Thinking about college for a photography degree?

I learned photography as most people do. As a child, I would play with my parent’s camera and take the odd shots here and there. I’d seriously compose a shot and press down on that big grey button and it would make the loudest clack noise. Really loved it – even though no film was in the camera! That camera was a box brownie. In the sixties, I would play with a Kodak Instamatic camera and that was fun too.

Eventually, I would take a photography course at Santa Monica College and get my degree. It was a really good experience. My teacher was a guy named Don Battle. I was hungry to learn all I could and the experience was invaluable. Without it I could not have started my career in photography. Luckily, I lived in Southern California and being so close to Hollywood found studios and photographers I could assist.

What I found most useful were the contacts I made during college. Our teacher encouraged us to reach out to local photographers both famous and not so famous and ask them to invite our class for a visit. Wow, what an experience. We hung out with or at least meet the likes of Peter Gowland, Carl Furuta, Phil Stern, et al…

So, from my perspective If you are thinking about going to college and getting a degree. Make it happen. It may be the best decision you can make.

Here are some schools that I know about and a recommendation by a friend.

Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara, California:

Our professional Photography program is designed to educate all students in basic and intermediate photographic skills. Then as students progress through the program, develop a creative style and visual problem-solving skills while engaging in specialized market areas and techniques. This program also integrates liberal arts, professional business practices and ethics with a core photography and media production curriculum that can prepare students for the creative, business, and technical challenges of a professional photography career.

ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California:

Within a rich transdisciplinary educational environment, the Photography and Imaging Department is taking photographers into the future. Our strong relationships with industry, long tradition of integrating photography with other design disciplines, and deep experience designing new technologies and applying creative solutions to social impact problems have opened professional doors for countless graduates.

Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles, California:

Focusing on a medium with a wide presence in popular culture, students in Photography gain technical and conceptual skills to analyze and make photographic works of art. Students learn analog and digital approaches to the medium, using SLR cameras, medium- and large-format cameras, and scanners. They explore printing in traditional black-and-white, color, and digital forms, as well as mural prints, lightboxes, and alternative processes, and gain a full set of skills in studio lighting and digital applications.

Australian College of Journalism Online:

Our Freelance Photography course will take you through the essentials of location shooting and introduce you to the latest techniques and technologies being used in the industry today.

In the Freelance Photography course you’ll learn about commercial and travel photography, stock libraries and photojournalism, as well as the fundamental business aspects of freelancing – negotiating contracts, understanding your audience and the best strategies for marketing and selling your work.




☙ In Photography, There Is Always More You Can Learn

On occasion, I will post links to some of my favorite and CreativeLive photography courses. Both of these educational resources have been absolutely essential in my training as a photographer.

Below are the first few courses from that I believe you will enjoy. Check them out.

At the bottom of this post is a Free trial membership!

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Portrait Project: Changing a Background for Dramatic Effect

In this course, the first in a series dedicated to creative portrait adjustments, Chris Orwig shows how to swap out the background of a portrait with something new. This technique is similar to photo illustration and can result in some really striking and visually interesting photographs. Chris begins in Camera Raw, where he creates multiple exposures of the original raw file and combines them in a PSD file, and then moves to Photoshop to mask the subject and copy the mask into the new background. In the second half of the course, he’ll show you how to make the subject look at home in her new environment using Edge Glow; brightness, color, and tone adjustments; and lens flares.


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Photography and the Law: Understanding Copyright
The intersection of photography and law is a complex place. At one of those crossroads lies copyright. Many photographers aren’t familiar with this important topic and are left struggling with questions like “How do I register my work?” and “What protections do my copyrights provide when I discover that my photos have been used without permission?”

Carolyn Wright is a photographer and attorney who specializes in photographer’s rights. She also publishes the popular Photo Attorney blog, where she writes about these issues. In this course, she sits down with Ben Long to discuss what copyright means to photographers and the correct steps to registering and defending their copyrights in the Internet age.


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Shooting a High-Dynamic Range (HDR) Time-Lapse Video
Take a trip to Zion National Park to shoot an HDR time-lapse video, compliments of Rich Harrington and the crew at RHED Pixel. Watch as they show how to capture the sun as it moves across a rock face in this historic park and then enhance the natural beauty of the time-lapse sequence with dramatic HDR development and toning techniques. Along the way, Rich explains what gear you’ll need to capture the scene and protect your camera from the elements, and how to set up your camera to shoot JPEG or RAW, create an in-camera HDR sequence, and add finishing touches in post-production programs like Photomatix Pro, After Effects, and Camera Raw.


