Conquering Obstacles on Location with Craig LaMere

December 1st, 2016


Conquering Obstacles on Location with Craig LaMere


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This month I show you how I choose lenses, light and modifiers in a challenging real-world shoot to overcome obstacles and create the images I want for my clients.


The Consult


I have a supercool client whose sons are boxers. I’d shot the older son a few years before, and it was time to schedule the shoot for Austin, the other son. A lot had changed with my studio and how sessions are planned since the shoot with her first son, so we met at the studio to talk.


The best business on earth is repeat business. You are familiar with your clients, and they are familiar with you. One thing that’s really important when dealing with repeat clients is the amount of time between shoots and the changes in your business since the last shoot.


If there has been a large gap in time since the last shoot, it is vital to bring your client up to speed on any changes. The most important is any change in your pricing model. Your repeat clients do not take into account your growth, and remember only what they paid the last time. Your repeat clients want a similar experience, and when you drop the new bill on them, it can be a not so fun experience if you have not prepared them. This is one of the many reasons it is so important to have a presession consult.


We covered the changes, and my client was cool with it, so we planned the shoot.


Getting the Lay of the Land


I’m a firm believer in preplanning shoots and scouting locations so you have a game plan. Sometimes in the real world, though, you do not get that opportunity. This was the case with this shoot. My client wanted to do the shoot in a boxing gym her son worked out at. I asked to get into it before the shoot, but I couldn’t.


I arrived at the gym and started assessing what I could do and what I could not do in the space. The images that popped in my head when thinking about a boxing gym included high ceilings with a few rings scattered around, heavy bags hanging in open areas and speed bags in the corners. I was thinking of the scenes in Rocky. That’s not quite what I found.


The gym was not open at all; everything was in very tight quarters. The ceilings were low, with florescent banks of lights. They had used the space the best they could by cramming in as much equipment as they could, which is great for a gym but not so great to shoot in. There were some challenges and decisions to be made.




I brought what I thought would be good modifiers to give me the looks I wanted. I brought 7-inch sliver pan reflectors with grids, two strips lights with grids, my 22-inch beauty dish and my 16-inch beauty dish. The commonality among all the modifiers is that they are made to control light precisely and produce a more specular light. With the environment and the subject, I knew I was not going to shoot any soft diffused images. I don’t shoot speedlights, so I brought mono heads, power packs and extension cords. For lenses, I had my Nikon 14-24 2.8 G ED, Nikon 24-70 2.8 G, Nikon 85 1.4 G and Nikon 58 1.4 G.


Ring Shoot


The room the ring was in was small. It was about the same size as the room, and there was access to the ring only from the right side and the front. That limited the angles I could shoot. The back wall and the side wall were close to the ring, so I knew I would not be able to get any real depth of field if I wanted to shoot Austin in the back of the ring with an inside-the-ring perspective. If I wanted any kind of depth of field, I had to stay to the front of the ring and shoot from the outside looking in. There were two ring shots I wanted. The first was to have him in the corner of the ring, surrounded by the ropes, which I would use as leading lines. The second was him at the front and inside the ring, leaning on the ropes.


The first shot I set up was the corner shot. Because the walls were so close and they were pretty rough, I thought it would be cool to pull them in and make more of an environmental portrait where the background told part of the story rather than a regular portrait focused just on Austin.


Because I was in such tight space and I wanted to see as much of the room as I could, I shot my 24-70 at 24mm. At first, I wanted to shoot the image with one light and use my 22-inch beauty dish. But it was just too big a light source for the area, and kept making hot spots on the walls.


I moved to my 16-inch dish and put the grid on it to contain the light. It worked great for Austin, lit him up just the way I wanted, but it was not enough light spill for the rest of the image. The dish was just too small to make up for the lack of ambient in the room. The solution was to bring in another light to add fill. The ring was brighter on one side than the other because of the front door. I had to pick a modifier that let me pinpoint the light better. I used a strip light with a grid. It worked well. I was able to mix the light enough to get it to fill in what I needed, but it wasn’t too specular on the background.


The front of the ring shoot was pretty straightforward. I still wanted directional light with a lot of contrast, but because I didn’t want to use two lights, I used a strip light with grid. The strip light gave me the latitude to shoot whatever pattern I wanted. I shot some images with the strip, but in the end, I liked the ones shot Rembrandt the most. The front of the ring was close enough to the windows that there was plenty of ambient light, so all I had to do was move my shutter down to whatever speed I wanted to give me the amount of fill I wanted.


Heavy Bag Portrait


The heavy bag area was the hardest area in the gym to deal with because of the height of the ceilings, the height of the lights and the gaps between the bags. When I first looked at the room, two types of images came to mind. One was a pretty standard portrait and the other was more of an action shot.


I wanted to shoot some wide shots to take in all the cool equipment and showcase the environment, and I wanted to shoot closer to be more traditional portrait style. I tried my 14-24 lens first to take in most of the area, but it was just too wide below 24mm and started to distort the edges and bend them too much. I went to my 24-70 and stayed around 24-30mm. Because the room was so dark at the wide angle, I needed to have more separation between Austin and the background.


In most cases, if I want separation, I throw a kick on the background, but because I wanted the image to be badass, I decided to rim-light him and slow the shutter down to pull more light in to bring the background out. When I rim-light in my studio, I use a strip, but in this situation, with the gaps between the bags and how I had to place the light in the tight area, when I was at 24mm, I could see the strip in the shot and I was getting spill from the light in the lens.


My next choice was to use my 7-inch silver pan reflector and put a grid on it. I used a 20-degree grid, which is tight but still open enough to cover your subject almost full length. The other good thing with this setup is you don’t get the flare like you do from strips. Once I had the accent light worked out, it was easy to pick the main. I used a 22-inch beauty dish.


I used the same setup for the closer portrait images, and just shot at 70mm.


Speed Bag and Heavy Bag Action


I wanted to capture Austin laying into the heavy bag. I wanted to rim-light him for drama, even more than for separation. There was enough ambient for the background to be seen. I used the 7-inch pan reflector and grid again for the same reason I used that combo in the last shot. For the main, I used a gridded strip light; instead of keeping it vertical, I turned it horizontal so I could get the most coverage width-wise. I wanted the most width so the light would spill the least on the ceiling.


I told Austin to go crazy on the bag, and I would freeze the movement. When you are freezing movement with strobes, you have a couple of limitations. The first is sync speed. Sync speed is how fast your camera and flash work together. With most bodies, max sync is somewhere between 1/200th and 1/250th of a second.


