7 Tips for Black and White Portrait Photography - Photography for Beginners

A common question I come across is: why do we choose to shoot in black and white? Digital cameras nowadays are total beasts, picking up every shade of color that ever existed. But the answer to this question is actually quite simple, black and white photography is classic. Black and white photography is a perennial practice in the history of photography, with color technology only spreading its wings later. But you knew that!

There’s plenty of debate when it comes to color vs. black and white. However, for me along with several other photographers it’s a basic concern of aesthetics. The lack of colors in black and white photos allows you to rid unnecessary details from a picture, enabling you to highlight certain elements to the viewer without the potential distractions that color may end up causing. Black and white photography requires you to focus more on light and shape, and you cannot rely on color to save the day.

Portrait photography is a niche in which black and white photography, and it is used to convey a specific mood or emotion in your subject. Similar to any type of photography, there are several factors that you must consider to ensure that your black and white portraits look their best.

1. Think, Breathe, and Live Black and White

For a number of photography enthusiasts, black and white is much more than an artistic option. It’s a state of mind. It is important to conceptualize a photo in black in white before you take it, taking certain steps to make sure that each element of a good black and white photo are in your shot before you click the shutter. Factors like lighting contrast, tonal contrast and unique facial expressions from the subjects are essential factors that are difficult to fix in post-production. You must accurately capture these things in your shot, and it helps if you’re thinking about them before hand.

For those of you who have problems picturing exactly how a shot may appear in black and white, consider adjusting your camera to a monochrome setting. The camera will automatically edit your photos to black and white, and you be able to immediately see how it looks.

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2. Eyes are Everything

The most prominent element of every portrait is the eyes. They are the point of interest that your entire portrait is situated around, especially when it comes to black and white photos. In the absence of color, a monochrome image usually breaks down to graphic patterns and shapes. Eyes are shapes that are universally recognized, and they attract instant attention from your photos’ viewers. Ensure that your subject’s eyes are properly lit, and the focus is well set. You might try adding a light just below their face pointing up towards their eyes, this often makes their eyes pop.

Eyes are the heart and soul of black and white portrait photography.

Eyes are the heart and soul of black and white portrait photography.

3. Highlight Facial Expressions

Similar to the eyes, facial features and expressions serve a significant role in black and white portraiture. Make it your goal to elicit emotions out of your subject. Even small changes in the subject's expression can a massive difference. For example, a cheeky smile, a raised eyebrow, puffed cheeks or even facial wrinkles can all be used to take your black and white portrait to the next level. Think about the all of the small details and try to pull unique expressions out of your subject, you’ll be amazed at how unique some of the shots you capture are.

Having a tough time with it? Try out this exercise. Make a list of objects, activities, or random elements and hand it over to your subject. Capture their reactions to each one of these words. The keywords and phrases you end up picking will determine which expressions you are able to extract from your model. You can elicit things like sadness, anger, passion, love, confusion, loneliness, happiness, etc. The possibilities are endless! For even more varied expressions try using more abstract words and phrases. This activity is also a great ice-breaker if your subject is shy or uncomfortable during a shoot.

Facial expressions convey a mood or an emotion - an important piece to any black and white portait.

Facial expressions convey a mood or an emotion - an important piece to any black and white portait.

4. Lighting Considerations

As far as lighting a monochrome portrait picture is concerned, there are no standard rules you must follow. Pick a harder source of light if you prefer high contrast. If you want a softer or more subtle look, pick a softer or more diffused light source. Try moving your lights around and see how it affects your subject.

To be honest, black and white portrait lighting is all about personal touch. If you're having trouble finding something that works, compile 10 black and white portraits from other photographers that you love. Evaluate them and try to figure out where the light sources are coming from, then give those a shot. It is easier than it sounds 😊

Experiment with lighting, there are no standard rules for lighting when it comes to black and white portraiture.

Experiment with lighting, there are no standard rules for lighting when it comes to black and white portraiture.

5. Play With Contrast

When it comes to black and white portraiture, contrast is incredibly important. The strength of the light source will directly dictate how much contrast you will have in your image. Harder or brighter lighting will yield greater contrast, where softer lighting will yield more gray and flat images that might contain more detail (this is also a great look). If you’re planning to produce high contrast black and white portraits, keep it natural (e.g don’t add too much contrast it in Photoshop or Lightroom). Small tweaks in Lightroom or Photoshop are fine and won’t harm your shots, however, don’t ramp your contrast slider up to maximum. Strive to keep it between +15/-15. Burning and dodging is more effective than the contrast slider when it comes to black and white portrait editing, and it involves adding localized contrast using localized editing tools. Try this out, you can get some amazing effects.

Black and white portraits rely on contrast, but don't overdo it.

Black and white portraits rely on contrast, but don't overdo it.

6. A Bad Image is a Bad Image

Say you’re editing a color shot that isn’t quite living up to your standards. You decide that maybe this shot would look better in black and white. Rethink this! Transforming a bad color photo into black and white is only going to aggravate the flaws that made you doubt the photo in the first place. A bad image is a bad image, regardless of its color scheme or lack thereof.

Don't turn a bad color photo into black and white.

Don't turn a bad color photo into black and white.

7. Sometimes color is better, sometimes it’s not.

Sometimes you’ll come across a subject and you immediately know they should be shot in black and white. Most of the time this isn’t the case, and you’ll have to decide whether color or black and white best suits them. Robust and deep colors definitely make for stunning photographs, yet eliminating color can transform how a subject or scene is perceived altogether. If you really want your viewer to focus on one specific thing in the image, black and white might be a better call. Use your discretion to find which images work better in black and white, and which images work better in color. Can’t decide? Create a color version and a black and white version and ask your friends, this is what I do when I can’t come to a decision.

Some portraits were made to be in black and white, while others are not.

Some portraits were made to be in black and white, while others are not.

Conclusion

Perhaps now you will understand some of the more important topics when it comes to black and white photography. Color is important, but sometimes it is not needed :) Use your creative mind to find what works for you. Who knows, perhaps you have a natural ability for capturing stunning black and white portraits. You won't know until you try!

If you're new to black and white photography, keep in mind that these are guidelines and not rules. In the end, it's all about the results you get, so don't be afraid to try new things and see what you come up with. As long as you keep shooting, I promise you'll get something good :)

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Post a link to one of your favorite black and white photos in the comments below. Let's chat about why they are good!

 

 

10 Photography Tips for Beginner Photographers

Photography can be a bit complicated when you're first starting out. But trust me when I say that getting good at it really isn't that hard. In this post I'll be sharing a few tips that will allow you to become a better photographer in no time.

1. You don't need the most expensive equipment, especially in the beginning

You don't need a perfect camera to capture beautiful pictures, and you'd be surprised what you could do with a reasonably priced camera. Have you ever seen those videos of pro photographers shooting with cheap cameras? The most important thing is to just take pictures, don't worry about your gear. When it is time to upgrade, you will know.

Some of the most beautiful images ever were taken with vintage film cameras.

2. Think about getting a tripod

Trust me when I say this, a decent tripod is totally worth it, especially if you want to shoot at night. As soon as bought a tripod, my night photography shots improved drastically. With that said, shooting at night is a great way to learn the manual functions of your camera. Grab a tripod and wait for the sun to set my friend!

Tripods are great for keeping consistent framing in your shots, time lapses, and especially night photography.

Tripods are great for keeping consistent framing in your shots, time lapses, and especially night photography.

3. Always carry your camera

I am not joking when I say that my camera and all 3 of my lenses are by my side 24/7. No matter where I am in the world, I keep my camera at the ready. When you carry your camera all the time, you'll get a chance to capture great shots when you least anticipate it. You don't have to schlep around all your gear, but a small camera bag carrying your camera and 1-2 lenses is perfect. Having your camera on you at all times will put you in the mindset of a photographer: you will start to notice more beautiful things, and you will take more pictures. Plus, carrying your camera looks pretty cool, especially if you have a dope camera bag like the one I use.

