Monthly Archives April 2010

I recently co-taught a Landscape/Adventure Sports workshop out in Moab, Utah with famous adventure photographer Tom Bol (and just all around nice guy). The class was great, the weather was great and we had a blast. But on the way back I started thinking about some lessons I’ve learned along these trips so I figured I’d share them with you today.

NOTE: Click on the photos to see them larger

Lesson 1 – Get up earlier than you think
The formula is simple. Get there 1 hour before sunrise. Plain and simple. You never know what snags you’ll hit (road blocks, detours, equipment). What happens if you’re on your way and you realize you forgot a lens or your tripod. If you have to turn around you’re screwed – you’ve missed sunrise because you left no extra time. But there’s another big reason to leave earlier than you think. If you happen to be going to a popular shooting location you’d better bet everyone else will have left early. Imagine walking up to a great sunrise shoot and seeing this.

Getting there early could be the difference between getting this shot of Mesa Arch (in Canyonlands National Park)


…or this shot


When I took the first photo, we were there about an hour before sunrise – the first ones at the spot. The second one was taken on another trip and several of the good spots were already gone. It’s not horrible but certainly not the shot we go there for. This next photo was taken at another sunrise shoot. What you can’t see are the 10 people standing on the ledge next to me and the guy’s foot (from a ledge above) I had to clone out on the far left side. Had we got there any later, there wouldn’t have been any places left to shoot from.

The moral of the story is that if you’re going to get up early, then do it right and get up really early. There’s no way around it. You’re gonna be tired whether you get up at 4am or 5am right?

Lesson 2 – Get ready the night before
I can’t stress this one enough. When you wake up at 4am you’re going to be in no condition to start gathering things. Trust me, I’m a morning person and I still don’t have the mental capacity to think that early. So get your stuff ready the night before. Pack your bag, pack your car if possible (as long as the car is in a safe place) and make it so all you have to do is roll out of bed, grab your coffee (or Coke Zero) and head to the shoot. Heck, I even sleep in my clothes, hiking boots, and photography vest so I’m totally ready when I get up. Just remember to take any lens filters out of your pockets so you don’t crush them while you sleep (I’m kidding – those filters are stronger than you think ) ;)

Lesson 3 – Shoot & Move
I’ve been on a lot of sunrise shoots and I’ve seen this happen plenty of times. A photographer sets up their tripod and shoots the sunrise. But they stay in the same exact spot and shoot that sunrise to death. 756 frames later they’ve only got one actual photo to show for it. Instead, when you arrive early (see #1 above), scout a few other locations near your ideal sunrise spot. Shoot the “official” sunrise for 3-4 minutes and move on while the light is still good. Hit another location and shoot there for 2-3 minutes and move on again. You’ll be amazed at how many great “sweet light” shots you can get within the first 10 minutes of the sun coming up or going down. Here’s a photo taken just a 60 second walk from where I set up to shoot sunrise one morning (pssst the official “sunrise” photo I took first that morning never made it to my portfolio but this one did). If I hadn’t moved when I did, I would have never captured this with such nice light on it.

Lesson 4 – Try Photographing People
Photographers taking photos in a dramatic location can be great subjects. You can make a lot of these photos while you’re waiting for the light to get good (or after it gets bad).

There’s also lots of opportunities to take photos of people in cool landscape locations. For example, in my Moab workshop the other week we shot some mountain bikers. Moab is basically home to mountain biking. What better place to shoot awesome riders in some killer locations.


As I mentioned earlier, I co-taught this workshop with Tom Bol. He brought along his Elinchrom Ranger Quadra battery packs and heads so we were able to do some really fun off-camera flash stuff during the day. Combine the edgy lighting with some post-processing effects it made for some great shots.


