Category Archives Guest Blogger

Hi. I'm Steven.

Although I was flattered to be asked to contribute this Wednesday, I nearly passed up the opportunity because I truly didn't know what I could offer that would be worth reading. I am a photographer, which is why I was considered in the first place, but I don't have much to say about gear or workflow.

Instead, if I could leave you with anything, I'd say: Everything matters. From my experience it's the most important thing to remember.

Big things like how you treat people or how you conduct your business are obvious, but little stuff is often overlooked. I've seen the smallest details come back around in huge ways and I've noticed that people notice more than you'd think.

Most, including myself a lot of times, get caught up with their normal routine and miss a lot because what they do “works” for them. I'd certainly rather continue to grow than exist in a routine that just "works" and I've found a lot of success in paying close attention to details.

Do everything you can do and then do something extra.


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

Feeding the Sika Deer in Nara, Japan. 2012. (Captured by my sister, music writer, Alex Vickery.

I stared at this cursor for a good ten minutes before I actually let a line stick. I feel like the ending to an episode of Doogie Howser, M.D.

An enthusiastic, "Yes," was my response to Brad's request that I pen a guest post, without question, because Brad is awesome, but the fact is I spent a lot longer than ten minutes catching up on the past guest posts here that I had missed. I was blown away at the inspiring words and visuals and was suddenly at an impasse.

With 62 pages of posts from world-renowned artists, what was I going to bring to the table? After considerable thought I decided to try to answer a question that I'm casually asked all the time.

"What is your favorite photo?"

Now I'm sure most are implying an image that I personally took, in which case I have frames that I like at any given time. To get those out of the way here are a few of my own most recent images that I personally enjoy.

Houston artist Kelsey Jackson. 2014.

Houston-native, Machine Gun Kelly. 2013.

Actress Katlynn Simone of BET's "The Game". 2014.

Polar Vortex 1. Buffalo, NY. 2014.

Old Forge, NY. 2014

Houston artist Cray Cray. 2013.

Back to the question at hand. My answer is the same every time. My favorite photograph is one I didn't personally take, in fact I don't really know who took it. It's a medium format print of an image of my grandfather teaching a firearms class during his time in the Air Force stationed Tachikawa AFB near Tokyo, Japan. I always loved the texture of the image and the official stamp on the back. The photo, as old as it is, is sharper than 99% of digital captures today. It makes me want to use my Hasselblad more.

Both of my grandfathers died in the late 90's and I loved both of them dearly, however the reason why the image is so important to me isn't just because of who is in the photo, but more of what the image represents: family.

I remember being envious of grade school classmates that always seemed to have several cousins close by or a huge family gathering every weekend. My family was stretched from San Francisco to New York to Tokyo to Cleveland to Paris and everywhere in between. I moved with my family from Houston, TX to Paris, France in the middle of my 5th grade year. Then we moved back 3 years later. It was a tough adjustment, but I got through it. In the end I had been to a dozen different schools, as many or more different houses, different environments and different memories.

No matter where we were, I always loved that I could open up our photo albums and see the same photos of friends and family. Those photographs held it all together.

My dad and his brothers on Halloween. Buffalo, NY.

Ever since I started to really enjoy photography several years ago, I have been on a quest to preserve as much of my family's negatives, prints and old video footage as possible. It started with the tedious task of converting our family's old VHS tapes into digital files and progressed into scanning prints, negatives, and sometimes other interesting documents like postcards or report cards.

Me. Normandy, France. 1994.

As photographers we take the greatest care organizing and archiving our own photography, so why not make that same effort to protect our family's historical record? Regardless of how organized and secure our own pixels are, for most of us, there is an aging box of yellowing prints from a pre-digital era that aren't part of that archiving workflow, but they should be.

My sister recently moved back to the states from Dublin. My mom lives in Singapore. Before that they were in Brazil. It’s tough not getting to see some of your family as much as you'd like. In 2012 I visited my grandmother in New York whom I rarely get the chance to see. She had a very old photo from 1914. It was a photo of her mother, my great grandmother as a young schoolgirl in 1914. She was about to throw it out. I had to save it.

