Posts in For Photographers
5 Ways To Change Your Mind That Will Create Massive Change in Your Business

5 Ways To Change Your Mind That Will Create Massive Change in Your Business

  1. Gratitude

  2. Vision

  3. Confidence

  4. Mediation

  5. Why


Gratitude

If you’re looking for the quickest and easiest way to change your mindset then look no further. Gratitude has been proven to have some powerful effects on humans. Click here to read an article from Berkley on the subject.

Great but how do I actually do it?

The short answer is to train your brain to get into the habit of paying attention to the things in your life that you’re grateful for.

I have a general list up on my wall near my work computer that I can refer to if I’m struggling to stay grateful. I have two kids and I’ve built in a short gratitude practice every morning where before they get out of bed we all say one thing we’re grateful for.

What are you grateful for? Write it down and put it somewhere or make a graphic of the list to put on your phone screensaver.


Vision

I said it in the beginning of this article but what you think or see in your mind…becomes your reality quite literally. People like Earl Nightingale and Napoleon Hill are the teachers I’ve learned from but honestly this has been regurgitated in so many different ways today that it’s become common to hear personal development gurus talk about vision quite often. Or as Napoleon Hill says “Have a clear picture in your mind of what you want”.

On my phone lock screen I have “Have A Clear Vision, A Reason Why, and Daily Action”.

I do this to remind myself to consistently visualize the things I want in my life daily. Why would I do that? Because thoughts (and visions) become reality and I want to control my reality. Not some random circumstance that happens by chance.

A great way to start with vision is to write down your main goal in life then all around it add the details of what your life would look like if you met that goal. Feelings, money, relationships, etc.

I know that seems a bit woo woo but trust me it works wonders in your mindset and can be one of the quickest ways to bring about change.


Confidence

It wasn’t until I did my first workshop tour where I learned how lack of confidence in one’s self was an epidemic in the entrepreneurial spaces.

I saw people completely paralyzed by their lack of self worth, failed attempts at applying their past experiences, and fear of judgement from others.

I also still struggle with this too.

These days low self confidence can be caused by many things from past trauma, abusive relationships, or something as simple as a negative comment on Facebook.

So how do we increase our confidence then so we can be sure about our decisions in our businesses?

In sounds cliché but the way you gain confidence is to face your fears…or focus on your fears and then face them.

I think back to my life when I was a highly competitive college wrestler or when I was in the Marine Corps or when my ex wife cheated on me for the 2nd time. I think about the experiences I had in those environments and what led me to feel the most pain.

It was when I hesitated and didn’t act because I was scared that caused the most mental anguish not because of what other people were doing but because I wanted to act and didn’t. It was a matter of integrity with myself.

By not acting when I was scared I confirmed my fears and what I thought about myself was affirmed. “I’m not brave enough” or “I’m not good enough”.

In my experience the quickest way to gain self confidence and change is to notice your fear then do the thing your scared of. You’ll instantly realize the the story your mind told you about what to be scared about was over exaggerated and then your mind creates a new story about what you can do.

To start write down your greatest fear right now and what it’s stopping you from doing in your life. Then take the first step towards doing that thing.


Meditation

I know (eye roll). This has been overused as a buzz word for the past decade but there’s a reason.

Meditation has been the key to increasing my own self awareness and has helped me find my purpose in life.

With the constant bombardment of social media, internet TV, texts and emails we have officially become the most unaware we’ve ever been…kind of.

0_PcStMZ59OxfEofG0.png

Here’s a graph from Harvard Business Review (click here if you want to nerd out with me)


So from one perspective we are more “aware” of what works in business and life than ever. On the other hand there’s only a few people who are really aware of that information.

It’s like when your boss tells you do something after they come back from a big conference. They’re really inspired, motivated and gung-ho about what they became aware of at the conference and they act on that by coming back and telling their employees to do something without trying to impart the same experience and levels of awareness that they have.

Meditation is a great way to increase your personal awareness so you can focus in on the things in your life and business that matter.

Start off by sitting down for 5 minutes. Sit up straight. Close your eyes and just take deep breaths until the 5 minutes is up. After your done, write down your thoughts in a journal.

Mediation is a process so be patient with yourself if your mind wanders. This is hard work but if you take it in baby steps in can lead to huge change in your daily life starting today!


Why

I’ve taught in public schools for a decade now and I’ve learned a valuable lesson when it comes to engaging young people to get them to do their work at a high quality level while enjoying it. It’s always starting with asking them “why?”.

I ask them “why are grades important?”. “Are there other benefits to actually creating in school?”. “Why is working hard valuable?”. “Why wouldn’t you incorporate your personal interests into projects?”.

These questions prime my students to focus on their own personal why for being at school, doing their work, and getting good grades.

I pair the why with everything I teach as to give them context.

For example, I’m currently working with a small group of talented videographers to develop a lifestyle brand on Youtube.

They just wanted to start by making videos. Duh, they’re teenagers. That makes sense!

They didn’t understand how not having a why was setting them up for a long, difficult road ahead.

We finished up the first month of school by crafting a why statement, a mission statement, a clear vision with measurable goals, and spending a painstakingly amount of time of creating a Customer Profile for their ideal customer.

Sounds boring af right? Well if you know how much change you can create just by asking yourself why then it won’t feel so monotonous to work on. When you have a clear purpose in your life and business then change can sometimes be fun, energizing, and create a feeling of excitement in your life!

