Category Archives Guest Blogger

Hi folks, my name is Mike Wiacek (pronounced WHY-sek, WHY-check, or as Matt Kloskowski suggested, “WHY-check-SKI”). Unlike many of the previous guests who have been in this same position, I’m not a full time photographer, graphic designer, or insightful philosopher. I’m an engineer and manager at Google in Northern California. I grew up in Philadelphia, lived in Maryland for a few years, and then moved out to Silicon Valley. When Brad asked me if I’d like to be a guest blogger, my fingers quickly typed, “I’d love to,” long before my brain could understand what my hands had done.

Now before I ramble on too much, let me make a few promises about my little spiel here. I won’t bore you with any technical computer jargon, apart from a brief mention of C++, HTML, and SQL, and as I only mention them in this disclaimer, you’re safely past them now. I also won’t advocate any pro-HDR, anti-HDR, or selective color agendas. I say this even though selective color is almost never a good idea, but I do think Selective Color Agenda would make a fantastic band name. With the legalese out of the way, let’s move on.

I bought my first SLR about 5 years ago.  I debated the purchase for nearly 6 months until my wife, Sara, said, “Oh for Pete’s sake, just buy it.” When it arrived, Sara and I headed down to Point Lobos, which is a state park just south of Carmel, CA. Landscape artist Francis McComas once called it, “The greatest meeting of land and water in the world.” I was armed with no clue how to use my Rebel XTi, just some instructions from a friend to put it in Av mode and shoot. After that first trip, I was hooked, even though none of the photos were any good. Having always lived in large cities, I’d never been one to go to state and national parks, but now I was a photographer. I now not only wanted to go to these places – I had to go to them.

I fell in love with landscape photography, and as many before me, it made me fall in love with California. I was new to the area and to be honest, I didn’t know when I moved out here that I would only be a short drive from Napa Valley, Yosemite, Mammoth Lakes, Big Sur, Redwoods National Forest; the list goes on and on. And so, here I was, an amateur photographer living in quite possibly the best place in the world for any photographer to call home. I did the only reasonable thing. I started exploring, seeing places in person that I had taken for granted as existing only in magazines and books.

As I started shooting more and more, something unexpected happened. I began to notice potential photographs pretty much all around me. I think as a photographer you become more aware of your surroundings. Such moments can be in the way a cloud rolls over a mountain peak, or the way the sun illuminates a person’s face through an airplane window, or the expression of a child meeting their hero at Disneyland. These moments are gifts and as photographers, it’s our job to capture them. To make this concept more concrete, I often think of Eisenstaedt’s photo of the sailor kissing the nurse after the end of World War II. That single image captures the elation, joy, and relief not only of a single soldier, but of the entire world. That’s why, 70 years later, we still know this photo. It carries a gravity with it, that is both timeless and grounded in our collective memory.

Before I moved to California, I salvaged a box containing family photos that was mistakenly put out with the trash. They sat in that box for several years, almost forgotten. As my experience in retouching my own images grew (thanks in no small part to Kelby Training), so did my interest in preserving those old family photos. I started sorting the box of images, and I realized that some of them were over 70 years old. I was shocked. I couldn’t believe how close we had come to the entire photographic record of my family being lost forever. I packed the images up in plastic wrap, and prepared to ship them off to be scanned. It was an incredibly emotional and thought provoking moment for me. All tangible forms of the smiles, tears, joy, and pride of four generations were wrapped in cellophane, sitting on my granite counter.

My mother’s brother, my uncle, died before I was born. An accidental fire broke out while he was asleep one night. Even though I never knew him, I feel a profound sense of loss and pain when I think about what happened so many years ago. Very little survived the fire, and what pictures of him we still had, were in this pile of photos. None were larger than a 4×6.

When the images were returned, I cropped, straightened, and restored nearly 1000 of them. I removed scratches, long set color casts, and fixed the aging paper. Mixed in with the stack of photos, I found one of my uncle from when he was on vacation. I don’t think my mother or I even knew it existed. I spent nearly a week fixing it. I removed a honeycomb pattern from the paper, added sharpness where I could, and enlarged the image to a 12×18. I had it framed, and I gave it to my mother for Christmas that year. I don’t think I’ve ever given her a better gift, than the rescued photo of her only brother. She hung that picture in her living room, and even without saying it, I knew how important it was to her.