Your camera should be an extension of your body

Your camera should be an extension of your body

4. Get Inspiration

I wouldn't be where I am today without the inspiration I have received from photographers that have come before me. Whenever I have down time, I am constantly searching for photos on Instagram that inspire me. I save them for later, and I look at them before I go out and shoot. Evaluating other people's work allows me to think outside the box when I am shooting, and I find I am much more creative when I do so.

Inspiration is one of the most important things to becoming a good photographer. I am inspired by Japanese aesthetics, and follow many popular Japanese Instagrammers.

Inspiration is one of the most important things to becoming a good photographer. I am inspired by Japanese aesthetics, and follow many popular Japanese Instagrammers.

5. Don’t miss ordinary subjects for photography

You'd be surprised at the beauty around us. Even normal everyday objects contain beauty, you just need to find it. You don't need a beautiful model to take stunning fashion photos, and you don't need gorgeous food for incredible food photos. Work with what you have, and look for beauty even when you think its not there.

Who knew a simple cup of coffee could be so beautiful?

Who knew a simple cup of coffee could be so beautiful?

6. Enjoy the learning process

When it comes to photography, you'll never run out of things to learn. Inspiration is all around us, and there are always new styles of photography being developed. View the world through the eyes of a professional photographer, and never stop being a student of the field.

Never stop being a student of photography, and you will never stop getting better.

Never stop being a student of photography, and you will never stop getting better.

7. Make the most of the freely available resources

The internet has so many free resources available for you to learn from! YouTube is amazing, and I have used it to learn much of what I know today. Check out my channel here, and also check out this blog post I wrote on free online resources for photography.

The internet is FULL of free photography information.

The internet is FULL of free photography information.

8. Don't be afraid to Experiment.

Your camera might be far more versatile and dynamic than you think. Browse through your camera's handbook for assistance in interpreting all of the tiny symbols. While you explore through them, try capturing the subjects with various configurations to figure out which effects you enjoy. While reviewing your pictures on your computer, you can check out the EXIF data (in the file’s properties) to recall the settings you applied. This is a great way to find your style.

Creative exploration is essential for photography.

Creative exploration is essential for photography.

9. Learn the basics well

The amount of information on photography available on the internet can be a bit mind-boggling. Start slow. Learn the basics of composition, the exposure triangle, and your camera before diving into more advanced things. If you cannot master these three things, you will have a hard time when you try to learn more advanced techniques such as studio lighting or astro-photography. Start slow, you will learn in time :)

Learn the basics of photography, its not too hard :)

Learn the basics of photography, its not too hard :)

10. Take pictures constantly

Remember how I said always have your camera on you? I said that because you should be taking pictures as much as possible. If you can, don't go a day without taking a photo. If this isn't possible, at least take a look at your work or other people's work and make mental notes about what makes these photos beautiful. Visualize the photos you would like to take before bed, and always think about the steps you need to take to improve.

Your camera should never leave your side.

Your camera should never leave your side.

How To Use Aperture to Create Moody and Emotional Photos

I didn't understand aperture for the longest time. But when it finally clicked, I realized how damn simple it actually is! I've had many people message me on Instagram with questions about aperture, so I created this short and simple video to explain aperture and how you can use it to create emotion in your photos. Check it out below!

I've also created a short text guide which includes all of the images I used in the presentation below :) 

What is aperture?

The aperture is the hole in the center of your lens. You can change the size of this hole, affecting the amount of light entering your lens, and also affecting focus. You can open your aperture (lower number) or close down into a small hole (high number). Lenses are labeled by their minimum aperture, so a 85mm f/1.4 lens has a maximum (widest) aperture of f/1.4. Here is a graphic that represents it well :) 

Why is it significant?

Aperture has everything to do with the focus of your image, and using different apertures gives you a much different look in your images. When shooting wide open (low aperture number), you can create a shallow depth of field and isolate your subject by blurring their surroundings. When stopping down and shooting at higher aperture numbers (smaller hole), you can get more focus throughout your entire image, achieving a deep depth of field. 

Which aperture is best?

It all depends on the situation, and your style. I like to shoot my portraits at wide apertures (f/1.4, 1.8, 2, 2.8), because I like to blur their background and keep the focus on them. If I miss a bit of focus on the side of their head, I am okay with that. I think shooting at wide apertures gives me an artistic touch that is very characteristic of my photographic style. However, most high end-fashion photographers shooting in-studio will shoot at f/8 in order to achieve complete focus across the entire model. Landscapes with sharp focus in the foreground and the background are also shot at high apertures in order to achieve maximum focus. 

What is bokeh, and why is it good or bad?

Bokeh is the aesthetic quality of the blur created in the out-of-focus parts of a photo, and is produced by a lens. It can be very pleasing to eye, and allows you to render the out of focus areas in in your image in a very beautiful. Bokeh often takes the shape of balls, reflecting the circular shape of your aperture. Lenses with a wider aperture (lower number) do a better job at creating bokeh in your photos.

So, what about you? Do you like sharp focus across your entire image, or do you like more out of focus areas? What is your style?

Images Used in the Video

35mm f/2.5. A great example of where an aperture such as f/4 or f/5.6 would better suit the image. With a slightly higher aperture, we could achieve more focus in the table.

35mm f/2.5. A great example of where an aperture such as f/4 or f/5.6 would better suit the image. With a slightly higher aperture, we could achieve more focus in the table.

35mm f/1.4. Notice the focus separation between our model, and her background.

35mm f/1.4. Notice the focus separation between our model, and her background.

35mm f/1.4. With the very wide aperture of 1.4, we capture this little guys face in focus while his entire body is out of focus. This is because we are so close to him.

35mm f/1.4. With the very wide aperture of 1.4, we capture this little guys face in focus while his entire body is out of focus. This is because we are so close to him.

85mm f/1.4. This lens is a bokeh king! Look at how shooting at 1.4 renders the background into a beautiful blur of greenery.

85mm f/1.4. This lens is a bokeh king! Look at how shooting at 1.4 renders the background into a beautiful blur of greenery.

85mm f/1.4

85mm f/1.4

85mm f/1.4

85mm f/1.4

85mm f/1.4. Standing back allows you to capture good focus if you have multiple subjects at a similar depth in your image. If you get up close, you will start to see more out of focus areas. In this case, we can see how nice and out of focus the background is, while the leaves and the coffee are in focus.

85mm f/1.4. Standing back allows you to capture good focus if you have multiple subjects at a similar depth in your image. If you get up close, you will start to see more out of focus areas. In this case, we can see how nice and out of focus the background is, while the leaves and the coffee are in focus.

85mm f/1.4. This shot gives us a great example of bokeh balls - the small blurry balls you see in the background of the image. 

85mm f/1.4. This shot gives us a great example of bokeh balls - the small blurry balls you see in the background of the image. 

85mm f/1.4. Another example of poor use of aperture. An aperture of f/4 or f/5.6 would much betters suit this image. If I would have backed up a bit, f/1.4 would have worked fine. But because I was so close to my model, 1.4 wasn't enough to achieve uniform focus.

85mm f/1.4. Another example of poor use of aperture. An aperture of f/4 or f/5.6 would much betters suit this image. If I would have backed up a bit, f/1.4 would have worked fine. But because I was so close to my model, 1.4 wasn't enough to achieve uniform focus.

8 Simple Tips for Dynamic Black and White Photos

Black and white photography is a timeless beauty, and it still has a large place in modern day photography. However, when it comes to capturing stunning black and white photos, there are definitely a few things you should know. Black and white photography is much more than just color photography minus the color. In fact, you must treat it as its own species if you want to excel at it. Here are 8 quick and easy tips for capturing Dynamic black and white photos.

1. Don’t convert all of your photos to black and white

Most of us shoot digital nowadays – and with that, most of us shoot in color. To get our photos into black and white, we must manually change it in post-production. The truth is, not ALL photos look good in black and white. In fact, some photos that look great in color, but just don’t cut it when converted to black and white. The opposite is true as well.

Why is that? It’s simple, color is a massive player in composition. Black and white photos cannot fall back on color to rescue the composition, whereas color photos can. If you have a photo that is good because of its color, let it be. Only convert the photos that would look good in black and white, and don’t force it into something it’s not.

PS: If you shoot in black and white... well then just ignore this ;)

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2. Shoot in RAW

Shooting in RAW allows you to get more dynamic range in your photos. What the hell is dynamic range? More detail in your highlights, and more detail in your shadows. This is essential for capturing dynamic black and white photos. It also gives you a much better experience when it comes to editing, as you have much more control over your photo. Definitely shoot in RAW!

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3. Expose for the highlights

Clipping is when you lose detail in the highlights or shadows because they are over or underexposed. During the editing phase, it is MUCH easier to recover detail in the shadows as compared to the highlights, that is why it is essential to expose for the highlights. Your shadows might be overly dark, but can easily be raised in editing. Plus, sometimes overly dark shadows add a very emotional and moody element to your black and white photos, creating a more powerful image.

4. Pay close attention to contrast

Contrast becomes king when color is absent, and it can definitely make or break your image. When you’re out shooting, look for stark changes in lights and darks to capture deep contrast. Contrast becomes a large part of composition it comes to black and white photography as well, so it is important to understand how it affects the overall balance of your image.

5. Shoot before sunset

Afternoon light is the most gorgeous light of the day, and it can present you with some incredibly stunning black and white photos. Shooting just before sunset will give you incredible contrast in your shots, and is definitely the best time to shoot. Some of my best black and white photos were shot just before sunset!

6. Dodge and Burn

Dodging and burning is a classic form of photo manipulation that stems from the old days of manual film development. It involves locally adjusting the highlights and the shadows in your photos to increase contrast, which as previously stated, is essential for stunning black and white photos. You can easily do this in Lightroom or Photoshop with local adjustment tools.

7. Clarity

Clarity is an editing feature that increases the mid-tone contrast, much different than the normal contrast slider found in most editing software. By increasing contrast in the mid-tones, clarity greatly enhances texture, detail, and sharpness in your images. This is an awesome feature that can really make your black and white photos pop. However, don’t go too-overboard with clarity, as an overly detailed/sharp image can be tough on the eyes!

8. Adjust individual colors in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom

You can adjust the luminance of individual colors using the "Black and White Mix" sliders under the color adjustment panel in Adobe Lightroom. This directly affects the exposure of each individual color. If you want to brighten/darken skin tones or just certain parts of your image, this a great way to do it. It is also a fantastic way to increase contrast in your image. Play around with these sliders, you'll be surprised at how much it can affect your black and white photos!

So, what do you guys think? Do you like to shoot in black and white? Why or why not?

10 Food Photography Tips and Tricks for Beginner Photographers

Food photography can be tough at first, but if you understand some of the basic concepts, you can start taking amazing food photos sooner than you think!

In this 5 minute video I talk about 10 simple tips and tricks for better food photography. If you're just starting out, or are having trouble capturing amazing food photos, you must check this out!

I've also included a text version of the video below :)

10 Food Photography Tips for Beginner Photographers

1. Find a good setting

  • Choosing a good setting for your shoot is very important for the overall mood of the image. Try to shoot in rooms that have windows, neutral colored walls, and tables with neutral and darker colors that serve as a good background for your food photos. 
An example of a perfect setting for food photography. Notice the soft light entering through the windows and reflecting off of the dark wooden table.

An example of a perfect setting for food photography. Notice the soft light entering through the windows and reflecting off of the dark wooden table.

 

2. Natural light is the only light source you need

  • The sun is all you really need to capture beautiful food photos. Artificial light sources don't match the same quality as natural light, and can make your food look unnatural. Try shooting in front of a window where natural light enters the room, this light is typically soft and perfect for food photos.
Natural light is beautiful - it's all you need!

Natural light is beautiful - it's all you need!

3. Shoot in the morning or late afternoon

  • The light from the sun is best in the morning, and in the late afternoon. This is because the sun is not at its highest point in the sky, resulting in softer and more golden light. This light is perfect for food photography, and some of the best shots I've taken were early in the morning or right before sunset :)
A perfect example of afternoon light. This was shot about an hour before sunset. While the light is still a bit harsh in places, it is much softer than it would be during mid-day.

A perfect example of afternoon light. This was shot about an hour before sunset. While the light is still a bit harsh in places, it is much softer than it would be during mid-day.

4. Use diffusers to soften light and reflectors to redirect it

  • Using diffusers and reflectors to further manipulate the light from the sun is a great way to get perfect lighting in your shots. Use a diffuser to weaken the light from the sun by placing it between your food, and the sun. You can also use a reflector to reflect the light from the sun onto different parts of your food, giving your food a much more 3d look if done correctly.
The outcome of using a diffuser in front of a window.

The outcome of using a diffuser in front of a window.

5. Focus on composition

  • Lighting and styling are essential to food photography, but if your composition sucks, nobody will give your photo a second look. Make sure to focus on your composition in every shot, and make it easy for your viewers eyes to navigate across the image. Checkout my blog post on compositional templates. Although I wrote this post with travel photography in mind, these basic composition guidelines are relevant across all fields of photography, including food!
A simple composition that works. 

A simple composition that works. 

6. Use a shallow depth a field

  • Using a shallow depth of field in your images is a great way to keep the focus on your food, and not the background of the image. It can also add a much more artistic touch to your images. There are two ways to achieve a shallow depth of field in your photos: using higher focal length lenses and using a lower aperture. Higher focal lengths (such as 50mm, 85mm, 100mm and beyond) are great for getting up close to your subject, while reducing distraction in the background. Lower apertures (2.8, 2.0, 1.8, 1.4,) allow you to further isolate your subject from the background, keeping the focus on your food. Note that if your aperture is too low, you might not achieve enough focus in your image. Try experimenting with different apertures until you find one that works.
There are other objects in the frame, but the shallow depth of field allows us to focus on the food. 

There are other objects in the frame, but the shallow depth of field allows us to focus on the food. 

7. Minimize clutter

  • While props are important, don't let them distract from the most important thing in the image: the food. Try shooting food with and without props, and see what works best. Sometimes the best food photos are very minimal in nature, and contain no props at all.
Simple, yet beautiful.

Simple, yet beautiful.

8. Shoot from different angles

  • Many new photographers get stuck shooting from the same angles. Try moving around and shooting from different angles. Don't be shy to try new things, you'll take some of your best shots from angles that you didn't expect!
Food shots from above are interesting and easy to compose, but there are plenty of other angles that work as well.

Food shots from above are interesting and easy to compose, but there are plenty of other angles that work as well.

9. Use different backgrounds

  • If you are shooting multiple dishes in a single café or restaurant, shoot them in different places. Having variety in your photos is much more desirable than a bunch of photos with the same background. Try inside and outside, and move your dishes around to get a different look. 
Try tossing down some fabrics - these are great for switching up your background.

Try tossing down some fabrics - these are great for switching up your background.

10. Shoot everyday

  • Take your camera with you and shoot as much as you can! Don't want to carry it? Use your smart phone. As long as you're applying the lessons you learned in this blog post - your smart phone will suffice. The most important thing is that you keep shooting. The more photos you take, the faster you will become a better photographer. Shooting food isn't easy, but with time and practice, you'll be surprised at what you can come up with :)
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How to Capture Inspiring Cafe Photos for Social Media

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Hey photographers! Today is one of my favorite days, because I finally get to share my new photography course with you! I’m not going to lie, this class was a lot of work to prepare, film, and publish. There were 3 days where I was up until 5am putting every last detail in, so today, I’m breathing much easier.

If you guys have checked out my Instagram, you've seen that I am obsessed with shooting café/coffee lifestyle photos. I love to use my photos to tell visual stories, and that's exactly what this course focuses on. In fact, this course covers my entire café photography process. Some of the things we cover are:

  • Finding good shooting locations
  • Good light vs. bad light
  • Styling and composition
  • Common mistakes
  • My Lightroom editing process

You even get to see me shoot AND edit my photos, all in less than 45 minutes.

