Monthly Archives August 2010



I am sitting in Port-au-Prince, Haiti right now trying to work on this guest blog post, but all I can think about is that across the street from me at this very moment, not far from the collapsed National Palace and Ministry of Finance, taking up every available green space, there lies rows and rows of improvised tent cities. “Tent” is a generous phrase. These are mostly tarps strung loosely over sugarcane framed boxes. Discarded cardboard and worn vinyl. It’s hot and it’s raining. Water trucks show up nearly everyday to throngs of people clamoring for their allotted 700 ml. It is chaos, it is overwhelming, and most surprising, it is the new normal.

I say all of this only to remind us that in so many parts of the world tonight families will sleep on the ground without shelter. For many, clean water is a rarity at best. Many are hungry. Many are sick. The world is an impossibly beautiful place and photography is such a conduit to truly seeing that beauty. But the truth is that when you really start to see, and I mean really, really open your eyes to the world around you, you find dichotomy. Beauty and suffering seem to co-mingle. I only bring this up so that we may not forget the silent majority in this world that lack even the most basic of elements. Water. Food. Shelter.


Now I know that you don’t have any idea who I am. And for that reason alone, I am thankful that you are reading this post. I, like many have said before me, am honored that Scott and Brad have asked me to share with you today. I appreciate that they give the opportunity to those of us who may not be recognizable names. Most of us, as media professionals, hobbyists, semi-pros (or whatever moniker we operate under) labor away in the “shadows” struggling to get better, to create compelling images, to tell moving stories… We are explorers, adventurers mining the deep well of craft and experience. I know that it can feel like no one knows who you are or appreciates all the work that you put into developing, but trust me, it is worth all the effort.

When someone connects (and I mean really connects) to something that I’ve made, then everything just feels right in the world. There really isn’t a feeling like it. I believe that media professionals endeavoring to create things that cause people to pause and reflect more deeply on their lives and what they believe is important. When I think about it like this, I find that I don’t need to be a well known creator to find satisfaction in my work and in my life. I hope that you feel the same way.


Five years ago, I began my professional life. I graduated school and essentially flipped a coin. Los Angeles for filmmaking or Nashville for music. You see, I still didn’t have a clue what I specifically wanted to do. The only thing that I knew is that stories were intriguing to me. I had a sneaking, yet-to-be-solidified belief that the chief function of art (of media, of literature and film and painting and photography) is that of conveying story. To help us to see the world not just as it seems, but as it really is. I knew that I wanted to be a part of this long tradition. I just had no idea the form (discipline) that it would take.

Through an interesting series of events, I threw my few belongings in the back of my car and was Nashville bound. I had the opportunity to work in a recording studio for an incredibly generous producer/engineer who took me on as an assistant though I had absolutely no audio training. I got coffee, I met and worked with some of my favorite bands. I wrapped cables. I worked late. I learned how to start and to finish a project. Then one day, a few months after starting in the studio, the first record that I ever worked on showed up in the mail. Standing there in the front yard, album in hand, leafing through the cover art for my “assisted by” credit, I knew that music would be part of my professional life.

My camera was my constant companion during my time in the studio. I used it for making portraits, documenting, and generally experimenting with storytelling through image-making.





Then, through an interesting series of events, I found myself on the back of a Tuk-Tuk flying through the streets of Siem Reap, Cambodia, camera in hand, on my way to shoot under the direction of Gary Knight (a VII photographer). It was a ten day, life-changing experiment in visual storytelling. I created a photo essay over that ten days by wandering down streets and dark alleyways. I moved in and out of homes, shops, and shacks. I saw extreme poverty butting up against extreme wealth. It was overwhelming and exhilarating to really see the world outside of what was familiar. I knew right then and there, standing on a busy street corner during the Angkor Photo Festival looking at my work projected for the town to see, that storytelling through still photography would be part of my professional life.





I bounced back and forth between audio and stills for the next couple years…

My producer boss in Nashville used to tell me over and over again; “The key to this job? When someone asks if you can do something, always say yes. Just use the time between saying yes and the gig to figure out how to do it.” Now of course he was exaggerating, but the general idea had already worked its way into my professional life. I said yes to the first video gig I was offered. I didn’t even own a DV camera. I had to scrounge up gear from friends and rental shops, hire an editor, and consult with some friends to help me with deliverables. It was terrifying. Yet, not long after that initial yes, somewhere outside of Chicago, sitting in the back of a tour bus making shot lists waiting to interview the band, I was suddenly taken with the three dimensional nature of storytelling through moving images. I knew that this kind of storytelling would be part of my professional life.

