Monthly Archives June 2009

A New Week

Hi Folks:
I’m back in the saddle this week, after an almost entirely relaxing week (see the post above), and here’s what’s goin’ on so far:

  • Something I Missed Last Week
    In my first-look review of the XT-Explorer on-location battery pack last week, I kind of dinged the looks of the XT a bit, but Larry Becker pointed out something I hadn’t realized, and that is that the Explorer XT actually comes with a fairly nice black nylon fitted “glove” that goes over the unit, along with a substantial shoulder strap. This would make a big difference in the overall look, and thus remove the ding. Sorry I missed that first time around.
  • Corey Sells Out Toronto and Calgary in Advance
    The kid is hot!!! Our own boy wonder Corey Barker is taking our Photoshop Down & Dirty Tricks Tour to Canada, and Toronto has already sold out in advance (with nearly 600 attendees), and his Calgary stop looks like it will be sold out by today—tomorrow at the latest. Congratulations to Corey, and to everyone who snagged a ticket—you’re going to have an amazing day! To check to see if one of our seminars is coming to your city this summer, click right here.
  • >>> The Ultimate iPhone 3G S Review is Now Live!
    My buddy Terry White has done what I think is the ultimate iPhone 3Gs review, complete with videos, comparisons, features you didn’t know about, etc., and if you’re a longtime Mac user, you’ll love the video clip where Terry demonstrates the voice dialing by calling, and chatting with none other than Apple co-founder Steve “The Woz” Wozniak. Anyway, if you want the full scoop, check out Terry’s in-depth review right here.
  • Got Two Minutes? This Video For Olympus is Very Clever!
    Our buddy Michael Tapes over at sent this my way, and it’s one of those, “must watch” videos. It’s actually a very clever promo for Olympus’ latest camera, and they used the “Will it Blend” guy and well…you just gotta see it. It’s only two minutes, and you can watch it over at Michael’s site (here’s the link).
  • New Canon Training Classes Over at Kelby Training Online
    It has taken us way too long, but at least I can finally announce that our online classes on how to use your Canon gear will finally (finally!) be going live later this week. We were lucky enough to get Canon Explorer of Light Rick Sammon to do the training for us, and Rick did an outstanding job, so check the Kelby Training Online site later this week to catch Rick’s new classes. Also, we released a special online class from Adobe’s own Julieanne Kost on how to use Adobe’s Configurator Utility with CS4 to create your own custom panels inside Photoshop CS4. Here’s the link with details on her class.
  • Worldwide Photo Walk Update
    On Friday we capped the number of cities to have walks, and I’m thrilled to announce that we’ll have over 1,025 walks around the world on July 18th. I had hoped we get more than last year’s 236 walks, but I never thought it would get here. We have nearly 17,000 walkers signed up so far, and now that our cities are all locked down, we’ll focus on supporting our walk leaders and walkers as we gear up for the event.I’m also thrilled to announce that Nikon has come on as an official sponsor, and has REALLY sweetened the deal by adding an incredible prize to our grand prize collection—-a Nikon D-700 camera!!!! Whoo Hoo!!!!!! We’re honored to have Nikon supporting this worldwide event, and thanks for giving us such a cool prize!!!

    Don’t forget to order your Official Worldwide PhotoWalk T-shirt, which supports the Springs of Hope Kenya Orphanage (hundreds of you have already ordered shirts—thanks a bunch!). Here’s the link.

Well, that’s it for today. Have a great Monday everybody, and act like it’s Friday! :)


I’m calling this a “First Look” review because I’ve only gotten one opportunity to really work with this pack, but since I did use it out in the field (I did an on-location shoot for a book project), I wanted to give you my first impressions.

The Problem
If you wanted to take studio lightning on location, you could do it but there two problems:

1. You had to buy special strobe heads that were designed to work with on-location battery packs

2. Good quality location kits are VERY expensive (you were lucky to get a decent single head and a battery pack for around $1,200).

The Dream
Use your own existing regular studio strobes and take them on location. Unfortunately, monoblocks (also called monolights) are strobes that are designed to be plugged right into the wall like any other appliance, so they don’t have a way to plug into a battery pack, so you can’t take your regular studio gear on location, unless there’s a power plug right nearby. The dream is to have your regular gear, anywhere you want it—out on a boat, at the beach, on an island, in the middle of an airplane hanger, on the roof of a hotel, etc.—places where wall plugs aren’t usually found.

The Solution
The solution we found comes from Innvatronix in the Explorer XT Battery Pack, which lets you plug in most regular monolight studio lights right into the pack. That saves you from having to buy special strobe heads to work with your battery packs. In fact, the reason we chose Invatronix was that we read that they work with Elinchrom strobes, which is all we use.

