Want to improve your photography? Go out of your comfort zone!

Want to improve your photography? Go out of your comfort zone!

You have probably heard that one already. But do you understand why is this important for your growth as a photographer? The answer is quite simple – our comfort zone discourages or really stops any real learning because it limits your exposure to new places, ideas and opportunities. Set in our ways and routines, we will do what we always do. And this does not apply only to photography, it applies to everything in our lives.

The Mountains Are Calling” photography project. Fuji XT-2, Fujinon 16-55 F2.8 (c) 2020 Ivo Popov Photography

Most people choose to never get out of their comfort zones, it is easier and comfortable. Why change that at all?

Because when it comes to photography trying new gear, new angles, new subjects, traveling and exposing ourselves to new locations and cultures will be a tremendous boost to our creativity. And practicing in the field will make wonders for your photography skills.

So how do you go out of your comfort zone? Here are a few simple techniques:

  1. Photograph only with a prime lens for a month. Don’t have a prime lens? Use your zoom lens only at a specific focal length, for example 35mm. This will make you see the world around you in a new way. No more lazy zooming in and out, now you will need to use your feet to get closer or move away. I have been photographing with prime lenses for close to 15 years already and I know how much they can boost your creativity and inspiration.
  2. Photograph only in Black and White for a while. Most new cameras allow you take photos directly in black an white in you camera. Shoot in RAW and that way you can easily get the colour back later if you want to. Doing this will really allow you to concentrate on the subject you are photographing and not get distracted by the colours.
  3. Are you afraid to photograph people? Ask your friends or colleagues to pose for a simple portrait. This is the best way to overcome your fear of approaching people to photograph.
Indian Coffee House / Kolkata / India, Fuji XT-2, Fujinon 16-55mm F2.8 (c) 2020 Ivo Popov Photography

4. Change the type of photography you do. Try street photography or landscapes, shoot portraits for a while or still life. There is always another type of photography you can try.

5. Take part in a workshop. Are you a landscape photographer? Consider taking a Street Photography Workshop. Are you a street photographer? Take a Portrait Photography Workshop. This will allow you to see your photography from a different angle and yes, it will be hard adjusting a first, but the rewards will be good!

So don’t wait until tomorrow, pack your bag and go now! You will thank me later 🙂

Behind the photo: Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India

Woman at a construction site in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India. Fuji XT-2 and Fujinon 56mm F1.2

I took the photo above during my 2019 Photo Adventure in India. I was walking around the old city of Jodhpur when I noticed a construction site in a small opening between the buildings. Something caught my attention and at first I couldn’t say what it was. I stopped and looked for a while and suddenly realised that most of the people working on the construction are women. It was a shocking discovery.

The women were moving big baskets with sand and rock on their heads seemingly effortlessly despite the heat. I saw the guy supervising the construction and approached him to ask why so many women work this hard job. He said that he employs women because they are paid less, but work as hard as men and some of them even harder.

He was a bit reluctant to allow me to photograph there, but finally said ok and I moved on the side (considering where the good light is and what will my composition be based on that) and waited for an interesting moment to happen. It came a bit later when the woman in the photo sat to rest a bit. My camera was ready, I picked it up, framed the shot and hoped she will look at some point my way. She did.

Settings: 56mm (85mm on a full frame sensor) ISO 320, F2.8, 1/1250



Gallery: Kolkata and Varanasi, 2020

In January and February I did visited Kolkata and Varanasi during my Photo Adventure in India. Here is a small gallery with a few of the photos I took there.

If you are interested in Joining in 2021, please take a look here: PhotoAdventures.be

All photos taken with Fuji XT-2, Fujinon 16-55 F/2.8, Fujinon 56mm F/1.2 and Fujinon 23mm F/1.4

Behind the photo: Varanasi, India

If you expect to nail your idea with the first shot when you are on location taking photos, you are greatly mistaken. Nobody nails the first one, this is not how photography works. 

The bird feeder, Varanasi, India 2020 / Fujifilm XT-2, Fujinon 16-55 F/2.8

I took the photo above during my 2020 Photo Adventure in India. It was an early morning in Varanasi. I feel in love with the idea of this photo, so approached closer and started taking photos.

For those interested a few numbers: I spent 12 days in India in February 2020 and came back home with 12500 photos. Used only 1 lens for 99% of the photos (16-55mm F/2.8). Broke one camera 🙂 After the first very rough selection ended up with ±1260 photos. Second selection brought that down to ±550. From them I managed to select about ±150 finals that I like enough to keep and show.

So why shoot so many photos if I end up using only a very small percent in the end?

Hopefully this will be a good example: I took 281 photos at this spot for about 15 minutes, from the same angle, with the same settings. Just one photo used in the end – the photo you see above.

You tell me if it is worth the effort 🙂

People and portrait photography tips

People are one of the most common subjects to photograph, but to show them at their best is often a challenge, so here are some people and portrait photography tips.

We can photograph people in a lot of different ways – documentary, we can create art or fashion photos, business or lifestyle portraits or just everyday family pictures. Each genre has a different purpose which drives the creative process behind taking the photograph. There are many things you need to consider to be successful in photographing people.

Ivo Popov Photography


  • Cover your basics. Being familiar with some basic settings on your camera is the first step you need to take. Make sure you know how to use your camera in Aperture priority mode (and how to adjust your exposure compensation) or in Manual mode
  • Practice using available light to get the most of your photos. Most people feel at a loss when they have to consider how to use natural light to their advantage. Direction of light, proper exposure and right posing of your subject are crucial.
  • Consider getting a fast prime lens (if you don’t already have one). A good carpenter never blames his tools. But he’ll tell you the importance of having the right tool for the job. Even a cheap 50mm F1.8 lens will do miracles when photographing people.
  • If you want to use flash for your photography, get a dedicated speed light and remote flash triggers to use the flash off camera for much better results. Flash photography is a completely different beast. It is not that hard, but definitely the more you practice, the better you will get. Off camera lights are a must! There are numerous options available for flash triggers, some of them quite affordable.
Ivo Popov Photography


  • Do not forget that the background in your photos is as important as the foreground. Background detail is imperative in adding a sense of place and defining the character of your subject. However, be mindful when composing your photos so that the background doesn’t distract or get attention away from your subject. The main focus of your portraits should be your subject.
  • Get closer, go further away, get low or climb higher. Photos taken all the same from the same angle and height are boring fast. The most common mistake made by photographers is that they are not physically close enough to their subjects. Viewers can sense when the subject is small because it was supposed to be and when it’s small because the photographer was too shy to get close.
  • Go slowly. Anticipate peoples behaviour by observing them. An important element in people photography is knowing your subjects well enough to be able to anticipate what they are going to do. It’s the only way you are going to be able to get meaningful pictures of them. If you expect to just wait until you see the proper moment to take the photo, it might not be fast enough and you will miss it.
  • Engage with your subjects, most people feel uncomfortable in front of the camera. This is where we all have to learn to overcome our shyness and approach people in an open and friendly manner. Take time to engage the person in a conversation, just as you would if you didn’t have a camera.
  • Include hands and eyes in your photos. People say the eyes are the door to your soul. Never cut them or your subject palms unless you absolutely need to.
  • Think about the essential compositional techniques when framing your portraits. Having a great composition in your photos can make even a boring photo look interesting. Applying some basic compositional techniques, such as the rule of thirds, to your photos is essential!
  • Create stories, not just snapshots. Environmental portraits are interesting and engaging. Portraits are about people. Environmental portraits are about people and their stories. Environmental portraits seek to convey an idea about a person by combining portraiture with a sense of place. One of the benefits of photographing people in a natural environment is that they will feel more relaxed and comfortable being photographed resulting in better and stronger photos.
Ivo Popov Photography

Did you like this people and portrait photography tips? Would you like to know more? Consider attending my new “Photographing people using natural light and flash” photography workshop in Brussels.

Holi celebration in Bundi, India

I was very lucky to attend and photograph one of the most colourful and interesting celebrations in India – Holi. I decided to travel to Bundi, a small village off the beaten path in Rajasthan where few tourist go and enjoy the celebrations there. It was a great decision – there were almost no tourists and the party was crazy!!

All photos were taken with Fuji XT-2 and Fujinon 16mm F1.4 lens.

Would you like to improve your photography skills and visit the magical Rajasthan region in India? Consider attending my next Photography Adventure in India.

Behind the photo: Chamonix, France

Aiguille du Dru (3754m)

Aiguille du Dru (3754m), Chamonix, France // Fujifilm XT-2 with Fujinon 23mm F1.4 // F8.0, ISO320, 1/2500

I love mountains! You can probably deduct that by looking at the photos on the website 🙂 One of my favourite spots in the world is the small town of Chamonix, the home of the tallest peak in Western Europe – Mont Blanc, located in the french Alps. It is a town surrounded by tall peaks and glaciers and is a perfect place to do some hiking and take mountain photos.

But this is the thing about mountains – they make you work for the photos you take 🙂 Most people will not go high in the mountains when the weather is less than ideal and  because of that will miss countless amazing photo opportunities.

It was a stormy day with lots of clouds and I decided to walk one of my favourite trails in Chamonix – Grand Balcon Nord. It is a relatively easy trek overlooking Chamonix and most of the valley. The trail is on one side of the valley just under Les Aiguilles de Chamonix. I have been there lots of times and nowadays I will only take photos if I see something really nice.

I was almost at the end of the trek and I was a bit frustrated that I still have not taken any photos. I climbed the final steep part and stood on the small peak called Signal Forbes (2198 m). I wanted to go down as fast as possible since I expected the storm will start any moment. I picked up my backpack and started descending. At that exact moment the clouds in front of me parted and uncovered one of my favourite peaks – Aiguille du Dru (3754m). The sun was just behind and the light was simply gorgeous. The peak looked breath taking in the afternoon light, surrounded by the stormy clouds. The moment lasted only a few short minutes and then the magic was gone.

This is my favourite photo from this journey and one that already hangs on the wall of my apartment.

Technical data: Fujifilm XT-2 with Fujinon 23mm F1.4 lens and F8.0, ISO320, 1/2500 s.

Photography workshop in Brussels

The “Everything you need to know workshop” is a two day intensive beginner photography workshop in Brussels (Woluwe St. Pierre) thought by a professional full time photographer Ivo Popov.

This is not going to be just another boring photography class!

Photography workshop in Brussels by Ivo Popov
Photography workshop in Brussels


September - October 2019 WorkshopOctober - November 2019 Workshop
08.09.2019 (Day 1 theory) and 22.09.2019 (Day 2 theory) and 13.10.2019 (Day 3 practise)20.10.2019 (Day 1 theory) and 10.11.2019 (Day 2 theory) and 24.11.2019 (Day 3 practise)
The "Everything you need to know" workshop - 3 daysThe "Everything you need to know" workshop - 3 days
Book hereBook here

Why choose my workshop?

  1. I personalise the workshop based on the attendants knowledge and requirements
  2. I provide personal feedback during and after the workshop to all attendants
  3.  I have created a workshop that will teach you how to create beautiful photos, not overwhelm you with unnecessary and boring technical details and rules.

You already have a DSLR, mirrorless or advanced point and shoot camera. You have a good eye, you have some idea of how to compose your images and you are seeing good pictures but they just aren’t coming out the way you wanted or the way you saw them. You use the AUTO setting of your camera and you really find the camera manual frustrating and boring to read.

The Solution:

Learn the basics that really matter! I know that it can be an overwhelming process to flip through the camera’s manual, so I have created a comprehensive course to break it down to the basics, a course that is simple and understandable.

It is easy to understand, yet full of information. We will have demonstrations, before and after photos and presentations to help you learn! We will have a practice day session, so we could try everything we learned. I will give personal advice to every participant and help you with information about specific photography subjects you might be interested in!

More info about my experience: I am a professional photographer working, for the past 14 years, with clients all over the world. I have extensive knowledge about photography and have done numerous workshops as well as a photography class in the “International School of Brussels”.

What are we going to learn in this beginner photography workshop in Brussels?

Some of the topics we will cover:

  • DAY 1 – The Basics
  • Debunking some photography myths
  • The fundamental elements of great photographs
  • How to be creative in photography
  • How to use your Digital camera, so you can get the most of it
  • Aperture (f-stop), shutter speed, ISO and how they all work together
  • Aperture priority, shutter priority and manual mode (and which one to actually use)
  • The basics of framing, composition and DOF (depth of field)
  • Understanding the JPEG vs. RAW choice
  • White Balance, Exposure, Highlights and Histogram, Exposure compensation
  • How to photograph in difficult / bad lightning conditions, when to find the best light (photographing sunsets and at night) and basics of working with external flash
  • We will discuss photography gear and tools and the basics of backing up your work
  • You will learn the basics of editing your images with Adobe Lightroom and the basics of displaying your images – slideshows, creating portfolios and photo books.
  • You will gave a small assignment for the second workshop day!
  • DAY 2 – All the rest
  • We will start the day taking pictures on location while applying the technics you have already learned, and after that we will discuss the results (Best way to learn!!)
  • You will learn how to creatively use your camera’s most important functions

This photography workshop in Brussels is in English. Please enquire for more info! Would you like to know more about me? Please take a look here: about Ivo Popov

What do I need to join the workshop?

  • Camera – any camera will do, but having a camera with manual settings will be best.
  • Lens / Lenses – most DSLR’s and mirrorless cameras come with a kit lens of 18-55mm and it will work just fine. If you have more then one lens, take them all.
  • Notebook if you want to take notes.

Learning materials will be provided free of charge for every participant! Refreshments are included! 


“I’m very glad I attended this workshop. It was 2 two very interesting days full of new information. As a very beginner I received the most essential knowledge about photography. I’m sure, after this workshop I’ll never look through my viewfinder in the same way!” – Neil

“I had the opportunity to take part in Ivo’s workshop and as an absolute beginner I really enjoyed it. I had the possibility to learn more about my camera’s settings but most importantly how to improve the way I take and look at pictures.
Ivo thought us on how to think out of the box when we take pictures while at the same time the need to consider some standard rules on composition.
Now more than ever I am willing to put into practice what I’ve learned! Thank you” – Cinzia

“Thank you for this excellent training! Very practical in terms of information provided and exercises included, but also very inspirational one.” – Antoaneta

September - October 2019 WorkshopOctober - November 2019 Workshop
08.09.2019 (Day 1 theory) and 22.09.2019 (Day 2 theory) and 13.10.2019 (Day 3 practise)20.10.2019 (Day 1 theory) and 10.11.2019 (Day 2 theory) and 24.11.2019 (Day 3 practise)
The "Everything you need to know" workshop - 3 daysThe "Everything you need to know" workshop - 3 days
Book hereBook here

Price includes VAT.

Reserve your spot at ivo.popov@gmail.com  or by filling the form below and I will be in contact with all the details about your booking! Personalised gift cards can be purchased for all workshops, please contact me for more info!

Payment methods accepted for purchases: bank transfer and credit / debit cards

[contact-form-7 id=”1372″ title=”Book your spot here:”]

Behind the photo: Dubai, U.A.E.

I love visiting Dubai. It is such an amazing mixture of futuristic architecture and desert landscapes. On one of our last trips I wanted to do a photo of the skyline, but wanted something more special and different. I could have gone for a night photo, but then decided to get something different. The sun was setting behind the high buildings and I was preparing to take the shot you see below, when I saw a huge number of birds flying in the distance.

I got really exited and decided to wait and see if they will get in the frame. I few second later I managed to get the photo I wanted. There is barely any editing done on the photo, what you see is what came out of the camera.

Dubai, U.A.E. © Ivo Popov // Canon 5D Mark III and Canon 70-200 F2.8L