I rescued the photograph and scanned in a ton of old photographs she had collected. It's important to me, these photographic records of my family's history. Sometimes, if not all the time, the process of scanning and organizing an overwhelming pile of prints is tiresome, but the look on your family's face when they've re-discovered an old memory at the bottom of that pile that you unearthed and preserved can make it all worth it.

In 2010, for my grandmother's 80th birthday, I compiled my favorite scanned images into a 400-page book that I self-published as a surprise for her. Check out my blog to read more about that project.

They all don't have to be a book project, but if that unorganized pile exists for you and your family, scan them in. Burn them to a disc or drive. Make copies and give them to family members for safekeeping.

My grandmother. Akron, Ohio. 2010.

Family Selfie. Zugspitze, Germany. 2012.

My favorite photographs are the ones of my sister as a baby in Paris, the ones of my dad holding me as a baby, my grandma making me fried rice, grandpa as a kid.

I am their historian. I am their archivist. I am the only one who knows how to work the scanner.

Todd Spoth is a commercial and editorial photographer based out of Houston, Texas, USA. When he isn't making pictures, writing sentimental blog posts or speaking in the third person he writes and records his own music which can be heard here.

See more of Todd's work at and connect with him on Twitter and Instagram.

The Hunting Photographer

We live in an age where everybody is able to get their 15 minutes of fame. The internet has changed the way the world works. We all have our smart phones, tablets etc. and thanks to YouTube, everyone can now have the world as an audience.

This also means that there is a lot of traffic and a lot of people out there claiming their fame.

According to me (and this is personal) fame is very relative. I strongly believe that we as photographers are just artists and not "rock stars" although sometimes you do get that feeling :-)

If I see how many emails I get during a week about the topic, "how can I become famous?" I always think⦠"what are they after?" If you think being a working photographer means driving Ferraris with beautiful super models drinking champagne (and I don't promote drinking and driving here) well⦠you can't be more wrong. Most photographers I know are incredibly hard working people that sometimes can hardly make ends meet. We also drive a 6 year old car and are happy when we end up with profit at the end of the year. On the other hand I would not trade it in the world for a desk job (and I don't mean anything negative about people doing that work).

So what's the idea behind this blogpost?

Well, it’s very simple. Most of the people I talk to now a days are incredibly focused on being "famous," doing the stuff that they think will bring them boatloads of money and appearing on the cover of Vogue magazine. But when you ask further, it's often very clear that they have just started out in photography, sometimes shooting less than a year, and already thinking about quitting their day job and starting a career in photography.

Let's first look at this by a simple example.

Now, remember I'm doing this for my country (the Netherlands), so rates and taxes might differ from your area.

When we look online, we see several photographers offering photo shoots for a little over $100.00 (and often even much less but let's be reasonable). This sounds like a good deal, and let's be honest… If you do 10 shoots a week, that's a cool $1,000.00 you earn and this means $4,000.00 a month… Wow that's awesomeâ¦

What people often forget is that a lot of this "quick cash" is eaten up by taxes. For us in the Netherlands, we have 21% VAT, and after this you can give up between 31-40% to income tax, meaning roughly half of what you make is gone like "that."

Now we also have to take into account that one has to upgrade/maintain gear, rent a studio, eat, pay insurance, pay for your house, do advertising, pay telephone bills, etc. etc. The costs are huge.

When working for a boss this is often not so obvious, all insurances are paid (like medical in the Netherlands), you are building up a pension and because you work for a boss you don't have to worry about business things like when you get sick, are being sued etc.

So the first thing you have to realize is that if you want to be a professional photographer you have to charge⦠and I mean charge.

