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Peer Mentor Program Theme Rules & Articles

Each month the Peer Mentor Group has a “photo competition” for a monthly theme.  Each peer mentor submits one photo for the monthly theme.   The rules for the theme are that the photos MUST be taken between the time the theme is chosen and the following meeting.  The photo can be taken with any type of camera (including a cell phone) and can be straight out of the camera or edited in LR or Photoshop or any other software.  The photo should follow the guidence of the articles that are shared in this page of the PMP webpage.  For example, if the theme for the month is Negative Space the photo submitted should have negative space as its emphasis.

The photo image (which must be a JPEG) must be send to Randy Isaacson ( by midnight the night before the meeting.  At the beginning of the meeting the group has a blind-vote for the best photo of the chosen theme.  The members of the peer mentor group expect that every image will follow the PMP Theme Rules  The winner gets to choose the theme for the next month and the top three photos are shown in the PMP Monthly Theme Gallery .

The PMP has been using this approach for two years to broaden our understanding of a variety of types of photography and it has really worked.  It has pushed us to explore topics like macro photography or night photography or negative space or photos that emphasize shadows.  To help us explore new horizons, we have a list of on-line articles on the PMP Theme Articles page.  If you have an article you would like to share, remember we are “Advancing Together” so don’t hide that great article that has really helped you 😉.  If you find a great article for one of the topics and would like to share it with the peer mentors and the world, send the link to Randy Isaacson (


2020 June

The June Theme for our next Virtual Peer Mentor Meeting is Natural Frames.  Our June Peer Mentor Meeting will be a Virtual Meeting on Wednesday June 24th and the Theme Challenge is Natural Frames.  This does NOT mean that the frame that highlights the image has to be “nature,” although it certainly acceptable that the “frame” is a tree, rocks, even cloud formations.  But it is also acceptable that the frame is an old door, window, or a group of people.  These articles should help you loosen-up and get creative … like you usually are for our themes.  See ‘ya June 24th or before.

Here is a good place to start the idea that Natural Framing is creating a photograph within a photograph.  This article is Expert Photography and the title is “How to use Natural Frames for Better Photo Composition”  

2020 May

The May Theme for our next Virtual Peer Mentor Meeting  is Shadows.   Due to a change in the “rules” of our monthly theme, the decision about the rules of the Shadows Theme will be explained in a later post.  For now here are a number of on-line articles to help every peer mentor explore some ideas and key approaches to creating great photographs with a Shadow theme.

“Five Tips for Using Shadows to Create Dramatic Images” in Digital Photo Mentor.

Some Examples of Photos emphasizing Shadows

Digital Photography School has really good short articles on all kinds of photo topics.  Here are two  articles on shadows that might help you get started:

“Shadows in Photography – How Seeing the Shadows Help you Understand the Light”

“Five Tips for Mastering Shadows in Photography”

And if you would like to just look at dozens (it seems like hundreds) of very creative examples of Shadow Photography on PInterest (Yes, Pinterest !) check this out; it will give you some great ideas of where to start.

“Shadow Photography Project Ideas”

Light Stalking has a wide variety of good ideas for photo themes and I found the article below to be very good with about 10 uses of shadows and even begins with a clear difference between shadows and silhouette.  Check this out:

“How to get Amazing Images from Shadows (15 Awesome Examples)”

2020 April

The April Peer Mentor  Meeting occurred during a difficult time for our country and our local environment due to the pandemic covid-19.  The Social Distancing, the closing of the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park, and the closing of the venues for the  peer mentor programs led us to decide to have a virtual meeting.  The first decision was to have the “In My House” theme, but then a number of peer mentors asked if they could summit photos from outside their house.  Randy OK’ed this extension, which may have been a mis-managed decision since it led to misunderstandings for the voting on the themes.  It was clear that not everyone had read all of the e-mail that explained the extension of “In My House” and some peer mentors felt a significant number of submitted images were not consistent with the theme.

Randy would like to apologize to all the peer mentors for the problems this seems to have created for the voting in our first virtual meeting.  But Randy would like to take this challenge as a step to show the way to avoid future problems; we need to have basic, but clear, “rule” for our monthly peer mentor theme.  We need to work together on a one or two sentence rule for the peer mentor theme AND we need peer mentors to check this TPC PMP Theme Articles webpage for the details of the theme..  WE will work together to develop OUR Theme Rules.    

2020 March

The 4th Wed PM Group Theme is Night Photography – Rachael chose Night Photography and included The Blue Hour.  So to get ready for our March 25th peer mentor meeting take some time to read about how to take good images in the blue hour (before or after the complete darkness) or wait for the chilly time in a pitch-black sky.  You can take shots of the Milky Way over the Tetons or get creative with a variety of other types of images.  Here are some articles that might help you set the exposure and other key ingredients: always has some good on-line articles to help us and this “Tips for Getting Proper Exposure for Night Photography” is a good place to start.

And here is an article about the Blue Hour – “How to photograph the blue hour with amazing results.”