The Test
So we took one of our regular Elincrhom BXRI 500 monolights out to a nearby beach, and we put the Explorer XT on a rock nearby (we didn’t want to actually set it in the sand, though you probably could). We plugged the BXRI in (it has standard 110v sockets) and it worked first time (it supports up to two strobes). It worked great throughout the entire shoot, and recycled very fast. We were relieved it worked as well as promised.

What it Needs Next
Although it worked great in our somewhat limited test (we only did one shoot, and only used one studio strobe), there are two things it really needs to be a success:

  1. It really looks awful. It’s as if no thought whatsoever was given to how the unit itself looks, but to creative people looks matter (I would be somewhat embarrassed for a client to see me show up with one of these).
  2. It’s name, “The Tronix Explorer XT Pure Sine Wave Inverter,” needs some serious work and while it may be a perfectly descriptive name for what it does, it only appeals to Stephen Hawking. You’d have to really be looking for this unit to find it with a non-descriptive name like that

Other than that—-so far, so good.

Where it Totally Rocks
The price. It’s only $394. I know–that rocks!

The Bottomline
I know there are other units showing up on the market, but some want you to use their specific strobes and only warranty the units if you use their strobes, so we were excited when we found these that would specifically work with Elinchroms.  As I use it more and more on upcoming jobs, I’ll let you guys know if my opinion on the Explorer XT changes, but for now it let us do what what we were hoping it would do—-let us use the same studio strobes we’re used to working with day in/day out out on location, and it did it well.

Here’s the link with more info from the Innovatroix Web site.


Hi Everybody. It’s Thursday and that spells trouble, as I unveil my most embarrassing photo ever. This was me, just three years ago, tipping the scales at 315 lbs. The shot was taken in Paris where I was accepting an award for being the world’s largest, I mean, best-selling author of computer books that year.

Below is a shot of me now (taken at this past Boston Photoshop World, where I’m posed with my friends Corey Barker, Terry White, and RC Concepcion), after losing over 100 lbs. on a strict diet (I tell people it was a low calorie, low carb, low taste, low fun diet).


Anyway, it took a long while, but I’ve kept it off for nearly two years now, and I feel dramatically better, and after having my yearly physical this past week, I was in such great health that I told my staff that if I suddenly show up dead, they better start a murder investigation, because it won’t be from natural causes. ;-)

Anyway, the diet thing is on-going and I plan to lose a little more (I’ve actually lost 8 more pounds since the photo above was taken), but I’m glad my “Jabba The Hutt” stage is behind me, and now it’s time for some news:

Thanks to Jon-Paul Douglas
Just a quick word of thanks to Jon-Paul for his excellent blog post yesterday. Having such a varied line-up of guest bloggers really expands the range of this blog, and I’m very grateful to have artists like Jon-Paul sharing their thoughts, ideas, and images with my readers.

More on Lenses on D-Town TV
Part 2 of our 4-part series on lenses will go live today on D-Town TV (Episode 17) and we pick up right where we left off last week. Here’s the link to watch it online.

My Take on the New Wacom Intuos 4 Tablets
My buddy, famous Landscape photographer Bill Fortney says that he’s gotten to a point in his career where the quality of light is so important, that he’ll look for great light first, and then once he finds it, then he’ll find something to shoot. I’ve gotten to a similar point in my photo retouching, but I just realized it the other day when I had to retouch a photo, and I was working at a machine that didn’t have a Wacom tablet attached. I really needed to have the image retouched right then, but I would rather wait until I could get to a machine with one of the new tablets, then even attempt to retouch it with a mouse. I now have the new Intuos 4 Tablet at my office, at my secondary office at our photo studio, and one at my house, and if I’m not at one of those three places—I’m not retouching anything. I’ve had a tablet for years, and I used to pull it out for serious retouching tasks, but since the Intous 4 tablet came out, I now use them all the time, and yes—the 4 made that big a difference. Also, I now carry the tablet with me on the road (Note to any camera bag manufacturer: I’ve got some great ideas on how to design a camera bag that would accomodate a laptop, an Intous 4 tablet, and all your camera gear. I’d totally endorse it, so give me a shout if you’re interested).


Great Book on Black & White in Photoshop & Lightroom
Last week I came across a book I hadn’t seen before on creating Black & White images in Photoshop and Lightroom, and so I took the book home for a quick look, and I really liked it (I’m a sucker for black and white—especially black t-shirts–wink, wink). Anyway, what first caught my eye were the great images in the book, and while I was admiring the images and flipping through the book, it finally dawned on me that one of the co-authors of the book was none other than Adobe’s own Senior Photoshop product manager, Bryan O’Neil Hughes. I don’t know how I missed that (and I later found out that the book isn’t brand new, even though it was new to me). Anyway, Bryan is a really great guy, a great photographer, and now he’s got a really great book (co-authored with photographer Leslie Alsheimer). The book is called “Black & White in Photoshop CS4 and Lightroom” and here’s the link to it on Barnes &, and

That’s it for today folks. Check back tomorrow for a first-look at some new technology for taking your existing studio gear out on location. Have a great Thursday everybody!