Plus! If you sign up through my special offer link, you will get access to every single course on SkillShare for only 99 cents. Yep, crazy. I taught myself photography by watching SkillShare courses, so I definitely recommend checking out a few.

Watch my course introduction below!

If you want to learn about a different topic, reply to this email with something you're interested in. I will be making a new course soon, but want to hear from you on what it should be about!

Click here to sign up!

How to Make Money as a Travel Photographer in 2017

Many photographers dream of being paid to travel and take photos. But where are we supposed to start? There aren’t any job postings for “travel photographers," and there's no definitive guide on how to find jobs like these. Of course, everyone knows the National Geographic photographers, but these jobs are few and far in between. The good news is, there are actually many ways to make money as a travel photographer. The trick to being paid as a travel photographer is to utilize multiple sources of income.

I have compiled a list of 8 jobs that will pay you to be a travel photographer in 2017, and added a short guide on how to make it happen! I utilize several of these jobs as income sources as I travel the world, and others are utilized by various photographers I know or have met throughout my travels. If you are interested in making money as a travel photographer in 2017, this is definitely for you.

1. Magazine/Newspapers/ Photo Journalism

Finding work for a news or media outlet can be a fantastic way to fund your travels while working as a photographer. News and media sources are always looking for photos from across the world to use with their stories. Often times photographers will receive contracts with news/media companies, and will be assigned to cover a specific country or region. Last week I met a photo journalist from Spain, living and working in Bangkok for Getty images. He is paid to live in Bangkok, and Getty images sends him around South-East Asia to take photos of noteworthy political, social, and cultural events. You can also pitch your own story to a few different news sources in hopes they will sponsor you. If you decide to do this, you must find a noteworthy story and create a solid pitch. This is not as easy or secure as being under contract, but it can be a extremely fulfilling and interesting experience.

2. Stock Photographer

Stock photography can be difficult to monetize if you are new to the field. However, after your portfolio grows and you develop a following, the money starts to flow. All you have to do is post your photos on several stock photography websites, utilize effective keywords in your posts, and wait for them to sell. You can submit any of your photos from your daily adventures to your stock photo portfolios, and also shoot specific things that you think might sell. 

The trick with stock photography (well, all of these jobs for that matter!) is to use it as just one of your income sources. Stock photography is great, but you shouldn't rely on it completely (at least not in the beginning). Stock photography works well as a side-job, as you can submit any of your photos and let them sell while you focus your time on other parts of your photography business.

3. Personal Branding and Social Media

Someone once told me that the most successful travel photographers aren’t necessarily the best photographers, but the best marketers. Hotel chains, tourism boards, restaurants, and big brands are always looking for the latest and greatest travel photographers to partner with. If you can develop your personal brand and establish a large enough following, you can make money through direct client work, as well as marketing or advertising on your social media outlets. Even with my modest Instagram following of 14k, I have made several thousand dollars shooting for brands that like my style, and have earned even more money through free products that are sent to me (shoes, watches, clothes, camera equipment).

Many popular Instagrammers make their living completely from social media. If you can market yourself correctly and gather a strong following, the money will follow.

4. Direct Client Work

Direct client sales are always an effective form of making money as a photographer. Just because you are on the road doesn’t mean you can’t score gigs in the country you’re in. Do your research and look for clients you think might need your services. Contact them and offer your services, making sure they understand the level of value you can bring them. A few places to look are hotels, local brands, restaurants, and local expat populations that might need general photography work (portraits, weddings, family, etc.). I have used this to sustain myself in several countries around the world, and it can be a great way to keep your travels funded as a photographer.

Some companies will also pay you a monthly wage for only a few photos a month. You give them a selection of photos to choose from every month, they choose a few, and you get paid. My good friend shoots for several travel and airline companies, each of which pay him a few hundred dollars per month. He uploads the photos, and each brand picks about 5 photos for their use. It’s as simple as that.

5. Blogging

Blogging is a tested and popular source of income for people of all trades. If you can design a solid travel or photography blog, you can monetize it quite easily. Focus first on providing free value to your readers, and use your blog as a creative outlet to display the glory of your travels. If you want to focus your blog on a topic other than traveling or photography, you totally can. I know a photographer who makes a few thousand a month on her food blog. She travels the world and takes photos of her food, that’s it! Every blog needs good photos, and no matter what you focus on, your photography skills will come in handy 😊

6. YouTube

Similar to blogging and social media, YouTube can be a solid way to make money. You can monetize your channel and make money not only through the number of views your videos receive, but through your audience as well. YouTube is a great way to drive traffic back to your website or other social media sources, and it can help you grow quickly. If you want to be a YouTuber, pick up a decent vlogging camera and study what popular vloggers and YouTubers are doing. Make sure you produce material that people are interested in watching. If you can do this, you can make decent money from YouTube!

7. Teaching

Like all fields, photography teachers are always in demand. It is true that everyone and their grandmas have cameras nowadays, but how many of them actually know how to use them properly? Here’s your answer: very few. Try launching a travel photography course on skillshare.com or udemy.com. Not confident in teaching photography? Teach something else you’re good at. You could also teach English in a another country and use your free time to build up your portfolio and establish yourself as a good travel photographer. The possibilities with teaching are quite endless, so look into it!

Check out my recent course on Skillshare and get a free month!

8. Travel writing

There are plenty of ways to make money as a travel writer, both related to photography, and unrelated. The internet boom in the last decade has become a powerful medium for online jobs, and people are always looking to hire talented writers. Clients in need of writers come in all different shapes and sizes, and you can easily find work on websites like www.upwork.com or fiverr.com. The fact that you will be in another country helps you, as you can write in detail about things in the area you’re in.

HOW TO MAKE IT HAPPEN

Of course, the techniques I explain above aren't easily achieved. If you want to make it as a travel photographer, there are a few things you need to make it happen.

Solid Marketing Plan

A good marketing plan definitely deserves to be on the top of this list. If you can efficiently market yourself, the paid jobs will come. A good portfolio is plays a part in this, as your portfolio is your resume to potential employers. Even just 10-12 stunning photos that show your artistic ability can be enough to land jobs that pay a few thousand dollars. 

Social Media Skills

Social media is one of the biggest key players in any business today. Having proper knowledge of social media will allow you to market yourself, and your business, more effectively. It will also help you connect and share with others, something that can be crucial to your success. Pro tip: don't only focus on one form of social media, use a variety such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Flickr. 

Have "Enough" Gear

While gear certainly isn't everything, it definitely plays a role. You don't need the latest and greatest gear on the market, but having a decent camera and a few lenses that cover a wide range of focal lengths will allow you to be more versatile in what you shoot. This versatility will serve you well, as shooting a variety of different things will make you more appealing to a larger number of companies.

An Adventurous Spirit

Working as a travel photographer sounds glorious, but constantly being on the road can be tiring and lonesome. If you don't have an adventurous and on-the-go spirit, travel photography might not be for you. Think it through before you book your ticket and leave everything behind.

Motivation

Landing gigs isn't always easy, and you will deal with rejection during the process. Being able to recover from rejection and stay motivated is crucial if you want to make it as a travel photographer. Travel photography can be hard work, and consistent productivity is a must. Keep your motivation high and success will follow.

Conclusion

There are many ways to get paid as a travel photographer, some easier than others. At the end of the day, it takes a combination of personal and professional skills that will allow you to set yourself apart and establish yourself as a travel photographer. Do you have what it takes? Leave a comment below on your thoughts about travel photography!

 

I've created a travel checklist you can check before you hit the road. This is essential for all photographers hoping to capture the perfect travel photo. Simply subscribe to my newsletter and you will receive an instant download to my checklist :)

10 Simple Tips for Capturing the Perfect Cafe Lifestyle Shot for Instagram (Free Video Guide)

Check out my new SkillShare course on Instagram Café Photography!

Lifestyle photography is a beautiful thing. It has the power to convey a very powerful mood or story, and can be quite compelling. But capturing good lifestyle photos of your daily cafe adventures isn't always as easy as it sounds. Here is a list of 10 simple tips that will help you post the perfect Instagram photo that will make even the most seasoned cafe hopper jealous.

