Portfolio Reviews

By Esther Shavon Thomas

On the fence about having your first portfolio review?  Here are a few Simple Tips to a Successful and Enjoyable Review!

Ever thought about having a portfolio review but schied away because you were scared? Didn’t think you had enough work? Or didn’t feel your work was quite ready yet?

Well, never fear, you are not alone! I remember my first portfolio review at a photo conference and I shared those similar sentiments. However, once I had finished my session, I was pleasantly surprised at the entire experience.

After my session was completed I chatted with several others who had their portfolio reviewed for the first time and heard similar echoes of positive experiences. One of the biggest comments stated repeatedly was how surprised many people were that the session was not stressful but actually enjoyable!

 3 Quick Tips for a Successful and Enjoyable Review!

RELAX – There is nothing to fear and tons to gain!  – Remember, it’s a relaxing atmosphere so prepare then relax and enjoy the experience! It’s a great opportunity to get one on advice from experts in the field.

PREPARATION – Think about what you want to get out of the review. – Would you like more information or tips on composition, technique, style, or equipment options? Being clearer on your goals and what you want to achieve from the review will help guide your session and keep you on track with getting the most out of your time. Also, it never hurts to write down specific questions you have so you don’t forget them!

PRESENTATION SET UP – Check your presentation set up. The style you present is up to you. You can either present a theme collection or an overall combination of prints.  You can show your work either digitally or through a print portfolio.  The most important thing about your presentation is that it’s organized and easily accessible.  

                                             Digital Considerations:

A) Use a file name and saved location that you can easily remember and find

B) Collect your digital prints into one file and save into a PDF. There are         several ways to do this, but if you are in Lightroom you can use the Book tab and place the images in the order of your choosing. Then on the bottom right side click the “Export Book to PDF.”






C) Open your file a few minutes prior to your scheduled time to make sure everything is working properly and that you are set and ready to go.

If you have never attended a portfolio review before and are considering it, I encourage you to give it a try. It’s a great opportunity to get personal one on one advice from experts in the field.

Check out our amazing professional photographers available for portfolio reviews at out upcoming symposium. www.ahpw.org  Grab your spot while they are still available!

Happy Shooting!

Esther Shavon Thomas is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops

Shooting with a 100-400mm

Author: Vicki Uthe

I picked up a Canon 100-400mm 4.5/5.6 lens this past year and have had a lot of fun using it.  I mostly picked it up to shoot sports, which I have done, but have found that I use it a lot more for other things than I ever thought I would.


I tend to be a minimalist so when I go out shooting I grab a camera body, one lens and go.  This way I don’t spend a lot of time switching lenses and instead make the one I have work, which forces me to learn its limitless possibilities.  The following images were shot using this lens.Kino_Bay_Dec_2015-9222

This is a heavy lens.  Some of the images were shot handheld and some on a monopod.   If you are in one spot shooting one subject a monopod REALLY helps. For example shooting sports, the lens is always at eye level, ready to capture the action and your arms are saved.  Also, monopods are lightweight so if you have to suddenly pick up the lens and turn it toward the sky to capture a passing Osprey you can do it.


The trick to getting sharp images with a long lens is shutter speed.  As a rule of thumb, your shutter speed needs to be set to the focal length of your lens to prevent camera shake. For example, if you are shooting a 400mm, set the shutter speed to 400.  If the f/stop won’t let you do this because you want IT in the middle range (f/8-f/11) to increase your depth of field, then bump up the ISO.  You may have to go as high as 1600Kino_Bay_Dec_2015-8670 depending on lighting.  This is definitely not a low light lens but even in full sun these numbers have to be pretty high.

My three favorite things to shoot with this lens: people, wildlife and sports.  All of them are great because you can keep your distance, be an observer and get great candid shots.  Enjoy!

Vicki Uthe is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Breaking the Ice-Shooting portraits in foreign lands

By Amy Novotny

During a recent photography tour in Mongolia, I was exposed to a wide variety of photographic opportunities–landscapes, wildlife, night, street, event, and portrait.  The first three types of photography were easier to accomplish since we did not have to ask permission or be as concerned with privacy issues.  With street photography, this could be minimized by not focusing on a specific person or groups of persons, as shown below.

Image: Kazak women walk down the street market before it opens in Bayan-Olgii, Mongolia.

When taking photos of events or festivals, part of the price of admissions was a photography permit, so I was assured that I would not offend anyone while firing the shutter.  In these situations, I often nodded my head and held up the camera a little to get approval, as I did in the photos below.

Image: Aisholpan sits on her horse with her golden eagle at the Golden Eagle Festival in Bayan-Olgii, Mongolia.

Image: Kazak woman sits with her grandchildren watching the festivities at the Golden Eagle Festival in Bayan-Olgii, Mongolia.

The difficult and often most meaningful shots came when I wanted to capture a portrait of a random person or family to show part of the culture.  As we found out, Mongolians are a peaceful people with a nomadic lifestyle in the countryside.  The country comprises of approximately 3 million people, of which almost 1 million live in the capital city, Ulaanbaatar, and the rest in the countryside or small towns.  They have a quiet demeanor but a calm curiosity.  I wanted to demonstrate this in a photograph but at the same time, respect their culture and way of life.

Image: Mongolian Kazak man enjoys traditional Mongolian tea in a ger in Sagsai, Mongolia

Image: Mongolian man was curious about the camera in Tsengel, Mongolia

A couple strategies worked in my favor and I was able to capture the beauty of these people and their emotions.  Since we had an interpreter with our group, I asked him how to say “Hello,” “My name is…,” and “What is your name?” in Mongolian and Kazak.  Those three simple phrases opened the world to me when the interpreter was not present.  I became a person with a sense of realness instead of just a camera.  I could get closer to the person or even photograph families.

Image: Mongolian Kazak women sits in her ger with her son in Sagsai, Mongolia.

Image: Mongolian girl cares for her younger brother in Tsengel, Mongolia.

I also learned to show the person the image I took of him or her to gain his or her interest.  This sometimes backfired on me if I was trying to capture a serious pose, but I didn’t mind seeing the spark of a smile. Most times, the person wanted more images taken.  Families also gathered around me to see the images of their loved ones.

Image: Mongolian family gathers around me, curious about the camera in Tsengel, Mongolia. Image by Rick Jacobi.

This strategy helped with shy children as well as they realized what a camera could do.  The connection made during these moments made the images even more meaningful.

Image: Mongolian toddler was curious about the camera as his mother washes dishes in Bayan-Olgii, Mongolia.

Although these strategies — a head nod, learning a some foreign phrases, and showing what a camera can capture–were performed in a land where I did not speak the native language, I imagine they would work in our country as well.   Connections are priceless.

Amy Novotny is a Volunteer Trip Leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Twitter: @amynovotnyaz

Instagram: @anovotn


Summer’s Little Secret

By Amy Novotny

Arizona’s late summer months are often known for their hot humid weather and monsoon storms, but they also represent the season of hummingbird migration to the high country. Areas including Sedona, Madera Canyon in the south, and the White Mountains out east become popular corridors for these little birds migrating south for the winter, much to the delight of both photographers and the general viewing public. Both Madera Canyon and the White Mountains have visitor centers–Friends of Madera Canyon Visitor Information Center and Sipe White Mountain Wildlife Area–set up with hummingbird feeders to encourage flocks of these little birds to visit and feed. This also allows the birds to become used to human observers.

Image: Sipe White Mountain Wildlife Area Visitor Center.

For photographers, these are great locations for hummingbird photography, as chances of catching a bird in flight increases significantly. Each region caters to slightly different populations of hummers. During this season, 6-7 species can be spotted in Sedona.  The White Mountains are known for rufous, black-chinned, broad-bill and calliope while Madera Canyon hosts up to 15 different species including those found at Sipe White Mountain Wildlife Area.  For catching the hummers with the blur in the wings to portray the speed of their wings, a handheld camera setup can work in good light.

Image: Sipe White Mountain Wildlife Area Visitor Center hummingbird feeder

However, to stop the action and freeze the wings in mid flight, such as the image below, a more elaborate setup is needed with flash units at various angles to provide enough light to allow for a correct exposure at a high shutter speed.

Image: Rufous hummingbird at Sipe White Mountain Wildlife Area

Multiple flashes are also important for minimizing shadows that appear with a one-directional light source. Additional props used to capture aesthetically-pleasing images include native local flowers such as thistle or salvia and a soothing background. The background can be a blown-up image of a flower, the sky, greenery or even a poster board spray-painted with colors found in nature. This type of background keeps the focus on the bird by minimizing background details or distracting branches. It also helps to keep the light even across the image.

Image: Hummingbird photography set up at Sipe White Mountain Wildlife Area

After setting up the props and a flower with some dribbles of sugar water, photographers can focus on the flower and then sit back and watch the show before them. Soon observers will learn to recognize the behaviors of the hummers as they defend, attack other hummers and feed off the flowers blooming in these regions.

Image: Rufous hummingbirds feeding and demonstrating defensive behaviors at a thistle flower at Sipe White Mountain Wildlife Area

Image: Rufous hummingbird attacking another hummer feeding at a thistle flower at Sipe White Mountain Wildlife Area

The next several weeks are a great time to visit these little creatures while enjoying cooler weather.

Amy Novotny is a Volunteer with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops

Twitter: @amynovotnyaz

Instagram: @anovotn


Images taken while assisting as a Volunteer Trip Leader for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops’ High-Country Hummingbirds workshop taught by instructor photographer Bruce Taubert in August 2016.  Although the workshop is not being held this year, the opportunity to photograph these little birds still exists.


Sedona: http://www.hummingbirdsociety.org/hummingbird-festival

White Mountains: https://www.azgfd.com/wildlife/viewing/wheretogo/sipe/

Madera Canyon: http://www.friendsofmaderacanyon.org/birding.html

Super Moon and a Streaking Airplane

Author: Jeff Insel

I’ve had several people inquire as to the settings and lens I used for my “Moon Shot”, so I thought I’d try answering in blog form.  I had planned to photograph this event for a while, as many others.  I know from previous experience that a long lens is very handy, and I happen to have a Sigma 50-500mm that does a good job, mated with my Sony A65 – giving me a total of 750mm available.  Next, I made sure to bring my tripod and camp chair, plenty of water and snacks, and made sure my batteries were charged up.

Once on site, I set up my chair, tripod, remote shutter release and camera.  I also set my camera for manual focus and in aperture priority.  At this point I also plugged in my earphones for my iPhone and set my music to shuffle, I was all set and waiting for the event to start – about 40 minutes away.  I had decided to set up at the Fountain Park in Fountain Hills and there were a lot of folks walking their dogs and enjoying the quiet evening; a few photographers were also set up scattered all along the walkway around the lake. We also enjoyed the fountain going off on the hour for it’s 15 minutes of duration.

When the moon began to make its presence known (it was already in its early eclipse mode) I began to test out different exposures and focus points. The Moon was still fairly bright though. Once the eclipse got to about a third of the way through we began to see the “blood” color effect. Of course the Moon is moving, so every couple of minutes I had to adjust the focus point and angle of the lens. I varied from about 300mm to 500mm and tried ISO’s from 100 – 1600.  I settled on an ISO 0f 800 and f6.3 for most of my shots. This resulted in a shutter speed of about 3.2 sec. once the Moon was in full eclipse. While making another angle and focus point adjustment I noticed the lights of an airplane that looked like it might transit in front of the Moon so I moved quickly with my adjustments and clicked my remote shutter when the plane appeared (by my eye) about 6” away from the Moon.  The result is the photo above, and I consider it my most unique and best Blood Moon photo.

Jeff Insel is a trip leader for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.