifically for you, for your unique personality, what your skills are and all that.”

A life’s purpose doesn’t have to be complicated; it can be one or two sentences and should be easy for you to fulfill. Lewis’ life purpose, for example, is to make the world a happier place. To find your life purpose, write down three things you value at your core, three activities you like to do and what you can offer to the world that other people cannot.

Meg Lewis: A Self-Discovery and Career Mission Workshop
Download the full bonus material workbook in Lewis’ online class.

In her work, Lewis stresses the importance of finding like-minded people. “I think it’s helpful, especially as a freelancer, to have other people to bounce ideas off of and get advice [from]. I love the creative community because they’re so open to sharing. Because we are all emotional beings. It’s a very collaborative and forgiving industry.”

With her teaching, Lewis wants her students to feel self-confident, listen to themselves and trust that they are making the right decision. That is the key to leading a happy life and having a meaningful career.

“What my work is trying to do is to help people figure out how to make a career for themselves that’s a fulfilling reflection of what they have to offer as a unique human,” said Lewis. “[I’m also trying to help them] create a career that’s made just for them that’s completely fulfilling them and making them whole because it’s utilizing everything they specifically have to offer. So that way, when they go back home at the end of the day, they feel fulfilled.”

Discover more highlights from Adobe’s 99U Conference here.

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5 Ways Your Social Media Efforts Are Failing

5 Ways Your Social Media Efforts Are Failing

Watching that social media follower count is like fast-forwarding your favorite Netflix series just to watch the credits — ineffective, and a complete waste of time. Most businesses get the importance of being active on social media, but few know what’s really important when it come to social media marketing, or even how to actually create meaningful interaction.

Entrepreneur, photographer and social media guru Jasmine Star suggests social media is not all about that follower count — it’s about building engaged, interested followers, not passive scrollers. As Jasmine helps other entrepreneurs follow their dreams and leverage social media, she often sees businesses make the same avoidable mistakes over and over again. Often, those mistakes stem from a lack of understanding of how social media works and missing out on what’s really important when it comes to social media marketing.

Ahead of her Social Media Bootcamp airing free June 24-26, Jasmine sat down to share some of the most common social media marketing mistakes, how to avoid them, and what to do instead.

(FREE!) RSVP for Jasmine’s Social Media Bootcamp

Do you need a social media facelift? Jasmine Star is sharing her secrets to running a successful business online. Sign up for your 30-day roadmap being taught in her upcoming class!

Posted by CreativeLive on Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Putting more importance on followers, rather than customers.

One of the questions Jasmine is most frequently asked is how to build that follower count. But the second question is often how to get more sales from social media. The two questions point to an often misunderstood aspect of social media marketing on just how important followers are. In response, Jasmine asks this question: Are your current followers your customers?

If the answer is no, then it’s time to take a look at who your ideal audience is and develop a plan to find them. On social media, people follow accounts for a specific reason — perhaps it’s humor, or recipes, how-tos, inspiration, or entertainment. Businesses need to determine both who their audience is and what they want to be known or followed for, then blend the two together to create posts that will encourage not just empty follower counts, but the right followers.

Not giving out the engagement that you want to get.

Many businesses launch a social media page and start putting content out there — but fail to interact back with their followers and potential followers. Jasmine calls social media the cocktail hour of the internet — you can’t stand in the middle of the room shouting to empty space and expect something in return. Instead, she suggests creating the type of interaction that you’d like to get on your social media page. 

For example, if you would like to get one comment on your Instagram photo, comment on five other images on Instagram. And not the two and three-word emoji responses, or people will just think that you’re a bot. While the approach takes some time, creating the interaction that you want is the best way to build engagement on social media.

Writing boring captions or hiding the hook.

On social media, you have maybe one or two lines to stop readers from scrolling. That’s not much time to grab attention, which is why Jasmine suggests writing captions that start with a hook, something to grab attention in those first lines. Follow that hook up with insight, keeping in mind what you want your page to be known for and followed for. Finally, include a call to action, or an invitation for followers to do something like visit a website or sign up for an email newsletter.

Believing that great social media accounts should be perfect, with thousands of followers.

Afraid to share that post because you’ll be judged in some way, or it’s not quite perfect? Jasmine says small businesses need to let go of perfection — no one is perfect — and stop using it as an excuse not to create social media content.