1. Identify good locations

Hate to say it, but not all coffee shops/cafes are created equal. Some have gorgeous interiors that are complimented by proper lighting, while others suffer from terrible artificial light that will make your photos look orange and boring. Hop on Instagram and find popular Instagrammers in your area who are knowledgeable about the local hot-spots. Browse their pages and choose a few places to go. Searching through popular hashtags is also a good option. Every city has Instagrammable locations, you just need to find them!

2. Find Good Light

You've arrived at your first café, but are not sure where to shoot. Stay close to the windows! Natural light is a million times better than artificial, and light coming through the windows is often beautifully diffused and perfect for photos. Many cafés or coffee shops have areas with extravagant decorations, but poor lighting. Don't get sucked into these parts of the café. Stay where the light is good, as it's the most important aspect of a photograph.

3. Order Pretty Food

It isn't necessary, but ordering good-looking food makes your job a lot easier. Subject matter is important for conveying a mood or lifestyle in your photos, and certain dishes look better than others. For example, a latte with good latte art looks much better than a boring black coffee. You can make anything work, but having something beautiful to photograph won't hurt your cause!

If you happen to find yourself in SF, don't skip this place :) @reveillecoffee

A post shared by Sean Dalton (@seandalt) on

4. Styling

Styling is the way you organize your subject matter in your frame. Simply placing your food or coffee on a table and photographing it isn't as interesting as creating a scene. Put your phone on the table, grab some books and lay it all out in front of you. Styling takes time to learn, but in time you will find what works. Try new things, and take note of some of the styling techniques your favorite photographers use.

 

5. Try Different Angles

Many young photographers get sucked into shooting food straight on. This can present a dull scene. Move around and shoot from different angles. Try shooting from above, from each side, and even from behind objects. Placing an object in front of your camera and keeping the focus on your subject matter can yield some very interesting foreground bokeh (blur). Every angle presents a different opportunity for an interesting photo, so try them all.

Breakfast is served 😌

A post shared by Sean Dalton (@seandalt) on

6. Be Creative

Think outside of the box, and experiment. Stack objects, use a model, incorporate plants or anything else within your reach. Don't worry about taking bad photos, we all do it. Have fun with it and keep trying new things. A good way to enhance creativity before the shoot is to check out some of your favorite Instagram pages before hand. Need some recommendations? Check out @bankpyt, @torthanit, @sxnflxwer_, and me! (@seandalt) - all of which are lifestyle Instagrammers.

7. Be Confident

Don't worry about what other people in the cafe are thinking. They might be watching you, but who cares? No matter what type of camera you have, you are a photographer and you are there to capture your vision. Don't hesitate to stand on your chair and get that overhead shot, or move some props to your table for styling. Of course, it is always important to be respectful of the cafe. Ask the workers if you can use the decorations for your styling, and if it is a relatively quiet cafe, ask if you can take pictures. You are using their space for your art, so treat it with respect. 

Barista from above ☕️ check out @sightglass coffee if you're in SF. You won't be disappointed :)

A post shared by Sean Dalton (@seandalt) on

8. Know the story you are trying to tell

What kind of story do you want your photos to tell? Having a vision before you start shooting can give you a good place to start. Know the stylistic characteristics of photography that you like, and the type of emotion each one appeals to. For example, I like my photos a bit dark with dramatic lighting. This gives them a relaxed, calm, and mature tone, all of which are themes or moods I like to express in my photos. Some people prefer bright photos that might relate to terms such as "clean" or "fresh". Come prepared with the story you want to tell, and capture it with intent.

Cold mornings call for hot coffee ☕️

A post shared by Sean Dalton (@seandalt) on

9. DOn't overthink your gear

Of course there are Instagrammers with the latest and greatest photography gear, but some of them shoot only with a smart phone. With the current state of smart phones on the market, that is totally okay. The main goal of lifestyle photography is capturing a mood or telling a story, something that you can certainly achieve with a wide angle iPhone or Samsung camera.

A timeless medium.

A post shared by Sean Dalton (@seandalt) on

10. Editing

Editing your photos properly is crucial for your success on Instagram. Edit all of your photos in the same style, and don't deviate. This means if you use a filter, always use the same one and adjust lighting and exposure afterwards. Editing plays a large part in the mood and theme of your photos, so take the time to make sure your photos are edited in a way that supports your story. If you are curious to see how I edit my Instagram photos (@seandalt), subscribe to my mailing list below and check out my short and easy Instagram photo editing guide :) Also, I want to hear from you! Post your Instagram account below with short comment about what you like to photograph. I will visit your page on comment on my favorite photo :) 

Subscribe to my newsletter and get a free video guide on how I edit my Instagram photos!

How to Use Compositional Templates to Create Perfect Travel Photos

Perhaps one of the most crucial aspects to creating a beautiful photo is composition. Understanding composition can be difficult at first. That’s where photography templates come in.

Photography templates are visual examples that provide us with a standard composition we can use as a reference when photographing.

When I say photography template I mean well-known, effective, and tested photographic compositions that have been used since the beginning of the photographic process. The compositions of these templates are still used by professional photographers today, and utilizing them can improve your photos dramatically.

Understanding your style and how it fits with various photography templates can help you nail the shot when you don't have a lot of time. This is often the case with travel photography, where your window of opportunity to capture the perfect shot is limited. Using photography templates like the ones below will allow you to capture shots more quickly and efficiently. If you memorize them, you'll be able to see the perfect shot before you even raise your camera to your eye.

Let's start with a few basic compositional techniques.

Basic Compositional Techniques

Rule of Thirds

Rule of thirds is perhaps the most basic compositional template that one can utilize. The Rule of Thirds states that if a photo is divided into 9 parts, the points where lines intersect are areas of interest. Placing our subject in these areas is often more visually appealing than placing our subject in the middle of the frame. This figure provides a visual example:

Notice that the main subject (the mother), it situated in the left third of the frame. Her son, behind her, balances the frame without distracting too much from the main subject.

There are a few variations as to how rule of thirds can be used. Check these out:

With Clean Background
Using a clean background with the rule of thirds allows our eyes to stay focused on the subject, as there is nothing in the background that might distract our eyes. “Clean backgrounds” can range from extremely simple, such as a plain wall, to an mostly empty sky. Identifying a background with interesting colors that compliment your subject also helps create a more dynamic image
 

Hikers rest on during the treachurous ascent of Huashan, China.

Hikers rest on during the treachurous ascent of Huashan, China.

A man sells photos of his beloved King Rama IX on the streets of Bangkok, Thailand.

A man sells photos of his beloved King Rama IX on the streets of Bangkok, Thailand.

With Balanced Background
If a clean background is too plain for you, try finding a background that has a bit more going on. This is helpful if you are looking to tell a story in your image, as showing the setting is important for this. Try incorporating other objects in your frame to balance your main subject, and make sure your frame doesn’t get too heavy on one side.

A woman sells fresh fish on the streets of Hanoi, Vietnam.

A woman walks through a street market on a cold morning in Kobe, Japan.

With Crowded Foreground
A crowded foreground can be used to add a feeling of action and dynamism to your photos, and can also be used to frame your subject. If your background is too messy, placing something in the foreground might also help distract from it.

Wishes scribed on wood panels at a shrine in Kobe, Japan.

Wishes scribed on wood panels at a shrine in Kobe, Japan.

A beer case sits in the alley outside of a traditional Japanese Izakaya in Osaka, Japan.

Dynamic Diagonal Lines

Diagonal lines, also called “lines of interest” add a dynamic effect that allows you to establish interest in multiple parts of your photograph. Diagonal lines guide your viewer’s eyes across the frame, or to a specific object that might be your main subject, or something in the distance. Diagonal lines are easy to look at, and are often easy to find. You can also create your own diagonal lines by twisting your camera, or shooting your subject from a different angle.

A young couple navigates a staircase. Chongqing, China.

