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The Digital Classroom
Educating photographers with tips, hints, and step-by-step instructions
Educating photographers with tips, hints, and step-by-step instructions


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The latest journey begins... insights on how I travel

You may have noticed last week that +Lotus Carroll and I were bragging a lot... well you would too if you were on your way to glorious VIRGIN GORDA!  This will be my fifth trip to the island and I am incredibly excited to arrive!

I'm currently sitting at the airport in San Juan, PR waiting for a connecting flight... I found some wifi and an outlet -- no easy feat here -- and I wanted to let you folks know about my fabulous travel techniques.

As I explained to Lotus a couple weeks ago, I am a HUGE fan of flying with out checking bags.  +Cassius Wright really helped me become a creative/efficient packer over the past few years and now I absolutely LOATHE checking bags.  Over the years, I've had bags go missing, turn up late, get damaged, get overweight charges, etc.  As a photographer especially, the idea of some crucial piece of gear not making it to your destination is TERRIFYING!  We put a lot of work into shoot prep, so why would we place our gear's fate in the hands of the TSA/any other flight authority?

So how is it possible to fit all of your stuff in carry-on only?  With practice and realism.  You don't need to bring everything you own.  

For your gear, when deciding "do I really need this ____?" think about the last time you were in a similar situation.  Did you really use it or did it just weigh you down?  Sure, some may say "better safe than sorry" but I think limiting the quantity of gear you bring challenges you to get the shots you want with what you have.  Be creative!  This time I left a few items home.  Things that were doubles -- with the exception of camera bodies -- were left at home.  Things that would only come in handy in very unlikely situations were left at home.  Things that I always swear I'm going to use -- like fancy lens cap accessories -- but never do, were left at home.  I brought 4 extra AA batteries... not 8, not 12... they sell batteries EVERYWHERE.  Get the idea?  Once I set out all the gear I planned to bring, I put it all in my cheap but awesome KATA camera bag inserts.  They fit really well in my new Samsonite backpack -- $23 on Amazon, thank you very much.  My backpack also accommodates my hard drive, cords, laptop, book, and a few vital personal effects.  

Honestly, learning to pack light on your gear is the easy part.  Packing light when it comes to things like clothing, shoes, and toiletries is a little more difficult.  People need their creature comforts.  We don't want to have to wear the same clothes over and over on a trip, or feel trapped in a single pair of shoes.  Here's how I make it work...  First, I wear my bulkiest shoes, pants, and jackets during the flight.  Less to carry, warmer in the airplane.  You can always take off your jacket and use it as a pillow, or as a barrier from the mouth-breather next to you.  Next, I utilize space wonderfully with packaging cubes and a duffel bag by Rick Steves.  The man is a nerdy-yet-genius travel god.  I've been packing with his modular systems for years and I've never had an issue.  The products last FOREVER.  Bring only clothes that will work in different combinations.  Bring only clothes that you can hand wash in a pinch if need be.  When you're on a shooting trip, leave the more delicate fabrics at home.  You don't need chiffon to take pictures of a pelican.  All loose items are stored in ziplock bags or other small pouches.  Fewer items jingling around will make you happy in the long run.  The 3oz rule for toiletries can be trickier for women.  Cut corners by using bar soap instead of body wash.  Stick to powder based make-up.  Use a little less of everything in your shower routine for one week to make your limited supplies last... it will be just fine :-)  

Today, because I packed carry-on only, I was able to arrive at the airport 1 hour and 15 minutes before my flight.  I breezed directly through security (always print your boarding pass at home) and had time to breathe before boarding the flight.  Because we had a full flight, the gate agent asked me to gate check my bag... which was no big deal because everything was so cleverly organized.  It was super easy to grab important medications, papers, and snacks for the flight and fit them into my backpack.  Even better, because the duffel bag is carry-on sized and I got it through security myself, I didn't have to pay to check it.  GENIUS!  Most of the time, when you gate check, you can pick your bag back up at the next gate.  Less hassle, less drama.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with how I packed this time around.  Anyone who saw me on #americabyrail  can attest to the fact that sometimes I do travel like a gypsy with a small caravan on my back.  That trip was 45 days though, and this one is 8... it's important to be able to make a distinction in what you really need and what will just weigh you down.

What packing techniques do you use to your advantage?
Anyone else OBSESSED with nerdy lil-old Rick Steves and his fancy bags?

Look for more posts all week long as I bask in the Caribbean sun!

#photography   #photographytricks   #photographytips   #photographyideas   #photographygear   #packingyourphotogear   #ricksteves   #photogear   #photoideas   #photographytrips   #carryonnexttime   #nevercheckbags  
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I'm going to the beach, and I'm bringing +Lotus Carroll with me...

so what better way to celebrate Photo Gear Friday then for us to share our packing lists with you!?

Here's what Lotus had to say:

"So excited to be leaving for Virgin Gorda with Jordana Wright this coming Monday! I'm always a packing procrastinator, but I've been thinking about what I'm taking as far as gear goes and I've assembled the following:

-Tripod (There really must be beach shots of Jordana and myself together. Hehe. Okay, I'll also need it for various other things.)
-Canon 7D (My primary body)
-50mm (Old standby.)
-18-200mm (Versatility, baby!)
-8-16mm (Wide angle landscape gorgeousness, anyone?)
-8-15mm Fisheye (Fun, fun, fun.) :)
-Laptop, Extra Harddrive, Cables aplenty! (Processing, Storage, Internet Addiction)

The extra little things in my gear bag that I always make sure to have:
-Extra Battery & Charger (Because I don't like kicking myself.)
-Wireless Remote (For those times when you have to be in the shot or don't want to screw it up by touching the camera.)
-Flashlight! (Getting lost out on the Bad Water Salt Flats in Death Valley after dark without one taught this girl that it's a necessary camera bag component.)
-Lens Cloth

I'm also testing out a brand new +Think Tank Photo Travel Photo roller bag for the first time - The Airport 4-Sight ( and I'll post what I think about it when I'm back home after this glorious trip!

As far as other things, I've been told to load in the bug spray (ew, mosquitos!), bring sunscreen (no lobster mask for me) and I'll also be bringing sunglasses and clothing suitable for warm weather and having the time of my life. Of course. :) 

While we're there, I'm really looking forward to checking out +Sunset Watch Villa, Virgin Gorda, BVIs and shooting there, as well as capturing some amazing landscapes around the island on the beautiful beaches, like Savannah. The Baths and Bays definitely need complete exploration, and a little birdie told me to check out the Abandoned Sugar Mill. I think I'd also like to hike about the mountain a bit and am also looking forward to seeing what kind of fun little food and drink places there are to enjoy. Fruity drink photos are on the list! I can't wait to experience it all and to start posting photos when I return (I have to do that, right? Come back? Okay, okay.)."

and here's what I'll be toting:
- 2 Canon 60Ds
- my SLIK pan/tilt tripod
- multiple JOBY gorillapod focus(es) -- foci?  ahh!
- Gorillatorches -- be on the lookout for a super baller post about them when I get back
- 50mm
- Diana fisheye lens
-2x mag extender
-250d mag filter
- flashes and triggers
- batts, cloths, and SO MANY FILTERS -- especially polarizers
- my new JOBY camera straps
- my new TOP SECRET JOBY gear that I may be able to talk about soon!
- my EEEpc
- my 2TB rugged LaCie Hard Drive
- bug defense
- sunscreen
- beach gear
- the fifth Game of Thrones book

That's about it.  Between the two of us, I'd say we've got just about everything covered!

I'll be writing mini on-the-road posts all about photographing the Caribbean, so be sure and check in to live vicariously through me and Lotus!

Have a great weekend plussers!!!

