How to Become a Freelance Photographer: Tips and Tricks to Succeed in the Freelance Market

How to Become a Freelance Photographer: Tips and Tricks to Succeed in the Freelance Market

In high school, I realized I wanted to become a professional photographer. I wanted to study photography in college, but unfortunately my university, which I had scholarships to attend, didn’t offer photography as a major or even a minor. So, instead, I studied what I want to shoot – nature and people – via the biology and anthropology routes, and taught myself photography along the way. When I graduated, the big question came up: What now? I became a freelance photographer, and have never looked back.

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Getting into the freelance game is not an easy task — back when I was starting out as well as in 2018. Instead of getting a job like a “normal” person, freelancers take on the risks (and the rewards) of going into business for themselves. If you decide to become a freelancer, you won’t have the luxury of just being a photographer. You’ll have to be everything from an accountant to a marketing executive to a janitor. You’ll wear many, many hats. But in the end, it can be worth it if you do things right. Here are some things to keep in mind if you have your eye on getting into the freelance photography community. It’s not all just about figuring out how to make money. It’s also about managing your life in the best way possible.

Pick Your Poison

The most important thing before starting is to decide what kind of photography you want to do. Whether it’s portrait photography, product photography, wedding photography, or stock photography – or a combination of multiple genres – you’ll need to decide what you’re good at, or would like to become good at. Having a focus will help your marketing strategy and will make it easier to land freelance photography jobs. Most importantly, you need to figure out what you (will) love to take photos of. Because once you decide that, you’ll need to…

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Invest in Good Photography Equipment

It is going to take a lot of money to become a proper professional photographer. I’m not saying that consumer-level equipment is a bad way to start out, but eventually, you’ll learn the limits of that essential equipment and want to upgrade anyway. I have tens of thousands of dollars invested in everything from camera bodies (you’ll need more than one) to lenses to lighting equipment to computers to all of the gizmos and doodads that make a photography studio run smoothly. It might take time to build up your arsenal, but don’t think you can get away with a Canon Rebel for too long.

Get Legal

This one can’t be understated. Before you figure out your hourly rate and design a logo, you need to get legal! Figure out what it takes to become a legal business in your city and state. Get your sales tax license, figure out a business structure that’s appropriate for you with the help of an accountant, get that W-9 filled out, etc. You’re running a small business, so you better act like it. If you don’t, it will surely come back to bite you later. And don’t forget the equipment and liability insurance. You won’t ever regret having it once you use it the first time.

Now that the basics are out of the way, there are some things you should remember about the freelance life that will make or break you. Freelance photography is as much a mental health game as it is a photography game. Of course, these things apply to freelance work in general, but photographers are no exception.

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Treat It Like A Real Job

When you work for yourself, it’s easy to forget that while you’re your own boss, you’re not actually your own boss. You own a freelance photography business. Each and every new client you have is your boss, even potential clients! Customers (or potential customers) can give you a performance review at any time. You’ll have deadlines you have to meet, standards of quality you have to achieve, and “coworkers” you have to schmooze.

Form A Routine

It’s incredibly easy to think of the freelance life as not being real life. If you form a routine (which helps you treat it like a “real job”), it will help avoid being sucked out of the real world. Try and keep a “normal business hours” schedule as best you can. Get up at about the same time every day. Put on pants even if you’re not leaving the house. Try to finish your work for the day by the time friends and family get off work so you can spend some quality time with them.

Take Time Off

That said, one of the perks of the freelance life is flexibility in your schedule. Don’t forget to take time off. Go on trips, see new things, get outdoors, and recharge. Self-employed people tend to work well over 40 hours a week, so it’s vital that you make the time for leisure or you’ll burn out more quickly than you think.

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Work Smarter, Not Harder

When you’re in business for yourself, you have to do a lot of people’s jobs in a limited amount of time. There are a lot of ways to work, and I suggest working smarter, not harder. Spend the money on the apps that will save you time. Pay an accountant to file your business taxes to save the time of doing it (probably incorrectly) yourself. Sync your calendars across your devices. Multitask like a pro. Schedule time for social media to avoid constant distractions. Use sync features in Lightroom to speed up your editing workflow. The list goes on.

Meditate

When it gets tough, the best thing I’ve found is to take some time for yourself and just sit. The act of “sitting” is not as easy as it sounds. Just find a quiet place, and try sitting still, focusing on your breath, for 5-10 minutes at a time. Your mind will try and drag you back into the thick of reality, but the more you practice, the easier it will become to observe your thoughts from a distance, organize them, and then clear them away. Your stress levels will go down, and you’ll be able to manage this lifestyle a little better. And then you can step outside, take some photos for yourself instead of a client, and remember why you started doing this in the first place.

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8 Essential Elements of an Unbeatable Freelance Contract + a Free Template

8 Essential Elements of an Unbeatable Freelance Contract + a Free Template

8 Essential Elements of an Unbeatable Freelance Contract Plus Template

In the world of the gainfully self-employed, the freelancer (or independent contractor) is a lone wolf.

It’s especially important for freelance writers (or photographers, web designers etc.) to write a freelance contract between himself and a new client that will spell out the essential elements for things like payment terms or time frames.

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Many freelancers fly without a safety net in this department, choosing to rely upon email or verbal agreements without always closing loopholes and defining the gray areas within gigs. Although some common standards may seem self-explanatory, more often than not, it’s important to spell things out.

However, without a contract that clearly states all the details of a working relationship in print, there’s too much room for error, surprise, and at worst, an expensive lawsuit.


“Without a clear freelance contract, there’s too much room for misinterpretation.”
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Contracts protect freelancers and freelance work and also provide flexibility for the unforeseen. They reduce the room for interpretation between potential client and freelancer, and put clients at ease. Beware if you decide to work with any client that’s hesitant to sign a contract with you, this behavior is typically indicative of a hidden agenda.

Here are 8 ways to write an unbeatable freelance contract that avoids surprises and keeps you flexible.

1. Get Specific and Thorough.

Just as important as the service you’ll provide, it’s crucial to define elements of service you will not provide, especially if there’s room for gray area. For example, when I write a contract for freelance developmental editing, a structural edit that addresses content, not copy, I make clear that this agreement does not constitute a copy-edit, and therefore I can’t be held responsible for copy-edit errors.

This addendum to my original contract came about the hard way—after a client insisted, after completion of services, that they had wanted a copy-edit, despite the fact that we had not agreed to that service. Rather than burn that client relationship, I did further editing, took a loss, and learned my lesson. This is another reason why you should be very clear and upfront with your clients in the contract terms, so you agree on performing only the activities you want to complete (for the agreed upon price).