If you’re a photographer ask yourself “what is it about this industry that I love?” and “what is it about taking photos of other people that inspires me?”.

If you’re an entrepreneur ask yourself “what is it about this lifestyle that brings me energy?” and “what problems do I enjoy solving for other people?”.

If you’re a teacher ask yourself “what is it about teaching others that feeds my soul?” and “what got me into teaching in the first place?”. For me this has been my younger brother Jonathan. He has autism and I helped raise him. As I watched him grow up I saw him and my mother struggle through getting support from teachers so I decided that I would be a teacher to help people like my brother.

Thank you so much for your attention and if you’d like to learn more how to Change Your Mind To Change Your Business then click here to watch a live discussion.

My Fears Around Teaching Photography Workshops
 
19222980_675301215993661_6665521519101303784_o.jpg
 

I wanted to share with you some of my fears, and how I overcame them, around holding my photography workshops because I know so many photographers have dreams of one day teaching their own and fear tends to be the reason they don’t.

I’ll start off by giving you a quick background on me, my mission, and what I do for other photographers.

My name is Mark Maya I'm a Marine Corps Iraqi War Veteran, former college athlete, PTSD conquerer turned wedding photographer and coach. I’m also an Digital Art Teacher at a high school. I have two young kids, Harvest and Honor. They live with me in Durham, N.C.

I provide genuine wedding photography for unique couples and my mission is to provide them with a stress-free, genuine experience that makes them feel confident in me, my abilities and my experience. I do this by working closely with clients to make sure that I go the extra mile through unexpected ways. The main way I help my clients is to give them a high quality product while providing them with an amazing experience that they won’t forget so they can actually enjoy their wedding without having to worry about the details like photography.

I’m also a coach for photographers where I facilitate an online paid community, face-to-face workshops, and small group coaching in order to help photographers find their “Why” in their businesses. I do this by actively cultivating relationships with other photographers and being an advocate for them, their businesses and their missions. The main way I help photographers is when they’re feeling uninspired, stuck or disconnected, I use inquiry-based learning models to guide them to their own purpose, meaning and focus so they can gain clarity on what steps to take next in their photography businesses.

 
 
Photography Workshop in Asheville, North Carolina

Photography Workshop in Asheville, North Carolina

 
 

This is the part where I talk about my fears of teaching my own workshops.

Touring the country teaching face-to-face workshops has been the scariest thing I’ve done in my business. From January 2017 - March 2018 I taught 6 different one-day, face-to-face workshops for photographers in LA, Chicago, Salt Lake City, Nashville, Asheville and my hometown of Durham, N.C.

The fear I felt around teaching my workshops was connected with failure. I had never done anything like this (especially this big) but I knew I wanted to travel more and that face-to-face environments were inspiring to me so I worked hard to work through that fear and procrastination.

 
 
Photography Workshop in Moab, Utah

Photography Workshop in Moab, Utah

 
 

Here are some things I took action on to overcome those fears.

Procrastination and the fear that I wasn’t good enough popped up as soon as I was ready to commit to doing my workshops so I knew that inspired action was important so the first step I took was to buy a plane ticket to my first location and put the date on my calendar. That helped me hold myself accountable for doing it and ultimately obliterate procrastination. Also, if no one came to the workshop (which actually happened once) then I would still meet my need of wanting to travel.

I also searched for local ambassadors that were already in my community to help with the promotion of the events. I actually had 4 photographers register for my last workshop in Chicago just because I asked a local established photographer to think about people who they think would benefit from it. 3 of those people have joined my online community since then.

Finally, I just told my audience through Facebook, Instagram, and email. This helped me get in the mindset of talking about my workshops consistently and it helped to my audience understand what I was doing more.

 
Photography Workshop in Chicago, IL

Photography Workshop in Chicago, IL

 

Here are the results of those actions I took.

The first four workshops were complete duds. I found only a few people that I was resonating with and it resulting in some real personal embarrassment. For example, the first four workshops I held had only six photographers attend…combined.

I thought about quitting after each one of those first four workshops just because I was so embarrassed. Luckily, I didn’t because the last two workshops were complete hits. They both had around 10 or 11 attendees and the reviews I got from those 20 people were golden and I’m currently using them to promote my next workshop tour. This time around I have much more confidence in myself and my ability to help other photographers and I even double my price for it.

You can check out my workshops for photographers by clicking here.

3 Reasons Why Gear Means Nothing

Ever feel like us photographers talk too much about gear and too little about perfectionism,  how to use our creative resources like time, environment, consistency, patience, and critical thinking skills?

In this video I'll throw the nerdy "gear talk" out the window and discuss 3 reasons why gear means nothing.