The second and maybe the more cumbersome limitation is the recycle time of the flash you are using. The more power you have to use to get proper exposure, the slower the power source will be in regenerating to the correct power level. When I’m freezing movement, I know I will be making some adjustments in how I shoot to give my strobe and power source the best opportunity to keep up with the speed I am shooting at. I adjust the power and the ISO of my camera until I get the perfect marriage of speed and power.


I start by moving the power down to about quarter power. At quarter power, your battery pack should be able to recycle almost instantaneously. The trick is to move the ISO up until you get the f-stop you want. Once I meter to about f4 to f5.6, I’m golden. Most of the time, I am somewhere between ISO 320 and ISO 500 to get the right combination. With today’s bodies, shooting at ISO 500 to ISO 2000 is no biggie for noise and image breakdown.


The last shot I wanted was Austin hitting the speed bag. We shot some images the same way we shot the heavy bag. That was cool, but I wanted something different that conveyed movement. I slowed the shutter way down. I still shot the strobe, which would freeze an instance in time, but by keeping the shutter open, the camera would record what was moving. The reason the camera would record the movement of the speed bag beyond the duration of the flash is because there was enough ambient light in the room to fully see the bag without introducing artificial light. The effect was a cool blur that gave the image a feeling of movement.


In the end, I was happy with the shoot and the challenges I had to overcome. Every shoot is a learning experience.


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A Step Back in Time with Melanie Anderson

December 1st, 2016


A Step Back in Time with Melanie Anderson


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On a recent trip to Italy with my daughter Sarah, we were walking the streets of Venice when I was reminded of honeymoon photos I had seen of my parents that they shot more than 45 years ago. I contacted my parents and asked if they knew where those pictures were and if they could send me a few. I was thinking how neat it would be to visit some of the same places they did on their honeymoon.


My dad sent me several images, two specifically that I decided would be fun to reenact. It was quite an emotional experience, knowing I was in the exact spot my parents were at almost half a century before, and here I was now, enjoying the city with my eldest daughter.


It took only moments to figure out the first location, the corner of the Piazza San Marco, in front of Saint Mark’s Basilica. I positioned myself in the far left corner with the building visible from behind. We found this challenging since the buildings had been painted and updated, but we were sure this was the location.


The pose was another story: ensuring the shoulders and chin were angled the same, trying to duplicate the expression, etc. It took us 40 images and 30 minutes to get just the right look. You will notice the original pic of my dad has a sepia tone. I had a difficult time finding just the right tonality. After many attempts, I decided to just convert the image to black and white, and found just the right look for the feeling I was attempting.


Heading into Florence, we encountered the same challenges. This picture was captured at the Piazzale Michelangelo, overlooking the beautiful landscape, views of the Cathedral, the Bell Tower, and more. You will notice that the background in my dad’s picture looks closer to him. I had a terrible time with that. In the end, we decided it must have been due to the lens he used at the time, as the iPhone was unable to achieve the exact same look and feel and the distance to the buildings in the background.




My dad used a 35mm Nikon Reflex with Kodachrome 35mm film. I used my iPhone 6. Yes, I know, Melanie, how could you? You used your cell phone to recreate an image from over 45 years ago? Why, yes, I did. When traveling, I find that my phone captures incredible images, many of which have been published in this magazine and won several print competitions. Today’s technology allows me to create on the fly. I like to travel light and use apps to edit my artistic vision quickly. The editing apps I used for this project were Snapseed, Picfx and Mextures.


The photos here of my dad in Italy were taken with his iPhone. He opened up the album and captured them and texted them to me. It’s ironic that he took a printed picture from an album that is over 45 years old, captured the moment with his iPhone and sent it to me from Maryland to Italy. Digital technology has come a long way. I didn’t even think about attempting this project until I was already in Venice and felt nostalgic knowing I had seen an album 20 years before, and felt compelled to recreate a moment in time.


Importance of Printing


Imagine if my parents hadn’t printed these pictures. When I asked Dad for copies, he said he didn’t have many, that it was expensive to print and they didn’t have the money at the time, so they did not capture and print as often as they would have liked. I’m so grateful for the ones they did print. I would not have had the emotional connection I have now to Italy. Having seen these images when I was a child, and then being there, was a flashback moment for me. It wasn’t until we were in Venice that I remembered seeing images of them from Italy from so many years ago. The impact of them actually being printed and placed in an album affected me some 45 years later. This makes me want to go back through old albums and see what else I can recreate.


How different our process is now: We capture everything, everywhere, anytime via our phones, and upload immediately to social media. We have thousands of images in digital albums online. So many memories captured, yet none printed. This experience has changed me. This was a reminder to capture and actually print images from my travels. I want my children and grandchildren to know me through photos, by having them actually printed and in an album. It’s an opportunity to share an experience that I doubt would happen if all these images and experiences were shared only online.


When people ask how my trip was, these are some of the first images I show them. I am so glad I took the time away from site-seeing to take a step back in time and relive a moment and location that my parents enjoyed so many years ago.


Action Plans:

  • Find old photos of your family, and recreate them.
  • Print and create an album of your travels.

Share these experiences with loved ones.


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the December issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

Lighting in Tight Spaces with Michael Corsentino

December 1st, 2016


Lighting in Tight Spaces with Michael Corsentino


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the December issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.


Whether you’re in a studio, office or on location, space is always an issue. A large studio with plenty of room is wonderful, but space is at a severe premium. What do you do? This month, I walk you through the considerations, tools, techniques and ways to get the job done when space is super tight. We also go behind the scenes for a fashion portrait shoot produced in a 10x10x10-foot space so you can see what’s possible with a limited footprint.


Let’s start with gear.


Equipment is a major consideration when you’re planning a shoot in a confined space. Things like large boom arms, lots of heavy-duty grip equipment, gargantuan octabanks and a ton of lights aren’t normally feasible; even when they are, they end up being more of a burden than an advantage. Your best bet is to work light on your feet. For the most part, that means one or two lights. I like moonlights due to their compact, lightweight form factor. Add small modifiers, grids to keep the light from your strobes exactly where you want it, and a backdrop that fits your concept, the space and the method you’ll be using to transport it. For this shoot, I used a 10-foot painted canvas backdrop that rolls up for transport. For something more compact, try Lastolite’s variety of high-quality collapsible backgrounds that fold down to a very manageable size.


My modifiers of choice for lighting in confined spaces, and often on location, are small octabanks, strip boxes, beauty dishes and ring flash. Each of these is easy to transport, quick and easy to set up, and they can be supported on a compact, foldable C-stand that’s ideal for transport. I typically rely on grids for all but the ring flash in order to keep the light from my strobes from spilling everywhere.


