Use Gear That Works for YOU

Hi, in this article I would like to give one of many examples of why I don’t always listen to what other people tell me I should be doing. In certain facets of life, it is considered wise to take suggestions from other people, but that isn’t always the case. Gear that works for another, may not be the gear for your style, and/or you may not have access to what works for others. You may be tempted to purchase a lens based on it’s positive reviews, but is that going to accomplish what you are trying to do?

There are endless ways to explain the point I’m trying to make, but today I would like to keep it as short and sweet as possible.

Let’s consider the main difference between the Canon 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 lens, and the Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens. My first lens was the 10-18mm, and I like to shoot portraits. The 10-18mm is a wide angle lens that has a very broad reach. The 50mm I mentioned has a more narrow reach. In order to take a portrait with the wide angle lens, you have to get so close to your subject that it can be uncomfortable for the both of you. The wide angle lens is more suitable for landscapes, and cars.

The image below is an example of how close you have to get with a wide angle lens to have your subject fill the frame. You can tell by Sabrina’s left hand…



For the image below, I was a bit further away than with the image above. I used my wide angle for this shot as well. Luckily I knew the band, because not all bands are comfortable with photographers getting this close…

Simon, of Triggered Heart…


Note: The watermark represents one of two last names of mine, which I stopped using for readability purposes.


As you’ve probably noticed, the 10-18mm distorts angles, which in some cases, can be beneficial to an image.

Let’s move on…

In the image below, I was actually further away than with the above images, because I was using my 50mm lens which is complimentary to portraits. It shoots tight, which allows for more room between you and your subject.



In the image below, I also used the 50mm lens. If I was standing in the same spot, and using my wide angle lens, you would see a whole lot more of the environment, and everything would look smaller.



Now if I had done everything the same way in each photo, but swapped lenses, I wouldn’t have gotten the result I was looking for in these photos.

It is my hope that this article leaves you with a better understanding of why you should use gear that works for you, instead of dictating all of your decisions solely on what everyone else tells you to do. Yes, if someone’s advice will help you achieve your goals, then go with that advice. But if you want to shoot portraits and someone tells you to get a wide angle lens, consider the look you’re going for. Had I known early on that the 50mm f/1.8 lens was more suited for portraits than a wide angle lens, I’d have reconsidered that decision before purchasing.

Find out what you want to do, how you can do it, and then make your decision based off of your goals.

Feel free to drop a comment, email me, like, follow, share, and as always, you can ask me questions and if I know the answer, I’ll answer it. If not, I’ll do my best to find the answer.







I was running out of ideas for inspiration, and Colin Lack with Simply Stunning Photography suggested I bring my camera on a drive and see what happens. So I grabbed my camera and headed out. I didn’t get far when I spotted Dale.

As I was passing O’reilly Auto Parts on Spring’s Road in Vallejo, I spotted Dale and decided to turn around and have a quick chat. He agreed to let me take some photos in exchange for a few dollars. He said he likes to ride his p90 dirt bike back home and seemed to be a pretty laid back individual. He travels a lot and was in town visiting family. In the bottom image, he was using my phone to lock in his email so I could send him the pictures…



10 Tips For Better Photos!

Hello photographers! I write the majority of my posts with beginners in mind. I’ve been shooting for a little under two years now, and I would like to share with you 10 tips and tricks I’ve learned that instantly improved my photography.


1.) LCD Magnification

2.) Auto Focus

3.) Exposure Compensation

4.) Bulb Mode

5.) Long Exposures

6.) Setting A Focal Point for Self Portraits

7.) Rear or 2nd Curtain Sync

8.) Sandwich Bag for Bokeh Effect

9.) Using a CD for Lens Flares

10.) Ambient/Natural Light


Let’s get started…


1.) LCD Magnification

If your camera has an LCD screen, chances are that you can magnify your view through the screen. I like to use this function with manual focus, that way I can make sure my image is sharp before I take the shot. After I blow up the view and get a sharp focus, I drop the magnification back to normal(100%) and take the shot. I have to make sure that I don’t move at all since I’m using manual focus, because even the slightest body adjustment will affect image clarity. A good rule of thumb for sharp images is to use a faster shutter speed than your focal length. So a focal length of 50mm tells you that you don’t want to use a shutter speed slower than 1/50th of a second. Very rarely do I match focal length with shutter speed. When I use my 50mm f1.8 portrait lens, the slowest shutter speed I ever use is 1/60th of a second, and I only go that slow if there is minimal light. Contrarily, a tripod will negate this issue, and you can do long exposures which I will explain in #5 on this post.


