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Trials of the Amateur Sports Photographer

Let me begin by saying I am in no way a professional sports photographer. I am simply a high school math teacher who loves three things: teaching, mathematics, and photography. As a serious photographer in my school, it often fell upon me to document sporting events for the benefit of the school and the students themselves.

The yearbook requires more than simple iPhone game photos, and the students love photos that they can post in their social networking world.

Over the years I have photographed many amateur events which required spending considerable time reading and studying the world of the sports photographer. Let me simply say their world is not an easy one. The following is a collection of techniques that I have used to record that critical moment of an action photo.

The life of a sports photographer is vastly different from that of other photographers. While all photographers face challenges, the sports photographer faces diametrically opposing forces. The landscape photographer must by the nature of the work, travel. As Scott Kelby says,” If you want prettier pictures, you must go to prettier places.”

The landscape photographer must therefore travel far and then also rise from bed around 4:30 in the morning. It is imperative to arrive at the specific location prior to sunrise in order to be ready for that golden hour. That is what separates the great from the mediocre. However, once there, life is relatively simple. Set up the tripod, take a trial image, check your histogram, and then have fun. The amateur sports photographer may only take about a 15-minute drive to the local school gym, but once there, the real problem solving begins.

But before we get to the school, let’s talk about finances. Everybody knows that digital photography is an expensive hobby. However, for the sports photographer, this is an understatement. For any serious photographer, it can be argued that a full sensor camera is a must. However, for the sports photographer, the bar is raised even higher.

For my amateur needs, the basic full-frame $3,000+ camera body will function, but in the pro world, it is surprisingly insufficient. In the gym or on the field the professional photographer needs the $6,000+ top-of-the-line body for one basic requirement alone. The reason is the need for that extra high-speed continuous shooting rate. These additional three to five frames per second could be critical in freezing the action at the precise “decisive moment” for that epic action pic.

Photos of Muhammad Ali – Wikipedia by John Rooney (left) and Y. A. Tittle by Morris Berman (right).

However, the photos above by John Rooney and Morris Berman are the polar opposite of the norm, yet they are perhaps my favorite. These did not freeze the exact moment when a ball hit the bat or the precise second the receiver was flying prone above the ground. These photos showed the world the emotional heart of sports. They captured the true agony and ecstasy of an athlete.

As with the photos of Muhammad Ali and Y.A. Tittle above, sometimes the role of the sports photographer is to capture the highs and lows of the game. The challenge is that to do this, photographers must take their eyes off the field in order to catch the behind-the-scenes drama. One needs to be aware of the entire arena.

The best way to begin a discussion about the challenges in the sports world is to note the obvious. Capturing photos on the field of play requires knowledge of two distinct things, light and again light.

The first light refers to the amount or brilliance of the available light. If anyone has ever witnessed their son’s or daughter’s sporting event at the local high school gym on a Friday evening, one thing becomes quickly apparent. The arenas are not that bright. Normally in photography, this would not be a major issue. Simply open the lens to a larger aperture or crank up the ISO a bit! In sports photography, these options are not that simple.

There are two uncompromising absolutes for action photos. The first is the requirement of a high shutter speed of at least 1/1000 of a second that is needed to freeze motion. The second is a long lens necessary in order to “reach” the action. In a dimly lit high school gym, besides this being a major problem, it is more importantly an expensive one.

Personally, as an amateur, I use a $3,000+ Canon 5D body, with a $2,000+ Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. This is a great body and super lens combo that is indeed sharp and fast enough. While shooting wide open at f/2.8 and at 1/1000 of a second, it quickly becomes apparent that an ISO of at least 20000 is required. These requirements are pushing my camera body and lens to the maximum.

Realize, however, that my basic $5,000+ investment may indeed be functional for many settings. However, in football, I am limited to the area of midfield to my sideline. The far side of the field is simply out of range. This limitation is something I can live with as an amateur, but for the professional, this is totally unsatisfactory. They must cover the entire field. For the professional, this requirement easily doubles the price tag of the camera and lens.

Now for the second issue related to light. This time it is not the brilliance of the light, but its actual color. The light in amateur gyms and fields is fine for the parents to watch their children play. However, it is horrible for the photographer. Obviously, it is not color balanced for outdoor shooting, but the problem goes beyond this. The issue is that the balance is not even uniform throughout the gym or field. Some overhead bulbs are new, some others are old, and some are simply vacant. The light balance on the near court is often very different than that on the far court.

This is a major difference between the worlds of the amateur and professional photographer. In the professional setting, the light balance is mostly uniform and adjusted for television coverage. At the pro level, photographers are therefore free to shoot JPGs, rather than RAW.

This advantage is again twofold. Shooting JPGs allows the professional to increase the high-speed rate for continuous shooting. A camera can function at a much faster continuous rate handling the smaller files of JPGs than those of a larger RAW file. Secondly, after shooting, the professional can now simply upload his files to a laptop, do a little cropping, and quickly send his selected images off to the publisher.

For amateur photographers, this light issue means that they must shoot RAW files. We definitely need all our available data to color balance our photos correctly. This balance also needs to be tweaked for each photo. Processing high school action photos is definitely time-consuming, but it is by any measure a labor of love. The time involved is later rewarded with the smiles on the students’ faces when they see the final product.

The next area to be discussed involves possible techniques to capture the desired image. The first point is perhaps counter-intuitive. Action photos should be tightly cropped, yet this is a function for post-processing. While shooting, try not to crop too close. Arms and legs are flying all over the place, and the players are jumping, diving, and sliding. The worst thing to have is a great capture with a missing hand or foot. Remember in the final image, two things are usually desired – the player’s eyes and the ball. However, if you clip a hand or foot, that is a flaw.

Another of the critical elements of sports photography relates to position. This is not the position of the athletes, but the position of the photographer. This is especially important when shooting action shots that involve jumping. It is always considered best for the photographer to simply take a knee. If one looks out over any pro arena, a standing photographer will never be seen. Shooting from a low vantage point tends to exaggerate the space between the ground and the athlete. Shooting action while standing has the opposite effect. It minimizes this distance which tends to flatten the action and takes away from the drama.

