It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Mark Condon of Shotkit!

Photo by Daniel Stark

Three Years of Shotkit | Photographers & Their Camera Gear

Hey guys, this is Mark here from a site you may have heard of called Shotkit. Thanks for having me here on ScottKelby.com – it’s truly an honour.

I started Shotkit back in 2014 to scratch my own itch of wanting to know what my favourite photographers carried in their camera bags.

Everyone knows that a good camera does not a good photographer make, but most of us in the industry are still very passionate about the photography equipment we use… and whilst few like to admit it, we’re all a little curious about the camera gear used by others!

What photographer wouldn’t be curious as to what on earth this wedding photographer takes with him on shoots?!
Photo by Emin Kuliyev for Shotkit

Since 2014, Shotkit has morphed into a popular blog for all things photography and gear related, but the raison d’être of the site is still a place for nosey photographers to have a snoop at the gear of their peers.

To celebrate Shotkit’s third birthday, I put together a one-minute slide show of the hundreds of successful submissions I’ve received over the years. Keep your eyes peeled for Scott Kelby’s own gear load-out… or I should say, one of his many!

After receiving so many submissions from photographers from around the world, I’ve been given a unique insight into the most popular photography equipment in use by professionals today.

As perhaps no surprise to many of you, wedding photographers outnumber all other genres of submission to Shotkit. It’s also unsurprising that the wedding photography gear in use around the world is by and large, very similar across the board.

The effort that photographers go into with their Shotkit submissions is very impressive. Being creative with how we lay out and photograph even our gear is often just an extension of the creativity used each day in our jobs, after all.
Photo by Neville Black for Shotkit

Nevertheless, it’s interesting to see how other camera formats continue to disrupt the industry, with photographers of all genres slowly switching to the best mirrorless cameras available, mostly from the likes of Sony, Fuji and Panasonic.

Whatever your stance is on the great mirrorless cameras vs dSLR debate, the future of cameras which rely on cumbersome mirrors to capture images is looking admittedly bleak.

Personally, I’ll be sticking with my trusty dSLR for a few more years though, and I’m sure I won’t be the only one…

Whilst Mirrorless Cameras may be the future, the fight isn’t over just yet…

Whilst I continue to publish a new photographer and their gear every other day of the year on Shotkit, I spend the majority of my time writing content for the Shotkit Blog, the newsletter, a range of ebooks, and most recently, development of an interactive tool for Lightroom & Photoshop Shortcuts.

The topic of photographer workflows is one that I’m passionate about (I’m an avid follower of Scott’s excellent Lightroom Killer Tips), and I intend to explore the subject more in 2017.

Using keyboard shortcuts in the software we use for post production every day as professional photographers is an important step in spending less time behind a desk and more time behind a camera. I hope this shortcuts tool will be a step in the right direction in helping us all achieve this.

Save some time whilst editing and speed up your post production workflow with this handy interactive shortcuts keyboard

As for the Shotkit blog, posts such as the best cameras under $500 and the best camera bags may seem like an Amazon affiliate link carnival to some (!), but they’re actually very popular posts, especially for beginner photographers who need some advice about their first purchases… not to mention of course those of us with a dose of the dreaded G.A.S.!

I’ve tried to include a selection of links to some of the most popular blog posts published on Shotkit in this article, but the truth is, I’ve really only scratched the surface.

From photographers showing off their best work and favourite photography gadgets and gizmos, to gear reviews, business advice and creative inspiration, there’s something on Shotkit for everyone. I hope you enjoy reading Shotkit as much as I do putting it together!

My own camera equipment and travel gear which I take for destination wedding photography work.
Photo by Mark Condon for Shotkit

I’ll close this guest post off by thanking Scott, Brad and the team behind ScottKelby.com and Lightroom Killer Tips for producing such incredibly useful content for photographers like us. Sites like these are a constant inspiration for both my own photography work and my work with Shotkit.

I’m looking forward to seeing you part of the Shotkit Community and I encourage you to submit your kit!

Now, which photographers’ camera bags would you most like to take a peek into? Leave their names in the comments below…

Mark Condon is a British wedding photographer based in Sydney. He is the founder of Shotkit and author of the Shotkit Books, Lightroom Power User, More Brides and LIT. You can follow him on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

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It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Scott Valentine!

I’ve always been fascinated by the nature of creativity. There are all the usual questions, of course… What is creativity? Where does it come from? How close do I have to stand to a creative person for some of it to rub off on me?

The last question comes with certain social restrictions (also possibly certain restraining orders), but the first two we can sit and discuss over coffee. Even better, we can put the results of that discussion to use, make the answers work for us. Ready? Go!

If I had to nail down a working definition, I’d say creativity is seeing and thinking about and exploring new connections. We tend to view creativity as having some element of surprise – when we see something we would call ‘creative,’ it’s almost always because there is something we didn’t expect, and it usually is built from pieces we know that are put together in new ways. It shows us a connection we had not previously considered.

In the world of digital photography, this shows up in works of photographers like Erik Johansson, Kirsty Mitchell, and Cheryl Walsh, among many others. Connections, however, are not just between conceptual elements. They are also between tools, interactions with media, and technical pieces. Check out the beautiful work of Bonny Lhotka who uses unique transfer process to create amazing physical pieces, or the sculpture of Andrey Droszdov.

How can we make use of this notion that creativity is seeing connections? Well, we can give ourselves more opportunity to see connections, for one thing. And we give ourselves opportunity by setting up situations where we’re likely to be exposed to new things, especially new thoughts. Like most things, it takes practice, and practice is something we generally know how to do. But for practice to be useful, we have to want to do it, and we have to do it with intent. One technique I’ve had success with is directed experimentation. The basic idea is to do what you already know how to do, but change one thing.

That by itself is not enough, though. You have to be receptive to the previously unseen, and you have to let it get into your head so you can hang on to it for future use.

The secret sauce is to pay attention when the connection is made, and that’s what loses some people. It’s not necessary to go in looking for any specific revelation – in fact, that can be counterproductive. What you are aiming for is to provide the raw materials and set up the situation where your mind can wander a bit, but then condition your reflex to store that connection when you are triggered by surprise. Going through your normal routine lets your mind work more subconsciously, and that one change is what seeds the possibility of a new connection.

A great way to get yourself to plant this seed is to ask yourself “What if?”

Let’s say you’re a portrait photographer. You know your craft and get great results, but you want to spice things up. “What if” you say to yourself with a devilish grin, “my model was facing the other way?” You’ve changed one thing. Without any other action or thought, you look through the viewfinder. Hopefully at this point, you start asking yourself some other questions. Should the lights be adjusted? How will you show emotion or character? Are other things in the scene jumping out that you previously missed? If you think this is a weird concept, check out Tony Gale’s personal project of women’s backs (link contains artistic nudity).

Not only are you seeing something new, you’re engaging and thinking. You’re paying attention. More importantly, you’re present in the moment. And you’re unconsciously making new connections. The next step is to save those connections actively. Let the seed germinate.

For the human mind to really hang on to things in a meaningful way, it generally uses language to describe the things. Feelings and memories can be incredibly powerful, but they’re difficult to act on or share without putting words to them. This is especially true for new concepts, and every time you get creative, you’re working with new concepts. When you discover something, when you’re surprised, delighted, thrilled, annoyed, or bored, use words. They can be in your head, you can write them down, you can talk with someone, but use words. The seed sends out roots.

By describing what you’re thinking, feeling, or seeing, you’re better able to retain memory, but you’re also able to build on it. In the portrait example above, you might suddenly notice the angle of your model’s shoulders, so think about how you’d explain that. Maybe you go into Photoshop and start drawing gesture lines like an animator over the pose and that gives you an idea about movement or relationships. As a side benefit, you might discover a career in stick-figure cartooning. It’s been known to happen.

Comic by XKCD

The other thing about using words, especially when you’re trying to describe something to another person, is that you’re forced to find common ground if you truly want to communicate. And that frequently means finding simpler and clearer concepts that you can stick together. Which brings up deconstruction. Sometimes before you can build up, you have to tear down.

Deconstruction is frequently just another thought process. Look at something and allow yourself to wonder. Start with, “why?” Why did I get this effect when I twiddled this knob? Throw in some “how?” to the mix: how do these things relate? Move into the future with a few “what if?” questions and you’re just primed for success. What if I put this one weird rule in place for my next photoshoot? You don’t have to answer completely, let alone correctly; you just have to create the space for the answer to eventually reside. In our seed metaphor, deconstruction is the process of providing basic nutrients. It’s fertilizer. You can laugh if you feel like it.

Deconstruction isn’t just for language, though. You can use it with your tools. This brushed ink portrait was the result of limiting myself to the Threshold adjustment layer in Photoshop as a starting point, then using the Smudge tool with the Bristle Brush to refine it. I didn’t have a solid plan going in except to start exploring the Threshold tool. I call this a Limited Challenge because I set a rule for myself going in, limited to and requiring only one tool as a starting point. Where deconstruction is the fertilizer, practice is the light and water. And this is the end of the plant analogy.

Let’s pause a moment to see what we’ve got…

If creativity is being able to see new connections between things, we can use experiences in order to have more things to connect and thus increase our chances of being creative. But experience isn’t just going out to see new things, it’s also seeing old things in new ways. We can do this with simple changes, and we take advantage of the results of those changes by thinking about and describing them. Describing them allows us to find more common elements to put together, and helps us see the basic components that make things fit. We can begin describing things by asking ourselves questions about what we’ve experienced, thus making connections.

See what I did there?

And here’s the point of that little diversion: don’t build up expectations of your own creativity. Either it happens now or it doesn’t until later; it generally takes its own time; and it’s frequently unexpected. But you’ll have a much better chance if you set yourself up for success. Here are some of my favorite exercises for inviting creativity to come in and have coffee.

TLDR Version:

  • Set yourself up for surprise and seeing connections by experiencing new things
  • Be present
  • Describe what you’re seeing, thinking, or feeling about the connections

Change One Single Variable – Directed Experimentation

As I noted earlier, directed experimentation is awesome, easy, and it’s what I do most often. For me, this usually involves Photoshop or lighting, but it can really be anything, including rules. Take a process that you know really well and pick one thing to tinker with. Change the horizon line in a landscape, add a colored gel somewhere, swap layers around or change blending modes, whatever. Don’t get too hung up on sticking to the one thing, but do try to limit what you do so there’s some way to control it. Remember to pay attention!

Change Everything Except One – Limited Challenge

Think of this as related to the last exercise, but instead of picking a variable, you’re picking a rule. Give yourself just one rule to explore, and beat it up. Years ago, I was part of a huge Photoshop forum that devised some really amazing challenges. We would choose one tool in Photoshop that absolutely must be used, then we’d give some other guidelines or goals. For example, we might have asked you to create a landscape using only Lens Flares. You could warp, liquify, mask and blend, but all pixels had to start from the Lens Flare tool.

Ask Questions – Why & What If

This is the most common thing I do, but it takes a lot of energy and honesty with yourself. Pause a moment with whatever strikes you and engage, right then and there. Make a mental (or real) list of elements that grab your attention and ask yourself why they interest you. Be as specific as possible in your analysis, but don’t seek truth beyond what’s true for you. This is part of paying attention and being active in your viewing. What if another artist had tackled the same concept – how would it be different? This is mostly for viewing art, but can be applied to anything that catches your eye. Allow your mind to wander, but don’t try to capture everything – keep the connections you discover and toss the rest.

Final thoughts…

Some seriously creative folks genuinely do all of the stuff above automatically. It just happens internally and organically for them. Some have to nudge it along, and some pour blood, sweat, and tears into the process before anything useful happens. Can you imagine cleaning up after that? Anyway, the most usual thing I’ve discovered is there’s a mix. To be sure, some people just seem to do all of this better than others. But some of us just don’t feel creative at all, or at least not as often as we’d like. We don’t get it, we are flabbergasted at just how creative some people are. Well, here’s a dirty little secret about all those so-called “creative geniuses” out there: they are indeed creative geniuses. That does not mean all of them do it naturally, nor that all of them just work their keisters off to maintain their creativity. Some do, some don’t. But I don’t believe that creativity is an inherent characteristic that you can never achieve if you don’t start with it at birth.

Bonus! Make mash-up lists

This one can lead to some really wacky ideas. I use a spreadsheet with a randomizer function to pull words from different lists and put them together. I’ve got one that describes scene elements, one for Photoshop tools and functions, and another with just random dictionary words. There are several online generators for free, too. The point is to give yourself a project framework, then use a mashed-up combination to challenge yourself.

Now get out there and be surprised by the connections you find!

(All photo credits: Scott Valentine)

More Bonus!

My favorite contemporary surreal photographers:

You can see more of Scott’s work at Scoxel.com, and follow him on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Behance, YouTube, and Twitter.

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It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Moose Peterson!

Photo by Emerson Chen

You Know You’re Learning If You’re Falling Down

I have no clue why these thoughts cross my mind, but they do. When the shooting gets slow and I’m with some friends and we just start talking to kill the time, my mind wanders to the bad side. Someone leaves their camera sitting on a tripod unattended, I slip over, remove the battery and then go back innocently to my own shooting. There’s the time I slip my CF memory card wallet vertically in the shade of a fellow photographer’s big lens. They can’t see it through the viewfinder but the AF can’t function at all. And of course, there’s the always-immature move of taking photos with another’s camera when they aren’t looking. A photo they definitely would not have taken themselves. My favorite comes from the days of film when someone would ask, “Got any good photos?” I had a dummy roll of film in my vest pocket that I would take out, grasp the leader, pull out all the film and look through it at the sun, then simply shrug. Oh the look on their faces when I did that! My only excuse for all of this is, photography has gotta be FUN!

I’m very blessed with two great sons who had to suffer through dad’s teaching as well as bad jokes. When the opportunity arose though for the shoe to be on the other foot, they made good use of it. Both are great cross-country skiers, something I will never be able to do despite all the help they provided and the fun we had together. Brent said something once though that I will never forget, because it so pertains to photography. I had all the right gear on, had read all I should do, and watched the videos. But falling I did with absolutely no grace. We were up on the mountain and I was soaking wet from falling so many times in my attempt to XC ski. Brent simply looked down at me as he helped me up and said, “You know you’re learning if you’re falling down.”

While simply said and blatantly true, it’s pretty darn deep if you ponder it at all. In order to learn how to ski, you gotta fall down, and a lot until you master staying up. This directly applies to photography. Your photography will only grow if you fall down, fail. The thing is, you have to learn from your failures or you’ll either just keep failing, or worse, give up. Just how can we learn from photographic failures so we can keep growing? Having been falling for four decades and still being able to laugh at myself, I think I might have a suggestion or two to pass along.

It’s Only A Photograph!

The first is to understand this very important principle. It’s only a photograph! The right photograph taken of a powerful subject in a powerful way at a time when its clarity is needed by the world can have a huge impact. And I always remind folks their photographs can change the world. But at the same time, I also realize that if I totally toast a photograph, the sun will still rise tomorrow and life will go on. It is just a photograph. We put so much pressure on ourselves when we’re shooting that really shouldn’t be put there. Ever go back and look at photos you took a year ago, really look at them and think back at your thoughts when taking them? It’s those times if I were standing next to you, I might pull one of my bad photographic jokes on you just to remind you that it’s just a photograph.

KISS

The second is to remind you of the KISS theorem…Keep It Simple Stupid (the last word being key). We tend to not only take our photography too seriously but also make it too complicated. While there are times for fun, we go complicated. But making that part of our regular photographic ritual is suicidal for so many reasons. The main reason relates to, it’s just a photograph. When we make things complicated, they become a task, a chore. And how do we mentally treat chores? We tend to put them off. But more importantly in taking advantage of the best teacher we all have for our photography, ourselves, complicated makes learning really hard.

When we KISS, when we are successful, it’s really easy to figure out what we did right so we can repeat it again and again. But when we make it complicated, determining what went wrong is difficult so we run the risk of repeating that mistake. Failure is so important to our learning only when we learn from that failure. There is the practical side of KISS that you might like even more it – costs less! It takes a whole lot less gear and time to KISS than make it complicated. And when you take all you’ve learned, working with KISS and removing the stress of the importance of a photograph, you know what happens in time? You become a better photographer and that’s the whole goal (perhaps why my mind wanders and I cause trouble…hmmmm).

Wanna prove my point to yourself? Next time you’re working in the digital darkroom with a friend and they leave to take a break, take a screen shot of what’s on their computer. Then open that screen shot in Photoshop, make it full screen, and just leave it. They will come back and click on it like a madman to make it work, but nothing will happen because it’s just a screen shot. KISS! Take a deep breath, enjoy the amazing rewards photography brings to us every time we venture into it and remember to not take it too seriously. KISS and the most important thing, you know you’re learning if you’re falling down.

You can see more of Moose’s work at MoosePeterson.com and WarbirdImages.com, and follow him on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Come see him live at Photoshop World in Orlando April 19-22!

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It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Joe Glyda!

My name is Joe Glyda and I am a commercial photographer specializing in food photography.

I would like to thank Scott for inviting me to be a guest on his blog. This year marks my 40th year as a commercial food photographer. Yes, I am one of those photographers that worked my way through the darkroom and started my career using 4×5, 8×10, and 11×14 Deardorf view cameras that used film.

The one thing I loved about shooting film was, ‘the set’ had to be ready and complete before the film was loaded into the camera. There wasn’t “I’ll just fix it in Photoshop.” Getting it all put together in one shot and looking at the subject upside down and backwards taught me to see the food ‘as a subject’ very differently. Painstaking details went into every shot, as Polaroids were used to get the test shot done, before exposing the film. But seeing that transparency on the light box was extremely rewarding.

I thought I would talk a little about my favorite subject, Food Photography. The unique aspect about commercial/food photography is that it’s ALL about the product. It’s NOT about you the photographer and your style, or your vision. It’s about the client’s vision, who in turn, hires an art director to come up with an approved layout and make the product be the hero. It then becomes the photographer’s responsibility to engage in a conversation with the art director and concur on a plan of action.

In other words, ask questions, LISTEN, then solve the problem.

Engage in a conversation prior to the photo session. Do not wait until the art director shows up to start setting up. Be prepared and ready to go. Do some testing to get yourself familiar with the product that’s about to be photographed ahead of time.

One of the key elements in food photography is finding the products with the right elements of detail that work with all the other elements in the photo. So, in the case of this print ad, what seemed to be an easy shot ended up taking a dozen cheese wedges and twice as many Polaroids to create the cut marks on the cheese wedge so they fell exactly under where the package artwork was to be placed. The client wanted the package to represent the natural look and flavor of real Cheddar cheese. Knowing what the client wants is so very important before the camera is even set-up.

