Category Archives Guest Blogger

Scarcity. Do you panic when you confront it, or do you embrace it?  I believe the span of your imagination is directly related to scarcity.  As photographers, we have all been in a situation during a shoot where the conditions are not ideal.   For example, the location is not desirable, the subjects are not "beautiful" or most of your gear is not with you.  Under these less than desirable conditions, our human nature is to wish we had what we don't.  We think in terms of "If I only hadâ¦..,I would be able toâ¦.."(Complete the sentence).  But what if you are at a paid shoot, you must still come through at the level your clients know you can achieve.  Your clients are only concerned with the end product, not the reasons why you couldn't do what you normally do.  Now, the stage is set for your imagination and creativity to be stretched.  After coming to terms with what you have to work with, the brain will switch from "routine" mindset to a "creator" mindset, a switch that doesn't happen very often.  It is uncomfortable to work under conditions we are not used to.  Therefore, we subconsciously avoid unpredictability and the unknown as much as we can.

How we can use scarcity to sharpen our creativity
A marathon runner's endurance is a photographer's creativity.  Both heavily rely on these vital elements to succeed in their fields.  When a runner goes for a run, the goal is to reach that pivotal point where the body is begging the runner to stop and rest.  This is point is the "golden window".  That's precisely the time, when the athlete needs to push throw and fight his irresistible urge to stop and rest.  I call this point in time the golden window, because if one pushes through and continues to run, that person will achieve an increase of endurance.  Next time that person runs, they will be able to run further and faster than ever before.  As photographers, we don't need to push through exhaustion to gain endurance but we do need to surpass scarcity to gain creativity.  The good news is; we don't have to wait for scarcity to occur naturally, we can make it happen! Once or twice a week, pick one or two specific issues you would like to address.  Limit your self on what you will be working on to keep it specific and easy to remember.   If you are working on finessing your posing techniques, choose only one pose to work on for particular exercise.  Using only one pose, create different variations of that pose.  You could also keep the pose intact, and create different variations by changing only the light.  By limiting yourself to only one pose, you force your brain to think differently than what you are used to.  This is precisely that of thinking that makes your head hurt, but the results is an increase of our ability to think creatively.   These exercises don't have to be limited to posing; you can also do them by limiting your equipment on a shoot, perhaps only use one lens.  My favorite kind is location-based scarcity.  In other words, I do a practice photo shoot in a very small area and I must find every angle possible and use the objects around me to create a successful photo shoot within that space.

Example Exercise #1 (incorporating Geometry)
I have always been intrigued at how geometry in our environment influences the visual impact of a photograph.  Geometry can turn an ordinary photograph into a fascinating one.   The fact is geometry is all around us.  Not a minute could go by where people are not exposed to some sort of geometry.  This fact compelled me to train my eye to be more geometry sensitive.  The exercise is quite simple but the results have been remarkable.  I normally take a walk everyday to stay in some sort of shape, and I let my mind wonder for the duration of the walk.  Instead of daydreaming, I began looking for circular shapes, squares and triangles in my route.  I was surprised at how the walk I take every day, suddenly felt brand new to me again.  Clearly the objects in my route have not changed, but my perspective has.  I keep this game up when ever I take a casual walk.  In this photo, I noticed the strong presence of the green square in this scene in the town of Segovia, Spain.

This is just one of hundreds of examples of how I ignore the rest of the scene to train my eye to notice the geometry around me with higher sensitivity.

You can clearly see the influence geometry has in this photograph taken in Chicago.  The squared frames jumped at me from my training and I placed the groom in the reflection from the mirror on the left to create balance in the photograph.

This time, was the circular lamp that grabbed my attention to capture this couple lying in the sun in Paris.  I used the circular lamp for two reasons, to create depth, and also to balance the photograph.  Imagine this photo without the circular lamp; it wouldn't have been nearly as interesting.

In the previous photographs, the geometry in the environment was pretty obvious, however in this photograph of the couple embracing in Central Park, the arch over their head in the background formed by the rows of trees was much more subtle.  This is where training comes in very handy.  Had I not done my geometry sensitivity training, I would have completely missed this beautiful arch and walked right passed it.

Using scarcity to master the best use of your lenses
In this section, I am referring to limiting the amount of lenses you bring with you to only one or two lenses for a training photo shoot.  Most of us buy every lens we can afford, but rarely do we take the time to really bring out the strengths and know the weaknesses of each of our lenses.  To be able to know when is the best time to bring out the ultra-wide angle lens vs. a medium range lens such as the 24-70mm. requires a keen understanding of how these two lenses will behave differently in the environment you intent to use them in.  Most likely both lenses will do the job just fine, but one of them would have been a better choice than the other to create a higher level of visual impact.  The question is which one and why?

