Recording: Finding photo ops without leaving your house

So you feel like taking pictures, but you don't feel like going anywhere? Maybe it's raining or the weather is bad. Maybe you just don't have the energy. Being housebound doesn't have to limit your creativity.

This month, we created the ultimate shot list for taking pictures from the comforts of home. Here's what we created.

Kitchen shot list

Recipes as you cook



Dishes in the cabinet

Coffee cups

Counter tops

Floor and tiles


Dirty dishes

Wine rack

Water in a glass

Gadgets - food mill

Cut fruit


Morning sun streaming in on a table

Potatoes and onions that started growing stems

Mold in the veggie drawer :-)

Family gathered around the table for a meal

Mixing bowls

Family heirlooms

Pampered Chef knives

Living Room shot list


Plants & flowers

Angles of walls

Ornaments or art

Unusual perspectives (lying on floor)

Patterns on things (curtains, chairs)





Holiday vignettes on a coffee table

Old school radiator


Carpet designs

Bedroom shot list

Perfume bottles


Favorite outfit on hanger




Lights and shadows from windows


Alarm clocks

Tassels on drapes

Window panes

Cracks in paint

Dresser drawer handles

Stuffed animals

Chandeliers or ceiling fans

Wicker hamper

Bathroom shot list

Tissue holders




Decorative soaps

Bubble baths


Hand wash racks

Shower heads

Candles around a bubble bath

Monogram towels

Rubber duckies

Cat at the edge of the tub

Medicine cabinet 

Stories and themes

What makes you feel most at home?

What brings you the most comfort?

Where is your favorite room and why?

What is your favorite activity when you come home?

What home improvement project are you most proud?

What is your next improvement project?

Show before and after of your favorite home improvement project.

What are favorite gifts from people?

What are your favorite t-shirts or medals?

What fun things do you collect?

Show a day in the life of your pet.

Here's your challenge

Pick from our list or create your own photo op. Shoot it and share it with us in the comments or in our Facebook group.

Webinar - Licensing your photos

I snapped this photo of Pat O'Briens' shortly after Hurricane Katrina.

Shortly after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, I got a call from a representative of Pat O'Briens asking to use one of my photos.

Anyone who has ever wandered down Bourbon Street knows that Pat O'Briens is an institution in New Orleans. It opened in the French Quarters in the 1930s and has become a landmark for locals and tourists alike.

I'd gone down to visit my family home and assess our own damage. While I was in town, I ventured down to the French Quarters to see how the rest of the city fared.

Pat O'Briens, like most Bourbon Street businesses, was anxious to reopen in the wake of the hurricane, so when they did, they hoisted a huge sign proclaiming it to the world.

I photographed a few of these signs, tourist style, because I thought they told an interesting story. In that moment of dumb luck, I captured one of the only photos of Pat O'Briens' welcome home sign. And now Pat O'Briens restaurant was on the phone. They found my photo on Flickr and wanted to know if they could purchase it.

This is flattering for someone who lived and worked in New Orleans, but I still didn't know enough to agree.


Join our webinar on licensing your photos

When someone calls and asks to use one of your photos, there are about 15 questions you should ask. Once you have the answers, your work isn't done. You have more research to do. Then, and only then, you can make an informed decision.

In our next Free Photo Webinar, we will discuss the questions you ask and the issues you should consider before you respond to any request to use or license your photo.


June 10, 2014

7 pm, est

Recording: Saving the world with your photography

Last night we discussed how we might use our photography to do good.

Sure you can build a business and make money with your talents, but what if you aren't exclusively motivated by money?

Our webinar looked at three examples of photographers who took their photography talents and merged with the causes they were passionate about. Here's a combination that might not save the entire world, but certainly save their corner.

Cristina Mittermeier saves her world through conservation photography

Cristina Mittermeier is a marine biologist who was dismayed when she saw the way animals were being captured around the world. She responded be creating a new genre  -- conservation photography and an organization, the International League of Conservation Photographers. Now the iLCP's network of photographers work to further environmental and conservation through ethical photography.

