Christmas Photo Tips


Guest Post by Darren Rowse
It’s just a few days until Christmas so I thought a quick tutorial on the topic of Christmas Photography might be appropriate. Hopefully this will give you some good Christmas photo ideas.

Here are 16 Christmas Photography tips and ideas to try that come to mind for digital camera owners wanting to capture the big day:

Prepare – Making a List, checking it twice….
Making sure you’re ready to capture any planned event is part of the key to a successful shoot. Getting yourself ready but also the location of your shots is worthwhile.

  • Pack the camera – goes without saying? I forgot mine last year in the rush to get the car packed.
  • Make sure your batteries are charged and you have extras and/or the recharger packed.
  • Pack extra memory cards – have them empty and ready to fill up
  • Put someone on ‘photos’ – our family has someone on drinks, main course, dessert – why not put someone on ‘photos’ so that in the craziness of the day they don’t get forgotten.
  • Consider the light in the room that you’ll be photographing in. Is there enough light? Will you need a flash? Are the backgrounds too cluttered and distracting?

red-dog-news-darren-rowse-christmas-photo-tips-2Set up a DIY ‘Photo Booth’
While you probably can’t afford to hire a photo booth for your party you can set up a ‘portrait zone’ of your own where you’ll take photos of your guest. I did this a few years ago and set up a little place where I asked everyone who came to sit for me so that I could take a nice shot of them. I photographed everyone as they came in and then left the camera (a point and shoot) set up on a tripod and set to a short self timer time so people could photograph themselves during the rest of the party. I set it up in a well lit position with a red velvet curtain looking background with a few Christmasy decorations around the edges. I left a few Santa hats and tinsel for people to decorate themselves with. The shots were great – people went back to it throughout the party and the photos got crazier and crazier as time went on. It was the hit of the party.

Fill your Frame
One of the most common mistakes I see in Christmas photos (or any party/even photography) is that people often end up with shots of their subjects off in the distance on the other side of a room with lots of space around them. Fill your frame with your subject either by using your zoom or getting up and moving yourself closer. While this is one of the simplest tips I ever give it is one that can have the most profound impact on your shots.

Explore Your Neighborhood
If your neighborhood is anything like mine there is an almost unlimited number of photographic opportunities presenting themselves all around you. Christmas carols services, houses covered in Christmas decorations, shopping malls filled with busyness etc. Get out there with your camera and capture it. What a wonderful time of year to practice using your camera. Have fun!

For Darren’s complete 16-item list, take a cyber sleigh-ride to Digital Photography School.

Unconventional Guides offers guide to budget travel

If you have been a long-time subscriber to Red Dog News (the newsletter) you have seen a variety of offers from one of our affiliates, Unconventional Guides (UG). Recently, UG began offering a new guide: The Unconventional Guide to Luxury Travel on a Budget.

Your Life, Your Travel: Right Now

The world of travel hacking is like a game of Monopoly: destinations to be unlocked, hotels to collect, and lots of alternative currency to keep you going around the board.

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A Mission for Each of Your Social Media Channels

alyson stanfield-red-dog-newsGuest post by Alyson Stanfield on May 14, 2014
“I am setting up a social media plan, and I am a little confused about how to use external sites (like Facebook, Twitter, etc.) in addition to my blog. . . . I feel like any update that I could post on Facebook, I’d also like to post on my blog. In other words, how can I avoid duplicate content everywhere?” – Sarah

Good question for evaluating a mission for your social media strategy.

Let’s establish from the get-go that there’s nothing wrong with duplicate content. Odds are quite slim that the same people would see the same content in all places. The problem is that you will probably bore yourself by doing this. You’re using the platforms in the same way. This is more confusing for you than it is for your followers. You need a mission for each of your online channels, which is easier than it sounds.

A mission would consist of When and How you use the site, but it might also include Why you use the site and Who your audience is on that site. Here’s how this could play out.