Many clients will also request a nondisclosure agreement to protect client interests so that you won’t disclose any of their sensitive or confidential information.

2. Choose Your Payment Rates.

There are two main ways to charge clients, and there will always be endless debate about which one is best for your business. The short answer: you need to decide for yourself, based on your own unique needs as a freelancer.

The first way to bill clients is known as “fixed price”—where you simply set a project fee, based on whatever variables work for your service (number of pages x a per page rate; number of photographs provided in x time; a specific product for a set dollar amount) which is essentially an estimate of hours you think a project will take. Example: “Rate is $50/hour, not to exceed 20 hours.” or “Project is estimated to fall between $1500-$2000, but not over.” This can provide a sense of relief to the client, but sometimes a fixed price can cause you to lose money should the project require more hours than you’ve estimated.

How to Write a Freelance Contract Template for Your Business

The other way to charge clients for your services is by “time and materials” or “hourly” which leaves room to charge for every hour you spend working. But even in that method, clients usually want an anticipated parameter so they can work within a budget. Ultimately, your business model and financial needs will dictate the best method for you and regardless, be sure you’re charging what you’re worth (and not undervaluing your hard work and experience). Be sure to outline a specific payment schedule as well to ensure you receive final payment in a timely matter. Outline acceptable payment methods, too.

 3. Additional Work (Scope Creep).

Hopefully you’ve gotten specific enough about what you are (and are not) providing by this point. Yet, sometimes, there’s still another service your client may wish to obtain, and in many cases, it’s one they aren’t aware they need to pay extra for. This is called scope creep, when clients, whether knowingly or unknowingly add work to your project without reassessing the payment amount.


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Your time is money. If an editing client also wants help finding an agent or researching publishers, this would fall under my “consulting” clause, and is billable over and above our contract fee at my hourly rate. While it’s up to you how much “extra,” or free work you wish to do, it’s helpful to remind clients within the contract that you will bill for time spent or services performed outside the boundaries of the original project at hand.

You might even have a rate sheet for other services to attach, or simply be sure that you’ve included the language that any further work performed outside the boundaries of the project are to be billed at an additional rate. 

4. Timeline or Turnaround.

Here, it’s very important to know yourself and your working rhythms.

Writing the Best Freelance Contract for Your Business

Can you provide a hard and fast deadline that you’ll make no matter what? Do you need to allow in an extra day or week for the vast array of things that can go wrong, from software failures to sick days? Since freelancers rely heavily on word of mouth from clients, it’s important to be good to your word when it comes to delivery.

I often work in a clause that says, “Should freelancer expect to run late, she will inform client by email.” Check out these extra tips on how to get better at meeting client deadlines, and make sure you have a serious time management system in place that matches your working style.

5. Customer Notes.

You can save yourself longwinded conversations in which customers give you a dissertation about what they hope and expect for the project by providing a simple, short “notes and comments” section in your contract. “Please state any specific needs or concerns the contractor should be aware of in these five lines.”

If your project is one that will require client interaction along the way, set limits. “Contractor will provide two 30-minute phone sessions as part of project fee. Further phone consultations will be billed at X/$ per hour.”

6. A Termination Clause.

Sometimes, due to forces of nature, fickle feelings, and a host of other unforeseen circumstances, you or the client (or both) may wish to discontinue services before the contractual period is over.

Check out Justin Barker’s experience with a freelance client breaching contract, and you’ll understand why it’s important to have a contract that clearly stipulates termination terms. Leave room in the contract to give both of you an out that doesn’t cost more money than is already agreed upon. In the contract, you may say, “Should client and contractor choose to discontinue work, only X pages, hours worked, or photographs developed” will be pro-rated and billed, and any over-payments refunded.”

7. Deposits and Retainers.

The best legal advice I can offer is don’t work for free.

This is the Best Freelance Contract Template from CreativeLive

Even if you are able to allow a client to make payments over time, always insist upon a deposit or a retainer before you begin. And don’t be afraid to ask for full payment up front, if that works better for you. You’re not a credit card company; you’re a person paying real bills.


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Some freelancers will work only up to the end of the client’s deposit, and then require the next installment to proceed. You may also choose to get half up front and the rest upon completion. The key is to be specific. Don’t keep it vague.

8. Terms for Late Payments.

The freelancers I know are all nice people who like to give their clients the benefit of the doubt.

But you can’t pay your bills with faith in people. There’s nothing to throw a wrench in your ability to stay solvent than a client who can’t pay you on time, or, at worst, breaches your contract. You have the right to charge interest or fees on late payments, so long as you put this information into the contract. If a client signs the contract that states they’ll pay a 10% late fee when a payment is late, then you now have legal recourse. Hopefully, the very existence of this clause in your contract will be enough to stop your clients from this bad behavior.


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Ultimately, if you encounter a situation more than a few times in your business that you can see a way to avoid by writing in a new clause, do so. You’ll save yourself hassles at best, and you’ll learn a thing or two about what to do better next time, at worst. For more on what it takes to run a freelance business, check out Becoming a Successful Freelancer right here on CreativeLive.

Need a real-life freelance contract template that you can use in your own business? Download our free template, right here.


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The Story That Inspired Nature Photographer Frans Lanting

The Story That Inspired Nature Photographer Frans Lanting

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Photo by James Duncan Davidson via TED

Great nature photography (or landscape photography) is about more than beautiful atmospheric shots of the natural world, framed and hung on walls, or even stunning close-up photography of rare animals in motion. For iconic nature photographers like Carleton Watkins or outdoor photographers like Ansel Adams, it was also about conservation — lending a voice to animals and places which otherwise might be driven out, paved over, or otherwise put in danger of their natural habitats. As climate scientists grow more and more concerned about the impact of human behavior on the planet, that enduring legacy has remained crucial. On the pages of publications like National Geographic, images of endangered animals and habitats drive action from legislators and concerned citizens. But for nature photographer Frans Lanting, that’s only part of the importance of advocacy.


See nature photography in a new way. Join Frans Lanting for an in-depth photo critique of wildlife, macro lens and landscape photography and get all the nature photography tips you need for a great next great shot. Sign up now.


In one of his TED Talks, Frans explained the importance of the nature photographer, in the context of a story he’d once heard from a man named Jimmy Smith, who was a tribal elder from the Kwikwasut’inuxw people, near Vancouver, BC.

“Once upon a time, he told me, all animals on Earth were one,” Frans explained, “Even though they look different on the outside, inside, they’re all the same, and from time to time they would gather at a sacred cave deep inside the forest to celebrate their unity. When they arrived, they would all take off their skins. Raven shed his feathers, bear his fur, and salmon her scales, and then, they would dance. But one day, a human made it to the cave and laughed at what he saw because he did not understand. Embarrassed, the animals fled, and that was the last time they revealed themselves this way.”

