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Behind the Scenes with Deanna Rivaldo Photography

Behind the Scenes with Deanna Rivaldo Photography

One way to get better at something is to hang around with people who are already really good at it. I’ve been wanting to improve my portrait photography skills, so I spent an afternoon with Deanna Rivaldo Photography as she shot a couple’s portrait session in Ballard. 

While I was shooting this behind the scenes video, here’s what I learned while watching Deanna work her magic:

  • No matter the environment – don’t freak out. It was really windy and a little rainy on the afternoon of the shoot, but Deanna stayed calm, and solved lots of little problems (hair in the face, rain on the lens, etc…) quietly and with no drama. This helped the couple stay relaxed, and added a couple of moments of laughter and fun.
  • Come with a plan, but be flexible. The wind required adjustment to a couple of photo locations, and a beautiful flower backdrop was not available as it was on private property. Again, Deanna stayed calm and quickly had a solution for each change in plans. Confidence and adaptability gives confidence to your subjects and results in much better photos.
  • Be specific, but open to interpretation. Use your hands and body as a model for what you would like your subject to do, and then watch how they add their own personality to the pose for that special moment.
  • Laugh. If you’re having fun, there’s a much better chance your subjects will too.
  • One lens. One. Freaking. Lens. It’s not about the gear. Deanna completed the entire shoot with one lens – a 50mm f/1.8. I feel naked without at least two lenses, and one (or both) of those is usually a zoom lens. Deanna knows this lens REALLY well, so she knows what it does well for her, and what to avoid. No excuses, just great photos from what you have.


Spring Quarter 2017 Featured Photos Slideshow

Spring Quarter 2017 Featured Photos Slideshow

One of the joys of my “day job” as photography instructor at Highline College, is to be inspired by the amazing work created by students in the digital photography classes. This spring, I had two sections of ART 147 (Introduction to Digital Photography) and about 48 students combined in the two classes. Many of the students in this class use cell phones for their camera, and once they get beyond the bathroom selfie mode (grin), they tend to create some stunning work. 

The video below showcases some of my favorite photos from the quarter. Enjoy! 


From Flat to Dramatic Photo in 5 Minutes

From Flat to Dramatic Photo in 5 Minutes

Today is the 10th anniversary of Adobe Lightroom. I really dig this program, and do over 90% of my photo edits here, and rarely need to go to Photoshop to edit a photo. So, here’s a 5 minute photo transition from flat to dramatic completed in entirely in Lightroom.

I took the above photo on the Bremerton to Seattle ferry, as we approached Seattle. There was a steady rain, gray skies, and more storms on the horizon. Unfortunately, this photo doesn’t feel like that. It feels flat. Lightroom to the rescue.

I started with getting the basic tones and feel of the photo more like it felt when I took the photo. In the Basic panel, I increased exposure and contrast, and then added whites and highlights, while decreasing the blacks. This added even more contrast and punch to the image. Next, the Clarity was cranked up a lot (MORE punch) and saturation was slightly reduced.

It’s getting there, but the sky isn’t quite right. The Graduated Filter tool will help with that. Starting about a third of the way between skyline and top of photo, I drew the Graduated Filter until just above the skyline. I then reduced exposure, highlights, whites and blacks, while increasing contrast a bit and punching up clarity one more time. Now, the sky has the appropriate drama.

The finishing touch was to add a tiny bit of lavender/blue to the highlight tones in the Spot Toning panel. This gives the photo just a nudge towards the blues, and completes the transition from flat to dramatic. 

11 Photography Quotes

11 Photography Quotes



Every once in a while, I find it helpful to turn to the wisdom of others to find that little extra bit of inspiration and motivation to make better photos. Here’s a few favorite quotes about photography:

“Photography is the story I fail to put into words.” — Destin Sparks

“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” — Dorothea Lange

“Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow.” — Imogen Cunningham

“Don’t shoot what it looks like. Shoot what it feels like.” – David Alan Harvey

“If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.” –Robert Capa

“Photography is a language more universal than words.” –Minor White

“A good photographer records; a great photographer reveals.” –Skyler Reid

“If you are out there shooting, things will happen for you. If you’re not out there, you’ll only hear about it.” –Jay Maisel

“The sheer ease with which we can produce a superficial image often leads to creative disaster.” – Ansel Adams

“The eye should learn to listen before it looks.” ― Robert Frank

“You just have to live and life will give you pictures.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

What are your favorite photography quotes?

Two Minutes To Better Photos

Two Minutes To Better Photos


Every photographer I’ve ever talked to wants to take better photos. We read blogs and books, attend seminars and trade shows, and seek constructive criticism of our work in the search for better photos. These are valuable pursuits to becoming better at our craft, but they tend to distract us from a simple way to get better at what we do: a little extra time with our cameras and subjects.

Try this: after every photo session, when you think you’ve gotten “the one,” take an extra two minutes to see if you can make it even better. Get a little closer or little farther away. Try a different angle or lens. Get below or above the subject. Put the light/sun behind the subject. Change exposure. Experiment!

Two minutes. One hundred and twenty seconds. With this little chunk of extra time as a regular habit in your photography, I’m pretty sure you’ll discover that your photos are getting better. 

Below is a two to three minute progression of photos I took at the 2015 Washington State Fair that I hope illustrates the benefits of investing an extra two minutes of time and leading to a better photo.


This is nice, but not a great photo. There’s lots of distractions (the pattern on the blanket, the second dog) and the golden isn’t looking at the camera.


Getting better – isolating more on the golden and getting a little lower to remove the fence from the photo. Still too many distractions here, though.



To isolate the golden even more, I thought to use the fence as a framing device and positioned the golden’s head in an opening between two posts. Getting there…



I got just a little lower to place the golden’s head and ears in the larger part of the opening between the two posts. I then cropped to make the posts the frame edge, and converted to black and white to complete the process. The extra two minutes behind the camera made for a much better photo, I think.