Life Before Photoshop: GATX

Look ma, no Photoshop!

Look ma, no Photoshop!

I can tell you from lots of experience that the glory days of advertising yielded some pretty far-fetched campaigns; some of them made me laugh out loud when I was sent a rough layout of what the art director wanted me to shoot.

The process of getting the final advertisement into a radio spot, a television commercial, a magazine, newspaper, or on a billboard was (and still is) daunting at best. If the advertising agency was one of the larger ones it had to go through several levels before a sketch was offered to a group of photographers for a competitive estimate.

First, several teams made up of a writer and art director create a campaign. Usually the writer comes up with the concept and writes the copy, then the art director comes up with the visual. Each of these teams makes a presentation to the client in a big meeting in the conference room.

The client picks the campaign and then it’s off to the races. First it will be submitted to different focus groups that will evaluate the product, service, concept, advertisement, idea, or packaging. Then if there opinions are positive the campaign begins and the money starts pouring out.

I’m telling you all this to let you see how sometimes a very stupid idea can make it all the way to your eyes and ears!!

I was doing a campaign for GATX, a leading railcar leasing company based all over the world. My job was to paint one of their railcars, then add the lights to make it look like an ambulance (are you with me so far???) and have it appear as if it were speeding down the track and coming to the rescue.

If this same photo was done in today’s digital world, it would have been easy to create in the computer. As I tell my online students that take my Stretching Your Frame of Mind classes, when I was producing these photographs Adobe was a type of house in the southwest part of the country.

I’m not trying to repeat the proverbial phrase our parent’s said…something about walking three miles in a blinding snowstorm to school. I say to my fellow photographers to meet the challenge and try to get as much in the camera as you can, and let clicking the shutter be the final step in capturing your idea; then tweak it in either Lightroom or Photoshop.

I digress.

So here’s how I did it all in the camera:

After having it painted by a close friend I always used to solve any problems, and make anything in the world I asked for, we waited until the blue hour after the sun had set.

A frame was made for the headlights and then lit by a generator. To get all the lights to look the way they did, we smoked the area up with a fog machine.

To create the right exposure ( Kodachrome 25) and make it look like it was screaming down the track, I open the shutter to record the sky and the all the lights. Then, during the time the shutter was opened,  we moved the railcar backwards to create the feeling that it was moving forward.

Nothing to it!!

-BPSOP Instructor: Joe Baraban

Joe Teaches:

Stretching Your Frame of Mind I 

Stretching Your Frame of Mind II

The Secret to Lightroom Organization – Keywording and Star Rating

Lightroom Online Class
If you haven’t started using Adobe Lightroom for your image organization and editing, you are missing out on a big part of the digital photography pie. Just using this program alone will help the quality and consistency of your images. You can learn the basics of this program in my Lightroom Quick Start Course, or if you want to take a little deeper dive into the program, my Lightroom Presets Class. 

One of the biggest secrets to the success of your organization in Lightroom is to learn how to use keywords. This doesn’t mean you have to keyword every image that you import into Lightroom, but you can keyword batches of images or select images that you want to remember. I have over 30,000 images in my catalog and I can literally find a single image in a matter of seconds because of the way I have set up my folders and keywords.

When I started using Lightroom, I first created a consistent naming system for all of my folders of images before even importing into Lightroom. It took me some time to go back and rename all of the folders from all my travels and events. I renamed the folders so they were all consistent. For Example:


For me, to name the folders by location and then date works out well. Some people prefer to name their folders by events, or even by date. Whatever works for you is great, just be sure that your naming is consistent and it’s something you can remember. You don’t want to have a series of folders that are named differently.

All of these folder titles could fall into the Yosemite_2015_07 category. Don’t make this mistake of creating random titles: Summer 2017, Yosemite 2017, Yosemite July 2017, Half Dome 07_2017.

When you import your images into Lightroom, you can either rename them to correspond with the folder, or rename your favorites so you can find them easily. I find this method of renaming them one by one very time consuming and tedious. So batch renaming works upon import, or just adding a keyword to your favorites.

Lightroom Online Class

You can batch rename and keyword a series of images like the ones above in the import module.

The other tool I use is the star rating. When I first import my images into Lightroom, I display all of my images in the grid view. You can then apply a star rating to your favorite images. The fastest way to do this is with the “Painter Tool”.
Paint Can Tool - Lightroom

Use of the Paint Can Tool in Lightroom Develop Module

Once I activate the “painter tool”, I will select a 1 star rating. Then I can quickly go through my images in the grid view and “spray” a one star rating on all of the images that I like. At this point, I don’t apply any more than a 1 star rating. If something really merits a greater rating, I go back and review the images again. Once I do my second pass of images, I will set the spray can to the 2 star rating. Then repeat the same method for those images that I might like to go in and apply Lightroom adjustments. The 3 star ratings are reserved for those images that I might use for an article or blog post and the 4 star ratings are reserved for the best of the best which I would put in my portfolio. Keep your star ratings consistent, so you know that if it has a 4 star rating, that it reflects your best work.

Now that you have set up the keywords to your images, you now have the ability to search or filter images in your catalog. In the Filter Bar in the Grid View, choose the Text option and the drop down box to select keywords, and start entering specific keywords.

Lightroom Filters

Filter bar in Lightroom showing keywords and star ratings

Then you will see Lightroom begin to sort images based on the keyword. You can then add another dimension to the search, and add a star rating. It’s when you go back into your Lightroom catalog of 30,000 pictures to find the 4 star rated picture in “Yosemite” that was keyworded: “Half Dome Sunset”, and you find it in a second. Then you’ll see how great this system works. You can also limit your search to specific folders or collections when selected in the left hand column of the Library Module.

Have you tried to organize your images in Lightroom? What kind of challenges are you experiencing? Feel free to share your comments below.


If you would like to learn more about this technique, please take either of my Lightroom Classes, Lightroom Quickstart, or Lightroom Presets to get a more in depth discussion.


BPSOP Instructor – Holly Higbee-Jansen


HollyHolly Higbee-Jansen is photographer, trainer, blogger, and workshop leader who enjoys teaching and the creative process. Her passions include teaching photography workshops in beautiful locations in California, Iceland, Costa Rica and the American West with her husband Mark. Holly also teaches online classes on Lightroom, Photoshop and photographic technique. Get Holly’s Free E-Book on “Landscape Photography and the Light and find out about her newest workshops at Jansen Photo

Reach Holly by email at: and read her blog at:


Holly Teaches:

iPhone Photography
In this class, we will introduce you to the magic of iPhone photography using several shooting and editing apps that will give you the ability to make your pictures sing in a fun and easy way.You will learn how to crop, change saturation, brightness and affect the overall look of your pictures with HDR, drama and grunge filters and other techniques. You will be amazed at the simple and effective methods.




Lightroom Quickstart


Do you want to learn to create images that show the beauty of the scene you saw when you took the photograph? Do you want to learn the other essential side of digital photography, photo editing and get up to speed quickly?

This course is designed to get you up and running FAST in this incredibly powerful program. In this two week information packed class, you will learn how to import, organize and perform simple and effective editing processes that will let you produce beautiful adjustments to your pictures.

Lightroom Presets: Taking Your Photos from Good to Great

Lightroom Presets ClassIn this two week class, we will show you how to create your own presets to use over and over and create your own signature style. You will also learn to use third party presets to help with your creativity and enhance your editing power. You will receive detailed information on the website page each week, as well as tutorial videos to help you understand the course material.



For a complete list of Holly’s current workshops go to:

Jansen Photo Expeditions –

Holly’s Blog:

Facebook –

Instagram –

YouTube –

Google+ –

500px –

PHOTOGRAPHY TIP: The Difference In Aperture

So one of the more commonly misunderstood techniques is what to set your aperture when using a telephoto lens. More often then not, I always use a wide-open aperture or simply put, the lowest aperture my lens will go when using a telephoto lens (which is usually my 70-200mm or 400mm lens).

However, there will be times when using a wide-open aperture is not ideal and can greatly effect your subject. So now while most of us want to isolate our subjects from their background which is why we want to use a wide-open aperture plus throw in the fact the longer the lens is equals the further the subject is which equals that a wide-open aperture is totally acceptable and highly desired to give us an isolated subject and throw the background out of focus, the time when it becomes not desired is when photographing smaller subjects up close.

Case in point is take a look at the two images below of a Broad-headed Skink I found that was sunning itself on the branch of a tree. Now luckily for me he was at eye level with me which allowed me to to get really close. I used my 70-200mm lens with a 1.4X teleconverter which approximately gives me 280mm when zoomed out.

My distance was maybe 4 feet at best so I was fairly close so I could fill the frame with that telephoto lens. Once I framed the Broad-headed Skink now my choice was what aperture do I want to use? In those 2 images, you can clearly see a pretty big difference in the depth of field since I simply placed my focus point on the tip of his nose since that was the closest point to me and took 2 images. The first image the distance from the tip of his nose back the sharpness falls off pretty quick, which I used F/4 as my selected aperture.

Then I simply changed my aperture on the very next image to F/11 and you now can clearly see much more detail from the tip of his nose back along his body. So this for me was clearly a much more appealing image as you can see much more detail then the one taken at F/4.

Now of course I could of gone even higher to perhaps F/22 which would in turn doubled my depth of field to give me even more details but I settled on F/11 to give a nice balance of detail and depth. So the next time you find yourself with an eager subject, play around with your aperture so you can clearly see how it changes the appearance and perhaps even the mood of your subject.



-BPSOP Instructor: Robert La Follette

Robert Teaches:

Wildlife Photography


Lensbaby Velvet 56 or 85?

first pop
I’ve been getting lots of questions about the new Lensbaby Velvet 85, and many of them have to do with the difference between the Velvet 56 and the new model. Some people want to know which to choose, while others who already own the Velvet 56 want to know if there is enough of a difference to add the 85 to their lens collections.

Though you can get in close with both models, and that wonderful Velvet etherial look is produced with both lenses, the main difference I see in my work is to the backgrounds. The longer focal length of the Velvet 85 provides compression. That means it reduces the distance between subjects and backgrounds, pulling the background closer, at the same time providing more blur to it too.  I am really loving this effect when I include a background, and more and more I am reaching for the Velvet 85 when I used to use my 180mm lens.

Here are some sample images, same subject with both lenses:

Velvet 56, f/4

Velvet 56, f/4


Velvet 85, f/4

Velvet 85, f/4


Velvet 56, f/4

Velvet 56, f/4


V85 Poppy Test 2

Velvet 85, f/4

As you can see, the Velvet 85 provides more background simplification and blur.  It was also nice not having to get in as close with that longer lens, the bees were loving these Poppies! That extra space also comes in handy when I want more space to use a diffuser or reflector.

Velvet 56, f/4

Velvet 56, f/4


Velvet 85, f/4

Velvet 85, f/4

I tried some indoor shots as well, using a huge Dahlia from my garden and a printed background texture.  I could not capture the whole flower with the Velvet 56 without also including the edges of my 11″ x 17″ background. The compression provided by the Velvet 85 helped to bring that background forward and I was easily able to fill the frame without issue.

Velvet 56, f/5.6

Velvet 56, f/5.6


Velvet 85, f/5.6

Velvet 85, f/5.6

So, which do I recommend?  I see the choice in a similar way to choosing the Lensbaby Sweet 35 or Sweet 50. Lens choice will depend on your subject, what you want to include in the frame, how close you can get to that subject and what you have to work with in the background. As with the Sweet 35 and 50, both the Velvet 56 and 85 have a place in my camera bag.

Happy Shooting!
-Kathleen Clemons

Kathleen Teaches: 

Lensbaby Magic

Fine Art Nature Photography

Fine Art Nature Photography II

Fine Art Nature Photography III

Capturing the Beauty of Flowers


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