waterdrop refraction

How to Photograph Water Droplets on a Flower and More

By | Macro & Close-up, Photographing | No Comments

Water Refractions – Let’s Play!

Refraction photography is so exciting!!

This is where you see (in focus) the background crazy sharp in water. (Tip: you can use glycerine too).

Today I want to share with you how to play with a variety of ways of photographing water refractions, so let’s get to it…

In the video below, I show you how to use glycerin to make fun refractions. The stack video I talk about is here. 🙂

Hawaiian water drops

This is stacked with several images.

Exposure Time: 0.5
F-Number: 16
Exposure Program: Manual
ISO: 800


The video below is a fun way to make waterdrops creative.

I’m sure you’ve seen beautiful drops that look like mushrooms, but you need a unique mechanism for that, so if you don’t have something like a Miops Splash water drop kit, then try this…


And for the last video, I’d like to share a behind-the-scenes of me photographing a flower refraction. You can do this outside or indoors.


purple flower refraction

I actually was surprised that I use an f3.5 on this shot.


Exposure Time: 0.3
F-Number: 3.5
Exposure Program: Manual
ISO: 400

If you have a question, feel free to ask below. I want you to have fun…not be frustrated.

Cheers to refractions!

antelope valley

Photographing Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve

By | Photographing | No Comments

Photographing Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve

Join me and Kevin on a fun adventure in Antelope Valley, California poppy fields. I share how to find a great place to photograph and hide from the wind. 🙂  I hope to inspire you to get out and photograph wildflowers and to share with the world the beauty of these amazing flowers.

california wild poppies

shot from iPhone one of the fields

antelope valley poppy fields

Pay attention to where the wind blows to find a good place to photograph

beautiful colorful california wildflowers

It was amazing to see this small patch of white flowers within all the colorful flowers.

Exposure Time: 1/750
F Number: 4
Exposure Program: Aperture-priority AE
ISO: 100
desert landscape with electric poles

I found this beautiful poppy all by itself.

Exposure Time:1/90
F-Number: 8
Exposure Program: Aperture-priority AE
Exposure Compensation: -3/2
ISO: 100
wild orange california poppy

You must have patients to wait for the wind.

F-Number: 4
Shutter Speed: 1/750
Aperture-priority AE
ISO: 100

So I hope I’ve inspired you to pick up your camera and feel the flowers no matter what time of day it is.  I’m always looking for new places to photograph.  If you have any to share let me know below.



lighting tips for landscape photography

Photograph Anytime of the Day – Landscape Photography

By | Landscape & Travel, Lighting | No Comments

Using a Variety of Light for Landscape Photographing

Yes, sunsets and sunrises are beautiful to photograph but don’t think this is the only time you can photograph amazing landscapes.  Check out the tips in the video below for details.

desert landscape with electric poles

One-shot while the hubby was driving our jeep.

Exposure Time: 1/350
F Number: 19
Exposure Program: Manual
ISO: 200

Here is some of my fun to start you thinking about different ways to photograph your landscapes.

sedona arizona indian cave

One-shot image during the middle of the day.


Exposure Time:1/30
F Number:22
desert landscape with electric poles

One-shot while the hubby was driving our jeep.

Exposure Time:1/125
F Number:8
Exposure Program: Aperture-priority AE

Here is some of my fun to start you thinking about different ways to photograph your landscapes.

sedona arizona indian cave

One-shot image during the middle of the day.


Exposure Time: 1/350
F Number: 11
Exposure Program: Aperture-priority AE
ISO: 100
desert landscape with electric poles

One-shot while the hubby was driving our jeep.

Exposure Time:1/2000
F Number:8
Exposure Program: Aperture-priority AE
ISO: 250

So I hope I’ve inspired you to pick up your camera and feel the landscape no matter what time of day it is 🙂  I’m always looking for new places to photograph.  If you have any to share let me know below.



phone macro lens taking picture of weeds in my backyard

Photograph Weeds in the Summer – With Bonus Video

By | Inspiration, Macro & Close-up, Photographing | 4 Comments

Photographing Weeds in the Summer - From The Phone

My story below…

Bonus Video

Photographing Weed Flowers in the Summer - From My DSLR

When it’s summer, think about photographing weeds.

This month’s challenge is to take your images to the next level. I know this will be challenging because most people have already photographed a variety of weeds since they pop up everywhere.

Take a walk with your camera and photograph any weed you see.  Try different perspectives and color arrangements. Even a dead weed can be beautiful.

Below are some suggestions to get you started.

Get low on the ground and that will make your image different from the rest. Make sure the negative space leads your viewer’s eyes to the main subject, which is your summer weed flower.

Or you can do the opposite and try to really soften the background. Using a shallow-depth-of-field will give your work some beautiful colors to enhance your flower weed.  Maybe you’ll grab a nice bug chilling too 🙂

Painted with light (Janice Sullivan, SJP)


What catches your eyes when you see the weed?  Use that and make sure that whatever it is, it’s in focus and remember to look on the internet to see if you’re being original in your shot. Don’t photograph the same composition as everyone else has… yep, it’s a tough challenge, but it’ll be worth it.

I caught a nice waterdrop on this Dandelion… bring a small spray bottle with you when you photograph.  The flower weed will be happy and you’ll have some fun grabbing some refractions.

Dead Thistle

Look for dead weed flowers in the later summer.  They have some amazing textures you can play with.  The thistle above was in a patch of dead brush.  Look out for 3’s in your composition and play with post processing to really bring out the textures.

Ok, now it’s time for you to have some fun!  When you get out to focus on photographing weed flowers, take your time and play, play, play!

When you get home, look at your work and choose what is different from what you would normally see on the internet.  Next, post-process your work to enhance the weed flower(s).

Here are some links to push you even farther:

Macro Photography: Cameras, Lenses, and Tripods

5 Tips to Get You Started with Macro Photography

How to Photograph Flowers Outdoors

Have questions or suggestions?

Cheers to Weeds in the Summer!

Janice xo

organize your image files

How I Organize My Image Files

By | Organizing your files, Photographing | No Comments

Image File Organization

As you can see from the video above, I have found an amazing way to keep my images organized.  I found this from a wedding photographer and revamped it for Macro and Landscape photographing.
I can’t remember the photographer’s name, otherwise, I’d give him credit for this structure.  I’ve been using this system for years and love it!
If you have questions from the video, feel free to let me know in the comments.
This will be part of an amazing gift I’m getting ready to launch soon.  I did this video for our SJPmembership group.  If you don’t know about that, you can check it out HERE.  During our virus crisis, you can join the membership for $1 the first month.  I’ve never done that before, but feel it’s only right to keep you busy and focused on your photography instead of watching TV or Youtube videos.
I’ve also reduced my Mini-Courses to 50% so you only pay $19.50  When you purchase mini-courses, you get updates for life!  Just make sure you have an updated email in your account.
Since you’ve taken the time to read this… CLICK HERE for your special gift! You can download my file organization to help you. No worries – you won’t be added to our email list…  If you do want to join the list, you can do that HERE.
Cheers to organization and finding your images all in one place.
continuous lighting tips


By | Lighting | No Comments

Time to be Creative – Understand Continuous Lighting

Today we’re talking about continuous lighting.

When a member of our program asks me questions to help them with a goal, I make videos for them or we have a workshop.  When asked to talk about continuous lighting, it was time for a workshop.  This video is a condensed version of the workshop topics and it’s packed with goodness.  So play and be creative after you check out these tips.

Hi! If this is your first time here…. I’m Janice Sullivan from Sullivan J Photography… where we work to help macro and landscape photographers with their goals and to move them forward in their photography journey.

Don’t have enough light to make the pictures you want or you just want to push your creativity?  If you said yes, then it’s time to play with continuous lighting…

Let’s dive into the tips:

  • Light has different colors, so pay attention to that.
  • The closer you get to your subject, the fewer shadows you’ll have.
  • The farther away the light is, the more shadows you’ll have on and around your subject.
  • Sidelight shares more dimensions.
  • Front light softens the subject.
  • Be careful with Chromatic aboration.
  • Adding two lights can be a lot of fun, so go for it!

There are a couple more tips in the video.  Always feel free to share you work with me in the comment section.  Set some time and play with continuous lighting.  You’ll open up a creative process that’s worth the challenge.


Janice Sullivan

3 holiday light ideas

3 Ways to Have Fun with Holiday Lighting

By | Inspiration, Lighting, Photographing | No Comments

3 Fun Holiday Light Photographing Ideas

Holiday lights can be absolutely beautiful! This means I want to give you a challenge during this busy time because it’s worth it!

Play with these 3 fun holiday lighting techniques. It’s about being creative and pushing your limits- I want you to remember that if you get frustrated, just put the camera down for a bit and then try again in a few minutes… the key is to not give up!  Check out the video below to help you and if you have questions just ask.

1. Circles of confusion – Bokeh

Keep a distance between your lights/sparkles and your subject that is in focus. You’ll need to make sure the light is out of focus… that’s what makes the circle of confusion (bokeh).

Use a low aperture number, for example under 5.6 works better than f11. If you need more light for better exposure, change your ISO and/or shutter speed.

christmas ribbon with bokeh

f2.0 @ 1sec ISO 200

2. Star lighting

You’ll need to make your f-stop number at least f16, but I like f22. If you need more light for better exposure, bump up your ISO to get a faster shutter speed so you don’t blur your light. You may need a tripod depending on your lighting conditions.

3. Motion Blur

Have some fun making abstracts with slow shutter speed, start at 2 seconds. The image below was 2.5 seconds and it was a dark area. Change your f-stop to make a good exposure and leave your ISO at 100, but you may need to add a neutral density filter to let less light into your camera.

f22 @ 2.5 sec ISO100

f22 @ 2.5 sec ISO100

f22 @ 2.5 sec ISO100

Bonus Tip

Shoot Bokeh without a subject in the frame for post-processing fun later.

f2.8 @ 1/30


Have any ideas for us?  Let us know in the comment section.


Janice & Ashley

Why do you make your work?

By | Images available for purchase, Inspiration | No Comments

Do you ever ask yourself, “Why do I make my work?”  I do all the time and you should too, so let me share my story to help you understand why you need to know the reason you’re making your images.

With my pink rose flood flower, I tried a variety of ways to make it special just for me, but before I dive into that, let me tell you the back story…

My daughter was having twins for her first pregnancy and we decided to have a tea baby shower. I brought out all of my Grandmother’s China from both sides of the family and bought some beautiful flowers that matched the China pieces. It was a special time for me and my daughter because we had generations with us spiritually.  The women started with the twin’s great, great, great, grandmothers. 

pink rose flower flood

Image used on Platform Overload. Sharing what I like to photograph and why.

This image had to represent the women in my family and in order to do that, I thought to myself HOW can I make a piece of the bouquet below into the up close and personal photograph that you see above?

I had to photograph them fast before they began to die. I did several shots with all of her flowers, thinking of us grandmothers, but the one above is my favorite… the beautiful pink rose for the women in our lives past and present and the soft flowers around it represents family and the water adding life, the new life of my two grandbabies that were about to be born.

So I decided to stack this shot because I was pretty close to the flowers. I started focusing on the closest part to my lens and took several shots to the back in focus and combined them into one file. It was a little too busy, so I brought back in some of the out of focus areas, especially to the back of the composition to make sure the rose could pop in the flowers. There wasn’t much more I needed to do for post-processing. I cleaned the mess, added a bit of vibrancy and sharpening and then added the water with a program called Flood 2. In this program, I made sure the water processed worked with the composition.

Below in the flower arrangement, you can see that I desaturated the pink roses to go with this vase that was also from my grandmother, which was her mother’s (my great grandma), plus I wanted the bouquet to be neutral and fresh.  Ashley, my daughter, was having  2 boys.  I didn’t need blue to represent them…. I just wanted to express the abundance of new life with the old vase.

Bouquet of flowers in an old vase with a black background.

For me, both images are about life and death, but in a beautiful way. When you know why you’re photographing the subject in front of you, the more you will put into that piece of work.  It may mean something else to others, but you know in your heart WHY you made your work. 

The rose flood is for sale at Thirt9.  I hope that it will bring happiness to you wherever you hang this image, like it has for me, and to remember the history of life past, present, and future. If you purchase “Pink Rose Flood”,  feel free to let me know.  I’ll print this up for you to have with your work.


Janice Sullivan

7 Easy Tips for Beautiful Soft-Focus Macro Photography

7 Easy Tips for Beautiful Soft-Focus Macro Photography

By | Macro & Close-up, Photographing | 4 Comments

Check out these 7 Easy Tips for Beautiful Soft-Focus Macro Photography


Do you want to capture amazing soft-focus macro photos?

You can.

While soft-focus macro photography may seem daunting, it’s actually pretty easy–once you know a few tricks.

And in this article, I’m going to share these tricks with you. You’re going to learn how to shoot in the best light and create the best compositions. Ultimately, you’ll come away with the ability to take gorgeous soft-focus photos.

Are you ready to take your macro photography to the next level?

Let’s dive right in.

1. Shoot During Cloudy Days to Bring Out the Soft Effect

One of the essential ingredients in any stunning macro photo is good light.

If you can shoot with beautiful light, your macro photos will look so much better.

But if you shoot in bad light, your macro photos will generally fall flat.

Which leads to the question:

What counts as good light?

For soft-focus macro photography, one type of light reigns over all others:

Cloudy light.

Cloudy light is wonderfully soft and diffused. It gives your macro photos a more subdued look–which is perfect for this type of photography.

Cloudy light also brings out colors. This is great for the soft-focus flower photographer, because the diffused light makes the reds, oranges, and greens much more vivid.

For instance, look at the intense colors in this photo:

This would be hard to create naturally–if it weren’t for cloudy days.

Now, I should note: You can take soft-focus macro photos on days that aren’t cloudy. On sunnier days, I recommend working with backlight.

But cloudy light will get you some incredible soft-focus shots–and you should take advantage of that whenever you can.

2. Use a Wide Aperture for a Lovely Soft Look

If you want amazing soft-focus images, you need to make sure very little of your main subject is in focus. That’s how you’ll get the look you’re aiming for.

And to ensure that very little of the subject is in focus, you have to use a wide aperture.

The aperture is basically a hole in the lens, which gets wider and narrower depending on your camera settings. Narrow apertures make sure that the entire image is sharp, from front to back. But wide apertures do the opposite: they decrease something called the depth of field, and cause much of the photo to be blurred.

The size of the aperture is referred to using f-stops, like this: f/2.8, f/5.6, f/8, etc. The smaller the f-number (e.g., f/2.8), the wider the aperture.

I recommend using an aperture in the f/2.8 to f/5.6 range if you want truly stunning soft-focus photos. If you go too narrow (e.g., f/8), you’ll start to lose that wonderful soft-focus look, and you’ll get too much of the photo in focus.

Which brings me to the next tip:

3. Create a Large Subject-Background Distance to Make the Subject Stand Out

Almost every great macro photo has a clear subject.

The subject is the focal point of the photo–the thing that anchors the image and draws the viewer in.

And your goal as a soft-focus macro photographer is to make the subject stand out.

But it’s impossible to do this with a subject alone. The subject can’t just stand out. Instead, it has to stand out in relation to something:

The background.

Now, a background that looks the same as the subject will result in a muddy mess.

But a background that contrasts with the subject…

…well, that background will make the subject pop off the page. The whole photo will look gorgeous. And one of the best ways to create a contrasting background?

By blurring it.

That is, if you can create a deeply blurred background, your main subject will stand out.

As discussed previously, a great way to create a blurred background is to use a wide aperture.

But did you know that you can also enhance the background blur by increasing the subject-background distance?

That is, if you make sure that there’s a large gap between your main subject and its surroundings, the background will look much more blurry. Even creamy.

That’s why I always check the background before taking a macro photo. And I try to position my subject so it’s pretty distant from its background.

Then I can capture photos like this:

And this:

Both of these required large subject-background distances. That’s how I achieved that soft, creamy background look.

And speaking of backgrounds:

4. Create a Beautiful Background With Colorful Flowers and Leaves

As you’ve just discovered, the background is an important part of your soft-focus macro photos.

So it’s worth covering backgrounds more thoroughly.

Now, great backgrounds help the subject to stand out. They make the viewer look straight toward the subject.

And great backgrounds continue the soft look of the subjects. They add a sense of harmony to the image.

So what makes for the best background, specifically?

First, the best backgrounds aren’t distracting. They’re simple, they’re blurry, and they’re mostly uniform–a single wash of color, with maybe the hint of an out-of-focus object. To do this, you need a shallow depth of field, as discussed above.

Second, the best backgrounds add some variety to the photo. If your main subject is a white flower, the background probably shouldn’t be white. Instead, it could be a golden color, like this:

Or it could be a nice black, like this:

The point is to create a background that enhances the image as a whole. A background that is beautiful on its own.