A portrait session for $100.00 just won't cut it. We did a quick calculation here and ended up with at least $199.00 for a session of one hour, taking into account that you also have to retouch the images, store the images and give the people something to drink. This is on the low side. However we are forced to the low side because in our home town, portrait sessions are already offered for (believe it or not) $15.00 in which people get 1 hour studio time and have to buy the prints, but they do get Facebook versions⦠Now I hear you say, "well that photographer won't survive." But that's the problem, he doesâ¦. simply because he has a day job and does photography in his free time which is also great for his clients because they can come on Sunday, in the weekends and during the eveningsâ¦â¦

Don't get me wrong, I strongly believe there is still a great market for photography. But as a photographer you have to be different. Deliver something that is unique, know your social media because this is where now a days everything happens, but most of all have passion for your trade and learn your trade.

When you understand what you're doing you can create unique looks that actually differentiate you from your competition. Make sure you have a professional looking studio which is a totally different appearance from a living room that is being transformed into a studio while you are being sniffed by the large family dog.

Create something that others don't offer and ask a normal premium price for it. Start using your clients as your advertising, make them enthusiastic about the product, and maybe start actions where they can earn prints by bringing in friends and family.

As you can see, being a photographer almost sounds like running a "normal," "everyday" business. But I believe that there is no normal business, every business is unique.

If you are prepared to work 24/7 or be flexible, then being a photographer can happen for you. However don't hunt for the "famous" part. Build your business, and most of all start building your network, because when you want to be on the cover of a magazine it's often not about the quality of your work but about the people you know. Trust me when I tell you that if you want to survive on magazine work only⦠You will probably starve to death.

But the most important thing I can tell you, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart, NEVER and I really mean NEVER hunt for something. Just let it happen. Be the best photographer you can, enjoy what you're doing, but don't quit your day job and jump in without a bungee cord. Always have a backup plan, and if that means working 40 hours for a boss and 20-30 hours as a photographer, well so be it. In my opinion working as a photographer should not feel like work. We are image makers, story tellers and as soon as something feels like work you will lose that creativity and fun.

Hunting for something can ruin your creativity and fun and that's the worst thing you can do for your business. I've witnessed a lot of photographers try so hard to get to their goal that they were losing the fun in their work. If something did not work out they would be angry, feel let down and disappointed, and slowly but surely start hating photography and losing their interest.

My story is very simple.

I was brought up in a family of photographers, all hobby non-professional shooters, but they loved everything about it. My grandparents had their own darkroom, and I was brought up learning the fun in photography.

When I grew up I wanted to be a vet, but couldn't due to some allergies they found. So I started my own business, stopped photography for a while and picked it up again to shoot nature, birds and sports all in good fun. Totally by accident I ended up with model photography and fell in love with photographing people. I slowly built up my skills and portfolio while still running the computer store with Annewiek (my wife). After 10 years (actually 2013) we sold the computer store to focus 100% on photography. Yes you did read this correctly, it took me 10 years to build up a foundation that I trusted enough to quit my "day job."

In all that time I did set goals for myself, but never unrealistic, and if something didn't work out I really didn't care. I shot for fun and I taught for fun. Even today it's the same way. We weekly teach workshops in our studio and if sometimes we don't sell out the workshops (I always teach small groups ranging from 5-8 people) I will not cancel the workshop, I will teach as soon as we have 2 people in the group for the very simple reason I love what I'm doing and whatever happens next⦠Well, we will see. I do of course have some wishes and goals but I will not really hunt for them because I know that I will lose focus on the things that are important⦠the here and now.

Create art and set reasonable goals, but never lose your passion for the art called photography. And if you don't become rich and famous, at least you will have a passion for life called photography. And trust me, you will see if you show that passion to people I would not be surprised if you are getting much further than you would ever dream.

You can see more of Frank’s work at, and connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Allow me to introduce myself. Some of you reading this have probably heard of me/my work; the majority of you probably have not and I’m totally fine with that. My legal name is Charles David Campbell Tabor Bean, but I’ve gone by David Bean my whole life. The five names are the result of being born to hippie parents.

The following is an excerpt from the bio of me on my site….

"My life confirms the age-old adage “truth is stranger than fiction.” As a child I lived on hippie communes with no neighbors for miles, tiny apartments in Boston and everything in between. I went to 6 different high schools and was a punk rock teen in South Florida who misspent my youth at the detriment of myself and others."

