April 2022


2022 APRIL 2022 RIL

APRIL 2022 | ISSUE 115

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Artistic Retouching With Photoshop with Aham Ibeleme


Dynamic Posing and Lighting for High School Seniors with David Beckham


Creating a Plan To Curate Artwork For Your Next Shoot with David Byrd


3 Steps to Protect Your Digital Assets with Dustin Lucas


Seeing the Light: Outdoor Lighting vs. Studio with Eli Infante


How Macro Photography Can Help Your Mental Health with Heather Larkin


The Art of Conceptual Portraits with Jess Hess

The Worldwide Photographer | Becoming Known as a Traveling Photographer with Karen Bagley 1 1 6


Simple Price List Guide for Higher Sales in Photography with Tanya Smith

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Inspirations from Our Readers

3 Instagram Traffic Tips for Photographers with Vanessa Joy


Final Inspiration with Salvatore Cincotta Phototgraphy




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MISSION STATEMENT Shutter Magazine ’s focus is on photography education. Our goal is to provide current, insightful and in-depth educational content for today’s professional wedding and portrait photographer. Shutter uses the latest technologies to deliver information in a way that is relevant to our audience. Our experienced contributors help us create a sense of community, and have established the magazine as one of the leading photography publications in the world.

Shutter Magazine : By photographers, for photographers.

PUBLISHER Sal Cincotta

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Alissa Cincotta

COPY EDITOR Allison Brubaker


CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Aham Ibeleme, David Beckham, David Byrd, Dustin Lucas, Eli Infante Heather Larkin, Jess Hess, Karen Bagley, Tanya Smith, Vanessa Joy


PHOTOGRAPHER: Alissa Cincotta | behindtheshutter.com CAMERA: Canon EOS R5

LENS: Canon RF 50mm f1.2 L USM EXPOSURE: ISO 50, f/2.5, 1/200 LIGHTING: Westcott Flash System

ABOUT THE IMAGE: This creative portrait session was brought to life with three lights: The Westcott FJ400 with the Rapid Box Switch Octa-M as the main light, the Westcott FJ200 as an edge light, and the FJ80 on the background to create a natural vignette. I photographed Violet on the Noelle Mirabella fabric backdrop from Intuition Backgrounds. Hair and makeup by Brandi Patton of ReFine Beauty. MODEL: Violet Deardor—


The world is filled with beautiful places. Now is the time to take your craft on the road to create iconic images your clients will love. ~Sal

message from sal cincotta publisher

with Aham Ibeleme

Artistic Retouching With Photoshop | Aham Ibeleme

Retouching is an art just like painting or even sculpting. In all honesty, my retouching process has always been all over the place. I don’t have one set “golden brown” tone that every single one of my images conveys. I always seem to start from scratch with every retouching process. It’s never the same for two projects. One could look barely retouched today and another heavily color graded tomorrow. My choice of retouching application today is Photoshop because of the creative control that it allows me. Retouching with Photoshop can be daunting but it quickly becomes a walk in the park when one knows what they’re doing, and of course, this comes with years of experience. I remember when I first started learning to edit my photos. I started off with Adobe Lightroom at the time and loved its ease of use because I could install and almost effortlessly slap on presets to my photos and not have to do anything else after that. I soon realized, however, that I wanted more out of my retouching. I needed to be able to do frequency separation, for example, but couldn’t with Lightroom. So I decided to take a leap of faith and venture into the belly of the beast. At least that was exactly what I thought of Adobe Photoshop at the time. I was utterly terrified of that thing. Why did it have so many buttons? What’s with all the layers? Why do I have to arrange these layers into groups? Can’t I just apply presets like with Lightroom and be about my business? Suffice it to say that my retouching game never really took off until I mustered the courage to properly learn Photoshop. I taught myself Photoshop and became quite the master at it. I can’t retouch anything without Photoshop. It’s my go-to application for retouching. I’m a portrait photographer and most of my retouching caters to portrait photography in a way that makes it cinematic yet painterly, so I tend to lean towards color tones that push that artistic narrative. A lot of my photos have a teal color grade. Early on in my career, I was a frequency separation buff. I was obsessed by it and I used to do a lot of headshot portraits just so I could do frequency separation on them. I also shot a lot of beauty portraits back in the day. I quickly got bored of it, however, and moved on to other styles of retouching. Today I’m known mostly for my heavily color graded teal painterly portraits. I’m also known for my very contrasty black and white headshot portraits. My process is quite simple to be honest. I always start out in camera raw, as I work only on the raw files. Raw files can only be opened in Photoshop via camera raw. I do not do anything in camera raw to adjust white balance or brightness or anything like that. It’s just a pathway to Photoshop for me. The first thing I do in Photoshop is clean up the image, whether it’s a beauty image or fashion image, whether it’s a studio image or outdoor image. By cleaning up the image, I’m preparing it for further elaborate retouching by taking out any abnormalities or distractions that I may not want in the final edit—things like spots, stray hairs, dark patches, etc. The next step is to smooth the skin using the frequency separation technique. Now, depending on the subject’s skin texture, I can either over-smooth or under-smooth the skin, whilst making sure that it doesn’t look too fake or too porcelain. There are a million and one frequency separation techniques out there. I use a technique that always keeps the skin looking natural and evenly smoothed out. The third step is usually to enhance the image. For example, if it’s a beauty image, I would then need to enhance the makeup a little more to make it stand out and bring the face to life. With my trusty dodge and burn tools, I would carefully contour the face by darkening things like the eye liner, the eye lashes, some parts of the hair, while brightening things like the eye makeup, the blush, the lipstick and basically the highlights in the image.

