Category Archives: Learning Photography

Photoshop and Lightroom Classes

Power Processing for Photographers Workshops

Presented by Curt Warwick and Kirk Carter

January 11th and 25th, February 8th, 2014

Auburn High School Computer Lab, Riner, Virginia

Learn how the pros import, organize and process their photographs. This new series of 4-hour workshops covers the entire after-capture workflow in Adobe Lightroom 5 and Photoshop CC. Workshops take place in a new, state-of-the-art computer lab.

Class size limited to 23, so sign up now. $40 per session, or attend all 3 for $100.

1. Power Processing Quick Start Jan 11, 8:45AM-1:00PM. Learn how to import your images, manage backups, keyword efficiently, mark and rate your images, and process using the basic controls in Lightroom and Photoshop. Along the way we’ll discuss how and why to shoot raw, exposure techniques and how to get the finished photograph you had in mind.

#2 Power Processing Global and Local Adjustments Jan 25th, 8:45AM-1:00PM. Detailed instruction on the image adjustment controls in Lightroom and Photoshop’s Adobe Camera Raw, plus the basics of changing one small part of a photograph (local adjustments). We’ll discuss how color management can affect the ultimate impact of your photographs.

#3 Power Processing Advanced Local Adjustments Feb 8th, 8:45AM-1:00PM. Expert techniques for using the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom, plus advanced methods using Photoshop’s clone tool and masked adjustment layers. Specific techniques for retouching portraits and landscapes with Photoshop’s amazing new Content-Aware Fill, Content-Aware Move, and more.

All 3 sessions are taught by Curt Warwick and Kirk Carter. Curt is a Lightroom power user, and Kirk has 16 years experience with Photoshop.

Makes a great gift for the Holidays! Gift Certificates are available.

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Limited to 23 participants per session. $40 per session, or $100 for all 3 (purchased at the same time).

Click the button to go to to sign up and pay via PayPal, or if you would rather pay by credit card or cash (in advance), drop us an email at to make arrangements. Questions? Call 540.239.2118

:: Location

Auburn High School, Virtual Education Lab, 1650 Auburn School Drive, Riner, VA 24149

A Cabin in the woods

I have been going through my Lightroom  Archive Catalog and found some photos I had forgotten about, like this one:

Home On the Range

Lightroom Magic

I used this picture of a horse in a Lightroom demonstration this week. The original shot, as you can see, is not that good at all. Badly overexposed, crooked, generally poorly composed.  I’m not even sure why I even kept it.  I opened it in Ligthroom, and with about a minutes worth of work, turned it into the second image you see. So I posted that to Flickr, and it made it to the Explore page! If Lightroom is this good with a bad image, it’s even better when you start with a good image. If you want to learn more about it, check out the class I’ll be teaching on March 2nd.

Horse Barn Before and After




Lightroom for Digital Photographers

This is an all day workshop designed to give you an in-depth understanding of how Adobe Photoshop Lightroom can help streamline your digital photography workflow from the moment of capture to final output.

The workshop covers the major features of Lightroom:

  • Understanding the digital photography workflow
  • Managing the Lightroom workspace
  • Configuring preferences and settings
  • Working with catalogs
  • Importing assets
  • Using the Library and Map modules
  • Working with the Develop module
  • Exporting media
  • Working with the Print, Web, Slideshow, and Book modules
  • Round Trip Editing with Photoshop


Who Should Attend?

  • Digital Photographers looking to organize their image archives.
  • High-volume shooters wanting to efficiently process large numbers of time-sensitive images.
  • Experienced lightroom users looking to get more out of the program.
  • Anyone serious about improving their photography workflow (probably you since you’re reading this!)

The workshop will be held at the MCPS Technology Lab, 1180 North Franklin Street, NE
Christiansburg, VA 24073 on Saturday March 2nd, 2013  from 9-5.

For the first 20 to sign up, and those who attended the Exposure Roanoke “Lightroom Workflow” meetup, the cost is $75, half off the regular price of $150You can bring your own, or computers and software will be available in the Lab

Tripod Recommendations for Every Budget

Back in the summer I hosted an Exposure Roanoke discussion on tripods. The group learned several things that day: 1) I can talk about tripods for hours, and 2) For many types of photography, a GOOD tripod is every bit as important as the camera body and lens.

As a demonstration, I mounted a laser pointer on top of my camera, and attached my camera to tripods of varying quality. Watching the laser on a distant target gave a clear indication of how steady the camera was during the experiment.  With no remote shutter release, it was easy to see how much camera shake was introduced by my hand alone on the cheaper tripod. Even on the good tripods it shook a tiny bit while pushing the shutter button, so a remote release is highly recommended, or using the shutter timer feature will work as well. In all the test circumstances, the better quality tripods were far steadier than the cheap imitators.

A tripod is a very personal choice. What you need depends on how you intend to use it, and there might not be a single tripod that does everything you need it to. There seems to be an endless array of choices, and choosing the right tripod can be a frustrating experience. They all do essentially the same thing, which is to keep the camera steady when hand-holding is not practical. There are many different questions to ask when choosing a tripod: What should it be made of? How high should it be? How heavy or light do you need? How stable is stable enough? Will it work for my style of shooting? Will it support the largest lens I plan on using? How much does it cost? I weighed all these factors and researched tripods for a solid year and finally settled on the one tripod that best met my needs.