Here is a free 7 day membership if you’d don’t already have a membership! Click here.

Now, I would be remiss not to mention my own course even if it is not photography related.

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Drawing on the iPad with SketchBook Pro
The iPad and SketchBook Pro make a great team for quick illustrations and drawing on the go. Victor Osaka introduces techniques that will make sketching with the iPad a natural, regular part of your artistic process. Also, learn how to choose a case and stylus that are best for drawing, access SketchBook’s brushes and layers, and build compositions with layered color, shading, texture, and effects.

Topics include:

  • Choosing a stylus
  • Working with brushes and layers
  • Shading and texturing
  • Using hot corners and gestures
  • Exporting your work
  • Drawing ergonomics


That’s it for now.

Prepare with practice and photograph like a professional.


Victor Osaka, Photographer

☙ Must see videos of my favorite photographers

I want to share with you videos of and by some of my favorite photographers. These videos won’t teach you “how to photograph”… but they will teach you “how to be a photographer.”

This Diane Arbus video really attracted me because her daughter is the one being interviewed. So, you get a different perspective of Diane.

In 1972, I became aware of the work of W. Eugene Smith. He allowed me to see that photography was not just a past time. His work on the Minimata tragedy touched me very deeply and those images have always stayed with me. This is a wonderful interview.

The Mary Ellen Mark video is interesting because you get to see a different side of her – a most engaging side of her. Her lecture videos are …… well, lectures. But, this is a very cool interview.


Diane Arbus: A documentary by Doon Arbus.


W. Eugene Smith: Photography Made Difficult 1989


Mary Ellen Mark: Helena Christensen & Mary Ellen Mark


Prepare with practice and photograph like a professional.


Victor Osaka, Photographer

☙ Just pretty pictures in today’s post!

Just pretty pictures in today’s post.

The following shot was taken at the PlayaVista Concert Park (with permissions of course). My lens was a 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM set at 105mm and fully open at f2.8. The body was a Canon 60D (crop sensor so my focal length was a calculated 168mm). I set a 580exII flash to bounce off a Sunbounce Micro Mini reflector which was mounted on a stand off to my left. You can see the catch light in her eyes indicating the position of the reflector. It was not too far from her so I set the power of the flash down to about 30% and I used the gold/silver stripe side of the reflector to compliment the warmth of the Sun.


The next pair of images also utilized the 70-200mm lens. I set the zoom lens at 200mm for the left image and 135mm for the right image. The image on the left was completely natural light – partial shade and without a reflector or flash. With the image on the right, while a bit harsh, I wanted to capture the glow of the sunset on her face through the filter of her hair. To balance the intense sunlight, I had to rely on the same bounce flash set up for the image above. It was placed on a stand to my right and this time I used the white side of the reflector to better mold the light around her cheek.


The last image utilized the 50mm f/1.4 USM lens at f1.4 (a calculated 80mm on my 60D). The sun had already past its prime and I relied on the flash/reflector combination again. I placed it just off the my right and angled slightly upwards as it sat on the ground. I felt the need to fill in her cheeks a bit more and the flash combo did the trick.

This shot required quite a bit of Photoshop as I hurried to catch what little sunlight I had left. I should have paid more attention to her clothes while I shot. But, thank God for Photoshop! Pant wrinkles and debris, shirt flaps, and people in the background were all edited out.


This was my first use of a flash. In fact, I rented it from Samy’s Camera Rentals the night before. I have to say, the combination of the Sunbounce Micro Mini and the 580exII was the right ticket. Now, I’ve used the Sunbounce many times before (it is my favorite reflector) but never with the flash extension rod and 580exII. The fact that it is hand holdable and wireless (when used with the Canon 60D) makes it a very cool tool.

Prepare with practice and photograph like a professional.


Victor Osaka, Photographer

☙ Where Does Photographic Style Come From?

(This is a re-post from our blog)


What informs my style as a photographer? I asked myself this question recently. I have come to the conclusion that I am influenced by many things—from current trends in photography, to the technology of the equipment I use, and the range of photography I grew up admiring. And then, there is personal experience…


Reflecting on my childhood, the biggest influence on my style is due to an unfortunate condition. As a child my eyesight was so poor that everything was a blur. I could not even discern the leaves on a tree.

I remember stepping out of the optometrist’s office wearing my first pair of glasses. Right outside his office was a large tree. I looked up and for the first time saw the beauty of the leaves on a tree. They were shimmering in the sun. I can still see and even hear the sound those leaves made in the gentle breeze. I could not take my eyes off this amazing sight.











So, it is interesting to review my body of work and recognize this important influence on my style. To this day, the images that most speak to me have a very narrow depth of field.