Lesson 5 – It’s all about luck
This is perhaps the most important lesson of all. A good friend of mine, Bill Fortney (one of the greatest landscape photographers I know) has a very cool story to demonstrate this lesson. He was once asked “Bill, how do I get photos like yours?” He told the person that they probably weren’t going to like the answer but it was very simple in nature. He said the way to get photos like his was to go to every one of those landscape monuments and national parks 25 times over the course of their life. At some point, the weather, conditions, clouds, sun, light, etc will all fall into alignment for you to get that great shot. Simply put, great landscape photos involve a lot of luck. And I mean A LOT! If you’re out on a portrait or studio shoot and things aren’t going right, you have a bunch of factors you can change. You can change location, wardrobe, and even lighting if you’re comfortable enough to use flash. But with landscapes, there’s not a darn thing you can do if you get out there and the fog is thicker than pea soup. If you’ve traveled to that location from a far distance it’s even more disappointing. Here’s an example of a photo taken on our Friday night sunset shoot during that same Moab/Arches workshop I’ve been talking about. The light was kinda bla for sunset and the sun died out behind a cloud before creating any of that really nice color.


As Bill alludes to above, persistence is the key. On my way out of town the following evening I was all set to make the 4-hour drive to Salt Lake City. I saw the makings of a good sunset though so I stopped at the same place we were at the night before. Things turned out much better this time around.




I love landscape photography. There’s something about bringing back a magnificent scene and showing it to those that just aren’t able to get out there and see it for themselves. Landscapes don’t talk back, they don’t ask for more money or flake out and pull a no-show on you and when they’re “on”, all you have to do is set up your camera and capture the beauty. Thanks for reading everyone. Have a great Tuesday!


For quite a few years now at my live seminars I’ve been saying that one of the challenges with learning new techniques in Photoshop is that we are creatures of habit. We tend to do things the way we always have, because, well, we just do.

In an effort to figure out how to our Photoshop habits are formed I went looking for more information on habits, and found the following (interestingly enough on a blog by Ian Newby-Clark called “Creatures of Habit”).

“As creatures, we have needs. We need to eat, and so we eat. As rather intelligent and social creatures, we like to chat with one another, and so we do. We take turns and finish our conversations gracefully. And there are dozens and dozens more behaviors that are just as complicated, if not more so. How on Earth do we get all of this done?

That’s where habits come in. Habits help us through our day. When we are doing something that is habitual, we are not engaged in the task in the same way as when we are doing something that is not habitual. Just as an example, consider making breakfast in your own kitchen on any given weekday. Next time you do it, watch how effortlessly it happens. It’s not exactly like an out-of-body experience, but it’s close. Your movements through the kitchen are stereotyped. You grab the milk out of the fridge, turn toward the counter and give the door that little nudge you with your foot that you know it needs. If something is on your mind, you might not notice that you’re sitting at the table and munching on your second piece of toast until you’re halfway through it. Now, compare that to getting breakfast at a friend’s house. Maybe you’re dog sitting (you’re so nice!) Where’s the milk? The bread? Oh my goodness, so complicated!”

So true, right? At home we do things almost unconsciously, to some degree “going through the motions”.

I think for many of us, working in Photoshop (or that other program that starts with L) is the same. We open a photo and immediately go into our habitual methods of cloning, brightening, fixing or editing. Unfortunately, sometimes that may mean that we are missing out on methods that are faster, easier, more accurate or more flexible because these “new” techniques involve change.

Here’s an example: for years I’ve been preaching the non-destructive workflow idea, using layers and making merged copies rather than flattening. I would keep my layers and then press Command-Option-Shift E (PC: Ctrl-Alt-Shift-E) to make a merged copy, giving me the equivalent of a flattened layer but with all the layers below. Problem is, if you need to make any changes to the underlying layers you have to delete the merged layer and make a new one once you’ve made that changed. It works fine, and it’s definitely better that flattening.

So that’s been a habit of mine. Almost happens without thinking sometimes.

Then the other day it struck me that it would be much easier better faster more efficient to use a Smart Object. (In case you’ve been hiding under a rock – or Photoshop 7 – Smart Objects have been around the last few versions of Photoshop). So I tried taking multiple layers and making them into a Smart Object before continuing to edit. (Insert Angels singing sound here). Wow! So much simpler, and yet it took me a while (and some effort) to break my old habit and try this.

(Here’s a tutorial I recorded for the NAPP site, complete with one of my traditional goofy endings)

So the point is, where the pressure’s on to get something done, we tend to go with the tried-and-true ways: our habits. And while there’s nothing wrong with that, I encourage you – neigh, I challenge you – to try some of the new features of Photoshop (or even existing tools and techniques that you’ve never tried). Maybe you’ll find some great timesavers that will become part of your new work habits…until the next version of Photoshop comes along. Then maybe it’ll be time to break those habits and develop some new ones.


