A Look Back At My First “Solo” Portrait Shoot in 2007

I get asked the question "how long have I been doing photography?" all the time. Even though I get this question regularly I have to pause and think about it for a minute because it depends on what the person is referring to. I've always had an interest in taking pictures ever since I was a kid. So do I count my Kodak Instamatic experience complete with flash cubes? Probably not what the person is thinking. I then answer for about 5 to 6 years. Last night I spent some time in Adobe Lightroom 4 Beta and while I don't organize my folders by year, I can certainly see why someone would want to use that method. Instead I organize by the folder for a particular shoot. If I do a shoot with Jane Doe, then that shoot goes into the Jane Doe folder. If I do another shoot with Jane Doe then it goes into the "Jane Doe 2" folder. That has worked well for me as I'm usually looking for a picture of a person, not necessarily a year that I took it. With that said, I was curious to see what photos I took when and since I have one catalog for my "Model" Shoots containing every "edited" picture I've done, I decided to create "Smart" Collections to separate them out by years:

It was really fun taking a trip down memory lane! Some of the photos I looked at and cringed and others I said, "hey that wasn't bad for a beginner." The photo above of Mya was my first "solo" shoot. I say it that way because it wasn't my first shoot ever. I had actually started shooting portraits in 2006, but back then I was merely tagging along on other photographer's shoots. My first shoot ever was along side Scott Kelby. Scott visited me back in 2006 and he had set up a shoot for his upcoming iPod Book at the time (I was technical editor). We rented Andy Greenwell's studio here in Michigan and Andy setup the lights, Scott found the model and I just basically observed and got a shot here and there. The reason that I don't really count that as my first shoot is because I didn't do any of the work. I just pointed my camera and fired after I asked "hey what settings are you using?"


Going Solo

I finally got up enough nerve to try my own portrait session in 2007. My sister recommended that i use Mya (friend of the family) and Mya agreed to let me photograph (experiment with) her. I had no studio, no professional lighting and a consumer grade DSLR. The shoot took place in my living room. I had a Nikon D80, 18-200mm Nikon lens and an SB 600 speedlight. I also used a Westcott pop up background. My SB 600 speedlight was mounted on a stand and shooting through a diffuser. Quite honestly I had no idea of what I was really doing from a settings stand point. I just kept adjusting things until I got a half way decent image. That session showed me that I had a LOT to learn!


Renting a Studio in 2008

In 2008 I decided that I needed a larger space than my living room. So I did a timeshare with other photographers. I also started buying more gear including lighting. According to Lightroom I shot more portraits in 2008 than any other year. This probably due more to being less selective about the number of images I kept vs. doing more shooting. 



Between the years of 2009 and 2011 I would say was the timeframe that I learned most of what I know.


Not only did I improve my photography skills and lighting skills, but I also improved my editing skills in post.

I'm always learning from the photographers that I admire. Videos, seminars, books and group shoots are ways that I learn the fastest.

The number one lesson that I can say that I've learned and constantly remind myself of is "Less is more – Only show your best work." This is one that I have to credit Scott Kelby for. He basically beat it into to me and I finally got it. I now limit my galleries to 24 images. If there is a new image that I want to put in,  then it has to be better than one of the ones that's already there and it replaces it.



Although I have my own studio now and a few years of shooting under my belt, I'm always learning something new just about every time I pick up my camera. I invite you to go back through your work and feel free to share some links in the comments below. Tell us your experiences over the years and perhaps some of the things you've learned.

Adobe CS3 & CS4 Customers Will Have an Upgrade Path To CS6

There has been a lot of confusion out there in the market about Adobe's plans to move to the cloud "Creative Cloud." The 1st question that I get practically every day is "Will I have to run my Apps in the Cloud or can I just download them and install them as I do today?" The answer is that CS6 will be available as a stand alone installable App just like CS5 and CS5.5 are today. You will NOT have to use Creative Cloud or buy a subscription if you don't want to! Subscription is an alternative method to having a big cash outlay to buy Creative Suite. It's an OPTION (like leasing a car vs. buying one). Even with Subscription you're downloading the Apps and running them on your local machine and not in the cloud. The choice is yours. Now with that out of the way, here is a link to the recent policy changes that spell out upgrade paths for CS3 and CS4 users.

Yes, CS5 and CS5.5 users can upgrade too. It was never an issue for current users to go to CS6.

What’s New in Lightroom 4 (Public Beta)?



In this episode of the Adobe Creative Suite Podcast I'll give you a walkthrough of the top new features of Lightroom 4 Public Beta! 