That’s when I realized the second obligation of a photographer, and it’s one that most of us don’t do well at all. We have a tendency to want to be behind the lens, as a passive observer of life. However, we are part of the story, even if we don’t want to admit it. Most family photos are missing one person, and that’s unfortunate. And if that person is a photographer, the problem is often compounded. So while we strive to record those little moments that express true magic, we must also remember to participate in them. We are only on this earth for a short time, and while we may create memories in the form of photographs, we are not truly passive observers. We do have a place and a role to fulfill. When we’re gone, those who remain will never look back and wish that we had captured one more sunset image, but rather that we had spent one more sunset together.

Don’t forget to sometimes put the camera down, and stop trying to capture life, but live it. Accept that there are truly wonderful experiences on both sides of the lens, and while we can never capture them all, we don’t need to. Life is too short to try.

You can see more of Mike’s work at, find him on Google+ and Twitter, and come see him in person at the Google+ Photographer’s Conference!

Humble Beginnings

Most started as bird watchers, I always loved that fact. The birds had the secret they all wanted, sought and required!

We’d driven past the brown and white sign along the highway a couple of times, but Huffman Prairie Field meant nothing to us. Then at the Monday night briefing for the next day’s B-25 flight to Wright-Patterson for the Doolittle reunion celebration, it was mentioned we’d be flying over the field the next morning. So now I was curious. Four days later we decided to explore where the signs were directing us. We drove through the gate, which at first seemed would stop our quest. Negotiating it we went down a country road that turned into a one way lane. We came up to one of those big signs indicating ‘You Are Here’ telling us we were at a dead end road with a gate. In fact, we didn’t see a thing nearby resembling a field or prairie. We had no choice but to continue down the one way road.

We made a turn in the road, which took us out of the trees to a big open field that looked like any other field. It was a gorgeous day with an armada of giant puffy clouds, sailing across the crystal blue sky. The green carpet of spring grasses raced to the horizon to greet the clouds. We just had to stop to make a click. We got out and then saw another sign stating ‘You Are Here.’ But this time the sign said more, telling us we were on the edge of Huffman Prairie Field, the world’s first aerodrome! But it’s more than that.

Off in the distance we saw a small tower and shed, so we headed there to check them out. It was important to me to reach this place, in the middle of nowhere Ohio that 99% of the world has never heard of. It is from this point over 100 years ago all of our lives would be changed. Huffman Prairie Field is where the Wright Bros made their first powered and sustained flights, proving the flight was not only possible, but also our future!

Flying over this field in the nose of the B-25J “Maid in the Shade” to honor the Doolittle Raiders was quite something, especially when the Wright Brothers thought flight would stop wars because it would connect societies by bringing them closer together. Touring the Wright-Patterson USAF Museum and then writing this on my commercial flight home I am blown away how flight continues in magical, marvelous ways and to think it all started with simple bird watching.

A common beginning

How did your photography begin? Mine started as a bird watcher at age 9 (but I never invented a means of flight!). Do you ever take time to reflect on that first moment, experience, magic, love or click? I sure do. I grew up in a family of shutter buggers who were always taking pictures. We would have big family parties that would culminate at the end of day by sitting in front of a large screen either inside or outside in the summer viewing images, reliving past memories and telling new stories. Not much of a stretch understanding where I got it from.

Well wanting to participate in the fun and of course the attention that comes from having your photo on the screen, I needed a camera. I collected and saved Blue Chip stamps until finally I could redeem them to get a Kodak Brownie Instamatic. I was 9. By the time I was a freshman in high school, I was using my dad’s Argus he’d carried through the wars, which evolved to using his Minolta SRT 101. That lasted me about a year until I’d saved up my money to buy the latest and greatest Minolta SRT 202 (since my dad and brother had lenses, seemed like the thing to do). The first pages of my book Captured pick up the story from there when one evening on a beach in So California I had found my two loves of my life, Sharon and photography.

I doubt many of us have really too different of a beginning in photography. Bird watching or people watching, car watching or sports, like the Wright brothers something sparks in all photographers the power of observation and then the desire to share what we see with others. But unlike the Wright brothers, we are fortunate enough to hopefully learn from others who came before us. I personally can’t imagine that first time zipping down a rickety wooden rail in a wood and cloth contraption about to be launched into the air and feeling, “Is this a smart thing to be doing?” Photography in the beginning can be just as scary, especially when you share your photography for the first time! Wait until the first time you start to teach!

