Lightroom workflow

When I first got started with Lightroom, I think it was version 4, I knew I needed to understand the whole Catalog system.  I didn't want to end up years down the road wishing I'd done something a different way and then spend days changing it all later.

So, here I am, almost 6 years into it, and I do things exactly as I learned how to do it day one, and I'm still very happy with my control and ability to find EVERY shoot I've ever done and bring it up with all included files.  Right now I have 26 terebytes of photos from over 1,000 shoots so it's pretty important to be able to navigate that mass.

Here is a video I did to explain the process.  Mine isn't the right way for everyone, but it's a great place to start.

Enjoy learning and I hope this helps.

Watch your head!!

After over five years of passionately following photography I have the opportunity to look back and see the various stages I went though.  I don't expect I'm so different from anyone else and went through more or less than others did.  And, I tend to sit back in my chair often and ponder the why and how of things.  Especially things that bother me.

For example, there was a time I got jealous when a couple models I'd worked with often, worked with some others and got amazing images.  I was more upset about being jealous.  I even wrote a whole blog about it and resulting epiphany.

For those of you just starting up, you're going to suffer the trials and tribulations of models flaking on you, or having to beg or pay people to work with you.  There was a time that any shoot was fairly iffy.  And typically the talent wasn't top notch because, like me, they were just getting started.  The posing usually sucked, my directing being most of that problem, and it was just all around practice runs.

The reason for the rough road in the beginning was the lack of style.  Style, in this case, included everything.  Directing, lighting, post production.  They all sucked.  They were supposed to suck.  I was new.  I was finding my way as we all do.  It's called paying our dues.

This was the time when just about everyone else was taking pictures that I liked.  So there is something else we learn in the beginning.  This is were we start looking at what images we like and subconsciously deciding what we like and don't like about an image and why.  I think this is also a BIG contributor to our styles.  We are narrowing down who's work is stelar (to us) and we strive to make our own work eye catching and thoughtful.  And that comes from using the combination of bits of other's styles we liked.

Those first couple years are full of turmoil and self doubt.  Can we make it?  Why are we doing this?  Is my passion strong enough to take me through this phase.  Some don't recognize the process at all and jump in thinking they are going to make it to the top (if there is a top) within weeks of months.  Some take longer than others to get through the levels, but I've observed the ones that stagnate and don't grow seem to be those that don't understand the growing, reaching, and learning involved to get to the next levels.  They don't know about paying the 'dues'.  These photographers don't understand why they don't develop a style, or consider just adding a filter to a picture a style.  

Looking back over the 5 years I can say I've grown considerably.  I'm proud of everything I've learned, all the things I tried and failed, and even the things I found by tripping over them.  I've always known there was something else...something just out of reach but still reachable.  I'm good with that.  I live for that.  It's never 'the end' of learning and trying new things.

I love to work with new photographers and show them what I've learned.  Sharing is what life is about after all.  I also love working with the ones who have had the passion and have years into it.  I can learn from them as they can from me.  When two passions enter the same room it can be great fun and a lasting event from all they learn from each other.

This is where enlarged egos have no place.  Not if you are going to grow.  There are plenty of top photographers that are open to anything and everything and share and don't see others as 'competition' but as peers.  Those that post videos or answer questions about how they do everything are my heroes.  They get it. The true creatives are excited about it and want to share.  The ones that are not nearly as confident appear use their ego to hide their lack of confidence.  The chest beating and self important people in any industry usually lack the confidence and experiance to actually be what they want to appear to be.  And sadly, many are actually talented but will stagnate because growing is a bit to frightening to them.  If your doing pretty well with floaties why learn to swim, right?  Of course, this is just my observations.  I'm not a physiologist.  Heck, I could probably use one. 

If you are brand new, understand the phases you need to pass through to build the style and confidence you'll eventually have.  There are no short cuts.  Read, learn, watch videos, and heck, read a lot of blogs!  Wear out your first camera!  For those that are 'there', have the confidence, the style, and do amazing art with their photography, very cool!  You can relate to all I've said I expect.  And, more important, you know that you aren't 'there'.  It's a journey.  A smoother journey from here because the talent you work with is far more talented and creative.  That, of course, adds a LOT to the success of our work.

I used to get depressed and get the photographer's version of writer's block.  Then I learned it was just what happens before a new level of style and technique break through.  Today I get excited about those blocks as I wonder what the next level will be like.

Enjoy the journey!!

Off the reservation

I don't want your money. Not the most profitable way to run a business.  But if I were to take people's money they would probably expect something in return.  Therefore I would have to create pictures I don't necessarily want to create.  (Hence the particular image...'confined and restricted'.)

Confined beauty
Confined beauty

That has become unacceptable to me .  I love to shoot, and I love changing those shots into my style of art.  With that and learning new skills to create with and teaching others what I've learned, I'm following what I love most in life.

We all hope there comes a time in our lives where we can do what we love and not one other thing...well, except taking out the garbage maybe.  I'm there.

Someday I hope to be good enough with my art that people might want to put it on their wall.  Or other photographers use it for inspiration for their own work.  I'm working on a body scape book so maybe I'll generate a little income from that.  But frankly, the joy of knowing someone is enjoying my art is infinitely more important to me.

