Welcome! The First Step to Pro

Be Honest

ProPhotoGuide isn’t a corporation, a big company, small company, or even a dedicated group of coffee-obsessed writers in some well-lit Brooklyn office. Nope. Right now, ProPhotoGuide is the fledgling side-project of just one guy with a camera, me.  Until it’s actually something bigger, I will never pretend that it is.

And it’s the same for anyone who wants to be a truly successful *professional* photographer.  Don’t pretend you’re the most talented photographer on earth when you’re just starting out.  Some people buy a DSLR with the singular goal of making some money – switch it to Auto, and overnight they become “I’m-So-Awesome-Photography”, offering mini-sessions or worse, wedding photography.

Be honest.  It’s alright to be an ‘amateur’ at first.  You’re allowed to have zero-experience at the beginning.  It’s okay NOT to know things.

Humility and a willingness to learn are the keys to succeeding in the world of professional photography.

“Aren’t you a Pro? Shouldn’t you know everything?”  Yes, I’m a pro.  No, I don’t know everything, that’s impossible.  The moment a photographer thinks they know everything is the same moment they stop improving.

I pay the rent and put food on the table with wedding photography. After years of learning photographic techniques and gear and building a photography business, one thing is very clear:  I have much, much more to learn.

So why start a site?

It’s sort of win-win really.  You get straightforward, concentrated goodies of photography knowledge and tips from a seasoned pro.  We’ve already established that I can’t teach you everything – but I CAN teach you everything that I’ve learned so far.  And when I challenge myself to teach others, I automatically improve in the process too!

What do you want to learn?

So let’s make this *your* site.  If you’re reading this, you’re probably one of the first 70 people that signed up to be notified about the launch.

What do you want to learn?  There’s lots of resources on the web for learning photography concepts and techniques, but sometimes they’re just not explained well.

Leave a comment! Tell me what you want to master.

If you don’t want to leave a comment because you secretly don’t want people to know that you haven’t learned something yet, that’s fine.  Send me an email: [email protected] – then read this post again. 😉

Have fun!


  1. Blanca Dalida on January 27, 2017 at 2:04 am

    Taking pictures of my young ones is super important to me. Getting the right settings for the lighting is a challenge. I find myself using the meter in my viewfinder, but I feel like I’m cheating…? How to achieve that golden light. Also, I love the look of bokeh, but struggle to get my lens to focus from one subjet to another if I don’t use the automatic focus points, how can I change focus more quickly, but keep the background blurred? Night shots….so much to learn about lighting! Look forward to any tips/suggestions you have

    • joshliba on February 1, 2017 at 12:12 pm

      Thanks so much for the comment Blanca. Since you mentioned it, I think it would be super helpful to write a guide specifically for photographing children. I will add it to my upcoming projects!

      I totally relate to your challenges. As a wedding photographer, I also have to quickly deal with a variety of lighting situations and also maintain a beautifully blurred background, or bokeh, whenever possible. Getting that golden light is key!

      It’s okay to use the meter to judge how the camera will expose the shot for a given lighting situation. Even in Manual mode, the camera meter will still be present to tell you what the camera thinks of your manual choices. How judgmental the camera is! Haha. But in the end, it’s totally up to you to decide how bright or dark you would like any particular shot to be. I tend to like brighter photos, so I may still “cheat” and see what the camera meter thinks of the scene first, then adjust for 1 stop of exposure *over* the default meter.

      Kids tend to move fast if you’re trying to catch them in a candid moment, so I can definitely relate to the challenge of getting focus right-on. Here are my recommendations:

      -Find out if your camera supports 3D autofocus mode. 3D tracking expects that your subject will move, not just side to side in your frame, but also toward or away from the camera. In practice, I will usually put the 3D autofocus point right in the middle of the frame, focus on a face, then recompose the shot while keeping the focus point locked. Once I have my desired framing, I take a shot (or two, or ten.)

      Another advantage of 3D autofocus mode is that it will usually override the camera’s default setting to lock the shutter until focus is achieved. 3D focus is a ‘loose’ focus lock that will continually focus until the photo is taken, and continue to focus *between* photos. Very helpful for moving children, and no more missed shots because the camera refused to shoot!

      -In any semi-automatic mode (Program, Aperture/Shutter Priority), you can tell the camera to “brighten” or “darken” a given scene by using Exposure Compensation. Find out how to change this setting on your camera, then try adding one stop (or level) to your outdoor photos. This will help give you the look you would like.

      -“Golden light” photos, aside from shooting in mid afternoon light, also depend on the White Balance setting. Most cameras are set to auto-white balance, and the camera will try to set a neutral tone to all your photos. You could try setting manually for a warmer look. Outdoors, try setting to “Daylight”(Picture of a Sun – Balanced) “Cloudy”(Picture of a Cloud – Warm) or “Shade”(Picture of a house with lines to the right of it, usually – Warmest)

      -A large aperture is the key to blurring the backgrounds behind your subjects, and will also give you the fastest shutter speed. A fast shutter speed is helpful for freezing moving children better and creating sharper photos. A good way to combine the two principles in this case is using either Shutter Priority mode or Aperture Priority mode:

      Shutter Priority Mode: Try 1/160th of a second or faster as a starting point. That’s my go-to shutter speed for moving *adults*. Professional Football photographers regularly shoot at 1/1250 or faster – so you might try a similar shutter speed depending on how fast your children are moving. The aperture will be controlled by your camera in this mode, and it will likely choose a fairly wide aperture to allow for such fast speeds, and that will contribute to keeping the backgrounds blurred.

