Understanding Light

There are three things to consider when talking about light:

  • Quality of light

  • direction of light

  • Amount


Quality of Light

Light can be either hard, soft, but there are varying degrees of hard and soft light.

Characteristics of a hard light source:

Hard light will have heavy shadows: more accurately, hard light sources create very crisp lines of shadow with very little gradation. Because of this, images shot with a hard light source gives the subject the appearance of having more detail or texture.

Synonyms and / or descriptors used when talking about hard light:

  • Harsh light - because of the extra detail it creates

  • Direct light - because hard light comes from a direct single spot opposed to soft light which is indirect

Examples sources of hard light:

  • The sun

  • Flash

  • Unshaded light bulbs

Characteristics of soft light

A soft light source is best thought of as indirect or spread out light. Think of how light enters inside of your home through the window. That light is bouncing around and spreading out before it ever reaches the glass. Soft light can be identified by elongated shadows (more gradation).


Synonyms and/or descriptors used when talking about soft light:

  • Indirect

  • Diffused

Examples of soft light

  • Window light

  • Shade

  • Light bouncing off of a white or lightly colored wall

  • Cloudy or overcast days

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Direction of light

The direction of light plays a huge role in the look of your photograph.

As an experiment photograph the same person or object from the front of, the side of, and behind  your light source to see what happens. You will end up with three very different looking images. Notice where the light begins to fall off. Which image looks like it has the most depth? Which looks flattest?


The amount of light is self explanatory but should not be confused with the quality of the light. You can have both an abundance of soft light as well as hard light.

Picture a scene in heaven in a tv show or movie. It is always depicted with lots of bright light, but that light is soft!


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Amount is simple. It's how intense your light source is. Thats it. Both hard and soft light sources can be very bright or very dim.


5 Reasons You Should Get the Canon A1

Canon A-1

Canon A-1

More Camera

You may be familiar with the Canon AE-1, perhaps Canon’s most iconic manual focus film cameras. The AE-1 has surely secured its position as an icon. And as such, with the resurgence of film, commands quite a price. At the time of writing this article, an AE-1 can run up to $250.

Conversely, the Canon A-1 is far less iconic of a camera. Yet it is a superior camera in most ways. The Canon A-1 sits atop Canon’s prosumer line of the era and features full manual control, shutter priority, aperture priority and full auto control.

Build Quality

The Canon A-1 is built with more premium materials than the AE-1 or some of its competitors such as Minolta’s X-700.

canon a-1 features


During the production run of the A-1, there were over 50 lenses available. That means there are lots of options and lots of them out there.

Be proud

Proudly smirk at all those suckers with an AE-1, knowing you have more camera.


You can get an A1 for about $100 at the time of writing this article. That’s not bad at all.

top of Canon a-1

Advanced Event Photography Tips You've Never Heard


Advanced Event Photography Tips You've Never Heard

Pre-select your focal point

Rather than waiting for the viewfinder to reach your eye, consider where the point of focus will be and use your camera’s focus point controller to set it. Keep in mind, this will require you to develop the vision required to conceive your composition prior to seeing what you will see in you viewfinder. With practice this becomes intuitive. You will find yourself automatically adjusting your focus point.

Shoot with both eyes

performer at adobe max

While one eye frames your shot, use your other eye to monitor the action.
Doing so improves your timing as you’re no longer viewing what’s in front of you through the tunnel of your viewfinder. Additionally you are able to monitor the space for other potential images.

Read the room

happy skaters

Follow the energy. This is not hocus pocus. Do not overthink it. Follow the energy for more interesting candids.

Predict smiles

smiling skater

Have you learned to follow the energy? Good. Now it's time to predict a smile.
watch the eyes and anticipate the pause

Time your shot ahead of the peak of action

Your motor skills has a delay. Your camera has a delay from the moment you press the shutter button and the moment it makes an image, albeit small. Experiment with timing your image just before the peak of action to counteract that delay.

Nick Offerman at Adobe Max

What is Composition?


What is Composition in Photography?

Simply put, composition is the framing and structural elements of a photo.

Many decisions go into taking a photograph.

When I was studying photography the first thing I learned was the many “rules” of composition. However, its best to think of them as elements of design you have at your disposal, not as strict rules to follow. Here are a few to get you started.


Imagine that your image is divided into 9 equal segments by 2 vertical and 2 horizontal lines making a sort of tic-tac-toe grid. The rule of thirds states that you should position the most important elements where these lines intersect, or more simply put: one third of the way into your frame. Some cameras even have the option to overlay rule of thirds guidelines in the viewfinder or lcd screen.

Why rule of thirds? First, we are used to seeing subjects placed in the middle of the screen. By placing your subject somewhere else, you can instantly add visual interest to your photograph. Second it gives us an opportunity to use that space in interesting ways...

rule of thirds




Try evening out a scene using the rule of thirds  by adding something of similar visual “weight” (how much the eye is drawn toward an area).  You can add in less important subject matter, or draw the eye toward your main subject using leading lines...

balancing elements


When we look at a photo our eye is naturally drawn along lines. By thinking about how you place lines in your composition, you can affect the way we view the image, pulling us into the picture, towards the subject, or on a journey through the scene. There are many different types of lines - straight, diagonal, curved, zigzag, radial etc - and each can be used to enhance our photo's composition.

examples of leading lines:

  • A winding river

  • Fences

  • Wood planks

  • Columns



Every image has direction- the natural journey your eye travels through a photograph. Use that direction to tell a story. Use a variety of elements of composition to create direction in your photograph.


We are surrounded by symmetry and patterns, both natural and man-made. Don’t be afraid to get up close to nature to look for those patterns and really pay attention to how patterns, symmetry, and geometric shapes are used in man made structures.

symmetry and patterns


FRAMING (sub framing)

Use available objects to surround your subject, drawing the eye toward it, essentially creating a vignette. 

Example uses of framing:

  • Placing your subject in the inside of a tunnel

  • Shooting through a hole

  • Shooting through a window

  • Shooting through a fence

  • Shooting through foliage

And now a big list of things to consider when making a photograph...

  • How close to my subject do I want to be?

  • Is my subject’s surroundings important?

  • How do I want to portray my subject?

  • If my subject is a person, do I want them looking at the camera? Why or why not?

  • Is there an emotion or feeling I want to capture?

  • Is there a story I want to tell with this photograph?

  • What inspired me to take this photo?

  • How does the eye travel through this photograph?

  • How many different ways can I shoot this photograph?

  • How is the photograph I am taking different than what anyone else would take?

  • Am I paying attention to my background as much as I am to my subject?


I hope this helps get you started on improving your photography. Feel free to comment below with your own tips or questions!

How to Get Good at Photography


How to get good at photography. The following are tips I have accumulated from over 10 years experience teaching and shooting professionally.  

1. Always be working on SOMETHING. This can be a technique, a style, it can be shooting in low light. IT DOES NOT MATTER WHAT IT IS. Just always be working on something. Don't get complacent. If you’re going into a job or personal project or just doing some travel photography, go into it thinking to yourself: “WHAT DO I WANT TO WORK ON TODAY”

2. Keep a Journal. This one layers onto the idea of always working on something. My advice: go into a job, a shoot, or project with an idea of what you want to achieve. Afterward journal what worked? What didn't? But this is important: YOU MUST DO THIS WITH KINDNESS. What does this mean? Remove the ego and do not limit yourself to what did not work. Be kind to yourself and ask, what went well and WHY?

3. TAKE A CLASS OR FIND A MENTOR Some people can go it alone but most cannot. It doesn't mean that they're not talented, just that that is not how they learn.

4. LOSE YOUR EGO Try to get honest feedback from your peers and DO NOT rely on social media feedback. I swear to you, my least interesting photos are the ones that get the most likes. The images that perform the best are not necessarily you’re best In the case of instagram the images that are successful are the equivalent of junk food that gives you that blunt sugar salt and fat fix. THERE IS NO SUBTLETY

5. GO OUT AND SHOOT How do you get good at Soccer? You play soccer. How do you get good at photography? You take photos.