#photography   #photographygear   #photogear   #photogearlist   #caribbeanphotography   #caribbean   #virgingorda   #packinglist   #photographytutorials   #photographylessons   #photographyideas   #photographytips   #win   #awesome   #bvi  

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Instant Sleep with Photoshop!!!

Like so many others, it seems I was born with dark circles under my eyes... its one of the major reasons I wear glasses rather than contacts.  Fortunately, with the magic of photography and photoshop, we can give our clients/models a few extra hours of sleep with some clever retouching.

Here's a little explainer I put together in light of some recent edits I've been working on...

Feel free to ask any questions or add to the discussion!  Like all things with photoshop, this is just one of many possible ways to achieve a specific effect... do what works best for you!!!

#photography   #photoshop   #photoshoptutorials   #retouching   #photographyhelp   #photographytips   #photographyhowtos   #photographytricks   #portraits   #portraitphotography   #portraitretouching   #awesome  
Fixing Tired Eyes (4 photos)
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Going out of business sales

So yesterday, on my way home from a gig, I stopped by a downtown Chicago location of Wolf Camera... they are soon to become a Calumet location, so they're having a RIDICULOUS sale.  I'm talking 90% off loads of stuff.  I may have made some unplanned purchases..., the lesson for today is all about knowing when to splurge on camera gear.

I've been in desperate need of new uv filter for two of my lenses, as well as a circular polarizer for my 50mm and 17-85mm.  These items have been on my mental wishlist for a LONG time.  Occasionally I'll check prices online, in stores, etc., but I hadn't found a really great deal until yesterday.  When I walked in to the somewhat barren store, I was lucky enough to find all the filters I needed -- and many I didn't need -- for unexpected prices.  All of the filters I purchased are multi-coated, high quality glass, originally priced between $80 and $185.  I spent less than $15 for each.  I also got a 2x extender ring marked down by over $100.  

I'm not trying to brag here, my point is just that if you keep a mental inventory of what you have and what you need to stock up on, and what things normally should cost, you can take advantage of situations like these!

The sad fact is that the economy still blows.  Stores are going out of business all the time, so liquidation sales like these are pretty common.  If you have a Wolf Camera near you, check it out... you may get some pretty ridiculous deals!

Happy shooting!

#photography   #photographytutorials   #photographyideas   #photographytips   #photographylessons   #gearonsale   #newgear   #awesome   #win  

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Protecting Your Photography with Copyrights -- Part 1 of many...

So one of the most important, yet frequently forgotten, parts of being a photographer is copyrighting your work.  The bad news is that people steal, especially photographs, especially online.  The good news is that if people steal your photographs when you've registered them with the US Copyright Office, you're gonna GET PAID!  I mean, TALL LOOT.  So why wouldn't you register your work?

Here are 3 VERY USEFUL, VERY EASY resources for photographers about copyrights:

1) Want to learn the specifics about copyrights?  Check out this fabulous document from ASMP:

2) Want to register your photography's copyright?  Here's the form: Fill it out then find out how to submit it here:

3) Want to see if someone's been stealing your stuff?  Try out this handy little tool:

What are you waiting for?  Protect your photos!!!!

#photography   #copyright   #photographytips   #photographylessons   #photographytutorial   #photographersrights   #photocopyrights   #tineye   #asmp   #protectyourphotographs   #protectyourrights   #photographyideas   #awesome  

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Photography at night with available light
Shooting at night presents some exciting opportunities as well as some difficulties to overcome.  For starters, people look at you weird when you carry an extended tripod around in urban areas.  Based on some of the looks my husband has gotten in the past, you’d think that a tripod resembles a bazooka…
In any case, you can get some amazing night time shots with the correct preparation.  Here’s what you should have with you when shooting at night:
• A camera (not getting very far without this one)
• A wired or wireless trigger (you can use the “self-timer mode” if you don’t have a trigger, but it’s not as reliable)
• A sturdy tripod

