Category Archives Guest Blogger

Teaching a class here at KelbyOne is always an awesome experience. And my most recent project – DSLR Filmmaking: shooting a music video for the band Jule Vera – was certainly nothing short of just that.

There were a lot of differences with this project versus my past music videos –specifically the budget. For the first time I was able to buy sets, props, wardrobe, special lighting, and a smoke machine.

If you find yourself getting into a project like this, you must pay people. Pay them something, even if it’s $100. Paid people work better for you and it shows in the end. When hiring talent… DO NOT USE YOUR GIRLFRIEND! The lead singer always wants to put his favorite groupie as the lead. A month later, they break up, she’s now dating a lawyer, and your video never gets finished cause you get served papers. If you spend money on anything, spend money on a model or actor. You are going to spend so many hours editing this thing, that spending some money, even if it’s out of your own pocket to help out, will give you fuel for your portfolio and lead to bigger opportunities.

I knew the The Van’s Warped Tour of about 70 bands was coming into town, and there I could find the perfect up and coming band, looking for a free music video. I came across Jule Vera from Alabama, who had members that grew up here in Tampa. I was sent their not yet released album, and was told to pick any song I wanted. Die Trying! Holy cow, what a cinematic and epic piece! I think the word epic is highly overused and I’m never one to say it about bike rides or desserts, but this song was freaking epic.

A basic formula for a concept story telling video is twofold. You shoot the band telling the story, and then you shoot the actual story. The band is the storyteller, and the short film depicts the story the song is telling. You edit them together – and voila!

My concept was simple: A man is stuck in a leveled, unrecognizably burnt down town. A girl trapped in an altered reality full of peace and sunshine, but alone. Man finds girl. Girl is ripped from her reality. And the two go off into the future and have like 10 babies. The band, meanwhile, is telling the story while floating above the wreckage of rooftops, tops of trees and fog.



To take my inspiration further, I studied the portfolio of my favorite artist who is a master of creating altered realities – Brooke Shaden. I pinned all her work that matched my theme to my desk wall, along with other ideas for pieces of the set, and lighting ideas. I listened to the song, over and over, as ideas came to me.

My friend Lindsay Adler came to the rescue, renting me two dresses for the price of one, from her online rental store My singer would have a dress made out of a parachute with a bullet holster and all! My model would don an octopus-like dress. Both women flowing beautifully above this town burnt to hell. It was perfect. The story was all coming together.


My producer, Jen Coffin, strolls up to my desk says “building a set with demolished rooftops and charred trees is just a tad way over budget.” I had no choice but to rethink my approach, but still keep within my theme. The dresses were on the way and the band now had serious expectations.



With a little bit of creativity, resourceful budgeting, and a team of talented people, we came up with the idea of a burnt down house. Incorporate some key props and materials – creepy teddy bears, grand pianos, busted pallets, mulch – and now it was finally coming together.


A fun idea the guys came up with was to set up 3 drum kits, and pile ashes on top of the heads. They played the song at twice the speed, so that when I would slow it back down in post to normal speed, the ashes would be in slow motion and rise from the drum heads. We had time at the end of the day so we gave it a shot, and it ended up being one of the most powerful parts of the video.


Making this video was such an amazing experience and the lessons learned along the way are invaluable. Having talented people working for you like Daniel Bryant, who did all the compositing and effects, really took this video to the next level and I can’t thank him enough for all his hard work. I had a fun supportive crew, and it was a blast.


The rewarding part for me was being able to go see them play live at 2 different cites. They got me a photo pass and I was able to shoot one of my other favorite artists, Bebe Rexha! What a fun experience overall.


I hope you’ll enjoy my vision unfold and maybe take away a thing or two that can help you in your next project.

You can see more of Adam’s work at, and follow him on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Plus, see his class DSLR Filmmaking: Shooting a Music Video when it’s added to the KelbyOne library tomorrow!

