Photographer Q&A | Photography Education

I get a lot of questions from photographers and those who want to become photographers, either just as a hobby or professional. I went back though my direct messages and posted some common ones.

What is the most important camera setting to get a good photo?
Actually it is not a camera setting, it is light and learning how to use light. In the years of teaching numerous beginner photographers, I have learned that not everyone sees light and how it sculpts the subject. I have discovered when they can’t find the main light source to look for the shadows. So looking for your light and looking at the direction the shadows are pointing and knowing how these will sculpt your subject.

How many focus points do you use?
One! I like to control where my camera focus point is. I manually move this focus point when composing my image. Usually on the eye of the subject. Many think that when they have multiple focus points, the camera will focus on all the points and everything should be in focus. Depending on what your aperture is, the focus points will focus on what is closest to the camera, not the whole subject.

When you do action shots, do you use burst mode for your shutter?
Depends. If it is slow action no, I work on getting my timing correct. For horses, this is walking, trot/jog & lope/canter, over fences and much more. The only time I use burst is horse racing and occasionally liberty photos. I find my timing can do a better job at getting the correct leg position that doing burst mode. Plus I want my camera shutter to last. Camera shutters only last so long before they need replacing. All my cameras are already are on their 2nd or 3rd shutter. Lastly, when going through my images I rather have to sort through 100 rather than 500. I can get the proofs much faster to my client when there are less to cull through.

What editing programs do you use? How do you pick the photos to use?
Even though these were asked separately, I put these together because , in my opinion, they kind of go together.
I use Lightroom for selecting images and for some editing, color/exposure fixes. Some retouching and cleaning up of background.. I use Photoshop for more extensive edits.
Lightroom is the program I use for selecting images. I have a 3 step process for selecting images to present to clients. My first step is to do a quick run through getting rid of closed eyes, flopping ears and duplicates, this eliminates about 30-50% The next step is a quality check where i get rid out of focus or motion blurred images.. I like my focus to be on the subjects eyes, so if the main subjects eyes are not in focus, I will not use. This eliminates another 5%. My next step is to narrow down my favorites of each pose. After selecting, I will do some quick editing and they are ready to go. Most the images I use on my website and social media are images the client selected as their favorite.

What is the best way to organize photos?
I really don’t think there is a best way to organize your photos. Whatever works for you is the best way and it may take some adjusting, but do develop a method early and stick to it. Having a consistent organization method is key. When I go back to look for old images when I did not have a consistent method I can’t find anything.
Here is my method. I shoot in RAW for starters, but I do not keep my RAW images.
Step 1) I create a folder for a session on my computer and an external hard drive. I name it this way:
For equine sessions: ranch -model -horse -date
For senior sessions: model- horse- sr19 -date
Step 2) Import to Lightroom & at the same time I use the LR option to backup to external hard drive at the same time
Step 3) See my lightroom workflow in the previous question. When finished with my LR workflow, I export the selected images to JPGS into a subfolder named edits. I then delete the RAWs off of computer. Don’t worry I still have the RAWs on the external. I back the JPGS up onto my SmugMug account and onto the external.
Step 4) Once my client selects their favorites, I move those images into another sub-folder called Picks. Those are edited/retouched. then backed up. Products are then delivered.
Step 5) Once a month I go through my computer and external hard drive. I make sure everything is backed up. I deleted RAWs from files that the order has been completed/deleivered. Yes I delete my RAWS, I still have my JPGs. In 10 years, I haven’t needed my RAWS ever.
NOTE: I do save some image copies on my computer that I will want for marketing purposes. I have separate folder for those.
TIP: To find my images fast on old hard drives, I have a screen shot (see photo sample)of the files on each hard drive and print that off. Each hard drive is labeled to correspond to the file sheet.
TIP #2: To keep your hard drive for going out, store in clean dry area. I keep mine in a safe and throw some silicone pouches in there with them. Also plug them into your computer every few months to keep them working.

When starting a photography business, what is the most important thing to learn?
Assuming you already have photography and post productions skills there are several things you need to know. First is you need to know how to market yourself. Marketing skills are just as important as photography skills. Second, have a business plan. Third be legit, pay your taxes, get insurance and so forth. If you want it to be a business and want to earn a profit, treat it as such.

If you have any other questions feel free to ask and I will answer on the next Q&A Blog.

Want to learn more, check out some of the classes, one on one mentor session, private photography lessons and workshops.

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