To say that I had a less-than-normal life is an understatement. For me life until the age of 20 was one of severe loneliness, confusion, anger and rebellion. Those attributes all sort of fed off of each other and kept the circle spinning, especially as a teenager. Now, 20 years later I look back on those days with some regret, but mostly fondness for how all of it has shaped me into who I am. Let me say that I love who I’ve become. I have an amazing Wife, 2 awesome kids and a good career.

I treasure having grown up poor, lonely, misunderstood and mischievous for it has given me two of the most valuable things a person can possess; sympathy and empathy for others. We live in a world today where people seem to be getting not only more narcissistic, but impatient, intolerant and hateful of others and their opinions/beliefs. I’m amazed at how the comments on every single YouTube video I watch dissolves into the cruelest of arguments. You can’t even watch a cat video or a funny ad without somebody turning it into a shouting match about how someone else is stupid, ignorant or just plain wrong.

No one knows who originally said "Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle," but whoever did was very insightful. As a news & current events junkie I see and read all kinds of heart-wrenching stories every day. As I read them I’m fully aware that the people I’m reading about are only a small fraction of all the others going through similar circumstances.

We meet and pass by tens, dozens, hundreds of people a day who all have one thing in common; their lives aren’t perfect. Not only aren’t their lives perfect, but many, many times they’re ravaged by despair and crisis. Most of the time you won’t see this on their face or hear them stop to tell you. If you say, "Hey, how’s it going?" their replay will simply be, "Great, how about you?" Most are either afraid of scaring people away by telling them the truth or they just don’t think anyone would even care.

Photography used to be all about people; and more specifically the subject. It was the art of a photographer making a connection with their subject in such a way that he/she reached in and pulled something out of the person that even they didn’t know was inside of themselves. A photo shoot is like a dance; one person leads and the other follows and when both are in sync it becomes a work of art that inspires others.

I fear photography is moving away from being about people and connections to becoming more about gear, fame (for the photographer), and a way to make easy, fast money. It’s as if we look at a photo and say "Wow, what great lighting!" or, "I wonder what the camera settings were." The lighting, background, and any other visuals are important to me as a photographer to create something I want to be proud of. My graphic design background compels me to want to create "scenes" that my subjects live in. It’s my style and I enjoy it.

But it’s my opinion that when you look at a great portrait you should be drawn to the subject and be teased into wanting to know more about that person, their situation and their story. Everyone has a story and it’s our job as photographers to not just take a photo of someone’s physical appearance, but to try to pull out that story, their struggle and even their vulnerabilities.

When I look through my photos it’s sometimes eerie because I feel like the people in them are looking back at me, just like they were when I took the photo. It makes me feel vulnerable for some reason and if I look at a photo where the person is looking into the camera and don’t get that feeling then I think that I probably didn’t make a real connection with them.

It can become really hard to connect to someone when all of the messages we get from society tell us to draw up lines, put people in boxes, label them and make enemies of those who would hold to different opinions than us. I’m a person who has very strong opinions on politics and religion among other things. I think I’m right about a whole lot of things; just ask my Wife. But at the same time I always make it my goal to try to understand how another person could think 180 degrees differently. Respect for the opinions and beliefs of others, no matter how much we disagree with them is essential if we are ever going to be able to connect with the people we shoot.

Conservatives, Democrats, Independents, Christians, Muslims, Atheists, Rednecks, Gang-bangers, celebrities, rich people, poor people, etc. are all human beings created (I believe) in the image of God; let’s not argue about that in the comments please ;) We all have way more in common than we don’t. We all struggle, we all desperately want to love and be loved.

If we make our shoots all about the technical wizardry and fancy gear, but treat the subject as just another prop in the photo, we will create beautiful, perfectly lit photos that have no depth or soul. We will have made the photo be about us the photographer rather than about the person in the photo. People are not props to be used to make our photos look prettier. People are what make our lives and our work beautiful.

If we could learn to see and embrace people as fellow passengers with us on this crazy train called life; all with their own struggles, addictions, problems and beliefs, then maybe we could make real, honest connections that would result in organic photos that aren’t just pretty, but have actual depth and soul.