The final step would be to color tone the image to taste. For example, for beauty images I would do a subtle color tone, while for a studio editorial portrait I might go heavy on the color toning or grading.

Now let’s do some editing!

1. Go to “Create new adjustment layer” > Color Lookup

Artistic Retouching With Photoshop | Aham Ibeleme

2. Go to the “Load 3D LUT” dropdown menu and select “FoggyNight.” Set the opacity of the layer to 50%.

3. Go to the “Load 3D LUT” dropdown menu and select “C8 (orange teal less red)” and set the opacity of the layer to 60%.

4. Go to the “Load 3D LUT” dropdown menu and select A7(Greenish fade fuji)”. Set the opacity of the layer to 60%.

Artistic Retouching With Photoshop | Aham Ibeleme

5. Go to the “Create new adjustment layer” and select “Hue/Saturation.” Set saturation to -25.

1. Go to “Create new adjustment layer” and select “Black & White.” Set the reds to -87 to give it that rich contrasty black look.

Artistic Retouching With Photoshop | Aham Ibeleme

2. Take your brush and mask out the yellow color in the photos.

3. Go to “Create new adjustment layer” and select “Hue/Saturation.” Set saturation to +47.

Artistic Retouching With Photoshop | Aham Ibeleme

1. Clean up the image by using the “Spot healing brush” and the “Patch” tool to remove as many skin blemishes and spots as possible.

2. Create two layers of the background layer, making three copies.

Artistic Retouching With Photoshop | Aham Ibeleme

3. Click on the second layer, “Background copy,” and go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Input any number divisible by 3. The higher the number inputted, the smoother the skin will appear. For this edit we will use a radius of 60.

4. Click on the first layer, “Background copy 2.” Go to Image > Apply Image > Layer. Set layer to “Background copy.” Set blending to Subtract, Scale = 2, Offset = 128, Opacity = 100%.

Artistic Retouching With Photoshop | Aham Ibeleme

5. Click on the first layer. Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian blur. Always divide whatever radius that was inputted initially by 3. 60/3 = 20. So set radius to 20.

6. Invert (Cmd + 1) for Mac or (Ctrl + I) for Windows.

7. Change the Blend Mode from Normal to Linear Light.

Artistic Retouching With Photoshop | Aham Ibeleme

8. Mask (alt + mask).

9. Turn off the middle layer, pick the brush tool, set opacity to 100%, flow 100% and simply brush the face and skin, carefully avoiding the eyes, nostrils and lips.

To whiten the eyes, simply select the “Black and White” adjustment layer, invert (Cmd + 1). select the Brush tool and then paint just the whites in the eyes.

Artistic Retouching With Photoshop | Aham Ibeleme

Enhance the eye makeup by darkening the eye liner, lashes and eyebrows with the Burn tool.

Note: A Gaussian blur radius of 60 might not work for every image that you use it on. The smoothness and evenness of the skin is largely dependent on the radius you choose. So the higher the number, the more porcelain the skin will look depending on the model’s skin texture. For this image I started with a small radius, say 24, but went up to 60. A radius of 60 gave me the skin finishing that I wanted.

Aham Ibeleme began his career as a professional photographer in Lagos, Nigeria. Upon his return to Nigeria after bagging an MSc degree from the University of Greenwich, UK, Aham bought his first camera and settled into becoming a freelance amateur photographer. In 2012, Aham decided to take his career professionally and focus on portrait, beauty and fashion photography. His commercial clients include Union Bank, Access Bank, Guinness, London Business School, XIAOMI, Campari, AMVCA, Genevieve Magazine, Vanguard Allure, T.A’La Mode Makeup, JZO Fashion, Dudu Osun, and House of Tara. Aham lives in Lagos with his wife and two kids, but follows his work around the world. website: ahamibeleme.com instagram: instagram.com/ahamibeleme/

with David Beckham

Dynamic Posing and Lighting for High School Seniors | David Beckham

So much is going on in senior photography. It seems like there are as many senior photographers as there are seniors. Fewer and fewer seniors are getting formal portraits during their senior year. Sixteen-, seventeen- and eighteen-year-olds who want professional photos expect more. These young people are exciting, on the move, self-aware, involved and more socially driven than ever. The 2023 Seniors are dynamic. As professional photographers, we need to be dynamic also. We need to be able to change and flow with what teens are doing like we do with our industry’s technology. We need to understand that if you are staying the same, you are falling behind. We are going to look at nine lighting and posing setups that will help you become more dynamic with your posing and lighting. Four of these will include quick videos—because we are so good at keeping up with technology. :)



1. (of a process or system) characterized by constant change, activity, or progress. “a dynamic economy” 2. (of a person) positive in attitude and full of energy and new ideas. “she’s dynamic and determined”


1. a force that stimulates change or progress within a system or process. “evaluation is part of the basic dynamic of the project”

Dynamic posing means it looks like or it is moving. To get that, we need to really change our point of view (POV) and use a variety of lenses: 24mm, 35mm and 50mm. These aren’t typical portrait lenses, but we aren’t shooting typical seniors. I met Thomas Nguyen a few years ago and we did a shoot-out together and I completely changed my perspective on shooting!


