Category Archives Guest Blogger

This picture is a reminder of what it is all about… the joy of the moment, not the size of the fish!

What do you do when your creative tank is empty? How do you recharge? Most of us tend to try to be fiercely independent and when we can’t seem to find the motivation, we think working harder and isolating ourselves is the answer. I think the opposite is true… getting around other folks and taking a moment to breathe is often the best way to get past the hump or mountain of stagnation. Let me show you what I mean.

My job is to be creative and the good news is that I am a pretty creative guy. However, each day that I sit down in front of my computer I struggle to be creative… again. It is the again part that is tough. I can come up with something wild and wacky at the drop of a hat… but what do I do when there is another hat waiting to fall each and every day?  You have the same problem… no matter what your job is, it is hard to keep things fresh and alive each day. So we tend to find ruts and habits that keep us going and work fairly well and may even turn into a style which other folks think is great. But, the danger is that our hearts and our passions get sacrificed for the sake of production. Most days I just want to do a good enough job to make other folks happy and I don’t try to think about whether my heart is fully engaged.

The Affliction:

To stick with the fishing metaphor…I have learned to fish, but I have gotten more focused on how many fish and how big rather than the joy of fishing. We as a people tend start out with a cane pole and a piece of Wonderbread and we giggle with excitement even if we just get a nibble and don’t catch a thing. Then as we get older and wiser we move our way up to a hand-crafted bamboo/graphite/titanium thunder-rod and bionic super lures that costs more than our car and we get mad when we only catch 12 fish for the day.

Photography is the same way… Think about the excitement we had when we got our first camera! Yet, in no time at all we start looking for the next lens or the next body and we get bored and complacent with our shooting. We become stressed out about the very activity that we started because it brought us such joy. Why? We have this internal (and external) push to get better… to do it faster… to achieve more each day, and then do it again tomorrow.

The Antidote:

The best antidote for this affliction is to get around someone who has still got the original passion and hang out with them. That is why I love workshops and I feel I need to include them in my yearly schedule. I need to get around folks that are vibrating with joy as they start to learn so that their enthusiasm wakes me up and stirs my soul once again for Photography. I get to relive the first love I had for the art and my routine gets interrupted and I have new thoughts and feelings and I am running around shooting just like the new photographer.

Bill Fortney and His Light Workshop crew Nashville 2014

I was fortunate enough to be invited by Bill Fortney to come take part in his workshop in Nashville. If you don’t know who Bill is you should, because he is one of the best folks you will ever meet… and he can handle a camera pretty well too. The timing was perfect since I had met another gentleman who was getting infected with the photography bug named Scotty Smith. Now selfishly I introduced these two guys to each other because I wanted to see if rainbows would spontaneously erupt since both of them are about the two nicest guys you can know. Now add to this mix a plethora of sweaters of other folks that all love photography and you can forget about being luke-warm or bored about taking pictures. Just getting to spend time with these folks was wonderful… even spending time with Snake! Yep… that was for you! :D

Scotty working the tripod looking for heavenly light

You see passion is contagious, just like laughter and yawning. I dare you to watch that video with the Quintuplets laughing and not at least smile! The same thing applies to your heart and creativity. If you are in a rut, get around folks who aren’t. The people who are passionate are usually the ones learning, so learn something new… try a new technique, try a new setting… become a student again. Shameless plug coming… go watch a new class over at and then don’t just sit there, go try to replicate it and really learn it. Sign up for a workshop and go experience something new and learn from folks who love to teach and inspire. I went to Bill’s workshop to help teach about Photoshop and hang out… but I ended up getting infected by the passion of folks who are hungry to learn. So I started shooting more and being less critical… I started having fun with my camera instead of shooting to produce. I started playing again and it felt good.

Ricky giving me Rawr! and then Blue Steel

Speaking of playing… part of the workshop was spending time with Ricky Skaggs and getting to shoot his concert. Now I must confess, I know of Ricky, but I couldn’t tell you a lot about the man… as a matter of fact as I walked into the room, I couldn’t have pointed him out with a high degree of certainty. (Sorry Ricky! :D) But, getting to spend time with him was a great treat, not because of his fame, but because of his heart. The man is humble, funny, caring and passionate about shooting. There is a joy that just seems to leak out of him. And then, we got to watch him play… and that man can make some sweet music. It hit me while we were watching him perform, that his joy had infected his music and made it better and richer, and that I should let that be the goal of my photography. Joy/passion should trigger my shutter.

"American Pickers" Nashville store was a blast

Now by this time in case you couldn’t tell, I was getting philosophical and I thought about how it was the people at the workshop that made it so good. It was the relationships even more than the opportunities to shoot some neat locales that made the biggest impression on me. You may not believe this if you know me, but I can be pretty introverted, especially when I get stressed and under deadline. But, I think I have figured out that the more stressed I get, or the more in a rut I get, the more I need to be around people that stir my heart. My family first and then like minded folks who are hungry to learn.

hitting the bottles with Bill
Obligatory guitar for Scott :D
"Mr. Telephone man" or "Operator" or "You can ring my Bell"
Proud Mary

So then after being inspired by the wonderful workshop I flew immediately out to Jackson Hole, Wyoming to suffer vacation. Now my usual routine for vacation is to do as little as possible, and make my kids bring me food and do my bidding while I lay on the couch telling them that I am fixin’ to go shoot some pictures. :D Only slightly kidding. This time I actually went out the very first night because of the excitement that had been stirred up back in Nashville. While out at the Mormon Row area I ran into a herd of buffalo and a couple of neat fellow photographers. One guy in particular was Chris Fritsche who is a KelbyOne member who got excited to meet one of the Photoshop guys. I mean who wouldn’t? He started talking to me about all the classes he had watched and how he came out to work on his shooting. His enthusiasm was infectious.

Lightpainting with Chris and the gang

So a couple of nights later I called him up and met him back at the barns to do some light painting ala Dave Black’s class. He brought one of his daughters to help and I brought the twins who helped and nearly killed me, and we had a great time playing in the moonlight where the buffalo roam.

And you know what… I didn’t really care about how my pictures turned out… I was just like the kid with a cane pole and some Wonderbread… just excited to get a nibble.

These guys stir my heart daily... (Ladies insert aaaawwwww! here. :D)

ps. Most of the images were processed playing around with Macphun’s new Tonality Pro… good stuff.

Me in Rio during the Carnival

The Second Best Job in the World
"Wow, that's a great job, second only to being a Top Gear presenter!" - stranger on a plane after hearing what I do.

I'm a travel photographer. It's a great job title, because it means so much and so little at the same time. It's my best attempt at being mysterious.

Machu Piccu in Peru

More specifically, I make a living by creating imagery of different tourist attractions around the world. The vast majority of my work is commissioned photography which my clients use for advertising and travel guides. I occasionally do features for magazines or commissions for the hospitality market.

At least once a day, someone asks me how I got into travel photography as a profession. This is often followed up with, "Where did you go to college?" Let me deal with the 2nd part first. I have no photography related education. Instead,  I did a 10 year â˜on the job' training session which taught me 3 key traits of a travel photographer:

1. Love Photography and Love Travel
Travel photography is not the same as holiday photography. I go away for months at a time, working 12 hour days without a day off. Under these conditions, I get a bit blas© about travel. On days like this, I stay motivated by challenging myself to create a good picture even when the subject matter doesn't interest me. The craft motivates me.

The converse is also true. There are days when my back is aching from carrying gear and I don’t even want to look at a camera, but I’m so awed by the scene in front of me that I'm compelled to photograph it.

Bridge over J¶kuls¡rl³n, Iceland

2. Solve Problems Quickly
My schedule during a shoot is packed tight. There are no opportunities for reshoots. A myriad of different problems can derail a shoot and when you consider the expense that goes into producing a shoot; it can be career ending.

Almost daily, I face the access problem, even though I have official permission. How am I supposed to get interior images when no photography is allowed or smooth video shots when they don't allow tripods? Another problem is weather and light related. I don’t have the luxury of waiting for perfect conditions; I’m expected to make good images in all conditions. Additionally, almost every trip is plagued by flight cancelations and visa issues.

The most serious problems are health related. If you or your family member gets injured or sick, where are the local hospitals and will they help you (in Corfu they did, in Geneva, three different places turned us away).  This can get serious very quickly when you're in a foreign country with an unfamiliar language and culture.

Doge’s Palace and the Bridge of Sighs, Venice, Italy

3. Emotional Stability
Imagine two months away from friends and family, with a constant lack of sleep, a physically draining workload and no conversation. Couple this with the highs of tasting the perfect meal, seeing the most breathtaking landscape or witnessing light that seems unbelievable. Travel photography explores some of the highest and lowest of human emotion.

I consider myself to have an even temperament, mostly in control of my emotions, but there are days when I am severely tested.  Long after I’ve recovered physically from a trip, I still feel the remnants of the emotional roller coaster that is travel photography.

The Gran Torre Santiago, the tallest building in South America in Santiago, Chile

Defining Travel Photography
My interest in photography began with landscapes. I was part of a community of landscape photographers, exploring South Africa beyond Table Mountain. This was about 10 years ago, before every photographer had their own website. A designer friend put a website together for me and I marketed myself as a travel photographer. This surprised the community and one of them asked me about it.

