Monthly Archives June 2010


Wow. Let me tell you, I never thought this would happen. Guest blogging for Scott Kelby didn’t even come into my dreams it was so crazy. It is an incredible honor to be able to talk about my photography to so many people, and to follow the long list of fantastic photographers that make up the Scott Kelby guest blog “Hall of Fame.”

I started taking pictures about 4 years ago, around my 12th birthday. My family was just about to go on vacation to Arizona, and right beforehand I got an Olympus C-765 UZ. It was my second digital camera (the first was a Fujifilm, but it broke pretty quickly). I don’t really know what prompted my initial interest in photography. I like to think it was the thrill of capturing a moment in time and being able to revisit again and again. I think that’s why we all take pictures.

So in Arizona, I took some “pictures.” They weren’t up to “photograph” level quite yet. As you can see, I had the eye, but there was a journey ahead.



One person that I can’t credit enough for my photography is my Aunt Janet. She has been there EVERY step of the way helping me, encouraging me, and carting me around to wherever we decided to go. I don’t think I’d be a photographer at all had it not been for her. And even though I probably mess her up a lot and get in her shots, she sticks with me and she’s the best photo partner anyone could ever have.

So with Aunt Janet’s help, we both grew as photographers. It seemed like almost every weekend we went on photo “expeditions” to various places around our beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. I think I learned more in a weekend of shooting than I did in a week of school!

Another important source of information was books. I ate ’em up. I loved to read about photography, and I think that, besides just getting out and shooting, is the best way to get better. Scott Kelby’s Digital Photography books were huge in developing my photography. I don’t think I’ve learned so much from a single book than I have from that first edition. It was like a whole new world, ready to be explored. And that book was the gateway. I soon started watching Photoshop tutorial videos with Aunt Janet from Practicing my skills in both areas, the shooting aspect and the processing aspect, I was slowly inching toward making “photographs.”

Reading, watching videos, and just getting out and experimenting pretty much summed the next twelve months of my photography. This was also the period that I got my Nikon D80, which really set me free creatively. Point-and-shoots are nice for when you want to do exactly that, point and shoot, but there is no replacement for a good SLR. And again I have to thank Aunt Janet. I remember asking my parents often for a new camera, even bargaining that I would pay for most of it.

(Here’s a little note: Being a young photographer, I didn’t (don’t) really have any income. Which means, the money I did get, went straight into photography. Other kids wanted PS3s? Yeah, I’ll go for a new tripod).

When considering a D80 for a Christmas present, my Mom asked Aunt Janet if she thought I would be responsible and take care of it, she responded with enthusiasm that she knew I would take care of my camera better than I take care of anything else. Thanks again, Aunt Janet. I owe you about ten billion.

Here’s a couple shots with my then new D80. I was starting to get the hang of editing.



After a while, my Aunt and I were tired of shooting locally, so we went on a trip to the Grand Tetons, then the next year to Yosemite National Park. They were both week long trips and well worth the price of getting out there. It’s amazing how much you can learn from a week of shooting. It was also nice to worry only about photography, and not about seeing museums or anything like that. Going with a fellow photographer means you can spend a couple hours at a location without people getting bored!





When we got back from the Tetons, we decided to exhibit in the art show here in town. We signed up, framed and matted our prints, and showed up on a Saturday morning. We did pretty well! I forget how many we sold, but we were fortunate to have friends and family come and support us, and a few even bought some. It was a great experience and very encouraging. One of my shots was picked to go on the Judges’ Fence. This was the first award of any kind I’d ever won. The show was also a fantastic way to meet area photographers and to see some really great work from local artists and photographers.

My next opportunity came last year when my brother, a french horn player in the Princeton University Orchestra, toured Europe, playing in Germany and the Czech Republic. My family went along and it gave me an opportunity to shoot in another country. This trip was different, because with my family, you can’t spend a long time anywhere, because they get bored, even though the light is just about to be perfect. Sometimes frustrating, but totally worth it. Here’s my favorite shot from the trip. (NOTE: I entered this one in the annual local photography contest a few weeks ago and this one won best in show out of over 300 other photographs! My first “real” award!)


Most recently, I’ve been working on a little bit of portrait photography. Reading and watching Kelby Training videos has taught me so much about lighting and flash. I asked my friend, Jabez, if he’d go out in the country and model for me. He brought his guitar and we were both having a great time. I snapped some, changed the light a bit, snapped some more. You don’t have to make it a huge deal if you don’t want to! Just get out there and try it! Here’s my favorite from the day.


With a few good shots in my arsenal, I decided to apply for the NANPA High School Scholarship program. I had read about it the year before, but wasn’t eligible to enter because I wasn’t quite old enough. I sent in ten shots, wrote a few essays and forgot about the whole thing. Four months later, I got an email telling me that I was one of ten high schoolers in the country accepted for the program! Talk about excitement!

It was a week long event, consisting of two days of shooting then 3-4 days of conference time. All the shooting was with Canon provided equipment (before I went, I thought that was going to be a problem, but it turned out that I really liked the 7D). We got to use both the 600mm and 800mm Canon lenses, along with 4 other lenses we carried in our bag. In the two days, we were guided and helped by pro photographers to Lake Tahoe, Swan Lake, Pyramid Lake, and Fly Geyser. We met many professional photographers, George Lepp, Robert Shepherd, Joel Sartore, and Arthur Morris. We also met with editors from National Geographic, representatives from stock agencies, and commercial photographers. It was really a fantastic program for the ten of us and we all became really great friends. Hands down, the best experience I’ve ever had. If any of you know high school or college students interested in photography, make sure they check out the NANPA Scholarship. Here are some from the two days of shooting.



In recent months, Aunt Janet and I have started a photo club in our town, which is held in our church building. Through Flickr, we’ve found great photographers in the area and come together, beginners and experienced alike, every month to talk about photography, hold critiques, and listen to wonderful guest speakers. If you don’t currently have a club or something of the sort in your city or town, I would encourage you to start one. It’s not difficult! Just bring photographers together and it can go on for hours! When preparing to teach a lesson, I find myself learning a lot, even when I think I know a lot about the material. If you’re going on a Scott Kelby Photo Walk, talk to your leaders and the other people in your group to see if they’re interested. Even the best photographers have something to learn and it’s a great way to share your knowledge while continuing to get better.

I am grateful to you guys for reading what seems like a pretty boring post. The main thing I want you to do, is to do what Aunt Janet did for me, and find an apprentice, a pupil. Somebody young that has either talent or interest in photography. Help them, encourage them, and shoot with them and I promise you will become a better photographer for your efforts.

Thank you so much, Scott, for this amazing opportunity. I’m continually amazed at what a (as you would say) “stand up” guy you are. I hope to one day meet you in person. And Brad, thanks for the help in figuring what a 15-year-old kid can say to a bunch of experienced photographers. And thanks to Alex, who suggested the idea of having me guest blog. You are continually a source of inspiration and encouragement.

As a final note, in preparation for my post, I read Jeremy Cowart’s fantastic guest blog. Summed up, Jeremy’s opening paragraph stated, if you want it bad enough, get off your tail and do something to move forward. Let’s do something to move forward.

You can check out Andy and his Aunt Janet’s website at


First, a big thanks to everyone who posted such thoughtful and in-depth comments yesterday. I read all of them (over a 130), and not only did you guys make some great points (on both sides of the ball), everybody remained very civil throughout a topic that often sets “guns a blazin'” Way to go!

Because yesterday’s post resonated with a lot of folks, I wanted to do a brief follow-up post today based on a some of your comments, and I was hoping to get your thoughts and ideas on a couple of topics:


First, just what constitutes an “Over-the-top” HDR shot? What do you (we, us, they) consider an over-the-top shot? Take a look at the images above, taken by my buddy, and HDR expert, RC Concepcion. I love both of those shots. They both got loads of HDR tone-mapping going on (though slightly different styles), but is it “over the top?” If you think it is, does that make it a bad shot?

I read so many comments that basically said, “I like HDR as long as it’s not overdone. But exactly what is “over done?”

Is it:

(a) Pushing the Color Saturation too far, where the colors look un-natural?

(b) Is it “Poorly done HDR?” where the person processing the HDR photo, doesn’t really understand how to use the HDR tonemapping software (and if that’s the case, then is it just a matter of education—-teaching people how to do it right?)

(c) Is it shots where there’s no black in the photo—it’s all midtones–showing too much detail?

(d) Is it shots where the image is over sharpened, like too much High Pass sharpening?

(e) Or, is it like a Supreme Court Justice’s view of pornography, where you can’t really describe it, but “you know it when you see it?”

While you’re here, go ahead and take the Poll below:

Here’s my problem with all of this. I’ve seen way over-the-top HDR images that look horrible, and I’ve seen way over the top HDR images that look absolutely stunning. Which means; there’s more to it than just the post processing.

Recently, one of the images that won Best of Show at the Photoshop World Guru Awards was an image that had literally tons, loads, mountains of HDR effect applied to it. But it rocked! It looked really great, and the judges chose it as the winner hands down (even though some would technically consider it “over the top.”)

I guess my point here is; HDR is like any other effect you do in Photoshop. Too much of it looks bad. Usually. But not always. It just depends on the photo (and the person doing the processing).

So what I’m hoping the anti-HDR crowd will do is this; instead of dismissing a  photo as “over-the-top” HDR, and automatically hating it—instead judge it on the merits of that particular photo. Give it a chance.

But beyond that—try making an over-the-top HDR image yourself. You might find that you like it more than you thought, and that other people like your shot more than you do (like I mentioned yesterday with my HDR shot). Real HDR tonemapping is built right in to Photoshop CS5. Give it a try. You might be surprised at how it changes how you view HDR images moving forward. Even those dreaded over-the-top ones. ;-)

Morning in Manhattan

Next Friday, Join “The Photoshop Guys” in New York
Over 1,400 people have already registered for our after hours event, “The Photoshop CS5 Summit” in New York City next Friday—the 25th, at The Hammerstein, at Manhattan Center. It kicks off at 4:30 pm. It’s totally free, and you gotta be here. Here are all the details (watch the short video first), and there’s a link to sign up there, too. I hope to see you there!

Free Online Seminar: Monitor Calibration Finally Explained
This sounds good! Manfrotto and DataColor are hosting a free online Webinar to finally make Monitor Calibration simple. Don’t miss it (here are all the details, and you can sign up there, too). If you don’t need this seminar, I bet you know somebody who does. Pass it on. :)

Quick Photo Walk Update
Over 650 cities, and over 11,000 walkers around the world so far. This is getting really exciting. Hope you can walk with us. Here’s the link. P.S. The fine folks at Adorama is one of the big sponsors. Stop by their site and buy every cool piece of camera gear in sight (just don’t tell your spouse).

Rick Sammon’s first iPad App is Here!
It’s called “Life Lessons We Can Learn From Mother Nature” and it’s an inspirational and motivational app combined with a mini-course in wildlife and nature photography (with Photoshop tips, too!). Here’s the link with details.

Loads of new Lightroom 3 Online Classes
When Lightroom 3 shipped last week, we rolled out four in-depth Lightroom 3 training classes on, and if you’re into Lightroom, make sure you go check ’em out (they feature Matt Kloskowski, one of the world’s leading Lightroom educators, and his classes absolutely kick butt!). Here’s the link.

That’s it for today
Have a great day everybody!!!


I remember showing someone one of my black and white prints a few years ago—and I could tell there was something they really didn’t like about it. They stared at it for a minute or so, and then said, “Why is it in black and white?”

I told them that the shot was originally taken in color, and that I had converted it to black and white in Photoshop, and they said something along the lines of “Why would you do that?” After talking a little longer, they just told me flat out that they just didn’t like black and white photography. Never had, and they couldn’t understand why anyone would take a perfectly good color image and remove all the color. (Sigh).

I understand that everybody has different tastes, and some folks just don’t like black and white, or duotones, and some people don’t like Split Tones (like me), and some don’t like panos.