Your Blog: Sarah told me that her blog is going to be “creative process-focused rather than formal lengthy posts. Hooray! That’s a pretty clear mission, but let’s add the When. Weekly posts? Twice weekly?

Sarah’s blog is where she will write about how, when, where, and why she makes art. It will be image-driven while providing supporting text.

Facebook: Yes, you can share your blog posts on Facebook, but I’m willing to put money down that you have more to share than blog posts. Perhaps a mission for Facebook could be: Facebook is where I share inspiration, quotes, event invitations, finished work, earlier work, and the work of other artists. My goal is to post to my Facebook page at least 5 times a week.

If you want to share the same finished piece on both your blog and Facebook, be creative. Mix up what you write about that piece in order to make it more interesting for you.

Twitter: Twitter, as you know, challenges you to be pithy in 140 characters or less. For this reason alone updates to Twitter are inherently different from those on your blog or Facebook.

I find Twitter to be the best place for promoting others. An example of a mission for Twitter: Twitter is where I announce new blog posts, share quick tips and article links, and make friends by promoting them. I try to send 4 content-driven tweets every day.

Other Social Media Platforms: Then there are Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+, and YouTube. Each one has its merits. You don’t have to be active on all of them, and you’ll save some brain cells if you are clear about how you will use your favorite sites.

Bottom line: Don’t worry about the duplicate content, especially if you challenge yourself to be creative with how you share the same item across channels.

• Alyson will begin her much anticipated Organize Your ArtBiz workshop, December 3, 2014. To find out more about this great class for artists of all mediums and genres. You can find out more, here.

Rediscover your passion for photography

A short time ago I was at a loss about which direction my personal photography would take me. I had been very busy setting up the new publication Shadow & Light Magazine: designing the magazine, setting up the site, etc. I had all but decided to put my personal photography on hold, for the time being. Then, this thing called fate stepped in and I was invited to do a gallery show in May of 2015.

Instead of trying to think of a new project to consider, I went to my archives. I stumbled upon a folder of images I had taken and accumulated over the years depicting billowing curtains. At the time I had captured them I had little idea of where I would use them. As most of you know over the years I have done many figure studies of women. One afternoon when I had a little time left at the end of the day to “play” I looked through my archives of nudes and discovered many images that would lend themselves well with the curtain images. I worked on about a dozen images and have posting posting each one (below) on my Facebook page.

Tim Anderson Photography

I was also invited to participate in the Facebook B&W Challenge. I had seen other photographers on my Facebook page submitting work for the B&W Challenge and wondered, at that time if I were to be invited, what would I share. Again, back to my archives. This time, I went to my archive of images I had captured on my travels to France. Fortunately, I had assembled a complete “Final” folder of my favorite French images into one folder. I selected about a dozen images to turn into black and white, and decided on the five I would include in the Challenge, in which during the course of five days you post a new image each day. The response has been very heart-warming for both my new projects.

Tim Anderson photography

One never knows where opportunity will rear its challenging head. All we can do at the time it does is accept the challenge and move forward instead of sticking our heads into the sand. Has your passion for photography been revitalized lately. Let me know how.

Organize your computer, organize your photography…

I really don’ t know who said that once we started working working with computers our work would be much easier. Harumph! Definitely not so! It seems as though using these “efficiency machines” does nothing else but create more work. You have to organize things before you put them in your computer (who out there does this, really?) If you are one of those… congratulations. If you are like me and probably 90% of the people who use these things, you only start to organize about two years AFTER you put stuff in your computer. If that is you, then it is time to take a day and create a worksheet to put your computer in order. Once you have a plan in place, you need to work it. It takes a great deal of intestinal fortitude to stick to the plan to organize your computer, organize your photography.