That doesn’t mean photographers can’t have their own ideas or be able to contribute an idea regarding the images. At first, it’s important to leave your personal vision at the door. What I mean is, waiting for the right opportunity to share your ideas with the art director or client, after learning what the vision of the product is. Don’t be afraid to talk to the art director. Take an AD to lunch. Share ideas with them.

This image was part of a year-long campaign which stemmed from a lunch appointment with an AD who just finished meeting the client from Cracker Barrel Cheese. We talked about the client’s needs to make their snacking product look different and more trendy. Polaroid transfers were very popular at the time, so I suggested to shoot the real food on a Polaroid of an empty plate. The art director drew up layouts and our collaboration was a success.

When shooting multiple dishes, it is crucial to work with a prop stylist. They have resources beyond the photographers’ prop room. They tend to watch trends and have a pulse on what’s hot and what’s not. It’s also important to know what foods will last on the set longer than others, especially with multiple dishes. In this case, it was the spaghetti sauce that was put in place last so the sauce wouldn’t run through the tortellini.

In 1986, I witnessed my first retouching job on a Scitex Response-300 computer and knew right then that I had to get into digital technology. By 1993, I was using a Kodak DCS 460 digital camera and stopped using film by 1995. I helped convert the Kraft Foods in-house photography department from film completely over to digital by 1999. I wanted to have more control over the quality of the final image using the digital process. With the art director on set, we could see instantaneously together what we were getting, and make sure the color and direction was correct. Color management in food photography is so important. Food products have a certain color and their companies pay extra to make sure their products are not falsely advertised.

I use an X-rite color checker before every shot series to ensure the color is correct. Changing the color checker every time the light source changes is very important. This will ensure that the color of the food is right on.

Even though Photoshop 2 was a big part of the digital process, at the time, I continued to have the mind set of getting things done on set, prior to engaging the camera. I used the digital technology to my advantage whenever possible. It helped me create these images using digital fire in a campfire scene, and digital water from a pool on the deck while still having full control in the studio. Then creating outdoor lighting effects on the food to match the digital images made them look like they were photographed on-location.

Working with a food stylist is a must when working with food products. The job of a food photographer is lighting, composition, and the technical aspect of the photo session. The food stylist’s responsibility is to make sure the food looks good for the camera. They get the camera position in relationship to the plate from the photographer, and then position the food on the plate to make the food look its best. Dummy food is usually used during the set-up. Dummy food is a representation of the hero food but not yet styled. This helps the photographer light the food and create the composition needed to make the food look great. In this case, the soup was replaced by a salad and the sandwich direction was changed once the client saw the dummy food shot.

Dummy Food
Hero Food

My favorite foods to photograph are desserts, for the obvious reason, they taste the best. They tend to be difficult to maneuver around the set during the set-up, but once the hero food is placed on the set, the shot is taken quickly before the food dies. My lens of choice is a Nikkor 100mm macro lens, and in some cases I love to use a bellows attached to my Nikon D800. It brings the texture and details of the food to the forefront. And the clients are thrilled because it shows off their product.

Another kind of food photography that I enjoy doing is packaging photography. It takes more patience because the image needs to FIT in between words, logos, or call-out flags. If there are multiple products, they all have to fit together like a family! Usually in this situation the camera angle is locked down so the position of the image stays the same throughout the series of shots. Notice the color under the plates on these packages change but the plate position does not.

Styles and trends, like in fashion, come and go in food photography. It’s important to watch how these trends influence the images across all media. Over the past year, straight down shots have been the angle of choice. Panera, Qdoba, and Starbucks are a few companies changing their look to this elevated level. I just had a client this month that wanted to see their cake recipe from this angle, and they loved it!

Even some of the car companies are now using this look and some say that it’s because of the increase of drone photography that has inspired the look. But I guarantee you, this trend is not new. It was very popular in the late 80’s, and here is one of my shots of asparagus I did in 1988. I remember an art director back then, saying after meeting with a client, “Do they really want to shoot from above again? I’m tired of this angle” Watch for the new trend to take over, and believe me, it will.

Finally, the secret to good food photography is backlight. The food looks best when the shadow falls under the front of the food to act as a base for the food to sit on. The light from behind the food creates a highlight effect along the top and back edge of the food to give the food a heroic effect. Fill cards are used to bounce the backlight back into the front of the food, creating a soft and pleasing appetizing appearance.

In summary, remember these five steps when working with food:

  1. Listen to the client, It’s ALL about the product, not you!
  2. Talk to the art director, engage in discussion about the project prior to the session, don’t wait till the day of the shoot.
  3. Use a color management system to get accurate color.
  4. Hire a professional food stylist. (and a prop stylist when necessary)
  5. Backlight most food subjects for ultimate results.

Using these simple ideas will make your food images more appetizing and give the illusion that they are jumping off the page.

You can see more of Joe’s work at JGlyda.com, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. Check out his courses on KelbyOne, and come see him at Photoshop World Orlando where he’ll be teaching a food photography workshop on April 19 and a class on creativity on April 21.

The post It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Joe Glyda! appeared first on Scott Kelby's Photoshop Insider.

It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Rob Sylvan!

Photo by Levi Sim at Photoshop World 2016

10 Years of Lightroom Help Desk Advice

On Feb 19th, 2017 Lightroom celebrated it’s 10th anniversary, which also happens to be the
day I celebrated 10 years of providing Lightroom Help Desk support. Huzzah! I’ve had the honor
and pleasure of helping a lot of people in that time, and I owe that all to Scott. Being invited
back for a second guest post here is a privilege, and I figured it was the perfect opportunity
to share back some of the most important (and hopefully useful) Help Desk advice I’ve given in
that time. Here are the top 10 things every Lightroom user should know*:

*Disclaimer, these tips are intended to be helpful, but don’t just do them without
understanding all of what is involved. If you have any questions feel free to reach out to me
directly before you act, and I can help you with your specific situation.

1. Set Your Default Catalog

The most important thing every Lightroom user needs to know is where your Lightroom catalog
is located on your system. Even if you think you know, it’s worth taking a moment to make sure
(you’d be surprised how many people find it is not where they expect). With Lightroom open,
go to Lightroom > Catalog Settings > General (Win: Edit > Catalog Settings >
General), and note the name of the catalog and the path to where it is located. Is it where you
expected? If so, great! If not, here’s how you can move it to a new location:

  1. Click the Show button on the General tab of the Catalog Settings to open the folder
    containing your catalog in your file browser.
  2. Quit Lightroom. If prompted to backup, click skip for now.
  3. Copy the folder containing the Lightroom catalog (.LRCAT) and its associated preview
    caches to the location you want it to be stored (pick a locally connected internal or external
    drive).
  4. Once the copy operation is complete, double-click the catalog file to open it back
    into Lightroom. This way you can make sure all is working fine, and the new location will be
    included in the preferences.

Now, whether you moved your catalog or not, this next step is important. I highly recommend
that you manually configure this catalog to be the Default catalog (in other words, don’t use
Load most recent catalog). To do this, go to Lightroom > Preferences > General (WIN: Edit
> Preferences > General), and set the When starting up use this catalog option to the
specific catalog you just opened.

Remember, if you moved your catalog to a new location, don’t forget to go back and remove
the original folder containing your old catalog. Having a good backup in place is good idea too
(which I’ll cover in a bit).

2. Know Where Your Photos are Located

It is equally important for all Lightroom users to know how to find exactly where a given folder
or photo resides on your drive from inside Lightroom. There are a few ways to identify where
your folders and photos exist on your drive. The easiest is the good old right-click contextual
menu. Go ahead and right-click any folder in the Folders panel and choose the Show in Finder
(WIN: Show in Explorer) menu. This will open your file browser right to that folder and show
you where it exists on your drive.

Similarly, you can right-click any photo and access that same Show in menu to take you right to
that photo in your file browser. You don’t have to go that far to find that information though. If
you just hover your cursor over a folder you should see its path revealed in a tooltip popup. So
take a moment to make sure you know exactly where all of your photos are located on your
drive.

If they’re not where you want them, then let’s look at how to move them.

3. Know How to Use Lightroom to Move Photos and Folders

Now that you know where your photos are located it is in your best interest to use Lightroom to
move them if you need to put them somewhere else (with one exception that I’ll cover in tip 5).
Moving photos between folders or moving entire folders is as easy as drag and drop. By using
Lightroom to do the moving it not only moves the photos to the new location, but it also keeps
the catalog up to date with where the photos can be found. You see, Lightroom stores the
complete path to each photo in the catalog, and if anything in that path changes outside of
Lightroom you end up with a situation where Lightroom tells you that your photos are offline or
missing (here’s a link to an article I wrote on how to reconnect missing
photos
). This is easily avoided by doing the moving inside of Lightroom.

So to move a group of photos (or even just a single photo) from one folder to another try this:

  1. In the Folders panel, select the folder containing the photos you want to move.
  2. Press G to jump to Grid view.
  3. Select the photo(s) you want to move, and drag/drop them on the folder you want
    them to be moved into. The destination folder will highlight in blue to signal it is the target of
    the drop.

Lightroom will then do the moving, and update the catalog accordingly. You do need to have a
destination folder already showing in the Folders panel to complete the move, so let’s look at
how to add a folder next.

4. Keep All Photo Folders Within a Single Parent Folder

I have found it incredibly useful to always keep all my photo folders within a single parent
folder on each drive I use to store photos. The reason is that it makes my life so much simpler if
I ever need to move the entire photo library on that drive, or if I need to reconnect the catalog
to the photo library in the case of a primary drive failure/loss.

In typical Lightroom fashion there are a couple of ways to create new folders. To start, you can
go to the Library menu and choose New Folder, or click the plus sign at the top of the Folders
panel and choose Add Folder to launch the Choose or Create New Folder dialog. From here you
can either choose an existing folder you may have created in your file browser or you can
create a brand-new folder. For example, let’s say I want to add a new drive to my catalog and
want to select/create a folder on it:

  1. Connect drive.
  2. Go to Library > New Folder, to open the dialog for finding and creating a new
    folder at the location of your choosing.
  3. Create a new folder or select an existing folder. In my case, I had previously created
    a folder on this drive in Finder.

Note, my screen capture shows the dialog on a Mac, but on Windows you’d get a
Windows dialog. This is one of the few visual differences in Lightroom due to the operating
systems.

That drive and folder will now appear in my Folders panel. I can drag and drop photos or folders
into that folder from anywhere else in my catalog.

Another common scenario is the need to create sub-folders within existing folders to help with
your organizational needs. This process works in a similar fashion, but you start by selecting the
parent folder you want to create the subfolder within.

  1. Select the folder you want to create the subfolder within.
  2. Right-click to open the contextual menu and choose Create Folder Inside
    “foldername.” This opens a smaller Create Folder dialog box where you can give the subfolder a
    name and click Create to complete the process. The subfolder will then appear in the Folders
    panel. These folders are ready for me to add photos, and even new folders as my organizational
    needs demand.

Now that I have a parent folder, and a subfolder within it, I can move folders from another
drive into this drive by dragging and dropping on my new folder.

5. Know How to Move Your Photo Library to a New Drive

This is useful if you are wanting to move your entire photo Library from an internal drive to an
external drive, or if you are running out of space on one drive and want to move to a new larger
drive. Now, you could use Lightroom to move the folders as I just did in the previous tip, but I
don’t recommend doing that when your entire library is at stake. Using a move command is
risky, because if anything goes wrong in the middle of the transfer you could lose data. I prefer
a technique that involves copying the folders to the new drive outside of Lightroom, updating
Lightroom to this change, and then later manually deleting the files from the original location.
Here’s how:

  1. Open Finder (WIN: Explorer).
  2. Copy the entire folder structure (as-is without changing the structure) to the other
    drive.
  3. Open Lightroom.
  4. Once the copy operation is complete, right-click/ctrl-click the top-most-level folder
    in the Folders panel and choose Update Folder Location.
  5. In the resulting dialog box, navigate to and select that same top-most-level folder in
    the new drive (the one you just copied over there).

Lightroom will update the catalog to point to the folder in the new location (and everything
inside of that folder). If you have all your folders/photos in a single parent folder then you are
done, but if there are additional folders at the same level as that top folder you just need to
repeat steps 4 and 5 with those folders. Give it a test run to make sure everything is as it should
be before removing the originals. Again, having a good backup in place before you do this is
always a good idea.

6. Know How to Back Up Your Catalog

On the subject of backing up, there is a lot to say about backup strategies in general, but in the
context of Lightroom catalogs I simply want to address the built-in functionality Lightroom
provides. On the Catalog Settings dialog (see first tip) there is a place at the bottom where you
can configure Lightroom to create a duplicate copy of the catalog at some interval of time. This
is a set-it-and-forget-it type of feature, and its sole purpose is to create an exact duplicate of
your working catalog file in a location of your choosing (no photos are included in this backup).

I will assume you already have some sort of full system backup running that regularly backs up
all your important files, and so you may wonder if you really need this option running too.
Based on the experience of helping people with Lightroom problems over the years I feel that it
is in your best interests to take advantage of this built-in functionality. Sure, it may be
redundant, but it is free, it is easy, and it may just one day make you weep with gratitude. I set
mine to run every time I quit Lightroom, which make Lightroom throw up this prompt every
time I exit.

It is only in this prompt that I can choose where I want my backup copy to be saved by clicking
the Choose button and selecting a location. I recommend that you choose a different drive than
the drive where your working catalog is stored. In my case, my laptop has a single internal
drive, so I direct the backup to be saved to my Dropbox folder, which is automatically synced
with the cloud and my other computers. I also take this opportunity to check the boxes for
testing integrity and optimizing the catalog. Now, just because it prompts me each time doesn’t
mean I backup every time. There is a Skip button that I use when I’m in a hurry and just want to
quit.

I try to create a backup at least once a week or after I’ve done a whole lot of work. Each time
this function runs it saves a copy of your catalog to the folder you chose. Lightroom does not
overwrite existing backup copies. As a result you end up with a folder of iterative copies of your
catalog. This can be very handy for recovering from self-inflicted problems or from the rare case
of catalog file corruption.

7. Know How to Restore From Your Backup

Since a backup copy of the catalog is an exact duplicate of your working catalog at the time the
backup was created all you must do to restore from the backup is the following:

  1. Close Lightroom (if open).
  2. Open the Lightroom folder containing your working catalog file in Finder/Windows
    Explorer.
  3. Move the “bad” catalog file out of that folder to another location for
    safekeeping.
  4. Move the latest/greatest “good” backup catalog copy into the Lightroom folder to
    replace the bad one. Starting with Lightroom 6/CC 2015 the backup copy is also compressed
    into a zip file to reduce file size (and keep people from accidentally opening a backup copy), so
    you may need to unzip the backup before you can move it into the Lightroom folder.
  5. Once placed in the Lightroom folder, double-click the catalog file to open it into
    Lightroom and take it for a test drive.

The backup copy of the catalog has the same name as your working catalog, so you should be
good to go. It will only contain all the work up until the moment you made that backup copy, so
backup frequently. If restoring from the backup solved your problem, don’t forget to delete the
“bad” catalog that you moved out earlier.

8. Mange those Backup Copies

The only downside to running the catalog backup function (aside from the time it takes to run)
is that Lightroom will keep putting new copies of the catalog into that folder until the drive is
full. The management of the backup folder falls on us. Since we only value the most recent
version(s) of the backup copies I periodically go into that folder and delete all but the most
recent 2 or 3. Note that Lightroom doesn’t backup the preview caches because those can
automatically be regenerated if lost. I’ve seen people regain hundreds of gigabytes of free
space after clearing out old backup copies.

9. Know How to Rename Your Catalog

I often hear from people who are using the most up to date version of Lightroom, but have a
catalog file named with an older version of Lightroom and it may also have some other
numbers in it, such as Lightroom 5 Catalog-2. They wonder if this is a problem, and they want to
know how to rename the catalog. First, it is not a problem at all. You can call your catalog file
anything you want to call it. Lightroom doesn’t care. However, if you want to rename it to
something that makes more sense to you, here’s how:

  1. With Lightroom closed, go to the folder where the catalog resides using your
    operating system’s file browser; Finder on Mac, and Windows Explorer on WIN.
  2. Using your file browser you can rename the catalog file, but keep the file extension
    the same (.LRCAT). Then rename the Preview cache and Smart Preview cache (if applicable) the
    same way, but retain the word Previews and Smart Previews in the name along with the
    original file extension.

So, for example if your catalog and preview cache was named:

Lightroom 5 Catalog-2.lrcat
Lightroom 5 Catalog-2 Previews.lrdata

And you wanted to change it to “Lightroom Catalog,” you would end up with:

Lightroom Catalog.lrcat
Lightroom Catalog Previews.lrdata

Once renamed, double-click the catalog file to open it into Lightroom. Now you can give it a
quick test drive to make sure all is well, and this writes the new catalog name into the
Lightroom preference file. Be sure to update your Default catalog setting to point to this
renamed catalog (see Tip 1).

10. Create a Custom Camera Raw Default

OK, all those tips were focused on library management, so let’s end on a Develop tip that could
speed up your workflow. Lightroom has a set of default processing settings that are applied to
all raw photos after import. Did you know that you can customize those settings to start your
raw photos down the processing pipeline using your preferred choices? I’m not talking about a
preset selected on the Import screen, but rather the built-in default settings. Save your import
presets for something creative, and customize the baseline settings.

Let’s go through the steps to customize the default settings to include two of the most common
adjustments people ask me about, lens corrections and camera profiles, but feel free to add any
other settings you want to customize your process (or not include these if you’d rather not).

  1. Select a raw photo that has not been processed at all beyond the default settings
    and press D to jump to Develop. Click the Reset button for good measure to ensure it has no
    other settings applied because every adjustment (even set to 0) is included in the default
    settings.
  2. Expand the Lens Corrections panel, click the Profile tab if not active already, and
    check Remove Chromatic Aberration and Enable Profile Corrections.

Note: Including profile corrections can be resource intensive, so exclude this from your
defaults if performance is degraded.

  1. Expand the Camera Calibration Panel, click the Profile drop-down menu and choose
    the camera profile you prefer to be the starting point.

Note: The list of camera profiles varies with the camera model used to create the selected
photo.

  1. Go to Develop > Set Default Settings to open the Set Default Develop Settings
    dialog box. Default settings are specific to each camera model, in this case a Nikon D610, so if
    you are using multiple camera models you will need to update the defaults for each model
    separately.

Tip: You can also hold the Option (WIN: Alt) key and watch the Reset button change to Set
Default and click that button to open the Set Default Develop Settings dialog box.

  1. Click Update to Current Settings to customize the default settings to include the
    changes you made.

Note: While it states the changes are not undoable, this just means that you can’t revert
back to the Adobe defaults via the Edit > Undo menu. You can always open this dialog box
and click Restore Adobe Default Settings if you want to go back to the original settings.

This will only affect raw photos from that specific camera model as they are imported in the
future, and if you hit the Reset button on a previously imported raw photo from that specific
camera model. You must repeat that process to set defaults for any other camera models you
are using. This does not change the settings on any previously imported photos.

I hope you’ve found some of those tips helpful. Please feel free to reach out to me with any
questions you may have, or come see me at Photoshop World, where I’ll be teaching, and
answering questions at the Expert Bar.

You can see more from Rob at photofocus.com and follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Aside from also being a KelbyOne Help Desk Specialist, and Adjunct Professor at NHTI, he is a founding member of Stocksy United (a stock photography co-op). Rob writes the “Under the Loupe” column for Lightroom User Magazine, and is the author of many photography related books. His latest book is Taming Your Photo Library with Lightroom.

The post It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Rob Sylvan! appeared first on Scott Kelby's Photoshop Insider.

It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Chip Litherland!

10 Ways to Help Find Clients Find You

The hard truth about this industry is never really advertised. The gap between hobbyists and professional photographers has never been smaller. Technology has leveled the playing field when it comes to focus, exposure, timing, and even post processing. More capable photographers means more available imagery and thus lower prices. This presents a challenge when attempting to build and grow a successful photography business. It’s no longer enough to compete solely on skill, talent, or experience. It’s about showing your viewpoint, selling your ideas, creativity, and professionalism.

After 15 years of surviving then building a business in a post-newspaper apocalypse, why would I move from Florida to Denver? Change and growth. I needed a jump start, wanted to go back to what I felt was “home,” and start seeing differently. What I didn’t know was how to find an entirely new group of clients while satisfying my old base in a way that would allow me to keep working in both states.

The solution was a new brand, LOCK + LAND. In order to succeed I needed to elevate my business beyond a dude with a camera who likes to make colorful photos. After many long hours on the phone and many beers in person, I decided to go into business with my friend and fellow photographer, Peter Lockley. This would allow me to move beyond just waiting for the phone to ring, shooting something random, cashing a check, and repeating that cycle over and over. It would give me accountability, someone to collaborate with, and more opportunity to shoot.

I’ve had the luxury of a pretty amazing core group of clients in Florida – LEGOLAND Florida Resort, ESPN, Universal Orlando, The Player’s Tribune, New College of Florida, and Florida Department of Citrus, to name a few. They, along with a steady stream of weddings, kept me busy and fit my vision. In Colorado I had none, so how do you go about that mid career and find new ones? They’re not just going to start calling once I hit the Colorado border.

Peter and I took a very deliberate approach to growing LOCK + LAND. Here’s 10 ways we are approaching growing our business and finding new clients:

1. SOCIAL
Social media is the easiest way to get your work out there, but it’s also a challenge to reach the right people. Apps like Instagram and Facebook regulate the number of people who see each post and they charge if you want to “boost” it to a larger audience. We don’t pay to boost our content, but depending on your target audience, those channels could be very helpful. We treat it as a tool for keeping our clients informed of what we’re doing if they do pin, but it is a small piece of what we do to attract clientele.

2. EXCEL AT CUSTOMER SERVICE
This is a lost art. One of our big focuses is keeping our clients happy in Florida, to keep them using us as we grow. Most of them stuck with us during the transition, so we fly back there a lot and go out of our way to make sure they are happy. Superior customer service, having fun, and adding value to what we do with either digital library management or new services is a priority. Good customer service can lead to new opportunities. When someone in the position to hire you leaves one company, there’s a good chance they’ll end up in a position to hire you in their new job, and your client tree grows.

3. FOCUS ON BEING A GOOD PEER
Make friends in the industry. I would have never landed the LEGOLAND Florida Resort account without the recommendation of a friend for a simple press conference years ago. We also might have lost that account if not for a heads up to a change in marketing personnel from another colleague. Work is often thrown back and forth between photographers. Most importantly, do a great job if someone sends work your way. A personal recommendation is often more powerful than a great portfolio, so try to network as much as possible. We give back, we speak at colleges, we participate in photo gatherings, and we try to meet as many people as we can.

4. RESEARCH + TARGET MARKET
It’s easy to subscribe to a service that emails thousands of art buyers on your behalf. It’s a shotgun approach, and you hope that something sticks, but it rarely does. It’s not to say that you shouldn’t mass market, just be aware that there are limitations and a ton of competition in that space. We’ve talked to art directors who get hundreds of postcards every week. What we’ve done now is a create a local dream client list of 20 ad agencies and companies here in CO and find out who the actual person is that can hire and do a slow introduction to our work and familiarize themselves with our brand while at the same time learning theirs. We want to put all our marketing efforts and money into finding not a bunch of clients, but a few of the right ones. Clients who fit our vision, are fun to work for, and have potential for long-term viability. What we recommend is knowing your market, the work that is being produced there, and focusing your efforts on finding clients who are a good fit. Research every potential client. Who have they worked with in the past? Does your style fit their brand? Do they NEED your work? What can you offer?

5. MAILER, COLD CALLS, and EMAILS OH MY
While most of the time you never know if a card gets thrown out or put on a bulletin board, you still have to make sure people know you exist. You can’t expect one mailer to generate a large volume of work, but repeated impressions on a potential client have the opportunity to pay off in the long run. We try to put our work in front of a target client 4-6 times a year. Sometimes it will be a postcard, sometimes it will be a bigger promotional kit, sometimes it may just be a phone call but our goal is consistency.

6. BUILD AN AMAZING TEAM
We hire a lot of photographers, lighting assistants, digi-techs, and producers now and they’re people we could absolutely trust in any situation to knock it out of the park. In the end you’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with, and if they are giving it their all, you will be energized to do the same.

7. PERSONAL PROJECTS
This is key. I came to Colorado with a portfolio of beaches and palm trees. I didn’t have anything that spoke to the western audience. There’s no reason to sit on your butt when you could be out shooting pictures. Our desire is to do creative projects so we just started doing them. We identified some key potential clients and industries (beer, weed, travel, lifestyle, sports, etc…) and came up with some cool concepts to execute together. This not only gave us great content for the site, but helped us create a stronger working dynamic. It doesn’t matter who presses the shutter. It’s about the concept that drives the image.

8. SHARE WORK WITH THE RIGHT PEOPLE
One of the personal projects we did was within the craft brew industry. In Denver alone there are almost 300 breweries. It’s huge. You can’t really go a block without hitting a new place. What a better place to start meeting some people? We came up with a concept of deconstructing beer recipes and instead of just doing it on our own we recruited the help of 21 of the best up-and-coming breweries to pick one beer for each that used unique ingredients like ghost pepper, kale, and pineapple. In the end, we had a fun gallery showing in one of the breweries and gave all the brewers a print and copies of a time-lapse for each shot as a thank you for their help. We met some awesome people, made some future contacts for work we’re doing now, and built up a gallery to go to bigger breweries and market conceptual work.

9. BUILD A SITE THAT SAYS “I DO THIS”
If you don’t want to shoot sports, then why put that on your site? If you want to do lit portraiture for magazines, then get your friends to pose and build a portfolio. You may be the best damn French fry photographer out there, so load it up with all the golden goodness and own it. For us, we want to be hired for our creativity, and we rock the visuals to back up those ideas whether it’s photo, video, or social. Fill your site with your own unique vision.

10. HAVE FUN, KEEP DIGGING, and SEE WHAT OTHERS DON’T
Photography should make you want to get out of bed every day. Look to your friends and colleagues for inspiration. Read blogs like this and always keep learning about your craft. It’s an amazing thing to be able to do photography as a career. In order to keep doing that you have to dig, you have to create, and you have to shoot how the hell you want and how no one else can.

In the end, only you have your vision, so find the right people to help you share it with the world.

You can see more of Chip’s work at LOCK + LAND, and can follow LOCK + LAND on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

The post It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Chip Litherland! appeared first on Scott Kelby's Photoshop Insider.

It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Dave Black!

Dave Black working with Nikon SB-5000 Speedlights

Your Questions & My Answers
Hi and welcome to Scott’s blog … It is an honor to be asked to write a Guest blog for Scott … many thanks Scott for the opportunity.

I receive dozens of questions via my website’s Contact Dave page every month from passionate photographers eager to learn, and so this guest blog will be Your Questions and My Answers to a variety of my Instagram and Portfolio images.


“Alpine Shadow” … Nikon D3s, ISO1000, 1/500 at f/14, Nikon 24-70mm lens, SanDisk 32G Extreme Pro Flash Card

Q: Hi Mr. Black, Greetings from Switzerland. I really enjoy your Instagram pictures/mini photo lessons each day, and in particular the Alpine Shadow picture from Switzerland. Please can you elaborate with some backstory? Kind Regards. Francois – Zermatt, Switzerland

A: Hi Francois. So glad that you are enjoying my Instagram posts @daveblackphoto and the mini photo lessons that often accompany each IG picture.

As mentioned in the IG post, Rotenboden Station is a familiar location for those who are climbing, hiking or photographing the alpine sunrise at the Matterhorn in Switzerland.

The backstory is an exercise in patience. I had completed making my sunrise image of the Matterhorn from a location about 1 kilometer away from the Rotenboden Station and had just hiked back to the alpine railway station.

While I was waiting for the train to return and continue my journey up the mountains the sunlight and shadows on the station were beautiful and seemed to be begging for a human element to enter the scene.

The train arrived and I let it go without me. Then, after about 15 minutes, the shadow moved to reveal the cross and a minute later a fellow hiker (with backpack) approached the railway platform and his shadow was cast onto the station wall … thus offering a “different” image of the Matterhorn.

We often go out “looking” for a picture, but we must always be aware of the changing light and shadows around us… and be ready to capture a “moment” when it happens along.

Thanks for your question Francois, hope the backstory is helpful. Cheers. Dave


“Red Rythmic” … Nikon D5, ISO4000, 1/800 at f/13, Nikon 24-70mm lens at 45mm, WB 6250K, 4 NEW Nikon SB-5000 Speedlights with Radio Control, Manfrotto light stands, XQD Card

Q: Hi, Dave! I always check out your three portfolios on your website to see what’s new. Thanks for adding new pics each month. Can you explain where you placed your Speedlights for the Red Rythmic gymnastics image in your Creative Lighting Portfolio on your website? Thanks. Kevin – London.

A…Hi Kevin. Glad you are enjoying my portfolios. I really enjoy adding new images each month to the three collections!

I purposely underexposed the scene by -2.0 stops and then illuminated my subject with FLASH. I used 4 NEW Nikon SB-5000 Speedlights with Radio Control, all of which were in High Speed Sync mode.

The main SB-5000 had a Grid to help spotlight my athlete and was set to FULL power and placed high on a light stand 15 feet away.

I placed a second SB-5000 on a small rock about 20 feet out in front of the athlete and about one foot above the ground cover. This SB-5000 was set to 1/2 power and illuminated the foreground vegetation and the tail ends of the red ribbons.

Because of the uneven terrain, I had an assistant hand hold two SB-5000 Speedlights about 35 feet behind the subject. These two Speedlights, each set to FULL power illuminated some of the vegetation behind her, but not the forest background which I wanted to remain dark.

The subject was an Olympic athlete who was amazing to work with. She performed multiple leaps on the boulder despite it being a very cold, early morning shoot in the Yamanashi Forest of Northern Japan.

Thanks for a great question Kevin.  Cheers. Dave


“Winter Coyote” … Nikon D500, ISO2000, 1/1000 at f/8, Nikon 200-500mm G VR lens with Nikon TC 14E III 1.4x teleconverter, SanDisk 32G Extreme Pro SD Card.

Q: Dear Dave, I’m a longtime fan and very much looking forward to attending your classes at Photoshop World in Orlando this April. I just love the Winter Coyote picture in your Planet Portfolio. Can you tell me the how you captured this picture. Thank you. Debbie – Jacksonville, FL.

A: Hi Debbie. Gad you like the “Winter Coyote,” and please come up and say hello during Photoshop World Orlando. Your question fits into one of my favorite classes at PSW 2017: THINK Before You Press the Shutter a class teaching pre-visualization.

This image was made recently when I joined good friends Keith Ladzinski and Doug Ladzinski for a fun photo safari on a snowy January day in Rocky Mountain National Park.

We had been slowly cruising around the park photographing elk when Doug saw four coyotes way off in the distance, braving the winter storm on a small ridge about 150 yards from the road. With the snow storm and the long distance to the coyotes, I sensed this could be an opportunity for a very special picture.

Let me emphasis that, before I stepped out of the vehicle, I set the in-camera Set Picture Control menu of the D500 to standard and also reduced the contrast and saturation levels slightly. Then I increased the clarity level to help define the snow flakes and Coyote.

I kept my distance on purpose as I wanted to shoot through more volume of the falling snow. The camera-lens combination of the Nikon D500 cropped sensor and 200-500mm f/5.6 lens (at 500mm) with a 1.4x teleconverter gave me a visual lens length of about 1,050mm.

All these preparations: 1,050mm, Set Picture Control adjustments and keep my distance from the coyotes in order to shoot through as much falling snow as possible, but still see my subject clearly… were “pre-visualized” in my mind in just a few seconds. THEN I stepped out of the vehicle onto the snow.

I used manual exposure and chose to nearly overexpose the snow, but not quite. Once this single coyote moved away from the pack and ventured out onto the ridge with the falling snow and head-down posture, the “click” of the shutter was all that was left to do… Voila! “Winter Coyote.”

This process of creating the scene and technical scenario in my mind first is called “pre-visualization” and is what I believe to be the “key” missing component for many photographers trying to make the memorable pictures they want.

Hope this answer is helpful and I look forward to meeting you at PSW. -Dave


“High Riders” … Nikon D810, ISO1000, 1/2500 at f/10, Nikon 14-24mm lens, three Profoto B1 strobes in High Speed Sync mode with Profoto Tele-Zoom Reflectors and Clear Protection Plate, three C-Stands, and Articulating Boom Lift for me to shoot from, SanDisk 32G Extreme Pro Flash Card.

Q: Hi Dave, Your sports portfolio has an insane moto shot with one guy flying and another guy upside-down. Can you tell me what flash was used and how you pulled this picture off? Brandon – Louisiana.

A…Hi Brandon. Thanks for a great question, glad you like the shot.

This Freestyle Motocross image of Team FMX stars Travis Willis (white) and Ed Rossi (blue) was a commercial project that was quite an undertaking for myself and my #1 assistant, Julio Aguilar to accomplish.

I typically use my Nikon SB-5000 Speedlights with radio control for about 90% of my flash work as they are small-portable and have High Speed Sync. But occasionally I need a BIGGER blast of FLASH from a long distance to override the bright ambient sunshine and illuminate my athletes against the underexposed background or sky… so I bring in the Profoto B1 Air strobes.

As mentioned in the image caption above, I used three Profoto B1 Air strobes in High Speed Sync. Each is equipped with Profoto Tele-Zoom Reflector and Clear Glass Protection Plate (instead of the factory frosted plate).

These two modifications that I’ve incorporated with my B1 strobe system have helped make the factory 500 watt second power of a B1 illuminate my subjects more like a 1200 watt second power pack. That’s a HUGE increase in illumination simply by using the Tele-Zoom Reflector and clear protection plate on each B1 unit.

To get up where my athletes perform, I used an Articulating Boom Lift (king size Cherry Picker) to have maximum stability in the bucket, and to access my athletes at about 70 feet in the air for this particular shot.

Travis and Ed made a dozen “tandem” jumps, but this jump in particular was performed with them only a few feet apart and nearly on top of each other at the landing area… CRAZY and AMAZING skill. The icing on the cake was the full moon rising in the upper right corner in front of the lead rider’s boot.

A really awesome photo shoot and a blast to pull off … Thanks for asking.

Adios, Dave


“NFL Game Day” … Nikon D800, ISO4000, 1/1250 at f/5.6, Nikon 600mm f/4 G VR Zoom lens, WB 6250K, SanDisk 32G Extreme Pro Flash Card.

Q: Hello Dave, I am a student looking for a direction to take my life. I was very interested in photography which I really enjoyed and achieved high grades. As an enthusiastic sportsman, I was considering merging the two and becoming a sports photographer. Would you recommend this, and do you have any advice? Gavin – Houston

A: Hi Gavin. The road to being a professional SPORTS photographer who makes their entire living from their craft is not usually achieved overnight, but is an extremely rewarding occupation to pursue.

If you are currently enrolled at a university, or if you have graduated, consider assisting a local sports photographer as a way to learn the profession. Some assistants make good money assisting someone until they are ready to set out on their own business.

Just so you know, the notion that all a SPORTS photographer does is go to a game for three hours, take pictures, and collect a check is far from accurate. “Speedy” computer skills and business savvy are just as important as photographic skills if one is to “make it” in today’s sports photography market place.

The SPORTS photography industry is highly competitive, and your degree of passion should demand a great deal from you, but if you persevere and make GREAT pictures you can have a fine living.

So, do I recommend having a career as a SPORTS photographer….YES, absolutely! It’s the greatest job on the planet. And when you “make it,” you are truly on top of the world each and every time you arrive at the event.

Best to you Gavin. -Dave


“Fire Fighter” … Nikon D500, ISO200 at 30 seconds, Nikon 24-70mm lens, WB 10,000K, Manfrotto Tripod and 410 Geared Head … Lightpainting, SanDisk Extreme pro 32G Card.

Q: Hey Dave, love your light painting portraits. I read your instructional blog about the “soft focus” technique for your portraits but I don’t get it??? Can you explain it. Thanks, Jeromy – Chicago

A: Hi Jeromy. Whether you use Photoshop’s Gaussian Blur tool or my “soft focus” technique with camera and lens, the purpose is to create selected areas in the scene that are soft looking so as to draw attention more directly to the subject’s face which is in focus.

This light painting portrait of a female fire fighter makes use of a manual exposure time of 30 seconds. I used seven seconds to light paint her face, helmet, ax and torso using a small white LED penlight.

For the next 12 seconds of exposure time, I turned off my flashlight, walked to the camera, and manually unfocused the lens to infinity, then walked back to the subject to resume light painting using a small red LED penlight to “soft focus” areas of her arms and helmet.

Finally, with about 11 seconds remaining in the 30 seconds exposure and with my lens still unfocused to infinity, I light painted the backdrop with red LED flashlight while the backdrop was being “fluttered” by an assistant, thus creating a “soft focus” & motion blur… I’m always experimenting.

Hope this answer explains “soft focus.”

Adios. Dave


THANKS again to Scott for having me write this guest blog. Looking forward to seeing many of you at Photoshop World 2017 in Orlando, Florida: April 19-22. See you there! -Dave

You can see more of Dave’s work at DaveBlackPhotography.com, where he shares his monthly Workshop At The Ranch posts like this one. You can also follow him on Instagram and Twitter.

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It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Robert Vanelli!

