Posts By Scott Kelby

I get asked this question a lot (well, not exactly the $1,000 amount — it’s based on the person asking the question’s budget — sometimes it’s $1,200, sometimes it’s $800 so I went with something in the middle).

As an educator, my first thought is always “the answer is education!” (if all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail, right?), and I will include some education in my recommendations, but when it comes to portraiture there surely are a few things you could pick up that would have an immediate impact if (here’s the gotcha) you learn how to use them (there’s that education thing again).

OK, here are some ideas for your portraiture shopping spree:

A Westcott 5-in-1 Diffuser
It costs just $29.90 yet it’s probably got the most bang-for-the-buck of anything on this list. The four reflectors that it comes with are certainly handy (White, Gold, Black, and Silver) but the white Diffuser that comes with it (which you simply put between the sun and your subject which turns harsh ugly direct light into gorgeous, soft beautiful light is worth it’s weight in gold. If you did nothing but start using this diffuser outdoors, you’d see the impact in your outdoor portraits immediately. Here’s the link. 

Wacom Intuos Pro Small
Portrait retouching is such an important part of being able to deliver professional looking results today, and even though our job is “photographer” our clients expect that any image we give them will be a “final” image, retouched and ready to go. All of your competition will be retouching their portraits (after all, would a pro take a portrait and just hand the client a raw untouched image? Probably not, right?), so getting decent at retouching today isn’t an option — it’s part of the job, and a Wacom tablet is tool that makes retouching so much easier you’ll be amazed you ever tried retouching without it.

I carry the “Small” (that’s the model name, and it’s also its size) with me everywhere I go (it fits perfectly in my laptop bag) and I won’t consider retouching without it. This will make a bigger difference than you think. It’s $227.17 at B&H Photo. Here’s the link. 

An 85mm f/1.8 portrait lens
Portrait lenses are notoriously expensive — except this one. It’s about $1,100 LESS than an f/1.4 or f/1.2 and you’ll still get that magnificently shallow depth-of-field for natural light portraits that we love without breaking the bank (after all, is 2/3 of a stop more really worth that extra $1,100?). The only downside is — you’ll probably never want to use any other lens. Right now it’s only $369 at B&H (they have a $50 instant-saving deal on right now). Here’s the link.

OnOne’s Perfect Photo Suite 8
These are the essential plug-ins that cover everything from portrait retouching to portrait effects, from black and white conversions to lens effects, and pretty much everything in between. This Suite creates those trademark “looks” that have become the bread and butter of many portrait photographers and today being able to create those looks is really important. You can buy the whole stand-alone Premium Edition of the Suite for $149.95 right now, but if you’re a Lightroom user and only want just the plug-in version that works inside of Lightroom, you can get it for $99. Here’s the direct link.

Take These Online Classes
OK, this one is going to sound a little self-serving, but I take these online classes myself at KelbyOne to learn more about portraiture and lighting and it’s what I would recommend to a friend. Start with Peter Hurley’s class on Mastering Headshot Photography — even if you’re not ever going to shoot head shots, you’ll learn what really makes a great portrait and how to interact with your subject’s to get more natural, real expressions. Then watch “A Day with Joe McNally” to learn how to light with just one or two lights (mostly one). Then go watch Jeremy Cowart’s two-part series on location photography. He teaches you how to shoot pretty much anywhere with very simple light.

If you watch one class from each (you can rent individual courses for $7 a piece) you’re into this for $21. I’d just go ahead and spend another $4 and subscribe for a month ($25) and then you can also watch classes from Frank Doorhof on lighting, and Erik Valind on lifestyle photography, and Joel Grimes on lighting and compositing, and you can catch my classes on retouching, and more Joe McNally (you get the idea). Here’s the link. 