Here are some of the top level features of Lightroom 4:

• Robust Video Support
• Manage images by location with the Map Module
• Simplified Basic Adjustments
• Powerful new Shadow & Highlight controls
• Additional local adjustments including Noise Reduction and White Balance
• Soft Proofing Reinvented
• Elegant Photo Book creation
• Email from directly within Lightroom
• Publish videos directly to Facebook or Flickr
• Enhanced DNG workflows
• Adobe Revel (Carousel) export workflow

Download the Public Beta of Lightroom 4 here.

More in-depth info here.

Join Lightroom Product Manager Tom Hogarty for some LIVE Webcasts over at Kelby Training – Schedule Here.

Also check out the Kelby Training Lightroom 4 Learning Center for more videos and Matt's Lightroom Killer Tips Blog.

Get Geotag Photos Pro to take Advantage of the Lightroom 4 Map Module with Any Camera

During my Video above I show the NEW Map Module. While it's great to have a GPS attached/built-in directly to your camera or occasionally take smartphone pics to use as reference, it may be more convenient to use GPS Data Logger and then merge the GPX Log File in Lightroom after your shoot. Here's a cool one for iOS:




Are you missing out on my Bonus Content?

See more of my Adobe Creative Suite Videos on my Adobe Creative Suite Podcast and get the App here. It features EXCLUSIVE CONTENT that no one else gets to see. This episode has a BONUS CLIP that is available only in the App! My iOS App is a Universal App for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. I also have an Android version:

Learn Adobe Creative Suite with Terry White - Wizzard Media



Solmeta Outs a New N3 GPS for Nikon DSLRs


It's been a while since I did my Nikon GPS Smack Down. Back then I chose the Solmeta N2 as the winner for overall best GPS for Nikon DSLRs. Since that time Solemta has come out with another new model, the N3 and I got a chance to try one out. Like previous model the Solmeta N3 plugs right into your compatible Nikon DSLR and geotags (adds longitude/latitude and heading) your photos as you take them (both JPG and RAW support). However, unlike the previous model you now have to choose between the one for professional DSLRs like the D700, D3, D4, etc. and the prosumer models like the D5100, D7000, etc. The reason you have to choose is because the interface cable is now hardwired in. This has it's advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is that the connection is perfectly secure. The N2 allows you to plug in a cable to match your camera, but the connection could easily get damaged if you bumped/hit it the wrong way. The new connection is very well designed. The disadvantage (at least for me) is that if you have multiple camera bodies of different types you'll now need one of each type to go with your camera as opposed to just ordering the additional cable. This will only affect a small percentage of people, but it is a slight step down in convenience for me. Another small but notable cable improvement is that the cable is now coiled instead of being too long or too short. It will be just right for however you attach your GPS (in the hotshoe or on the strap). 


Faster and more accurate

This model uses a 3-axis electronic compass like their top of the line model the Geotagger Pro. The N2 uses a 2 axis compass. The first thing that impressed me was how fast it was ready to go. By the time I tuned the camera on and was ready to snap the 1st picture it had already locked on to a satellite and was providing the location info to my Nikon D700. The other big difference is that this model gets its power directly from the camera. The other models have internal batteries that you charge and then only after they run down will it get power from the camera. While having a built-in battery does provide for potentially longer shooting, the N3 is designed to use less power, sleep and take advantage of the Nikon GPS power saving features. I haven't had it long enough to compare battery life, but I did notice that it went to sleep a few seconds after I turned the camera off and was ready almost instantly when I turned the camera back on.

The GPS data shows in Lightroom 3 and allows you to click the arrow/button to take you to that spot on Google Maps.


New Indoor Fixed Mode

GPS units work best when used outside, but if you are going in and out of buildings a GPS that only works outside isn't much use to you. The N3 has an Indoor Fixed Mode that will use you last known location to continue tagging photos as you take them inside.


Built-in Remote Trigger Support

One of the usual concerns pro photographers have is that the model for the pro cameras use the 10 pin terminal port. That port is also often used for cable releases (remotes). While Solmeta does sell a Y splitter cable so that you can use your existing cable release, the also have a port on the side for use with a basic remote too.


The Bottom Line

I have mixed feelings about this model. I'm happy with the speed and accuracy, but I'm less happy about needing a specific model for your camera. Luckily the N2 and Geotagger Pro are still available as options. Solmeta has positioned the N3 right between the Pro and N2 and it's priced at $189. You can't go wrong with any of these models as they are all solid performers. 

Learn more or order here.