2.) Auto Focus

I use auto focus more often than not because it’s convenient, and in most situations I shoot in, it works. Your experience may vary. From my own experience, when it doesn’t work, it’s either due to uncontrollable movement or dark surroundings. When I use auto focus it is because I can get a razor sharp image much faster than I could by using manual focus(in most settings I find myself in). Some scenarios leave me with no choice in which I have to use manual focus. I go into further detail in my previous post which can be found here


3.) Exposure Compensation

1452865156804In the image above, you can see that the dial is set to zero. When looking through your viewfinder, press the shutter halfway down, and you will see this scale. Point your camera at a dark area, and you will see the dial go to the left. Your camera is trying to tell you that you need to raise your exposure so that the dial goes back to zero. Now point your camera to a bright spot, and the dial will go to the right, telling you to lower your exposure. This is your camera telling you what to do. If you’re photographing snow, your camera will try and tell you the scene is too bright. If you’re doing night photography, your camera will try and tell you that the scene is too dark. Zero is your camera’s opinion of an ideal exposure. I very rarely use the exposure meter, because the camera’s opinion doesn’t always work for me.


4.) Bulb Mode

Bulb mode works great for fireworks. Most DSLR cameras have this feature. You can access this setting by adjusting your shutter speed just past 30 seconds. When you find it, it will say “bulb”. What this setting does, is it allows you to determine your desired shutter speed by holding the shutter button down for as long or as quick as you like, as opposed to manually adjusting your shutter speed which can get really frustrating in certain situations such as fireworks. This makes it great for fireworks. Fireworks are sporadic, so instead of having to repeatedly adjust your shutter speed in the middle of a fireworks display, you can use bulb mode and achieve a higher percentage of successful exposures. You can hold the shutter button down as soon as the mortar launches and capture a trail of sparks leading to the explosion, then release the button to close your shot, or you can wait a couple of seconds after the launch then press the shutter down and capture just the explosion. Be sure to use a tripod to stabilize your camera, and an extra step to take would be to use a remote shutter(not necessary, but convenient) so that you don’t have to keep your hand on the camera and potentially cause it to move which would in turn blur your shot.

Below are some fireworks I photographed using bulb mode. I was only a few hundred feet away from the mortars, which is close, so I had my camera pointed up at about a 45 degree angle, and I used my wide angle lens. Had I used another lens, I wouldn’t have been able to capture the trees in the foreground which you can see in one of the shots…


5.) Long Exposures

Have you ever seen an image of a roadway at night with light trails from cars, but the cars themselves aren’t there? Or what about smooth, creamy waterfalls? These images are known as long exposures. If you’ve tried long exposures, and your whole image turns into a blurry, unrecognizable mess, consider a tripod, and if the image is too bright, double check your exposure settings(aperture, ISO, shutter speed). Using a tripod for long exposures ensures that the stationary elements come out sharp, while the motion becomes evident. With a long exposure, you’ll want to use a small aperture so that your image doesn’t come out obscenely bright. Also take note of your ISO, keeping it at 100 and only raise it if necessary. So start with your shutter speed and decide how much time you want to capture in an image. Next, tighten up your aperture, then, if you absolutely must, raise your ISO. The higher your ISO, the more grain/noise will show up in an image. With long exposures, you typically don’t need a very high ISO. The image above of the firework burst with the spark trail and the trees in the foreground is considered a long exposure. The images below are examples of longer exposures…

Below: The first photo has a shutter speed of 15 seconds, an aperture of f/22, and an ISO of 1600. Due to the high ISO, you can see the grain/noise in this photo…


In the photo below, I used an aperture of f/22, shutter speed of 25 seconds, and ISO 100. There is far less grain/noise in this photo due to the low ISO…



6.) Setting A Focal Point for Self Portraits

You’re going to need a tripod for this technique, and I like to use my camera’s ten second timer. I’m going to tell you how I achieve self portraits, but with a little guesswork, I’m sure you can come up with substitute materials using what’s available to you.

I set up my tripod and attach my camera, then I set out a chair. I sit down in my chair and take note of the exact location my head will be at when I get ready to take my shot. Next, I grab a microphone stand, and position the microphone at the exact location where my head will be. Then I go to my camera and adjust the tilt and turn of the tripod so that I can focus on the microphone which is where my head will be. Next, I remove the microphone and it’s stand. Now I set my camera to the ten second timer setting, push the shutter, then I sit down in the chair, keeping my head in the same spot my helpful microphone was. Wait a few seconds for the shutter to click, get up and check your LCD display. This might take some experimentation to get the shot you want, but it’s definitely possible.


7.) Rear or 2nd Curtain Sync

This is how I use 2nd curtain sync, which can be a very rewarding experience when you get it down right. Set your camera to 2nd curtain sync(A.K.A. rear curtain sync), and turn on your flash. When you first press the shutter, your flash will take a test fire in order to survey the scene. With a 3 second exposure, you have time to zoom in and out during the time that your exposure is taking place. At the end of the exposure, the flash will fire which is the flash that will freeze your subject, despite zooming in and out. What you get when you learn how to use this effect, is an image reminiscent to that of a pop up book. Below is an example(shot in front of a Celtic backdrop).


Streichan is my other last name, which I no longer use because Pope is easier to remember. This image was taken shortly after I first got into photography, hence the watermark.

8.) Sandwich Bag for Bokeh Effect

You can use a sandwich bag to create an otherwise expensive bokeh effect. You will need a rubber band or a hair tie, or something else to hold the bag over your lens. What I did, was I cut the bag twice in the middle to create three pieces. I used the middle piece and fastened it with a rubber band to the outside of my lens. If you cut a big enough piece from your bag, you should now have some of the bag sticking out past your lens. Fold some areas of the bag in front of your lens, but don’t block the lens entirely. With a little experimentation, you can get images that some more expensive lenses create. Here is an example…



9.) Using a CD for Lens Flares

This effect is achieved by holding a CD near your camera lens and bouncing light onto your subject, or into your field of view. Experiment with this trick in order to find your preferences. Below are two example images I shot indoors. However, this trick works best in bright, beaming sun…



10.) Ambient Light

Make light look like it should be there. The easiest way to do this, is to use ambient/natural light, as opposed to flash, strobes, and other forms of camera lighting gear. Candlelight, firelight, lamps, headlights, are all forms of ambient light. If you want to take a picture of someone texting on their phone and it’s dark, take advantage of the light emitting from the screen. If you’re shooting a family around a campfire, and you add a flash or strobe, it is difficult to make the light look natural. Below are some examples of ambient light photos…



So those are 10 tips for better photos. It is my hope that you learned something new and that you start using these tips in your photography. Please try them out and let me know what you think. What would you like to see in future articles?

Feel free to drop a comment, email me, like, follow, share, and as always, you can ask me questions and if I know the answer, I’ll answer it. If not, I’ll do my best to find the answer.











Auto Focus or Manual Focus?(Short post)

I use auto focus more often than not because it’s convenient, and in most situations I shoot in, it works. Your experience may vary. From my own experience, when it doesn’t work, it’s either due to uncontrollable movement or dark surroundings. When I use auto focus it is because I can get a razor sharp image much faster than I could by using manual focus(in most settings I find myself in). In the image below, I used manual focus, in addition to my LCD display. Had I used auto focus, the moving grass would have confused the camera. And who knows how long I would have sat there trying to get the desired shot. I used my LCD display so that I could magnify the intended subject in order to make sure I was getting the sharpest image possible, then I focused on the model’s face, dropped the magnification back to normal, all the while taking extra care to stay as still as I possibly could so as not to lose focus, then I took the shot…


Below is an example of auto focus with a busy foreground…IMG_6404

Now imagine if the first image focused on the grass, and not the model. Contrarily, imagine if the second image focused on the background, and not the kid hitting the piñata. In my opinion, I would have tossed both photos. But that’s just me.

Deciding when and how to use auto or manual focus can be a game changer for you. It was for me.

Feel free to drop a comment, like, follow, share, and as always, you can ask me questions and if I know the answer, I’ll answer it. If not, I’ll do my best to find the answer.



Using Imitation To Find Your Photographic Style

No two photographers can take the same photo. Even if those two photographers are taking a class together, shooting the same subject and they use the same exact camera, on a tripod, with the same settings, same lighting, etc., you can get results that are close, but never exact. Throw post processing into the mix and both photographers’ final result will definitely vary. With each additional variable, be it location, time of day, subject, distance to subject, camera, lens, lighting, ISO, shutter speed, aperture, wind, background, foreground, moving cars, clouds, anything, the results become progressively different. This has been my experience, your experience may vary.

When I first got into photography two years ago, I got a lot of inspiration from Instagram. I know that a lot of people would disagree with this approach to learning, but it helped me. I would try to imitate other photographers’ work, which meant I had to do things that I was not used to doing. Since I can’t produce a carbon copy of another image, I’m developing my own style with every photo I draw inspiration from. I’m doing something different every time I take a photo. I reflect on the past and apply it to the present.

