Wednesday, June 28, 2017

How to Build a Killer Portfolio

If I were choosing a portfolio from the images above, I would likely toss out the black and white and the chili pepper shots because they don't flow with the rest of the images.

I love to see other photographers thrive, and a huge part of thriving as an artist is having a stellar portfolio. 

"But," you ask, "What if I don't have a portfolio? Where do I start?" 

Well, that is the point of this article, and perhaps, if you all are interested in knowing more than I can cover here, I can write another Simple Guide to... book. But, lets start here and cover some basics. For the purpose of this article I am going to relate this to photography and photographers, but most of this can apply to traditional artists as well. 

What is a Portfolio and Who Needs One? 

A portfolio is simply a body of work, often with a unifying theme. As simple as that definition is, many people don't understand it, especially the unifying theme portion. A killer portfolio has flow, it works well together. Imagine a gallery display, all the pieces should hang together and be pleasing to the eye. A portfolio is not about showing your diversity, it is about showing your consistency. 

As for who needs a portfolio, personally, I think all artists. Even if you are not interested in doing photography for money or submitting a portfolio in a commercial sense. Having a beautiful portfolio helps you grow and learn as an artist. If an art director or local gallery owner sees your work (on social media, etc) and they are interested in seeing more, it is very nice to have it at the ready. It's even nice to be able to share with friends who appreciate your talents. Don't discount the power of a great portfolio! 

Pull Together Your Best Work 

If you don't have a portfolio, or if you are just beginning to build one, here is where you need a firm foundation. Starting it off well makes it much easier to manage. Likely (if you need a portfolio), you have been taking photos for a while and you have a stash of your best images. Pull them out (you can do this digitally in something like Lightroom), put them all together and really look at them, like you've never seen them before. Like you have no idea of the story behind them. Look at them as a stranger. It helps if you put them into a collage or grid view. Also, having a trusted friend give some honest opinions can be very helpful. 

Now that you have your best images together, ask yourself some tough questions. 

The grid view in Lightroom is a great way to view potential portfolio images so you can see what works well together in regards to style and consistency. You can also use Lighroom's filters by star rating, color tagging, and keywords to help organize and sort images as you work through them.

Define Your Style 

What is my style? This is really hard sometimes, so don't be discouraged. It takes some time to develop and to realize what your style is, and it's something that can keep evolving. As tempting as it is to diversify, it is much better to keep your portfolio to images that have the same style. Why? Because your portfolio is something you show to people who might want to hire you. They want to see examples of what their photos might look like if you take them. If your style is all over the board, they won't have any idea, or be able to visualize their own photos. People like very much to imagine themselves in the images, much like displays in stores that shoppers can imagine in their own homes. This is your display. Make it something they can count on. Toss out the oddball style images from your collage, this will be a process of elimination. 

Eliminate What Doesn't Flow 

Now, with the images you have left, what is the subject you shoot most? Is it flowers, is it people, is it landscapes? Play a game of "What Doesn't Belong" and toss out the images that do not mix well with the others. Remember that consistent style matters more than subject. The more ruthless you are at this stage, the higher quality your portfolio will be! 

Cut Emotional Ties and Keep it Concise 

Keep in mind, that you are not abandoning those images that don't make the portfolio. Early on, I always felt like a traitor when I had to take out an image I loved because it didn't really fit my portfolio. Don't let that derail you. This is simply an exercise in finding your selling points, your look, your visual business card. Only the pertinent info makes it onto a business card. 

Try to keep it somewhere between 10-15 photos. Your portfolio is not your website, per se. You can showcase much more on your website because that is where your fans or people who want to see much more of your work will go. Your portfolio should just be the bait that gets them there and makes them want to see more.

Remember, the people you are going to show it to aren't already your fans, and they are often crunched for time. Show them you respect their time by keeping things concise, simple, and quick. These images should sum up all that is you as a photographer.