Take control

One of the things I encounter a lot during talks with attendees to my workshops or seminars is that a lot of photographers struggle with their light. Now I don’t want to generalize, but I think for a lot of shooters out there this is a reoccurring problem.

One could almost say, “Most photographers are controlled by their lighting, while a photographer should be in control of their lighting.”

In photography light is our language, so it’s of vital importance to learn to speak that language. I hear you thinking, “But I don’t have expensive gear to fight the sun, or to manipulate light.” And I agree, some images that you see online will be hard to get without a powerful strobe, but don’t worry. That’s not what this blog is about.

Take Photoshop As An Example. When you start Photoshop it all looks incredibly intimidating right?
Where to start?
What to do?

The same thing happened to me. And some books or videos don’t help either, it just makes it more complicated. For me a lot changed when I learned about Scott. He explained things very easily and gave me the tools I needed to progress. No smoke and mirrors or overcomplicating stuff, just the bare essentials from which you can build and add (ending up with some more complicated actions, but understanding what they do and why you use them).

When we look at lighting, we see the same thing. Often things are explained the “wrong” way or just way too complicated. I always tell my students to remember one thing… Photography is an old art, so this means that in the past people with very primitive gear were able to do it. You should be able to do the same (or even better), but also it’s an art form. Now let’s look at two topics and give you some tips to improve your photography (almost instantaneous).

  1. Photography Is Light
    This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Without light there would not be anything to register (unless you love taking the same black/depressing shot every time). The excuse often heard is that someone doesn’t own brand X or modifier Y, so he/she is limited in what they can do….Let’s be honest. We all used the excuse at least once.

In essence it’s very important to realize that light is everywhere. There is absolutely no light source that should be labeled as “not fit for photography.” For example, take the following shot which was done with one bare light bulb.

6b7f-aa6d-a0b8-52baWe used two painted walls we put together in a slight angle to get the walls close together and get a sort of “captured” feeling. The thing to remember is to get the lightbulb close to the model, due to the light fall-off that will be faster when the lightbulb is close, the contrast in the scene will be greater and in my opinion more dramatic.

Now up the ante a little bit and use chandeliers you can buy from eBay.

c8a6-ea4a-0147-bfcdThis shot was done with just the light from the chandelier. We added some extra elements between the same walls (now repainted), and also added another light source in the form of the branches with lights. You do need to shoot on high ISO for this and a longer shutter speed, so coach your model to stay still. Oh and don’t worry about the high-ISO noise. In today’s cameras this will be a non-issue for print or web. If you look at your screen 1:1 you will see noise but that will not show up on most prints, and otherwise just…. Call it intentionally arty :D

As soon as you master this, what holds you back to add a little bit of strobes and maybe some smoke?

43dc-ff5d-4fc2-017eBy chancing the position of the chandelier you can control the lighting. We used some smoke in the back to create a mood, and we created a small opening between the two walls and placed a strip light behind it on the lowest possible setting. Because the walls are taking away a lot of light, you can get away with this. If your strobe is emitting too much light try to put the modeling light on full power and don’t trigger the strobe (thus making the strobe another constant light source).

Understanding what light does is the first step in becoming a better photographer. I strongly believe that if one starts out shooting with the most simple light sources, one could progress very quickly. Instead, some people start out with a complete studio kit and a DSLR they hardly know; it’s a recipe for disaster. The best tip I can give someone is to start learning their camera. Know it by heart so you don’t struggle on the set. When you know what all the little knobs do, start shooting with the free light source available to everyone, “Natural light.” Yep, it’s all around us and it’s called the sun. Don’t be afraid of the harsh quality of the sun during midday, for model photography this can be a blessing. In fact I always joke around that where landscape photographers have to get up in the early mornings and wait for that last piece of light in the afternoon, we fashion shooters can actually work all day. But then again I just love those harsh shadows.


All natural light shots. Always remember that shadows are the soul of a shot. They create dimensionality and could be labeled as “the photographers best friend (if understood).”