Eventually, I began to notice that I had my own preferences in photography. Experience creates preferences. What works for one situation, may not work for another. What didn’t work then, may work now. When I started, I had no clue what I was doing. So I looked at what worked for others and started applying it to my own practice. No two photographers can take the same photo, so that’s how I found my photographic style.

To reiterate, I do not rely on imitation half as much anymore. That’s because I have my own experience to rely on.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. I hope it helps you to grow as a photographer. Feel free to drop a comment, like, follow, share, and as always, you can ask me questions and if I know the answer, I’ll answer it. If not, I’ll do my best to find the answer.




Why Everyone Should Own a 50mm f1.8 Lens

The “nifty fifty”, as this lens is often referred to as in the photography world, is a workhorse. It is a lens with a fixed focal length of 50mm, meaning you can’t zoom in or out, so you have to get closer to your subject than with a zoom lens for a good shot. With an aperture as wide as f1.8, it allows you to shoot in lower light situations without having to raise your ISO as much as with other lenses. Wide apertures are very complimentary to portraits. If you’ve ever heard the terms “bokeh”, or “shallow depth of field”, this has to do with wide apertures.

The 50mm f1.8 was designed to work similar to the human eye. It is good for photojournalism as it conveys reality, and captures your subject’s surroundings with a wider view than other lenses. There are wide angle lenses, but those are used for very large subjects like buildings and landscapes. If you’re shooting small subjects with a wide angle lens, you have to get so close that it can be uncomfortable for you and your subject. Shooting close with a wide angle lens, however, is actually ideal for shooting cars. The 50mm f1.8 doesn’t close in as tight on your subject as some other lenses, and on the other hand, definitely not as wide as a wide angle lens. So the width that this lens shoots is a normal width(Not to be confused with aperture width).

The photos I shoot that get the most compliments were taken with my 50mm f1.8. And this lens only costs $125 brand new. This lens is ideal for someone just getting into photography, great for portraits, and budget friendly. If you’ve got the money to spend, you can certainly spend more. But that isn’t an option for me.

Feel free to drop a comment, like, follow, share, and as always, you can ask me questions and if I know the answer, I’ll answer it. If not, I’ll do my best to find the answer.

Here are a few photos taken with the 50mm f1.8…








Room 212(Trigger Warning)

I checked into a dump. I was scared, but somehow knew the shoot would turn out how I wanted. Well, to be honest, I wasn’t exactly sure “what” I wanted, aside from photos that conveyed a message. I approached many aspects of this shoot far different than any others I’ve previously done. The only solid plan I had in mind was to hire a model to shoot, hoping that the dark, wordless thoughts and emotions in my brain would somehow come out through my camera and onto the sensor. A plan as solid as trying to write a novel by feeding your cat alphabet soup.

Or, something I’ve actually done with hilariously realistic results: Channel surfing with your tv on mute, while you’re sifting through songs on your computer. When you change the channel, you have to find a song within ten seconds. Let the song play through before you change the channel. Try “The Weight” by The Band, while you’re watching the fishing channel. Or “You Make My Dreams Come True” by Hall & Oates over golf tournaments. Apologies for the tangent, but doing this helped me overcome paranoia. It really did, because how can two unrelated pieces of information fit together so well? Come up with your own combinations of mute and music, and that’s when you’ll really start to see that everything is connected and there’s nothing to worry about. Sounds crazy, but when we are connected, we’re happy because we’re laughing.

Or we’re happy because amidst frustration and unfamiliarity, we tried something different and it worked, despite not knowing everything…

The model is Aylin Firat

Sometimes your whole world can get turned upside down, and there’s all this chaos you put in front of yourself, and everything’s broken and you’re in so much pain so that’s how you start seeing yourself…



All rationale out the window, you keep coming back to this familiar pain, knowing deep down that this isn’t what you want…



You’re starting to wonder how much more you can take…



Then you get a glimpse of reality and it hurts…



A moment of clarity. But it still hurts…




IMG_6590 - Copy





I did this shoot because I wanted to show people that we’re all human, no matter where we’ve been. And for the record, neither of us were loaded. I’m a recovering addict trying to get the word out that “those people” you call “losers” and “junkies” are living with demons just like you and I. Now I sound like I’m segregating by using words like “those”, “us” and “them”. This is not my intention, but I phrased it as such so as not to lose my train of thought.

I’ll end it with this: I struggle with mental illness and it’s an every day battle. I have good days, and bad. Ups and downs. And I’m only going to grow.

Feel free to drop a comment, like, follow, share, and as always, you can ask me questions and if I know the answer, I’ll answer it. If not, I’ll do my best to find the answer.