Understanding your lenses Exercise
To find out, I created another exercise where I would leave all my lenses at home except for two, the 16-35mm f/2.8 and the 24-70mm f/2.8.  I went ahead and shot hundreds of photos of people going about their day, architecture, landscapes, etc.   What I learned from reviewing the photos was that if there are strong lines or bold geometry in the environment, than the 16-35mm f/2.8 would exaggerate these lines and shapes greatly and create a much more interesting photo than the 24-70mm f/2.8.  However, if these strong shapes were not present in the environment and the focus was more on the people, than the 24-70mm f/2.8 was the better choice.  I repeated this exercise with all my lenses using only two at a time.

Understanding your lenses exercise results

This photo was taken at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.  You can see the strong lines leading up to the couple.  However, because this photo was taken with the 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, it fails to really bring out the strength of those leading lines.  In fact, the 70-200mm f/2.8 is such a bad choice for this photo, that it makes those lines more of a distraction than an asset.

Now look what difference it makes to chose the right lens for the right place.  Because of my practice sessions described above, I knew that the 16-35mm f/2.8 lens would be the best fit to exaggerate the length of those leading lines creating a very dynamic photograph.

This photograph really exemplifies the importance of understanding when to pull out what lens.  During a wedding in Beverly Hills, I was faced with this typical stale scene.  To an untrained eye, this scene is exactly what I just described, boring.  However, thanks to the practice sessions, I noticed the circular forms created by the parasols.  Notice how I mentioned the shape before I describe what the object actually is.  That's because to a photographer, the shape that objects make is far more important than what that object actually is.  Because I know that if I have circles in my scene, I can exaggerate those circles using an extreme wide-angle lens resulting in this image:

The moral of the story here is that by training ourselves through limiting our tools or our locations or the poses we want to master, we will eventually be able to see photographic potential in locations where others simple cannot.  Posing will become an extension of the mood we want to create instead of using most of our energy dealing with technical problems with our posing.  The effort this level of skill requires pays off 1000 fold in our work and the rest of our careers.

If you are interested in learning more about training yourself, you can pick up a copy of my book Picture Perfect Practice, which focuses on precisely this empirical and fascinating topic.  The book can be purchased here.

You can see mor of Roberto’s work at and follow him on Twitter.

You’ve read here about the joy of using multiple flash units to produce stellar photography from the likes of Scott, Joe McNally, David Hobby and other master photographers.

I’d like to discuss here another multiple for video–as in multicam video.

Online videos have come a long way since their humble beginnings of shaky camera movement, poor sound, and minimal editing. With online videos now regularly showing up on TV sets, via Roku, Apple TV and other set-top box hookups, they’re now expected to look as polished as their offline counter-parts. Thanks to the advancements in digital technology and dramatic cost reductions, they now can.

In my new book, Video Nation, a DIY guide to planning, shooting and sharing great videojust out from Peachpit Press, I show how to dramatically improve the static old one-camera shoot. The solution: easily pair up multiple DSLRs–or even iPhones and iPads–and sync them together with Apple’s Final Cut Pro X software for TV quality like results with minimal investment and time.

I write about what I know. For the past 5 years, I have produced over 300 videos at USA TODAY for my Talking Tech and Talking Your Tech video series. All the productions are done on a low  budget (this is journalism, after all) with just two of us–the host and producer, and usually Sean, who assists me with camera, lighting and sound. It’s a rare day when we don’t use at least 3 cameras for the shoot.

The standard set-up: medium, wide and close-up. It’s one camera on the guest, another on me and the third for the wide shot of both of us.

Let’s go back in time a minute to the old one-camera shoot.

Put the video camera on a tripod, place the camera operator behind it, and open with a two-shot of me and my guest. Cut. Start again, and now the camera zooms in on the guest as we continue and it stays there until the end. Cut. To close, we zoom out for a two-shot. Next we do the “reverse” shot–me nodding, and I repeat my questions to cut in later in editing.

The problem with this type of shoot: it’s visually bland, the cut-in from the interviewer usually looks fake (it is) because of the repeated questions, and the whole spontaneity of the conversation is lost.

Three cameras takes care of all this. The conversation is captured the way it really happened.

Thanks to the mammoth size of the image sensor chip in the DSLR–about 20 times larger than that found in a consumer video camera–the DSLR is usually the camera(s) of choice. The depth of field is amazing, you can shoot in low light easily, choose a variety of lenses to use and have small cameras that are easy to tote around.


