Monthly Archives December 2009


Scott Bourne over at the Photo Focus podcast was kind enough (read as: crazy enough) to have me on as his Guest host this week, and we just had a ball fielding all sorts of questions from his listeners.

We really covered some interesting and varied topics, so if you’ve got a few minutes, head over there and check it out—-Scott is a teriffic host and I think you’ll enjoy it (OK, when I said “Scott” that time I was talking about Scott Bourne). :)

Here’s the link (and thanks to Scott for having me on).


Picking up where Part One left off, and just barely in time for the Holidays, here’s “Scott’s Gonzo Holiday Gear Guide, Part 2” chock full of more cool Holiday gear (featuring stuff I couldn’t fit in the printed version, which appeared as the December cover story in Photoshop User magazine).


Epson Photo Paper

This is one of those gifts that every photographer is tickled to get because it’s they’re always either running out of photo-quality paper, or they’re really careful about rationing it, because they’re relatively expensive. Give them a pack of nice 13×19″ photo paper (provided they have an Epson 1900 or 2800, or 2880), and now they have the luxury of printing a few extra sheets without cutting into their stash. Try either a 50-sheet pack of the 13×19″ Epson Premium Luster for around $88 at or if this is for someone really special go for 25 sheets of the Exhibition Fiber Paper for around $90 from Amazon. Either will be a hit.


A Gift Subscription To Digital Photo Pro Magazine

I love this magazine, and I really look forward to every issue. Very well written, and it always has a lot of inspiring images. It’s aimed more at the pro photographer, but there’s lot in there for nearly everyone. It’s a great value too, with their 1-year (7 issues) gift subscription going for around $20 (US). Here’s the link.


The ‘Best Camera’ iPhone App and the Book “Best Camera” by Chase Jarvis

This is a one-two punch that’s aimed at any photographer with an iPhone. First, the App is called “Best Camera” (designed by famous photographer Chase Jarvis) and it’s fantastic. It looks and works like something Apple would have designed themselves, and it’s one of the only photo Apps I use these days. The book “The Best Camera is the one that’s with you” is a collection of Chase’s own iPhone photography, and once you see what can be done with just an iPhone, it’s really inspiring. For the App part of this deal, just buy a $15 iTunes Store gift certificate (here’s the link), which will even leave enough for them to buy a few songs, since the App itself is only $2.99. Then, buy the book, which sells for around $15 at Barnes & Noble or They will totally dig this two-part gift.


Vision Mongers by David DuChemin

This is the latest book I’ve been reading, which is a book about the business of photography, and it gives great insights (including interviews with several very successful famous photographers), and it’s perfect for anyone on your gift list that really wants to make a go of photography for a living. Very well done. You can find it at, Barnes & Noble, or any major bookseller.


Magnetic Photo Rope

We have these in our offices and we LOVE ’em! You just tack one of these 58″ long cables to the wall, and tiny magnets hold your photos to the cable (it’s really brilliantly designed when you see it). Everybody always comments on them, and best of all, they’re really inexpensive, at only $12 each (nice discounts if you buy more than one). From the very cool folks at


Elinchrom Ranger Quadra Location Lighting Kit

If you really want to blow somebody away, nothing says I love you like a really awesome lighting kit, and this my friends, is really awesome. It’s the Ranger Quadra from Elinchrom, and this is the same one we use at NAPP HQ and we love it so much now we’re not sure how we lived without it. It’s two flash heads and an incredibly small, lightweight battery pack giving you studio quality light anywhere. Incredibly compact, really great stuff. By the way, incredibly great really compact stuff doesn’t come cheap. The two-light kit I recommend is around $2,175 over at B&H Photo (hey, I had to have at least one mega-gonzo gift on here, right?). Here’s the link.


Lastolite Kickerlite

I talked about this one earlier this year and it rocks because instead of just reflecting light (like a standard reflector), you mount a strobe on it, and then you have full control over light that would have just be reflecting, so you get coverage, and a wonderful glow for your subject, that’s just hard to beat. It’s really compact, and not too expensive, at around $207 at B&H Photo. Here’s the link.

Well folks, that’s it for some last-minute Gonzo Gear you can probably still snag before Christmas. Hope Santa brings you one of each. :-)

Being an artist sucks. Being an artist is awesome.

Trey’s new book “A World in HDR” has just been released. Besides a practical tutorial on HDR, there is ample discussion on new ways to look at art and the internet. This experiment started a number of years ago when he first got started sharing his HDR Tutorial. Below is an extended exposition on some of these thoughts. Send him your thoughts on Twitter at @TreyRatcliff .

How have we all gotten ourselves into this situation? What is going on with being an artist on the Internet anyway?

Let’s face it. There are multiple people that live inside of us. One of us cares what other people think. One of us could care less what other people think. One of us really wants to make money. One of us really does it for the art.

I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s, when having “multiple personalities” was seen as something horrible and possibly dangerous. We all know one of Sybil’s personalities was a bloodthirsty murderer, and if we couldn’t control them, what could we possibly do when we have the occasional dire thought?

I’m here to talk about all these personalities and why the cacophony can be an incredible source of inspiration and drive.

Just Find Some Beauty

I’ll start this article by telling you the important conclusion: root out the beauty from the chaos. Throughout this treatise, I’ll sprinkle in pretty images I’ve taken over the years. Despite all the psychological delving herein, it’s nice to be reminded that beauty exists. Some of you may know that I am heavily influenced by the Impressionists of the late 19th century, and in particular by Auguste Renoir, who said, “To my mind a picture should be something pleasant, cheerful and pretty. Yes, pretty! There are too many unpleasant things in life as it is without creating still more of them.”

Farewell India - The Taj Mahal
Farewell India – The Taj Mahal

Why do we care what other people think?

Aren’t we independent thinkers? Do we really care if (more…)


A couple of weeks ago, a friend emailed me a link to a photographer’s portfolio and he wanted to know what I thought of this guy’s work.

I followed the link and in his portfolio he had different categories there (landscape, wedding, portraits, travel, etc.) so I clicked on portraits, and a large main image appeared alongside a grid with 20 smaller thumbnails. At the bottom of the page he also had a link to a 2nd, 3rd, and 4th page of his portrait images.

After spending a few minutes going through his portrait galleries, here’s what I thought:

On page 1 of his portrait gallery I thought, “Hey, this guy is really good.”
On page 2, I thought, “Well, I guess he’s pretty good”
By page 3, I thought, “Gees, some of these aren’t all that good.”
By page 4, I thought, “Man, this guy has some pretty lame stuff”

Now, before we go any further, here’s what I’d like to ask that photographer (with some likely answers):

Q. Which images wind up on the first page of your portfolio?
A. My best images—of course.

Q. So, if you take a new photo that’s better than any of the photos you currently have on your front page, what do you do?
A. I take the weakest photo from the 1st page and move it to the 2nd page.

Q. That makes sense. So, basically the images on 2nd page of your portfolio are the ones that aren’t quite good enough to be on the front page, or they’d still be on the front page, right?
A. Well, yeah I guess.

Q. So what’s on your third page?
A. Ummmmm.

Q. You’ve obviously taken much better photos than these back on the third page, or these would at least be on your 2nd page, right?

A. Uh, I suppose.

Q. OK, now what about the photos on your 4th page? I guess these weren’t as good as any of your previous 60 images, so this is basically the bottom of your barrel (so to speak)?
A. I really hadn’t thought of it that way.

Q. Why do you even have a fourth page? It’s a page where all your worst portfolio images are presented to the public?
A. I dunno.

Q. So take a step backward now; Why do you have a third page?
A. Hey, I like some of those images!

Q. Then why aren’t they on your second page? Aren’t they good enough to be on your 2nd page?
A. I guess not.

Q. So why do you have a second page at all? These are photos that you admit aren’t your best work. Why show your 2nd rate stuff at all?
A. I dunno.

Q. If you narrowed your portfolio down to just your 20 or 24 absolute all-time best images in each category, what would people think of you as a photographer?
A. [long pause]….I know, I know, but it’s really hard narrowing it down like that. Some of these photos mean a lot to me.

Q. Then maybe you should have someone else narrow it down for you, right?
A. I guess that would work.

Now, let’s jump back to before we started the Q&A. If he had only posted one page of portraits, I would have only seen his 20 very best photos, and then I would have based my opinion of his work solely on those and left his site thinking, “Man, this guy is great!!!!”

But instead, I also saw lots of his 2nd and 3rd rate shots, and even some of his so-so work, too, so instead I left thinking, “I dunno, I guess he’s OK. I mean, he does have some good images, but the majority (60 or so images of the 80) weren’t all that great.”

Changing Perceptions
I just went through this with a photographer friend of mine last year. He was shooting one style of photography, so he had 80 photos (4 pages full), and I told him the same story I’m telling you today. He said there was no way he could trim it down to just the first page of photos. He told me he just simply couldn’t do it.

But the next day, after thinking about what I said, he called me and asked if I would do it for him—would I narrow his portfolio down to just 20? I obliged, and I took a screen capture of each page, and put a big red “X” through each one I thought wasn’t his best work, leaving only the 20 best one–the ones that would wind up on his home page.

