Holding a Successful Photowalk [IP30]

In Episode 30 of the Improve Photography Podcast, Jim answers listener questions about using Lightroom to sort and organize your photos, suggestions for photo walks, creating the perfect home studio, and more! Dustin is out of town this week so Jim is doing the podcast solo.

Guide to Episode 30

[0:35] Online Photography Classes

Classes start at photoclasses.com on Wednesday, July 10th! (If you're reading this after July 10th, don't worry – we have classes starting every month.) Come on over and check it out – we've got 7 courses to choose from: Beginner, Intermediate, Portrait Lighting, Business, Photoshop Elements, Photoshop 1, and Photoshop 2! Our classes are 30 lessons of video instruction by Jim and Dustin, and you also receive 30 days of access to Jim and Dustin for answers to all your questions! This is a great value at only $98 per class, and we encourage you to check out the classes we offer and sign up today.

[1:48] How do you sort and organize your photos in Lightroom?

Lightroom is very capable of sorting and organizing your photos, though it doesn't have a very wonderful search function. Jim hopes to see that improve in the next version of Lightroom.

Jim describes his process of importing photos into Lightroom: he imports the photos on the computer and leaves the filename the same, but keywords/tags them as he imports them. Whatever you decide to do, be sure you are consistent and do it every time. Once you have a system that works for you, it will make importing your photos and getting them properly organized that much quicker and simpler.

First, put the memory card in the computer, go to the import dialog in Lightroom, and start keywording. Use a consistent system for keywords. (Jim always uses the singular version of a noun even if there may be more than one in the photo (i.e. model vs models or flash vs flashes) – that way he knows this photo will always show up when he searches for that keyword. He also uses first and last names of people, which makes it quite a bit easier when you are searching for a specific person.) Next, be sure you know where your photos are going – you can look on the right side of the screen to see where your photos are going and what the folder structure is. By default, Lightroom creates a separate folder for every day that you have taken photos (inside the folder for the year) so they are organized well for you. Finally, once the photos are fully imported, Jim goes through and uses the star system to categorize them. He keeps his fingers on the 1, 2, and 3 buttons so he can quickly go through each photo marking them:


  1. This is a garbage shot. Maybe I just bumped the shutter button and happened to get a nice picture of the ground or my foot.
  2. These are ok. Not great, but not garbage either.
  3. These are the photos that I really like, or that have real potential – these are the ones I want to come back to and look at again after I'm done going through them all and do a full edit on them.

Once you have categorized all your photos as 1, 2, or 3, you can view the photos you marked as a “3” and edit them. From there you can choose if you want to mark them as:


  • Really great shots, or
  • These are the best photos I've ever taken in my entire life!


Having your photos starred with only the very best photos marked as a “5” makes it incredibly simple to show off your portfolio. Just view all the 5 star photos and you've got all your best work!

[6:56] What are the unwritten rules for amatuer photographers out in the field when shooting an event that is also being photographed by a professional?

Know the rules for the specific event you are shooting. If you're shooting a golf tournament, the last thing you want to do is take a photo before the golfer has hit the ball. They need silence to concentrate, and there have been cases where photographers have taken pictures too soon and paid dearly for that mistake (Tiger Woods' caddy grabbed a photographer's DSLR and threw it in the pond, and another photographer who did this twice in a row had their credentials revoked). The same is true for other sports that require quiet for concentration like bowling, tennis, etc. However, nobody will care when you take the shot if you're at a football game. If you're shooting a concert, a lot of concerts won't allow you to take photographs. It's really important that you know what is expected in the venue in which you are shooting.

A few other important tips: Pay attention to your height. If you are a taller person, be sure you're not blocking people (especially people who have paid for the event). At some events it is appropriate to take turns – if there is only one “good” location to shoot from, then be courteous and let others have a chance to shoot from there as well. But by far the best tip Jim has is bring the biggest, best lens you've got. It's incredible how the crowds will part for you – people are so impressed with the big equipment that they give you plenty of space, assuming you are a professional (whether you are or not).

At a formal event like a wedding, be especially careful that you are not causing a problem for the professional photographer. Wedding photographers make the majority of their money on the prints ordered after the wedding, so if you are constantly asking people to “Now look over here!” you are going to make the photographer's job incredibly difficult. Just remember that if someone is paid to shoot the event, you need to stay out of their space and let them do their job. However, having said that, don't be afraid to take your pictures either – just be respectful of the people that are there and you'll do great.

[13:10] What suggestions do you have for photo walks?

Photo walks are really fun, and it can be fun to lead one. Jim suggests finding a new, interesting place (or your favorite place) that most photographers don't know and take the group there. That way, even if they don't get anything else from the photo walk, the photographers have a new location to use. If you're a street photographer it can be great to meet somewhere in the town and just walk around taking pictures. When you're thinking of locations, think seasonally. Around Boise in early springtime, Jim likes the sand dunes as a fun location. In June there's a great flower patch that only blooms for a couple weeks. In the fall, there's some great color in Stanley. If you think about the season, you can usually come up with some good ideas for where to go.

To improve the success (and fun!) of your photo walk, make the walk a contest. Email us and ask if we would be willing to give a free online class to the winner of your photo walk (and of course we would!). Get in touch with a local camera store and see if they would be willing to sponsor your walk by giving the winner a small piece of equipment. Then after the shoot, everybody can share their pictures on a community Flickr page. It's also nice if your photo walk ends at a location where people can mingle, and where you can hook cameras up to a large-screen TV or pass them around so people can show off a few of their favorites from the walk. Another great idea is to split up into teams at the beginning, and put some experienced photographers in groups with beginners so that the people who are feeling nervous will know who to ask when they have questions.

