Category Archives Guest Blogger

Photo by Jason Ryan

Hello!  It's been quite awhile since my last guest blog, and I'm excited to be back here. Brad and I were just talking about a shoot I did over the weekend, and he thought this may be a good place to share what i've been up to.

To start with a quick introduction, here's my backstoryâ¦

From 2008 to 2013 I was Joe McNally's 1st assistant. I spent the majority of that time on the road traveling hundreds of thousands of miles all over the world with him. It was an absolutely incredible life experience and has made a huge impact on my photography and life to this day. As of September 2013, I embarked full-time into the freelance photo world, and like most New York photographers, moved to Brooklyn.

Since I first picked up a camera at the age of 14, I've always pointed it at musicians, and I'm very happy to say that just about all of my work to this day is in the music/entertainment industries.

What started as lots of live concert shoots over the years has transitioned into primarily portraits, backstage candids, and in-(recording) studio reportage for commercial and editorial clients like Red Bull, The Associated Press, Rolling Stone and The New York Times.

Instead of giving you an overview of my work, I've decided to share with you a real world shoot that just happened this past Sunday for The Associated Pressâ¦

The freelance world, as we know, is entirely unpredictable. I can't begin to say how many weeks I've had without a single shoot booked, and then within hours, I've gotten absolutely slammed and am struggling to keep my head on straight.

This past weekend was certainly that case, and as of 3PM on Friday, I had plans to attend a photo festival in Pennsylvania. At 3:30PM, I got an email from AP asking if I had an interest in shooting a quick group portrait shoot on Sunday morning.

The legendary producer, T Bone Burnett was given access to a box of Bob Dylan's hand-written, unpublished lyrics from the time of the original "Basement Tapes" recordings, and he tasked himself with putting together an all-star lineup of musicians to write songs for these lyrics, and release what is now called "The New Basement Tapes" (released on November 10th). The band he put together is comprised of Elvis Costello, Marcus Mumford (Mumford & Sons), Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), Rhiannon Giddens (Carolina Chocolate Drops), and Jim James (My Morning Jacket).

As a freelancer, when you get an email like this, no matter what your plans are (with very few exceptions), you very quickly write back and say "yes." To have these five musicians in one room is amazing, and to have the opportunity to photograph them is an absolute honor that you can't take lightly.

A shoot like this involves a lot of prep work to pull it off well. Researching the artists, the location (luckily, I had shot Roger Waters at the same venue last year), pushing to get there as early as possible, pushing to have the talent for as long as possible, planning out the setup, prepping gear, etc.  At the very least, it was a full day's work to piece this all together, and that's before even getting to the shoot itself.

Posing five people well isn't at all an easy thing to pull off, especially when it's a crew like this. We got there with plenty of time to set up and test out some ideas, and here's a very loose comp of what we had planned out. We had to plan for six people, as we were unsure until the last minute as to whether or not T Bone Burnett would be showing up for the shoot (he didn't make it).

Thanks so much to Nick Rapaz and Erik Ellingson for all the help in pulling this off!

I knew I wanted Elvis to sit on the trunk, and had plans for the rest of them as well.  I also knew that I had to be assertive as soon as they stepped on-set, or I'd never get what I needed.

As soon as they walked in, "Elvis, I'd like for you to sit right here on the trunk." Elvis: "I'd really rather stand than sit." Marcus: "Yea, we'd like to stand." They walked right past the trunk, and stood behind it, right against the backdrop, which was clearly not going to work.  We ended up moving it out, replacing it with an apple box, and then taking that out all together.

While I was shooting, I had thought about getting something usable, then bringing the trunk back in and asking them to humor me one more time. I thought that they may entertain the idea if I promised them it would look great, but I also know I could possibly get a flat out "no." Also in the back of my mind was the fact that I had been outside a few minutes before the shoot and saw some beautiful light on the building. I really wanted to get them out there as well, and knew that if I pushed them too hard inside, I'd outright lose them and never get to photograph another setup with them.

Sure enough, we spent almost ten minutes inside (which is a lot of time with anyone notable), and I convinced them to come outside for a few quick photos.

After the 2+ hours of setup, tweaking and shooting the indoor photos, I actually much prefer the more candid feel of the photos shot outsideâ” which were shot in under 90 seconds and lit by the sun. Go figure.

I'm happy to answer any questions you may have, and if you'd like to see more of what i've been up to, you can find me here:




Thanks so much for reading!



First I want to thank Scott Kelby for having me as a guest blogger.

Scott has been so important in my life as a photographer. I have learned all my photography basics with the use of Scott's books back in 2005. His books were the easiest and funniest to understand.

We later on became friends and he has helped me a lot to grow as a teacher and a photographer through the years. He has such a big heart, you don't feel small around him; this is a quality that is very rare nowadays.

I got the idea of making this article because most of the emails I receive daily are people asking for advises on where to shoot in Paris. Paris is a big city and there are tons of photo opportunities. It is one of the most visited places on earth with around 27 millions visitors per year.

I have been taking photos of Paris for 10 years now and wanted to give you some locations where you can look at Paris from a Parisian's viewpoint, places you might not come across if you are just on a regular tourist visit and I also wanted to advise on a couple of cool restaurants in Paris!

Warning: This list is very incomplete; I'm in the process of making a photo book of 160 photos on Paris with Teneus Publishing
These are just a few places I really want to share with you.

The Eiffel Tower (map link)
If you come to Paris and you don't take a photo of the Eiffel Tower, no one is going to believe you went to Paris ☺
The most classic shots of the Eiffel tower are taken from the Champs de Mars, the Eiffel Tower itself and the Place Trocad©ro, you will find thousands of tourists there taking similar shots!

The frame in the frame of the Eiffel Tower (map link)
There is a small street located in the 16th arrondissement where you have a very original view of the tower. The Eiffel Tower is framed by very nice Haussmannian buildings, (Haussmann is an amazing architect that reshaped Paris from 1853 to 1870 and built thousands of buildings).

The Bir-Hakeim Bridge (map link)
The same Architect that built the Eiffel Tower, Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, built the Bir-Hakeim Bridge. This bridge gives you a very unique viewpoint of the tower; this is probably the best place to make nice compositions.

The Eiffel Tower Itself (map link)
I remember being with Scott Kelby right at the base of the Eiffel Tower and we were wondering how we could get an original photo that no one had shot. I got the idea of shooting very wide, with 3 photos to make a panorama. The structure itself is so amazing that I'm sure you will come up with original views.

The view from the Alexandre III Bridge (map link)
This bridge is for me the nicest in Paris and has amazing city lights, sculptures and a structure. You can get some really cool compositions with all these elements:

The three bridges in Paris you must shoot
Paris has many bridges, but for me the nicest and most interesting ones to shoot are:

The Alexandre III Bridge (map link)
I mentioned earlier you have a great view over the Eiffel Tower from here but you also have two more views that are amazing.

The first is the composition of the bridge itself with the Grand Palais behind it:

The second is a similar composition but from across the bridge with Les Invalides behind:

The Pont Neuf (map link)
This one is very close to the Pont des Arts. I think this spot is one of the most fruitful locations you can find to see the beauty of Paris.

Square du Vert-Galant of the Pont Neuf (map link)
This area is not very known, a couple of weeks ago I brought some friends that have been in Paris for years and they did not know about this place. It is where you go down close to the Seine if you want to visit Paris by boat, but it will give you a unique view on the Louvre and the Pont des arts. Here is a wide and close shot I got one night when there was an amazing sunset:

Same view with a different sky:

Close up:

Le Pont Neuf shot from la Samaritaine, will give you a great composition of the bridge itself leading to the Ile de la Cit© and it's old buildings.

A black and white version of the same photo during gray weather. When the natural lighting is not great I like to make my photo in black and white.

Pont des Arts (map link)
If you go on the Pont des Arts itself and look at the Pont Neuf, you get this amazing view:

Le Louvre (map link)
The Louvre is hard to shoot as there are lots of tourists. However if you go there during the week (except Wednesday) and you go behind the pyramid, you can get this shot.

Tip: go there right before the city lights go on (sunset) on a clear day and shoot 35 mm and make panoramas, you should get something like this:

Some high vantage points
There is nothing like seeing the City of Lights from a high vantage point, here are the 4 best places for me:

The roof of the Tour Montparnasse (map link)
It cost around 10 Euros to go to the top, but it's worth it and it's the only place where tripods are allowed, I recommend shooting from 35 to 150 mm, wider you will have trouble with the windows that have been installed:

The rooftop of the Arc de Triomphe (map link)
There are lots of stairs to go up so you need to be in good shape and unfortunately tripods are not allowed.

Tip: if you take a half emptied bag of rice you can use it as a â˜tripod' by positioning the bag of rice on the edge of the monument (after the barrier) to take a beautiful night shot which is great as the Arc de Triomphe is open late!

View of the Eiffel Tower:

View of La Defense:

The roof of Notre Dame (map link)
This is another sporty location, lots of stairs and no tripods allowed. It is very narrow up there and tourists move fast.

Tip: you should shoot between 60 to 100 mm to get parts of the city, especially try to get the view of the 7 bridges, (this is the only spot in Paris where you can see the 7 bridges), I call it the Ratatouille photo:

The view from behind is cool as well:

The Terrace of l'Institue du Monde Arabe (map link)
This is probably the most confidential of all four, but you will get a breath taking view over Notre Dame:

Tip: Credits go to Scott Kelby. At the opposite side of this view you will see there are very tiny round windows, there you have the sun that sets and if you go down on your knees you can get this one:

Montmartre (map link)
Montmartre is one of the oldest parts of Paris and is an endless source of photography ideas. It is also full of tourists, however here are some spots that are away from the tourist trail where you can take beautiful photos.

The Dalida Plaza (map link)
This place is almost always empty and has an amazing path going up to the Sacr© Coeur.

Le Lapin Agile (map link)
A very old and cute restaurant that looks like it comes out of a Disney movie. There is a good chance that you can get this shot as it is outside of the tourist zone.

Tip: try shooting it like a panorama at 35 mm by taking it in 4 photos. There are rarely any cars there because they are not allowed in that street!

Behind the Sacr© Coeur (map link)
What amazes me is the amount of people you will find at the front of the Sacr© Coeur and how little there are behind the Sacr© Coeur. It is really nice mainly after sunsets.

The Montmartre stairs (map link)
There is lots of stairs in Montmartre, but these ones are the only ones that are oriented towards the west so you can be in luck if there is a nice sunset!

Some More “Confidential” Locations

The old Od©on buildings (map link)
Hidden close to the Place de l'Od©on you have this amazing building, with no one around. You can just put your camera down and start shooting a musketeers type movie photos as nothing has changed in years.

The Saint Martin Canal (map link)
I worked in front of these stairs for many years and I love how they are arranged, it feels like the countryside in the middle of Paris:

The S©nat at the Luxembourg Gardens (map link)
In the middle of the most beautiful Paris garden you will find the Senate, a great building, most of the time the sun sets right behind it, but you have to be fast as they close at sunset, tripods are allowed.

It was really hard for me to not cover so many places, but these are my favorites that I wanted to share with you. I'm sure that everybody that has been to Paris has his or her favorite spots. These are mine; feel free to share yours in the comments!

Most of the restaurants in Paris are really good, even the tourist restaurants. These are really some of my favorite ones I've come to know over the years:

The best 25 Euros menu I ever had.

Sud-Ouest Monceau
This is the restaurant of South West cuisine, foie gras, duck and snails. Very French food, away from the tourists.

Chez Georges
I have personally never been but my brother keeps saying it is the best restaurant in Paris and he loves good food.

Le Comptoir
This restaurant was famous for being booked weeks in advance and they changed the system, first in first served.

Le Relais Saint-Germain
Tip: be there around 11:30 to have lunch.

Very nice Japanese restaurant, you have to try the brochette boeuf/fromage (beef with cheese).

This is a very cute old French restaurant.

El Palenque
This is a great Argentinian restaurant, the meat is simply amazing.

Lux Bar
A good place for cheese, saucisson and wine.

Le Bistrot des Dames
From outside this place doesn't look like there is a secret, calm and beautiful garden you can dine in. The food is amazing. Come early for lunch or dinner, as it's often full. The garden is open during nice weather.

Le Relais de l'entrec´te
This place has amazing steak and their secret sauce recipe has great reputation.

You can see more of Serge’s work at, and follow him on YouTube, Facebook, and 500px.

The Passionate Photographer – A Life Obsessed
All I ever wanted to do was take pictures. I love photography. My tagline says "obsessed by all things photographic" and it's true.

When I was 16, I spent a summer riding around my suburban Montreal home on a 70cc motorcycle, an all-mechanical Nikon FM/35mm lens dangling from my neck. I was documenting community life for a local weekly newspaper long since gone. Even better, I got paid for it. As good as it gets I thought.

Years later, I graduated university with a journalism degree, and I couldn't wait to aim my camera at issues I thought were important.

Fast forward ten great; sometimes-frustrating; always-stimulating years as a news photographer, I was finding it difficult to stay fresh and challenged. Daily assignments had made me a skilled and swift-working photographer, but I had become impatient, often retreating within my comfort zone, feeling forced to work in a formulaic fashion because of time constraints. I was ready for a photographic break-through, a way to slow down and find a way back to the innocence of vision and joy I had as a young guy cruising around town with my camera.

If there's one concept I want to convey in my guest post (thanks Scott and Brad for the opportunity), it's that the most rewarding part of the photographic process often comes when you find a project or theme you feel passion for, one you can dig into, and challenge yourself to create a set of pictures.

Finding Your Passion
Directing your photographic energy and passion towards a story or theme is something I feel confident will lead you toward becoming the photographer you want to be. It is passion that will take you there…if you let it.

But you have to find the subject matter that inspires you to commit and drives you to work hard, moving past frustrations and through obstacles, pushing towards a photographic place of competence and excitement you cannot even imagine as you read this.

In the evolution of a photographer, to get to the next step, liberating yourself from photographic routine, peeling away layers of traditional imagery to get to the core of your photographic soul is to be honest and ask, "What is it I am trying to say through my photography?"

Diane Arbus said something to the effect of "the more personal you make it, the more universal it becomes."

What a powerful and liberating thought. In my experience it's dead on.

Photography is a universal language and the more honest and revealing you are, the more viewers will respond to the work. If you stop trying to make images that look like what you think strong photography is supposed to look like and instead look inward, aiming your camera at the things most personal to you, following your curiosity â”your work will be elevated. Honesty and passion shine through.

Story ideas can come from anywhere. I tend to read as much as I can, looking at blogs, magazines, news sites, reading books, listening to music, visiting galleries, looking at the work of other artists and photographers. But many of my best ideas come from my own life. Personal experience and exploring your own connections often yield some of the best and most rewarding projects.

If you're inspired by the landscape, what is it that inspires you? How does it make you feel? As you dig deep the goal is to create images that make the viewer feel something, maybe discovering what you already know about the place. In other words, images that transcend the literal and become more lyrical.

Consider putting together a set of images for a book or exhibition, even if that exhibition is in your own living room. The challenge of creating a set of pictures is to make each piece strong, yet when put together in a very deliberate way, the message communicated is often bigger and more complex than any individual piece can convey on its own. The sum is greater than the parts.

The process of assembling, sequencing and showing a set of pictures will force you to make tough decisions. If two images are similar, you need to choose the strongest one or the image that adds to or moves the communication of the project further. Some projects, use repetition as a way to build momentum, a portrait series for example. Regardless, it's like peeling an onion, you get deeper and deeper, and start to make images that scratch and dig below the literal surface to photographic places new and exciting.

It's no mystery that when you go through a volume of work, you learn from your experience and you get better. And because you're passionate about the work, you will work harder and longer; putting in the time.

More comprehensive coverage yields stronger, deeper, and more interesting work. If your story involves people, for example, they often get more comfortable with you as time goes by, relaxing and letting their guard down to reveal more of themselves for you to c!apture. Shooting more helps improve your skills and makes you a better photographer.

For two summers, I went on a road trip from Maine to Alaska and I never looked back. Even though it has never been published, The America At The Edge Project changed my life.

Of course, all big ideas start with a small step, and securing your idea is what you need to do first. Don't over think it, you won't know for sure that your idea is executable until you start the process of shooting.

What Personal Projects Have Taught Me
All my projects turn into amazing adventures. Personal projects have taught me so much. I have shared my process in my book The Passionate Photographer and now in this post. I'm sure much of my process will sound familiar to you.


Photo by Nadra Farina-Hess

My name is Alan Hess and I love being a photographer. I am really lucky that I get to photograph things for a living. As the house photographer for a large indoor arena in San Diego I get to capture some of the biggest names in music like Cher, The Who, Taylor Swift, Justin Beiber, as well as other events like the NBA, MMA, and the WWE. This year we will also have a Professional Bull Rider event. But even with the wide variety of events I get to shoot, once in a while I still find myself in a creative rut. That's where personal projects come in.

For me, that is taking photos of my dogs.

I have two rescued boxers. They make for great subjects for a couple of reasons. They are always available since they live with me. They have distinct personalities that makes photographing them more fun (or challenging). And best of all they never want to see the photos, and never complain that they don't look good. On the downside, they don't have a great attention span and can easily wonder off in the middle of the shoot, and getting them to pose can be challenging.

I started off by just trying to get a portrait shot to use as a wallpaper on my iPhone, which led to experimenting with lighting and learning how to create the invisible black background portraits. This led to creating the Fuel Book, Pet Portraits that Stand Out. This Fuel Book led to my newest full book, Pet Portraits: From Snapshots to Great Shots. This was the most fun that I have ever had writing a book since it didn't seem like work at all. I was able to take all that information I had accumulated while creating photos of my dogs and turn it into something that could help others get great photos of their pets.

First I want to tell you what this book isn't. It isn't a book on creating a pet photography business, or how to profit from taking photos of people’s pets. This book is not about having to go out and spend a lot of money on special gear. It is just about getting better photos of your pet, or any pet. I photographed dogs, cats, birds, horses, lizards, snakes, fish, hamsters, mice, rats, and bunny rabbits. I spent time at leash free areas getting to capture dogs in action as they ran, jumped and played with other dogs. I got nudged by horses and had a lizard climb all over my gear. I spent time with an exotic pet vet, and even though I did not cover spiders as pets in the book, I ended up with a tarantula crawling on my hands.

It was the most fun I have had writing a book.

I spent some time photographing big dogs at play. I find it fascinating what you can capture at 1/4000 second that you don't see when watching the action in real time. These dogs are playing together on the beach, but if you just saw the fangs you might think that it wasn't a friendly encounter.

Getting to lie in the grass and photograph a group of puppies the first time they got to roam around outside is a great way to spend a morning.

I wanted to make sure that the book dealt with all pets, and not just dogs and cats. So I tracked down a wide variety of different pet owners and rescue groups. The best part was that pet owners and rescue group volunteers are really passionate. The passion that they have for their pets is really contagious. Need a little pick-me-up? Ask a pet owner about what their pet did recently. I learned more about snakes, frogs, mice, birds and lizards in the past few months than I thought possible. Every photo shoot was a new adventure.

I spent quite a bit of time photographing cats as they are the second most popular pet in the US, right behind dogs. Cats turned out to be both easier in some respects and much more challenging in others. They love to stand in doorways and look out. Turns out that this makes for great portrait light.

It was tough to think of it as work as I lay outside watching a friend’s cat stalk his cat toy. A tough day at work.

Photographing cats became an exercise in patience. Cats can sit still for what seem like hours, then suddenly leap into action⦠or just stretch out and go right to sleep.

Getting up close and personal with a horse was really quite awesome. I was in constant awe of their power and size. Watching the muscles under their coat as the walk and run was fantastic, and getting to photograph them up close was really amazing.

On a final note, I used to think that personal projects were just a time suck. When was I supposed to go out and shoot stuff just for me and at the same time try to earn a living. There just didn't seem like enough of a payoff to spend the time shooting for myself when I could be out trying to earn a living. It got to the point where I didn't pick up my camera unless I was off to shoot something for a job…

I was wrong.

Turns out that taking the time to go out and photograph something just for me not only recharges the creative side but can lead to other work.

You can pick up your copy of the Pet Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots from Peachpit (use the code PETSHOTS to save 35%), Amazon, or Barnes & Noble.

You can find out more about Alan and his work at, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Photo by Melissa Niu

I am passionate about photography. By that I mean, photography bugs the living crap out of me and nags at me when I don't end up having the time to satisfy the craving that I have for it. It drives me crazy. It keeps me up at night. Frustrated. Photography frustrates to the point that I become helpless and want to lash out at the world for the inability to properly express what I envision in my mind, my heart, or my eyes.

And I love it: this calming expression when you're at peace with it. I love it so much that I strive to continually exercise the part of my lungs that pumps in the oxygen directly to the fire that burns within meâ”that fire that makes me want to keep trying to pursue and refine this ability to create, capture and envision. But occasionally, the pumping slows down; the fire dwindles and I lose sight, feeling, and the desire to put in the effort that my body innately knows that I need to exude. Depression kicks in; feeling discouragement from others and feeling doubtful that I'll ever be able to possess the abilities that I so greatly desire, the fire dwindles even more. But yet it is one of my passions, and as such, I don't–no, I can't give up.

Over the years, I realized that my passion never actually burns out completely; it only gets smothered. I'm an ordinary guy with a pretty busy life. I'm single, working a job, going back to college, and trying to make photography an even bigger part of my life, perhaps back into full-time photo work. I have fears, time constraints, friends, family and church, and other obligations that often push photography into an afterthought. Although it's an afterthought, it is substantial. It means that there is still enough bandwidth in my brain to pay attention to it and not have it written offâ”a sign of how I knew it was my passion.

Refueling the passion that I have has changed my lifestyle over the past couple months, especially since I've been focusing on this outlet.

I'll admit that making changes has been hard, but I've found that there are a few things that have made it easier to integrate the camera into my life and kindle the passion.

1. Surround yourself with people that inspire you.
Don't go and hastily ditch your current circle of friends⦠that's entirely not what I mean, although in some cases, that may be necessary. Seeing that most people are willfully submissive to their phones, I'd suggest filling your news feed with inspiring artists, photographers and creative people that gel with you and your style. If you're anything like me, not only will your appreciation of photography increase, but your desire to become as good as those who you follow. It'll also give you a chance to network with friends that have similar interests.

2. Share why you do photography.
Find someone that you're close to and share with them your "why." If you haven't figured out your "why," then now is a good time to think on it.  Everyone's will probably be different, but it really doesn't matter. It's the fact that you're trying to express how you feel about what you want to do. As you think upon, define, and share your "why" you'll subtly increase your motivation. Here's a tip for defining your "why:" think past the whole idea of "I do it because I want to." Think about how it makes you feel and why you find it important. It may be hard at first, especially when you're trying to put it words.

3. Integrate the camera into your life.
I'm really into portraits. It's my jam. Just because I love shooting people shouldn't restrict from occasionally shoot what I'm experiencing in life. I sold my heavy, expensive and really great Canon 5D Mark III and replaced it with my Fujifilm X-T1, a smaller more portable and equally just as great camera. I've found that I've been able to have my camera available at the most random times that I end up feeling inspired. There are days that I don't take it out of my bag, but on those days, I'm reminded that at least I had it on me just in case something caught my eye. My cousin, a street photographer in Taiwan, told me, "I think only when you are able to carry your camera around, will photography truly blend into your life, express who you are, and respond to how you perceive the world."

4. Make the time to attend workshops.
Many of those really inspiring people that you've hopefully added to your Facebook and Instagram feeds hold gatherings where you can learn, apply and get inspired. I got excited recently from a workshop that I took from The Wild Ones, a non-profit organization that was put on by creative and inspiring photographers. My friend Enrique ended up sharing it with meâ”and for that, I'm grateful. At this specific workshop, I witnessed a technique I had known about but had never applied. It opened my eyes to different thought processes and got me amped to go out and shoot and try it out. There were many more personal experiences that occurred, which I'm sure you'd have the chance to have. Many workshops may also provide business tips that could help inspire that business side of photography that often burns people out as well. I realized how much of a value it was to be physically surrounded by like-minded people who are all interested and engaged in same interest.

5. Keep your eyes open.
Every time I came across a concept, an idea or something otherwise inspirational, I'd make note of itâ”mentally or digitally. At the end of the night, I make/add to a list of things that I wanted to shootâ”even when I know it'll be a while before I'm able to shoot it. I know that at some point I'll have the gratification of checking something off that list. This goes hand in hand with creating personal projects.

Not sure of the difference between a passion and a hobby?
My mother always told me that photography is just a hobby. Heh. It's not "just a hobby."

It isn't something that I do for just for leisure and it isn't something that I do on the side of my normal occupation to help me relieve stress. It's a passion. To put it in terms that she'd understandâ”I'd relate it to relationships.

A hobby is a hookup, a booty-callâ”something non-committal. They're fun, they're mostly relaxing, and they aren't something that you'd keep around once hardship hits. You'll ditch it once you're dissatisfied with it.

Unlike hobbies, you won't want to leave passions alone. You'll want to incorporate it into your life as much as possible. It'll demand much, and you won't mind giving it all. You will make sacrifices and also work through the difficulties that arise so that this passion can continue and flourish. And you love it.

The intensity of the passion will fluctuate, but it will always be thereâ”and like other passions, it is worth working for.

Get obsessed! Get incorporated, connected and become yet again passionate about what you do and want to do. Go out and shoot.

You can see more of Mykii’s work at, and follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Photofocus, and Instagram.

Photo by Robert Deutsch

Do your pictures speak to you?

If you’re feeling a dry spell in your creativity or you’re undecided about what personal project might wow your next client, it’s a curious but valuable question.

What happens often as photographers is we get caught up in tools of the trade. Not everyone obviously, but with so many eye-popping advances in technology we drift towards how we can manipulate, control and shape our images. We tell our pictures what to say.

It makes perfect sense. If you’re trying to stay ahead, so much has to measure up. Who wants to take chances with pictures when a client’s expectations are at stake? More control, less risk. So we previsualize, research, come up with shot lists, use photo actions and tools. With a flourish of creativity, we finish. The results can be beautiful.

But this is all very much directed by you the photographer, in a process that can become so perfected and controlled that it becomes stale. Perhaps that’s why, at a portfolio review, you might be asked after you have bared the fruits of all your labor, “Do you have any personal projects to show?”

Editors and art buyers want to be surprised by someone’s individual passions and creativity. They want to lasso a star.

If you feel like you’re producing well-crafted widgets with your photography, or if you’re casting about for a personal project to get your passions going on, let me make a suggestion that I try to follow myself.

Let your pictures speak.

What the heck do I mean?  I’ve been a photojournalist for over twenty years, and I’ve done a lot of conscious picture-taking. Before I compose a picture, I’m thinking of my subject, my audience, my editors, and the reporter’s story. I’m trying to find and make pictures that will sing in the space provided but within the constraints of expectations and needs of the job.

So, tired by all the control I was exerting, I decided to do the thing that I kept putting off. I decided to explore my family roots in Cuba…without pictures.

What happened next set in motion a chain of events that forever changed my perceptions of photography and the direction of my career.

Unlike everyone else who goes to Cuba, especially through numerous destination workshops, I didn’t want to take pictures and turn the island into a photo project. I didn’t go to take photos of cigars, cars and decrepit buildings like everyone else.

I wanted to meet family that no one in my U.S. family had seen in about forty years. I took a camera, but more to take visual notes and to photograph family.

Yet, every time I felt an emotional chord strike, I would take a picture and move on.

It wasn’t an emotional family homecoming. That’s the stereotypical narrative for a returning family member. But too much time had passed. Politics intervened. My experience was a bit disjointed and sometimes awkward.

I was troubled by my experience. I came back and put away my pictures for 6 months.

But my unconscious had a few things to say. Still needing to process the experience, I went through and selected every picture that rang an emotional chord, even if I didn’t understand why.

I laid them out together and was shocked to see that the pictures had a voice that I wasn’t eager to hear. They told me this:

I was a stranger. It was also a strange land to me. I was a stranger in a strange land.

Yeesh. So much for feeling closer to my family.

Fast forward years later, I found myself at the presidential palace, face-to-face with Cuban President Fidel Castro.

How did that happen?

After what my pictures said on my first trip, I responded. I kept returning to the island, ultimately risking a staff job at the Los Angeles Times to ask for a leave of absence to study in Cuba for six months.

After the L.A. Times, I came to the Chicago Tribune, with extensive Cuba experience. Shortly after, the Tribune was the first U.S. newspaper in forty years to receive permission to open a bureau on the island. I jumped into my editor's office. He could sense my passion.

So there I was at the presidential palace, getting ready to photograph our CEO and the Cuban president, shaking hands at the inauguration of the bureau.

On that trip, that lasted a couple months, I produced a sports picture essay that won a World Press Photo award. That award led to book projects and other opportunities.

I’ve left newspapering since then, but it was still a personal and professional highpoint in my career that is still bearing fruit.

But it all started with exploring a personal interest that, honestly, was unsettling.

While at the Tribune, I wrote a weekly column about photography that was gathered into my recent book Depth of Field: Tips on Photojournalism and Creativity.  I write about personal projects and the psychology of picture-taking because our unconscious behavior is either helping or hindering us.

So yes, I know, it sounds woogie to say,”Let your pictures speak to you.”

But when you do, and respond, it could add a missing personal dimension to your photography that others are hungry to see.

Alex Garcia is a Chicago-based editorial and commercial photographer with over twenty years experience as a photojournalist at the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune. He is a frequent lecturer, author and public speaker. His recent book is “Depth of Field: Tips on Photojournalism and Creativity.” You can see more of his work at, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram.