Mood. Moody. Moodier.

Feelings. Mood. That’s what we are all about, and that’s what series of photographs can also be all about. Like these, from a theme shoot on Saturday: can you tell what mood they portray?

That’s right: Sadness. Depression. Desperation. Suicide.

And the trick is to portray that without totally spelling it out. You do that by such things as:

  • Using appropriate facial expressions.
  • Using appropriate body language.
  • Lighting carefully.
  • Using harder rather than softer light.
  • Desaturating the colours.
  • Sharpening.
  • Using black and white.
  • Using shadows.
  • Vignetting slightly, perhaps.
  • Increasing contrast.
  • Increasing Clarity.

And that’s when you can show moodiness.

The above (best seen at full size) were taken during a charity shoot Saturday. A shoot for a mental health charity that concerns itself with depression, suicide, addiction. Hence the long faces on the part of the models, who all volunteered their time, as did the hair stylist and make-up artist.



Travel photography is a popular reason for people to buy a camera, and to actually use it. Before you go, buy my book on travel photography and have me put on my Impactful Travel Photography seminar for you and a few friends (see  And let me give you just a couple of starting notes in this post.

Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden

First: research where exactly you are going to go. I use Flickr and to a lesser extent Google image search to look for great images in the location I am going to. Then I look up where exactly they were taken, and at what time of day (Flickr usually retains the EXIF data). I look for best viewpoints and then research where they are: “where was that great photo taken from, and at what time”. I even look at what lenses were used. Not that you should copy, but you can draw conclusions from that kind of data.

View from the Hotel Chelsea, NY, NY

I also look up attractions’ GPS coordinates, since attractions do not always have a street address. You can google that: Searching for “latitude and longitude of Zabriskie Point” gives you “36.4200° N, 116.8111° W”.

I also look for shooting locations of Hollywood movies: why not let Hollywood do the heavy lifting of finding great locations?

On location, I always ask the hotel reception, the concierge; I buy postcards of locations, and I look for events, since people often do not mind being photographed at them; they expect, rather than resist, cameras.

Bring an app like Daylight to check exact sunrise and sunset times; an hour each way around sunrise and sunset , you get wonderful light.

Then check you have what you need. Camera(s); batteries; chargers; memory cards; lenses; flash(es); perhaps an ND and Polarizing filter or two; some cloths for cleaning (anything that is small, light and cheap is good!); whatever you need, think about it now, not just before traveling.

In other words: preparation does wonders when traveling.

An old light trick

This came up in class tonight, so, a repeat:

Okay, here’s a simple trick shot for you.

How did I get the bulb to light up without it being connected?

Simple. Like this:

I used an LED flashlight behind the (frosted) bulb. That makes it look like the bulb itself is lit. 6 second exposure, 200 ISO, f/5.6.

Sometimes “simple” is all it takes.


Abstract, or meaning extracted?

This tree, from yesterday’s walk with students:

I made that by zooming my 16-35 lens while shooting at about 1/15 second. That gives you either something that is still recognizable as a tree, or something that is less so:

Which one is better? They are both good. The first one says something about the tree, I feel. The second one is more about the line, motion, shapness.

And the point? The point is that you can do with your photography what you want, from literalism t abstract art. And that there are many tricks. And that you should use those tricks!




Exceed Your Limits!

That sounds like something on an inspirational poster in your company’s HR office, doesn’t it? But I mean it. You can exceed your limits. Your shutter’s limits, that is.

One of my cameras has a flash sync speed of 1/200 sec. That means, see the post from two days ago, that I cannot go faster than that without this happening:

See that black bar? That’s what happens. Flash does not reach that part of the photo; the shutter curtain is too slow and gets in the way.

But sometimes, especially in bright sunlight, I want to shoot at 1/250 second, or even at 1/300 second.

And you know what? Sometimes I do.

In that picture, taken at 1/250th second on a camera that only goes up to 1/200, is the black area at the bottom really annoying? No. It is not obvious (there is also ambient light) and in any case, I want to vignette a little anyway.

Remember, it is only the bottom (or if I turn the camera to portrait orientation, the right) that will lack flash. So I can use a faster-than-allowed shutter speed while using a flash, IF any of the following four apply:

  • the subject of my photo is just in the centre; or
  • there is a lot of ambient light; or
  • I can crop off the black area; or
  • I want a strong vignette anyway.

There. Another trick on your flash bag of tricks!