NEW COURSE: MATT K’s Guide to Bird Photography… Now On Sale

Hey everyone. I know everyone likes to take some time off during the holidays. If you’re one of them, then here’s a few ideas for some landscape/outdoor photo-related projects (well, they could work for almost all types of photography) to try to get done.

1. Your 14 Best of 2014
Why not try getting together your best 14 photos of 2014. Or maybe it’s 12 (one per month). It doesn’t really matter, but either way this is a great time to look back on the year and gather your favorite photos. Do a blog post and share it with your friends on your social pages, or your family. Make a calendar or a photo book in Lightroom. But I think it’s important to look back and do something with your favorite photos of the year. They may not be all portfolio worthy (I know mine aren’t from this year), but it’s a great exercise – And if you’re like me, you sometimes go back to photos that you thought were nothing, and end up liking them more than you did on your first pass thru.

2. Hang Some Picture Frames
Why not grab some picture frames and hang ’em around the house. It may be a little late to get them up for Christmas, but definitely in time for New Years. That way, when all of your friends are partaking in the spirits on New Years Eve, you can tell all kinds of crazy stories about how you captured them 😉

I love the frames at IKEA by the way. I buy the frames, and make a Photoshop template that fits them. Then, every 6 months or so, I place an MPIX order to replace the photos. In fact, I just did it the other day so I’ll have some new ones for family that comes over this year (they should be here today). That way, you don’t have to go through the expense of buying a brand new frame every time, but just swapping out the prints inside of them.

3. Test Your Lenses and Apertures for Focusing
Okay, this one is a little geeky. Wait… it’s a lot geeky. But I’m telling’ ya – the most asked question I get about landscape photography is about what aperture to shoot with and where to focus. Now, I have some guidelines that I give in my classes (my Tack Sharp class is a great example), but this one is best learned from doing and seeing the results. And you don’t want to get out there and experiment when you’re in front of a gorgeous landscape, and watching the great light pass you by.

So go outside and practice some shooting setups. Put a bike in the foreground and shoot with a wide lens. Focus on the foreground. Then focus on the background. Try different apertures and see what’s in focus and what’s out of focus. Focus in different places in the frame and see where the sharpest parts are. Try shooting at the dreaded, and all too criticized, f/22 and see if you can find anything wrong with the photo (that is before zooming in to 1000% and being a pixel peeper).

I don’t use it, but if you’re the really geeky type then try learning more about hyper focal distance. Whatever you do though, as a landscape/outdoor photographer, you’ve got to practice this. They more you feel comfortable with knowing that you’re going to get what you need in focus in the photo, the more enjoyable and better results you’ll get when you finally do get yourself in front of a beautiful place.

4. Photograph Your Christmas Tree and HDR the Hell Out of It
On Christmas morning (or the Christmas Eve), try photographing your tree when all the gifts are under it. Shoot a 3 bracket series and then bring it in to Photoshop (and maybe even onOne’s Perfect Effects) and HDR the living daylights out of it. Or try going to a Christmas tree outdoors that may be up in your town and shoot it at night. Then… you guessed it. HDR the living hell out of it.

Why? Because people like it. All the lights and details look really cool on Christmas trees. You may feel slightly dirty inside knowing that you’re abusing HDR in ways it should never have been used, but people still love it 😉

5. Go Through and Organize Your Photos
While I try to stay organized during the year, I can’t lie and say I don’t have photos that are on drives that I’m not even really sure where they are. Well, I kinda know where they are, but you get the point. So sit down, and go through them and get them backed up and organized again.

In fact, I’ve got a brand new video coming out on getting organized with Lightroom. It’s the same organization system I’ve been teaching to all of my live classes and I’m finally putting it in to a video. Check back and I’ll make sure to update you when it goes live.

So there ya’ go. A few projects to keep you buys over the holidays. I’m signing off for the rest of the Christmas week, so here’s to wishing you and your families an incredibly happy, safe, fun, and festive holiday week. Have a good one!

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