  1. the power of the shot
    Some people call it storytelling, some call it the WOW factor… In essence it doesn’t matter as long as you know what I mean, and that is making a shot that make people look again and again, or in short how to go from okay to WOW.

I have to be honest… For years I’ve been trying to describe this process and I simply can’t, so I just ended up calling it the “X-factor.” Yeah, pretty lame right? But it’s true.

And sometimes it’s just an expression like this shot. We took this on the boat to England for our UK tour. It’s just available light with the boat in the background, but the model’s expression does it for me.


But often it’s also the styling, the angle and the expression/pose of the model like in this pure natural light shot.


In fact one can shoot a model in great styling in front of a cathedral with awesome lighting, but it can still be very boring. However…. Choose a lower angle, include the sun in the picture and make the model pose a bit more powerfully, and voila! We go from, “Nice model and nice location,” to, “WOW what an awesome shot!”


Without a doubt, one can learn and master lighting, but that “X-Factor,” that’s a bit trickier. I always tell people to look at photography they love and analyze WHY they love it. When you really dig deep into your psyche, it’s almost never JUST the lighting. It’s always something more… Styling, mood, expression, it’s “always” the whole feel of the picture. And now we are actually back at square one.

When you look at those old photographs you hardly see any spectacular strobe work, for the simple reason that there were no spectacular strobes back then, what you do see is a capture of someone’s character, of the perfect pose, clothing in combination with for example an animal (think about Avedon’s model with an elephant), or just a street scene that really captures your imagination.

We as fashion/people photographers are often relying way too much on our gear, as long as we use loads of strobes (10 preferred) and throw the model in front of the most awesome location with extreme clothing… it will work… However we often forget the most important thing about photography….

We Tell Stories With Light
So don’t forget the story, but most of all…. Master your lighting and with todays tools like KelbyOne and the internet in general there are many places to learn. Don’t skip to the heavy stuff however, but start with controlling your camera and a simple light bulb and build from there. Because, trust me on this one, if you understand your lighting you can really focus on the story.






You can see more of Frank’s work and blog at, follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, pick up his book Mastering The Model Shoot, and keep an eye on KelbyOne tomorrow for his brand new class Shooting Fashion On Location!


(Note from Brad: Last week was Matt’s first time attending Photoshop World, and I thought it would be interesting to get his fresh-eyed take on it. Take it away, Matt!)

Only days after attending this year’s Photoshop World, I sit in 124 degree heat in Death Valley, CA to write this blog post – and my head is still spinning from the experience. My wife has had the good fortune of listening to me tell her the same (exciting) stories over and over.

A longtime friend of Brad (pre-beard) from Connecticut, I made my first trip out to Las Vegas to attend the conference and also embark on a photo excursion of a few of the National Parks. Although drawn to landscape photography, I am most often found capturing people expressing themselves culturally and/or creatively. As someone struggling to transition into full time photography as a career, the knowledge and inspiration I gained from Photoshop World is invaluable.

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My whirlwind of a week began with an in-depth pre-convention workshop on concert photography by Alan Hess and Scott Diussa. In it, they shared their experience and practical instruction from years of shooting bands around the world. As part of the workshop I then had the opportunity to put those lessons into practice by shooting a live band. I can’t imagine a more exciting way to start the week than the rush of adrenaline I experienced hustling to obtain my best possible shots during the industry standard limit of just 3 songs!

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Ready for the conference to officially begin, I went over to the First Time Attendee Orientation where Larry Becker made sure all of us first- timers felt comfortable and provided tips on utilizing all the conference had to offer. Later that evening during the Photoshop World Meet-up, attendees had the opportunity to hang out in the lounge with instructors in a casual environment. I was impressed and a little surprised at how accessible and friendly everyone was. 