The story has shaped the way that Frans photographs nature, animals and natural wonders.

“The ancient understanding that underneath their separate identities, all animals are one, has been a powerful inspiration to me,” he said in his talk, “I like to get past the fur, the feathers and the scales. I want to get under the skin. No matter whether I’m facing a giant elephant or a tiny tree frog, my goal is to connect us with them, eye to eye.”

Seven years before that,  in another TED Talk, Frans explained a personal journey he had been on, wherein he explored the earliest incarnations of life on Earth as we know it. Called the LIFE Project, the poetic collection of images and sounds dives deep into the very beginning, and ends with the interconnectedness of plants, animals, and humans. During that talk, he explained what he learned from creating the project.

“So who are we? Brothers of masculine chimps, sisters of feminine bonobos? We are all of them, and more. We’re molded by the same life force. The blood veins in our hands echoed a course of water traces on the Earth. And our brains — our celebrated brains — reflect a drainage of a tidal marsh.”

In his 2014 talk, Frans explained why his explorations and nature and wildlife photography — and his emphasis on the humanity of nature and science — is so critical.

“As animals blessed with the power of rational thought, we can marvel at the intricacies of life. As citizens of a planet in trouble, it is our moral responsibility to deal with the dramatic loss in diversity of life. But as humans with hearts, we can all rejoice in the unity of life, and perhaps we can change what once happened in that sacred cave.”


See nature photography in a new way. Join Frans Lanting for an in-depth photo critique of macro lens and landscape photography and get all the nature photography tips you need for a great next great shot. Sign up now.


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11 Mobile Photography Tips: How To Get Better Photos With Your Phone

11 Mobile Photography Tips: How To Get Better Photos With Your Phone

I own, as far as I know, at least eight functioning cameras. They all have their appropriate uses, their strengths, and their weaknesses. One is for when I need really high resolution. One can fly in the air. One can attach to my bike helmet, and one can shoot at 11 frames per second. But the one camera that I pretty much always have on me, of course, is the one in my cell phone. It’s not the best camera, but it sure is handy.

This is the time of year when most people are spending time with friends and family and taking a lot of photos with their phones. Whether it’s photos of your kids on Christmas day, a selfie of you kissing your boyfriend when the ball drops on New Years Eve, or just grabbing a quick shot of a plate of cookies your grandma made, here are some mobile photography tips on how to get the best photos with your phone during the holidays.

Look for good light for a great image.

This is, of course, the biggest aspect of photography, so it’s the first on the list. No matter where you’re taking photos, and no matter what camera you’re using, the first thing you should do is look around you and look at where the natural light is coming from. It could be from lamps, or a window, from a ceiling fan overhead, or even just direct sun. Once you know the direction and quality of this light, you’ll already be on a path towards taking better photos.


Learn how to create the best images on your phone and get them noticed on social media from acclaimed mobile photographer Pei Ketron. Learn more.

Pei Ketron Mobile Photography


When light is mainly coming from the top down, and isn’t diffused well (such as from a “can light”), you can get dark circles around the eyes from shadows coming from the person’s eyebrows as well as an overall dark face. Sometimes it’s hard to avoid, but can often be fixed by just having the subject take a couple of steps backwards to put the light in more in front of them, or even have them angle their faces up a little bit. If this is the only light around, using the phone’s flash might be your only recourse.

(The following snapshots were taken quickly on an iPhone 6 and are unedited.)

Directly under a ceiling fan light. The effects would be worse with lighting that’s higher up or more directed, such as with a can light.

Moved back about 2 feet so that the light from the ceiling fan is in front of the subject.

Another thing to remember to avoid is your subject being backlit. Unless you’re going for something artsy like a silhouette, you should generally never take a photo of people with their backs to the main light source. This gets rid of so much of the detail in the faces that it’s usually not even worth it to take the photo! When in this situation, just have them turn to face the light (put your back to the light!). It’s that simple.

Be sure to look at where the light is coming from and how it’s hitting your subject. Even just turning around can improve an image dramatically

Don’t forget about window light. The two suggestions above are easily fixed by having the subject face a window (during daytime, of course), or even by putting the window to the left or right of them. This is also a great way to get quick phone snaps of food or anything else you want a photo of. Stick it by a window, compose, and shoot. Easy.

11 Mobile Photography Tips: Get Better Photos With Your Phone

Back-lit.

11 Mobile Photography Tips: Get Better Photos With Your Phone

Side-lit.

11 Mobile Photography Tips: Get Better Photos With Your Phone

Front-lit.


Chase Jarvis goes in-depth on using your iPhone to capture amazing portraits, action, landscapes, and video. Learn more.


Know when (not) to use flash.

Unless there’s no other option for light, you should usually avoid using your phone’s flash. While newer phones have color-balanced flashes that do a pretty good job, using existing light almost always a better option. I leave my flash off by default and only turn it on when I know I’ll need it. If you leave it in Auto, it’s only a matter of time until it goes off when you don’t want it to.

11 Mobile Photography Tips: Get Better Photos With Your Phone

With flash.

11 Mobile Photography Tips: Get Better Photos With Your Phone

Window light, without flash. Much more appealing.

A selfie isn’t always best.

While even a three year old probably knows what a selfie is these days, it isn’t always the best option. If no one else is around, then sure, reach your arm out and grab a selfie with grandma. But if anyone else is around, don’t be afraid to ask if they’ll take your portrait. It will look more natural and maybe just feel a little more timeless than seeing the upper half of your arm sneaking into the picture. You can also get a tiny tripod you can stick your phone on, such as this one.


Learn how to create the best images on your phone and get them noticed on social media from acclaimed mobile photographer Pei Ketron. Learn more.

Pei Ketron Mobile Photography


If you must take a selfie, there are ways to make the photos better. You can use a camera app with a timer, such as Camera+, so that you can take the photo without having to use your fingers to push the shutter button. You can also crop in a little bit to get that pesky arm out of the shot. And first and foremost, don’t forget to look at the light around you!

11 Mobile Photography Tips: Get Better Photos With Your Phone

Could we have taken a selfie? Sure. Is this image, taken by a friend, better? Of course. (A fancier new iPhone with portrait mode.)

Don’t zoom. Ever.

“Zooming” on (most) cell phone cameras isn’t the “zoom” you might think it is. While some cell phones do have an optical zoom function, the majority of them don’t, and any zoom built in is called “digital zoom.” In these cases, there are no lenses moving inside adjusting the field of view; instead, the only thing that is “zooming” is the software cropping the image down to a smaller size. You can do this yourself later while you’re editing the photos so you don’t lose valuable resolution; you might need it later!

