Category Archives Guest Blogger

Photo by Casey Cosley

(Editor’s Note: Some links to artist websites may contain artistic nudity)

The Hidden Blessing and Stigma of Failing
Just today I realized that I have been using Photoshop for half of my life. I remember being 16 and unaware at how fortunate I would be to discover Photoshop! I was in high school during a class I took for computer animation. It was an elective and one that allowed me to come across Photoshop while fiddling around with the programs on the school computer. Notably, it wasn’t even part of the curriculum and I was cheating on another program just to go on dates with Photoshop.

Photo by Djinane Alsuwayeh

Fast forward to today, this love affair with Photoshop has consumed me whole. Charles Bukowski wrote in part, “Find what you love and let it kill you. Let it drain you of your all…” The end message being the idea of being totally immersed in what you love, far outweighing partaking in what you’re not passionate about.

Photo by Bella Kotak

Being wildly immersed in the pursuits of your passion, there comes many a time where we have to face the ugly face of failure. My beginnings were the perfect backdrop for my message. It started in school, a place where failure isn’t really celebrated. It’s precisely why my level of growth happened away from school entirely. As we grow up, we’re taught that getting an A+ is sought after, and that failing is a terrible thing. Anytime you make a mistake, it’s looked down upon and the stigma of failing is one that needs a different light.

Photo by David Benoliel

No one really celebrates you failing in school. They don’t exactly give you bonus points for expressing why you thought a certain way and congratulating you for thinking outside the box. But they should; creative ideas happen in that exact space! Grand ideas are not built on memorization, but creatively thinking outside of typical constructs that we’re so used to.

Photo by Bella Kotak

The Idea Of Failing

It seems as though it is ingrained in us that failing is an inherently bad thing. Even in school, we’re judged by our grades and not our intentions. Not by what we learned from it, but what we didn’t get right. Even in business, it applies. As creatives are already hard on themselves, I want them to know that failure is beautiful and becomes the canvas for igniting better ideas.

Photo by Eric Michael Roy

I was never the brightest student in school. I felt that I always needed to spend twice as long studying something to make a lesser grade than my counterparts. I tried so hard but barely made it into the top 30% of my class. In college, I always questioned every answer but many of them could have been the right one. Granted, you don’t really get any bonus points for critical thinking if the answer is A and not B.

Photo by Alexander Saladrigas

I found out once it was all over that school itself wasn’t for me. Being a perfectionist, I didn’t feel proud of not succeeding to the best of my abilities. I was hard on myself and school didn’t make me feel better. It wore me down mentally and I didn’t feel like I fit anywhere in life, until I found retouching.

Photo by Bella Kotak

A Personal Connection

The problem with how we perceive failure is not being able to grow from it. My mental state truly changed the moment I grasped the idea that failure is actually great. As a retoucher, I’ve been fortunate to network with some outstanding photographers in the industry. What I learned from being around them was how they approached failed shoots or ventures. They truly brushed it off and expressed exactly what benefit they attained from it.

Photo by Anushka Menon

For me, the first huge failure came early. There was a major retouching agency that I wanted to work for. Within a short period of time and progress, they took note of my work and approached me to do a test. Excitedly, I took the opportunity and did my best. I spent the entire night and I felt so proud of what I had produced! My layers were filled with joy I tell you.

Photo by Andrew Fearman

To my surprise, I was told that it wasn’t good enough. What? I was in denial to be honest.

At the time, I was extremely disheartened. I even contemplating giving up as a retoucher all together. I felt like it was my only long term goal and I failed miserably! I mean, I did my best couldn’t they see it? If top talent couldn’t see my talent, then what was the point? Maybe I’m really not that good then. I should quit!

Photo by Hagop Kalaidjian

I had just quit my job to pursue retouching as well, so in my mind, it was all gloom and doom. Yeah, I was being a drama queen, but for me that agency was one of the best.

Photo by Scott Hugh Mitchell

What it did for me was motivate me in improving my own work and being better with my own business. A few years later, it turns out I was more applicable for certain opportunities that even they had failed at. Ha! I was so proud and thrilled that I stepped up in a situation that they weren’t suitable for. At that moment, I realized that failing to that degree was such a gift. It pushed me in achieving a greater height than simply being comfortable!

Photo by Susanne Spiel

At the moment that you do not get something you’ve been aiming for, do not consider temporary failure to reflect on your future and your current worth! Take it from me, stay the course! Failure is truly a gift, one that will bring forth opportunities and growth that you wouldn’t have discovered if you hadn’t failed. You’ll soon learn to celebrate it.

Photo by Michelle Fennel

The Stigma Needs To Change
The reason I write this message is because many creatives are extremely hard on themselves. Even when it comes to inquiries, if a potential client doesn’t accept their rate, they feel they aren’t good enough and deserving of that rate. So many of us are even closed off from being critiqued that we consider it personal attacks. I used to be one of them. If none of these apply to you, then consider yourself lucky. The best way I’ve learned is getting critiqued by my clients. Not being open to that would have put me behind. For many of us, it’s something we need to work through.

Photo by Hagop Kalaidjian

Failure is a beautiful thing. Know that it’s okay to not please every client at all times. Know that you won’t be suitable for every opportunity that comes your way. It’s okay to not succeed at creating your vision for every shoot you do. As long as you focus on what you did wrong, and acknowledge that there’s room for improvement, you should celebrate it.

True growth can only come from failure as an artist. It’s not defined by how many likes you get on Instagram either. There are layers and masks in Photoshop for a reason. Put a few layers on your career and know that it’s okay to delete some as you build the PSD of your life!

Photo by Hagop Kalaidjian

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

I know this is a line that’s probably really expected from me, but I’m gonna say it anyway:

I am so EXCITED!!!

Why, you ask?! Because I just recently got back from spending an amazing week down in Tampa, Florida with the KelbyOne crew filming my new class, and somehow, by the power of the god of lightning and those little greek shoes with the wings on them that make things go really fast, the video has already been edited, made into magic and released!!!

We designed this new class around the one question that I get asked most often when people see my images:
“How are all the dogs you photograph so incredibly well-behaved?”

You want to know the big secret? They’re not. :)

We thought – what a brilliant idea it would be to take a look behind-the-scenes, to pull back the veil and show you what it’s truly like to photograph dogs in real world situations. (And not just any dogs – no, we’re talking extra challenging, extra wild, extra wacky dogs!) The class was an absolute blast to make and, harkening back to my earlier sentiment, I am SO excited to share it with you! Here’s a quick way to get there if you’re dying to see!

I thought – before I get into telling you about all the things I really want to tell you about today – it would be fun to share a few behind-the-scenes shots from the class filming. (forgive the quality of these photos, they’re just iPhone snaps. Because, you know, why would you use one of the 6 or 7 high end DSLRs that were just hanging around within a 10 foot radius of you when you could use a cell phone? HA!!) Oh, and you should be especially excited about that puppy. Because I am.


Now let me get in to what I’m here to talk to you about today:

The Immeasurable Importance of Personal Work

This is a really, really good time for me to be writing this blog post and I’ll tell you why.

In January, everything feels new. I get to start again, wipe away the slate and build everything even bigger and better than I ever have before (of course, I could do this at any time, during any month or any day of the year  – but like the rest of society, seeing January 1st pop up on my calendar usually kicks my butt into gear in a way that any other date on the calendar could only dream of). So all of this being said, in January, I tend to do a lot of dreaming. I do a lot of thinking up big ideas, of making tremendous plans and setting goals that are so high they scrape across the sky. I have all these wild schemes to travel here, to journey there, to chase the last bits of yellow light across faraway landscapes, to follow my heart to shelter dogs across the world. I want to share more stories and give a voice to countless more voiceless.

I guess what I’m trying to say is; I have a heck of a lot of things I want to do. :)

So what’s my point here? When I think about all of these big dreams and adventures, I realize that almost every single one of them wouldn’t fall under the category of ‘commercial’ or paid client work. I suppose that’s the thing about chasing down that flickering light that’s causing such a burning in your heart – its intentions come from a place unmotivated by money or material things.

So, I have this great big pie-in-the-sky dream for this year. And that is to do more personal work.
And when I say ‘personal work,’ I’m talking about the kind of work that sets my soul on fire. The kind that makes my heart beat just a little bit faster. The kind that fills my stomach with little yellow butterflies just thinking about it.

See, here’s the thing about commercial and private, commissioned work. That stuff is great. Brilliant, actually – and I’m endlessly grateful for it. It pays the bills, keeps me sheltered and warm during these miserable New England winters, and keeps my favorite little four-legged dude’s bowl full of food.

However, commercial work can be creatively limiting. Commercial work means having a client that you have to please and whose preferences and opinions must be considered. There are deadlines and invoices and approvals. And most times, this translates to creativity and vision being controlled and ultimately, compromised.

But personal work? You know what’s so impossibly beautiful about personal work? It’s all up to me. I can make magic as big and as colorful and as absolutely unapologetically ‘me’ as possible. It’s limitless.

I have had the lucky privilege of traveling quite a lot and working all over the world. Throughout my adventures, I’ve been blessed to have met a lot of talented photographers. But here’s one thing I’ve found quite commonly in a lot of the creatives that I meet: It strikes me to discover that a lot of photographers seem to forget the immeasurable, unmatched value of personal work – only shooting for their clients, but never for themselves.

So here’s my secret for you: You don’t have to be being paid to be shooting. Just go outside and shoot.
When I was sitting in my studio today, thinking about all of the things I wanted to say in this blog post – something really big hit me. But don’t worry, I’m okay. …

(That was a joke. How’d I do?)

I realized that I have built my entire career on a foundation of personal work. It is at the very core of how I got to where I am today.

Say Whaaat?!

It’s the truth. I got my start in photography by volunteering my time at my local animal shelter. There was no motivation for money. There was no end game or specific intention to do anything other than share the stories of the animals that I loved so much. I watched them as they patiently waited for their families to come find them and I was fueled by passion. I was fueled by the way I felt when I looked through the bars of those cages and saw the big, round eyes of the forgotten looking up at me. Nothing more, nothing less.

If you have enough passion for the thing you’re photographing – for the moments that you’re capturing –  being paid or not being paid to make those images is an irrelevant detail. Because you can’t fake passion. You can’t change it. You can’t control it. And that is what’s so brilliant about it. That kind of authenticity brings people from miles. When you’re shooting personal work – you’re shooting something you’re passionate about – no rules or restrictions or regulations. It’s the closest you’ll ever come to your one true voice as an artist. And thats why it’s just so damn important.

So you’re reading this and you’re probably saying — “well, this is all well and good Kaylee, but I’m a professional photographer, and I need money to live, I can’t just be shooting personal work all the time.”

You’re right.

But here’s the thing. Personal work pays off in a huge, huge way. It’s the magic in your body of work that moves the hearts and minds of clients.

It’s the icon – the face – that defines you and what you stand for. It’s the visual representation of exactly what it looks like on the inside of your heart, and it will very likely be the most moving reason that a client will dig into their wallets and hire you.

You know when you wake up in the middle of the night with an idea? And that idea is so big it fills your head and spills over the edges of the piece of paper you’re furiously scribbling on to document every last detail? And you think of it for days and days and it makes your heart beat faster and it makes your head buzz with the feeling of possibility? That’s where the magic is! Put your finger on it and hold it right there!!! That’s exactly the thing that you need to be shooting! Money or no money. You go, you chase that idea down and grab it by its tail and you create it. You breathe life into it. JUST SHOOT.

So, getting back to that whole ‘extreme value in personal work thing…’ I thought, sure, I could write this blog post and rattle off all my thoughts and feelings and leave you with a million pretty adjectives about why I think personal work is important, but maybe I should put my money where my mouth is and actually show you some real life examples of what personal work has done for me.


This sweet girl here is Abby. I met Abby last year when I was visiting a friend’s ranch property down in Southern California. We were there to relax. Hike. Have campfires. Walk under the stars. You know, just generally get away from the madness of business and emails and deadlines, etc. We were there to be simple. To ‘vacation’.

Here’s the thing though — a funny little thing I’ve found throughout the years —  you can’t take a vacation from passion.

I saw Abby happily chasing the rancher’s tractor as she was transporting bails of hay out of the barn. I looked up and saw that fairytale sky – those sweeping clouds, dancing through the deep blues of the late afternoon. The California sun was sparkling overhead, swirling through Abby’s fur and warming our skin. When I have moments like this — moments where inspiration strikes me like a dagger in the chest – they feel so familiar. My heart begins to slam against my rib cage in a syncopated rhythm – reminding me that moments like this don’t come twice. So I shoot. I just need to shoot. That’s passion. There’s no rhyme or reason or formula that can make any sense of it. No. It’s nonsense of the absolute best kind. It’s actual magic. So, I did what I needed to do and was suddenly on a mad chase back to my cabin as quickly as my feet would carry me to grab everything I needed to make Abby’s photo.

I spent about 20, maybe 30 minutes, photographing Abby that day. The resulting images brought me no money, no fame, no special awards or accolades — they just brought me joy in my heart. They simply brought me pride and satisfaction for bringing and idea to life and capturing that spirit of canine that I love so much. That’s all.

Well, fast forward a few months later – I got a call from the editor of one the biggest dog magazines in the industry. My heart skipped a beat when they told me they had seen Abby’s photo and wanted it on their cover. Not only did that opportunity bring me a paycheck – but it also brought me that unbelievable feeling of walking into a Barnes and Noble and seeing my work staring back at me from the shelf.


How about this next one? This is my own dog Joshua. That basically means that every photo I take of this magical little creature is really just personal work. It’s me wanting to document every moment of silliness and joy that he so selflessly brings me on a daily basis, just as one would want to document their wedding or vacation. No one is paying me to photograph my own dog. When I create his images, all I know for sure is that, while not getting paid in dollars, I’m getting paid in beautiful, tangible memories that I’ll be able to put in my pocket and hold close to my heart for the rest of my life. And that’s all I need for motivation.

Well, one hot Summer day, I took Joshua to his favorite lake for a swim. We got into the water and started splashing around, playing fetch and just being generally silly and carefree, as we like to do. But then, minutes in – I got that familiar feeling again — that pang in my heart and that pounding in my chest when I know I absolutely must capture a moment. So right then and there, I left Joshua with his Dad and I hopped in the car, wet bathing suit and all, and went flying back home to grab my gear just as quickly as I could so I could return and make this image.

Since then? Not only has this image brought me countless smiles on a personal level – but it’s also been featured in multiple commercial ad campaigns across the world – – bringing me a sum of well over 5 figures in licensing fees to date.


If you’re not convinced on personal work yet, hang tight, I have a few more for you…

Here’s Joshua again. It was another one of those times – the kind of vision that would wake me in the middle of the night. An idea that brewed in my head, taunting me in every quiet moment, until I took the time to give it life. I took Joshua to a local park, bought a comical amount of balloons from the local party store on the way, and with the help of one of my best friends  – made this image. (If you’re thinking ‘it cant be that simple’ – you’re right — don’t let me fool you –  this image was an absolute marathon of frustration and obstacles and audible cuss words to make. ha! But I suppose that’s another post for another day.)

Now, I have this photo of Joshua as a 40 x 40 piece of artwork hanging in my studio. I look at it everyday and his joy and spirit infiltrate and inspire me like absolutely nothing else does. But, what has this image done for me, professionally, you ask? Fair Question.

Last year, it was featured in an ad campaign by a large pet food company bringing me income and brand awareness. It was also the cover image on The Unexpected Pit Bull calendar — an organization whose work I care very deeply about.

It was an interior image in my 2016 calendar ‘Pawsitive Thinking’, it’s in circulation on the front of a Birthday greeting card, and it’s printed on the new Dog Breath Photography clothing line that was just released this past Fall. WHEW! (oh, and shameless clothing line plug: BOOM!)


Okay. As I said above – what’s all this personal work talk without real life examples, right? Right. So, I saved the best for last, because here’s my favorite one ever.

A little while back, I took a special trip down to a quiet little city in Florida called St. Augustine to visit my grandmother. When I was in town, I got in touch with an old friend of mine who I knew lived in the area and we made time to meet. This friend of mine has 4 beautiful dogs and we decided to take them on a walk. I casually brought my camera along, thinking I might be able to do a little practicing of photographing multiple dogs together while we were out there. I snapped this photo on the forest path just as we started walking in. I delighted in the image as I looked at the back of my camera, but then counted that moment as nothing more than a documentation of a special afternoon with a dear, old friend and 4 beautiful canine souls. And that was all I needed.

I never, in a million years, would have imagined that this image from our walk in the forest would soon be solely responsible for making one of my longest-standing, most surreal dreams come true. Earlier this year, I was contacted by National Geographic who had seen this image and wanted it as their cover photo for the premiere issue of their brand new magazine  – Nat Geo Wild. (hang on a second while I go sob joyfully and uncontrollably for like 30 or 40 minutes..…)


So, here’s the thing. Personal work MATTERS. It matters more than I can ever say. It creates untold opportunities. What is inside your heart is far more important than any client plan or commercial call sheet for any shoot that could ever happen. So, that’s why, this year, I plan to do a heck of a lot more of it.

If I could recommend one thing, it’s this: Don’t sit back and watch your email inbox, waiting for something big to happen to you. You go happen to IT. Go make yourself opportunities. Go find those dreams.

‘Cause heres the thing about dreams; they can be elusive, sneaky little devils — but take it from me, if you chase them down with every last breath in your chest – you can catch them,

…and they do come true.


Now that I’ve inundated you with some of my favorite images, I would LOVE to see some of the personal work that you’re most proud of. Post away in the comments and I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for your work! I’m excited to see what you’re all up to!! :)

From the very bottom of my heart, thank you for reading this and for filling this world up with color and creativity. Grateful to be living, breathing and creating alongside all of you!

-Kaylee

You can see more of Kaylee’s work at DogBreathPhoto.com, and follow her on Facebook, Instagram, 500px, and Twitter.

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Commercial photographers are tasked with producing salable imagery in a client-driven environment; we’re hired to help create an image that itself is a product, and that often means that we’re working to a client’s specifications. In a busy year that could mean you’re constantly reacting and trouble-shooting ideas and concepts without a break to recharge your own creative battery. Many photographers take the time to fit in their own creative projects to do this. These personal projects can also lead to more work.

brazeaulaw
Shot to spec | Client: BrazeauSeller Law, Agency: McMillan
kettlemans
Client/Photographer collaborative | Client: Kettleman’s Bagel Co.

I love what I do and so I typically only take breaks when they’re presented to me, like a slow period when I’m not booked for any shoots and have few deadlines. I typically take this time to watch movies, read, and play video games which all can act as alternate sources of visual inspiration outside of photography. Of course, unplanned breaks can also have unplanned interruptions.

komiolaf
Environmental Portrait | Client: Career Cruising

My last shoot of 2016 was local artist working out of his home-studio. We had a fun session and I came away with some environmental portraits that I was happy with. I tweeted my thanks for everyone’s support over my fifth, and best, year in business. I unpacked my bags at home, uploaded my photos started some edits, welcomed my kids home from school and heard the scream and cries as one of them broke his left femur.

kid1
Waiting in Emergency

I wouldn’t consider myself a documentary photographer or photojournalist, but I instinctively grabbed my Fuji x100t – I bought this little camera after I found myself taking fewer photos of my children – and away we went to our local children’s hospital, CHEO.

kid2
Pre-Surgery

From Emergency, we went to traction. From traction, we went to Surgery, and from surgery we stayed, filling the hours with Lego and Advil.

kid3 kid4 kid5

Days before Christmas, Santa even came to visit the children, some of whom wouldn’t be home for the holiday.

kid6

All the while I was taking photos. Not something client-driven. Not a personal project. Just documenting a part of my son’s life because. “Because?” Because it’s what we do. Downloaded and edited on my iPhone. I updated his journey with friends and family. Letting them know he was well and, eventually, home.

kid7
Home for Christmas

When I was asked to do a guest-blog post I thought maybe I’d write about the process of managing a commercial photoshoot, or a click-bait list of useful gadgets I use. I had a whole week on break to come up with it, but a different kind of break changed everything. A sort of personal project in a style that I rarely ever do. Something not technically motivated, but personally. Something that is likely to outlast anything I create for a commercial client. Something just for me and my son.

You can see more of Justin’s work at JVLPhoto.com, and follow him on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

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Drones! Why Aren’t You Flying One Yet?

Thank you so much to Scott and Brad for having me write the guest blog this week! I feel that I should begin by being upfront with all of you and saying that, although I know that this is a photo-centric blog, and I take thousands of photographs per year, I wouldn’t consider myself a traditional photographer. All those photos that I take are turned into timelapses which end up the films that I create. Yes, I am (gasp) a filmmaker, not a photographer.

But that said, I do believe that I have something of relevance to talk about today that bridges the world of photo and video. A new tool that is capable of being used for both. I’m speaking of course, about drones: the flying cameras that will become sentient in 2030, form Skynet, and take over the world.

During the Holiday season of 2015 an estimated million drones were sold in the U.S., and this year I would expect many more to find their way under trees across the country. Some of you may already own one or be planning to purchase one soon, and I am betting that once you see how fun flying a drone can be, you’ll consider using it for aerial photography. Photographers (and filmmakers) are always looking for new angles, new lenses, new ways of seeing the world. Aerial drones offer the ability for us to see and capture moments in ways we never would have dreamt of 10 years ago.

Think of the possibilities! Landscape photography of mountains, but from 300 feet up. A newly married couple kissing in a field, as a bird overhead would see them. Panorama photos of a city, from skyscraper height. Most drones support 4K video, as well as raw photos, meaning you can now capture any moment from any elevation.

In the Summer of 2015, I had the opportunity to travel to the Pacific Northwest and film the mountains, beaches, and forests of the beautiful country there. My film “Pacific” was the result. These landscape views wouldn’t be possible in any other way.

Who Needs A Drone?

About 9 years ago, before I was even considering pursuing a career in making videos, I entered a video contest put on by Texas A&M University called “Why I’m an Aggie.” My entry featured fellow students speaking about why they chose Texas A&M and what they enjoyed about the university. Throughout the video, I featured pretty shots of campus that I shot with my trusty Sony HDR-UX1 – recording to mini-DVDs mind you, SD cards weren’t fast or large enough yet.

The shot that set my contest entry apart from the others though, was an aerial video of campus that I filmed from a plane. Yes, I actually rode in a plane over campus to get a shot for my video! This blew away the judges considering that aerial video was still relatively rare (unless you happened to have a pilot father – thanks dad).

An Aerial Video Revolution

Nearly a decade later, aerial video is now mainstream. People are buying Millennium Falcon camera drones, stuffing their dead cats and turning them into quadcopters, and anyone with a cell phone can purchase a flying camera for as little as $22 on Amazon. My aerial video in 2008 that took so much effort and timing, could now be accomplished by any kid with a drone Christmas present. Go to YouTube and search for any landmark in the world, and there is most likely an aerial video filmed of it with a drone. Do the same thing with Flickr and you’ll find nearly as many aerial photos of the same landmarks.

Due to the slow speed of government, there were several years where drones were allowed to be flown nearly anywhere. Half Dome in Yosemite, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Taj Mahal in India, and many more places around the world required no permission, red-tape, or license to fly. People were starting to see things from an entirely different perspective, and getting a bird’s eye view was becoming downright cheap. In addition, there were no requirements for commercial use; meaning anyone could fly a drone and be paid for it.

Playing catch-up in 2012, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) passed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act. Under section 333 of this act, the FAA was now in charge of regulating commercial drone usage in the United States. With no way for drone pilots to fly their drones legally for commercial usage, many of them chose to ignore this rule and continue to make money.

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Time For Safety And Order

This “wild west” of drone flying continued until May 2014, when the FAA began accepting petitions of exemption for Section 333. Any pilot could fill out some paperwork stating their business, why they wanted to fly a drone, and how they would be safe while doing it. Within 120-ish days, the FAA would reply with (hopefully) a grant of exemption allowing these pilots to fly a drone legally for commercial use. This exemption came with one HUGE caveat though, the person operating the drone must possess, at minimum, a private pilot’s license.

Yes, if you wanted to fly a small plastic drone the size of a shoebox commercially, the FAA expected you to know how to fly a full sized plane. This requirement led to greater attendance at many flight schools across the country, and also resulted in people exploiting loopholes such as getting their hot air balloon license. If you thought knowing how to fly a full sized plane didn’t apply much to knowing how to fly a tiny drone, try dangling from a basket suspended under two tons of canvas, air, and fire. Speak to many drone pilots from the “section 333” years though, and most of them ignored the rules and flew without a waiver.

Thankfully, the Section 333 exemption process was merely a band-aid while the FAA finalized their official rules for commercial drone usage. Finally, two years later in August of 2016, the FAA passed Part 107 of the Federal Aviation Regulations – rules that govern the usage of small unmanned aircraft (aka drones). These rules were far more comprehensive than Section 333, did not require a petition letter, and most importantly, did not require an actual pilot’s license to fly a drone commercially.

Tests? I Hate Tests…

This massive drop in requirements from Section 333 to Part 107 made a lot of sense. Someone at the FAA realized that drones were not planes, and they shouldn’t require the exact same certification of their pilots. Drones are smaller, slower, and significantly easier to fly than a full sized plane, but below the surface, there are still many similarities between the two.

Both planes and drones are at the mercy of the weather, and no pilot of plane or drone should fly through a thunderstorm. Concepts such as center of gravity and g-forces apply to an aircraft no matter the size. Different classes of airspaces around airports exist to keep tabs on all aircraft in their vicinity, and keep pilots safe. These similarities, as well as many more, are why the FAA requires drone pilots under Part 107 to pass a knowledge test to become certified commercial pilots.

As someone that finished college five years ago, and has subsequently structured their life so they don’t have to take any more tests (or wear a tie for that matter), I was not excited about the prospect of taking a test. But, faced with the alternative of hanging up my drone for anything except fun unpaid videos in my backyard, I knew I would need to take it and pass.

How To Study For The Test…

We’ve now arrived at the main point of this blog post: a video I created which is all about why you should take the knowledge test, and how to study for and pass it. In the video, I detail the exact (free!) resources that I used to pass the Part 107 knowledge test.

If you find that self studying isn’t for you and a classroom setting works better, I would recommend checking out Remote Pilot 101 and Drone Pilot Ground School. Both offer classes with videos, articles, and teachers that are willing to answer any questions you have.

But if you’re like me and you have a month or two to study in your spare time, I would recommend the following resources. You can read them below in the order I spoke about them in the video:

BASIC DRONE KNOWLEDGE

PART 107 TEST COURSES & CLASSES

AMERICAN FLYER’S TESTING CENTERS

FAA OFFICIAL STUDY GUIDE

FAA Advisory Circular

SECTIONAL CHARTS VIDEOS

FAA TEST SUPPLEMENT BOOKLET

COMMERCIAL DRONES FM PODCAST EPISODE 6

FAA PART 107 PRACTICE TEST

JONATHAN RUPPRECHT FAA PART 107 PRACTICE TEST ANSWERS & STUDY GUIDE

3D ROBOTICS PART 107 PRACTICE TEST

OTHER RESOURCES NOT MENTIONED IN THE VIDEO

That’s it! Read and study these articles, listen to the podcast, take the practice test, and when you’re ready, go and take the real thing. If you take your time and prepare, you’ll pass like I did.

Is It All Worth It?

After having spent a month and a half studying, reading pages of material, and fully immersing myself in sectional charts, weather reports, and drone knowledge, I would say that it is completely worth it. There wasn’t a single bit of knowledge that I studied for this test that I didn’t find useful in some way. I know now that I am a more well prepared pilot, and that I will handle my drone safer than I would have before. I hope this study guide is helpful to you and has opened your eyes to the world of drone filmmaking and photography.

If you have any questions about drones, timelapses, or any other aspects of filmmaking, feel free to get in touch!

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

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Top Four Reasons Why You Can’t Afford to Miss Kristina’s New Class

Ok everyone, it’s slowly counting down to the Holidays and one of the things on my wish list, is TIME! At this point in the year, it’s that one elusive thing that slips away through our fingers that there never seems to be enough of. Well – this mysterious thing called time isn’t just in high demand during the holidays, but always. So, when it comes to my method of teaching Photoshop and Lightroom… if the technique doesn’t save you time, then I’m not interested in teaching it.

Tip #1: TIME
As you can imagine, my new KelbyOne class does just that. Saves. You. TIME. So many people out there think it’s not possible to retouch portraits solely in Adobe Lightroom, so they take each and every portrait they shoot into

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A Guide To Becoming A Filmmaker Using DSLR Cameras:
Helping Photographers Transition Into Filmmaking

I’m like most filmmakers who started off using HDSLR cameras to shoot video. However I started off passionately pursing a career in photographer and toyed around with my new camera’s video settings and then BOOM! A video career began. 

A common story I hear from creative folks in my circle is that they just got a new camera and it shoots video, so they’re looking for ways to learn how to break into making money through booking video gigs. 

Little backstory on myself and how I got into video and where it took me… I purchased a Nikon that had video capabilities. It was never my intention to break into video, but I thought it would be a great thing to learn. Thought maybe I could offer video services in addition to my photography and double the amount I made. That’s exactly what happened, and it took me further than I could have ever imagined. 

I first began filming bands performing live in studios. Being a musician myself, I gravitated toward my personal interest, music and live performance. I suggest finding a way to film the things you enjoy most. If you’re into cooking, start with some cooking videos. If you want to film documentaries, grab a close friend who has a story you want to help them share with the world. Start small, knock something out and get that first project done and under your belt. 

After dabbling in video with bands, I decided to take video more seriously and grow it as large as I possibly could. Fast forward a few years, I linked up with Chicago Music Exchange and spent three years building their video channel. During that time I created over 400 videos for the independent music store. It grew the business from $3M a year to over $12M in sales a year, and we won the Chicago Crain’s business award for best use of Social Media to grow a company. The owner of the music store went onto create a platform called Reverb.com that allows musicians to buy sell and trade their used instruments online. We began with the same techniques with social media and integrated video to get the company up and running and had the same results. Reverb.com just won Music INC Magazine’s “Best Company of 2016.”

The point being that video provided a lucrative career for me and proved to be a necessary tool in the growth of these two striving companies. I’m so glad I picked up video and put that in my arsenal of creative skills. I think if you’re remotely interested in learning video, you can most definitely grow your company and expand your story telling capabilities.

I’d like to note that it was very important for me to continually focus on photography while growing my eye for motion. The two are very complimentary to each other. If you’ve got a knack for photography, it’ll be even easier to make the transition into video.

SHORTCUTS TO BREAKING INTO VIDEO

Let’s start with the basics. You’ve got a camera that shoots video. These tips should help you set your camera to the proper video settings. 

Switch your camera to “Live Mode.”

Select manual mode on your camera. 

Set Your Frame Rate, or Frames Per Second (FPS)
Your options here are 24, 30, or 60. This is a different setting than your shutter speed, which we’ll talk about next.

Quick Breakdown of each FPS:

  • 24FPS will give you that classic Cinematic look. Just about every large motion picture is filmed in this format. This is the most natural and relaxing way for the eye to see motion pictures. 
  • 30FPS would be for needing a little extra clarity. Perhaps you are showing off some products or doing a talking head interview and prefer the look.
  • 60FPS is going to allow you to slow your footage in post-editing by 50% and give you a clean slow motion effect.

Select Your Shutter Speed
The rule of thumb here is to double your shutter as closely as you can depending on what you set your FPS. So for instance if your FPS is set to 24FPS, you’ll set your shutter to 1/50 of a second. For 30FPS it’ll be 1/60 of a sec and if you choose 60FPS you’ll need to set your shutter to 1/125 of a sec.

Most cameras will allow you to crank your shutter up as high as your camera shoots like 1/8000. However you really want to stick to these guidelines to get the proper look for your video. 

*Pro tip – When you shoot outdoors it may be temping to increase your shutter speed, but make sure to raise your f-stop, not shutter. If your image is still blown out and far too bright, consider purchasing a Neutral Density Filter. The toughest part at the beginning is using your video in super bright conditions, because you need to shoot at 1/50 of a second outdoors which is hard to do, especially if you want have a shallow depth-of-field look to your video.

Setting Your White Balance
Quick tip is if you’re outdoors, set your Kelvin manually to 5600K. That’ll be good rule of thumb for shooting anything in Daylight. If you’re indoors, start with 3200K. This cooler setting with compensate for the warmer light that is emitted by indoor lighting fixtures (aka Tungsten light). 

These can vary depending on the lighting in your space, but start there and make small corrections up or down depending on the skin tone you’re looking to achieve. 

Using Multiple Cameras
For shooting multiple cameras, it’s absolutely imperative to set all your cameras to the same settings on each of your cameras. Factory reset all your cameras and start over with all of your settings. You never know when you’re borrowing a buddies camera or if you had rented an extra body, if someone tweaked some settings in other modes like Color Profiles and what not. 

For most people that’s the extent of the manual settings you need to know in order to start using your camera in manual video mode.

Advanced Video Settings
Color profiles are commonly found in your cameras shooting menu. I suggest using your “Standard” setting if you’re using your camera for the first few times. Once you’ve mastered the basics and want to experiment with different “Looks” then head to your camera’s menu and try the different Color Profiles available to you. The mode most cinematographers will choose is “Flat” or “Neutral.” This setting lowers the contrast in your camera and allows for more highlights to be captured without blowing them out. In addition it raises your shadows, allowing for more details to be captured in the darker areas of your scene. 

The main reason for selecting this setting would be for doing additional color correcting in the post-editing process. This mode give you the most flexibility in your post-process. Imagine this being similar to shooting a JPEG vs RAW. The RAW captures more details and allows for more editing capabilities. HOWEVER, don’t mistake this for being RAW video. There are cameras out there that literally capture RAW video and you’re looking at a whole different ball game with those cameras. 

The RAW capture cameras are RED, Black Magic and ARRI Alexa, to name a few. These are cinema cameras and don’t belong to the DSLR family. However, using these high-end cinema cameras is most definitely the direction you want to look forward to when expanding your career in large scale commercial work or feature length films.

Choosing The Right Lens
Being that I was a portrait photographer, shooting shallow depth-of-field video was my first priority and venture into filmmaking. I wanted to make my videos appear much like my photographs. A nice blown out background looks very cinematic, but when your subject is moving around the scene, it can be very challenging to keep your image in focus. 

When shooting video I rarely shoot wide open apertures like f/1.4. I typically stay between f/2.8 and f/4. This is going to help you keep your subject in focus and allow you more wiggle room to keep your subject nice and sharp. So when beginning, it may be tempting to use your portrait prime lenses, but keep those lenses reserved for nice b-roll or when your camera is on a tripod shooting a talking head interview, where there is little to no motion in your scene. 

*Pro-tip – There are lenses with built-in stabilizers in them. These are the lenses I gravitate toward when wanting a nice clean professional look. Here is a simple way of knowing if a lens has a stabilizer built-in. For Nikon it will be labeled as “VR” which stands for Vibration Reduction, and for Canon they label it as “IS” for Image Stabilization. Same thing, just named differently by brand. This is a major help in the field, especially when you’re putting your camera in motion.

Stabilizing Your Camera
The first mistake most beginners make is hand holding your camera for video, myself included. In order to take video seriously and get a proper look to your video, you’ll need to attach it to something to keep it far more stable than your hands. You don’t want every film you make looking like a Blair Witch film. Below are a few basic options. 

Tripod – There is one major over looked difference between a tripod for photography and for video. The difference is for video you need to use a Fluid Video Head. This is the mechanism you camera attaches to on the very top your tripod. For photography, they focus on tilting your camera up and down and panning left and right, but its not meant to move smoothly. However the fluid video head allows you to move your camera in a smooth motion in all directions. This will be a necessary tool for shooting clean professional looking video. 

Monopod – This is one legged stand that you can attach your camera to that allows you to pick up with ease and be very mobile. The trick here is attach a fluid video head to help keep everything smooth in your image. These stands collapse very small and are great for traveling and taking up very little space. 

Shoulder Rig – Rigs like these vary in size and price. Some can tuck under your arm or against your chest, or of course, over your shoulder. This rig gives you full range of mobility and is an excellent option versus hand-holding your camera. Shoulder rigs greatly increase your ability to hold your camera still and provide excellent stability. 

Slider – A slider is a simple track that you can attach your camera to that gives you smooth motion from left to right. To increase the motion capabilities, add a fluid video head and you’ve a great setup for putting your camera in motion and keeping your image stable. 

Dolly – A dolly is much larger version of a slider. A board with wheels can glide across rails giving you the ability to move your camera left and right with many more feet of travel. I prefer using 12ft length of dolly track. You can set your fluid head tripod on top of this platform and add very simple, but professional looking movement to your video. 

Jib/Crane – Like all of these tools, they can come in many ranges of build and size, same for jibs. A jib is a projected arm that you attach to your camera and raise your camera up and down with large sweeping movements. Smaller jibs can be as simple as an attachment on your tripod, and others are so large they require hours of set up and balancing. This is a great way to get some unbelievable elevated shots. They offer a look in motion that the previous tools simply do not offer. These are tricky to navigate the larger in size, so its preferred to find someone who is a dedicated jib operator for larger productions. 

Gimbals – By definition, gimbals are pivoted supports that allow the rotation of an object about a single axis. There are several popular gimbals on the market but the one most commonly know is called a Ronin. A Ronin is a camera stabilization system designed to give the operator close to the freedom of unencumbered handheld shooting but without the hand-shake.  This system is fantastic for shots less than 3 minutes in length before needing to rest. Any longer and your arms may turn to jello and your risk dropping your camera. There are add-ons you can add to help hold the gimbal in place, but they become pretty cumbersome and may require advance knowledge of the tool. In that case, you may just want to hire some to run a Steadicam, which is a handheld gimbal that works completely on balance of your camera and does not offer any mechanical assistance.

Audio 
We can’t talk about making videos without talking about capturing sound. There are built-in mics on most DSLR cameras. However, I suggest finding a higher quality way of capturing sound. This subject can get very complex and in-depth, but I’ll try to keep it simple and as basic as possible for jumping into video for the first time.

On Camera Shotgun Microphones – Most cameras offer a mic input jack. This is perfect for plugging in a DSLR shotgun mic that attached to the hot shoe. This allows your directional microphone to be recorded on the same video file when recording and does not require any additional syncing of audio and video in post production.  

Handheld Recorder – There are a few popular models such as the Zoom H4n that offer nice stereo built-in microphones along with several inputs to attach other mics via XLR microphone cable. This option will require you to sync your audio to your video in post production. 

*Pro tip – To make syncing of audio and video easier in post-production, be sure to hit record on your recorder and your camera, then use a clap within the frame of your video and near and loud enough to be picked up by your audio recording device. Then in post production you have a visual cue to match to your audible que. If your camera’s built-in mic is recording audio and picks up the clap as well, you can sync in most editing software using the audio signal from the video. The software will examine both the audio from your camera and separate audio device and sync the two clips automatically. This is a huge time saver. On the flip side, if something happens where the audio on your camera wasn’t recording or loud enough, you still have the visual cue from the clap recorded on video.

Storage
You’re making large resolution video and not pictures now, so you’ll need a storage device other than your internal computer hard-drive. It’s time to invest in external hard-drives. My preference for storing and editing video is LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt / USB 3.0 hard-drives. They come in several memory sizes, but 1TB or 2TB should be good for beginning. You can work your way up to a 60TB hard-drive that allow you to edit RAW video with ease. But for now, just grab one of those fun orange hard-drives and take your storage with you. With these drives you don’t need to plug any external power sully into a wall, and it’s fast enough to allow all your video files to live on your external drive while being edited on your computer. Without externals, you risk filling up your computers internal memory and slowing your machine down to a snail’s pace. Buy a drive.

Editing
Let’s focus on two editing software options. Both come with trial versions, so give it 30 days and figure out which you prefer. 

Final Cut Pro X – This system runs great and is an easy transition for those who may have dabbled with iMovie in your early stages of editing or prefer to use Apple based programs. This is what I prefer, but only because I’ve had many years of practice and experience with this particular platform. 

Adobe Premiere Pro – If you currently use Adobe’s Creative Cloud for Photoshop and Lightroom, then Premiere Pro is waiting for you to download a trial version within seconds. This may be a great option for you is you’re familiar with the Adobe programs.

Both of these accomplish the same task, it just comes down to personal preference. 

Exporting
One of the most common questions comes down to the exporting process. When your video is done and ready to be sent off into the world to be seen, you have to select a format or “Codec” to export your video file. It’s safe to say that if you export your file as “H.264” it’ll be widely accepted on most online video platforms and play on most any device. It’s the industry standard.

Wrap Up
When shooting stills and video, the camera may be the same, but the approach has to be different. The biggest difference comes down to the settings and tools you use to create video vs still photography. Use this quick guide to set your camera up and get shooting. The most important thing is to try, so get out there, film something small and build on that experience. Use one camera at first, then try using two cameras and editing between the two. Move on to putting your camera in motion and focus on building on to what you last learned from your previous video. Keep elevating your level of production and stay innovative. The world is waiting to see what you come up with!

You can see more of Chris’s work at ChrisHershman.com, and follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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