From one imperfect human being to another, thanks for reading.

You can see more of David’s work at, and connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Elia, Fujiyoshida, Japan 2013  |  Photo Credit: Naomi Locardi

Each new year brings with it an opportunity to reflect on days gone by and look forward to the promise of the year ahead. If we're lucky, life leads us in positive new directions we may not have expected and things unfold in ways we could never anticipate.

Since 2009, with a unique blend of inspiration, passion, caffeine and a touch of insomnia, my wife and I have visited more than 40 countries and flown over 1 million air miles. In March of 2012, we surrendered our apartment in central Florida (and most of our possessions with it) taking to the road full-time and becoming completely "Location Independent." Our vision for our life is continually changing and evolving as our experiences, and the people we meet along the way, inspire us to visit new places and seek out new and richer experiences.

Sleeping Giants – Mount Bromo, Indonesia 2013

The Evolution of My Photography Style
Throughout my career in the post production and visual effects industry I always strived to bring something new and fresh to the table, something that would break the standard mold. I had the opportunity to work on many talented creative teams and bring unique visions for client projects to life. While that experience was invaluable, the accumulative stress of working long hours, under harsh deadlines, drove me to the brink. I knew that I wanted my life to go in a new direction – one fueled by passion and inspiration, focusing more on life experience, so I completely reassessed what was important. With a mix of anxiety and anticipation, I left my job as an Art Director and a decade long career in the industry along with it.

In 2009, when I decided that Professional Travel Photography would be my new career path, I knew that to be successful in such a competitive market I would have to attack the task of creating my portfolio with that same drive to create something new and fresh. I would need to find ways to raise the bar and make my photography stand out.

I was driven (my wife might say obsessed) to create a new look by experimenting with different post-processing techniques. With more than a decade of working experience in Adobe® Photoshop, and a past rooted so heavily in software based production, I was able to completely reverse engineer my photography by implementing this accumulated technical knowledge.

Going Home – London, England 2010

The Future is Now – Dubai, UAE 2012

In the very beginning my photography was 100% experimental. Primarily composed of my joyous exploration of the world around me, as I'd capture and catalogue subjects that I found most interesting and inspiring. Rapidly, I realized that I wanted to transmit my sincere feelings of awe and wonder to the audience viewing my work. Beyond that, I also wanted to create a "wow factor" - a moment of meaningful impact - that I could share with the viewer.

Belly of the Beast – Stockholm, Sweden 2011


About 2 years ago I was feeling somewhat stagnant. I remembered this feeling as it hits me every couple of years. I'd been doing some good jobs and was busy which meant that I was doing stuff to make a living but not necessarily stuff I was completely in control of and happy with.

At that point in my career I had been slowly moving from Advertising and Editorial work to Entertainment and Celebrity work. It wasn't easy to break into shooting celebrities as you were always up against people who were already proven in the industry. The resounding comment would be, â˜You haven't shot enough celebrities to do this job sorry,' and with that the door of the exclusive club would shut in my face.

I slowly made some headway and had a few celebrities in my book and noticed that there was a good handful of funny people in it, like Eddie Murphy, Ben Stiller, John Oliver, John Hodgman, Steve Carell and a few others. And so I decided to roll with that momentum to do a book on funny people; Comic Genius: Portraits of Funny People

I had no idea how large it would be as I didn't know who would say yes. I started off thinking I'd do 20 to 30 portraits. I ended up shooting over 90 which turned out to be one of the largest books of the biggest names in comedy that had ever been done. 130 portraits shot from Hollywood to Edinburgh Scotland in over a year and a half!

Even today when I look at the list I don't know how I did it. How so many said yes and how my team logistically produced each shoot flawlessly. There were of course people who said no. In fact, if you can think of someone who is your favorite who isn't in here, chances are we asked them but for whatever reason, scheduling or otherwise, they couldn't do it. But here's who could:


It started by making a wish list. That list would be my team's checklist. Every day we'd search through contacts and locate celebrities. If they were a comic touring or a comedic actor shooting a film we'd go where we needed to get a “YES” from our subjects.

When they did, we'd arrange to have either a phone conversation with them or chat via email. I remember the first time it hit me that it was happening, when Steve Martin called me. "Hi Matt, Steve Martin here"…. I had to just take that in for a moment. I proceeded to tell him my concepts which included the cover shot of him in white suit with his flower/boutonniere growing from a flower pot in his hand.

I had read that he was an art collector and liked surrealist work, so I thought that would be a surreal enough idea for him. It turns out he liked it so that was great!

I found myself like a kid in a candy shop working with my comedy heroes and so I went for broke and half jokingly asked my producer to get me Kermit the Frog so we could shoot a video of him & Steve Martin playing Dueling Banjos. She did. And so I nervously asked Steve if he'd do it.

He said, "If Kermit is into it then I guess I could do it." And so one of my most memorable days of shooting happened. I walked into Siren Studio in Hollywood and the swamp set was already being built. Real logs, reeds, greenery and a painted backdrop that completed the picture. Kermit had arrived and was getting set up on the log just right; he's very particular. Steve then arrived with his banjo and offered to play Kermit's part for him for playback. So a sound recordist and Steve were playing Dueling Banjos in the green room and Kermit was talking to me and my crew in the main soundstage and I was in heaven.

Other memorable shoots include Robin Williams, who came to the studio very quiet and soft-spoken. I was a little concerned that he'd not be into the shoot, but that all ended when he walked out of wardrobe as a marionette pulling his own strings (which is the way I sort of see him being in control of his character so well). It was awesome and we got a mini show of him riffing on being a puppet and the sort of suggestive moves you could make if you were so inclined. He was.

One day I was sitting in my office. The phone rang and it went something like this: "Matt? Hi this is Mel Brooks. So we’re doing a photo shoot. Ok. So I got all your ideas."

At this stage I was excited that at the end of the conversation, one of the true kings of comedy Mel Brooks would have chosen one of my comedy concepts to shoot and I'd forever have that up my sleeve for bragging rights. â˜Yeah I wrote a comedy bit for Mel Brooks.'

Mel continued. "Yeah here they are, looking at them, they all stink. So here's what I'm going to do. Get me a comb from a drug store. Can you do that? And I'll put it to my nose and be Hitler. It'll be great."

And it was. Mel also did the intro for my book so I'm eternally grateful to have had my ideas rejected by the great man.

In London I photographed John Cleese. He called me in my hotel room the night before the shoot. He had not approved any of the concepts I presented to him yet and I was beginning to get worried. He said no to a shot of him doing his funny walk (he was over the whole funny walk thing since a day doesn’t go by that I’m sure someone doesn’t ask him to do it), but yes to my concept of him playing a large fish with a bow like a musician. He said he quite liked that. Which made me happy since we could then rush out and find a large fish in time for the shoot. But my favorite shot of him is one where I was shooting some close up portraits of his expressions and he stopped and said "Wait, I have something!" and put his hat on sideways and gave me that John Cleese stare. Love it!

I was looking forward to shooting Ricky Gervais as I am a fan of his biting humor. I had this concept of him doing his big teethy laugh that is so infectious and then accompanying it with a bowl of alphabet soup with the words ha ha in it. He asked what was the cover of the book and I said Steve Martin. He said, â˜Who's he?' Which was the perfect comment from him.

Michael Richards was someone who had made me laugh so much during Seinfeld's reign and even his reruns, so I was happy when he said yes. Even with his recent public incident, he was happy to bring his character to life and I wanted to capture that silliness shyly coming out from the curtain.

Shooting the book was draining, costly and put a lot of my commercial work on hold, yet it was an amazing journey that I wouldn't trade for anything. It ended up making â˜Best Photography Book of the Year’ lists including American Photography and becoming a best seller on Amazon which is a nice bonus. But one of the most satisfying results is that all net proceeds are going to Save the Children. I just had a child myself who I dedicated the book to so it's a fitting way to honor him and do something worthwhile.

You can see more of Matt’s work at, buy his book Comic Genius: Portraits of Funny People, and follow him on Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook.