Welcome to Lenspiration! A wholesome place to learn, grow, & share skills in photography.

Opportunities for photographers to take the next step through online training, hands-on workshops, and interactive forums.

1. FREE Membership

Start learning for free! Join the Lenspiration Community with a FREE membership and get the eBook, interact on the forums and start getting your pictures critiqued.

2. PRO Membership

Keep learning for peanuts! Join the Lenspiration Community as a PRO member for online training, exclusive forums, shooting opportunities and more!

3. Premium Training

Enjoy hands-on practice and one-on-one interaction through on-location workshops across the US, or take advantage of long-distance personal consulting!

How to Be Successful in Photography

05 Dec
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Do you want to be successful in your photography? I certainly do! And I would venture to say that God wants us to be successful too (that is, if we are willing to let Him define what success means for us). Thankfully, the secret to being successful is actually quite straightforward. Seriously. And here’s why. Read carefully:

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth it’s fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he does shall prosper.

Want to prosper? Well, God has given us the secret. God tells us plain and simple, first what not to do, and then more importantly, exactly what to do. To delight and meditate on the law of the Lord day and night.

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Delight and meditate? Sounds a lot like me and photography. Do you meditate on cameras and pictures and photography tips and techniques day and night? I certainly do! And I would venture to say that you do too. 🙂 But that’s what delighting and meditating is, isn’t it?

Now, do you purposely meditate on photography? Well, sometimes perhaps; but more often than not, it just comes naturally, right? Why? Because it’s what you love. No one has to tell you to love photography or meditate on photography. It just comes naturally because it’s what you love. It’s part of who you are.

Same way with Scripture. When the wisdom of Scripture, the way God thinks, is part of you—is what you love—it guides you in every-day life and helps you make wise decisions. Not intellectually good decisions; wise decisions. Decisions based on what God’s will for you right now. Wisdom rooted in God’s ways, not in outward circumstances or short-term perceptions of earthly success. And hence the ability to prosper by God’s definition of prosperity.

So really, the path to success is quite simple. If you want to be successful in anything, meditate on God’s Word! Let the mind of Christ dwell in you richly.

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And is there a practical way to do this? There are many ways to meditate on God’s Word, but one way is to keep the Scriptures before us on a regular basis. Like the ministry Sharpening Character seeks to do with their VersePics for mobile devices……

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Sharpening Character creates one VersePic a week. And they’re regularly looking for beautiful images to use for their backgrounds. Free, quality images are hard to come by. So this is where Lenspiration’s PRO-exclusive Shoot to Serve forum comes in!

I started Shoot to Serve to give budding photographers opportunities to practice photography with a purpose by shooting for the needs of other organizations or ministries. Sharpening Character is a perfect fit! Starting this week, Sharpening Character will post a verse with suggestions on a background image that they’re looking for. Each week, PRO members can then shoot for these “assignments” or go through their past archives to make submissions. Of all the submissions, the one that Sharpening Character chooses will be published as the background for the next VersePic.

The first opportunity has already been posted! If you are a PRO Member, click here to view and begin shooting for this very first VersePic opportunity! If you are not a PRO member, click here to join the PRO membership and receive instant access to the Shoot to Serve forum.

And let us not forget in all the excitement……may we use these regular shooting assignments to help us regularly delight and meditate on the law of the Lord day and night.

The Secret To Amazing Golden Hour Portraiture

01 Dec
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You know, I learned something new today. Quite revolutionary, actually. Something so helpful that I have a feeling it is completely transforming how I plan and carry out portrait shoots in the future.

It was sort of impromptu, but I had a grand time doing a family photoshoot today here in Texas.

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While there are many similarities between portrait photography and landscape photography (and it’s certainly easier to move between the two if you’re good at one or the other), one must also realize that each certainly has it’s own nuances that are certainly unique to itself. Here’s what I mean…..

Golden hour is awesome. In landscape photography, shooting between 90 and 180 degrees from the sun offers beautiful views of golden light painting a golden landscape under a rich blue sky. Shooting toward the sun, on the other hand, is a lot more difficult. You run into lens flare, silhouetting, dull white skies, etc. Not the sort of things that are traditionally used in landscape photography.

Now, I have always assumed it was the same in portrait photography. You still want those rich colors, right? Well, sometimes maybe, but perhaps not always. If you’ve ever done a portrait shoot at golden hour, like the one I did today, you’ll soon find out that’s not always what you want. When you’re shooting away from the sun, yes, the landscape behind your subject is beautifully golden and the sky is perfect blue….but what about your subject? Your squinting, yellow-faced, black-eyed subject? Not that flattering.

So, how did I cope with this today? I took them into the shade, where I wouldn’t have to deal with the sun. And that is certainly one way to deal with it. But then what’s the point of golden hour?

Looking back over the best shots from the day, I think I now understand the difference between the two genres. In some ways, portraiture is the opposite of landscape when it comes to the golden hour. Shooting more toward the sun than away from it actually works better in portraiture. Think about it. Lens flare adds to the warm, glowing effect, silhouetting isn’t a problem if you’re exposed for the subject, and white skies are fine since you already have a clearly defined subject.

Here’s an example:

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This shot I’m basically shooting away from the sun. Nice blue background, but extremely high contrast in the face and a challenging editing job to tone down glowing yellow skin.

