couple with a small camera

7 Questions That Will Help You Decide Which Camera To Buy

I’m often asked for advice by people wanting to buy a new camera. I think many of them expect me to tell them to buy a Nikon, because that’s what I use. But I don’t tell them that.

First I ask a series of questions. Then help them make the choice.

If you’re looking to purchase a new camera and not sure how to make a good decision about it, check out these seven questions that can guide you though the process …

couple with a small camera

Kevin is a contributing writer for Digital Photography School website. This article is published there.


food vendor in Istanbul

How to be Better Prepared for Your Next Photo Shoot

Kevin is a contributing writer for Digital Photography School website. This article is published there.

Being well prepared for a photography project can make the biggest difference to the number of good quality images you return home with. Whether you’re interested in street, event, travel or any other genre of photography being prepared for the task is essential to your success. Here’s some solid tips to help you to be better prepared …

food vendor in Istanbul


Hmong man riding an unpowered kart

5 Key Elements that Directly Impact the Quality of Your Photography

Kevin is a contributing writer for Digital Photography School website. This article is published there.

So much is written and so many videos are made about making great photos and how you can improve your craft, but what is a good photo? What makes some pictures better than others?

I’ve written an article to take a look at five elements essential to great photos.

There’s two versions – the short and the long.

Hmong man riding an unpowered kart


How to Use a Reflector to Improve Your Natural Light Portraits

Kevin is a contributing writer for Digital Photography School website. This article is published there.

Through teaching our photography workshops here in northern Thailand I have learned there’s four mistakes people commonly make that hinder their photographic development. As you learn to avoid these four things you can advance more quickly to becoming a more creative photographer and find greater enjoyment in using your camera.

fishermen on Inle Lake, Myanmar, at sunrise


fishermen on Inle Lake, Myanmar, at sunrise

How To Avoid 4 Photography Mistakes That Will Hinder Your Development

Kevin is a contributing writer for Digital Photography School website. This article is published there.

Through teaching our photography workshops here in northern Thailand I have learned there’s four mistakes people commonly make that hinder their photographic development. As you learn to avoid these four things you can advance more quickly to becoming a more creative photographer and find greater enjoyment in using your camera.

fishermen on Inle Lake, Myanmar, at sunrise


old Karen woman smoking her pipe

Three Good Reasons To Learn More About Photography

Kevin is a contributing writer for Digital Photography School website. This article is published there.

The popularity of photography has increased dramatically in recent years, esperciallywith the inlcusion of cameras on smart phones capable of impressive results. More and more photos are being published every day on social media, blogs, websites and everywhere, so it’s much more difficult to get your photos noticed in the crowd. Taking time to learn a little more about phtoograph and how to make great pictures will help get your photos noticed.

old Karen woman smoking her pipe


7 Tips for Learning How to See What Your Camera Sees

Depth and a fresh dynamic can be easily added to your natural light portraits by using reflected light. This can sometimes occur naturally, but more often than not, it’s easier and more effective to use a fold-out reflector for this purpose as you have control over the amount of light you are reflecting.

Here are some helpful tips on using a reflector effectively …

Kevin is a contributing writer for Digital Photography School website. This article is published there.


market proter at Muang Mai Market, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Grow Your Photography Skills

Sometimes I find myself stuck in a bit of a rut, unable to flow creatively and producing images that are uninspired. I find I must challenge myself frequently to produce more imaginative images. Images that draw the viewer’s attention and hold it. Images that inspire.

Teaching our workshops here in Chiang Mai, Thailand, I return to the same locations, with the same people doing the same things. I have to push myself to come up with fresh ideas and angles and keep improving on the old ones too.

Visiting the local fresh markets so frequently on our workshops means people there have become accustomed to me taking their photos. Many of them are a lot more relaxed than they used to be so it’s easy to photograph them. But I don’t want the easy shots! I have been pushing myself to make portraits of people I might not normally photograph and even setting them in an interesting pose. This can be a lot of fun, but it can also be a real challenge as more often than not the other market vendors will be teasing my subject because I am photographing them.