Even if it is just once a day, for an hour or so, you need to work it. The more you stick to it the more you will get done in a seemingly short amount of time. It has been said that the more you repeat an activity, the more likely you are to complete tasks. Repetition creates completion!

organize photography and computer

Here are some ideas and tips that are a clue that you need to get that organization thing going :
• Your Desktop has over 40 icons on it
• “My Documents” contains over 300 files and 60 folders, including MP3s and digital photos
• You use the Windows’ built-in search facility whenever you need to find a file
• You can’t find programs in the out-of-control list of programs in your Start Menu
• You save all your Word documents in one folder, all your spreadsheets in a second folder, etc
• Any given file that you’re looking for may be in any one of four different sets of folders

Sound familiar? If so, it is time to roll up your sleeves and grab another cuppa! Here are my top five tips for organizing:

Tip #1.  Start now, don’t put it off any longer
“This sounds complicated. I’ll do it later”. Don’t let that thought creep in, or you may as well not read the rest of this article. This is more of a “no excuses” tip than a technical idea, but like a lot of things, very little skill is needed to actually be organized and efficient. The biggest resource is time, but even that isn’t required. Instead of telling yourself “I’ll get to this later“, just quickly do it right there and then.

Tip #2. Use folders, please!
Don’t mistake this with for putting all your files in one folder… or even all your folders in one folder… or worse, the desktop. Don’t relegate all your files and folders to a Subfolder Jungle, where you will be spending a great deal of time sorting through “garbage.”. But you do need a place where you know that you can access your files and folders there. The My Documents folder is the logical and perfect place for this — but again, this isn’t a place for stuffing all your files, this is a home for your folders, which contain your files.

Tip #3. Naming files and folders, please be brief!
Another thing that is important to consider when you’re organizing your files is to be as brief as possible, but also as detailed as possible. For many cases, you might be the only one using the folders or files, but if you do decide to share something with someone, either on a personal or professional basis, you want it to be clear to them, as well as to you. You don’t want to have to think about what you were trying to describe in a folder title. Don’t name a folder “photography,” especially if you have sub-folders in that folder. Your naming convention should be clear enough as to be easily understood by others.

Tip #4. Access files and folders quickly.
Like I was mentioning previously about making sure your files aren’t hidden deep in the Subfolder Jungle, there are other things you can do to make your files easily accessible. Besides the obvious of being able to find a file quickly, it also plays a huge role in maintaining your file management status. In other words, it’s essential that you can quickly and easily save a new file to its correct spot on your computer.

Tip #5. Be consistent and efficient.
This is one of the most important things to do. Once you start the process, you must continue it diligently otherwise it’s all for nothing and you will end up with a semi-disorganized file-system. That’s not only non-productive, but it also reminds you that you never finished.

The key to this is to be prompt. The moment you need to save or create a file, you put it in the right spot and if there isn’t a spot for it yet, create one. Whether you do this in the cloud or locally, you need to remember all of the previous tips such as being brief, but detailed, refraining from making duplicates, and paying attention to folder hierarchy by organizing what makes sense, but not overdoing it by adding too many folders.

The above tips are just a simplification of the process. you can Google the topic and find much more detailed information. Please remember, however, that the most important thing is to simply start. Don’t wait until you “have more time” – you’ll never have more time. Although right now may not be the best time to do a complete overhaul of all your files, you can still start making some folders and slowly start adding your new files that you save on your computer, whether they’re from downloading or creating. Time will allow you to then expand and focus more on your other files and getting them in order.

Are you ready?



Hitting the Creative Wall

Wall graphicHave you ever experienced the phenomenon of “hitting a wall” in your creative pursuits? Did you wake up one morning and ask yourself, “What is going on?” Maybe your business started to dry up for no apparent reason. If you have had any of those experiences and been able to turn it around and create an even better business (or life!), I want to hear about your experiences. 

I want to hear:
• How did you decide the wall was basically impenetrable?
• How long did it take you to realize you could go no further in the same direction?
• What options were available to you to pursue?
• Where are you now in that process?
• What tools have you used to initiate the change of direction?

For me it took a lot introspection, reading, meditating, peer support, calculation of personal assets, and outright desire to create something better. I plan to publish a book next year detailing the stories of painters, photographers, writers, sculptors, and other creatives who have hit the creative wall and changed their lives to a more positive outcome.