We all like Scott’s Q&A posts right? You know, the ones where he asks questions to himself? Well I thought it’d be cool to do a Scott Kelby styled Q&A post about Scott himself. Here goes: (Warning – My jokes are much worse! ;))

Q. Come on Matt, you’re not as funny a guy as Scott is. Do you really think you’ll be able to pull off a Scott Kelby-styled Q&A?
A. (Cat sound!). Hey! Starting off by insulting me won’t get you anywhere. You’re probably right though, but I’m gonna give it a try anyway.

Q. OK, I’ll give you a shot and continue reading.
A. That’s not a question, but thanks – you’re all heart.

Q. So is Scott really as funny in person as he is on the blog and on your podcast?
A. Absofreakinlutely! Actually I think he’s funnier. Whenever we sit down for a meeting, the first 10-15 minutes (or 45 minutes sometimes) is just a lot of joking. You can only imagine what it’s like to plan a Photoshop World keynote event. It makes it hard to keep a schedule at work, but it sure makes for one fun place to come to every day.

Q. What time does Scott go to sleep?
A. How should I know? What kind of weirdo do you think I am?

Q. Sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you?
A. It’s OK.

Q. Really?
A. No. That’s actually your second strike between the “not as funny” comment above and this whole weird bed-time thing. One more and I’m outta here.

Q. Really?
A. No. I’m the one writing the questions. There probably won’t be a third strike.

Q. OK, then let me rephrase this so as to not upset you (you seem cranky today). It seems like Scott must be up until all hours of the night?
A. I’ll let the “cranky” thing slide for now :) Honestly, I think it varies as it does with a lot of people. When he’s in the midst of writing a book, I’ve seen emails come in from him as late as 3:30am. When things are slightly slower (which they never really are) I’d be willing to guess he turns in between 12-1am on most nights.

Q. What could he possibly being doing up that late every night?
A. Working. You’ve got to remember that Scott is the co-owner of a 75 person company. During the day he’s pretty much hit with meeting after meeting and lots of other things that need to get done to keep the company running. Besides being a business owner, he’s also a content guy. So that content (books, DVDs, articles, blog posts, videos) needs to get done at some point. When every one else is asleep is usually a good time to do it.

Q. If he’s always that busy, how does he ever see his family?
A. Family is his #1 priority. As much as he works, he spends just as much time with his wife and kids. It’s kinda like the old saying “Work hard, play hard”. He’s often in a meeting at 4pm and looks at his watch and says “Gotta go to my son’s soccer game” and 20 seconds later he’s in the car. He’s chaperoned his kid’s field trips, and makes it a point to pick his little girl up every week from pre-school and have lunch with her. They take frequent family vacations (and I mean the whole family – grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and all) every summer. So yeah, he works hard but he also spends a lot of time with the family in ways that the typical 9-5 job doesn’t allow for.

Q. I’ve heard rumors that Scott plays Call of Duty – Modern Warfare 2 on the Xbox 360. Is that true?
A. Sadly yes. A bunch of us here in the office play (and Scott’s son too). We usually get on at night and kill each other with the M16 Assault Rifle (with the Red Dot site and attached grenade launcher of course). Scott’s the kinda guy that takes personal pleasure in launching an AC-130 attack against his employees.

Q. Is Scott any good at the game?
A. Can you define “good”?

Q. You know, it means the opposite of “does he suck”?
A. Oh! Um… yeah he’s really good!

Q. Do you have to say that?
A. Yup :)
(I’m totally kidding – he’s actually gotten very good)

Q. OK, moving on. Scott seems to write a lot of stuff. Does he use a ghost writer?
A. No way! That’s a common question though because he cranks out so much. I have to admit, when I first started working here at Kelby Media Group nearly 6 years ago, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I thought I’d be doing some writing for Scott and other various things. I quickly came to find out that you are responsible for your success here. If you do it, YOUR name goes on it. Plain and simple. He writes all of his blog posts (unless otherwise noted) and he writes all of his books. If there’s a co-author you can bet that he split the work 50/50. And if he uses excerpts or ideas from other people you can be sure they are thanked gratuitously throughout the book.

