Tag Archives: learning

Check Out The Upcoming Photography Learning Opportunities

PHOTOGRAPHERS:  Take your photography to the next level. These classes will help!

Photographers Weekend Boot Camp 
Learn the important fundamentals of photography in one weekend!  All day Saturday + Sunday afternoon.   
Register by July 1 and SAVE $20.

Finding Your Way – Photography Workshop 
Whether you are just starting out in photography or you have years of experience, this class will meet you where you are and help you find new directions to head to improve your photography!
Register by July 1 and SAVE $50.

BONUS SAVINGS:  Take both of the classes (above) together and save an additional $20 if you register by July 1Total Savings: $90! 

Light & Photography Workshop
Highly recommended for anyone serious about wanting to improve their photography!   WE ARE CONSIDERING SHIFTING THIS TO A WEEKEND CLASS. LET US KNOW IF YOU ARE INTERESTED!
This course is a comprehensive look at light in its various forms, both natural and artificial and we look at the many ways we photographers can control and manipulate light to create great photographs! If you have taken Photography 101 or our Photographers Weekend Boot Camp, this is great next step! 
Register early and SAVE $70!

2019 Rocky Mountain Fall Photography Workshops 


LifeInsights Group – Join our free book discussion group.
This isn’t about photography, but we meet at our studio on Monday nights and you are welcome to join us!


My Top 6 Lessons Learned in Photography

I was thinking about the various things I have learned about photography over the years. What did I learn?  How did I learn it?

I thought it might be helpful to share some of my insights about my top 6 lessons learned. Most of these things I either learned from other instructors or sometimes from making horrible mistakes. I don’t recommend making horrible mistakes, but that is sure one way to learn a lesson. 😉

Lesson 1
Pay attention to what you are doing and get it right in camera.

This lesson was something I learned a long time ago (like 35 years ago)!  I think it was really beneficial that I started out in photography back in the days of film.  I shot many many rolls of Kodakchrome 64 slide film.

After I took a series of photographs, I had to send the film off to Kodak to be processed.  With slide film, the developed film is then cut into individual photographs that were placed in cardboard mounts and I would have to show the photos using a projector.  So the photograph I saw in the slide was the actual image I created in the camera.  Whether or not I properly exposed the photograph, I would see the results. There was no faking it.  If I did a bad job, my slide was ruined. I had to get it right.

The fact that the results were not immediate (because I had to have the film developed) meant that I really had to pay attention to what I was doing, otherwise I was wasting a lot of money.  As a student in college, I didn’t have much money, so I payed attention.  My meticulous attention to details (because I had to save money) made me a better photographer.

Even in this digital age, it is much better to get your photograph right in camera rather than just leaning on “fixing” the image after you took it. If you start with a well-exposed shot, you will always end up with a superior end result.


Lesson 2
Manage the shutter speed carefully.

Depending on the light available, ISO, and aperture you have chosen, you will end up with some shutter speed value. I learned this the hard way, but I learned it:  If I do not have the shutter speed fast enough, the photo will not be sharp because of hand vibration / movement.  The general rule of thumb for hand-held photography is to make sure the shutter speed is at least 1 / focal length (of the lens). If you are shooting with a 70-200mm zoom lens with it zoomed to 200mm, then make sure your shutter speed is at least 1/200th second. Technically that rule is for a full frame sensor camera. For a camera with an APS-C sensor, you should modify that rule to take into account the “crop factor” of your camera (usually 1.5 for Nikon and 1.6 for Canon).  A 200mm lens on a Canon Rebel would effectively be 200 x 1.6 = 300mm. So make sure the shutter speed is at least 1/300th second.

Many lenses these days (and some camera bodies) have image stabilization that allows you to break these rules a bit.  So the rule is approximate.

You also need to take into account the movement of the subject. If there is a lot of movement of the subject, you may need to use a shutter speed even faster than the rule of 1 / focal length.

Lesson 3
Manage the depth of field.

You are in control of the depth of field through your choice of aperture. The depth of field is the range that appears to be sharp in front of and behind where you focused.  Choose carefully depending on whether you want a deep or shallow depth of field.  A low f/number yields a shallow depth of field. A high f/number yields a deep depth of field. This is something you should think about in every shot you take because you are in control. Don’t let the camera decide for you. It is just a machine. It has no idea what you want unless you tell it, by controlling the aperture.

Lesson 4
Change your perspective.