These are things you can do to build poses for yourself with any body type, so you don’t have to remember “poses,” but you will actually learn how to pose.

• Using arms to reveal or conceal • Longest distance between knees and toes and fingers and elbows • Eyes centered in her face with her nose pointing in the same direction as she is looking • All your weight on your front foot to appear taller • Twist hips away to flex abs, accent curves and thin waist • Elbows behind spine for great posture • Edge of hands not back of hands or palms • Whatever is closest to the camera will appear larger (for good and bad) • Parallel lines, triangles and leading lines with arms, legs and body • POV effects height and length • Arms and legs that are perpendicular to the lens will be the longest • Keeping neck and spine in line when lying on back • Bending knees when lying down flexes abs, thins waist and accents curves

Dynamic Posing and Lighting for High School Seniors | David Beckham


Ring lights have been around for a long time. Probably long enough to have forgotten you still have one. Twelve years ago, I paired a Vagabond battery with the AlienBees™ ABR800 and it was my everyday OCF unit for shooting outside. Depending on the wind I would use the 36” octa beauty dish or the 16” ring reflector that came with the unit. It gave wonderful light, but HSS and smaller, more powerful self-contained units have replaced them.

In studio I like the Paul Buff 60” Octa Beauty Dish. These photos of Kensley are shot with the camera lens placed through the center of the light source. Like bell bottoms and tube tops, the seniors LOVE the fresh new look! Shhh, we don’t have to tell them neither are new. Keep the light source close for these results and center the light at eye level. I’m using the Sony A7 IV with a Sony G 50mm f/1.2 lens at ISO 100, 1/160, f/9.0 light at 80% power. I left the hood on the lens to keep spill light from affecting the shot. I had Kensley stand with all her weight on her left foot facing her body to the right. She twisted her upper body back toward me which flexes her abs and accents her curves. Her hands are slid to her sides with her fingertips at the hemline of her skirt. This bends her elbows behind her spine which forces excellent posture. Then I had her step her right foot back and bring it 10” closer to me. That gives us the elusion of her being even taller and flexes her calves and other leg muscles. She kept her body in that same position as she put her arms above her head. I offset them because I knew I wanted her in the last third of the frame. You can see that “ring light” effect in her eyes and that soft glow shadow that shooting through the light creates.

Dynamic Posing and Lighting for High School Seniors | David Beckham


I ordered this chair from Target a couple years ago and painted it white. It has become my favorite prop ever as I decorate it with flowers, lights or just leave it plain. The Intuition Background is ideal for this setup too, perfectly wrinkle free, heavy canvas and beautifully created. I used four Godox AD400s with this setup, one with a Mola Demi Beauty Dish, two with 12”x36” Paul Buff Softboxes and the last one with a 7” reflector and a 20-degree grid. The video talks about the four- light setup and goes into the details of posing. I used a Sony G 50mm for the first photo and a Sigma 35mm for the second. I love shooting at 35mm at low angles as it really shows off her legs.


For the photos of Kensley in the tennis skirt we used a Godox SL200 LED with a 30”x42” softbox as the main and a Godox SL100 LED with a 12”x36” softbox as a kicker. The shadows help tell the story too. These are shot at ISO 100, 1/200, and f/1.8. The light was at 78% power.

When shooting this way, you need to remember that the closest thing to the lens will appear longer/larger. We want to use this to our advantage. You can see in the samples how dynamic it is. The other thing to remember is to keep her face centered near the middle of the frame. It means cropping after but it will keep it from getting stretched like the objects near the edge of the frame. When crouching you need to be strategic about placing the front leg for obvious reasons. The closer her foot is to you the longer her leg looks. Her playing with her skirt gives the shot motion. When she leans in you really get her face in proportion to everything else and the longest legs. When kneeling, make sure their feet are down flat. This creates the best posture in her upper body and creates a flattering curve in her back. You also want the longest distance between her knees and toes. Use her arms to reveal or conceal. If they look like Kensley, keep their elbows behind her spine and show off her waist. If they are bigger, use her arm to hide part of her body to thin her out. When you pop her leg toward you, you want it perpendicular to the lens. This will keep her leg as long as possible. When she pushes her right knee back further her legs appear even longer. Keeping her arms out to her side really creates a nice triangle with leading lines to her face.

Dynamic Posing and Lighting for High School Seniors | David Beckham


The lighting on Sophie consists of just an AD400 with a 30”x42” softbox. The white floor and walls create great reflective fill and interesting shadows. The light is at 1/8th power. The camera settings are ISO 100, 1/800, f/1.4 using the Sigma 35mm lens. The video talks about all of it and the posing. We wanted a high fashion look for Sophie, so the posing was extreme and fun. The posing elements to note are the longest distance between her knees and toes and fingers to elbows. Her foot pointing down on the edge of the chair adds to the elegant length in her look. Her left foot closer to the lens gets a little blurry at that aperture and that is OK because it draws you back to her face. When she stands, she twists and turns as well, which flatters her body.


