When I first meet a photographer, the phrase I most enjoy hearing is, “I want to get to the next level.” That feeling is a deep priority for many who want to diversify their skill set and become more visually interesting to those who see their pictures. And really, getting to the next level should be a priority. Because the photography journey is truly endless, and each step you take along that path will get you closer to the photographer you wish to be.
Getting to the next level usually means learning new techniques and new ways of seeing and then incorporating them into those you’ve already mastered. In other words, you get to the next level by adding layers to the photographic foundation you’ve already built.
What causes many photographers to get stuck is they become deeply skilled at a single kind of photography, or a single way of making pictures—and stay there. But photography has enormous crossover and a smart photographer leverages many distinct specialties to become better at everything they photograph.
You might not think so, but learning something like architectural photography can really enhance your landscape photography, and the demands of macro photography will teach you a ton about using selective focus in your portraiture. If you’re used to shooting things that don’t move, learning action photography can bring a whole new range of possibilities to your work. That focusing technique you learned shooting a fast-paced soccer game? It comes in real handy when you want to get a sharp picture of your squirmy new puppy, or your two year-old who won’t stop moving. Everything in photography is connected.
Light is easily the single most effective way to shape, enhance, and improve your photography.
And then there’s lighting. It’s “the next level” that transcends specialties. Light is easily the single most effective way to shape, enhance, and improve your photography and it can be used in every specialty.
For many photographers, available light is the illumination they use for the images they create because it’s what they know. Their pictures can be gorgeous, for sure, but because their toolbox is limited solely to existing light, every image has a familiar look and feel. Being limited to available light seems similar to a painter who’s palette only has the color blue. Wouldn’t it be better to have a palette with all the colors so that every hue of the rainbow could be created to say what you want to say as an artist? That’s what lighting can be. It’s also the single best way for photographers to get to the next level.
So, how do you reach the next level, get inspired, and recharge your creative juices? For most of us that means discovering and trying new ways to communicate with a camera in an environment that’s alive with ideas. And the easiest and fastest way to have that experience is through a quality workshop.
I’ve been fortunate to be associated with two that reside at the apex of photographic education, and they both place a huge priority on the learning experience of their workshops. What matters to them is that each photographer leaves enriched, confident, and inspired to make better pictures than when they arrived. It’s a relaxed experience where techniques are shared freely, personal connections are made, and new potential is discovered.
If this sounds like something right for you, there are two upcoming workshops where I’d love for you to join us and experience the next level. Appropriately, the new Nikon D850 will be at both workshop so you can see what the next level of camera looks like as well!
The first is a Nikon School workshop at the historic Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. The site is a visual feast of architecture, light, and textures. We’ll be learning about controlling light, making the right lens choice, creatively using Speedlights, working with a model, and using the environment as a background for a stunning portrait. We’ll have a professional model there to pose for everyone and the unique images you create that day will likely live in your portfolio for years to come. The team from Nikon Professional Services will be there to loan out the latest Nikon gear for you to use while you’re at the workshop and answer any questions you might have about your equipment. I cannot wait to tour this historic site and see the pictures that everyone creates!
The second workshop is the Summit Sports Photography Workshop being held for the first time in California. This workshop takes photographers on a journey through all facets of action-oriented photography. Whether it’s sports like surfing, water polo, football, or MMA, we’re likely to be talking about it—and photographing it! Pulitzer prize winning photographer, Deanne Fitzmaurice, adventure sports photographer, Lucas Gilman; Associated Press staff photographer, Mark J. Terrill, director of NCAA photos, Jamie Schwaberow, and myself will all be there to share about sports photography, remote camera installations, business practices, getting hired, sports documentary work, lighting the athletic portrait, and much more. And, if you’ve always wanted to try out a super-long lens or a 12 frame per-second motor drive, Nikon Professional Services will also be there to loan out the latest Nikon camera bodies and lenses for you to use while you’re at the workshop.