“Of course I’m marketing myself as a travel photographer, how else am I going to get someone to pay me to shoot landscapes?” The community approached landscape photography with a view of creating fine art. My approach was to show a beautiful landscape to motivate others to travel to see it.

Cycling in the Alps, Switzerland

Many photographers in the community continued to evolve as landscape artists, far surpassing what I can do. Some are now exceptional photographers working as full time landscape photographers. I followed a different path. I realized that I was more interested in sharing a travel experience than creating beautiful landscape imagery.

I worked out that travel photography is created with the intention of causing interest in a specific destination. By that definition many photographic genres can also be travel photography if the photography highlights the interesting aspects of a destination.

Oludeniz – a beach and lagoon in Turkey

Finding the Intermediate Career
After my website went live, nothing happened. No one discovered me and I was in the exact same situation as before, only with the added expense of web hosting.

It wasn’t a pointless endeavour however; having a portfolio online showed me some glaring weaknesses in my work. The most obvious was that as a travel photographer I hadn’t done much travelling.

The Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy

At the time, I was working as a business analyst for a bank, with 15 days of annual leave. I used this time and every long weekend available to explore and photograph South Africa, but it was never enough.

To get more travel time, I took an opportunity to become a teacher. Having this intermediate career, one that provided both a steady income and time to travel was crucial in my transition to full time photographer.  My salary was cut in half, but I now had  almost 3 months of travel time every year.

Itamaraty Palace in Brasilia, Brazil

Developing Style
One thing that I didn’t have was immediate access to an international airport.  In trying to decide between Cape Town or Durban, somehow London won so my wife and I moved to a new continent.

I was 26 and had never seen anything outside of Africa. Just being in London left me in awe. When I started travelling through Europe, I was like a child in Disney Land – wide eyed and full of wonder.

During these trips into Europe, I began to appreciate connecting emotionally to locations. I was a better photographer when I worked out of a sense of wonder. My style evolved to where my objective was creating imagery that captured my sense of wonder and awe. My photography started to show my emotional attachment to the location.

Seljalandsfoss in Iceland

Finding an Audience
For my photography, moving to London was the best move I could have made but it had an adverse effect on my confidence. I was the only travel photographer in my home town. London has enough travel photographers to populate my home town. Not only is London a huge city, it is also an art and design capital with a magnetic pull on creatives.

My lack of confidence meant that I didn’t follow the traditional path of contacting art directors to show my work. I fully believed that if I kept working on my travel photography and posted the work online, someone would notice.

In a world where millions have access to your photography, if you photograph something that genuinely interests you, someone else is bound to be interested in your work.

My online outlet was Flickr through which Getty offered to sell my images. It took awhile, but eventually I was making enough money through travel stock to fund my travels. After seven years of paying to be a travel photographer, I was making enough from photography to cover my costs.

Prague Old Town, the Czech Republic

Making the Most of Opportunity
I had a series of small, one-off shoots through my online presence, but nothing significant. When I received an email through flickr at 3am from someone offering to send me around the world to take photos, I wrote it off as spam. The next day, I wondered about the email and fortunately I followed it up.

The message had come from an agency that produces media for major travel companies. They asked if I could do a trial shoot around London. This happened to be in my school holiday period, so despite them paying for two days of work, I did about 6. I’m not the most talented photographer, so I make up for this with hard work and I wanted to grab this opportunity.

The Alhambra in Granada, Spain

The agency was happy with my trial shoot and enquired about my availability for future shoots. I gave them all my holiday time.

After a few months of not hearing anything, I received an email asking if I had time to go to Amsterdam and Prague. I had flown back that morning from a 20 day trip in Turkey and had one week of holiday remaining before school began. My bag was still packed, so I left for Amsterdam that afternoon with no production time.

Once again, I over-delivered, working from sunrise (5am) to sunset (10pm) without breaking for lunch. I did the week of work, arrived back home at 1am and started school at 7am. I'm quite sure I was a lousy teacher that day.

The Rotterman Quarter in Tallinn, Estonia

Being Dependable is More Important than Having Talent
The shoot went well and the agency were happy enough to commission a follow up shoot in Berlin-this time with all the permission and access arranged in advance.

Through conversation with the agency, I realized that other photographers had spent too much time trying to create the "hero" shot. This meant that they were not able to fully cover the brief. In addition to working hard, I made it a goal of mine to be dependable.

Imagine you're an art buyer looking to commission a photographer. Do you hire the uber talented but erratic photographer or the photographer that consistently delivers? Every time I did a job for the agency, I endeavoured to be the second photographer.

Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio de Janero, Brazil

Becoming a Full Time Photographer
After two years of giving this agency all my holiday time, they asked me how they could get more of my time. I hadn’t told them I was a teacher, they assumed I was a busy photographer.

