Monthly Archives December 2010

…..we’re replaying it all day, continuously today, until 10:00 pm tonight.

If you missed it, it was a free three-hour live broadcast designed to let people know all about NAPP (what we do, what we’re about, what kind of training we offer, etc.) and we had all sorts of special deals (that are still good until 10:00 pm EST tonight).

Basically it was kind of like a NAPP infomercial, hosted by our own Larry Becker, but with lots of live Photoshop training from Dave, Matt, RC, Corey and I, (and I did a live shoot and retouch). We also and shared some of our Photoshop World keynote videos and fake commercials, and we took your questions live on the air, and well…it was an awful lot of fun, and we got tons of great feedback (thanks to everybody who tuned in live).

We had thousands of people watching live, and last night, during the live broadcast, our phone lines were absolutely slammed as people all over joined right there on the spot.

Anyway, if you missed it, it’s playing right now (until 10:00 pm tonight), and if you’ve ever wanted to know about NAPP, what we offer, why it’s worth it, and even catch a behind-the-scenes look at NAPP’s Headquarters (from RC), make sure you check it out. Here’s the link.

Today is the big day… It’s time for the NAPPathon!

You might be asking yourself, “What the heck is a NAPPathon?” I’ll let Larry Becker explain…

Scott Kelby, Larry Becker, Dave Cross, Matt Kloskowski, Corey Barker, and RC Concepcion will be bringing you a mixture of live segments, Photoshop training, video tutorials taken directly from the NAPP member website (never before seen by the public), and various humor-filled videos from the NAPP archives. Most of the archive footage was created for special events (like Photoshop World conference) or aired only once for a specific occasion.

Viewers who pre-register for the FREE event will also be entered into prize drawings for NAPP memberships, Photoshop World conference tickets, and B&H gift cards! Pre-registration is not required to watch the free event but it is encouraged. Viewers are also invited to chime in with questions or comments on the live blog that will be running simultaneously during the event.

Be sure to invite all of your friends to come be a part of this event!

It all happens from 7 p.m. – 10 p.m. EST LIVE right here!

Hey gang, Brad here with this week’s pimpy goodness :)

Joe McNally is touring Asia with his hands-on workshops and full-day lighting seminars next month! If you sign up for a one-day workshop in Hong Kong or Singapore by this Saturday, December 11th, you’ll also get FREE admission to the seminar! You can register and find all the info on the events at

RC Concepcion’s upcoming book, Get Your Photography On The Web (shown above) is now available for pre-order at Amazon and Barnes & Noble! I can attest to how much work RC has put into this book (we’re office neighbors), and I’ve gotta tell you – it’s a must-have for photographers.  Go pre-order this one to make sure you get it as soon as possible!

Laurie Excell’s new book, Composition: From Snapshots to Great Shots, is also available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble!  This is the perfect book for someone who just got their first dSLR camera and wants to take the next step to creating great images.

Scott’s The Digital Photography Book was just mentioned in The New York Times for their “Gift Ideas for Photo Hobbyists” article!  Go give it a read for more gift ideas from our buddies Joe McNally and, the Strobist himself, David Hobby.

Scott Bourne over at Photo Focus named Scott Kelby as one of his “Five People Who Made Great Impact on the Photo Industry in 2010,” along with Skip Cohen, Zack Arias, Trey Ratcliff, and Vincent Laforet!  Thanks Scott :)

Craig Ferguson has posted his review of Scott’s Photoshop CS5 Book for Digital Photographers.  He points out some of the highlights for him, as well as some things he would have missed in Photoshop had they not been pointed out in the book.

Photo by Ted Wood

The question is….

I know. Every Wednesday you hurry to Scott’s blog to see who the guest blogger is. You expect a successful, professional photographer with a stunning portfolio, and a series of inspirational stories about their fabulous career.

Sorry, I’m not that kind of guest blogger.

I’m just a regular gal in Los Angeles, with a passion for photography. I got my first camera at age 5 and never looked back. I might never make any money from my photography and I don’t care. My goal is to keep learning and growing, and just be a better photographer each year than I was the year before.

So if you’re not a professional photographer, my question is, what do you do with your photography? How do you make it part of your life?

Some ideas:

First of all, if it’s your passion, treat your photography like it is your profession. Get the best gear you can afford, and take good care of it. Find classes or tutorials and take them. (If you ever get a chance to take a class with Scott Kelby? Mortgage the house, sell the kids, do whatever you need to do to take it. You’ll never learn more or laugh more in a class.) Read all the books and magazines you can. Get to know other photographers (Scott’s annual Photowalk is a great way to meet locals). Attend trade shows if you can. And, of course, if you’re not a NAPP member, join! That will help you with all of the above.

When you’re looking for photo opportunities, my best advice is to get to know people doing interesting things. And if they ask you to go with them, always say yes. That’s how I wound up in an LA police helicopter, pursuing a bank robber. I met Sgt. Doug Abney when he was at my local station, running an annual holiday charity airlift. Private pilots donated their time to fly toys and supplies down to a mission in Mexico. I helped raise some money. Soon I was eating fish tacos at the border with twelve cops and a priest. When Doug started flying helicopters for the LAPD, he invited me along for a shift. After we caught the bank robber, we touched down on the tallest building west of the Mississippi, cruised by the Hollywood sign, then flew over to the beach (at 150 mph!), flew UNDER the jets at LAX, and found my house–I’m on top of a mountain, it’s easy to find. When we got back they told me they’d taken up 38 civilians that year and I was the only one who didn’t get sick (I took home my barf bag as a proud souvenir). I made a photo book and sent a copy along to Air Support, since I’d met all the officers at roll call. They used it to show visitors what a typical shift is like. For years afterward, I’d be in the Jacuzzi out back, and along would come a helicopter at eye level. Wave hi to the nice officers!

“Our” bank robber. He tried to hide under a freeway but we got him anyway.

Then there was the time I was in Outer Mongolia, drinking vodka and singing folk songs with a shaman. My friend Jeremy Schmidt started Conservation, Ink to bring printed materials to the Mongolian National Parks. Five of us raised some money, then spent a month in the Altai Mountains in western Mongolia, traveling with the nomads. City Girl had to ride a horse across the river and up the glacier, and sleep on the ground with the goats and yaks. For most of the trip we had no electricity, so we hot-wired the Russian jeeps to recharge my camera batteries. We stayed with the shaman, and an eagle hunter. At the end, we donated our photos. So today you can buy maps and postcards with our photos on them, and the Parks make money. You can also buy Jeremy’s partner Ted Wood’s amazing photos to benefit the Parks. After the trip, I made photo books for all of us. I also sent 400 prints to the families we stayed with–they got there eventually, by plane, jeep, horse, camel. If you ever promise to send photos, please do it. Most people don’t, and that just hurts the next photographer that comes along.

Archer at Naadam, Mongolian national festival in Ulaanbaatar.

Closer to home, my friend Mollie Hogan runs Nature of Wildworks, a wildlife refuge in Topanga, California. She takes in injured wildlife, or wild animals that were pets and shouldn’t have been. I just love getting that call, “Want to come see the baby owl?” We had a fundraiser at my house, and she brought the animals, including a bobcat, serval, great horned owl, skunk, turkey vulture, and more. We set up a portable Canon Selphy printer (very easy, just plug in your memory card and get great 4×6″ prints instantly), and everyone took home a photo of themselves with the mountain lion. Mollie also uses those event photos for publicity, and we made photo books for the volunteers.

Me and Phoenix, the best lion ever. Photo by Terry Matkins.

My friend left her dog with me when she went out of town. Turns out her dog will do about anything for a cookie. I made a book of silly dog photos and we sell it to benefit local rescue groups.

I love photo books, but for a real impact, consider making a framed fine art print or a canvas. They cost more than books, but there’s something special about that big image, presented as art. Mpix makes beautiful framed prints, with superfast delivery and surprisingly affordable prices. I’m also fond of Artistic Photo Canvas, and not just because of their gorgeous canvases. They have wonderful customer service, and went above and beyond on my recent order (thanks, Lew!). And of course I loved the canvas.

The cute, I mean talented, second-line band walked past the hunky, I mean heroic, Cajun firefighters on my birthday in New Orleans. I think that’s worth a canvas.

No Assignment, no problem! Make your own.

So you’re not a professional, and nobody’s paying you to take photos. You don’t need to go to Mongolia (but I recommend it, lovely land and amazing people). Find a project like the amazing Help-Portrait, that’s been mentioned here before. They take and print portraits of people in need, around the world; congratulations on their success this year! I’m also a huge fan of Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, a national network of photographers who photograph stillborn infants to preserve their grieving parents’ memories. Heartbreaking, I don’t know how they do it, but bless them. Google “photographers charity” to find other photographers helping those in need.

Or do it yourself. Find a local group you support, a sports team, animal rescue group, school club or classroom, senior center, church group, charity (I once ran the massage booth at a Basset Hound event, but that’s another story). Offer to be their official photographer. Attend all their events, provide them with high-quality photos for their newsletter and website. Make prints or books for the volunteers. Treat it as you would a job, take your responsibilities seriously, make sure they credit you every time they use your photos. It’s a great way to practice your skills and build your portfolio.

Photograph your friend’s house. It’s great fun to see your house through someone else’s eyes. (I swear, I will get up to Wyoming to shoot my friend, mystery writer Craig Johnson’s ranch next year. Really! I promise!) Or photograph a friend’s party. No posed shots, all candids and don’t forget the food and decorations. I had friends shoot my big birthday party and write messages on 3×5″ cards (the more mojitos, the funnier the messages)–great souvenir.

Keith Carter (one of my favorite photographers) says you should always have at least one ongoing project, wherever you go. It might be as simple as shooting people in red hats. Reflections in mirrors/windows. Street musicians. I always stop and shoot abandoned shoes. You’ll build up a collection of images, you’ll try new techniques or effects, and you’ll train your eye to be on the lookout for a photograph wherever you go.

Or create your own personal project. In 2010 I did my favorite photo project ever. I decided to make a visual diary of my life. I shot places and things around me, especially things that might be different five or ten years from now. The more I shot, the more I thought of. Favorite restaurants. My dentist’s office. What’s in my wallet. My pantry. My medicine chest. Gas prices. Fast food menus. Magazines and newspapers. Favorite clothes. I wound up with over 800 photos, that got edited down and sorted (Adobe Lightroom was a big help). I made a book that I love to flip through. You can read more about it here (including my comparison of three photo book companies). I’m going to do this every five years, and I wish I’d done it before now.

Many thanks to Scott and Brad for asking me to guest blog, it’s an honor. One thing this blog does is build an incredible community of photographers all over the world. So now I’m asking you, what do you do with your photography? How do you make it part of your life? Can’t wait to hear your ideas!

Janine Smith is a writer, photographer, proud NAPP member, and financial consultant to nonprofit organizations. She lives in Los Angeles, California, with two demanding dogs and a convertible that is not aging well. You can keep up with her at and, and follow her on Twitter.

Above: Shot with a Nikon D3, with a 14-24mm f/2.8 lens (at 15mm) at ISO 200, at f/7.1 at 1/5 of a second so I could capture a little movement while he was spinning the fire sticks. Click on it for a larger view).

Hi Gang: I just got back yesterday from a nine-day vacation with my family in Maui, Hawaii, and I’m tan, rested, and ready to tackle the busy end of an amazing year (OK, the tan part is a bit of a stretch. I spent most of my time tucked safely under an umbrella poolside or by the ocean).

I didn’t do a lick of work while I was out there (Matt, RC, and Brad covered for me on the blog), and so I just hung out, relaxed with the wifey and kids (and my brother who came along), read a book on my iPad (“At Home in Mitford” by Jan Karon—a really terrific book—the first in a series of Mitford books).

In fact, I relaxed so much, I hardly took any photos (except of the kids, of course, mostly with my new 85 f/1.4 which is just flat out amazing). I did go out shooting twice while I was there. Once with my buddy Randy Jay Braun, who is a fantastic Maui-based photographer (if you see a really amazing post card in any store in Maui, it’s almost a lock Randy took it—at least, everyone cool one I picked up was taken by Randy. Here’s a link to Randy’s site).

Randy lined up a sunset shoot featuring traditional Hawaii hula dancer and a Hawaii Fire Dancer. The original guy Randy had lined up, couldn’t make it, but we got incredibly lucky to wind up with Martin Tevega, a two-time champion, and amazing Fire dancer (and one bad dude, who was actually incredibly nice and fun). (Above: I took this portrait of Martin before we really got into the shoot, using an 85 f/1.4 lens at f/1.4).

(Above: 14-24mm f/2.8 lens (at 14mm) at ISO 200, at f/7.1 at 1/200 of a second).

Now, Randy freaked me out by saying “Hey, we should try something like Joe McNally did with a flash using a rear sync and a slow shutter speed for the cover of his “Hot Shoe Diaries” book.” I just had to shake my head and laugh, ’cause only Joe McNally can pull off Joe McNally type of shots. So, I steered pretty clear of that, and came up with the shot you see at the top of this post, and the one above, lit with just one SB-900 flash, mounted on a light stand, with just a diffusion dome over the flash head (no softbox or umbrella) with a 1/2 cut of CTO gel on the flash.

It was kind of tricky, because although we were lucky to have Randy’s assistant Mohalapua (“Mo” for short”)  helping us, it was Randy, his friend Jason, and I all sharing one SB-900 flash (I had to use the second flash to trigger the one flash we had on Martin), but Jason and Randy were able to use the pop-up flashes on their camera’s to trigger the SB-900 (D3’s don’t have a built-in pop-up flash). So, one of us would shoot, then the next, then the next, and of course sometimes we’d accidentally trip the others flash, and well….it limited how many photos we could take, as we raced the sunset, and two different subjects.

(Above: This was shot with my 85mm f/1.4 lens, at f/1.4 using natural light, and a gold reflector, held by Mo, just off to the left to fill in some shadow areas. You can see the effect of the reflector when you click on the photo to see a larger version. Nothing really done in post production but sharpening).

Before Martin got there, Randy arranged to have one of his favorite subjects, Kamie, there so we could shoot her doing some traditional Hawaii dances on the beach. At this point, we were just using natural light and a gold reflector to match the color of the light from the setting sun.

Above: Same lens, but I wanted the background in focus so I changed my Aperture to f/10.

Post Processing:
I only did three things for the post processing of the silhouette shot above:

(1) I applied the Lightroom Develop module preset “Color Creative – Yesteryear 1” that comes with Lightroom.

(2) I lowered the Brightness slider amount a bit

(3) I cropped the photo using my “Cinematic Style Cropping Technique” (link).

Thanks to Randy and Mo, for setting up such a great shoot, and to Kamie and Martin for being such wonderful, and patient subjects for our portraits.

My Other Shoot
On the way to dinner at Maui’s famous “Mama’s Fish House,” (my wife’s favorite) I passed a line of trees on the side of the road, and I made note of where they were so I could go back and photograph the first one in one of the rows, so I could isolate it from the others.

Here’s the shot I got, cropped once again using my Cinematic Style cropping.

Luckily, I did think to take a couple of shots (seen below) from where I took the shot, so you could see how glamorous this type of location shooting can be. ;-)  We stopped across the road from the tree I wanted to shoot (seen below), and I set up my tripod amid the very windy conditions that day, and spent about five minutes taking the shots.

(Above: This is the view from where I was shooting. From this point, it was just composing the shot so you didn’t see the tree to the right of the tree on the end. In post, I didn’t like my in-camera white balance, so I dragged the WB tint slider to the right, and increased the Recovery slider to 100 to bring back detail in the sky I also lowered the Midtones quite a bit to darken the sky).

So, from the two shots, I got a few shots I kinda like, but honestly I enjoyed my time doing pretty much nothing but reading my book, hanging with the family (We took breaks from the pool/beach and saw Disney’s “Tangled” which was awesome), and I played a round of golf at a really great course; the King Kamehameha course. We pretty much had the course all to ourselves, and it was just about a perfect day of golf.

(Above: Walking back from taking photos of the kids, I saw this water lily in a pond on the hotel property, so I snapped a few quick ones. Turned out better than I thought).

Printing from the Airport
As we’re sitting in LAX, my brother shows me a photo he took on our last family vacation with his Canon EOS Rebel 2Ti DSLR.

It was a simple ocean shot (shown above), and he wanted to print it big on canvas (60″x 40″), and he was thinking of sending it to some canvas printing place I had never used, so I told him he had to send it to Artistic Photo Canvas. I had him email me his shot, and I uploaded it to APC while we’re sitting there in the airport, waiting to board our flight to Hawaii.

When we got home yesterday, the printed Canvas had already arrived, and he sent me this iPhone photo of it hanging on his wall. He absolutely loves it, and said APC did a fantastic job—as I knew they would (APC did all the prepping of the photo for printing on canvas, including all the edge work, and shipped it directly to my brother).

All Good Things….
As much fun as it was to go, it’s always great to get back home, and I’m back at work today after a wonderful, restful vacation. The kids had a ball. My wife had a ball. I won a buck off my brother at golf (of course, he gave me some strokes), and overall had an absolutely relaxing, fun, wonderful time with lots of laughs, and lots of hugs from the kids. Now, it’s back to work—I’ve got a book to finish! :-)

Hey everybody, Matt Kloskowski here. First off, a big thanks to Scott for letting me write about this, as I’ve been wanting to for a while now. So here’s the question: “Is Photoshop a bad word?”

Personally, for photographers, I think it’s 100% necessary if you want to compete today. Technology has changed everything. The world knows that Photoshop exists. The standards by which photography was judged, even just 10 years ago, don’t hold up against today’s standards. We expect more from a photo.

It All Starts with A Good Photo
Of course you expect a guy that makes a living teaching Photoshop to say this right? Before I get too far into it, let me set the record straight. As a professional photographer, I realize it all starts with a good photo right out of the camera. Like many of you, we spend way too much money on tripods, lenses, lighting, camera bodies, etc… to just accept any photo out of the camera and say “I’ll fix it in Photoshop”. Lighting on a person, for example, is impossible (or really difficult) to fix later. Same holds true for landscape and outdoor photography. You can’t reproduce the light you get from sunrise or sunset. Photoshop can’t make a blurry photo sharp. I totally get it. That said, I think there is a time to fix it in Photoshop (yes, I said “fix it”. Not just to finish, but fixing is perfectly acceptable too).

When to “Fix” It?
I once watched a photographer doing a live demonstration where his photos were showing up on screen as he took them. Well, part of the light was hitting the area behind the subjects and the photographer proceeded to spend the next 10 minutes working through the issues that this brought up. He was very quick to say, “Sure, you could fix this in Photoshop but I prefer to get it right in camera”. Being a Photoshop guy, it wasn’t really the statement that got to me, but it was the way it was said. The tone of that (and several other things he said) led the audience to believe that Photoshop was something you should be ashamed of. It was almost as if Photoshop was a bad word.

If you’re on a shoot, you’ve got your time, your client’s time, your assistant’s time, rental fees and many other factors that favor you moving quickly. As a photographer, you should know that this was a 20 second fix with a brush in Photoshop vs. the collective 40 minutes he wasted (photographer, assistant, and two models). And if you don’t know how to fix it, I think your job is to hire some one who does.

A Quote
I was watching a video from Jeremy Cowart and he said something that really stuck with me.

“Photoshop has changed the game, and every once in a while, Photoshop is the game”.

I think he nailed it. Photoshop has changed the game. Everyone you photograph knows Photoshop exists and expects you to retouch the photos. Every client you shoot for knows Photoshop exists and expects you to retouch the photos. Even your friends (if you’re a hobbyist photographer) know about Photoshop. If your photos aren’t seeing Photoshop (by you or your retoucher) then I’d have to venture to say you’re not getting noticed today. And take Jeremy’s work for example. Some of what helped build his career would be nearly impossible without Photoshop. It allows us to take a budget consisting of one person standing on white seamless and produce a movie poster that looks like it was shot on a mountain top with smoke machines, a race car, and the most dramatic sky ever seen.

So where does this dislike of Photoshop come from? Personally, I think it comes from not knowing Photoshop. Scott and I talk about this a lot after workshops and seminars. You can pretty much guarantee that when we hear some one criticizing Photoshop, it doesn’t take too long to realize that they don’t know it. Yep, 100% of the time when I ask the person that just said “I don’t like Photoshop” if they know how to use it, they say no. But here’s the thing and the key point I’d like to get across: if you’re a photographer, now it’s your job to know it. You’ve either got to learn it yourself or, if you lack the time/interest and have the budget, then find some one who is good at it to work on your photos for you.

And trust me. Those people are out there. They’re photographers who grew up with a digital camera and computer and have never known anything else. And they’re GOOD! They’re fast, they’re hungry and motivated and they’ll never know “what it was like back the film days” so trying to tell them is like trying to get toothpaste back in the tube. I can vouch for this. I’m 37, so I grew up with film. I didn’t touch my first digital camera until 8 years ago and I know my eyes glaze over every time I hear a “before your time, back in the film days” story :)

The Pros Know This
Whether you realize it or not, the pros already know this. In fact, they’ve known it all along. Even back in the film days there were a whole slew of things that were happening to photos before we saw them. The difference is that back then, those tools (and the time it takes to use them) weren’t easily available to the world so we never really heard about it. Today though, we have Photoshop, Lightroom, and even Photoshop Elements (and lots of books to learn how to use them ;-) ). So for as little as $59, anyone can use these techniques that simply weren’t available just 10-15 years ago. And whether you know it or not, just about every photographer (a general exception would be editorial photographers) you follow is either really good at Photoshop or has a retoucher/assistant that is. Photoshop is indeed being used, whether the photographer talks about it or not.

One More Thing
One last thing. Don’t be ashamed of using Photoshop. If you know it (or you’ve got a good retoucher), then you’ve got one helluva a competitive advantage out there today. A great image is a great image, and it loses nothing if we learn that Photoshop was a big part of it. And remember, anyone that does give you a hard time about it probably isn’t that good at Photoshop. So don’t justify or make excuses when showing your work. If some one asks if Photoshop was used, you simply say, “Of course!”.

So, my question to you still stands: is Photoshop a bad word? Do you long for the days when Photoshop wasn’t around? Or does Photoshop actually make the photography process better for you? If you’re like me, sometimes I love the artistic post-process just as much as taking the photo in the first place. Feel free to chime in with a comment and most of all, thanks for reading. See ya!

– Matt K.