Sharp edges grow from the point of focus and the remainder of the image is blurred so as to bring total attention to the sharp details.

I recommend taking a look at your own library of images to see if you can identify what influences your style. It is a very revealing exercise.



    Visit our stock photography site:

Prepare with practice and photograph like a professional.


Victor Osaka, Photographer

☙ What’s the Best Fashion Photography Tip for the Beginner?

This blog post is about a couple of things really. How I stepped outside my comfort zone, took a chance and kept moving forwards after a setback. And a bit of sage advice I once received regarding models


Now, I love the art of photographing infants and newborns. For me, It’s a fun and rewarding task. However photographing adults is a very different thing for me. It’s actually quite scary!

Recently, I discovered a close friend of mine just hated the photographs I took of her. LOL. I can laugh now but, it was so painful at the time. It can be tricky photographing those that you are close to as the stakes are sometimes much higher.

Something had to cheer me up. A few days later, I receive an email (from my alma-mater FIDM) announcing a one day Beginner’s Digital Photography Workshop. I was going to hit the delete key . . . then decided to read further. It mentioned there would be a model for us to shoot. I thought, this would be just what I needed to get my confidence back.


The photos you see here are from that workshop. The model is Emily Palos and she has a clean fresh look, a beautiful figure, and knows how to pose. These shots were taken on the campus of FIDM in downtown Los Angeles.

So, you never know where inspiration may come from. Mine came in an innocent looking email from my old school.

As I write this blog post it reminds me of a bit of advice I got in the late 70s from a famous glamour photographer Peter Gowland (who passed away in 2010). He pulled me aside and said: “Victor it’s all in the model. The real secret (for the beginning photographer) is to shoot experienced models.” An experienced model knows what her “best side” is, the best position for her legs, how to angle her hands, how to turn on the charisma for the camera. And good model will be happy to give you advice on how to best shoot her — if you ask. Remember that you are a team. She is not a flower in a vase, an automobile in a studio, she is a human being, not an object, and she can give you any emotion you ask for, any look in her eyes, any body language you need to make a great photograph. A good model is always 50% of the equation.

















Peter and his wife Alice were such big influences early in my career. The one recommendation I would give to any photographer (of any skill level) is to find a photographer you admire and befriend them. Go to their studio, volunteer to go onsite for a shoot and assist, ask them out for a drink or dinner. Give them as much respect as you possibly can and the rewards will come in unexpected ways often much later down the road. And don’t do this with just one photographer, find a few that you admire.


Prepare with practice and photograph like a professional.


Victor Osaka, Photographer

☙ Another DSLR video shooting tip: Rack focus aid

Recently, I found myself in a rather frustrating situation. I had trouble keeping my subject in focus as she moved from sitting in a chair to sitting on the floor for her demonstrations. I tried to rely on the LCD to focus (remember that in movie mode you must use the LCD to focus). I had to come up with a solution.

For some people I imagine using Focus Peaking or Zoom Box settings alone (Magic Lantern firmware hack) might work. But, for me, I keep over shooting the mark even with these great tools.

So, I think you should still give this technique a try.

A pair of wide rubber bands and a few different colored sharpies is all you need.


Notice how close the rubber bands are to each other.  You want to keep them
close but not touching (to prevent binding). 

In the picture above, I’ve placed one mark on the rubber band that is on the lens body (this band does not move).

On the focus ring I’ve placed the other rubber band. Here I’ve determined my first focus setting based on her sitting in the chair and placed a corresponding mark on this band (gold mark). I then had her move to the position on the floor and placed another corresponding mark on this band (red mark).

The concept is pretty simple. When she moves to the second position, I can rotate the ring to the corresponding mark and be confident she is in focus.


Now, I will say that I tend to double check Focus Peaking on the LCD just to make sure it is accurate.

Please note that most lens have a focus ring slip feature. The focus ring can rotate beyond the stop mechanism. You must not go beyond the mechanical stop else wise your marks will be off.

I like using rubber bands better than tape because of the residual glue that I would otherwise have to clean off the lens.

Prepare with practice and photograph like a professional.


Victor Osaka, Photographer

☙ Fun with 3D Stereo images

I have a fun post today.

Stereoscopy (Parallax imaging) or Photogrammetric Parallax Imaging

You are all probably familiar with this Stereoscopy. It is a technique that’s been around since the early 1800s. I remember a great toy from Disneyland called a Viewmaster. They looked like big stumpy binoculars and had interchangeable disks with a dozen or so slides on them and when you looked into the Viewmaster you would see the images in stereo. Turn the disk and you would see the next stereo image.

