Some Quick Tips to Taking Better Photographs

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No, I don’t know everything.

photo of iceland sunsetBut I do like to offer some, possibly, helpful hints to my readers who may also be budding photographers. These are all things that I still take into consideration on each and every job I’m hired to work.

They have been useful to my growth as an artist and as a professional. Many of them were hints and lessons that I learned early on, and were the fundamental building blocks on which I was able to sharpen my skills and get a better eye for creating lasting images.

I’ll be honest, some of these are just common sense and self-explanatory. Anyone with an elementary knowledge behind the camera will understand and apply these suggestions and work from them to help inform their expertise. These aren’t intended to be any kind of hard and fast rules or sacred commandments of photography that must be followed.

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Ways to Draw Your Audience Into Your Work

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I’m often for asked for advice or tips from budding photographers on how to improve their work.

portrait of young womanOne of the things I always tell them is this: make sure you bring enough depth to the composition of your pictures. If you can draw the eye of your viewer into the image, they will see more than just a photograph. They will feel your work, the emotion laid bare before them to be experienced instead of just merely viewed. One of the quickest ways to ruin your layout is by giving it a flat aesthetic. Open it up through simple manipulation of shadow, perspective, and even color saturation. All of these can go a long way in producing vibrant and arresting material that will captivate your audience and make them remember your work each and every time.

How exactly does one go about bringing depth to their photograph? There are some relatively basic techniques available to you for achieving the right amount of intensity and layering that will make every photograph memorable.

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Some of the Most Beautiful Places to Shoot

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lake in san martin de los andesI’ve been hired to photograph some of the most incredible locations in the world.

I’ve also traveled to many of them on my own dime just to have an opportunity to capture these places for my personal work. I’ve been incredibly fortunate and blessed to have the means and ability to visit all of these incredible locales. There are unique and memorable stories associated with my visits to every one of these regions, and I’ll probably talk about many of them in future blog posts. But for right now, I’d like to offer this list of some of the most beautiful places to shoot.

All of you photographers out there, I highly recommend you make your way to every single one at some point in your life. There’s magic in all of them. The people are amazing, the environments are unique, and there are elements to each that have helped to make me a better shooter. I learned something about my craft and honed my own skills visiting each of these sites. They can do the same for you.

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The DIY Camera Case

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A good friend of mine, David, was marvelling at one of my camera boxes the other day. He had been helping out on a photo essay I was working on along Broadway through downtown Nashville. (Amazing spot, by the way. So many great things to shoot around there.)

image of my diy camera caseThe funny part was, this was the box I had made myself for the EOS 6D SLR and the lenses I like to use on it. After my hard case had been stolen in Brazil (luckily the thing was empty), I built my own for the trip back and was so satisfied with the job I had done that I have been using it ever since.

David thought I had bought it at a camera store online someplace. But nope, just little old me, some arts and crafts skills that I’ve had ever since college, and a really good hard case that I picked up at a luggage store. I purchased the case at a local shop in Morro de Sao Paulo but when I took it back to the hotel I just didn’t think the lining was protective enough.

So I had my assistant Samantha track down some foam rubber sheets, a couple of X-Acto blades and markers. Not the easiest materials to find when you’re in a little sleepy little surfing village along the northeast coast of Brazil, but that’s why my Sammy Anne is a complete and utter rock star. That girl can find you anything, anywhere, no matter what, no matter when. I don’t know how she does it, and sometimes I wonder if I really want to know.

Anyway, back to the point. This is a good skill to have if you’re serious about your photography equipment (and if you’re even thinking about becoming a professional, you should be). Yes, you obviously want to get the best protective case possible for your gear; but sometimes the stuff that’s out there isn’t always better than something you can fashion yourself. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, the most expensive one of anything isn’t always the best.

So I built my own camera case for the EOS 6D and David didn’t even realize it. How did I do it you ask? Funny you should mention it. I’m going to tell you right now.

As I mentioned, you really need four components; the outer shell of a luggage case, some foam rubber sheets, X-Acto knives, and a marker. You might also want to use an electric knife for a cleaner cut but that’s up to you. This doesn’t have to be perfect to be effective, but if you really want that “fresh from the factory” look to your case, then go with something that’s going to cut the foam without chewing it up.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Measure the width and length of the case you’re using, then cut the rubber sheets to fit within.
  2. Next, place each of the camera components you want to place inside on top of the rubber.
  3. With the marker, trace around each in the location you want to place the component. Camera, lenses, flash, anything else you want to stick inside there. (Again, up to you how clean you want it to be. Just make sure you get the shape correct.)
  4. Cut out the shapes from the foam rubber. Delicately if you want crisp edges. Just make sure the openings are tight enough to keep your components held snug inside the foam.
  5. Place each component inside the corresponding cut. Make sure they fit tight inside and do any extra trimming to keep your gear seated securely inside its assigned location in the case.

Voila.

You’re done. You have your own makeshift camera case, and you probably spent far less than you would have at one of the fancy photo stores. This is a great way for beginners who may be tight on funds to have a strong, dependable case to secure their gear.

Give it a try, I think you’ll be quite surprised at how good you are making something like this. It’s easy and inexpensive. Good luck!

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What I Love About Shooting Nashville

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I love my city.

the nashville skyline and riverThere are so many great things to do and places to see. But for a shutterbug like myself, Nashville holds an almost endless wealth of opportunities for creating that perfect shot. I’ve been all around this town and discovered so many wonderful locations, from the obscure to the downright inspirational.

If you ever plan on visiting this amazing city, make sure you’ve got your gear with you. For those of you who already live here, it’s likely you’ve already visited many of these locales. Either way, no matter if you’re a local or a tourist just visiting for a few days, you have to check out these areas. You’ll be glad you did, because you’ll get some gorgeous images for posterity.

All of these locations are easy to get to and offer all kinds of subjects to aim your lens toward, both day and night. I hope I get to see some of your photos!

Centennial Park

A beautiful, if small park that holds a lot of wonder to be captured and there’s even an exact replica of the Greek Parthenon. You can roam the gardens, you’ll come across a fountain that sits in a lake which reflects the sky beautifully around magic hour.

Hamilton Creek Sailboat Marina

More water, but this time with luxurious sailboats offering all kinds of shapes and lines that you can photograph. The masts all lined up next to one another, coiled ropes, wooden piers jutting out from the shoreline. You’re limited only by your imagination here.

Kirkland Hall. (John Russell/Vanderbilt University)Downtown Broadway

One of the busiest thoroughfares that runs through the city itself, you can do everything from people watch to study all the neon signs at night. Storefronts, country bars, the vibe is utterly electric and even photographers who are just starting out should have no problem capturing the atmosphere of the heart of our city.

The Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge

If you want a stunning view of the Nashville skyline, then head on over to the Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge. Designed solely for people to walk along and take in the sights, you can find all kinds of great positions from which to snap pictures of the city on high, day or night.

Cumberland River Shoreline

Climb down from the Bridge and you get a much more dramatic view of the Nashville skyline. This time from the shore of the river that runs beneath Shelby Street. Shooting a subject from a lower vantage point dramatically changes the perception of the photograph. So get some shots from both locations and compare your images side by side. You’ll get two very distinct results.

Vanderbilt University

This gorgeous campus features everything from the unique architecture of the school buildings, to the football stadium, to the rowing teams practicing along the lake in the mornings. You can literally spend hours wandering the area, capturing some brilliant images. I know I have!

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