I calculated my annual expenses and my desired income which gave me a figure which I could convert into working days. I told them if they could give me 100 days of work a year, I would take it. They agreed and gave me about 200 days and I resigned as a teacher.

The City of Arts and Science in Valencia, Spain

A Short Answer
So to get back to the question, how did I get into travel photography, my short answer is:

Travel as much as you can on your own budget, putting your work out for the general public. If and when an opportunity arises, do everything it takes to grasp it. In my case, it took 10 years.

What happens if an opportunity never arises? In the worst case, you will have travelled the world, had life changing experiences and created stories worth telling with photographs to prove it.

Cycling in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

A sexier option is to resign from your day job, take out a loan to buy gear and an around-the-world trip. Immerse yourself in travel for a year and then hit up as many art buyers as you can with your portfolio. That is the romantic, quick way for breaking into travel photography.

In my opinion, the first option, the one that requires patience and time, creates a sense of gratitude which leads longevity. Every photographer that I know that is still a working photographer took some version of my story - the drawn out approach.

Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy

Finally, if you’re still reading and your still up for being a travel photographer, congratulations on your career choice. It’s the second best job in the world. If you have any questions, leave a comment and I’ll answer you as soon as I can!

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

I cannot begin to start writing this post without saying thank you for this opportunity to both Brad and Scott. I threw my seat back when I saw the email come in from Brad asking if I could share my story, I think I ran around my basement (my office) holding my head pinching myself asking over and over if this was even real. After reading this post you will understand completely!

Tuesday, March 18th 2014, we were sitting on the edge of the bed having a discussion about time and just how limited it was.

"Babe, I have 3 things going on in my life right now that stretch me in every direction. I have a beautiful family, a blog, and a job that pays the bills. Something has to give and it sure is not going to be the family," I said to my wife as I put one of three fingers down.

I continued, "I can keep doing this job, day in day out working 10 hours a day with a 1 hour commute on each end and I can drop the blogging. Or I can quit my job and see where this goes."

We had this conversation many times before, not to this extreme or to this extent. I had a feeling that it would end like it usually did, with a "well, you do what you gotta do, Love." However, she threw me for a whirl!

"Quit your jobâ¦" Those three words made my heart sink into my chest and all I could think was, “Is this really a possibility? What about the kids? The house? Can I really do this? “ I slept on the idea. I don't know how I slept, but I did.

The next morning I quit my full time job. As I look back on it all I can think of are three phrases that we hear all of the time, but we never really listen to.

Everything Happens for a Reason
It was sometime in early July of 2010 that I signed up for my very first "Scott Kelby's Worldwide Photo Walk" event. I thought it was a very cool idea, but I had no idea who Scott Kelby was. I wasn't into the photo training industry at the time, heck, I had no idea it even existed. I signed up because I was looking to meet other photographers.

The photo walk was in the Marin Headlands just across the Golden Gate Bridge. What a gorgeous place for a photo walk! I was walking up a hill to overlook the ocean when a gentleman asked me what I was doing because he heard 5 continuous shots for every photo I was taking. I told him I was doing some HDR and we got on a very long discussion about it.

I didn't see a camera in his hand so I thought he was either someone's friend or a straggler. At the end of the event he said, "Here is my card, shoot me an email sometime and you should really consider going to Photoshop World."  I glanced at the card and read it in my head, "Matt Kloskowski, Kelby Media Group⦠interesting."

I started to put some things together, Kelby Photo Walk, Kelby Media Group, Photoshop World⦠This sounds awesome! After battling with the idea for a while, I decided to go. Well, let me rephrase that… My wife made me go.

I went to Photoshop World thinking I knew 95% of everything I needed to know about Photoshop⦠after day 2, I realized I knew 5% of nothing about Photoshop! I was a sponge soaking up every ounce of information I could. I took tons of notes regardless of the giant book that came with the event.

I even got counseled by Vincent Versace in the middle of his lesson for taking notes during his course after he said, "No need to take notes." The thing is, I didn't want to forget anything so I wrote and wrote and wrote during every course. I even snuck in a few more after his warning.

I went to one session about Blogging with Matt Kloskowski, Scott Kelby, and Jeff Revell. Before that course I thought bloggers just liked to hear themselves talk. I had no idea how effective and helpful they could be. After the course I talked to Matt about a blog he said, "You should start a blog about HDR…" My initial thought was, "If Matt Kloskowski tells you to start a blog⦠you start a blog!"

He directed me to RC's WordPress course on Kelby Training. I signed up as soon as I got home and on September 6th 2010, my first post went live on EverydayHDR.

Everything really does happen for a reason.