First I want to thank Brad Moore and Scott Kelby for inviting me along as a guest blogger. I’m flattered and excited to share some random insights about what I do. I would like to inform that I am a young digital born photographer that has been practicing for three years. I will try and keep this concise since the last thing I want to do is bore anyone with quotes and clich©s. If anyone has any technical questions about how I created an image please email me and I will get back to you with detailed specifics.


The title of photographer can mean so many things these days that I have come to dislike the question of, “What do you do for a living?" Nothing is more difficult than trying to explain the randomness that is my job. I sometimes reply, “Yes, weddings and stuff like that,” just to change the subject. It is not uncommon that a person who asks the question is, of course, also a photographer, and they immediately ask me which brand of camera I use. Ten minutes after trying to explain why I personally don’t care which brand is better, I am asked to take a group photo with a point and shoot camera because well…I’m a photographer.

a very quick bio.

When I was very young, I wanted to be a cartoonist and the evidence of that was all over my school work. During high school I could care less about anything that didn’t involve a skateboard. And in college, graphic design kept my interest for a short while until I began dabbling in film. During film school I found most of what I loved about film could be accomplished using one frame. I began coordinating photo shoots with friends to create film-like stills. I quickly realized that for the types of images that I wanted to create I needed to learn everything that I possibly could about lighting for photography.



Before a shoot I’ll sometimes sketch out how I want certain shots to be framed. This helps my subjects to better understand what I want from them.


I feel that I developed my style early because I knew what I wanted to create from the start. I feel that many photographers struggle with finding a style because they start a business purely based on the fact that they enjoy photographing, simply love photography gear, or are in it to make money. Looking at my style from a business standpoint, the images on my website are not always the best display for the job at hand. Sometimes I have thoughts of updating my site with a more diverse portfolio, but always decide to stay with what I love. The truth is, I do many types of photography whether it is product, lifestyle, weddings, editorial, documentary or advertising. I can easily say that I enjoy some jobs more than others although I am extremely lucky to be getting paid to create images at all. I choose the style I display in my portfolio as my identity because these are the images that I love and what I ultimately want to be hired for.





When I look at an image, I don’t want the first thing that I notice to be the light. I would much rather be confused as to how the light in an image was created, or whether it was lit at all. The photographers that I am most impressed by are ones that puzzle me with their process. I think that sometimes we forget, since we have access to many varieties of expensive portable strobes, that natural light could possibly be the best answer. One of my favorite things to do recently is to take one small strobe with me and limit myself to just that. I’ll use sunlight as my key and pop the tiny strobe on the subject’s hair or cheek to give the image a more three dimensional look. You can also use the available light as a hair/edge light and the strobe with a modifier as the key. I would say that ninety percent of the time I would rather have large studio strobes, but a hot-shoe flash on a stick/stand allows for virtually no set up at all and can save you when you are guerrilla shooting on location. It is amazing how much you can do with one light and knowledge of how to use it effectively.


One small strobe behind subject shot in an actual down pour.


One small strobe on ground and angled up camera left.


Here I set off all my battery pack would allow in my car.


I have been working full-time with this for roughly three years now. I owe most of my photographic knowledge to the endless amounts of information available on the web. Three years doesn’t seem like a long time, but when you’re hungry enough to constantly improve, there is nothing stopping you from teaching yourself. I don’t scour the web looking for pointers the way that I used to, I mainly just learn from happy accidents or thinking up a technique and giving it a try. I used to get nervous before each shoot and wondered if I was going to be able to deliver. After countless jobs, I can say that a client has never been displeased and I always try to deliver far more than is expected of me. If I struggle with anything today it is mastering photography as a business. Unfortunately being a successful photographer isn’t purely based on photographic talent, but knowing how to conduct a proper business as well. I think that I myself, as much as the next person would much rather study their craft than read practices on how to promote it. I have become better at my business over time but I think that everyone faces similar challenges when their work is also their play.




So I think I’ve taken up enough of your time and I thank you all for your interest. I’d like to thank Brad and Scott again for allowing me to go on a rant here. I have tried to mix it up a bit with the images chosen for this blog, but if you would like to see more you can visit my website and also keep up with me on my blog.