So far so good?  Sweet.  So what’s next?  Metering, that’s what.
If your subject is the light source itself (like with a fire, fancy back-lit signs, the moon, or reflected colored light) then you want to set your metering to “Spot Metering”.  This will allow you to use the camera’s auto-focus point to meter the entire image for the subject/light source.  Essentially, the light source will be perfectly exposed in all its bright glory while the rest of the image is thrown into darkness.  
If your subject is a larger scene with multiple light sources (like a nighttime cityscape, a building with many lit windows, or a busy intersection with traffic/light trails) then you can work in “Evaluative/Matrix Metering”.  This will allow your camera to take several readings across the frame and find a good exposure setting overall.  

What about White Balance?
That totally depends on what you’re photographing.  AWB and Custom White Balance are always your best options when shooting at night, unless you are specifically looking to throw things in a warm or cool direction.  Want to go warm?  Set WB to “shade” or “cloudy”.  Want to go cool?  Set WB to “tungsten”.  Need a white balance refresher?  Check this out:

What should my other settings be?
• ISO should be as low as possible.  If you’re shooting with a tripod, then ISO 100 is perfect!
• Aperture depends on your subject.  Trying to isolate a specific element in the image?  Then go for f/1.8-f/4.  Trying to get the whole city of Chicago in perfectly focused frame?  Try f/22 and beyond.  When you’re working with a tripod, you have total aperture flexibility because long shutter speeds are no big deal!
• Shutterspeed is going to be secondary to aperture when shooting at night.  For beginners, shoot in Aperture Priority and let the camera choose the according shutterspeed.  Want to get more complicated?  Play around with different shutterspeeds to see what happens… you can get light trails with longer speeds and freeze motion with shorter ones.
• For rich awesome color in lights, try under-exposing a stop.
• For vibrant, frenetic images, try over-exposing a stop.

So there ya go… get out there and play around with it!  Don’t let the bizarre looks you get dissuade you from capturing some fantastic images at night.  Check out the attached images for brief explanations of how the shots were achieved.

What’s your favorite thing to photograph at night?  Any baller-nighttime-shot-success-stories you want to share?

Happy Monday and happy shooting :-) 

#photography   #photographytips   #photographytricks   #photographylessons   #photographyideas   #photographytutorials   #nightshooting   #nightphotography   #longexposures   #awesome  
Night Shooting for the win (9 photos)
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Photo Gear Friday with a 3 in 1 trigger!

Timelapse photography is all the rage these days.  I'm thinking about getting into it a bit myself, but to do so there is one vital accessory:  an intervalometer.  Basically, this is the gadget that tells your camera to take photos on specific intervals so you don't have to stand there for 24-28 hours pressing the button every .5 seconds...  

I was just reading about this awesome new gadget by Ubertronix, that serves as an intervalometer, but also helps with other precise trigger moments... here's what it can do:

- Trigger your camera on custom set intervals for timelapse photography
- Detect when a laser beam has been broken and triggers your camera (great for water droplets, motion sensing, or catching even the trickiest ninjas on camera)
- Detect when lightening is striking and trigger your camera to capture wicked cool lightening bolts

I can think of many uses for all three functions... so to have all that functionality in one gadget seems like a fantastic addition to your photography gear vault (or if you're me, an ugly gray rubbermaid tub).

This sweet little dealy isn't even that expensive... you can get one specific to your camera system for under $175.  WIIIIIIIIN!

Anyone used one of these before?  Feedback?  Ninja shots to share?

Happy friday and happy shooting!

#photography   #photographytutorials   #photographyideas   #photographygear   #photographygadgets   #photographytips   #photographylessons   #camera  

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Creating a one-click watermark with brushes

Well hello there folks!  I'm back with more photoshop insights to make your lives EASIER!  I love to watermark stuff... even though loads of people complain that watermarks are distracting on images, I personally have gotten business and made money because my watermark told someone who I was and how to find me.  We all want to make money from our photos, RIGHT?