I’m using a Godox LED LC500 wand for these photos of Kendra. These are great lights for low-light shooting. Both shots use the 35mm lens at ISO 400, 1/250 and f/1.4. When shooting in a dark room you only need minimal power on the light wand. I like the LC500s because they have barn doors, and you can really control where and how much light you want. The POV is everything on these two shots. You can completely change the mood by dropping the camera to the floor and shooting up at her. Both photos have one leg closer to the camera to create longer length. They both have triangles leading back to her face. On the first one her elbows are behind her spine so that it enhances her posture. She holds her upper body as she leans forward, bending at her hips, not rolling her back.


The video really hits the details of posing and lighting while lying on her tummy and back. The keys are keeping the main light source direction coming from the top of her head toward her body to give drop shadows that look like pro portraits. The lighting in the sample comes from two Godox LC500 wands; one camera left on a very low tripod and the other camera right, to her left, laying on the floor. This creates wonderful light on her face and a distinct rim light as well. Both lights are set at very low power, 10-15%. I used a Sony G 50mm f/1.2 lens with camera settings of ISO 200, 1/250 f/1.3. The posing elements that matter most are keeping her neck aligned with her spine, then lifting her chin. This keeps her looking normal. Even though you can’t see it in the photo, bending her knees flexes her abs, thins her waist and accents her curves in a flattering way. If you are going to put one or both hands above her shoulders, put her palms under her head or hair to keep them from drawing attention away from her face.

Dynamic Posing and Lighting for High School Seniors | David Beckham


I make my living shooting outside with off-camera flash (OCF). My weapon of choice is a Godox AD300 with a Mola Demi Beauty Dish. I typically use a Savage MultiFlex Stand, but for these shots I needed to have my light almost 12 feet in the air, so I used a Paul Buff Heavy Duty stand. This light is fully capable of shooting in full sun as you can see in the first sample using only 1/2 power at ISO 100, 1/4000 (yes 4000) at f/2.0 with a Sigma 35mm lens. It is also excellent when you only need a tiny bit of fill as in the squatting photos at ISO 100, 1/4000 f/1.4 at 1/16th power. Alli is 5’9” but we still want to pose her to look longer and taller and naturally enhance the way she looks every chance we get. The elements being used are weight on her front foot for height and elbows bent behind her spine for posture and revealing her curves. Notice her left hand is forward, not out to her side so that her arm and skirt can be seen. Her hips are turned away and her right foot is pointed down and extended toward the lens with a slight bend back. The light hits her face nicely as she looks back across her body with her nose pointed in the direction she is looking. The light also cuts across her tummy accenting her abs.

The next shot is almost SOOC, except for a blemish. This is to exemplify that using OCF and f/1.4 can still have wonderful soft light on her with wonderful skin tones and BLUE sky. When you show them the back of camera on a shot like this, they know they are with the right photographer and are excited for everything they are doing.

Dynamic Posing and Lighting for High School Seniors | David Beckham


Two Godox LC500 LED wands are the only lights being used. The double shadows and dark lighting add to the dynamic nature of these shots. She can turn her face and a different light becomes the main. In some cases, they will want the shot where her face is in shadow… 2023 seniors are different. The EXIF on these are ISO 250, 1/200, f/1.4. Keep the wands above her head and use the barn doors to control where the light shines. In the first two shots we are camera right of both lights. In the second two she is between them. The POV is critical for the dynamic feel of the first two. Both are shot with the Sigma 35mm lens. The posing elements of hips turned away, edges of hands, longest distance between knees and toes and elbows and fingertips, and elbows behind spine all come into play and are carefully set up to get that fashion feel she and her agent love. The second two were shot with the Sony G 50mm. The body language of the smile and playing with her hair draw you in. In the second image, her left leg closer to you increases her height and the dead stare pushes you right back.


I’m all in on Godox flashes; great price, HSS, batteries last forever and most importantly, the bulbs extend past the speed rings and light fills the modifier. But there are sacrifices in having them priced that way. The main one is recycle time. It just can’t keep up with my high-speed shutter. Even when shooting at low power, it still misses shots. So taking a spray of action shots and picking and choosing the perfect one can be a drag when the light doesn’t fire at the right shutter trip. Enter Godox SL series LED studio lights. In the action shots in the video we are using the SL200 with a Molight MoThro Parabolic Reflector with a grid. This creates one tight light source and gives us a fashion hard-light feel. That is all you need when you have amazing continuous eye-focus technology like with the Sony A7 IV.

