Monthly Archives July 2011

The Vincent Versace Award for Digital Photographic Excellence (often referred to as “The Vinnie”), is a special award within the photo category of the Photoshop World Guru Awards (the Gurus competition is sponsored by B&H Photo, and is open to all Photoshop World full conference attendees, and entry to the Guru Award competition is free for registered attendees).

The idea behind “The Vinny” prize package is that it provides the winner with all these incredible tools (provided by the Vinny sponsors) as a way to remove as many of the barriers of creativity as technology can, so there are no obstacles standing in the way of the artist. The award winner is chosen by Vincent himself from all the entries in the Photography category.

Here’s the prize list (to be awarded during the Photoshop World opening keynote September 7th in Las Vegas):

– Signed 24×30 print from Vincent Versace (shown above)
– An Epson R3000 printer
– Adobe Photoshop CS5
– Wacom Intous tablet
– All the plug-ins
– All the OnOne Software plug-ins
– Westcott 5 in 1 reflector
– A Lowe Pro Slingshot camera bag
– Lexar Compact Flash Cards
– Tuition to the Maine Media Workshops workshop (not including transportation, food & housing)
– A Hoodman Loupe
– An Enduro Tripod
– X-Rite i1Display Pro and ColorChecker Passport
– 13×19 Pina Zangaro portfolio
– A signed copy of Vincent’s new book “Welcome to Oz 2.0”
– One year subscription to KelbyTraining Online
– All of Acme Educational’s DVD tutorials
– All the lint in Vincent’s pocket
– Some cash (not much)
– Some Vegemite (too much)

If you’re going to Photoshop World in Vegas, here’s where you go for more details or to enter your work in the competition. Our thanks to Vincent for arranging such an amazing list of tools for the award winner.

Hey gang, Brad here with this week’s edition of Pimpy Thursday!


It’s “Christmas in July” at Kelby Training Books!
Ok, we know… that whole “Christmas in July” thing always feels a little silly. I mean, who likes singing carols when it’s 95 degrees outside? However, there’s one thing that’s never silly, and that’s PRESENTS! So from now until July 31, when you buy any regularly priced book, DVD, or special bundle from Kelby Training, we’ll throw in 3 free DVDs!

No codes and no special links necessary. Just make a purchase and poof! “Christmas in July!” Well, ok, there’s a couple catches. We get to choose the DVDs, and they will be from our sale-priced DVDs. We can pretty much guarantee that one of them will be the Best of Photoshop User – The 12th Year DVD, and no returns, trade-ins, special requests or whining is allowed :) But hey! That’s still a whole lot of extra training. Plus, if you already own one of the DVDs you get, you now have an instant re-gift!

Wallpaper of the Week
Be sure to check out the Wallpaper of the Week on the members home page. Each week an image from a NAPP member will be featured as the wallpaper of the week, so if you see something you like for your desktop, iPad, iPhone or other device – grab it!

Armed Forces Discount
As a way of saying “thanks” to our armed forces, NAPP would like to extend a $20 discount to every new or renewed NAPP member actively serving in our armed forces. Visit this page for complete details, and please feel free to share this via your referral program. If you know of an active duty serviceman or woman who is into Photoshop, a digital membership will put Photoshop User magazine right on their laptops, iPhones and iPads no matter where in the world they are.
Corey Barker is back with his latest class, Photoshop CS5 In-Depth: Interface and Preferences. He’ll show you how to save workspaces and customize Photoshop so you can optimize the time you spend working for maximum productivity.

Kelby Training Live
In addition to Scott Kelby’s Light It. Shoot It. Retouch It. LIVE! Tour, you can also catch Fay Sirkis on the road with The Art of Photo Painting with Photoshop CS5 Tour! She’ll be in Washington, DC on July 29, and in Los Angeles, CA on August 3. You can get all the details over at

Special Deal for Nik Software and OnOne Software from Acme Educational
Speaking of Vincent Versace, he and the team at Acme Educational have teamed up with Nik Software and OnOne Software to offer you a 10% discount on their products! Just use the coupon code ACME when you’re making your purchase.

The discount doesn’t apply to Nik Software’s third party products or specials (like the current $100 off Color Efex Pro 3.0 Complete or $60 off HDR Efex Pro), but everything else is fair game!

$100 Off Design Services for Photographers at
Through the end of July, the team over at is offering $100 off graphic designs for photographers! If you’re not familiar with them, they let you upload your photos to one of their design templates for brochures, business cards, newsletters, and display banners, then print and deliver them to you. Then you turn around and use those items to wow your clients, and increase sales!

Blog Collage from Fundy Software
Fundy Software, Inc. has just released its latest product, Blog Collage – ­the fastest way to create stunning collages for a blog or Facebook marketing needs. Features include designing for any blog/web width easy branding with logos using color or transparent backgrounds creating dynamic layouts with easy design and unlimited module combinations, and auto-saving for the web. You can see Blog Collage in action over at

That’s it for this week. Have a great Thursday!

It’s funny how much can happen in a year. I’m still in some disbelief that I’m writing for Scott’s guest blog series. With that said, I would like to thank Scott and Brad for this opportunity. I’ve been a longtime fan of this series and it’s a real honor to now be a part of it myself.

Often times when I write about a topic related to Photography, the difficult task is not determining what my point is but rather how to most effectively communicate it. How do you even opine over something so subjective without instantly alienating at least a portion of your audience? I think the best start is to propose certain axioms that I try to live by with my photography:

  1. Unless being commissioned by a client, engaging in Photography is totally self-motivated. You frame, compose, shoot, and process for yourself and to your own taste.
  2. Growth of one’s ‘vision’ is not academically taught so much as it is shaped and evolved by experience, failure, success and repetition.
  3. The gift of a photo being ‘done’ according to the photographer is that it can, and should, be shared with the rest of the world.

Now, because I can only accurately talk about my own personal journey, let me share how I came to establishing these three statements for myself.

From One To A Million

For the sake of brevity, let’s just say that my growth as a photographer took many years (I started in 1997) and involved a lot of money spent developing images that were oh-so technically flawed. The first steps were relatively straightforward: learn and appreciate the holy trinity of Photography (aperture, shutter speed, and ISO), start practicing different methods of framing and composing a shot, and stop shooting in the ‘tourist’ position.

Growth was slow and it was very solitary. Shoot the film until empty, develop it, and study it. The Internet was around back then but Social Media and blogging were far from reaching that spark of critical mass. I had never enrolled in any photography classes, so feedback was really limited to the handful of college photographer friends with whom I felt comfortable enough sharing my work, and myself. But, I did grow from it. It was slow and frustrating but I did gain meaningful experience from it in terms of what my style was. I was the one determining what worked and didn’t work within my ‘vision’.

Flash-forward to ‘Today’ – we live in a time where the barrier to entry for an unprecedented amount of self-exposure is virtually non-existent. An Internet-connected device, a blogging platform & a few social media accounts and you are ready to broadcast yourself to millions of people. What’s more is that there are millions of other people also jockeying to broadcast themselves to millions of people. Blog posts, Twitter streams, and Facebook walls are riddled with everyone vying for everyone else’s attention.

Who Do You Do The Voodoo That You Do For?

There was a period of about three years when I gauged my personal success as a photographer by analytics, metrics, followers, comment numbers, and unique visitor counts because it seemed like these were the critical measurements to focus on. I had also enveloped myself around learning and trying to master the galvanizing technique of HDR Photography and tone-mapping. Everything I shot, discussed, and wrote about revolved around HDR. I even began a ‘365’-photo project where I posted a new HDR image every day on my blog. I was consumed and for a long while, it was very good to me. Slowly but surely, I was seeing stats go up, my media exposure was increasing, and I was being regarded as a bona-fide resource in this area of Photography. I was making a name for myself.

And then something happened around halfway through 2010. I began having this feeling of stagnation and automation. There was something missing from the equation that had previously always sparked my love of Photography. I had a routine: shoot, tone-map, stylize, blog, tweet, and post on wall.  The blog comments and retweets came in and grew in frequency but even those began feeling automated. It was in this automation and routine that I realized it was stifling the growth and evolution of my photographic vision.

I let all of the exposure I had recently experienced give me a false sense of real growth as a photographer and I convinced myself that perpetually tone-mapping HDR images was the only way I would maintain this exposure. I was shooting and processing to feed that growth and not to feed my vision. At the time, I couldn’t begin to remember what it was like to shoot without bracketing or carrying a tripod and like all addictions, I really couldn’t see beyond it and then the tunnel vision set in.