Q. OK so he writes a lot. But who’s Scott’s favorite author?
A. Without a doubt, that Matt Kloskowski guy :) But besides Matt, Scott likes any book by Seth Godin.

Q. Does he wear any color shirt other than black?
A. Only on Tampa Bay Bucs game days. I’ve seen a few non-black Bucs shirts but that’s about it.

Q. Does he wear any t-shirts without logos?
A. Nope. I’ve even heard that he sleeps in an “MPIX Rocks!” t-shirt.

Q. What’s Scott’s favorite drink?
A. Coke Zero I believe.

Q. No I meant alcoholic drink.
A. I know. He actually doesn’t drink alcohol. I’ve never seen him have a drink other than a small glass of wine. In fact, a story goes that he was in Japan with his buddy Dave (not Dave Cross) meeting on some training opportunities. Apparently singing Karaoke and drinking saki is customary at night. In hopes to not offend any of his hosts who were pouring saki shots for him, he secretly gave Dave the drinks (while Dave was also busy drinking his own). Dave was totally hammered that night (and may have not known his name) but Scott remained 100% sober :)

Q. OK, can you give me 5 things that most people wouldn’t know about Scott?
1) Scott’s a black belt in Taekwondo
2) Last concert seen: Bon Jovi
3) He doesn’t fluently speak another language but he practices Spanish a lot
4) Favorite Burger is from In-N-Out Burger (but I’m trying to win him over to Five Guys).
5) He does a killer French accent. Heck, he does about 5-6 accents that sound dead-on to the real thing.

Q. Sounds like you think Scott is a good guy?
A. Honestly, from a career standpoint Scott has helped me more than I ever thought possible. Bigger than that though, you know what makes working with him so cool? I’ve gotten one heck-of-a good friend in the process too. He’d give you the shirt off his back (as long as you liked black) if you asked him. We talk business a lot. Partly because we both love the business that we’re in, and partly because there’s just a lot to talk about. But it’s the times where Scott has me and a bunch of the guys over on a Sunday to watch the Bucs play, or 1:30am at In-N-Out Burger, or driving through the Arizona desert somewhere that we have the best time. He’s just fun to hang out with and anyone that knows him thinks the same thing.

That’s it for today. Have a great weekend everyone!

Rack of Lamb Photo by Scott Kelby // Camera Photo by Brad Moore

[Note: This is a slightly edited recent post from my blog. Scott liked it and suggested I share it here as well!]

If you’ve been in the photography business very long, you know it’s about way more than just being able to work behind the camera. There are tons of moving parts that you have to maintain in order to be successful.

Lately I’ve been watching Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. In this show, Chef Gordon Ramsay (also of Hell’s Kitchen fame) goes into failing restaurants and helps turn them around. After watching a few episodes, it’s easy to pick up on the key things that make for a successful restaurant.

But these things aren’t just what make restaurants successful, they’re what make businesses successful.

And many of these things can easily apply to the photo business, so here we go…


Six Things I’ve Learned from Kitchen Nightmares:

1) Product Quality Is King
99% of the time, the food in these failing restaurants is terrible. No amount of ambiance and decor will bring back returning customers if the product sucks. Some of these restaurants even cut back on the quality of the food when they struggle, yet still charge the same prices they’ve always charged.

As photographers, we need to provide the best quality product we possibly can and charge accordingly. People are willing to pay for a quality product. If they’re not, they may not be the customers you want. But if they’re happy with their experience, they’ll keep coming back. They’ll also tell their friends and family about you.

2) Be Unique
Sometimes Chef Ramsay will completely transform the restaurant if it’s in the middle of an over-saturated market. He’ll look at the competition in the surrounding area determine what isn’t there that could thrive in the town. Maybe it’s an affluent town without a steakhouse, so the restaurant become a steakhouse. Or maybe they just need to be known for a specialty, like fresh homemade pasta or mozzarella, family-style dining, or a great raw bar.

