Improve your portrait photography

Improve your portrait photography with self-assigned projects

Envision it, execute it, own it, learn from it

senior portrait photography session

I  greatly enjoy the inexhaustible learning opportunities that photography represents. I also believe  in the practice makes perfect theory when it comes to photography.  This makes for a very simple formula which I have been following  using these simple steps:

1. Learn from the best

2. Practice what you’ve learned

3. Do it again

4. Do it better, don’t move on until you can do it with your eyes closed (well, maybe just one eye so that you can see through the viewfinder)

Getting better at portrait photography can be as easy as planning a fun-filled self-assignment project.  This is the time when you can do whatever you like and experiment as much as you want. NO PRESSURE.  How else can it be done? Practicing or experimenting on a client is really not a good idea.  The only thing is not to forget all the crucial steps and plan the shoot as if it were for a real client, otherwise there’s no point.  Envision the project, plan it, sketch it and prepare for it.  Afterwards, analyse your work, learn from your mistakes, learn from your successes  and do it again.






Become a Better Artist

Artist Up!  Become a Better Artist.

The first e-mail I read in 2014 included a newsletter from a friend who is a wonderful writer/instructor/mentor.  This one piece is universally applicable to all artists, photographers included. I found it immensely inspirational and just had to share it (and keep it here as a reminder to myself for the future).

Slightly shortened, the parts applicable to writers only are simply dots and the rest is useful to any artist.  Full article can be found in the December 2013 Newsletter. It’s about doing your best and then doing better. But I’m not a writer so I’ll hand things over to D.J .Adamson.

Redoing, Rethinking…

The Process of Art.

Many artists hate to have their work critiqued. That goes for the professional as well as the student. Yet, the point of criticism is to find out how your work is being perceived. Here are a few points to keep in mind when getting the criticism:

Listen, don’t defend. Despite what you are hearing, don’t interrupt, make ex-cuses or try to explain how they didn’t get it.

Don’t start blubbering like a baby. Artist up.

Don’t expect a standing ovation.

If the criticism is making you angry, then it is probably something you already knew but didn’t what to hear.

Begin making a list of repeated criticism …. These are your weak points.

Once you are by yourself, scream, rant, rave, and swear at all the comments you received, then do it again.

By D.J. Adamson


Morro Bay, California

Beautiful Morro Bay

Just like that, 2013 is almost gone.  This is my beautiful memory at Morro Bay Beach; my daughter looking at a shell she found, just like she did when she was 5.

My wish for a Happy New Year is: More Happy Memories!

Hello Little Shell



Christmas Puppy

Cookie the Christmas Puppy

Without a conscious commitment it became a tradition for my little Cookie to be my Christmas puppy model.

My poor baby, she hates the costumes, but she does love the treats.

Merry Christmas and Happiest of Holidays to everyone!

Christmas Pup 2013

Mammoth Lakes, always a perfect winter scene

Winter scenes on the way to Mammoth Lakes

First day of December, 2013.The foremost thing on my mind looking at the calendar is “how time flies…” but instead of dwelling on thoughts of time and it’s incredibly annoying ability to escape despite my best efforts, I focus on today: 75 °F outside in December.  I end up looking for season- appropriate shots from last year.

The drive from and to Mammoth Lakes on the beautiful Highway 395 is my favorite by far; it’s much longer than it should be because of all the extra “photo opportunity” stops but they’re worth it. The views of the Sierra Nevada Range are just breathtaking. Every single time.

It’s been a highly productive weekend and right after it’s highlight, putting up the Christmas tree with my family, I have found an amazing new toy: Alienskin software! Long, painstaking search and a review already in process but for now just a winter scene finished off by the trial version of Alienskin (AKA “present to self this Christmas”). I think it works beautifully as a finishing touch for the HDR image (thanks to the creators of Photomatix for HDR Software made just right); color correction hours gone and film nostalgia satisfied big time. And now I can add a new title next to the “Canon Lens Collector”: “Great Photo Processing Software Collector”.

I like the sound of that. I really do.

Image of the Mammoth Lakes scene

Munchkin THE PUG, most photogenic dog in the world

Pug: the most photogenic dog in the world.

Munchkin THE PUG.

There’s much more to this story but for now I’m just trying to win a pole on socially acceptable baby/pug ratio for a Christmas card.

image of a pug

Yosemite Half Dome and Stoneman Bridge in HDR

Yosemite Half Dome Reflection under the Stoneman Bridge in HDR

I stopped counting  images of Half Dome I’ve taken over the years a long time ago.  This time, I wanted something different so I started planning as soon as we got to the valley as it’s not always easy to combine a family and a photography trips into one.

No matter how supportive my wonderful family is, I know that oftentimes they wish I had accidentally left my camera at home; so I chose the not-so-remote location just off Stoneman Bridge. It is conveniently located right next to the parking lot and just a couple of minutes walk from a nice coffee shop which also serves ice cream – all of the elements in the choice of location were vital to the success of my project.

Once the logistics were out of the way, the rest was pure fun: 9 exposures (11 originally) at sunset, same equipment setup as for motion blur (still missing the emote shutter release cable which I have now decided is NOT optional).

This image was processed using Photomatix Pro Software which I absolutely love and finished off in Photoshop.  I will not even attempt to write up an HDR tutorial as there’s a fantastic free HDR tutorial available by Trey Ratcliff (thank you Trey!).


Yosemite Half Dome Reflection5

Two birds at Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge

Changing Guards at  Golden Gate Bridge

Our trips to San Francisco are never complete without a visit to the Golden Gate Bridge and the Golden Gate National Park.  It’s an amazingly fascinating and beautiful place which is never quite the same; this place it’s ever changing and captivating to the extreme.  Man-made marvel and pure beauty of nature all in one place, all at once is simply magical. These two sea gulls  seem to share my appreciation for it’s appeal  and took on the visual role of it’s  guards.  Maybe it was the play of a  whimsical mind or simply a result of exhaustion after a seven hour drive at the time but here I am, several month later, still seeing the same thing.  Interesting. Well,  after all, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see” per Mr. Henry David Thoreau.  I could not agree more.

Two birds at Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

Creating a Perfect Reflection with Motion Blur

Motion Blur Technique

How to create a perfect reflection with motion blur

Sometimes the best compliments are not completely intentional. Looking at this image, my daughter said: “mom, the reflection doesn’t look real, why’d you do it?! (The brutal honesty of a teenager). My reply was simply: “I did not. That’s how I took the photo.”

Motion Blur, Merced River

Motion blur adds a sprinkle of emotion to a scene; I find it fascinating because the results are not always predictable so there’s always an element of surprise. If, however, you’re looking for a predictable outcome and wish to create a perfect reflection with motion blur, it’s pretty simple to accomplish. To do this you’ll need three pieces of equipment in addition to your camera:

1. Tripod (this is NOT an option!)

2. Neutral density filter, I recommend the 9 stop Hoya (this allows you to shoot at 30 seconds in midday sun)

3. Remote shutter release cable (semi-optional but not really)

This shot was taken in Yosemite National Park, the waters of the Merced River, to my delight, were high for August. Taken at a 20 second exposure at F/22, ISO 200. The semi-optional cable release was missing from my bag so there’s a slight camera shake which I do not mind in this image but best safe than sorry.

Happy shooting!


Outdoor Portrait

Happy Halloween Waldo

Happy Halloween 2013!

Outdoor portrait with a single SpeedLight.

Image of   a girl in Waldo Halloween Costume

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