Category Archives Guest Blogger

Let’s Get Inspired!

First, I want to thank Scott and Brad for having me back on Photoshop Insider as a guest blogger. It's an honor to be here, as well as an honor to "share the stage" with so many talented photographers.

Today I'd like to talk about an important element, to some the most important element, in photography: inspiration - how you can get inspired and how you can stay inspired. I cover that topic somewhat in my latest Kelby Training interview, but here I'd like to share with you the detailed list of my "Top 10 Techniques for Getting Inspired." Feel free to substitute the word "motivated" for "inspired."

Condensed down to just one word each, here is my Top Ten list: Steal, Search, Share, Join, Learn, Change, Travel, Enjoy, Look and Walk. I'll expand on those topics in a just a bit. In reading my list, keep in mind that if you play guitar or piano (as does Scott and yours truly), my "Top Ten" list also applies. In fact, the list applies, with a bit of tweaking, to all creative art forms.

Before we get going, however, I guess I should tell you about the Camargue horses pictures in this post. I took them during a recent digital photography workshop that I was co-leading in Provence, France.  All the images, taken with my Canon 5D Mark III and either my Canon 24-105mm IS lens or Canon 70-200mm f/4 IS lens, are pretty much strait shots, converted to JPEGs from my RAW files. All the images, however, are cropped. I feel strongly about cropping, as it gives us a second chance at composition - which is the topic of my Kelby Training class, Composition - The Strongest Way of Seeing.

Two more things about the images before I get to my "Top Ten" list:

First, you could say these photographs are "dumb luck" shots. Heck. I was standing in the water at the right time of day while these beautiful animals were running toward me (guided by riders who are out of the frame) at top speed. Basically, all I had to do was compose, set my exposure, allow my camera to focus - and shoot. Actually, you could say many images, even those by pros, are "dumb luck" shots. The thing is: "Luck favors the prepared photographer." So be prepared.

Second, seeing pictures of the Camargue horses by other pros inspired and motivated me to try to make good pictures of these beautiful animals.

Okay, let's talk about inspiration.

1) Steal!
Salvador Dali said, "Those who do not want to imitate anything produce nothing." I first learned of that quote in the book, Steal Like an Artist, by Austin Kleon.

One way to get inspired, therefore, is to look at the work of other photographers, and then try to emulate their work. If you succeed in your quest to "steal," that will inspire you to go on "stealing" and creating.

2) Share
Sharing your work, and ideas, on social media sites, such as Google+, Facebook and Twitter is a good way to get inspired. If other photographers like your work, you'll get inspired by their comments, which will inspire you to make more creative pictures ­- and to post more pictures. Even if you are an established pro, feedback is important. I'm always searching the web for new sites designed for photo sharing. PhotoExtracat.com is my latest and favorite.

Recently, I posted one of my Camargue horses pictures on PhotoExtract, and within a few days it was featured on the home page of the site - which was quite an honor.

Of course, a bad review on a social media site can be uninspiring. But if you are in this game of photography, you need to learn how to take the good with the bad.

3) Search
Searching and researching the work of other photographers is another way to get inspired. That's what I did before going to Provence.

I always suggest to my workshop students that they do a search on the masters of photography - Karsh of Ottawa, Irving Penn, Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Jerry Uelsmann, Gordon Parks - to name a few. More masters can be found here.

Back in the late 1970s, I had the awesome opportunity while editor of Studio Photography magazine (and before some of you were born), to interview Yousuf Karsh, Arthur Rothstein, Andreas Feininger, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Francesco Scavullo - and several other famous photographers of that time. These men loved photography, which is different than someone who loves being a famous photographer (which is a trend today on social media). Search out the true masters. You'll get inspired by their work - as I did and as I am.

4) Join
A great way to get inspired is to shoot with other photographers. Join a photo workshop, photo walk, camera club or photo Meet Up group. Learn from the pro or leader. Share your shots on site and online. Get feedback. Look at the work of others, especially in the field so you can see how the other photographers are seeing. Remember: the more you put in, the more you'll get out.

If you have been on a photo workshop and have wondered why you were not getting good shots, this blog post may help: How Come I'm Not Getting the Shots?

5) Learn
"Learning is health," so the Buddhist saying goes. I truly believe that. Learn a new plug-in and see how that plug-in can help you awaken the artist within. Learn how to use Photoshop, Lightroom or ACR to expand the dynamic range of an image. Learn how to make a great inkjet print. Master daylight fill-in flash, painting-with-light or EDR. EDR, in case you were wondering, is my own name for HDR, which you can read about in this post: Goodbye HDR! Hello EDR?

6) Change
"When you are through changing, you are through." - Bruce Barton

Change is good - and inspiring and refreshing. If you are stuck in a rut, get some inspiration by trying a different type of photography or by experimenting with different digital darkroom techniques. Challenge yourself. If you meet and exceed that challenge, you'll be inspired and motivated to try new things.

If you think you can't change, think about this quote: "If you think you can, you can. If you think you can't, you can't."

Have enthusiasm for all that you do - new and old - and inspire others - which is actually a good way for you to get inspired. "Nothing great was ever accomplished without enthusiasm." - Ralph Waldo Emerson.