Sometimes it is good to just stop looking at the world the same way you always see it. Change your position and angle. Mix it up a bit. Look up.  Look down. Look behind you. Raise your camera way up high. Put it down on the ground. Sometimes that change in perspective will lead to a shot you would have missed.

Lesson 5
Light is ultra important.

Pay attention to details about the qualities of light including angle, direction, number of light sources, light ratio, diffusion, reflection, shadows, etc. A photograph is created by light. It is the most important ingredient in any photograph. Better light leads to better photographs. Master lighting techniques and I can guarantee your photographs will improve. That is true whether you are in control of the light using flashes/speedlights or shooting with natural light. You can’t really control the light in nature, but you can come back to a location at a different time of day or time of year and the light will be different.

Lesson 6
Practice, practice, practice.

There is no substitute for practice.  Keep taking pictures.  Assess the results. Make mistakes and learn from them. Just keep shooting. The more you do it, the better you’ll get. Take classes. Learn more. Do more and your photographs will improve. As Henri Cartier-Bresson said, “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.”

Yes, there is more to it…

I could keep going, but this is all for now.  Post processing your images (editing on the computer) is also quite important to add the finishing touches to take your photos from “good” to “great,” but it all starts with what you do with your camera. Get that right first.

Happy Picture Taking,
Kevin Gourley


Clarinets and Cameras

I’ve used this analogy in several of my classes, so some of you have already heard this. 🙂

I love music. In many ways I think perhaps it is humanity’s most beautiful and complex art form.  It is an art that can be expressed individually or collectively as a group of musicians in a band or orchestra. Music can be produced and enjoyed in so many different ways, and there is no one “right” way.  Music gets inside us, gets inside our brains. A melody, words in a song, can inspire us, bring us to tears, make us smile, take us back to a moment in time.

I learned how to play the clarinet when I was around 13 years old. Wait, let me rephrase that. I started learning how to play the clarinet when I was around 13 years old. (It took a while.)

Have you ever heard a beginning clarinet student play that instrument?  Wow, you can make a lot of bad noise when starting out. I feel sorry for what my parents had to endure when I practiced at home in my bedroom. Day after day, I practiced. Getting a little better over time, but boy did it take a while to get beyond just making noise.

Learning an instrument starts out as a technical exercise. You even have to learn how to place your mouth on the instrument right. (It is not as obvious as you might think.) You have to learn how to place your fingers on the instrument in the right way. And in creating the various notes, you have to press your fingers down or lift them up in the right order or it won’t work right. It is a bit complex.

And then there is the music theory you have to learn also. What is an eighth note, a half note, a rest? What is staccatto? Tremolo? On and on.

You spend a long time learning enough of the technical stuff before you really get to what is interesting: the music. Eventually, you have learned enough to discover the real beauty of the art is not in all the technical stuff of where you put your fingers and how you read sheet music, but rather it is how you make something beautiful with your instrument.

There are some similarities with photography. Granted, you can pick up your instrument, in this case a camera, and immediately start taking pictures (and it’s sure not that way with a clarinet). The more you learn the technical stuff, you can produce even better art with your camera because you have more ability to be creative with your instrument. You can go beyond the limitations imposed by using a camera in its fully automatic modes.

As you dig deeper into learning the technical parts of photography, it is important to remember the real objective is to get beyond the technical to explore the art of photography more fully. Learn the technical, but don’t get hung up on the technical. Learn the rules but don’t be afraid to play with the rules, bend the rules, maybe even break the rules if needed. Stay focused on creating art.

Art is more of an emotional thing than a technical thing. The technical stuff is really just a necessary means to an end.  The fun really begins once you have learned your instrument and you start creating beautiful art with it. That is true whether it is a clarinet or a camera.

Music has many different genres, and so does photography.  I encourage you to explore different genres of photography. Try new things. Explore. Experiment. Fail. Experiment some more. Learn from your mistakes. Discover what you like. Discover what you dislike. Eventually find your passion in the art.  Find what you love, and do that. Find a way to express YOUR view of the world through your images. Don’t just copy others. The world loves a creative artist who expresses their art in ways they have not seen before.

Create something beautiful. Be an artist.

Happy Picture Taking





The Best Christmas Gift for a Photographer

This is the “season of giving”. Family is asking “what do you want for Christmas?” You’re trying to figure out what to give to your loved ones. Regardless of what you celebrate this time of year, for most of us, it is a time of gift giving.

If you love photography or have a loved-one who loves photography, you might put various camera gear on the giving list. Maybe a new camera, new lenses, a tripod, a flash, etc.

Many folks think that if they “just get that new camera, their photos are going to turn out so much nicer”. While that is sometimes true, the real key to better photographs is how you USE your camera. That matters way more than what specific camera you are using. Look at it this way, simply buying better pots and pans won’t necessarily make you a better cook.  😉 What matters is how you use them!

Ansel Adams said it this way:

“The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it!”

The key to great photographs has more to do with the photographer behind the camera rather than the camera itself.  Want better photographs? Become a better photographer!

Our photographs are so very important to us. They capture priceless memories. They help us remember special moments with loved ones. They tell the stories of our various travels and vacations.

I encourage you to consider taking one of my photography workshops, or GIVING one of my workshops as a GIFT this holiday season to that photographer in your life. All of my classes and private teaching options can be given as gifts!

Here are some to consider:

Photography 101 Fundamentals of Great Photography
Photography Beyond the Basics – Mastering the Fundamentals
Photography Painting with Light
Photography – An Expression of Faith Workshop
Rekindle Workshop
Private Instruction on Almost All Photography Topics
Rocky Mountain Photography Workshops

Learn about all these great workshops by clicking here.

5-Star Rated by Students! Offering the best school of photography in Austin and Central Texas.
“Kevin’s classes rise above all the rest” – “Surpasses everyone else.” – “His classes are fun and challenging! Kevin goes the extra mile to teach students photography using hands-on techniques.” – “His sense of humor and deep understanding of all things photographic have inspired me to get better with my camera.” – “Kevin’s class was amazing.” – More…

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Make the Choice to Improve Your Photography

DSLR, photography classMost people start out using a camera using its most automatic settings. Many stay in that mode of taking photos, not really knowing what they are doing, but sometimes getting good results, and sometimes not. If you’re not satisfied with that, I encourage you to learn more about how to best use your camera.

The starting point for you to get better images is to attain more control over your camera. That can be intimidating to dive into all those settings and options, especially on any of the modern day digital cameras.

While camera manufacturers have tried to add more and more fancy features and more ‘automatic’ options, they have added lots of complexity. In fact, I think they have maybe pushed this a little too far. But then, the real key is to learn which of those settings are really important and which are not.

Photography 101, Austin, Photography Class, WorkshopIn my Photography 101 Workshops, we focus on covering the important fundamentals of photography that every photographer should know. Learn what options really matter and which settings you SHOULD be adjusting to get the best shots. You really can create better images if you do not have your camera in its fully automatic mode. It is just a machine. It is not the artist. You are!

Photography 101, Austin, Texas, photography class, workshopWe spend time looking at technical details, but also explore various other factors such as light and composition and the importance of YOU and how you see the world around you.

Photography is a very powerful and meaningful art medium. We capture images that have great value to us. Our photographs tell our life story. We remember those special moments with loved ones. We embrace moments we will never get to experience again. I encourage you to make those images you capture the best you possibly can.  Some of the images you create will be of priceless value to you and your family later on.

So, if you have not already taken my Photography 101 Workshop, I encourage you to consider it. And if you have taken my Photography 101 Workshop, I encourage you to consider taking my Photography – Mastering the Fundamentals Class or one of my other classes to expand your photographic skills even further!

Student Comment:  “I thoroughly enjoyed the Photography 101 class. I learned so much about my camera that I’m much more comfortable pushing myself and my photos. The classroom setting is comfortable and Kevin is a really great teacher – combining technical information and answering questions readily. Kevin’s way of teaching is friendly and you feel that he listens to you and understands what your needs are. I can’t wait to take another class! I will be telling all my photo friends about Kevin and definitely encourage them to take some classes!”

I also offer Private Teaching on virtually all aspects of photography, meeting your time schedule and specific photographic needs.

Want to have some fun on a real photographic adventure? Join us on our Rocky Mountain Photography Workshop!  Get prepared for the trip first by taking my Photography 101 class!

Rocky Mountain Photography Workshop, RMNP, Colorado, Workshop, Photography


New ‘Learn by Doing’ Workshops

I have added a new set of workshops to my lineup of learning opportunities.  I call them ‘Learn by Doing’ Workshops!

If you know a bit about photography but you want to get out there and practice while you learn more, then these workshops are for you!

Go to this web page to learn more and to let us know what YOUR interests are!!  We want to hear from you!

Click Here: