Quick Photo Tip: Get Dirt on Your Shirt


Lots of dirt & mud on my knees & shirt.

In my Stretching Your Frame of Mind class, I give a lesson each week; made up of two parts. Unlike all the other classes, I allow each participant to submit up to two photos every day, and I create a video critique for every image.

After someone starts submitting photos that represent the lesson, I begin to get an idea of whether someone is taking or making pictures…what do I mean?

If all the photos look like they were taken at the same height, that is, the distance from the individual person’s eyes to the ground after bringing the camera (usually around their neck) up to said eyes. This shows me that there’s no effort to change the point of view, which would constitute making not just taking pictures pictures.

Btw, I don’t get this as much in my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshops I conduct around our planet simply because I’m always walking around with everyone at one time or another and suggesting that they look at their subject with a different POV.

What I’m always telling my fellow Photographers is to get some dirt on their shirt!!!

Going backwards in time to when you were a kid playing outside. Did you do everything while standing on both feet? Right now as I write this, flying a kite, or model airplane are the only two things that come to mind. I’m not talking about sports, ring around the rosie, etc., I’m talking about fun things to do while playing all by yourself.

I’m talking about things that required you to get down on your knees or stomach. Things that got you in trouble for getting dirt on your knees or shirt.

Well to me, being a grown-up should not mean that you can’t have fun anymore. Taking pictures is as much fun now as playing with small plastic soldiers in a boy-made pile of mud. Walking back to your car after taking one of your best photos and smiling as you look down at the mess you made on your shirt…is priceless; and you can’t get into trouble for doing it…or at least I hope you don’t.

-BPSOP Instructor: Joe Baraban

Joe Teaches:

Stretching Your Frame of Mind I 

Stretching Your Frame of Mind II


The BIG Secret to Great Travel Photos

Ready for a big secret?

To capture a sense of place in your travel photos, there are three main types of shots to take: overview shots, detail shots, and close-up shots. These are the types of images you’ll see in most travel and lifestyle magazine editorials. Stories often show close-up and detail images, with maybe one overview image just to give context.

Let’s look at those three types.

travel06 Amazing Travel Photos Made Easy 

Overview shots show the scene and give context.

Detail shots show one aspect of the scene, such as a particular area within the scene.

Amazing Travel Photos Made Easy Amazing Travel Photos Made Easy 

Close-up shots get the viewer up-close and personal to the subject and might be abstract. Close-up shots often need to be shown with an overview shot for a viewer to get a sense of context.


When you combine all three types of shots in your photo series, you create variety and excitement.

The lesson is that if we just take random photos of things that catch our eye, the result will be a random set of images. On the other hand, if we approach photographing our trips with a little bit of strategy, our photo albums will reflect the experience we had and be even more pleasurable to view.


Learn how to capture a sense of place.

In “Amazing Travel Photos Made Easy” instructor Brit Hammer teaches in a easy way how to capture a sense of place in your images — not just how to shoot the iconic locations but how to capture those experiences that mean something to you. You don’t even have to go on a trip to benefit from the lessons in this class!

This course focuses on the creative side of photography and emphasizes getting all your shots in-camera. You may use any digital camera, and no post-processing skills required.

The in-depth weekly video image reviews will focus on composition and capturing emotional content, not on camera settings, gear, or technical issues.

SIGN UP NOW FOR Amazing Travel Photos Made Easy

No travel is necessary to take this course.

Learn how to capture these experiences: Amazing Travel Photos Made Easy

  • landscapes
  • seascapes
  • cities & architecture
  • wine & dining experiences
  • nature
  • wildlife



Other BPSOP courses taught by Brit Hammer

Want to capture your life in loving detail?

“Celebrate Your Life in Beautiful Images Part 1” gets you started photographing how you want your life to look and what you want more of in your life. Part 2 takes you further by focusing on capturing the essence of your loved ones — think about the little things that you’ll always remember, such as how they hold their favorite coffee mug in their hands!

Celebrate Your Life in Beautiful Images Part 1 Celebrate Your Life in Beautiful Images Part 2

Celebrate Your Life in Beautiful Images Part 1

Celebrate Your Life in Beautiful Images Part 2


Get a taste of how Brit will work with you


You can also work with Brit privately

Mentoring: Schedule a live session with Brit via Skype

Get a private image video review: Private Video Image Reviews

Find out about all of Brit’s courses, including Photographing Fine Art & Craft

A Simple Thought and the Forgotten -ALT

Sometimes the simplest things, the most obvious things, are the things of which we need to remind ourselves most often.

A few weeks ago we had a brief break in our usually grey winter days here in Vancouver. By late afternoon I noticed broken clouds filling in on the horizon to the west; the kind of clouds that often produce some interesting sunset possibilities. So I headed down to a point of land a short walk from my home. I arrived there to find a group of photographers all setting up for the approaching sunset; big tripods and long lenses everywhere.

For me, there was also an obvious wide-angle composition; nice, but nothing to out of the ordinary.

image 1-2
After working that for a bit, I moved on, eventually heading back to find the same group; still busy shooting the setting sun with long lenses. So intent on this one possibility, it was apparent than none of them had thought to look behind them at the incredible light developing on the harbour and distant mountains.

image 2-2
We all love to shoot sunsets, after all who can resist a spectacular sunset? The problem though, is that absent a defining landmark most look like they might have been shot anywhere in the world. The first image above could have just as easily been shot on the coast of France, or a few hundred meters from by back door. Turning your gaze instead 180 degrees often produces more interesting results that say more about the place where you find yourself.
The Light on the Land is often more interesting than the Light itself. It’s always worth a look behind you before moving on to your next location.

The Forgotten ALT Key

Lightroom has become (as for many others), my primary image adjustment tool. I can’t imagine life without it. But when I get together with other photographers, I’m surprised to hear how few of them know of the hidden power contained within the -ALT key (“Option” on a Mac). Here are a few of my favourite -ALT key shortcuts.

Highlight and Shadow Clipping

This is one that every Lightroom user should understand and use. Holding the ALT key while clicking any of the Tone sliders in the Basic Panel of the Develop module allows you to see precisely where Clipping is occurring in your image. Clipping represents areas where the tones have been pushed together at either end of the tonal scale. Clipped highlights will reproduce as pure white in a print, and clipped shadows as featureless black areas. Let’s use this image as an example; preserving the brilliant white highlights in the clouds, along with the deep shadows under the lone tree will be a challenge for any medium, particularly for most printer/paper combinations

Afternoon thunder clouds on the Valensole Plateau, Provence
Holding down the -ALT key while adjusting the Exposure, Highlights or Whites slider causes the image area to turn black. Any clipped highlights will immediately show up as white or coloured areas in the image area. Adjust the highlights or whites sliders to eliminate as much as much of the clipped areas as possible. Keep in mind however that specular reflections from light sources off water, glass or metallic surfaces will always be clipped, and this is acceptable.

Image 4-2
Holding down the ALT key while adjusting the Shadows or Blacks sliders will cause the image area to turn white. Crushed (clipped) shadows will appear in the image areas as black or coloured areas. Most images, particularly in print are more tolerant of some clipping in the shadows than they are in the highlights, but large featureless black areas in your prints are not generally aesthetically pleasing. There exceptions to this of course, so let your artistic vision guide you.

Image 5-2

Importing and Exporting Lightroom Catalogs

When I travel, I always create a new empty catalog for the trip on the laptop I take with me, giving it a suitable name like “Italy_2017”, for example. During the trip I ingest images from my cards to this catalog at the end of each day, and back them up to an external drive. I do a first pass edit, picking the keepers and rejects (although I never delete any images at this point), keyword at a high level, and I might even try some initial editing in the Develop module. When I return home, I simply export this new Lightroom catalog with all original image files, and import it back into my main Catalog on my office workstation.
Holding down the ALT key In the Library module, causes the “Import” and “Export” (lower left) buttons to change to “Import Catalog” and “Export Catalog”

Image 6-2

Print Copy

When creating a custom print layout, either as a new template, or with images, holding down the ALT while clicking and dragging an image will create a copy that you can re-position anywhere in your layout. This also works when creating a custom print layout, allowing you quickly duplicate and reposition new image cells. The newly created cells can then be resized and rotated if needed.
Image 7

Reset Develop Settings

Sometimes you just want to reset all your tone edits back to neutral and start again. While in the Basic panel of the Develop module, hold done the ALT key to change “Tone” and “Presence” to “Reset Tone” and “Reset Presence”. Click either or both of these to reset all the sliders under them in one click.
Image 8

Resizing a Cropped Area

Resizing and repositioning a cropped area usually involves grabbing multiple corners or moving the entire cropped area around. If you are close and just want to adjust the size of the cropped area without affecting its relative position, hold down the ALT key and grab any corner of the cropped area, and drag it to expand or contract the cropped area evenly.

Image 9

Resizing the Grad Filter
When creating a Grad Filter, to knock down an overly right sky for example, the initial position you click becomes the first edge of the filter, as you drag away from this point the grad filter expands. The center point of the grad obviously moves along as you drag. If you want to change of the coverage of the grad filter without changing the center point, just hold down the ALT key as you drag either edge of the grad. The center stays put.
Image 10

There are many more shortcuts using the ALT key, these are just a few. In my Printing Class, along with helping you establish a proper colour managed workflow to optimize your prints, we also discuss approaches to editing your images in post for maximum impact, using the ALT key and many other tools available to you in Lightroom and Photoshop.

– BPSOP Instructor: Mark English

Mark Teaches: 

The Art of Printing & Selling Your Art

Using Photography to Help Animals


Do you love animals and photography? Did you ever think about using your photography skills to help shelter and rescue animals in your own community? Most animal shelters and rescues are looking for people to donate their services to help the animals in their care. Taking adoption photos is one service that is needed on a regular basis. In the United States, approximately 7.6 million pets enter shelters each year and, of those, around 2.7 million are euthanized. The power of a compelling photograph is far reaching and in some cases, can mean the difference between life and death. Consider volunteering your time and services by taking adoption photos and giving shelter animals a chance to make a lasting impression. Your work can save lives and be the ticket for animals to get out of the shelter and into loving homes. Knowing one of your images helped get an animal adopted is the best feeling in the world. Every time an animal is adopted, that frees up space so another one can be saved.

I’ve been taking adoption photos for animal welfare organizations for 13 years and I can tell you it is the most rewarding work I have ever done. You help animals and they help you. It’s a win-win situation. It’s a great way to hone your photographic skills while helping animals at the same time.

Are you a natural light shooter? Do you enjoy using flash units or speedlights? You can photograph adoptable animals indoors or outdoors using natural light or with studio type lighting – any way you want. Photograph animals in a way that appeals to you and makes best use of your skills.

Taking adoption photos using flash Units and a soft box.

Sometimes I photograph rescue animals using one flash unit with a soft box against a seamless paper backdrop. This is my preferred method when I have to photograph a lot of animals during a session, which can be anywhere from 20-80 animals. Having a clean backdrop makes things easier and go faster. My lighting equipment is portable. I travel light and keep it simple, since all of my sessions are done on location. I do not have a permanent studio. Below are some adoption photos taken using this set-up. I photographed the puppy against green seamless paper and the black dog against white seamless paper.


Taking adoption photos indoors using natural or available light.

If I’m only photographing a few animals (10 or less) and have decent light, I will use natural or available light. Below are adoption photos of cats taken indoors using natural/available light. I photographed the orange cat on top of a table and the gray/white cat in a free-roaming cat room.


Taking adoption photos outdoors.

If you prefer shooting outdoors, you can take adoption photos outside. Find some open shade and go for it. Below are some adoption photos of dogs I took outside. I like to photograph small dogs and puppies on top of a table. That makes it easy to get an eye level perspective. Sometimes I hang sheets on a wall to create an appealing outside-backdrop or may just use the existing surroundings like I did with the German Shepherd.

Rescue Puppy
Rescue GS

Need to sharpen your pet photography skills? My 4 week Pet Photography Course at BPSOP covers photographing animals using both natural light and flash units. You can tailor the class to learn how to photograph your own pets, pets for clients, and/or shelter pets. I recommend that people who take my class, use the type of light that inspires them and photograph what they love.

Have questions about the class, please email info@visualharmonyphotography.com.

Hope to see you in class!

-BPSOP Instructor – Jill Flynn

Jill teaches:
Pet Photography

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  • I really enjoyed this course on composition a lot and learned again as always! Have just been through some more of your critiques for others in class – I also love to learn by seeing work of classmates. A big “thank you” for a great four weeks! You are always kind and never discouraging! This has been wonderful and helps a lot!!
    Séverine Blaise Understanding Composition
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