[18:13] What is the basic gear you would need to do stock photography against a white background?

Shooting on a white background is trickier than most people realize. Jim likes to have 4 flashes if he's shooting on a white background. This is because you have to independently light the background, and often you will need two flashes for this. You want to be sure your background is evenly lit, and you want the flashes to be as far away from the background as possible without having them in front of the model. Don't use the flashes on full power (usually you want them about 1.5 stops brighter than the model). The other set of lights is for your model. In general one light is going to look great, but Jim often finds that with a white background it looks better if you have a main light and a fill light. On a white background you really want it to look clean, so you're lighting the model a bit more than you would normally.

[21:43] What are your suggestions for the perfect home studio?

Making a home studio is really fun! You can do a lot with a small space as long as you plan things out. For a background, Jim suggests going with seamless paper mounted to a background stand. Click here to see Jim's recommendation of a really inexpensive chain-driven background stand. It's great because you can have three rolls of paper on it and it has a chain that you pull to raise or lower the one you want. It is really nice to have this wall mounted stand because you can gain quite a bit of space in your small area by not having stands for your background that you have to work around.

As for what color to paint the walls, there are two schools of thought. (1) You can use white and then everything will reflect and you will get a nice, airy look. (2) Or you can use black and this won't reflect anything at all. For a small space like a garage (which is what this listener was asking about) Jim suggests painting everything white. Certainly don't leave the garage that gray color of sheetrock, because that will cause some really strange reflections in your lighting.

[25:36] I have a 5D Mark III and I'm having variability in the frame rate when I use the high continuous drive. This occurrs within minutes of each other with the same settings on the camera. What's going on?

Jim has two ideas about what could be causing this situation. The first (and most likely in Jim's opinion) is that when you press the shutter button, the camera isn't set to release priority. It is set to confirm the focus and then release the picture. So make sure that your camera is set to just fire and not confirm the focus between each shot, because if the camera is trying to confirm the focus and you are shooting something that isn't an area of high contrast, it can take it an extra second to find the focus between shots.

The second possibility (a long shot, but still possible) is that the voltage on some third party battery grips (if they aren't made properly) may not be giving the camera enough power between shots and that can reduce the frame rate (especially if the battery is starting to get toward the end). If you're on the battery grip power and it's not giving the voltage, it's going to reduce your frame rate. This is something to check, but the first option is a lot more likely.

[29:02] When photographing large groups outdoors, what do you do for fill light?

First some tips on working with natural light: Whenever you're working in natural light, first get to neutral. If you have hard shadows (goes from shadow to light very quickly), do whatever you have to do to get rid of uneven light from the sun. (Turn the person to have their back toward the sun – this puts their face in shadow and gives you a nice hairlight – or put them in the shade.) Once you've done that, you can use a flash or a reflector to add interesting (and controlled) light to the face. Put the flash high and to the right or left of the photographer – this makes the light less flat and gives some perspective.

When you've got a big group, you will follow the same process but you need to do a few specific things as well. So first, turn the group so the sun is at their backs. This puts all the faces in neutral. If you have the lights quite a ways over to one side from the photographer, you will see that the shadow from one person's head will cast a shadow on the person next to them. So when you are shooting a group, you need to have the lights pretty close to the camera from a lateral perspective (side to side). This does make the lighting a little more flat, but you have to do it that way to keep the people from casting shadows on each other's faces. Once you've done outdoor group photography a few times, you'll see that it's really not that tough.

[32:25] I'm noticing differences in the color of my photos between looking at them on my computer when I'm editing them and looking at them on another computer in a browser. What's going on?

One of the problems is just going to be that you are looking at the photo in different programs. There will always be some variability from one program to another, but it shouldn't be a huge difference. The next thing to be sure of is that you are using the correct color space. If you're putting the photo on the web, make your photo sRGB. And finally, make sure your screen is properly calibrated. When the manufacturers of screens make these screens, they are set up to be very vibrant and colorful but this isn't accurate for photographs. Remember that some viewers will see the photo incorrectly because their screens won't be calibrated. If you're doing all those things, most people will have a good experience.

[37:05] Prizes for reviews!

The winner is megbrownphotography.  If that's your username on iTunes, email Jim at [email protected] to get your free online photography class.

To be entered to win the online photography class each week, simply go to this podcast on iTunes and write a one or two sentence review.  While they appreciate a a 5-star review, any review will get you entered to win a class for free (a $98 value).

[37:55] Doodads of the Week

Jim's doodad of the week is the Tenba Messenger Bag. It's a shoulder bag that fits a laptop (it has a nice laptop sleeve) and also has a great pocket divider system for your camera. It can easily fit a camera with a shorter lens attached, as well as two other lenses. It has a comfortable should strap, it looks really nice, and it doesn't look so much like a camera bag. Jim uses this every day to take his camera or laptop to and from the studio. It still looks brand new even though he's had it for more than a year!

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2 thoughts on “Holding a Successful Photowalk [IP30]”

  1. Having read this I thought it was extremely informative.
    I appreciate you finding the time and energy to put this content together.

    I once again find myself personally spending way too much time both reading and posting comments.
    But so what, it was still worth it!

  2. Thanks for the marvelous post! I truly enjoyed reading it, and I really admire the photography knowledge you two have. It’s amazing that you can answer just about any question that us listeners can think of!

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