Inspiration for the Sport Grit Look
I’ve had the incredible opportunity of attending every Photoshop World (except for one) since Photoshop World started in 1999. The amount of knowledge taught in a short time is worth more than countless hours trying to learn on your own. Imagine hanging out and collaborating with instructors who have written books on the different styles you want to learn or fellow students that are top in their field. Collaboration and an image Scott took of me inspired me to create the Sport Grit look that I will teach for the first time at Photoshop World this year.

The Sport Grit Look’s Secret Ingredient
The secret ingredient to produce the sports-grit look is to light the subject with harsh light. Harsh light produces strong shadows for a powerful photo. It sculptures the subject in such a way that when applying the Lightroom preset, the grit look is achieved.

Style The Shoot To Change The Mood
I’ve been happy with the look for the past few years, but I felt it was time for a slight change. I wanted to create a different mood. I collaborated with my buddy, Photoshop World and KelbyOne instructor Mike Kubeisy. We came up with adding tape to the athlete’s fingers and wrist to symbolize injuries. Applying eye black added to the tough look.

At this point, the athlete looked like he was preparing for a game. Although it looked good, it didn’t capture the mood I was after. I wanted to show what the athlete would look like after the game. By adding dirt to his face and arms and making sure the white tape got dirty, the style was completed and the mood was set. He looked like he just walked off the field, working through his pain and injuries to capture a hard-fought victory.

Pulling emotion out of the athlete
Athletes are known for being intense when they play. To capture this emotion, have the athlete relive one of their favorite memories from a game, or create a do-or-die game winning moment. The goal is make them look intense. This short video demonstrates how I pull emotions out of an athlete during a shoot.

Finishing the look in Lightroom
To finish the look, use Lightroom to desaturate the colors, over sharpen the image, and change the color temperature along with the tint. To make life easier, you can download my Lightroom Sports Grit preset or you can learn how I created it an article I wrote Shooting Awesome Sports Portraits.

Now you have the lighting foundation and the Lightroom preset for how I create my Sport Grit Look. The final step is to practice and tweak the workflow to make it your own.

You can see more of Vanelli’s work at Vanelli.tips/VanelliAuthor, follow him on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and see him live at Photoshop World April 20-22!

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It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Murray Russell-Langton

There Is More Than One Way To Skin A Cat

Firstly I would like to thank Scott and Brad for this opportunity to talk a little about my life in the world of interior, architectural and location based photography.

I am based out of London in the UK, and specialize in taking images for a wide range of clients, ranging from architects, interior designers, kitchen designers, cabinet makers, hotels, resorts, and, not forgetting the ‘bread and butter,’ high-end real estate agents for their editorial, advertising and social media needs.

Potted History
I am one of those photographers that started in a black and white darkroom.

Way back when I was sixteen years old, I lucked out and got a job with a company called ‘Brook-Tella.’ They were exhibition printers and possibly the oldest photographic company in the UK back then in the 1980’s.

We hand printed enormous photos and hand developed them in huge vats of developer and fixer. Then the photos were mounted ready for the clients exhibition needs.

The enlargers ran on rails on the floor, and we worked in enormous hanger sized dark-rooms. The enlarging wall was made of metal as we needed to hang large strips of paper with magnets, and often a print was made up of three to four strips of paper 56” deep and up to 15-20’ feet across. Sorry, I’m still not a metric head being British.
These huge images adorned massive trade shows, such as the like of the Major Motor and trade shows in the UK, Europe and America.

This takes me back to how I remember being given a 4”x5” black and white negative and was told to print it day in day out for a week. I can tell you I was ready to walk out after day one, printing the same negative repeatedly; I saw no reason for it. The senior printer explained to me why I was printing this same image time and time again. His name was John, a really nice man, an absolute expert in the darkroom. He sat me down later in the week as I was close to tears and clearly feeling like the rise was being taken out of me.

This is what he said: “Murray, you still don’t know the skills of how to read a negative, the exposure, the grade of paper, what you will get when you burn and dodge different areas. In turn it will give each and every print a different look,” (think Ansel Adams). I swallowed my teenage pride and continued. That lesson has never left me. So, ‘there are many ways to skin a cat!’

I went on to be a fine art printer and then a photographer in my early twenties. Which takes us to date. The reason I tell you about that early experience is that we need to have a lateral and creative mind to get the best out of any situation and each image we create. What we may think is a good way or the best way to get the image isn’t the only way, sometimes it’s just a very simple solution – good clean light.

On Location
When I arrive at a shoot, I never know what will be happening with the light that day or what I may face in terms of logistics of the shoot. It doesn’t always play out as I think it will; all I know is that my clients are expecting quality results.

So I always go with an open mind, a mind that has many solutions to get the results.

First Things First
Each and every one of us has different approach to how we deal with lighting situations. When I give a talk or train anyone I always say that we have to try and make our post work as easy as possible, which means it’s all about getting right in camera first, at least most of it. Not all our clients are happy to pay for expensive post-production work, so workflow is king.

I can tell you that I probably do more post than most photographers in my field, so I am ahead on the learning curve. Down side is that if you start working out your hourly rate you could be earning not a great deal per hour.
But as I said in my heading, ‘There is more than one way to skin a cat.’ So with that in mind, you should approach each shoot with that attitude.

I believe in getting one exposure images when you can. I know many of you go to HDR style stacking, and occasionally it’s the only way. But making it look like a normal image is the difficult part of that style.

Recently when I met a few real estate photographers, I asked them how they went about getting their photos. Here is what shocked me. I heard one say, “I shoot two frames and use HDR.” That’s without anything more than available lighting. So if you think about it, most households and businesses have lighting around 2600Kelvin if you are lucky.

The colour grading in your post is going to be hard work at best with deep brown light mixed in with winter spectrum of blue daylight as we are now in the Northern hemisphere.. Trying to clean up bad light is nearly impossible if you want your client to be happy with your colour grading. So, what do you need to do? Add quality light! I use continuous LED lighting these days, but I have also used speed-lights and studio flash in the past.

Regardless of what you use, you need to add quality light to your interiors, and I promise you, you will be so much happier when you come to your post work.

Stacking, HDR, or one-framers, whatever your poison, just remember that if you want to create a great master file you still need to incorporate some clean light.

Having set workflow routines means you can create a style and know that the results will be scientifically based, giving you confidence in producing high quality work.

In the past I have always had to get my images right on one piece of colour transparency or film, including filtering for different light sources. It was a very methodical way of shooting that has put me in good stead right up to today.

My behind the camera work-flow goes something like this:

  • In the first instance, I choose my angle looking for the dynamic lines in the shot to get the room or space balanced in my viewfinder.
  • With the camera locked down I then look at what needs moving, redressing, tweaking etc.
  • Then I think about the light I am working with or against. I will normally hide some lights out of frame and hidden in frame, all just a soft helping of light, so you can’t see the images have been lit with extra lighting, which is the best way to light a space – subtly. Architects and interior designers often want to see true colour grading and the proper intensity of how lighting plays in a space to be rendered very accurately. Thus, burnt out lights and dirty colors are not an option.

It’s at this point that I decide how the post production will go. Often there will be additions of compositing and blending if need be. So always get a few extra frames exposing for any troublesome areas such as windows and views.

I would very much like to go into the post production side of my work, but that is a whole topic on it’s own, all I want to say is that as photographers we need to own the light.

If you need to go down the route of stacking or HDR, make sure you take images ranging from what looks like a burnt out frame with little detail through to the darkest exposed frame in 1-stop intervals. Two frames just won’t do it. Again, adding your own subtle clean light improves your chances of finishing with a nicely graded photograph.

I’ve got my workflows and I stick to them as I know what I will get, architecture and interiors are less about creative flamboyancy and more about methodical work practice. Knowing the right workflow that works in a certain situation is what we need in our tool kit as interior and architectural photographers.

One size does not fit all. As I said in my heading, ‘There is more than one way to skin a cat.’

You can see more of Murray’s work at RealFocus.co.uk. Murray works out of London, UK. He is considered one of the UK’s leading interior and architectural photographers. His work is published regularly and he is often found riding around London on his motorbike or flying out of the country for international assignments. He can be reached at [email protected] or you can follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Natalia Stone!

Today I would like to share a journey to one of the most challenging and fascinating places on earth.

Want to stand on the edge of a crater and watch lava flowing beneath your feet? Want to explore the ancient churches of Lalibela? How about witnessing the culture and rituals of the lip plated Mursi people? Well, then this place is for you – welcome to Ethiopia.

I first learned about Ethiopia when a friend showed me a photograph of Erta Ale  – one of only six active lava lakes in the world. At the time I had no idea there is a place on Earth where you can stand right on the edge of an active volcano. How exciting! I knew right then and I must visit this place.

Little did I know how much more there is to see here – I explored centuries old churches of Lalibela, survived the scorching heat of the Danakil Depression and witnessed unique customs of the Omo Valley tribes.

Traveling in Ethiopia is not exactly comfortable – extreme heat and humidity, long hours in the car to get to most places, very basic accommodations with electricity and running water not always available. Almost every day I was pushed to my limits physically, emotionally and photographically.    

Some of you may wonder if it was worth it? There were moments on the journey when I wondered the same. What I have learned as a travel photographer is how important it is to test your own boundaries. Just when you think you cant take that next step, when you just want to give up and go home, when you are feeling frustrated and exhausted – that’s when you need to push yourself even harder, that’s when you will grow the most and transform. Your whole world opens up and you are never the same. One of the rewards of travel I welcome even more than breathtaking landscapes – learning to live in the moment. So is it worth it – absolutely! Never stop pushing yourself beyond the boundaries.    

The Salt Trade of Northern Ethiopia
Each day the salt miners make a 100km journey to Mekele – the nearest hub of the “white gold” trade.  Starting from the Danakil Depression where the salt is mined, it’s a three day trek through one of the hottest and cruelest places on earth with temperatures rarely falling below 40-60 C (104-140 F) during the day. This has been the livelihood of the Afar people for hundreds of years, and still continues to this day. Barren landscape, dust storms, unbearable heat and lack of water – after spending just a few days here – I’m truly fascinated by the resilience of the people living in this region.

Erta Ale Volcano – Staring Into The Mouth Of Hell
After a nine hour drive over lava fields, salt flats and sand, it’s a three hour hike in the dark until you finally reach the rim of the caldera. Not too far in the distance, you see the red smoke and ash coming from the ground – a mere 500 meters and you will witness what you’ve traveled so far to see – Erta Ale’s active crater.

Excited, you forget about exhaustion and want to run to it as fast as possible, but the local guide cautions you that this is the most dangerous part. As you descend there is no trail – you are walking on freshly crusted lava that cracks under your feet, one false step and you can fall into an air pocket – who knows what’s underneath?  Finally you made it – it’s a live volcano right in front of you  – you feel the heat, hear the lava bubble, see the ash and sparks flying up in mini explosions… It is one of nature’s most mesmerizing and dangerous shows.

The Faces Of Lalibela
Lalibela – the center of Ethiopian Christianity – is famous for its monolithic churches built underground. To this day the exact details of their construction remain a mystery. All the churches are active and priests still use century old books to pray, with the only source of light shining though small windows cut in the massive walls.

The Tribes Of The Omo Valley
Over 20 tribes live in the Omo Valley in the south of Ethiopia, close to the border with Kenya. Each tribe still follows unique rituals and traditions passed on from one generation to the next. Decorative scars, lip plates, being here feels like a time capsule to a foreign traveler.

I hope you enjoyed reading about Ethiopia. For those interested in joining me on adventure trips to some of the most unique corners of the world, feel free to send me a message at [email protected].

Natalia Stone is a travel photographer based in New York City. Her passion for adventure and photography has taken her to over 40 counties and some of the most remote corners of the world. Whether standing on a rim of an active volcano in Ethiopia, photographing the northern lights in Norway or navigating through glacial waters of Greenland, her goal is to tell visual stories of the incredible treasures our planet holds.

You can see more of her work at NataliaStone.com, and follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

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It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Clifford Pickett!

First of all, I would like to thank Scott Kelby and his wonderful team for this amazing opportunity.  Like many photographers I am self taught.  The classes and learning resources Scott has made available through the years has served as a foundation from which I built a career doing what I love.

Sometimes the light finds you. It was playing tricks with me all morning at Anse St-Jean on the Saguenay River
This is a compressed version of a much larger 36 megapixel stitched panoramic. Many don’t know that you can stitch images natively up to 60 megapixels. Do you know of any 60MP DSLR’s? Try this at home and shoot vertical when you do.

I have so many passions in life but three bubble up to the top: photography, travel, and teaching. I’m truly blessed to be able to do all three full time. They feed off of each other, as I write this blog post I’m in a motel in West Virginia making my way across the country from NYC, working on a personal project and scouting several locations for future workshops.

My first RAW photo taken with my iPhone 6S plus. Capturing dynamic range like this was simply not possible. This opens up many more creative possibilities.
Taken in the old city in Quebec. Embracing simplicity and color.

I have a very close connection with my students; there’s a real bond there. I understand that fiery passion of the creative process, that unyielding obsession and the frustration that inevitably comes with it. They’re two sides of the same coin. That frustration, that struggle, as Scott has said once, is a good thing. The frustration is the result of the recognition that we’re not where we want to be creatively. Yet! It’s also, however, an acknowledgement that we have a creative direction, we know where we want to be, if only (fill in the blank here).

Beauty truly is all around us. You just have to look harder sometimes.
Nature peeking through. The best part about being a photographer is recognizing the beauty in scenes like this. Capturing it is a bonus!

That frustration is an acknowledgement of our potential. Imagine the alternative. Take the top performers, in any creative endeavor, if there’s one thing they have in common, they’ll tell you their work is not finished, there’s more to the story. It’s a game of continuous improvement, with each step up the ladder a result of struggle, failure and success. There is no top to this ladder, it just gets higher and higher, the view just gets better. We’re all at different points on this latter. Joe McNally has a great view. No matter where we are and how good the view, we all get stuck.

This shaft of light produced a beautiful pattern, shining through the enormous windows of the NY public library.
Looking back into the streets of SoHo. Part of a project I’m working on for a gallery show just down the street from here later this year.

The Unplayable Piano
In Cologne, Germany in 1975, American jazz legend Keith Jarrett, already world famous, sat down to give the performance of his life. The recording of this session produced the best selling piano album and best selling solo jazz album in history. Just hours before however, he refused to play. There was a problem; the piano was the worst he’d ever seen, half the size of a typical piano, the keys stuck, the pedals broken. It was an unplayable piano. Sitting in his car outside the concert hall, listening to the pleas of a desperate teenage promoter standing in the rain, begging him to play, he agreed.

Taken in an abandoned hallway at one of the many pre-war buildings in Chelsea filled to the brim with art galleries. The light and color reflecting off the glossy walls of this dark corridor caught my immediately.
The blue hour just after sunset from an elevated platform on The High Line in NYC.

Playing in the middle of the range, no pedals, standing up and literally banging on the keys at point for bass and to project the sound, that unplayable piano allowed him to give the performance of his life. This story is recounted in a recent Ted Talks by Tim Harford, which I highly recommend. During the talk, he states, “We don’t want to be asked to do good work with bad tools. We don’t want to have to overcome unnecessary hurdles, but Jarret’s instinct was wrong.” Had he been playing on the best piano, if everything was finely tuned and working perfectly, that magical night never would have happened. He certainly wouldn’t have chosen those circumstances intentionally. None of us would. Perhaps we should. That frustration, that limitation, that hurdle makes us more creative.

Last year I discovered my unplayable piano.

Reflections are one of the scenes best served by the smaller sensor of the phone and the deeper depth of field it provides. I often shoot scenes in a way that takes advantage of this rather than to consider it a disadvantage. Macro photography is another area that benefits from this.

Apple reached out to me last year and asked me to give a presentation for them on iPhone photography, to simply inspire people to go out and shoot more with their iPhone. And so I did, using it as an excuse to embark on a road trip with my DSLR and my iphone and put it to the test. Before then, honestly, I would never have considered shooting with my phone. I’m a professional photographer, I take what I do very seriously, no self respecting photographer would… My instinct, like Jarret’s, was wrong.

Over the past year, my unplayable piano has taught me much about photography, about the creative process, about myself as a photographer. Ultimately, the experience has helped me to reflect who I am as a photographer and what is important to me, the quality of the image and the quality of the experience.

It’s still crazy to me how we’re supposed to capture our vision, our unique vision with this ridiculous piece of glass and metal and circuits we call a camera. I now know what every setting is, I know what every menu means, I know what every dial does. Who cares? Now what? The ability to create a meaningful image is much different than actually creating one. If you’re like me, the achievement of technical perfection and gear lust and acquisition is a comfortable safe distraction. Technical mastery is not the top rung of the latter, it doesn’t even have a good view.  It’s the start of something more. I feel like I’ve been stuck on this rung of the ladder for a while now, pursuing perfection over creativity, knowledge over experience. My unplayed piano helped me climb higher.

Taken with an app using a Photoshop process know as stacking to merge multiple photos. This allows not only for longer actual exposures but the ability to stack multiple short exposures. which comes in handy on windy days. Taken during one of the worst storms in recent history in Nova Scotia a few weeks ago.

My iPhone is handicapped compared to my full frame 42 megapixel DSLR in every way. Paradoxically however, these limitations, the lack of choice and options, are the very things that have challenged me, inspired me and helped me grow as a photographer. The limited resolution has forced me to carefully consider my compositions, the fixed focal length, severely limiting my options, has forced me to use my feet more, the lack of depth of field has required me to pay more attention to all of the details at the edge of the frame as well as more carefully considering the background.

Up until recently, shooting RAW wasn’t an option, shooting compressed jpegs required a more careful consideration of color balance and exposure control. The lack of a viewfinder has been incredibly helpful in breaking the habit of pulling the camera up to my eye and taking every picture from the lofty perspective of 5’7”. Holding the camera away from my body, the very thing we’re taught not to do, has allowed me to see a scene and compose with much greater freedom of movement. Also, a funny thing happens when you don’t have a big camera and lens in front of your face… you’re more approachable. This is me banging on the keys, flexing my creativity, making the system work for me.

A single RAW capture shooting directly into the sun rising over the St. Lawrence river. This should not be possible with a mobile phone. Taken with the iPhone 6S Plus the day after the 7 was released.

Consider again Jarrett’s performance. What made it the best selling solo jazz record ever, was how much it resonated with the audience. It was that what was being played was much more important than how it sounded, the bass was muffled, the treble sharp, it didn’t matter. If we can just suspend the importance of edge to edge sharpness, frame rate and ISO performance long enough, then maybe we can focus on what really matters; our vision, what initially caught our eye. Then, the light, the color, the composition, the gesture, the moment.

These are the timeless ingredients that truly comprise a great photograph and they have so very little to do with the camera we sling around our neck or the lens attached to it. If we can redefine, for ourselves, what image quality truly is, then maybe that camera we all have in our pockets is all we need to create meaningful work. Maybe, like that unplayable piano, it’s exactly what we need to create our best work yet.

I’d like once more to extent my gratitude to Brad Moore, Scott Kelby and the team at KelbyOne for this opportunity as well as Ron Martinsen from Ronmartblog for making the connection.

For those interested in learning more about my capture and post-processing workflow, I will be teaching several workshops this year in NYC and around the world this year. For those in NYC, in March, I’ll be leading my annual two-day Lightroom Bootcamp in NYC, in April I will partnering with world class street photographer Steve Simon in a special iPhone street photography workshop in NYC, October will be a very special and unique photography workshop on the island of Cape Breton in Nova Scotia in concert with the Celtic Colours festival and in November, an active adventure photography workshop in Bhutan with Zephyr Adventures. More information can be found by clicking the links above, signing up for my newsletter or reaching out to me directly at [email protected] I’d love to hear from you.

You can see more of Clifford’s work at CliffordPickett.com, and follow him on Instagram@cliffordpickettphotography and @eyephonephotographer, Twitter, and 500px.

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The Best Guest Blog Posts of 2016

Hi Gang: it’s my annual tradition to kick off the New Year with a look back at the best, most popular, and most commented-upon posts of the previous year, (and if I don’t sneak this in before January ends, well…it would just be bad form, so I’m squeaking this in just under the wire).

Today we’re honoring my picks for “Best Guest Blog Posts of 2016”

It was an amazing year for guest posts, and I cannot tell you how hard it was to narrow it down to just ten, because it was one of our best years for guest blog posts ever!

By the way: If you’re wondering how many posts we put up in the course of a year, in 2016 it was 248 posts (Whew!). Also, in case you were wondering: I actually do write all my own posts with the exception of Guest Blog Wednesday and Free Stuff Thursday which are handled for me by the awesome Brad Moore, for which I am boundlessly grateful (thank you so much, Brad!). :)

OK, here we go for “The Best Guest Blog Posts of 2016” (in no particular order):

Stephen Bollinger (above)
His post, “See like a dancer” was inspirational, insightful, and included some absolutely beautiful dance (and sports) images, and his message is spot on.
Luke Copping
His post “The Good, The Bad, and The Great – How To Vet Your Clients In Order To Save Your Time, Your Sanity, and Your Career” is hands down one of the best straight-up business posts of the year. Every photographer should read this one.
Jeremy Cowart
When There’s More Than Photography — Jeremy’s post about his dream to create “The Purpose Hotel” reminds us that we can think beyond our photography and grow in ways we never imagined. When you read this one, be sure to watch the videos in the post. This is so worthwhile. You’ll dig it.
Glyn Dewis
His “Photograph Like a Thief” is a wonderfully empowering, informative, well-researched and illustrated story that will change your perception on so many things. Brilliantly done. You will learn a lot (and a lot about yourself).
Monica Carvalho
Don’t let the first image in her post creep you out (even though it is a bit creepy) you’ll smile, laugh, and love her compositing, and her story. Very well done.
Chris Hershman
He titled it, “A Guide To Becoming A Filmmaker Using DSLR Cameras: Helping Photographers Transition Into Filmmaking” This isn’t just a guest post — it’s more like a Master Class for photographers on shooting video — I’m serious, this is one of the best articles I’ve ever seen on creating professional video. His examples are amazing, and he breaks it down on a level that is just incredible. If you’re interesting in getting started in shooting video, this should be your first stop.
 
Alan Hess
Alan’s post on Photo Releases for shooting concert photography, and his “day in the life” type of coverage of one of his photography gigs takes you “behind the curtain” to see a side of the business you rarely see. If you shoot bands, or dream of shooting concerts, this should be required reading.
Mike Olivella
It’s All About Perspective, Mike’s post about why you should be considering different angles, and even different lenses, to get more epic sports shots (and exactly how it’s all done, with lots of great behind-the-scenes shots), was so well illustrated, written, and received.
Sean Berry
What a fantastic post! It was about Sean’s “first week as the photographer for the Dallas Stars” which he said, “was one of the craziest weeks in my professional career. In the span of 5 days, I became a new photographer.” First, great story. Secondly, his examples, videos, and the step-by-step GIF of how the group shot you see above came together, and all the post processing stuff is just absolutely outstanding. So, so well done, and a great read. You will love it.
Seamus Payne
He gets right to the point with “What Makes Twilight So Vital to Great Architectural Photography” and if you’re into shooting real estate, or fine homes, or architecture, you will learn a lot in a very short time. Very well written, and very informative.
There’s an incredible amount of knowledge, passion, inspiration and soul shared in these posts. I’m so grateful to all the photographers and Photoshop experts who shared their thoughts, teaching and ideas through the my Guest Blog program, and of course a big thanks and high-five to the awesome Brad Moore for wrangling, managing and producing them all. It’s a lot of work, and he runs it all like a boss.
Hope you enjoyed this look back. Tomorrow it’s the 10 most popular posts of 2016 — hope you’ll join me for that.
Best,
-Scott
P.S. Peter Hurley’s “Top 10 Headshot Photography Questions Answered” class that was released last week is killing it! The comments we’re getting are just incredible. Peter is a national treasure! :)

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It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Larry Becker!

Photo by Levi Sim

If Your Goal Is Income from Photography, Your Approach MUST Be to Learn and Evolve —
That’s Why I Teach Video for Still Photographers

A lot of pro shooters who are making their living with still images, along with shooters who are looking at photography as a source of income, can get discouraged with income potential these days. Sure, a bunch of people are making a good living, but it’s not as easy as it used to be.

A big part of the challenge is because so many people take pictures with their phones. And another challenge is that affordable DSLRs available at big box stores can capture some amazing images. There are all kinds of automation and intelligent algorithms in modern DSLRs and that help average shooters grab some really solid shots. Some could even pass for ‘professional’ images.

It’s no secret that making money as a photographer requires professionals to bring something extra to the table. There’s technique. Customer service. Unique style. Post processing skills. And there’s no question that an understanding of lighting can make your images stand out, especially if you know how to use speedlights or constant lights, and you have a real understanding of photographic principles like depth of field and composition.

Larry in a training video for Canon USA

The problem is human nature; how we want to learn and understand something and even “master” it, and then we want it to stay that way because we’ve mastered it. Look at the school system… You go there. You learn. You get a diploma or a degree. You finish learning. And then you get a job.

Things don’t work that way. They always change. And if you really did stop learning instead of making lifelong learning a part of your life, you will limit your potential and probably put yourself out of work.

I’m thrilled by all the learning that’s available online these days. — No, this isn’t a commercial for KelbyOne, where I have some excellent classes about lots of camera models and DIY money-savers for photographers. ;-) — It’s really my belief system. And it’s the reason I worked at Kelby Media for a decade, and now I’m out on my own, continuing with online training. I see the things that can be done to help photographers be better. To make a great living at photography. And I get EXCITED!!

I happen to believe that simple videos can be added to a still photographer’s business and make clients happier while future-proofing business for photographers. Whether or not you decide to go down that path, you need to do something to keep learning, growing, and staying ahead of the masses. You need to keep learning so you can always be better and smarter than (or at least as smart as) your competition, so you can stay in business and thrive. Lifelong learning will future-proof your success.

Before you freak out and start yelling at Scott’s blog, “Hey Becker!! If I wanted to shoot video I’d go to film school!!” Just slow down for a second and hear me out…

I’m not talking about crafting a film, or learning cinematic camera angles, or cinematic storytelling, or even editing. I’m talking about flipping the toggle on your DSLR while you’ve got a standard portrait setup, and just grab a few minutes of your subject talking. Granted, you’ll need to use constant lights instead of strobes, and you’ll need a better microphone than the one that’s built into your camera, but there’s not much more to it than that.

There’s a kind of very simple video still shooters are uniquely prepared to capture, and it’s in super high demand. In fact, you’re BETTER prepared to do this kind of video than a video production company is. And if you’re a photographer with a modern DSLR and a little experience with headshots, you have almost everything you need to add a simple, profitable service to a regular headshot session. No camera moves or film school techniques.

It’s no secret that video is a HUGE part of web based online marketing and social media. And just about every business out there, small and large, knows that they need professional looking videos for their online marketing. They understand that they can’t get away with smartphone shaky-cam videos.

What those businesses DON’T know, is that you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars hiring a video production company, to get talking-head videos. And most still shooting photographers don’t know that this kind of video is incredibly easy to deliver, and that you can charge hundreds of dollars for a little extra shooting time, tacked onto a standard headshot session. And whatever you charge for your headshots can more than double when you do this kind of video work.

What’s Really Involved and What Can You Charge?
First you need to know what kind of video I’m talking about, and what kind of videos I’m NOT suggesting. Then I’ll give you the details so you can add it to your services list starting next week.

The videos I’m talking about are simple promotional videos for your business clients. Videos that are short and can be posted to a company website or social media or a YouTube channel. There are a handful of simple formulas or templates you can follow, to create something your clients will love.

And what I’m NOT suggesting is traditional video production. Things that require camera moves, multi-camera shoots, actors, capturing scenes, or anything approaching cinematography. My guess is, if you wanted to be a videographer, you’d start with film school training. The challenge is that there aren’t many sources of training out there that are designed to help still photographers understand simple business video capture without starting down the slippery slope toward film school.

Some of the formulas/templates you can follow to start making videos are talking headshots, product promotional videos, customer service solutions, and the incredibly powerful Facebook video ads category.

Talking headshots are essentially a standard portrait session with constant lights instead of strobes. Go ahead and do your regular portrait session, and then clip a lapel microphone on your subject, flip your camera dial/switch to video capture, and record the person talking about their business for a minute or two. There’s no need to spend more than $30 on the microphone, and if you already have some nice constant lights, all you need to do is capture your client with video. It’s pretty straight forward.

Larry on the popular FocusEd Training series from B&H

With product promo videos, you don’t have to be especially fancy. Start by shooting a bunch of good product stills. Then use those stills as visuals during a narrated description of the product. The key with video is movement, so you take one simple step beyond narrating a slideshow. The video should slowly pan or zoom with each image. This is called the Ken Burns effect and it’s a simple, engaging way to craft a professional looking finished video, by using your still shooting skill set.

Customer service videos are “gold” to some businesses. If you’re working with a client who has customers with a common question or problem, you can create a video that answers the question or solves the problem. Typically businesses have FAQ sections on their websites, but if you can create a video that uses the same ‘moving still images’ style as the product demo we just covered, customers will be happier. People are much quicker to watch a video than plow through a bunch of FAQs or a “knowledge base” on a website. And your clients will appreciate the drop in human resources needed to answer all those common questions.

And yet another simple style of video, is to create Facebook video ads. Consider that 70-80% of Facebook videos are watched with the sound off. That means still images with interesting pictures, paired with text on screen, are an incredibly effective style of Facebook video ad. And because of how people consume Facebook ads, photographers are once again positioned to gather the materials for great Facebook ad campaigns.

So what can you charge for these videos? Generally, hundreds. Assuming you charge over $200 for a typical headshot session, go ahead and add 150% to it. Consider that the going rate for professionally captured and produced video from a video production company is well over a thousand dollars, sometimes several thousand, if you charge less than a thousand, that’s a big savings for your client and solid income for you.

The only thing we haven’t covered here is editing. This is a lot easier than you might think, but you don’t have to do it yourself if you don’t want to. In the same way that some photographers invest in expensive, wide printers… large format printing could be done in-house or it can be handled by a company like Bay Photo, MPIX, Millers, etc. The same is true for video editing. But since learning video editing might take a little while, start out by using a hired editor while you look into whether or not you want to do your own editing.

I’d suggest looking for a local freelancer or someone online to help. And I’d suggest that you stay away from local video production companies because their prices will almost always be cost-prohibitive. They come at video from a much more involved perspective.

Larry hosting NAB Show Live

Should YOU Really Add Video to Your Mix?
Maybe. If you’re primarily a landscape photographer, your clientele may not be in the market for video. If you have a style of still shooting and a reputation for a particular look, and that’s drawing a solid client base, there may be no need to add video to your mix. But if you’re a portrait shooter, or product shooter, and you have business clients, and you’re trying to stay ahead of the competition… adding simple videos that follow a standard template, could do great things for your bottom line.

Something I Learned from Scott A Long Time Ago – FREE Stuff
When you look at online business, it’s getting more common over the past few years, but as long as I’ve known Scott, he has been doing this… To build a following, you have to give away good information. Scott does this all the time on this very blog. There’s The Grid. There are webinars and YouTube videos. KelbyOne is built on a foundation of helping people and I wanna be like that when I grow up.

With that in mind, I’ve started a website, YouTube channel, Facebook page, etc. all hoping to reach out to small business people who need help doing their own videos. And along those same lines, in December I launched a coaching service for professional photographers, to help them do professional videos for their clients and improve their bottom line.

Here’s A Bunch of Free Stuff on the Topic of Simple Business Videos
I want to give you links to all kinds of stuff you can use to get going with video. This first set of resources has to do with simple video creation for promotional purposes. These documents and videos aren’t specifically targeted at photographers. Rather, they’re targeted at any entrepreneur who knows they need simple promotional videos and they want to tackle those videos themselves, in-house.

Here’s Even More Free Stuff that’s Normally Paid Content…
In December I launched a small private coaching program to help photographers. This included a lot of personal Skype coaching, editing services for shooters who didn’t want to edit their own video editing, and some other stuff. At this point, there aren’t any more openings for this group PLUS, I don’t want this guest blog post to be a commercial for that group. But there are some great resources I created for this group that can be really helpful, and I want to give you access to some of this training for free. No strings attached. The link is below, but just a few things before we get to that.

The main training video is all about helping photographers create their own promotional talking headshot video. The idea is to help them (and you) do exactly what you need to, in order to capture a great promotional video for yourself, and then later turn that experience into a guide for when you capture clients on video, and coach them through their own promotional talking headshot.

There’s a section at the end of the video, that is dedicated to telling my clients how to package and upload their videos for editing. This won’t really pertain to you, so you can stop watching at that point.

Finally, because there are links on my clients’ page, to special resources for them, I’ve created a separate (similar) page on my site with the links I can share to the public, so you don’t need a password to access anything. So to get the training video and the other cool links, just go to LarryBecker.tv/kelby.

You can see more from Larry at LarryBecker.tv, and follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

The post It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Larry Becker! appeared first on Scott Kelby's Photoshop Insider.

It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Pratik Naik of Solstice Retouch!

Photo by Casey Cosley

(Editor’s Note: Some links to artist websites may contain artistic nudity)

The Hidden Blessing and Stigma of Failing
Just today I realized that I have been using Photoshop for half of my life. I remember being 16 and unaware at how fortunate I would be to discover Photoshop! I was in high school during a class I took for computer animation. It was an elective and one that allowed me to come across Photoshop while fiddling around with the programs on the school computer. Notably, it wasn’t even part of the curriculum and I was cheating on another program just to go on dates with Photoshop.

Photo by Djinane Alsuwayeh

Fast forward to today, this love affair with Photoshop has consumed me whole. Charles Bukowski wrote in part, “Find what you love and let it kill you. Let it drain you of your all…” The end message being the idea of being totally immersed in what you love, far outweighing partaking in what you’re not passionate about.

Photo by Bella Kotak

Being wildly immersed in the pursuits of your passion, there comes many a time where we have to face the ugly face of failure. My beginnings were the perfect backdrop for my message. It started in school, a place where failure isn’t really celebrated. It’s precisely why my level of growth happened away from school entirely. As we grow up, we’re taught that getting an A+ is sought after, and that failing is a terrible thing. Anytime you make a mistake, it’s looked down upon and the stigma of failing is one that needs a different light.

Photo by David Benoliel

No one really celebrates you failing in school. They don’t exactly give you bonus points for expressing why you thought a certain way and congratulating you for thinking outside the box. But they should; creative ideas happen in that exact space! Grand ideas are not built on memorization, but creatively thinking outside of typical constructs that we’re so used to.

Photo by Bella Kotak

The Idea Of Failing

It seems as though it is ingrained in us that failing is an inherently bad thing. Even in school, we’re judged by our grades and not our intentions. Not by what we learned from it, but what we didn’t get right. Even in business, it applies. As creatives are already hard on themselves, I want them to know that failure is beautiful and becomes the canvas for igniting better ideas.

Photo by Eric Michael Roy

I was never the brightest student in school. I felt that I always needed to spend twice as long studying something to make a lesser grade than my counterparts. I tried so hard but barely made it into the top 30% of my class. In college, I always questioned every answer but many of them could have been the right one. Granted, you don’t really get any bonus points for critical thinking if the answer is A and not B.

Photo by Alexander Saladrigas

I found out once it was all over that school itself wasn’t for me. Being a perfectionist, I didn’t feel proud of not succeeding to the best of my abilities. I was hard on myself and school didn’t make me feel better. It wore me down mentally and I didn’t feel like I fit anywhere in life, until I found retouching.

Photo by Bella Kotak

A Personal Connection

The problem with how we perceive failure is not being able to grow from it. My mental state truly changed the moment I grasped the idea that failure is actually great. As a retoucher, I’ve been fortunate to network with some outstanding photographers in the industry. What I learned from being around them was how they approached failed shoots or ventures. They truly brushed it off and expressed exactly what benefit they attained from it.

Photo by Anushka Menon

For me, the first huge failure came early. There was a major retouching agency that I wanted to work for. Within a short period of time and progress, they took note of my work and approached me to do a test. Excitedly, I took the opportunity and did my best. I spent the entire night and I felt so proud of what I had produced! My layers were filled with joy I tell you.

Photo by Andrew Fearman

To my surprise, I was told that it wasn’t good enough. What? I was in denial to be honest.

At the time, I was extremely disheartened. I even contemplating giving up as a retoucher all together. I felt like it was my only long term goal and I failed miserably! I mean, I did my best couldn’t they see it? If top talent couldn’t see my talent, then what was the point? Maybe I’m really not that good then. I should quit!

Photo by Hagop Kalaidjian

I had just quit my job to pursue retouching as well, so in my mind, it was all gloom and doom. Yeah, I was being a drama queen, but for me that agency was one of the best.

Photo by Scott Hugh Mitchell

What it did for me was motivate me in improving my own work and being better with my own business. A few years later, it turns out I was more applicable for certain opportunities that even they had failed at. Ha! I was so proud and thrilled that I stepped up in a situation that they weren’t suitable for. At that moment, I realized that failing to that degree was such a gift. It pushed me in achieving a greater height than simply being comfortable!

Photo by Susanne Spiel

At the moment that you do not get something you’ve been aiming for, do not consider temporary failure to reflect on your future and your current worth! Take it from me, stay the course! Failure is truly a gift, one that will bring forth opportunities and growth that you wouldn’t have discovered if you hadn’t failed. You’ll soon learn to celebrate it.