7) Travel
Traveling to new locations is a wonderful way to get inspired. You don't necessarily need to travel to the other side of the planet to get inspired, but that can surely help. Making a trip to a nearby city or park can also be a source of inspiration, too. Wherever you go, set a specific goal, perhaps to come away with a series of black-and-white images. With that goal in mind, you'll see and picture your world in your own unique way, which is kinda cool.

8) Enjoy
Here's yet another quote, this one by my good friend Hal "Bull" Schmitt, a wonderful motivational and inspirational speaker, as well as a former Top Gun instructor. "If you are not having fun, you are doing something wrong." Take joy in all your photography - and in all you do. You'll be surprised at how your attitude affects your images.

9) Look
For photographers, there's a big difference between seeing and looking. (For musicians, there is a big difference between hearing and listening.) When you are out shooting, look for images. The more you look, the more you'll see picture possibilities. Don't only look for interesting subjects, look for good light. It's often light that can make the difference between a snapshot and a great shot. When we were photographing the horses in Provence, positioning the horses in good light was a main objective.

10) Walk
"If you are seeking creative ideas, go out walking. Angels whisper to a man who goes for a walk." - Raymond Inmon

I'll leave you with that quote and concept because it says it all . . . and because I am going for a walk.

You can see more of Rick's work at RickSammon.com, and follow him on Google+, Twitter, and Facebook!


Miami celebrity portrait photographer Brian Smith

[Note from Brad: This is the first of four guest blogs from newer Photoshop World instructors in the weeks leading up to the conference. We thought you might like to get familiar with them beforehand if you’re not already, so we hope you enjoy this series!]

Not every picture is worth a thousand words. The value of an image depends on how much you give it to say.

Conceptual Portrait Photography is creating story-telling portraits that say something about your subject. I'm very excited to join the faculty of Photoshop World in Las Vegas this September 4-6 where I'll be speaking about creating story-telling Conceptual Portrait Photography. In the mean time, Scott and Brad have been kind enough to hand me the keys to O'Kelby's Pub for Happy Hour Wednesday. So grab a pint, slide up to the bar and enjoy a few appetizers.


Darnell Dockett photographed for Sports Illustrated

Concepts come from many different places. They can be yours or they can come from the creative director, art director or photo editor. They can be based on the subject's latest movie, project or book. Sometimes they come out of collaboration with the subject and occasionally you just have to pull them out of thin air on the spur of the moment.

Let's start with a concept that I was hired to shoot. Sports Illustrated assigned me to photograph Florida State defensive end Darnell Dockett in a cemetery for their Halloween issue.

I pictured something like the nighttime graveyard scene in Michael Jackson's Thriller video. When shooting college or pro athletes for magazines, you rarely have control over when you'll be able to shoot them. The only time Dockett was available was 3pm in the afternoon. If you've ever been in Tallahassee, Florida in October, you know that harsh afternoon sunlight looks nothing like the ghoulish evening sky we were after.

The key to pulling off the concept boils down to problem solving. We hired an assistant in Tallahassee and put him to work finding the funkiest old cemetery in town.

"Day for night" is a cinematic term for faking a nighttime shot during the day. We chose a spot in the cemetery that would be in full shade so I wouldn't have to fight the sunlight. To give a "Thriller"-esque feel to our daylight shoot, we rented a generator and fog machine.

Using a stand-in for Darnell until he arrived, we pre-lit the shot with three Profoto 7B strobes. The main light was from a Profoto 7B with a beauty dish on the right. A second 7B strobe head with a zoom reflector was just off the ground on the left side of the shot to light up the tombstone on the left and also put a small highlight on Darnell's helmet. A third 7B with a zoom reflector was placed on the ground behind the tombstones to backlight the fog. The bright blue sky was underexposed three stops and white balance was set to tungsten to give the photograph a nighttime feel.


Bill Gates photographed for Business Week

The small stuff can make or break a shoot. Styling is the polish that really makes your concept sing. Back in the early 90s, Business Week called with a cover shoot for Bill Gates. Their concept was to shoot Gates as "Master of the Technology Universe" posed in front of a starry night sky backdrop - a bit over the top - but what the hell, it’s a cover.

Back in those days Gates was never photographed in anything but his trademark button-down shirt and sweater vest, which doesn't exactly scream master of the universe. My wife Fazia, the stylist on our shoot, pulled out a black turtleneck for Gates figuring if we could convince him to wear it, the look would be a better match for the magazine's concept. Gates' assistant was positive he wouldn't wear the turtleneck, but she took it with her anyway. Fifteen minutes later Gates showed up in the black turtleneck and did everything I asked without a word of complaint.

Gates never adopted our look, but a few years later his archrival Steve Jobs didâ¦so maybe Apple was finally able to steal something back from Microsoft.


Fly-Sci photographed for Eating Well

Illustrating a small subject on a large scale requires some photographic trickery. Sometimes the best thing to do is turn to your subjects for help. I was at a loss for how to illustrate this story about scientists who irradiate fruit flies, so I asked them for suggestions. When they showed me a slide they use in their lectures, the wheels began to turn. Images of brilliantly bad 1950’s Sci-Fi B movies started to run through my brain. I asked if they had a room with a projector, and they led me to a lecture hall with a wall-sized projection screen. I asked the scientists to don their lab coats and stand in front of the screen so they'd be illuminated by the projected slide. Their faces were lit from below with a little burst of light from using strobe heads fitted with 5-degree grid spots. The color came from cross-processing color negative film as chrome, producing the weird blue/orange shift.