11 Mobile Photography Tips: Get Better Photos With Your Phone

11 Mobile Photography Tips: Get Better Photos With Your Phone

Instead of zooming “in camera,” I cropped down in post so I can still have the wider image if I need it.

Be steady.

Shaky hands are just as bad for cell phone images (especially in low light) as they are for larger cameras. When in doubt, take multiple photos or even a burst. You can use the physical shutter button, if you’d like — just press the volume buttons, or even the buttons on your headphones (or if you’re fancy, use a Bluetooth shutter release), and you’ll be a little steadier than lifting your finger to tap the screen.  There are even some camera apps, like Camera+, that take the photo only when the phone detects that you are being still.

Don’t forget to focus.

Tap. Focus. Just don’t forget. You can also get camera apps that allow you to focus manually, which is really handy in cases where the autofocus just can’t get it right.

11 Mobile Photography Tips: Get Better Photos With Your Phone

Adjust the exposure manually.

This is more important than you might think. Most people just point the phone at the subject, tap to focus, and hit the shutter. They don’t usually think about adjusting the exposure of their phone images. Just like with a larger camera, the exposure is one of the most critical elements of a successful image. It’s usually pretty easy. I can’t speak for Android, but on an iPhone, once you tap and focus, you can just slide up or down on the image and it adjusts the exposure accordingly. There’s no histogram to help you, and hopefully your screen brightness is set properly, but doing this should help get you going in the right direction and give you more control over your images.

11 Mobile Photography Tips: Get Better Photos With Your Phone

The image was darkened manually to bring down highlights in the pup’s white fur. You can bring the shadows back up when editing the image.

Experiment with third party camera apps.

The built-in camera apps on phones is generally okay, but there are better ones out there. I use Camera+ on my phone when I want to use a timer, or adjust the white balance, or set my own shutter speed/ISO. It even has a macro button, and I can dial in and fine tune the focus manually. I use the standard built-in camera app for quick shots, but when I have more time, other apps can be more useful.


Learn how to create the best images on your phone and get them noticed on social media from acclaimed mobile photographer Pei Ketron. Learn more.

Pei Ketron Mobile Photography


Don’t forget your rules of composition.

Even if these shots are just “on your phone,” that doesn’t mean that the standard rules of composition don’t apply. You can even turn on a grid so you can more accurately use the rule of thirds if you want. Symmetry, leading lines, colors, textures, and all of the other standard composition techniques still apply for mobile phone photography. And remember: it’s not always about what you include in the image, but rather what you leave out!

11 Mobile Photography Tips: Get Better Photos With Your Phone

11 Mobile Photography Tips: Get Better Photos With Your Phone

Clean that lens!

You might think this is obvious, but really. You keep your DSLR lenses clean, so why wouldn’t you keep the lens on the camera you keep in your pocket or purse — places where there is a ton of dirt, lint, etc. — even cleaner? In reality a little dirt isn’t going to hurt your images too much, but oil smudges or a lint buildup might. Just check it every so often, okay?


Learn how to create the best images on your phone and get them noticed on social media from acclaimed mobile photographer Pei Ketron. Learn more.

Pei Ketron Mobile Photography


11 Mobile Photography Tips: Get Better Photos With Your Phone

My actual iPhone 6 after working in the garden. Don’t be “that guy.” Wipe it.

Edit!

There are plenty of photo editing apps that can make good images better images — Adobe Lightroom Mobile, Snapseed, VSCO, etc. — but you can also download and edit the images on your computer for full control (in Photoshop or other photo editing programs). Some cameras even shoot DNG or some other raw format. If yours can do it, and you’re not using that feature, you can stop reading this now, because I’ve lost all faith in you.

An Instagram filter will do – but be adventurous, and try some new apps!

Obviously, there are more ways to get great photos from your phone. But by looking for light and following some of these simple tips, I think you’ll start to see your images improve quickly. While the holidays are a wonderful time of year, they can also be challenging – and the last thing you need to be doing is fighting your phone to get good photos to capture the memories you’re making with friends and family. If you have any other tips, let us know!

For more mobile photography tips and tricks, join Elise Swopes, well-known Instragramer and commercial photographer as she shows you the best ways to work with you iPhone for personal and professional success.

The post 11 Mobile Photography Tips: How To Get Better Photos With Your Phone appeared first on CreativeLive Blog.

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8 Tips To Master The Art of Architecture Photography

8 Tips To Master The Art of Architecture Photography

Architecture is art — but pretending that photographing a building is simple will only result in lackluster architectural shots. From slanting lines that should be straight to finding the right light, photographing architecture can be challenging — no matter if your capturing modern buildings or older buildings. To create images with enough awe to fall under fine art, architectural photography requires pre-planning, thought, and a few tried-and-true tricks. Here are a few architecture photography tips to push your photos from snapshots to fine art buildings.

Pre-plan for the best natural light

Light is essential to every photograph, in any subcategory. In architecture photography, light can add drama, obscure details or create flattering lines. Getting the shot means finding the right light, whether you want a moody silhouette, a nighttime long exposure or an old building against a bright blue sky.

Time of day makes a big difference in how the photo is lit — understanding where the sun will be when you head to the building allows you to choose the best type of light for the shot. If the sun is behind the building or you have low-light conditions, you’ll either get a silhouette or overexpose the sky. With the sun in the front or towards the side, the building can be photographed with an evener exposure and ambient light. Of course, this directional light requires the sun to be lower in the sky, which means heading out in the morning or evening, not in the middle of the day.


Use the right tools to create stunning interior architectural photography with architecture and fine-art photographer Mike Kelley.


If you are traveling and have limited time to photograph the building, find the building’s orientation so you know whether to visit in the morning or evening. For buildings that you have more time to explore, try visiting during different times of day to find the best light.

Explore different angles

One of the easiest ways to differentiate your architecture photography from a snapshot is to stop taking images like everyone else takes images — and that means stop defaulting to taking every image from eye level. The height you take an architectural image from matters. Taller heights will help minimize distortion, looking down on a building can emphasize shapes, while looking up a building can make that structure look even more dominating.

Along with considering the angle you take the shot from, explore all angles of the building as well. Look around every side, not just the highly-Instagrammed front of the building. Look up for interesting ceilings, down for artistic staircases and around for anything that embodies the overall feel of the architecture.

Look for lines and shapes

Architects know the importance of lines and shapes — and so do good architectural photographers. Keep an eye out for horizontal, diagonal or vertical lines to move the eye through the image. Leading lines can point to a structure to draw attention to the subject. Lines also have emotional associations as well — diagonal creates a feeling of movement, horizontal a sense of calm, vertical a sense of power or growth. Curved lines aren’t as common in architecture, but create a more natural feel since these types of lines are more commonly found in nature than man-made structures.