I have a desire

I’ve had a couple of great teachers in my life who have greatly influenced me. My dad loved to teach and had a style of making folks think about the answer. He devoted a lot of his life to helping other teachers be better teachers though that wasn’t his occupation. The other was my high school photo teacher. Mr. Traub made his students go out with a camera and find answers for themselves, not handing us easy answers or those that would work for just the moment. Not until I was much older would I understand why he started the first weeks of the class studying the images of old masters (McNally & Maisel were part of our lessons, ha!), looking at light and thinking about composition before he ever put a twin eye monster in our hands.

I started in my sophomore year and by the end of that year, Mr. Traub had me helping the new students. That’s when I started to teach photography and yet, I wasn’t even a photographer myself. And I’ve never stopped.

What is it about photography that gets us up early, takes us out in the rain, at times traveling what seems like the end of the earth just to make a click? I wonder if it’s really any different than what those cave dwellers in Germany felt when they made crude paintings on the wall we can still see today. Did they pass on their knowledge of mixing paint and painting? I wonder.

One of the greatest attributes of NAPP and especially Photoshop World is this huge community that comes together to celebrate creativity in all its visual forms! Even better is the amazing group of people, on stage and off with the desire to share what they have learned so others can learn from their life experiences. I love watching “fans” when they see in person one of their heroes at PSW for the first time. Even though we are all just people, we are very fortunate that fans think so highly of us when at some point, we all had the same simple beginnings.

Unlike the Wright brothers, those on stage are not sharing a new invention but more often just a different way of thinking, approaching and communicating visually. At the same time entertaining and inspiring you to not only try this or that new technique or tool, but also to share your vision. Share through your photographs and share through your teaching others what you’ve learned.

I’ve never heard of any photographer being born with a silver camera. Each and every one of us has had to move ourselves down the path and at times, with the help of others a little further down that path. That’s how I see myself, just a little bit further down that path than some and because of the passion my teachers passed along to me, a responsibility to pass that on to others. And now that you’ve had your beginnings, it’s up to you to pass along what you’ve learned as well! Just think how we can change the world if everyone shared that same desire to help others?

What’s this ramble all about? For quite a while now, I’ve encouraged photographers to share their images, knowing that photography can change the world. Now I want to challenge you to share what you’ve learned with other photographers! And it doesn’t matter what your skill level is, you have something to teach everyone and that includes me. I always come away with at least one great lesson from someone at Photoshop World, someone willing to share an experience they have had that I have not. You don’t have to do a workshop to teach, it can be as simple as a five minute conversation with someone at a camera store counter (of course finding one of those these days is a challenge).

Photographers, every single one as far as I’m concerned are the luckiest folks on the planet! The experiences life has afforded us and that we can share are life-changing. And all you have to do is look at some of the great “projects” already in place like Help-Portrait and you can see the change we can affect on the world. The Wright Brothers while protecting some of their concepts of flight because of business nonetheless opened the doors to a world we enjoy over 100 years later. They taught by doing, leading and inspiring. I think we as a photographic community can do the same thing. Wouldn’t it simply be cool in 100 years society could look back and see the tremendous changes photographers made with the simple act of sharing and teaching? And no matter where you’re at, take comfort in knowing that every single one of us started with humble beginnings.

You can see more of Moose’s work at and, check out the new BT Journal for iPad, and find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+

Photoshop CS6 : What’s in it for photographers?

First, thanks Scott for having me back, I always enjoy the opportunity to reach so many like-minded Photoshop users and photographers in one place. Photoshop means a lot of things to a lot of different people, but today I want to answer one of the questions I get from photographers – “what’s in it for us?”. The answer – more than ever.

Photoshop CS5 was one of our strongest releases to date; even though we grappled with the enormous mountain that was Cocoa, we still delivered a broad, powerful and very magical release. How do you follow that? Well, without a major architectural change we were able to respond with 62% more features than CS5! Here’s what excites me as a photographer.

Lets go from the general to the specific…

Adobe Camera Raw 7.0
For those of you enjoying Lightroom 4, you’re already aware that we have an entirely new raw processing engine. The new technology features a revamped UI with sliders all set to an equal start point; new auto functionality and most dramatically, new controls for shadows and highlights. As the below image from my iPhone shows, even shooting into the sun, you have considerably more latitude with your exposures. Why a phone you ask? If this is what can be done with a heavily compressed JPEG – imagine how nice the raw images look (they look amazing).

I shouldn’t fail to mention that local adjustments (by brush or graduated filter) have nearly doubled in number!

Mini Bridge
Mini Bridge can now run in a filmstrip; if you’re coming from Elements or Lightroom, you’ll appreciate the familiar interface. As before, Mini Bridge taps the power of Bridge and serves it up in the flexibility of a panel (you can drag and resize it as you like). Bridge has now been rewritten as a 64-bit native application; bottom-line, we can support as much memory as you have available. Faster, more stable and with a cleaner interface than ever before. I find that most photographers are spending a great deal of time in Lightroom, I’m no exception; my workflow (and I’ve found many who share it) is to get as far as I can in LR, then export DNG files {my HDR candidates, panos, composites, fine-art and things which need retouching} to a folder – I target that folder from within Photoshop in Mini Bridge.

This is a feature for everyone and I mention it because there’s much more than meets the eye. You can’t miss Photoshop’s new dark interface and we hope you like it. The darker tone helps make the image the center of your work; plus it’s consistent with Lightroom and our video applications, all of which are increasingly being used alongside Photoshop. This feature is anything but just a fresh coat of paint though; we replaced over 1,900 icons and policed alignment, cursors, buttons, layout and even grammar throughout the application.

If you’re fond of the old look (or two other options), you can easily change the UI tone in preferences. Our research strongly supports our default choice of dark grey, but we gave you a 4-way switch just in-case.

Background Save/Auto Recovery
One of the things I love about Lightroom is that it can save quietly in the background while I continue working; no waiting for a progress bar before I can continue on – thanks to Background Save, Photoshop can too. We didn’t stop there though, this technology gave us the ability to Auto Recover as well; this is one of those features you can’t really appreciate until it saves you. A few weeks back I was on a flight back from New York, busily putting together a demo in Photoshop; I had ignored my low battery indicators and my machine went dark in the middle of an operation – so frustrating. Hours later, back at my desk, I plugged my machine in and powered up; there were my open documents, patiently waiting in Photoshop – it just worked.

Gradient Map Presets
If you love Black & White as I do, you’ll definitely appreciate the new Gradient Map “Photographic Toning” presets for the adjustment layer of the same name.

Color Lookup
The new Color Lookup adjustment layer deserves a post of its own… (more…)

The first time I picked up a camera with actual intent, I hadn't yet decided to become a photographer - but I certainly knew that I wanted to suck less at photography than I did.

So I started studying pretty much anything I could get my hands on at the time. As this was nearly ten years ago, I was able to access about 10% of what I could if I were starting out as a photographer today.

I set out to learn my camera from the ground up, and that included shooting in manual mode and putting myself through the paces until I learned enough about responding to a variety of situations that I finally felt in control of my equipment. That also meant I took on quite a variety of work for some time - if I could gain experience, get paid, and stay out of any sort of legal snafu, or at least prison time, I'd do it. In my first few years as a photographer, I shot weddings, editorial, headshots, children, family portraits, glamour, political campaigns, newborns, maternity, travel photography, landscapes, food, commercial work, editorial work, stock, architecture & interiors, and sports.

I didn't attempt underwater photography or aerial photography, but that's about all I didn't cover; I was essentially an everything-on-land photographer.

But everything-on-land is a lot of ground to cover and although I enjoyed the experience of shooting nearly all of it, it wasn't long before I recognized that I was becoming a great generalist and a pretty crappy specialist. I wanted to master something. Or at least I wanted to start the process of mastering something because, as it turns out, by the time you master anything in photography, all the rules change - and then you just end up building from there, working towards a new type of mastery.

I decided to narrow the field down to portraits and really place my focus there. The biggest surprise was finding out that those years of shooting so much variety taught me more than I would have ever guessed. I learned that shooting weddings (especially several hundred weddings) prepares you for being able to shoot anything, anywhere, and in any lighting situation - especially if you believe that your job, as the photographer, is to be able to roll with the day and be up for anything that unfolds, no matter what.

I also learned that shooting sports teaches you to anticipate the look of frozen movement, like the precise moment a runner tucks an elbow back and in while lifting his knee in symmetry, which is different than anticipating emotion, like the sweet moment a resistant father of the bride finally gives in to overwhelming sentiment.

(I also learned that you should never skimp on great lenses ⦠and you need to get past any body consciousness you might have when you're in the pool shooting an Olympic Gold Medalist swimmer with 1% body fat - but I digress.)

The reason I was most drawn to portraits is because that is where I found the most significant amount of connection between my subjects and me. It was also my best opportunity to build long-term relationships that would pay off exponentially not only in referrals and sales, but in having a front row seat to follow the lives of those I came to care about a great deal.

A great example is actually tied to the new book I just wrote, Envisioning Family. The focus of the book is about making meaningful portraits of the modern family - but the cover image is a pretty meaningful portrait in and of itself.

What's compelling to me about this cover is that I have been photographing this family since 2003, and so much has changed for them before and after this specific portrait was shot. Initially, nine years ago, it was just the couple and their baby. Then the second daughter came along. Then a third little girl came joined in - and suddenly life got more difficult, about the same time the army came calling. The family of five moved to the West coast and Dad was called up for a long-term deployment to Afghanistan. Mom became a single parent to three kids, as well as a doctor, working the night shift at a very busy Easy Bay hospital ER. And their middle child, the one on the cover of this book, was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder that caused all of her hair, everywhere on her body, to fall out. Her parents were told that it was not going to grow back. And this diagnosis came through while dad was very far away – and would still be very far away for the rest of the year. It was simply a very rough time for them. And, yet, you can look at that image and still see such sweetness and care. You can see that this child would be protected.

As happens between portrait sessions, time moved forward, and we just had another shoot two weeks ago. Dad is now home and out of the military (with decidedly longer hair), they moved back to their hometown, mom's work life improved dramatically, they gave birth to a brand new baby boy - and, an unexplained medical miracle, their little girl just started growing hair again: beautiful, bouncy, auburn hair. She's the little photographer in the top photo of this post - and here she is in her very own portrait:

We know it's a privilege to do the work we do, especially for appreciative clients. We also know that the reason it is called work is because it's just that: there's a significant effort involved in producing portraits that capture something genuine, expressive, soulful, and beautiful, while still being shot technically well with respect to solid exposure and great lighting. Since so much needs to come together in the right instant, challenges abound in each shoot. Especially when you're photographing children.

Like when your subject is wearing a beautiful dress, but it also happens to be mega-bright white, and you're shooting on an extremely sunny day at the worst time of day (thank you, reflector-that-acts-as-a-flag):

Or when you find an amazing new location, but realize right after you get the great shot, that there are ticks everywhere, and you're suddenly swarmed (you pluck them off as best you can and then make a run for it):

Or those times your subject takes a while to warm up and won't put on "the good clothes" (you distance yourself considerably, talk in a soft voice, use a 200m focal length – and then just wait as long as it takes):

Or if you happen to be shooting in dappled sunlight and you can't remember which twin is which (reflector as shade, pop in some fill flash, and create brand new, interchangeable names for them for the length of the shoot):

Or that evening when there's a lot of wind on the beach and you're shooting belly-to-the-sand (keep two lenses attached to two bodies and use a lens hood and, depending on spray, a plastic bag):

Or if you're facing a very nervous little girl who is being photographed for a workshop you're leading, and the crowd of shooters behind you is scaring her to bits (stay close to her with a wide lens, speak to her gently but consistently and calm her further by maintaining eye contact and moving the lens ever so slightly away from your face):

Or when it's near freezing, rainy and cloudy (encourage color, shoot low to show less sky and more local scene, and make it a game that your subject will jump several times, until you get what you need):

Or in the not-uncommon instance when a little girl is all done with the shoot and just wants to go home now (simply take one last photo and then let her go ;)

I could go on and on when it comes to listing challenges and found solutions, but I can nearly hear Brad and Scott whispering that this is a blog post and not a manifesto, so instead I'll summarize by saying that most of the joy of portrait photography comes from the consistent practice of:

– Learning the technical specifics so well that you don't have to let thoughts of equipment interrupt the interaction with your subject
– Understanding that connecting with your subjects is just as important as any other aspect of portrait photography, if not the most important aspect
– Falling back on quotes as a wonderful way to end your blog posts

So, lastly, in the wonderful words of Erik Christopher Zeeman, remember this:

"Technical skill is mastery of complexity, while creativity is mastery of simplicity."

You can see more of Tamara’s work at, find her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter, and circle her on Google+

Photo by Collin Hughes

This is awesome. I have never done a guest blog before, so thanks to Scott and Brad for giving me the opportunity.

I am a music photographer and I spend most of my time photographing bands/ musicians while they tour the world. In addition to photographer I also make those fun Lens Bracelets® you may have seen floating around recently at Photoshop World DC. Anyway, it’s really hard to sum up my career path quickly, but I still want you to give you a bit of background information on myself so that you know where I am coming from. Bullet points will suffice:

  • Started photography at age 16 for high school year book assignment. I was living in Madison, WI at the time
  • Went to tons of local shows, started bringing camera and photographing them for fun/made me feel “cool” (cut me some slack, I was young)
  • Befriended the local promoters, traded show photos for free admission and band posters
  • Began working with online music sites, getting press passes for larger shows and shooting from the pit
  • Bands started crashing at my house after shows and we would do quick press shoots the next day around town
  • Became good friends with a few younger national touring acts
  • Flew out to New York for my first big shoot when I was a senior in high school, totally blew it, shots never used
  • College for a semester while still shooting press images on spec and live shows when I could, started making pretty decent money
  • Stop college, go on the road with a band I was good friends with for 30 days, full USA, 8 dudes, 15 passenger van, smelly
  • Kept touring for next 18 months or so, continued shooting live and press images, working for publications
  • Moved to San Diego on a whim, continued touring and shooting
  • I have been doing a mixture of everything for the past few years. Shooting bands in studio, on the road, off the road and working for a few various publications.

That’s the gist of it. There is heaps more, but at least it gives you an idea of what I have been up to. You can check out a full list of where I have been here, and view a map of it all here. If you want to get a little more in depth about whats its like to live on the road, I suggest checking out my five part blog about a summer I spent on The Vans Warped Tour, which was pretty wild. Here is part one to get you going.

Like any photographer I have grown a lot over the past few years. I didn’t like shooting live and/or candid images of people at all to begin with. In fact, at first I was very emotionally disconnected from photography. I thought of it as a pretty basic thought process – get five sweaty dudes, put em in order and make ’em look nice so they can sell some records. However it has turned into something more than that for me. I imagine it will continue to connect with more and more as I continue to shoot and grow, but at this current point in time I am pretty stoked on shooting lives/candids and portraits. Lifestyles is a good way putting it.

So we left off with shooting live and candid images of the band on tour. What does this exactly mean? Well, put simply, just think of me as a professional stalker. I follow the guys around from sunrise to sunset, and then well into the night documenting just about everything. I have a blast and it is definitely more of a hang out with some photography splashed in it here and there. I go on the road for no upfront cost- however I make my money by selling my images to publications, labels, managers and the bands themselves. I prefer doing it this way because when a band takes me on the road I am on my own schedule. For example if we were in London for a day and I wanted to spend it all with my uncle I could. It’s also nice because there is no pressure to shoot anything, everything I do is self assigned and shot because I want to shoot it. When I am forced to shoot images like this I tend to have a very difficult time getting into the shots. Maybe that’s a good thing, maybe it’s something I need to work on- I haven’t quite figured it out yet.

For the most part my shoot locations change everyday on the road. Cities, backstage, hotel rooms, sites, and wherever else we may wander. However after a week of touring and shooting the same band for five nights in a row, every live shot I took started looking pretty similar. The stages and crowds would change but it was hard for the most part to tell the images apart. I started getting comments on my blog that “All my live images looked alike” – and after looking them over totally agreed. I mean, I shot the same show at least 15 times on one tour, I had to start learning and challenging myself in one way or another or I would get bored- and if I am bored, you most likely are too. That is never fun! And my main goal while doing anything in life is to have fun. Must. Have. Fun.

So I started switching it up by putting my own flashes on stage. I have learned some pretty solid techniques that really started changing my images. So obviously I wasn’t taking my best shots this whole time, but I was learning, out shooting, making mistakes. Between then and now I have learned how to shoot on stage with 1-2 flashes, so I decided to share that with you. My next step will be to use more flashes, and to start gelling/ color coordinating them and balancing them with the stage lights. However, it’s a lot harder than it seems and it gets expensive. (Note to self, convince to loan me 50 flashes so I can takeover a stage.)

So for now, we shall stick with two lights. Most of the images I shoot are black and white, because to be quite honest, most stage lights are really ugly. There are a few really good lighting designers, but a lot of the time not so much. And even if I do get a good LD, they might use all red lighting and then I am really screwed. I have started to gel my flashes once in awhile but again, I am still working on it. So black and white in the mean time- plus it looks badass.

