Our Students Have Been Keeping Busy

Happy Friday to everyone! Here’s some student work for you before the weekend.

Katie Middlebrook created this gray baby announcement for our Illustrator 101 class.  We loved everything from the font she chose to the yellow flower details.  Good job, Katie!

The hearts are from Sheree Springer for our Illustrator 101 class. Students are assigned to create brushes in Illustrator and Sheree created these darling heart brushes that can be used over and over again. We think she did an excellent job!

These two cute owls are from Jesette Vichot for Illustrator 101. Jesette did an amazing job of creating a compelling illustration using simple shapes. Fantastic work!

Pati created this birthday card and did an amazing job at creating a visually interesting and fun invitation. Check her out over here!  Thanks for this work, Pati!

And our last sample of work is from Heather, with a very creative design whose bright colors grabbed our attention. If you want to see more from Heather, take a look at her portfolio!

Top Camera Lenses

One of the consistent questions I get is about which lenses I use. Over time, my opinions have changed, but these three lenses are currently my favorites for these specific shooting categories. Remember, investing in a lens is just that: an investment. Before buying, try renting for the weekend to make sure you really love the lens. Or, consider buying used lenses from trusted camera shops.

The Portrait Lens
Nicole’s Favorite: 85mm f1.2
Cheaper Alternatives: 85mm f1.8, 85mm f1.4, 50mm f1.8, 50mm f1.4

Currently my 85mm f1.2 is my all-time favorite lens. It’s so sharp and there is no distortion. It also gives great background compression (bokeh). Since this is not a zoom lens, you physically have to move to change your composition. This lens can be limiting in smaller areas where you still need to capture a lot of area. For DSLRs without full-frame sensors, consider the 50mm.

The Travel Lens
Nicole’s Favorite: 24-105mm f4
Cheaper Alternatives: 18-135mm f3.5-5.6

The 24-105mm is a versatile zoom lens that is perfect when you only want to take one lens somewhere. This lens is a favorite for weddings, documentary and travel photography because you can shoot wide angle and still zoom in for a beautiful portrait. The downside is it only opens up to f/4 and like most all zoom lenses, it isn’t as sharp as a prime lens.

The Kid Lens
Nicole’s Favorite:24-70mm f2.8
Cheaper Alternatives:  18-55mm f3.5-5.6 and the 50mm f1.8 (not a zoom, but a great lens!)

In the last year, I’ve shot a lot with this lens. For a zoom lens, its ability to open up to f2.8 makes it great for getting shallow depth of field. A zoom lens makes it easier when photographing kids in an uncontrolled setting where their activity makes it necessary to zoom in and out. As with most zoom lenses, this lens isn’t as sharp as a prime lens and has some issues with chromatic abberations.

To see more information on all of these lenses, check out this segment from KSL Studio 5

Fourth of July Sale


With only a week left until the Fourth of July, we wanted to have a sale to celebrate the patriotic holiday!  (but of course, this special offer is open to all of our international students, too!) Enter promo code JULYFOURTH when you sign up for one of our classes and receive 25% off from now thru July 4th.  Remember, this discount doesn’t include previous purchases or gift certificates.

Happy Independence Day!

Nicole on TV!

We hope all of you are having a good Tuesday! Today, Nicole has the opportunity to appear on KSL at 11:00, Mountain Time. She’s going to be discussing her top three favorite lenses, so tune in!

And, if you wanted to see some of Nicole’s other features on KSL, you can check out her advice on engagement photos right here.

Monday Student Work

Today, we wanted to showcase a couple more pieces from our students!  Take a look!

This design was done by Amanda for our Illustrator 101 class. We love the light colors and the simple, on-trend imagery. Good job, Amanda!

These fun balloons were done by Val for Principles of Good Design. Excellent use of contrast and negative space! And a perfect font choice! Excellent work, Val!

Student Work in June

It’s Friday again, which means more samples of student work! Our students have kept busy with their homework lately–take a look!


Helga Varadi created this vespa image in our Illustrator class! We love the color and design and wanted all of you to see it, too. The hard work paid off, Helga!



Jacque captured this shot for one of our photography classes. We love when a simple object and the right lighting can be transformed into an interesting picture. Good job, Jacque! Check out more over here.



And if you’ve ever visited San Francisco, this fantastic sign may have caught your eye. Rose O’Donnel decided to try her hand at recreating it for an Illustrator assignment. This is what she had to say: “I love this city and everything around me inspires me. I’ve always liked this sign – and on my commute this morning, I thought ‘I’d love to try to make this with the pen and pencil tools!’ It’s a little wobbly, but I had fun with it! I added a slight grain to the background to make the image easier on the eyes.”

We love how it turned out, Rose! Good job!

Product Photography: Window Light or Shade?

I am a big fan of shooting in shade and window light and believe both can be used to create gorgeous light for your product.

Shade can give such beautiful light and is often best when you want soft light with minimal shadows. There is usually a clear direction of light so that you can choose whether you will have front, side or back light, but the result is much softer.

Window light will automatically give you more shadow and contrast because the window is focusing the light into the space. Minimizing shadows is completely in your control by adding fill cards. The result of window light is a stronger emphasis on shape and texture with more contrast and shadows. Ooooh.. unless you are front-lit —rarely does that flatter your product!

For more product photography tips, consider taking my Tabletop Photography class. And if you need the basics first, you’ll love my Photo 101 class or book!

Sale on Textbooks!

It’s the start of a new week, and we’re excited to tell you all that Illustrator and Photoshop textbooks are being offered at a major discount!

Adobe had a recent upgrade to CS6, so these two textbooks will be on sale through June 20 (until midnight PST!).  They’re $20 a piece – the lowest price we have ever offered for textbooks!  Get your copy now, or snatch up several for gifts!  This is a great bargain if you don’t have plans to upgrade soon.  Even if you have made the upgrade already, all of the basic information on how the program works is the same.  The new interface just looks much darker than what is shown in these books.

Father’s Day Contest Winners!

We were really excited about the number of entries we receive for our Father’s Day contest!  The quality of the entries was amazing, and judging so many wonderful photos and designs was definitely a challenge.  But the judges’ votes are in, and here are the winners:


Ellen Quist Rowley wins for best photo!  The tender moment she captured between father and daughter made this snapshot stand out as a favorite.  Congratulations, Ellen!


Best design went to Kristin Brown Maynes! We love the items she chose that remind her of fathers.  The color choice and style are amazing, too!  Way to go, Kristin!



Last (but certainly not least!) was our photo that was the most liked.  With 161 likes, Shauna Leishman-Burnett wins this category.  We loved the photo, too.  So congrats, Shauna!


Thanks to everyone who entered!  Be on the look out for our next contest!

Adding Contrast to Your Photo

There is a strong trend in lifestyle photography of bright, happy imagery. (Guilty as charged!) Obviously, I’m a huge fan, but one common problem in this type of lighting and exposure is having a dull, lifeless photo from the lack of shadows. The relationship between shadows and highlights is the contrast in your photo and without much of it, images tend to look flat.


Having contrast is key in defining your subject’s shape and texture. Having the light direction from the side (as opposed to front or back) can more obviously show shadows. But depending on where you are shooting, light might be bouncing back into the shadows brightening it unintenionally. To really dial back in those shadows, consider using a black board (or black sheet or velvet) on the shadow side to really soak in the light and help maintain rich shadows on your subject.


Here is an example on set last week where I took the magazine’s intern to demonstrate the effect of the black board:




The board wasn’t too close to the model, so the effect was slight, but the bonus was those added shadows made my model look even skinnier!


Now let’s take a look at this example of food:


The black board was positioned on the right of the dish to help bring back shadows. The result is also slight, but does just enough to make the image richer and give the food a more three-dimensional quality.


You can buy a black foam board in the office supply section of grocery or pharmacy stores. They are usually used for presentations, but they’ll be your new best friend!


This tip and many more can be found in my Tabletop Photography class where we explore various types of light and decide which is best for your subject.
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