Sumiyoshi Station. Kobe, Japan.

Leading Lines

Leading lines are similar to diagonal lines of interest, but they serve a slightly bigger purpose. Leading lines are used to guide the eye to your main subject, off into the distance, or just a different part of the frame. On the left, the road acts as a leading line as it takes our eyes back into the distance. On the right, the great wall leads us up to the tower, and finally into the background.

Early evening in Hong Kong.

Early evening in Hong Kong.

Jiankou, Great Wall of China.

Jiankou, Great Wall of China.

The Natural Frame

A frame within a frame. Using objects to frame is an efficient and classic way to keep your viewers’ attention on your subject. Look for natural frames such as trees, doorways, or arches. You can also use humans as your frame. Try picking up an object and holding it in front of your camera to create an out of focus frame in the foreground. Get creative with it, the possibilities are endless!  

A man rides his bike through a quiet market in Kobe, Japan.

A man rides his bike through a quiet market in Kobe, Japan.

A barista brews coffee for a customer on a chilly evening in Kobe, Japan.

Symmetry and Patterns

You can find symmetry and patterns everywhere you look, both man-made and natural. They can make for stunning and simple compositions, especially when they are not expected. You can also try to break the symmetry or pattern in some way, adding a bit of tension or abstractness to your scene.

A traditional Chinese courtyard. Pingyao, China.

A traditional Chinese courtyard. Pingyao, China.

Man-made rice terraces create a seemingly natural pattern. Longsheng, China.

Man-made rice terraces create a seemingly natural pattern. Longsheng, China.

Rule of Tenths

By principle, the rule of tenths is similar to the rule of thirds. However, in this case, your subject only takes up 1/10 of the frame, instead of 1/3 . This composition emphasizes the expansive environment around your subject, often conveying feelings of isolation or emptiness.

A lonesome windmill watches a setting sun.

A climber looks across the Canadian landscape as the sun sets.

A climber looks across the Canadian landscape as the sun sets.

The Triangle

Using a triangle to frame three different subjects allows your viewers eyes to easily move from one subject to the other, while maintaining a balanced frame. Notice how in the left photo, our eyes start in the middle, and work their way around to the men standing on either side of the frame. The same goes with the photo on the right, except the third subject is the playground, not another person.

A man prepares for his night of entertainment on the streets of Bangkok, Thailand.

Two young boys hangout next to the Mekong River. Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Middle Placement

Placing your subjects in the middle of the frame with a symmetrical background creates a balanced frame that appeals to serene and peaceful situations. This effect can be easily achieved, and is often used.

A young girl crosses the street in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Two men chat while enjoying the view of the bay. Kobe, Japan.

These photographic templates ARE helpful, but they can also hinder your creativity.

These templates are only a guide to what you might look for when you are out shooting. Just because they are known to work, doesn’t mean that there aren’t other ways to create beautiful compositions. You are drawn to photography because you enjoy the creative process, and it’s important to let that side out of you. Use these templates as a guide, but don't confine yourself to them. Try new things and branch out, and always adapt to your situation or environment!

If you feel yourself stagnating, take a look at your portfolio and look for any repeating compositions. Next time you go out to shoot, try to avoid those compositions and try new things, you’ll be surprised at what you come up with.

Interested in how I captured any of the shots above? Check out my gear page here.

Free Photographers Travel Checklist Download

Travel photography checklist (1).png

I've created a travel checklist you can check before you hit the road. This is essential for all photographers hoping to capture the perfect travel photo. Simply subscribe to my newsletter and you will receive an instant download to my checklist :)

PS : I am interested to hear what your favorite compositional technique is. Post one of your photos below and discuss the technique you are using!

One of The Best Lightroom Resources On the Internet: 10 tips for optimizing your photos

I spent YEARS working with Photoshop. Yet, I never truly felt that I mastered it. There was about three ways to accomplish one simple task, and I never felt like it was built exclusively for photographers. Then I found Adobe Lightroom. Although Lightroom can be difficult to learn at first, you'll be AMAZED at how much it can benefit you. Mastering Lightroom has not only drastically increased my photo editing efficiency, but has been a key player in some of the most beautiful images I have ever created.

Because I love you guys, I want to share this awesome resource I used when I was learning Lightroom. This video covers 10 essential tips that you must know if you want to truly master Lightroom, including workflow optimization, noise correction, chromatic aberration correction, and perspective distortion correction. If you're too lazy to watch the entire video, I added a video guide which you can find below :)

This video will not only help you become fluent in Lightroom, but will allow you to make awesome presets which can quickly add a beautiful artistic touch to your photos. Check out of collection of Lightroom presets here.

Video Guide and Summary:

  1. Start with the Basics (1:00)
  2. Embrace “Presence” (20:00)
  3. Isolate Colors (25:25)
  4. Don’t Ignore Noise (33:20)
  5. Check for Chromatic Aberrations (41:50)
  6. Correct for the Lens (50:30)
  7. Crop (Almost Always) (1:05:30)
  8. Go (Virtually) Black and White (1:17:30)
  9. Cleanup (and More) in Photoshop (1:27:00)
  10. Get Targeted (1:42:45)

Why Confidence is Key in Photography, And How to Achieve It.


“Confidence is contagious, so is lack of confidence” – Vince Lombardi


Yep, it's true. If you aren't a confident photographer, your subject won't be either. In fact, it can lead to quite a disastrous shoot. But when it comes to mastering photography, the word confidence doesn’t usually come to mind. Lighting, posing, styling, and the technical aspects of the camera are more commonly discussed. While it is true that mastering these topics enhances our confidence, there are other factors at play as well. We often forget that photography is a social process, and that being comfortable behind the camera is essential for quality work. Even when we aren’t working with others, confidence plays a role in our creative process. In fact, it greatly enhances our creativity. Confidence is also contagious, and a confident photographer results in a confident model. If that wasn’t convincing enough, confidence leads to much more fun and efficient shoots, resulting in more beautiful images and more happy people.  

Okay, but I am very shy. How do I become more confident?

Maybe you’re naturally shy or introverted. Hey, that's totally okay. I used to be like that too. Becoming a confident photographer is actually pretty damn easy. Of course, understanding the technical sides of the photographic process is important. But there is so much more to it than just that. You can increase your confidence by following these few simple tips. 

Photograph Friends and Family

If you are struggling with confidence, shoot your friends and family first. You’re already comfortable around them, so take advantage of it! Photographing friends and family is a great place to start because it gives you crucial confidence in working with others and producing quality images that clients can be happy about. Use this time to make mistakes too, as they are a crucial part of the process.

 

It's a bonus if you're friends are cute and have modeling experience. But if not, no worries :)

 

Visit Your Photography Swipe File

Before the shoot, sit and reflect on what you are hoping to achieve. Visit your photography swipe file and pull inspiration from the images you like. Pose your subject based off of poses you like, or utilize lighting in a similar fashion. Work that inspires you is your best friend!

This is one of my favorite portraits that I keep in my swipe file on Pinterest. Before every portrait shoot I visit my swipe file for inspiration. It has been INCREDIBLY helpful for knowing how to pose my subjects and conduct my shoots.

Be Prepared

Organize the shoot before-hand. Make sure all of your gear is ready and organize a time and location for the shoot. Know the theme, and talk with your subject about what they hope to get from the shoot. Sit down and visualize how you would like the shoot to go, this an extremely helpful process! Arrive early and scout the location before you start. Knowing the best places to shoot and pose will lead to a much more efficient and confident photo-shoot.

 

Maybe you aren't this fancy. But hey, writing down details about the shoot before hand can be very helpful! I keep a notebook on hand at all times, an write down an idea whenever one pops into my head. These notes always help my shoots go more smoothly. Photo by The Goulet Pen.

 

Keep it simple

Don’t try a bunch of crazy things if you aren’t comfortable with them. Keep it simple at first. If you take a few shots and are killin' it, then branch out. It’s okay to make mistakes, but sometimes it can get to us if we aren’t used to it. Sticking with the basics will still lead to great results, they are basics for a reason!