The final concern is where to point your camera. There is one principle that definitely holds true. Once the exciting moment happens, it is too late for the photographer to capture it. Looking at this from the other perspective, one must anticipate the grand event. The basic key to this is to study and know the sport.

Each sport is by definition different. There is nothing to compare when shooting football in contrast to baseball. Sometimes you may simply follow the ball and trust something exciting happens in its path. Other times one may center on a key player with the same hope. Finally, the photographer could concentrate on a position on the field or a base where you anticipate action. This decision-making process comes from experience and studying the game and the players. Obviously, there is always a little bit of luck involved, but the great sports photographers create their own luck.

Sports photography presents challenges and obstacles unlike those of other genres. The problems of mastering light and freezing action are in constant conflict. Adding this to the fast pace of the game allows for no time to stop and think. The photographer is constantly engaged throughout the entire game. Any break on the photographer’s part can result in that iconic missed shot. Planning occurs prior to the event, and evaluation happened at the closing buzzer.

The above photo was my first-ever outing in a professional arena. I was a young college student with my Minolta SRT 101 and a 135mm prime lens. My goal was simple – to capture on film a shot of the hero of Baltimore, Johnny Unitas. I hope today there are young people in my home city who are trying to freeze a moment in the life of their hero, Lamar Jackson.

About the author: Charles Levie is a photographer and math educator based in West Friendship, Maryland. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Levie’s work on his website, Facebook, Flickr, and Instagram. This article was also published here.

5 Cameras You Should Avoid

If you are reading this article, there’s a high chance that sooner or later you are going to buy a new camera. And as we all know, photography is not exactly a cheap hobby.

Maybe it is going to be your first more expensive camera or just the next one in line. You might have an idea about specs, brand, and lenses. However, there are still many pitfalls you should watch out for before you make your final decision. Here are 5 kinds of cameras you should definitely avoid.

#1. The Camera That You Will Not Take With You

It was Chase Jarvis who said that the best camera is the one that’s with you. It was then used by many including Steve Jobs while promoting the portability of the iPhone. And when you think about it, it actually makes perfect sense. Whether you buy a camera for work or just for amusement it is an investment that pays off for you by actually using the camera.

That is why the first kind of camera you should avoid is one that you won’t often take with you. Maybe you want to buy a big DSLR with a huge telephoto lens or two. Think carefully: are you really going to take your gear outside that often to be able to justify your purchase? Maybe none of this is the case for you, but it is a consideration worth making before it is too late.

I know because I have been there. I remember my walks with my Leica M240, and even though many people will tell you the camera is overpriced, I loved it for what it did for me and how I felt with it and I still do. But traveling through developing countries or less safe areas, I often felt very uncomfortable carrying around a camera that was this expensive. Now that I have kids and am often packing a lot of stuff for them, I am just happy to slip my Ricoh GR in my pocket and not worry about it.

#2. The Camera with Features You Think You Need Over the Ones You Actually Need

This kind of example brings me to the second type of gear you should avoid buying, and it is the one with features you think you’ll need over the ones you will really need. Let me explain.

With camera companies releasing new cameras every year, it can be tempting to reach for the latest and greatest, right? But when you think about what you are really going to do with the camera, you might realize that you not only don’t need to buy the latest tech — not buying it will also save you a lot of money you can use later to actually get better at photography.

I know, it can be tempting to get the latest camera with 20 frames per second in continuous autofocus. Well, if you are shooting the Olympics and need to deliver, this is, of course, an awesome feature to have. But if you are going to shoot landscapes, then not so much. Buying an f/1.4 lens can give you awesome bokeh but when you end up shooting street photography with f/8, you don’t really need it.

#3. The Camera You Cannot Afford

It happens to all of us, especially when looking at the second-hand camera market. You pick a lens or camera body you want to buy new or, in this example, used, and just when you are ready to pull the trigger, you find a slightly faster lens or slightly newer camera body and of course the price is a little higher. Just a little bit. However, since you are looking at gear that costs a bit more, you may as well look at the cameras at that similar price point. You find something else that is in a similar price range but you know it is a little more expensive.

The faster, lighter, newer gear will let you do much more and better, you tell yourself. But then, you see another… that, again, costs a bit more, and before you know it you are looking at gear that is totally out of your budget.

You can tell yourself how you can manage to pay for the camera. How you will work overtime or sell your other gear to make it work. But let me tell you, it is not worth it. There is always going to be gear that is a little bit more expensive than what you saved up for. But stretching it too far can be a great mistake. It may seem like a good idea at first but you will thank me later when you actually enjoy your camera free of the stress that comes with needing gear to pay for itself.

#4. The Camera Someone Else Tells You to Buy

The Internet revolutionized the buying process of new cameras since you can compare all the specs very quickly and easily. You can also find many reviews and opinions of experts but also users that have already purchased the one you want. However, with all of that useful knowledge come as many opinions as you can imagine. And it is fair to say that the more people get their hands on the product, the more information is available to us to make the decision.

Research has never been easier than it is now. The downside is that there is always going to be that one opinion who hates your dream lens or camera you saved up for. And even though you know you should ignore it because it is nonsense, it still stays in your mind.

Say you set your mind on the new Leica Q2 Monochrom. You love the design, you love the brand, and you are watching review after review to confirm your thoughts. And there it is that one guy or in this case group of people who think it is a waste of money, Leica is overpriced and overrated and you should buy a Sony or Canon instead, which you really don’t want. Somehow those comments are really so persuasive that you start to doubt your decision.

That’s why the next camera or lens you should not get is the one someone else tells you to get. Opinions of other people are just that: opinions of other people. Only you know what is best for you and how you going to use the camera.

#5. The Camera You Buy Just Because You Have the Money (or, Overcoming GAS)

You probably know this one as it is discussed very often. You are not happy anymore when you look at your photographs. You start to blame your gear, which is old and boring and the new gear you just saw will definitely make you a better photographer. You buy the new gear but after a while, you realize you are at the same spot again.

Instead of learning how to actually use the gear you already own, you browse the Internet to find new “inspiring” camera bodies and lenses. Maybe some of your friends suggest you should rent the gear to find out if you really need it or even sell some you don’t use. But that is nonsense, right? Why would you waste money renting the gear if you already know you are going to buy it?