The video talks you through the posing, but the key is to let the model know how you want her to finish the shot. There is nothing worse than getting a great dress spin, but her legs look like they’re broken. Direct them how their feet should be at the end of the pose and let them practice it in front of you. I usually say “whenever you are ready” for them to begin and just hold the camera still and fire a burst of shots. Show your model right away if it worked or didn’t. It’s so much easier to communicate and get what you want if they can see themselves. The feeling of creating together becomes more obvious to them too. The last image of Alli flipping her skirt is my fave. Her posing and attitude were perfect, and the setup captured everything I wanted, first take! The beauty of these lights is you won’t miss a shot! Godox makes better studio LEDs than these now too. One even has infinite color options so that you never need to use gels again! If you can’t get into my classes at ShutterFest ‘22, stop me anytime and we can talk about anything in this article or anything else! I have created an app called The Elements of Posing with over four hours of video education and hundreds of detailed photos to help you learn how to pose anyone. You can save $50 by using coupon code: BTS50. It can be found here: http://www.davidbeckhamphotography.com/the-elements-of-posing-app

David Beckham has a studio in Pickerington, Ohio and he photographs 90 to 100 seniors a year. David speaks all over the country, recently at Imaging 22 and it will be his sixth time speaking at ShutterFest. He also has workshops from his studio four times a year. Join his education Facebook group “ASKDavid” to keep up with where he is and what he’s doing. David recently received his Master of Photography and Master Craftsman from the PPA and won the Grand Imaging Award in the Senior Category. He can be contacted at davidbeckhamphotography@yahoo.com or by phone at (614) 519-4794. website: davidbeckhamphotography.com IG: instagram.com/davidbeckhamphotography/

with David Byrd

Creating a Plan To Curate Artwork For Your Next Shoot | David Byrd


“Okay, so I’ve got the new camera or the new lens. I know how to use it (mostly) and I’m ready to work. Wait, I’ve got that new light too and that new modifier that I’m sort of sure that I don’t know how to use, but how hard can it be, right? Plus, that new clothing piece that I found at the thrift store would be so cool to use in a shoot. Not sure what kind of shoot—maybe fashion, maybe boudoir, maybe just, well, whatever—I want to use it in a shoot. Oh, there was that tutorial I saw on YouTube from some middle-aged white guy that talked about storytelling—yeah, I want to do that too! But I need to remember to shoot for the IPS session, so I can make all the money. Did I ever get that sample ordered from H&H Photo Lab? Did I pay my taxes yet? Well, whatever, I’m here at the location for the shoot, time to set up and get to snappin’!” And then my favorite part: “Okay, so, um, model/subject, um you know—just do your thing and look cool and I’ll take some pictures!” How many of us are very familiar with this typical scene in our photography travels? We spend the time before the session thinking of all the “stuff” we can shove into the shoot. We greet the client and while they suit up we adjust the lights and the camera for that new lighting pattern we want to do. We spend valuable, crucial, creative time focusing on the technical, giving no care to the art. Then it’s time to create the art and we fall back on basic poses and other tropes that get the shoot moving but really don’t innovate the experience or add a new layer to what you offer your clients. I know that sometimes this “auto-pilot” feels necessary, depending on how much time you have for the shoot or how busy your studio is at the time. However, this is where a philosophy comes into play that we often reject and for understandable reasons. Do you value quantity over quality? We all intellectually think we value quality, for sure. But when we are standing in the photography bay, subject waiting and all that technical garbage is running through our brain, suddenly quantity becomes the driving force to the shoot—for at least the first half. Then suddenly we remember we are artists and quality is key to our IPS session/brand experience and we suddenly reinvent the wheel. If that effort is successful, then rad. And I bet some of the images you sell are from that quality part of the shoot. If it isn’t successful, we finish the shoot and get frustrated because we had all these plans and they all were tossed out without realizing it.

Speaking of plans, that’s how I got past that issue in my work—most of the time.

Creating a Plan To Curate Artwork For Your Next Shoot | David Byrd


When I approach most of my sessions, I begin the plan with Microsoft OneNote. It’s a wonderful resource to use for all types of note-keeping and planning. I love it because it syncs to all of my devices and is always at my fingertips when some random idea runs through my mind. I start a page labeled as the session/client name and immediately write down three emotions that I want to capture with this subject. Now for my upcoming boudoir line, part of this decision will be focused on what type of style the client has selected. If they want natural light and soft, simple lingerie, then chances are we aren’t going to explore the more intense emotions. If the client wants strobes and dramatic style, then one of the three emotions I choose can be in that arena. Those three emotions become the entire foundation of the session. I know what lighting patterns to choose. I know what poses will help to communicate those feelings. I even know what compositions to make to potentially help tell that story. While I do this, I listen to my Boudoir playlist on Spotify—it’s filled with music that I’ve curated that entices that part of my imagination where stories can be born for this type of shoot. I’m an artist—why not stimulate my senses while I make a creative plan for a systemic photography session? I’ve even opened a bottle of pinot noir and let my mind wander a bit while I drafted the plan.