Gatorade Inventors photographed for Sports Illustrated

Group shots can be boring, but you can add interest if you choose a location and props that help explain what your subjects do. Sports Illustrated was gathering together the Gatorade inventors at the University of Florida and gave me what I love bestâ”an open assignment to do anything I wanted to do.

The Gatorade inventors are legends on campus, so when I asked to shoot in their old lab, the university quickly agreed. When we arrived at the old lab, we started clearing out the clutter, and then brought in a bunch of laboratory glassware from the adjoining lab. We filled the glassware with a special, extra-strength Gatorade mixed from powdered concentrateâ”about four times the normal strengthâ”until it practically glowed neon yellow. I wanted the lighting to read as real, yet be prettier than actual overhead fluorescent lights, so the shot was lit with one big Octabank above and to the right. I gave this a blue tungsten white balance, which looked more flattering on the scientists than the greenish color cast you get from fluorescent lights.

When the inventors arrived, we dressed them in lab coatsâ”arranging them from front to back to give the photo depthâ”handed them flasks of our super-strength Gatorade-on-steroids, and let them enjoy their roles.


The Bee Gees photographed for Entertainment Weekly

My favorite assignments are the one's where I have a clean slate to shoot whatever I want. It's a fun challenge narrowing "everything" down to a manageable idea.

When I got a call from Entertainment Weekly to shoot the Bee Gees during their comeback tour, my first call was to their manager who offered up their recording studio as a location. From a historical perspective, the studio was interesting, but visuallyâ”not so much. Instead, I asked about shooting at one of their homes in a room filled with their gold records, but their manager swore no such room existed. Not one to let my ideas get shot down without a fight, I decided to create a room filled with nothing but gold records. I headed to Home Depot for paint and materials to build the set while my wife and stylist, Fazia, hit the thrift stores, where she picked up 100 LPs at 50 cents a pop.

After two days of building and painting the set, the Brothers Gibb showed up in an all-black wardrobe as requested and acted like true pros throughout the shoot. When I explained that the concept was based on a room that I thought they should have in their homes, they laughed and said, "Yeah, we'll have to think about that."

I'm often asked if it would be easier just to shoot subjects on green screen and add the background in post. Sure you can do that, but having a set allows your subjects to get in the mood and interact with the props – plus you'd miss the fun when the subjects show up and realize they're being photographed by a crazy person.


The Amazing Randi photographed for Esquire

The best idea in the world is worthless if you can't convince your subject to play along. Esquire magazine assigned me to shoot "The Amazing Randi" who'd been awarded a MacArthur Grant for exposing psychic frauds from faith healers to spoon benders. I'd shot Randi before, which usually makes things easier but also raises the stakes a bit because you always want to outdo what you did the last time. Plus this was Esquire, for God's sake.

I wanted to do something this time that would be worth a second look. I came up with the idea of making him disappear. When I got to Randi's house for the shoot, I explained my idea to him, but he quickly shot it down as the dumbest idea he'd ever heard. I asked him to wait to see it before making up his mind, and he trusted me enough to give me a chance to show him what I had in mind before passing final judgment.

Seeing is believing, so I set up my camera to show him a test. To get the effect I wanted, I shot an old-school double exposure on a single sheet of Polaroid. The first exposure was lit with a strobe with a grid spot that froze an image of Randi's face, shoulders, and legs. So as not to disturb the position of the chair, I asked Randi to get up carefully and then made a second exposure with only tungsten spots and candlelight to open up the areas that were in shadow in the first shot, thus allowing Randi to "disappear."

When Randi saw the Polaroid, he loved it! No Photoshop tricksâ”everything was done in-camera; there was no need for post. We quickly shot four rolls of film and were done. Sometimes the hardest part of the shoot is figuring out how to "sell" your idea to your subject.


Gloria & Emilio Estefan photographed for People en Espa±ol

One of the first shoots I did after moving to Miami was to fly down to Mexico to photograph Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine for The Miami Herald. Gloria and her husband Emilio and I became friends on that trip, and over the next decade, I photographed Gloria many times for many different magazines.

People en Espa±ol called looking to do something special of Gloria and Emilio for the magazine's tenth anniversary issue. I thought back to an idea I'd pitched years before - shooting them in black-and-white with the feel of a 1950s Havana nightclub. We never got a chance to shoot it and this seemed like the perfect time. People en Espa±ol's creative director Herman Vega loved the idea and agreed it should run in black and white.

The shot was very simple, or at least as simple as a shot with a grand piano trucked into a studio can get. To complete the look, we brought in a vintage 1950s microphone and wardrobe. A smoke machine added a smoky, jazz club atmosphere. Lighting matched the retro look: No soft lights were used, only Fresnels and other hard lights.

Hope to see you all at Photoshop World in Las Vegas this September 4-6. In addition to my talk about conceptual portraiture, I'll also speak about ways that you can turn personal projects into jobs. You can Save $100 if you register by August 2nd - so do it TODAY! Photoshop World is three great days packed full of intense training in Photoshop, Lightroom and photography lighting techniques. This year is the greatest deal ever! With your paid registration to Photoshop World Vegas, you'll get an entire year of the Adobe Creative Cloud Free!