And like an addict, I needed to find a significant ‘event’ where I could turn my life around. We were nearing the end of 2010 by that point, so I figured New Years Day would be as good a time as any to turn things around.

Evolution By Way Of Regression

For the past several years, my sole goal with my images was to retain every detail from the shadows through the highlights and everything in between. I convinced myself that my images had to be representative of what the human eye would see at the moment of exposure and not be limited by the digital sensor. I also focused exclusively on urban and abandoned areas, almost wholly abandoning any sort of landscape, portrait or nature scene because, hey, it seemed to fit this distorted formula for online success that I had.

So, I figured the easiest way to start growing was to go cold turkey. I began going on personal shoots with a camera, a lens or two, and nothing else. No tripod, no shutter release cable, no bracketing. I began focusing on appreciating and embracing blown out highlights and dark shadows. I was seeing shapes in the lack of tonality, rather than in the presence of it. I began learning more about Black & White Photography and enjoying the use of neutral density filters for Long Exposure Photography. I started embracing and really falling in love with the beauty of nature and landscape scenes, along with the nuances and complexities of portraiture work.

I was returning to the world I had forgotten when I was first starting out.

With HDR Photography, I got to a point where I was no longer experimenting in-camera and rarely made mistakes in terms of processing. I didn’t stumble and, as a result, I stopped learning. I forgot what it felt like to have that ‘Aha!’ moment when you figure something out that you did not previously know.

The Not-So-Trivial Pursuit of Photography

Writing this blog post gave me good reason to take pause and think about what I’ve done as a photographer, reflecting on my failures and accomplishments. When I first started out learning how to use a camera, I didn’t have any delusions about ‘going pro’, appearing as a guest blogger anywhere, or making a dime off of my work. I did it to become a better photographer. I knew that photography was what I was built to do and so, initially, it was all about the experience and gaining that second-nature, knee jerk reaction when working the camera. Ultimately, it was about being able to consistently make photos that I was truly happy with and nothing more.

Photography is very much like the playing piece in the game Trivial Pursuit in that it is comprised of many different ‘wedges’. You get these wedges through experience and knowledge. The key is not to stop when you think you’ve gotten that first wedge and all along the way in this pursuit, keep asking yourself “What is it that I’m trying to do here?” and “Who am I trying to do it for?” It wasn’t until I took a step back and really questioned myself that I realized what it is that I really want to get out of Photography.

Ask yourself these questions often and honestly. The answers may surprise you.
And please believe me when I say, “that is a very good thing.”

You can see more of Brian’s work at, follow him on Twitter, “Like” him on Facebook, and email him at

That’s right, baby! I’m going from up north to way down south, as my “Light it, Shoot it, Retouch it” live seminar tour comes to Orlando, Florida. Here’s the info:

  • Who: Me.
  • When: Friday, August 5th, 2011
  • Where: The Orange County Convention Center
  • Why: Why not? You’re 100% guaranteed to love it, or your money back.

It’s only $99 for the full-day workshop (Just $79 if you’re a NAPP member), and it comes with a detailed step-by-step workbook that follows right along with what I’m teaching during the day. It’s gonna be an awesome day of learning and fun, and I hope you’re there to be a part of it. See you in Orlando! (here’s the link).

Hi Gang: Had lots of great comments and questions after yesterday’s post about; the photo sharing site for pro photographers (well, at least it’s the one being embraced by the pro photography community these days).

First, I guess I’m late to the party, because I learned shortly after the post that isn’t a brand new site—I hadn’t heard of it before (I first heard about it from my buddy RC Concepcion), but the buzz surrounding it was so big I figured it had to be new, but alas, I was wrong (my apologies to the owners of

Speaking of the owners….
I thought it was really cool that the guys behind were answering questions one-on-one here on the blog yesterday (I got to meet them briefly at my Toronto seminar last week. I didn’t realize they were based up there until I saw a Tweet that they were coming to my seminar. Really great guys, and they’re doing something really cool). Anyway, I’m grateful to Andrey Thchilin from for fielding so many questions from my readers.

More on Ratings
There’s a great article pointed out yesterday by Andrey with how the ratings system works, and if you’re on the site, you’ll find this really helpful. Here’s the link.

Just in case the owners are listening….
I thought I’d mention five things that I think would totally take their site up a big notch. I say this because I’ve seen a number of people commenting on how quickly they’ve responded to ideas from their users, with new features and enhancements being added all the time, so I was hoping I might toss out a few here and see if any of them stick. Here’s what I’d love to see:

(1) Let Me Choose The Sorting order on my main page
Not the portfolio page, but your personal page (shown above). It appears as though the photos on this page appear in the order you uploaded them, and I’ll be darned if I can find a way to reorder them without reuploading them. I love the way this page looks (with one exception below)—perhaps even more than how the portfolio page looks, so being able to customize this would be awesome.

(2) I would like the option of hiding the left side bar
So it looks like what you see above. Just lots of nice large thumbnails. Mmmmm. Large thumbnails. This would look awesome on an iPad.

(3) Keeping Pro Quality Images Up There
I know the idea behind is that you’re only supposed to upload images you would put in your portfolio, and theoretically if everyone abides by that, it will help keep the quality level high and the amount uploaded low. That being said, if they want to keep this from eventually turning into flickr 2.0 (and I saw a number of comments that fear exactly that), I think someone (or a group of editors) are going to have to be the “gatekeepers” to keep people from uploading snapshots and lowering the overall quality. I know this opens up a Pandora’s box of “Why did my photo get turned down?” and so on, but if someone doesn’t set a bar somewhere, we could wind up in flickrland before you know it.

(4) The search function needs some work
My buddy Matt Kloskowski had a account before I did, but I’ll be darned if using their search let me find him. I can’t. Period. I even know the exact name of a couple of his images, and I still couldn’t find him. I couldn’t find me either using the search. Couldn’t find RC either. In fact, I can’t find anyone in particular unless I see one of their images in the Popular, Upcoming, Editor’s Choice, or Fresh categories. Maybe I’m using it wrong, but if you type in Matt Kloskowski, (as shown above) or RC Concepcion, or the name of one of Matt’s images; “Mesa Arch at Dawn” none of those come up.

(5) Make it easier to get to a photographer’s Portfolio
Let’s say I find an interesting image in the Upcoming Category gallery, and I click on the thumbnail to see the larger view (shown above). Let’s say I like it enough that I want to see this users’s whole portfolio. There’s really no way to get there from here (at least, I couldn’t find a way), without first clicking on the photographer’s name, going to his main page, and then clicking the “View Portfolio” button in the upper right corner. Also, if you click on the image on this page, you get a smaller pop-up version of the same image. It seems like it should take you to the next image in the gallery—-nobody wants to see a slightly smaller version of what they’re already looking at. But hey, it could just be me.

> Don’t just look at the Editor’s Choice and Popular Categories
Yesterday I mentioned looking at those two categories, but also make sure you check out Upcoming, because these are the ones that will most likely be in the Popular category soon. Also, the Fresh category is where you go to see the new stuff. Both very interesting and inspiring.

> A Lightroom Uploading plug-in is apparently in the works
RC posted this as a comment yesterday, and that’s good enough for me. (Yay—it won’t be long now!). :)

> Don’t do what I did
I was most interested in using as a portfolio site, so I uploaded a hundred or so photos (20 photos each in six categories; sports, people, travel and so on). After reading how they do their ranking, those photos will soon be buried in the rankings, so you’re better off to upload a handful, and then add to them if your goal is to have your images seen by others in the community.

> Dig This: NAPP members get $10 off an Upgraded Account
I didn’t know about this until late yesterday, but apparently there is a discount for the premium upgraded account if you’re a member. Visit the NAPP member’s Website for the discount code to enter during checkout (hey, it saves $10. Not too shabby!).

> All in All, I Still Think It’s The Best Thing Out There
I’m excited about what’s happening over at, and I read a comment on another blog (I wish I could remember which one to give proper credit) but it said something along the lines of “ will be able to add the few advantages flickr has a lot faster than flickr will ever be able to bring what already has)—of course, I’m paraphrasing, but I agree. I believe you’ll see tweaks and improvements coming very quickly at, and if flickr does one day realize that they’re layout is…well…ahem….let’s say “less than optimal” for pro photographers, it’ll already be too late—the pros will have already gone.

If you haven’t tried out yet, here’s the link (the basic account is free, and you can have your images up there…well….now). Thanks to everybody who commented yesterday and really added to the discussion.