I recently photographed a band I have been working with for almost four years now, The Devil Wears Prada (after the book, before the movie). They had a show at The Glass House in Pomona, California on March 16. Now, unlike most of my live shoots, I only had one day to shoot these guys. When I am on the road with bands I can assign each day to getting a few images. So for example maybe I will focus on just the drummer for the whole set and really knock out every angle with multiple lighting set ups for the whole 65 minutes. But because this particular shoot was just one show, I had to try to make the most of it with what little time I had.

Here is how I lit the stage. The red squares are my flashes, and the blue area is where I shot all my photographs from.

Here is a quick video of me running around setting up each flash and testing them out. Now sometime after the main support act finished and The Devil Wears Prada started, I had to set all these bad boys up. Here’s a quick video of me running around on stage. Basically what I do is set each light up, take a test shot or two. Then go modify the lights accordingly. I also takes shots so I can see where the light is hitting.

Light #1: 580ex behind the drummer

Goal: Light up drummer and separate him from background, also lighting up everyone else from behind if possible

Trips/ tricks:
– Try to shoot from pit and keep drummers body between you and your flash head
– Turn flash power up high, this way you can knock out stage light when needed without having to adjust flash
– You can always add more ambient light in by lowering shutter speed, won’t effect flash
– sweat drops and smoke will give you amazing effects with this backlit technique
– don’t blind your drummer if he turns around!, or the drum tech

Previous shots using this technique

A Day To Remember live in Cologne, Germany on Febuary, 18th 2011

Eric of Breathe Carolina in London, UK on September 24th, 2011

Alex Shellnut of A Day To Remember in M¼nster, Germany on October 28th, 2009

Light #2: 580ex on stage right

Goal: light up anyone on stage, no matter where you are shooting from, also be used to silhouette people

Trips/ tricks:

Success in wedding photography and especially in performing on the wedding day is more about your communication skills and your listening skills and knowing how to read people.  That will go a long way in making you a great photographer rather than focusing on how technically brilliant you are. The ability to have an endearing and attractive personality and the ability to work under pressure while still being technically proficient is especially important.  You almost need to be like a chameleon. In the sense that you need to know how to be relaxed and more down to earth at a casual wedding and at the same time be able to carry yourself professionally when you're at a high society wedding.

I also believe that assisting at weddings is the best training for any photographer. At the very first wedding that I assisted, I probably learned more than in all of the time I spent in school.  And that was because I was getting on the job, real world training.  At that first wedding I was taught about the direction of light, how to use flash, interacting with clients, working under pressure, working under time constraints.

I literally just carried bags and assisted a photographer for a year and half with no pay while I was working at a camera store selling cameras.  I did all of that just so I could be involved in the industry.  And that's because when you're photographing a wedding, you're actually shooting much more than that. You're shooting a wedding, portraits and fashion, you're shooting photojournalistically, shooting product (all the details that you need to document), landscape, etc.

So you're photographing in all these different genres and under time constraints, weather constraints, different cultures and dealing with different personalities, so I truly believe that a really good wedding photographer can pretty much shoot in any genre.  Artistically, don't be safe or stay in your comfort zone by going to "pose number 23 in location number 37".  Comfort zones have never been synonymous with artistic expression.

I encourage new photographers to be as passionate about their business as they are about their photography. Consider yourself a businessperson first who happens to be a photographer.  As a business owner ask yourself, "Am I working in my business or on my business?"  Surround yourself with great people – your studio is only four walls without good staff. Stop being a control freak and get some help.  Educate yourself.  Seminar and workshops can literally change your life.  After all, knowledge is power.  Don't be too precious about the work.

When it comes to marketing your new business, you should work on marketing that costs you nothing by first asking your clients and vendors for referrals and maximizing relationships with people who can help you.  Also, try a same day slide show at the reception.  It's the best direct marketing you will ever do and you can also charge good money for it. If you are going to invest in advertising, don't think about the advertising dollars you are parting with and think instead about the return. Whenever an advertising opportunity presents itself ask yourself, "Is there a better way I can spend this money?" And finally, don't forget to consider yourself a brand.  Build it and they will come.

One of my favorite mantras has always been that I don't focus on being the best; I just focus on being better than last week.  I believe this is one of the keys to being successful and consistently creating beautiful images.  By doing that, you become the best that you can be - you realize your own potential.

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