Going hand-in-hand with lines, shapes also add interest to architectural images. Once you spot a shape in a structure, use angle and composition to emphasize that shape. For example, minimize the distractions and fill the frame with the shape.

Use a polarizing filter for exterior architectural photography

A polarizing filter is an inexpensive accessory that can make a much bigger impact on your images than your wallet. Polarizers control reflected light, which means easily controlling reflections off windows or water in architecture. Even without the obvious reflective light effects, polarizers will also help make the sky appear bluer. Just remember to take the polarizer off if you don’t need to control the reflected light, particularly indoors or at night — these filters will reduce the amount of natural light coming into your photos.

Keep it sharp — and try a tripod

In architecture photography, detail is essential — which means keeping the shot sharp. Use a narrower aperture to keep the details of the building in focus, like f/8 or even a higher f-stop.

With that narrower aperture, motion blur can start to pose a problem (yours, not the building’s, of course). Using a tripod will help keep the shot sharp, especially when shooting towards the end of the day or when photographing a building’s lights at night. A wide-angle lens can also be useful for your architectural photography, particularly if you’re working with fairly tall buildings.


Making exterior architectural images look great takes special skills, and award-winning photographer Mike Kelley has them. Learn the essentials today.


Don’t forget to head indoors

Exterior architectural photography is often the first thing that comes to mind when considering a structure, but a building’s interior can offer just as much creative fodder. In public buildings or with permission to photograph an interior, many of the same tips apply. Available light, however, is different with interior shots because of a mix of window light and overhead lights. HDR or an off-camera flash can help prevent windows from being exposed in interior architectural photography.

Prevent or correct converging lines.

Optics don’t capture everything exactly the way it exists in real life. Converging lines are when a straight line appears to curve — it’s a perspective distortion that’s often exaggerated with cheap lenses. To prevent the buildings from looking like it’s about to tip over, architecture photographers can either prevent it with tilt-shift lenses or correct the distortion in post-production with Photoshop.

Tilt-shift lenses will save avid architecture photographers a lot of time, but the lenses are cost prohibitive for photographers that just want to experiment with architecture while traveling. Fixing perspective distortion in Photoshop requires more time, but less investment using the perspective warp tool.

Perfect with post-processing

Photoshop isn’t just good for fixing perspective distortion. Use the RAW file format and retouch images in Lightroom or another photo editor for the best results. With software, correcting white balance is no problem. Frequent edits for architecture photography also include adding contrast, jazzing up the sky, or stitching HDR photos together.

Taking a snapshot of a building is as easy as pulling out a smartphone — but to truly move from a quick snapshot to fine art architectural photography, you have to capture the essence of the building. And that requires some pre-planning, the right light, the proper tools, compositional strategies and editing techniques.


Use the right tools to create stunning interior architectural photography with architecture and fine-art photographer Mike Kelley.


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Creativity and Inclusion: Three Ways to Bring More Diversity into Your Life and Work

Creativity and Inclusion: Three Ways to Bring More Diversity into Your Life and Work

A Note to Readers: While we’ve tried to be incredibly thoughtful about the words chosen below, we don’t have the experience or perspective necessary to know for sure that we’re contributing to this important conversation in the right way. Our biggest concern is that we’ll do harm to the communities we actually want to align with and support. Our decision to publish was based on two things. First, we wholeheartedly believe in being vulnerable and brave, even when — especially when — we’re uncomfortable. Second, we believe discomfort leads to growth, and we know we need to grow. So, onward.

Do a simple Google search for “diversity training.” How many of those organic page results feature an actual training option? Only 1 in 12.

The other 11 page results? They’re thought leaders and “experts” talking generally about diversity training, much like I’m doing right now. So why am I still writing? Because it’s time for the conversation around diversity and inclusion to shift from thought leadership to actual leadership. It’s time for us to seek out and follow leaders from communities most harmed by a system that actively excludes them.

So why are we, an online learning company, taking a position on this? Because, to echo learnings from Reni Eddo-Lodge, ignorant, harmful actions and behaviors of the privileged community fuels hopelessness in marginalized communities. And hopelessness? It kills creativity. And we’re in the business of creativity.

CreativeLive champion’s every creator’s right to live their dreams, and we intend to be the champion of all creators, not just the ones that look and live like us. We invite you to join us as we try to figure out what that means and how each of us can take action toward more inclusion and diversity in our everyday lives.  

Diversity and Inclusion in Life and at Work

If we want to do better and enact real change, we first have to wrap our heads around what’s going on here. Let’s take race as one example. The decks are stacked against people of color (POC): white people so often fail at diversity and inclusivity because we were born with blinders on and we haven’t worked hard enough to take them off. Thanks to social, political, and economic systems that simultaneously harm POC and help white people, we’ve had unfettered privilege, power, and authority.

But our understanding deficit doesn’t excuse us from the responsibility to fix a problem we contribute to every day. As Brittany Packnett says, “The more you benefit from supremacy, the more responsibility you have to be dismantle it.”

This goes for corporate environments, too. Generally, corporate leadership utterly fails at including POC and women (about 72 percent is white and male). Catalyst reports that just 5 percent of S&P 500 CEOs are women, and worse, with Indra Nooyi recently stepping down as PepsiCo CEO, that figure includes zero women of color. Zero.

It would be so easy to point a finger to men in leadership and ask how much progress can be made, really, when diversity and inclusion efforts depend heavily on skills like empathy, vulnerability, listening, and activism — skills not widely associated with white male executives.

But focusing only on gender inequality in corporate leadership is problematic for two reasons. First, diversity and inclusion isn’t just a corporate initiative — it needs to be a life initiative. And second, the finger should point at white women, too. We know how it feels to be targeted and marginalized. We’re active champions of initiatives like executive leadership equality, equal pay, and sexual harassment prevention, but most of us are silent on diversity. We remove one piece from the social justice pie — the piece that affects us most — put it on a plate, and serve it up to the masses as if it was never part of the whole. As if we aren’t culpable for ignoring a much larger community of people who are targeted and marginalized in ways we will never experience.

We must begin using our privilege at all levels, as entrepreneurs, entry-level employees, executive leaders, or expert homemakers to insist on more diversity and inclusion in our communities. It’s our responsibility to be part of the change we want to see.

We Start With Personal Accountability

It’s time for another truth: Although we’ve made instructor diversity a priority lately, the majority of classes on CreativeLive are not taught by POC. And like most eLearning providers, we don’t have any classes that cover topics like diversity and inclusion — for work or for life.

