Being a Good Photographer.  It’s All About YOU!”

Gloria Occhipinti

Our March 2015 meeting was called to order by our Vice President, Brenda Schillaci.

Club Business:

There are several good photo opportunities coming up over the next few months.

On Saturday, April 11th there will be another Artist Access Day at Flag Ponds Nature Park.  This is an excellent opportunity for artists and photographers to access to the county parks before and after regular park hours.  It is free but you do have to register -

Also on April 11th is the 7th annual Mid-Atlantic Fireworks Festival which takes place at Allens Fresh in Charles County.  Details are available at:

On Sunday, April 12th the Prince Frederick Library is sponsoring a Cherry Blossom Festival bus trip to Washington D.C.  This is a good opportunity for those who prefer not to drive into D.C. themselves.  You must register by April 3rd.  Contact the Prince Frederick Library to sign up at 410-257-2411.

On Friday, May 8th, one of the most diverse arrays of World War II aircraft ever assembled will fly above the skies of Washington,  for the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day, as part of the Arsenal of Democracy World War II Victory Capitol Flyover. The flyover will include dozens of World War II aircraft flying in 15 historically sequenced warbird formations overhead.  For detailed information, go to .

Guest Speaker:

Photo by David BlecmanOur guest speaker today was David Blecman.  David is an internationally recognized photographer and instructor who started his photographic career right out of high school in 1978.  He is basically self-taught, learning his craft largely from books and other reading sources, as well as trial and error.  In 1997 he started the Annapolis based company, Positive Negatives, which specializes in professional photography for everything from commercial accounts to private individuals, and also mentors and trains aspiring photographers, models, and makeup artists. 
Today’s topic was “Being a Good Photographer.  It’s All About YOU!”  This was originally a 6 hour training course that David kindly condensed for us to approximately an hour and a half and consisted of things that he has learned in his 38 years of photography.  David says, “There are a lot of things missing that hold people back from being good photographers”.  He breaks it down into 3 sections:  before, during, and after.


1. What are you passionate about?  You won’t become good at anything unless you are passionate about it.
2. Cameras don’t suck; people do!  It is not the camera, but your lack of understanding your camera’s features and what you actually need from it.  Do you need pictures to post on Facebook?  Or do you need high resolution images for printing?  If you want to upgrade your camera equipment, know what to buy and why you want it.  What do you need the camera to do?  Read reviews and books, and watch YouTube videos. Before you decide to upgrade, maximize your effort with the camera you already have - “If you have a camera and don’t know all about it, why not?”  Education is very important, so know where to go to get the information you need.
3. Know the importance of gray.  Gray is the middle tone of life!  This is what your camera is trying to give you in anything but manual mode.  Have a gray target with you at all times.
4. Calibrate your computer monitor.  If you don’t have a calibrated monitor you don’t know what you are getting.  Compare your camera’s LCD screen to your calibrated monitor and see if your camera’s LCD screen brightness needs to be adjusted.
5. Understand the difference between file formats – JPG, RAW, PNG, TIF, BMP.  A RAW file takes up a lot more space on your computer and on your card, but it also gives you a lot more information to work with.
6. Know every menu item and every button on your camera. All of them are there for a reason; learn what they mean (even though you may not use them all.) 
7. Know how to change settings (how to navigate your camera.)  You will miss opportunities if you can’t change settings quickly.
8. Understand custom white balance.
9. Customize your camera.  On most cameras, you can change what the different buttons do to suit you.
10. “Love your equipment like it’s a baby!”  Take care of it and protect it from the elements.
11. Learn different shooting techniques BEFORE you go out in the field. 
12. Learn what HDR is – it is not about bracketing.  It is about getting an exposure for the darkest, the brightest, and the medium areas of the scene.  It does not have to look like a cartoon.  It is about capturing all areas of the light in an image.
13. Understand depth of field.  Why are some areas of the image in focus and some not in focus?  It changes with every F-stop change, every focal length change, and every change in distance from the subject.
14. Understand noise – why it occurs and how to eliminate it.
15. Understand ISO and how changing it affects your image.
16. Understand fast and slow lenses.
You have a responsibility to know your camera and how to use it before you go out the door!


1. Know where you are going and get there early!  Give yourself time to account for unexpected delays and to scope out the area before you need to begin shooting.
2. Know what to bring.  Make a list of what you will need and take inventory so you are sure to have the right equipment with you.
3. Make sure your batteries are charged and have several with you.
4. Think about your attire and your footwear.  Dress appropriately for the weather conditions.
5. Dress in black, gray, or another dark color.  When shooting close-ups, your clothing can reflect onto your subject.
6. Have the appropriate camera strap, slings, harnesses, etc. for comfort.
7. Be prepared for the elements and have whatever is necessary to protect your camera equipment.
8. Know as much about your location and subject as you can.
9. Get the necessary permission if going onto private property.  Offer them something for the use of their location (such as a free image.)
10. You are NOT coming back another day!  So stop, turn around, and get that shot you see NOW. 
11. Get your camera set and ready before you start walking toward a subject that may move.  Anticipate what is going on; shoot with two eyes open!
12. Understand the dynamic range of the scene.  Determine what is important to you in the scene, especially if you only have one shot.  Do you need to bracket at all?  Expose for what is most important.)
13. Understand what a histogram can tell you, but also understand its limitations.  (For example, when shooting a snow scene it is normal to see some blown-out highlights.)  Highlight details can generally be recovered easier than dark details.
14. Make sure your images are sharp.  You cannot rely on auto focus for everything.  Calibrate your camera to your lenses.  Learn when manual focus is better than auto focus.  You a tripod when you need one.
15. Understand good composition.
16. Have a good tripod with a head that is easy to adjust.  Have a bubble level for making sure the camera is level.
17. Keep model releases with you.


1. When you use someone’s property, leave it as you found it.  Put back anything that you moved.
2. Don’t leave anything behind.  Pack up your own stuff so that you know you have everything you came with.
3. Realize that not every shot will be good, but be happy about the great shots that you did get.  And be happy with the experience itself!
4. Have an immediate offsite back up plan.  If something catastrophic happens you can lose everything!
5. Have a workflow.  Know where your images are on your computer.
6. Know your post-processing program.  Post processing is 50% of the image you end up with.  This is how you maximize your image.  There are videos on how to do anything on the Internet as well as books available on every subject.  So learn at least one or two good post processing programs well!

David says, “The great thing about photography is that you never stop learning.”  You can check out David’s website at:

Snow and Ice in Chesapeake Beach

Brenda Schillaci

The March photo trip was intended to be to the Patuxent Wildlife Refuge.  The weather interfered with those plans, but we did manage an impromptu Plan B, thanks to Nick’s suggestion to meet up at the hike and bike trail behind the water park in Chesapeake Beach.  There were about 13 of us, including two children, who met up to slog through the 5 or 6 inches of snow covering the boardwalk.  As far as I heard or saw, no one fell on the slippery ice hiding under some portions of the snow.

It was a bright, sunny day that turned surprisingly warm after we’d hiked 2 miles of boardwalk, despite the chill when we first met up.  At the beginning of the hike we had plenty of boats frozen in the ice – and a couple under the ice – to photograph.  Then the occupied areas thinned out to water, grasses and trees.  We didn’t have much success with wildlife on today’s trip, except for one crane that flew off before we had barely noticed it, and the occasional vulture flying overhead.  photo by Brenda Schillaci

After finishing up at the boardwalk, some of the group moved on to Bayfront Beach, a.k.a. Brownie Beach.  It was my first time being on the beach while it was covered in snow and ice, and I loved seeing it looking so different.  White instead of brown on the beach, frozen water and icicles on washed up tree trunks, and seagulls perched on slabs of ice instead of floating on the water were certainly a treat to see and by Brenda Schillaci

The last five hearty members of the group went off to grab lunch and then head to Jug Bay’s Lothian side, but, by then, I was ready to call it a day and headed home.  Once again, it was a great group hanging out and enjoying a day of photography.  Be sure to join us for the next trip!