Shutterbug Life podcast

Shutterbug Life is a weekly podcast that celebrates the creative photographer's lifestyle. Through a series of discussions, expert interviews, and photo challenges, the podcast examines everything you need to be, do, or have to reach your full photographic potential. Episodes are designed to be helpful no matter where you are on your learning path. Shutterbug Life podcast is hosted by Lynford Morton, a second-generation photographer who build one of Washington, DC’s fastest growing photography Meetup communities, Shutterbug Excursions. He has also trained thousands of photographers to take great pictures in Washington, DC and New Orleans from the business he founded, PhotoTour Excursions. Now he recreates the community of enthusiast photographers with Shutterbug Life.
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Now displaying: 2015
Dec 9, 2015

I knew something was wrong with the deal, but I wasn't quite sure what. And to be honest, part of me didn't really want to know. I just wanted the sale to work — and quickly.

A while back, I was shopping for a video camera for my office. Strapped with a $2,500 budget, I searched for creative ways to get the $3,000 model I really wanted. Just as I was about to give up, I found a website that promised the same exact model for $2,499. Could it really be true? What's wrong with it?

I decided it was worth the risk and plunked down the credit card, feeling smug about my savings. Three weeks later when the camera hadn't arrived, guess who was in a mild panic. Did I really lose $2,500 trying to save $500?

That's the seduction of gray market cameras. The deals promise brand new cameras at hundreds of dollars less than you know they should cost.

Are gray market cameras too good to be true? What's really wrong with them?

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Dec 4, 2015

When should you use Auto ISO?

When Darren asked me this question on our last photo tour, the answer I gave was very different than my standard answer when I started leading photo tours in 2009 - 2010.

It's not so much that times have changed but that technology has evolved significantly.

Just five or six years ago, most digital cameras topped out at ISO 1600 - ISO 3200. With that narrow range, noise started to be visible at as low as ISO 800 in many cameras. It was downright distracting by ISO 1600.

When your camera can't be trusted to create clean images north of ISO 1600, you shouldn't leave the ISO decision to chance.

Back then, I counseled that you should change your ISO deliberately, so you can ensure you are always getting the sharpest image possible.

ISO performance in 2015 is incredibly better. It is not uncommon for entry level DSLRs to top out at ISO 128,000. With such a wide range, a DSLR can create noise-free images at much higher DSLR levels. With that increased performance, Auto ISO is not as risky.

Here are a few scenarios when Auto ISO might be helpful. 

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Nov 30, 2015

As I scrolled through the day's photographs, I knew that something was missing. 

I had just returned from a Meetup where I had a great time photographing Annapolis Harbor. We went there frequently because I really enjoyed shooting the quaint town.

But this time was different. I was underwhelmed with what I photographed that day. The pictures were okay, but I wasn't excited. I had been in a creative rut for a very long time. 

As I would learn a couple years later, it was because I was making one big mistake. Once I found that mistake and corrected it, my energy levels and creativity increased dramatically.

What is it?

Nov 21, 2015

Scott Kelby shared a rare moment of honesty you don’t normally hear from professional photographers. 

“Do you know how you can take better pictures? Go somewhere interesting!” he joked during a presentation at PhotoPlus Expo. “Do you see this photo?” he said of a spectacular sunset image. “I just showed up and pressed the button.”

Of course Scott is simplifying his role quite a bit. He’s right that travel photography is a great way to create photographs, but it requires more than showing up and pushing a button. Follow these 5 Ps for great travel photographs and travel photography experiences.

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Nov 10, 2015

If you are looking for a bit of overwhelm, try picking a Mirrorless camera from the booths at PhotoPlus Expo. Wander up to any camera manufacturer booth, and you are sure to see a long line of camera bodies and lenses in their Mirrorless options.

Many photographers are still trying to decide if you need a Mirrorless camera, and if so, which one is right for you.

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Oct 29, 2015

Last week, I was one of more than 21,000 professional photographers, photography enthusiasts, filmmakers, students and educators from around the world who attended PhotoPlus Expo in New York City. 

PhotoPlus features over 100 educational seminars, Photo Walks and Master Classes, and over 225 exhibitors displaying thousands of the latest products and services to touch, try and compare.

I use the trip as my opportunity to get caught up on the trends in the photography industry and speak directly to the manufacturers about their products and plans.

This year, I found five areas that are noteworthy for us.

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Oct 21, 2015

In Ms. Van Horn's kindergarten class, we were all creative.

I was part of a circle of 4 and 5 year olds who differed in many ways — not all of us could read or identify colors or numbers. But when it was time to color, draw or build something cool, we all rushed to the play area at full speed. We were all creative. 

These days, I'm sure if I could arrange a reunion of my kindergarten classmates, we might all feel differently about our natural creativity. I know because I hear the same uncertainty when I talk with any group of photographers, who I'm sure were all once kindergartners. 

My standard question, "what are you struggling with these days?" generates a lot of "I'm just not that creative" responses.

Tom Kelley says that's just not true. Tom is an innovation consultant and author of the book, Creative Confidence, and I have fallen for his thesis.