Cristina tells her story during a B&H Photo Video presentation in New York City. View it here.

Joanne Taylor saves her world by promoting pet adoptions

Joanne Taylor describes herself as "ridiculously rescue friendly" so it shouldn't come as a surprise that she spends "about a third of her time working with different rescues either photographing adoptables or in a number of other volunteer capacities."

Joanne lends her talents through the organization HeARTs speak, which promotes pet adoptions.

See Joanne's HeARTs speak work here.

Adam Levner saves his world by creating a new generation of photojournalists

Adam Levner was alarmed when he saw the difference between the education that wealthy students and those from low-income schools received. As a former 5th-grade teacher turned community organizer, he often struggled trying to convey the magnitude of the problems he witnessed.

Then he realized his camera was the tool he needed to make a difference. Even better, empowering the students to tell their own stories through pictures could be even more effective.

"I'm an amateur photographer and believe it is a very powerful tool for self expression and the arts," said Adam. "I also feel it is a way to engage students in a larger question about how they can change the world around them. Photography is one way to do that… to make sure their voices are heard."

Critical Exposure Year in Review - 2013

See Critical Exposure success stories at their annual gallery showing and reception

To learn more about what Critical Exposure students photographed and accomplished this year, visit their gallery showing and reception May 21, 2014 at the Pepco Edison Gallery - 702 8th St, NW. Washington, DC.


Are you using your photography to make a difference in your world? Are you considering it? Share your ideas and experiences in the comments.

Recording: Silencing your inner critic

My first photo tour almost never happened.

Four years ago, I was enjoying my role as a Meetup organizer. Shutterbug Excursions was growing at a rapid pace. We were going out and photographing great locations. I was making new friends who shared my passion for photography. This is what I had envisioned when I started the group.

Then I noticed that I found myself in the role of teacher more and more. Members started bringing me their photo and camera questions, and I was really enjoying answering them.

"What if I made that role more formal?" I wondered.

And with that whim and the back-of-a-napkin planning, PhotoTour DC was born. And then almost died:

  • "What are you thinking?"
  • "What makes you think anyone would want to listen to you?"
  • "So many other people are already teaching photography? Why you?

The voices are persistent. And I know them all too well. 

Many of you hear similar voices -- your inner critic.s

In our February 2014 webinar, we confronted the inner critic that seeks to steal our dreams and limit our impact.

Are you ready to silence your inner critic? Click to tweet below:

Tweet: I learned how to silence my inner critic at this #FreePhotoWebinar. Listen to the recording #inspiration

Our Q&A

Wendy: never thought I was good enough.

Lyn: Wendy, many of us go through that. I find we are our worst critics. I’m sure there are many great qualities in your photographs. Keep working at it daily, and you will see the improvements you really want.

Kirsten: I'm definitely a cynic... I can't see myself as good enough to show my work.

Lyn: I know what you mean. Try keeping a brag book. Collect or record every compliment or positive statement someone offers you. When you’re feeling down, read it for an ego boost.

Sandra: Just want to say - what a fantastic talk. Thanks Lynford for being candid about things that we may never voice ourselves.

Lyn: Thanks, Sandra. This is a very personal message for me. I was hoping it resonated with everyone else as well.

Rob: So is there roughly a line of qualification to become professional?

Lyn: A professional should be able to produce quality photos predictably and consistently. Assume a client will rarely give you a good light situation and will never give you enough time. You should still be able to come away with something your client loves every time. You can’t ever leave a professional shoot without a usable photo. If you do, it will always be your fault.

Oral: Lynford, I have to agree with you that we gain from the efforts we put forward.

Lyn: As with anything in life. :-)

Rhonda: I have a tough time setting fees. I always think "Aww it's just a picture of mine, not like it's a professional!"

Lyn: The key here is to calculate what the value will be to your client. It’s not about you. A photo that is used for a million dollar ad campaign has the same value to the client whether you shoot it or your favorite pro creates it. You should be prepared to ask for market value based on the photo’s use.

Wendy: now printing at Corcoran I started out intimidated by the others and am constantly surprised by the great comments about my work.

Lyn: Take the good feedback as a sign, Wendy. :-)

Carolyn: I particularly like "ask better questions". My question is always, am I good enough? I will ask better questions. Thanks a bunch!

Lyn: Glad to hear it! Start with this one: what's great about my work?

Steve: What are the top 3 attributes you've seen in those photographers who you deem successful?

Lyn: 1)They are good with light. 2) They see the details most people miss. 3) They are creative storytellers. Thanks for asking. I think I’ll write a blog post on this one, too. 

Carol: I believe in my work but I have a challenge with the marketing such as setting prices, creating contracts, etc.

Lyn: You can help that by doing more thorough market research. Get to know your customer better, what problem you will solve, and what the value will be for them. Just that process, if done rigorously, can help you feel better about what you are worth and asking for it.

Theodora: How can I learn more about my camera / get to know it better?

Lyn: Self serving answer: Take one of my photo tours. I’ll teach you everything you need to know to learn your camera and shoot with confidence. Start with this one (offered in the winter). In the spring through fall, you can take it here.

Carol: Do you ever do workshops on marketing?

Lyn: I absolutely do. My professional background is actually in marketing, having worked as a communicator for 20 years. I taught a marketing workshop last year that I will reprise this spring. Please add your name here, so I can let you know when it is announced.


This presentation was influenced by the following posts and points of view:

Shut up, I'm Writing! by Josh Irby

3 People You Need to Ignore Online by Jon Acuff

3 Paralyzing Statements That Keep You from Your Best Work by Emily P. Freeman

Use the Power of Questions to Change Your Life by Tony Robbins

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners by Ira Glass

The Work of Byron Katie

The inner critic was wrong

I ignored my inner critic. And by the end of my first photo tour, I knew my decision was the right one. I'd made new friends, and we'd made progress with our photography.

This was a way I could truly help other photographers and make a difference.

My inner critic was wrong.

Your inner critic is likely wrong, too.

Free Photo Webinar: Silencing your inner critic

I’ve taken maybe three pictures in my entire life that I really liked, and this wasn’t one of them.

“Does the world really need another picture of a flower?” I heard a voice ask me sarcastically. “Why not a puppy next?”

“You’ve taken better orchid photos than that you know,” the voice continued. “Why post that one? It’s not even your best.”

“Look, bokeh in the background. That’s so 2006!” The voice was openly mocking me now. He was saying things I knew were just mean, yet I listened.

The truth is... I recognized his voice. He pretended to be a friend, but his task was anything but friendly. His only job was to usher in doubt, cynicism, and fear.

He was my inner critic.


Do you ever hear your inner critic?

For the photographer, the artist, or the creative, sometimes we can be our own worst enemy. We create our art and then we sit. We don’t post it online, enter it into contests or present it to potential clients.

The voice convinces us we aren’t ready. The photo isn’t ready. That we would be rejected and humiliated. In search of perfection, we become paralyzed.

There’s a place for the critic that challenges us to do our best work, but you know this voice isn’t it.


Join our next Free Photo Webinar

Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, 7 pm, e.s.t.

If you have ever felt yourself struggling with the inner voice that limits you or that convinces you that you can’t... this webinar conversation is for you.

We will discuss the different kinds of inner voices that keep us from achieving our potential and some strategies to help silence the critic and move beyond its grip.

Join the webinar next Tuesday to learn more

By the way, I finally silenced the critic and posted my flower. The next morning, I woke to find that it was featured as a Flickr Explorer. Who knew?

Not the inner critic.

Recording: Finding your perfect personal photo project

What is a personal photo project? Why would you need one? And how do you go about finding one that's perfect for you? These are just a few of the questions we discussed during our January 2014 Free Photo Webinar.

Many of our past webinar guest speakers have encouraged us to find and maintain personal photo projects. Why? What's the big deal? In this webinar, we look at a few of their examples and discuss what we might learn from them.

What is a photo project?

  • Ongoing
  • Thematic
  • Expresses your other interests

Why bother?

  • To improve
  • To stretch
  • To share
  • To build something
  • To find yourself

Why now?

  • Pixels are cheap
  • Publishing is accessible
  • Creating brings fulfillment


Examples & former webinars

My 100 Strangers

Humans of New York 

Tom Sperduto

Jim Darling

Emily Mitchell: 12 ways to find and maintain your motivation

Matthew Jordan Smith


Advice from former posts

7 questions for finding your perfect personal photo project

12 sites to display, share and sell your photos


Two of your projects 

Patrick Thomasson

Project365 (2014)

Tell us about your photo project

I'm hoping to improve my photography one day at a time. I love taking pictures on my phone, and got an entry level DSLR last year; I want to get better and more consistent.

What was your inspiration?

I heard about project 365 from you during a photo tour in Annapolis. It fits well with my goal to be more creative this year.

How has it helped your photography?

1. Becoming more decisive (i.e sharing only one photo per day, but what if I get two good shots?).
2. Becoming more aware, looking for interesting subjects in everyday things.
3. Letting go of perfection - doing my best to get great shots, but accepting that they won't all be "perfect".


Ira Silverberg

Forty on Route 40: A Photo Essay

Tell us about your photo project

"Forty on Route 40" is a collection of photos (40 places) taken along U.S. Route 40 in Maryland between East Baltimore and Perryville. U.S. Route 40 was a major road connecting Washington, D.C. and Baltimore to cities in the Northeast prior to the completion of I-95 through the area in 1963. Once bypassed by the interstate, development slowed dramatically along Route 40. Many of the old businesses from that era, an eclectic mix of cheap motels, restaurants, and retail stores, remain to this day.

What was your inspiration?

A desire to document an older area that is slowly giving way to modernization. My neighborhood is bordered by the Chesapeake Bay on one side and Route 40 on the other, so I travel Route 40 every day. Though nothing remains from the colonial period, a roadside sign reminds that in the 1600s the explorer John Smith visited and "Old Baltimore" was located in what is now Abingdon, Maryland. Route 40 became a federal highway in the 1920s. The areas restaurants and businesses were desegregated in the 1960s after African and Asian diplomats who traveled Route 40 between their United Nation's and Washington D.C. offices complained about how they were treated.

How has it helped your photography?

Work on this project has helped improve my photography skills. 
_ Planning the best time to shoot, the best camera and lens combination.
- Having a specific focus makes you much more aware of your surroundings. Many places that I passed by every day, I noticed for the first time.
- Limiting the number of places to 40 made me take a close look at each photo to see how it supported the theme.


Once you have chosen your photo project, share your photos with us in our Google + community.


You can also post a link to your photo project in the comments. Tell us what inspired you to start it and how it helps your photography.

Webinar: Finding & sharing your perfect personal photo project

Tuesday, Jan. 21

7 pm est

Whether you are just starting out or are a working professional, you will find a personal photo project can be a great outlet. 

For the enthusiast photographer, it can provide:

  • Motivation to keep shooting;
  • Personal satisfaction for creating something significant; or
  • An outlet that lets you use your talents for a greater good.

For a professional photographer:

  • It lets you showcase your more creative talents to clients;
  • It provides your clients another way to connect with you and the issues you find important.

If you are still struggling to identify the right personal photo project, we'll talk about some strategies to help you narrow your search to the right one. 

If you have already found your perfect personal project, I'd love for you to share it with us. We can look at some success stories and take away inspiration to start or keep working our own ideas.


Fill out my online form.

Webinar Recording: Creating black and white photography

How do you create great images in black and white? That’s the topic we tackled during our December 2013 Free Photo Webinar. In this presentation and discussion, you will learn:

  • Why shoot in black and white?
  • What principles should you follow for all your black and white photos?
  • What elements really make a black and white photo stand out?
  • We compare several photos in color & black and white and talk about the differences.
  • What should you know to convert your photos from color to black and white successfully?

Plus...we had a pretty good discussion about resources, gear, and shooting.


More resources

Credits - See the Flickr Creative Commons photos used in Black & White webinar gallery and Black and White webinar gallery 2.

In our Q&A section, someone asked about learning resources for strobe photography. I suggested:

...and I’m adding

Joe McNally's The Language of Light DVD

I also mentioned the ExpoDisc as a great tool for accurate white balance.

Creating photos in black and white

Flickr photo by misschristi1972. (Converted to black & white.)

What makes a box of crayons interesting? As I remember it, we judged Crayolas based on the numbers of colors. Whether your box had 8, 16, 32, or 64 crayons, we learned that with more options, we could create more nuance and impact in our drawings.

What if that same crayon box came with only shades of gray? How much fun would that be?

We might not be able to imagine enjoying monochrome crayons but stripping color from your pictures could add a whole new layer of impact to your photography.


A great black and white photo is first a great photo

Back when I learned to take pictures, we only used one kind of film -- black and white. My instructors taught us about all the principles of photography and gave assignments to help us understand the lessons better. Here’s what they never did -- taught us to see in black and white.

You know why? Many of the elements that make a strong black & white photo are the same principles that work in any photo -- color or not. Here are questions I ask when evaluating any photo.

Exposure -- Is the photograph exposed correctly? Is the subject well lit? Is there the proper amount of light to create the mood or tell the story? Are there any blown highlights or overexposed areas that are distracting? Are the darker or shadow areas so muddy that you lose detail?

Composition -- Is there a clear and compelling subject? Does everything else in the frame work to complement or lead the eye to the subject? Does the action lead my eye on a clear path around the photo? Are there any distracting elements in the photo?

Focus -- Is the subject or main part of the image sharply in focus? Is enough of the subject in focus? Is too much in focus? Is the image free of camera shake?

Impact -- Does it pass the ‘so what’ test? Is it clear what compelled you to take this photo, to save it, to share it? Is there a story?

Emotion -- What do I feel when I look at your photo? What are the subjects of your photo feeling? Can I sympathize? Empathize? What’s my reaction?

In any photograph -- black and white or color, you have to start with the basics.


What is unique to a black and white image?

When you strip away color from a photograph, the other characteristics become more noticeable. You might find yourself focusing on elements that might have been obscured by the splashes of red or green.

If you know these elements stand out, use them to create stronger images.

  • Shapes & Patterns -- Lines, shapes and patterns are a staple of great composition. Without the distractions of color, the geometry often becomes more prominent. In the black & white photo of the crayons, you might notice the repeating pattern. Would you have noticed it in color? Perhaps, but only after you took notice of each color. In monochrome, the pattern takes center stage. Find the shapes and patters.
  • Texture -- I wonder what that subject feels like? Does the photo make it easy for me to imagine? In a black and white photo, texture can become easier to visualize. Look for opportunities to show us how something feels.
  • Light & Shadows -- You usually find more impact focusing on the light or shadows of a scene in black and white photography. Your camera is designed to give you an average of the entire scene in its default mode. In black and white, you can create more impact by making either the light or shadow more prominent. Using spot metering can help.
  • Tonal Contrast -- The range of light to dark in an image is often called the tonal range. Without color, you can choose to use a more graduated range, with lots of gray tones in between. For more drama, you can also go for a stark difference between blacks and white. 


The why factor

One of the most important questions you can ask yourself is ‘why?’ Why is this photo in black and white? Is it important to the message? Was a color too distracting? Does it enhance the mood? Create an effect? Tell a story? Why are you doing this?

Some images need to be in black and white. Sometimes you choose it to mask technical flaws. Sometimes you just feel it makes the image right. Trust your artistic instinct for this one. Just be deliberate and intentional about your choices.

Once you’ve decided how to best express your vision, dip into your crayon box and pick your best gray. Color away.


Learn more about Creating Black & White photography in our Free Photo Webinar

Want to learn more about creating in black and white? Join my December 10, 2013 Free Photo Webinar. We’ll dig deeper into what makes a great black and white photo. We’ll look at some examples of how we use each of the principles above. We’ll talk about the best ways to convert a color image and the benefits of shooting straight to black and white. I’ll even have some resources to help you continue your learning path.

Register now to join us.

Recording: Capturing the elusive Aurora Borealis

How do you capture the display of Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights? That was the question Frank Audet, a photographer from Quebec City, Quebec, helped us understand during our November 2013 Free Photo Webinar.

Photographing the auroras is about as much about science as it is about photography. The light shows occur when highly charged electrons from solar winds interact with elements in the earth's atmosphere. 

Why do you need to know this?

"As many of you know, if you want to take great pictures of birds, you first have to learn how the bird behaves. The same thing applies to Aorora Borealis or Northern Lights," Frank said during his presentation. "You just can't go out there on a starry night and hope to shoot Aurora. There's a learning curve." 

The challenge is not to shoot the Auroras, it's to find them.

To help us deconstruct the mystery, Frank's presentation explains:

  • What is an Aurora?
  • When are they occurring?
  • How do you photograph them?

View the webinar recording

Helpful Resources 

Coronal Mass Injections are massive bursts of solar wind ejected from the sun and released into the solar system. Websites like monitor solar activity and can send you alarms when CMEs occur. 

The intensity of the solar storm when it comes to Earth is defined by a scale: the K-index (Kp). A larger number means a more important storm and better chances of having Auroras -- and better chances of having them at lower latitudes. This site tells you the Kp typically required for your region: 

The Earth’s magnetic field needs to allow the CME to enter the atmosphere. This is the Bz index, which can also be found at When you have a south pointing Bz, CME enters the atmosphere and Auroras have better chances of occurring. Bz in North, chances don’t look good. 

Final factors include presence of clouds of course, and the presence of the moon. A big bright full moon lowers the chances considerably. 


Photography Tips

What if you have the perfect conditions and still don't see anything? 

"This happens most of the time," says Frank. "Remember that a camera sensor at ISO 3200 with the shutter opened for 30-60 seconds gathers much more light and is much more sensitive than your eyes. Even if you don’t see Auroras, if the conditions are theoretically good, point your camera north, include a few foreground interesting elements, do a manual focus on infinity, and open the shutter for several seconds."  


You can find Frank Audet at and email him here.


Chasing the elusive Aurora Borealis with Frank Audet

Join our Free Photo Webinar
Nov. 19, 2013, 7 pm, est

Aurora Star Trail 2012. Photo by Frank Audet.

You might be surprised to learn that even people who live in northern cities feel that capturing the Northern Lights is unlikely, even impossible. And while that might be the case for most photographers, Frank Audet isn’t one of them. 

As a self-described image hunter who lives north of Quebec City, Canada, Frank has captured the Aurora Borealis for National Geographic and Canada’s most prestigious newspapers. 

When he isn’t publishing his Weekly Snapshot of Quebec, he leads Aurora Borealis workshops. Frank also has recently published a book on a region of Quebec.

Join us on Nov. 19, when we explore the art and science of capturing the Northern Lights. Frank will show us his images and share some of his tips and secrets for capturing great night shots. This might help your night photography even if you never make it up to Alaska.

See Frank Audet's photos at

Once the webinar begins, you can join us directly here.