What we bring to every shoot: Canon 5D Mark III and II and 60D cameras, Canon 70-200mm 2.8, 24-70mm 2.8, 16-35mm 2.8, 85mm 1.8 and 50mm 1.8 lenses, GoPro Hero 2 camera, the Zoom H4N audio recorder, Sony lavalier microphones, Lowell Pro and the Lowell Rifa exchange video lights and Manfrotto tripods.

The 5D shots look stellar–but the cameras are not cheap–ranging from $2,000 to $3,500.

But we also use the Canon 60D in all of the shoots as well–and that camera can be picked up now for around $800. It has the exact same imaging chip as the even less expensive Canon Rebel T3i, which is around $600, and both match really nicely with the 5D footage.

I’ve also mixed Canon DSLRs with other cameras–most notably the Samsung NX 200, Sony A77, iPhone, iPad and the GoPro Hero cameras. Sure, the footage looks different–but it also spices things up.

Let’s face it: Any good sport telecast will show an extreme array of multiple angles–you know the shot in the race car isn’t the same camera as the one used outside on the track watching it zoom by, and yet the show still goes on. The viewer is understanding.

The clips above, with actor Misha Collins (Supernatural) and talk-show host Carson Daly, were shot on the 3 Canon DSLRs–two 5Ds and a 60D. Below, with magician Penn Jillette, was mix and match–a 60D, the NX200 and a GoPro.

What if you’re on a serious budget? You can’t afford the 2 5Ds and a 60D–or even a Rebel, Nikon SLR like the D3200 or the Sony A55. You want to just use the camera that’s closest to you–like an iPhone or iPad.

It won’t look as good–but then, with proper lighting, a tripod and good microphones, it will probably turn out better than you imagined.

I did just this in a recent Video Nation promo video

with my Peachpit publisher, Nancy Aldrich-Ruenzel. I used the Apple devices to show how they can be easily used for quality video if you put your mind to it. My shot is on the iPad, while Nancy is on the iPhone4. For the wide, I added the GoPro Hero2.


The video from DSLRs (and even the iPad or iPhone) looks pretty cool, but sound is always wanting. The internal microphones are as good as worthless. There are several solutions: the easiest is to pick up a cable that connects to your XLR or 1/4 inch microphone jack to plug into the DSLR or Apple device. We like the handy dandy $299 Zoom H4N audio recorder. It has two XLR inputs for microphones, a headphone input to monitor sound, and two internal microphones that are surprisingly excellent. On a recent interview, we put lav microphones on two guests, and stuck the Zoom right in front of me, for my mic, via the internal option. Sean and I were blown away–I sounded just as good as they did.

Pros and cons of working multi cam

Producing videos with one camera takes a lot less time. There’s no question about it.

But think of how many movies or TV shows you’ve watched that were shot on one camera, with one, static image. (Right–it’s not done.)

With my arsenal of gear, you can’t meet someone for a 1 p.m. interview, and expect to be set up in 5 minutes. You need to position the tripods and camera angles properly, so you’re facing each other, get the lighting right, do a sound check, etc. and this takes at least an hour to get it right.

(After the shoot, I take portraits of the subjects to go with the video. Here’s a collection of some of my favorites, all shot on the 5D Mark II or III.)

Former Sonic Solutions CEO Dave Habiger–demonstrating CD burning

YouTube sensation iJustine

Hot in Cleveland’s Valerie Bertinelli–the “muse” of coupon app Veebow

Men in Black director BARRY SONNENFELD

WWE wrestler Zack Ryder

The Annoying Orange creator Dane Boedigheimer


So now, the big question–how do you put it all together on the computer?

In 2011 Apple controversially remade its Final Cut Pro into a more consumer friendly editing program. For my purposes, it also produced an update in early 2012 that turned it into the DSLR shooter and editor’s best friend. Multicam clip editing.

You simply import your multiple takes, click “New Multicam clip” in the File edit menu and let FCP put them together–usually in less than 60 seconds. It uses audio cues, like Singular Software’s Plural Eyes plug-in, the go-to tool with the previous edition of FCP–the new setup with FCPX works quicker and more efficiently.

So now, during editing, you can choose the angles much like a TV director–camera 1, camera 2, camera 3, etc. and put together a more polished production


Now that we know how cool three cameras look for a shoot, Sean and I are starting to get greedy and hunger for even more. We recently dropped in to interview Matt Groening and David X. Cohen, the executive producers of the animated Futurama, and had five cameras facing the duo. To them, it must have looked like a press conference (with only one reporter!), but for us, the end result was way worth it.

Because it was a joint interview, we had one 5D on the two of them, for the two shot, a close-up each on Groening, Cohen and myself, and the fifth for the wide.

I’d like to believe that a year or two from now, we won’t be showing up for these meetings with nine or ten cameras, but who knows? One main shot on the 5D Mark III with a 70-200mm 2.8 lens, and an army of tiny GoPros picking up the rest?

The possibilities are intoxicating.

Lastly, a round of applause to Scott and Brad for the opportunity to talk about my first love–video–here today. The launch party for Video Nation is July 26th at {pages} a book store in Manhattan Beach, California, so if you’re on the west coast, please drop in and say hi. Otherwise, feel free to drop a comment or question here, or reach me at or @jeffersongraham on Twitter.

Hey everybody! RC here. I wanted to share with you a bit of a confessional and a great lesson that I just got this weekend- from an unlikely source. Past being giddy, it was one of those moments that gave me inspiration, closure, and excitement at the same time.

My confession – I spend a lot of time making pictures. Here at Kelby Media, we try our best to keep a foot in the training space and a foot in the real world shooting space to make sure that we can bring relatable information to you every week. This means that all of us strap a camera to our shoulders and hit pavement making images. These images end up on a computer, and we run Photoshop on them to make them great. Some of them get posted on a website, and some even get sold or donated to clients. For this, I am truly very happy.

Do you know where my pictures dont end up? My own walls.

On The Road
After filling hard drive after hard drive full of pictures, I can count only three shots that I’ve put up in my own home. Everything else has this barren feeling – pale white walls just staring back at me when I walk into my house. We finally jumped into buying our house down here in Tampa this past December, and my wife and I have been sitting there chatting with one another wondering what pieces of furniture we want to switch. Which pieces of furniture we want to add. Which graphic designer friend we want to bring in from the office to help us with with this conundrum of a home that feels to transient to be our own.

Secretly, I have been fighting a very different fight in my own head. As much as I have had celebrated moments in the pictures i’ve made, I cant help but have this pit in my stomach that says that my pictures are no good. Every time I share a shot, I think to myself “Eh, its ok.. but you see here.. this part could have been better if only.. ” and I rattle off the part that I thought was missing in it. Now don’t get me wrong.. I absolutely love being a photographer, and I absolutely love being “On the Road” of it. You see, I tell everyone that the moment that you pick up the camera in earnest and say to yourself “I want to do this, and I want to get better at it” you invariably end up on this road. At the end of it are the greats in your mind. In front of you, all of those specific things you want to learn. Where you are in that road is the absolutely most exciting place to be because you are always learning. I believe in this so much – the journey is the most important part. However – every now and again you just feel like you have been taking two steps forward and one step back. There are absolutely no signposts on this road, and you just yearn to wonder if you’ve made it a mile or a meter..

So we want to feel like home, and I want to feel like im closer to my goal, and no amount of shutter clicking is making this happen.

However, I’m still printing. Im still sending out the odd print here and there to a client. What could they possibly see that I dont?

Hipping My House
So I get a word from my friend Kevin at work that says Mpix is partnering with us to do something called “Hip My House” Where a winner gets their house done up in Mpix prints. (I’ll chat about that later.. it’s not really about this now..) There was one line in it that made me think .. “your own art”. Im sitting there thinking to myself, “Why dont I just own up to the pictures that I have and print what I love up there?”

I told Kevin that i’d be cool to make a video just showcasing my situation and talking about the contest. Separately, however, I bit the artistic bullet and went through Lightroom and looked for pictures that I thought I would want to see.. things that made me happy when I looked at them.

My Sources of Inspiration
As much as I loved so many pictures, the ones that I kept coming back to again and again were the fun shots that I would do on the weekends with my daughter Sabine. More and more I was going “Oh, this one is cool.. this one she looked cool… this one she looked so happy”

The more I did it, the more I noticed that she was the person that I turned to when I wanted to recharge photographically. Jenn and Sabine were the people I ran to do pictures of when I wanted to re-inspire. I picked a bunch of shots and I said “Im going to just get these done and fill this wall.. see what happens.. ”

In Front of Me All Along
I got my friend Rich Porupski (THANK YOU SOO MUCH!) to come in and organize them on the wall (Last time I tried to hang pictures, they had to call in a contractor to fix the wall at work.. ugh), and the more pictures went up, the happier I was. Jenn was over the moon too.

As it turned out, putting these pictures on these walls actually made our house feel more like a Home. Instead of looking for a Pier 1 or a Magazine for inspiration, the very pictures that I have been shooting all this time actually made my house feel like mine. (Sorry for the dark shot.. iphone late at night, but wanted you show you!)

Another thing happened – I started looking at the pictures and going “Hey.. this is pretty good. Hey this didnt come out half bad. Hey.. I really like what i’ve done with this.”

Right there, in front of me in my dining room were all of the signposts that I was looking for. Putting them in front of me on a wall let me see where i’ve been, where I am, and how far I am on this road. That gave me a great feeling of accomplishment. AND, I got the wall done!

I Learned Something Today
So.. a long ramble.. what are the takeaways:

Go through your pictures.. find the common bond that makes you go “wow, i’m so glad I did this one.” When you find that, thats your inspiration. Go there photographically when you need to recharge the batteries.

Find a spot in your home where you can put several pictures of yours, print them and hang them. The more you see them up there, the more you will realize that you are better than you think you are. You’re on the road and you’re moving forward.

And your art is your proof. Have a great Monday everyone!

(If you want to follow me, you can go to my G+ page at or my blog at

Hey everyone, RC here with pretty cool news!  Nik Software has just released a new version of their killer HDR software – HDR Efex Pro 2.  They’ve got a new tonemapping algorithm, some sweet speed increases, and a new interface.  Rather than me sit here and just go on and on about it, I figured it be a neat idea to just walk you through the process with one of my files.  I’m even including the file for you guys to play with at the bottom of this post!

Scott Kelby Fans Get a Jump Start and a Great Discount!
So, here’s the deal.  We are all getting advanced access to Nik HDR Efex Pro at a very reduced rate.  How reduced?  Its like 40 dollars off…   In order to check it out, go to this link:

Some Samples of Images Tonemapped with HDR Efex Pro 2

I know that just showing a quick video of a tonemapping process wouldn’t be enough to convince you that this is something that you should really look at.  That’s why I went ahead processed all of the images below with HDR Efex Pro 2.  This thing is the real deal.

Download the RAW Files Used in the Video
I didnt want to just show what I can do here with the program – I also wanted to see what you guys come up with!! To that, I figured it be cool to get you a link with the RAW Files (its about 108MB in size.. 8 RAW Files). This way, you can play with them and share with me what you come up with. Download the program, take these files for a spin and share with me what you come up with!! Download the file here:

You can follow me at my Google+ page ( or at my blog ( – Enjoy!!

Photo by Eric Ryan Anderson in Portland, Maine, via disposable camera

Under a fire escape in Brooklyn across from Prospect Park, looking up at what seems to be unending row of century-old brownstones â” this is where I come to think, to reflect, to rest â” to imagine.  I guess I'll never be able to have that thumbing through B&H Catalogs or lusting through the aisles of Calumet.

This is not a post about gear or Photoshop tricks or a wide angle lens for your iPhone. In fact, I actually avoid gear talk unless absolutely necessary. I want to know how to create compelling images, how to properly capture beautiful scenes and portraits, but ultimately, I don't necessarily want to know how someone else did.

I want to know that you made something beautiful; that you contributed to the collective whole, that you are spending your time to make a difference â” to enlighten, to edify, to redeem, and to make the world more whole. But I don't necessarily need you to ruin the mystery of the process that preceded it. I know this is a place I potentially risk a credibility loss, but I'm a bit more comfortable with that than I once was.

When more of my time was occupied by making music than anything  visual, I loved gear. I loved to think that a hand-wired Class-A Greenback AC30 was my access point, finally, to my secret garden of personal sound. That it would give me my particular  "voice."

To disrupt the idiom, hindsight isn't 20/20 â” it's somewhere closer 20/16 (if glasses taught me anything). And when you have enough separate creative processes (print design, some web work,, photography, videography, writing, music, sound) interrupting your professional career like I have in the last half-decade, an objective, comparative study is much easier to initiate. Of course there's a technical competency (and years of sweat and blood in practice) involved in creating anything of value, but I'm reacting against the idea that the argument goes both ways.

Music has always been an important part of my life. Mom sang in the choir when I grew up, and early on had me doing the same. Dad was a trumpet player and had studied performance at the university. In 9th Grade, he taught me how to play a G chord, along with the sustained hammer-on Bob Dylan adds redundantly under his harmonica drone.

I didn't take guitar lessons (save a few jazz chord introductions years later), on a blind effort (even the blindness itself was blind) my own sense of direction, my particular taste, and really what I could accomplish with a few triads.

My vision for making music was of course constrained by the parameters of physical ability and mere mental understanding of music theory, but what didn't propel me was a desire to remain within parameters and discover new meanings insideâ” what propelled me was the desire for the dissolution of parameters, and to know what could be possible outside the walls. Parameters kept me moving forward because what exploration meant was overcoming them. It was about imagining new musical worlds â” worlds that were specifically mine.

What I don't have is any tips about upgrading your lens arsenal (i.e. whether the II series is better than the I), Manfrotto vs. Gitzo, my 35 foot Profoto Octabox, firmware updates, or even how much I love photography, because honestly I love photography a lot less than what led me into using a camera in the first place.

I also have no intention of providing anything profound or revolutionary or subversive as advice. What I hope to provide is why I do what I do (regardless of whether or not you even know what that is), and how it is one of the few static pieces of my life. The methods change, the parameters always move with the process, but the motive is what I hope to show as the highest importance.

Why is our world beautiful, and what are we supposed to do about it?
Why is our world ugly, and what are we supposed to do about it?

"We need imagination to cope with that." –N.T. Wright

What is higher in our value system? Is it the ability to technically light, execute, and digitally process a photograph, the ability to illustrate with the pen tool in Illustrator, the capacity to assemble a complex 30-minute Final Cut Timeline in a half day?

Or is it more important that we have inability?  To admit that struggle is real, and must be overcome somehow â” and to allow that to be fuel for what we create.

I've been thinking quite a bit about imagination lately, and what it is I'm doing to actually strengthen my own, and, what it actually exists for. A big question I have is, am I becoming more human â” more whole â” and adding anything to the collective consciousness â” by using my own brand and cultivating it and, begging it to grow.

The inverse question is this: am I only watering it down by consuming information, things, and buying into the myth that more makes more; as, finally, an entry point into success; believing that success is not about imagination or concepts or my family but about money and getting published and having a cool portfolio and rubbing shoulders.

I read a book called War of Art by Steven Pressfield not too long ago. My reaction to it was as crippling as everyone else's: I was convicted. I was mad at myself. I was guilty. I was guilted into wanting to become better because I was apparently far too lazy for anyone's good. I was so ready to do more stuff. Into typing more words into an email. And I was creating in the way that I consumed. And my work was more prolific, but it was getting worse qualitatively.

Although innocent and motivating as literature, it was compounding what prevented me from doing my best work, and from seeking the one thing that actually is uniquely me, and my vision: imagining.

I posted the question I've been thinking about the last month on Twitter a few nights ago. "What disciplines are you cultivating to strengthen your imagination?" The question was multi-faceted, as most things are. Here's how I would break it down this way into its hierarchical forms:

Do you believe imagination is important?
Do you have a vision for the world as it ought to be?
Are you scared of what's not completely apparent and in need of discovery?
Are you imagining anything at all?
What is it like to imagine?
How are you working to imagine better â” more fully?

Of course the spirit in which it was said was rhetorical, and ultimately I have been asking myself these things, and hoping others would as well.

This is the starting point for why any of us do what we do. This work is not about who can wield a camera better than another. The point is, are your ideas original? Are they repeated concepts? Are you making anything new? Are you working to make the world new? How can we imagine that new world, and what opportunity do each of us individually and collectively have in it?

Why is the world beautiful, and what do we do about it?
Why is the world ugly, and what do we do about it?

We need imagination.

The past five years have been characterized by a certain healthy struggle that I think any freelancer can describe, and that description is that this entire thing is paradox. The ultimate freedom of it and the complete necessity for self-erected boundaries; the need for cosmos and the need for chaos and how they duel and how they go hand in hand. The war of Chronos (sequential time) and Kairos (appointed time), and how both are needed and both are enemies and both are allies and they are enemies and they are allies and so on.

Long story short, I began my time as an adult in New York as a musician, which transferred into a broader role doing a confluence of visual and aural creative projects, back into print design (where I developed the love for the creative process not too dissimilar from music), on into photography (I began freelancing in 2007), and now into film, which I think closes the circle of my love for narrative, for imagination, and how to express that in ways that actually makes a difference in the lives of people, and leaves the earth a more whole place. I have no mislead awareness that I'm actually achieving that high thing, but it doesn't elude my thoughts.

Recently I finished the largest project I've ever taken on alone. When I moved back to New York at the beginning of the year, my vision was in film (or really simply, video) and in the broader/specific (more paradox!) way film allows you to explore every facet of human experience like no other form allows (not a bad mark on any other trade).  I decided in March to take on a series of eight commercials for a company based in Manhattan specializing in a type of boutique bags, 8 in sum, featuring a number of New York creative professionals, all who use a camera to accomplish their unique, storytelling vision.

It was a monster of a project that took months of pre-production and scheduling and rentals and permits and cars, and even now the pieces to me aren't incredibly stunning, and I often question the difference they make for society. However, it reminded me that imagination must be cultivated, and that the parameters for it are real, and the choices we make daily to work and create something new and interesting and affective must be rooted in hard work, consistency, and rhythm.

Wake up at 5:30am. Make a french press. Sit down and write for hours. Make a French Press. Sit down and write for hours.

Any author will tell you the importance of force in work. Inspiration doesn't arrive with consistency. Inspiration doesn't build itself under your fingers into a wall of bricks. It's wind, and we have to be like flags.

One of the most difficult aspects of being a freelancer is the decisions about how to best use the time commodity. What is it for? Who is it for? The ultimate question being, What is actually valuable and noble, and how do I, in this particular context, with these particular social, historical, creative, and technical skills embody that?

Via Media is a particular line of thought I hope to subscribe to consistently.

At the University, we learned about the concept in the context of Christianity â” that in all the dissension and splits in the church history, that certain sects  held to a philosophy of the "middle way" or "everything in balance."  I do believe everything about our existence is intended for balance and harmony, but it wasn't until I began this solitary journey into a freelance creative professional (or whatever language category is needed to feel comfortable) that I really began to understand its necessity.

Freelancing really is about paradox, choice, and value, and the balance of those things alongside people, and time. And without that understanding, I wouldn't be able to ask the question about how I'm supposed to imagine a better world â” particularly a better me. I would be tossed and turned by the thousands of impulses and external factors that effect each day (especially in New York â” phew). Without my own choice each day to wake up, turn on the coffee water to boil, and get my hands dirty with work, no work would be done, and I would not afford rent, and I'd be fishing somewhere on the coast of Texas (which sounds pretty great until about week three I imagine).

I think it's very important to understand our own fears, our own struggles, and how they are opportunities for imagination.

I tend to have a fear of being one-dimensional. Of lacking balance; of becoming too focused on one thing that all the others lose their importance in my life. Of not understanding the beauty and complexity of a person, a situation, or an idea. I can let myself decay in it, leading to a low self-esteem and admittance to the ultimate inability to achieve that perfect ideal, or I can use this to work hard to understand, to represent, and to create things that are multifaceted that not only help others, but that work to make the world whole.

My final thought is not a thought as much as it is a question I ask myself every day â” what am I doing to make the world better (I know it sounds lofty), and what can I practically do in my own rhythms and practices to work toward that?

How do I work to strengthen my imagination so that I can better perceive of a world that ought to be, and what role do I have in that as a person â” whether or not I'm a photographer?

Being creative is about being more fully human, and imagining is about incarnating that.

You can see more of Andrew’s work at, keep up with him on his blog, and follow him on Twitter

Greetings & Salutations!!!

Scott’s blog is a great repository of inspiring stories written by creative professionals, and I’m honored to be here on guest blog Wednesday. Thank you to Brad for inviting me, and thank you Scott for letting me share with your readers.

A few months ago I attended Photoshop World in Washington DC. It was great to have so many folks approach me, tell me how much they enjoyed my workshops, and that they appreciated my style as an instructor. It’s crazy the things people wanted to talk about such as why I go by my initials instead of my name, or how I shot a particular photo of my daughter. People seemed excited that I brought my family to PSW, and it was shortly after introducing folks to my wife that they would stop me and say, “Wait! You mean you’re not RC?”

Nope. Just another Photoshop guy with dark hair, a goatee, two letters for a name, and much love for his only daughter & beautiful wife. *chuckle*

He’s RC, you can call me AJ

But enough about me. Let’s talk about you. How are you? Are you having a good morning? Did you tell someone you loved them in the past 24 hours? Did ya throw it out there like a hi-five or did you reflect on it for just a moment? Have you been productive this week? Why or why not? Did you take five minutes selfishly for yourself today?

A while back I read somewhere that “Success = Happiness”. I think the writer had the equation reversed. I say work on being happy, and you’ll redefine your vision of success. Happiness should be easy, and maybe it is for some people, but I’ve found plenty of folks–myself included–could use more joy. Hopefully, if you can find some inspiration, motivation, and put in a little work, you’ll find the happy more often.

Inspiration is a wonderful feeling. It’s the spark that kicks off a creative idea, or a smile that leads to a beautiful photograph. It’s a good cry at the end of the movie Rudy when the football team hoists him up on their shoulders after that last play⦠uhm⦠not that I cry at movies. Hopefully, there are people you come across who leave a lasting impression you keep with you. Two people that inspire me daily are Joe & Heidi Hendricks. Imagine your wife coming down with Stage 2 Breast Cancer, undergoing two lumpectomies, then radiation & chemotherapy; treatments that continue for roughly a year. Life goes on and three years later a new diagnosis of Stage 4 Metastatic Breast Cancer has found its way into the bones & lungs. You would probably do all you could to support your wife, and be there for her, even after you discover you also have cancer. In 2004, they were told they would only have a short time with each other, and eight years later Joe & Heidi Hendricks through their faith in God are still fighting cancer together, one day at a time.

What inspires me are not the facts of their circumstances, but how they’ve shared their experience with family & friends on Facebook.

In Joe’s images I see the beauty of the world, the challenges in the moment, and a peace I hope to one-day find. Do they have bad days? Yes. Do they have doubts, anger & frustration? They’re human, how could they not? But they have the conviction of their faith in the Lord, which grants them courage beyond my comprehension, and a passion for living life that’s demonstrated every day–even the bad ones.

The key takeaway from Joe & Heidi’s experience is they’re not waiting for inspiration to come to them. They actively seek it. It’s not uncommon to see an image from the day’s hiking adventure after hospital treatment, or a post that talks openly about the challenges they’re experiencing. When most people are still in bed, or lounging on the couch, Joe & Heidi are living in the moment and growing closer to God.

If inspiration is the spark, then motivation is the call to action. The trouble with motivation is for many of us it’s temporary, a fleeting moment. You might be inspired by an infomercial to purchase that $99 set of fitness tapes, but once they arrive the motivation wears off after the first video workout. It requires an inherent primal dissatisfaction with current conditions to truly change. Just ask Justin Seeley. At his heaviest he weighed close to 420lbs–at 27yrs old. A fellow Photoshop guy, Justin is no stranger to blogs & the Internet. As someone who makes his living training & speaking in front of people he shared his weight loss experience online. Over a year later, he has gone through an amazing transformation to better health, and reached a reasonable weight around 185lbs.

The key takeaway from Justin’s experience should be it took over a year. He didn’t find a quick fix, despite opting for a surgical procedure. The changes to his diet, the foods he can no longer eat, the daily exercise, and this new discipline he’ll carry with him for the rest of his life. I’ve known quite a few people who tried to “cheat” diet & exercise by surgical procedures and failed. It’s because they weren’t truly motivated to get healthy.

Once you’ve been inspired, and you’re motivated to act, you best be prepared to put in the work. My sister Lesli Wood knows something about perseverance. She wrote the following years ago, “i live by the concept that i can live my life exactly the way i want and i believe everyone else has this superpower, too. i have no patience for naysayers or those that settle for less than they deserve. doing what i want has led me into some really great adventures.”

It’s true. Lesli is one of those individuals who knew from birth who she was, and what she wanted to do. Music. No doubt about it. That was the easy part. The hard part was getting through Ms. Hunt who told my sister at the ripe age of five that before she could take piano lessons she would have to learn to read. It was in that moment Lesli grabbed our family Bible and as I recall read something along the lines of Psalms 98:4 “Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.” Did I mention the part where she has an Einstein IQ?

I envy her focus. How she interacts with the world, every decision she’s made is thoughtful & deliberate. Sure, you might not know who she is, you may have never heard her music, but she’s been a working musician who's played for audiences all over the world for over 25 years. To look at Lesli is to see someone who has everything they want, because they’ve made it that way. To see her perform, you would never know she’s battled multiple sclerosis for almost ten years.

But enough about them. Let’s talk about you. I hope as a photographer, designer or other creative professional you actively seek out people, places, ideas that inspire you. I hope when you doubt your gifts, and your motivation wanes you’ll remember that at this moment there is someone smarter, more talented & better than you. However, in this very same moment, you are smarter, more talented & better, than someone else. It’s easy to envy the results and ignore the drive & dedication necessary to produce them. The people you admire? They’re fallible, they have problems, and they're human. They just show the world their best side.

Be Ambitious. Be Humble.

Call him a creative generalist or digital artisan, A.J. Wood talked so much about Adobe products they had no choice, but to hire him and put his big mouth to use. Catch his videos on AJWOOD.COM, find him on Facebook, or chat on Twitter