You Mean, Like HDR?
Now, when it comes to HDR, I’m kinda of in the middle. I enjoy shooting my own HDR shots, and I get a kick out of processing them. If someone shows me a great HDR image, I’m like “Wow!” If they show me a few more, I’m like, “Those are good.” If they show me a book of them, after about the eighth page, I’m dying to see a regular un-HDR’d image. The novelty can wear off fast on me.

I know some people are at the complete other end of the spectrum. They hate any HDR that doesn’t look natural and photorealistic, (of course, if it truly does look natural and photorealistic, I guess that kind of really means “it doesn’t look like HDR”).  :)

What They’re not Telling You About HDR Images
There’s a secret about those “over the top” HDR images that you don’t hear a lot of non-HDR photographers talk about. While many of these photographers don’t like HDR images at all…

….non-photographers absolutely love them!

That’s right—-regular, non photographer people love those over-the-top HDR images. Even though it’s seldom talked about, I think that’s incredibly important to know.

Matt pointed out something a while back while we were talking about this, and it has proved itself time and time again. Matt mentioned that if he sends a group of images to a magazine, or a Web site, etc., for them to pick a photo to highlight, they always (always!) choose the HDR shot.

Now, I fully realize that by saying this, there are photographers who will now post comments that say “My wife hates HDR” or “my boss won’t allow HDR in any of our marketing materials,” and so on, but save yourself the time and trouble, and just think about it. Think about how other people (not photographers) react to images with the HDR effect. It’s been my experience, time and time again, they love ’em.

My Love/Hate Relationship with HDR
You see the shot at the top of this post? That’s a pretty obvious HDR shot, taken on my vacation to China, and I didn’t even include the HDR shot in my post about my China photo book (link), because it was so over-the-top that I knew I’d catch some heat from HDR-hating photographers, so I intentionally left it out. The next day, I had a follow-up Q&A post (link), and that was the only photo that didn’t make the cut, so I thought—what the heck—-I’d run it and it might just go by unnoticed, and I’d be spared a nuking by the anti-HDR crowd.

I guess you can say I was incredibly surprised when I read stuff like this:

“That boat shot is killer! Good balance with HDR technique and the whole composition has “interesting story” written all over it. Quite frankly, I think it’s one of your best.”

“Love the shots from the trip, and your HDR on the ferry is FANTASTIC!”

“I like allot of your work, but this is my favorite shot of yours. It’s amazing. Love it…”

“First, that was an amazing image you used for the lead to this post. Great depth, detail and lighting. Well done sir!”

“I love the HDR Shot you posted! My fav of the bunch.”

“Fantastic HDR, the lighting and tones are beautiful.”

You’d think I would be ecstatic with comments like these, but instead I was really depressed. That’s because the regular un-HDR’d photo looks like this:


It’s a nothing photo. It’s not terrible. It’s not good. It’s what I call “A three-star photo.” Not so bad that you’d delete it, but not so good that you’d ever let anyone see it (by the way, the only reason I’m letting anyone see it now, is as a teaching tool). So, it was the HDR-Toning that transformed it from a three-star image to what embarrassingly for me, became an image that some called “my best ever.” (sigh).

My Case for HDR
I’ve read again and again how photographers who hate HDR-effected images feel that when a photographer uses HDR for the “Harry Potter Look” or goes for the classic over-the-top HDR look, they are somehow cheating. They feel it’s a trick to take a mediocre image and turn it into a masterpiece, so it’s not “real photography.” Sadly, I think my before/after actually helps to make their case to some extent.

However, this is where my case for HDR comes in.

Taking the mediocre regular shot took very little effort. I did have to compose the shot (and I think the composition is actually “OK”), but outside of that, I just pressed the shutter button, and the camera did all the work. The post-processing in Photoshop (in Camera Raw) was minimal—-it took all of 15 seconds, so the entire image has a total of less than 20-seconds invested it in.

However, for me to create an HDR image, I (as the photographer) have to work a LOT hardert. First, HDR doesn’t work for just every shot. There are certain types of shots that lend themselves to HDR (images with lots of texture, or metal, depth), and over time you learn which types of shots work (and which don’t). So, the first thing the photographer does is scope out subjects that would make ideal HDR images (it’s harder than it looks). When I saw the rusty, peeling wheel house, and the thoroughly worn wood deck, and old coiled up lines (rope), I knew it would make a good HDR image.