If you already have a portfolio, now is the time to look at it and closely evaluate it, especially if it isn't getting you jobs. Does it show your style? Is it way too large? Get brutal and toss out what doesn't make the cut. Ask others for opinions. Often we (and I mean me, too) associate images with memories, and we will give extra weight to an image because of sentimentality, but a photo editor is not going to know what a great dinner you had on the beach after you made this photo or how you grew that plant yourself. Cutting the emotional ties to images can be tough! That's where a friend or two can come in handy with 3rd-party, unbiased opinions.

Keep Things Fresh

Don't forget to update your portfolio! If you have a new image that fits what you are showing, add it in, don't wait! Take out the least favorite/best and replace it. That way you can always be sure your best is out there. Your portfolio should be a living, dynamic, ever-better representation of your talents and abilities as you grow and evolve as an artist.

Always trade a new, better image into your portfolio for a lesser one, to keep your best work constantly moving forward.

Tailor to Your Audience

All of the advice above is geared toward creating your general portfolio. Of course (just like with a resume), you can tailor your presentation if you know who your audience will be. For example, if you are interested in working for a gardening magazine, you would want to focus on botanical images and you wouldn't want to send an architectural magazine a portfolio of flowers. But, the most important thing is that it is a consistent body of exceptional work.

Ask for Feedback

Sometimes, we gain great insight into what our best work is by getting feedback from others. If you don't know a professional who would be willing to review your work, ask friends and family. Sharing on social media is also a nice indicator of what images are creating the most interest (just remember to copyright and watermark). You will also want to ask for feedback after you have assembled and created your finished portfolio.

Posting what you think are your best images to social media is a great way to get feedback, rankings on 500px, likes on Facebook, or votes on Viewbug can be very helpful in determining what should go into your portfolio.

Putting it All Together

Now that you have chosen your images, how do you put them together? In this digital age, it is essential that you have a digital portfolio at the ready. Something you can link to for quick inquiries. Remember to keep it simple, clean, professional, and easy to navigate. Fancy page transitions or flashy colors are going to take away from your images. Be sure that the design and layout are complimentary and showcase your work, not distract from or compete with it. You want to make sure your work is memorable for the right reasons, not that your color and design are gaudy, or that your navigation is a nightmare.

To Print, or Not to Print?

It is also very nice to have a printed portfolio, and with all the self-publishing mediums out there, it's easier than ever before to create a very professional physical body of work. As with digital, keep it simple and elegant. Don't skimp on the quality, it will show. Make sure your choose quality paper and a nice cover material. Also, since most everyone has their portfolio in a digital form only, a printed portfolio can make you stand out from the crowd.

Final Tip

Just one last thing to remember is that a quick Google search of your name (if you are on social media, etc.) will turn up images you share online. Posting quality images consistently is a very good thing. Posting poor or mediocre images consistently is not. If you do a photo shoot, choose the best 1-3 for sharing, save the rest for private viewing by clients. By doing this, you keep your online presence at a higher level. Don't post everything you do, be very discerning and step up your game.

Be sure to keep consistent quality in all your social media posts. Only post what you believe are your best images. This shows respect for your followers and is a nice reference for anyone who might want to hire your services.


Portfolio - a body of work (usually with a unifying theme or quality)

Gather your best images where you can see them together (the grid version in Lightroom works well)

Define your style (and to a lesser degree, your subjects)

Keep images that work well together and eliminate the others

Look at images without emotion, like a stranger

Ask for feedback

Keep it small (10-15 images)

Remember that the person looking at it prob has limited time

Taylor specific portfolios if you know the recipient

Make a digital version (keep it simple, clean and professional)

Creating a printed portfolio can help you stand out from the crowd

Keep a quality online presence

I hope I have helped sort out some of the issues or confusion about creating your killer portfolio. There is much more than I have covered here, but I wanted to keep it simple and understandable, especially for those just starting to build one. It can be intimidating if you don't know where to begin.