What I have below are a couple of these images for you to enjoy – without a Viewmaster. This technique is a lot older than those devices from the 1800s. You’ll need to use the “crossed eyes” technique which requires you to focus in the center between the two similar images and cross your eyes. But, there is a trick to it. You’ll need to be about a foot and a half from your monitor and you will gently cross your eyes until you see a third image appear in the center between the two images. You may have to tilt your head slightly from side to side to get the alignment exact. THIS IS A KEY FACTOR TO GET THE BEST VIEW.

Now, don’t do this for too long! Your eye muscles will tire easily and if you over do it, you’ll get a headache for sure.  But, when you get it just right, it is pretty darn cool.


This first image of a mouse on a box was shot at a distance of about 12 inches and I believe it was a standard 50mm lens. Notice that the images, while similar, are not at the same angle. I took one shot and moved the camera horizontally to the right approximately 3.5 inches and took another shot. This approximates the distance between your eyes. I was also careful to keep the camera pointed at one specific point in the distance. I did not simply move the camera horizontally – I kept the center point on the buckle BEHIND the subject.

I combined them in Photoshop (any editing program should be able to do this). A couple of other details make this image work. I have a shallow depth of field, there is a dog collar in the background and it is out of focus, the lighting is directional and fairly contrasty with deep shadows. All of these details help the image work as a Photogrammetric.


This second image was made using the same technique of moving the camera horizontally approximately 3.5 inches to the right for the second shot. What makes this image work well is the tremendous distance from the foreground to the background. Just as the first image has a dog collar in the background so this image has a distant clump of tree branches in it’s “background.”

Shoot your own and post a comment with your images. There are a bunch of site devoted to this fun pursuit.

Here are a couple:

Prepare with practice and photograph like a professional.


Victor Osaka, Photographer

Be sure to check out our Fine Art & Stock Photography site:

☙ Editing Photos and my Favorite Tools – What are your favorites?

When I started my career in photography, it was not a digital world—it was an analogue world. I was initiated into the art and process of photography by Don Battle at Santa Monica College. One of my first jobs in the industry was at a Hollywood mainstay called Tom’s Chromalab. I was their film duplicator and I learned the art of retouching and printing the old fashioned way.

As you know, back then, film development and printing were a chemical process. Nothing was instant but for the image in your mind’s eye and the confidence in your knowledge of setup, lighting, exposure, and the capabilities of film and paper…Kodachrome, Ektachrome, Pan-x, Tri-X, Fujifilm, Ektar 100, etc… Each film type had its particular characteristics, a personality of its own. I feel lucky to have learned the art of photography from those days.

On the other hand … the digital world has exponentially opened up vistas of creative possibilities. Now, I can edit dozens of images in a day that would have taken a week in the analogue world. I can shoot dozens of variations to cover every possibility, every angle, every lighting condition whereas in the old days I had to find and “see” that perfect shot and be confident I could capture it in maybe 3 exposures at most (we’re talking about 4×5 shots BTW). It was all about the setup, the planning, the experience of knowing what you had to do to get the end result you were looking for. Man, things have changed. Young photographers wonder why I take so few shots in a session. It’s my old training…but enough reminiscing.


This is Bailey. She is a Hollywood acting dog
visiting Pacific Spas & Sauna in West Los Angeles.

A little bit about my system

Nowadays, I am fully entrenched in the digital workflow. My main programs are from the Adobe CS6 line: Photoshop extended, Bridge, and Camera Raw 8.1.

My computer systems include a MACPRO with a 32in Cinema Display and a second monitor, a Wacom Cintiq 13HD tablet, a Canon Pixma Pro9000 MarkII, an espresso machine, and good headphones to listen to Jimi Hendrix.

My mainstay plugins for Photoshop are Imagenomic Portraiture and Noiseware. Yes, I do use plugins.

This is what Imagenomic says about their product:

Portraiture is a Photoshop plugin, (also works with Lightroom and Aperture) that eliminates manual masking and pixel-by-pixel manipulation to help in portrait retouching. It intelligently smoothens and removes imperfections while preserving skin texture and other important portrait details such as hair, eyebrows, eyelashes etc. Portraiture’s built-in Auto-Mask feature helps you quickly discover most of the skin tone range of the image automatically and, if preferred, you can manually fine-tune it to ensure optimal results. For finer control, you can specify the smoothening degree for different detail sizes and adjust the sharpness, softness, warmth, brightness and contrast. You can capture your own signature workflow in a custom preset tailored to your specific requirements and photographic portfolio.