Do you have a story? I want to hear it. Email me your story, here.

Bits & Pieces…

RedDogNews-AhrendWell, we got the release of our new online photography magazine, Shadow & Light, out of the way. The next release will be for the paid issues, which will be at the first of November. We will also be accepting subscriptions, at that time. You can still receive the first issue FREE by clicking on the “Home” tab where you will find complete instructions (with pictures, even!). You can also subscribe on that page for a reduced rate. (do not click on the “Subscribe” button to the right of this post)

To date we have had 1,392 views, which relate to how many times people visited the download site. There have been 347 downloads of Shadow & Light, including 37 subscriptions purchased. We have also had many positive comments about the content. Thanks to all of you who downloaded and subscribed. It is very much appreciated!

Image: Barn Owl. ©Donna Ahrend


In a very short time we will be adding a new feature to Our friends over at ThinkTank Photo have agreed to let us borrow content from their new “Ask the Pros” column.

RedDogNews-ThinkTank-Fitzmaurice“Ask the Pros” features luminaries from all fields of professional photography. They include David Burnett (named one of the “100 Most Important People in Photography”), Pulitzer-winning photojournalists Al Diaz, Deanne Fitzmaurice (pictured), and Vince Laforet, photojournalist, member of VII Photo, and a National Geographic contributor Ed Kashi, street photographer Alex Coghe, architectural and design photographers Dallas Dahms and Mike Kelley, digital innovator and eclectic shooter Falcon, photography publisher Jose Atunes, documentary and humanitarian photographers Ziv Koren, Melissa Lyttle and Ami Vitale, and commercial photographer Nathan Pask.
One of the photographers featured is Think Tank co-founder, photojournalist Deanne Fitzmaurice. In helping conceive of the column, she noted, “It’s fascinating how just one insight can emancipate a photographer. By posing the same question to these photography luminaries, who come from such different perspectives, ‘Ask the Pros’ surrounds the answer with an immense amount of knowledge learned the hard way. Our hope is that the richness and depth of their answers will accelerate your learning curve.” (from the ThinkTank intro)
This is a great group of professionals who are at the top of their game, with a few Pulitzer prize winners among them. In the future we will incorporate selected comments from this column, with a link back to ThinkTank to read the complete answers to submitted questions.

8 Fixes to Improve Website Performance

by Alyson B. Stanfield, Art Biz Coach
Your website or blog is the first impression many people will have of your photography, and you only have one chance to make a first impression. If your site has been around for a few years without major changes, it’s probably time to update it. Online design has evolved and many artist sites look dated and are under-performing as a result. Here are 8 fixes to improve website performance.

RedDogNews-Abstract-comp1. Lose the black background
• We used to think black backgrounds were cool and made the work pop. Now we know better. Black backgrounds are heavy, weigh down most artwork, and create a psychological barrier.
• More importantly, it’s nearly impossible for many people (like me) to read light text on a dark digital screen. When I see light text on a dark background, I leave.

2. Show off your work
• Your site is worthless if it doesn’t show your art in its best light. If your site is over-designed or too colorful, your work will suffer.
• Add your images to every page of your website. Use this free virtual real estate to display your photos at every opportunity.

3. Increase the size of your images and fonts
• The Web has become so much more visual, thanks to Pinterest, Tumblr, and Instagram. Lucky you! You have a visual product. It would be a shame for you not to take advantage of this trend.
• No more postage-stamp-sized images. Small type size is out, too. Go big or go home.
• Remember, though, that your images must load quickly because so many of your visitors will be viewing your site on mobile devices.

4. Add a credit line with each artwork
• If you want other people to give you credit for your images, you first have to give yourself credit. This means a complete credit line with every piece you have on your site. It should look something like this:
©2010 Alyson B. Stanfield, On a Windy Day. Photograph.
• Avoid using “quotation marks” for your titles. They are visually distracting.

5. Streamline your menu into 5 or 6 major links only
• If you have too many choices, you’ll confuse people. And confused people don’t stick around or buy from you.

