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
Jun 29, 2015

"Red circles?!" I could barely disguise my confusion and skepticism.

"Yeah... I want to photograph red circles," she replied confidently.

We were working on our Abstracts in Adams Photo Tour, and I'd asked our attendees to come up with a theme or project they could shoot for the day. 

Most attendees usually pick things like bicycles, a color, texture or even graffiti. But I wasn't prepared for the ultra-specific answer, red circles.

"How many red circles is she going to find in Adams Morgan. I don't want her to disappointed," I thought as I searched for a way to gently redirect her to a more 'attainable' goal."

Nope. Red circles. The decision had been made.

I learned a thing or two about selecting photo projects. that day The process need not be complicated nor the subject obvious. You just need something for which you can be passionate and dedicated.


"A Personal Photography project is a way for a photographer to showcase their passion for something," writes Neha Singh, of in Digital Photography School. "Or it can just be a way to bring structure to one’s photography hobby. It can be a great way to challenge the limits of one’s skills. Or it can be a great way to bring focus to one’s photography efforts.

"A Personal Photography project is just a commitment to self."

Now that we have great weather and maybe some free time, this summer might be a good time to launch your own personal photo project. Here are 51 other ideas to consider shooting.

Listen to the podcast and find the show notes at

Jun 21, 2015

I'll share first. 

I've lost far too much money buying the wrong cameras and lenses in my life. 

I remember the first DSLR I ever bought. I loved it from the camera store counter, but when I got it into the real world, I quickly ran into its limitation.

There was the lens that was supposed to cure all my troubles. I sold it a couple months later for a few hundred dollars less than I purchased it. Ouch!

Here's the point. We all make mistakes. And after revisiting some of my costly missteps, plus the other stories I've heard from photographers in our community, I think I can help.

I've boiled these experiences into the seven mistakes rookie photographers make. See if you see your old self in these mistakes, because going forward we will be reformed.

Listen to the podcast and read the show notes at

Jun 15, 2015

Remember the sweet feeling of overwhelm when you held your new camera and marveled at all those buttons and features?

Here's the good news — you don't really need to know all of your camera's options. Here's the challenge — the ones you should know, you really ought to take the time to master them.

Like the famous Pareto Principle, roughly 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes. To make it more specific, if you master these 16 features, they will help you excel in 80 percent of your shooting scenarios. Grab your camera and follow along.


Listen to the podcast and view the show notes at

Jun 13, 2015

Today's question comes from Mayhtwel.

"I can't decide the right composition. When I focus on an object, I feel confused. How to do I find the right position? That's my big problem. What should I do?"

In this episode, I share a checklist to help you find the right composition for you.

Jun 8, 2015

In the early morning light of Great Falls, Virginia, I was distracted. The light fell perfectly on the Potomac River as it rushed over a series of steep, jagged rocks. This was the scene I came to photograph, but I couldn't focus. Literally.

Nearby, my two young sons bounced carefree across the rocks that border the waterfalls. Any slip by one of them certainly wouldn't end well, but as young boys, they were impervious to the danger hundreds of feet below.

I shifted my attention between shepherding them to safety and taking a few photos I really liked. In fact, I was so distracted, I was surprised to find an image l liked enough to matte and frame. I hung the photo for a while but lost track of it over a couple moves.

I recall this now because recently I went into my oldest son's room and saw that he'd found and hung that photo on his wall. I hadn't seen it in years, but it brought back so many memories from that morning in 2004.

The National Parks are not only great for creating photos but memories as well. That's one of the messages from Chris Nicholson, who wrote the book Photographing National Parks.

In this interview, he shares:

• How you should prepare for an efficient and productive visit to a National Park;
• The tools you should take for best results;
• His favorite National Parks for photography;
• When you would need permits to photograph the parks;
and much more


Listen to the interview and find the show notes at

May 31, 2015

If you wandered into Baltimore's Helping Up Mission last Dec. 6, you might have thought you were in a photo studio. Rows of portrait stations lined the room, all staffed by photographers busy shooting and printing images. 

And if you really paid attention, you'd notice that no money was being exchanged. That's right, photographers were shooting high quality portraits — free — for people who normally might never have experienced that kind of attention.

Wes Linda was one of the organizers of the Help-Portrait Baltimore movement, and he joins this episode to share what he learned, and how you can change your own world with your camera.


Listen to the podcast or visit the show notes at

May 26, 2015

I have some photography advice for you. It has nothing to do with f-stops or apertures, composition or storytelling. Sure those principles are important, but they aren't my focus today.

This advice will not only help you improve your photographs but your life as a photographer. Use them today. Use them years from now. They'll still work.

Put down your camera and pull up a chair. Here we go.

Listen to the podcast and find the show notes at

May 18, 2015

"Hi, Joe McNally? You don't know me, but I'm Lyn Morton. I'm a big fan of your work, but even more so, I love the way you teach. You see, I'm also a photographer and photo coach. I was wondering if you would be my mentor.

"Why would you do that? What's in it for you?!

"Good questions...." Hmmm...

If you've ever imagined asking someone to be your photography mentor and feared the conversation would end like that, Peggy Farren has some tips for you.

Peggy is a portrait and wedding photographer in Naples, Fla. She joins us today to make the case that you need a photography mentor or even a photo buddy, and she has seven tips to help you you find one.


Listen to the podcast and read the show notes at

May 11, 2015

Valerie Jardin is still modest enough to correct me when I refer to her as an expert on street photography, but it' not that she hasn't earned the title.

I love her quote, "photography is my passion, my obsession, my addiction. I live and breathe in pixels!"

Valerie is a natural a storyteller who focuses mostly street photography. 

Her work has hung in galleries in the United States and in Europe, but she enjoys paying it forward most.

"Teaching is my opportunity to share my passion and skills with others while leading photography workshops," she writes. "I also give talks and presentations at photo conferences and offer online portfolio reviews and business consultations."

I know Valerie as the host of the weekly street photography podcast, Street Focus, and writer for Digital Photography School magazine.

In this interview, I ask Valerie:

  • What's her definition of street photography?
  • What is seeing in street photography, and how do you do it?
  • What are you looking for when you are shooting?
  • Who inspires you?
  • Top three tips for beginners?
  • How do you approach shooting in other countries?

Listen to the podcast and find the show notes at

May 3, 2015

I'm going to ask you to look at the images of last week's Baltimore unrest again.

I'm making a few assumption here. One, that you've seen the big news story carried wall to wall by most news organizations. Two, that you saw them through the lenses of your humanity or politics. I'm going to assume you saw the destruction and mayhem and felt something — outrage, compassion, fear, sadness. Something.

Now I'm going to ask you to look at the images with me — as artists.

That's what I did when I looked at the Boston Globe's photo story, "Unrest in Baltimore." The photographers put in some really significant work. The images are powerful, emotional,  and artistic.

Maybe you see something different. I'll tell you what I saw. I recorded a screencast where I react to the art of all the images.

Then, in this week's podcast, I discuss what photographers can learn from the Baltimore images. In the podcast, I also replay the takeaways from the Crisis Photography webinar we did a couple years ago, right after the Boston bombing. It's worth a review as we consider this topic.

In the comments, tell me what the artist in you sees in these images. I'd love to read your insights.

Listen to the podcast here. Watch the bonus screencast on the website at

Apr 26, 2015

It’s been almost 10 years since it happened, and thinking about it still annoys me. 

I was talking with a potential client from the large cable company in the Maryland/DC area. She tells me she likes my work and wants to hire me. 

“Excellent,” I respond. “I’ll send over a proposal.”

“Well...,” she continues. “We were wondering if you could do this one for free. As you might imagine, we have lots of photography jobs, and we hire photographers all the time. If this shoot works out well, you’ll likely get lots of future work from us.”

“Are you flipping kidding me? Can I watch cable for a month for free and pay you next month if I like it?”

As I said, it still annoys me.

But not all the time.

There are other occasions when someone will ask for the exact same thing -- free photography -- and I am happy to provide it.

What about an enthusiast? You have a day job. You don’t need this to pay your bills. Should you ever shoot for free?

I hear from many of you who tell me that you don’t mind working for free. Photography isn’t  your main source of income, so it’s not a big deal. Some of you say that you don’t think your photography is at the level where you’d feel comfortable charging for it.

In this episode, I explore both sides of the debate.

I have five reasons why you wouldn’t shoot for free and five reasons why you would consider it. 


Listen to the podcast episode. See the show notes at

Apr 24, 2015

Here's today's Ask Lyn question from Geysah:

"Hi Lyn,

I’ve been asked to be the photographer for a fundraising event where I volunteer and, of course, I said yes. The archbishop will be bestowing awards on volunteers. I want to do a good job. Do you have any suggestion? I would welcome as much input as possible. 

Thanking you in advance."


How many of you have found yourself agreeing to photograph an event only to wonder later, 'what have I gotten myself into?'

I understand Geysah's question as well as her dilemma. In this Ask Lyn, I run through the planning questions I ask before photographing an event. 

Apr 20, 2015

Don't let your best pictures wither away in the dark solitude of your hard drive. They need air, sunshine and the admiration of your friends. They need constructive criticism from trusted advisors and encouragement from a community of kindred spirits. They need a platform where you can determine which ones are most popular and offer them for sale.

They need -- to be online.

Your goal here is to create a website or blog format where you can showcase your photos or galleries. 

Today we begin a four-part series called "What to do with your photos" and we focus on creating a photo blog.

Listen to the podcast and read the show notes at

Apr 13, 2015

Dangling from the top of a ladder creating photos isn't where you'd expect your next big photo business idea to hit you, but that's exactly what happened to one of today's guests. In fact, his story reminded me of one my favorite reality TV shows, Shark Tank.

On Shark Tank, "budding entrepreneurs get the chance to bring their dreams to fruition. They present their ideas to the sharks in the tank - five titans of industry, who made their own dreams a reality and turned their ideas into lucrative empires. The contestants try to convince any one of the sharks to invest money in their idea. 

At the last Photo Plus Expo, I met a couple photographers who could likely fit the show's format. They took an idea or problem they had as photographers and created a solution that became a business. 

As we will learn from these two photographers, you don't have to sell pictures to launch your dream photography-related business. Xume Adaptors and Cecelia Galleries show us how a frustration, or just a simple observation, can pay off for you. 

Listen to the podcast 

Apr 6, 2015

They were all strangers at some point — Mickey who makes a good living impersonating Ben Franklin; Rocky who was part of a 24-hour vigil outside the White House; Andrew who was on a coffee bike crawl around the city; and about 30 random people I encountered.

I’m one-third of the way through my 100 Strangers project, which seemed like a good time to talk about the whole street portrait genre. 

If you’ve ever wondered about street portraits, I’ll share what I’ve learned so far. You’ll learn:

  • How I decide who to approach;
  • How I get them to relax quickly;
  • The two questions that get my subjects to open up;
  • The tools I use to capture and create my posts; and
  • Who is off limits vs. who is fair game.


Listen to the podcast now and read the show notes at

Mar 30, 2015

I got an unexpected request this week from a marketer. She'd found one of my images and wanted to know if she could use it on her blog. I thanked for the request, but she didn't really need to ask me. I'd already given her permission.

I vigorously protect my copyright but didn't care if she used my image for free without asking. 

Can giving away your images for free be the pathway to success? Some of the proponents of Creative Commons licensing structure believe that's the case. Others say you get no real benefit from it. I'll explain both sides of the argument and how Creative Commons all works.

What about copyright? When should you take control of it? Can you do that on a derivative work? What about when you work as a freelancer and your client thinks she bought you outright. How does that work? There are nuances and there's the nitty gritty. Copyrights can be complicated.

These are the issues we discuss in today's episode. I call it lawyer-ish because we do cover some legal issues -- with Phil Marcus, the intellectual property attorney. I also talk about some licensing approaches that might just keep you lawyer free.

Mar 22, 2015

Some confessions catch you off guard.

We're all used to the oversharing that floods Facebook, but the real vulnerable, here's what I'm really feeling confessions? Nah, we don't post that.

Well, David Molnar did. On one of the most popular photography blogs, he shared what his inner critic was saying to him. He shared the insecurities that many of us harbor when it comes to photography.

And this week he joins me to talk about it, again.

He'll share what led him to this discovery, how he dealt with it, and how he challenges all of us to overcome that self doubt and create our best work.

If you've ever struggled with your inner critic, you'll want to listen to David's journey.

Mar 16, 2015

We were barely into our photo tour when it became obvious that Christine came with lots of questions. She was excited to learn photography, but she was clearly in research mode. 

Christine wanted to buy a new camera, and she wanted some advice about what she should buy and why. 

On just about every photo tour I've ever led, I've heard questions about gear. They usually fall into two categories.

  • You usually want to buy something new, and you need to justify it.
  • You want to make sure you save money and smart purchase.

In this episode, I answer many of the questions I continually hear from you.

Mar 8, 2015

Stole Jenn's Pic was the Instagram headline that stopped me dead in my tracks. 

Someone was using a pic of Jenn Herman, of Jenn's Trends, to promote a product that wasn't Jenn's. What's worse, the thief refused to remove photo when confronted.

How did Jenn respond? She didn't call a lawyer. She didn't write to Instagram. She simply unleashed the fury of her online community.

In this episode, I interview Jenn Herman, on how she used social media to take down a photo thief.


I also share some tips from a photo attorney.


Get the show notes at

Mar 4, 2015

MW de Jesus wrote that he wanted to take more photos, but he is an introvert and feels self conscious. How does he photograph people when he doesn't want to draw attention to himself?

I feel like I've met MW. So many times I've heard versions of this story in Meetups and photo tours. 'I'd love to take more photos in public, but I'm self conscious.'

I think I've even said it a time or two. In this Ask Lyn segment, I'll share a number of suggestions to help MW and the rest of us get out of our own way. 

Mar 2, 2015

While photo contests can be great for exposure, feedback, and even money, there's plenty that can go wrong.

Sunday, March 1, the podcast went live, as we discussed everything photographers need to know about contests and critiques.

Mar 2, 2015

While photo contests can be great for exposure, feedback, and even money, there's plenty that can go wrong.

Sunday, March 1, the podcast went live, as we discussed everything photographers need to know about contests and critiques.

Feb 27, 2015

While contests can be great tools for feedback, exposure, and even money, there’s plenty that can go wrong.

Sunday, March 1, the podcast goes live, as we discuss everything photographers need to know about contests and critiques.



Feb 22, 2015

If you want to make the evolution from snapping pictures to creating art, one of the things you must do is master your camera. I’m talking the kind of mastery where you can pick up your camera in most situations and begin firing quickly without too much fiddling around.

How do you do that? Practice when there’s nothing at stake. Assuming you have some down time, here are 9 things you should learn about your camera this year.

Feb 19, 2015

In this episode, I answer a question from Karthik Murali — how do I create a high key photograph?

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