Noiseware restores image fidelity by eliminating digital noise and unwanted artifacts introduced by high ISO photography and less than optimal environmental conditions. Unlike most image processing software techniques that utilize simple methods (such as median filters) to treat digital noise in images, Noiseware features a sophisticated yet fast noise filtering algorithm. Using the adaptive noise profile capability and sharpening function, Noiseware greatly reduces the visible noise while keeping the details in the images.”

Imagenomic offers what I believe to be superior algorithms in their products. While I can accomplish everything without plugins, they do speed up the process.

My second most important time saver plugin is Topaz ReMask3. Anytime I need to mask or cut out an object, I use ReMask3. The interface is not very elegant but it is fast and effective. Where this plugin really shines is in resolving hair extraction. It is definitely a productivity improvement tool. The image above is an example of how this tool shines. I do a lot of compositing and while I try to shoot with this in mind, sometimes it is not possible to have the ideal background or lighting. So, I really welcome ReMask3 as my go to plugin. Be sure to watch Greg Rostami’s tutorials on YouTube to get the most out of this plugin.

My third tool is Kubota Tools Action Dashboard 4 with the Artistic Tools V2 package. Kubotatools has a whole suite of actions and plugins. But, for my style of work, I chose the Artistic Tools V2 package. It includes over 50 image enhancing Photoshop actions such as: Digital Fill Flash brush for lightening areas of an image, Smokeless Burn brush for darkening areas, vignetting, general color pop, soft glows, effects that give you the look of the movie The Lord of the Rings, as well as some beautiful black & whites and sepia tones. There are a lot of everyday productivity actions included and while I don’t generally use them, I am often glad to have the more artistic actions available. However, there is one problem: you must have an internet connection to run the Action Dashboard 4.

Finally, I use Colormunki Photo to keep all my monitors calibrated. Something that you should do no matter what monitor you have, how many you have, or even if you are working on a laptop. Calibrating your monitors will take the guess work out of the equation to better images. If you have a Wacom Cintiq digitizing tablet you can calibrate that as well.

Do you have any favorite tools, plugins, or actions?

That’s it for now.

Prepare with practice and photograph like a professional.


Victor Osaka, Photographer

☙ Wow, it’s been along time since my last post!

But, I’ve been very busy.

As you know, most of my blog posts center around tips for portrait photographers. Well, I do other types of photography as well. And I am also a college teacher and designer. For sure, everything I do has ties to the creative arts. This week I have found inspiration!

I’ve been watching the fine art photographer Brooke Shaden and her course on (mentioned in earlier posts).

If you don’t know about CreativeLive then you should click that link above right away and learn about this incredible resource. Free multi-day workshops by many very talented professionals. And they are in Seattle which makes them really cool in my book! (Oh, how homesick I feel).

Anyway, she has inspired me so. Brooke is such a delightful person and yet her images are so deep and emotionally provocative. She is a fine art photographer and one heck of Photoshop operator. To see her work the camera and computer is fascinating to say the least.

This workshop really got my creative juices flowing again and got me to make the time to explore. I liked how her creativity comes from an intuitive place because that’s how I used to work. And so I had a friend do some impromptu posing for me. For the first photo I had her lay down on the carpet and point one finger to the wall. I made sure the window light came from her feet to her head. And I arranged her hair and shirt to look as though she were upside down. We chose some loose fitting clothes that I could arrange it a bit easier. I then took my 60D and the 10-24mm wide angle lens and stood upon a chair to get the right angle. The water lily was from my stock shots as were the pink ‘flowerettes’. Actually, the pink flowers were from a larger field of flowers and I used the lasso to grab bunches at random and place them in a new layer. I used a PSD gallery filter to “texturize” the carpet and used Topaz Labs filter ReMask3 to “pull” her from the back ground. That is how I gave her a shadow which separated her from the wall.

Now, I like to work in layers and layer masks. This allowed great latitude in the depth of the various elements. It also allowed me to add a motion blur to the pink flowers and accentuate the separation between them and her. I might do tutorial video and post it up on YouTube. I have a retouching video up now.

Anyway, the first one is fun and whimsical.


The second is peaceful and serene. I love water lilies and the idea of combining it with clouds really excited me. Both upper and lower portions are from my collection of clouds. The lily is from a shoot at the Huntington Gardens. The upper portion was spherized and warped in PSD and colored with a golden hue by way of a curves layer. The flower stem was stretched and a ripple added to differentiate top from bottom. A gentle vignette was applied to give it a bit more intimacy.


As always,

Prepare with practice and photograph like a professional.


Victor Osaka, Photographer

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