In the same way, businesses shouldn’t believe thae myth that you need millions of followers to be effective on social media — because 100 engaged, interested followers are worth more than 100,000 passive followers that will most likely just scroll right on by your posts.

Failing to plan your content.

Are you a when-I-have-time type of sharer? One of the biggest social media marketing mistakes businesses make when it comes to social media is failing to plan. Building a strategy and planning content ahead of time will not only keep your profiles from going dark for days or even weeks at a time but will help you reach the right people, with the right messages, more often.

During Social Media Bootcamp airing on June 24, Jasmine leads entrepreneurs through identifying an audience, pinpointing a focus, building a plan, and transforming social media strategy for platforms like Facebook, Instagram and others. During the three-day boot camp,  you’ll meet two real-world businesses and see how they transformed their social media accounts in just 30 days — and learn to do the same to turn your social media efforts around.


Transform your social media marketing in 30 days with Jasmine Star’s new Social Media boot camp. RSVP for your reminder to tune in free June 24-26.

Social Media Transformation with Jasmine Star - RSVP

Jasmine Star’s Social Media Bootcamp airs live (and free) June 24 through 26. If you can’t wait for the upcoming class, gain insight from Jasmine with six different classes on photography, marketing, and branding in the bundle sale happening now.

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Creative Photo Challenge No. 8 – Paint With Light

Creative Photo Challenge No. 8 – Paint With Light

One of the ways to draw attention to your photography is by doing unusual things with your light. From long exposures to introducing new lighting elements (flashlights, strobes, neon… the list goes on) – there is ample opportunity to push your creative boundaries and create truly unique portraits that embrace the unusual use of light, and allow you to paint with light in ways you’d never imagined. In this challenge, Lindsay plays with long exposures and the use of a flashlight to create the unexpected (see her full description here on her blog). The best part? To start playing around and experimenting the only things you really need are a dark room (and we don’t mean a photo darkroom – simply one where very little light can enter), your camera and any light source from a glow stick to a flashlight. 


Get Challenge No. 8  – Paint With Light, right here.


One of the best things about leveraging light in unique ways is that it not only results in exciting end results — but in a world crowded with amateur photographers taking cell phone photo shoots, it helps you stand out. Its a way to uniquely position your photos, and to develop a style all your own that helps set you apart in what, with today’s modern technology, is a very easily accessible artistic medium, and crowded space.  Check out the video below for a full description of how Lindsay approached this challenge.

We don’t want to steal too much of Lindsay’s thunder, so check out the full description of how she achieved the results below here on her blog. That said, here are some of her tips before you start shooting to help achieve your desired results.

Light Direction Is Important: When painting with light on a person, remember that the direction of light still matters. The angle of the light will dramatically affect the end result, so think long and hard about what elements of your model you want to accentuate.

Gel Packs: A pack of gels can help you turn your LED lights and flashlights into colored light sources.

Photographer/Light Painter: By wearing black as the photographer/painter, you will ensure that your own skin and body don’t register on the camera – saving all of that goodness for your subject.

Want more? Check out what Lindsay has to say on these and more tips where she outlines her setup and approach in great detail.

Want to hear it straight from Lindsay herself? Check it out here.

Get all 10 of Lindsay Adler’s Creative Photo Challenges delivered straight to your inbox here.

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Discover Your Photographic Methodology with Stacy Pearsall

Discover Your Photographic Methodology with Stacy Pearsall

Tell stories with pictures, that’s my passion; capture decisive moments, that’s my objective; act professionally, that’s my goal. To do this, you must first discover your photographic methodology.

A consummate professional knows their craft front and back and constantly strives to improve their skills, no matter the level of mastery within their given vocation. In photography, technology is ever evolving and improving. I strive to stay apprised and educated on the tools of my trade but there are fundamentals of this profession that will remain the same. Things like exposure, light and composition are cornerstones of the field any photographer should master. Here are tips from my photographic methodology to ensure a picture perfect experience.

Air Force wheelchair basketball athlete, Jennifer Stone, prepares to pass the ball to her teammate during the Warrior Games held at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO, on May 11, 2010.

Find your recipe for success

As I prepare to take a picture, I have many decisions such as lens selection, exposure, white balance and the like. I must adjust my choices accordingly, as each scenario differs from the previous. The repetition of my approach has helped permanently store this data, so when I need the information to be recalled on the fly, it’s nearly instantaneous. I can walk into any situation and know, or have a strong inkling at the very least, what my exposure must  be.