Come see me there!

Turning Your Personal Photography Projects to Profit
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
2:30pm - 3:30pm | Bonus Classes, NAPP Expo Theatre

Your best work is the work that comes from the heart. Learn ways that personal photography projects can land you jobs you'll love to shoot. I'll talk about ways to maximize the impact of your projects though blogs, promos and social media to generate work.

Conceptual Portrait Photography: Selling Your Ideas
Thursday, September 05, 2013
10:45am - 11:45am | Photography Technique

I'll share the way I comes up with concepts for portraits of the famous and infamous. Hear my tricks about how to sell those ideas to your subject and client. You'll hear the behind-the-scenes stories of how we pulled off conceptual portrait shoots for magazines like Esquire, GQ, Time, Sports Illustrated and ESPN the Magazine.
________________________________________

Miami Photographer Brian Smith photographs iconic portraits of Hollywood's A-List stars and Fortune's 500 for hundreds of magazines including Time, Sports Illustrated, ESPN the Magazine, Elle and GQ. He's a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer and author of Secrets of Great Portrait Photography and Art & Soul: Stars Unite to Celebrate the Arts. See more of his work at Brian Smith Pictures and follow his photo blog, Facebook and Twitter .

Perception. When you watch a James Bond movie you just know James will show up in a black tux adjusting his bow tie and tugging his jacket to look sharp, kind of like "That's right I'm here. Bond, James Bond!" Actually it's just an actor playing a role of a very cool British Secret Agent. My personal favorites are Sir Sean Connery and Pierce Brosnan.

Here's a photo of my funny friend Michael Weatherly in the infamous pose…

I am Mike Kubeisy. I've been shooting in Hollywood for many years and perception is a huge part on the set. It may look like a wood floor, but it's actually paint on cement. Many times I'll touch something to see what it really is, only to be amazed that it’s not what it appears, but it sure looks good. That actor's character is mean and repulsive, but actually he is a very kind, gracious man. He's acting.

When talent walks on my set, how do I appear?

Am I professional, casual, a bit over the top, maybe tightly wound because of who I'm shooting or the nature of the shot? I want to be confident. I need to be commanding! How does my equipment look? Are the strobes matching, are they making funny noises because the fans are dirty or have been dropped so many times they rattle? Is anything bent or do you have tape holding something together? Is your approach "They function properly, the image should turn out fine." ERROR! Really? C'mon man, how is that perceived?

Being a professional photographer in the Motion Picture Industry is a very cool job, kind of like James Bond. I'm sure if you asked any Special Operative about their job they would say it's very cool, but they would also tell you, it's at a very high cost with all the sacrifices made.

I would like to share about having a commanding presence on the set. Not acting or perceiving to be a photographer, but being one!

Just what does that mean? When I get the call to shoot on any given day, I am always early! I was once told "It is easy to be early, hard to be on time." In Los Angeles that is so true with traffic and any other issues that may occur. My camera equipment is good to go.

Batteries are charged, and I have backup equipment should there be a problem. I suggest having instruction manuals of your gear loaded in PDF format in your phone or tablet.

Nothing is more embarrassing than to have a show's star in front of your camera, and you're not quite sure why it's not working right. This actually happened to me. I was shooting on Crossing Jordan with the star of the show, Jill Hennessy, when my camera would not focus. I tried a few settings and smiled a lot (never let them see you sweat). Finally I just put the lens mode in manual and bypassed all the other settings on that lens (that was the beginning of the end with my Nikon relationship), got the shot and all was good because I knew my gear and was confident with it.

How do you gain confidence? Or since today it's my turn to blog, how do you learn to have a Commanding Performance? Work with some friends, not just good friends who know your quirks, but new friends that you have to engage.

Have your work critiqued but not on Facebook! Try and find a mentor, colleague, or camera club where your work can be critiqued creatively. Shoot then shoot some more. Shoot in situations you're not comfortable with so that you need to practice and think outside the box.

In the early `80s I assisted shooting catalogue fashion for the May Co. You were given 3 rolls of 120 film, that's 12 frames on a Hasselblad camera. The first roll was shot for the Art Director's concept, the second was shot for the Buyer's ideas of the items being photographed, and the third roll was shot for your input. So there was some creativity but it was not all about you. You learned to see differently and light accordingly. The other thing you learned is that when the ad came out and it was your image, you kept your mouth shut and never said "I told you so."

I can teach someone about the camera in about 3 months. Lighting however is a forever education. I'm still learning new tricks with different tools I see used on the set. It's kind of like muscle memory; just keep doing it till it comes naturally.

In baseball you practice, take ground balls, throw it around, get in the batting cage, and hit a few at different speeds everyday to develop the muscle memory.

One of the ways I learn a new technique in Photoshop (when I don't call the Photoshop Guys) is from making mistakes or not being able to achieve what I want to. Then I have to research it, and apply my new technique.

(Great time to plug Photoshop World in Vegas. You will learn a lot! Enough said, moving on.)

If you have an opportunity to go to a workshop or seminar for a couple of days but it might cost $1500, and you don't really have it, what should you do? My stand is you need to learn in order to compete. You have to be on top of your game, know what's going on in the market and industry you shoot in be it photography, lighting or software upgrades. It will also be good to network. Remember your competition will also be there. Find the resources and go.

Here's a great debate: equipment. Do you buy the most expensive, newest model on the market? I would love to; however, I know from my experience that many photographers love gear. They will have a shoot that pays them $2500, and then they go out and buy that piece of new gear for $2400. Soon they're out of business or at the very least selling that gear for pennies on the dollar. I invested in a digital camera, and learned to digitally enhance it with Photoshop. I was one of the first to shoot on the set digitally. Soon I was commanding the set with a digital camera and was gaining the respect of Producers. Not just on one show but many, I was, and still am respected for my digital skills. The shows I shoot on all know that I have all the gear I'll need in working, reliable order.

Do you know what they say about film? It's the stuff on your teeth! Oh how I crack myself up, thank you very much, I'll be here all week, try the veal. Braddo, thanks for the stage. Okay I got this, back to the blog.

I have shot with Alien Bees since `97. They are not the most expensive strobe heads in the market, but I can tell you they are very dependable, and the customer service is fantastic. I just upgraded my strobe heads to the Einsteins in the past year, and thus far I have been satisfied with the gear. My equipment is always functional and reliable.

My cameras and lenses are Canon. This is where I get in troubleâ¦I don't believe in third party glass, and here's why. If there is compromise in any of their glass, why would I take any chance for failure? If the third party lenses were being compared to the manufacturers, why then would I compromise with the standard of the lens? True, Canon L lenses are very expensive, but Canon does not compare their lenses to third party lenses.

I am challenged every day with varying situations and personalities beyond my control. The things I can control, my equipment, I need to know it will function with the support I require. This way when I'm on the set, I can command what it is I'm doing and deal with those that I'm responsible for.

I have had guests on the set with me, and when I wrap, they always graciously ask if they can help strike my gear. If my assistant or I don't put it away, I have no idea the condition it will be in when I need it again. All of my gear is in cases, and each item has its place. If an item is not there, I will know right away because it's not back in the place it needs to be, and I need to look for it.

On a motion picture set my crew consists of a Camera Assistant…

…a Grip, a Make-Up Artist…

…Hair Stylist, and a Set Costumer…

I don't tell them their craft, but I do make them aware of any problems, it could be a crooked tie or a flyaway piece of hair, maybe the make-up is not heavy enough. Not that there's a mistake, but when they were prepping, the talent was not under my lighting. Now when the talent is on the set, it will be seen differently through my camera, and it is my job to bring it to their attention. Lighting is all me. I'm directing the Assistant and Grip on how we're going to achieve the look required. If I don't sound like I have a clue what I'm doing, how will they have confidence in me and be motivated to do their best?

My energy is dictating the flow of the crew. If I'm timid or not confident, it's like the kid who keeps turning out of the batter's box before the pitch even comes close.

One of my assistants, Christine, always wants to rehearse or at the very least go over the shot list and any special equipment that will be used in the shoot. This way she doesn't look surprised or out of control on the set. She is in charge of what she's doing, commanding. Am I making sense yet, are you getting this?

I can always tell a rookie by the way they hold the camera, their hand will be twisted the other way under the lens, not allowing them the stability they get from holding it right. Learn your craft, not just know it, but look it. Convey confidence.

You also need to be personable and approachable. There is always gum on the set. Who wants to discuss something with you if you have coffee breath? It's gross but it is reality. I also find a sense of humor works for me. I said humor not arrogance. I promise you, if you're timid or arrogant on the set, there will be a relief pitcher there in a heartbeat. I have replaced photographers from other shows because they were too demanding or high maintenance. Stay sharp (no pun intended). You can read my first Guest Blog I did for Scott about 3 years ago, about attitude.

I was in Dallas with Scott a few years ago for a Lightroom class. I figured that after dinner the night before the class I could hang out with The Man himself and learn something from him. Scott graciously excused himself and told me that he had to prep and rehearse for his class tomorrow. I'm thinking "This guy does this kind of stuff all the time. Prep for what? You're an All-Star." Then it hit me like a wild pitch, that's why Scott Kelby is an All-Star, he still preps. I had just learned another lesson.

Prepping is so important in gaining confidence. Confidence will gain you more experience.

Experience will allow you to hit it out of the park.

My Friends be Commanding, but be humble, and BE SO GOOD THEY CAN'T IGNORE YOU!

Thanks Braddo and Scott.

From Hollywood I'm Mike Kubeisy.

That's a wrap, fade to black.

You can see more of Mike’s work at 4stills.com, follow him on Facebook and Twitter, and check out his classes on KelbyTraining.com.


Photo by Rod Mar

Like many people today, I love photography and photo editing. I also enjoy sharing my experiences with friends, so blogging about my passion has been a labor of love. However, I've been on a rollercoaster journey filled with great successes as well as moments of doubt. My reason for sharing this story is because I know that I am not alone in the quest for that creative outlet that allows you to do what you love the most.  The path that I have taken and the pitfalls that I have faced will be familiar to many of you, so I hope you might get a chuckle out of my challenges. I also hope to inspire you to find your creative outlet so that you may continue your journey wherever it may lead you.