You promise yourself to go out every single day with the new camera even though you have been just sitting home browsing the Internet for quite some time. With this one, it will be different!

And there it is: the next camera you should avoid is the one you buy just because you have the money for it. “Gear Acquisition Syndrome” is kind of famous among photographers and it is not so easy to get rid of it. Well, first you have to admit you have the problem to be able to fix it.

That being said, we should probably talk about the gear that you actually should get if you decide that your iPhone is not good enough for you anymore. As photographers, we tend to be obsessed with the stats of new cameras and that is not a bad thing. Read the reviews, go check out the gear in the store. Consider renting if you are not sure you are going to like it.

Don’t switch to a different model at the last moment before you make a purchase, and when you eventually decide what you want, do not let few bad reviews get into your head to change your mind. I hope this article helps you with your next purchase.

About the author: Martin Kaninsky is a photographer, reviewer, and YouTuber based in Prague, Czech Republic. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Kaninsky runs the channel About Photography. You can find more of his work on his website, Instagram, and YouTube channel.

How to Find Your Photographic Style

Finding your photographic style takes time. It’s a process. You may even think you found it only to discover that your preferences have changed. That’s okay. That’s good. It means that you are growing and evolving on your journey.

I remember the first time that I thought I had found my photographic style. I was so excited! It had an airy-bright, yet film-y look. This was in my early, Lightroom-only days. It was this photo that I thought was a breakthrough:

Here are some other images from that “bright and airy” phase in my life.
I was drawn to the Fuji Pro 400H greens and tried to emulate them.

I went with this style for a while until — surprise, surprise — it didn’t feel so right for me anymore.

I felt lost and confused.

So what do you do when you are totally lost and confused and feel pressured to label/define your photography? If that’s you, take a deep breath (or two, or three) and then rid yourself of that feeling of pressure. You don’t want to box your style in. You want to hone in on it. Now, how do you do that? Read on!

Inspiring Images

Whenever you come across an image by someone else that stands out to you in a special way, take note. Maybe even check out the photographer. Chances are they have more images like that. Analyze the types of images that you are drawn to. If you don’t know which ones, don’t worry. Sooner or later you will stumble upon one that will make you stop scrolling. When that happens, analyze the image — more on that in a second.

I started to gravitate towards more saturated colours and deep tones…
…and Photoshop came into play.

But before you look elsewhere for inspiration, I want to encourage you to look at your own work, at images that you have taken and that you love. The images that get you all giddy and excited, that inspire you, that move you. Look at those favorites. Then analyze them. Here’s how!

Questions to Help You Analyze Your Images

Once you have a little collection of inspirational images, study them carefully:

  • What is the light like in these images? Is it soft (e.g., backlit with golden hour light, overcast and foggy, etc.) or harsh (direct sunlight, very contrasty, harsh shadows)? Where does the light come from? (e.g. from behind (backlit), from the side, no direct sunlight)
  • What’s the setting like (indoors/ outdoors)?
  • What are the colors like? Are they cool? Warm?
  • Are they vibrant and full of color or are they muted, and desaturated?
  • What are the tones like? Are they bright and airy or dark and moody?
  • Are the images crisp and clear (have a lot of depth of field with everything in focus) or do they have a shallow depth of field and creamy backgrounds?
  • Are there people in it? What are they wearing? What are they doing? Are they posed?
  • Are there animals in it? Where are they positioned?
  • What mood does this image evoke in you?
  • Do you notice a common theme between these images?

What to Do With the Results

As you see themes emerge, use them as a guide and then try and emulate those parts that you are drawn to. This starts in the way the photo is taken, and then continues through the editing process. For example, when you see a photo with that golden hour glow, don’t expect to achieve a similar look when you shoot in the midday sun, which is known for its harsh light.

Ask questions if you don’t know how to achieve a certain effect. I know this takes guts, but just do it! What do you have to lose? It will help you grow and move forward on your journey.

I am still a fan of colours but these days I am drawn to capturing the magic of the moment.


Don’t be alarmed when your photographic style changes. You might like one style for a while and then find yourself being ready to move on to something a little different. But be sure that your client work is consistent! By that I mean, when you showcase bright and airy images in your gallery, clients expect bright and airy images from you. Don’t suddenly switch to dark and moody. Do it gradually, so it is always clear what images clients can expect to get from you.

Let me illustrate this in a practical way: during a photo shoot in the transitional period, shoot 75% to 90% of your images in the style the client is expecting from you and 10-25% for the new style. As your portfolio for the new style grows, gradually up that percentage. This ensures that your clients get what they expect and that you can transition to your new style while keeping them happy.

Looking back at my own journey, my process through all these stages remained the same:

  • Study images (my own, and those from photographers with the style that I admired)
  • YouTube the concept, ask questions, ask for constructive criticism on my images
  • Practice, practice, practice (by way of taking pictures and editing)
  • Feeling stuck? Buy a course from a photographer who has that style!
  • Practice, practice, practice some more, this is the step where you make this style your own.

A Word of Caution

Don’t try to be someone else and let your work be nothing more than an imitation of someone else. I promise you, it will always leave you feeling disappointed.

Don’t cage yourself. Believe in yourself. Learn from others, and then make “it” your own. By “making it your own,” I mean this: when you notice that certain processes or steps that someone else swears by don’t feel right for you, listen to that voice. It’s your signal that there’s a chance to make something your own. Unique to you. Celebrate that opportunity and run with it.

About the author: Svenja Christina is a natural light, lifestyle, and portrait photographer based in London, Ontario. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Christina’s work on her website, Facebook, and Instagram. This article was also published here.

5 Signs Your Landscape Photos Are Way Too Busy

Figuring out the line between “good” and “too much” is one of the big challenges in photography, whether it’s making adjustments in post-processing or figuring out what to include in a composition. In this 14-minute video, photographer Mark Denney shares 5 things to look for to figure out if your landscape photos are too busy.

“[I]n an effort to determine how I can better understand when I’ve added too much into my landscape scenes, I decided to dig into the archives of some of my past photos in search of images that I now feel are way too busy,” the photographer says. “I’ll share with you the 5 most common signs of busy landscape images I encountered in my own photos and how best to resolve them.”