We don’t have a tidy answer for how culture can be more inclusive, and we’re clearly not a shining example of how to do it right. Change comes when we’re willing to sit down around a table, examine this messy middle part of our process, expose it to others, and say collectively, “This cannot stand. We have to change.”

And we’re late to the scene. Very late. I’m just now starting to have these conversations at work and in life. Where have I been? Thankfully, I’m now employed by a company that’s supportive and willing to engage with me on the subject. I don’t fear losing my job over going to bat for more action on diversity and inclusion. That’s privilege.

Now Take Action

So where do we start? At CreativeLive, we talk a lot about the blurred lines between life and work, passion and acumen. If taking on diversity and inclusion feels too intangible, bring it closer in. There is so much we can do. Here are a few questions we can ask to help decide on actions we can take to bring more diversity and inclusion into our way of life:

Are your social feeds monochromatic and monotone?

Do our accounts only feature people who look and sound like we do? Change that today. The median American visits an average of three social media platforms several times a day. That’s a lot of collective looking. A quick audit of my preferred social platform (Instagram) shows that of the 526 accounts I follow, just 14 percent are managed by POC. I can do better, and I’m betting you can, too.

Following are just a few accounts to get us started, ranging from activists, educators, writers, business leaders, musicians, and more. Rule number one? LISTEN. Don’t comment. Listen, learn, sit in your discomfort, and pursue and pay for the additional resources so often gifted by these leaders.

Follow @rachel.cargle, @ijeomaoluo, @shaunking, @laylafsaad, @jstlbby, @mspackyetti, @glowmaven, @luvvie, @yrsadaleyward, @traceellisross, @queenteddy, @lizzobeeating, @nayyirah.waheed, and @ajabarber.

Are our bookshelves diversified?

A lot of people use books and stories as a means of making sense of the world. Who writes the words we read? Do they look and live just like us? Bring diversity and inclusion into your home by way of words.

Here are just a few books that tell the story of the profound role race plays in our society: “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race,” by Reni Eddo-Lodge; “I’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual,” by Luvvie Ajayi; “You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain,” by Phoebe Robinson; “Between the World and Me,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Are we having the hard conversations in life and at work?

Learning is at the very core of what CreativeLive does. We produce classes on leadership, emotional intelligence, and design thinking — all worthy pursuits in the realm of personal and professional development. Here’s the thing, though: We champion creativity and innovation across the board, but we haven’t yet applied it to critical topics like diversity and inclusion. We’re working through the question of how we — a company with few POC — begin to tackle these topics we know so little about.

Through hard, honest conversations, we’ve arrived at an answer that’s already aligned with what we do every day: Bring in the experts, pay them, and produce highly engaging learning content. This means we’ll seek out POC who are willing to guide us through this process. Since making that decision, we’ve committed to two approaches.

First, until we can better balance representation across our instructor community, our first priority is to produce new CreativeLive For Business classes taught by POC and women. Second, we’re working to activate partnerships with organizations that know how to address tough diversity, inclusion, and culture patterns head-on, while also pursuing the best and brightest voices to teach on topics like unconscious bias. It’s not enough, and it’s where we start.

Final Thoughts

I contribute to sustaining the very system, the very environment, that now requires the concept of diversity and inclusion. Do you? Let’s take responsibility for the change that needs to happen and do all we can to follow, support and align ourselves with experienced leaders who fight the system every day.

The ultimate goal? Move from thoughts to actions and deliver a tangible diversity and inclusion online learning option we can leverage in life and at work in 2019. One bright spot among all this? CreativeLive actually has the platform to help do it.

Meguire Heston leads Enterprise Marketing at CreativeLive. Follow her on Instagram @MeguireHeston and learn more about CreativeLive For Business at www.creativelive.com/enterprise.

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The Best Ways to Organize Photos for Any Photographer

The Best Ways to Organize Photos for Any Photographer

Best Way to Organize Photos

Aside from knowing your craft and keeping your gear in good working order, the most important part of photography in the digital era is taking good care of your digital assets (files created by your camera and editing software). Even as a beginner, you need to understand the best ways to organize photos and take care of them so you always have access to them.

Here is a five step process to safeguard your photos. Starting from the time of capture, we’ll help you understand the best ways to organize photos so you can carry-on doing what you do best: capturing moments.

The Goal – Plan for the Future

I take approximately 300,000 images every year. Between my client work, personal projects and simply creating a record of my life, I have a lot of data to manage. In the beginning, I had folders such as “Weekend Away 1” and “Weekend Away 2” containing photos, video and even my processed files. If I had continued with a haphazard system like this, my drives would be impossible to work with now. Start by taking stock of your current assets. This will give you an idea of what needs to be organized.


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Best way to organize photos with Michael Clark


Step 1 – Pre-Shoot

From now on, digital asset management starts before you even record files to your memory card. Most cameras will allow you to set a custom filename or folder setup within the camera itself. The best ways to organize photos is to separate images on a shoot-by-shoot basis. If this is not your style, at the very least, make sure your camera’s time and date are correct. This will make it easy to sort files later on.

Best Way to Organize Photos

Step 2 – Create a Naming Convention and Structure (and Stick to it)

Once you’ve captured your images, you’ll need to organize them on your computer. The best ways to organize photos on a desktop is by creating a folder structure that is meaningful and easy to navigate. This is an essential step to keeping your images organized and being able to find them later. Personally, I like to do everything manually, but you can have your favorite software do this for you as well. I create folders one by one within a larger structure and copy my files into them after every shoot. This structure abides by the following convention:

Date – Shoot Type – Client Name

The date is added in reverse to ensure my folders stay chronological on all devices. So, a family session with the Jones family on May 10th, 2018 would look like this:

PhotosClient20180510 – Family – Jones

You could add location or other information to this structure, but that can easily be added to keywords later on.

Inside each folder, I create folders for each photographer (if there are multiple photographers present) and inside that a folder for each camera. You could also create a naming convention in each camera that would make this step unnecessary. The key is making sure that no two files in the folder have the same name.

Step 3 – Organize Within Your Favorite Software

The next step in ensuring your photos are organized in the best way possible is adding additional metadata to further categorize them. Using your preferred software (I use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic), begin by keywording all of your images. Useful keywords include locations, techniques, times of year, clients names (don’t expect to remember all their names!) and the type of shoot. Mark the images that are your favorites from the shoot as well. I use flags in Lightroom for this. This is also the time to add GPS data or facial recognition if you use it. Your aim here should be to give yourself as many ways to find these images later as you can. Jared Platt’s class The Ultimate Lightroom CC Workflow is an excellent resource for this step.