This is my story.

Ever since I was a young boy, I've loved mastering electronics gadgets. I enjoyed doing things with them that made my family and friends say "wow." This led me to become a computer programmer where the challenge of making mundane or complex tasks easy for everyone was a big thrill. The work I did was run on computers around the world, yet the thrill I got from programming waned. Depressed, and ultimately divorced after a long marriage, I longed for something to occupy my mind. I decided to return to my boyhood passion of photography and do something completely outrageous - I broke the bank moving to the world of DSLR photography!

The year was 2007, and despite a long history with film photography dating back to the early 1980s, I had never really mastered the mechanics of the camera. To address this problem, the geek in me began consuming photography books like they were potato chips. In fact, some of my favorite photographers have admitted that I was mastering photography gear better than they ever will. However, like most geeks, my pictures were horrible. It was not because I didn't know how to use a camera, but because I was only looking at the camera as an electronics device that I could master. I had mastered the machine, but I had not exercised one artistic bone in my body.


Simple shots can still be extremely successful

At first the harsh reality was okay because I had a great-paying day job with benefits. Like many, my only objective was to have fun with photography. If I took a picture of my dirty keyboard that made me say, "wow," I was happy. I also would come to learn from my pro photography mentors that the greatest photography job in the world is one where you only shoot for yourself to please yourself. However, something bad happened - people started telling me my photos sucked.

I was crushed but I also became defensive. I insisted that I meant to put the subject in the center of the frame, and that those "distractions" in the background were there because I thought they made the photo interesting. Seeking the validation I had enjoyed from my friends and family, I turned to photography forums where I'd show my work with pride only to have rude members tell me hateful things that made me want to give up on photography. I didn't quit, but I did get mad - really mad.


Beautiful subjects are always a great place to start

My frustration motivated me to wonder why my photos were "wrong" if they pleased me? At first, I took the geek approach of learning more about photography as an art form and the rules of composition. I also started to carefully study the works of my favorite photographers. It worked because I became so finely attuned to what a great photo was supposed to be that I could see "the wrong" in photos. In fact, every photo I looked at had something wrong with it! Even my favorite photographers' work began to look less impressive and everything I had ever done was unacceptable. Now I was the one telling myself that my photos sucked and that I should give up on photography.

Sound familiar?

As time has taught me, if I take something that I believe is perfect and I ask a room full of people for their opinion, I'll get a few people who agree with me, a few who won't say what they think, and a few who attack me and the things I hold dear. It's human nature, but it's up to me to filter the noise into something more constructive. This life lesson eventually taught me to listen to the rude people who had offended me to see if there was a valuable suggestion masked by their venom. Sometimes there was something useful. Sometimes they were just being rude. I then realized that this phenomenon in photography was really no different than my world as a programmer where magazine reviewers would do the same thing. As a programmer, I had learned to take the feedback and used it to make great software. This made me wonder, why couldn't I do that as a photographer?


Shots that make you day dream are often appreciated by others too

In the last five years I've tried to adopt this philosophy to improve my skills. While I've had great success around the world as a professional photographer, I still look at every shot of my own like I would a computer program. I always see room for improvement. However, I also matured and now accept that it is okay if my work is not perfect as long as I have pleased my client and/or myself. While I may never please the web trolls, it's okay because my client that pays the bills is me. I have a great job, and I've experienced first-hand that greatness in the court of public opinion doesn't always pay the mortgage.


Successfully mimicking your idols work helps to build confidence

With this in mind, I began to accept my good fortune of having a job with a consistent paycheck and benefits. Many famous photographers made me aware of the not-so glamorous side of the business where a slow month could mean big debt and missed mortgage payments. I began to appreciate being able to take photos of things that interested me, and editing them at my leisure, instead of having to photograph things that didn't interest me and editing rushes to meet unrealistic deadlines. However, I need a goal and an outlet for my work. I needed something to motivate me to shoot and improve, and a place where I could interact with those who had passions similar to mine. This led me to the realization that I could have all the things I wanted, yet still keep my steady day job, by becoming a photography blogger.

I have enjoyed great success in my photography career, but nothing has been more rewarding than sharing what I have learned with my blog readers. It has allowed me to apply my goal-oriented nature to do things that I hope will help others, but it also helps me to exercise my creative energy towards photography topics that excite me.

I've worked hard to provide reviews that readers can trust at a time when some writers seem afraid to say anything negative for fear of the consequences. As a programmer, honest feedback from reviewers helped me improve my products, so I hope to extend that same courtesy to product makers who read my reviews. By providing honest feedback, I hope to help to provide suggestions that lead to product improvements, as well as help my readers make more informed decisions. It's the technology circle of life, and I'm happy that people like you let me be a part of it.


Always photograph those things that make you say "wow"

As I talk to so many friends and readers, I frequently hear of people who are quitting their stable jobs to pursue their dream of what it means to be a photographer. Unfortunately many people who try this discover the reality of inconsistent income and losing jobs to part-time photographers who will work for free. I can relate with this dream to throw it all away and live a fantasy. However, I'd like to encourage people in this situation to stop for a moment and focus on what it is they really seek. The thing many of us are looking to do is apply our creative energy and receive the satisfaction of being acknowledged for something we take pride in.