The next three days were jam-packed with classes on virtually every aspect of photography, videography, and post-processing one could imagine. Deciding which classes to attend proved to be the most challenging part of the week as they all looked so appealing. I honestly got something out of every one I attended. Instructors Glyn Dewis, Jeremy Cowart, Roberto Valenzuela, and Jay Maisel were especially inspiring; while the business tips from photographers Tim Wallace, Frank Salas, and David Ziser will be extremely beneficial to implement in my own business. Not to mention the practical techniques demonstrated by Peter Hurley, Joe McNally, Lindsay Adler, Frank Doorhof, and Erik Valind. Ah, there were so many other amazing photographers/instructors that I did not have a chance to see. I guess I will just have to wait until next year!

Besides a wide array of classes, the Expo was full of new and innovative products and photo-related technology to try out. This included areas to take test shots using different lighting setups, as in these photos I took while walking past the Westcott booth.

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During the Natural Light Shoots, I jumped at the opportunity to pull out my camera and practice photographing a model using only the existing sunlight to create beautiful images.

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As part of this shoot, a chapel was also reserved with models available to practice photographing a bride and groom using only the available light. 

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I had a blast working with the models and instructors and picked up a few new tricks that I will use in photographing weddings and special events in the future.

Although one can participate in as many or as few events as they wish, I easily filled up my days and my nights and made several new friends along the way. In the weeks ahead, I plan to dive into the nearly 600 page workbook of notes provided by Scott Kelby from all the classes given during the conference. With this wealth of information at my fingertips I can read up on those classes I missed as well as review all that I’ve learned. Photoshop World has already been added to my calendar for 2016…come and find me if you decide to check it out next year. I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Now, back into the sand dunes I go, armed with my camera, a flashlight, and a gallon of water (so I don’t die).


You can see more of Matt’s work at 500px, follow him on Instagram, Twitter, or sign up for next year’s Photoshop World and come hang with him in person!

Hi, I'm a guy from Arkansas.

People pay me to take pictures sometimes, and sometimes they don't. Today is a day where no one is paying me to take pictures, so I'm writing this blog post because Brad Moore asked me to, and he seems like a nice guy (on the internet).

I've been shooting pictures for the last seven years as my only source of income, but that doesn't necessarily mean I shoot "full time" – some months are slow, and some months I can barely keep up, and most months are somewhere in the middle. Photography feeds my family, pays my mortgage, and sometimes I get to buy beer, which is quite honestly everything I could have ever hoped for in life.

I shoot for the New York Times, Reuters, Getty, AP, various magazines, blah blah blah, who cares⦠I have a camera and some gear and I'll point it at pretty much anything I'm paid to point it at.

I know quite a few photographers, and the ones who are successful year after year are the ones who shoot to earn a living and pay their bills, while the ones who want to be cute and vintage and Instagram-famous usually end up becoming real estate agents.

So if you're afraid you might be getting dangerously close to listing your first home, here's one of the more important things I've learned in my career as a photographer:

If your pictures are boring, try making them way more complicated.

Most people will tell you to keep it simple, stupid – but in my opinion, its actually really difficult to make a simple photo interesting enough to build a career on. These days, everyone has a camera and maybe even a light or two, and the internet is flooded with simple photos that really aren't that memorable.

The only way to get anyone's attention in the current photography market is to try things that are complicated, difficult, and a gigantic hassle – but when its done right, it pays off. By going the extra mile to try something crazy, you are telling your client (and more importantly, your future clients) that you'll stop at nothing to give them exactly what they want, and much more.

Get in the water. Use a dozen lights. Wake up at dawn. Contact whoever you have to contact to get a permit. Spend an entire week diagraming and outlining your setup, and your backup setup, and your backup to your backup. Pre-light it. Rent gear if you don't own it. Hire models that know what they're doing. Take your time. Make photos that no one in their right mind would go to the trouble to make. If your models aren't working, get new ones. If your location sucks, change it.

Most photographers don't get into this business to get their hands dirty, and sweat, and spend twelve hours pre-lighting a shoot, but that's what it takes these days. Getting everything to work right is obviously much harder when you complicate it, but in the end, that's what makes you better, and that's what separates you from the pack.