Create Colors in Harmony with Ease in Illustrator CS5



In this episode of the Adobe Creative Suite Podcast I'll show you how to create colors that look good together using Illustrator's Color Guide feature. 


See more of my Adobe Creative Suite Videos on my Adobe Creative Suite Podcast and get the App here. It features EXCLUSIVE CONTENT that no one else gets to see. This episode has a BONUS CLIP that is available only in the App:

Learn Adobe Creative Suite with Terry White - Wizzard Media



Review: SplashID Key Safe


Lately I've become a bit of a password security freak. I've been proactively changing passwords and PINs to be more secure and to make sure that I'm not using the same password in multiple places. My goto App for managing all my passwords is 1Password. I love this Application on both Mac OS and iOS. Recently I became aware of SplashID Key Safe. SplashID Key Safe is a hardware based 4GB thumb drive that offers an "unbreakable" AES and 256-bit Blowfish encryption, which provides proven protection for safe password management. The Key Safe is both Mac and Windows compatible.







Set it up


Once you plug it into your computer you run the appropriate setup app for your platform. You then create a secure password so that you can access your data going forward. It even offers an optional cool Pattern based password where you use your mouse to draw a pattern that you've created to connect the dots and unlock the key. This definitely beats having to remember a long complicated password and keying it in each time. Once you've set up your credentials you can then begin the process of entering all your sensitive data. Enter it all. Anything from website logins to credit card numbers and bank accounts to software serial numbers to frequent flyer info. Since it is a thumb drive you can also securely attach files to any record from your computer.


Regular Use

Once you've got it all setup you can plug it into to any Mac or Windows PC and bring up your passwords and files. If you want to log onto a secure website using a saved password you can bring up that Web login and go right to the URL. From there you can copy and paste in the user name and password when prompted. You can also use the built-in Autofill feature so that it fills in this info for you. As a 1Password user the 1st thing I looked for was a way to import my 1Password data in and low and behold there's a 1Password Import right in the File Menu.


Sync with your Mobile Device

Spashdata also makes mobile versions of their App for iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Mobile and WebOS. That pretty much covers every major mobile device being sold today. I downloaded the iOS Version. See my review here.


The Bottom Line

If you're looking for a hardware solution to manage your passwords and take them with you where ever you go this is it. If you're already a 1Password user then there probably isn't a big reason to switch other than having the ability to carry your passwords and files on a 4GB thumb drive. Either way, you need to think more about securing your personal information in these times of hackers and identity thieves. You can get the SplashID Key Safe for $29.95 here from their site.

The Making Of My “Queen Nefertari” Egyptian Themed Shoot

While I don’t consider myself to be an artist, I can certainly relate to having a vision or concept in my head that just won’t go away until I try to execute it. That’s been the case for the last two years. I had this concept of doing an Egyptian Queen “Nefertari” themed shoot. I’ve always had a fascination with Ancient Egyptian culture. I first toured Egypt in 1990 and it left a lasting impression on me. I also went back for a short business trip last year while on the Adobe CS5 Tour. Now that you know how long I’ve been thinking about this, let’s start putting the pieces together.


I saw the first piece of this puzzle in a Skymall catalog. It was an authentic looking King Tutankhamun throne. I ripped the page out of the catalog and kept looking back at it saying “one day.”

I decided that this was the year to try to pull this off so that meant finding the right model. I immediately turned to my favorite model Kandice Lynn and asked if she would be up for and of course being the superstar that she is, she agreed. She immediately began working on the wardrobe selection and jewelry.


The next piece of the puzzle was having a good makeup artist. For this project we turned to Special Effects Makeup Artist Houda Bazzi. She was just as excited about the concept as I was and her wheels started spinning. We were shooting pictures back and forth via picture messaging for the next few days.

Continue Reading »

Best of 2011: My Top 10 Gadget Picks

Happy New Year Everyone! 2011 was a great year for me and I look forward to 2012. While I did have a great year, I didn't really get a ton of memorable gadgets. As I sit here thinking about my Top 10 Picks and I look back at the last two years of picks, many are still the same or simply updated versions of ones before. However, I did get a couple of cool things this year that are new and do stand out. Here are My Favorite Gadgets of 2011:


The iPhone 4s

This is probably my most used gadget and while the iPhone 4 didn't make my list last year, the iPhone 4s has been a blast. I can't believe how much I use Siri day to day as well as the much improved camera. What really makes this all sing is iOS 5 and the faster A5 processor.

Get the iPhone 4s here.

Also see my "25 Fun Things To Ask Siri" post.