Here’s a quick rundown of the 5 things covered in the video:

#1. Edge Patrol: Walk your eyes around the edges of the frame to see if there are any distracting elements that could distract your viewers’ eyes from the center/subject of your photo to the edge.

#2. The Subjects: Is there a main subject (or cohesive subjects) to capture your viewers’ attention, or will they be confused about what to look at?

#3. Bounce Factor: Is there a visual “flow” to your photo, or does it make the viewers’ eyes bounce around?

#4. Scene Stuffing: Trying to stuff everything in a landscape into your photo can lead to too much going on.

#5. Distractions Count: Is the landscape photo littered with so many small distractions that could be composed, cropped, or cloned out?

Watch the video above for Denney’s explanations for each of these points and for more examples showing what to and not to do.

You can also follow along with Denney’s work by subscribing to his popular YouTube channel.

Tips for Shooting Holiday Lights with iPhone

The holidays in New York City are my favorite part of the year. It’s such a magical and festive time all throughout the City. You’ll find holiday trees, light displays, and the prettiest decorations around every corner.

It’s such a joy to take photos in New York City during that time, and I’m excited to share with you some of my favorite tips for capturing beautiful and creative photos of holiday decorations. The best part is you don’t need fancy, heavy, or expensive photo gear. Just take out your iPhone and start snapping.

Whether you’re a professional photographer or just someone who loves taking photos, I’ve found that my iPhone 12 Pro Max offers that versatility to meet you at whatever level you’re at.

Create a photo story from one location using iPhone’s triple-camera system

iPhone 12 Pro Max conveniently combines three rear cameras in its lean body: a Wide, an Ultra-Wide, and a Telephoto lens. Use them all to capture an interesting and varied photo story.

When I get to a location, I usually capture a wide-angle shot to first establish the scene. I look for an anchor point, like an iconic sight or landmark, that connects the space with the theme I have in mind which in this case is capturing the holiday festivities.

Sometimes you want people moving through the scene, other times you wait for the space to be clear. Deciding on the right moment is half the fun. Once I’m happy with the establishing shot I’ll start to move around the scene and look for little interesting details that help enhance and tell the story. That can be portraits, close-ups of a decoration or ornament, etc.

Hudson Yards: I used the Wide lens (shot 1) and Ultra-Wide lens (shot 5) to capture shots of the Vessel to establish the location. The other images focus on holiday decorations. I used the Telephoto lens for a detailed shot of the decorations (shot 3), and the Wide lens for shots 2 and 4:

Look for leading lines

The Rockefeller Christmas tree presents an ideal example of how to use leading lines. When you capture the tree from Fifth Avenue, the building facades on the left and right together with the wire-sculpture angels along the Channel Gardens perfectly lead your eye to the iconic Christmas tree.

Leading lines in a photograph lead your eyes to the intended subject of the image. Usually, they start at the bottom and draw your eyes upward and inward to the center of the image. It’s a technique I like to apply whenever possible.

Get amazing night-time shots using Night mode

While there are plenty of pretty holiday decorations you can capture during the daytime, the magic of the holidays comes to life when the sun goes down and the holiday lights are turned on.

Thanks to the fantastic low-light capabilities of iPhone 12 Pro Max, you can now capture amazing shots at night. Night mode is an iPhone feature that is only getting better and better. This year Phone 12 Pro Max makes use of its LiDAR Scanner to detect how far you are away from the subject so you nail focus every time.

Night mode comes on automatically when iPhone’s camera detects a low-light environment. You can use the automated setting or adjust your preferred exposure manually. Just remember to hold the camera still for the time it takes to finish the night-time exposure.

It’s pretty easy now to take great nighttime shots with iPhone, and with the new larger sensor on iPhone 12 Pro Max it improves the quality even more.

Photo taken with Night Mode, while handholding the camera

Elevate your photo storytelling by using different and unique angles

Changing up the angle you shoot from might make the shot more interesting. Sometimes you want to get low to the ground, other times shoot from higher ground. One thing for sure, perspective plays a big part in shooting creatively and capturing holiday moments.

Get low to the ground. Try placing the phone as close to the ground as you can. Even flip it upside down so the lens gets even closer to the ground. Always keep the framing in mind and be willing to play around with the angle to get it just right.

Use reflections to add more sparkle to your photos. Puddles, windows, or other reflective surfaces are a great way to create symmetry if the holiday scene permits it. Rainy days are great for these types of shots.

Get your camera up high. Shooting tall holiday trees requires distance and elevation to get the perfect shot. Other times, where possible, elevate yourself to avoid angle distortion when shooting with the Ultra-Wide camera.

Looking Up: Don’t forget to look up! iPhone’s Ultra-Wide camera lens is a favorite of mine and allows you to capture unique angles in tight spaces.

Include people in your shots

Including people in your shots helps create an emotional connection with your images. The holidays create excitement and joy for both young and old, and it’s wonderful if you can include that excitement in your photos.

The Macy’s Holiday Windows are always on my list each year. They are colorful, thoughtful, and timely. This year’s window theme is a thank-you-letter to essential workers. I can feel the magic of the holidays every time I’m there, and it’s lovely to watch the astonishment and amazement on the faces of the kids and families. This year, they have social distancing protocols in place that make it a safe and happy place for viewing.

Snow York can be magical this time of the year

New York in the snow during the holidays is an absolute dream. It is a rather rare occurrence and can make for some fantastic photo opportunities. You need to be quick because they clean up the streets and sidewalks very fast.

Where possible, I love to capture the actual snowfall after a base layer has covered the ground. It makes the whole city look like a winter wonderland. A layer of white snow will always add a touch of magic to your holiday images.

In the past, I’ve ruined a camera and lens when shooting in the snow because they weren’t weather sealed. No need to worry here – iPhone 12 Pro Max comes with an industry-leading IP68 rating to withstand water submersion up to 6 meters for up to 30 minutes. Just bring a lens cloth to dry it off if it gets wet.

And of course, dress warm, wear waterproof shoes, bring hand warmers, and/or wear touchscreen gloves so your fingers stay warm. It can get cold out there pretty quickly.

