Category Archives Guest Blogger

Shooting An Album Cover from Concept to Finish

Big thanks to both Scott and Brad for inviting me back to be the guest blogger this week!

This past September I was hired by Eleven Seven Music to photograph and create the album artwork for heavy metal band Drowning Pool's new album, "Resilience.” I was presented with a great opportunity to produce work for the band that would not only showcase them in a dynamic new way, but also push new personal boundaries within my work and challenge me to create something exceptional. (more…)

The Longest Exposure: The Artist Is The Camera

Hi everyone! Corey Barker here to share with you a behind the scenes look at my recent illustration and how artists must observe and interpret similar to the way a camera does. I have always been fascinated with photography and how a camera captures an image. The word photography itself means to draw with light. A photographer determines, by way of the settings on the camera, how much light will enter the lens and the glass in the lens will bend those light waves into focused beams which will then hit the film at the back of the camera for a specified amount of time burning the image into the film. Of course, that was in the old days of film photography. Today the process is very much the same however instead of the light hitting the film directly it hits a light sensor which then goes through a computer processor to generate the image you see on the screen.

As an illustrator I look at creating images in Photoshop the same way. It is quite literally painting with light and as much as I enjoy shooting images, I enjoy creating them much more. Now that certainly doesn't mean I don't combine photos with illustrated elements but there is something to be marveled about the way the mind perceives light that makes creating the image that much more intriguing to me. Observing both in reality and in photographs the way light behaves on various surfaces and reacts as it bounces and reflects off objects affecting the way they are perceived. All we see in the world is merely reflected light at varying wavelengths. The funny thing is that color is purely a mental construct. It does not exist in the physical world.  The green grass, the blue sky, the red fire truck all appear that way because our brains process those wavelengths of light that are reflected off of them and generate what we see as color. It was when I learned this very concept in art school that I realized how gullible our visual system could be and how artists can exploit this to recreate reality.

The finished Iron Man piece that I’ll be showing the making of here

Throughout the history of visual art there have been numerous tools for the artist to convincingly recreate reality such as paint, charcoal, and ink among others but none have given artists the power to recreate what we see more than what we have now in this digital age. It is a remarkably exciting time to be artist. While many still endure with creating convincing pieces with paint and other traditional media programs like Photoshop have allowed artist to bend and manipulate light itself to create convincing representations. The difference is that digital art is transmitted light whereas traditional methods use reflected light. Reflected light, however, has its drawbacks as it limits the spectrum of light visible to humans. This is why a vibrant image on your computer screen does not look he same when you print it. Though print technology has dramatically improved over the years it still not quite as vibrant. I know several artists that will still draw there pieces traditionally like a pencil sketch and then scan it into a computer and render it digitally using Photoshop or Painter. It gives them more options, more vibrant color, and digital is much more forgiving.

These are the things I think about when I create a new piece. I want to manipulate light to create the illusion of something recognizable. Photoshop gives me the means to do that. Which brings me to my latest piece. Everyone who knows my work knows how much of a movie fan I am. With the wave of great superhero movies I have been taken in with the character of Iron Man and I wanted to create a version that I had never seen before. I looked around on the web and saw some really impressive fan art but all were created from referencing a photo or scene from the film. That to me is just mimicking reality and there is certainly nothing wrong with that. I wanted to create something unique. So I had to come up with a concept first. I wanted to portray Iron Man in a very aggressive way and I knew I wanted it to be in a cinematic widescreen format. So jumped into Photoshop and started sketching away. Since I use a Wacom tablet I just sketched it directly in Photoshop. Once I had the idea in place I needed to seek out reference images. I needed to know how the component parts looked from different angle and I needed to know how light effected the various surfaces. So I did a Google image search and found several images that were very helpful. Some were close to the positioning I wanted but not quite so I knew was going to have to get creative. Funny enough I also found images an Iron Man action figure toys that proved to be quite helpful with positioning.