Cameras

Canon 5D Mark 4: http://amzn.to/2BUf2Ph

Canon 5D Mark 3: http://amzn.to/2BXQGEl

Canon 7D: http://amzn.to/2BZrop4

Fujifilm XPro2: http://amzn.to/2iXtY7T

Fujifilm X100: http://amzn.to/2nTof8q

Fujifilm Instax Mini 90: http://amzn.to/2BWepEO

Sony A7r: http://amzn.to/2BaQ29e

Olympus PEN E-PL1: http://amzn.to/2iXIWum

Polaroid Land Camera: http://amzn.to/2z43k66

 

Lenses

Canon 35L ll: http://amzn.to/2z4quJt

Canon 50L: http://amzn.to/2l3mdl0

Canon 85L ll: http://amzn.to/2krY2cb

Canon 45 Tiltshift: http://amzn.to/2nTTjVh

Canon 24-105: http://amzn.to/2BFTMR0

Sigma 35 Art: http://amzn.to/2BbjVX1

Sigma Lens Adaptor for Sony: http://amzn.to/2l5cwm9

Sony Vario-Tessar E 16-70: http://amzn.to/2BXmlG1

Fujinon XF35mmF1.4 R: http://amzn.to/2ktM15E

Fujinon XF56mmF1.2 R: http://amzn.to/2l8AGMI

Olympus M ED 9-18mm: http://amzn.to/2BdoTmD

 

Lighting

Manfrotto Manfrotto LED Panels: http://amzn.to/2AOfsan

Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite Flash: http://amzn.to/2kr5TX8

ProMaster 3 in 1 Lighting System: http://amzn.to/2AOdp6w

 

Sound Recording

Rode RodeLink Wireless Filmmaker System: http://amzn.to/2kqKzRz

Rode Video Mic Pro: http://amzn.to/2AOe9Zm

Zoom H4n Zoom Recorder: http://amzn.to/2kr7QTs

 

Tripods & Stabilizers

Manfrotto Xpro Aluminum Video Monopod w/ 500 Series Video Head: http://amzn.to/2kqPrpP

Manfrotto BeFree Travel Tripod: http://amzn.to/2kqvv6I

DJI Ronin-M 3-Axis Gimbal Stabilizer: http://amzn.to/2C9FpSn

Bescor Video Tripod w/ Fluid Head: http://amzn.to/2Bbv9uD

Glide Gear DEV 235 Video Camera Track Slider: http://amzn.to/2BHgo3N

Benro Adventure 3 Series Aluminum Monopod: http://amzn.to/2krzrUH

SLIDESHOW SOFTWARE – A SMARTSLIDES REVIEW
1.jpg

 

Let me start off by saying that I’ve been making slideshows with photos and music in some capacity for about ten years.

I’ve been frustrated with the products that have been designed for many reasons such as ease of use, ability to professionally present, how much behind-the-scenes preparation time is needed and the basic support of said software.

As a wedding photographer, I’m always looking for ways to save time and give my clients a professional product to easily consume their photos on multiple platforms.  Pixellu’s SmartSlides does that. It’s minimized the options to meet all the important necessities, gives the photographer an easy way to make a professional slideshow for clients and doesn’t bog us down with “bells and whistles”.

SmartSlides Slideshow Software

I think many times online photo products forget just how much multitasking we do in our profession and that we’ll take any help we can get.

As soon as I opened up Smartslides and was ready to create my first slideshow I was reminded that I had to do some prep work first.

smartslides-review-1.jpg

 

It was recommended to have images that were at least 2200 px high.  This seemed like a lot of pixels for a web video so I clicked the “Learn more” button. I was greeted with “minimum requirements”, “recommendations” and a very helpful screenshot of the what the “export window” should look like in Lightroom.

I found out that slideshows will display in 4K and that’s why each image needed to be at least 2200 pixels high.  That seemed fair.

I went ahead and pressed export.  I was exporting about 120 images so I had to wait about 3-4 minutes.

 

I added my images by pressing the big red plus sign.  This took a few minutes for SmartSlides to process but you could “continue” on to the “music” section as your photos uploaded.  I really appreciated that consideration of my time.

smartslides-review-3.jpg

 

I was greeted by 7 music “categories” to add to my slideshow with 5 licensed songs per category.  I could listen to the song and add it instantly to my slideshow.

I also was able to tell if the song was of “low”, “medium” or “high” energy and the exact length.  This was important to me because I didn’t want to have to listen to a song all the through just to see if it fit the mood or number of my photos.

smartslides-review-4.jpg

 

I was able to choose multiple tracks, delete them and see how long each image will show up on the screen during the slideshow.

The “duration of each image” was such a thoughtful piece of information added in Smartslides.  It helps me make quick music choices based off of how many photos I have.  With many of the other slideshow softwares I have used, I had to figure how long each photo was shown by trial and error.

smartslides-review-5.jpg

 

The next section is what Pixellu refers to as “Wrap Up”.  Once you get to this section you can’t go back to the “Music” or “Images” section that you were previously in but you can still do those same functions as if you were in those sections.

I didn’t understand why that was but I was fine with it when I realized that I could still add/delete/rearrange images as well as add/delete/trim any music track that I had previously chosen.

 

In the “Wrap Up” section you have the ability to create “segments” based off of how many music tracks you chose (i.e. 2 music tracks = 2 segments).  Each segment is customizable by clicking on the icons on top of the segment.

You can rearrange, delete, and move images to other segments and change, add or trim music. You can also easily click the “play” icon or “preview” button to see the slideshow and any changes made.

The information that was most important to me was still how many seconds each image showed up.  The difference in the “Wrap Up” section was that it showed how many seconds each image showed up in a specific “segment” comparatively to the whole slideshow in the previous screen.

I found that helpful when I started moving images out of one segment and into another.

smartslides-review-7.jpg

 

The ability to move images to specific segments was valuable in cases where I might want to have a slower, romantic song for getting ready and the ceremony versus having a fast-paced, party song for the reception.

I also found the ability to shorten any music track very helpful because many times I didn’t have enough images to display for an entire song.

smartslides-review-8.jpg

 

The other option you have in a segment is how each image “transitions”.  I can choose from 3 options plus choose how long the transition takes place.