Hard Work Pays Off
I had no idea what direction to go with the blog when I first started, but I knew I wanted to share my knowledge of HDR with the world. I began with 3 days a week Monday, Wednesday, & Friday. Monday was themed for whatever I wanted to post from what I shot over the weekend.  Wednesday was either a featured artist interview or a product review. Friday was free tutorial Friday.

Anyone who blogs knows that three times a week can be a CRAZY idea, especially with a full time job and a family. I didn't know that, I had just started! I kept that pace for about 2 years never missing a beat. I remember the frustration of posting, checking my stats, no one watching. Read that last sentence about 150 more times⦠that was my life for the first 2 years.

I didn't understand it. I was posting good quality stuff. I was putting out Video Tutorials on YouTube every Friday just to get 1 view here, maybe 3 more there. I had to do something else to gain credibility.

In December 2012, I self-published my first book, Exploring HDR. It wasn't a best seller, it didn't hit the top 100 (unless I put it up for free, then I watched it fly off the shelves!), but I didn't let that bring me down either. I had my first book published online, available for download and it felt good.

It felt good to know that I wrote the entire book on my breaks at work. I didn't have time to do it at home. Instead of watching the "Price is Right" on my break, I was on the computer typing chapter after chapter. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with watching the "Price is Right," I was just on a mission!

It felt so good, I wrote another book, The DSLR Survival Guide, and another, 11 Things Every Photographer Should Know About HDR Photography. These weren't your typical eBooks on Amazon, they were anywhere from 100 to 280 pages. I wrote every word, designed every image, and read each book 6 times from a different perspective during their revisions.

  1. The Author
  2. The Beginning Photographer
  3. The Novice Photographer
  4. The Advanced Photographer
  5. The Editor
  6. And one more time to make sure all my i's were crossed and t's were dotted.

Around the same time I started conducting webinars with Topaz Labs. They were recognizing me as a "professional." I remember saying to my wife, "Hey Babe, they are calling me a professional, do they know I am just a guy with a blog?"

The credibility from the Webinars was starting to drive a lot more traffic to the blog. I was stoked! I couldn't believe that 14,000 people would take time out of their month to visit what I had been writing.

I was receiving a lot of feedback from viewers asking me if I did any full-length tutorials. At the time, I just gave little 5-15 minute snippets. I was beginning to realize that people actually wanted to see what I was doing and how I was getting my results. While I would love to have given that information out for free, I realized it was valuable. This led to a subscription based website, HDRInsider, which started in November 2013.

The books and the subscription site were generating some decent revenue. However, it was not enough to quit my job, or support my family, but it was enough to support the expensive photography hobby! In early February I put my first full-length training package online, Black, White & Beyond: The Digital Zone System. I thought this was going to be our ticket.

I knew this package had potential to blow up the scene. However, my reach was not very large. I didn't have time to spread it on social media, the other photographers I reached out to in the community either did not respond to me or told me it was not something that interested them to promote, which I completely understood. All I had was an email list, a very small email list.

It didn't sell as much as I would have liked it to, but that was all about to change. On March 18th I did a Webinar with Topaz Labs. It was about creating an efficient workflow in Photoshop using Topaz Products. I went through the whole webinar discussing Topaz products without mentioning the new training package.

At the very end, within the last 3 minutes, I was asked to show the Digital Zone System. I ran through the process and showed how powerful the system was to an audience of about 980 people. Within an hour after the Webinar had concluded those 3 minutes generated 30 sales and more were trickling in. It was at this time that my wife and I sat on the corner of the bed and looked at the PayPal account on my phone.

"Quit your job⦠ Think about it Blake, you spend maybe 10-20 minutes a night doing what you are truly passionate about. If you quit your job you could do it 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, and get a month's work done in 2 days. I wouldn't tell you to do it if I didn't think you could."

She was right. Of course she was right, my wife is always right!

Since then, I have created yet another efficient workflow technique, the Color Zone System, which works so well with the Digital Zone System. People ask me all of the time, "It is great that you are doing what you love, but is there really any money in Online Photography Education for a small business guy like yourself?"

I tell them, "Well, I am a professional photographer who has only made $400 off of his camera this year, yet there is a roof over our head and the kids are fed. I'd say there is." 

Money is all fine and well, but it is not what drives my passion, it is just compensation for the hard work. I meet people every day online via email, social media, and my blogs. I am helping people overcome problems with their post processing workflow that took me years to do.

Through this I have learned that my passion is not necessarily my photography. I am passionate about the process of helping people become better photographers. Receiving a "Thank you" is much more rewarding than a dollar.

Looking back on all of it, I can attest:

Hard work really does pay off.

You Never Know What the Future Holds
Four years ago I was a Master Parachute Rigger working full time in the Air Force National Guard with photography as a hobby at best. If you were to tell me that in a few years I would be a professional blogger I would have laughed at you.

So I have a couple questions for you,

Are you going to sign up for your first Photo Walk this year?
You never know, a chance meeting or a business card exchange could send your life in a new direction. As long as you keep an open mind to the people that you meet and the opportunities that present themselves there is no telling what will happen.

Are you planning on going to Photoshop World?
Whether you are a professional photographer or a hobbyist like I was, there is something for everyone at Photoshop World. I was actually about to skip the blogging course to go walk the strip in Vegas for some fresh air. Because of that course, I left Photoshop World a new person. I was filled with inspiration and motivation beyond what words can even begin to describe. Thank you Scott, Matt, Jeff, and RC.

I can't help but think about the movie The Butterfly Effect.

What would have happened if I didn't take my wife's advice and go to Photoshop World?
What would have happened if I didn't go to the blogging course?
Would I have ever started EverydayHDR?
Would I be where I am now?

The reality is you can drive yourself mad thinking about what could have been only to find out you are wasting valuable time on what IS right now.

I don't know what the future holds, it is not my responsibility to worry about that.  I do know this though; the future, regardless of what it will be, is exciting!

I will be at Photoshop World this year on the Expo Floor sharing my training packages and websites. I look forward to meeting you there, heck, I'll even give you my business card!

You can see more of Blake’s work and tutorials at and, and follow him on Twitter, Google+, and Facebook.

Let me start by saying, I don't take photos professionally. But wait, don't stop reading! Hear me out. My name is Mia McCormick and before I took a position at KelbyOne, I spent a decade telling stories and interviewing some of the most influential people in the world in the name of TV News. Now I've spent the last two years interviewing the very best photographers on the planet, for KelbyOne. I've grilled them about technique and business plans. I've asked them about gear and studio decisions. But some of the most important conversations, often get the least amount of attention, like the ones about inspiration. Having interviewed nearly three dozen industry leading photographers, about what inspires them to create compelling images, I've learned a bit about what drives the top creative minds in the business. What better place to share those thoughts than here on Scott Kelby's blog.

First, let me just get this out of the way. There is one word that comes out of every professional photographers mouth when I ask about inspiration: LIGHT. So NEWSFLASH! The way your subject is illuminated matters, whether it be a landscape, child or delicious scoop of ice cream. And that illumination can drive imagination at every corner of this industry. Now that's out of the way.

Photographers tend to fall into two categories, those who thrive on external inspiration and those who need internal connection. Before I explain what that means, let me say that I've interviewed many photographers who pull from both, but most of the time they gravitate towards one or the other. Those who are inspired by external stimuli generally look to color, texture, music, and locations to help them channel their very best work. For instance, Lindsay Adler makes an Inspiration Board before a shoot. On it you'll find snippets of ideas, colors, textures and themes that speak to her about a certain project. One of my favorite wedding photographers and good friend Chip Litherland loves vibrant, in your face color. A bride in a red wedding dress is his "holy grail."

Photo by Joel Grimes

Lots of photographers will look at the work of people they respect and identify with when they're feeling stuck or "tapped out." Somehow looking at work they admire kick starts an idea that leads to their next great image. Joel Grimes once told me that when he's stuck in a shooting rut, he will flip through a magazine looking for images that speak to him. When he finds one, he'll look at how it was created and see how he can apply similar techniques to his own work. A lot of people find inspiration this way. It's one reason why the website 500px is so popular. I've heard many pros call it "an endless well of inspiration."

If you just read the last two paragraphs and thought, that's crazy, don't you know that inspiration comes from within?! Then you fall into the second category, those who need an internal connection to their subject, to produce inspired work. Gregory Heisler says his "worst nightmare is to have his brain polluted by millions of other images" before he begins a photo session. He needs some time alone in his head with an assignment. Only then can he come up with a vision for the image he wants to produce. It's not that he doesn't admire the work of others, but to him there's a difference between reverence, technique and vision.

Photo by Jeremy Cowart

Some photographers love a story. A model, with lights in a contrived environment just feels cold. They identify internally with capturing a frame that could replace three pages in a diary or a bio. They work like there is an invisible string dangling them inside someone else's life. Knowing they have just one frame to tell a story, elevates their work. Jeremy Cowart is well known for his images of Hollywood "A listers," but when I asked him about his humanitarian work, his eyes lit up and there was an awakening that happened mentally and physically. Doing good, he tells me, is what photography is supposed to be about.

Joe McNally is one of the best visual storytellers alive. He makes it a personal goal to capture images that tell stories in a way that no one has seen them before. And Joe loves a challenge. What better way to illustrate changing a light bulb, than to climb to the very top of the Empire State building⦠in the fog⦠attached to ropes for safety⦠and shoot the man who's job it is to swap out the bulb at the apex.

Photo by Deanne Fitzmaurice

Deanne Fitzmaurice is the perfect blend of curiosity and fearlessness, and that makes her an outstanding photojournalist. Assignments that tackle difficult issues, ones that are hard to convey visually can often frustrate even the most experienced shooters, but that's where Deanne thrives.

Now if I can take a moment to share what inspires me. At heart I'm a journalist, with over 10 years of experience in TV News and television production. I love finding a story and sharing it, but more than that, I feel inspired when those stories have impact. When I come in contact with an image, story or idea that moves people to action, I start to get that anxious fluttery feeling in my stomach. Then I know, "this is going to be good." Whether it's an attitude adjustment, some kind of activism or even just to wipe a tear, I'm reverent over stories with the strength to generate action.

Researching women in this industry inspired me to start a new interview series here at KelbyOne called Trailblazers. I found ladies willing to step outside of their comfort zones, and into dangerous, extreme and sometimes downright hostile situations, to tell a photographic story. Their internal and external battles moved me, and many of them have never shared their experiences publicly before now. Their courage is inspirational, and it made me want to take a courageous leap in my own life. Look for the series to debut in the next few weeks on

Whether it's the strong precise movements of an athlete's body that gets your adrenaline flowing or the story behind their rise from poverty to fame that sparks an idea for a frame, the goal is to leave the shoot a little breathless. If you're moved, chances are others will be too.

You can watch Mia’s interviews with photographers at, and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

When I received an email from Brad asking me if I wanted to write a guest post for Scott I was psyched. I screamed some colorful words like the ones coming out of the Master Jay Maisel's mouth and I quickly wrote back saying YES! I was honored to even be considered to write on Scott's blog. But then I panicked…. What could I possibly write about?

Well, I have been shooting for only 3 years, I've had my up and downs, I've tried several photography genres, and I kicked and whined just to think about specializing in just one thing. Then I realized what I enjoyed the most was shooting people. So far this is what has worked for me.

Between now an then I experimented a little with landscape photography, long exposures, macro photography, food photography, concert photography, and I even had the great opportunity to work with a motor sport team (8 Star Motorsports) and cover a couple of events and do their pictures for their sponsors brochure. By trying all of this I learned things I couldn't have learned if I had said I that only specialized in portraits, and I would have missed all the amazing experiences I had by playing around in different genres. I don't mean I don't enjoy photographing cars, food, flowers or landscapes, I just think they look way better when there's a human in the frame. But that's my personal case.

Personal Projects
Personal projects have been a huge part of my photography. When I got my camera in 2011 I took over the garage and built a little studio, then I annoyed everybody at home so I could practice with my new set of lights. After a little while people gave up on being my subjects and I had to try a new genre…. The Selfie. Along with the selfie I discovered my crafty skills, and soon after the Hamburger Hat was born. After 3 years of making the hat and using those pictures as my avatar in every social media platform I really enjoy when a client ask me if they can have their picture taken with the Hamburger Hat. It's my personal ongoing series.

My Portfolio
Almost every single one of my images have a sentimental meaning to me but I couldn't just fill my portfolio with selfies. I've put myself in front of the camera because I have a huge need to create, to try new things, and, heck, I enjoy taking a selfie from time to time too! I will say my camera is my Xanax, creating pictures is how I have kept my sanity the last 3 years but I think it was necessary for me to have more subjects than myself in my book.

After listening to a zillion opinions of how to build a portfolio, I decided I was only going to show the kind of images that I wanted to be hired to do. The kind of work that I enjoy doing the most. Portraits with a creative twist and beauty. At the time I was doing mostly corporate portraits (what paid my bills), so I had to find a way to get those creative pics I had in my head into my portfolio.

Then we come to one of the questions I get asked the most…

How do you find your models?
Social media. Facebook. To date, most of the models I've worked with I have met through groups or friends on Facebook. Yes, I've heard of Model Mayhem, I have an account but honestly I have never used it. I kinda feel safer using Facebook because you have more access to personal information so you can see who you're dealing with.

Always be clear when contacting models if your doing TFP, (time/trade for print) and talk about terms and expectations before the shoot. And always, always, always get your model release signed. Make sure all of the parties know what the use of the images are gonna be and it's a fair trade.

Keep your dirty laundry in the hamper!
Working in a positive creative environment is extremely important to me.  I've been contacted several times to collaborate with different kind of artists and when I see their posts on social media I just get completely turned off by erratic behavior. It doesn't matter how good somebody's work is, a bad attitude can easily screw up a deal.

Remember this is my personal 5 cents on the topic, this is the way I work.

Building a killer team.
I was extremely lucky to build a killer team when I was in Orlando with a hair and make up artist, Valeria Angelino. We met on a shoot and since then we started working together. It was magical. We were always on the same page and we really enjoyed creating together. She's fantastic, she has toured with Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears and she's currently touring with The Voice. I miss her to death.

Chances are there are lots of local artists looking to build their portfolios too, don't be afraid to contact people, the worst thing can happen is somebody says no. Know the value of your work, know what you have to offer, and think of a deal that can be beneficial for both of you whether it's prints, digital images, editorials, etc.

Remember all these collaborations can bring something for your business in the future.

Stay Inspired
The best way to stay inspired is to keep busy. Whether it is planning shoots, shooting personal projects, making props, learning new techniques, experimenting; If your butt’s on a sofa waiting for the magical powers of inspiration come to you, chances are you're gonna get frustrated and nothing is gonna happen. Connect to people, scout new locations, find new subjects, heck do something!

You don't need to break the piggy bank.
We all dream about a huge production budget for a shoot but in real life you don't really need to spend a huge amount of money to have a successful shoot. Use a piece of fabric, make bubbles, shoot through a window or a glass, use powder or flour, make hair or makeup the main focus on your subject.

Choose your battles.
The not very fun part of becoming a photographer is educating people. I still get invited to parties and then right after the invitation I get the, "Oh and bring your camera" comment. I get lots of "exposure" payment offers even for people that are trying to use my pictures for commercial purposes. Sadly some people don't take photographers seriously and this can become very frustrating. Choose your battles, sometimes it’s better to just walk away than try to prove your point . Value your work, your time and your talent.

You can see more of Gilmar’s work at, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.

I recently had the opportunity to cover a sold out arena show for the band Third Day, who gave me full access to do pretty much anything I wanted. Today I want to share some of those shots with you, as well as my experience covering the show. I also recently shot some band portraits for another artist that I'll share after the concert stuff.

As soon as I got the phone call asking if I was available to come to Atlanta and cover the Third Day show, and being told I would have full access, I knew I wanted to set up a remote camera on stage to capture the view of the band performing with the sold-out audience as well. I set it up during the band's sound check (as you can see in the test shot above) using two Manfrotto Magic arms (one to hold the camera and another attached to the rail and arm holding the camera for added security/support).

The camera itself is a Canon 5D Mark III with a 8-15mm fisheye lens at 15mm, and I put the biggest memory card I had in it to make sure I didn't run out of card space during the show as I wouldn't have access to it to swap out cards. Since this was my first time setting up a remote camera on stage, I just took a guess at the settings and hoped it would work. I went with Spot Metering, Auto ISO with 1/250 as the minimum shutter and 12,800 as the max ISO, and f/5.6 just to be safe on depth of field.

To trigger the camera, there's a PocketWizard Plus III in the hot shoe and connected to the remote port with the appropriate cable, and I had another PocketWizard Plus III in my front shirt pocket that I used to trigger it during the show. I could have put the PocketWizard I had on me on one of the cameras I was carrying if I wanted the on-stage camera to shoot at the same time I was shooting, but I opted not to.

This allowed me to capture some key moments during the show from a unique perspective, as well as show the size of the crowd. These guys aren't doing too badly for a band that's both been around for over 20 years, and it's still four of the founding members!

It's always a privilege to shoot soundcheck, so here are a couple of my favorites from that:

The band invited some friends to join them for the show, including one of my other favorite bands, Needtobreathe, who were also in town for their own shows at The Tabernacle that weekend and stopped by for a couple of songs:

And here are a few more of my favorites from the evening:

And at the end of the show, I went on stage to get a shot of them facing me with the crowd behind them:

It's a cool experience being able to shoot for a band that you grew up listening to and can now call friends, so I'm hoping to have the privilege of shooting for these guys more in the future!

Speaking of friends in a band, my buds in Preson Phillips recently released a new album and needed some shots to help promote it. They wanted a close up, kinda harsh and gritty look, so here's what I wound up doing for them:

Preson Phillips (aka Tommy), singer, acoustic guitar

Nate Murray, bass

Mickey Holm, drums

Tim McTague, one of a few dudes who play rotate on electric guitar

I mainly used all constant lights for these shots; two Westcott TD6s with strip banks on either side and a fluorescent ring light (mainly for the catchlight in the eyes). The background light was an Elinchrom BRX 500 with a reflector aimed at the white wall behind them:

So there you have it, a look into a couple of my recent shoots. Hopefully some of this was helpful and will inspire some creativity in you as well. If you have any questions, leave a comment and I'll do my best to respond as soon as I can!

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