So now I had my basic sketch and reference images and was ready to dig in. I started by using the pen tool to create basic shapes of each of the elements that made up the overall Iron Man suit in the pose I wanted and giving them a basic color fill keeping each element on its own layer. Then this is where the fun really starts. Where you have start shading and applying light effects to cross that line from flat 2D to realistic 3D. I made a conscious choice not to use Photoshop 3D in this image as I wanted to really see how real I could get the image to look. First thing to consider is proportion, when you creating something based on reality the proportions have to be as close as possible. Even an untrained eye can look at an image and feel like something is off without knowing what it is. Creating the paths and getting the proportions sorted took the better part of a couple hours. Did I mention that patience is a big part of the process? Anyway once that is done then I turned each shape into a layer element filled with the flat base color.

Next I referred to the images I had for lighting reference as I used the dodge and burn tools to add basic shading to each shape. Bearing in mind the overall light source I wanted in relation to the subject as each object will reflect that light and cast shadows on each other. Not to mention the light that would be emanating from the eyes, chest plate, and the palm of the hand. All these elements seemed to fall into place quite nicely and after about 5 hours of shading, I had a pretty solid three-dimensional object starting to emerge. I still had a long way to go. The video below shows a quick example of the shading process in action and how I was able to get a polished look on the metal surface.  This gave me a good idea of the result I was seeking and knew this was going to work so I was more confident about proceeding forward.

After seeing the shading would work well I proceeded to render more areas. My process, however, tends to have me jump around so I eventually moved on to another part of the subject and would get back to render more later. I wanted to see how the eyes were going to work out. So in the next video here you can see how I utilized layer styles to achieve the glow from the eyes and how I added reflected light elements on the metal surrounding the eyes. This is when I start to see the realism start to take shape.

Now one of my most favorite parts of the image is the area around the neckline. I took some license and added a carbon fiber base and then built metal parts on top to help shape the neckpiece and other support parts under the chest plate. This was an afterthought because I had the neck drawn out as simple overlapping pieces but I saw another Iron Man image online that showed this look and knew I just had to add that. Took some time as I had to basically redraw that area but the result was worth it as you can see here.

After finishing the shading and other elements the suit looked really good. However it still looked like a nicely rendered toy. It was too clean! I really wanted this to have some scratches and battle damage to really add the extra bit of realism, not to mention adding other physical elements and atmospheric lighting effects. I also noticed that with the proximity of certain elements and being metal it stands to reason that these would reflect each other in a rather subtle way. So I came up with a quick and clever solution. Using the Smudge tool I sampled the color of an element and then, on a new blank layer, I dabbed the color and then smeared it with the Smudge tool giving the illusion that it was a soft reflection on the surface. I proceeded to do this all over in areas where there might be a reflection. This proved to be quick and easy with a very convincing result.

Now finally there is the issue of the scratches and battle damage. For that I have made an exclusive video on how I did those finishing touches over at my site You can see how I created the effect using custom brush effects and how I put the background and flare effects in to finish off the image.

Clearly there is more going on then what I can explain in one blog post and a few videos but just wanted to give you a good overview of how something like this comes together. In the end the final image ended up being comprised of about 200 layers and weighing in at about 1.17GB file size. Cumulated time of completion was about 12 hours. As I mentioned, no 3D was used at all and the photo used in the image are the clouds in the background and even those were greatly modified.

So there is a little peek behind the curtain inside the mind of a Photoshop freak! I am always driven by the idea of can something be done or not. Make no mistake, I have ventured into pieces that have turned out to be miserable failures but always leave with something I can use. It all depends on how you look at it. Not everything is going to go the way you want it too. The same could be said for photographers. Not every idea or shot is going to come out the way you plan but you move on and make it work the next time. I have found that sometimes if I am well into a piece and I am just not feelin it, I will save the file and archive it away and not look at it for days or even weeks. Then I will go back in with a fresh pair of eyes and a different mindset and I will be inspired once again with something new or it will be a dead end. I have many projects that are at various stages of completion and they may be completed later down the road or they won't. I just know that I have to have the right head to make it happen. This is the blessing and curse of being an artist. Like a camera, the digital artist is painting with light. It's just a slower processâ¦it is the longest exposure.

You can see more of Corey’s work at, and keep up with him on Facebook and Google+

A big "Thanks" to Scott and Brad for allowing me to share this shoot with you guys. I am a music and advertising photographer currently living in Nashville, by way of New Orleans, LA. I recently had the privilege of photographing The Band Perry for the Billboard Magazine cover story. In this blog I'll share my experience, thought process and some of the technical details behind this shoot.