Get a Simple Lighting Kit
I imagine you already have a hot shoe flash of some sort, but a hot shoe flash alone, without a kit to make the light soft and beautiful, is a recipe for some harsh portraiture. This kit (made by Impact) is a steal, and it comes with a 24″x24″ pop-up soft box, flash bracket, tilt head and light stand and it’s only $149. That’s a pretty insane price. If you’re only going to shoot in natural light, you’re only going to be a part-time photographer (during the day and in ideal conditions). Learning to use just one flash will open doors you never dreamed of, and this kit is just $149. Here’s the link. 

So, how much have we spent?

TOTAL: $950

Round things off by picking up Gregory Heisler’s fantastic “50 Portraits” hardcover book for sheer inspiration ($34 at Amazon) and then use the rest for lunch on your way to your next portrait shoot.

Hope you found that helpful, and I encourage you to share any of your picks, ideas or suggestions here in the comments below. Hope you all have a kick-butt Monday (if there actually is such a thing). ;-)





(1) A little girl really needs our help
If you saw “The Grid” this week, you heard us talk about — a site where photographers have banded together to sell prints of their work to help raise money to save a darling little 4-year-old girl who is suffering from a degenerative genetic disease called Sanfilippo syndrome. It’s a heartbreaking story but take a moment to watch this video about Eliza and her disease (there is a cure, but it is incredibly expensive).

My friend, UK-based photographer and teacher Glyn Dewis let me know about this project, and following in his footsteps I added one of my images (see the red arrow above) to the fund-raising, life-saving project (each photographer pledges to raise $1,000 from the sale of their prints).

I hope you’ll consider picking up one of my prints, or any of the photographers who have pitched in to help by visiting this link; click on the photo you’d like a print of to help Eliza, then click the “BUY” button in the lower right corner and it brings up a window will all different sizes, papers, and prices. The photo community is awesome for coming together for important things like this and I hope you’ll join in by buying a print and become part of her cure.


(2) Time Lapse photography is really hot right nowâ¦
…and we just released a new online class from Tom Bol yesterday at (we release a new class every week). I talked with Tom when he was here taping the class and he has a really simple, very clever, and really fun time lapse technique so if you’re a KelbyOne Member, make sure you check it out (here’s the link).

(3) Brad during yesterday’s location shoot for my new book (Part 5)
Don’t ask. I will say this — working with Brad on a shoot isâ¦wellâ¦it’sâ¦wellâ¦it’s a whole lotta stuff like this. I could make a book of Brad test shots that would probably win me a Pulitzer. Just sayin’

(4) Wedding photographers — this week’s “The Grid” was for you!
We had two AWESOME in-studio guests: Atlanta-based wedding photography team  Justin Wojtczak and Justin McGough from (the guys who won the wedding photography behind-the-scenes contest). They totally rocked the show — lots of great tips, insights, and business advice. If you haven’t seen the episode, it’s right above — you’ll dig it.

(5) My thanks to you all!
My thanks to you all! At Photoshop World, my awesome book publisher (Peachpit Press) surprised me at the start of my Lightroom Photo Books class to present me with the award you see below for being the #1 bestselling photography book author for 2013 (read the full release here).

I’m indebted to my incredible team here at KelbyOne (Kim, Cindy, Jessica, Felix and his wonderful crew), and to Nancy, Scott and Ted and all the great crew at Peachpit who publish my books.

Most importantly, my humble thanks to all of you who buy my books and give me the opportunity to be able to do any of this in the first place. I couldn’t do it any of this without any of you, so just ‘thanks.” It means more than you know. :)

Hope you all have a fantastic weekend, and we’ll see you back here on Monday



Want to check out KelbyOne online training for free? Sure ya do! Well, that’s perfect timing seeing as we’ve just set up a FREE (F-R-Dubba-E) 24-hour trial so you can go watch as many classes as you want (which we’d love you do to because you’ll fall deeply in love with this way of learning, and then you’ll join in and get new classes every week on everything from photography to Photoshop to Lightroom and more!).

Here’s the link to get the free 24-hour trial.

This free trial is just available for a limited time so go right now (quick, like a bunny) and sign up — then just “go to town” on all our new online e classes (like Joe McNally’s “Art of Digital Photography” that was just released last week (everybody is already raving about it, and they should ’cause Joe rocks!). Today’s Tuesday, and that means another new class is coming out  (unfortunately, nobody will tell me what it is beforehand, so we’ll just have to see when they update the site today — that way we’ll both be surprised).

Anyway, that’s the scoop — come watch some awesome free online classes, on me.

Hope you have a busy Tuesday watching classes. :)



Above: It was pitch dark when we got there, and we were all in position just before sunrise.

Hi Gang: Right before I headed up to Photoshop World in Atlanta earlier this month, I got a chance to shoot the US Navy’s famous Blue Angels parked on the flight line at dawn (I was speaking the following day the annual ISAP Summit (the International Society of Aviation Photographers and they took a group of their members along with Pete Collins and me, out to shoot the jets at dawn).

Above: Once the sun came up, I got down low and hid the sun behind the tail wings.

I shared a couple of these on Facebook and Twitter, etc., but I realized last night I had never shared them here, so here ya go. These were all shot with a Canon 1Dx using either a 24-70mm lens, a 16-35mm or a 70-200mm lens f/2.8 lens. This was a pre-dawn shoot and so I shot on a tripod the whole time. As usual, I forgot my cable release, so I wound up using my camera’s self timer to take the shots. No filters or anything fancy.

Above: Once the sun was pretty high, I got in closer with a 16-35mm at 16mm to get this super wide-angle shot with the sun hidden behind the jet. It was my last shot of the day, because once the sun got above the jet, things looked really harsh, really fast.

We got lucky — it was a beautiful morning, great sky and contrails, plus the weather was just perfect. Had a blast â” special thanks to Larry Grace and the great folks at the ISAP — what a great organization (if you’re into photographing airplanes of any kind, you definitely need to check them out. Their annual summit is a blast and it’s amazingly affordable, too! Plus, they always get great access to stuff like this for their members). Highly recommend.

Above: This is the one-and-only time I’ll be showing this shot. I love the straight on shot of the jet, but the mess of planes and construction fence and tailors, and all made the background so busy I blurred it out using the Lens Blur filter. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve done this, and this reminded me why â” I’m not sure which I hate worse â” a really busy background or fake depth of field effects. LOL!

Well, that’s it to kick off this Monday. I’m working from home today as I’m on the home stretch on my new book. We’ll see ya’ll back here tomorrow. Hope yours is a good one. :)


Above: That’s not my office behind me. That’s Photoshop User magazine editor Chris Main. You’re only seeing a small part of his sci-fi collection. His office is like an action figure wonderland. 

Above: Now, does this thing go inside this thingy? Feel the roar of 24 Terabytes of sweet storage. Yeah, baby!

Above: A rare sight â” me in the server room. Even rarer â” me plugging in an Ethernet cable. (the three photos above by RC. The photo below is RC). :)

Psyched to get my new Synology NAS set-up yesterday
RC helped me get it set-up but honestly, it was a breeze (had I known it would be so simple, I would have done it myself). The hardest part was finding an open spot in our server room — we had it up and running in less than 5-minutes. Now Brad is going to copy my archives onto the Synology (it was already copying when I left the office) so it won’t be long now. I’ll do a quick video on how it all works once all the files are moved over but I’m pretty psyched to get this up and running. Now RC is trying to convince me to ditch Crash Plan and go with Glacier instead for my offsite backup. I’ll let ya know how that goes, too, but when I asked Brad yesterday how CrashPlan was working for us, he said “I’m not sure.” That’s not a good sign. LOL!

RC’s 2nd Edition of “The HDR Book” is here!
Yesterday I got ahold of RC Concepcion’s major update to his super popular “The HDR Book” and I gotta tell ya — as good as his first edition was (it made him famous in HDR circles for his trademark brand of post processing), this new 2nd edition is even better. He totally crushed it! Here’s how RC describes this 2nd edition:

“For those who’ve already bought the first edition, you have a completely new set of projects to work with, and some new tricks to put up your sleeve. The techniques more emphasize where we are going in HDR..  A more focused way to get to a look that’s good. Also, the first book focused on HDR Efex Pro 1  more but HDR Efex 2 isn't as good as Photomatix 5, so it’s written for the newest version of Photomatix.”

You can download the Kindle version right now for just $19.95 (link) or you can pre-order the print copy today and you’ll have it pretty darn soon (we just got our printed copies in house, so copies are already on their way to the bookstores). Here’s the link to it at Barnes & Noble or from (Congrats to RC for raising the bar once again).

Portland, Oregon Here I Come!
Somebody let Voodoo Donuts know we’re coming to town and have some ready! We’re bringing my live tour your way on Tuesday, May 8th and I hope you’ll come out and spend the day with me (and Brad). It’s just $99 (even less if you’re a KelbyOne subscriber). Here’s the link with all the details. See ya next month!


Join us for “The Artistic Side of Joe McNally”
We just released another in our highly acclaimed series of Inspirational interviews — this time our own Mia McCormick sits down for a look at the Art of Digital Photography with Joe McNally.

If you’re a KelbyOne member, make it a special point to watch this intriguing interview with Joe as Mia uncovers the artist behind the camera. Incredibly memory, amazing imagery, and just so inspirational. Joe is a one of a kind. Here’s the link.


KelbyOne App Update: Bug Fixes have already been submitted
Good news, and more good news. First, the good news: The big new feature of the KelbyOne App 2.0 (the ability to take up to two classes offline for viewing when you’re on a plane, train, in a car, etc.) has been a huge hit with members. Now the more good news: you helped us find a few bugs, including one with the new search function, and we’re already got a update with fixes submitted to Apple and as soon as they approve it, it should be smooth sailing. We’re working on some interface tweaks as well for the next update (coming right behind the one already submitted) that will help make things easier to find and more streamlined.

Also, just wanted to mention that the App is for iPad and iPhone as well.

On the Android side — things are looking great so far with the public Beta. A few minor fixes, but we’re “on it!” Thanks to everyone who has given us feedback, suggestions and ideas. It’s making a difference!

Hope you all have a rockin’ weekend
I’ve got a shoot today, and maybe another this weekend, but I’m home until May so I’m enjoying the down time and it’s giving me a chance to finish off my upcoming book: “The Digital Photography Book, Part 5: Photo Recipes.”  

Here’s to clear skies, warm temps, and lots of colored eggs this Easter weekend.



Big, big App news today for KelbyOne subscribers as we’ve just released a major update to the KelbyOne App for IOS, and it includes the #1 most-requested feature by our members: the ability to take a class “off-line” so you can watch it on a flight, or during a commute, or any time you don’t have access to wireless.

This new version has already been released (along with a bunch of other happy new features), and it’s available free to KelbyOne Subscribers from App Store for iPad.

Oh I can’t believe this day is finally here — we have an Android version!
Well, technically our Android version is available to download as a BETA version (meaning you can download it, try it out, and give us feedback now since it’s not “fully baked” quite yet). To download the Android version Beta, just go to — give it a whirl and give us your feedback (the “taking a class offline” feature has not yet made it to this Android version quite yet).

OK, gang — there ya have it. Believe me, I know both have been a long time  coming (thank you so much for your patience), and I’m just really happy they’re finally here. Hope you find them helpful.

Tomorrow, on “The Grid”
We have our in-studio guest lifestyle photographer Erik Valind, and I’ll be sharing the fiasco, I’m mean story of my shoot at the Bonneville Salt Flats, including never before seen photos (how that’s for enticing). That’s tomorrow at 4:00 pm ET on “The Grid.” See you at there:  http://www.kelbyone/thegrid