What a Private Photography Workshop Looks Like

Posted October 6th, 2015 by   |  Photography, Workshops  |  Permalink

One of my favorite things to do is lead private workshops for individuals who want to take their photography to the next level. I’ve been teaching photography and running photo workshops since 1998 and find that sometimes the best way for a person to learn a specific topic is via one-on-one mentorship.


Practicing long exposure techniques using a 10-stop neutral density filter.

I like to think of of private workshop sessions as a great way to turbocharge someone’s photographic skillset. Some individuals thrive while learning in a group setting while others learn best in a one-on-one environment.

The advantage of a private workshop is you get to learn exactly what is most important to you. Over the years, I’ve taught photographers just about every photographic topic imaginable.

Individuals have wanted to spend an entire day learning off-camera flash, so we set up a studio and did exactly that until they fully learn the process. Others have wanted to learn best practices for landscape photography, so we traveled to a beautiful location and practiced exactly that skill. Many individuals have just purchased a new camera before taking a vacation to Europe. Together, we spent a day setting up the camera’s menus and buttons while also learning the overall operation.


Learning camera operation and Autofocus technique in the field.

There are a variety of ways I teach private workshops. Each is customizable to your own learning style or photographic interest. Whether it is for an hour, half a day, full day or multiple days in a different country; you name it, I’ve done it. Some of the venues where we meet for private workshops are:

1. At my office in Gig Harbor, Washington

2. At the client’s house

3. At the client’s business location

4. Over the Internet via Skype or Google+ video hangout

5. At a predetermined outdoor location like a park or waterfront

6. Over a weekend in the city

7. Over the course of a week in a scenic area or a foreign country

For each person’s private workshop, I put together a learning plan that covers all of the topics the client wants to learn. We talk about the learning objectives in advance of our meeting and then agree to a final plan for our time together. Here’s an example of a learning plan for a 4-hour workshop I ran last week:




As I mentioned above, people have asked me to teach on just about every photo subject. Here are a few stories of people I’ve recently worked with:

3-Day Intensive

Michael V. flew in from California for three days of private instruction. His goals were to learn the Nikon D810, learn Lightroom CC, and learn autofocus techniques in the field. Each day was planned out in great detail to help him learn digital photography from the ground up. He used to shoot extensively with his collection of Nikon F film cameras, but stepped away from photography for a few decades to focus on his career. Now that he’s retired, he wants to get back to the joy of photography. After three days, he was all set to move forward in his photography after feeling comfortable with the operation of the Nikon D810 and comfortable working with Lightroom CC. This three-day private session was just what he needed to get over the steep digital learning curve.

Kids and Travel

Scott J. and Matt J. are a father and adult son who both own Nikon DSLR cameras. They travel quite a bit and each has family that they love to photograph. They spent a day with me to learn their cameras, better understand exposure control, and set up their autofocus menus properly for children’s sports and international travel. Matt’s young daughter has started playing youth soccer, so one of his goals for the private session was to improve his camera skills in order to get great photographs of his daughter in action. Scott travels with his wife all around the world. They are planning on taking a three-week-long European river cruise and wanted to make sure everything was set up with his camera system before leaving on the trip. He also wanted to practice autofocus techniques as they pertain to travel photography. We set up scenarios to mimic sports photography and travel photography so each could practice their craft under real-world situations.

Camera Operation and Exposure Theory

Hannah D. and Angela C. live in northern Washington State, about two hours from my office. We met at a lakefront park mid-way between our towns to go through exposure control, metering usage, autofocus techniques, menu setups, and video usage. Both wanted to become better with landscape and portrait photography. Both Hannah and Becky are hands-on learners, so we spent the entire private workshop outdoors, going through real-world scenarios.

Dentist Office

Dr. B. is a cosmetic dentist who wanted to set up a photo studio in his office to photograph before/after shots of his surgical clients. We spent a few hours setting up the studio including lighting equipment, backdrop, gels, camera, etc. Then, we allocated the rest of the day to working on photographic technique and digital asset management.

