Tag Archives: photography

Happy New 2015!


The soul can not think without a picture.  ~ Aristotle

I think like Aristotle! That is definitely a stretch but I do need something to help me visualize ideas. I guess that’s why I love sites like Pinterest, where you can pin ideas to a board to use later.

You can follow me  at https://www.pinterest.com/skipitidoda/ I’d love to see you there and I will try to follow you back!


Occasionally I will let someone borrow my camera to take a quick picture.

When I tell them that I use Back Button Focusing, they want to know more. So I thought I’d do a quick review to answer that question.

What is back button focusing?

It’s a very simple thing that might change the clarity of your images forever.

When you auto-focus with your DSLR default settings, here is how it basically works: you press your shutter half way to auto-focus, and when your focus is OK you press your shutter a second time to take the picture. There is an alternative to this focusing method: you can decide that another button (the famous BBF, or “back button focusing”) will handle your focus.

In short: Rear focus involves focusing by pushing a button on the top right back of the camera (rather than by pushing the shutter button).

Why would you do that?

Simply because it separates your focusing from your shutter. Instead of asking your index finger to deal with two different things one after the other, you give it one single task (pressing the shutter at the perfect moment) while your thumb will deal with focusing.

Making the change from the shutter button to rear focus requires a big commitment and takes lots of getting used to; it takes a bit of retraining of the brain and the thumb to get used to rear focusing.

If you mainly photograph landscape or still life, it’s very likely that BBF won’t change your life. On the other hand, if you are a portrait photographer, and if your model is potentially moving fast BBF is probably going to be your best friend.

This is why BBF is very often used by sports, equine or wildlife photographers. Don’t forget that to get a crisp image with a fast moving subject you also need a high shutter speed in order to freeze motion, at least 1/500s or higher depending on the speed of your subject.

Another interest of BBF is that it locks your focus. If you press your thumb on your back button and release it, your focus won’t change until you press the button again. This will allow you to focus and then recompose a picture.

You need to change a custom function or two to set up rear focus. With most systems you set up rear focus via the camera’s menu, please consult your camera’s user manual or even do a web search on “Back Button Focusing” for your camera model. Depending on your camera, you will use the AF-ON button for Canon users and the AF-L button for Nikon users.

Both these images would have been very difficult to capture sharp focus without Back Button Focusing.

Try it and see if you like BBF but remember that it takes a while to get used to!

We still have two slots left for our Alaska Bear Tour in June….send me a message if you would like more information. http://phyllisburchettphoto.net/alaska-tour-2015/

My 2014 Iceland Equine Tour is full, thank you to everyone who has signed up! We are going to have a fabulous trip! If you are interested in joining me in 2016 send me a message.

My Spring Workshop Date has been announced it is May 23, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia:

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Picture the People in your Life


It has been my wonderful pleasure to meet and photograph the nicest people over the years. I am always on a quest to learn and grow in my photographic process. It truly is all about the journey and not the destination because you never stop learning in this business. When I approach portraiture I try to create portraits that are creative. I always try to strive for something different, maybe even unique if possible. I try to “previsualize” the end result. It doesn’t always happen but when it does it makes my heart sing!

Ansel Adams defined previsualization as, “The ability to anticipate a finished image before making the exposure.” I call this making an image instead of taking a picture.

We, as photographers, should spend as much time as needed to make our subject comfortable in front of the camera. A portrait should be a collaboration between the photographer and their subject. Connect, engage, relax….

That being said I’d like to share some tips I use for memorable images so that you can make your own. I like what the writer said, “Ideas are just collections of thoughts. Locations are just points on a map. What we do with those ideas when we get to those points on the map is what sets us apart from the rest of the pack.”

Interaction, connection and emotion are all strong elements of design.

Connect….share the love.

A Boy and His Chicken

Use the props and tools around you to make the setting more interesting. Find things to place your subject in, on, under, around, etc.

Concert at the Farm

Colors – use vibrant and contrasting colors to draw attention to parts of your subject.

Sitting Pretty

Rodeo Queen

Get serious…a smile isn’t always best.

Beautiful Ebony

Capture the moment, sometimes the best shots are when your subject isn’t looking. Catch them doing something they love.

Prairie Dance

Christmas Surprise

Motion brings another dimension to your images.

Fall Fun

Get up close and personal!

Capture the environment that is part of the person’s culture.

The Cowboy Way

Back-light, hair lights up like crazy when it’s back-lit, so if hair is a big part of your subject make it stand out by placing your subject between you and a light source.


Underexpose, a dominantly dark or low-key image will naturally draw your eyes to the lighter parts.

Wyoming Cowgirl

Overexpose, blowing out the highlights or making a high-key image makes a nice soft portrait with kind of a light airy feeling.