Capturing more detail with ProRAW

ProRAW is a brand new professional file format for iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max. While it’s rather simple to use it’s made up of a complex set of features and functionalities. It makes use of iPhone’s Deep Fusion, Smart HDR, and Night mode technology to give you a lot more control in the editing process.

What you really need to know is that it works great, and your holiday pictures are going to look even better with minimal effort. Images shot with ProRAW are now closer to what they appear in real life. You have more subtle control of the editing process with parameters such as white balance, sharpening, shadow detail, noise reduction, etc.

It’s kind of exciting to go home and edit on my phone what I could only do with a pro camera and a laptop in the past. ProRAW is a format that I highly recommend shooting with. You will need to first activate the Apple ProRaw format in the camera settings for it to appear as an option in the camera controls. Image files will be larger but it’s so worth it.

About the author: Katja Sherlock is a photographer and filmmaker in New York City. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Sherlock has a BA in business and came to New York from Berlin, Germany, to pursue her career in Finance & Publishing. After rekindling her passion for photography and filmmaking, she pivoted to content creator. Katja has worked on social media projects, ad campaigns, and custom content creation for leading brands worldwide. She leverages her skills as a certified Project Manager to create and develop projects from a simple photo story to a series of short-form videos. She’s excited about the future of computational photography and the latest tools and technologies for telling visual stories. Her incredibly inspiring images of NYC touch the lives of people worldwide. For more from Katja Sherlock, you can follow her on Instagram or subscribe to her YouTube Channel.

Foundation Tips for Maternity Photo Shoot Posing

In this video and article, we’re going to work through some of the nuances of maternity portraits in regards to lighting and posing. If you’re interested in learning more about how to capture maternity portraits, be sure to check out the full workshop over at SLR Lounge.

Before you pick up your camera or reach for your flashes, check out our C.A.M.P. framework and simplify your lighting process.

Composition: What do we want our scene to look like? Where do we want the camera to be? What’s the angle? What do we want our subjects to be doing?

Ambient Light Exposure: Choose the intention of the scene. Do we want a dramatic image (darkening the ambient light and using more flash) or do we want a softer image (brightening the ambient light and using a more natural power of flash)?

Modify/Add Light: Are your subjects visible in the frame or do they need to be chiseled out? Do you need to add an additional light source?

Pose & Photograph: Take your shot!

Step 1: Compose the Shot

We’re lucky enough to have a large open studio space with big windows and a clean backdrop, which is great for shots like these. Taking advantage of that opportunity, I chose to shoot most of these images vertically and I left plenty of space around my subject.

Step 2: Dial In Ambient Exposure

Think about the mood you want to set when determining your lighting. Most people associate a bright and airy look with natural light photos, but you can use natural light to capture dramatic images as well, as you can see in the example images throughout this article.

This lighting setup is simple and can be used anywhere, including at home, in wedding venues, and so on. All you need is a simple backdrop and a window with both sheer and regular curtains, if possible, which we’ll use to make a strip box. For this shoot, we also added a V-flat to bounce more light from the window back onto our subject.

Step 3: Modify the Light Source

Because we’re using natural light through the window, the modification really comes from a few places. First, we’re using sheer curtains to soften the light coming through the window, and we’re using dark curtains as flags to keep the light from spilling in unwanted areas across the studio. We also used a V-Flat to kick light back onto the subject and minimize shadows.

The last modification has more to do with posing, but I’ll mention it here. The direction that the subject is facing will make a difference in terms of revealing curves. Both examples shown above accentuate the curves of the subject’s belly and body but to different effect. The image on the right, for example, has an edgier, more dramatic look to it. Make sure to look closely at details like these and then find which look works best for you.

Step 4: Pose Your Subject

I started with a straight-ahead, baseline shot to illustrate what a difference a few key adjustments can make when posing, especially for a maternity session.

Settings: 35mm, 1/160th, ISO 400, f/1.4. Before & after of a forward-facing pose (left) vs. a more refined pose (right)

Here’s a breakdown of how I refined the pose to transform from a not-so-good portrait to a deliverable image (see the images above).

1. In the first pose, the subject stood with her feet shoulder-width apart and directly faced the camera. I consider this is a what-not-to-do pose for a maternity session.

2. I then asked the subject to hold her hands behind her body in order to accentuate her hips.

Hips kicked towards the camera (left) vs. away from the camera (right)

3. From there, I asked the subject to kick her hips to one side (which side doesn’t matter – whatever is most comfortable for the subject); however, it’s important to make sure the subject isn’t leaning with her hips away from the camera. This can de-emphasize the hips and

4. Once the hips are kicked to one side, the subject’s feet should come together with one knee drawn in to hang over the other knee and create a tapered point in the dress.

5. Next, ensure that the subject is standing up straight and check for details to make sure the dress is laid out nicely.

Pay Attention to Body Type

One thing I’d like to note in this posing guide is that we’re working with a very fit mother. She works out and exercises regularly. The actual hip direction and placement have less to do with the form and figure of mom, and more to do with body type. For some people, leaning toward the camera may look better, even if it doesn’t work for others. Try both directions to make sure that you’re putting your subject into a flattering pose.

Use Hand Placement to Draw Attention

For the images above, we’ve stuck to keeping the subject’s hands behind her back. We can also bring those hands forward to direct our viewers’ eyes to our intended focus point. Here are a couple of different examples.

Conclusion: Maternity Posing Tips

We hope you enjoyed this article/video on posing for maternity portraits. Here’s a quick recap of things to look out for when capturing maternity portraits:

  • Decide on your composition
  • Set the mood and your intentions by dialing in and modifying (if necessary) your exposure
  • Work from the bottom up with posing: (1) Feet position and (2) Bring the toe in with the knee across
  • Change angle from away to towards the light source to see which you prefer
  • Shift hips towards or away from the camera to see which is most flattering
  • Straighten the spine
  • Incorporate hands

Once you’ve worked your way through the C.A.M.P framework and checked off the items recapped above, all that’s left is to finish the look in post, ideally using presets for a consistent look. Again, if you want to dive deeper into maternity photography, don’t miss our full workshop.

P.S. Be sure to catch our next episode of Mastering Your Craft on Adorama’s YouTube channel next week! If you want to catch up on all the episodes, make sure you check out our playlist!