Monthly Mentorship Over the Internet

David S. is a photographer in southern California. We schedule one-hour Internet sessions approximately once a month to go through camera technique, image reviews, Lightroom methods, and lots of other photo-related topics. We use Google+ hangouts to host our meetings since it allows us to share video, share screens, while communicating in a very natural way.

Google+ Photo Mentoring

David and I meet about once per month via Google+ hangouts for online photography mentoring.

Photoshop and Computer Setup

Ray V. is a retiree in Florida who is a very active photographer. He hired me to come to Florida for a three-day private session where we spent the majority of time learning Photoshop techniques, improving his digital asset management system, and setting up his computer for optimal performance.

Computer setup

Ray wanted to spend three days learning Photoshop and setting up his computer system for optimum performance.

Street Photography

Sam B. from Chicago, Illinois wanted to learn how to be a better street photographer. He travels quite a bit for business and loves to photograph the cities he visits along the way. He was feeling a bit insecure about photographing people on the street, so he flew to Seattle, Washington so we could spend a day together. We walked the city streets while photographing people and street performers, while working on his people interaction and photography skills.

Street performer

Photographing street performers and tourists in Seattle, Washington at the Pike Place Market.

New Camera Operation

Tom G. flew in from San Diego for four hours of private instruction on his Nikon D750. We met at a waterfront location in Gig Harbor and spent the morning going through camera operation and autofocus technique. We also worked on setting up portable lighting equipment for location portraiture. He flew back to San Diego that evening learning exactly what he wanted to know.

Backcountry Hiking and Photography

Ron L. is a businessman from the southern USA. He loves hiking and has always wanted to photograph the wild areas of Washington State. I set up a photo itinerary for Ron that included scenic vistas, beautiful seascapes, and towering mountains. Together, we’ll spend four days hiking and photographing the best of Washington State.

Sports Photography

Sarah M. is a high school sports photographer who was having trouble consistently getting sharp photographs at football games. We set up a private workshop where we spent a few hours going through technique and camera setup, then the remainder of our time together we spent at an actual Friday night football game on the sidelines. We photographed the game together, going through technique and method while reviewing shots in real time.


If you are interested in a private workshop, feel free to email or call and we’ll set up a date. For more details on private workshops, check out our workshop page here: http://visadventures.com/services/private-photography-lessons/


Happy shooting!

Taking notes

Bring a notebook because you’re going to learn a ton!

Nikon D7000 Technique – Mirror Lock UP and HDR

Posted April 6th, 2011 by   |  Photography, Software, Uncategorized  |  Permalink

The new Nikon D7000 camera keeps on impressing me. There are a lot of little improvements in the software that really benefit photographers trying to get the most performance out of their gear. One of these is being able to shoot a bracketed HDR burst while also using Mirror Lock-up.

Nikon D7000

Nikon D7000

Let me explain why you’d do this, then explain how to do it.


High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography involves taking a series of photos at different exposures and then blending the series together in software. Each photo is exposed at a different brightness level and therefore contains exposure data for certain parts of the scene. For example, the darkest photos in the sequence will contain data for the bright sky/clouds, while the brightest photos in the sequence will contain data for the shadows.

After you take the images, it is common to use a software program to merge the series together into one photo. Programs like Nik HDR Efex Pro take the best-exposed parts of each picture and then create one final image that has detail in the shadows, highlights and everywhere in-between.

Whale skeleton and hotels along Washington State Pacific coast. Nikon D7000. Processed in Nik HDR Efex Pro.

Whale skeleton and hotels along Washington State Pacific coast. Nikon D7000. Processed in Nik HDR Efex Pro.

Ok, now that you understand HDR, let’s talk about the process of taking the photos. Since the software will be merging many images to create one final image, it is important that the camera remains steady during the burst of shots. You can imagine that the photo might look weird if the camera physically moved between shots, since the software might have a difficult time properly lining up elements of the scene.