I am going to give a quick rundown on the major features and then give some specific models that you can check out.

  1. Tripod Construction Material and Build Quality.  The tripods I have experience with are either aluminum, or Carbon Fiber. I can’t say that one is better than the other, but carbon fiber is much lighter and very strong for its weight. Carbon fiber is much more expensive as well, but if you hike to remote locations, that lighter weight will be much appreciated. Quality tripods are well-built and reliable, but if things go wrong, you should be able to count on support from reputable manufacturers many years down the road.
  2. How Big (or small) should my tripod be? My advice would be that at a minimum, it should be tall enough to put your camera near eye level while standing, without extending the center column. If you plan on traveling, the total length of the tripod in its compacted form is a factor if you plan on packing it in your suitcase or stowing it in the overhead compartment on an airplane. Among the specs the manufacturers will publish is the maximum weight it will support. Cameras and lenses get heavy, pick one that will easily support the largest lens you think you’ll be using. Keep in mind that as your focal length increases, so does your need for stability. Don’t think if your camera and lens weighs 12 lbs, a tripod that says it will support up to 12 lbs is sufficient. Things can get a little shaky if you overload it.
  3. Does the tripod suit my style of shooting? My tripod has a feature that I can not live without, and that is the articulating center column. What that means is that my center column can be used in the standard vertical fashion, to give me a little extra height when needed, or, I can extend it horizontally and put my camera directly over my subject when shooting close-ups. Some models will only go 90 deg. horizontal, but my tripod will adjust infinitely within 180 deg from vertical. I can position the center column straight up to straight down, and everywhere in between. Not every tripod has an articulating center column. One other feature of my tripod is the infinitely positionable legs. Some legs will only let you spread them and lock in 3 or 4 positions, but I can put mine exactly where I want out to 90 deg., and lock it in place.
  4. What kind of Tripod Leg Locks do I need? Twist locks and lever locks are common. It is really a matter of personal choice, and one of the reasons you’ll want to try before you buy. I’ve used both, and find my current twist lock to be ideal for me. Twisties make the legs very streamlined with no protruding parts, and I can deploy and stow the tripod very quickly. I have had levers break and twisties over tighten on my cheaper tripods, so that is something to look out for.
  5. How much does it cost? A good tripod will not be cheap. A cheap tripod will not be good. As with many things in photography, there is no limit at the top end. The most basic, dependable, durable, affordable options have prices starting at around$150. There are some great choices in the $300-$800 range, and many costing much more. Those tend to be very specialized, and if you need one of those, you probably already know what you need.  If you are unable to get in to at least one of the recommended models, my advice would be to get the cheapest one you can find until you can. So many photographers I talk to have done the same as I did, start out with junk, then buy a little better, a little better, and 4 or 5 tripods later, end up with one that suits. Better to buy smart the first time. A good tripod should last 20 years or more, if you amortize the cost over that period, it may be easier to justify the sticker price.

So, all that said, through my research, I found several tripods that I can highly recommend:

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Tripod heads will be a seperate post, but here are a couple of proven winners to get you started:

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Also posted in Gear

Finished teaching my Open University winter classes at the Virginia Tech YMCA

WooHoo! Schools out for winter! My Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, and Off Camera Flash Photography classes are over, and the wildly successful Photographer’s Boot Camp is behind me as well.  It’s been busy around here for sure.

I never thought of myself as a teacher (still don’t), but the way I see it, I’m going to be talking about this stuff anyway, it might as well be in front of people who are actually interested.

I’m considering what to teach next, and looking for ideas. If you can think of anything, inbox me. For now though, time to go out and shoot!

Christmas, a time for some really nice pet portraits

My daughter and her puppy Piper came to spend the week of Thanksgiving with us. After the tree was put up, it made a really nice background for some pet portraits. No special setup, just got down on my belly to be eye level with a 6 inch tall Chihuahua, and fired away

Chihuahua Puppy Piper Under the Tree Waiting for Santa

Piper Under the Christmas Tree Waiting for Santa

Getting Ready For Christmas (Shooting Really Nice Christmas Lights)


For a photography nerd such as myself, getting ready for Christmas means brushing up on some photography techniques. I love the abundant lights and decorations, they make easy targets when looking for something to shoot.  In this shot of the Woodland Tree Hugger Elf, I wanted to maximize the Bokeh of the lights on the tree.

Bokeh comes from the Japanese word ‘boke’, which means fuzzy. In photography, bokeh refers to the de-focused (blurred) points of light in a photo, as well as the aesthetically pleasing background blur. The blur of the background and highlights can be used as a compositional tool to draw the viewers attention to the subject.