Photo by Michelle Fennel

The Stigma Needs To Change
The reason I write this message is because many creatives are extremely hard on themselves. Even when it comes to inquiries, if a potential client doesn’t accept their rate, they feel they aren’t good enough and deserving of that rate. So many of us are even closed off from being critiqued that we consider it personal attacks. I used to be one of them. If none of these apply to you, then consider yourself lucky. The best way I’ve learned is getting critiqued by my clients. Not being open to that would have put me behind. For many of us, it’s something we need to work through.

Photo by Hagop Kalaidjian

Failure is a beautiful thing. Know that it’s okay to not please every client at all times. Know that you won’t be suitable for every opportunity that comes your way. It’s okay to not succeed at creating your vision for every shoot you do. As long as you focus on what you did wrong, and acknowledge that there’s room for improvement, you should celebrate it.

True growth can only come from failure as an artist. It’s not defined by how many likes you get on Instagram either. There are layers and masks in Photoshop for a reason. Put a few layers on your career and know that it’s okay to delete some as you build the PSD of your life!

Photo by Hagop Kalaidjian

You can see more of Pratik’s work at SolsticeRetouch.com, and follow him on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

The post It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Pratik Naik of Solstice Retouch! appeared first on Scott Kelby's Photoshop Insider.

It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Kaylee Greer!

I know this is a line that’s probably really expected from me, but I’m gonna say it anyway:

I am so EXCITED!!!

Why, you ask?! Because I just recently got back from spending an amazing week down in Tampa, Florida with the KelbyOne crew filming my new class, and somehow, by the power of the god of lightning and those little greek shoes with the wings on them that make things go really fast, the video has already been edited, made into magic and released!!!

We designed this new class around the one question that I get asked most often when people see my images:
“How are all the dogs you photograph so incredibly well-behaved?”

You want to know the big secret? They’re not. :)

We thought – what a brilliant idea it would be to take a look behind-the-scenes, to pull back the veil and show you what it’s truly like to photograph dogs in real world situations. (And not just any dogs – no, we’re talking extra challenging, extra wild, extra wacky dogs!) The class was an absolute blast to make and, harkening back to my earlier sentiment, I am SO excited to share it with you! Here’s a quick way to get there if you’re dying to see!

I thought – before I get into telling you about all the things I really want to tell you about today – it would be fun to share a few behind-the-scenes shots from the class filming. (forgive the quality of these photos, they’re just iPhone snaps. Because, you know, why would you use one of the 6 or 7 high end DSLRs that were just hanging around within a 10 foot radius of you when you could use a cell phone? HA!!) Oh, and you should be especially excited about that puppy. Because I am.


Now let me get in to what I’m here to talk to you about today:

The Immeasurable Importance of Personal Work

This is a really, really good time for me to be writing this blog post and I’ll tell you why.

In January, everything feels new. I get to start again, wipe away the slate and build everything even bigger and better than I ever have before (of course, I could do this at any time, during any month or any day of the year  – but like the rest of society, seeing January 1st pop up on my calendar usually kicks my butt into gear in a way that any other date on the calendar could only dream of). So all of this being said, in January, I tend to do a lot of dreaming. I do a lot of thinking up big ideas, of making tremendous plans and setting goals that are so high they scrape across the sky. I have all these wild schemes to travel here, to journey there, to chase the last bits of yellow light across faraway landscapes, to follow my heart to shelter dogs across the world. I want to share more stories and give a voice to countless more voiceless.

I guess what I’m trying to say is; I have a heck of a lot of things I want to do. :)

So what’s my point here? When I think about all of these big dreams and adventures, I realize that almost every single one of them wouldn’t fall under the category of ‘commercial’ or paid client work. I suppose that’s the thing about chasing down that flickering light that’s causing such a burning in your heart – its intentions come from a place unmotivated by money or material things.

So, I have this great big pie-in-the-sky dream for this year. And that is to do more personal work.
And when I say ‘personal work,’ I’m talking about the kind of work that sets my soul on fire. The kind that makes my heart beat just a little bit faster. The kind that fills my stomach with little yellow butterflies just thinking about it.

See, here’s the thing about commercial and private, commissioned work. That stuff is great. Brilliant, actually – and I’m endlessly grateful for it. It pays the bills, keeps me sheltered and warm during these miserable New England winters, and keeps my favorite little four-legged dude’s bowl full of food.

However, commercial work can be creatively limiting. Commercial work means having a client that you have to please and whose preferences and opinions must be considered. There are deadlines and invoices and approvals. And most times, this translates to creativity and vision being controlled and ultimately, compromised.

But personal work? You know what’s so impossibly beautiful about personal work? It’s all up to me. I can make magic as big and as colorful and as absolutely unapologetically ‘me’ as possible. It’s limitless.

I have had the lucky privilege of traveling quite a lot and working all over the world. Throughout my adventures, I’ve been blessed to have met a lot of talented photographers. But here’s one thing I’ve found quite commonly in a lot of the creatives that I meet: It strikes me to discover that a lot of photographers seem to forget the immeasurable, unmatched value of personal work – only shooting for their clients, but never for themselves.

So here’s my secret for you: You don’t have to be being paid to be shooting. Just go outside and shoot.
When I was sitting in my studio today, thinking about all of the things I wanted to say in this blog post – something really big hit me. But don’t worry, I’m okay. …

(That was a joke. How’d I do?)

I realized that I have built my entire career on a foundation of personal work. It is at the very core of how I got to where I am today.

Say Whaaat?!

It’s the truth. I got my start in photography by volunteering my time at my local animal shelter. There was no motivation for money. There was no end game or specific intention to do anything other than share the stories of the animals that I loved so much. I watched them as they patiently waited for their families to come find them and I was fueled by passion. I was fueled by the way I felt when I looked through the bars of those cages and saw the big, round eyes of the forgotten looking up at me. Nothing more, nothing less.

If you have enough passion for the thing you’re photographing – for the moments that you’re capturing –  being paid or not being paid to make those images is an irrelevant detail. Because you can’t fake passion. You can’t change it. You can’t control it. And that is what’s so brilliant about it. That kind of authenticity brings people from miles. When you’re shooting personal work – you’re shooting something you’re passionate about – no rules or restrictions or regulations. It’s the closest you’ll ever come to your one true voice as an artist. And thats why it’s just so damn important.

So you’re reading this and you’re probably saying — “well, this is all well and good Kaylee, but I’m a professional photographer, and I need money to live, I can’t just be shooting personal work all the time.”

You’re right.

But here’s the thing. Personal work pays off in a huge, huge way. It’s the magic in your body of work that moves the hearts and minds of clients.

It’s the icon – the face – that defines you and what you stand for. It’s the visual representation of exactly what it looks like on the inside of your heart, and it will very likely be the most moving reason that a client will dig into their wallets and hire you.

You know when you wake up in the middle of the night with an idea? And that idea is so big it fills your head and spills over the edges of the piece of paper you’re furiously scribbling on to document every last detail? And you think of it for days and days and it makes your heart beat faster and it makes your head buzz with the feeling of possibility? That’s where the magic is! Put your finger on it and hold it right there!!! That’s exactly the thing that you need to be shooting! Money or no money. You go, you chase that idea down and grab it by its tail and you create it. You breathe life into it. JUST SHOOT.

So, getting back to that whole ‘extreme value in personal work thing…’ I thought, sure, I could write this blog post and rattle off all my thoughts and feelings and leave you with a million pretty adjectives about why I think personal work is important, but maybe I should put my money where my mouth is and actually show you some real life examples of what personal work has done for me.


This sweet girl here is Abby. I met Abby last year when I was visiting a friend’s ranch property down in Southern California. We were there to relax. Hike. Have campfires. Walk under the stars. You know, just generally get away from the madness of business and emails and deadlines, etc. We were there to be simple. To ‘vacation’.

Here’s the thing though — a funny little thing I’ve found throughout the years —  you can’t take a vacation from passion.

I saw Abby happily chasing the rancher’s tractor as she was transporting bails of hay out of the barn. I looked up and saw that fairytale sky – those sweeping clouds, dancing through the deep blues of the late afternoon. The California sun was sparkling overhead, swirling through Abby’s fur and warming our skin. When I have moments like this — moments where inspiration strikes me like a dagger in the chest – they feel so familiar. My heart begins to slam against my rib cage in a syncopated rhythm – reminding me that moments like this don’t come twice. So I shoot. I just need to shoot. That’s passion. There’s no rhyme or reason or formula that can make any sense of it. No. It’s nonsense of the absolute best kind. It’s actual magic. So, I did what I needed to do and was suddenly on a mad chase back to my cabin as quickly as my feet would carry me to grab everything I needed to make Abby’s photo.

I spent about 20, maybe 30 minutes, photographing Abby that day. The resulting images brought me no money, no fame, no special awards or accolades — they just brought me joy in my heart. They simply brought me pride and satisfaction for bringing and idea to life and capturing that spirit of canine that I love so much. That’s all.

Well, fast forward a few months later – I got a call from the editor of one the biggest dog magazines in the industry. My heart skipped a beat when they told me they had seen Abby’s photo and wanted it on their cover. Not only did that opportunity bring me a paycheck – but it also brought me that unbelievable feeling of walking into a Barnes and Noble and seeing my work staring back at me from the shelf.


How about this next one? This is my own dog Joshua. That basically means that every photo I take of this magical little creature is really just personal work. It’s me wanting to document every moment of silliness and joy that he so selflessly brings me on a daily basis, just as one would want to document their wedding or vacation. No one is paying me to photograph my own dog. When I create his images, all I know for sure is that, while not getting paid in dollars, I’m getting paid in beautiful, tangible memories that I’ll be able to put in my pocket and hold close to my heart for the rest of my life. And that’s all I need for motivation.

Well, one hot Summer day, I took Joshua to his favorite lake for a swim. We got into the water and started splashing around, playing fetch and just being generally silly and carefree, as we like to do. But then, minutes in – I got that familiar feeling again — that pang in my heart and that pounding in my chest when I know I absolutely must capture a moment. So right then and there, I left Joshua with his Dad and I hopped in the car, wet bathing suit and all, and went flying back home to grab my gear just as quickly as I could so I could return and make this image.

Since then? Not only has this image brought me countless smiles on a personal level – but it’s also been featured in multiple commercial ad campaigns across the world – – bringing me a sum of well over 5 figures in licensing fees to date.


If you’re not convinced on personal work yet, hang tight, I have a few more for you…

Here’s Joshua again. It was another one of those times – the kind of vision that would wake me in the middle of the night. An idea that brewed in my head, taunting me in every quiet moment, until I took the time to give it life. I took Joshua to a local park, bought a comical amount of balloons from the local party store on the way, and with the help of one of my best friends  – made this image. (If you’re thinking ‘it cant be that simple’ – you’re right — don’t let me fool you –  this image was an absolute marathon of frustration and obstacles and audible cuss words to make. ha! But I suppose that’s another post for another day.)

Now, I have this photo of Joshua as a 40 x 40 piece of artwork hanging in my studio. I look at it everyday and his joy and spirit infiltrate and inspire me like absolutely nothing else does. But, what has this image done for me, professionally, you ask? Fair Question.

Last year, it was featured in an ad campaign by a large pet food company bringing me income and brand awareness. It was also the cover image on The Unexpected Pit Bull calendar — an organization whose work I care very deeply about.

It was an interior image in my 2016 calendar ‘Pawsitive Thinking’, it’s in circulation on the front of a Birthday greeting card, and it’s printed on the new Dog Breath Photography clothing line that was just released this past Fall. WHEW! (oh, and shameless clothing line plug: BOOM!)


Okay. As I said above – what’s all this personal work talk without real life examples, right? Right. So, I saved the best for last, because here’s my favorite one ever.

A little while back, I took a special trip down to a quiet little city in Florida called St. Augustine to visit my grandmother. When I was in town, I got in touch with an old friend of mine who I knew lived in the area and we made time to meet. This friend of mine has 4 beautiful dogs and we decided to take them on a walk. I casually brought my camera along, thinking I might be able to do a little practicing of photographing multiple dogs together while we were out there. I snapped this photo on the forest path just as we started walking in. I delighted in the image as I looked at the back of my camera, but then counted that moment as nothing more than a documentation of a special afternoon with a dear, old friend and 4 beautiful canine souls. And that was all I needed.

I never, in a million years, would have imagined that this image from our walk in the forest would soon be solely responsible for making one of my longest-standing, most surreal dreams come true. Earlier this year, I was contacted by National Geographic who had seen this image and wanted it as their cover photo for the premiere issue of their brand new magazine  – Nat Geo Wild. (hang on a second while I go sob joyfully and uncontrollably for like 30 or 40 minutes..…)


So, here’s the thing. Personal work MATTERS. It matters more than I can ever say. It creates untold opportunities. What is inside your heart is far more important than any client plan or commercial call sheet for any shoot that could ever happen. So, that’s why, this year, I plan to do a heck of a lot more of it.

If I could recommend one thing, it’s this: Don’t sit back and watch your email inbox, waiting for something big to happen to you. You go happen to IT. Go make yourself opportunities. Go find those dreams.

‘Cause heres the thing about dreams; they can be elusive, sneaky little devils — but take it from me, if you chase them down with every last breath in your chest – you can catch them,

…and they do come true.


Now that I’ve inundated you with some of my favorite images, I would LOVE to see some of the personal work that you’re most proud of. Post away in the comments and I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for your work! I’m excited to see what you’re all up to!! :)

From the very bottom of my heart, thank you for reading this and for filling this world up with color and creativity. Grateful to be living, breathing and creating alongside all of you!

-Kaylee

You can see more of Kaylee’s work at DogBreathPhoto.com, and follow her on Facebook, Instagram, 500px, and Twitter.

The post It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Kaylee Greer! appeared first on Scott Kelby's Photoshop Insider.

It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Justin Van Leeuwen!

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Commercial photographers are tasked with producing salable imagery in a client-driven environment; we’re hired to help create an image that itself is a product, and that often means that we’re working to a client’s specifications. In a busy year that could mean you’re constantly reacting and trouble-shooting ideas and concepts without a break to recharge your own creative battery. Many photographers take the time to fit in their own creative projects to do this. These personal projects can also lead to more work.

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Shot to spec | Client: BrazeauSeller Law, Agency: McMillan
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Client/Photographer collaborative | Client: Kettleman’s Bagel Co.

I love what I do and so I typically only take breaks when they’re presented to me, like a slow period when I’m not booked for any shoots and have few deadlines. I typically take this time to watch movies, read, and play video games which all can act as alternate sources of visual inspiration outside of photography. Of course, unplanned breaks can also have unplanned interruptions.

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Environmental Portrait | Client: Career Cruising

My last shoot of 2016 was local artist working out of his home-studio. We had a fun session and I came away with some environmental portraits that I was happy with. I tweeted my thanks for everyone’s support over my fifth, and best, year in business. I unpacked my bags at home, uploaded my photos started some edits, welcomed my kids home from school and heard the scream and cries as one of them broke his left femur.

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Waiting in Emergency

I wouldn’t consider myself a documentary photographer or photojournalist, but I instinctively grabbed my Fuji x100t – I bought this little camera after I found myself taking fewer photos of my children – and away we went to our local children’s hospital, CHEO.

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Pre-Surgery

From Emergency, we went to traction. From traction, we went to Surgery, and from surgery we stayed, filling the hours with Lego and Advil.

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Days before Christmas, Santa even came to visit the children, some of whom wouldn’t be home for the holiday.

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All the while I was taking photos. Not something client-driven. Not a personal project. Just documenting a part of my son’s life because. “Because?” Because it’s what we do. Downloaded and edited on my iPhone. I updated his journey with friends and family. Letting them know he was well and, eventually, home.

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Home for Christmas

When I was asked to do a guest-blog post I thought maybe I’d write about the process of managing a commercial photoshoot, or a click-bait list of useful gadgets I use. I had a whole week on break to come up with it, but a different kind of break changed everything. A sort of personal project in a style that I rarely ever do. Something not technically motivated, but personally. Something that is likely to outlast anything I create for a commercial client. Something just for me and my son.

You can see more of Justin’s work at JVLPhoto.com, and follow him on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

The post It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Justin Van Leeuwen! appeared first on Scott Kelby's Photoshop Insider.

It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Matt Johnson!

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Drones! Why Aren’t You Flying One Yet?

Thank you so much to Scott and Brad for having me write the guest blog this week! I feel that I should begin by being upfront with all of you and saying that, although I know that this is a photo-centric blog, and I take thousands of photographs per year, I wouldn’t consider myself a traditional photographer. All those photos that I take are turned into timelapses which end up the films that I create. Yes, I am (gasp) a filmmaker, not a photographer.

But that said, I do believe that I have something of relevance to talk about today that bridges the world of photo and video. A new tool that is capable of being used for both. I’m speaking of course, about drones: the flying cameras that will become sentient in 2030, form Skynet, and take over the world.

During the Holiday season of 2015 an estimated million drones were sold in the U.S., and this year I would expect many more to find their way under trees across the country. Some of you may already own one or be planning to purchase one soon, and I am betting that once you see how fun flying a drone can be, you’ll consider using it for aerial photography. Photographers (and filmmakers) are always looking for new angles, new lenses, new ways of seeing the world. Aerial drones offer the ability for us to see and capture moments in ways we never would have dreamt of 10 years ago.

Think of the possibilities! Landscape photography of mountains, but from 300 feet up. A newly married couple kissing in a field, as a bird overhead would see them. Panorama photos of a city, from skyscraper height. Most drones support 4K video, as well as raw photos, meaning you can now capture any moment from any elevation.

In the Summer of 2015, I had the opportunity to travel to the Pacific Northwest and film the mountains, beaches, and forests of the beautiful country there. My film “Pacific” was the result. These landscape views wouldn’t be possible in any other way.

Who Needs A Drone?

About 9 years ago, before I was even considering pursuing a career in making videos, I entered a video contest put on by Texas A&M University called “Why I’m an Aggie.” My entry featured fellow students speaking about why they chose Texas A&M and what they enjoyed about the university. Throughout the video, I featured pretty shots of campus that I shot with my trusty Sony HDR-UX1 – recording to mini-DVDs mind you, SD cards weren’t fast or large enough yet.

The shot that set my contest entry apart from the others though, was an aerial video of campus that I filmed from a plane. Yes, I actually rode in a plane over campus to get a shot for my video! This blew away the judges considering that aerial video was still relatively rare (unless you happened to have a pilot father – thanks dad).