So even if you don't agree with the concept of watermarking -- no judgement here -- I'm still gonna show you a super easy way to do it.

Take a look at this video for the full process, but *spoiler alert* it involves turning a text layer into a brush!  Check it out :-)

Heads up, tomorrow is PHOTO GEAR FRIDAY!  So don't spend those paychecks yet... I'll tell you what you should prolly buy tomorrow :-)

#photography   #photographytutorial   #photographytips   #watermark   #watermarking   #photographyhowtos   #photoshophelp   #photoshop   #postprocessing   #awesome  

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Streamlining your workflow with presets and actions

In post processing, you can take advantage of sooooo many presets/actions for sale (i.e. Kubota tools, etc.).  They will make things faster, easier, and pretty darn consistent.  …But, if you’re anything like me, and I hope for your sake that you are (I’m pretty great), you like to keep things simple but you don’t want to sacrifice quality or individuality.  

If you love the ease and simplicity that pre-made actions give your workflow, why not try creating a few of your own?

When I’m working on a big post-processing job – like with the hundreds of images I give clients for weddings – I like to have a few of my favorite looks all set to go.  I’ll still tweak each photo a bit, but my presets give me a great/quick place to start.

So, you’ve got your presets squared away… they’re making your life easier and giving you more time for feeding ducks/geese in the park or whatever you do on your free time.  No judgment.  What about the stuff you always do to each image individually in photoshop – like resizing, adding a vignette, or applying a filter or blur?  Well you can automate that stuff too… 

Take a look at the Digital Classroom section on my website ( to see a couple of magical how to videos I put together for you to make all this stuff a little more understandable!  Why?  Well because you want to learn, AND I want to teach!!!

I hope this has been helpful!  Hit me up with any questions, or let me know if you need clarifications on anything!  Happy shooting/editing/wild-bird feeding!  

Go get ‘em!

#photography   #photographylessons   #photographytutorials   #photographyideas   #photographytips   #photoshop   #cameraraw   #photoediting   #postprocessing   #photographyhelp   #awesome  

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Going on a photoshoot... what's in my bag?

Why, that's an EXCELLENT question!  I have just enough time before I head out the door to give you a little run down on my go-to gear for this shoot.

First off, the shoot is for an actress who need new headshots.  Photographically, it is just like any other portrait shoot... the subject needs to be the primary focus.  Sweet.

Here's what I'll be lugging around all afternoon:

(2) Canon 60Ds -- I bring 2 because I have 2 and its faster to switch cameras than lenses.  Plus, it never hurts to have a backup!

50mm 1.8 lens -- my FAVORITE portrait lens.  It has amazing shallow depth of field while maintaining great detail and sharpness.  Also performs very well in low light.

17-85mm 4-5.6 lens -- my second fave lens.  Also great for d.o.f. detail, clarity, with a bit of zoom to help out.

580 ex ii flash -- just in case I need some extra fill

canon hotshoe mounted wireless flash trigger -- if I need to get the flash off to the side somewhere for more dynamic light

impact softbox -- to modify the flash so it's not so harsh -- contrast caused by extreme lighting is bad for beauty-focused images

JOBY gorillapod slr zoom -- to hold my flash when I get it off the camera!  What's that up there in that tree??? why its a cleverly positioned lighting source!

my new JOBY camera straps -- time for some intensive field testing!

extra batteries, memory cards, and lens clothes.

See?  I travel light!  no need to be weighed down all afternoon!  Know what you need in your camera bag and accept the limitations of not carrying an entire photo studio with you.  You'll shoot better pictures if you aren't breaking your back.

Gorgeous weather in Chicago, just in time for my shoot!  Have a great day everyone!!!

#photography   #photographytutorials   #photographyideas   #gearlist   #whatsinyourbag   #cameras   #cameraaccessories   #headshots   #portraits   #photographylessons   #photographytips  
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