Best Way to Organize Photos

Step 4 – Store Your Edits

If you’re exclusively using software such as Lightroom, you may not need to store edits outside the program itself as the changes you make to the image are stored in the program’s catalog file. However, if you’re creating new files using software like Adobe Photoshop, you will want to keep your edits nearby your originals in your folder structure. I recommend a sub-folder within the originals folder to make it easy to find them later on.

Step 5 – Back it All Up

The most beautifully crafted file system may calm your O.C.D., but it won’t save your day if a drive becomes corrupted or outright fails on you. This is where you need to make a backup of everything. Don’t be fooled into thinking that your one external hard-drive is in any way, shape or form a backup. One drop, spill or thief and you’ll lose everything.

Two physical copies in different locations at a bare minimum is considered a backup. Even then, I would recommend adding some form of cloud backup to this as well. Check out A Photo Back-Up Guide: 4 Ways to Safeguard Your Images for more details on backup.


Sett up a practical and efficient workflow with your photography with Michael Clark. Learn more.

Best way to organize photos with Michael Clark


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The Best Wines to Pair with Thanksgiving Dinner

The Best Wines to Pair with Thanksgiving Dinner

holiday wine pairings

Photo via Flickr

Bringing wine to a holiday or Thanksgiving dinner party can be…fraught, to say the least. You know it’s impolite to show up empty-handed (hence, the wine), but what if you make a poor selection? If you’re not especially versed in wine tasting and pairings, you might default to picking the bottle with the prettiest label, the most interesting description, or the most apt-seeming price-point. Whether you’re looking for a red wine Zinfandel from France or a sparkling wine with fruit flavors, wine doesn’t have to be so vexing. A little information goes a long way.

Rather than playing the which-wine guessing game as you stand among other frazzled shoppers, we asked Master Sommelier and author Richard Betts — who emphasizes that “wine is a grocery, not a luxury,” about the best wine pairings for your holiday gatherings — particularly Thanksgiving wine to help accompany the rich flavors of cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes (or sweet potatoes) and pumpkin pie at the Thanksgiving table.


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Here’s his definitive guide for Thanksgiving dinner wines to pair with your Thanksgiving feast:

2000 Kalin Cellars Semillon, California

Best white wine from America? Very likely. Semillon is not well known but it certainly deserves to be as it is a perfect partner to most food and ages into a thing of beauty.

2013 Bellus Scopello Frappato, Italy

Super fun alternative to pinot noir, Frappato is native to Sicily and is all about red fruits and fun. It’s also relatively unencumbered by tannin and oak which makes it a perfect table mate.

2012 RPM Wines Gamay Noir, California

Remember all of that Beaujolais that America used to drink at Thanksgiving?  It was for good reason as the grape, Gamay, is bright, crunchy and perfect with Turkey. This Gamay from California is a very serious step up in quality and focus while remaining everything great Gamay should be, delicious.

2013 Copain Tous Ensemble Pinot, California

You gotta have pinot noir, you just gotta and Wells Guthrie at Copain makes some of my very favorites including this super easy, extremely yummy version.  A few years back Wells made a big pivot in his winemaking and his style now prizes balance and grace which, whether you know it or not, is a style that will make it impossible for you to have just one glass.

For more straight-talk about wines ranging from Italian cabernet sauvignons to French sauvignon blancs, join Richard for his CreativeLive class, Become A Great Wine Taster, or check out his blog, My Essential Wine.


Join Liza Gershan to learn how to take eye-catching food photos that will get you noticed on social media. Learn More.


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How to Sell Art with Lisa Congdon

How to Sell Art with Lisa Congdon

You became a professional artist for the love of it.

Growing up, you enjoyed creating things, whether it was paintings, mixed media sculptures, mosaics or drawings. When you became an adult, you decided to follow your dreams and pursued an art career.

Now that you’re a working artist, you know the hustle well. You market yourself to the art world and show art buyers and potential customers that your art is going to enhance their lives. Selling art isn’t always the easiest thing to sell, like a car or a television, but with a bit of patience and time, you can learn how to sell art and make your business successful.

If you don’t know where to start, here is some helpful advice on how to sell art to potential buyers, courtesy of CreativeLive teacher, author of “Art Inc: The Essential Guide to Building Your Career as an Artist” and successful working artist Lisa Congdon.

Figure out different ways to make money and promote your fine art

As an artist, you know that figuring out how to sell art can be tricky. This is why Congdon stresses diversifying your income streams. The artist herself leads CreativeLive classes, writes books and works for a number of clients globally including Martha Stewart Living, Harvard University and REI. In the beginning of her career, she also licensed her work, had an online shop and displayed her work in galleries or art fairs.


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How to sell art with Lisa Congdon


“I didn’t put my eggs in one basket, so to speak,” says Congdon. “And that has benefited me greatly. It’s the premise of my book, ‘Art Inc’ – that making a living as an artist requires most people, at least in the beginning, to diversify their income streams.”

There may never be one thing you’re going to do that will show you how to sell art, so keep hustling and promoting yourself in various ways. You can do this by trying to get into art galleries, pop-ups or art fairs, or you can try to sell art online via a personal website, online marketplaces like Etsy, Amazon and eBay, or even social media. Selling art online (or at least creating an online presence for our art) can typically be a less expensive, easier way to dip your toes in the water of the art business. You can create your own e-commerce site with companies like Shopify or Society6 that help you create an online store with an online gallery of your work to help sell your art online. If you’re looking to find ways to physically print your work, there are several online marketplaces that allow you to print on demand high-quality prints.

Network with excitement

Art collectors and art buyers are more likely to be excited about your original work if you are. Even if you’re having a bad week and art sales are down, don’t lose your enthusiasm for your work.

Congdon suggests attending industry events, joining a support group, connecting with other art lovers or sellers online all in an effort to continuously put yourself out there. “Keep sharing what you do. Be excited about it. Your excitement and passion will be contagious. Don’t be shy about talking about your work, both online and in person.” This will ultimately help with sales or online art sales.


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Be authentic to your true self

Authenticity shines – especially in a world full of tabloids and fake news. Congdon says it is crucial to “stay true and take great care with your work.”

This means do what matters most to you, and always give 100 percent. Don’t succumb to societal standards just to fit in with other artists. People want to see a unique, fresh voice that only you can deliver.

“If you want to be a great artist, use what you are passionate about internally,” says Congdon. “Draw from yourself, not from what other people are doing. That’s number one. And take great care with your work. Be meticulous, take the time, make it your best. The combination of that care, attention, work ethic and authenticity is a really strong formula.”