The biggest hindrance to your career as a photographer is not the limits placed on you by everyone else, it's the limits you place on yourself.

Don't dumb yourself down to match the attitude of everyone around you, and don't shoot crap photos just because it's a crap paycheck.

Treat every shoot like it's the cover of Vanity Fair, and your entire career is riding on getting this one shot right, and trust me – your business will grow like never before.

Now, since this is a photography blog, here's a few of my pictures…

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

Not Every Shoot Is A Winner
Here's the scenario: You go do a shoot, download the images, go through the take, pick the keepers, do your editing, and deliver the shots. The client loves them⦠But you don't. They’re okay, but they don't quite send you to your happy place.

Sound familiar? If it does, I have some good news for you. You're not alone.

Is there anything wrong with this shot? Not technically, but it’s not winning any awards.

I would guess that most photographers go through this, even the best ones. No matter how much we try to make the best possible images we can, not every shoot is going to result in a new portfolio image. You can plan all you want, put together your shot list, research the location, research your subject, make inspiration/mood boards, clean your lenses and sensor, and carry your lucky rabbit’s foot; but when you do the shoot, the shots are decent, but not great. The client is happy, so you're happy that you're getting paid, but you wanted to come away with better shots.

Arrive at the venue only to find out there’s no photo pit, and you weren’t there early enough to stake out a spot up front? Better hope you brought a telephoto lens.

Sometimes your subject just isn't ideal. Or the location you picked days ahead of time fell through on the day of the shoot and you had to quickly find something else that worked. Or you were unexpectedly battling the harsh sun on what was supposed to be a cloudy day. Or you just flat out had an off day of shooting and don't know why.

Right place, right time? Not this time. When the singer takes off down the other end of the stage and you can’t get there in time, this is the result.

For me, it's concerts. There are so many things that come into play here that can make or break an image. How's the lighting? If there's lighting, is it always the same or constantly changing (to give variety to the shots)? Is the band doing fun and crazy stuff, or are they all just standing in one spot throughout the performance? Is there so much going on that I don't even know where to point my camera to try and capture peak moments? Can I get to the spot in the pit I want to be in, or are there twenty other photographers vying for position and I'm stuck where I'm at?

Even when you’re in the perfect position to capture something you know is going to happen, things don’t always come together to capture the best moment.

I get lucky sometimes and I'm in the ideal position as the guitarist jumps off her amp in the perfect light, and my camera focuses, fires, and I nail the shot. Other times I see it happening out of the corner of my eye and turn to try to capture the moment from the wrong spot and there's so little light on her that my camera can't lock focus, and I get a blurry shot. Or a lot of the time I get what are, for me, mediocre shots of the singer with their mouth open and eyes closed standing in front of a mic. It's a perfectly fine shot that you've seen it a million times, but you won't see it in my portfolio.

Is there ANYTHING good about this shot??

Keep firing shots and hopefully you’ll get one that works. Still won’t see this one in my portfolio though!

But here's the thing⦠You've gotta keep shooting. You have to push through those bad days to get to the good ones. I once heard Jay Maisel explain it this way to a frustrated photographer:

"It’s like, if I’m trying to be a well built body builder⦠If I go to the gym on Monday next week maybe or maybe Thursday, or just when I find a day, then it’s not going to happen. You have to go to the gym and work out. I don’t go to the gym and work out as a photographer, but I do the visual pushups everyday. If you shoot once in a while you may get some nice pictures, and if you shoot very rarely you’ll get fewer. But if you shoot all the time, the number is going to go up."

Is there something cool happening but you’re just not sure of the best way to capture it?

Keep working the scene, trying different angles, and sometimes you can work through and find the shot.

So don't let a bad shoot or two get you down. Keep doing those visual pushups so you increase your chances of finding those holy grail shots that you add to your portfolio. When you get them, we'll rejoice with you. And if you don't, just remember⦠You're not alone!