6. Disclose where you are hiding the photographs
 Sometimes when I go to a photographer’s site I don’t see any images and it’s not evident where the portfolio is. I shouldn’t have to guess. I’m confused, and so I leave.
• The link to your artwork should be clearly defined with any one of these labels: Art, Portfolio, or Photography. Don’t use the word “Gallery” to describe your artwork pages. Save that word for the galleries representing you.

7. Show your face on your About page
• We like to see the artist. It’s easier to relate to a photo of a person than to a bunch of words touting your accomplishments.
• Seeing your picture tells people that the work on your site has a real person behind it. It could be a headshot or one of you with your camera. Heck, do both! The more images, the better.

8. Place your social media info in conspicuous places
• On a WordPress site, your social media info should be in every sidebar. It should also be on your Contact page.
• People will search for these additional ways to follow you.

A website is a commitment. You can’t create it and forget it or your work will look dated when you want to appear relevant and vibrant. You must keep improving your site as new trends come along and as your work evolves.

Alyson B. Stanfield is an art business coach and the author of I’d Rather Be in the Studio: The Artist’s Guide to Self-Promotion. She is hosting Art Biz Makeover, a 2.5-day live event in Colorado November 5-7, where you can network and pick up other tips for expanding your photography business. See for details.

You can’t beat family and friends…


Last week I went up to the Seattle area to visit my sons and their families. I had an absolutely wonderful time. The weather cooperated (85+ degrees) splendidly. We went to a lake, went to the ocean (sunset picture, above), went to a couple festivals and markets, and even played a couple rounds of tournament badminton with my grandkids, eight and five. Guess who won. I couldn’t have planned it any better.

The sunset picture was an interesting “find.” My oldest son and his wife and I were coming back from spending some time at the Ballard looks when we looked to the left and saw and incredibly pink sky. My son wove his way through the streets until we arrived near a beach that was packed with people. We were able to park right up front, and as my son and his wife were enjoying the sunset I took this picture. It is untouched by Photoshop or anything else. Sometimes nature needs no assistance from us mere amateurs.

To the left of this image, not in the picture, there was intermittent lightning. I only had my telephoto lenses with me… not my 24mm wide so I was unable to capture the complete beauty of that image. I do have to tell you, however, that it was one of the best sunsets I have ever seen!

By the way, It’s a VERY Happy Anniversary to my youngest son and his absolutely wonderful wife who have been married 18-years. Way to go!


Conquering Newsletter Anxiety

a guest post from Alyson Stanfield/

RedDogNews-Stanfield-NewslettersMost artists start an e-newsletter with good intentions of staying in touch with their list. They imagine a monthly newsletter with regular columns, special features, and a calendar of upcoming events. It starts out good enough, but then something goes wrong for some artists.

It goes a little like this . . .

One newsletter goes out and contains every possible bit of information the artist can come up with. When it’s time for the next issue, the artist has nothing new to share. She gave all she had in the last issue.

She decides: It’s cool to skip an issue or two. So she waits for something to happen.

Finally! She has news! She starts piecing together a fresh issue. Then she realizes all of the other things that have been going on, which she previously thought were unworthy of the newsletter. Now she wants to cram them all (again) into a single edition.

It’s a vicious cycle of lack and plenty. If you’re affected by this, there might be a way out.

Stop Calling It a Newsletter

I have begun to recommend to many artists that they stop thinking about their emails as newsletters.

Just the word “newsletter” brings up all kinds of anxieties, including the demands of a deadline and actually having news – something to say. Never mind the pressure of competing with everything else in recipients’ inboxes.

Once you say, “I’m going to send a newsletter,” the burden begins because language matters. Once you name something, your mind fixates on what you believe that thing to be.


Alyson Stanfield is an artist advocate and business mentor this article was originally published in her Art Biz Insider, which is sent weekly to thousands of artists who are elevating their businesses. You can find much more business information by clicking on the link, above.