The next step is to source some spec images that you can put into the OneNote page that align with the emotions you’ve selected. I often will go back to my previous work and find images that visually have an impact and I will analyze why. Is it the lighting, the pose? Was the session “successful” and did it represent quality over quantity? I drag those images fromAdobe Bridge into OneNote and put them below the emotion they represent. Then I write notes underneath the image that identify what I like about that piece. While holding my favorite wine glass and sniffing the notes, I suddenly am reminded of props and then I go on a creative hunt for more images that can help suggest a pattern of the story I want to tell. If my portfolio doesn’t have what I seek, then I turn to the bottomless pit of spending all my money: Pinterest. Pinterest is wonderful to use, but can be the bane of a professional photographer’s existence (hello wedding photographers who get the 17 boards from the bride), so tread lightly as you navigate this space. This effort is truly the first test of quality over quantity, is it not? We see so many ideas laid out before us and our mind can race. Train yourself to focus on seeing past the images to those that leap out and speak to the emotion you are trying to represent. For each image you add to the OneNote page, write notes beneath it as to what drew you into it and how it can fit into your style and your session. I strongly encourage you though, to innovate on the image and make it your own. Do not just carbon copy the entire thing and call it your art—because it isn’t, in my humble opinion. Dare to be different and add something new atop the foundation of what you see in another person’s work. Once the images have been curated (generally four to six images per emotion) I then spend some time reflecting on what images will fit best into the products that I offer my clients. Shoot for the cover of the album, knowing its shape and size. Shoot for the spread in the album or the right framing on images that go into the image box. What’s a good teaser image for this session that you can show the client in an email? What image can be the thumbnail for the app you provide to them for their devices? Is that image a candidate for a wall portrait? What size do you want to sell? Remember this when you shoot it by writing notes in the plan to tell yourself this at the shoot.


My father told me long ago, “Never be afraid as a leader to look someone in the eye and tell them you don’t know the answer to their question or problem. Then tell them that you both can find out the answer, together.” He was a great man and a great leader in corporate America—wisdom for the ages that I’ve held onto all of my life. And just like quality over quantity, I abandoned that beautiful wisdom the moment I started photographing clients for money. They are giving me money; I have to know everything and look like it’s all under control. I can’t look like the light isn’t working or spend a minute moving it around and fixing it—if that new lighting idea doesn’t work in 10 seconds, then screw it and go back to boring flat lighting and make them do the Captain Morgan pose with the chair. Then one day I decided to tell the truth to my client: “I’m trying this new idea with my lights that I’ve never done before. I think it’s going to be really beautiful and I just need a minute to dial it in.” The client looked at me with excitement because I just told them that they are going to be the first to do something special – no one else has an image like this yet. After that minute, I was ready to go and captured a few frames and ran to show the client, because I still was not confident that my lame ass excuse was believed. They loved the image and said to me, “This is beautiful artwork!” That’s the key, right there. You have an opportunity to capture artwork and when you take the time on set to adjust your lights, to fiddle with your camera, to look at your OneNote to remind yourself of where the adventure is going next, you are curating artwork. Never apologize for that, never feel insecure about that. Rise in the confidence that you are taking the time to provide your client with the art they deserve—quality over quantity.

Creating a Plan To Curate Artwork For Your Next Shoot | David Byrd

At the time of this publication, ShutterFest 2022 will be just a couple of weeks away. I strongly encourage you to practice quality over quantity. You’ve scheduled a bazillion shoots and have a bazillion cans of full-sugar Monster to get you through. I challenge you to capture 20 frames of each shoot. The model has already dedicated the time; they are there for you. Tell them you want to create some artwork that means something to you and hopefully to them. Stand in the space you’ve set for the shoot and SEE the art all around you. See the light coming in through the windows, the soft glow of the lighting further down the hallway. See the reflections of the surfaces in the space. Have the model walk around a little bit in the space and see how all of the lights move around them, how the space moves around them. Feel the texture of wood on that stairwell and imagine what it must feel like to them as they walk down the same stairs in the clothing, the emotions and the story you’ve set for this shoot. Then take a deep breath and—begin.

David is an award-winning photographer, Photoshop artist and educator who specializes in unique portrait and photo manipulation art. Through his brand Reality Reimagined, his artwork spans the genres of fantasy, glamour, fashion and all the stories found therein. In 2018, he received the Grand Award from the ShutterFest image competition and is currently nominated for a Grand Imaging Award through Professional Photographers of America. The center of his universe is his wonderful wife Bethany, who reminds him to never be afraid to fly. Together they have traveled the world and continue to explore all the possibilities of Reality Reimagined and the imagination it is based on. website: realityreimagined.com instagram: instagram.com/realityreimagined/

with Dustin Lucas

with Dustin Lucas

3 Steps to Protect Your Digital Assets | Dustin Lucas

As a photographer getting your network hacked, having a hard drive crash might be something you hear about online but don’t experience firsthand. What’s the point of paying money for more hardware so you can have a secure network if you’re all backed up on external storage and to the cloud, right? Well, that’s key regardless of how you choose to secure your network. Always backup files in three places. More specifically, have two copies onsite and one offsite, but we’ll get to that later. Keep in mind if your data is online it’s susceptible to being stolen, or worse, held ransom for Bitcoin. All hard drives fail and you need copies of your files. End of the day, you need a plan to put a barrier between your digital assets and the disasters that can destroy your business. In this article, you’ll learn three steps you can take to protect your digital assets. Step 1 is building a secure network with companies like Cisco, Netgear, and Fortinet that offer software and hardware. Just buy a damn firewall at the very least. Step 2 is getting a file server for storage and more specifically the device you and or your team work off directly. Step 3 is creating a file backup plan and sticking to it. Backing up files should be your first thought when it comes to your business’ exposed data getting compromised and ransomed for Bitcoin, a client suing you for losing files from their wedding day, etc. You protect your business in a multitude of ways that seem obvious. Digital assets should be on that list too!

