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Beginner Photography: Unexpected Beauty

Hello! This week’s photo topic is a weird one. I’m pretty sure by definition you should not be able to seek out “unexpected beauty” it’s just something that happens, but I did my best. I thought this tied in pretty well with last week’s topic of “abandoned.” I love abandoned buildings, especially at the point where nature starts to take back over. Living in a big city, there are a horrifying number of abandoned buildings, but seeing nature reclaim a space is pretty satisfying. Last week I added a human element as the subject, but this week I just went searching for something beautiful in what many people just see as decay.

I’m not sure if there’s any way to teach something like this, it’s just a matter of training your eye to find something to focus on in the midst of some amount of chaos. Finding a specific object, or a pattern, or the right light. Also some willingness to get close and get dirty. I for sure climbed into some places I wasn’t meant to be.

As usual, I shot with an Olympus E-M10 on aperture priority. I shot the same things multiple times from different angles to find what looked the most pleasing to me, and did some post-processing in Lightroom to crop, straighten, adjust the exposure, etc. 


f/5.6, 1/500th, ISO 200

Not sure why my shutter speed is so fast. The colors and pattern of these windows are so beautiful to me.


f/4.5, 1/80th, ISO 320

The vines growing through this piece and the natural framing of the leaves immediately caught my eye.


f/3.5, 1/160th, ISO 200

Ornate columns on a stunning abandoned home.


 f/3.5, 1/320th, ISO 200


So that’s what I came up with. Beauty is subjective, so I’m not sure if these will appeal to everyone, but since I was a teenager I have taken shots like this. I’ve always loved capturing age and wear on objects and seeing them change over time. 

So what do you think? Do these fit the criteria? How did you interpret “unexpected beauty”? I look forward to seeing your submissions this week!

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Live Show Recap: Abandoned

We’re back! This week’s topic was “abandoned” and it was great. Chelsea keeps repeating things Tony says at the beginning of the show and it cracks me up.

Next week’s topic is “unexpected beauty” which should be fun!

Support us on Patreon! You can vote on the live show topic each week, get videos early, and other perks. For $100 you can carry Justin around like a backpack for a day!

First off, photo news:

-FAA regulations, you don’t have to register your drone. “Hi, is this Todd? Did you fly into a bald eagle?”

Time for your photos, I’ll highlight our picks below:

-Chelsea parkour-ed a baby deer over a wall once

-“it’s like us, romance in the madness, amiright?”


left behind

-abandoned photographer

-matte ceiling

-child’s dress

-nobody abandoned that Jordan. “For real? Did god just make this Jordan right now?”

-high dive. “Yeah, this is what they called the killing pool.”

-insane building

-“you don’t know what people are going through, they need that front tire money.” “Maybe that guy took his tire inside with him and died at work” “Way to find the bright side, Chelsea!”

Over to me for your questions:

-ethics of abandoned photos? Are they legal or safe? No and no. Not if you go inside! “You breathe all deep like you want to get asbestos or something.” “Dangit, I gotta find a new husband? I liked that one.” “I’ve done it, but I’m also really cool.”

-photographing sharks from a cage, should I use a selfie stick? Put on a meat suit and get in the water. Shoot from inside the sharks mouth. Sharks have soft rubber teeth. *don’t listen to anything we say. Also, your phone probably isn’t that waterproof. You could use a selfie stick to get yourself and the shark in the shot? Maybe bring a teddy bear for the shark.

GH5 or a7R II for concert photography? a7R II for sure, great low-light capability.

Okay, back to your photos:

-symmetrical abandoned house

-abandoned silo 

-peek inside

-stadium seats

-through grass

 Back to me for some questions

-do drones qualify for AMA insurance? They don’t know, but yes.

-advice on doing real estate photography professionally? Be social, make connections, befriend realtors.

-have any of us gotten in trouble doing a photo shoot? Tony’s been yelled at my security before, they’ve been kicked out of abandoned buildings. Nothing serious though. Tony being a white man with white hair helps.

Time for a portfolio review! Connor Moriarty. Use a simplified text. Maybe don’t lead with a photo that’s not marketable. Your work is lovely! Maybe fix your pricing page to make it clear which point is which price. Remove any pictures or subjects that won’t get you work. Your work is wonderful though! Just make a few tweaks.

Time for chit-chat! The part of the show where we respond to your dumb or mean comments on our videos.

-no one actually proves our crop factor videos wrong with proof

-most boring couple ever!

-Tony is not a Fuji hater

-down with leaf blowers! 

Okay, back to photos:

-don’t abandon your dog!


tree takeover

-abandoned in a hillside

-model in a pen

-lonely lady

-church bus

-abandoned innocence


-oh, I got a pick!

Time for money comments!

-thanks Juan!

-Rob Tilitz, you’re a crazy person and we love you.

-Tony never checks his messages anywhere

 Back to photos, and some were picked during the comments:

-lady laying on doors

-stair car (plane)

-table in the water?

-“ooh she’s brave! Be careful!”

-“that’s what you do when your homework is just too much”

-dark angel

And that’s our show! Join us next week for the topic “unexpected beauty.”


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Beginner Photography: Abandoned

Hey folks! We’re back! The theme for the show this week is “abandoned” which is a pretty interesting subject. I love these more abstract topics and seeing the creativity they inspire.

If you want to vote on the live show topic each week, among other perks, please consider donating to our Patreon page at

I knew exactly where I wanted to shoot this week. Philadelphia has no shortage of abandoned buildings, but there’s one in particular that I love and is near my neighborhood. What I wasn’t sure of at first was what I wanted my subject to be. But if you’ve been following my photography journey so far, you’d know that my most successful projects have been creepy and featured my daughter, Eloise. So my idea was to place her in the midst of these ruins, and I’d already made her up to look like a ghost child before, so this time I went with more of an ominous, shrouded figure.

I dressed her in a black lace dress of mine and fastened it at the back, then used a sheer black shirt of mine over her face as a shroud. My husband chauffeured us there and we sprayed our legs with bug spray before venturing into the overgrown space (I grew up in Connecticut, my tick fear is justified.)

I used my borrowed Olympus E-M10 with a Lumix 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 as always. I had my camera on aperture priority at a low f/stop and everything else on auto. I placed Eloise throughout the space in doorways and on a staircase. I wanted her to just be a small part of the space, not necessarily a prominent focal point. 

I converted all the shots to black and white in post. The greenery and the graffiti were too distracting and took away from the eerie quality I wanted in the shots. I adjusted the exposure on them all for the white and black points:

And then used a radial filter to lighten up Eloise in some of the shots where she was a bit lost in the frame. It also gave her a bit of a glow around her. I also added some post-crop vignetting to make the shots look darker even though we were shooting in the daytime. Here’s what I came up with:

f/4, 1/250th, ISO 200


f/4, 1/200th, ISO 200


f/4, 1/250th, ISO 200


f/4, 1/200th, ISO 200


f/3.5, 1/320th, ISO 200


I really enjoyed this shoot. I wish I’d directed Eloise to do some more with her body language, it wasn’t until the end of the shoot that she pointed at something and I realized how good of a creepy pose that was. I’d love to shoot in this space again at the golden hour or the blue hour, but I didn’t want Eloise to have to be out there that late.

How’d I do? What would you have done differently? I can’t wait to see your shots this week.