The value of grids quickly becomes evident in tight spaces where light can end up bouncing all over the place, creating a very flat, boring look. For the shoot featured in this article, I used two Elinchrom 500ws ELC monolights, an Elinchrom Deep Octa and an Elinchrom 14×35 Strip Box, both fitted with Lighttools soft egg crate grids. When you’re working in confined spaces, 500ws heads provide more than enough power in most cases. You don’t need as much power as you would in situations that call for more distance between your lights, subject and background.


With limited space, typically one of your biggest challenges is controlling the amount of light falling on the background. In a studio with ample space, it’s easy to move your subject away from the background and control the amount of illumination using either distance, separate lighting zones or both. In a confined space with little to no space between your subject and the background, this isn’t possible—you’ll need other tools and techniques to shape and control the light falling on your subject and background.


To do that, you’ll need to rely on the angle of incidence, which is the direction of your lights in relationship to the model and backdrop, as well as the tools you use to modify and shape those lights. For this purpose, honeycomb grids, both soft egg crates and hard grid spots, are indispensable tools. This is because grids take the light coming out of a softbox, beauty dish or reflector and channel it into a much more narrowly confined beam, allowing you to place light precisely where you want it and keep it away from areas you don’t—in this case, the backdrop.


The other essential component in controlling the light falling on the backdrop is the direction and placement of your lights. Even with a grid in place, if your lights are pointed directly toward the backdrop, you’ll have a very limited amount of control over its illumination. You’ll be lighting your subject and the model without a mechanism to help separate them. This is where light direction and placement are key. By simply moving your lights to the side of the backdrop, you’ll not only help avoid putting too much on it, but you’ll also avoid boring flat lighting; you’ll add shadow, volume and drama to the lighting on your subject.


I’ve included example images to illustrate this point. With the light positioned over the camera and pointed directly toward the backdrop and subject, you light both pretty equally and flatly. By moving the keylight (an Elinchrom 500ws ELC monolight with an Elinchrom Deep Octa) camera left and channeling its light with a Lighttools soft egg crate grid, I was able to more precisely control the light falling on the subject and the background as individual elements. The bonus, I think you’ll agree, is that the light is considerably more interesting and dramatic.


I’m an advocate of working one light at a time, so I always start with the keylight and progress from there, seasoning to taste with additional lights as needed. Once I’ve nailed a few winners using only the keylight, I add a second light, third light, etc. That’s exactly what I did here. I added a second Elinchrom 500ws ELC monolight fitted with an Elinchrom 14×35 strip box and a Lighttools soft egg crate grid. Arranged in a cross light pattern, behind the subject and opposite the keylight, this strobe served as a kicker light and alternative keylight. Cross lighting is great because it gives the model the flexibility to turn freely from left to right, with each light alternating as key and kicker.


Lens choice and aperture also play a pivotal role when you’re working in close proximity to your subject and background. For this shoot, I chose an 80mm and 150mm lens and set the aperture to f/11, with medium format that’s like f/5.6 when using a DSLR. This kept the front of the model’s face shape but allowed me to create the falloff I needed between the model and backdrop. If the backdrop is too sharp, it can easily become a distracting rather than enhancing element. We chose a retro-inspired fleur-de-lis-patterned red and black painted backdrop consistent with the gothic fashion direction of the shoot.


You can see that with a few simple tools, the right techniques and a creative vision, it’s easy to achieve great results even in the tightest spaces.


Check out this month’s companion video, and let’s keep the dialog going. Hit me up on the ShutterFest Facebook page with your lighting questions.


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the December issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

How to Book and Handle Destination Weddings with Michael Anthony

December 1st, 2016


How to Book and Handle Destination Weddings with Michael Anthony


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the December issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.


Destination weddings can be confusing and mysterious for photographers. When I started photographing weddings, I thought it would be amazing to travel the world to document our clients’ incredible wedding day. The truth is, while photographing destination weddings can be an incredible opportunity for your portfolio, if you don’t know how to do it correctly, you may end up losing money and clients.


In 2016, our studio photographed over 100 weddings. Our studio is split into two brands, Michael Anthony Photography and Studio 23 Photography. Of the 50 weddings that Michael Anthony Photography photographed, 10 of them required us to travel far. We added portfolio shoots along the way during our travels, which gives our portfolio diversity and a uniqueness not found among our competitors.


The most important thing to understand about destination weddings is that profitability is not the same as for local weddings. When taking on a destination wedding, the intrinsic value of the job for your portfolio must outweigh the money you will lose by not being in the studio for a number of days, along with any other miscellaneous expenses you incur. If you love travel, this may seem like a worthwhile endeavor, but constant travel may wear on you over time.


Booking Destination Weddings


To book a destination wedding, a couple of things have to happen. You need to show destination work in your portfolio, and you need to make it easy for your clients to book you for destination work.


We booked our first destination wedding by accident. That accident turned out to be one of the best experiences ever. Our clients had come to us for a consultation about shooting their wedding reception in our hometown of Valencia, California. When I asked where the clients were getting married, they said Lake Como, Italy. Now, I had wanted to go to Italy for many years, so I immediately asked if they had found their wedding photographer yet. The answer was no, and I said I would be interested in shooting it.


Their efforts in finding a wedding photographer in a foreign country proved to be problematic. First, there was the language barrier. It’s also hard for clients to coordinate their wishes with a photographer who lives on the other side of the globe. Booking with us was an easy decision because we offered to solve their problems, and we made it easy for them to book us financially (more on that later).


Shooting this wedding allowed us to showcase these images in our portfolio, and immediately our destination inquiries skyrocketed. So what do you do if you don’t have destination images to show? My mentor, Mr. Sal Cincotta, sums it up in a simple hashtag: #buildyourdamnportfolio.


We actually did our first destination shoot while vacationing in Hawaii. I live in California, where the beaches are plenty and our clients are used to gorgeous sunsets. So for our first destination shoot, I wanted to do something completely different than what our clients had seen before. We headed to Byodo-In Temple on Oahu. From that shoot, we began to diversify our portfolio and create epic images that could not be achieved locally. We bought a wedding dress, hired a local florist and got the required permits to shoot at the location we wanted.


Your first step if you are serious about shooting destination weddings is not so hard. Take a vacation, and wherever you go, plan photoshoots to build your portfolio.


