Flexibility and Patience

Aspen McDonald doing her thing

At some point in every portrait photographer’s career there will be a time when things just don’t work out according to the plan. Two characteristics will be very beneficial in getting around these situations; patience and flexibility. You also need to use what resources you have so the session won’t go to waste.

When my original plan to capture a model on roller skates through the park seemed like a good idea at the time, circumstances got in the way.

The golden hour should have been ideal but it was over an hour away. The lighting was complicated and scattered. The backdrop was beautiful in itself but was too distracting with the various trees, hills, rocks etc. Also, the surfaces to skate on were bumpy at best. Lastly, the model and her wardrobe was gorgeous but the backdrop did not compliment it at all.

Two lessons learned here

  1. Have an alternate nearby location.
  2. Make the most of what you got.

Even if I am working on a photo session and it all goes wrong, it is still worth making the most of the scene. You can walk away with something for your efforts and the model’s time. There were a few portraits to be proud of and to be honest, they actually came from the model’s suggestions on which area and poses we used. Again, remaining flexible and adapting helped salvage this photo session.

Photo Exercises

In order to take advantage of the benefits of a good photo walk, try some of these visual exercises as well.

  • Walk around shooting anything and everything. Don’t discriminate, keep your mind open
  • Focus on color, monochrome, texture, composition
  • If you shoot primarily with your camera, try your phone’s camera instead. Vice versa. Change it up.
  • Look for different color combos, shapes, curves, leading lines
  • Process your photos with different styles. Over-saturate, add shadows.
  • Use your flash to drastically change the outcome.

Any or all of these exercises could help you flex your artistic muscles

Photo Walk

Now that spring time is officially here, it is time to stand up, stretch, and get moving. What better way to ease into it than a walk with your camera?

Physical fitness is essential to your artistic fitness. In order for you to become a better photographer you must become a better person.

In other words, the more physically fit you are, the better artist you are. Think of it as photography therapy. When you prioritize your physical fitness, you can become more productive.

Walk. A lot.

Start lifting again.

Make your diet a priority

Sleep better

Limit alcohol intake

Feed your creativity by walking inside museums or galleries, walking around town with your camera or walk around public spaces.

The more you shoot, the more photographically fit you can become.

What better way to enjoy the fresh Spring air?

Why Portraits?

Someone asked me the other day what type of photography do I like to shoot. Immediately my response was “portraits.”

Why?

Because people are fascinating!

Because people have individual personalities and expressions.

Because people have stories to share.

Because people are intrigued by other people.

Ever go to a museum and notice we are drawn to portraits more often than any other subject? Because people back then are just like us. In the future, they will appreciate and absorb content about us.

This is why I focus on photographing people. 

A Simpler iPad Photo Workflow

Following up on my previous post about editing photos with the iPad and VSCO workflow, I wanted to add some even more simple tools. The iPad and it’s Photos app have some very basic editing tools and help simplify your workflow.  

When I import my images to the iPad from the Lightning SD card adapter I like to think of it as a contact sheet just like we used to use for film and a darkroom. When I review the thumbnails of these images I can tell almost instantly which are kept or to be discarded. And speaking of importing, lately I have been shooting more jpeg file format as opposed to RAW. Again, simplicity. When these everyday photos are just for my use and storage, I want to minimize the file size. Faster importing and lighter on the storage. Now when I shoot for clients, I will almost always shoot in both jpeg and RAW for the sharpest, best results. Moving on.

Every photographer’s goal is to get the image right in camera. While that isn’t always possible, it is possible to have fun and play with the lighting and filter tools. 

Adjust the lighting, exposure, shadows, saturation, contrast and more. Just explore and experiment with what looks good to you. Not for anyone else. For you. This is your time to play.

There is no such thing as the perfect processing technique. When playing with the process, take a look at the offered filters.
For color filters, I lean more toward the “Dramatic” look. For black and white I prefer the “Noir” look. If these don’t do it for you, I’d suggest looking at the filters in the VSCO app.


Be sure to fine tune your image with a careful crop and rotation. These can help eliminate background clutter and even a different perspective.