Naturally, almost all of the ones I chose were already on the 1st page (because like most folks—his best work was already there), though I did find a few gems on the 2nd page; one from the 3rd, and nothing from the 4th page.

He was really reluctant at first, and he tried to defend an image that I had cut here and there, but to his credit—he did it—he took it down to just 20. The next day, he called me to let me know that now, after the emotional trauma of making those tough cuts, he was really happy he did it.

A few weeks later he called to tell me that trimming down his portfolio turned out to be the best thing he had done for his photography in years. He was already getting not only more offers for work, but better quality jobs as well. He has thanked me (and I’m not exaggerating) at least 10 separate times since then, and now he’s the biggest proponent of “less is more” when it comes to your portfolio, and he’s a total evangelist for only showing your best work. Now he convinces others to do the same thing.

Do Some Research
Check out the online portfolios of the big name photographers whose work you admire. You may not love every single image in their portfolio, but you can be sure of one thing—there’s not a “stinker” in the bunch. They’re all “page 1” photos, because successful pros are experts at editing things down so they’re just showing their very best images. They limit the number of images so every one’s a winner. Every pro takes 2nd rate shots sometimes—-you just never see them because (come on everybody, say it with me), “They only show their best work.”

You can do the same thing, then sit back watch how this this changes people’s perception of you as a photographer, and how it impacts your business. You will be amazed.

Important Disclaimers:
I’m not saying you can’t have 80 photos in your portfolio if you shoot multiple styles. I’m saying don’t have 80 in a single category (like 80 wedding photos, then 80 portraits, then 80 travel photos, etc.). Nobody needs 240 photos in their portfolio. Also, if you just shoot one style of photography, then try just going with 20 or 24 photos of your very best stuff.

(b) Don’t post a comment pleading the case that all 80 images are your best work—that they’re all equal in quality, and that one isn’t better than another so you can’t narrow them down. You won’t find anyone that agrees with you (especially a potential client).

(c) If you use flickr as your portfolio, go back and look a few pages deep. Chances are a lot of these photos are your old work, since people tend to post to flickr in the order they took the shots. Also, chances are you are a lot better today, and are taking better shots, than you were a year ago, so get rid of those shots you took when you weren’t as good as your are today.

(d) If you’re one of these photographers that has multiple-pages of photos like this, please don’t post a comment telling us why you just have to have all of them there, or about the time you got a job because the image a client fell in love with a photo on your 4th page. The story you’ll never be able to tell is of how many jobs you didn’t get because a potential client left once they got to your third page.

(e) If you disagree with all this—no sweat. Just leave your 80+ photos as is. It won’t change my fortunes one bit (but it just might yours). ;-)


I just found out that my latest book, “The iPod Book” is now in bookstores (and available from online booksellers, too).

bk_ipod_6thThe book is written in the exact same style and layout as my books, “The Digital Photography Book,” (with just one topic per page, and a photo to go along with every topic), so if you’re familiar with that book (or volumes 2 or 3), you’ll feel right at home with this one.

This is the sixth edition of the book, and this time around I did a pretty massive update to the book to reflect what iPod users are doing now, and I really worked hard on making the whole iPod/iTunes experience really simple and fun, and a lot of the book is dedicated to the iPod nano and iPod touch, and I cover all the latest iPods and how to get the most from them. It’s in bookstores now, or you can buy yours now online, in time for Christmas, at Barnes & or (it sells for around $14).


iphon3The iPhone Book
This one, which I co-authored with one of my very best friends and total iPhone guru, Terry White, and if you’ve got an iPhone, or know someone who has an iPhone, they will totally dig this book, which (like the iPod book above), uses the same format, writing style, and layout as my Digital Photography Book series. You can find it at Barnes &, or (it sells for around $12. Cheap!).


allthreeThe Digital Photography Book Boxed Set (Vols. 1,2, & 3)
If you want to give a boxed set of all three of my Digital Photography Books (Volumes 1, 2 & 3), you can get a pretty sweet deal on the set at Barnes & (the boxed three-book set sells for around $50).


d&dtMy Photoshop & Lightroom Books
Of course, my Photoshop CS4 Book for Digital Photographers book might make a nice gift, or my Lightroom 2 Book for Digital Photographers, or maybe my Photoshop CS4 Down & Dirty Tricks Book (or hey—-why not all three)? If you use Photoshop Elements 8, take a look at my book, “The Elements 8 Book for Digital Photographers,” which I co-authored with Matt Kloskowski. You can find these, and all my books, at Barnes &, or