The power of a destination portfolio is incredible. Just this past weekend, our studio participated in a bridal show with 12 photographers. On our booth display, we featured wedding images taken in France, Portugal, London, Italy, Hawaii and around the United States. While it was a gamble to not bring along local wedding images, it paid off tremendously: We booked three weddings at the show, and collected over 100 leads, including two for brides getting married in Greece and Thailand next year. Our booth was packed the entire time because our portfolio stood out from the rest.


Once you have a destination portfolio built, you have to market yourself to clients getting married abroad. Destination weddings are becoming more popular because they are kept small, and actually cost the same or less than a traditional wedding. I recommend tools such as Two Bright Lights to submit your destination weddings to publications to reach more potential clients.


Another idea is to contact local planners at popular destinations around the world, and ask for referrals for couples coming from the area you live in.


Charging for Destination Weddings


This area can be convoluted for many photographers. You have to make it easy for your clients to book you. However, destination weddings do have many expenses that are not easily seen when putting together a quote. This is why I recommend putting your travel costs into the quote up front, rather than booking the wedding and invoicing them later.


You may incur costs for a babysitter, rental car, parking, Uber rides, meals, valet fees, checked-bag fees, etc. In addition, you have to account for your time out of the studio and away from your business.


Those expenses start to add up quickly. If put a list in front of your client, it will become a barrier to them booking you. If you allow your client to book your travel for you, you will end up on a flight with three connections and a seven-hour layover. This is why when booking destination weddings, it is important to give the client a single fee that covers all your expenses. As your portfolio gets better, your travel fee can increase.


We have developed all-inclusive fees for Europe, Hawaii and the continental U.S. We include a cost for three nights at the client’s hotel (or an Airbnb close by) to allow us to use day one as a travel day, and the day after the wedding as a bridal session day. If we stay longer, we do not bill the client for the extra days.


Having set fees dissuades clients from haggling with you. You’ll avoid the following arguments we used to hear all the time: “We want to help you enjoy your vacation.” “If we book your travel, can we just get your regular wedding rates?” And my favorite: “Our wedding will be great for your portfolio! So can we get a discount?”


Trust me: When I tell you not to make any exceptions to this policy, we have done so in the past and been burned, so learn from our mistakes so you don’t repeat them.


Let’s start with booking your travel. In the past, it was incredibly hard to predict what prices would be for a chosen destination. Now, thanks to modern technology, we are able to more accurately predict flight prices using Google Flights or an app called Hopper. Both services tell you the optimal time to book flights. Whenever we book a destination wedding, we add the flights to Hopper and get instant notifications when it is time to book. For the hotel, find out if your client has reserved a room block, and if so, ask if you can reserve a room at the client’s rate. Airnnb is always our go-to when looking for places to stay if the client does not have a hotel block.


If you’re traveling internationally, bring all the necessary adapters. It would be terrible to get all the way to Europe to find you don’t have any outlets to charge your camera batteries.


Planning Destination Shoots


Destination shoots pose many challenges logistically. You can’t scout locations as you normally would. It’s tough to determine if a chosen location requires special permits. How will the light look when you are there? This is why organization and planning are so important. And the planning needs to happen months before the wedding day.


I build a Pinterest Board with exciting and accessible locations we can get to. Do a bridal session with your clients the day before or after the wedding so you can create amazing images for them in beautiful places.


There is an app called The Photographer’s Ephemeris that allows you to plan lighting in your locations. Put together a document with all the information for the shoots you will be doing so you are prepared when you get there. It’s also extremely important to check the tide charts if you are shooting at a beach. I can’t tell you how many times we have planned a shoot at an unfamiliar beach only to get there and not be able to access the beach due to high tide.


When planning shoots at popular landmarks, be prepared to arrive with your clients or models at sunrise to avoid the crowds.


Lastly but most importantly, be prepared to pivot. As a wedding photographer, you are used to having to improvise. Shooting destination weddings adds a new level of uncertainty. We have to pivot on more than half of our shoots. Our truck has been stuck in the snow, we have gotten clearance to shoot at places only to be kicked out later, we have had locations closed for renovations, parades came through our shooting location and much more. You will have to be ready with a plan B in all situations, but even more so when you are working with clients who paid to have you travel with them.


Shooting destination weddings can be an incredible opportunity to constantly build your portfolio, and allow you to open up new opportunities. I love that my career has allowed me to travel the world, but it can add stress, uncertainty and unanticipated expenses.


If you plan ahead, you can create incredible memories for your clients and an experience that you and they will never forget.


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the December issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

Tips for Tethering: 5 Things You Should Know with Vanessa Joy

December 1st, 2016


Tips for Tethering: 5 Things You Should Know with Vanessa Joy


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the December issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.


It’s fairly easy to connect your camera to your computer via USB and start tethering to Lightroom. You can even use your camera’s native software if Lightroom isn’t your thing. With tethering, there are a lot of tricks that can make the process easier, faster and more stable. Tethering properly can boost your marketing and SEO with very little effort if you know how to do it right. This month, we look at five ways to maximize tethering.

Tip 1: Use keywords via metadata during import.


The first thing you’ll want to do is set up a metadata preset in Lightroom based on the type of work you’re photographing. For example, if I’m importing pictures that are for my wedding photography business into Lightroom, I’ll have a wedding photography metadata preset that includes keywords like “New Jersey wedding photographer,” “luxury weddings” and “best NJ photographer.” If you’re a headshot photographer, include keywords like “corporate business photos,” “LinkedIn pictures” and “headshots.” After you set the metadata presets, those keywords will be embedded in all the images you are importing and exporting through Lightroom.
When you have keywords like these attached to your photos and you upload them online, Google sees them and recognizes your imagery as search results for those keywords, helping boost your SEO and marketing. In the same settings, you can also apply a copyright so all your photos have your copyright information listed in the metadata.


After you’ve set up the metadata present, you need to tell Lightroom to apply the metadata automatically to all the images that are coming in. To do this, go to your import settings and select that metadata preset to be part of the import process. It will automatically apply your metadata preset to the images. You can change this depending on what kind of shoot you are doing. I recommend having a few different presets based on the pictures you typically shoot so that the appropriate keywords are assigned to them.
Tip 2: Apply lens profile corrections.


Lenses have different profiles based on their make, model and focal length. When you apply lens correction settings, you are allowing Lightroom to automatically correct for distortion, vignetting, perspective and the like. The develop module is where you’ll create a preset that applies the lens corrections, which will automatically recognize the lens that you are using and apply the right profile based on the manufacturer’s corrective settings.