About the author: Pye Jirsa is a wedding photographer based in Southern California and the co-founder of SLR Lounge. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Jirsa’s work here. This article was also published here.

The Best Gear for Storm Photography

I first became interested in storms when I was a boy growing up in Texas, the only state in the US that experiences tornadoes, hurricane and blizzards on a regular basis. I built a scale model of a supercell thunderstorm inside a clear plexiglass box using cotton and a light bulb for lightning, and won first place in the weather category at our local science fair. Then I got permission from my mother to climb onto our roof and build a weather station.

When I was 12, I took my first storm photo: a big, fat bolt of lightning shot on a Kodak rangefinder through the window in our kitchen. In 1993, I founded StormStock, a collection of premium storm imagery including lightning, tornadoes, hurricanes and other beautiful and dramatic weather. You can see some of my work in a short film I made titled “Wakinyan” (Thunder Spirit).

Over the years, people have often asked me what kind of gear is best for storm photography. Although I spend most of my time capturing weather imagery on motion picture formats for use in movies and TV commercials, I do also take stills. That is the medium I will focus on here.

A lot of folks ask me to suggest a “best” camera or lens for photography. My first question is always, “What are you shooting?” That’s because different subjects require different gear. The more unique your subject, the more you may need to specialize. For example, one of the most demanding types of photography is fast action sports. It typically requires long and fast lenses. Long and fast. Those two things don’t go together easily and require large, heavy, expensive lenses – which is pretty specialized.

The good news is storm photography is only somewhat demanding. The most unique things about it are relatively low light and lightning. Lightning is an unusual thing to photograph because it exists only for a fraction of a second. Plus, you’re pointing your camera at something that doesn’t yet exist.

The best way to discuss this topic is to divide storm photography into two categories. General storm photography and lightning photography.

General Storm Photography

Subjects: Storm clouds, rain, blowing dust, sunsets, tornadoes.

Storm subjects tend to be dark rather than bright. This may sound obvious, but know that storms can sometimes be exceptionally bright when sunlit. Given the fact that low light is more common, a camera and lens that performs well in that environment is generally preferred.

Lens focal lengths that I like tend to fall in the 24-105mm (full-frame) range. That is why I like the Canon 24-105mm f/4 L so much. The newer version of this lens is the Canon 24-105mm f/4 L II.

If a storm is very close, then I’ll go wide with something like a Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 on a full-frame sensor.

For a camera, I would suggest a full-frame or APS-C sensor camera. That’s because they tend to produce less noise in low light than smaller sensors. Although…an iPhone 6s or iPhone 7 can take some very nice storm shots. I use my iPhone often because it’s always in my pocket, and storm light can be quite fleeting.

Naturally, in low light a tripod can be helpful. However, I rarely use a tripod for general storm photography because they are bulky and slow, and tend to shake in the wind. Instead, I use a fast lens/camera combination handheld.


Subjects: Day and night lightning.

I separate lightning into day and night because they require somewhat different techniques. Day lightning allows for only short exposures while night lightning offers the chance to capture several strikes during a long exposure.

One thing is certain, a tripod is mandatory for lightning photography (and astrophotography). That’s because the camera must remain steady for long exposures or images will be blurred.

Another device you will need is something to activate your shutter remotely so the camera continues to remain steady. You can use a smart phone remote app or a dedicated remote trigger for this. Use the one you trust most.

For day lightning, you might be able to get away with a ¼ to 1 second exposure by lowering your ISO, decreasing your aperture size, and employing a neutral density (ND) filter. You want your exposure to be long enough to “catch” a lightning strike, like using a bigger net to catch fish. But, not so long that you overexpose. You can also employ a nifty piece of technology called a lightning trigger which senses the strike and opens the camera shutter just in time to record it.

I suggest an aperture setting of about f/5.6 for “dim” lightning, and about f/11 for “bright” lightning. Always use the lowest ISO hone you can. Exposure duration and your aperture will compensate for low light.

At night, you can use the bulb setting on your camera and wait for a strike, or set your camera to take a series of 20 or 30 second long exposures. Whatever the case, I wouldn’t exceed 30 seconds because this is when a lot of cameras begin to introduce noise into the image.

Finally, be safe when you photograph lightning. It can kill and injure. Avoid tall objects, fences and water. The safest place to be during lightning is inside a hard top car, or inside a well constructed building with wiring and plumbing. The rubber tires on a car don’t make it safe from lightning. It’s the metal that protects you. The metal? Yes. It works only if you are surrounded by the metal with some space in between, aka the “Faraday cage,” named after the English scientist Michael Faraday who invented it in 1836. More on storm safety below.

Best Camera and Lens Pairings

Sony a6000 on up to the a6600. Lightweight APS-C cameras with good noise control.

Pair with: The Sony 16-50mm “kit” lens (24mm-75mm FF equivalent), Sony Vario-Tessar E 16-70mm f/4.0 (24mm-105mm FF equivalent), Rokinon 21mm f/1.4 (31.5mm FF equivalent), or a Rokinon 12mm f/2.0 (18mm FF equivalent).

Canon 6D, Canon 5D Mk II, Canon 5D Mk III and Canon 5D Mk IV. All around good performing full-frame sensor cameras.

Pair with: Canon 24-105mm f/4 L, Canon 24-105mm f/4 L II, Rokinon 35mm f/1.4 EF, or a Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 EF.

Sony A7s Mk II. This is a “see in the dark” full-frame camera. Nothing touches it for low-light performance.

Pair with: Sony 24-70mm f/4.0, Rokinon 35mm f/1.4 for Sony E, or a Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 for Sony E.

Nikon D5300, Nikon D5500 and Nikon D5600. These are fairly inexpensive APS-C cameras that shoot beautiful pictures. The Nikon D5300 can be purchased new for a little more than $400, or for less used.

Pair with: Nikon AF-S DX Zoom-NIKKOR 17-55mm f/2.8G IF-ED (25.5mm-82.5mm FF equivalent), Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR (27mm-157.5mm FF equivalent), Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G (52.5mm FF equivalent), Rokinon 16mm f/2.0 ED AS UMC CS for Nikon F Mount (24mm FF equivalent), or a vintage NIKKOR AI-s 28mm f/2.0 (42mm FF equivalent), one of my favorite lenses.