If you wanted to create continuity between multiple segments then just click “apply to all segments”.

smartslides-review-9.jpg

 

During import, SmartSlides distributes your images throughout each segment and displays them at different lengths for some reason.  Luckily, it has a “one click” solution that would “spread images evenly across segments”.  This displayed all of my images throughout the whole slideshow for the same duration.

The thing to keep in mind here is that if you move images to another segment after pushing this button then your images will not be displayed evenly across segments.

Once you’re done editing your slideshow, you can press the red “preview” button. Here you choose one of the four themes to display the slideshow in as well as choose the “featured image” to display before the slideshow is played.

smartslides-review-10.jpg

 

Once you’re ready to publish you’ll have two options to share.  The first is the direct URL to the slideshow.  Pixellu actually creates a stand-alone page for your slideshow that is professional and beautiful.

The other option is to embed the video into your own site using the “embed code”.

SmartSlides Slideshow Software – Pricing

There are two types of pricing plans for SmartSlides. Annual and Monthly. The “monthly” plan is very similar to the Adobe CC plan in that you can pay month-by-month and cancel at anytime. This would be ideal for photographers who may just want to use it temporarily or just don’t have it in their budget to purchase the “annual” plan.

Monthly is a bit more expensive than the “annual” plan but for those of us who may only use it for a limited amount of time this may make the most sense because you can purchase it temporarily. The “annual” plan is better value even though in both plans, the payments are made monthly.

 

There are 3 different levels that you can purchase with a Smartslides account: Starter, Pro and Studio. This is simply based off of how many slideshows that you would like stored using SmartSlides‘ web platform.

The only thing that I think could be improved here is the “studio” storage. Although 1,000 slideshows is a lot of content to create and it would likely take a while to produce that, I am curious why there is limit on the slideshows that you can create considering it’s the highest plan that you can purchase.

Pound-for-pound I think the pricing is reasonable and has been customized with the modern photographer in mind. When you compare the pricing to their competitors, the ease of use, and professionalism, then you’ll see that SmartSlides is packing in a ton of value.

There’s also a special 25% discount if you head over to the SmartSlides website today – click here to find out more.

SmartSlides Slideshow Software – Conclusion

One of the highlights of SmartSlides is the well-thought-out customizations that seem to tailor towards the most important elements of a professional photography slideshow.  Elements like music, theme, segments, transitions and a custom domain are all notable.

Another valuable highlight is the learning curve.  Comparing to other slideshow software, the amount of time it took me become proficient in SmartSlides was was around 50% less. I found the interface intuitive and easy to use because of the minimal, simple design.

Because SmartSlides uses HTML5 rather than Flash, the speed during upload, designing and publishing was easy and fast.  I was under the impression that because my files were so large that SmartSlides would struggle to quickly change and manipulate the slideshow but I made changes without any lagging or loading.

The simple, minimal design of SmartSlides is another highlight that stands out to me although I do think there is room for improvement here.  It’s evident that Pixellu put so much time into the features and options.  They’re functional and I actually enjoyed designing my slideshow.

The specific areas that need improvement are with the images after they’re uploaded.  When rearranging images to tell a story in a visual order I found it difficult to make changes.  I had to “zoom out” in order to see the “rows” of images so I could rearrange the order.  I also could only move images up one row at a time which was inconvenient in segments with more than a dozen images.

The professionalism alone, stands out from all other slideshow software that I’ve experienced.  The final product helps my clients focus on the images themselves and allows them to experience the photos without the usual distractions of videos such as ads, pop-ups or promos.

The ability to customize a client tailored URL as well as embedding the video into my website was extremely easy, quick and I didn’t have to make any tweaks!

Here is an example of the slideshow that I made using SmartSlides as well as the same video embedded in my Squarespace blog.

CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT SMARTSLIDES

This review was written in collaboration with ShotKit.com

Fujifilm XT20 Review
Fuji-X-T20_Review_Shotkit-2.jpg

Fuji X-T20 Review | Introduction

Since the release of the Fujifilm X100 back in 2011, I’ve been a Fujifilm fan.  That camera changed how I looked at my gear, where I took photos and increased my willingness to “play”.

I see the X100 as a “hobbyist” camera.  Since then Fujifilm has released an incredible line up of hobbyist and professional “X-Series” cameras including 3 more versions of the X100, X-T2, X-Pro2 and the GFX 50S respectively.

As Fujifilm has entered into the “professional photography” world with this lineup I feel that they might have initially created a large gap between the hobbyist and the pro. 

In my opinion, the Fuji X-T20 closes that gap by delivering the functionality and quality that the pros need while providing an affordable price, creative options and mobility that hobbyists want.

Fuji X-T20 + Fuji 35mm f/1.4R | 1/4000 sec at f/1.4, ISO 100

Fuji X-T20 + Fuji 35mm f/1.4R | 1/4000 sec at f/1.4, ISO 100

 

New Features

Here are the most relevant new features of the Fuji X-T20 when compared to the previous X-T10:

  • Touchscreen control
  • 325-point autofocus system
  • Higher-resolution 24.3MP X-Trans CMOS III sensor (up from 16.2MP in X-T10)
  • 4K video

I’ve shot in Live View for a couple of years using the 5D Mark lll and the Fujifilm X100.  One of the key factors that was missing for me was the touchscreen.