It is my wish for all of my fellow photography friends who have made it this far that you won't give up your passion. I encourage you to find ways to do it where you do not become a slave to your work. It saddens me to see friends who had so much excitement about being their own boss and living a life as a photographer hating their life as a high volume photographer because that's what is required to pay the bills. A better way is to maintain the job security that many of my readers enjoy, yet find a niche that allows you to use your creative side as purely a labor of love.


Never be afraid to experiment outside of your comfort zone

Your niche is out there and your path will be different from mine and the others before you. For some it will be the challenge of printing, for others it will be as a part-time freelancer, yet others will seek excitement out of sharing their passion with friends on weekend or travel adventures. The important part is to keep the fun in photography. This will let you photograph what you love in a way that sparks your emotions and your best photos are inevitable.

I have included images in this article with common tips that I share with my students. I chose these images because of the defining moment that many of them had on my career

Thanks for reading and for your support! I welcome you all to join me on RonMartBlog.com as my photographic journey continues. I hope my articles, discounts, books and tutorials will help you keep you as excited during your photography journey as I am with mine.


Gary Parker - My mentor who inspired me to keep going when the going got tough

You can see more of Ron’s work at RonMartinsen.com, keep up with his blog at RonMartBlog.com, follow him on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter, and get his eBook, Printing 101, right here!

ART, For the Sake of Passion

My story of passion would not be complete unless I took you back 10 years ago when I met my husband. I was 16 years old. We decided suddenly, instantly, and permanently that we could not live full lives without one another. It was at 16 years old that I threw myself into a love and passion and life that would keep me sustained for all my years to come.

Why is this important, and how does it relate to photography? Everything that I knew stemmed from that electric moment that I connected with my husband. In ways that he may never understand, he introduced me to the art that I love, the way I like to create, and the courage to believe in those things wholeheartedly. The story of meeting my husband is important because it was the first time that I had believed in something so much that I never doubted it for a moment. I learned to believe in my photography because of the confidence I gained from believing in love.

Photography, art, and creating in general are no different from making that type of commitment. So often people say to me, "It is almost like you aren't a photographer, but instead an artist." I believe that all photographers have the potential to be artists, and there is only a fine line between photographer and artist when there is a gap. What is it that puts that fine line into play? Passion.

You may think I am some crazy, new-age hippie. Admittedly I can be, and my headbands and oversized clothes add fuel to the fire, but what I preach is what I believe: Passion is the life-blood that runs through any artist, and every photographer has the capacity to capture it.

When I began photography I did not understand the world of art. I did not understand the world of photography any better. The only thing that I knew was what I liked and what I didn't like. I knew what made my heart skip a beat and what I cared not to think about. I knew up from down within my little bubble of creating, but nothing outside of that. Knowing nothing turned out to be my greatest asset in my journey as a photographer. Because I didn't understand how the business of photography worked, I had no constraints to work within. I began photography out of passion for telling stories, and so I started out doing just that: creating the stories I wanted to tell.

I had no preconceived notions of how much money I should be making, how I should be making my money, or how to run my business. When I started realizing that money would be a good thing to have if I wanted to continue to grow in my craft, I began thinking in terms of business; yet it wasn't business as usual. I was working a full-time job. I had entered the "real world" of "grown-up work," as I began photography just after I graduated from college. I was working as a receptionist, and then as a legal assistant. I understood one fundamental thing about the jobs I held: I didn't want to do them. When I started looking at photography in a way that could lend itself to a sustainable business, I asked myself one very important question that has continued to define how I run my business: What do I want to spend my time doing?

I set very simple and very straightforward goals for myself. I wanted to show in galleries. I wanted to teach workshops. I wanted to write a book. No task seemed too big or too small. It was simply what I wanted to do with my time, and with no idea of how to achieve these goals, the weight of living up to someone else's standard was taken away. I did things my way, for better or worse.

I have always viewed creating images in the same way. I knew nothing about photography when I started except that other people had stood where I was and had succeeded. I knew that someone had mastered Photoshop, and that others knew their cameras inside and out. I wasn't interested in their methods, but simply in the inspiration that it could be done. I began creating self-portraits to practice photography and get the ideas in my mind out into the world.

http://youtu.be/Mnk6BI7Qgcw

When I began photography, it was in an effort to tell stories that I loved thinking about. I have always had stories in my mind, and still feel as though, even if I turned out images like a machine, I could never tell the amount of stories I have floating in my mind. Photography allowed me an outlet to make my imagination a reality. I approach photography the same as business. I do not have to live up to anyone else's standards but instead set my own standards that I can judge myself against. Instead of looking to others for inspiration, I look inward and figure out why I love telling stories and how I can do so effectively.

From my first image that I captured in December 2008 to now, not much of my process has changed. I still create self-portraits. I still shoot with almost no budget. I am still inspired by the same props, wardrobe, and themes that ignited the spark of passion then. My creation process is quite simple, but what I love about creating is that it can be different for everyone. There is no right or wrong way to create. There is no industry standard, and if someone says there is, I can only believe it is a myth. There are endless paths leading to the same end goal. My end goal is to create an image that I am passionate about, and while my methods may be unconventional, I still get from point A to point B.