The 2nd Wed PM Group Theme is Foreground Interest – Randy choose a March topic at the 2nd Wed group but when I thought about the winter challenge of the topic I decided to change the March Theme to Foreground Interest.  After surfing the photo webs I found that Foreground Interest would be a good theme for winter since we may want to focus our attention on foreground rather reflections.  So here are a number of good on-line articles: is a really good website for all types photography themes as well as reviews of cameras and lens and just about anything to do with photography.  I found both of these articles helpful in emphasizing foreground.

“Using the Foreground Elements to Create Added Depth”

“Leading the Eye” is a good website for suggestions for where/when and composition for photography.  I found this article to be very helpful.

“How to use Foreground Elements in Composition” has lots and lots of short articles to help photographers with all kinds of challenges.  It gets right to the point:

“The Importance of an Anchor – Why Foreground Matters”

“Include the Foreground for Dramatic Landscapes”

“Use Layers and Foreground Interest for Better Landscape Photography” 

“How to use Foreground to Create Depth in your Image” 

Hey 2nd Wed Group, don’t forget to be ready for a discussion of what makes a foreground interesting and helpful when we meet on Wednesday March 11th.

2020 February

The 4th Wed PM Group Theme is Panorama and Vertoramas – Terry Jensen and Tim Cully chose the theme for February (Christine was unable to attend the meeting so even though she was the winner she did not choose the theme.)  Panorama photos are wide format photo while Vertoramas photos are tall format photos.  Terry has chosen three on-line article for the February Theme; two are about panorama/vertorama and one for photography in winter.

This article by PhotoLife (“Panoramic Photography Tutorial”) is an outstanding all-around article on all aspect of panoramas.  Mark this one on your computer as it goes to all levels of understanding !

This second article in Digital Photography School (“How to Shoot Verticle Panoramas“) focuses on shooting photos of tall images.

And just in case you need a little help taking photos outdoors in the winter, Terry thought you might want to read this article in Improve Photography (“25 Tips for Winter Landscape Photography“) and here is another one on “20 Wonderful Examples of Winter Photography.”

The 2nd Wed PM Group Theme is Black & White – Barney Koszalka won the January theme contest and has chosen B&W as the theme for February since we will have plenty of white snow and perhaps even some sunshine to give us a challenge.  Barney emphasized that his B&W Theme should also include monochrome.  B&W is always an interesting and challenging topic for our monthly theme with plenty of new opportunities to learn another approach to photography.  I’m sure Barney will find a great article or two about B&W but here is a good place to start:

PhotoLife is always a good place to start and their article “Complete Guide to Black and White Photography” has lots of good ideas.

And if you’d like to see some great B&W examples of our backyard you might want to check out our friend Mike Jackson’s Best of the Tetons.

Here are some of the articles Barney shared:

How to See in Black and White is basic article that focuses on tonal contrast, simplicity and Negative Space  Good article to help you think differently.

B&W Photography Tips: 5 Cornerstones  – This is a fairly detailed advanced in-depth article but if you want to learn some clear techniques this is a place to go to learn Contrast, Tone, Shadows, Shapes, and Texture.  If you have the time, this is an article to learn advanced B&W skills.

6 B&W Photography Tips – This article is a somewhat simplified version of the 5 Cornerstone article with Shoot Raw, Look for Contrast Shape and Texture, Long Exposure and Filters.

And I thought this online article might give you a boost about winter photography and B&W.  This Photo Argus article on 60 Beautiful Winter Photos could be seen as inspiring.

2020 January

Food We are fortunate to have a chef as a member of the Peer Mentor Group (Tim Libassi) and when he won the November 2nd Wed Theme Critique he decided on Food as the January Theme.

If you are like Randy, you could really use some articles about how to take photographs of food since he has never even taken a photo of a hamburger..  Her are some tips from the website “Two Loves Studio” the how-to of food photography,  “99 Food Photography Tips from Photographers that will Blow Your Mind “.

And here are some articles that have been shared by Tim Libassi.  Given how much food Tim has looked at (and photographed?) for these should be good.  Here is n article from Photzy titled “Stages of a Food Photo Shoot”

Here is a page from digital Photography School that has a very detailed article about Food Photography called “The dPS Ultimate Guide to Food Photography”

And another article from digital Photography School.

And an article from Photography Life

And another one from Photography Life 


Fog, Steam, and Smoke 

For our January Theme Tim Cully chose Fog, Steam, and Smoke.  Tim has kindly identified one article to Mist & Fog and I hope that more of you will add interesting articles to our PMP Theme Article pages by sending me the URL.

“How to Photograph in Mist & Fog” in Loaded Landscapes

“How to Capture Photos in Foggy or Misty Conditions” in Digital Photo Secrets

Outstanding Shots of Fog and Mist in Digital Photo Secrets

2019 November

Negative Space Negative space is the area around the main subject in your photo (the main subject is known as the “positive space“).  Photos that are built on Negative Space emphasizes the main subject by drawing your eye to the main subject without any leading lines etc.  Here are a couple of examples of an article about Negative Space:

“Understanding and Using Negative Space in Photography” on the website negative space.

“How to Use Negative Space in Photography for More Powerful Images” on the website


PMP Monthly Theme Gallery

The Peer Mentor Program is open to TPC registered Full Members at no cost. Entry into the program requires a commitment to advancing your personal photography skills and permission of the Program Director.