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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 🙂

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:

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: Khor Dubai, Dubai, UAE

Khor Dubai (Dubai Creek in English) is a natural seawater inlet of the Arabian Gulf located in the heart of Dubai. The creek divides the city into two parts: Bur Dubai and Deira, and has played a major role in the economic development of the region throughout history. I have been to Dubai a few times and I have always been drawn to photographing the towers and the majestic skyline of the city.

Behind the photo

Pakistani sailors loading a boat at Khor Dubai, Dubai, UAE

This time I wanted to see the real Dubai, so we decided to visit the Creek. I’ve had this idea to photograph the boats that carry goods to and from Dubai and the people who work on them. There is an immense contrast between and rich and new part of Dubai and it’s denizens and the sailors who load and unload the boats.

Some of them live on and around the boats for weeks working and waiting. This one was a small Pakistani boat that was almost ready for departure. We spend a few hours there and took some photos. If you want to see all of them please take a look here: Khor Dubai.

RAW vs JPEG – A simple guide for beginners

RAW vs JPEG – A simple guide for beginners

The RAW vs JPEG topic seems like a never ending debate in photography. There are photographers who say always shoot RAW, while others say shoot JPEG. A number of questions come in mind when thinking about who should you listen to.

What is RAW format? What are the advantages and disadvantages of RAW versus JPEG and why? Will shooting in RAW complicate your post-production and workflow?

Having a thorough understanding of advantages and disadvantages of both formats is essential for beginner photographers to make the right decision on whether to use RAW format for their work or JPEG.

RAW images, or “digital negatives” are virtually unprocessed files that come directly from the camera sensor. Think of them in the same way as you think about the raw food ingredients you buy from the store – they need to be cooked before you can eat them. Same goes here – you will need to edit your images before you can share and show them. JPEG on other hand can be viewed and shared immediately after you take them.

RAW images preserve the most amount of information about an image and generally have better dynamic range than JPEG images. RAW files have way greater latitude for editing and fixing mistakes.

Here is an example image shot in RAW format and edited in Adobe Lightroom:

RAW vs JPEG - A simple guide for beginners

So, just a quick list with the advantages of the RAW files:

  • RAW files contain better dynamic range than JPEG (ratio between the maximum and minimum measurable light intensities of light and black) and can later be used to recover underexposed or overexposed images or parts of an image
  • Unlike JPEG, RAW files utilise lossless compression, so they do not suffer from image-compression artefacts
  • When a RAW image is generated by the camera, all camera settings (metadata), including camera-specific and manufacturer-specific information, are just added into the file – nor applied! This is a huge advantage over JPEG, because if you accidentally use a wrong setting (underexpose, overexpose or pick wrong White Balance) on your camera, you will still have an option to change it later

The biggest disadvantage of the RAW format is the need of post-processing (editing) the files. You will spend time and effort to do that, not to mention money on a software (like Adobe Lightroom).

So, just a quick list with the advantages of the JPEG files:

  • JPEG images are fully processed in camera and all settings you have adjusted on your camera such as White Balance are already applied to the image
  • JPEG images are much smaller than RAW images and therefore consume a lot less storage
  • Most modern cameras and software packages support JPEG images, making the format extremely compatible
  • JPEG files can be used / shared immediately after you take them, without the need of editing

So, what format should you use? My answer will always be this – do you plan on editing your images? If yes, RAW is the way to go. If you are serious about your photography, want to grow and want to be able to showcase or sell your work, you should be using RAW format.

For me shooting in RAW format far outweighs the advantages of using JPEG. I edit all my images, professional and personal, and RAW format gives me much more flexibility to do that.

Would you like to know more? Please take a look at the menu above and our photography workshops in Brussels!