Rouge Flashbenders

I'm surprised by how much I've been using these little gems all year. While I certainly love having a nice softbox to shoot with, when I travel I often just don't have the room to pack a ton of gear. That's why the Rouge Flashbenders are in my Top 10. They're inexpensive, easy to travel with and produce great results for speedlight photography.

See my original review here.

You can get the Rogue FlashBenders (3 in a set) here from B&H or individually Large, Small, or Bounce Card/Flag. My favorites are the Large and Bounce Card/Flag.



The Scottevest is my jacket of choice when I travel. It allows me to have all kinds of mobile gadgets in my pockets and easily serves as my 3rd carry-on on the plane. 🙂

See my original review here.

See the Scottevest line of apparel here.

Continue Reading »

Logitech Harmony Link Turns Your Mobile Device Into A Universal Remote

I've been a fan of the Harmony One for some time now. It's actually my favorite off the shelf universal remote. While it's not perfect, it offers the best universal, multiple device experience I've seen to date (aside from the Bose Lifestyle T20 RF remote). Recently I stumbled upon the Harmony Link. This small module connects to your WiFi network and basically serves as an wireless IR repeater to send commands from the Harmony Link App running on your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch or Android device to your audio and video equipment. In essence with the Harmony Link, your mobile device because your touch screen universal remote that does NOT require line of sight.


Straightforward setup

The Harmony Link comes with an AC adapter and USB cable. Dont' worry about the USB cable being short because you only need it for the initial setup and you can plug in the Harmony Link to any AC plug near your computer long enough to set it up and then relocate it near your TV when you're done. Since Harmony prides themselves on having a large database of remote codes, you merely need to collect all the Make and Model Numbers of your gear. Then you simply download the Harmony Link setup app on your Mac or PC. The 1st step is to join the Harmony Link to your WiFi network. Then walk through the setup by entering plain English to identify each device you want to control. If there is a device that you have that Logitech doesn't know about, it will prompt you to get the original remote so that you can teach the Harmony Link the commands it needs to know. 


The Harmony Link App for iOS

The next step is to grab the App for your mobile platform. I downloaded the Harmony Link App for iOS (see my review here). Once you have the App and your mobile device is on the same network as the Harmony Link module it will see it. Then just log in with the same user name and password that you used during the initial setup.



How does it work?

Once I got the device setup and the App installed on my iPhone 4s and iPad 2 I took the Harmony Link for a spin. I configured three "activities", "Watch TV", "Watch DVD/BD" and "Watch Apple TV" my only challenge is that my Sony Google TV has the worst input switching implementation ever. Unlike most TVs that either have a direct Input button (ie. HDMI 2) or the ones that simply go "Input Next", mine brings up an on screen menu and while that's not the end of the world, after choosing the Input you have to click "OK". This isn't a standard thing and therefore it threw my Harmony One and of course the Harmony Link for a loop. To make matters worse each time the menu comes up on screen it doesn't highlight the current input, instead it starts at the top. I was able to get it to kinda work but I need to put a call into their tech support to get the best setting.  Outside of my weird Input problem on this one TV, everything else worked perfectly. I was able to easily control my Sony Google TV, TiVo Premiere XL, Sony Blu-ray player and Apple TV. When I done watching tapping a single button on my iPad or iPhone turns everything off. Since this is working via WiFi you don't have to worry about pointing your phone or tablet at your screen (great for turning off the stuff that was left on upstairs or downstairs without having to make the trip. There goes that little bit of exercise you were getting 🙂 ). Also the Harmony Link works in cabinets and has two ports for IR blasters to get to hard to see IR ports. 


What could be better?

While the Harmony Link does work as advertised, there is room for improvement. The first thing is that if you have more than one mobile device or other Harmony remotes, those other remotes/mobile devices don't know that your gear is on if you started with a different remote. For example, let's say I turn everything on with my iPhone 4s and then later pick up my iPad. The iPad doesn't know what activity I'm using or which gear is on or off. It would great if each remote/device could read from the Harmony Link to see the current status/activity. Also if you've got any AV gear that uses RF instead of IR you're out of luck. Another drawback in general is that since it's using your phone or tablet this means that it's 100% touch screen and that's not a good thing because it means always having to look at your display to see the button you want to use. On the Harmony one, there are physical buttons that you can use without looking. Lastly can we kill the green LED that's always on?


The Bottom Line

I'm one step closer to having the perfect universal remote. I would actually like to see an upgraded Harmony One that allows for the button customizations of the Harmony Link App and offer WiFi connectivity. If you're in Remote Control Hell and you have a smartphone or tablet, then you should take at the Harmony Link.

You can get the Harmony Link for $99.89 here.