To do this, select any photo in the development module and apply the lens corrections, which are toward the bottom of the settings and to the right. Save those settings as a preset in the presets tab on the left by clicking the “+” sign. Go into your import settings and apply the presets to the auto import just as you did the metadata.
Tip 3: Make sure all your connections are secure.


This is a threefold tip. Having a handle on your cords and gear helps minimize liability and allows you to shoot without a mess of cables everywhere. Additionally, you want to prevent any of your equipment from being accidentally damaged, and you need to make sure you have a secure connection from your camera to your computer. Seems like a no-brainer, but without that kind of stability and ease-of-use surrounding your gear, the connection for tethering can end up causing a whole bunch of problems and interruptions during your session.


I like using jerk stoppers and other fine products from Tether Tools. To see what gear I use, go to the Gear We Love section of (Note the cup holder attachment for the Tether Table, a favorite of mine.)
Tip 4: Use your camera’s software.


Most people know that you can tether your camera using Lightroom. What is less known is being able to incorporate your camera’s software as well, like Canon EOS Utility. This gives you more control over your camera from the computer, including adjusting focus, exposure settings and white balance. Another perk is being able to tether while using live view, which is great if your camera is in a position where you can’t see through the viewfinder. You can run Canon EOS Utility and Lightroom simultaneously while tethering, giving you a ton of control while Lightroom ingests the photos.
Tip 5: Memory cards matter.


Finally, you want to make sure you are shooting on the fastest possible memory card. At a minimum, I use a SanDisk 160mb/s compact flash card. Shoot on a single memory card if your camera has dual slots. If you don’t have a fast memory card, you’re going to bog down the speed at which your images tether through Lightroom. The camera first likes to write the image to the card and then import it into Lightroom (though you can change that to not write to the card at all), so having a slow card lags the entire process.


If you have two cards in your camera, it slows it down even more because then it has to write to two cards before tethering, which can cause everything to freeze up. That’s not the kind of thing you want to happen on a shoot in front of clients.


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the December issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

Backup and Archiving: 7 Tips for Getting It Right So You Can Sleep at Night with Moshe Zusman

December 1st, 2016


Backup and Archiving: 7 Tips for Getting It Right So You Can Sleep at Night with Moshe Zusman


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the December issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.


The dream of every new photographer is to have so many jobs that you have to worry about archiving and backing up your images. In the beginning, I was shooting only one or two sessions a week, so it wasn’t even a thought. As my studio grew, I knew I needed to find a way to secure all the images I was taking—not only for my clients, but for my own sanity. The last thing I ever wanted was to accidentally format a memory card without backing it up, or have one of my systems go down in the studio and not be able to recover the images. I wanted to be there for my clients even if they called me three years after their wedding asking for a copy of their images because they lost their disk.


I am a versatile photographer who shoots between 10 and 30 sessions each week, which is close to 1,000 sessions a year.


Over the years, I’ve developed a system that’s worked for me and my workflow. I have multiple redundancies, back up my files in multiple locations, both on and off site, and make sure that at any given moment, my images are backed up at least four times. When developing my system, I wanted to create a workflow that instantly backed up the photos as I shot them, and then effortlessly did it in the studio as well.


Here are my surefire methods of backing up that you can start implementing right away.


  1. Use a camera with dual card slots.


Most cameras have this technology now, and all professional cameras should. Use it to create an instant backup the second you click the shutter. A true backup is not just having Raw recorded to one card and JPGs recorded to the other “just in case.” It’s having the Raw files written to both cards in case one of the memory cards fails to read or write. I use a large memory card in one slot (128GB) and a smaller one (64GB) in the second slot. Once the smaller card is full, I replace it with a new 64GB card and secure the first one in a memory card pouch I wear on my belt.


I don’t take the chance that someone will steal my camera bag with cards in it. This is useful if someone steals your camera or you lose your memory card pouch.

  1. Use instant onsite backup.


It used to be an expensive and slow solution with not enough space, but now there are a lot of fast portable drives with built-in card readers and a basic display. I use a product called Nexto DI. It’s a hard drive with an SD and a CF card reader built into it so you can instantly back up your cards (and your second and third shooters’ cards) onsite to a hard drive at the end of the day. You can also copy all the cards by having a laptop on location and downloading your image files with a card reader to an external hard drive or right to your laptop.


The idea behind this is that by the time you get home from a wedding or shoot, you now have three copies of your images. After a wedding, I may go with friends for a drink or a bite to eat. I leave my cameras and cards in the car, but the external drive with all the copied images goes with me.


  1. Transfer the images to your working drive.


Once you come home from your job or you’re done shooting for the day, you want to download and dump the images onto your working drive on your main computer where you’ll eventually edit images or catalog them in Lightroom. Not only will your images be in the right place to start working with them in Lightroom or Photoshop, but this will be the fourth redundancy in your backup.

  1. Have in-studio redundancies.


When I download my images to my working drive, I use two mirrored 9 terabyte Western Digital My Book Duo hard drives. These drives are external, separated from my system drive where I have all my software. They are just hosting the images so that they’re secure; my system runs faster with all my storage off the main hard drive. A Thunderbolt connection to these drives keeps everything flowing smoothly. Remember to set the external drive to mirror raid or RAID 1. This works if you’ve already formatted the memory cards.

  1. Automate in-studio backup.


In addition to the mirrored hard drives that are my working drive, I have my computer set to automatically copy every new image to another hard drive using a software called Carbon Copy Cloner at 1 a.m. every night. This software enables you to schedule your backups over multiple platforms, including network drives.


Carbon Copy Cloner is also scheduled to back up all my files to a local network-attached storage drive every other night. I copy the images to an additional Western Digital My Book Duo and to network-attached storage (NAS)—a 32-terabyte RAID5 array. I keep that drive in a separate room connected to my computer only over the network.


This is important if your working drive fails or if someone breaks into your home and walks away with your computer and drives. They won’t look for network drives.

  1. Automate off-site backup.


For $5 a month, Backblaze gives you unlimited storage, and mirrors your computer and all attached external drives to the cloud. Initial backup when you first set up Backblaze can take months. I upgraded my Internet to a business connection with faster upload.


After that, it trickles slowly and doesn’t hog up too much bandwidth. Having offsite storage is crucial to your backup plan just in case anything happens to your physical studio. You won’t be starting at square one. With Backblaze, you can access and download your images with no fee or limit—a key element to look for when you are researching a cloud storage solution.


This can save your life if a flood destroys your home or an earthquake takes all your gear while you’re away.