      Aperture Priority Mode: If an attractively blurred background is your goal, then using a wide aperture will help with that goal. (f/2.8 is a nice spot, or f/3.5 if using the kit lens that comes with most cameras) – You might try a higher ISO to get a shutter speed in the ranges above!

      Have questions about anything in this comment? I welcome them!
      PS: I might use part of this response as another article later on. But just so you know, I wrote it for you first! 🙂 TTYS

  2. NG on February 6, 2017 at 6:41 pm

    Hi, I’m a great fan of your photography and I’m so thankful that you are willing to share your knowledge. I love photography, everything in general but I’m still an amateur at this, there is so much to learn that it overwhelms me at times. I would like to be more confident to start a business on my own some day. I have taken graduation, engagement, bridals and wedding pictures for friends and family for free, I’m grateful to have models to practice with but how do you know when you are ready to start charging for it? How do I start with a website to show my work? Do you mind sharing any tips and ideas? Can I send you some of my photos for you to look at and let me know what you think?

    Thanks again for starting this guide.


    • joshliba on February 7, 2017 at 3:47 pm

      Hi NG!

      Thanks for the comment and the kind words first off. And sure! Feel free to send me some of your work that you would possibly put in a portfolio. I would be happy to take some time to comment on it – but take my comments as the observations of just one photographer who is also still very much a learner. (email: josh{at}prophotoguide.com -or- josh{at}joshliba.com)

      Confidence is a huge factor in starting a photography business.

      Unskilled photographers with lots of confidence seem to have their share of clients, while skilled photographers with less confidence aren’t on the map. Since you’ve already dipped your toes in, so to speak, with a variety of different types of portraiture and events with different lighting, I’m inclined to think you’re probably the second kind of photographer. 😉

      How to know when to charge? There may be a couple ways to see if you’re ready:

      – Has anyone ever referred you to another friend or family member? It speaks well about your work if it was good enough to be recommended in turn, to another person.

      – Do you have the technical camera knowledge of how to get the look that you would like? Quickly? Since you’ve covered bridal and wedding photos before, you may be familiar with how much (or little) time there is to make adjustments between scenes.

      Starting your website and portfolio:

      A lot of people would consider Instagram to be the modern day portfolio, with commenting and sharing built-in! It’s free, with virtually no ads cluttering your visitor’s view of your photos, and people can contact you directly via email or telephone if you switch the business setting ON. Plus, any (public) instagram account can be viewed on any device, by going to instagram.com/YourUserName

      A dedicated portfolio website is easy to get into, and there are lots of options for building a free or low cost website with little or no technical knowledge.

      When I first started out, I created a quick site on carbonmade.com (free) – and it was more than enough to book my first 10 weddings.

      After that, I moved to a paid template solution (like Wix, SquareSpace, or Weebly) I would recommend this for most users looking for a professional site.

      Since I have a background in Tech Support, I moved to a Self-Hosted WordPress Blog, that I could code and customize myself even further.

      I look forward to creating a dedicated article on this subject later! Please submit any other ideas you might have to my upcoming articles map! –> prophotoguide.com/map

  3. NG on February 7, 2017 at 5:32 pm

    Thank you so very much for taking your time to reply back. I truly appreciate all the ideas and suggestions, will most definitely taken them into consideration. I’ll be back with more questions.


  4. Johnathon Whaley on February 10, 2017 at 7:42 pm

    Hey Josh, Love the Q&A section. Me and Mery are into wedding photography now, and business seems to be growing slowly but surely. I am working on the basic camera techniques and she is learning how to pose people. My question has to do more with lighting. What kind of on location light modifiers are best for weddings or events. I would like soft light but portable. Would it be best to use an umbrella, a collapsible softbox, or just bounce it?

    Any feedback on the my pics would be great too! 😉

    • joshliba on February 15, 2017 at 3:39 pm

      Hey Johnathan, that’s awesome man! Nothing like working with your spouse as a team. Slowly but surely is the best way to grow.

      As far as on-location modifiers, that’s a great idea for a standalone article. I’ll add it to the Upcoming Articles map – and of course answer a little in detail here:

      Weddings are usually about speed. You’re moving, setting up and breaking down between three or more locations sometimes, so the best modifiers in this line of work are umbrellas.

      Compared to softboxes, you would be hard pressed to tell the difference between the quality of light between similar sized umbrellas or softboxes, and the setup is super-easy. I have a Godox collapsible softbox and although it’s the easiest softbox to set up EVER, it still can’t bea the speed and ultra-portability of a shoot through umbrella.

      I’ll usually set up lights for formal portraits for consistent lighting, or an assistant may help me hold a remote triggered flash and umbrella stand close to the couple for the couple portraits.

      For all other times, bouncing is always a viable option when indoors or near walls that are neutral in color. The walls could even be slightly blue or orange because the light reflected will be even toned and can be corrected in post if you shoot in RAW. Depending on the size of the wall area you are bouncing off of, this is the easiest way to create soft light without setting up anything!

      I’ll check out your site man! Hope this helps.

  5. Anonymous on February 3, 2018 at 5:19 pm


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