Category Archives Guest Blogger

Small Studio, Big Potential
Around 10 years ago I invested in a wooden cabin at the end of my garden. Finally I got every portrait photographers dream, my own permanent studio and it was HUGE… then I started adding lights, props, an office and I realised it was small, very small!

Thanks to YouTube, I’ve invited millions of photographers into my studio and have been asked countless questions about my small home studio set up, so here are some answers.

How Small Is Small?
Don’t let the photos fool you, my studio is just 13 feet wide by 24 feet long. That sounds like plenty of space until you realise 6 feet of length is my office and shelving takes up 3 feet of width in places.

The ceiling is 8 feet high at the centre but drops to 6.5 feet at the edges. On paper, floor space might sound like the big limiting factor but I’ve found the lack of height is an even greater restriction on the lighting styles I can use.

What Are The Limitations?
There are obvious ones, like full length portraits are very tricky with anything other then a wide lens and there’s never enough space to store stuff. But there’s also the unexpected compromises, such as the need to use smaller softboxes; my go-to size is between 50 – 100cm (20 – 40in) diameter. I also shoot a surprisingly large number of images with people sitting down just so I can get my lights up high. I’ve become very adept cloning out stray light stand legs. Shift clicking with the Spot Healing Brush Tool is my secret weapon there.

Does The Limited Space Limit Your Style?
I may only have one wall to shoot against, but that doesn’t mean I only have the choice of one background. I’ve found working in the same space has made me very good at being creative, especially with backgrounds. When I change my background I’m in a whole new studio and ideas flow from there. Fabric, paper, smoke and coloured gels; I’ve used all sorts of things to create new backgrounds in my small home studio.

Where Did You Get That Textured Background From?
After years of working with a smooth white vinyl background, I needed to do something very different to save my sanity. Building a permanent grungy, textured background was the best thing I ever did in my studio. You can read the write up on the build on my blog. My D.I.Y. skills are basic at best, can’t even saw in a straight line. So if I can build this, almost anyone can!

Does A Small Studio Mean Small Lights Are Best?
It’s not the size of the space that dictates the power of the light, it’s the size of the modifier and how close it is to your subject. But in theory yes, I could shoot almost everything I do with speedlights. But having a slightly more powerful light means I can run it at a lower power for quick recycle times and super fast flash durations. Whatever flash you choose, get one that’s battery powered. With less room to run cables and often a forest of light stands filling the space, small studios can be a big trip hazard!

What’s The One Thing You’d Change About Your Studio Space?
My photography studio has evolved over time, but one thing has remained a constant pain: the heating and ventilation (or rather the lack of).

Do you like to use smoke in your shots? Me too. A lack of ventilation makes clearing the smoke a slow process, and as a result it’s ALWAYS held back for the last shots of the day.

In the winter my studio is freezing. Insulation in the walls would help, but that would make my small studio even smaller. Ever wondered why my models often wear coats and jumpers? Now you know!

You can see more of Gavin’s work at GavTrain.com, and follow him on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Photo by Eric Ryan Anderson

What’s Brad Been Up To?

Hey everyone, I figured I would take this opportunity to just check in and let you know what I’ve been up to so far this year! I’ve been doing a bit of a hodgepodge of things, but I’m definitely staying busy…

I kicked the year off with a few thousand of my friends (and Styx and Keith Urban) at Jack Daniel’s Music City Midnight at Bicentennial Mall Park in Nashville.

Photo by Robby Klein

As if that wasn’t enough fun, just a few days later I made my debut at The Ryman when I helped my buddy Robby Klein out on a shoot there.

Then there was a Run The Jewels concert a few weeks later.

At some point in January, I decided to start taking this whole photography thing more seriously.

And figured, if I’m going to take this seriously, then then what better way than by helping my buddy Rob Foldy out on a shoot at Vanderbilt University for ESPN?

Photo by Matt Divine

In February, I took a trip to Vegas for WPPI where I led an available light portraiture photo walk. Rob returned the favor by helping me out here ;-)

When I got back, I took some pictures of my favorite pup nugget, Opal Pancake, to give my sweetheart for Valentine’s Day.

(She may have also had a birthday recently…)

I’ve also been shooting some video content for my buddy Phil Barnes, a musician and songwriter in Nashville.

Photo by Eric Ryan Anderson for The New York Times

In March, I helped Robby Klein on another shoot with Kellie Pickler for her Selma Drye home goods collection, then followed that up with helping my buddy Eric Ryan Anderson on a shoot with Paramore for The New York Times.

In April, I shot a couple of videos for a new music startup called Crowd Music.

And one for my friend Annette McNamara to help her promote her corporate headshots.

Then I met up with the old gang in Orlando for Photoshop World.