We are long past kindergarten, but if we buy in to the premise that anyone can be creative, and I do, how do we go about relearning the steps? 

I have six strategies that anyone can use to learn creativity.

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Oct 16, 2015

If you have listened to any of my podcast episodes, I'd love to hear from you. Please take my 2015 Shutterbug Life listener/reader survey.

I know everyone is crazy busy these days, but if you listen to the podcast or follow the blog, completing the survey will benefit you in two ways.

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Oct 7, 2015

When we begin contemplating adding to our arsenal of camera gear, one of the of the trickier areas to navigate are lenses. You have to understand elements and groups; lens mounts and formats; new vs. used and so much more.

Let's talk about all the decision points in buying a lens and break them up into the seven questions I'm asked most often.

  1. Should I invest more in the lens or camera?
  2. Which lens should I buy next?
  3. What are the key features you should look for when evaluating a lens?
  4. Should I only buy lenses from the same manufacturer as my camera?
  5. Should I buy a used lens?
  6. What should I look for when I am buying a used lens?
  7. Why are lenses so flipping expensive?!

Somewhere in this list, I hope I have the questions and answers that you might have about lenses.

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Oct 2, 2015

Whether you are attending a World Wide Photo Walk, a photography Meetup or some other gathering for photographers, the last thing you want to do is show up unprepared.

I often get questions from potential attendees.

"What lens should I bring?"
"What camera should I bring?"
"What should I expect?

In this episode, I answer everything from the legal to the logistics.

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Sep 22, 2015

10 years ago, Adam Levner was alarmed when he saw the difference between the education that wealthy students and those from low-income schools received. As a former 5th-grade teacher turned community organizer, he often struggled trying to convey the magnitude of the problems he witnessed.

Then he realized his camera was the tool he needed to make a difference. Even better, empowering the students to tell their own stories through pictures could be even more effective.

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Sep 15, 2015

You gotta love the Allen Iverson rant. The former NBA all star was so incensed that a reporter asked him to describe his practice habits, he went on a five-minute rant. What was most memorable was Iverson repeating the word almost 24 times — "practice?!"

"We're talking about practice?!"

Now while we might all chuckle at Allen's indignation, are our attitudes as photographers any better about practice? Let's say that we agree practice is important, how should we practice?

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Sep 8, 2015

I had a lens once that just wouldn't take sharp photos. In photos, my subject always looked a little soft, especially around the eyes.

I was so frustrated, I bought a new lens -- and the new one had the same problem.

This was weird because online everyone was saying that this was such a sharp lens.

I made some adjustments to the way I was shooting and was astounded to see how much the lens improved. Who knew?

These days I regularly hear some version of the question "Why aren't my photos tack sharp?"

In this episode, I break down all the reasons you might not be getting the tack sharp images you want.

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Sep 1, 2015

How do you create the perfect photograph? The question recently came up during a discussion with a client about his camera club and their photo contests.

"What kinds of subjects do you all shoot," I asked?

"Mostly landscapes," he replied. "but the members are obsessed with being perfect." 

Inside I scoffed. What is a perfect photo? I've seen too many so-called perfect photos that bored me. They were technically perfect but had no life.

For me the perfect image is about more than just pixels.

I have expanded the perfect paradigm to mean the balance of three ideals. I call it the perfection triangle.

Listen to the podcast and view the show notes at

Aug 24, 2015

I felt the way you do when you walk into a pop quiz at school and haven't studied — unprepared. I should have known better.
On a day trip to Niagara Falls this summer, I was looking forward to checking another iconic location off my bucket list. I was so excited in fact, that I did absolutely nothing to prepare. I only threw my camera bag and tripod into the car.
When we arrived at the falls, it dawned on me. I didn't research the best places to shoot. I didn't have a shot list of things I wanted to photograph. I didn't know where the best vantage points should be. I didn't know when the light would be best. 
I just showed up — like a tourist, not a photographer. I should have known better.
Mike Randolph knows better. As a professional travel photographer, his work has appeared in all the magazines we love. He shares some of the lessons he's learned in today's episode. He tells us how to prepare; what to bring; and what to photograph.

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Aug 17, 2015

The Steines family pool must have looked like a bonafide Hollywood set -- lights, models, make up artists, and of course, cameras.

It was no movie blockbuster in the works, however. This was Mark Steines at play.

Mark is a veteran Hollywood journalist who fills his time inbetween his work in front the camera making magic behind it.

What photography lessons can we learned from a journalist and producer at heart?

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Aug 10, 2015

Jim didn't want to admit what his girlfriend already knew.

I met them both last week, and early in the conversation they asked what I did.

When I told them I taught photography, Nancy exclaimed. "Jim is a photographer. He takes great pictures!"

"Is that so?" I asked Jim.

"Wait a minute," he cautioned. "Let's not go too fast here..."

Nancy looked shocked. "You are a photographer. You take great pictures!"

Jim was clearly uncomfortable.

We've all been there before.

Someone asks the direct question, "are you a photographer?" and we hesitate. 

How should I answer that question? Am I an amateur photographer? Am I an aspiring photographer? What kind of photographer am I?