Hi folks. It’s Tuesday, and time for some news:


  • The Best of Photoshop User TV, Volume 2 now on DVD
    We released Volume 2 of “The Best of Photoshop User TV” on DVD (shown above) and it’s packed with the best tutorials and tips from the last couple of years on the air, and it features “The Photoshop Guys” (Me, Matt Kloskowski and Dave Cross). Besides the tons of tutorials, there’s also a hilarious blooper reel (read as humiliating) and that alone is worth the price of the DVD (not really). However, it is filled with more than two hours of nothing but our best tutorials from the show, and you can order yours right here.
  • Worldwide Photo Walk “Add Your City” Deadline This Thursday
    The deadline for applying to have a walk in your city is coming up this Thursday, June 18th, so if you’ve been thinking of leading a walk—better apply for one now (here’s the link).
  • Photo Walk Update
    1. First, big news: We’ve added yet another sponsor to my Worldwide Photo Walk and they (like the rest of the sponsors) have added some sweet prizes to the photo contest part of the walk. Please join me in welcoming X-Rite (link) as a sponsor, who has graciously sweetened the Grand Prize by adding a ColorMunki Photo, and now each of the 10 finalists will get an X-rite mini color checker as well. Sweet!
    2. We have now passed 14,000 walkers, and we have nearly 870 walks scheduled around the world. I hope you can join us (it’s free!). Here’s the link to join a walk in your city.
    3. We have a number of countries that have multiple walks in different cities, including: Canada, India, Australia, Mexico, Thailand, The UK, Spain, The Netherlands, South Africa, Sweden and The Philippines.
  • New iPhone Remote App for Nikon Cameras In The Works over at OnOne
    We talked with our buddy Mike Wong over at OnOne Software yesterday, and he let us know they’re developing an iPhone-based wireless camera release for Nikon cameras, similar to what they did last month for Canon cameras (here’s the link). I’ll let you know as soon as its available (and a big hats-off to OnOne and Mike for taking the initiative to create more cool tools for photographers).
  • Springs of Hope Kenya Orphanage Update
    I heard from Molly Bail, the woman behind the Springs of Hope Kenya Orphanage (link) with an update on the building progress. Although they hoped to open on June 1st, apparently building projects don’t move as quickly in Kenya as they’d hoped. They still have some electrical and painting to do and lots of finishing work, but Molly seems very hopeful that everything will be done by August. They are still feeding and caring for the children in the meantime, but by August they’ll finally have a roof over their head (thanks to the efforts of so many people from this blog. In fact, another $500 check came in from a reader just this week). I’ll keep you guys updated on the progress as I hear from Molly.
  • New “Illustrator CS4 for Beginners” Online Class from Dave Cross
    We released a new online class over at Kelby Training Online from our own Dave Cross, and if you’ve ever wanted to really learn Adobe Illustrator, this is your chance because Dave does an amazing job of getting you up and running fast. Here’s the link with class descriptions.
  • Tomorrow’s Special Guest Blogger is…..
    ….Orlando, Florida-based portrait photographer Jon-Paul Douglas. My assistant/digitaltechguy/photowalkblogger/DTownTVtecheditor Brad Moore first turned me onto to Jon-Paul’s work (here’s the link) and his blog (here’s that link) earlier this year and he’s incredibly creative in both pursuits. If you’ve got a minute, make sure you check out his portfolio (I particularly like the way his images fill the entire window. What a great way to show your work!), and then make sure you’re back here tomorrow to check out his special guest blog.

That’s it for this Tuesday, folks. I’ll see you back here on Thursday for my most embarrassing photo yet. Yikes! Have a great day everybody. :)


When we started planning this year’s walk, I had a meeting with my staff about finding a way to use this worldwide event to help feed the children at the Springs of Hope Kenya Orphanage (an orphanage that the readers of this blog have adopted, and helped to build over the past year, and it’s scheduled to open in just over a month).

We were looking at different ideas, when out of the blue an email came in from Rob over at Towner Jones Photography with an incredible idea; create an official Photo Walk T-shirt and have the profits from the sale of the shirts go to “Springs of Hope, Kenya.” As soon as I read his email, I knew this was it!

Well, with lots of Rob’s logistical help (and some clever design work from our own Nicole Procunier), we now have two official shirt designs to choose from, seen above [click for a larger view] along with some other cool Photo Walk gear.

For each Official World Wide Photo Walk t-shirt you order, $5.00 will go to the Springs of Hope, Kenya orphanage. Here’s the link to Rob’s page to order yours, and not only do you get a cool shirt, you get to help feed some kids who so need our on-going help.


NOTE: There are also special t-shirts just for walk leaders with your choice of fronts, but they include our new official Worldwide Photo Walk logo design and the word “LEADER” in big letters on the back (as seen above). You can find those here.

A big, big thanks to Rob at Towner Jones Photography for coming up with the idea to help the kids at the orphanage, and seeing this project all the way through (here’s a link to Rob’s blog). Also, my thanks in advance to everyone who buys one of the shirts to feed some very deserving children.