Look at your market. Who are your competitors? What can you do that they’re not doing? What holes are in the market that you could fill? What’s the one thing that could make you stand out from everyone else? Don’t be afraid to be different. Think outside of the box. Be a trendsetter. Just be careful… There’s a fine line between unique and weird. ;-)

3) Don’t Be All Things To All People
Bloated menus are a common problem in these failing restaurants. They try to appeal to a wide variety of people by offering a wide variety of dishes. The result is an unfocused chef who is trying to juggle too many types of food in the kitchen, which slows them down. This leaves customers waiting far too long for food they end up being unsatisfied with because of its diminished quality.

In cases like these, Chef Ramsay will simplify the menu so that it focuses on a certain type of food and streamlines the process in the kitchen. This decreases prep time in the kitchen and helps the chef focus on fewer dishes. Customers receive their food more quickly and are much more satisfied in the end.

Do you know any photographers who shoot baby portraits, engagement portraits, weddings, concerts, football games, food, products, and still life? How stressed are they most of the time? Is it because they’re always super busy? Because they’re struggling to pay the rent? Could it be because they’re unable to focus on doing one thing really well?

Pick the type of photography you enjoy doing most and focus on that. If you enjoy it, it will show in the end product and your clients will be happier.  Otherwise you’ll always be pulled in fifteen different directions, and all of your endeavors will suffer.

4) Décor and Ambiance
I’ve only seen one episode in which a struggling restaurant didn’t get a complete interior makeover. And even that one had other minor updates. Common problems range from being outdated to uninviting to just plain ugly.  No one wants to spend hours eating dinner in a place where they feel uncomfortable.

If you have an office or storefront, make it an inviting place that people enjoy visiting. If you only have a website, make sure it’s designed with relevance to your audience in mind. Don’t ask yourself who your audience is, but who you want your audience to be.

A perfect example of this is He explains in depth on his blog why he made every single design and functionality choice when undergoing a redesign. Some people would say he made a bad choice in building a Flash-based website, but those aren’t the people he cares about. He’s going after art directors who are sitting at their desks in front of their 30″ Cinema Displays, so that’s who he made the site for – people who potentially will be signing checks, not online forum-dwellers sitting in their parents’ basements.

5) Here’s Your Sign
Along with the décor makeover, Chef Ramsay often replaces the sign outside the restaurant.  Why?

The sign is a potential customer’s first encounter with the restaurant. It could either draw them in or make them decide to drive on by.

As photographers, our brand is our sign. Our branding defines who we are, and vice versa. It makes clients say, “Oh he’s that kind of photographer!” as soon as they see it. This includes our logo, the style or look of our photography, the feel of our website, our business cards, and even our interactions with clients.

Know who you are as a photographer, and let that dictate your branding. Otherwise we’re trying to be something we’re not.

6) Denial Is A Killer
[This one wasn’t in my original post, but was pointed out by Jon Diener in the comments (thanks Jon!).]

Almost every single one of the restaurant owners on this show is in denial about something. They don’t think their food is bad, there’s nothing wrong with the way they’re managing things, their kitchen isn’t dirty, people love the oversized portions, New Jerseyans love to eat in the middle of a tropical jungle… Any number of things.

[By the way, this is the part of the show that always dumbfounds me. Your restaurant is failing, so you call someone who obviously knows what they’re doing for help. When he shows up and tells you how to fix things, you tell him he’s wrong. It boggles the mind…]

Anyway, what are you in denial about? What is it that’s keeping you from being a successful photographer? Do your photos suck but you won’t admit it because your family tells you they’re great? Are you overcharging for the quality of work you’re doing? Are you undercharging because you’re afraid of losing what little business you have? Do think that if you can just get the right equipment or a ticket to Italy (where the light is sooo much better!), you could get that one image that could put you on the map…?

There’s a scene in the documentary It Might Get Loud where Jack White builds a guitar out of a couple pieces of wood, some nails, a bottle and a wire. He plays it for a few seconds then asks, “Who says you need to buy a guitar?” This is the same guy who took a $200 plastic guitar and made a signature sound out of it.

You are the only thing standing in the way of your own success. Everyone has obstacles they have to overcome; you’re not special (sorry). Figure out how to overcome them and, here’s the key… DO IT! Get off your butt and make it happen. No one else is going to do it for you.

The difference between success and failure can often be humility. As there is a fine line between unique and weird, there is also a fine line between confidence and ego. Careful that you don’t cross it, because as soon as you do the path could easily lead to failure.


I hope these insights have been helpful. You can catch all episodes of Kitchen Nightmares on if you want to look for other tidbits of business savvy from the master chef/businessman!


Thanks to Scott and Brad for inviting me to write a post on this blog. It’s an honor to share the stage with so many talented photographers.

On my own blog, I normally write about the nuts and bolts of each photo shoot. For this special post, I’d like to share the key to making a living in this crazy business of photography:

You need to separate yourself from the pack.

But how do you do that? I’ve realized that there are a few things I consistently do when preparing for a shoot.

1) If I see a group of photographers standing together, I run the other direction.

At most of the events I cover, there are a lot of other photographers. The wire services and local newspaper shooters always do a great job covering the event. So what can I bring to the table? If I just shoot the same images as everyone else, there’s no reason for me to be there.

The easiest way to separate myself is to literally move away from the other photographers. I try to take chances and go for the high risk shot. It doesn’t always pay off, but when it does, it’s worth it.

For example, I was assigned to shoot the Live Eight mega-concert in Philadelphia a few years ago. This was a huge international event with performances by Kanye West, Stevie Wonder, Keith Urban, Maroon 5, Jay-Z, and more. There were expecting a million fans.

When I arrived, I saw that there were only two photo positions for the 50-plus credentialed photographers and the spots were way back by the sound board. I don’t like shooting from the back because the pictures just aren’t as dynamic as the shots from the photo pit in front of the stage. More importantly, there were more than 50 photographers all shooting exactly the same thing! I don’t care how big the event is, there’s just no reason for me to shoot the same pictures as everyone else.

It wasn’t going to be easy to break away from the group because the publicists and security guards had made it very clear that we weren’t allowed to shoot anywhere else. I knew I wouldn’t get into the pit in front of the stage, but as fans started to stream in, I noticed that they were giving out wristbands for the front, standing-room section.

I left my 600mm lens with a friend in the back and pretended to be a fan. After seamlessly melding into the line, I managed to snag a wristband! Next thing I knew, I was in the front row pressed up against the barricade and right next to the photo pit. The only thing to do at that point was hide my cameras until the last minute and hope I didn’t get kicked out.

I’m not suggesting that it’s always necessary to break the rules, but in this case, most of the fans in that section had cameras anyway. I shot the entire show from that spot and made pictures that were different from the ones shot in the back.


2) Use technology to my advantage.

I’ve always been an early adopter of technology. I remember beta testing a digital camera at a Chicago Bulls – Miami Heat playoff game in the early 90’s. The files were basically unusable and the camera was nearly impossible to operate. But it gave me a jump on the competition as the tech improved in the following years. I was one of the first full-time digital newspaper photographers in the world. I’d rather struggle with new technology and help the companies make them better than have it forced on me later without any say in the matter.

When I was assigned to photograph President Obama’s inauguration last year, I had to figure out what to focus on (literally) and how to document it.

Of course, this was an historical inauguration so I had to make photos of the swearing in. But I was coming from New York and am not a Washington regular. I knew that the local political shooters would have all the best photo positions. I probably wouldn’t be able to talk my way past Capitol Security and onto the podium to stand next to the first family.

I figured that the other big story was that two million people were going to attend the event. That’s significant. So I researched different ways that I could show the entire crowd.

I had heard of the GigaPan system, but had never used it. The technology was developed by NASA so that the Mars rover could photograph the Martian surface in high resolution. The commercially available GigaPan units were relatively new and had mostly been used for landscape type photos.

Since the GigaPan shoots a series of photos over a period of time, I called the company to ask how well it would work with a group of people who might be moving around. They offered to send me a loaner unit to try at the inauguration. They even loaned me a camera because I don’t own a good point-and-shoot, which is all that the original GigaPan could handle.

It arrived the day before I had to leave for Washington so I didn’t even have a chance to test it. The night before the inauguration, I took it out of the case and read the instructions just to make sure it worked.

On the big day, I set up the imager the way I wanted it, input all the parameters, and let it go. While it worked, I shot “regular” photos with my Nikons and long lenses.

In the evening, after I had transmitted all of my photos, I checked the GigaPan and was pleasantly surprised. The stitching worked while I slept and I uploaded the 1,474 megapixel image to the next day. The resolution allows you to zoom into the image and see many of the people who attended. An embedded version on my blog and a post on Facebook later, I had over 12 million views. If you Google the generic phrase “inauguration photo,” my site usually comes up as number one.


3) Do something differently.

As I write this, I’m on the road shooting a series of Bon Jovi concerts for my company It’s a dream gig and I love documenting the show each night.

But while the set list changes every day, photographically it’s pretty much the same thing. Fans can buy prints from the shows, so I have to make the expected shots of Jon and Richie on stage. But I don’t want to make the same images night after night, so I push myself to try different things.

I often use remote cameras for my sports assignments, so I decided to put one up at the concert. I mounted a Nikon D3 and 14-24 mm lens right next to Tico Torres’ drum set, looking out at the crowd. During the show, I triggered the camera with my Pocket Wizard whenever I thought it would make a good image.

Obviously, this is a shot that very few people will ever get to take. But now I’ve got to find yet another way to shoot the show.


4) Give them more than they expect.

It’s not easy to get hired for a shoot. My clients are investing in me and I’d better produce. I try my best to make them want to hire me again.

I like to imagine potential clients in a meeting trying to decide who to hire. They could be saying, “There are a bunch of people who can do this job. Just hire one. If the first photographer is not available, it doesn’t matter. Just hire the next one on the list.”

That’s not the group I want to be in. I prefer that they say, “We’ve got to have Bergman for this one. Give him whatever he wants.”

Of course, it doesn’t often happen like that, but you get my point.

The way you make them remember you is to give them more than they expect.

A number of years ago, Sports Illustrated sent me to cover the NFL draft. Photographically, it’s a difficult event to cover because nothing happens. The player’s name is called, he comes out and shakes hands with the commissioner, and walks off the stage. Traditionally, the pictures are important only for their historical significance but aren’t very memorable.

This is another event where the photographers were all told to stand in one assigned position. Sports Illustrated can get pictures from the wire services so it allowed me to take some chances.

I wandered around before the event and found a balcony that overlooked both the “green room” (the area where they keep the players and families) and the stage area. I thought I might be able to get it all in one shot, so during the draft I went up there for a bit and made some pictures.

The image ran as a two-page spread in Sports Illustrated’s coveted “leading off” section.

Because of that, SI now calls on me to cover the draft every year. Of course, I have to come up with something different each time. One year I set up a portrait booth outside the building to make pictures of fans. Last year, I set up multiple remote cameras all around the stage so that I’d have unique angles that no one else had.


There are a LOT of photographers out there. It wasn’t that long ago that most people had trouble simply loading 35mm film. But the camera companies have made it very easy for anyone to properly expose and focus an image.

To make a living as a professional photographer, you’ve got to stand out:

1) If you see a group of photographers standing together, run the other direction.
2) Use technology to your advantage.
3) Do something differently.
4) Give them more than they expect.

Run through that checklist before each shoot, and you’ll be on your way to separating yourself from the pack.

For more from David, check out his website, and keep an eye on for his exclusive concert work.


Hi everybody: I’m going to be doing a lot of catching up these next few weeks, and to do that I’m going to need to take a little break from writing the blog here every day. Of course, I wouldn’t leave you out in the cold, so I’ve asked the crew here to pitch in and help me out by writing daily posts for you guys starting here on Thursday.

Of course, each Wednesday we’ll have our guest blogger (and tomorrow we have a really great one), and then you’ll be hearing from Matt, Dave, Corey, RC, and Brad (and anybody else I can scam into taking a day for me).

They won’t be doing “Guest Blogs” per se (I don’t want to put that kind of pressure on them) so they’ll be doing the same type of news and commentary stuff I do here, so things should be pretty much like normal, except there will probably be far fewer typos and much better jokes. :)

I’m planning on being done with everything by Monday, May 10th, so I’ll see you guys then, but in the meantime, I’ve left you in good hands with my crew here (but you regulars make sure the trolls aren’t mean to them). Also, please don’t enjoy them so much that when I come back it’s a huge disappointment. :)

Have a great few weeks, be kind to the crew, and I’ll see you guys again soon!

P.S. Do my hands look a little too feminine in the shot above? (See, this is what I mean when I say the jokes will be better while I’m on break).