This began the next few years of bouncing back and forth between audio, still, and moving image projects…


I’m not sure if you dread the “so, what exactly do you do?” question as much as I do, but given that I make records, shoot still images and create motion projects, the question tends to come up.

I’ll be at a party or dinner or something (I live in a big city in Texas, so most of the guys are engineers for oil an company, or lawyers for an oil company, or in a service business selling to an oil company), and guys are standing around “talking shop.” Finally someone turns to me and says, “So what exactly do you do?” In the second before I answer, a loop begins to play on repeat: Should I answer photographer? Yeah, but what kind of photographer? Am I a documentary photographer? Sort of. I did just shoot that gig in Uganda. But I guess I’m shooting that album cover soon. Music photographer? Wait, but should I answer audio engineer? Yeah, I have tracked 5 albums this year. But I’m currently shooting a couple promotional videos right now. I guess I should say video. No wait, I’m starting that record next week… All I usually manage is some form of, “Uh, I’m a media producer…”

It isn’t that this isn’t accurate, it’s that it just feels incomplete. I haven’t found that succinct, tied-up-with-a-bow-on-top, elevator pitch length answer that both impresses and provides enough information to satisfy the question asker. Really though, I dread the question because it hints at a much more foundational issue. Not what do I do, but rather who am I as a media professional. In other words, what and where is my “voice?”

As a photographer/storyteller, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told that you have to find that one thing that you have to say that no one else can. The thing that is yours. The “ah ha” moment, the place where style and substance intersect. And to be totally honest, I feel haunted by this statement. It isn’t that I don’t believe it. I do. I absolutely do. I know that our “voice” is what allows the images/songs/films/media we make to truly connect with people. Sure, we might make fancy looking stuff, but it is YOU, your voice, the way that you see the world, that is that undefined secret ingredient that makes stories stick. Your “voice” is what causes us to connect, regardless of whether or not we can relate to every facet of the story that you are telling.

Yet, given that my work is a mash-up of my experiences, my taste, my mood, my history, my age, I often stumble over questions. How do we know when we have found our unique “voice?” How do you know when you’ve arrived at that place? Do you ever arrive? How do I know when I am just making something derivative? I see the Boy (and Girl) Wonders of the world seem to figure out this “vision” part while they are still teenagers. I’m not intimidated by their talent because, amazingly, talent alone won’t get you there. And for that matter hard work alone won’t get you there either (though you obviously need generous portions of both). It goes beyond that. I shake my head in disbelief because it seems that some people are able to stumble upon their style, their substance, their sense of who they are and what they want to say so quickly. Because, for me, sometimes it seems that the only thing that I can really articulate is that I know, but know that I want to be a storyteller.


This year, I have been taking stock of these first five working years. I’ve been thinking about where I have been and where I’d like to go. I’ve been thinking about what I’ll say next week at that party when the question inevitably comes up. I realized that I’ve really spent the vast majority of my time shooting paid gigs. I have been bouncing from one client to the next, one discipline to the next, meeting expectations, pitching ideas that fit within their directive, bringing their vision to life. It’s been wonderful practice, but without that “voice” guiding you, you tend to say yes to anything, regardless of whether or not it is a good fit creatively, financially, or professionally. I finally put it together that the sage advice from the pros to not wait for a paid gig and to shoot personal projects has less to do with practice, per se, but more to do with the fact that often it’s through the shooting and exploring and experimenting (and the inevitable missteps) that you begin to find your “voice.”

When you execute a personal project (and not just start, but FINISH it), you are forced to make creative decisions without someone else’s money or timeframe or direction dictating the choices. In other words, you don’t have anything to hide behind. Personal projects begin to reveal the patterns that lead you to this elusive “vision” that we all have tucked away somewhere.

For me, I realized that I had been neglecting this part of my creative work, and so I have set out on an exploration of sorts. An exploration in occasional, small failures. I’m making room for attempting things beyond my reach and for working without worrying about getting paid (what a novel idea!). 2010 has been the year of “personal projects” for me. I wanted to quickly share three of them with you in the hopes that you might join me on the journey:

The Anywhere Portraits:

This idea is simple. Anywhere is a good place to make a portrait. To set up a backdrop on a sidewalk in a random town to make portraits of those passing by isn’t a unique idea. I’ve seen Avedon’s street portraits. I’ve seen Irving Penn’s Worker portraits. I’ve seen Clay Enos’ Street Studio. But for this particular project, that wasn’t the point. The point is to set up and to practice being brave. It is terrifying to ask someone who is busy going about their day to stop. Especially if that particular someone doesn’t speak the same language (or particularly if that person is flying down a busy street in Manhattan).







I have put up a backdrop in cities across Texas, SoHo, Uganda, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and all over my neighborhood. I am rejected at least five times to every portrait that I make. Occasionally that rejection feels pretty personal. I give each of the subjects a card with a portrait number and an email address. If they email me later, I send them a copy of the photo. Nearly everyone who stops for a photo sends me an email. The interactions I’ve had throughout shooting for this project have been completely worth any of the rejection experienced.

Canon and Vimeo – Beyond the Still:

I am sure that you are probably aware of Canon’s Beyond the Still film contest running the past several months on Vimeo. It was conceived by Vincent LaForet as a way to provide a structured outlet for still photographers to explore the world of narrative filmmaking. In case you are unfamiliar with the contest, LaForet was supplied a still image by Canon and then created a 3-4 minute short film to expand on that image. He then ended his piece on a still image. That final still was downloaded by hundreds of participants who then used it as the jumping off point for their own 3-4 minute narrative short film (ending with their own still). Judges (some Hollywood guys with impressive resumes) select their five favorite films for the round and the Vimeo community votes on the winner. Then the chapter winner’s final still becomes the starting place for the next round. (There are six user submitted chapters).

I knew from the first moment that I heard about the contest that I had to enter. Of course I was terrified, but it was a perfect opportunity to try my hand at narrative filmmaking. Besides, being afraid of something is usually a good indication that you should go for it. I called some friends and batted story ideas around. I called friends to be my actors. Slowly a script emerged, a plan formulated. I had no idea what kind of coverage I needed. How do you shoot a two page dialogue sequence? How do you film in such a way as to ensure you have enough to cut together in the end? I ended up attempting a chapter and completely missing the deadline. I mean, not even close. I put in a ton of work and just completely missed it.

I had bitten off way more than I could chew and it left me with a decision to make. Should I start over for another chapter? Or perhaps I should just let this one be a lesson learned through failure. I was frustrated with myself. I had to regroup. I called my friends back, re-wrote, re-shot, re-edited, re-scored and this time, made deadline.



And a funny thing happened… I won the chapter. I was completely taken aback. Is the film perfect? Of course not. I see all of the little mistakes. I see everything that I wish that I could change. However, I made something that I could stand behind. And now, sometime this fall, I will get to go make the final chapter with Vincent and an entire crew. I’ll get to watch and work with the big boys.

*A caveat: the above short film is part 5 of a continuing narrative, so if you feel lost, don’t be alarmed. The other winners’ films can been seen here.

SerialBox Presents:

I have long been thinking of ways that I could bring something to the table that combined my facets of experience in the music world. I share a studio space with a few other guys that is located within blocks of many of the major mid-sized music venues in town. I suddenly had an idea. What if we invited bands that were coming through town to come to our place to record performance videos. All of us had Canon 5Dmk2 cameras with various lenses, grip, and lighting gear. My audio engineering work meant that I had access to plenty of audio equipment, as well as engineers to run it if need be (including myself). We decided to record the songs as multi-camera, multi-track audio (mimicking a recording studio set-up), one-take live performance videos. No overdubs and no pickups. I asked the bands to play different arrangements of the songs so that it wouldn’t quite be what you would hear at a normal concert and it wouldn’t be quite what you’d hear on the record. It could be a new point of contact.

I knew that we had a shot at making something really interesting, so I got on the phone and pitched and pitched and pitched. Finally we had a band bite and come in and play for us. It was intense. The band only had half an hour to track. We ran four songs, made portraits, nabbed a quick interview on tape. Then the dominoes started falling. All of a sudden we had recorded eight sessions and had to think about how to present the project. We just launched with part one of our Paper Route session. We’ll see how it goes…


Now, every piece of work I have shown you today was made as “personal work.” I haven’t shown you anything that was made for hire, under the direction of a client, or to pay the bills… This is a small body of work I’m making time to create in the in-between moments. The paradox, of course, is that these projects are paying out enormous dividends in my paid gigs. I have a clearer sense of myself as an audio-engineer/photographer/filmmaker. As a storyteller. I really do believe that we are all Storytellers. The particular disciplines that we choose to endeavor in are tools in the service of Story.

The reality is that very few of us will ever be just photographers. These days, even the pros are often what I call hyphenated content producers. We must learn to create across mediums. We are photographers-entrepreneurs. We are photographer-filmmakers. We are insurance salesman-photographers. We are teacher-photographers. This isn’t something to run away from, but rather, we must learn to survive in this brave new world.

Think of your life experiences as tools in a tool bag. I engineer records. I make photographs. I write and direct films. Not to mention all of the other life experiences I have been collecting. All the mountains I have stood atop, all the books I’ve read, all the road trips I’ve taken with friends. These all mysteriously add up to a unique “voice.” You have this voice and vision too. I don’t care if you sell insurance and shoot on the side. I don’t care if you are a wedding photographer who is beginning to shoot video. I don’t care if you are a photojournalist who is contemplating a buyout. I don’t care if you are stay at home mom who photographs flowers. There is that something that you (and only you) can say.

My opinion? These personal projects are one significant way in which we can undertake drawing that voice to the surface.

What are the tools that are in your tool bag? What are the projects that you are using to root around for this vision and voice?

I’d love to hear about them because trust me, we are all in this together…

Find me on twitter:
Read my blog:
Look at my photography portfolio:
Check out my music project:

PS: Thanks for reading. I know it was a marathon… :)


Although yesterday I announced the winner and Honorable Mentions, today I’m going to give my personal favorites in a bunch of different categories. Although they didn’t make the final cut, all of these were in the running, and I felt they were so great that they deserved recognition as well.

I think these images, and the one’s you saw yesterday, are actually even better than they first appear because:

  • The photographers weren’t able to choose the location (it was chosen for them).
  • Or the time of day (also chosen for them).
  • They had to shoot in whatever lighting conditions at that time
  • They couldn’t go back later (or earlier) to shoot in better light.
  • They were only able to shoot for two hours.

Compare that to most any other photo competition, where the photographers can choose any photo from your photo library, or any photo taken in the past year, etc., but in this case, the photographers hands were really tied.

Yet they came away with images that are totally inspiring and very creative. Two hours. That’s it. And look what they came up with! To me, that makes these images all the more amazing.

You and I could both make the case that any of these shots could have been one of the top 10 official Honorable Mentions, or even the Grand Prize winner which is what made the final picks so incredibly hard, but at the end of the day, I had to make a decision. It’s harder than it looks.

Before we get to seeing some images, there were some recurring themes in the types of photos that where picked by local winners, and went into judging to become finalists. For example, there were:

  • Lots of shots of fountains
  • Lots of shots of shadows
  • Lots of shots of reflections (in glass and in water)
  • Lots of split toned shots
  • Lots of shots of frogs.
  • Lots of shots of insects
  • Lots of shots with bicycles in them
  • Lots of church interiors
  • Lots of shots of statues and art
  • Lots of shots of shoes

There was also a lot more nicely done post processing this year. The consistency of the post has gone way up, which is great. However, there were some shots that would have been so much better with just a simple Levels adjustment (just for fun, when I saw one, I would make a screen capture, paste it into a new document in Photoshop, and then I would fix the photo. None of those won, but it was fun to see how much better they looked when I ran across one that needed a tonal fix. I can’t help it. It’s the Photoshop freak in me).

One more thing—-Give Adorama Some Love
I want to once again thank our Platinum Sponsor Adorama Camera (the Grand Prize winner snagged a $1,000 Adorama Gift Card, courtesy of Adorama). Their support made this whole thing happen, so if you’re thinking of buying some camera gear, please check with them first by clicking right here (and NAPP members have a dedicated phone number to call for special deals. Check out the NAPP member discount page for details). My personal thanks to Jeff Snyder and the whole team at Adorama who were behind this year’s event from the very beginning.

The images that follow are my other favorites that didn’t make their way into the prize category, but are nonetheless deserving of recognition:


Best Macro Shot
Photo by: Magnar Myrtveit (Bergen, Hordlaland Norway)


Best Simple Composition
Photo by: Giselle Seibel (Blumenau, SC Brasil)


Best Shot of a Boy Who Needs To Go Potty
Photo by: Andrzej Kudlewski (Blalystok, Podlaskie Polska)


Best Tonal Effect
Photo by: Johan Ustin Sisno (Cebu City, Central Visayas Phillippines)


Best Use of Background
Photo by: Aude Chenu (Chengdu, Sichuan China)


Best Shot From Above
Photo by: Thomas Klefhaber (Cincinnati, Ohio USA)


Best B&W / Infrared
Photo by: Michael Whalen (Costa Mesa, California USA)


Best Shot in the Rain
Photo by: Fred Mancosu (Bern, BE Switzerland)


Best Use Of Lines
Photo by: Carme Frigola (Barcelona, Spain)


Best Editorial Looking Shot
Photo by: James Bautista (Davao City, Davao Region Philippines)


Best Shot That Would Make a Great Stock Photo
Photo by: Andrea Willmore (Western Cape South Africa)


Best Everyday Object Shot
Photo by: Tamara Stecyk (Edmonton, AB Canada)


Best Shot of an Adorable Little Girl
Photo by: Eline den Hond (Eindhoven, Hoord-Brabant Nederland)


Best HDR Shot Needs a Shadows Levels Adjustment & Some Desaturation
Photo by: Verne Snow (Fort Myers Beach, Florida USA)


Best “Cool Guy With Hat” Shot
Photo by: Jamie Leonhard (Granada, AL Spain)


Best Clever Composition That Creates a Message
Photo by: Nick Man (Hong Kong, China)


Best Shot Downtown at Night
Photo by: Tommy Lyles (Houston, Texas USA)


Best Shot So Good It Looks Like It Was Set Up
Photo by: Patricia Stalter (Los Almos, California, USA)


Best B&W With One Part Color Shot That I Normally Wouldn’t Like, But Here I Really Like It
Photo by: James Love (Londonderry, Northern Ireland, UK)

Montreal's Photowalk 2010

Best Shot That Made Me Wish I Was At Their Photo Walk
Photo by: Jacques Pontbriand (Montréal, QC Canada)


Best Aged Toning Effect
Photo by: Ian Goring (Oakville, ON Canada)


Best Panning Shot
Photo by: Sabapathee Krisnamoorthee (Port Louis, Port Louis Mauritius)


Best Church Interior Composition & Post Production
Photo by: Okan Guney (Reading, England UK)


Best High Key Shot
Photo by: Stephanie Luke (Redding, California USA)


Best Waterfall with HDR
Photo by: Rick Holliday (Roswell, Georgia USA)


Best “How’d You Get So Lucky To Have a Hummingbird Fly Up” Shot
Photo by: Pam Borrelli (San Francisco, California USA)


Best Almost Fantasy-Looking Place Shot
Photo by: Dieter Schaefer (Santa Barbara, California USA)


Best Shot That I Really Wish Was In Focus
Photo by: Laylaa Ali (St. Clair, St. George Trinidad & Tobago)


Best Color and Composition Contrast
Photo by:VJ Francisco (Tanay, Calabrazon Phillippines)


Best “Why Didn’t I Hold My Photo Walk There?” Shot
Photo by: Daron Shade (Tucson, Arizona USA)


Best Shot of Windows
Photo by: Dennis Behm (Weatherford, Texas USA)


Best Lighting on a Frog. Ever.
Photo by: Paul McLeod (Caledon, ON Canada)

My sincere congratulations to every one who entered the contest (it does take guts), and especially to all these fantastic photographers whose work I really felt deserved some extra recognition.


I get asked this just about daily, but yes—-I personally write all the posts that appear on my blog (with the exception, of course, of Guest Blog Wednesday, and any time I have Brad or one of the gang cover for me if I’m on vacation, and in those cases, they always start by saying “Brad here…” or something like that, so you’ll know it’s not me).

It usually takes me between 30 minutes to an hour and a half each night to write this blog, and I have been really struggling with keeping up with doing all this blogging, and getting all my other work done (and still having a family life). Basically, I really, really need another day off.

Here’s The Plan
I do a lot of workshops, and seminars, and I write books, and I do classes for Kelby Training, and so on, and of course it’s important to me that you guys know what I’m doing and where I’m teaching, so I post all that stuff here on my blog. Unfortunately on some days, I’m stuck for a topic, or tight on time, and that’s all I have to post that day (the “I’m teaching in such-and-such city next week type of stuff”), and since I do a lot of training stuff, and so do my buddies here at Kelby Media Group (Matt, Dave, Corey, and RC), I wind up posting that type of stuff a lot more than I’d like.

So, since I need an extra day off, but I still need to let people know where I’m teaching, and which books I’m writing, and so on, I thought I might combine both all into something I call….

“Pimpy Thursdays”

I’ll be off on Thursdays from now on, but the Thursday blog post goes on as Brad Moore (my photo assistant and digital tech), is going to cover all that stuff about books, my seminars, online classes and what my crew is doing all on that one day each week, so those days I can focus more on Photoshop and photography stuff.

That way, I get a day off, and the marketing stuff on my blog will pretty much be consolidated to just Thursdays. It’s important to me that you to know where I’m teaching and what I’m doing, so I hope you’ll still stop by on Thursdays to see what’s up (plus if you don’t, Brad will get lonely).

Now, I’ll still share things like I did last Thursday, when I wrapped up a shoot with Jeremy Cowart (there’s no way I could have waited to share that story), and occasionally because of timing issues, I’ll have to break my “no pimping” rule, but if I can take Thursdays off, and still get the word out what I’m doing, I think we’ll both be happier (that’s you and me—not me and Brad).

So, thanks for understanding, and giving me an extra day to breathe. Ya know, with all that extra time, I could probably write another book, or add another city to my seminar tour, or do another online class. Or…… (just kidding). ;-)



Wow—narrowing it down to the winners this year was harder than last year, by a long shot.

Last year, we had some real standouts that you knew the first time you saw them, they were going to be finalists. This year, the shooting and post processing both went up a big notch, and I could have easily made the case for 50 or more honorable mentions, but sadly I could only choose 10, and one Grand Prize winner.

I saw so many great shots, and really struggled between a number of images (some of which you’ll see tomorrow in my special mentions post), but I can tell you this—judging from over 1,000 shots that already won a prize (each won the best shot pick from their local walk, as chosen by the walk leader), made it really, really tough.

But, I won’t keep you waiting any longer; let’s get to the winners and we’ll talk in a few moments.

Here are the 10 Honorable Mentions (in no particular order):


By Muhammad Owais Khan (Karachi, Sindh Pakistan Photo Walk)
I love the color, the texture, and the post processing, along with the low angle composition and the very shallow depth of field. There’s a story here, and while it looks like they’re lining up for a race, more likely it’s a line of taxis, but whatever it is—I just love this shot!


By Ron Buskirk (Tarpon Springs, Florida USA Photo Walk)
First, I want to mention that this was taken in Tarpon Springs, where I led my walk, but this shot isn’t from my walk—it was from another Tarpon Springs walk later in the day. I had chosen it without ever knowing it was from Tarpon Springs, because I can tell you I surely didn’t see that boat, and we didn’t have that beautiful light. It’s the light and color that drew me to this instantly. Nice composition, and wonderful color. I love the way the reflection in the water looks like a watercolor painting.


By Ivan Villa (Albany, California Photo Walk)
This is such a powerful image. The backlit wonderful light, really low perspective, and great story-telling composition make this one of my very favorite photos. The color is just fantastic, the sky is awesome, this is just an incredible shot from top to bottom, and perfectly executed. Wish I had taken it.


By Minella Rivera (City of Malolos, Central Luzon, Phillipines Photo Walk)
I liked this one the first time I saw it. It’s so simple, but it makes you want to smile. I loved the way the photographer composed the shot, and the clouds are great, the grass is great, and it totally captured a moment in time. Nicely done.

Reflection of Appartment

By Nilesh Bhange (Indore, Madhya Pradesh India Photo Walk)
There were a lot of reflection shots in the competition, but none like this. It’s not just the part that’s reflecting that makes this shot—it’s that the photographer chose to include non reflecting areas, and the two together make for such an interesting shot. I could see this framed, huge, in the lobby of a new skyscraper. Just wonderful all the way around. A very cool shot!


By Thierry Reboton (Paris, France Photo Walk)
It’s hard to come up with a fresh photo with the Eiffel Tower in it, but this photographer did just that. As soon as it appeared on my screen, I had to just stare at it. It’s such a moody shot, with dramatic clouds and great composition. The post processing fits the mood of the photo. Very cool perspective, and a really good eye make this one a wonderful image.


By Beverly Eccles (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA Photo Walk)
I love the simplicity of this shot. It’s a still life that has a lot of movement, and it’s a great story telling shot. I love the angle the photographer took the shot from, and I love the way the red color jumps out at you. The shot has a lot of texture, and I just found myself coming back to it again and again.


By Arkadiusz Klimczak (Rybnik, Slaskie Polska Photo Walk)
The post processing on this shot rocks. The color and post makes this photo such a fascinating shot. The warm tones he used really made this come together, and while there were lots of shots of little back alleys, this one’s post just took it up to that next level. Nicely done.


By Thomas Münter (Bonn, NRW Germany Photo Walk)
I don’t even know what this is, but I love it. It looks HDR’d to me, but it’s HDR toning done right, and it really adds to an already interesting photo. It’s the kind of photo that makes you wonder where it is, what those cones are for, and how can I get there to shoot them. My favorite HDR shot of the competition.


By Adrian Gunawan (Jakarta Capital Region, Indonesia)
The light in this shot is just amazing. I love the light on the far left side—like they’re looking at a laptop you can’t see, but nothing about this shot says “hi tech.” It’s a great story telling shot, and the way everyone is positioned in the shot is just so awesome. This wasn’t an easy shot to expose for, but the photographer nailed it, and the composition, and the light, and made a very memorable image. Way to go!


The Gull and the Raven

By Rhys Lewis (South Wharf, VIC Australia)
I knew this would be a finalist the first time I saw it. The tone is amazing, the timing—impeccable. The shadow of the bird, and the way it’s reflected almost makes it look like it’s a different bird altogether. The post processing is great, the composition is on the money, I just absolutely love everything about it. I wish I had taken it, and this is the kind of photographic art I would pay for and hang on my wall. Just an awesome shot!

IMPORTANT NOTE: Tomorrow I’m posting a series of other images that, while they didn’t win a prize, are so good that I felt that needed special recognition. So check back tomorrow to see some other amazing shots from my Third Annual World Wide Photo Walk. :-)

A special thanks to all our sponsors for their gracious support and prizes; to our Walk Leaders who did such an outstanding job giving of their time and talents, and to the wonderful photographers from around the world who created such inspiring, creative, and beautiful work.


I saw that comment a number of times in the comments on my “What I’d Love To See in Lightroom 4” post from Friday (link).

Since most photographers that read this blog, and well…most pro photographers in general (as we’ll discuss in a moment), use Lightroom, I was kind of surprised to read those responses, especially since I rarely see any mention of Aperture here on this blog at all.

Then I found out why my blog was suddenly getting visits from Aperture fans. The Aperture Users Network web site wrote a post (link) with the headline:

“Scott Kelby Pleas with Adobe to Make Lightroom More Like Aperture.”

With a link back to my post.

After reading that headline, I now fully understand the meaning of “Spin.”

A more accurate headline might have been “Scott Kelby Wants Some of Aperture’s Slideshow features and their Book feature added to Lightroom.”

I’ve been using Aperture since Aperture 1.0
As I’ve noted previously on this blog, I do sometimes use Aperture. So, why don’t I just switch?

It’s because I only like Aperture better for one feature—making photo books. I don’t use it for anything else (I do my slideshows in iPhoto).

If instead I had written the article “What I’d love to See in Aperture 4” my wish list would have been a lot longer, and it would have started with performance issues, which I feel has always been Aperture’s Achilles heel. For example, here’s a comment posted to that same article referenced above on the Aperture Users Network from an existing Aperture user:

“…frankly, I get frustrated more often by the lack of performance of Aperture and it’s temper, than I get delighted with it’s features and nice workflow.”

Plus, if I had written an Aperture 4 wish list article, it would have gone on to include features already in Lightroom that Aperture doesn’t do well, or doesn’t do at all, like: automated and manual lens correction and perspective correction, or snapshots and history for your edits, or supporting multiple adjustments with one brush stroke like Lightroom’s Adjustment Brush, or built-in Camera profiles to emulate Nikon/Canon in-camera looks, or a fast responsive crop tool, or crop tool overlays for composition, or setting your default adjustment settings by camera model, camera serial number or image ISO, or expertly-tuned sharpening on output, or saving your print layouts as JPEGs so you can send them to a photo lab, and I could go on and on and on.

Not to mention that there’s a massive worldwide community built around using Lightroom and supporting Lightroom users, and you can find tons of presets, plug-ins, advice, training books, live seminars, hands-on workshops, and even its own conference available to Lightroom users, that simply doesn’t exist on that scale for Aperture users (and did I mention that Aperture isn’t even available on the Windows platform at all?).

Of course, if I had written that article many people would have said: “Why don’t you just switch to Lightroom 3?”

It’s Not Just Me
Let’s set aside my feelings on Lightroom for a moment, and look at a bigger picture. Who is using Lightroom and who is using Aperture?

An independent study by InfoTrends looked at which programs pros are using to process their raw images. Here’s what they found:

In 2009 (the most current year for which statistics are available) here’s what the pros use:

Lightroom: 37%

Aperture: 6.3% (down from 7.5% the previous year, so their pro user base is actually shrinking).

Now, although Lightroom is available for both PCs and Macs, Aperture is only available on Macs, and you’d think that would help its case quite a bit, but it actually gets worse when you just compare what Mac users are using. Here are InfoTrend’s results when you just look at pro photographers using Macs:

Lightroom: 44.4%

Aperture: 12.5% (down from 14.6% the previous year, so their pro user base is actually shrinking on the Mac, too).

So why are pros choosing Lightroom nearly 4 to 1 over Aperture? Why aren’t they all just switching to Aperture 3 like the Aperture User Network fans are suggesting?

There’s a reason.

Here’s a comment from one of my readers, and frequent commenter, Omar D. Rivero, who wrote:

“I agree Scott. Aperture’s slideshow and photo book capabilities run circles around Lightroom’s. But as Lightroom is critical in my workflow, Aperture becomes a very expensive slideshow creator.”

When it comes to editing your raw images, Adobe’s Camera Raw (which is built into Lightroom—that’s what the Develop Module is—Camera Raw) is the industry standard for processing raw images. Period. It’s the heart of Lightroom, and the way it works with Photoshop (a seamless roundtrip) and how you can keep the Raw Editing capabilities by opening your Lightroom Raw images in Photoshop as a Smart Object makes it a critical part of most pros workflows. In fact, about 4 to 1.

I’m No Aperture Hater
Here’s the thing—-I think Aperture 3 is actually a good program. I think its book feature is absolutely fantastic (I use it myself), and Omar’s right—their slideshow module does run rings around Lightroom’s, which is why I brought up both in my original post.

While some of those features on my wish list are in Aperture, some of my wish list features are in Photo Mechanic—and not available in Aperture. (So why didn’t somebody write the headline “Scott Kelby Pleas with Adobe to Make Lightroom More Like Photo Mechanic”)? In fact, there are some features in the iPad App “Photogene” that I’d like to see in Adobe Photoshop CS5. Should should I switch to Photogene because it has a few features I’d love to have in Photoshop?

Switching Isn’t an Option
Right now Aperture 3 has a few features I would love to see in Lightroom, yet it wouldn’t make sense to switch because at this point in time it has a few features Lightroom doesn’t.

But just for a moment, let’s pretend I did switch. Well…I’d have to change my entire workflow, import all my photos from scratch, learn a new program—a new user interface, their raw image editor, their keyboard shortcuts, their file management, and so on. It would take a while, and I wouldn’t be as proficient as I am in Lightroom because I’ve been using it for years, but I imagine I could get pretty decent after a while.

Then Adobe releases Lightroom 4, and what if it winds up having a great photo books feature and a better slideshow than Aperture’s, and some other features that Aperture doesn’t have? Do I then switch back to Lightroom, pay for the upgrade, and change my entire workflow again because it has 10% more features than Aperture 3?

But then what if six months later, here comes Aperture 4 and it has 10% more features than Lightroom 4. Do I pay for that upgrade and switch back? Do you see where I’m going with this? Your time is too valuable, and the learning curve too steep to play the “chasing features” game each time one comes up with a feature or two the other program doesn’t have. Yet.

I didn’t say Lightroom Was Way Off. I Said it was “This Close!”
I love Lightroom. Love it! Do I want some additional features added? Absolutely—that’s what my post was all about, but my “Plea to Adobe” part was all about this—Lightroom is so good, that it’s “This Close” to being perfect! I want Adobe to just take that extra step. Swing for the fence. Add those little things (and a few big things) that would take it over the top. You’re “This Close!”

Don’t be an Aperture Hater
There’s no reason to hate Aperture. Competition like this breeds innovation, and both groups of users will wind up with a better program because of it.

Either way, since you know it’s my personal preference to use Lightroom, you can stop trying to convince me to switch, just like I’m not trying to convince Aperture users to switch to Lightroom (that’s Adobe’s job).

So, I hope that lets you know where I stand and why. After this post, I hope the Aperture Users Network (link) crew doesn’t feel the same way about me that the guys over at did after my “Shooting on the Sidelines with Scott & Mike Contest” from last year (which incidentally, there is no way in heck I’m doing that contest again this year. I can only absorb so many slings and arrows in a 12 month period). ;-)

P.S. You guys posted some great wish list ideas of your own on Friday (there are over 200 comments), and I’ll be sharing some of my favorites in a post later this week.