And from Florida, I went to Atlanta and spent a few days editing photos for The Orange Conference.

Last week I shot Tycho when they came through Nashville and played at Marathon Music Works.

And just a few days ago, I photographed the Iroquois Steeplechase horse race at Percy Warner Park in Nashville.

Coming up next month, four days of shooting at the Bonnaroo Music Festival for Red Bull! This will be my first time photographing the iconic music festival in Manchester, TN, so I’m pretty stoked for that experience!

It’s been an exciting 2017 so far, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year holds for me!

Brad Moore is a Nashville based entertainment and commercial photographer and videographer. You can see more of his work at BMOOREVISUALS.com, and follow him on Instagram, Vimeo, and Twitter.

Photo by John Schell

My 5 Essentials For An Outdoor Location Shoot
Spring is officially underway and with it, a flurry of photoshoots among the beautiful flowering nature. It’s that time of year when shooting outside is comfortable, and the evening light has the last of winter’s lingering softness. A vast majority of my shoots take place on location, and over the years I’ve learned to bring along a few things that make shooting outdoors that little bit less stressful.

1) Scissors
I have a pair of strong scissors I bring to “tidy” up a scene (i.e. get rid of leaves, small branches, brambles, etc). They also come in very useful if labels are left on clothes, and any of the multitude of reasons you’d need scissors for!

2) Rose Clippers
On the subject of “tidying” up a location, some foliage is a little too thick and this is when my rose clippers would come out. They’ve saved me lots of Photoshop time across many a shoot.

3) Fabric (thick or thin)
Sometimes it’s not so easy to predict whether an outdoor location would be muddy or not. I always bring fabric along to protect the garments from getting dirty. If the dress the model is wearing is full length I would make sure to always have fabric tucked underneath so as to protect it from dirt. Ideally using a fabric that’s a similar colour to the dress makes life easier.

4) Reflector
If you’re a natural light shooter then bringing a reflector along is always a good idea. It’s a great tool to manipulate light as well as doubling up as a scrim, providing some shade where there isn’t any available. It’s also super versatile as it comes in handy on occasions where I forget to bring fabric and needed to protect the garments.

5) Safety Pins and Hair Grips
Two things that are a staple in my camera bag! If you’re working with an experienced hair or makeup artist they would bring these along with them. I, however, can always count on something going wrong on location shoots such as, zips breaking, hairstyle needing tweaking, pinning the dress so it fits better, etc!

We all know that the more you can capture in camera the better, and that’s why it’s worth going the extra step in preparation.

Here are a few more suggestions for a comfortable location shoot!

Water: Hydration is always a good idea!

Hand warmers, hot water bottles and heaters: Great if you’re shooting in the winter.

Umbrella: Have one for the model if you’re shooting in the summer.

Food and snacks: Because food puts everyone in a good mood!

Music and a bluetooth speaker: To help set the mood and vibe

Ladder: Useful as a prop or to capture a new perspective/angle.

Battery bank: You never know when people’s phones or other things need to be charged. It’s always good to have something in this situation to keep you covered.

Shower Cap: If it were to rain, you can protect your camera with it and it also allows you to still work with it.

I would love to know, what are your location shoot essentials? It’s always interesting to see what other photographers bring along to shoots!

You can see more of Bella’s work at BellaKotak.com, and follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

Photo by Jason Menon

Wet Plate A Hundred And Sixty Six Year Old Photo Process

Number one question I get on a weekly basis.. What goes into a typical wet plate shoot? Well, I’m about to walk you through what wet plate collodion is, and what I do when I setup to shoot on location.

Photo by Luis Velez

To create an image, I hand pour the emulsion (collodion) into a pool on a glass or black aluminum plate, then carefully move it around until its evenly coated. The excess is drained back into the bottle. Next, I lower the plate into a silver nitrate tank and let it sit in there for three minutes while the chemical reaction takes place. Once it is time to take the plate out of the tank, it has essentially turned into a sheet of extremely slow film.. In my mobile darkroom I place the plate into a custom holder so that it can then be loaded into a view camera and exposed.

After the plate is exposed, it is taken back to my darkroom where it is immediately developed and stopped with water. Once developed and stopped the image is no longer light sensitive and can be taken out of the darkroom into white light. The image now looks like a blue negative. The final chemical step is fixing the plate. This turns the image from a negative into the final positive form. Later on the plate is washed with water, dried, and varnished with shellac.

Photo by Justin Conant
Photo by Jason Menon
Photo by Jason Menon

Okay, so now that I have filled you in on some of the technical aspects of how each plate is made, I will go through my setup for an on location shoot.

My most recent project, called “Stillwater,” is a documentary project that explores the heavy rock community through wet plate portraiture. Most of the time bands have very limited time when it comes to their schedule. So to create work for this project I meet bands at the venue to make their portraits. My car is loaded to the brim with strobes, stands, power packs, 11×14 view camera, beauty dishes, and some other miscellaneous equipment. I unload all of my equipment, and set it up in the venue.

Once it is set up I will go out to my car and then set up my mobile darkroom in the trunk of my car. This whole process usually takes me an hour and a half to two hours… After both of these are set up I can start to shoot. Each portrait takes me about 20 minutes per shot which includes the plate prep time. So there is no room for error… I only have time for one shot per person, so I have to be very mindful in each aspect of the process.

Photo by Jason Menon
Photo by Jason Menon
Photo by Dave Bichard

The number one issue that I ran into when I started this project was trying to figure out how to make these images without available light. I learned how to shoot wet plate with using the sun as my light source. However, most bands arrive later in the day and by the time I get set up, it’s dark outside. So, I implemented the use of strobes to make my exposure.

Wet plate is not that light sensitive; the working ISO is around .5 to 1, therefore you need A LOT of light. About 12,000ws for 11×14 plates, and 7,200ws For 8×10 plates. So my favorite tool to increase my output is the Profoto twin tube heads. This allows me to combine my 2,400ws Acute packs into one head with an output of 4,800ws. I am constantly changing my lighting setup. However, my most recent setup has been implementing two Profoto soft light silver beauty dishes for my key light, above and below my subject. As for the rim light I use a Profoto magnum reflector. These tools help me achieve the maximum power output that I need for my images.

Photo by Jason Menon
Photo by Jason Menon
Photo by Jason Menon
Photo by Dave Bichard
Photo by Dave Bichard
Photo by Dave Bichard

It has been a long journey from when I first started working in this medium to where I am now. I encourage people to try out wet plate for themselves. However, it is a long learning curve that requires patience… Just be prepared to make a lot of bummer plates before you make any good ones. That’s part of the fun of the process, and it’s that much more rewarding once you make a plate that you are proud of.

You can see more of Matthew’s work at MatthewDeFeo.com, and follow him on Instagram and Twitter.

Follow Your Intuition

How many times in a day are you faced with having to make a choice? What time do I need to wake up? What should I wear? What should I eat for breakfast, etc…. That’s within the first hour of the day. Everyday we have to make hundreds if not thousands of decisions. How do we know what to do, which path to take?

As an Artist, the decision making process is amplified. As we walk through the creative process we often second guess ourselves. What lens should I use? What background do I put my subjects in? White or black dress, hat or no hat, etc… The list of creative options goes on and on. Do you ever feel a bit overwhelmed?

On one hand the creative process can be the most exhausting, nerve racking experience an Artist has to go through. Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could make a creative decision knowing that you are 100% right every time? I’m going to let you in on a secret that will revolutionize your photography.

First, have you ever watched American Idol, the X Factor, or one of those types of shows where the judges give advice? What do they say over and over. “Take a risk and be yourself.” “Do what feels right, and let it all hang out.” You see, originality will always trump those who copy. When you copy someone’s artistic vision, you will always blend with the masses because there is a line out the door of copiers. If you be yourself, you will stand out from the crowd.

So, how does the creative process work in the real world? For starters, there is this annoying voice that seems to chatter over our shoulder as we come to a crossroad and have to make a creative decision. It goes something like this, ”Are you sure you doing it right? Someone’s not going to like what you’re doing,” and it goes on and on. You start to think about your photography teacher and what he or she would say. And of course there are your friends, colleagues, not to mention the social media crowd. All this chatter is playing inside your head as you are trying to figure out which modifier you should put on your strobe.

Since you were born you have been practicing one thing over and over. From what shoes to wear to what music you listen to, you have been formulating what you like and dislike. It turns out, you are pretty good at it. You have a personality, temperament, history of years on this planet, that all play a factor in your decision making process. It all feeds into your intuition and is the culmination of who you are. It’s your uniqueness.

I have a quote that I repeat over and over to my workshop attendees, “You are unique, one of a kind, there is no one on the planet just like you.” This thing called your intuition is the ticket to you being a creative force. If you are in sync with your intuition, it will never lead you astray. NEVER! How do I know that? Because Art is the manifestation of self-expression. The creative process should be driven by the very core of who you are. No one should be able to tell you you’re off track.

The problem with most Artist/Photographers, is we never really trust our intuition and are constantly being swayed by other’s opinions. Often our creative process lacks the skill-set to compete in the marketplace. If you want to be a world class violinist you have to practice your craft six to eight hours a day. Just ask one. It’s no different in photography. The best photographers in the world out practice 99.9 percent of all other photographers on the planet. They take a risk by following what comes natural, their intuition.

When I set up my lights and build a portrait, how do I know I am on the right track? When it feels right! That’s right, when my intuition, my feeling and my emotions tell me it is right, I can’t go wrong. Because I end up with something that is unique that fits me to a T. A flash meter will never tell you where to put your lights, or what modifier to use, or how far you place it from your subject. This is reserved for the creative mind and falls on the shoulders of your intuition. Stop listening to the chatter of other’s opinions and follow the single greatest asset you posses as an Artist, your very own intuition.

You can see more of Joel’s work at JoelGrimes.com, and follow him on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.

Photo by Daniel Stark

Three Years of Shotkit | Photographers & Their Camera Gear

Hey guys, this is Mark here from a site you may have heard of called Shotkit. Thanks for having me here on ScottKelby.com – it’s truly an honour.

I started Shotkit back in 2014 to scratch my own itch of wanting to know what my favourite photographers carried in their camera bags.

Everyone knows that a good camera does not a good photographer make, but most of us in the industry are still very passionate about the photography equipment we use… and whilst few like to admit it, we’re all a little curious about the camera gear used by others!

What photographer wouldn’t be curious as to what on earth this wedding photographer takes with him on shoots?!
Photo by Emin Kuliyev for Shotkit

Since 2014, Shotkit has morphed into a popular blog for all things photography and gear related, but the raison d’être of the site is still a place for nosey photographers to have a snoop at the gear of their peers.

To celebrate Shotkit’s third birthday, I put together a one-minute slide show of the hundreds of successful submissions I’ve received over the years. Keep your eyes peeled for Scott Kelby’s own gear load-out… or I should say, one of his many!

After receiving so many submissions from photographers from around the world, I’ve been given a unique insight into the most popular photography equipment in use by professionals today.

As perhaps no surprise to many of you, wedding photographers outnumber all other genres of submission to Shotkit. It’s also unsurprising that the wedding photography gear in use around the world is by and large, very similar across the board.

The effort that photographers go into with their Shotkit submissions is very impressive. Being creative with how we lay out and photograph even our gear is often just an extension of the creativity used each day in our jobs, after all.
Photo by Neville Black for Shotkit

Nevertheless, it’s interesting to see how other camera formats continue to disrupt the industry, with photographers of all genres slowly switching to the best mirrorless cameras available, mostly from the likes of Sony, Fuji and Panasonic.

Whatever your stance is on the great mirrorless cameras vs dSLR debate, the future of cameras which rely on cumbersome mirrors to capture images is looking admittedly bleak.

Personally, I’ll be sticking with my trusty dSLR for a few more years though, and I’m sure I won’t be the only one…

Whilst Mirrorless Cameras may be the future, the fight isn’t over just yet…

Whilst I continue to publish a new photographer and their gear every other day of the year on Shotkit, I spend the majority of my time writing content for the Shotkit Blog, the newsletter, a range of ebooks, and most recently, development of an interactive tool for Lightroom & Photoshop Shortcuts.

The topic of photographer workflows is one that I’m passionate about (I’m an avid follower of Scott’s excellent Lightroom Killer Tips), and I intend to explore the subject more in 2017.

Using keyboard shortcuts in the software we use for post production every day as professional photographers is an important step in spending less time behind a desk and more time behind a camera. I hope this shortcuts tool will be a step in the right direction in helping us all achieve this.

Save some time whilst editing and speed up your post production workflow with this handy interactive shortcuts keyboard

As for the Shotkit blog, posts such as the best cameras under $500 and the best camera bags may seem like an Amazon affiliate link carnival to some (!), but they’re actually very popular posts, especially for beginner photographers who need some advice about their first purchases… not to mention of course those of us with a dose of the dreaded G.A.S.!

I’ve tried to include a selection of links to some of the most popular blog posts published on Shotkit in this article, but the truth is, I’ve really only scratched the surface.

From photographers showing off their best work and favourite photography gadgets and gizmos, to gear reviews, business advice and creative inspiration, there’s something on Shotkit for everyone. I hope you enjoy reading Shotkit as much as I do putting it together!

My own camera equipment and travel gear which I take for destination wedding photography work.
Photo by Mark Condon for Shotkit

I’ll close this guest post off by thanking Scott, Brad and the team behind ScottKelby.com and Lightroom Killer Tips for producing such incredibly useful content for photographers like us. Sites like these are a constant inspiration for both my own photography work and my work with Shotkit.

I’m looking forward to seeing you part of the Shotkit Community and I encourage you to submit your kit!

Now, which photographers’ camera bags would you most like to take a peek into? Leave their names in the comments below…

Mark Condon is a British wedding photographer based in Sydney. He is the founder of Shotkit and author of the Shotkit Books, Lightroom Power User, More Brides and LIT. You can follow him on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

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