First Love

Use Photoshop or some type of editing software. If you’re good with post-processing and manipulations, use it to your advantage. Get crazy with the adjustments, try some new Photoshop techniques, and maybe even a composite image. The composite technique I used for the next two images is pretty simple:

1. Open your background image.

2. Then go to the image you want to place into the first image and make a selection using the Elliptical Marquee Tool, I usually choose the oval shape.

3. Click on refine edge and change the feather to about 80 or so, click ok.

4. Copy and Paste your selection into the background image, use the move tool to place the selection properly, then add a layer mask and brush around the edges with a lower opacity to blend, then change the opacity of that layer (your selection layer) to your choice. I think it looks best faded. Of course this will work best when the background that you are placing the image into is simple and uncluttered.

Enjoy and let me know how it works for you, I’d love to see what you do!


I hope you have enjoyed this post on portraiture and I’d love to hear how your portrait sessions go when you put some of these tips into use!

Stay tuned as I will be teaching two up coming classes at www.learntotakephotos.com. We will be running my “How to make Digital Images with the WOW Factor” again in January and then a Post Production Class will follow in February. Be sure to check out my upcoming events: http://phyllisburchettphoto.net/iceland-tour-2015/ and http://phyllisburchettphoto.net/alaska-tour-2015/.  Hope you have a beautiful Christmas!

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Nevada….Old Friends, New Friends

Beautiful, Friesian Stallion Xander

I just recently returned home from a fabulous trip to Reno, Nevada. I had planned a trip in October to photograph the beautiful Equine Breeds of Poland but due to other committments beyond my control had to cancel. Then Tamara Gooch posted her new trip “The Horses That Dreams Are Made Of” and it fit into my schedule perfectly so I couldn’t say no. I called an old friend of mine in California who needed a retreat to see if she would like to come with and she excitedly accepted. I knew it would be a wonderful trip when Dene decided to join me as I hadn’t seen her since Photoshop World in Vegas two years ago.

We decided to come in a couple days early to head over to Lake Tahoe to do some hiking and landscape photography. I had seen gorgeous images of Eagle Falls and wanted to be sure we stopped to visit.  However, due to the severe drought that the west has been in AND October being the driest month there was not but a trickle going over the falls. We did get to see bears (my second favorite thing to photograph) and enjoyed ourselves hiking, eating and visiting Virginia City.

Feeding on small insects in downed trees.

Sunset over Lake Tahoe

Be sure to stop in to see Stinky and Bernadeen if you ever go! Like many cities and towns in the state, Virginia City was a mining boomtown; it appeared virtually overnight as a result of the Comstock Lode silver strike of 1859. At its peak, Virginia City had a population of over 15,000 residents and was called the richest city in America. It’s a wonderful old west town and a must see if you are in the area.

Bernadeen and her owner Stinky are a must see!

Then it was time to head back to Reno and meet up with the group and our leader, Tamara Gooch. It was going to be a wonderful 3 days of shooting models, Friesians and Andalusians and I could not wait to get started. Our first shoot was with Ashley Morgan Rhodes, Pablo Gonzales and their gorgeous horses. Ashley was a beautiful model and has such a wonderful connection with her horses….Xander, her Friesian Stallion and Thor, her Andalusian Stallion. The backdrop for our shoot was Washoe Lake with views of the Sierra Nevada, Carson and Virginia Mountain Ranges. The water levels were quite low but it made for gorgeous images with the dunes.

Dark Angel and Xander

Dream shoot at the lake!

The Horses that Dreams are made of!


The next day we headed toward South Lake Tahoe with Ashley and Pablo for a different background with fall color and more mountains. Then we finished the day at a local facility where we were able to get some liberty shots of both horses. Pablo delighted us with his Charro outfit on Thor.

Ashley and that beautiful RED Dress with Xander

What a beautiful connection they have!

Thor is trained to rear on command.

Thor and Pablo show off the Mexican Charro


Our final day was spent at Maddi’s Friesians with lots of babies, beautiful stallions and great hospitality.

Simply Gorgeous!

How awesome to ride these beautiful horses!

Running Free!

So cute, so curious!

It was a fabulous trip to be with my old friend and to meet new ones as well. I love photography not only from the creative aspect but for all the truly, phenomenal people I have met. Our band of sister photographers and fellow horse lovers will forever be connected….Tamara, Leah, Bree, Judy, Debby, Bobbie R., Bobbi M., Dannette, Nancy, Ashley and of course, Dene. Thank you all….you were a joy to spend my time with in Nevada!

Good friends


I’ve had some questions about how I created this image of Ashley and Thor, so stay tuned for my next blog post on how to!

Ashely and Thor with Overlay


Be sure to check out the 2014 Inner Reflections Engagement Calendar, it’s full of stunning images. I’m honored to have two showcased in the month of April. You can purchase the calendar here: http://bookstore.yogananda-srf.org/c27/Inner-Reflections-2015-Engagement-Calendar-p631.html or on Amazon.
I have so much to be grateful for, thank you for following me and I hope you have a lovely Thanksgiving!!!

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