You can find backgrounds like this by carefully observing your surroundings. Are there any autumn leaves? Are there any other flowers? Leaves and flowers make for great backgrounds–and you can always change your position to incorporate these elements.

Worst case scenario, you can get down low and shoot up toward the sky. While this doesn’t make for the most interesting background of all time, it still gives a nice look:

Bottom line?

Create the best background you can come up with. It should complement your soft-focus subject. But it shouldn’t dominate the frame.

5. Include a Main Subject for a Powerful Soft-Focus Macro Photo

I’ve talked about the importance of a great subject.

But what should be your main subject in soft-focus macro photography?

First of all, I advocate starting with flowers for a soft-focus macro subject. Flowers give you all sorts of interesting shapes and colors to work with.

But it’s not enough to just choose ‘flowers’ as your subject and be done.

Instead, you need to think about how your subjects will appear.

Because here’s the thing about soft-focus macro photography:

You generally work at high magnifications. And when you work at high magnifications, your subject doesn’t appear to the viewer as a flower. Instead, your subject appears as a curve, or a straight line, or a circle.

Look at this photo:

What does the main subject look like? It’s two flowers–but it’s also two curved lines and two semicircles.

I suggest you think about your soft-focus subjects in terms of geometry, not objects. And, paradoxically, you need your soft-focus subject to be sharp. 

In other words, even among a sea of softness, your main subject should stand out as sharp. Even if your main subject is just a line, it should be a sharp line. It should stand out.

And it should anchor the whole photo.

6. Change Your Angle for a More Intimate Perspective

When you’re doing soft-focus macro photography, you want to create a connection with the viewer. You want the viewer to look at the photo and feel drawn in.

One of the best ways to do this is to change your angle.

Because certain angles create very intimate perspectives. Which is exactly what you need.

Specifically, I suggest you don’t just shoot your soft-focus macro from a standing height. Take a few images from up high, but then get down on the ground. Lie down if you’re able.

If you can do this, your photos will become so much more intimate.

In fact, I often shoot while lying flat on the ground, with my lens parallel to the dirt. This low angle does so much to enhance soft-focus photos. And it create such intimate, powerful photos.

I took this photo while crouched low:

(I couldn’t have gotten the angle I wanted, otherwise!)

Now, you shouldn’t feel confined to this low-angle shooting. Experiment with many different angles. Get closer to your subject. Move farther away.

The more angles you try, the more likely you are to find that perfect shot!

7. Include Several Colors to Enhance Your Soft-Focus Images

Here’s your final tip for amazing soft-focus macro photos:

Choose your colors carefully.

In particular, try to create a nice color palette–one that works together to make an amazing image.

Now, this isn’t as hard as it sounds. You don’t need to go to art school, and you don’t need to learn color theory.

Instead, in every photo you take, try to include two or three colors. If you include too few, the photo will turn out bland. But if you include too many, the photo will be chaotic.

As discussed above, the background can be a color of its own. And the subject can be a color (or two). That way, you’ll get a few nice colors. And the image will feel harmonious–not too complex, and not too boring, either.

If you want to create especially powerful photos, you can pick colors that contrast with one another. For instance, red and green are strongly contrasting colors. So you can put some green leaves behind your red (or pink) flower, and you’ll get a really interesting shot.

You can also combine similar shades of color. For instance, you can find a yellow flower and an orange flower. If you put one flower in the background and one in the foreground, you’ll get a beautiful image, one that is both simple and powerful.

The bottom line?

Just think about your colors. Don’t try to make this too complex, but don’t let them become too simple, either.

That’s how you’ll get some stunning macro images.

7 Easy Tips for Beautiful Soft-Focus Macro Photography: Conclusion

Now that you’ve finished this article, you have the ability to take amazing soft-focus macro images.

You know how to work with light.

You know how to find the best compositions.

And you know how to create wonderful, soft-focus macros.

The only thing left to do?

Get out and start shooting. Lots of amazing opportunities await!

california oak tree

Getting Lost and Making Mistakes Worked Out for Me, This Time!

By | Images available for purchase, Photographing | No Comments

Getting lost and making mistakes worked out for me, this time!


The story behind, “California Oak”. You can purchase a high-quality print here and learn the story below.

Every Spring,  Kevin and I head out to my Aunt’s and Uncle’s in Solvang. We have a great time visiting and catching up, and it’s also a time for me and my Aunt to photograph together.

On one of our trips, Kevin and I decided to take our jeep off road for a short trip up the Santa Anez mountains (well it’s really Los Padres National Forest) so I could grab a couple of quick shots for fun. It was the first time that my Aunt or Uncle wasn’t with us. I bet you can guess what happened next…yes, Kevin and I got lost!

We had no idea where we were at! When we got cell reception, I had to call my Uncle to help us get back into the valley. 🙂

The sun was beginning to set and I was getting a bit nervous because some of the roads are pretty crazy up the mountain. But…I say but, because normally I would not do this knowing we needed to get down that mountain.

As I look to the left, I saw this beautiful large California Oak.  I told Kevin we had to stop!  Instantly I fell in love with this tree.  I took a variety of shots with different exposures to get more range from darks to brights (HDR).

As I started shooting away, I didn’t realize that my ISO was way, way too high, which ended up making this image very grainy.

I was so mad when I pulled the photograph up on my computer!  I loved the tree and wanted to save the work, so I started to search around for pictures of trees on the Internet to give me ideas of how I could post-process it because I knew I would have to emphasize the grain to save the shot.

As I was searching, I found some beautiful artwork of Japanese tree paintings.  So I started playing with those types of colors to try and save the story of this grand old oak tree which stood apart from everything else.

I was inspired by this piece, can you tell?   🙂

I’m so happy to say that the influence of Japanese Art and my love for this Oaktree has brought this beautiful picture back to life.

california oak tree

I straightened the tree just a tad 🙂

This piece is part of the first set of images on Thirty9.  You can purchase this print in many mediums.  Check out the details here.  Now you have the story behind the photograph.  Just print this out after you purchase the work and let me know how you like your new piece of artwork hanging on your wall.  🙂

Janice Sullivan

thirty9, sedona, arizona

The Awesome Journey of the Value of my Indian Ruin Image

By | Images available for purchase, Inspiration, SJP's News and Updates | No Comments

Today is the first post of the stories that I will share with you on the photographs that are available for purchase on Thirty9.   I’m honored to share with you the awesome journey of the value of my Indian Ruin. First, you should know that Kevin and I LOVE Sedona, Arizona because it’s a place where we can unwind.  We enjoy hiking and I take many pictures of our journies. As we were hiking we met an 80-year-old man hiking by himself.  He was in shape, but we were worried because he didn’t have a cell phone or water.  It was winter and some of the trails were pretty slippery.  So we stayed with him as we went up the mountain.  At the top we took a break and had a snack, then all three of us headed back down.

He told us that he was so grateful to have us with him that he wanted to share a hidden secret that only locals know about.

So he showed us a hidden trail of an old Native American ruin he had found on a previous trip. It was a crazy hike up the hill and was a tad hairy at times, but it was so worth it. I took some shots but really didn’t like what I got, but the second time we visited Sedona, we were prepared for the hike.

Kevin and I sat there enjoying our accomplishment of finding it a second time. The trail was hard to find.  As we sat there understanding the value of the history of these Indians, I set up my tripod and decided to make an HDR (high dynamic range) panorama.

Below is the pano stitch before I processed it.

indian ruin before

Before: Pano stitch

This is the completed image.  It amazes me that these ruins are thousands of years old and are still around.  It felt good to be one with them so many years in their future.  I am honored to make this piece and thankful for the gentleman that we met for that one day.

He will always be special in our memories, as well as this historical ruin.

Indian Ruin Completed

Each of my images has awesome stories, but I have to say that I’m happy to start off with the story of this image.  I hope that my work resonates with others as much as I feel about seeing the history in these rocks.

To purchase this piece, click here and know that you’ll have a top quality piece of history and the journey with a wonderful man understanding the value of kindness.

Have questions?  Ask below 😉


Janice Sullivan

No More Snapshots: I Show You How to Use Textures

By | Inspiration | 8 Comments

No More Snapshots – I Show You How to Use Textures

When you feel your work is just a “snapshot”, when it’s just like every other image out there…. or you like your main subject, but everything else is distracting because you had to snap that shot with all the mess….or you took your shot out of focus, yes that would be a “snapshot” too because unfortunately you just didn’t have the time to really grab a perfect in-focus shot.


Use Textures to fix that “snapshot”… Below are some examples to help you.

The video tutorial below shows you how to apply a texture to your image, see examples and the reason why I used texture to fix my snapshots.

Here is an important tip… try a couple of textures on one image. I find that two to three textures gives the work impact.

poinsettia pop

Poinsettia with textures.

Poinsettia leaf with texture.

Masking out some of the texture will give the work depth. That’s what I did on the Situate lighthouse below.

Another great way to remove problem areas in your composition is to add texture. The silk flowers below had too much going on and I just wanted you to focus on three of the flowers, so I went to town with textures in the other areas of the image. I did some blending and playing with layer masks to really get what I wanted, which was to remove distraction on my main focal points.

silk flowers, texture

Silk Flowers with Texture

If you want a flat look, then let the texture overlap on top of the main subject. In the work below, I wanted the flower to feel like it was colored with a pencil so I let the texture overlap the flower.

With the sunset below, I wanted some friction added to the story so I added texture. Now, I like both of the images below, but it’s the story I’m thinking about. “Electricity in the Desert.”  The “snapshot” I took now isn’t a “snapshot” any longer.



With this Gerbera Daisy, I wanted you to feel the flower bleeding off into the background, so I added dimension with texture. I also added some water effects with a plugin called flood. It’s a lot of fun to play with… you can learn how to use Flood by CLICKING HERE.

Flower Flood with Texture

So please don’t toss that image that isn’t quite in focus or if you don’t like the color palette. Textures can help both of these problems.

I shot this quickly and to tell you the truth, I knew it wasn’t going to be perfect, but I had a plan to play with it. I used my texture called, “Webbed Rocks” to fix this image.

photography software, what software to buy,

Dead flower with textures and stacked.


Using Textures can help push your images to another level. So today’s quick inspiration and challenge to you is to NOT toss your work! Play with textures! If you sign up for my newsletter here, you’ll receive some of my free textures and the tutorial above on how to use them. If you join our membership program here, you receive 73 of my textures to play with plus a bunch more goodies that will help you push your work to the next level.

I hope you have an awesome time playing with your photographs! If you have any fun snap-shots that you’ve fixed, share how you did it in the comments below so we all can learn from you.


Janice Sullivan

Photograph Awesome Landscapes with these 7 Tips

By | Landscape & Travel, Photographing | No Comments

Photograph Awesome Landscapes with these 7 Tips

Like you, I love to photograph landscapes.  It’s always good to grab some pointers to push your creativity so you can photograph awesome landscapes!  Below are 7 tips that I have learned through the years of photographing landscapes, especially deserts.


Photograph during storms and be safe.

Dramatic is what you’ll have…during our winter hike in Zion National park, there was a winter storm.  We were lucky to see the desert snow and took time to play in various locations of the park. The video below shares some of the fun!

Please be careful!  I know it’s exciting when you know you have an opportunity to photograph an exciting stormy landscape, but it can be dangerous.  I shot this image right after they had opened up the road from a huge rock landslide that trapped several cars.  The people were ok, and nobody was killed, but they had to helicopter them out of the park.  Be sure to check the bottom of this post, I share some essentials that Kevin and I have with us that may help you.

zion in the snow

Zion in the Snow – 1/750 @ f4.0 ISO 400 – HDR 2 images.


Look for leading lines and talk to locals.

The rock in the foreground takes your eyes to the sun.  Leading lines are powerful and help the viewers’ eyes go to the place in your work that you want them to be.

This India Ruin was a hidden secret.  We met an amazing hiker, over 80 years old btw, that told us about this Ruin.  It was so hard to find!  No way would we have seen this location on our own.  It was a perfect place for the Indians that once lived there thousands of years ago.

Once we got to the ruin, you could see the valley.  PLUS, this was a perfect time for me to photograph during the day!  Yes, the middle of the day! Most Landscape photographers would never think of photographing with the harsh light of midday…but I did and so can you.  🙂

An old Indian ruin that we found from locals in southern Arizona. HDR Pano Stack


Don’t leave after the Sunsets and “What are they looking at?”

The best light is about 30 minutes before the sun rises and 30 minutes after the sun sets, give or take a minute or two.  Scout your location during the day for compositions and set up before the golden hour (one hour before sunset/sunrise).

Kevin and I hiked Watson Lake during the day and because we were new to the place, I paid attention to where other photographers were hanging out.

As the sun was setting, people were taking a bunch of pictures around the location below and when they left, I was like “SCORE”!  I rushed to the site to see what the excitement was all about and I noticed the amazing compositions all around me.  I knew I only had moments to set up. As the sun went down, the sky blew up behind me and bam, happy Janice couldn’t stop taking HDR shots.

Be patient…it’s worth it for you to experience the beauty after the sunsets.

Watson Lake – HDR

Symmetrical Balanced landscapes are beautiful. The Watson Lake image above is a great example of symmetry.

Research where you plan to photograph.  Check out its history… you’ll feel the place and take better shots for sure.

This is where they made the famous movie Gunga Din.  It was so much fun photographing historical movie locations for the day.

gunga din, desert, western movie area

Lone Pine California

No more eye-level shots.

Take us on a new journey.  We all see landscapes at eye level.   Shoot over or under your main focal point and you’ll have some punch to the story.

sunset, tree, watson lake

I shot this below the tree. The sky popped and the tree seems larger than what it really was.


Look Out For Stories and Perspectives

I call this, “Ouch”!  In Joshua Tree, there are many rock climbers.  I noticed a bunch of them on a clump of rocks, so I set up my tripod and camera while paying attention to the foreground.  Sure enough, this rock climber bent down.  I was laughing because the perspective was perfect.  You see people holding the Sun all the time in pictures.  Play with people in your landscapes…it gives perspective and fun stories.

joshua tree, janice sullivan, sullivanjphotography, rock climer,



Get out of your Car

Almost didn’t get this shot!

We had a full day of hiking and I had done some sunset shots in a different location, but I wasn’t happy that there were no clouds.  As we were driving, the sky turned this beautiful yellow and the excitement that we (photographers) have when you know it’s good to pull out the camera came over me…but I almost didn’t.  The inner self-wasn’t happy not having clouds in the landscape and the sky wasn’t pink and purple like desert sunsets can be, so I almost didn’t stop and take the shot….last second before the turnoff, I changed my mind. I’m so happy I did.  I love this image!  I can feel the beauty of the desert.


Get Crazy and Play

green lake, sun, landscape

1/2000 @f16 28mm ISO160

One last tip…I’d like you to step out of the box and play with some of your landscapes in post-production.  It’s fun to go over the top sometimes and help you be creative even if you never show anyone what you’ve done.  I had fun with these pieces and that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it 🙂  And…they are perfect images for Interior Designers, who were my clients at the time.


Now let’s talk a little about gear.

You don’t need much, but you should have at least a couple of goodies in your equipment bag.

  • Tripod – Sturdy your camera
  • Camera (that’s a give me)
  • Graduated Filters if you don’t like to photograph HDR.
  • Your favorite lens  – Wide – 50mm – Telephoto
  • Polarizer filter – remove the glare on water and saturate color a tad
  • Shutter remote – To grab that sharp image (remove camera shake)
  • Variable Neutral Density Filter – Slow your shutter speed for soft water shots.

Here are more essentials for when you’re outdoors photographing.  You may think this is overkill, but we’ve actually needed most of the goodies during our various adventures.

  • Flashlight
  • Toilet Paper
  • Paper Map and compass (phone reception doesn’t always work)
  • Freeze-dried food
  • Firestarters
  • Water
  • Bug repellant
  • First Aid kit
  • Knife
  • Blanket – Extra clothing
  • Trash Bags

99% of my work in High Dynamic Range (HDR) if you would like to learn more about HDR I have an awesome Mini-Course for you.  Updates are forever too!

Feel free to share your gear and tips.  I always love to read your comments.


Janice Sullivan

View Cart Product successfully added to your cart.

5 Tips to Photograph When You’re In A Rush

By | Photographing | 16 Comments

5 Tips to Photograph When You’re In A Rush

I know how hard it is to take time to really focus on your photography when you’re in a rush.  I’m always in a rush when I’m with family and friends. With that said, take your camera with you anyways.  You can still have fun playing with your shots.  Here are 5 ways to photograph and be creative when you’re in a rush.

  1. Motion Blur – you can make some beautiful work slowing your shutter speed and moving your camera.
  2. Look for patterns – Even if you blur a bit with patterns your eyes really pull to the pattern not blur.
  3. Hold your breath and pulling your elbows in –  Seriously, it really works.  You make yourself a human tripod.
  4. Use a lens with Image Stabilizer – It’s hard to have a tripod around when you’re in a rush and with non-photographers.  This type of lens will help you make a sharper image.
  5. Use a shallow depth of field –  1.4 to 5.6 usually works for me, sometimes I go to f11 when it’s bright outside.  Since the aperture is open you’ll have more light coming into your camera so you can speed up the shutter speed.  Just make sure your main focal point is nice and sharp.

Keep your camera with you all of the time. I say this because if you love photography like me and you don’t have your tripod or that perfect lens, it shouldn’t matter. Some people get all caught up on equipment and feel that their images won’t be worth anything because they don’t have the correct setup. Yes, when you plan a shoot it makes all the difference, but when you can’t it’s okay too.

It’s a great time to really learn your camera.  Just play and not worry if you can’t get the sharp image you planned on grabbing at the time.  The more you photograph the more you learn.

1.  Motion Blur –


2. Look for patterns –


3. Hold your breath and pull in your elbows


4. Lenses with Image Stabilizers –

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Telephoto Zoom Lens

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Telephoto Zoom Lens

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens


5. Use a shallow depth of field –



In our membership for July’s challenge we’re keeping our cameras with us everywhere we go to learn something new within or outside of your camera.  Your camera should be part of you, an extension of you.  The more you’re comfortable with your camera the better you’ll feel when you pick it up.

I challenge you to take your camera everywhere and photograph when the opportunity arises: lunch break, when you go for a walk, grocery shopping, etc…  Really get to understand your camera inside and out. 

Have any suggestions for us?  I’d love to know your tips when you’re photographing in a rush, share them below.


Janice Sullivan

Find me on Google+

10 tips for creatives,

10 Tips for Creatives – Photographers

By | Inspiration, Photographing | 4 Comments

We all go through those horrible creative slumps.  I’ve had a couple of people ask me how I get rid of those damn creative blocks, so I figured I’d give my tips to help you.

It’s a frustrating time for us creative people and I hope that if you have a creative block, you remember this post.  The video below is a bit longer than most of mine, but I feel it will really help you so I don’t want to break it up.  You can go to the end if you just want to hear the 10 tips and below I have them in bullet points. With that said, I think the video is really good because I go into a lot of detail.

Your 10 tips:

    • 1.  Grab ideas
    • 2.  Do some research using this PDF. This PDF is part of our membership Adventures of the F-Stop.  We went over the sheet in detail.
    • 3.  Monthly challenge
    • 4.  Understand composition & break it
    • 5.  Join a membership group
    • 6.  Try new lenses
    • 7.  When creativity hits you, write it down on a notepad or your phone
    • 8.  Most of your work won’t be seen.
    • 9.  Don’t be a compareslogger”
    • 10. Take a break

Doing a search on the internet to grab some post-processing ideas gave me the idea of processing this from art I’ve seen.

creative tips chinese art

Inspired by Chinese Art


Found this place from a fellow photographer friend.

Photograph of Watson Lake near Prescott, Arizona after sunset. Water reflection of rocks and sky.



I really hope these help you as much as they help me.  It’s a great feeling when the creative wheels are spinning.

When you have those creative slumps what do you do to get out of them?  Let us know below.



Janice Sullivan

fix dark backgrounds

Reduce Dark Background From Flash

By | Lighting, Macro & Close-up | 6 Comments

Reducing Your Dark Background From Your Flash

On my first live chat show, one of the critique submissions from William was perfect for a deep dive video. He had a beautiful bug image that was shot with a flash. The background was underexposed because when you get up close with your flash, the light will drop fast so the background will go really dark to black. I told him that I would like to do a deep dive video to show him how I fix flash problems.

There are other ways to help you fix this problem…I know it’s frustrating when you really want to have the background exposed properly. The best way to fix this problem is on the camera while you’re photographing. So let’s get to it…

Adjust your camera settings to Manual Mode.  Do your best to get the best f-stop, shutter-speed and ISO to have the subject and background exposed properly.

If you’re shooting bugs or need to stop motion because of wind and other movements happening while you’re photographing, a flash will be needed.  With the manual settings you’ve done previously, do a test shot on ETTL ( Evaluate Through The Lens).

This is basically your flash put on manual mode.  Next…put your flash on Manual and play with your ratios.

If this fails, it’s time to be creative. You can bring in a matte picture you’ve shot previously and put it behind your subject or photograph backgrounds that can be added in post production.

Look around the subject’s location and see if you like anything and then shoot away. In post you’ll merge them together. I show how to do this in Photoshop during the live show.  Check it out here, it’s about 33 minutes into the show.

I used my Macro Ring Light in the behind-the-scenes. I really like the soft feel I get with this flash. But like I always say…light is light. You don’t need this lens to make a great Macro shot. You just need to understand your equipment and it’s limitations.

fix dark backgrounds

How to fix dark backgrounds from your flash


How do you work your flash situation when you have these problems? I’d love to know 🙂


Cheers to beautiful backgrounds!

Janice Sullivan

Understand Exposure to be a power shooter.

Stop Being a Snap Shooter and Really Focus on Exposure

By | Exposure, Photographing | No Comments

I know that exposure isn’t the sexiest thing to talk about…we just want to make awesome pictures and really hope that we grabbed the perfect shot the first time. But unfortunately that rarely happens 🙁   So I’m here today to discuss this dreaded word: EXPOSURE. If you LOVE exposure, kudos to you and I’m slapping a high five at you right now! If not, let’s help you understand what happens with your camera when it makes the exposure and how you can work it!

Let’s dive in a bit deeper than the 3 parts that make an exposure that I talked about a couple of weeks ago.

Once you really understand exposure, you’ll have so much power while using your camera, and if you’re a power freak like me, you’ll be in photography heaven while you photograph. No Snap Shooting for YOU!



I talked about the steps to start your learning fun with exposure. For now, just play and don’t stress out. You’ll get it!

Here is another visual to help you see the difference of how bright the sky is compared to the grass and trees in the field. I manual shot the best image paying attention to what I could bring out when I processed this in ON1.

The grass looks great, but I couldn’t get the clouds to pop.


 Focus on Exposure

1/125 @ f6.7 ISO 200 Manual Mode Over Exposed


Now the sky looks amazing, but everything else looks like crap!


 Focus on Exposure

1,3000 @ f6.7 ISO 200 Manual Mode


So this was the shot I had to work with. I had just enough information to pull out what I wanted to make my river of grass shot. 🙂


Exposure to get the shot. Had to use manual mode.

1/350 @ f6.7 ISO 200 Manual Mode


It was tough, but I worked the image and got what I wanted in one shot! Whew! Fun…fun!


Correct Exposure to get the shot.


This is another way to get up close and personal with your camera, so when you start to photograph and just look at your scene, you’ll start to know what’s going to happen before you even push that shutter button. I’d like you to be different than the snapshooters, and the way you really begin to create your OWN work is to understand that there may be problems with your exposure and to know what to do when those problems arise.

Normally I ask you questions, but I thought today it would be better for YOU to ask me questions. If you want more techie answers, I’ll answer them here in the comment section.  Feel free to ask anything about exposure, I really do want to help if you’re just not understanding why the pictures are not turning out the way you want them to!





Anza Borrego Wild Flower

5 Tips to Get Ready for Desert Photographing

By | Inspiration, Photographing | No Comments

Anza Borrego Photo Boo Boo

Kevin and I decided to head out for a road trip to Anza Borrego. I’ve heard about the super bloom in the desert and  I was all over take advantage of the flowers. Kevin grabbed his drone and I grabbed my photography equipment. This was our first trip and being newbies to the place I thought I was so prepared! I researched the park on where the flowers were blooming, but boy did I screw up!   So here are some of my tips before you head out to the desert.

1. Make sure you go over all of your equipment before you leave for your desert photographing fun!

Why is this the first tip of this post?  Because I made a huge boo boo and forgot my plate that attaches to the camera so I couldn’t use my tripod. Yikes…that’s huge when you’re  a macro photographer.  I was so lucky because I had my Gorillapod in my photo bag. Whew!

2.  When packing your equipment don’t say to yourself, “I hardly ever use this so I wont bring it this time”.

I’ve said those words to myself before and I so happy I didn’t listen to myself this trip! My extra tripod what saved the day!

3.  Super bloom news made the park packed.  

The traffic was crazy so I suggest you grab a good app for your phone to check traffic. We found other routes to get into the park and that made our life easier so we could get to flowers instead of being in traffic for hours.

4.  Make sure you have water, food and gas!

Yes, gas is on our list! We didn’t realize how big the park was and our Jeep was running low on gas. We had to drive way out of our way to grab more and there were no flowers on the way. Fuel up before you get  into the park!

5. Don’t beat yourself up for not having the correct photography gear!

Take a deep breath and look to see how you can fix the situation. If all fails and you can’t use your camera take out your phone and take pictures. Maybe it wasn’t what was intended, but you grab what you love and TAKE pictures!


Her are some links to help you get ready for your photograph adventure:

Metal Sculptures – You’ve got to see these amazing pieces of art and here is a great place to check out the Wild Flower Update.

If you want to see some suggestion on macro equipment:

Macro Photography: Cameras, Lenses and Tripods

Here are some fun Gadgets for macro.

If you’ve never photographed macro style check this out before you leave for your trip.

5 Tips to Get You Started With Macro Photography


I’d love to know what you’re photography boo boo has been! What did you end up doing to fix the problem?

Let us know in the comment section below!


Reptiles and Amphibians Contest

By | Lighting | No Comments

I’m so honored to be a judge on Viewbug.com! It’s an amazing place to get inspired. I’m judging the Reptiles and Amphibians Contest. Our pet leopard gecko would be so jealous if she knew all the cool images of other critters I’ve been viewing. 🙂 I plan to share the other contest I’m judging next week, so stay tuned for that.

I wanted to tell you another fun aspect of this site. You can win cool goodies…and you all know I LOVE goodies. Well, if you’re new to my blog then you know now. There are thousands of people around the world on this site, so if you’ve got photo burn-out…make Viewbug one of your go-to sites to light a creative fire.



So click here to check out the photo contest and then scan around. I know you’ll find an interest somewhere on Viewbug.com.



Here is my latest unboxing. I have to admit I’m starting to feel a bit more comfortable in front of the camera. I’m stepping out of my comfort zone for sure.  I’ve alway liked to be behind the camera instead of in front of it. What makes this easier for me is talking about what I love; photography, it’s equipment and tools. I next want to share my macro tips and techniques since this is my true passion. But I need more practice in front of the camera for sure.


Unboxing a Flash Zebra Shutter Release Cable for Pocket Wizards



I haven’t shared some awesome sales or fun goodies I’ve found out there in a while, so here you go…


The Pre-Order for Aurora HDR 2017 includes over $300 in bonuses, find out more here!  It’s an amazing program. Yep, I have it and love it!  You can also check out their blog here for even more info.



Click on the twitter to tweet the awesome contest!

Tweet: Join the fun and submit to Reptiles and Amphibians #Contest and win a camera! http://ctt.ec/Noe5x+
Of course I’d love to chat, if you’re up to it…write a comment or just say hi!


Janice Sullivan


© 2019 Sullivan J Photography, LLC. All Rights Reserved