A few weeks back I saw one of the porters leaning on his trolly. The guy has an interesting face and traditional tattoos on his arms and neck. I asked if I could make his portrait and he said OK, but he put his hands down by his sides. I could not see his tattoos so well and the composition was not strong. So I got him to lean on the trolly again, (just by mimicking the way he had been standing.) I made one exposure before the pressure from those around us voicing their opinions of the situation became too much and he pushed his trolly away. Our whole interaction would have lasted less than a minute. I had pre-set my exposure so knew it was good, and thankfully I got my focus correct first time. I saw him at the market last week and he gave me a big smile. I’ll have a print made of his portrait and give it to him.

market proter at Muang Mai Market, Chiang Mai, Thailand

By engaging my subjects with more intent I am pushing myself to make more interesting, slightly controlled portraits. This is just one way I am seeking to become more creative and build my portfolio stronger.

Pick one or two aspects of photography you wish to improve on and make a point of working on them whenever you pick up your camera. It might be that you’ve noticed your images are not always sharp. Next time you go to shoot some photos, don’t concentrate so much on composition, lighting, exposure etc, but mainly work on getting your images really sharp. Once you have become more consistent with your focus, move on to concentrate on another aspect of your photography you wish to improve. Or it might be that you want to improve your portrait shooting or landscapes, so focus on developing your skills in those areas. Don’t try to up skill in every aspect, but zero in on just one or two and in time you will be encouraged by the growth of your photography.

market proter at Muang Mai Market, Chiang Mai, Thailand


Experience Thailand!

Typically our workshops range from a few hours to two days, with our one day workshops being the most popular. I find we can fill people’s minds with more than enough fresh information about photography in a day, but we don’t often get to experience what they do with that information. For our first ever 5 Day ‘Experience Thailand’ Workshop we were super blessed to have three lovely ladies return to Chiang Mai to be immersed in photographing elephants, models, dancing, monks, ethnic minorities and all the while showing us how much they had progressed in their photography since participating in a few of our short workshops a year ago.

Three family members had crossed the globe (from Florida to Chiang Mai) toting a serious amount of Canon DSLR equipment. One of the first things they announced to us, after big hugs greetings, was two of them had only been shooting on Manual mode since taking part in our workshops the previous year. Yeah! More converts! Joyce, however, was still most happy shooting in Program mode as her totally focus is producing photos she can then use as a basis for creating her stunning paintings. She was so eager to get new photos to paint from she booked us for two extra days on top of the 5 day workshop (and now thinks it will take more than two years to complete all the paintings.)
http://www.joycebirkenstock.com/

Our ‘Experience Thailand’ workshop is designed to offer participants unique opportunities to photograph a lot of models. We know of no other travel photography workshops or tours which provide this in the same way. Thai people are generally comfortable being photographed, so when we have beautiful young women dressed in stunning traditional costumes with their hair and make up looking perfect, great photos are produced with ease. For some variety we had session with two models together one one with an elephant. When we asked our model if she was prepared to climb up and lie on the elephants she replied that she was scared, but that she would do it! I love that commitment!

Pansa had organized all the logistics exceptionally well and most all went to plan. We love to have a mix of control and spontaneity during our shooting sessions, as it provides for more variety, and in each session we were able to achieve this. One problem we had, which was well out of our control, was the weather. November is the start of the dry, cool season in the north of Thailand, so we thought we’d be safe. We were wrong. However, there was not much rain and it only really disrupted one of our shoots. Pansa made up for it by quickly organizing another model to attend an extra shoot which resulted in some excellent shots.

Overall with our workshops we tend to avoid very touristic events and locations. For this longer workshop we had included one or two sessions at touristic places and were encouraged by the outcome not to do this again. Dealing with large numbers of people who have no regard for when you are wanting to take a photo is tedious and the dinner and show we’d booked provided little opportunity to shoot as it was very lack luster. For future Experience Thailand Workshops we’ve done a little re-shuffling of our itinerary as we are always looking to improve our service.

Working together with these three passionate photographers was a fabulous experience for us. For them to share the excitement and creative energy with us was a real gift. To see how their skills and style is developing serves as a strong motivation to work on building up more of an online community so we can participate in encouraging everyone who takes part in our workshops beyond the time they spend with us here in Chiang Mai.

Have a look at a gallery of image from the workshop here:

Experience Thailand


Kayan girl having her makeup applied in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Meeting Malu

Malu was by her mother’s side the first time we met her. We often saw her there. Malu lives with her parents and her little sister in Baan Thong Luang in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Her older brother attends a school in Mae Hong Song, up in the north near the Myanmar border. During our first visit to this village Malu befriended us and quickly discovered that our cameras were fun.

Malu’s family are Kayan people, speaking their own language and with their own culture and tradition. They are also known as the ‘Long Neck Tribe’. Originally from Myanmar they make their home in Thailand to work and because they have access to better health care and education than they have in their ancestral village. We were recently in Myanmar and met Malu’s grandfather at their family home, but that’s a whole other story.

Malu is six years old, but she doesn’t like being six, so she tells people she’s seven. She’s a spirited, bright, intelligent little girl who loves life. Malu is everybody’s friend in the village and when she’s not close to her mum, she’s off visiting and playing with the other girls in the village. She’s learning to weave. When Malu is sitting with her loom she does not like to be interrupted, she is totally focused. I have not often met six year old children with the ability or desire to concentrate on learning, unless they had a smart phone in their hands or were sitting in front of a computer game.

We’ve enjoyed teaching Malu a little photography. Our cameras are rather too large and cumbersome for her small hands, so we started taking along a smaller camera for her to use, which she was delighted with. The first place she chose to go to photograph with this camera was to the church. Her family are Christian as are a number of other families in the village and there’s a small church at the top of the hill. We gave her instruction on how to use the camera and how to compose her pictures. It’s a wonderful experience to teach a child who loves to learn.

For a number of months we’d not been up to the village and, as we arrived one day with customers on a photo workshop, Malu’s mother greeted us with the news that Malu had been asking after us and wondering why she had not seen us for so long. We’d bought with us some snacks, readers, pens and pencils and some make-up for the kids. The girls love to do their make up, a mix of traditional and western styles.

During the next few months we had quite a number of workshops that took us to the village, so we enjoyed time teaching photography there and building our relationships with the villagers. One day as I walked up the hill towards Malu’s home, I noticed something different. Pansa was already sitting there chatting with Malu’s mother and as I go closer I saw Malu from behind. She was wearing jeans and a tee shirt and her hair was down. I’d never seen her like this before as she is always wearing her traditional Kayan clothing and has her hair up in a scarf.

Karen girl with a front tooth missing

As she turned around to greet me I saw that she no longer had the rings around her neck. Her smile was somewhat subdued, so I joked with her a little, pretending for a second or two that I did not recognise her. We chatted a little and as I squatted down next to her I asked if I could take her photo today. Normally I wouldn’t ask. She has become so accustomed to being photographed and really enjoys it, but the feeling outside their home on this morning was not normal. She nodded a yes and I shot a few frames. I was using my Nikon D800 with my 35mm f1.4 lens, so to make her portrait I was fairly close to her.

I know this girl loves to see her picture, so I flipped the camera around to show her the images on the monitor. As she looked at them I realised she had not seen herself without the neck rings on. The story was unfolding. Her father had only just taken them off half an hour earlier. A couple of weeks later our customer posted the photo she had shot at this moment on Facebook, I had not known she’d captured the moment, so it was special to see it.

As Malu viewed the photos, she reached behind her head with one hand to pull back her hair. She was showing me her neck. This was my photo.

Having some relationship with your subject affords opportunity at times that is just not possible otherwise. Malu trusts us, she likes the photos we make of her and her family. To teach how to achieve this kind of intimate photo is one of the most challenging aspects we face as we run our workshops. I find teaching composition similarly difficult as both these aspects of our craft are best expressed through your own intuition.

Sure, you can study the rules of composition and work hard to relate to your subjects as best you can, but at the right moment, when your connection with your subject has vitality and meaning, you must have an intuitive sense of how to compose the image and the decisive moment to make it. If you can connect strongly with your subjects and illustrate this in your photos, others will see that connection when they view your images and be drawn to what you have created. Connecting strongly with your subjects does not necessarily take a long time, occasionally it can happen in an instant, but I am cherishing building relationships and photographing many of the same people during our photo workshops here in Chiang Mai.

Malu’s neck rings were removed because she was going to join her brother in school … in Mae Hong Song. This is around six hours drive from her mum and dad and sister. The lack of normal, cheerful feeling that surrounds this family was becoming more evident the more the story unfolded. All the while dad is cuddling the younger daughter in the hammock and trying to comfort her has she screamed and cried. She had just fallen over and bumped her head. Malu’s mother was barely holding it together, as were Pansa and I! So we didn’t linger too long, gave them a small donation towards Malu’s education and continued on with our customer.

I’d often wondered what opportunities Malu would find in her life. There didn’t seem to be too much this little girl had before her, other than staying in the village and living a simple life. She is always hungry to learn. She is quick, witty and intelligent and I am sure she is making the most of her time in school. We are hoping to see her again when she returns to the village during school holidays and looking forward to the stories we are sure she will have to share with us.

Malu's portrait of Pansa and I