Like most editorial shoots, I was given a fair amount of creative freedom. That freedom provided a great opportunity to showcase ideas and unique vision aligned with the image of the magazine and, in this case, the particular image of the talent as well. It's someone's job to brand the band and have them seen in a certain light so it's always very important to understand what such branding might consist of visually. As much as The Band Perry is country, they have an edge to them that I liked and wanted to emphasize – no cowboy hats on this set!! As difficult as it is to have numerous "cooks in the kitchen" as they say, it's important to have an open collaborative relationship with the talent, their manager, publicist, stylist, etc. that are on set.

The shoot consisted of 3 looks that I nicknamed lights, cover and fun while on set so we would all know what setup we were discussing.

Here is a breakdown of those 3 setups:

The first look, lights, was designed to be more painterly and serious than the others.
Lights required the most setup so I planned for several hours of pre-lighting and used every minute tweaking, moving and thinking. For this look we mixed constant lights and strobes.

The constant lights were Mole-Richardson 2000W Juniors. Since these lights were both part of the actual set and functioning as light sources I did a decent amount of research into what would look AND work best while keeping budget in mind. The Juniors were certainly not the most powerful lights we could have rented but their size was right and they would be close to the subjects so the lower power wasn't going to be an issue.

For strobes we used AlienBees and focused on each band member individually giving them their own light sources. I started with one and as I tweaked the look I added one more, then one more, then another and before I knew it there was a beautiful c-stand jungle. I don't recall exactly how many strobes we had for that look, but I remember someone behind me saying something about having 8 or 9.

Throw in some fog for atmosphere, Beyonc© blasting through the speakers, a very talented country trio and POOF! our first look is finished.

Now, the ironic thing about the setup called cover is that it did not turn out to be the cover shot although at the time I assumed it would.

When ideas were first getting tossed around for the shoot between Billboard and myself, it became clear that the cover needed to have color. For whatever reason my mind went almost straight to red then straight to a rich velvet stage curtain. After a day of searching multiple places, my buddy Shane suggested a rental house in Nashville called Drop Everything. They had exactly what we wanted.

We moved the Mole-Richardson Juniors and a few AlienBees over during the band's wardrobe change after lights. The Mole-Richardsons were placed high and above the curtain as both a curtain light and a hair light. One AlienBees unit with a gridded large octobank was used as the key light. With the lighting scheme already determined it was only a matter of a few test shots before we had what we were looking for.

Cue Beyonc©, and we began shooting our 2nd look.

Our last setup of the day was named fun because it was the setup that we wanted to capture a very lively and energetic scene. We used the same setup from cover for this shot, just moved some of the lights around.

My vision, as I explained to Billboard, was to capture your typical brothers- picking-on-the-sister look. In case you didn't know, The Band Perry is made up of Kimberly Perry and her two brothers Reid and Neil. When I explained it to the band they laughed and said "Oh, so just a normal day?"

The scene was of the brothers pointing the Mole Richardson at Kimberly in an annoying brotherly way and them just laughing it off. The storyline behind this image was not quite as important to me as the emotions that play along with siblings being silly together and that is what really came through.

I love what I do and I am passionate about really soaking up every experience I have and every opportunity that comes my way. I am grateful and always excited to be able to execute any job, especially ones as enjoyable as this one. The Band Perry could not be a nicer family; from their attitudes, excitement and cooperation, to their entire team on set. It was a joy to meet and work with all of them.

Check out some of the behind the scenes video from the shoot.

Behind the scenes photos by: Nathan Rocky

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

The Human Condition

Life has its way of weeding out the weak, fragile and insecure. The problem is, there is not a person on this planet that is not to some degree exactly that. The truth is, the human condition puts us at a disadvantage from the very start.

It is said that if you are lost in the wilderness, the first thing you need to do is recognize you are lost. The great philosopher singer/song writer Paul Simon once wrote, "I am the first to admit it, but the last to know." As a general rule, we are often totally oblivious to our human condition. When it is challenged, we panic, come undone and often just give up. But there is hope.

The single greatest reason we fail in fulfilling our dreams and succeeding in the marketplace is the fear of rejection. To overcome the fear of rejection, we need to understand our human condition, that we are all to some degree easily influenced by other's opinions, and that we are not as strong as we might think. To prove how weak, fragile and insecure we really are let me give you an illustration.

Most of us have posted images on web sites such as Flickr, Facebook, Instagram, etc.. As a general experience, the majority of us receive positive feed back. We read things like, "this image rocks," "love this," "you're the greatest," etc…. Praise after praise. Then there is that one bad critique. Someone sticks the knife in and turns it. They say that, "your image sucks, it's a total bore and you should quit taking pictures and keep your day job." We have to admit, it hurts. When we go to bed at night what do we remember, the ninety nine praises? No, the one critique! Ninety nine praises and we come undone by one critique. You would think that ninety nine praises would easily offset one critique, but it doesn't.

You may think you're tough and maybe you have convinced most people around you that you are unshakeable. But the truth is we all have a breaking point, and in the end, come undone. It is a 100% guarantee that if you present yourself to the real world, you will be rejected. That's right, a 100% guarantee! One person holds the power to steal your dream. One person's discouraging words, one person slamming a door in your face, one person's harsh criticism, and you quit, and give up on your dream.

How then do we overcome rejection? I like to look to music as an analogy to help put things in perspective. If you think about it, look at how many different types or genre of music we have available. No two people like exactly the same thing. Everyone's taste is different. Even if you like jazz, look at how many flavors of jazz are available to us. The point is we all have likes and dislikes.

I have a teaching session called "Country Music verses Rap." I don't know too many people that are into Country Music that are also into Rap. This is life. So when it comes to creating images, why do we come undone when we present a "Country Music" look and a person who is into the "Rap" look, says they hate what we do?

Create anything and you will find an audience that loves it and an audience that hates it. We have to understand that the ultimate goal or end result is not to please everyone. It is a impossible task. The most important thing is whether YOU like the images you're creating and does it fulfill YOUR vision as an artist? Master what you love, do it well and you will find an audience that will love it. To be successful, you don't need the masses to love what you do.

I have included two images that have had many praises, but also have received their share of criticism. The image of Jessica that is extremely blown out would not have received glowing marks back in my college days. Back when creating a picture was more about getting the perfect exposure. But I love it. If fits me like a glove. I relish in the idea of pushing the envelope on how we define a photograph.

The image of basketball player Rudy Gay, where I have cut off his head, is another one of those images that received mixed reviews. When it comes to composition, we have all sorts of rules that we as a culture have deemed as acceptable or unacceptable. Cutting off someone's head definitely hit a nerve with many of my viewers. But challenging the status quo takes a risk. Risk opens the door to explore new ground and gives us the opportunity to fulfill our vision's as artists without preconceived ideas established by others.

So, follow your intuition and create images that you love. For every praise there is a critic. Accept the criticism with a smile on your face knowing that if you love what you are doing, then you are on the right track.

You can see more of Joel’s work at, follow him on Twitter and Facebook, and find his classes at

Ok, so when you get asked to be a guest blogger for Scott, one of the first things to do is check out the competition and see what others have done. The top blog posts as far as comments and reshares have been from Peter Hurley⦠Seen here hamming it up in our studio:

Photos by Pete Collins

And Zack Arias':

Photo by Zack Arias

I wanted to be considered as insightful and popular as them. So I did some studying on what they did to get such a good response and it became quite obvious⦠It is all about the hair! If I am going to get the greatest response and win the top honor as the "coolest, hippest blogger on earth," I am going to have work the hair angle hard. So without further ado⦠I give you Peter Bob Ross Arias!

Take that hair club for men!

Now that I have established my hair cred⦠on with the blog!

The opening paragraph was done in jest and a bit over the top (sorry Bob Ross!), but I wanted to use that to illustrate a point. We are killing ourselves by comparing ourselves to others. We ask constantly ask ourselves⦠"Am I as good a photographer as _________?", or "Do I communicate like ______?" We find ourselves on the unending treadmill of trying to catch up with this artist or photographer, and feel like a failure because someone we know is doing it "better" than we are. Please stop doing this. If you don't read any further than this, I hope you will take this thought with you. "Comparison is the Thief of Joy."