An Aerial Video Revolution

Nearly a decade later, aerial video is now mainstream. People are buying Millennium Falcon camera drones, stuffing their dead cats and turning them into quadcopters, and anyone with a cell phone can purchase a flying camera for as little as $22 on Amazon. My aerial video in 2008 that took so much effort and timing, could now be accomplished by any kid with a drone Christmas present. Go to YouTube and search for any landmark in the world, and there is most likely an aerial video filmed of it with a drone. Do the same thing with Flickr and you’ll find nearly as many aerial photos of the same landmarks.

Due to the slow speed of government, there were several years where drones were allowed to be flown nearly anywhere. Half Dome in Yosemite, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Taj Mahal in India, and many more places around the world required no permission, red-tape, or license to fly. People were starting to see things from an entirely different perspective, and getting a bird’s eye view was becoming downright cheap. In addition, there were no requirements for commercial use; meaning anyone could fly a drone and be paid for it.

Playing catch-up in 2012, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) passed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act. Under section 333 of this act, the FAA was now in charge of regulating commercial drone usage in the United States. With no way for drone pilots to fly their drones legally for commercial usage, many of them chose to ignore this rule and continue to make money.

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Time For Safety And Order

This “wild west” of drone flying continued until May 2014, when the FAA began accepting petitions of exemption for Section 333. Any pilot could fill out some paperwork stating their business, why they wanted to fly a drone, and how they would be safe while doing it. Within 120-ish days, the FAA would reply with (hopefully) a grant of exemption allowing these pilots to fly a drone legally for commercial use. This exemption came with one HUGE caveat though, the person operating the drone must possess, at minimum, a private pilot’s license.

Yes, if you wanted to fly a small plastic drone the size of a shoebox commercially, the FAA expected you to know how to fly a full sized plane. This requirement led to greater attendance at many flight schools across the country, and also resulted in people exploiting loopholes such as getting their hot air balloon license. If you thought knowing how to fly a full sized plane didn’t apply much to knowing how to fly a tiny drone, try dangling from a basket suspended under two tons of canvas, air, and fire. Speak to many drone pilots from the “section 333” years though, and most of them ignored the rules and flew without a waiver.

Thankfully, the Section 333 exemption process was merely a band-aid while the FAA finalized their official rules for commercial drone usage. Finally, two years later in August of 2016, the FAA passed Part 107 of the Federal Aviation Regulations – rules that govern the usage of small unmanned aircraft (aka drones). These rules were far more comprehensive than Section 333, did not require a petition letter, and most importantly, did not require an actual pilot’s license to fly a drone commercially.

Tests? I Hate Tests…

This massive drop in requirements from Section 333 to Part 107 made a lot of sense. Someone at the FAA realized that drones were not planes, and they shouldn’t require the exact same certification of their pilots. Drones are smaller, slower, and significantly easier to fly than a full sized plane, but below the surface, there are still many similarities between the two.

Both planes and drones are at the mercy of the weather, and no pilot of plane or drone should fly through a thunderstorm. Concepts such as center of gravity and g-forces apply to an aircraft no matter the size. Different classes of airspaces around airports exist to keep tabs on all aircraft in their vicinity, and keep pilots safe. These similarities, as well as many more, are why the FAA requires drone pilots under Part 107 to pass a knowledge test to become certified commercial pilots.

As someone that finished college five years ago, and has subsequently structured their life so they don’t have to take any more tests (or wear a tie for that matter), I was not excited about the prospect of taking a test. But, faced with the alternative of hanging up my drone for anything except fun unpaid videos in my backyard, I knew I would need to take it and pass.

How To Study For The Test…

We’ve now arrived at the main point of this blog post: a video I created which is all about why you should take the knowledge test, and how to study for and pass it. In the video, I detail the exact (free!) resources that I used to pass the Part 107 knowledge test.

If you find that self studying isn’t for you and a classroom setting works better, I would recommend checking out Remote Pilot 101 and Drone Pilot Ground School. Both offer classes with videos, articles, and teachers that are willing to answer any questions you have.

But if you’re like me and you have a month or two to study in your spare time, I would recommend the following resources. You can read them below in the order I spoke about them in the video:

BASIC DRONE KNOWLEDGE

PART 107 TEST COURSES & CLASSES

AMERICAN FLYER’S TESTING CENTERS

FAA OFFICIAL STUDY GUIDE

FAA Advisory Circular

SECTIONAL CHARTS VIDEOS

FAA TEST SUPPLEMENT BOOKLET

COMMERCIAL DRONES FM PODCAST EPISODE 6

FAA PART 107 PRACTICE TEST

JONATHAN RUPPRECHT FAA PART 107 PRACTICE TEST ANSWERS & STUDY GUIDE

3D ROBOTICS PART 107 PRACTICE TEST

OTHER RESOURCES NOT MENTIONED IN THE VIDEO

That’s it! Read and study these articles, listen to the podcast, take the practice test, and when you’re ready, go and take the real thing. If you take your time and prepare, you’ll pass like I did.

Is It All Worth It?

After having spent a month and a half studying, reading pages of material, and fully immersing myself in sectional charts, weather reports, and drone knowledge, I would say that it is completely worth it. There wasn’t a single bit of knowledge that I studied for this test that I didn’t find useful in some way. I know now that I am a more well prepared pilot, and that I will handle my drone safer than I would have before. I hope this study guide is helpful to you and has opened your eyes to the world of drone filmmaking and photography.

If you have any questions about drones, timelapses, or any other aspects of filmmaking, feel free to get in touch!

You can see more of Matt’s work at WhoIsMatt.com, and follow him on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Vimeo, and YouTube.

The post It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Matt Johnson! appeared first on Scott Kelby's Photoshop Insider.

It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Kristina Sherk!

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Top Four Reasons Why You Can’t Afford to Miss Kristina’s New Class

Ok everyone, it’s slowly counting down to the Holidays and one of the things on my wish list, is TIME! At this point in the year, it’s that one elusive thing that slips away through our fingers that there never seems to be enough of. Well – this mysterious thing called time isn’t just in high demand during the holidays, but always. So, when it comes to my method of teaching Photoshop and Lightroom… if the technique doesn’t save you time, then I’m not interested in teaching it.

Tip #1: TIME
As you can imagine, my new KelbyOne class does just that. Saves. You. TIME. So many people out there think it’s not possible to retouch portraits solely in Adobe Lightroom, so they take each and every portrait they shoot into Photoshop and create layers upon layers of adjustments to fix a few problem areas on a face. To all of you, I suggest you watch my brand-spankin-new class on Retouching Portraits in Lightroom, and then come back to me if you still feel the same way. Even the classes intro has time saving value! Just listen to what this user got out of just watching the intro: “Thanks so much for an excellent set of lessons on Lightroom portrait retouching. What sets you and this class apart and above others is the intro sessions on preparing and setting the stage. I’ve been struggling with LR performance and you solved my angst in mere seconds.” – Doug Stringer

Tip #2: KILL OVER FIVE BIRDS WITH ONE STONE
Ok, so this tip may need a little explaining… But what I mean is… Let’s say you want to make five changes to the iris of your model. So – let’s hypothetically think about how we would do that in Photoshop verses Lightroom. In Photoshop, you would have to create five different adjustment layers in order to make those changes.

1) Color Balance (make eyes more blue)

2) Saturation (make eyes more colorful)

3) Contrast (make highlights and shadows in iris more intense)

4) Sharpen (bring out detail from iris)

5) Curves (make iris brighter)

6) Place all adjustment layers in their own group, and paint the mask in where the effects are meant to be seen.

 

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Gosh – I’m exhausted just typing all of that out! That would easily take a Photoshop newbie at least 10 minutes to do. Now… let’s think about what we would have to do to achieve the same effect in Lightroom.

1) Click on the Local Adjustment brush

2) Drag Temperature, Saturation, Contrast, Sharpness and Exposure Sliders to the desired levels.

3) Paint ONE Stroke on each eye.

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And PRESTO! You’re done! I made the same 5 changes to the iris in under 30 seconds (yes – I timed myself), with one tool! This one hypothetical scenario saved the average user nine minutes and 30 seconds! And to take this concept one step further, think about how many photos you retouch per day and you’ll immediately see the time saving benefits of this new way of thinking!

Tip #3: SYNCING IS YOUR FRIEND
Come again, now? Yes – syncing facial portrait retouching is now possible in Lightroom CC & 6! This works on portraits where the model is in similar positions. So to accomplish this tip, you’ll need to paint in a change using Lightroom’s local adjustment brush, and then select both the image you’re working on, plus the next similar image in the batch. When you sync settings between images, make sure you tick the checkbox next to the word “Brush” under the Local Adjustments section of the sync window. And here’s your super-user tip: If the change doesn’t completely line up with the new image, then click the adjustment brush pinpoint on the new file, and then drag it to re-align the adjustment with the new image! Did I just hear someone’s brain explode? Because mine did, when I first found out that little tip-nugget. Check out Lesson 11 for more on this tip.

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Tip #4 FREE IS KING
If you’ve seen any of my other KelbyOne classes, then you know that you never leave a SharkPixel class without some sort of beneficial downloadable freebie! And this class is no exception! Stick around to the end of my class, and you’ll be rewarded with some amazing downloadable brushes to kick start your Lightroom portrait retouching!

Happy Holidays… and happy retouching!

You can see more of Kristina’s work at KristinaSherk.com and SharkPixel.com, and follow her on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.

The post It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Kristina Sherk! appeared first on Scott Kelby's Photoshop Insider.

It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Chris Hershman!

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A Guide To Becoming A Filmmaker Using DSLR Cameras:
Helping Photographers Transition Into Filmmaking

I’m like most filmmakers who started off using HDSLR cameras to shoot video. However I started off passionately pursing a career in photographer and toyed around with my new camera’s video settings and then BOOM! A video career began. 

A common story I hear from creative folks in my circle is that they just got a new camera and it shoots video, so they’re looking for ways to learn how to break into making money through booking video gigs. 

Little backstory on myself and how I got into video and where it took me… I purchased a Nikon that had video capabilities. It was never my intention to break into video, but I thought it would be a great thing to learn. Thought maybe I could offer video services in addition to my photography and double the amount I made. That’s exactly what happened, and it took me further than I could have ever imagined. 

I first began filming bands performing live in studios. Being a musician myself, I gravitated toward my personal interest, music and live performance. I suggest finding a way to film the things you enjoy most. If you’re into cooking, start with some cooking videos. If you want to film documentaries, grab a close friend who has a story you want to help them share with the world. Start small, knock something out and get that first project done and under your belt. 

After dabbling in video with bands, I decided to take video more seriously and grow it as large as I possibly could. Fast forward a few years, I linked up with Chicago Music Exchange and spent three years building their video channel. During that time I created over 400 videos for the independent music store. It grew the business from $3M a year to over $12M in sales a year, and we won the Chicago Crain’s business award for best use of Social Media to grow a company. The owner of the music store went onto create a platform called Reverb.com that allows musicians to buy sell and trade their used instruments online. We began with the same techniques with social media and integrated video to get the company up and running and had the same results. Reverb.com just won Music INC Magazine’s “Best Company of 2016.”

The point being that video provided a lucrative career for me and proved to be a necessary tool in the growth of these two striving companies. I’m so glad I picked up video and put that in my arsenal of creative skills. I think if you’re remotely interested in learning video, you can most definitely grow your company and expand your story telling capabilities.

I’d like to note that it was very important for me to continually focus on photography while growing my eye for motion. The two are very complimentary to each other. If you’ve got a knack for photography, it’ll be even easier to make the transition into video.

SHORTCUTS TO BREAKING INTO VIDEO

Let’s start with the basics. You’ve got a camera that shoots video. These tips should help you set your camera to the proper video settings. 

Switch your camera to “Live Mode.”

Select manual mode on your camera. 

Set Your Frame Rate, or Frames Per Second (FPS)
Your options here are 24, 30, or 60. This is a different setting than your shutter speed, which we’ll talk about next.

Quick Breakdown of each FPS:

  • 24FPS will give you that classic Cinematic look. Just about every large motion picture is filmed in this format. This is the most natural and relaxing way for the eye to see motion pictures. 
  • 30FPS would be for needing a little extra clarity. Perhaps you are showing off some products or doing a talking head interview and prefer the look.
  • 60FPS is going to allow you to slow your footage in post-editing by 50% and give you a clean slow motion effect.

Select Your Shutter Speed
The rule of thumb here is to double your shutter as closely as you can depending on what you set your FPS. So for instance if your FPS is set to 24FPS, you’ll set your shutter to 1/50 of a second. For 30FPS it’ll be 1/60 of a sec and if you choose 60FPS you’ll need to set your shutter to 1/125 of a sec.

Most cameras will allow you to crank your shutter up as high as your camera shoots like 1/8000. However you really want to stick to these guidelines to get the proper look for your video. 

*Pro tip – When you shoot outdoors it may be temping to increase your shutter speed, but make sure to raise your f-stop, not shutter. If your image is still blown out and far too bright, consider purchasing a Neutral Density Filter. The toughest part at the beginning is using your video in super bright conditions, because you need to shoot at 1/50 of a second outdoors which is hard to do, especially if you want have a shallow depth-of-field look to your video.

Setting Your White Balance
Quick tip is if you’re outdoors, set your Kelvin manually to 5600K. That’ll be good rule of thumb for shooting anything in Daylight. If you’re indoors, start with 3200K. This cooler setting with compensate for the warmer light that is emitted by indoor lighting fixtures (aka Tungsten light). 

These can vary depending on the lighting in your space, but start there and make small corrections up or down depending on the skin tone you’re looking to achieve. 

Using Multiple Cameras
For shooting multiple cameras, it’s absolutely imperative to set all your cameras to the same settings on each of your cameras. Factory reset all your cameras and start over with all of your settings. You never know when you’re borrowing a buddies camera or if you had rented an extra body, if someone tweaked some settings in other modes like Color Profiles and what not. 

For most people that’s the extent of the manual settings you need to know in order to start using your camera in manual video mode.

Advanced Video Settings
Color profiles are commonly found in your cameras shooting menu. I suggest using your “Standard” setting if you’re using your camera for the first few times. Once you’ve mastered the basics and want to experiment with different “Looks” then head to your camera’s menu and try the different Color Profiles available to you. The mode most cinematographers will choose is “Flat” or “Neutral.” This setting lowers the contrast in your camera and allows for more highlights to be captured without blowing them out. In addition it raises your shadows, allowing for more details to be captured in the darker areas of your scene. 

The main reason for selecting this setting would be for doing additional color correcting in the post-editing process. This mode give you the most flexibility in your post-process. Imagine this being similar to shooting a JPEG vs RAW. The RAW captures more details and allows for more editing capabilities. HOWEVER, don’t mistake this for being RAW video. There are cameras out there that literally capture RAW video and you’re looking at a whole different ball game with those cameras. 

The RAW capture cameras are RED, Black Magic and ARRI Alexa, to name a few. These are cinema cameras and don’t belong to the DSLR family. However, using these high-end cinema cameras is most definitely the direction you want to look forward to when expanding your career in large scale commercial work or feature length films.

Choosing The Right Lens
Being that I was a portrait photographer, shooting shallow depth-of-field video was my first priority and venture into filmmaking. I wanted to make my videos appear much like my photographs. A nice blown out background looks very cinematic, but when your subject is moving around the scene, it can be very challenging to keep your image in focus. 

When shooting video I rarely shoot wide open apertures like f/1.4. I typically stay between f/2.8 and f/4. This is going to help you keep your subject in focus and allow you more wiggle room to keep your subject nice and sharp. So when beginning, it may be tempting to use your portrait prime lenses, but keep those lenses reserved for nice b-roll or when your camera is on a tripod shooting a talking head interview, where there is little to no motion in your scene. 

*Pro-tip – There are lenses with built-in stabilizers in them. These are the lenses I gravitate toward when wanting a nice clean professional look. Here is a simple way of knowing if a lens has a stabilizer built-in. For Nikon it will be labeled as “VR” which stands for Vibration Reduction, and for Canon they label it as “IS” for Image Stabilization. Same thing, just named differently by brand. This is a major help in the field, especially when you’re putting your camera in motion.

Stabilizing Your Camera
The first mistake most beginners make is hand holding your camera for video, myself included. In order to take video seriously and get a proper look to your video, you’ll need to attach it to something to keep it far more stable than your hands. You don’t want every film you make looking like a Blair Witch film. Below are a few basic options. 

Tripod – There is one major over looked difference between a tripod for photography and for video. The difference is for video you need to use a Fluid Video Head. This is the mechanism you camera attaches to on the very top your tripod. For photography, they focus on tilting your camera up and down and panning left and right, but its not meant to move smoothly. However the fluid video head allows you to move your camera in a smooth motion in all directions. This will be a necessary tool for shooting clean professional looking video. 

Monopod – This is one legged stand that you can attach your camera to that allows you to pick up with ease and be very mobile. The trick here is attach a fluid video head to help keep everything smooth in your image. These stands collapse very small and are great for traveling and taking up very little space. 

Shoulder Rig – Rigs like these vary in size and price. Some can tuck under your arm or against your chest, or of course, over your shoulder. This rig gives you full range of mobility and is an excellent option versus hand-holding your camera. Shoulder rigs greatly increase your ability to hold your camera still and provide excellent stability. 

Slider – A slider is a simple track that you can attach your camera to that gives you smooth motion from left to right. To increase the motion capabilities, add a fluid video head and you’ve a great setup for putting your camera in motion and keeping your image stable. 

Dolly – A dolly is much larger version of a slider. A board with wheels can glide across rails giving you the ability to move your camera left and right with many more feet of travel. I prefer using 12ft length of dolly track. You can set your fluid head tripod on top of this platform and add very simple, but professional looking movement to your video. 

Jib/Crane – Like all of these tools, they can come in many ranges of build and size, same for jibs. A jib is a projected arm that you attach to your camera and raise your camera up and down with large sweeping movements. Smaller jibs can be as simple as an attachment on your tripod, and others are so large they require hours of set up and balancing. This is a great way to get some unbelievable elevated shots. They offer a look in motion that the previous tools simply do not offer. These are tricky to navigate the larger in size, so its preferred to find someone who is a dedicated jib operator for larger productions. 

Gimbals – By definition, gimbals are pivoted supports that allow the rotation of an object about a single axis. There are several popular gimbals on the market but the one most commonly know is called a Ronin. A Ronin is a camera stabilization system designed to give the operator close to the freedom of unencumbered handheld shooting but without the hand-shake.  This system is fantastic for shots less than 3 minutes in length before needing to rest. Any longer and your arms may turn to jello and your risk dropping your camera. There are add-ons you can add to help hold the gimbal in place, but they become pretty cumbersome and may require advance knowledge of the tool. In that case, you may just want to hire some to run a Steadicam, which is a handheld gimbal that works completely on balance of your camera and does not offer any mechanical assistance.