I had to set-up my camera to shoot an HDR bracket of five photos, and then try and steady myself while on a moving ferry in the harbor, while leaning on a railing, and trying to keep very, very still while all five exposures are captured.

Later, I have to work with five images—not just one—then I have quite a bit of post-processing work to do, including using Camera Raw not just once, but twice, along with HDR tone-mapping, and final editing and sharpening, beyond what I’d normally do. In short; it’s dramatically harder to capture a good HDR image, from the moment of capture, through the post processing stage, and the image wasn’t rescued by HDR—-it was created to be an HDR image from the outset. I didn’t just press a button and out popped a winner—I had to work it.

It’s Not Fair!
Normally, this extra photographic effort would gain the respect and admiration of fellow photographers, but when it comes to HDR, it generally gains scorn. I don’t get it. Just like that person at the beginning doesn’t “get” black and white photography. I know HDR isn’t for everyone, but like any effect, it can be fun to do, fun to look at, and like any other effect, you can get sick of it after a while. But each image should be judged on its merits, and not dismissed because “You don’t like HDR” or “You don’t like Black and Whites.”

So, in the past few months, I did learn that non-photographers love HDR shots (and all the photographers I polled asking about how their HDR work was viewed by non photographers, agreed 100% that non-photographers seem to absolutely love HDR images). But I learned two other things as well:

(1) You don’t seem to find people who are really good at creating HDR images, that don’t like HDR images. Just like you don’t find people who are Photoshop experts, that don’t like Photoshop. The people I find that scorn the use of Photoshop, aren’t very good at it.

(2) I find that no matter how much I look at that HDR image I did at the top of this post, and no matter how many people tell me they love it, I will never like it. When I look at it, I know what “it really looked like.” In my mind’s eye, I always see the original, 3-star regular exposure image I showed earlier, and so I’ll never look at it as a great image. I guess I feel like it’s kind of cheating too, even though it took me more time, effort, and skill to get there.

For those of you that do shoot somewhat over-the-top HDR shots, how do your clients, friends, and co-workers react to these types of shots? Do they dig ’em? And, how do you feel about them after the fact (after all, you’re probably the only one who saw the original single exposure). Do you feel like I do? (and did anyone get that subtle Peter Frampton reference?). I’m anxious to hear your thoughts.


Well, it’s time to take the new show on the road! :-)  Today I’m officially announcing the kick off of my Lightroom 3 Live! Tour, and two more cities: Here’s the kick-off leg:

  • Monday, July 12th in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
  • Friday, July 16th Matt Kloskowski will take the tour to Boston, MA
  • Monday, July 19th I’m back with the tour in New York City

We’ve totally updated the tour to take advantage of Lightroom 3’s new features, and we’ve tweaked the whole tour to make your Lightroom workflow faster, easier and more fun than than ever.

I absolutely love teaching Lightroom live, because as an instructor you can literally see the light bulb going on with photographers who’ve been doing things the hard way, and once they see Lightroom live, they realize that not only is this the future, but they can see firsthand how it’s going to change and improve their workflow. It seriously is just a blast to teach.

Plus, Lightroom 3 fixes so many things that used to drive me (you, us, we) crazy, that I can’t wait to get out there and show off all the enhancements, fixes, and just smart stuff they added.

Here’s the link to sign up for one of those three cities (a bunch more cities to be announced real soon as Matt and I take the tour on the road).

I’m happy to announce that my “Lightroom 3 book for Digital Photographers” is already on press, and should be in bookstores very soon, but one of the things people ask most is “What’s different in your new book, from the old Lightroom 2 book?” (which is the world’s #1 bestselling book on Lightroom).

Of course, I included all the new important Lightroom 3 features in the major update of the book, but I also added some other really important things to take the new version of this book to a whole new level. I did a short video (below) with all the new stuff, and I hope you’ll take just a moment and check it out.

You can pre-order the book, and be among the first to get yours, at, Barnes &,, or wherever cool Lightroom books are sold.