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Exact same spot, just at a different angle, this time looking in the basic direction of the sun. Certainly overexposed in the background….but that’s ok. My subject is well exposed and evenly lit. An easy editing job, nice hair light, and an overall soft and flattering look.

I can’t believe I hadn’t really applied this before!

I suppose I had been told (or read it) a million times, to utilize backlighting in portraiture at golden hour. But it makes all the difference in the world when you’re actually out in the field figuring out how to apply that head-knowledge. I finally understand now. Golden hour is just as awesome as it used to be and more so now that I actually know how to work with it.

I just never stop learning!

Which reminds me….

Everything I just said doesn’t necessarily work all the time. Did you know that I successfully conducted a family photoshoot last Sunday (at the exact same location!) only with all my subjects looking directly toward the sun? No backlighting that time; this is front lighting! And it still turned out amazing! See for yourself:

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Why? In retrospect, I know exactly why now. But there’s not time to explain why here. I’ll save it for the next PRO Report, scheduled to be released next week (UPDATE: as it turns out, this article was not published in “the next PRO Report”, but it will be published in the January 2017 PRO Report). Wait till then, PRO members, and I’ll tell you when you’d better use front lighting instead of backlighting in portraiture.

Until then, enjoy the following images from today’s photoshoot. Perhaps you’ll look at the direction of light a little differently than you would have before reading this post….

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What Happened Over the Thanksgiving Weekend

30 Nov
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Did you hear about the disastrously crazy turn of events that happened on Thanksgiving morning?!

I just joined Instagram, and it’s all documented there . . . go to www.instagram.com/lenspirationphoto, click to Follow, then find and watch the video. It’s pretty crazy; sad really. A true test of “giving thanks in all things”!

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But that’s not the only thing that happened that morning. After the whole ordeal was over, the morning was still quite beautiful so I stayed outside to snap a few more photos as the sun came up.

The lake was amazingly placid! Though I played around with other elements along the lakeshore, this dock was really the only that the turned out well. The opposing diagonals and visual flow made me want to choose it for my monthly desktop background.

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Beginning of a Beautiful Morning
Ambassador College Reservoir, Texas
Subscribe to Lenspiration Updates to download as a desktop background

To download Beginning of a Beautiful Morning as a desktop background, click here to subscribe to Lenspiration updates. It will be featured in tomorrow’s Latest from Lenspiration update.

In the processing of this image, I used a special tool in Lightroom to bring out the beautiful texture in the boardwalk. Do you know how to use the Adjustment Brush Tool? It’s an incredibly powerful tool that every photographer should know how to use with precision and agility. In fact, it played an integral part in the processing of another image submitted by a PRO Member last week. The edits she wanted to make were quite advanced, so I put together an entire video explaining how I’d edit it.

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If you’re a PRO member, click here to watch Detailed Process for Editing A Photo Ruined By Lens Flare. If you’re not a PRO member, you can click here to join the PRO membership for only $27/month, and receive instant access to personalized photography training, exclusive monthly and ongoing photography opportunities, and a growing library of professional photography videos that will take your photography to the next level.

What Helped Me Getting Started In Photography

25 Nov
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Looking back over the years, the tips and “coaching” I received from photographers who were more experienced than I proved to be an invaluable element of my photography “education”. I mimicked my mentors. And still do. If I liked the way someone else’s picture looked, I figured out how they did it and tried to duplicate it myself. I’m self-taught, so this is how I learn. When something works and I like it, I implement it in all my work, and it adds some variety. I’m always on the alert for new ideas and better methods of doing things!

Now that I’ve been doing photography for a while, I’ll find myself on the tip-sharing side of the coin from time to time. Instead of just trying out new ideas and better methods, I like to share how they work (or don’t work) for me. Some of these experiences I share here on the blog . . . some of them I share with the PRO members in the monthly PRO Reports.

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Here’s the first 5 pages of the latest PRO Report. Perhaps you’ll be able to pick up some of the more advanced tips and topics that never made it to the blog. Click here to download it.

And of course, if you’re a PRO Member, you can click here to read the entire PRO Report or click here to view the archives of all past PRO Reports.

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.” – Michel Legrand

Simple Edits Go A Long Way

18 Nov
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Just finished up editing the family portraits from the VA FEW Conference! The whole set up was pretty simple. Just a white cloth for a background, a single speedlite bouncing off a tiled ceiling, and a piano bench for folks to pose around. The fun part was in the arranging . . . getting everyone in each family to fit well together in a small space.

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The editing had to be simple. A volunteer job with lots of photos to process and not the time to do it means one can’t spend all day editing them. Getting as close as possible in-camera is always the best place to start. Here’s a raw, unedited file:

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How here’s the same shot with a few LR tweaks. Cropped, added a hair of contrast, and evened out the lighting with LR’s Gradient Tool. It’s easy to batch process these sort of tweaks across each family’s photo. Here’s the result:

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The difficult part was fixing up the background in Photoshop. Removing shadows, adding extra backdrop at the bottom of the picture, and blurring out the backdrop wrinkles. With  three simple layers I was able to quickly come up with what had to be the final product:

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And that’s how I quickly processed all 21 families portraits! If you know what edits to make and how to do it, you don’t need a lot of edits to make pictures look nice. Simple edits can go a long way.

If you happened to have attended the Conference, then you can now download your family portrait at www.lenspiration.photos/2016vafew!

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