An iPhone. Smartphones are good all around storm photography options. The only thing they don’t do well is lightning. Consider pairing them with an app like ProCam 7, which allows you to control ISO, shutter speed, etc. Shooting with a smartphone is a pure and simple type of photography. It’s easy and liberating. If this is all you use, then focus on content and composition, and you’ll have some beautiful pictures.


If you want something simple, but more potent than an iPhone, consider a Nikon D3300 with a Nikon 24mm f/2.8D AF lens (36mm FF equivalent). The combo is lightweight, easy to use, and fairly inexpensive considering the great pictures you can take with it. You won’t need to zoom, and the focal length is pretty universal. It’s basically a very nice “point and shoot.”

Note: When using an autofocus lens with no marked, manual focus option, you should become familiar with how to set the lens to infinity, especially for night lightning. I prefer manual focus for storm photographer, but autofocus is okay as long as you know how to control it.


Lightweight, sturdy tripods are best. Consider the Prima Photo Big Travel Tripod, Davis & Sanford TR654C-36 Traverse Carbon Fiber Grounder Tripod with Ball Head, or the Manfrotto MT055CXPRO3 Carbon Fiber Tripod with 054 Magnesium Ball Head Kit. You want something with fast deploy legs and an easy to adjust head. Frankly, you can use any tripod that is steady as long as you practice setting it up and taking it down beforehand.

Lightning Trigger

Hahnel Captur Pro Module


At the very least, you should have a UV filter attached to the front of your lens simply to protect it. Shooting outdoors without a protective filter is like running around naked. Since that’s not a pretty sight, I always buy a UV filter with every lens purchase.

Consider adding a neutral density filter to your kit for exposure control as well as a circular polarizer and gray graduated filter to bring down those overly bright skies. I especially like Formatt-Hitech filters. They are well made, arrive clean, and are hand signed by their QC technician.


Always get extra batteries. My experience is the camera brand batteries are the best.


At this point, I’m assuming you ARE going to get a protective filter for all your lenses. Good. When you are shooting harsh weather, you’ll notice your gear getting quite dirty, mostly with dust.

Do NOT use canned air to clean your filters, lenses, viewfinder or LCD screen. That’s because that stuff shoots an oily substance. Instead, use a bulb blower like the amazing Giottos Rocket Blaster to remove dust and then a very clean cloth like a Zeiss Microfiber Cleaning Cloth. Check carefully before using a cloth to make sure that all grains of dust are gone to avoid scratching those precious surfaces.

We spend a lot of time cleaning gear after a storm shoot. It’s a ritual.


The Tenba Messenger. I use the small, olive green model. It’s tough and well thought out.

Being Safe

Before you try your hand at storm photography, I must make a statement about safety. I do not encourage anyone to film anything that is potentially dangerous. I am not telling you to go shoot storms. I’m detailing photographic principles as they relate to storm photography. You can apply my suggestions to other subjects such as astrophotography which is much safer.

Please understand that storm photography requires not only knowledge of photographic technique, but more importantly, a thorough understanding of severe weather, how it evolves and how to stay safe. I wrote a book about severe weather safety titled “The Ultimate Severe Weather Safety Guide.” Reading the book will help, but it takes much more than a book to actively pursue storms in a safe manner. You can see people on YouTube doing it and think it’s safe to just jump in your car and try and “chase” a storm. It isn’t.

My recommendation is you go with an expert if you want to photograph storms. Take time to select a genuine expert because some who call themselves “experts” are the same people on YouTube who are driving into tornadoes and large, dangerous hail while yelling and laughing. Would you get on an airplane with a pilot who exhibited these characteristics? I didn’t think so.

Finally, whether you go outside to shoot storm photos, or stay safely inside, you should be weather aware when storms are nearby. Get a NOAA Weather Alert Radio or a good weather alert app for your smart phone. If you live in an area where tornadoes are frequent, consider purchasing a manufactured EF5-rated storm shelter or build your own using free FEMA shelter design plans.


Storm photography can be fun. Just do it safely with experts, use the right tools, and practice.

About the author: Martin Lisius is an award-winning Texas-based photographer and cinematographer. His work can be seen in feature films, TV commercials and in documentaries such as the Academy Award-winning “An Inconvenient Truth.” He licenses his work through his StormStock collection, and offers storm chasing expeditions to photographers through Tempest Tours, which he founded in 2000. He recently created a fine art retail print collection specializing in storms called StormShots. You can follow him on Facebook. This post was also published here.

These Five Mistakes Can Hold Back Your Photography Career

When photographers are just starting out in their careers, they tend to make the same set of mistakes that cost them work and, therefore, money. In this short 4.5-minute video, photographer Scott Choucino cites five mistakes that held his career back and urges you not to make them yourself.

Choucino says that photography is a tough, lonely profession and as a result, we tend not to learn from the mistakes others in the field have made. His goal in this video is to point to these easily-correctable mistakes that any photographer can adjust immediately.

The first mistake he found was that he was working too much. “Working for the sake of working has really held me back,” he said. The idea that if you’re not constantly working, you’re not putting yourself in a position to be successful is a falsehood. Overworking yourself will sap your creativity and contribute to burnout.

The second mistake he mentions is that he was shooting too much with no intent. “You need that space to learn and to absorb it all in,” Choucino explains. He believes that if you’re shooting jobs back to back and not giving yourself enough time to reflect on your work, you’re not giving yourself enough space to learn and grow as a photographer.

The third mistake he mentions is extremely common: not chasing a niche early enough. Choucino says that when he started his career, he was shooting everything from weddings to bands at music festivals, band promos to headshots, and family portraits to restaurant shoots. He even shot music videos. “I wasn’t getting better, I was hammering away and I was busy like an idiot,” he said. If you’re not defining a niche for yourself, “you’re not a specialist, you’re just a person with a camera.”

Choucino explains that the next mistake common to photographers has to do with confidence: most photographers don’t charge enough for their work. Choucino says that while he didn’t recognize it in his own pricing for far too long, the mentality is the same as when he is looking to bring on help. If someone offered their services to him for free, he would fear that they would require too much hand-holding and end up being more of a distraction. The same is how businesses look at photographers. “He’s so cheap, there must be a problem. There must be something wrong,” he says, citing how potential clients might view someone with low rates.