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7 Beginner Photography Techniques to Try out This Weekend

7 Beginner Photography Techniques to Try out This Weekend

When most people ask me questions about print or digital photography, I quickly realize that they think that all I do is grab the camera, point it at something until that something looks pretty, and then press the shutter button. If you’re just getting into photography, you might think that too. And you know what? That’s OK.

There’s more to photography than clicking a button, though, and it all depends on two things: light and technique. Light is the most important factor in any type of photography, but knowing different techniques on how to harness its power is an essential part of being a good photographer.

Here are some basic photography tips and techniques that you can play around with if you’re just starting out in the photography world.

Long Exposure

One of the most versatile photography techniques to master is the long exposure. It can be used in numerous situations, either to create dramatic effect and show you something your eyes can’t see, or as a tool to better document exactly what it is you can see. The idea is that by leaving the shutter open for a longer amount of time, you let in more light and are able to catch where that light is moving to or from. Things that are moving begin to flow, while things that are stationary stay that way. If you’ve ever seen images of waterfalls with that blurry, flowing water, that was done with an exposure of generally a half a second or longer. If you’ve seen images of stars, those images were usually taken at 15-30 second lengths. Luckily, with modern digital cameras, you can play around with long exposures (or any of these techniques) and get instant feedback on how the image will turn out, without having to do the painstaking calculations that were prominent in the film days.

Tip: For long exposures in the daytime, you’re likely going to need a neutral density filter, which cuts down the amount of light entering your lens. A tripod is also a must, since any camera shake can ruin your shot.

Motion Blur

Related to the long exposure is the idea of “motion blur.” With a long exposure, you need to put the camera on a tripod. In order to capture motion blur, the camera must move while you take the image. Your shutter speed should be slower, but not to the extent of a long exposure. Whereas a long exposure could be a second, ten seconds, twenty seconds, etc., a photo with a goal of motion blur might be just 1/30 of a second, or even 1/60, or sometimes even 1/200, depending on what you’re shooting and how fast it’s moving. The idea is to “pan” the camera along with your subject while the image is being captured, so that the subject appears more still relative to its surroundings. This takes a lot of practice and experimentation with a slow shutter speed, but the results can be interesting.


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Macro

The term macro has always confused me. Macro photography refers to the photographing of small things. Tiny things. To me, that should be “micro,” not “macro,” but no one consulted me when coming up with the term. (FYI: Nikon’s macro lenses are called “Micro-NIKKOR.” Food for thought.)

In any case, macro photography is fascinating. In our human-oriented world, we forget that there exists an entirely different world on a much, much smaller scale, and by playing with macro photography, you can bring that world to life.

Macro work requires more specialized equipment than many other forms of photography. You’ll need a special lens — a macro lens — or a lens or camera with macro functionality. If you’re starting on a point-and-shoot camera, look for a little icon of a flower on the camera. Turning that function on lets you focus at a closer distance to your subject, which is exactly what you need to do macro work. A camera with a dedicated macro lens, however, will give you the best results. And not all macro lenses are created equal. Look for one with a 1:1 magnification or greater, and ideally, one with a larger focal length. I have a 105mm macro lens, which is fantastic, but there are also longer focal length macro lenses, which allow you to be less close-up from your subject. This can be especially handy if your subject is a little skittish, such as a butterfly. There are also other macro-specific gear, such as extension tubes, reversing rings, macro-specific lighting, and more, but that’s something to look at once you’ve done all you can with the equipment you have.


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Black & White

This one isn’t as much of a technique as it is a style, but there is definitely a technique to shooting good black and whites. With practice, you can start to turn off the “color” part of your vision, and just start to see light. It takes a lot of time to master black & white photography, surprisingly, if you started out shooting color. Many photography students are required to begin their coursework with black and white photography before adding in the color variable, and with good reason.

My best tip for getting good at shooting black and white photography, or for learning how to select which images you want to convert to black and white during post-processing in Photoshop (or Lightroom), is this: if your camera shoots in raw, you can most likely turn on a monochrome setting that allows you to see the images in black and white as you’re shooting. If you have a mirrorless camera, you can do this and see the world in black and white in real time. This will quickly start to shift your mindset and allow you to more easily look for light instead of being distracted by color information. And by shooting in raw, once you get back to the computer, you’ll still have all of the color information at your fingertips. The monochrome image on the back of the camera is just a JPEG preview, but all of the color data is preserved. Give it a shot.


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Light Painting

One of the most fun photography techniques is called “light painting.” The name photography itself breaks down, in the Greek, to “writing with light.” So, “painting” with light is a fairly accurate term for this technique.

To give light painting a whirl, you’ll need two things: a tripod, because this will be a long exposure, and a light source you can control, such as a flashlight, candle, glow stick, etc. Find a dark place (this is also a good opportunity to dabble with night photography), put the camera on a tripod, stop down the aperture to f/8 or smaller (you’ll have to play with the camera settings a bit), and then set the exposure to either bulb mode if you’re using a remote shutter release, or to a longer exposure of 15-30 seconds, depending on what you’re shooting and how you’re painting it. Then hit the shutter, and paint!

You can do this a couple of ways. The first is to aim the light back at the camera, and the other is to shine it on whatever it is you want to paint. Here are a couple of examples.

This will take lots of practice and patience, but the result can be fun.

Silhouettes

Silhouettes have a rich history. They started out as paper cutouts and were an early form of faster, cheaper portraiture in the 1800s. Today, we can recreate their style easily with our cameras.

I always enjoy practicing silhouettes, though I don’t do it very often. In my client work, usually people want to see the subject, not just an outline of the subject, but throwing a silhouette into the mix can show that you’re able to think about the world a little differently, and knowing this technique can also help you translate what you’re actually seeing in the real world into a photograph.

The basic technique is to place your subject against a brighter background, and expose so that the outline of the subject is dark against that background. Profiles of people work better than straight-on portraits when doing silhouettes, because you’re better able to see the outline of their face.

Combining Light Sources

One of the more complex photography techniques that you’ll start to experiment involves combining multiple sources and types of light. If you’ve used a camera flash, you’ve already done this — combining the flash’s light with the light of the sun, or the interior lights of a house, etc. Once you start to play with light, you can experiment even further with that idea. Mix a constant light source, such as a lamp, with the flash of a strobe. Use the flashlight in coordination with the light of the moon when doing a light painting. The potential for this is limitless, and when you master using different kinds of light in your images, you’ll truly be living up to the intentions of photography.

After you’ve mastered some of these techniques, the next step is to start combining them. Try long exposure photography, but turn it black and white. Do macro work, but as silhouettes. The combinations of techniques are endless in photography, and by learning and practicing these techniques, you can take your skills up a notch and begin to develop your own style.


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