 

I don't know if you can get more simple than this. Sitting straight, hands on the table, and a classic smile. But you know what, it works! It's a tested pose. No need to reinvent the wheel :)

 

Prepare Jokes

Prepare a few jokes before the shoot. It might sound cheesy, but they work! It gives you something to say, convinces your subject you know what you’re doing, and sends laughs all around. A laughing environment is a positive one :)

 

To be completely honest. My jokes are pretty bad. But hey, they work! Look at that laugh! 

 

Smile

Smiling not only gives off confidence, but it makes you feel more confident as well. Smile during the shoot, and laugh when you can. A positive environment is a confident one.

 

This is during one of my office shoots. I don't know if you can tell by the side of my face, but I am definitely smiling! I always smile when I want my model to smile, because smiles are contagious :) 

 

Ask Questions

Asking questions helps stimulate conversation, and often relaxes your subject. A relaxed subject is a confident one, and their confidence will help your performance behind the camera. Get them to talk as much as you can, and you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel!

 

I wanted to catch a shot of her taking a drink, so I asked her "how does it taste"? Boom, nailed it.

 

Dress Well

You might be confused why this is in here. But it is well known that dressing well leads to more confidence! If you wear your best clothes, you're going to feel better about yourself. Hands down. Plus, you're a photographer, and you care about aesthetics! You probably have great style already, so rock it dude ;) 

 

Accessorize, baby!

 

But most of all.... Relax!

At the end of the day, staying relaxed is the key to confidence. Not every shoot turns out perfect, but even a bad shoot is not going to kill you. It's totally okay if not everything goes right. Every great photographer has had more than one bad shoot. When things go wrong, we learn, and mistakes are essential for your development as a photographer. What's more important is that you have fun!

Why You Need a Prime Lens - And Which One To Buy

 
You don't need a zoom lens, just zoom with your feet. -Unknown

Congratulations, you finally took the plunge and bought your first DSLR! Your pictures are great, and you’re learning new things about your camera every day. But two months in, you get bored. Your 18-55mm kit lens is limiting you. You can’t get that creamy bokeh you always see on Instagram, and you feel like your image sharpness is lacking. Yep, you’ve officially outgrown your kit lens.

Don’t worry, we’ve ALL been there.

You should feel proud you’ve made it to this point, as it's a testament to your artistic prowess. Now that you’ve been shooting for awhile, it’s time to invest in your first prime lens.

Okay, what is a prime lens?

A prime lens is a lens with a fixed focal length, meaning it does not zoom. While this limits the versatility of the lens, prime lenses have a much more unique and artistic look. Typically, prime lenses are faster (a wider aperture which allows more light allowing you to use a faster shutter-speed), sharper, have deeper contrast and bolder colors, are more compact, and have overall better image quality. Your first prime is your first step into the world of fine art photography, and shooting with one for the first time is quite an experience.

Which one should I buy?

Typically, there are two primes that are perfect for your first big purchase:

35mm or 50mm.

These are both fantastic focal lengths. Both have their own signature qualities, as well as their drawbacks. Let’s take them one by one.

 

Nikons 50mm (left) and 35mm (right) 1.4 line. See the size difference!

A NOTE ON CROP FACTOR (Important)

A 35mm/50mm lens on a full-frame camera is NOT the same on a crop sensor camera. If you have a cropped-sensor camera, you must multiply your focal length by ~1.5 (depending on your make). So, a 33mm lens on a crop sensor x 1.5 (for the crop) = ~50mm and a 24mm lens on a crop sensor = ~35mm. If you have a micro 4/3 sensor, you must multiple even more. For the following comparisons, we will be speaking about 50mm and 35mm equivalents if you are on a crop-sensor camera.

 

50mm

Why It’s Great: Not only are 50mm lenses usually cheaper than 35mm (because they are easier to make), they are also smaller. 50mm is an amazing focal length for capturing a relatively deep depth of field without sacrificing too much versatility. The 50mm allows you to create more separation between your subject and the background, create beautiful bokeh in unfocused areas, and instantly gives your photos an artistic look.

Why It's Limited: The 50mm is not as versatile than the 35mm, and you'll find that you will miss shots because you can't step back far enough to fit everything in the frame, especially when shooting in doors. If you want everything in focus, you will need to stop down (reduce your aperture size) more so than you would on the 35mm, ultimately letting in less light which might be an issue in low-light situations.

35mm

Why It’s Great: 35mm is the closest to what our eyes naturally see, so the images look very real. The wide focal length allows you to capture more in your frame and shoot in tighter spaces, making the lens more practical and versatile than the 50mm. The 35mm is a classic focal length that has been used by some of the most famous street photographers of all time due to its versatility and sharpness. If you want your entire image to be in sharp focus, the 35mm might be for you, as you can shoot wide open (largest possible aperture) and still expect relatively sharp images across the frame.

Why It’s Limited: The lack of a deeper zoom results in a shorter depth of field, more image distortion (bending of the image) than the 50mm, as well as less of an artistic look. If you are looking to separate your subject from the background when shooting portraits, the 35mm is not up to par with the 50 on this. 

Photo by Digital Rev TV

How do I Decide?

Ultimately, it depends on your style. If you like having more subject matter in your images, having everything in your shot in focus, enjoy shooting your subject up close and personal, and often shoot in more tight spaces, the 35mm might be for you. But if you enjoy of bit of separation between your subject and the background, don't mind being slightly more limited in versatility, and enjoy more of an “artistic” look, the 50mm might be for you. Personally, I would opt for the 50, because I enjoy a deeper depth of field and more bokeh. But, everyone is different and your decision should be your own! Whichever decision you make, you can't go wrong with either of these lenses.

Lenses to Check Out:

Full-Frame Sensor

Note: There are more expensive versions of these full-frame lenses available. 


Note: There are more expensive versions of these full-frame lenses available. 



 

Note: Fuji does not make Full-Frame cameras

The Power of Street Photography - And How to Master It

“If your photos aren’t good enough, then you’re not close enough” – Robert Capa

If you browse any online photography forum or photographic community, there is always someone talking about street photography. It seems to be a pretty popular topic, despite many people not having a solid grasp as to what it really entails.

In simple terms, street photography is photography aimed at capturing everyday life. It often involves the photographer walking around in a city or a public place, and snapping pictures of normal everyday people doing normal everyday things. What makes street photography so compelling, however, is capturing these everyday activities in a beautiful way. Doing so gives street photography the power to tell a story, or provides a glimpse into the lives of those that inhabit this world. It takes us to a realm of realism, and allows us to understand cultures that are different than our own. This makes street photography such a crucial aspect to not only the photographic community, but society at large.

Of course, taking better street photos is subjective. Some prefer more stylistic aspects to their street photos, while others aim to capture realism in its most prominent light. If you haven’t learned your style yet, try both. Here are a few tips you can follow to make your street photos stand out.

Get Close to your Subjects

There's a reason why Robert Capa (an influential street photographer) said the quote you saw at the top of this page. You won’t capture deep and moody shots if you can’t be comfortable getting up close and personal with your subjects. Sure, a telephoto lens (200mm+) allows you to get shots from far away, but using a telephoto for street photography prevents you from capturing the setting. Some of the best street photographers of all time shot at 35mm, a fairly wide angle. Check out this photo I took on the streets of Hanoi, Vietnam. I was pretty close when I took this shot, and I wasn’t shy getting up close.

 

Shot at 50mm.

 

In this case, I didn’t ask for permission and I got up close and took the shot. But, sometimes getting your subject to pose presents a better shot. The street photographer is always thinking about whether to ask for permission, or capture the shot candid. Each technique provides different results, but both are interesting.

Pro Tip: If you don’t speak the language of your subject, often pointing to your camera and flashing a big smile is enough to get their permission. You can then help them pose using body language.