The Fuji X-T20 comes with an up and down tilting LCD screen that allows you to touch focus, touch shoot, swipe through photos and magnify.  This helps with quick changes of perspective and angles during shoots and allows me to ensure focus and exposure are correct, and to see playback significantly quicker than the above mentioned cameras.

The Fuji X-T20 comes with the same auto-focus system as the Fuji X-T2, providing a wickedly fast 325-point auto-focus system for photos and video.  I found this to be one of the big factors that set it apart from the X100.

The auto-focus speed has been improved greatly on the Fuji X100F, but it’s still faster on the Fuji X-T20.

Fuji X-T20 + Fuji 56mm f/1.2R | 1/4000 sec at f/1.2, ISO 100

Fuji X-T20 + Fuji 56mm f/1.2R | 1/4000 sec at f/1.2, ISO 100

The new 24.3MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS III sensor paired with the improved image processor gives the user the ability to shoot at 2x the speed of its predecessor.

This was also a massive shift towards the “professional” camera because after years of talking to other photographers about the “mirrorless revolution”, the most common hesitancy was that they were simply too slow.

Finally, the Fuji X-T20 offers a bump in resolution over its predecessor, and can also shoot 4K and 1080p video. This can easily be chosen in the dial on the top of the camera.

Other notable features include:

  • Electronic viewfinder with 62x magnification
  • 4K video shoots at up to 30fps and HD video at up to 60 fps – both are usable with the in-camera film simulation
  • 8 fps continuous shooting with AF, 5 fps with live view
  • 5mm jack for external microphone
  • Multiple Exposure mode in the dial options
     

Fuji X-T20 Image Quality

Fuji X-T20 + Fuji 35mm f/1.4R | 1/1000 sec at f/1.4, ISO 100

Fuji X-T20 + Fuji 35mm f/1.4R | 1/1000 sec at f/1.4, ISO 100

Image quality in the Fuji X-T20 is truly something.  During my first shoot with it I honestly had low expectations as I had been slightly disappointed in the X100’s “professional quality” 16MP files which I purchased for a few hundred dollars less around 4 years ago.

I shot the session just before the sun went down for a friend and just wanted to see how the Fuji X-T20 performed.  On the back of the camera the photos looked beautiful but I knew the true test was when I edited them.

Once I started editing the files I quickly realized that this wasn’t the same as the X100. Not even close.

Fuji X-T20 + Fuji 35mm f/1.4R | 1/4000 sec at f/1.4, ISO 100

Fuji X-T20 + Fuji 35mm f/1.4R | 1/4000 sec at f/1.4, ISO 100

It turns out that the Fuji X-T20 has the exact same 24MP X-Trans III sensor and image processor as the Fuji X-T2 and Fuji X-Pro2, so in essence I was editing the same quality of files as the more expensive and professional cameras that Fujifilm had previously released.

Every RAW file is 6000 x 4000 pixels and packed with just as much sharpness, dynamic range and color as I’d expect from any professional camera.

In post-production, I spent less time culling and editing the files from the Fuji X-T20 than I did from my Canon 5D Mark lll, because of the accuracy of the auto-focus and the electronic viewfinder.

The SOOC files (straight out of camera) already had many of the tones and colors that I normally edited with because I was able to add +1 sharpening, -1 shadow tones and -1 highlight tones along with Fuji’s unique in-camera “Provia” film simulation.

Fuji X-T20 + Fuji 35mm f/1.4R | 1/4000 sec at f/1.4, ISO 200

Fuji X-T20 + Fuji 35mm f/1.4R | 1/4000 sec at f/1.4, ISO 200

This made editing simpler and a lot more fun during post-processing in Lightroom and Alien Skin Exposure as I generally do.

Above you can see the SOOC image alongside my final image with my post processing a slight crop applied.

Fuji X-T20 Design

I was pleasantly surprised when I first held the Fuji X-T20 .  At 13.5 ounces with the dimensions 118 x 83 x 41mm, I felt like I was holding the X100 or another point and shoot camera. The only difference was I could choose from the awesome selection of Fuji lenses now.

Somehow Fujifilm packed in professional quality to a cool, minimal and lightweight design.   The functionality of the design stays true to Fujifilm’s “retro” feel utilizing the usual dials on top and incorporating the toggle buttons on the back.

Fuji XT20 dials

Fuji XT20 dials

Besides the simple size of the camera, the buttons and dials, LCD screen mobility and the ability to manually adjust the exposure triangle makes shooting with the X-T20 less about shooting and more about the creative process and photos.

In fact, the combination of its small size, light weight, excellent image quality and fast auto-focus makes the Fuji X-T20 one of the best travel cameras I’ve ever come across.

Autofocus

The Fuji X-T20 has 3 “auto focus” modes.  “Single AF”, “Continuous AF” and “MF” (manual focus). I found myself going back and forth between the “Single AF” and the “Continuous AF”, testing out the capabilities of each and how the camera responded to each.

In the end I found the “Single AF” to be the best for me when shooting portraits with more still subjects while the “Continuous AF” was best for events, shooting kids and moving subjects.

Fuji X-T20 + Fuji 56mm f/1.2R | 1/2000 sec at f/1.2, ISO 100

Fuji X-T20 + Fuji 56mm f/1.2R | 1/2000 sec at f/1.2, ISO 100

The “Continuous AF” mode has a tracking feature that worked generally well.  The “Single AF” speed was very fast and accurate.

Generally comparing to my experience with the 5D Mark lll, I was able to shoot less and keep more photos because of the accuracy of the the autofocus system in the X-T20.

Viewfinder and Touchscreen

I found the electronic viewfinder (EVF) on the Fuji X-T20 to be more functional comparatively to the X100 due to the refresh speed, and definitely more useful than the Canon 5D Mark lll (or any dSLR camera) in that it gave me the “live view” in the viewfinder.

This was helpful during my shoots in the middle of the day where it’s normally difficult to see the LCD screen on the back of the camera because of glare.

As someone who uses “live view” often, I found this to be a great addition to evaluate exposure, focus and composition at a faster speed than I’m used to. Indeed, the EVF is a huge advantage of all mirrorless cameras.

 

Fuji XT20 Flip out screen

Fuji XT20 Flip out screen

As I previously mentioned, the tilting touchscreen was a feature that gave me mobility, creative flexibility, and gave me options to change angles with a higher “keep rate” percentage than usual.  It allowed me to compose, focus and increased my visibility during shooting at twice the speed.

The simple “tilting” feature was the game-changer for me because it took away my need to lay on the ground or stand on a stool to get well focused, exposed and composed photos.

Value for Money

Fuji X-T20 + Fuji 35mm f/1.4R | 1/500 sec at f/1.4, ISO 200

Fuji X-T20 + Fuji 35mm f/1.4R | 1/500 sec at f/1.4, ISO 200

When you compare the Fujifilm X-T20 to its more professional older brother, the X-T2 (and similar cameras), then you’ll easily see that it’s one of best bargains on the market.

Sure you’re giving up a few bells and whistles like weather resistance, battery grip option, higher EVF magnification, lower ceiling shutter speed of 1/4000 (compared to 1/8000 in the X-T2) but with the exact same sensor, smaller size and weight, the ability to use the best Fuji lenses and coming in at almost half the price of the X-T2, the X-T20 is “pound-for-pound” one of best value mirrorless cameras out there.

I think this is especially true if you’re wanting to create “professional” looking images but aren’t that concerned with the extras that tend to jack the price up!

Areas of Improvement

One of the first issues I had with the Fuji X-T20 was how SD card slot was strangely crowded.  I have average size fingers but as I started inserting and taking out the card I started to wonder if someone with larger fingers would get frustrated with this.

Video is becoming more and more popular in the photography community so I was excited to see a jack for an external microphone hoping that I would be able to use my Rode microphones with the X-T20.  After further inspection I was disappointed to learn that the jack size was only 2.5mm.  This is the increasingly uncommon smaller size jack than our usual 3.5mm size.

As an artist I find this to be a huge flaw and hindrance for photographers who also shoot video.  Another area of improvement regarding “jacks” is the lack of the “headphone jack” where you can monitor audio while shooting video but this is less important than the standard jack size for the actual microphone.

I’m 5’9 and have always struggle to get those higher angles during shoots without a step ladder or stool.  This was one of the reasons that I started shooting in live view so much.  Although the X-T20 has a tilting screen that tilts up 90 degrees and down 45 degrees, I found that the downward tilting angle was where I was using it most and couldn’t quite get the visual accessibility to the screen that I truly wanted.

I think the screen could be able to tilt down to 90 degrees rather than 45 and possibly a “flip out” and “swivel”  the screen to take the X-T20 to the next level of versatility.

I like that my RAW photos have the film simulation options inside of the X-T20 but when I try to add the “advanced filters” like “miniature”, “toy camera”, “pop color”, etc. then my files are automatically shot in the JPEG format.  As a result, I will not using these filters but would love to see RAW capabilities paired with them in the future.

Fuji X-T20 + Fuji 35mm f/1.4R | 1/4000 sec at f/1.4, ISO 200

Fuji X-T20 + Fuji 35mm f/1.4R | 1/4000 sec at f/1.4, ISO 200

One feature of the X-T2 that professional photographers loved was the “weather resistant” body.  Fujifilm omitted this feature in X-T20 possible due to it’s minimal, compact design. For the pro this might be one of the deciding factors when choosing whether the X-T20 is a good fit for them or not.

Battery life in mirrorless cameras has been a huge issue since their birth many a few years ago.  They just simply don’t last as long as the DSLRs do.  The X-T20 is no exception coming at a battery life of around 350 frames when using the XF35mmF1.4 R with the LCD monitor ON.

Connecting to battery issues,  the Fuji X-T20 lacks the ability to use a battery grip so the photographer can simply shoot longer without having to change out batteries.  This is another big difference in the X-T2 and the X-T20 when pros are comparing the two.

Fuji X-T20 Review | Conclusion

Fuji-X-T20_Review_Shotkit-1-1.jpg

The Fujifilm X-T20 has all the features that a hobbyist or pro would need at a price that both will love.  I’ve yet to see another camera that has this many professional features packed into such a versatile, functional and well-designed camera.

With a minimal amount of design flaws and the inclusion of the professional sensors, the Fujifilm X-T20 will be giving others cameras in it’s field a run for their money and challenge the industry to provide professional quality at an affordable price.

This was review was originally published in collaboration with Shotkit.

 

Gear Mentioned In This Review 

In-Camera Double Exposure - Before and After Edit

I shot this in-camera double exposure at a wedding in Park City, Utah using the Canon 5D Mark IV with the 35L ii lens

I started off

shooting the portrait making sure that the background was overexposed slightly and the near side of the bride's face was slightly underexposed.   I made sure she was slightly angled towards me to get some depth in here face.

morley-wedding-1445.jpg

I noticed

the amazing floral designs in the middle of the tables during the reception and pulled some roses out of them.  I went outside and set my camera to "multiple exposure mode",  held up the roses and created the photo.  

Before and After Edit + FREE PRESETS!

For this "before and after" edit I am using a shot from an album cover session I did with the bluegrass stars Darin and Brooke Aldridge.

This image was shot with the Canon 5D Mark lll using the Sigma 35mm Art lens.

My camera settings were 1/400 sec, ƒ/2.0, ISO 100.

I edited this photo to this Spotify playlist.

If you'd like to see all the specific editing decisions that I made with this photo then download the RAW file, use the Lightroom preset + VSCO Film's Kodak Elite ll 50-C camera profile + use my Alien Skin Exposure custom preset in Alien Skin Exposure X2.

That's a lot of a processing so if you have questions along the way feel free to ask in the comments below. 

Artist Talk with Junebug Weddings Editors Carrie Schwab & Nicole Seligman

I'll be live with Junebug Weddings Editors Carrie Schwab & Nicole Seligman at 5pm EST on Thursday February 16th!  

Leave your questions for Carrie and Nicole in the "comments" section below!

Workflow Editing - From Beginning to End in Lightroom and Alien Skin Exposure

This shoot is from a recent workshop that I taught in downtown Durham, North Carolina.  The goal of the shoot was to take a boring, seemingly distracting environment, and create beautiful couples photos using the tools and resources available in my camera and our creative minds.  

After the shoot, I created a workflow editing video showing my entire process using Lightroom and Alien Skin Exposure.  I cover culling, rating, flagging, white balance, split toning, adding contrast, how to speed up your workflow and how I use Alien Skin Exposure's powerful grain system. 

Need a little more one-on-one help?  I got you!

How Live View Can Make You A Better Photographer

The problem with photography is that so often we have distracting elements that seep into our images and it causes our subject to not become our subject at all, but instead the distracting elements becomes the subject.

Recently I did a mini-workshop on how to solve this problem.  I taught about how you can use live view to turn a distracting or boring environment into a beautiful photograph

During this workshop I challenged participants to use "live view" to test out their surroundings by walking around with live view on, similarly to how we use our phones to take photos. With live view on you can make more thoughtful creative decisions because you see what the photo will look like when you push the shutter button. This is not the case when looking through the "viewfinder" which is where most photographers look to focus and compose.  The view finder lacks the ability to adjust light and see what the photo will look like before we shoot.   

I like to make the case for live view because we're so used to composing and adjusting photos on our phone in the same way so it only makes sense to similarly adjust our "professional" camera in more efficient and effective way.

So get out there, turn on live view and start shooting better photos! 

Here are the photos from that workshop and here are a few recent images that I've shot using live view:

*Disclaimer - I shoot live view about 80% of the time during my couples sessions and portrait sessions. Because of the nature and atmosphere of wedding photography, I only shoot about 25% in live view on wedding days. 

PRO TIP: At some point in your photography journey you're going to need a little help.  When that day comes know that there are tons of online and local communities to help you. Also, you might want to try and find a mentor or friend who's been shooting for a while and ask them to show a few things!

Before and After Edit with Lightroom and Alien Skin Exposure

I wanted to share this before and after edit from Lightroom and Alien Skin Exposure because sometimes we forget the powerful, efficient tools that we have when shooting in RAW.  

Here is the original photo before I began editing it.  This was shot with 1/640 shutter speed, ƒ stop 1.4, ISO 100 with the Canon 5D Mark lll using the Canon 85L II lens.

  I then applied some white balance and exposure adjustments followed by a custom preset of mine.   I made minor adjustments in the "tone curve" section of lightroom as well as "luminance".   You'll notice that I also did some cloning with the bolts and the wood peg in the chair.

Finally, I sent the photo over to Alien Skin Exposure and applied a very subtle, custom version of their Portra 160 plus their wonderful "grain" feature. 

There you have it!  Thank you for spending the time to read and learn.  If you are interested in getting posts like this to your inbox then you can fill out the quick form below.   

Before & After Edit // Styled Shoot in Salt Lake City, Utah

Shooting in the middle of the day is a challenge for many of us.  During an adventure in Salt Lake City, Utah recently I found myself in another challenging shooting environment.  Not only were we in direct sunlight but I was also not used to the colors and tones of the Utah environment.  

After the shoot I was pleasantly surprised to find that the tones there actually matched my editing style quite nicely.  

Shot with 5D Mark lll / 85L 

Edited with Mark Maya 01//C

From Boring to Beautiful - How to See Your Photography Differently

One thing that I find interesting about teaching photography to folks is seeing the person realize that any situation and any subject can be made into a beautiful photograph.  

Recently I was doing my Photo Camp with a dozen creative teenagers that were aspiring to be photographers.  I was teaching them about “commercial photography” and how when you start off that you often don't have the equipment, money, time and  shooting environment that most professional photographers have.  I explained that the willingness to "figure it out” using your current resources can be fun, inspiring and you learn a ton throughout the process. 

I collaborated with a local pizza parlor called Pompieri Pizza.  They were in need of some commercial photos for their new pizza sauce.  I worked out an “exchange of services” where they would feed my teens and we would do 2 separate shoots of their new pizza sauce. 

The Photo Camp was at a local high school so it was a challenge to find a great “commercial studio” environment…so we made one.  We used large white paper and created a mini lightbox for the pizza sauce. I was somewhat concerned but I knew we had time to experiment and figure it out so that eased the pressure to “get the shot”.  Luckily, we got the shot. 

 

This is what the process looked like along with the deliverable photographs.

 

During the same photo camp we did a couples shoot.  I explained to the young photographers that we’ll be walking around with the couple in areas that weren’t aesthetically pleasing.  I did this on purpose because I wanted to drive the point home that the artist controls the art, not the environment.

We found an ugly brick wall, put the couple in front of it and began to pose them.  At first the couple was tense and somewhat awkward.  I expected this but also expected it to pass as we kept shooting and interacting with the couple.  We directed and posed them a ton but I made sure to keep the mood fairly light-hearted because I wanted the teens and the couple to continue to interact with a minimal amount of stress as to allow the creative juices to keep flowing and so the couple didn’t feel like they had to do all the work. 

 

This is what the process looked like along with the deliverable photographs.

 

The point of these two stories is “things are not what they seem”.  Making something out of nothing is an interesting challenge that all photographers can do.  The key is a willingness to experiment, problem solve and enjoy the process of  photographing boring to beautiful.  

 

Interested in learning about the Photo Camp? Click here!

My 3 Favorite Lightroom CC Tools

I've spent thousands of hours editing photographs in Lightroom. I loathe wasting time and stressing out about editing so I spend a decent amount of time trying to figure out how to optimize my time while simultaneously increasing the quality of my photos.  There are 3 tools that I use every time I edit my photographs in Lightroom.  These tools help me reduce stress, streamline my process and increase my confidence during editing.

1. Navigator Window.  Several years ago I did a "100 day self portrait project".  I would shoot and edit everyday then post a self portrait on Instagram.  I'd be editing in Photoshop for hours a day.  Since I was only posting these photos to Instagram I started thinking "I should probably view my photos like my audience views them".   I was realizing that folks weren't seeing my images "full screen" in the manner that I was editing them.  I fixed this my simply "zooming out" every so often.  This allowed me to see a "thumbnail" of my edited image and simulated how my audience would view my photo on Instagram.   This helped me make more calculated editing decisions but it was kind of annoying to have to zoom out and then back in every so often.   When I started editing in Lightroom I noticed that I had access to this "thumbnail view" all the time. This is the navigator window.  This window gives you a live view of editing changes as well as a preview to any "hover over" edits (i.e. presets, white balance, etc.)

 

2.Before & Undo Shortcut.  Like many folks I need routine validation and affirmation in my life.   I need this while editing in Lightroom too.  When editing a photo I want to be able to quickly check to see if my editing decision, preset choice, white balance setting, etc. was  good one.   Sometimes we're changing things and moving sliders so much that we start to second guess our editing choices..especially if you've been editing for a while.  I use the "before" shortcut a lot.  This shortcut is used by simply hitting the backslash key \ . This key is probably somewhere near the "delete" key on your keyboard. When you use this shortcut it will give a preview of what your photo looked like before you began editing it.  I tap this every time I make a big change.  For smaller changes I use the "undo" shortcut.  The "undo" shortcut is "CMD/CTRL Z".   I use this if I'm doing small tweaks like tones, curves, blacks, whites, etc.   Since I'm a little bit OCD I go back and forth until I find that sweet spot in each slider.  The "undo" shortcut allows me to simply go back one step so I can compare it to the latter editing decision.  *tip:  the "redo" shortcut is "SHIFT + CMD/CTRL Z".  If I notice that my editing decision was one that I want to keep then I'll use this shortcut. 

 

3. Zoom.   Let's face it.  Our eyes get tired,  they deteriorate and we visually miss some important details in our photos sometimes.  The "zoom" tool helps me with this during my editing.   Many times I need to be "closer" to certain elements of my photos.  One example is when I'm editing my wide shots with a human subject.  My wide shots tend to be dramatic and full of potentially distracting elements.  To help my eyes and brain focus in on making sure that my subject (faces) is well lit and edited exactly how I want to, I will zoom in on the face and edit the photo from there.  This ensures that I'm not editing just the scene but my subject FIRST, THEN the wider, less important part of my photo.   To zoom in on a photo all you have to do is use the shortcut CMD/CTRL + or simply click when you see the magnifying glass with a + on it.  

 

 

If you're not the reading type  then you can listen and watch me demonstrate these 3 tools in this video I made.  

Please leave any questions, comments or feedback below.  I'd love to hear from you!

 

Before & After \\ Double Exposure Wedding Edition

After I shoot weddings all of the images stay on my cards for several days.  I do this because I want to give myself the option to create double exposures for my clients but on my own time.  My clients always get a pleasant surprise when I throw in a double exposure photo like this into their final gallery.  It tends to set me apart as a photographer and shows my clients that I'm an artist first and also that I didn't forget about them as soon as I left.  It shows them that I care.  

This double exposure was actually a result of me feeling really down one dreary afternoon.  I'd been traveling a lot, my patience was short and I felt overworked.  When this happens, going out and making art for the sake of making art, is generally a quick remedy.   

I grabbed my card that still had around 4k photos on it from a wedding shot a few days before and headed out towards my favorite coffee shop.  Along that way I challenged myself to keep an eye out for those textures that I knew would create a great double exposure.

Here's the before and after of the double exposure that I delivered to my clients.