BTL: My Son on the Dock in Newport Beach


This is one of my favorite photos I have taken of my second child. I captured this photo while we were on vacation in Newport Beach in 2013. He was 17 months old at this time. He was sitting on the steps of the dock and I just happened to have my camera in hand. I walked right up to him and said, “hey buddy.” He looked up at me, smiled and I took the photo. The sun was low as it was less than 30 minutes from sunset. The sunset was actually behind me but it was blocked by houses. To compensate for the fact that the sun was not out and shining at that point, I increased my ISO and opened the aperture wide. This also gave the photo a nice shallow depth of field, which I believe helps draw your eyes to him. A shallow depth of field puts everything in the background out of focus. You can see that in this photo, though the furthest point of the background is not far away, it is out of focus. I made sure to quickly focus on his eyes using back button focus rather than allowing my camera to focus as I pressed the shutter down (I will post a tutorial on back button focus soon). I have missed focus so many times by allowing the camera to focus as I press down the shutter button, especially when I needed to capture the photo fast before the moment had passed. I kept the shutter speed at 1/160th of a second to avoid any blur that could have happened due to the quick movement of my boy. My kids are always on the move, so most of the time I keep my shutter speed around 1/160th or higher. Earlier in the day, we were at the beach and they were running around. I increased the shutter speed to 1/250th of a second to make sure my photos did not get blurry.

When photographing people, it is easy to miss the correct focal point which results in key features of the human face being out of focus. There are two areas of the human face that need to be sharply in focus, the eyes and the lips. These are two areas we often focus on when we are looking at the face of another person. Even if we don’t realize we are doing it, the eyes and lips are where we look. When you shoot with a wide aperture, meaning setting your fstop to something 2.8 or lower, the depth of your focal area becomes smaller. This makes it much easier for something to fall out of focus. Depending on the lens, when shooting as wide as fstop 2.8, the tip of the nose could be in focus, but the eyes slightly out of focus. Subconsciously, when we look at a photo of the human face, we can tell that something is not right. Even though we might not notice the fact that something is out of focus, we know that something is not appealing in the photo.

Camera Mode: Manual
Focal Length: 38mm

Shutter Speed: 1/160
Aperture: 2.8
ISO: 800
Flash: No Flash

Another really appealing aspect of this photo is the angle. Because kids are so much smaller than adults, the angle of the photo can really change the emotion of the photo. I love looking at this photo because this is typically how I see my son unless I sit down on the floor to be at his level.

In post production, I made slight changes to color correct the photo. All adjustments were made in Adobe Lightroom 5.

Gear Used In This Photo:

BTL: Rick Santorum Daytona 500 Pit Road

Rick Santorum Daytona 500 Pit Road

I had the opportunity to shoot photos at the Daytona 500 this year and it was an amazing experience. This was my first NASCAR race and first pro sports event I had the chance to photograph where I had actual credentials to do so. The group I was with was a non-profit that was doing some work with Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum. Hours before he arrived at the track, I was told that his staff photographer was unable to make it and that I was going to become his photographer for the day. Part of my job was to continue covering the event for the non-profit I was working for while now at the same time capturing photos of Rick Santorum interacting with people. The access we had was unbelievable. Before the race, we were walking down pit road at Daytona Motor Speedway. Rick was out front along with members of the non-profit and a couple of high ranking Air Force officers. I ran ahead and grabbed a photo of Rick who seemed to be amazed himself at what he was experiencing. After posting this photo to Twitter, Rick Santorum’s staff asked for permission to use this photo on their website and to be able to post it to Rick’s social media accounts. This gained me a lot of retweets and some followers. Rick Santorum himself even followed me on Twitter.

When you are photographing events like this, where lighting changes quickly depending on the direction you are pointing your camera, it is important to have a good understanding of your camera. Here were my camera settings when I captured this photo:

Camera Mode: Manual
Shutter Speed: 1/160
Aperture: 2.8
ISO: 2500
Flash: 1/32 Power – Manual Mode

While taking photos on pit road, depending on my angle I was using my aperture to increase or decrease light. I typically always leave the shutter speed at 1/160 if I am photographing people. If there is a lot of movement, such as people dancing or running, I will increase the shutter speed to something like 1/250 to help freeze the action. Too low of a shutter speed will result in blurry subjects. Photographing the actual NASCAR’s themselves was a different story. Though I don’t consider this to be an all-in-all amazing photo, it captured the essence of what was happening and the subject of interest in the photo looks great. During live events, things are just happening and you do not have control over them. You have to be flexible. Learn how to better control your camera in manual mode by taking my free course: Ditch Auto – Start Shooting in Manual.

In post production, I made slight changes to color correct the photo. I also sharpened it up a bit to make it look a bit more edgy. All adjustments were made in Adobe Lightroom 5.

Gear Used In This Photo:

Ditch Auto Hits 41,000 Students!