  1. Use online galleries.


My last offsite backup is through SmugMug. I upload to client galleries all my final images so they’re easily accessible by my clients and myself just in case Armageddon happens. The system gives you seven redundancies on your backups using both on- and offsite methods so you can sleep soundly at night. This is your “if all else fails” failsafe.


Quick tips for safer image making and storing:


  1. Use high-quality memory cards and card readers that are fast and reliable.
  2. Discard a memory card the second it ever gives you an error.
  3. Use high-quality drives for local storage.
  4. Use NAS-optimized drives when storing over the network.
  5. A RAID system is always more secure than a single drive.
  6. Keep enough memory cards to be able to work a whole week without recycling
  7. Schedule your backups for hours you’re not working on your images.


In addition to backing up your files, you need a solid way to organize them so they’re easily found.


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the December issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

Skyrocket Your Email Subscribers: Outperform Social Media With Less Effort with Phillip Blume

December 1st, 2016


Skyrocket Your Email Subscribers: Outperform Social Media With Less Effort with Phillip Blume


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the December issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.


Let’s take a quiz. Which company do you think you’re more likely to do business with—one that throws up a lot of expensive billboards to remind you it exists, or one you’re connected to directly, whose exclusive offers you receive in your personal inbox?


You guessed it. Although traditional billboards (and “digital billboards” like Google ads, Facebook boosts, etc.) are a lot more expensive, we know that direct-email marketing is vastly more effective—and a lot cheaper. Statistics show that email is 40 times more likely to result in a new customer than Facebook or Twitter ads—and that’s only if you spend significant time and money on social media to milk out a return on your investment.


Email marketing, on the other hand, is free up to a given number of subscribers. Even after you apply our tips below and grow your audience massively, email remains a remarkably cheap form of advertising. It gives you an average $38 ROI for every one dollar you spend.


Email marketing is a key ingredient of the success of Blume Photography. It has changed the game in terms of how much time and money we invest in ads. We spend a lot less of those precious resources than we used to. In fact, our marketing budget is almost zilch.


So if email is so much better, why do some very successful companies still invest in billboards and online ads? No, they aren’t stupid. There’s a simple answer that will become very clear to you by the time we discuss it below. But rest assured that it will only make you want to tackle email marketing even more. First, here are our three best-kept secrets to skyrocket your email subscribers (aka your future customers).


Pick Your Poison


Before you can play this game, you need the tools. Lucky for you, the first and most basic tool, email marketing software, is free at the starter level. Plus, it’s usually cloud-based, so there’s nothing to download.


There are robust and costly options for email marketing software. These include InfusionSoft and Actionetics by ClickFunnels. I’m a big fan of InfusionSoft’s product, but you don’t need to consider options like it until you become a big operation, managing multiple brands and many, many clients. Blume Photography is at a tipping point where we may need to move from our small online account to InfusionSoft to better manage our communication to you (photographers), our own wedding and portrait clients, and our separate associate studio’s clients. But up to now, we’ve made due with a Mad MiMi account (Fig. 1).


If you don’t yet receive our emails, you should. If you’re already signed up and receive our free tips and tricks, you have a good idea of what a Mad Mimi email looks like. Mad MiMi is just one of many competing apps, along with Constant Contact (which you hear advertised if you listen to NPR as much as I do) and MailChimp. One is just as good as the next. So check them out, compare their features and decide what works best for you.


Add Value


People aren’t suddenly going to line up to give you their email address. You need to give them a reason to share their valuable info. So create value for them in return. The best way to do this online is by “funneling.”


Funneling is a great way to fill your email list with people you’ve never met. A funnel is a single online location to which potential subscribers from all over gravitate (Fig. 2). You can create multiple forms like this in any email software, and each form organizes registrants into unique folders. We have forms and folders for various groups—our portrait clients, photographers and our local TriggerHappy photo club. Email segmentation is crucial because it leads to a 200 percent increase in email interaction (Fig. 3).


To see how to showcase the “tip” of your funnel, check out our signup form at What causes the gravitational pull? You do—by creating “lead magnets.”


A lead magnet is a valuable free product or service offered exclusively to your subscribers. This may be special access to a series of articles you’ve written to help brides prepare for weddings. Rather than post this kind of content on your blog hoping someone might see it, why not post just a taste of it publicly? Then make the rest available to subscribers. Now you’ve gained contacts you can interact with long-term for free. If you’re a family portrait photographer, offer an ebook to moms with tips for taking better pics of their kids. Social technology has given birth to this “economy of free,” which can be wonderful for all parties.


Notice I wrote, “can be wonderful.” Not every company upholds its end of the bargain. We’ve all received junk emails. If I get another email from ULine, I’m going to scream. (If I need more packaging supplies, I’ll order them when I’m ready.) Then again, someone else may value those small discounts on cardboard boxes. Maybe my local plumber is a better example—he emails a lot, but never unclogs my toilet for free.


Ultimately, companies that abuse your inbox without creating real value for you undermine their efforts and get sent to the spam folder. Don’t make that mistake.


Good email subscriptions benefit you with free education or exclusive offers not available to the public. I get excited when a new email from Seth Godin hits my inbox—I’m inspired by his ideas for entrepreneurs, and his exclusive products have benefited our business immensely.


From that point of view, even this article is a type of lead magnet for you and Shutter readers. It’s a simple and straightforward invitation to join our inbox community, where thousands of photographers enjoy an economy of free content and special access. You can see how we do it, then ask, “What can I offer that is valuable to my ideal clients?”


Just Ask


Photographers often already possess that “something valuable” for potential clients, but fail to realize it.


Last year, I smacked my palm against my forehead when I realized how huge an opportunity I’d been overlooking at every wedding I photographed. I had exclusive early access to people’s photos. For years, I’d worked at making a great impression on wedding guests—smiling, chatting, even giving business cards when guests asked for one (which they often did). It was all well and good. But what I did next was idiotic. I walked away, wishing upon a star that one of those guests might contact me for her future photographic needs. It almost never happened. Many probably never even saw the photographs.


I had given out my email, but I never asked for theirs. I walked away when, internally, guests were begging to give me their address. How do I know? Because now, thanks to ShootProof (our choice for online photo galleries), I simply ask, and everyone gives me whatever I want.


If there is one lesson I’ve learned as an entrepreneur, it’s this: You must never wait around to be discovered. You must be proactive. That is the only difference between a wannabe and a rock star. ShootProof offers at least two amazing tools to grow your email list: an email collection iPad app and a mobile app builder that requires almost zero effort. You don’t have to use ShootProof to use my strategy, but it certainly streamlines things.


My step-by-step strategy for putting these tools to use is simple but unique, and it has exploded our email list with qualified wedding and portrait leads. Here it is.


Strategic Email Collection


  1. First, I create a mobile app in ShootProof using the family’s or couple’s portraits. (This is one of many reasons we include an engagement session for our couples.) There are other subscription services whose sole function is to create mobile apps. ShootProof offers this same robust feature at no extra cost, and it’s fully integrated with all the other ShootProof features. I click on just a few of the very best photos in a couple’s gallery, then click “Create Mobile App.” Voilà, I’m done on the backend (Fig. 4).


  1. Next, I do something “backward” from the way most users set up their ShootProof galleries and apps. I create an empty wedding gallery for the couple, before their wedding even takes place. Then I tick the brilliant “Pre-Registration” option in the gallery settings (Fig. 5). This sets the stage. Now visitors to the gallery are prompted to provide their email address ahead of time. Why would they do that? Because they want to be notified when the photos are available to view online. But guests aren’t even going to visit this nifty little Web page unless you invite them. So how do we invite them?


  1. Here is where I go back to the couple’s mobile app and do something backward again. I can “connect” a mobile app to any gallery so clients can open their online galleries straight from their app. Most photographers link this “engagement app” to the couple’s engagement portrait gallery. Seems logical, right? But we found engagement galleries aren’t shared all that much—there’s no motivation to share it (other than vanity, which isn’t enough). Besides, they’re more likely to share your engagement blog post over the gallery, which is good for you too. So we link the engagement app (Fig. 6) to their newly created but empty wedding gallery. Now, an enticing little button shows up in the mobile app, just under the couple’s photos: “View Full Gallery.” You want only a few pictures so the button is immediately visible in the app. Click it, and you’re now invited to register for Laura & James’s Wedding Gallery. Who can resist that?


  1. The final obstacle is motivating the couple to share their app before the wedding day. You want to get this thing downloaded on every smartphone in the bridal party and family. Here’s how I create strong motivation to share the app just before the wedding. We add value to our couple’s wedding experience by working with them on a photo timeline for the day, then we link to that timeline in the app. (Think of all the other value-add links you could create for portrait subjects.) Now sending the mobile app as a download to our couple is as easy as clicking “Share App.” A lovely custom email creator opens up, and we use a very cleverly written email to convince the couple they simply must share this awesome app with their bridal party right away. But we don’t have to rely on the couple to come through for us. We hold our destiny in our own hands.


  1. Through 17Hats, our studio management software of choice, a wedding day questionnaire is automatically sent to all our couples ahead of time (Fig. 8). The couple fills out information about their bridal party and all their vendors, then submit it back to us with a click. I simply copy-and-paste all that contact info into ShootProof’s app maker (Fig. 9). Now we feel like celebrities when we arrive at a wedding: Virtually every bridesmaid and vendor has been playing with our branded app and reading our About section along with the day’s itinerary—plus sending us their email addresses. (It even precludes us having to respond to every email from vendors requesting photos.)


Figure 10 shows the long list of gallery visitors who preregistered their emails with us. These emails are exported as a .csv to our Mad MiMi account after every event. We use the same method at charity events (a big source of our qualified leads) along with an iPad open to ShootProof’s app. Attendees enter their email address right then and there. (You can purchase standalone apps like iCapture to collect emails. I love that ShootProof’s app wirelessly adds contacts straight to our gallery, keeping everything synced.)


Come autumn, we send all our subscribers emails with special access and deals for family portraits and more. That leads to a windfall of new clients every year.


In the video below, let’s talk about why we “burned our business cards” in favor of a better digital strategy, plus how we avoid email filters and use social media.


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the December issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

In-Person Sales Strategies for Out-of-Town Clients with Alissa Zimmerman

December 1st, 2016


In-Person Sales Strategies for Out-of-Town Clients with Alissa Zimmerman


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the December issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.


If you want to start making the cash register ring, in-person sales is the way to get that started (if you’re not already doing it). For those of you who are doing in-person sales, how do you take on out-of-town clients who can’t come into your studio after their session for their preview? Here are my in-person sales strategies to ensure a successful sale and experience when your clients are hundreds of miles away.


Skype Preview


We do preview sessions via Skype with our out-of-towners. Skype is a much more reliable platform than others when Internet service may not be great. It’s also extremely convenient for timing the session. For in-person scheduling, I have two or three time slots available per day. Once it gets too late, it’s not realistic to have clients coming in to view and order their images. This is especially beneficial if you’re a night owl like I am and have clients on the West Coast.


It’s important to do your best to provide a similar experience as you do for the in-person session for your clients, even though it’s being done online. Skype sales sessions are typically much quicker than in-person sessions, mostly because your client has already had a few days to look through their images on their own time (more on this later).


You also must go into the Skype session with a game plan, ready to be the trusted adviser for your clients. I take the time to go through all of their images and match to the big prints that are included in our top package—typically a 20×30 or 30×40 acrylic and a 15×30 canvas. These are specific types of shots that you will want to precrop to give your clients an idea of how the image will look cropped to that aspect ratio.


Be prepared for the Skype session. Have images of your products ready to send over while you’re going through your packages, but also make sure you are in your studio sales room with the specific sizes of the products you’re trying to sell hanging on the wall in a place that’s easy for you to showcase. In our preview room, we have a giant 30×60 acrylic hanging on top of a mantle to use as reference for those clients who believe an 8×10 is “big enough.” We also have a variety of sizes and materials hanging throughout the room so our clients can easily visualize the difference in products and sizes as we walk through the packages we offer.


Tip: Have at least one of each product out and next to you (not on the wall) as a sample that’s easy to grab and show up close. This way, you won’t have to fumble trying to take anything off your walls.


Use Tools to Support Your Sale


We don’t show the slideshow to our clients during the Skype session, because it takes away from the purpose of the sale. Instead, once the preview session is on the calendar, we tell them to expect a link to their online gallery 72 hours prior to the session, and encourage them to carve out some time to look through their images together in that 72-hour window so they are prepared with questions and ideas of what they want to purchase for their home going into the Skype session.


We have found that sending them a link to their online gallery any closer than 72 hours from their session disrupts the sale. Our clients don’t usually take the time to look through the images if it’s 24 to 48 hours before, and go into the sales session unable to make a decision on what they want to purchase because they haven’t had a chance to look at any of their images yet. Which, again, is why it is so very important to stress to them the importance of making time to sit down together before the Skype call.


There are also tools in our market that allow you to mock up a living room or bedroom scene using images from your clients’ galleries to provide even more of a visual to help them in their decision process. Being the trusted adviser in Skype sales sessions cannot be stressed enough—take the extra prep time going into these sessions to put together a full presentation of what you think they should have as artwork in their home. Note the key phrase in that last sentence: “Artwork in their home” resonates much better than simply suggesting what pictures they should buy.


Another tool we use that may not directly impact our sales is 17hats. Having a workflow specific to Skype sales sessions is crucial to success. With 17hats, we have a workflow that streamlines each step of the process, sending out automatic reminder and follow-up emails, as well as invoices as soon as the session is over. That’s priceless to us. This allows our studio to look like a professional and well-oiled machine. And who doesn’t want to work with efficient companies, especially studios charging top dollar for their products and services?


It’s all part of the experience. Having a backend system that keeps track of the monotonous daily tasks allows you to focus on preparing and customizing your clients’ presentations for their Skype sessions.




Communication is key to the success of any type of sales strategy, whether it be in-person or online. But if you want to ensure bigger sales from those out-of-town clients, you have to take your communication up a notch. These clients cannot be left in the dark, especially after having made one of the most important decisions around their wedding day: hiring you as their photographer. As creative people, we are notorious for painting an incredible vision and making all sorts of promises to our clients, then taking their money and going dark. Nothing enrages a client more than a nonresponsive company they are entrusting to document milestones of their life.


It’s really simple, so pay attention: Answer your phone. Respond to emails within four hours. Periodically touch base and ask if they need help with planning. Explain the why behind everything you do or do not do. Follow up. Take initiative in helping them plan timelines or wardrobe. Be the trusted adviser throughout the lifespan of your client’s experience with your studio.


Most importantly, set expectations for your clients from the very beginning. It’s crucial that you send your pricing and packages to your client when you email them to schedule their Skype session.


In that email, put in bold and underline the purpose of the call as follows: “On our Skype call, we will go through any questions you may have, so plan on setting aside about an hour and a half to review and order your pictures.” Attach your pricing document to this email so they can be mentally prepared to spend money going into their Skype session.


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the December issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

Retouching Underwater Images: What You Need to Know with Kristina Sherk

December 1st, 2016


Retouching Underwater Images: What You Need to Know with Kristina Sherk

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the December issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.


I recently got into underwater photography. While working on one of my images, it occurred to me that retouching and post-production for underwater imagery pose some unique challenges and differ from images taken in regular situations. It’s a completely different atmosphere, so there’s a lot to think about when retouching underwater shots.


Some atmospheric qualities don’t hold true in water. What you see isn’t always what you get. An example is the lack of gravity and air, but there are many layers to this onion.


Photographers and retouchers must study color and learn how it works on a fundamental level. I obsess over it at times. If you’ve ever taken a photo underwater, you noticed that the images have a greenish/bluish tint. Here’s why, and please forgive the geek-speak below.


Each color in the spectrum has a different wavelength. Reds have long wavelengths (around 700nm), while blue and violet wavelengths are short (blue is 500nm and indigo is 400nm). Since water is 800 times denser than air, it’s harder for the wavelengths of some colors to travel through water. Think of it as the longer/faster wavelengths exerting more energy and getting tired faster. We’ve all heard that “slow and steady wins the race.” The colors with the shorter/slower wavelengths travel farther down into deeper water. The reds, oranges and yellows get absorbed in shallow water, and the greens, blues, indigos and violets penetrate deeper into the water.


When I tone an underwater image, I apply default tweaks to the hues and saturations of all the different colors. Since the warmer colors of the spectrum disappear at much shallower depths, I give them a little help by increasing their saturations, and tweak their hues to make the warmer colors more vivid. Here are screen-grabs of the default color treatments I apply to hue and saturation in Lightroom.


Although I like to think I know a fair amount about retouching, I found out quickly that retouching underwater shots presents a whole new set of obstacles.


After color changes, one of the biggest problems with underwater photography is particulates in the water that are immediately illuminated as soon as you fire your flash. It’s like how an image would look if you left your camera body sensor side up, without the body cap on, and left it in a woodworking workshop for a year. That’s what the photos can look like if captured in bad “vis” (as scuba divers say, short for “visibility”).


One of the best techniques for globally fixing this type of problem is to use the Filter > Noise > Dust and Scratches command. This algorithm looks for small circles or lines that would resemble dust on a negative back in the film days. I run this command on a duplicate layer of the background and then erase the dust and scratches layer from the model by hiding the layer behind a black mask. Usually a radius of about 3 works for eliminating most of the particulate.


Here’s an image where the particulate in the water won the battle. I love this shot, but as the model was performing her contortion moves, she kicked up a big cloud of sand, ruining the shot. We have plans to replicate this image on our next Mermaid Portfolio Workshop in the Bahamas, so all is not lost.


The advantage of shooting in water that’s shallow enough to stand in is that it conserves energy for you and your model. If you’re freediving (holding your breath while shooting), exerting energy leads to a faster heart rate and more oxygen in your blood. This decreases the time you have to take your images, because you’ll constantly be coming up for air. The disadvantage of shooting in shallow water is that you increase the particulate in the water and decrease the vis with every kick you and your model make.


At our Mermaid Portfolio Workshops, we tell the models to be cognizant of how much sand they are kicking up. This is much easier said than done when the models are not only modeling underwater, but also wearing a 30-pound mermaid tail that, as you can imagine, can kick up quite a bit of sand.


Another important thing when shooting underwater images is a feature that is somewhat new in Lightroom. It’s called the Dehaze slider, and it’s located in the Effects portion of the right-hand menu in the Develop Module. This slider does a fantastic job of increasing the localized contrast in an image.


My last tip deals more with models than post-production. Since most of my experience with underwater photography—prior to me picking up a housing and camera—was in modeling, I would be remiss if I didn’t give you a few tips about choosing your models carefully.


Modeling in a weightless atmosphere is very different from a regular photoshoot. You’ll want to work with a model with underwater experience. There is a steep learning curve. If you aren’t lucky enough to find someone with that experience near you, you might look to dancers or gymnasts. Both of these skills translate well to modeling underwater since being aware of the placement of one’s extremities is important in both gymnastics and dance. Another little-known fact is that singers have excellent breath-holds because of the constant diaphragm training they practice.


It’s important as you progress in your photography career to learn about how your shooting conditions and environment affect your photographs. Extreme cold and heat can also affect how your camera sees light/color. I challenge you to define your most frequent shooting conditions and see how you can improve your images by learning how to shoot in different environmental conditions.


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the December issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.