Want to capture authentic emotion in portraits? 60% off Stacy Pearsall’s class today only.


The ‘What IFS’

Over the course of my career, I’ve developed a photographic methodology I refer to as my, “What IFS,” which stands for ISO, f-stop and shutter speed. When making an exposure I start with my ISO, and then proceed to select a depth of field and finally a shutter speed. Whether this  process works for you or not, adopting a routine exposure method can be very helpful.

Air Force wheelchair basketball athlete, Jennifer Stone, blocks a pass by the opposing Navy team during the Warrior Games held at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO, on May 11, 2010.

I set ISO first because it’s the foundation for the rest of my exposure. If I’m in a lowlight situation and shoot at ISO 200, I’m not doing myself any favors. I’m forced to slow my shutter speed and risk blurry shots. The reason I consider f-stop or aperture, the second on my list is due to its impact on my ability to take in more light. It’s all about maximizing input. Granted f-stop also impacts the depth-of-field, but if the image is blurry, it won’t matter how much of the scene is “in” if it’s a shaky mess. Lastly, I set my shutter speed by metering the highlights of the scene with the camera’s internal Center Weighted Metering system. This ensures I have detail in the highlights.

If I have a firm grasp on exposures, I can confidently shoot assignments using semi-automatic modes like Aperture Priority. If my exposure results are not ideal, I can override the camera’s choice by using the Exposure Compensation feature or switch back to Manual Exposure Mode.

Letting in the light

Translating light in a scene to convey emotion is another important facet of my photographic methodology. This can be achieved by capturing a subject’s body language to help tell the story and using angle-of-view to put the viewer in the scene.

Let’s talk about light. It’s necessary to have light to make a photographic exposure. More importantly, light is required to produce shadows which ultimately create dimension. Light and shadow transforms a one-dimensional photograph into seemingly real-life scenes the viewer can walk into. To achieve this dimension, I approach each scene by reading the light source first. I explore the space, shift, move and observe where the shadows are falling. Typically, I will shoot toward the light and into the shadows. This adds breadth, mood and the biggest factor – dimension.

While I’m observing light, I’m simultaneously watching activity, too. This surveillance is necessary to predict or anticipate where the action of my subjects’ is headed, so I might situate  myself where they will be – not where they currently are.

These 422 frames of Nikon NEF files are all from the May 11, 2010, photo shoot of the Warrior Games where I captured the story of Air Force wheelchair athlete, Jennifer Stone. Note the consistent repetition throughout the entire take. There are no “quick snaps” or “spray and pray” frames. Each sequence is pre-visualized, committed and thoroughly covered with at least ten frames per composition. This is a day’s shoot using the ten-frame approach.

The ten-frame approach

The ten-frame approach is my standard for solving nearly all fast-paced assignment challenges. The concept is simple; I slow down and become more deliberate in the frames I capture. I don’t jump on the very first action or scene I see. Instead, I spend time observing the best subject and vantage point.


Want to capture authentic emotion in portraits? 60% off Stacy Pearsall’s class today only.


I spend more time looking and less time shooting. It’s not only until I’ve found the ideal composition that I begin to wait for the right “moment.” I get out front and let the action come to me.

I then proceed to capture ten frames of various moments without moving my composition. That doesn’t mean a rapid release of the shutter. No. I wait for subtle changes of my subject’s body language and then release my shutter. When I commit to making a picture, I truly commit. This requires patience and follow-through.

Often when you chase the action, all you’ll ever capture is the back of your subjects’ head and fail to grab the real moment.

In particularly active situations, it’s easy to let the pace of actions happening around you dictate how quickly you shoot. This can lead someone to go from a selective and thoughtful approach to the “spray and pray” method: shooting randomly without any idea of what you’re actually doing. You hammer the shutter release button at anything that moves and pray it turns out. That’s when it’s important to remind yourself there’s always something going on — the world spins on. All you can do is be ready to make a successful picture when the time is right and the action unfolds in front of you.

Folder of Nikon NEF files straight out of camera that showcases the ten-frame approach. This happens to be a Middleton Place fox hunt event in Charleston, SC.

Folder of Nikon NEF files straight out of camera that showcases the ten-frame approach. This is an adaptive sports practice event in Colorado Springs, SC.

Folder of Nikon NEF files straight out of camera that showcases the ten-frame approach. These images were taken during a Songwriting with Soldiers event in central New York.

To secure your photographic methodology, view each scene thoroughly from every angle if possible, observe the light, analyze your subject, anticipate where the action is headed and then settle into your spot. Compose your frame and wait for the action to come to you. Make at least ten frames of various moments without altering your composition. Commit. Remember it takes light to make a picture, but shadow to create dimension. Don’t chase the action; anticipate it. You may not be able to control the environment, but you’re still in control of your camera.


Want to capture authentic emotion in portraits? 60% off Stacy Pearsall’s class today only.


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Creative Photo Challenge No. 6 – Play With Shadow

Creative Photo Challenge No. 6 – Play With Shadow

By looking at shadows the same way you look at light, you can create textured backgrounds or unique patterns in your photos. Among her techniques, Lindsey will employ tactics as simple as using a piece of lace and a single hard light, to cast a patterned shadow on her subject’s face, for example. So now, its time for you to get creative in how you use your light and shadows to create textures and patterns in your images.  


Get Challenge No. 6  – Play With Shadow, right here.


Inspiration comes from anywhere and its no different when it comes to shadows. Ultimately as photographers we use what is at our disposal on site. Whether its light slashing through the blinds, a unique geometric pattern cast from a fence or long cast shadows from things like buildings and trees — we are our best as photographers when we are able to recognize the myriad inspirations around us and use them to our advantage. In the studio, Lindsay Adler will use Gobos and artfully constructed patterns that she cuts out to get the desired effects that she is looking for (read more about it here and watch her full inspirational video below).

But when she’s out in the field, she relies on the natural objects, light and their interplay to find inspiration and get the perfect shot. Below, you can see a few results from inspiration Lindsey found in the studio with a piece of lace and a single hard light.

Play With Shadow

So – its time for you to show us what you got. Whether you use natural objects, props or studio effects, for this challenge, its time to embrace the shadows to show us how you can use patterns, darkness and intricate details to bring new layers of depth to your work. Read the full details here.

Play With Shadow

Missed a challenge? Get all 10 weekly video tutorials to spark your creativity here.

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12 inspiring books on creativity, leadership, and finances to add to your summer reading list

12 inspiring books on creativity, leadership, and finances to add to your summer reading list

If the warming temperatures and longer days aren’t enough to rekindle your creative spark, adding a few books on creativity, entrepreneurship, and finances could waken that creative drive. From managing finances to building leadership skills, the right book can help heighten creative prowess or find that missing piece to running a small business or managing your own finances.

Compiling both books written by CreativeLive instructors and work suggested by the same, here are some of the best books on creativity, leadership, and finances right now.

1.The Latte Factor by David Bach and John David Mann

Stashing away enough cash for financial freedom and living for those dreams sounds great, but can you actually do that without drastic lifestyle changes? Financial expert and bestselling-author David Bach says that it’s not only possible, but easier than you think. In The Latte Factor, Bach and co-author John David Mann mesh financial advice with the story of a young woman that figures out how to get out from under a mountain of debt, making the book a quick and enjoyable read. Find those same financial secrets from the book in his class, live and free now through _____, How to Retire Early: The Latte Factor with David Bach.

No time to read? Discover how to achieve financial freedom and retire early in David’s online class class based off his new book. Learn More!

2. Becoming by Michelle Obama

The memoir of one of the most iconic women of today, Becoming by Michelle Obama captures the First Lady’s story from childhood to motherhood to the White House. The book comes highly recommended by Amanda Lucidon, the photographer working with the First Lady during her time in the white house. Ahead of her upcoming CreativeLive class, Amanda recommends digging deeper into Michelle’s story with the best-selling memoir.

Big news from the CreativeLive camp! Michelle Obama’s official Whitehouse Photographer, Amanda Lucidon, will be teaching a new class on May 21st! Sign up now to tune in free.

3. Imagine it Forward by Beth Comstock with Tahl Raz

Find the courage to embrace change, reinvent the possibilities and hurdle over your failures. In Imagine it Forward, author, speaker, and business leader Beth Comstock discusses creativity and the power of change — and building the courage to embrace both. Critics call the book candid and fresh, earning the book a spot on the 2018 Best Business Book Pick by Fast Company. Join Beth and explore the concept of leadership through imagination in Imagine it Forward, then find additional insight into courage and creativity with Beth’s class, Courage, Creativity and the Power of Change.

More of a visual learner? Gain the courage to develop & defend creative ideas and organize your business to make room for what matters. Learn how to join Beth Comstock for her CreativeLive debut.

4. Broke Millennial Takes on Investing by Erin Lowry

Many millennials graduated college or started a career in the midst of a recession — but that should stop the young adult generation from taking control of their financial future. In Broke Millennial Takes on Investing, Erin Lowry breaks down investing basics for the millennial generation. After graduating from college debt-free, Erin shares what millennials need to know about investing while you still have student loans, investing apps and more. Learn the basics in the book or in Erin’s class, the Beginner’s Guide to Investing.

Fast track your learning and discover where your roadblocks are to financial success in Erin’s new online class. Learn more!

5. Dare to Lead by Brené Brown

Research professor, author, and speaker Brené Brown puts her years of studying courage, vulnerability, shame and empathy into a guide for leadership. In Dare to Lead, Brené shares insight and actionable steps for building leadership skills. The book is based off a seven-year study of leadership and bravery — Brené shares snippets of the research in an interview with Chase Jarvis.

6.The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins

Making a major change doesn’t have to mean months of work — in fact, entrepreneur, speaker, and author Mel Robbins says it just takes five seconds. In The 5 Second Rule, Mel gives readers the tool to take five seconds to push yourself to become more confident and to stomp out doubt and uncertainty. The instructor for How to Break the Habit of Self-Doubt and Build Real Confidence shows how to stop holding yourself back in this highly rated book.

Get extended learning in Mel Robbins online class crafted specifically for the CreativeLive community “How to Break the Habit of Self-Doubt and Build Real Confidence.”

7. Perennial Seller: The Art of Making and Marketing Work that Lasts by Ryan Holiday

There are those books and movies that make a huge debut then fizzle out — and then there are those that becoming longstanding classics. In Perennial Seller, Ryan Holiday discusses the difference between the two and how creatives can sell work that lasts. For more inspiration from the media strategist and author, try the course Smart PR for Artists and Entrepreneurs or check out his interview with Chase Jarvis.

8. Heirloom Kitchen: Heritage Recipes and Family stories from the Tables of Immigrant Women by Anna Francese Gass

This isn’t your ordinary cookbook. In Heirloom Kitchen, Anna Francese Gass explores the recipes and traditions of immigrant women that helped make American cuisine what it is today. Those stories are punctuated with images from CreativeLive instructor and photographer Andrew Scrivani, who will release his own food photography book in the fall of 2019.

Photo by Andrew Scrivani

9. I Will Teach You to Be Rich, Second Edition by Ramit Sethi

Long a bestseller, I Will Teach You To Be Rich is now in an updated second edition that guides readers through smashing debt, saving cash, investing smartly, handling big purchases, making money and more. In the book, financial expert Ramit Sethi leads readers through the tools to both earn more and save more. Critics say the book offers advice for every generation, with a language designed for the younger generation.

Take control of your personal finances, earn more money on the side, and land your dream job with a high salary with strategic advice from Ramit Sethi’s online class.

Ramit-Sethi-Simple-Formula-for-Selling-Multi-Million-Dollar-Products

10. Herding Tigers, and The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice by Todd Henry

Working in a creative career means coming up with great imaginative ideas on a budget — so how do creatives manage to, well, create, on a regular basis? In The Accidental Creatives, Todd Henry shares how creatives can maintain focus and energy and build a support system for creativity. Then in his latest book, Herding Tigers, Todd shares tools to build leadership with a creative team.

11. Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

From the device you are reading this on to the appliances in your kitchen, design plays a major role in today’s products — but design can also play a role in your life. Stanford design professors Dave Evans and Bill Burnett walk through using design concepts to shape your own feature in a book ideal for anyone stuck at any point in life. The book also sparked a CreativeLive class by the same name.

12. A Glorious Freedom: Older Women Leading Extraordinary Lives by Lisa Congdon

Extraordinary women know age is just a number. In a series of interviews, essays, and profiles, Lisa Congdon shares the stores of women that found their creative passion — and started living their best life — after 40. Mixed with art, stories and women like Vera Wang and Laura Ingalls Wilder, critics call the book both colorful and delightful.

“I came into the world of art as somebody who is going to a foreign country and doesn’t speak the language or know the cultural norms.”

Being an artist is hard work but if you figure out the systems around it and are persistent in your belief, you too can make a living at it. Check out our artist profile on Lisa Congdon.

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