So often I walk out of my door with my equipment on my back, carrying props in my arms while wearing a fluffy dress, ready to create an image. My neighbors watch skeptically as I walk down the street and into the forest, to be alone in nature and to create something that inspires me. So often people walk past, watching, and ask questions, like if I know how silly I look, or sometimes offer to help. There is something so special to me about knowing that I am creating in a way that is personally fulfilling. Even if nothing comes of the photo shoot I just did, the experience made it worthwhile.

A large part of my process is editing, and I consider Photoshop just as much of a journey. Indeed, I am not going on a trip to the forest and jumping about as I take pictures, but I am re-visiting that feeling. I get to be back in the forest with my character. I get to immerse myself in the process that turns a picture into a whole new world. I think of everything that I do as a journey; business, shooting, editing, and even networking. They are all a way of creating a meaningful experience so that I, and hopefully others, can live a more passionate life.

I believe that finding passion is not as difficult as keeping it. Finding passion can be as simple as being honest with yourself about what you love and why you love it. Once you know that, the hard part is keeping that passion alive. Life gets in the way. Money gets in the way. Self-doubt and self-worth play into the equation of keeping passion running strong.

One of the most motivating thoughts that I have is remember how important my own happiness is. I believe that if I am pursuing my dreams, others will be encouraged to pursue theirs. I want nothing more than for everyone to be able to live their dream, and I would be a hypocrite if I weren't trying to do the same. I am motivated to be happy because everyone around me will be happier for it.

If you are reading this, I can only hope that photography, or something else that is wonderfully meaningful, has come into your life to give you happiness. It is important to remember that your passion is worth pursuing. You never know how many other people will be touched by your dedication.

You can see more of Brooke’s work at BrookeShaden.com, and follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr.

First I want to thank Scott and Brad for allowing me to be a guest on his blog.

I became aware of Scott some 20 months ago after too many soccer/running injuries. I had ankle surgery that kept me out of work for 6 months, so I signed up for Kelby Training to really learn about Photoshop, and this is the best thing I have ever done.

I am the Chief Sports photographer of The Sun Newspaper in London, England. The Sun has the ninth-largest circulation of any newspaper in the world and the largest circulation of any daily newspaper in the United Kingdom. It has an average daily circulation of 2,409,811 copies in January 2013, and it is my job to fill the pages seven days a week with the best sports pictures. I have covered six Olympic Games, five World Cup football finals, and more World Title boxing fights than I care to remember.

It all didn't start at The Sun. I finished my final year at school at the age of 16 years in 1980. I am now 49. I went to work on the Monday morning after finishing school on the Friday before, starting at the very bottom of the tree. I was cleaning and scrubbing out developing and fixer tanks, and everyday, between making the morning tea and coffee for the boss and delivering the day's pictures to the national newspapers that was located in Fleet Street very close to the office, three years later I started covering soccer with that agency with my first Nikon that I saved up for.

Then the big break⦠I was called up to the big office on the 4th floor and told, "There is your new kit. You are going into the big wide world of show business news and sports photography." I continued to do this for 3 to 4 years and then moved on to an agency called Alpha which specialized in photographing the Royal family. You may say that is a big difference, but really it's like sports photography, waiting around for that one moment and using very long lenses, but this helped me for what now has become my profession.

This month is a milestone for me. I have just clocked my 24th season in sports photography at The Sun. As I write this blog in my hotel room in sunny Israel, after being away covering England’s end of season tour to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for 7 days and on to Tel Aviv for another 7 day, knock-out tournament with England’s under-21 soccer team, I write this blog in my hotel room after 16 days on the road.

I am going to share one great moment with you, and it involves somebody you may have heard of: David Beckham once of Manchester United, Real Madrid, and LA Galaxy. Here is the story⦠A classic moment when England captain David Beckham scores with a sensational 30-yard free kick, three minutes into injury-time.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0GESlaVNdE

Because Germany only drew with Finland, the goal means England automatically qualified for the 2002 World Cup finals. Later that year I won sports photographer of the year with the picture from that game. Beckham was training with England and I had a copy of the picture and presented it to Beckham, and of course he signed one for me. He joked with me that is was a great picture, but I joked with him that he did all the work. A month ago Beckham announced his retirement, and I felt I wanted to pay tribute to a great ambassador to the game, so I posted this tribute of my own. Later that night my inbox had a message via David's agent thanking me for the tribute.

Last thing I want to say in this blog is my other love is boxing. I get to spend many hours covering boxers training, starving themselves to make weight for their bouts, putting their minds and body through so much pain. I was once allowed into a gym to cover a training session with a boxer who I will not name, but he was fighting for a world title. It was a routine training and sparring when suddenly he was hit by a freak right hook and knocked to the ground. Now, you may think what a picture weeks before a fight, but being very good friends with that boxer, I never mentioned a word or printed the picture that could have ruined him and ruined his chance of winning the title. He went on to win his dream fight and the title. After the judges declared him the winner he came over to me and thanked me for not mentioning what had happened. All the other journalists and photographers asked what was going on, but I kept our secret safe.

To see more of Dickie’s work, visit DickiePelham.com.

Close