April Bryant is the author of The Simple Guide to Great Photography and The Simple Guide to Great Composition (available on Amazon), a member of the US Press Association, a Getty Images photographer, and owns and operates and Her work has been published by the Sierra Club as well as several publications local to East Tennessee. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Want to Know More About Printing Your Photos?

This is a series of 5" x 7" greeting cards from prints. To see more of them, visit

Once upon a time, there was a photographer who gave out digital files with print releases. She was completely happy with this arrangement. Then one day (insert ominous music), she saw some prints from photos she had taken and she was mortified and hoped that no one would ever find out that those were her photographs! She vowed from that day forward that she would would be in control of the printing of her work.

That story —yes, that was me, and I really was mortified. Having people find out that those terribly rendered photos are mine is way more frightening than learning the ins and outs of printing and becoming responsible for your customer's satisfaction well after the photo shoot is finished.

From comments I hear from other photographers, fear seems to be the biggest deterrent for not being responsible for the printing end of their work. Trouble and bother seems to be the second. It is more work, but it also moves you into a higher bracket of photographers, a more professional one, not just a mom-with-a-camera, shoot-and-burn type photographer. I can't help you with the trouble and bother part, but I can offer advice and share knowledge that will take some of the fear out of printing your own work.

Now, when I say I am in control of printing, that doesn't mean I actually print my own photos at home. You can, but unless you have a higher-end printer just for photographs, chances are the old HP you print invoices on isn't going to get it done. Personally, I use a couple of different labs that I have found to be of a quality I am happy to provide to my customers. Some labs will even do color corrections for you, but you do have to remember that those things are subjective and one technician might not see it the way another one does, so consistency can go out the window in some of those cases. Also, if you are doing any special processing such as intentionally over or under exposed the technician isn't going to know that and will adjust it accordingly.

All Printers & Monitors Are Different 

A frustrating aspect for many photographers new to the printing game is that every printer is different. Even the same models, depending on the settings and the person at the controls. You can have prints done at 10 different labs and come up with 10 different results. Then you toss in the fact that all monitors are also quite varied and are adjustable in terms of brightness and contrast and it becomes even more of a shot in the dark for getting things right.

You want to begin with calibrating your monitor. There are several different reputable monitor calibration systems. Spyder is one of the more popular ones, and White House Custom Color recommends i1Display Pro or ColorMunki.

To really nail it down, consistency is key. Find a quality lab who will work with you and dig into their printing information. Most of them will have directions for setup to optimize quality printing. This page by White House Custom Color is a great example of that. 

Adoramapix also has some great info for getting your prints to match what you see on your screen. (specifically see the Color Profiles section).


Here, I want to mention RGB and CMYK. Generally, RGB (which stands for Red, Green, Blue) is a color space used by computer monitors. CMYK (stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black) is a color space used by printers. RGB can produce lots more colors than can actually be printed. In fact in Photoshop, if you see a warning sign on a color you have chosen it usually is letting you know that it is a non-printable color. With the advance of printing technology it has become easier for printers to get close to matching RGB colors and some printers will not accept files that have a CMYK standard embedded, but I just wanted you to know what they are and why they are there. You will find the necessary color space required in the info from the lab you choose.

Always remember that monitors are backlit and paper is not. There will always be a bit of variance because of that, but getting as close as possible by using the above techniques will result in a much better match.

Once you understand more about printing, you can use it to self-publish more effectively, because you can
apply the correct standards to your images. These are calendars I created from my photos.
See all of them at

Resolution, DPI, & PPI 

First let's talk about what each of these things mean.

DPI - dots per inch. This really refers to print images though it often gets interchanged with PPI. These are round dots.

PPI - pixels per inch. This refers to the digital image. These are squares.

Resolution - refers to how many pixels are in the image, usually expressed in width x height.

Resolution is not so much a size measurement (though higher resolution images can be viewed larger) as it is a density measurement. It is how many pixels are in a given image. The more pixels are in an image, the larger it can be viewed without becoming pixelated. It is why often pages with many high resolution images are slow in loading, and why sites such as Facebook will automatically reduce the quality.