Don’t Overthink Your Gear

While a faster focusing camera might make it easier to snap those candid shots on the fly, your gear ultimately doesn’t matter. Some of the best street photographers of all time shot with old film cameras that we would consider ancient in today’s digital age. Many street photographers nowadays don’t shoot with the latest gear, as they find it distracts from the main outcome of street photography: capturing the lives of those around us. Even the iPhone can take fantastic street photos. Check out this one I shot I took in Japan a few years ago. Taken with nothing but an old iPhone 5.

 
 

Don’t Leave Your Camera Behind

Street photography is spontaneous and it’s not going to wait for you. Often, you’ll get your best street photos when you least expect it. Take this one, for example. I wasn’t planning on shooting much this day, but when I met this woman I knew I needed to take her portrait. She agreed I could take her photo if I bought some of her pineapple. So I whipped out my camera and captured this. Bottom line, always keep your camera by your side, and always keep an eye out for interesting shots. You never know when the opportunity might present itself!

 
 

Be Creative

Don’t hesitate to break any photographic rules when you see fit. Move around and shoot from different angles, try new things. Shoot things you don’t usually shoot, move close then back up and keep shooting. Take a walk down an alley that looks boring, maybe something down there will catch your eye. Shoot at night, in the snow, in the rain, in the hot sun. You are going to get bad shots when you engage in street photography, especially when you try new things. But if you don't try new things, you might miss the best shot of your life. This shot is a wonderful example of something you could get by branching out. Most photographers would call it quit if it started raining this hard, but this one stuck it out and captured an incredible photo. 

Photo by Rifat Attamimi

Don’t Take it Too Seriously

What makes street photography so great is the actual act of it. Taking a walk in a city is fun, and even more so when your camera is present. When you’re out shooting, you often notice things you might not notice when you don't have your camera. But, it’s important to not stress about getting the “perfect shot”. Many photographers get caught up when they go out to shoot, constantly stressing about capturing the perfect photo. Relax, and just go for a walk. Snap photos when you see fit, but don’t actively hunt for amazing pictures. The opportunity will present itself at one point of another, only then do you seize it. 

 

Snapped this during one of my morning walks in Hanoi, Vietnam. If you want this vintage film look, check out my Premium Lightroom Preset Pack here.

 

Conclusions

Street photography is a powerful form of art, and mastering it isn't as hard as you think. Of course, there are other tips you could follow to improve your street photography skills, but nothing will make you better then getting out there and actually shooting. If you want to get better, grab your camera and hit the street. Overthinking street photography makes the process complicated when it shouldn’t be. These simple and relatively broad tips are all you need to master street photography, it just takes a bit of time and effort. 

PS: I would love to see all of your street photos! Post a link to your best photos in comments below. There is a chance I'll do a photo breakdown on your photo at the end of the week as well :)

A Day Above the Rest - The Abandoned Great Wall of China

Some of the most amazing moments of our lives can be captured in a single photo. These photos often tell a powerful story, and everyone has one. In late July of 2016, I embarked on a journey to the abandoned section of the Great Wall of China. The day that followed was completely unexpected, and its a day I will never forget. Behind this image is the story from that day, a day of adventure, danger, excitement, and accomplishment.

 
 

I woke up early on that morning. The sounds of the city waking up stirred me from sleep, and I sat on the edge of my cot and listened through the small crack in my window. My budget hostel was tucked away in the quiet backstreets of Beijing's Hutong district, an ancient part of the city that is filled with small and interesting alleys that have existed for thousands of years. I ventured outside onto the already busy streets before grabbing a steamed bun at a nearby street stall before heading on my way. I was headed to the unrestored section of the Great Wall of China, and had quite a day ahead of me. Despite being a several hour trip, it wasn’t difficult for me to find a taxi that would take me to the small town at the base of wall. I explained to the driver in broken Chinese where I needed to go. He scoffed and chuckled before saying “okay, we go”. And at that, we were on our way.

I was nervous. There were only a few outdated articles online talking about hiking the abandoned and unrestored section of the Great Wall of China. Hiking this part of the wall was not only considered extremely dangerous due to damage it has suffered over the years, but also incredibly illegal. Multiple people had lost their lives hiking here over the years, and countless others arrested for trespassing. Although I contemplated these things, the idea of experiencing such a huge part of human history took precedence. I was willing to take the risk.

The taxi dropped me in the center of quiet Chinese town at the base of the wall. I was hoping to ask someone for directions, but I soon realized that I was the only person around. It was a foggy day, but luckily I could just see the outline of the wall on the ridge of the mountains to my left. There were no paths leading from the town to the wall, so I forged my own through the dense terrain that separated me from the amazing spectacle that stood before me. It took me an hour to reach the wall and I was already drenched in sweat, but it was worth it.

Reaching the wall brought emotions I had never experienced before. Stretching as far as my eye could see, the wall instantly grabbed every bit of attention I could muster. Curving smoothly and mysteriously through the mountains like a snake, every inch of the wall was something of wonder. It seemed to stare back at me with a sense a wisdom I’d never seen before, and I could feel the power behind it. The textures and rugged state of the wall spoke to its history, and reflected much more than just a beautiful scene. A piece of ancient greatness spanned across the horizon before me, and I took immense pride in that moment.

As a photographer, I could hardly contain myself. I took hundreds of pictures before starting the 6-mile hike. My goal was to reach the restored section of the wall before sunset, where I would catch a taxi back to the city and enjoy a beer at my hostel before settling down for the night. But, upon starting the hike, all of this became unsure. The state of the wall was despicable, and my progress was much slower than I had anticipated. Much of the wall was in complete shambles, and several of the guard towers were not passable without climbing very steep sections of the wall. I trudged onward, dedicated to make it to the restored section of the wall before nightfall.

After hiking for a few hours I approached one of the most dangerous sections of the wall. I had read that several lives are claimed here every year. The fact that I hadn’t seen a single person on the wall that day really put this number in perspective. This section of the wall was built into a vertical cliff. At least, it had been. Over the years, the wall had completely fallen off the side of the mountain, leaving only the sharp and treacherous rock of the mountain behind. (You can see this section of the wall in the image). You cannot bypass this part of the wall, and you must climb it using only your hands and feet. A small slip or mistake would land you in the rubble hundreds of feet below, and nobody would be around to find you. At the time, I didn’t grasp the danger of the situation. Although a bit tired, soaking wet with sweat, and slightly dehydrated, I was still in a state of awe from being in such a historically significant place. I made it to the top without too many issues, but soon found myself incredibly tired. I had underestimated the length and difficulty of the hike, and had run out of water a few hours before. By this point I was dehydrated, hungry, and the fog started to block my view. A storm was quickly approaching, and this section of the wall in the rain is a death sentence. I knew I needed to get off the wall before the storm hit, and the clock was ticking.

I picked up my pace and started making decent progress. The rest of the wall was not as dangerous as the section I had passed, but the fog was starting to dominate the landscape. I couldn’t see the wall in the distance, and I had no idea how much farther I had to go. If the wall wasn’t such an easy path to follow, I would surely have been lost. The sun was beginning to set as well, and I wasn’t sure I would be able to find a taxi that could take me back to the hostel. I had the option of camping on the wall, but I didn’t bring the proper supplies and it was quite cold due to the altitude. I had no choice but to continue on.

It took me another two hours to reach the restored section of the wall. After 8 hours full of emotions of all sorts, I had conquered the Great Wall. I was greeted by a group of surprised Chinese tourists, who proceeded to praise me before giving me a bottle of water. They gave me a Chinese flag to hold, and snapped a few photos of me before heading on their way. I was feeling an immense sense of accomplishment, and despite being exhausted beyond anything I had experienced before, was on top of the world. I had done something not many others have, and I had the photos to prove it. To say this day was tumultuous would underplay the true depth of emotions I experienced on the wall, emotions that made that day as special as it was.

It is days like these that keep us feeling alive and hungry for what life has to offer. Experiencing emotions outside of our everyday demeanor takes us to a world outside of the mundane, and allows us to thrive. I keep this photo close to me, because it represents all of these things. It’s a day I’ll never forget, and one that I’ll always try to match.

What photo represents something to you? Post it in the comments below and tell me why!

More photos from that day:

 

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