Another handy dandy feature is the Favorite button. These help me sort the best from the rest. When you favorite an image it’ll go into it’s own folder. From there I can process my fave images.

When the images are finalized I will usually distribute them to various places online like my websites, Flickr, VSCO and EyeEm. But before I do that, I ensure I have access using all of my devices such as the iPhone, iPad and my laptop. Your experiences will vary but for me, I keep it simple. I use the iOS Files app, iCloud backup and Microsoft’s OneDrive. Because…Windows.  

To wrap this up, the iPad for me is quickly becoming my default device for photo production. I am constantly tweaking and refining my experience to simply my workflow. 

iPad + VSCO Workflow

The advancement in digital photographic technology has come a long way, baby. When I acquired my first digital camera 18 years ago the post processing was minimal and the software was expensive. More recently, I’ve converted from a Nikon and Compact Flash adapter to desktop drive to an SD card to laptop situation. Why? Simplicity.

I am simplifying and tweaking my workflow all the time because I want to do more shooting as opposed to editing. Get me back out there!

Lugging a laptop around with all my photography gear is not ideal or even necessary anymore. With the technology improvements of the iPad it is becoming my go-to workhorse to catalog and process my images. Other benefits? 

– [ ] Speed. The iPad can load and process faster than a laptop and Adobe Lightroom
– [ ] Cost. A good iPad is cheaper than a laptop

So how do you get your RAW/JPEG images from your camera to your iPad?  Well, you could use the camera’s WiFi transfer feature. Or wait for them to load into your cloud drive and download them. For me? I prefer the $29 SD card adapter from Apple. This is one of the best, cheapest investments I have made. 

When I insert my SD card into the adapter and then into the iPad, the Photos Import module appears. You can choose to import all or select individual images.

To help keep me organized I add these photos to a new album such as this example here, After Dark.

VSCO, The Visual Supply Company

I am a big fan of this software. They have grown from a photo filter software app to a full fledged photographic community that could and should replace Instagram. They have both free and paid subscription model that allows them to avoid ads in their software. I pay $20 a *year* for their products as opposed to $10 a *month* for the Adobe photography plan. I just saved $100. Follow me there if you’d like: https://vsco.co/photodenbow

Now that I’ve opened the VSCO app to import my selected photos I can choose the presets to set the tone I want for my images. VSCO presets emulate actual film effects from Kodak, Fuji, Iilford, etc. They even have creative, fun presets.

After I’ve chosen the effects I can tweak individual settings such as saturation, hues, white balance etc. From there I will save to my VSCO feed or journal as well as download to the iPad. After that, do what you will with your finished product.


There is no perfect workflow for me because I am constantly tweaking it to keep it simple. Who knows? Maybe next month it will change again.

I picked up this handy little tool yesterday to help manage the images on my iPhone and iPad.

This is the SanDisk iXpand 128gb Flash Drive. Once it was done copying over all 10gb of images off my phone I saved them onto my laptop. Sleek, beautiful and a great way to preserve storage space for all the photos I take.

Lightroom Preset Sync!

“Finally!”

– all Adobe Lightroom users

I’ve been able to synchronize my custom film effects from the desktop to my mobile iOS devices so now I can edit my images anywhere.

On my iPhone

On my iPad

This is a fantastic development that’ll come in handy when I am out and about and want to share processed images right away.

VSCO > Instagram

Instagram sucks. I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it. VSCO has a great business model. They make and sell digital products to help enhance your photography and provide a social platform to host too. VSCO desktop presets for Adobe Lightroom and VSCO mobile are great tools to create and share your work.

Compare this to Instagram’s business model: advertising. Fun fact: I have never purchased anything from an online advertisement and I will go out of my way to not buy their products for their intrusive behavior. Also, I don’t want my data sold to anyone I don’t want to business with.

VSCO is minimally designed where the focus is on photography, not how many followers you have or comments and likes. These fake forms of measuring how good your image is can be unhealthy and distracting.

The attention to photography and storytelling beats the Instagram feed of 1 ad to every 4 photos. Instagram has ceased to be relevant and ceased being fun.

VSCO is a creative tool program where it provides the tools to edit your images and share on your feed or even in a journal format. Repost others in a Collection as a mood board of inspiration. Even reach out to others with private messaging.

I’ll still use Instagram for my Shots photo group and that’s all. I want to focus on enjoying photography again and being more creative as a result.

**Update** It is finished

It’s Not Relevant

Instagram sucks.

It used to be a great way to network with great photographers and friends. It has evolved from a creative community into an abomination of memes, unoriginal work and advertisements.
When Facebook purchased Instagram everyone knew that it would change drastically and not for the better. 

Shortly after, ads were popping up with no regard for anything. Nothing was relevant because Facebook hadn’t yet figured out your likes, dislikes, friends. It still hasn’t figured me out. I am seeing ads for candy, ads for salt. Yes, salt. Ads for a house flipping seminar by some faux celeb on a DIY channel. Ads for paint etc etc. What the hell does salt have to do with photography? This is a photography platform…or it used to be.
IG has added video features, photo/video stories, IGTV for longer video stories. All laced with ads. 

FB and IG both have shitty algorithms that is distracting what we want to see. Their shitty algorithms have also destroyed the order in which we want to see our friend’s photos by assuming they know best. But FB and IG don’t know me at all. They’ve stopped caring and allow any advertiser to show whatever they want, relevant or not and then have access to our data.

How pervasive are these irrelevant advertisements? It averages one ad for every four photos in your feed. Four, maybe five of your colleague’s images and then you get a “sponsored post”.

Think these offered options matter?

Why don’t you want to see this ad?

It’s not relevant

I see it too often

It’s inappropriate

Think again.

Deleting Facebook was easy. I never took it seriously and my friends appreciated me mocking everything that they enjoyed about FB.

Speaking of deleting…I just accidentally erased my whole last paragraph and don’t have the energy to recreate it. Anyway, IG sucks and I am getting real close to pushing that “delete account” button

image

It’s Not Relevant

Instagram sucks.

It used to be a great way to network with
great photographers and friends. It has evolved from a creative
community into an abomination of memes, unoriginal work and
advertisements.
When Facebook purchased Instagram everyone knew that it would change
drastically and not for the better.

Shortly after, ads were
popping up with no regard for anything. Nothing was relevant because
Facebook hadn’t yet figured out your likes, dislikes, friends. It still
hasn’t figured me out. I am seeing ads for candy, ads for salt. Yes,
salt. Ads for a house flipping seminar by some faux celeb on a DIY
channel. Ads for paint etc etc. What the hell does salt have to do with
photography? This is a photography platform…or it used to be.
IG has added video features, photo/video stories, IGTV for longer video
stories. All laced with ads.

FB and IG both have shitty
algorithms that is distracting what we want to see. Their shitty
algorithms have also destroyed the order in which we want to see our
friend’s photos by assuming they know best. But FB and IG don’t know me
at all. They’ve stopped caring and allow any advertiser to show whatever
they want, relevant or not and then have access to our data.

How
pervasive are these irrelevant advertisements? It averages one ad for
every four photos in your feed. Four, maybe five of your colleague’s
images and then you get a “sponsored post”.

These are the offered options when telling IG you don’t want to see their ads:

Why don’t you want to see this ad?

It’s not relevant

I see it too often

It’s inappropriate

Deleting Facebook was easy. I never took it
seriously and my friends appreciated me mocking everything that they
enjoyed about FB.

Speaking of deleting…I just accidentally erased
my whole last paragraph and don’t have the energy to recreate it.
Anyway, IG sucks and I am getting real close to pushing that “delete
account” button.

**Update**  It is gone.

Stay or Go?

When I noticed recently that the total number of photos stored
on my computer is almost 40,000, it seemed time to do some organizing and pruning. No problem right? Just get rid of the images I don’t want and look for the keepers.

So, what to do with pictures like
the one above? It’s probably not worth saving for the fact that it snows in Houston Texas once every ten years. Or that we only had enough snow to make this cute little guy on the top of our car. Look how cute that baby carrot nose is.

The photo features a brilliant blend of colors and an excellent bokeh and was shot three days before my birthday in 2009 at f/5.6 at 1/500 seconds on my old Nikon D90 with no flash.

Yes, I’ll keep it.

One down, 39,999 to go…