For the models and hair stylists and makeup artist and designers who have and will be working with me, thank you!  Without your talents and ideas my art would be very limited indeed.  Thank you all and I hope we work together for many years to come.  I assume you are wanting the same

The other part of photography I truly love is showing others what I may have learned that may enhance their experience.  One on one workshops are amazing and I love the personal sharing that comes with that.

So, bottom line is...

If you come to me and want a family shoot, or a baby, or a dog, of senior pictures, or a wedding, or your gold fish shot, don't be offended if I thank you for thinking of me but I decline.  It's not personal, it's just not what I do.

I hope you all get to that point in your life where you can let your heart lead you to your joys and leave logic and the need to make money behind.  Meanwhile, if you have any ideas for creating some art with me, most certainly chat with me about it.  THAT is what I do!

Have an amazing life!!

Learning photography...

That hard first step

Doing anything new is always exciting and a big pat of that is learning everything you can about it.  If you are passionate about anything it's best to know all you can to enjoy it to the fullest.  Day one is the hardest.  You don't even know what you need to know.  Kinda' hard to ask questions at that point.  This is where curiosity and a lot of time comes in.  You have to understand the tools first.  What does every button on the camera so and how does it change the picture you are taking.  At first you don't have to know everything perfectly, just that they are there and what they do.  Later you'll have a need and you'll at least know it's possible and revisit exactly how.

Same with learning things like Photoshop and Lightroom.  Don't learn exactly what buttons to push to get a certain thing to happen.  UNDERSTAND what that function is...and then generally remember how to get to it.

The reason I really push the generalization of knowledge over button by button exact process is that it's very limiting and much easier to learn by feel.

The camera

To someone new to their camera there are SO MANY buttons and menu items.  Heck, even I don't know all of the features of my camera and this is 4 years into it.  The manuals are NOT the place to learn about your camera.  They tend to tell you specific things and assume


you know why you'd need that.  Setting the shutter speed or fStop is, as you might guess, very important.  The manual will tell you how.  But not WHY you might set one at f8 and the other at 1/200 of a second.  If you know the WHY and how those functions work in your camera it'll make more sense.  It's more like learning by knowing how something works rather then memorizing buttons and thinking that's all you'll need to know.

It's a bit like a painter with his pallet.  Knowing the colors is one thing.  Knowing how to mix them to get exactly the right shades for a flower is another that doesn't come from exact measurements but from gut feeling from just doing and knowing what results have been in the past.

If you know your camera, and that comes from a hundred hours of pointing, playing, experimenting, and shooting everything that moves or doesn't move, then you have a tool you can walk into a situation with and know exactly what to do to get the shot you want.

I guess the point is, a single class isn't going to make you an expert.  But it CAN show you things you can do and give you those elusive questions you didn't know you had.  Now you'll know what you want to learn.

Post processing


There are a few folks out there that insist that, in order to be great, you need to be able to take perfect pictures and not have to do anything to them to make them better right out of the camera.   More power to them.  I see them as coming from two groups.  One works very hard to make a shot look like reality with great lighting, and the other who are just to lazy to learn post processing.  Frankly, I'm not much of a fan of reality.  I'm an artist.  And I can't think of any camera that takes pictures the way I want them to be when I'm finished.  And even if you are a wedding, or senior photographer, you'd better clean up that shot.  People want to see themselves as they think they look, not with that pimple that emerged on their noggin that morning. Back to the point.  Learning by doing and feeling and not by keystroke and menu by menu memorization is the best way, in my opinion, of learning software.  Learn what it CAN do and not how to do it.  Anyone can figure out how.  It's knowing it can that is what you need to remember.

So, learning Lightroom or Photoshop, or any of the computer tools should be a matter of learning what it can do, not exactly HOW to do it.  Think about it, if you didn't know what it can do the how isn't important.

The other very important reason to learn all you can in all aspects of photography is that your personal style will develop from those skills.  When people can recognize your pictures from others you will then have a marketable product.

If you take one of my classes expect to walk away with, 'Wow, I know what I want to go practice and develop!'  I won't let you take a bunch of step by step notes because you'll leave not knowing what you can really do.  Makes little sense.

Of course, I give classes.  I highly recomend the one-on-one classes.  Learn more in the 'Learning Photography' part of this site.

Shutter lust...

Sometimes someone new to photography asks me for advice.  It's a lot like walking into a grocery store and asking, what tastes good here.  Not an easy question since it's really self exploration that will help someone find what they love and as a result usually get good at that. To learn what tastes good (to you) in the store you have to try it...all.  So, I usually suggest this.

Go to a place where you've been many times before and sit down and just start looking at it...really look. Developing the eye for interesting backgrounds, views, seeing how the light is playing through the trees on the side of a building, or how a path in a park is shaded by trees. All of these things we have seen and just take for granted in a literal sense and not in the artistic sense. The artistic lines in an old man's face, or the colorful and delicate pattern of the iris of a young girl's blue eye...

Washington DC
Washington DC

Just walk and look with your heart and not your head and you'll see a whole different world to shoot.

Don't look at the back of your camera either.  Just shoot and keep your head up and eye looking for something interesting.  While you might be looking at your pictures you are probably missing a moment in time, an elusive shot, that is lost forever.  Shoot bracketed and you'll be fine.

Leave your technical self behind and just look at the world through your creative eye.  Through your childish eye.  And discover what's been there all along.