The last mistake according to Choucino is believing that you are limited by your location.”Your location is irrelevant, your work is what is relevant.” He says this goes hand in hand with choosing a niche. “If you don’t have a niche, people who live in other cities don’t know what you do and won’t hire you. We live in a global economy, if they like what you do, they’ll book you.”

What do you think of Choucino’s advice? Have you made these mistakes in the past? Let us know in the comments.

(Via Fstoppers)

12 Tips for Autumn Photography

It’s autumn again, and I thought I’d share some tips (and possibly inspiration) for your autumn photography.

I love autumn as a season when the trees turn gold. It just gives that magic atmosphere. Here in The Netherlands autumn is usually quite late, around the beginning or mid-November. But I already see the first signs of autumn happening. The colors in the forest change the latest usually, but the trees in between the houses that catch the most light are already turning yellow now.

But enough about the yellow leaves, here are some tips to photograph them.

1. Use a Longer Lens

Photographing trees and forests can be chaotic. Use a longer lens and focus on smaller parts to avoid a messy photo. It takes practice photographing the forest. Look for the ‘clean’ pieces in a forest and just casually and slowly move around looking through the viewfinder until you find your ‘little’ scenes.

Trees photographed with a longer lens to remove the chaos.

2. Paths and Lanes

Paths and lanes are great for autumn shots. The pavement makes an automatic leading line through the forest, and also adds great contrast between the monotone road and the very colorful trees on the sides.

A curvy bike lane through the forest.
A simple road making its way through the forest with lots of different autumn colours on an early morning.

3. Fog

Fog! I love photographing forests with fog. Shooting the autumn forests with a bit of a misty atmosphere can be surreal. As I said: forests can be chaotic and there is just so much going on in terms of composition. But fog separates all the different layers of trees and makes your life much easier. And it adds a mysterious dimension to your photo. For me, there are 2 kinds of fog in the forest: thick fog, and:

Thick fog in the forest with great colour contrast of popping orange autumn colours. I enhanced the color difference even more in post to make the orange colors really pop.

4. Light Rays

Light rays occur with clear skies and high humidity. So if you get these predictions during autumn, it’s party time. It usually happens in the early mornings but it can happen anytime. Keep a good eye on the weather. In my opinion, they’re most beautiful about 1-2 hours after sunrise, when the sun is still low on the horizon and the beams of light blast their way through the trees

Strong light beams making their way through the forest. By underexposing a little bit they became even more apparent.

5. Look at Smaller Scenes

Look at smaller scenes. This can be macro, or just a small scene very far away that can be captured with a 400mm lens for example. Think of a dark forest where just 1 beam of light is hitting 1 tree.

A little tree in a dark part of the forest, with just 1 ray of light perfectly hitting the tree. Shot at 400mm
Small scenes like this new life on a (sadly) burned tree can be beautiful.

6. Follow the Light

Autumn forests are incredible with their golden trees and golden light peaking through it. But the sun moves, so the light constantly changes. Every time new compositions pop up because of the changing of light, you have to act fast to get the shot, or it might be gone. Sometimes its almost like ‘dancing with the light.’ You come into a rhythm and move with the light through the forest. Forest photography is quite difficult that way, but extremely rewarding! On a beautiful morning in the forest, you can sometimes ‘harvest’ so many good portfolio shots.

Different parts and branches in the forest constantly light up creating new photo opportunities.

7. Get Creative with Sunstars

If you like sunstars, you can do some very cool stuff in the forest. By positioning the sun right next to a branch or a tree, you get these beautiful little stars by using a closed down aperture (f/14-f/22). You can get very creative with it. Note that the shape of your sunstar greatly depends on the lens. Kit lenses often don’t have ‘pretty’ sunstars, but other lenses really have beautiful sunstars. The shot above was taken with the Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 lens for Sony E-mount.

By positioning the sun right in between these 2 trees, I shot a perfect sunstar at f/14.

8. Experiment with Wide Angle

While I love using mostly the telephoto in the forest, I sometimes experiment with extreme wide angles. By using a branch very close to the foreground, or even a mushroom, you can create a very creative effect.

Fetting extremely close to my foreground with a 12mm lens I create this ‘3d effect’ with a lot of depth in the image.

9. Try Looking Up

Sometimes shooting with a wide-angle lens and looking up to the sky and seeing the orange leaves making a frame with all of their interestingly shaped branches can create really creative results.

Sometimes looking up can create interesting creative results.

10. Create a Frame

By photographing through frames of leaves in the foreground, you can create very creative images with depth in them. Simply put your lens close to orange leaves in the foreground and focus on the backdrop. Experiment with it

By going very close to foreground branches and leave and shooting through it, you can create a nice autumn frame. Try it with different apertures to change depth of field.

11. Try Underexposing

When you get strong light in the forest, it’s often difficult to photograph. Try underexposing and focusing on interesting leaves or trees in the forest with a long lens. This way it almost looks like you’re using a flash. Most of your frame will be dark, but only the light hitting the part of the photo will be properly exposed.

A greatly underexposed image where almost everything of the image is dark, except where the light hits. It almost looks like I am using a flash, but its just natural light of the sun hitting parts of the forest.

12. Enjoy the Moment

Last but not least: Enjoy the moment. A beautiful moment in the forest can be overwhelming as a photographer. There are so many opportunities to completely lose yourself in. Take a moment of rest, breathe in the fresh air, and realize the beautiful moment you’re in!

Beautiful autumn colours in the forest.

Bonus Tip

In post-processing, I always add quite some local glow in parts of the picture. This creates the dreamy atmosphere I am often looking for in forest images.

I hope you enjoyed these tips. Feel free to check out more of my work and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

If you are interested in how Albert post-processes his photos, check out the new course he just released.

About the author: Albert Dros is an award-winning Dutch photographer. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. His work has been published by some of the world’s biggest media channels, including TIME, The Huffington Post, The Daily Mail, and National Geographic. You can find more of his work on his website, or by following him on Facebook and Instagram.