Photography is an international language! If you want a quick overview of the essentials… fill the frame, rule of thirds, golden ratio, and lighting such as the golden hour, you can find them here. Lots of the best photographers, give the universal advice, take your camera everywhere. Never stop shooting! Fortunately, the concepts of composition and lighting apply to film making too. One of the techniques that separates the legends from the rest of the pack is that they do what everyone else is doing, and add something else that is uniquely theirs.

In Camera Techniques

My personal favorite style of shooting is one I discovered most castle-dwelling wedding photographers are also doing, which is over exposing by about 2 stops. José Villa, Kurt Boomer, and the if i made breed of fine art film photographers rate Fuji 400 at 200, which creates an automatic one stop overexposure. They add another one or two stops of overexposure by metering for the shadows or facing the light meter bulb out and away from the sun. Sometimes an underexposure is the right choice for the chiaroscuro effect, but 98% of the time, I prefer the look of overexposed film.  Technology still can’t replicate the color range of film.  Mastin Labs presets get you pretty close to the look of film, but if you have a film camera bring it, and retake your paramount shots on film.  If you are shooting film, it’s nice, if not, essential to have a light meter. In the film vs. digital era we live in, photographers guess the exposure and nail it by the 2nd shot, because of the back monitor, but a light meter is going to give you more precise results. In a practical night time scenario, manual metering with flash is nearly impossible, because the distance between your lighting and subject changes the exposure drastically. This is the result of the inverse square law. One way around this to shoot hybrid, so you use both film and digital, most people doing this use a digital camera at night and a film during the day.  The reasoning behind this is that you can use TTL, through the lens metering, with digital cameras at a dark wedding reception, eliminating the worry about the inverse square law.

Here’s just a few of the thousands of high-end wedding photographers embracing the overexposed film look with a shallow depth of field.

2-3 stops overexposed | Erich McVey 

1-2 stops overexposed | Jen Huang Photo

0 to 1 stop overexposed | Pearl & Godiva

Carmencita film labs offers a full chart demonstrating the rest of the scale for both Porta and Fuji 400 film.

How Exposure Affects Film

Theory, Tips and Tricks

Travel light. One of Slim Aarons tricks to photographing the rich and famous around the world was to travel light. He often carried little more than his camera and tripod. Another travel photography idea is to take shots of the same scene in three different ways. Even if you think you have the best possible angle on something your first shot… try another one, and you might be surprised. Here are eight more tips.

Nicolee Drake travels even lighter, just using her phone.

Another one of my favorite photographers is Guy Aroch, he’s a fashion photographer with a soft focus in nearly all of his photos. Many of his photos are of nude models so be aware they are NSFW. Anyhow, the trick to the dreamy, beautiful quality in his photos is a ziplock bag and some color gels. Here is a video of Daniel Norton demonstrating the safe for work version of the Soft Focus Trick.


It’s wise to do everything you can in camera. Any photographer who has name recognition, has a consistent look to all of their photos. To do this, edit your entire photoshoot the same way, since changing photos one by one, will not give you a consistent look. Embrace the grand design of the entire shoot, so, you have a flowing stream of photos.

E D I T I N G /// E S S E N T I A L S

Batch Edit = Applying the same look a bunch of photos at once

/// Here’s how in Lightroom 

Dodging = brighting an area of the photo

/// Use the magnifying glass icon or watch this… How to dodge

Burning = darkening an area of the photo

/// Switch the magnifying glass icon to the burn hand icon or watch this… How to burn

Presets = You can customize them yourself, or go with third-party presets

/// Presets by Visual Supply Co, Rad Labs, or Mastin Labs

J-Trick in Photoshop = Spot removal tool shortcut

/// Press J. You can change the size of the brush with the icon right next to the band-aid.

J-Trick in Lightroom = Flash highlights and underexposed areas shortcut

/// Come on! You can see it by eye! But this video link explains it and curves too.

Split toning = Changing the colors of highlights, mid-tones, and shadows in an image

/// Click the develop tab in Lightroom, split toning is below

RAW = the uncompressed digital photo file

/// To export RAW files from iPhoto, go File, Export, Original. Use the dialog box 100%. If you do export Original and then drag and drop, it still automatically makes JPEG files. Use Bridge for Photoshop.

Video tutorials for all of the above in… Photoshop | Capture One | Luminar 

P E R S O N A L /// T E C H N I Q U E S

For 99% of my photos, I batch edit with presets and break out the J-trick in Photoshop for the 2% that need a little extra. This is the spot healing brush in Photoshop, it can remove pimples, wrinkles, and other elements in the photo. To confuse you, the J-trick in Lightroom is an entirely different thing. This is all you really need. But for perfectionists, it’s time to dodge and burn, use layers, curves, and film grain. This is what you want to do for the photos that you love.

One of my favorite techniques for editing photos is split toning. This makes the colors much more psychedelic or interesting than what you’re going to get in the camera.  Dana Pennington demonstrates split toning with Capture below, but you can also use Lightroom for it, under the develop section. Skip to the five minute mark in the video to learn about split toning.

One final word on digital editing, is that exporting RAW files can be very confusing.


Posing Ideas

Here’s a good video about how to pose individual models. One of the keys points is to make sure they are comfortable, and check the hands. You don’t want them to push against the body or show too much palm.

Tec Petaja is an inspiring wedding photographer who poses couples by directing a scenario, and then letting the events unfold naturally and capturing them.

A couple of more advanced but very good tips are to define the face, by having the subject tilt their head a little bit to the side so you can see the jaw line, one ear and both eyes. And then throw in …the squinch and they will look sexy.

Invention of Camera Lust

Camera Obscura

Camera Obscura was the invention or discovery that enabled the camera to exist. Mozi was the first known to write about it, and Aristotle elaborated on his ideas. As time moved on, Nicéphore Niépce captured the projected image, creating the first photograph.

Notable user: Leonardo da Vinci

Invented by: Mozi

Types of Cameras

Encyclopedias may list over 100 types of cameras, including holographic cameras, but for photographers… There are essentially five types of cameras in world so far, all coming from the camera obscura method. Photographic history mirrors architecture in a sense, with pyramids giving rise to castles, which gave way to villas and apartments. So, as they have fallen in quality over time, they have been able to accommodate more people.

The essence of the concept is that the bigger the film or image sensor, the higher the image quality, but the larger and more difficult the still or movie camera becomes.

A frequent adage is, it’s not the camera, it’s the photographer! The truth of the matter is, it is both. Sometimes it’s mostly the space shuttle, not the astronaut. Here’s the cheap camera challenge, showing what happens when you give a professional photographer a toy camera. The message is this, use what you have!

Lara Jade using a Bread Superman Camera


1 | Point and shoot /// Camera phones

2| Instant

3| 35mm 

4| Medium Format 

5| Large Format /// View 

In essence, view cameras are the highest quality and camera phones are the fastest, lightest, and easiest to photograph with.

P O I N T  A N D  S H O O T

Popular Brands: Apple, Samsung, Kodak

Point and shoot (camera phones) have the advantage of being cheap, easy and fast. Even if you use rapid fire on a DSLR, the focus time to take five quick shots is going to take longer than just snapping a picture on your phone.

Notable camera: Apple iPhone

Why? The world’s most popular camera!

Example photographer: Mal de Mar

I N S T A N T  C A M E R A S

Popular Brands: Fuji, Polaroid

Instant cameras! They offer the magic of having a photo develop before your eyes. When the invention was perfected by Land, they were a revolutionary idea… a camera, developing studio, and printing lab all-in-one. High-quality digital cameras still can’t do this, almost 100 years later. Professional photographers frequently use Polaroid film as test shots before putting non-instant Fuji or Kodak film in their medium and large format cameras. After shutting down the manufacture of their film, it was revived by the Impossible Project.

Notable cameras: Land CameraSX-70 

Why? The first Polaroid Camera and the first fully-automatic Polaroid!

Example photographer: Co Rentmeester

3 5 m m  C A M E R A S

Popular Brands: Canon, Nikon, Leica

35mm cameras are what the majority of photographers making money off photography have used since Leica popularized the rangefinder format in the 1920’s. I have included cropped image sensor cameras as 35mm. Cropped sensor cameras, like most mid-level Canons and Nikons have a slightly smaller sensor than a full-frame 35mm are good for all the basics… f-stop, shutter speed, ISO, strobes and off camera flash, etc.  They are easy to carry around, but obviously you can’t put them in your pocket like a phone, and don’t have the same image quality as full-frame 35mm cameras. Nearly everyone on Shotkit uses 35mm cameras.

Notable Camera: Leica Null Series

Why? World’s Most Expensive Camera at $3 million dollars!

Example photographer: Steve McCurry

M E D I U M  F O R M A T  C A M E R A S

Popular Brands: Mamiya, Hasselblad, Phase One

Medium format cameras are used heavily in editorial and fashion photography. They are my personal favorite. Even though you can shoot handheld, they are heavy enough to be a burden to bring around everywhere. The number 645, 66, 67, 69 refers to the size of the crop of the image. 6×6 is a square photo. 645 is the lowest resolution medium format camera, but the advantage is you get sixteen shots on a roll of 120 film, more film shots than any other crop is doing to give you, and since it’s not a square, you can still shoot vertical or horizontal. Ana Lui shoots 645. It’s very pleasing to the eye on a magazine page or website, even a requirement for magazines such as Belle Lumière and 67 cameras are the choice two of world’s most famous Vogue photographers Tim Walker and Annie Leibovitz.

Notable Camera: Mamiya RZ67

Why? Captured the most viewed photograph of all time!

Example photographer: Nastia Vesna

L A R G E  F O R M A T  C A M E R A S

Popular Brands: Horseman, Tachihara, Wista

Large format cameras, most of which are called view or field cameras are heavy, slow, expensive to use, and require a tripod. Field cameras, like medium format cameras, allow you to take polaroids with a polaroid back. Because of the enormous size of the negative, they offer the highest quality image you can get from a photo. Ansel Adams chose them for their unsurpassed tonal range and image quality. If you want to print out a detailed, life size photo of someone, on glass, this is how to do it. The images you see from these cameras on the internet do not show the full quality, because the files sizes are too massive and computers are not able to reproduce the tonal range of film perfectly yet.

Notable Cameras: The Time Machine, The Mammoth Camera of Lawrence 

Why? World’s largest wet plate camera currently making photos, and it’s also a vehicle. World’s largest camera of it’s time. Currently a large format camera the size of a skyscraper is being built in South America!

Example photographer: Massimo Vitali

In case you were curious about the exact cameras the example photographers were using here’s the list, plus extra notable photographers using the same camera.

Apple iPhone 5S: Mal de Mar

SX-70:  Co RentmeesterDavid Hockney

Nikon FM2: Steve McCurry 

Contax 645: Ana Lui, Jen HuangJose Villa, Kate Holstein, Nastia Vesna

8 x 10 View Cameras: Yousuf KarshGreg CrewdsonMassimo Vitali

Photo Lab Lust

Film labs that consistently appear in editorial film photographers work.


The Find Lab

Carmencita film lab

Richard’s Photo Lab

Goodman Film Lab

Lighting Lust

According to this, the best possible stand you can buy to hold lighting is a Century Stand. If you don’t plan on photography being a passing phase, the best investment you can make is in a good stand and tripod, because you will save money in the long run. I’ve inherited a solid metal Manfrotto tripod, and it’s nice knowing I’ll never have to buy another one in my life time, unless I need two or three tripods for a business in film. Do not put a camera or lighting on a plastic stand, it will knock over and ruin your expensive equipment.

As far as lighting goes, their are distinct looks every kind of light gives you. Describing visual images seems like a waste of time to me, so below, are example photos from each kind of lighting. You can make your own choice. My personal choice is natural light outdoors or a soft box indoors.

Considering the cost of good lighting, with the fresnels they used in old Hollywood costing thousands, and high-end strobes also costing thousands, you have to wonder if that money would be better spend on a few candles that serve as props and lighting. Kubrick’s idea of combining set design with the lighting, using Christmas tree lights, lamps and illuminated floors If you have to photograph a wedding or babies, you may have to bring bounce flash or a soft box to the reception out of necessity, if not, embrace Kubrick’s idea of practical lighting.

Natural Light: Muravnik

Umbrella: Me

Softbox: Marc Hayden

Softbox: (with window light) Thomas Whiteside 

Softbox: (with natural light) Bharat Sikka 

Beauty Dish: Melissa Rodwell

Fresnel: (with outdoor light) Patrick Demarchelier 

Strobes with various modifiers: Lindsay Adler, Mark Seliger

Lighting theory

One of the best methods of lighting is to use natural light… light from the sun! You can photograph during the golden hour with the sun behind, and a touch off to the side of your subject. Do it and you will have tremendous lighting, man-made lighting, cannot complete with, in my view. Jose Villa is a photographer who use this technique all the time.

Leonardo da Vinci thought that it’s good to study before engaging in an endeavor, so you can always research your favorite photographers and see what they are doing. Emily Soto achieves her look by placing one softbox at 45 degrees above the subject to mimic Rembrandt lighting, and another directly above the subject for a more diffused light. She also does polaroid transfers of this afterwards, which creates beautiful fluid colors. Another method is to use strobes with modifiers just experiment, finding what you like.

The types of lighting below are utilized unto themselves and in combination, by photographers all the time. For example, you can have a candle lit scene with light coming down through a window, so it’s practical lighting and Rembrandt light all at once.

Paramount lighting: Light coming from directly above and in front of the subject

Loop lighting: Same as Paramount lighting but with the light slightly off to the side

Rembrandt lighting: Light from a window, the sun, or strobe 45 degrees above

Split lighting: Light coming from and directly on one side of the model

Back lighting: Light coming from directly behind the subject

Rim lighting: Light outlining the hair, usually achieved by back lighting

Short light: Light that creates shadows on the side of the face closest to you

Broad light: Light that creates shadows on the side of face farthest from you

Badger light: Light coming from both sides diagonally behind, shadows in middle of face

Abstract light: Light patterns from lace, latticework, lock holes, etc.

Flat light: Light on a cloudy day

Frontal light: Light coming from directly in front, level with, your subject

Clamshell lighting: A two light combination of Paramount and Frontal lighting

High-Key lighting: Bright, low-contrast lighting with little or no shadows

Low-Key lighting: Dark and shadowy, the opposite of High-Key

Practical light: Light coming from props in the scene

Golden hour: Diffused light from the sun at sunrise and sunset

Paramount lighting is also called Butterfly lighting. Almost all of these lighting styles use a hair light as part of the setup as well, which is a light placed over and slightly behind the hair. Many of these setups are combined by photographers. For example, abstract light in the background with Rembrandt lighting in the foreground.

Photoshoot ideas

So far, I’ve covered the material and technical aspects of photography. Perhaps the most important and hardest to realize, it the concept of bringing an idea to life.

All magazine are photography magazines, except for the rare few. Surfing magazine has the idea of bringing surfing to life. Rolling Stone brings music to life. Time magazine brings politics to life, photographing world issues. Playboy brings sex to life. As sinful as it may be, the reason for Playboy’s popularity is because Hugh Hefner had an idea, the Playboy Bunny. Everyone wants to see the temptation, the nudes, the guns, the bags of money… but no one wants to see the consequences, the sexual diseases, the dead bodies, the life behind bars. Photographing nudes had been around since the dawn of photography. Why was Hugh Hefner the icon, and not those who came before him? His empire reaches millions of viewers, because he required the photographers to glamorize his idea of the Playmate. He merged the world of comics with the world of sex. Purienne left the magazine, photographing nudes on the beach in sun-drenched Ibiza with a vintage 70’s themes. Mirage magazine became an expensive international publication, because of his retro hedonistic idea. If these icons didn’t have new popular ideas, they would have joined the masses of nude photos you never hear about. My advice is to think of an ethical idea. If Aristotle would approve of it, do it.  Photograph it, film it! Think about an idea that inspires you. But don’t copy that idea, it’s been done, it’s being done. Inspired by Disney? If you want join them! If not…

Millions of ideas have already been done, foods arranged by color, defying gravity, living in a mansion filled with animals, puppies doing people things, apocalyptic jungles, space age themes, photo series of color dye festivals, the list goes on. Disney created Mickey Mouse, and that idea grew into Disneyland, which turned into the empire of entertainment we have today. The key idea, is to think of your own idea.


If you take lots of photos everyday, you will improve quickly. Think about what you wish to photograph. Eventually, you’ll run out of interesting subject matter otherwise. And as Peter Beard said, “Photography is subject matter.”
By challenging yourself to photograph everything, you will learn composition, lighting, the technical aspects of using a camera, all the basics. Photograph daily life. Persevere and ideas will come to you. You should be able to make the back of your hand look interesting in a photograph.
Once you have mastered all of that, change your subject matter. Photograph things as they appear before you, think and make changes. Find a model, do outfit and location changes, different poses and lighting. Think about different color schemes, styles of appearance, and decade themes. This will teach you to think creatively. Science has shown that thoughts are able to change atoms.

Do a photoshoot, start to finish. Color theory, location and model scouting. Think of your favorite poses and lighting that will work beforehand. Map out exactly where you want to go. Fashion the model, so they enhance the location. Think of a theme. Think of a vantage point. Create your dream.