Audio 
We can’t talk about making videos without talking about capturing sound. There are built-in mics on most DSLR cameras. However, I suggest finding a higher quality way of capturing sound. This subject can get very complex and in-depth, but I’ll try to keep it simple and as basic as possible for jumping into video for the first time.

On Camera Shotgun Microphones – Most cameras offer a mic input jack. This is perfect for plugging in a DSLR shotgun mic that attached to the hot shoe. This allows your directional microphone to be recorded on the same video file when recording and does not require any additional syncing of audio and video in post production.  

Handheld Recorder – There are a few popular models such as the Zoom H4n that offer nice stereo built-in microphones along with several inputs to attach other mics via XLR microphone cable. This option will require you to sync your audio to your video in post production. 

*Pro tip – To make syncing of audio and video easier in post-production, be sure to hit record on your recorder and your camera, then use a clap within the frame of your video and near and loud enough to be picked up by your audio recording device. Then in post production you have a visual cue to match to your audible que. If your camera’s built-in mic is recording audio and picks up the clap as well, you can sync in most editing software using the audio signal from the video. The software will examine both the audio from your camera and separate audio device and sync the two clips automatically. This is a huge time saver. On the flip side, if something happens where the audio on your camera wasn’t recording or loud enough, you still have the visual cue from the clap recorded on video.

Storage
You’re making large resolution video and not pictures now, so you’ll need a storage device other than your internal computer hard-drive. It’s time to invest in external hard-drives. My preference for storing and editing video is LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt / USB 3.0 hard-drives. They come in several memory sizes, but 1TB or 2TB should be good for beginning. You can work your way up to a 60TB hard-drive that allow you to edit RAW video with ease. But for now, just grab one of those fun orange hard-drives and take your storage with you. With these drives you don’t need to plug any external power sully into a wall, and it’s fast enough to allow all your video files to live on your external drive while being edited on your computer. Without externals, you risk filling up your computers internal memory and slowing your machine down to a snail’s pace. Buy a drive.

Editing
Let’s focus on two editing software options. Both come with trial versions, so give it 30 days and figure out which you prefer. 

Final Cut Pro X – This system runs great and is an easy transition for those who may have dabbled with iMovie in your early stages of editing or prefer to use Apple based programs. This is what I prefer, but only because I’ve had many years of practice and experience with this particular platform. 

Adobe Premiere Pro – If you currently use Adobe’s Creative Cloud for Photoshop and Lightroom, then Premiere Pro is waiting for you to download a trial version within seconds. This may be a great option for you is you’re familiar with the Adobe programs.

Both of these accomplish the same task, it just comes down to personal preference. 

Exporting
One of the most common questions comes down to the exporting process. When your video is done and ready to be sent off into the world to be seen, you have to select a format or “Codec” to export your video file. It’s safe to say that if you export your file as “H.264” it’ll be widely accepted on most online video platforms and play on most any device. It’s the industry standard.

Wrap Up
When shooting stills and video, the camera may be the same, but the approach has to be different. The biggest difference comes down to the settings and tools you use to create video vs still photography. Use this quick guide to set your camera up and get shooting. The most important thing is to try, so get out there, film something small and build on that experience. Use one camera at first, then try using two cameras and editing between the two. Move on to putting your camera in motion and focus on building on to what you last learned from your previous video. Keep elevating your level of production and stay innovative. The world is waiting to see what you come up with!

You can see more of Chris’s work at ChrisHershman.com, and follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

The post It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Chris Hershman! appeared first on Scott Kelby's Photoshop Insider.

It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Francesca Hughes!

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A massive hello from the UK and thank you to both Scott & Brad for allowing me to write this week’s guest blog.

When thinking about the topic to write for this blog, I instantly wanted to write about the retouching industry. Having been working as a retoucher for nearly 5 years I’ve noticed that it isn’t talked about enough. Retouching is a very specialist field within the photography industry. Unless you are lucky enough to live in major cities like London or New York, the jobs are very few and far between. That’s why it’s important to understand and be absolutely committed to your decision to be a retoucher.

So what does it take to be a retoucher?

Know Your Software

This may be pretty obvious, but you must know Photoshop. 90% of major studios use Photoshop, and the other 10% use Lightroom. These may be smaller outlets or perhaps working for a freelance photographer. It’s good to know Lightroom, but the majority of the time you will be using Photoshop. Photoshop gives you more control and allows you to do a lot more to your images.

You may think, “Well I use Lightroom so I’ll be fine with that.” For your own photography that might be fine, but working in a studio environment may be a lot different. It also depends on what retouching industry you’re going into. If you want to work for a powerhouse who creates editorial and fashion content for a major brand, Photoshop is essential. If you work for a photographer who shoots weddings or family portraiture, they may only need minor tweaks made, which could be done in Lightroom.

If you’re thinking about going into retouching, it’s good practise to do your research and find what styles of images you enjoy, to determine what software is essential for you. However, I would always say learn Photoshop as much as you can.

Which follows on to my next quick point, learn Photoshop every single day. Be a sponge and take in as many courses, tips and tutorials as you can.  [I would highly recommend KelbyOne for classes, and a cheeky plug to my own tutorials for quick Photoshop tips].

It’s always important to continually develop yourself and learn new things which can help your workflow and make things easier and more efficient for you. Learn from books, videos, magazines and even learn from your favourite Photographers and Retouchers. Be smart.

Be Proactive

Don’t let the work come to you. If you’re just starting out in your retouching journey, the best thing you can do is retouch your own images. Take photographs of everything; portraits, landscapes, architecture, food, products,  sports, pets, anything. You’ll learn very quickly that some genres of photography require a lot more retouch but it will help you gain the experience and knowledge of what each images requires in terms of retouching. Portraits of models will take a lot longer than a shot of a pet for example. This not only will allow you to understand the tools but will help you figure out how long it’s taking you. I elaborate on time management further into this post.

If you don’t own a camera or you feel you don’t have the experience to take your own images, why not ask a fellow Photographer if you can borrow their images to retouch for your own personal use. You could even use forums like Model Mayhem where Photographers upload their own images for creatives to practice on for their own personal portfolio. It’s a great way of getting experience on professional images. Being proactive is an essential trait to have for a Retoucher.

Network and collaborate on creative projects. Find a Photographer to bounce ideas off and produce a project; something fun for the Photographer, something fun for you. They’ll be able to shoot the product or portrait and you can retouch the image. It’s a great way of building a portfolio with a set of images that involve your own ideas. Get yourself out there.

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Patience is Essential

Using Photoshop can be super frustrating; you’ll run into issues you may not be able to figure out, or come across an image that’s going to need hours of work. So my next tip is have patience. Retouching can be a very long winded process, but, you’ll find that once you finish the image, you’ll feel very proud and happy with the end result. This is something that most retouchers love about retouching. Seeing the process from start to finish and knowing that they’ll have a wonderful piece of work at the end of it.

Patience is key when working with Photoshop. It may take several hours to complete one image, so it’s about getting through it and enjoying the journey. You may run into technical issues along the way, whether it’s something you can’t achieve or don’t know how to do. Retouching will give you problems that you have to solve.

You may ask yourself, “How am I going to achieve this?” Use your problem solving skills to figure out the easiest and most efficient way of resolving the issue. If you’re not sure, ask. There are plenty of people around the world who’ll be able to help you with your problem. Once you know how to solve it, you can use that same technique in the future. Eventually you’ll build up a toolbox of knowledge and be able to solve similar issues in the future.

Another great tip is to walk away. If you’re getting stuck with an image or you’ve spent too long on it, come away from it and return to it the following day. You’ll be surprised how much this can help. You’ll have a fresh look on the image and spot things you may have missed or figure out how to solve an issue. If you’re up against the clock, ask someone for feedback. With a fresh pair of eyes, they’ll be able to see any issues and you’ll be able to fix anything within enough time of your deadline.

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Be Committed

Dedication is definitely needed when going into the retouching industry. Depending on the kinds of images you’ll be retouching, the industry can get quite monotonous. Especially if you’re working on the same shots day in day out. You have to be committed to the craft and really want it.

Be prepared for images that could potentially consume your time, especially if they take 2-3 hours. Being committed and persistent with the images will be very rewarding, especially when you see your finished pieces on the web or in print. Having the passion for retouching is essential if you want to succeed in the industry. If you get more and more retouching experience under your belt, the commitment will soon show.

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Manage your Time

When you start in the retouching industry, you’ll soon figure out that managing your time is essential. You’ll find that some clients’ work will require a 10-minute clean up whilst others may require 2 hours retouch. It’s all about good time keeping and constantly watching the clock; especially when deadlines need to be met. Products and ecommerce, for example, can require anything from 2 to 10 mins per shot (depending on the specification and brief of the job). Portraits and high end fashion may require hours of attention, especially if they are being shot on high end cameras or they have been shot for print. Attention to detail is key here but it’s important to always remember your timings. Most studios are very fast paced, but you’ll pick up speed as you get used to their processes and practises.

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Have fun.

By all means, this isn’t an extensive list of the skills and traits that a retoucher must have, but perhaps some of the most important to succeed in the industry. Don’t feel put off by these either; most traits can be learnt, especially the most important trait – learning Photoshop.

My last point, is to simply have fun. Whether you’re just starting out or are thinking of joining the retouching industry, always enjoy what you do. Whether it’s retouching a product shot for web or retouching a billboard for a major fashion label; do your best and enjoy every second.

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Get creative, educate yourself, pick up your speed, solve problems, be patient, manage your time, collaborate, have fun.

Thank you for reading!
– Fran Hughes

You can see more of Fran’s work at FrancescaHughes.com and follow her on YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter.

The post It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Francesca Hughes! appeared first on Scott Kelby's Photoshop Insider.

It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring John Brown!

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Photo by Angelea Presti

This is my story, and I’m grateful and excited to be sharing with you all. It isn’t the prettiest tale… but it’s real. So, my name is John Brown, and I’m a photographer in Nashville, Tennessee.

I was born in Würzburg, Germany, and mostly grew up in Mons, Belgium until I was 8 years old. My father served 25 years in the US Army, so my brother and I were fortunate to have such a unique experience growing up. After my dad retired we moved to Shelbyville, Tennessee. Shelbyville is pretty small, and, at least when I was in high school, there wasn’t much art or music around, which is what I’ve always gravitated towards. I didn’t do very well in high school; I believe my GPA was 2.75 or somewhere close. Looking back it makes sense. There wasn’t any creativity, but when there was I thrived and put forth effort.

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After I graduated high school (barely), I went to a small community college called Motlow State, located within a short drive of the Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee. I believe I first majored in Mechanical Engineering because I wanted to build things, but I realized math was not one of my strengths. So I changed to Business Administration the next semester, and I realized math was not one of my strengths… again. My third semester I took a math class, and a guitar theory class, for a whopping total of 4 credit hours. I’m sure my parents were just stuck in a never ending eye roll at the point. But thankfully the next semester I finally took an art class… which completely changed my life.

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The art professor was this incredibly talented, quirky, and underpaid genius. I remember him stressing the importance of composition over almost anything else. That really stuck with me. I finished out my 2 year associate degree in art, and transferred to MTSU nearby as an art/music double major, with no idea what I wanted to do afterward. I loved to draw, and play guitar, drums, and sing. But there still wasn’t really a niche standing out to me yet. At the same time, I was a 21 year old college kid that didn’t know anything about anything. Life was really good. I had just moved out on my own for the first time, and I was going to a big college with interesting classes and lots of new people (and girls) to interact with. Life was good. And then… it wasn’t.

Half way through my first semester at MTSU, in fall of 2007, my mom attempted suicide. At the time I thought it was my fault, because I was the youngest son and I had moved out. I wouldn’t learn till later that the truth was something much different. Basically my mom had a migraine for about a year straight, and was actively going to a couple of doctors about it. After some months of not figuring out the cause, they gradually put my mom on a dozen or so prescriptions. And all these drugs literally drove my mom crazy to the point that she tried to take her own life. I thank God every day for having parents that love each other like mine. My dad is the the reason my mom is still around. And just so you know, she’s doing very well now.

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I flunked out of school and ended up moving back home. I got a job at a sweet woman’s gift shop down the street, who I’m certain took pity on me. I felt like a failure. I had no direction, no goals in mind, no idea what to do with my life. So of all things, my escape from this small town was truck driving. I became a full blown truck driver.

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I traveled the country driving an 18-wheeler, hauling HAZMAT (hazardous material), steel, brake calipers, dry foods… basically anything you could imagine. I was only 22. It was super weird… but it was a much needed adventure, time to think, and a confidence boost. I saw a lot of things good and bad. I witnessed terrible accidents, drugs, sex trafficking, violence… it was an eye opening experience.

I drove full time for about 15 months and finally decided it wasn’t for me. I moved to Nashville two days later, and I was hired as a valet at a high end hotel downtown. Because, hey, “If I can drive a semi, I can park your damn Mercedes.” (Literally the cockiest thing I’ve ever said in my life… to the guy that hired me.) A few months after I’d started working there, luck brought me a camera from the lost and found. I had never used one before, but I just thought it was the coolest thing ever to play with. This was six years ago, and the camera was a Nikon D80.

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So this is the part where I feel like most people would maybe gloss over things, or just skip parts because it’s not flattering, or that it’s career suicide to be this open… because what I’m about to share isn’t at all something I’m proud of… but I’m just going to be completely honest with you, because I think it’s important, so here we go. (I used way too many commas and I don’t care.)

I worked at this hotel for nearly 3 years, and I worked my a** off. And you know where it got me? Nowhere. I worked 60+ hours a week valeting, working third shift on Saturday nights, and also at one point shooting the photography and managing social media for this place. I was paying rent, but not making enough to save much. I also wasn’t feeling appreciated. At the same time I felt lots of pressure from family to start figuring out my future by either finding a career or going back to school. I needed to be responsible, and have a savings account, health insurance, 401k, a retirement plan, because I want to have a home and a family one day right?

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I’m not quite sure when this started, but I developed an anger problem. I would lash out at people I was close to. Including my own brother, who’s the nicest guy I know. My boss. And at my worst, my own girlfriends. This went on for a few years. The height of which was when during an argument about something I don’t even remember… let’s just say it was something as dumb and trivial as the weather. Yes, during an argument about “the weather,” I shoved my girlfriend of one year, who I loved, on the floor in her own bedroom. I’d never done anything like that before. I instantly realized that this wasn’t because I was “hangry.” We had just had dinner together. This was something real. I stepped towards her to help her off the ground, and she jumped back with this expression of terror. She was literally afraid for her life, because of me. It’s something I will never forget. And as I write this all these years later, it still makes me feel emotional.

The next day I called my pastor and had coffee with him. He chewed me out in the most loving way possible, if that makes any sense at all. And he looked me in the eye and asked me if I’d consider counseling. I instantly remembered back to the time my mom was sick, and I thought it was my fault, and I wasn’t doing well. I’d lost weight, I couldn’t focus on anything, and I wasn’t taking care of myself. At the time I was covered under my parents’ with health insurance, but I didn’t want to bother my dad. I didn’t want to add to his problems. MTSU probably had a free clinic or some sort of resources available as well, but I was too embarrassed to speak about it to anyone on campus. So I got online and tried to find other resources. I remember calling this number and speaking with a very kind woman who had no options available without insurance, or an amount of money I couldn’t pay. She got emotional on the phone with me. I’ll never forget it. So when I heard the word, “counseling,” I just said “yes.” Because I realized I had needed counseling since 2007.

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The next week I went to anger counseling with this awesome guy. One of the first things he said to me was that even though he was 50 something years old, he’d been thinking about taking a break from his current work and going to art school. Just because he wanted to. So needless to say we got along well. Over the next few weeks I learned a lot about myself. I realized how miserable I was, how unhealthy I was, how my anger was stemming from things that had nothing to do with anyone except myself. One big reason being that I’m this people loving, extroverted, creative person, but my life was not that at all. So gradually over the next few months, anger left my life for good.

(By the way if you’ve made it this far… I commend you and thank you for your patience. So now… I’ll just cut to the part that matters most.)

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Photography grew into something more than a hobby. I quit the hotel and had a variety of jobs afterward, from selling cars to serving tables. Along the way I started pursuing photography more seriously, and ended up with a job at a documentary company. One amazing perk of working there was that I was able to shoot with their secondary camera, which was a 5D Mark II. I worked there for 10 months, and over that time I was able to make my first website, build up a portfolio, and start charging for my work. In August of 2014, I was at the office, and I found out that a very dear friend of mine had been murdered. She was 25 years old. And she had just hired me to make gesture drawings at her sister’s wedding.

A week after that a friend from high school died of cancer.

A month or so later, a family friend died of cancer.

By the end of 2015 I’d lost 10 people, friends and family, that I loved and cared about. Including my first cousin who was in her early 30’s, and my grandmother who was 85.

Around the time my cousin passed, I was no longer working at the documentary company. Which meant no more access to a 5D Mark II. Which meant no more camera because I’d given mine away. At my cousin’s funeral of all places, I was having a conversation with a family friend, whose brother was one of the 10 people I’d lost, asking him for business advice. He then offered me an opportunity I never would have imagined… a business loan.

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I came to the realization that I could literally die any day. It could be tomorrow, or when I’m 85. I had just witnessed over the last year and a half how fragile life really was. So I accepted. With no client work ahead of me. No business plan. Fully accepting that I may very well have to sleep in my pickup truck with my camera, and I was completely okay with it. After two weeks of getting my gear, I went to Chicago for 22 days. I took the above photo while I was there, and it ended up going viral in the millions of shares and likes. You can find it on Alicia Keys’, Amy Schumer’s, and even Adriana Lima’s Instagram pages. Which is awesome and super random. (Alicia… let’s do lunch.)

It’s been a year and a half… and I’ve had three nights since May 27th, 2015 where I’ve nearly had to sleep in my truck. Even with such little financial stability at times, something always pops up, and I keep moving forward.

I have a personal project in the works. I’m learning and growing as an artist, and a person. And I’ve never been as happy as I am now. I work 80 hours a week so I don’t have to work 40. And honestly it’s the best decision I ever made. This has been quite the adventure, and it’s incredible to be doing something that makes my friends, family, and parents feel proud. It’s the best feeling in the world.

I’m sorry this has been long, and crazy, and not necessarily fun or flattering… but this is my life. If there’s anything I’d love to pass to you, it’s that life is fragile, short, and way too valuable to live miserably. I encourage you all to seek out things bigger than yourselves, to think of others when the opportunity arises, and not to wait for loved ones to pass before you realize what’s truly important. No matter who you are, no matter your religion, political views, identity, race, or nationality, we can grow every day, we can learn every day, and above all we can love every day. I hope you all are well, and I wish you the very best. Cheers.

-John Brown

You can see more of John’s work at JohnBrown.photography, and follow him on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

The post It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring John Brown! appeared first on Scott Kelby's Photoshop Insider.