Tree Hugger Woodland Christmas Elf

Tree Hugger Woodland Christmas Elf in front of pleasantly de-focused lights (Bokeh)



Here are some tips to get you started with bokeh photography:


1.) Shoot Wide Open. A large aperture works best, so use a low f-stop like f1.4, f1.8 or f2.8. Here I used f/2.8 on my Canon 70-200mm F/2.8L IS II lens.

2.) I would highly recommend a tripod as I used in this shot. this way you can set the shutter speed to whatever it needs to be to achieve the exposure you need without raising the ISO.

3.) Get as close as you can to the subject. The closer, the better.  My minimum focusing distance for this lens is 1.2meters, and that’s exactly how far it was.

4.) Put some distance between the subject and the background. I noticed the lights looked best when there was at least double the distance of the subject to background than the camera to subject. In my case, the lights started looking really nice when the elf was 2.6 meters or more in front of the tree. Flip that formula around if you want the blurred lights in front of your subject. I could have shot with the tree closer than 1.2 meters and the subject 2.6 meters behind that.

I did use my flash off-camera to light the little figurine, but no special settings or tricks there. Just put the light up really close to softern the light. I used the lowest power setting as I had just to get a little fill light on the side of his face.

Also posted in Lighting with Speedlites

The Top 10 things People Want Their Photographer to Fix Without Having To Ask, and How to Do It

This is a guide I put together for an upcoming Exposure Roanoke meetup entitled “Shooting Regular People”. Our group has done a few model shoots, and while they were fun, they lacked the challenges you face when you shoot regular people. You know, people like our friends and family. With the holidays coming up, I thought it would be a good time to get this workshop in, so when our friends ask us to get out our fancy cameras and take some good pictures while everyone is together, we’ll have something to go by. Enjoy!

The Top 10 things People Want Their Photographer to Fix Without Having To Ask, and How to Do It

As photographers, we are expected to make people look their very best. What does that mean, exactly, and where do you start?

We are all different, and come in different sizes and shapes. A person’s physical characteristics are not anything that a photographer can control, obviously. But by using different lighting and posing strategies, your subject’s unspoken problem areas can be dealt with, and your subject is sure to be pleased with the result, and might not even know why.

The following scenarios assume a standard 3 point studio lighting setup, with a main light and fill light at 45 degrees left and right of the camera and a hair or background light. These posing and lighting tips will work regardless if your are using studio lights, speedlights, or window light and a

  1. That’s not a Forehead, that’s a Fivehead (Prominent Forehead)

    • Also works for the Follically-Challenged (Baldness). Have your subject tilt their chin upward. Use a lower camera angle. Flag the light source to reduce specular highlights on the dome. Do not use a hair light.
  1. The Cyrano de Bergerac (Large Nose)

    • Have your subject tilt their chin upward, with their face directly toward the camera. Use a lower camera angle, and lower the main light.
  1. The Bobe Hope (Crooked or Pointed Nose)

    • Have your subject face directly toward the camera, Place main light so the shadow area on the bridge of their nose is a straight line.
  1. More Chins Than a Shar-Pei (Double Chin)

    • Have your subject tilt their chin upward, with their body straight and leaning slightly forward. Raise the camera and shoot from an elevated position.
  1. The Ichabod Crane (Broad, Round Face)

    • Use the Short Lighting technique, moving the main light between 45 and 90 degrees to the subject so the shadow is on the camera side of the face. Have them turn their face toward the camera to a 3/4 position.
  1. More Character Lines Than a 3rd Grade Play (Wrinkled Face)

    • Feather the diffused soft light from a large shoot-thru umbrella or a softbox placed up close. Not the time for a big smile or having your subject say: “cheese”. Have them relax their face muscles. Raise the camera and shoot from an elevated position.
  1. The Teenie Bopper (Facial Blemishes)

    • Feather the diffused soft light from a large shoot-thru umbrella or a softbox placed up close. If possible, use broad or short lighting strategically to place problem areas on the shadow side of the face.
  1. The better to hear you with, my dear (Prominent Ears)

    • Use the Short Lighting technique, moving the main light between 45 and 90 degrees to the subject so the ear on the camera side of the face is in shadow. Position the subject at such an angle that the far ear is behind the head.
  1. The better to see you with, my dear (Large Eyes)

    • Use a lower camera angle, and lower the main light. Normally, you might have the iris of the eye in the corner, but in this case, that is too much white. Have the subject look in a direction such that the iris is centered in the eye.
  1. Four is better than two (Glasses Wearer)

    • Raise the earpiece above the ear so the lenses tilt downward. Have your subject tilt their chin upward, or lower it so the glare is minimized. If all else fails, you can have the subject hold their glasses near their face in a thoughtful pose.


You will notice I didn’t include weight in the Top 10. This is a topic so large that deserves its own page. Stay tuned for: “Does this picture make me look fat?”

Also posted in Lighting with Speedlites, Posing

Welcome to my Really Nice Photoblog!

Here I will be posting links to other sites that I find interesting and informative. Topics of interest may include: Learning photography, HDR, Lighting, Off camera flash (Strobist stuff), DIY light modifiers, etc. Maybe I’ll talk about some of my shots, and how I made them.

Also posted in Lighting with Speedlites Tagged , , , |