Fun with Focus and Depth of Field

Three techniques for creating funky depth of field effects in the camera and in the computer

Shallow depth of field in a photograph has always been a great way to put the attention exactly where you want it—at the point of focus and nowhere else. But a recent influx of various tools and techniques has made shallow depth of field, as well as special depth of field effects, more popular than ever. Here are three techniques for creating your... Read more

How To Handle Harsh Light

What to do when you need to get the shot but the light is just too harsh

We all know how important it is to make sure we’re working with nice light. It’s not enough to have a great moment and a great subject in a great composition. If the light’s not right, the picture’s going to suffer. So does that mean if you’ve got bad light—the kind of harsh sunlight that makes midday an awful time for taking pictures—you... Read more

Create An Out-Of-This-World Image

Go from average to awesome in just a few minutes

If you’re like most photographers, you go to popular locations and attend popular events to make pictures. Not surprisingly, your straight-out-of-the-camera shots may look similar to those of your photographer buddies. Happens to me all the time. A quick fix is to use digital darkroom enhancement to remove or alter the reality from the scene.... Read more

Shooting Back

In the absence of facial expressions, context and gesture make the portrait

When striving to capture truly expressive portraits, focusing on facial expressions may seem like the most effective approach, and it certainly can be. But there are a number of other ways to shoot evocative, emotional images totally void of any facial expressions. As a matter of fact, you don’t need to reveal the face of your subject at all to... Read more

Milestones And New Beginnings

Use important moments in life to exercise your documentary skills

Milestones are those important moments in life that mark the passage of time. While these occasions can be very personal, some of them are universal, such as birth, a child’s first steps and first words, the first day of school, the first kiss, graduation, first job, marriage, first child and grandchild. Photography is one of the best ways to... Read more

Background Tricks

Five ways to better portrait backdrops

“Watch your background!” is one of the first lessons to learn as a photographer, and it’s an essential tip for portraiture. Clean and simple is generally best; cluttered backgrounds distract from your subject. That doesn’t mean your portrait backgrounds need to be stark and uninteresting. With enough lens blur—achieved in-camera... Read more

Simply Realistic Retouching

The key to easy and effective skin retouching is minimizing the bad without obliterating the good

I have a theory about skin retouching: The only thing worse than an unretouched portrait is an overly retouched portrait. My goal is always to improve the subject’s skin without creating an image that looks fake. That’s the biggest challenge ultimately. Anybody can make skin pretty with diffusion and blur, but retouching skin without obliterating... Read more

Shutter Basics

Understanding how a shutter works can make a big difference in pictures and video—especially when working with fast subjects or mixing ambient light with flash

Do you know what kind of shutter your camera has? It’s probably one of two different styles: the focal plane shutter or the leaf shutter. More than likely it’s a focal plane shutter, because that’s the standard in most DSLRs. Just because it’s the standard, though, doesn’t mean it’s the only one, or even necessarily the best. Here are the... Read more

A Parent’s Perspective

Capture authentic family portraits by finding the beauty in easily missed moments

I began my career as a portrait photographer before my career as a parent, but even then, children were always my favorite subject. To me, everything about children is poetic, and using my camera to frame each lilting and lyrical detail is what ignited my interest and fueled my passion to cultivate a career in photography. I reveled in capturing the... Read more

Child’s Play

How to plan for and engage kids in lively portrait sessions

Kids can be your cutest, most animated, uninhibited and fun subjects to photograph. They can also be the most distracted, emotionally charged, quick-moving and difficult. So, how do you plan for the latter while creating the former? Successful children’s photography relies heavily on being able to connect with the child you’re photographing. There... Read more

Lighting For Skin Tones

How to make skin look great with subtle changes to the position and quality of the light source—whether that’s a strobe or sunlight or anything in between

There’s one thing all portrait subjects share in common: They want to look good. Young and old, men and women alike, everybody hates to see their wrinkles and blemishes on display. So learn how to light to minimize flaws and produce smooth, flattering skin tones. IT ALL STARTS IN THE CAMERA Whether you’re working with ambient light or strobes,... Read more

Travel Portraits

Breaking the ice and getting the shot

When I first started to shoot travel portraits, I was paralyzed at the thought of approaching complete strangers and taking their picture. I was convinced they’d start hurtling expletives my way the second I raised my camera. Better to hide in the bushes with a long lens and “paparazzi” the locals without them knowing. But shooting... Read more