fig 1


Network security can seem like a daunting task if you don’t know anything about IT, and trust me, I was there myself. Hire a friend or colleague to help you lay out your network security so you can simply be cross-trained to maintain it in the long run. (Fig. 1) If you don’t have the time to do it yourself then pay someone. Outsource it and give them a topline budget for a realistic approach to protecting your business. Be prepared to spend $1K-$2K for hardware and roughly $200-$500/year for management software. Maybe outsourcing is cheaper and better for scale. I’ll let you decide what makes the most sense for your business. For me, I am not hiring a body to do this, I would only need them sporadically and I evolved my role to prioritize this. If you are wondering why you should spend $2K plus $500/year to maintain your security, look at the cost of risking all your data or worse, your entire business. If you can’t budget this into your business expenses you might need to rethink your financials. Let’s dive into the hardware first as this is the simple part. You’ll want to stick with the same brands, so whether you go unmanaged or managed everything works seamlessly. I chose Cisco’s Meraki product line and it’s expensive. My needs are likely different than yours. Start with getting a firewall to put a barrier between your internal or local network and the external network, commonly called the internet. This is a critical piece of hardware, and the best option for a small business in my opinion would be a Meraki or Fortinet system. (Fig. 2)

fig 2

3 Steps to Protect Your Digital Assets | Dustin Lucas

Before you buy one, find out what your internet speed is at www.speedtest.net so you can still maintain full bandwidth. (Fig. 3) This is important because each firewall model features a specific maximum throughput. Essentially this means if you have fiber internet and a bandwidth of a gigabit or 1000Mbps, you have to get a firewall with a throughput that matches or exceeds this bandwidth as you scale. If you have gigabit fiber already, a gigabit firewall to handle that is expensive. (Fig. 4) You’ll likely want to get the same brand/model family for wireless access points (WAPs), or more commonly called wireless routers for secure WiFi, a 10Gbe network switch if you have a network attached storage (NAS), and a battery backup for power surges. (Fig. 5)

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Your network security layout would be the internet modem connected to a firewall’s Wide Area Network or WAN port, then you’d connect the wireless routers, network switches to the additional ports. (Fig. 6)

fig 6

Everything coming into your studio and going out is protected with the firewall. Unfortunately, I cannot go into depth on how to set up the firewall settings. That’s why you need an IT person to do it or show you the ropes. Another added benefit of setting up a firewall at your studio or home is you can have a VPN so your personal data and daily use is trackable. Take this a step further, with a VPN you can access your file server more securely from anywhere, not just in your studio, so you have more flexibility in access to your assets. Let’s move into getting a file server as you’ll likely be more interested in faster file sharing.


Storage devices range from direct access storage (DAS) to an external hard drive connected via USB or thunderbolt or DAS, to a network attached storage (NAS) with five hard drives, all the way up to an enterprise storage area network (SAN). It’s important to understand how these work and for the majority of you a DAS or NAS would be the way to go. If you have one production machine that serves as a desktop and never plan to add others, you can get away with DAS. This would mean the same computer is plugged directly into the same drive all the time. You can utilize your firewall’s VPN capabilities to remotely access this computer from home. Meaning if your production machine stays at your studio and you want to access something from home, simply log in through your VPN and screen-share to the studio machine to get what you need. Of course, this all relies on the computer being powered on and the thought of leaving it turned on all the time seems like a bad plan, right? Or worse, it’s impossible or too slow to transfer anything from that computer to yours. I’m an Apple guy through and through, but I will sayApple is terrible at managing files and being a file server. That’s where a NAS system would perform better for file management and is an actual file server. Now keep in mind, going with a NAS system requires in most cases a network switch, more ethernet cables and learning a new graphic user interface (GUI). You might be thinking, I don’t have time to manage all this shit, right? Well, you absolutely should be in control of your file server if nothing else. This is a liability for your business. Since this is a network-based file system you would be able to access it internally or in the studio or externally through the internet. There are many options like Qnap, Synology, Drobo, OWC, etc. and I’m not going down a product review rabbit hole for this article. Stick with brands or software you already know and get a system with at least five to eight bays for expandability. (Fig. 7)

fig 7

What’s important with this setup is to consider your network like a two-lane highway. You will want to access your files on one side of the highway and surf the internet on the other. This might require two ethernet cables if you plan to plug directly into the back of the NAS, which you can. Your other cable would go out to your switch, which is plugged into the firewall to go out to the internet. (Fig. 8)

fig 8

3 Steps to Protect Your Digital Assets | Dustin Lucas

Now you need to understand that networking is similar to making roads accessible for cars. What’s the path of least resistance for getting from point A to point B? It is important to map out a plan or diagram to fully understand how you can have a centralized file server accessible internally and externally with the most performance. If budget is a concern because you just maxed out a $5K computer with a 10Gbe network card, well, you might consider getting a five-bay NAS drive with at least one 10Gbe ethernet port and one 1Gbe port. So you would plug directly from the computer to the NAS 10Gbe port to access files in studio and set up a true 10Gbe with an MTU of 9000. (Fig. 9) The 1Gbe port on the NAS has to plug into either your 1Gbe switch or if you don’t have one, directly to the firewall. This is so you can access files externally. Essentially you are creating two types of connections, 10Gbe for performance use and 1Gbe for public use. You would also need to buy an ethernet-to-USB dongle for your computer since you likely want a hard line connection for internet or WiFi if slower speeds aren’t a concern. (Fig. 10) In many cases a switch would be your best option if going with a NAS. 10Gbe ones are getting cheaper and I would invest in this as it’s more scalable. Do some research in this area as you might not need as beefy of a setup as explained above. (Fig. 11)

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I do want to quickly run through the types of drives to buy as well as RAID configuration for digital asset protection. There are a few common types of drives you’ll need: mechanical or common desktop hard drive, solid state or SSD, and flash storage like NVMe, which most computers now come with. SSD would be ideal for faster transfer speeds, but you will be surprised how fast mechanical drives can be in different RAID configurations. Mechanical is the way to go when you need more than 10TBs. If you buy a diskless NAS drive, be sure to get NAS ready drives like Seagate Ironwolf, Western Digital Red drives or simply get enterprise drives rated for higher data rates. A 12TB drive averages $275 each and you’ll need to get at least five of them depending on what system you buy.

fig 12

RAID is part two to this and understand it’s meant for drive failure. So if you have five drives and are using RAID 5 or 6 for instance, you don’t lose all your data, your RAID software would rebuild the data once a new drive is installed. This is key for having what is called redundancy with your data. Keep in mind if you use RAID you don’t get to keep full capacity of the drives you buy. For budget users, RAID 5 is best and you only need up to three drives as it’s a good balance of performance and capacity. (Fig. 12) If you buy three 12TB drives, that’s 36TB total, but using RAID 5 you get 24TB of usable space because the other 12TB is for redundancy protecting you from drive failure. I recommend going RAID 10 and getting four 12TB drives to get 24TB of usable space—the best option for protection and performance. (Fig. 13) Figure out what your capacity needs to be and get a system that protects you.

fig 13


In my experience, creating a file backup and archive plan is critical to making all of this work well. Otherwise you fill up a file server, buy a new one and just stack them in the back of the office forever. That’s not a plan at all and quite lazy for managing your digital assets. To start, you need to follow the standard backup strategy of 3-2-1, which means you have a copy of a file in three places: two onsite and one offsite. (Fig. 14) So if you have cloud storage and receive files from associate photographers, you have the offsite part already. Using cloud storage companies like Dropbox, Back Blaze, AWS, etc. are cheap to store cold and typically cost when you download files. Again, to spend $500-$1,000 per year on cloud storage and never worry about losing a file is a smart investment to insulate yourself from getting sued by a client because your hard drives at the studio crashed. All their wedding pictures gone. Good luck navigating that. Step 2 above, you should have a working file server built for performance and another storage system for storing only. You can use software like Time Machine or Carbon Copy to schedule backups between your NAS and the other storage you have. Again you should have two onsite and one offsite. Most of you will likely have a NAS file server with RAID as your onsite and that is sufficient along with using Backblaze to upload at night.

fig 14

3 Steps to Protect Your Digital Assets | Dustin Lucas

Backup is only half of it. How are you going to archive files for customers? How long are you storing raw files locally for a delivered event? Both are really good questions and many photographers sneak this in their contract that they dump the work after so many days to put the responsibility on the customer. Sure you can storage deliver high-resolution JPGs online, but why keep the raw files forever? Well, from experience, you might have a client asking for more images of their relative that died a year after the wedding. Or maybe you missed a section and the client notices it six months later, etc. Storage is cheap and you should 100% store raw files offsite in cold storage where you pay a low monthly fee to store the files there and only pay extra to download. It’s a solid what-if plan and could be massive for your client experience. I would say after you rename, export and deliver all products, keep the raws onsite for 12 months. Then push the Raw + .xmp files to cloud storage, that’s cheap. If you create a folder tree structure based on /Volumes/production/year/month/client name and event/asset folders, you can simply move them off your NAS RAID system to the hard drive that transfers to your cold storage. (Fig. 15) Maybe instead, do this at the beginning and you’ll already have the 3-2-1 in place! (Fig. 16)

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I cannot stress enough how important it is to make a plan and protect your digital assets. With these three steps you can at least consider the vulnerabilities you weren’t aware of and prioritize this for your business. I would enlist professionals to help with securing your network if you don’t have the capacity to learn. Get with a colleague for storage needs and compare what they do to my suggestions. Maybe you can create a hybrid option for DAS and NAS based on your needs. Last but not least, back up your files using the 3-2-1 strategy along with creating an archive plan so you don’t fill up 24TB in two years. Plan better for your business and don’t let disasters destroy your digital assets.

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Dustin Lucas is a full-time photographer and educator focused on the wedding industry and the academic world. After achieving his Master of Fine Arts degree, a career opportunity opened once he began working with Evolve Edits. Through teaching photography classes and writing about photography, Dustin continues to expand his influence on art and business throughout the industry. website: evolveedits.com instagram: instagram.com/evolveimaging/

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