For the very best HDR photos, it is generally best to:

1. Use a tripod

2. Use a cable release

3. Use mirror lock-up

The third item in the list presents a challenge to photographers. This is because it can take a long time to shoot a series of photos while also using mirror lock up. As many of you know, mirror lock up requires you to press the shutter release (or cable release) two times for each exposure. The first push lifts the mirror and the second push trips the shutter.

Normally when you are shooting an HDR sequence, you want to set the camera to take a fast burst of photos, so elements in the scene don’t move from shot to shot. For example, if you were photographing a landscape with clouds in the sky, the clouds can actually move quite a bit from the first shot to the last shot if you don’t rapidly take the photos. In this example, the software will have a difficult time with ghosting in the clouds, creating an odd look to the image.

Enter the Nikon D7000! In Nikon’s newest prosumer SLR camera, they now allow you to shoot a bracketed HDR burst while simultaneously using mirror lock-up. This means that the camera will automatically take the entire bracketed sequence while also activating mirror lock-up before each photograph. Awesome!

The result is a fast sequence for the bracketed burst, and a stable camera as a result of mirror lock-up.


If want to automate the process, or just make it faster, then do this:

1. Set camera for M-Up (found on the shooting mode dial)

Set your camera's shooting mode dial to M UP. This activates the mirror lock-up mode.

Set your camera's shooting mode dial to M UP. This activates the mirror lock-up mode.

2. Activate bracketing on your camera by pressing the BKT button and rotating your command dials. You’ll want to set it so it reads 3F 2.0.

Press the BKT button on the left of the camera. Then, rotate main command dial and sub command dial until you see 3F 2.0.

Press the BKT button on the left of the camera. Then, rotate main command dial and sub command dial until you see 3F 2.0.

3. Press Menu button. Navigate to Shooting Menu (camera icon)

4. Choose Interval Timer Shooting

Choose Interval timer shooting from the menu.

Choose Interval timer shooting from the menu.

Then choose Now.

Then choose Now.

Then choose 1 sec.

Then choose 1 sec.

5. Set up interval timer to take one interval and three shots per interval (1×3).

Then set camera to take one interval and three shots per interval (1 x 3)

Then set camera to take one interval and three shots per interval (1 x 3)

6. Choose “On”

Choose On. Then, the camera will begin shooting the 3 frame HDR sequence.

Choose On. Then, the camera will begin shooting the 3 frame HDR sequence.

The instant you press OK, the camera will start taking the bracketed sequence, so you’ll want to already have your composition and focus set. The camera will then quickly take all three frames in rapid sequence while locking the mirror up for each one.

Shot 1 of 3 in the sequence.

Shot 1 of 3 in the sequence.

Shot 2 of 3 in the sequence.

Shot 2 of 3 in the sequence.

Shot 3 of 3 in the sequence.

Shot 3 of 3 in the sequence.

After you’ve completed the HDR sequence, the next step is to bring the photos into your favorite HDR program to process the HDR image. My favorite program is Nik HDR Efex Pro. It allows me to create realistic HDR images like the one immediately below, or surreal HDR images as shown at the end of this post.

Final HDR image from Nik HDR Efex Pro.

Final HDR image from Nik HDR Efex Pro.

In summary, I really like how Nikon keeps innovating new ideas. Even if the ideas are fairly small in the grand scheme of things, Nikon is always looking for ways to make our photography better. Allowing us to lock our mirrors up during the HDR burst is a perfect example of Nikon listening to feedback and implementing that feedback in the real world!

Below are some recent HDR pics I’ve taken with the D7000.

Hotel at sunset. Kissimmee, FL. Nikon D7000. Processed in Nik HDR Efex Pro.

Hotel at sunset. Kissimmee, FL. Nikon D7000. Processed in Nik HDR Efex Pro.

Bumper cars in Bend, Oregon. Nikon D7000. Processed in Nik HDR Efex Pro.

Bumper cars in Bend, Oregon. Nikon D7000. Processed in Nik HDR Efex Pro.

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