Printing & Sharing Online 

If you are going to print your image, it needs to be at least 300dpi. Having a higher dpi than 300 is not really necessary as most printers top out there. To share online, your image only needs to be 72dpi as that is the maximum quality for most monitors. The retina displays on Macs squish double the number of pixels into the same size image, so for good measure I usually size files to use online at 150dpi, though it is really more of a resolution issue; at 100% on a retina display the image will be half the size (because of the double amount of pixels) so viewing it at 200% would be optimum.

Aside from making the files smaller and easier to handle and for pages to load, keeping images at a non-printable dpi for sharing online can discourage unauthorized use. They can still steal them for online use, but they will not be able to get a quality print from them. (Also watermarking and embedding your copyright information in the metadata, but that's a blog for another day!)

So, in summary: 

Calibrate your monitor

Find a great Lab

Check the Lab's printing information

RGB - Red, Green, Blue - computer monitor color space

CMYK - Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black - printer color space (more limited than RGB)

DPI - Dots Per Inch (round) refers to printing

PPI - Pixels Per Inch (square) refers to digital images

Resolution - density of pixels, usually expressed in width x height

Photos for printing need to be 300dpi

Photos for online only need to be 72dpi

I hope I have helped sort out some of the issues or confusion about printing. There is much more than I have covered here, but I wanted to keep it simple and understandable for those just getting into printing. It can be intimidating if you don't know where to begin.

April Bryant is the author of The Simple Guide to Great Photography (available on Amazon), a member of the US Press Association, a Getty Images photographer, and owns and operates and Her work has been published by the Sierra Club as well as several publications local to East Tennessee. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

11 Tips for Fantastic Family Photos this Holiday Season

This is a family photo for one of our Tennessee State Representatives to send out on Christmas Cards. Taken at one of the beautiful overlooks of the Foothills Parkway in Cosby, TN.  

Thanksgiving is past and with Christmas will be here before you know it. That means lots of family get-togethers for most people and a great opportunity to make some photos that will be treasured by future generations. It’s not always easy to get those great photos, so here are some tips to help you get going. 

 1.   Go Outside: Just to be honest, flash sucks. One of the reasons people often look weird when flash is used is that we are used to seeing people with overhead light. When you light them up from in front, it can give an odd appearance (think flashlight under your chins to tell ghost stories). So, if you can get folks together outside for a few moments, weather permitting, of course, your photos will be much better than with flash indoors. Also, at Thanksgiving there might be a bit of fall color left and that almost always makes for beautiful backdrops.  

Window light is nice, especially the soft light from a North facing window. It won’t work for large groups (unless you have a really big window), but individuals or small groups work wonderfully well.  

2.   Find a Sentimental Background: With the backdrop idea in mind, comes this tip. Try to find an area that will be significant years from now, a place that means home. An excellent idea is a front porch or part of the house where the festivities are taking place. Some of my favorite old family photos were taken with houses in the background that aren’t there anymore. The photos are all I have left.

3.   Keep Little Ones Moving: Nothing says family fun like a screaming, red-faced, tantrum, and the toddlers do it, too! Just kidding! Little ones, especially with the excitement of the holidays find it torturous to have to be still for photos. I’ve found that having mom, dad, or someone they want to carry them around or lift them up to see things (think Christmas tree or stockings) makes for much better photos than trying to wrestle them long enough for a photo. They will appreciate it, and so will everyone else within earshot.

4.   Play with the Kids: Be sure to get some shots where you are on their level. Fill the frame with those adorable faces! Have them show you their favorite toy or hold something they have made. Incorporating some great props helps to make the memories more personal. For a cute video idea, interview them about their favorite things. These will be priceless treasures as they grow older and have families of their own.

5.   Get Great Combinations of People: Undoubtedly, after everyone has gone home, someone will say, “Oh, we should have gotten a photo of ...” A great way to make sure you get all the photos you want is to make a shot list. As a professional photographer, it is a lifesaver when working with large groups.

Keep it simple and create emotional combinations such as: the oldest and youngest family members; grandparents with all of their grandchildren; all of the “chefs” in the kitchen; fathers and sons; mothers and daughters; and you get the idea. You can get so much more feeling in these type images. Make the big group photo for prosperity, but don’t neglect the smaller combinations.  

This is a personal favorite photo of the youngest and oldest of five generations, taken outdoors, in natural light, and neither of them even knew I was taking this photo. I took several posed photos for this five-generation family, but none were as touching as this candid shot.  

6.   Be Sneaky: The previous tip can be expanded into this one. Find those special candid moments of people interacting. The photos that look the most like the person you want to capture are most often when they don’t know you are even there. Grab the zoom lens and wander around the gathering. Find sisters talking, kids playing, anyone sharing a warm moment.  

7.   Include the Pets: Our pets are part of our immediate families, after all, we see them more than we do our extended families. Don’t forget to snap some photos of them during the festivities. Remember we are capturing warm memories, and pets provide the “fuzzy” part of the “warm and fuzzy” feelings we are trying to achieve.  

8.   Be Ready: The best moments come and go at lightning speed. One of the moments I try to capture doing wedding photos is the groom’s reaction to his first view of the bride walking down the aisle. It’s real and it’s usually very moving. In that same vein, capturing expressions of family to arrivals of those who have been away can be a warm and wonderful moment to treasure. Reuniting of loved ones is what the holidays are all about.
Kids expressions are always great because they are the real deal. Kids don’t fake it, so it’s worth the effort to be ready for that reaction to that gift they have been begging for all year, or that first taste of a new food. Have your finger on the shutter when these moments come your way.  

9.   Get photos of the Table(s) and Decorations: Years from now, someone will ask, “Do you remember that Nativity Scene that Grandma had?” and it will be really nice to have that photo, even if the Nativity Scene is long since broken and gone. Photos of that homemade pumpkin pie that Great-Aunt Sally used to bring every year will be a treasure some years from now. Take a few moments to capture the details. These photos also come in handy if you want to create a photo book of the occasion. Details make great background pages!  

10.   Don’t Forget to Have Fun: Above all, remember, they are your family, and this is a fun time, a once in a life-time. Be sure you don’t miss all the fun because you are taking photos. Hand the camera off to others and get the kids in on things with a few disposable or cheap cameras. Keep things light and enjoy yourself, don’t make it hard work, make it fun!  

11.   Details: Once you have all these great photos, be sure to tag and date them. Also, add captions if a great story goes with the image. Over the years you may forget or someone might be looking at the photos and want to know. Do these things while they are fresh in your memory.  

I hope you and yours have a wonderful holiday season, and that these tips help you capture the wonder and warmth, joy and laughter, all through the holidays and in the years to come, so that you may treasure them for many generations!  

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

It's All About the Eyes!

Are the eyes in focus? Why is that important? Does it really matter?

Studies (see this interesting article for more) have shown that the first thing humans look for is the eyes, whether it be other humans, animals, monsters, maybe even potatoes.

Why is this such a big deal for photographers? Well, because it's one of my pet peeves ;) ....and it doesn't matter how good a photo is, how spectacular, amazing, or awe inspiring the rest of it is, if there are eyes in it anywhere, and they are blurry. Because we look for the eyes first, they set the tone for the rest of the image. If the eyes are blurry, your image automatically takes a hit in the quality department. Some viewers may just keep on walking. Conversely, if you get those eyes right, beautiful, and tack sharp, your image will begin to draw the viewer in and make them look further. They connect with your work.

If your photos have blurry eyes, don't feel bad (other than that you've made me develop a nervous twitch). I see photos from professional photographers all the time with blurry eyes, thinking just how fabulous they would be if ONLY the eyes were sharp! I'm thinking maybe no one ever let them in on this psychology tidbit, so I'd like to spread the word.

When I shoot portraits, I make it my standard to place the single point focus on the forward-most eye. This is the one viewer's eyes will go to first. If you are shooting close-up, with a shallow depth of field, and the model is turned, both eyes may not be in focus, but that first one is a must!

I challenge you to take a stroll through some portrait groups, or just Google "portraits" and notice the eyes. It's always good exercise to peruse other photographer's work and try to figure out why you do or do not like a particular image. Break it down, analyze it, then see if your likes and dislikes are influenced by focus on the eyes. (By the way, this is a great exercise for any form of photography, landscape, macro, street, etc to increase your awareness of what makes a great photo.)

After you've done done that, go out and practice. Use the knowledge you just discovered and apply it to your own work. Then bring them back and share them in my Facebook group, The Simple Guide to Great Photography Group. Click here to join. Let me see those sharply focused eyes!

You can find more easy tips and tricks to quickly improve your photography in my book, The Simple Guide to Great Photography, on Amazon. Click here for more info.

Happy Shooting!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Shoot the Moon!

It's one of those shots that all photographers want in their portfolio, the ubiquitous full moon. After every significant full moon event, such as last night's Summer Solstice Strawberry Moon or the Blood Moon we saw in September of 2015, you will find scores of moon photos on all the photography sites, and no one wants to be left out, right?

Blood Moon, September 2015

Of course, I am guilty of dragging out the tripod during these "special" events, since I likely won't be around for the next time some of these things happen. It almost feels like an obligation. After all, I am a photographer, and this is a significant event, even though likely my shot will often look like everyone else's. You can't really get a unique view of the moon, we all have the same vantage point, and if the moon is high and there are no clouds, it's really difficult to make your shot unique. Nevertheless, I still drag my equipment out in the yard at odd hours of the night (I'm sure the neighbors must wonder sometimes, what the hell I am doing), because I don't want to be the only photographer who missed it.

After posting my version of last night's moon, I was asked by a Facebook friend for some advice on how to get good moon photos. So, let me first give you the caveat that I am, by no means, an astrophotographer, my specialties lie in a more Earthbound direction, but one of the things every good photographer must be able to do is to adjust, adapt, and make what you do have work for you, no matter if you are shooting the moon, landscapes, portraits, or macros. Knowing your equipment and how things work is important to being able to adjust on the fly.

So, even if your attempts don't always turn out so well, you have gained experience, and you know your gear a little bit better every time. I have found that photography, in general, is a constant learning process. Make a commitment to learn something new every time you take out your camera. Challenge yourself.

First, as I mentioned, I am not really set up, equipment-wise, for astrophotography. If you really want to commit to that, you will want to check into the big, 'mo-hunkin' lenses, some of them look like bazookas, and not exactly light to lug around. This is one reason I am neither a astrophotographer or a wildlife photographer. I'm not sure I would ever want to have to carry one of those suckers around all the time. Plus, handholding these big lenses is very difficult, if not impossible. Impossible for me, because I'm such a weenie!

When using a zoom lens, it's important to note that even the slightest movement is magnified. I look at it much the same way as target shooting. What may be only a minuscule movement where you are, can become several inches by the time the bullet gets to the target. The further away the target, the more potential for being off. What may only be a tiny vibration of the camera can make a big blurry mess of a subject far away.

Summer Solstice Strawberry Moon, June 2016

Manual Mode: For any type of night photography, you are going to need a lot of control of your camera. It needs to do what you need, so automatic anything usually fails in this arena. I usually shoot in Aperture priority mode for most of my work, but for night shots or any subjects that require some experimenting, I want full control, the reason race-car drivers want a clutch and gear shift. You have to be able to adjust each setting independently.

Lens: I shot this image last night, of the Strawberry moon with a 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 lens at the focal length of 300mm then cropped in a bit. If I were going to do this a lot, I would probably want to look more towards a 500mm capable lens. But, we are making do with what we have, so lets move on to the next element.

ISO: The ISO for this image was set at 200, and I probably could have gone to 100. The moon is bright, so there is no need for a long exposure. In fact, I tend to overexpose the moon more often than I underexpose. If I were shooting the stars or Milky Way, I would likely need a higher ISO, but the moon, especially when its full, doesn't require it. High ISOs create more noise (graininess), and if you don't have that 'mo-hunkin' big lens, you will need to crop in. Noisy photos become very noticeable the closer the crop, so keeping it to a minimum will help with that.

Aperture: The aperture was f/22. I moved to a smaller aperture because shots at wider apertures were blowing out the white of the moon. (Again, if I were shooting just the stars, I would probably want a wide aperture to pull in all the available light I could get.) Instead of closing up the aperture, I could have also increased the shutter speed.

Shutter Speed: The shutter speed for this image was fairly slow at 1/3 sec, one of those things, after analyzing, I might work on next time. We are learning each time, right? A faster shutter speed would have allowed for a more open aperture, and had a similar effect of preventing overexposure.

Photographic Triangle: There are multiple variations of the photographic triangle (ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed) that will yield good results. It's important to know them and how they affect your image so you can adjust them accordingly to achieve the right balance and get the look you are trying to achieve.

Tripod: Regardless of your Photographic Triangle settings, you are going to need a tripod for most any kind of night sky photography. Remember the small shake increases as your subject gets farther away. The moon is pretty far away so small shakes make big messes of the moon or stars. Yeah, I know, I hate carrying it around, too. But, it's a necessary evil if you want good shots. It also intrigues the neighbors when it's out on the lawn after midnight. :)

Shutter Release: If you have the tripod, you definitely want to get a remote shutter release. It hooks to your camera and allows you to press the shutter without touching the camera itself. This reduces the chances of you shaking the camera on the tripod. You can use the self-timer if you don't have one (usually be the time it clicks, any shaking has stopped). You can also get wireless versions, though I find I keep loosing them in the dark. A corded one is always hanging off the side of your camera.

That's just a quickie list of tips for getting your own moon shot. Kudos to you, if you get creative and make yours stand out from the crowd. At least make your neighbors wonder. Happy Shooting!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Year in Review

With Gratitude...

I wanted to take a moment and look back upon some of the things I have accomplished this past year. Things that are life-changing moments, at least to me, and I'd like to take this opportunity to give a huge and very heartfelt Thank You! to those who have supported and encouraged me. I couldn't have done it without all of you. So, here's a look back at 2015 with much appreciation!

In the spring of 2015, I was absolutely thrilled that the Sierra Club of Tennessee asked to use my photograph of the Nolichucky River for their campaign that highlighted caring for TN rivers. Having virtually grown up in the Nolichucky, it was an especially moving moment to see a photo I made, of a river I love, on such a prestigious publication, advocating its defense. Definitely a defining moment for me on many levels, because, as most of you probably know, fighting to keep US Nitrogen (an explosives company) from dumping their waste into it has been at the top of my priority list for a while.

Also, this past spring, I officially launched my own company, HPP Media & Design. And just to have some fun, purposely obtained my business license on Friday the 13th and officially "opened" on April Fool's Day because I'm all about nonconforming. :)

HPP Media & Design encompasses Hoi Polloi Photography,, and Nolichucky Guardian, my own online newspaper; and I was granted press credentials by the US Press Association, also something I am proud to have. I wanted a newspaper that told the truth, and wasn't afraid to touch the subjects that other news media shied away from covering, as well as good news about our local communities.

One of the most exciting things I accomplished in 2015 was writing and publishing my own book, The Simple Guide to Great Photography. People would often ask for advice on photography, and it almost came natural to write it. I enjoy helping new photographers get their feet under them, or folks who don't want to have to learn all the technicals to make a good photo, and the book was a wonderful way to share knowledge.

Not everyone has a photographer handy at life's special moments, and I hope my book will help people capture special times with photos that they can be proud to pass down to their kids.

I am currently working on a second book, about composition. Hopefully to be out by the spring/summer 2016.

As I mentioned before, saving the Nolichucky is very important to me, so I was thrilled to be contacted by Lorelei Goff, who was writing an article for The Appalachian Voice about our plight, and super honored to have them use more of my photos to illustrate the article.

I had the opportunity to do the family photo shoot for State Rep. Jeremy Faison's Christmas cards that went out to thousands of people this year. A gorgeous Foothills Parkway backdrop made for some great family photos!

And, perhaps, a couple of the biggest compliments I've ever gotten came at the very end of this year (not that I don't appreciate each and every compliment from all of you). A couple of photographers that I have followed for years, admiring their work, hoping a little of their magic would rub off on me, complimented my work. You might not know who they are, but in my world, these guys are Rock Stars!

Jake Olson is a photographer from Nebraska, who does some absolutely amazing things with light! As photographers, light is always that elusive element we strive to catch, that makes a photo come alive. Jake Olson does it so magnificently, and his work has been featured all over the world. I've watched his tutorials to learn how to capture a little bit of his magic light, and his encouragement means so much!

If you follow Bassmasters, you probably have seen James Overstreet's work. He's the guy who makes all those cool shots of the top fishermen, but he also has a portfolio of some of the most beautiful nature photography I have ever seen. He is referring to the shot of Cable Mill (above) also. To get this response from him definitely made my year!

I feel like I have certainly grown professionally over the past year and hope to continue. Once again, I know I wouldn't be here without all the wonderful people, friends and family, all over the globe who  in some way or another have helped me to grow and become a better photographer, better writer, and better person. May all of you have your best year ever, and may we all help each other through the journey.

It's always fun to look back through the year's photos and reflect on changes. It also helps remind us to appreciate every moment, for we will never get them back. I've pulled out my favorites to share with you.

I hope you enjoy them, and that my photos can bring a bit of joy to those who see them. I appreciate you all! Your kind words always mean the world to me!

Much love!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Tech Geek Christmas Freak

In my quest to learn to love "the blog" and to let you guys get to know the person behind my camera, you should know that I LOVE technology, gadgets, and software. I mean, I'm really quite the geek! I hope you all are ok with that. I can't really change.

I love buttons, and keyboards, and touch screens! I love the smell of new electronics, though, in reality, it's likely toxic (I also love the smell of new shoes--that's another topic for another day), but I digress... 

New software ranks right up there. Having a program that makes something easier and better is like candy, only not fattening, which is even better!

So, when I found this video creation software, that does amazing videos, I was thrilled! With this software, I can create incredible videos of client images for them to share, and I can create really cool promo videos for my own business. Yay!

I want to show you the one I created for my landing page, if you haven't seen it already. By the way, if you haven't seen it already, you should be spending a little more time on my website and Facebook page. Priorities! :) Just kidding, but I do really appreciate it when you do visit and sign up for my newsletter.

Anyway, here is the cool new video that is now on the landing page for Take a look and let me know in the comments if you like it.

What is great, is that I can use this same software to create videos of client shoots and even better, create virtual Christmas Cards for clients who book Christmas Mini Sessions! Along with being a geek, I am also a Christmas freak. A large portion of my life was spent working in, and being a buyer for a Christmas Shoppe. I could do Christmas 365-days a year!

Now you guys can benefit from my Christmas-y-ness. (I don't think that is a word, but I've seen weirder spellings in other blogs, so what the heck!) I go all out for Christmas, and I have some neat props and great ideas to make really special Christmas portraits.

The plan for the Christmas Mini Sessions is Nov 28, the Saturday after Black Friday, when you've just kicked off the official Christmas Season and are in the spirit. I will be giving out more details soon, but if you want in early, send me an email to, and I'll give you the details, and let you go ahead and book your spot. Spaces are limited, so I'd like my loyal readers to have first dibs.

Combining cool tech and Christmas glitter into my photography allows me to create things you guys can treasure and share!