I'm going to make the case that you don't need the qualifiers. You already have everything you need to answer that question. 

"Yes. I am a photographer."

Why is this important? Because as Jeff Goins writes, activity follows identity.

If we believe something, we generally act in a way that is consistent with that belief. If you tell yourself that you are not a photographer, you will pass up opportunities. You will shy away from challenges. You will act like a pretender.

If you allow yourself to own the title, you will act very differently. Words and labels matter.

Are you a photographer?


Listen to the podcast and read the show notes at

Aug 4, 2015


If there was any joy shooting broadcast video in the 1990s, it wasn't in the equipment.

In the Army, I was recruited to be a broadcast news journalist. My commander handed me this huge video camera that I had to hoist onto my shoulder just to shoot. When I wasn't taping, I had to drag the camera around in this huge anvil case. When we arrive at our location, unpack, mic the subject, grab some video. 

It was a cumbersome process, but we did it because it was the only way to ensure professional broadcast quality video.

That was then. Today, most of us can create HD professional quality video straight from our cameras.

But it's not as simple as pointing and shooting. Let's talk about some of the things you'll need to consider to get great video. In another episode, I'll talk about principles for shooting videos.

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Jul 27, 2015

Last week I brought the good news: Pick yourself. Now is the best time to do something significant with your photography. It's never been easier to get started.

Today is the flip side of the coin. Because it's never been easier, it's never been more challenging.

And with the advances in technology, it will only get worse.

If you want to make money with your photography, the rigor you use to create your business is even more important now.

It's simple. You'll never make money taking pictures if you make any one of these 10 mistakes.

Listen to the podcast and find the show notes at

Jul 21, 2015

"Do you have any in-depth notes on macro photography?" 

- Ruth

That's a great question from Ruth. Surely I have something prepared on macro photography, right? Wrong!

Ruth's question provides a great opportunity to discuss all the things you will need to know for successful macro photography. It's also great time for me, as I've been playing around with macro lately.

Jul 19, 2015

By the time he finished his impromptu lecture I was so annoyed I could barely stand it. 

I walked into a small gallery to see if there were any opportunities to organize a show for our Meetup group. 

The gallery owner began by describing his long and tedious jurying process. He then proceeded to lecture me on the kind of art they select.  As if I didn't have enough, he closed his 'rant' by explaining his idea of 'real' photography. 

The whole experience reminded me of a Seth Godin mantra — pick yourself.

In the old days, we needed to impress a guy like that if we ever wanted to do something significant with our photography. I'm not sure if he knows, but those days are long gone.

We no longer need permission from the gatekeepers of the world to make our impact. Technology and access to publishing tools make it easy for you to make a difference whenever you choose. 

Rather than asking a blogger, gallery owner, boss, or anyone else to pick you. Pick yourself first.



This week is a double feature. I knew if I stopped the conversation right there, many of you would walk away thinking I was asking something impossible. You would hear a voice telling you that I was being impractical. I was selling a pie in the sky that just wasn't real. For that reason, I also added a replay of my webinar, Silencing your inner critic. 

In that discussion, we confront the internal and external voices that rob us of the opportunity to do our best work. We identify them and provide strategies to deal with them.

Listen to the podcast and see the show notes at

Jul 13, 2015

There are so many lists. Five ways to do this. Ten ways to do that.

Today I’m going to share an essential principle of street photography, and there will be only one.



We all want to take the kind of great photos that people will look at 50 years from now and marvel. How did she take that? What was he thinking? How did she happen to be there? And see that?!

That’s what we want the greats of tomorrow to wonder about our work, yet I fear that too much of what we upload will be forgotten before our viewer even logs off.

So how do we ensure our images are remembered? If we study the work of the great street photographers of the past, as well as today’s artists, there is one essential ingredient that you will find consistent in their work. If you can learn to use it effectively, you will join their ranks.

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Jul 8, 2015

Should you only shoot in manual mode? That's the question Rod sent me this week.

I can understand how this issue can be confusing. Many internet photography "gurus" proclaim that you should only shoot in manual mode, and their disciples cling to that advice. Should you?

The unsatisfying answer will be ... it depends.


I'll tell you what it depends on in this Ask Lyn episode.

Jul 6, 2015

I've been a bit of a DSLR snob.

You might have noticed that I published a camera buying guide that focused exclusively on DSLRs. It's not that I have anything against Mirrorless cameras. I've been watching cautiously as all the cool kids and internet celebrities sold their DSLRS and moved tomirrorless.

Good for them, but why would I do that? Why would you?

In this episode, we discuss choosing a mirrorless camera:

  • What exactly do we mean by Mirrorless?
  • What makes them different from DSLRs?
  • What kinds of photographer would best benefit from a Mirrorless camera?
  • What are the entry level and professional level options?
  • What features set the best Mirrorless camera apart from the other options?
  • What is the best option for your money?

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Jul 3, 2015

You can take spectacular fireworks photos with the right tools and settings.

In this special podcast episode, I show you how to photograph fireworks. We'll talk about the settings, composition, and tools you will need for success.

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