Ditch Auto 41000 StudentsWhat an amazing milestone. When I first launched the Ditch Auto – Start Shooting in Manual course on, I figured that friends and perhaps past clients of mine who wanted to learn more about photography would take the course. I could not have imagined that over 41,000 people from all over the world would end up taking the course.

What is next for Ditch Auto?

In the coming weeks we will be launching a podcast and start posting tutorials to this website. I want Ditch Auto to be more than just an introductory course. The feedback many of those who took the course have provided let me know that there is a need for more information. Though there is plenty of good information already on the internet on photography, it’s always good to have different perspectives on things. I am a hands on learner and teacher, it seems that people are drawn to that teaching style. Through this website, the podcast, my Youtube channel and future courses, I hope to continue to help people Ditch Auto and get the most out of their cameras.

Here are some of the things people are saying about Ditch Auto:

Went from having no understanding of how to shoot in manual to gaining a good understanding of cause and effect relationships with that will allow me to take better photos. ~Nathan

I really enjoyed watching and taking part in this course Jerad Hill is a great teacher and he’ll show you part of his knowledge in a easy way. Thanks to Jerad Hill and Udemy for this course. ~Francisco

Although I have many years behind a video camera, I’m new to Dslr and I was looking for a good overview. Jerad Hill nails it covering all the bases and also whets your appetite by giving overviews on a couple of more advanced or not quite on topic subjects. I recommend this course for anyone who would like to get more out of their camera. ~Shane

Great intro for Manual photography. I am a beginner in this area and at least now have a basic understanding of how to shoot manually in different situations, lighting, etc. Thanks Jerad so much for offering this free course! Anyone interested in getting started in Wedding photography would benefit greatly from this course as well! ~Kpeers


Ditch Auto: Adobe Lightroom & Photoshop Workflow


I am happy to announce my next workflow course which will help you regain the life your photo was destined to have.

We don’t always have perfect lighting conditions. Sometimes we have to stretch our cameras to the limit to get the shot. That can leave the photo feeling a bit flat. That was the case with this photo.


The photo you see is right out of my camera. I didn’t have a flash on my camera at the time and the lighting was very low due to the sun being almost completely gone. What do you do when you are shooting at 1/125 sec; f/2.8; ISO 4000? Most cameras can’t even get to ISO 4000 and if you went there, the image would be grainy. You would most likely throw away the photo and try again when you have better light.

With the right techniques, you can bring back life into that same photo and produce a nice end result such as you see in the photo below.


Here is what you can expect to learn from this course:

  1. Importing of images into Adobe Lightroom
  2. Image Adjustment Settings in Lightroom
  3. Repair of Underexposed and Noisy Images
  4. How to bring back detail in the image
  5. Opening a photo in Photoshop from Lightroom
  6. Editing and Cleanup in Photoshop
  7. Sky Replacement
  8. Returning to Lightroom to Color Correct
  9. Watermarking
  10. Image Export

I look forward to sharing with you in this course, to take the course, click here.

Ditch Auto – Learn To Shoot In Manual

Why Take This Course?

You have a DSLR Camera or a fancy Point-and-shoot, but have not been using it to it’s full potential. You know that the scary “manual mode” holds a whole new level of customization which would result in better quality photos but have resisted. Terms like Shutter Speed and Aperture sound confusing and you don’t know where to start.

If that sounds familiar, I want to assure you that by the end of my FREE course you will understand what those settings do and be on your way to controlling your camera rather than your camera controlling you.

You made an investment in a decent camera and it’s time to start using it’s features.

In this course you will learn the basics of DSLR Photography and how to shoot in manual mode. My goal is to give you the tools so you can train your brain to think like a Photographer. You will also know how to control your camera instead of leaving it up to Auto Mode to try and to it’s best.

Take the course for free on Udemy:

How Long Is This Course?

So far, the course is just over 4 hours in length. You can watch it in chunks or all at once. It is best to watch it with camera in hand so you can pause and follow along with your camera. All DSLR Cameras are different so your settings may look different than mine.

What Should I Expect?

You should expect to be able to shoot photos with confidence in pretty much all situations. Whether you are taking pictures of your kids for the memories or are considering Photography as a profession, this is everything I had to teach myself in order to understand my camera.

Who are you Jerad Hill?

I am a Wedding Photographer with over 6 years of professional experience. I have shot over 200 weddings, 120 engagement sessions, 150 portrait sessions and 1000’s of photos of my own kids. For fun I have shot live concerts and music videos. I am also a Wedding Videographer and do a lot with video. Expect a course on DSLR Video soon.

Thanks for checking out my course. Please subscribe and make sure to share it with that friend of yours who has a nice camera that is always complaining about not understanding it.

What’s in the course?

  • Over 37 lectures and 4.5 hrs of content!
  • Learn to use your camera in manual mode
  • Feel more confident shooting with a DSLR
  • Maximize the potential of your camera

Course requirements:

  • DSLR Camera, though not required. Much of what you will learn will help you shoot better photos with any camera.

Who Should Attend?

  • Photographers, Bloggers, Parents, Hobbyists, and anybody who wants to take better pictures with their camera.