You can see Brad’s keepers at BMOOREVISUALS.COM, or browse the archives to see more of the mediocre stuff if you want. And you can follow him on Instagram and Twitter.

Photo by Mike Silberreis

Loving Light

Hello everyone. My name is Tilo Gockel. I'd like to start by saying that I am incredibly honored to have the opportunity to share my thoughts with you on Scott Kelby's blog. I've been a professional photographer for seven years now. Previous to that I was an engineer, where I was in close contact with image sensors, video transmission, pattern projectors, and optics. Nevertheless, it took me quite some time to understand the technical challenges and the creative impact of photography. After years of practice I've now come to think of photography like learning a new instrument: I had to (and still have to) practice the scales, so to speak.

Let's rewind to when I started out. It did not take long for me to become totally addicted to light and lighting. From there, the obsession grew to include flash, because flash yields the most possibilities of all the artificial light sources. Then I took another small step and got interested in the "Strobist" field and community. I thought, "Wow, look at all these shots made with some inexpensive off-brand speedlights from Asia. I want to be able to do this!"

Lighting with all variety of flash units does imply a bit of technical expertise, even in a time of tethered shooting, TTL, modeling flash, and many other great options and features. For me, as a former nerdy engineer (still nerdy, to be honest), using flash offered the perfect combination of fiddling a bit with cool technical stuff and being creative.

I love to try something new on every shoot. I really don't like to do the same old routine day after day. I remember a photo job during which I had to shoot rubber gaiters and shoe stretchers. Dozens of them, in all colorsâ”after two days, I hated it! For me, I have to be doing something new to stay interested, like shooting underwater, "bokehrama" images, powder and ashes, motion, and of course, experimenting with different light sources.

What I also like to do is teach. Each summer I give a lecture on photography basics and I also teach a flash photography workshop. So, it was only natural that I wrote a book called One Flash! Great Photography with Just One Light to help even more photographers understand the crucial elements of flash photography. What made me even prouder was when this book was translated from German to English.

What I cover in the book is what I've deemed "the one flash approach." This is a very zen-like approach to flash photography, emphasizing the use of one single flash. You might think that is a very challenging restriction, but actually it is quite liberating--less stuff to buy and maintain, less to carry. More time to set up that one light properly and to shoot. I really enjoyed every single shoot in this book. And we shot a lot. The book covers motifs like food, products, and people, and techniques such as bouncing flash, supersync, flash composites, and bokehramas. One part of the book that I found to be really interesting was about shooting with shadow patterns. Here's a sneak peek.

Imagine you are forced to shoot inside in an empty room and you only have your camera and one speedlight with you. Now, to get shots that are a bit more creative than the typical "girl in front of a white wall" shot, you have to think outside the box. I chose to project some interesting shadows on the subject. For the first example, I cut some reeds from a nearby sea and shot the flash through them. This not only makes the light a bit softer, it also gives that interesting pattern projection on the model's face.

A bunch of reeds and a speedlight-a simple scene to shoot photos with interesting shadow patterns.

The outcome: Safari girl, lying on a cowhide, looking sexy!

"Like Rita Hayworth!" Photos with lots of shadows also look fine in black & white.

For the next shot, I used a piece of cheap synthetic lace and shot the flash from a long distance through that "gobo"--the longer the distance, the sharper the projection.

An even simpler setup: A single speedlight shining through a piece of synthetic lace.

The resulting image with the floral pattern on the girl's face.

Traveling light and shooting with only one flash is easy, and it has great potential. Being freed from all the technical complexity that comes with more gear, you can focus on the things that really matter, like communicating with the model and creating images with emotional impact.

--Tilo Gockel

You can see more of Tilos's work at his blog (in German) and follow him on Flickr, Facebook, or via the author's page at Rocky Nook. If you want to find out more about the projects and workshops in the book, have a look at the image gallery on Flickr.