Warning: If you proceed to read further I will attempt to talk about what hinders us from being creative and alive. I will talk about feelings and ramble on some about our hearts etc⦠because I truly believe that is where our work comes from. So if you aren't interested in any of this⦠no problem, just look at the pictures and perhaps take a look at the list at the bottom as it is a bit more no-nonsense⦠well, sort of. :D  Yes I do realize that some of you are hoping to hear amazing photographic stories or maybe juicy gossip that Scott is really Keyser Soze, but that is for another post⦠this one is a little more about what drives us.

Let me walk this out for you with an example in my own life. I was asked to write this blog, and I got excited and immediately I started to plan what I was going to do. Thoughts start to swim around of all the things that I can talk about or show. Then I get the brilliant idea of doing exactly what I did at the top of the post. Comparing how other folks did their posts. Suddenly, the excitement I had for sharing my heart and idea with you turns into fear of "not screwing up" and not being rejected. Now I start to feel pressure and the idea that I don't have what it takes starts to grow inside of me. The voice in my head/heart tells me that I am lacking and that I should just give up and do something safe and boring, or better yet, find an excuse and not do anything at all. The problem with listening to that voice is that my heart and creativity die a little each time I give into it.

So I try to ignore the lump in my throat⦠and no longer feel excited⦠scared yes, excited⦠not so much. What is safe and accepted? You folks like videos⦠so I should definitely do a video and it shall be really cool! I will create this masterpiece video that shows the behind the scenes here at Kelby Media Group, and highlights the creative process that goes on here and how I get to be part of this. Great idea, but then the doubt kicks in⦠I haven't done a lot of videos and editing on that big a scale, and it won't look as cool as Zack's⦠I mean he had a smoke machine and mannequins! Ok, so let's settle for something safer.

How about I do a neat time-lapse drawing that will amaze and astound all who see it! Yeah, that will be easier I have done those before. But, what should I do? What should my subject matter be? What is normally easy to decide becomes impossible when the pressure of comparison is added to the mix. I need inspiration: that mystical illumination that quiets the voices and brings new wonders to our minds! Desperate, I start to work on playing with words like Inspiration that all have the word ration in them⦠even though I am feeling anything but rational right now. It might be cool to draw these words over time and do some neat stuff with them.

But then I start to worry that this is dumb and suddenly I don't like the order of the words so decide that what I need to do is develop a new creative font. Why? So that I can dazzle you guys with my talent and to make up for my lack of hair. Granted this is already late in the evening, and the blog post hasn't had the first word written. But a cool font is all this needs to make this abomination turn into glory. Hours later I have created something⦠and boy is it something, I just don't know what it is and I am pretty sure it won't work for this. Help!

So now I have spent hours scrambling to find that just right combination of hip creatively breezy elements that will amaze you and have you resharing this blog for years to come. I have visions of folks talking about my blog as The Blog of 2013! Whispering in cubicles across the globe "Hey did you see Pete's blog?" Of course it would be in different languages according to local dialect, but you get the drift. How is that for pressure? This is no longer a blog⦠it is my life's destiny and the fate of the free world depends on my ability to produce something earth shattering. (Please tell me, you have been in a similar situation⦠Letting your feelings overshadow the importance of a task until it becomes all encompassing. Yes, you there in the back, I see that hand⦠thank you for sharing.)

So I step back and try to regroup with a Coke⦠or three and some chocolate. Yep, that calms the nerves right down, don't mind the seizures. But while I stare at the blank screen, my lack of coolness taunts me. I start to think about my situation and how many times I have been in this very same state of pressure when I am trying to be both creative and safe. How many times have I been so wrapped up in trying to be accepted that I lose the ability to fly. By flying I mean to go where the heart and mind take us without the constraints of worrying about what others will think, or limiting our art to what others will like.

I bet you are like me and the best art you produce is when you are doodling while on the phone or waiting for a friend at a coffee shop. Why? The pressure is off and the only reason you are doing it is for the pure joy of it. Life Example: My kids don't make a picture and then throw it in the trashcan or hide it⦠they want us to display it and stick it on the refrigerator because it is something they put their heart into and they see it as good. But, as they get older, comparison creeps in and starts to tell our children⦠"Your sister draws better trees than you," or "That dog looks stupid!" The result is that they stop drawing altogether or they draw "safe" pictures that are acceptable. But their hearts wants to draw wild things. And guess what⦠we are just kids in grown up bodies.

This reminds me of an idea I have for a kids book that deals with our needing to forget our past hurts and failures so that we can be free to live, love and fly. I call it Dilbert the Forgetful Elephant, because the way most of us deal with life is a lot like how an elephant deals with captivity⦠but more of that in a minute⦠I can't talk to you now; I have an idea for this blog! Yes! I laugh at my angst earlier⦠I am now inspired and I start sketching elephants that will amaze you: and to be honest they looked better in my caffeine soaked brain than they do on paper. I need to study how elephants look and how to draw them. But at least I am excited about the direction this is taking.

So I Google "drawing elephants" and God being the gag writer that He is⦠wouldn't you know it, the first three hits to appear are from my friend Aaron Blaise, animator and illustrator extraordinaire who has some wonderful lessons on drawing elephants.

If you haven't seen his work, make sure to check him out at

Crap! Just when I was starting to feel ok about what I was doing, now I am going to compare every sketch I do with his. My sketches start to lose all life and joy as I try to sketch like Aaron. I know what he has done is good, I don't know if what I can do is good, so I try to slip on the mask of another that I know is accepted, because that will mean I will be accepted too. Won't it? I have shared this drawing before, but it still is one of my favorites that I have made to remind me of our tendencies to hide ourselves behind masks that in turn imprisons us and keep us from be real and alive.

The problem is that creativity lives in the land of freedom. We need to stop comparing ourselves to others and start living. The story of Dilbert is an offshoot of what is probably an urban legend that goes like this⦠"when elephants are very young, trainers use rope to tie them and, at that age, it's enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break the rope so they never try to break free." It is a great illustration of the mental bonds that we can place on ourselves in regards to who we are and what we can do which we place upon ourselves by comparing ourselves to others.

So I wanted to create a story about an elephant that is forgetful, and as a result forgets that the rope is stronger than him and flies away. (Now you will have make the mental jump with me as I use the idea of an elephant as a balloon to represent the natural pull to fly as rope/string dangles beneath him representing what use to hold him back).

If I can stop comparing myself with others, I will be truly free to be creative and the result will be a better me.  It is like a self-fulfilling prophecy⦠the less I worry about others the more of me shows through, and the unique beauty that only I have to offer is seen and cherished by the ones who get to see it, which encourages me to show more⦠etc⦠etc⦠The world does not need more masks and copycats, the world needs more folks that are truly alive and free to create.

Yeah, yeah Pete we have heard this before⦠be free and be real⦠yada yada yada. Well, to be honest, I don't mind repeating it because I need to hear it daily, if not hourly because I forget. I fall right back into the trap of comparing and I shut down and cling to the easy road of mediocrity. The world is filled with mediocrity; we need folks who are brave and reckless enough to be excellent.

Photographers don't' worry I haven't forgotten about you. Below is an excerpt from a blog post that I started a while back that I never finished because something shiny came along and distracted me, but I think will tie in with what I hope is the heart of my thoughts today, which is don't settle⦠don't make excuses⦠fight to go beyond mediocre. Strive for joy and life⦠learn to fly!

"Over the past while I have had the privilege of watching Scott, Matt, RC and others like Joe McNally and Joel Grimes give photo critiques. I have also been able to watch the comments that go on during those critiques and I have noticed a societal trend. Often there is a rush to excuse why something isn’t right, or to try to give the benefit of the doubt due to exigent circumstances. But, is our goal to be ok? Mediocre? If so, then here are some ways to keep attaining that safe yet heart killing standard.

Don’t worry about telling a story⦠who cares if it is boring.

Don’t worry about what is in the corners⦠distractions and lines add excitement.

Don’t change the angle of your shots… tripods should always be shot at comfortable heights that every other photographer uses.

Make the same shot as others⦠You're ok, so I'm ok.

Only shoot when it is convenient and then blame the bad lighting for why it is not better.

Limit your shooting to your surroundings and then ask for a break in judgment because the locations are boring. It takes to much work to go somewhere else to shoot.

Demand fairness and equality even if your images are not good and not special. Your heart was in the right place, even if your camera wasn't.

Mediocrity can be attained by everyone, and that may be why we are not happy with our work when we settle for it. You are created in a dynamic and special way, and when you listen to the voice of comparison and settle for safety and excuses, you cheat the world of the special vision and voice that you have to offer. I need you to fly so that you can remind me to fly. I am one elephant trying to help the next one loosen the ropes that keep us tied down.

The question at the end of the day, and the end of this long post is⦠are you going to stay tied down to that stake of comparing what others are doing, or are you going to forget about what tends to hold you back and fly?

You can see more from Pete at, and follow him on Twitter and Google+

With my most humble sincerity, I would like to thank Scott and Brad for their friendship and for allowing me to share a brief window into my life as of late. I would also like to thank my friend Robby Klein for the photo of me above. He is a fantastic photographer in Nashville that you should totally check out.

If you're anything like me, long blog posts just end up getting skimmed through for the highlights (or just to look at the photos) so I'll try to keep this as A.D.D. -friendly as possible.

For those of you not familiar with me and my work, allow me to introduce myself. Two and a half years ago I wrote my first guest blog post here and was able to share my life and photographic journey up until that point.  A lot has changed since then, and I have grown a lot personally and photographically.  Not the least of these changes was a move from Louisiana to Tennessee.  I am now the staff photographer for the University of Tennessee Volunteers, a job that is held in high regard (being one of very few staff sports photography jobs in the world). It's also a job that I never felt like I could actually could get when I heard about it.  I applied regardless, and it is with that in mind that leads me to what I want to talk about.


One of the things that has been rattling around my brain lately is the Idea of Fear, and the Fear of an Idea.

It's not the fear of things like my fear of heights, although when I walk out on the 110' catwalk, I'm not exactly comfortable.

It's the fear of putting your name on an idea and having the courage to execute.  It is because of fear that we have committees and meetings. So if it doesn't work out, you can't be blamed for it.  It's skipping out on the guaranteed safe image, and trying something with your camera that, even if you've done it before, is not guaranteed to be successful every time.

It's saying "this is a good idea, and I believe in it", when others might scratch their head because they don't share your vision.

It is my belief that there are t̶h̶o̶u̶s̶a̶n̶d̶s̶ millions of ideas out there that go unsaid out of fear that they will flop, and people will see you fall on your face.

I certainly don't claim to have all the answers, and am certainly guilty of holding back because of fear, but when I look around at industry leaders, you see people taking chances.  Sometimes they flop, but those failures fade off into the darkness of the interwebz and are eventually covered up by a brilliant, more successful idea. And why? Because they were not afraid to let one (or two or three or twenty-six) failures stop them from trying to find the ONE idea that worked.

I look at my own life as a Staff sports photographer, and sometimes I have to decide to leave the field and shoot from the roof.  Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it's a flop.

I've left entire portrait sessions not happy with many, if any, images.  It doesn't mean that my idea was bad or that I shouldn't keep trying, it just means I need to learn and grow and keep going.

Just the other night, while I was shooting a basketball game, there was a monster dunk that was the highlight of Tennessee's win over LSU.  I didn't get a single shot of it because I decided to shoot the whole second half with a 400mm and get tight details and faces. That decision cost me that shot. You live to shoot another day. As a sports photographer, I could make plants grow in the Sahara with my tears if I cried over missed shots.

I'm inspired by people who take ideas and are successful with them. I am also inspired people who chase after an idea and fail.  Because they tried.  There are no participation trophies in life, so trying isn't enough.  But there is no chance of success without risk, and that is the only way to know how great our idea can become.

Move your lights around. Face the other way. Get low. Get high. Shoot tight. Shoot Wide. Set up a remote. Make a Tintype. Use Gels. Go Underwater. DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT. The 24-70 is the blah of life.

If you have an idea, don't be afraid of it; let it breathe. Let it grow. Let it evolve. Let it be successful.  Let it fail.  But put your name on it and don't be afraid.

As an added bonus for making it to the end, I've also included this short video feature created about my work at Tennessee and my approach to photography in general done by the talented video folks at Tennessee.

You can see more of Donald’s work at, and follow him on Twitter at @donaldppage and @Vol_Photos