Category Archives Guest Blogger

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Top Four Reasons Why You Can’t Afford to Miss Kristina’s New Class

Ok everyone, it’s slowly counting down to the Holidays and one of the things on my wish list, is TIME! At this point in the year, it’s that one elusive thing that slips away through our fingers that there never seems to be enough of. Well – this mysterious thing called time isn’t just in high demand during the holidays, but always. So, when it comes to my method of teaching Photoshop and Lightroom… if the technique doesn’t save you time, then I’m not interested in teaching it.

Tip #1: TIME
As you can imagine, my new KelbyOne class does just that. Saves. You. TIME. So many people out there think it’s not possible to retouch portraits solely in Adobe Lightroom, so they take each and every portrait they shoot into

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A Guide To Becoming A Filmmaker Using DSLR Cameras:
Helping Photographers Transition Into Filmmaking

I’m like most filmmakers who started off using HDSLR cameras to shoot video. However I started off passionately pursing a career in photography and toyed around with my new camera’s video settings and then BOOM! A video career began. 

A common story I hear from creative folks in my circle is that they just got a new camera and it shoots video, so they’re looking for ways to learn how to break into making money through booking video gigs. 

Little backstory on myself and how I got into video and where it took me… I purchased a Nikon that had video capabilities. It was never my intention to break into video, but I thought it would be a great thing to learn. Thought maybe I could offer video services in addition to my photography and double the amount I made. That’s exactly what happened, and it took me further than I could have ever imagined. 

I first began filming bands performing live in studios. Being a musician myself, I gravitated toward my personal interest, music and live performance. I suggest finding a way to film the things you enjoy most. If you’re into cooking, start with some cooking videos. If you want to film documentaries, grab a close friend who has a story you want to help them share with the world. Start small, knock something out and get that first project done and under your belt. 

After dabbling in video with bands, I decided to take video more seriously and grow it as large as I possibly could. Fast forward a few years, I linked up with Chicago Music Exchange and spent three years building their video channel. During that time I created over 400 videos for the independent music store. It grew the business from $3M a year to over $12M in sales a year, and we won the Chicago Crain’s business award for best use of Social Media to grow a company. The owner of the music store went onto create a platform called Reverb.com that allows musicians to buy sell and trade their used instruments online. We began with the same techniques with social media and integrated video to get the company up and running and had the same results. Reverb.com just won Music INC Magazine’s “Best Company of 2016.”

The point being that video provided a lucrative career for me and proved to be a necessary tool in the growth of these two striving companies. I’m so glad I picked up video and put that in my arsenal of creative skills. I think if you’re remotely interested in learning video, you can most definitely grow your company and expand your story telling capabilities.

I’d like to note that it was very important for me to continually focus on photography while growing my eye for motion. The two are very complimentary to each other. If you’ve got a knack for photography, it’ll be even easier to make the transition into video.

SHORTCUTS TO BREAKING INTO VIDEO

Let’s start with the basics. You’ve got a camera that shoots video. These tips should help you set your camera to the proper video settings. 

Switch your camera to “Live Mode.”

Select manual mode on your camera. 

Set Your Frame Rate, or Frames Per Second (FPS)
Your options here are 24, 30, or 60. This is a different setting than your shutter speed, which we’ll talk about next.

Quick Breakdown of each FPS:

  • 24FPS will give you that classic Cinematic look. Just about every large motion picture is filmed in this format. This is the most natural and relaxing way for the eye to see motion pictures. 
  • 30FPS would be for needing a little extra clarity. Perhaps you are showing off some products or doing a talking head interview and prefer the look.
  • 60FPS is going to allow you to slow your footage in post-editing by 50% and give you a clean slow motion effect.

Select Your Shutter Speed
The rule of thumb here is to double your shutter as closely as you can depending on what you set your FPS. So for instance if your FPS is set to 24FPS, you’ll set your shutter to 1/50 of a second. For 30FPS it’ll be 1/60 of a sec and if you choose 60FPS you’ll need to set your shutter to 1/125 of a sec.

Most cameras will allow you to crank your shutter up as high as your camera shoots like 1/8000. However you really want to stick to these guidelines to get the proper look for your video. 

*Pro tip – When you shoot outdoors it may be temping to increase your shutter speed, but make sure to raise your f-stop, not shutter. If your image is still blown out and far too bright, consider purchasing a Neutral Density Filter. The toughest part at the beginning is using your video in super bright conditions, because you need to shoot at 1/50 of a second outdoors which is hard to do, especially if you want have a shallow depth-of-field look to your video.

Setting Your White Balance
Quick tip is if you’re outdoors, set your Kelvin manually to 5600K. That’ll be good rule of thumb for shooting anything in Daylight. If you’re indoors, start with 3200K. This cooler setting with compensate for the warmer light that is emitted by indoor lighting fixtures (aka Tungsten light). 

These can vary depending on the lighting in your space, but start there and make small corrections up or down depending on the skin tone you’re looking to achieve. 

Using Multiple Cameras
For shooting multiple cameras, it’s absolutely imperative to set all your cameras to the same settings on each of your cameras. Factory reset all your cameras and start over with all of your settings. You never know when you’re borrowing a buddies camera or if you had rented an extra body, if someone tweaked some settings in other modes like Color Profiles and what not. 

For most people that’s the extent of the manual settings you need to know in order to start using your camera in manual video mode.

Advanced Video Settings
Color profiles are commonly found in your cameras shooting menu. I suggest using your “Standard” setting if you’re using your camera for the first few times. Once you’ve mastered the basics and want to experiment with different “Looks” then head to your camera’s menu and try the different Color Profiles available to you. The mode most cinematographers will choose is “Flat” or “Neutral.” This setting lowers the contrast in your camera and allows for more highlights to be captured without blowing them out. In addition it raises your shadows, allowing for more details to be captured in the darker areas of your scene. 

The main reason for selecting this setting would be for doing additional color correcting in the post-editing process. This mode give you the most flexibility in your post-process. Imagine this being similar to shooting a JPEG vs RAW. The RAW captures more details and allows for more editing capabilities. HOWEVER, don’t mistake this for being RAW video. There are cameras out there that literally capture RAW video and you’re looking at a whole different ball game with those cameras. 

The RAW capture cameras are RED, Black Magic and ARRI Alexa, to name a few. These are cinema cameras and don’t belong to the DSLR family. However, using these high-end cinema cameras is most definitely the direction you want to look forward to when expanding your career in large scale commercial work or feature length films.

Choosing The Right Lens
Being that I was a portrait photographer, shooting shallow depth-of-field video was my first priority and venture into filmmaking. I wanted to make my videos appear much like my photographs. A nice blown out background looks very cinematic, but when your subject is moving around the scene, it can be very challenging to keep your image in focus. 

When shooting video I rarely shoot wide open apertures like f/1.4. I typically stay between f/2.8 and f/4. This is going to help you keep your subject in focus and allow you more wiggle room to keep your subject nice and sharp. So when beginning, it may be tempting to use your portrait prime lenses, but keep those lenses reserved for nice b-roll or when your camera is on a tripod shooting a talking head interview, where there is little to no motion in your scene. 

*Pro-tip – There are lenses with built-in stabilizers in them. These are the lenses I gravitate toward when wanting a nice clean professional look. Here is a simple way of knowing if a lens has a stabilizer built-in. For Nikon it will be labeled as “VR” which stands for Vibration Reduction, and for Canon they label it as “IS” for Image Stabilization. Same thing, just named differently by brand. This is a major help in the field, especially when you’re putting your camera in motion.

Stabilizing Your Camera
The first mistake most beginners make is hand holding your camera for video, myself included. In order to take video seriously and get a proper look to your video, you’ll need to attach it to something to keep it far more stable than your hands. You don’t want every film you make looking like a Blair Witch film. Below are a few basic options. 

Tripod – There is one major over looked difference between a tripod for photography and for video. The difference is for video you need to use a Fluid Video Head. This is the mechanism you camera attaches to on the very top your tripod. For photography, they focus on tilting your camera up and down and panning left and right, but its not meant to move smoothly. However the fluid video head allows you to move your camera in a smooth motion in all directions. This will be a necessary tool for shooting clean professional looking video. 

Monopod – This is one legged stand that you can attach your camera to that allows you to pick up with ease and be very mobile. The trick here is attach a fluid video head to help keep everything smooth in your image. These stands collapse very small and are great for traveling and taking up very little space. 

Shoulder Rig – Rigs like these vary in size and price. Some can tuck under your arm or against your chest, or of course, over your shoulder. This rig gives you full range of mobility and is an excellent option versus hand-holding your camera. Shoulder rigs greatly increase your ability to hold your camera still and provide excellent stability. 

Slider – A slider is a simple track that you can attach your camera to that gives you smooth motion from left to right. To increase the motion capabilities, add a fluid video head and you’ve a great setup for putting your camera in motion and keeping your image stable. 

Dolly – A dolly is much larger version of a slider. A board with wheels can glide across rails giving you the ability to move your camera left and right with many more feet of travel. I prefer using 12ft length of dolly track. You can set your fluid head tripod on top of this platform and add very simple, but professional looking movement to your video. 

Jib/Crane – Like all of these tools, they can come in many ranges of build and size, same for jibs. A jib is a projected arm that you attach to your camera and raise your camera up and down with large sweeping movements. Smaller jibs can be as simple as an attachment on your tripod, and others are so large they require hours of set up and balancing. This is a great way to get some unbelievable elevated shots. They offer a look in motion that the previous tools simply do not offer. These are tricky to navigate the larger in size, so its preferred to find someone who is a dedicated jib operator for larger productions. 

Gimbals – By definition, gimbals are pivoted supports that allow the rotation of an object about a single axis. There are several popular gimbals on the market but the one most commonly know is called a Ronin. A Ronin is a camera stabilization system designed to give the operator close to the freedom of unencumbered handheld shooting but without the hand-shake.  This system is fantastic for shots less than 3 minutes in length before needing to rest. Any longer and your arms may turn to jello and your risk dropping your camera. There are add-ons you can add to help hold the gimbal in place, but they become pretty cumbersome and may require advance knowledge of the tool. In that case, you may just want to hire some to run a Steadicam, which is a handheld gimbal that works completely on balance of your camera and does not offer any mechanical assistance.

Audio 
We can’t talk about making videos without talking about capturing sound. There are built-in mics on most DSLR cameras. However, I suggest finding a higher quality way of capturing sound. This subject can get very complex and in-depth, but I’ll try to keep it simple and as basic as possible for jumping into video for the first time.

On Camera Shotgun Microphones – Most cameras offer a mic input jack. This is perfect for plugging in a DSLR shotgun mic that attached to the hot shoe. This allows your directional microphone to be recorded on the same video file when recording and does not require any additional syncing of audio and video in post production.  

Handheld Recorder – There are a few popular models such as the Zoom H4n that offer nice stereo built-in microphones along with several inputs to attach other mics via XLR microphone cable. This option will require you to sync your audio to your video in post production. 

*Pro tip – To make syncing of audio and video easier in post-production, be sure to hit record on your recorder and your camera, then use a clap within the frame of your video and near and loud enough to be picked up by your audio recording device. Then in post production you have a visual cue to match to your audible que. If your camera’s built-in mic is recording audio and picks up the clap as well, you can sync in most editing software using the audio signal from the video. The software will examine both the audio from your camera and separate audio device and sync the two clips automatically. This is a huge time saver. On the flip side, if something happens where the audio on your camera wasn’t recording or loud enough, you still have the visual cue from the clap recorded on video.

Storage
You’re making large resolution video and not pictures now, so you’ll need a storage device other than your internal computer hard-drive. It’s time to invest in external hard-drives. My preference for storing and editing video is LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt / USB 3.0 hard-drives. They come in several memory sizes, but 1TB or 2TB should be good for beginning. You can work your way up to a 60TB hard-drive that allow you to edit RAW video with ease. But for now, just grab one of those fun orange hard-drives and take your storage with you. With these drives you don’t need to plug any external power sully into a wall, and it’s fast enough to allow all your video files to live on your external drive while being edited on your computer. Without externals, you risk filling up your computers internal memory and slowing your machine down to a snail’s pace. Buy a drive.

Editing
Let’s focus on two editing software options. Both come with trial versions, so give it 30 days and figure out which you prefer. 

Final Cut Pro X – This system runs great and is an easy transition for those who may have dabbled with iMovie in your early stages of editing or prefer to use Apple based programs. This is what I prefer, but only because I’ve had many years of practice and experience with this particular platform. 

Adobe Premiere Pro – If you currently use Adobe’s Creative Cloud for Photoshop and Lightroom, then Premiere Pro is waiting for you to download a trial version within seconds. This may be a great option for you is you’re familiar with the Adobe programs.

Both of these accomplish the same task, it just comes down to personal preference. 

Exporting
One of the most common questions comes down to the exporting process. When your video is done and ready to be sent off into the world to be seen, you have to select a format or “Codec” to export your video file. It’s safe to say that if you export your file as “H.264” it’ll be widely accepted on most online video platforms and play on most any device. It’s the industry standard.

Wrap Up
When shooting stills and video, the camera may be the same, but the approach has to be different. The biggest difference comes down to the settings and tools you use to create video vs still photography. Use this quick guide to set your camera up and get shooting. The most important thing is to try, so get out there, film something small and build on that experience. Use one camera at first, then try using two cameras and editing between the two. Move on to putting your camera in motion and focus on building on to what you last learned from your previous video. Keep elevating your level of production and stay innovative. The world is waiting to see what you come up with!

You can see more of Chris’s work at ChrisHershman.com, and follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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A massive hello from the UK and thank you to both Scott & Brad for allowing me to write this week’s guest blog.

When thinking about the topic to write for this blog, I instantly wanted to write about the retouching industry. Having been working as a retoucher for nearly 5 years I’ve noticed that it isn’t talked about enough. Retouching is a very specialist field within the photography industry. Unless you are lucky enough to live in major cities like London or New York, the jobs are very few and far between. That’s why it’s important to understand and be absolutely committed to your decision to be a retoucher.

So what does it take to be a retoucher?

Know Your Software

This may be pretty obvious, but you must know Photoshop. 90% of major studios use Photoshop, and the other 10% use Lightroom. These may be smaller outlets or perhaps working for a freelance photographer. It’s good to know Lightroom, but the majority of the time you will be using Photoshop. Photoshop gives you more control and allows you to do a lot more to your images.

You may think, “Well I use Lightroom so I’ll be fine with that.” For your own photography that might be fine, but working in a studio environment may be a lot different. It also depends on what retouching industry you’re going into. If you want to work for a powerhouse who creates editorial and fashion content for a major brand, Photoshop is essential. If you work for a photographer who shoots weddings or family portraiture, they may only need minor tweaks made, which could be done in Lightroom.

If you’re thinking about going into retouching, it’s good practise to do your research and find what styles of images you enjoy, to determine what software is essential for you. However, I would always say learn Photoshop as much as you can.

Which follows on to my next quick point, learn Photoshop every single day. Be a sponge and take in as many courses, tips and tutorials as you can.  [I would highly recommend KelbyOne for classes, and a cheeky plug to my own tutorials for quick Photoshop tips].

It’s always important to continually develop yourself and learn new things which can help your workflow and make things easier and more efficient for you. Learn from books, videos, magazines and even learn from your favourite Photographers and Retouchers. Be smart.

Be Proactive

Don’t let the work come to you. If you’re just starting out in your retouching journey, the best thing you can do is retouch your own images. Take photographs of everything; portraits, landscapes, architecture, food, products,  sports, pets, anything. You’ll learn very quickly that some genres of photography require a lot more retouch but it will help you gain the experience and knowledge of what each images requires in terms of retouching. Portraits of models will take a lot longer than a shot of a pet for example. This not only will allow you to understand the tools but will help you figure out how long it’s taking you. I elaborate on time management further into this post.

If you don’t own a camera or you feel you don’t have the experience to take your own images, why not ask a fellow Photographer if you can borrow their images to retouch for your own personal use. You could even use forums like Model Mayhem where Photographers upload their own images for creatives to practice on for their own personal portfolio. It’s a great way of getting experience on professional images. Being proactive is an essential trait to have for a Retoucher.

Network and collaborate on creative projects. Find a Photographer to bounce ideas off and produce a project; something fun for the Photographer, something fun for you. They’ll be able to shoot the product or portrait and you can retouch the image. It’s a great way of building a portfolio with a set of images that involve your own ideas. Get yourself out there.

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Patience is Essential

Using Photoshop can be super frustrating; you’ll run into issues you may not be able to figure out, or come across an image that’s going to need hours of work. So my next tip is have patience. Retouching can be a very long winded process, but, you’ll find that once you finish the image, you’ll feel very proud and happy with the end result. This is something that most retouchers love about retouching. Seeing the process from start to finish and knowing that they’ll have a wonderful piece of work at the end of it.

Patience is key when working with Photoshop. It may take several hours to complete one image, so it’s about getting through it and enjoying the journey. You may run into technical issues along the way, whether it’s something you can’t achieve or don’t know how to do. Retouching will give you problems that you have to solve.

You may ask yourself, “How am I going to achieve this?” Use your problem solving skills to figure out the easiest and most efficient way of resolving the issue. If you’re not sure, ask. There are plenty of people around the world who’ll be able to help you with your problem. Once you know how to solve it, you can use that same technique in the future. Eventually you’ll build up a toolbox of knowledge and be able to solve similar issues in the future.

Another great tip is to walk away. If you’re getting stuck with an image or you’ve spent too long on it, come away from it and return to it the following day. You’ll be surprised how much this can help. You’ll have a fresh look on the image and spot things you may have missed or figure out how to solve an issue. If you’re up against the clock, ask someone for feedback. With a fresh pair of eyes, they’ll be able to see any issues and you’ll be able to fix anything within enough time of your deadline.

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Be Committed

Dedication is definitely needed when going into the retouching industry. Depending on the kinds of images you’ll be retouching, the industry can get quite monotonous. Especially if you’re working on the same shots day in day out. You have to be committed to the craft and really want it.

Be prepared for images that could potentially consume your time, especially if they take 2-3 hours. Being committed and persistent with the images will be very rewarding, especially when you see your finished pieces on the web or in print. Having the passion for retouching is essential if you want to succeed in the industry. If you get more and more retouching experience under your belt, the commitment will soon show.

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Manage your Time

When you start in the retouching industry, you’ll soon figure out that managing your time is essential. You’ll find that some clients’ work will require a 10-minute clean up whilst others may require 2 hours retouch. It’s all about good time keeping and constantly watching the clock; especially when deadlines need to be met. Products and ecommerce, for example, can require anything from 2 to 10 mins per shot (depending on the specification and brief of the job). Portraits and high end fashion may require hours of attention, especially if they are being shot on high end cameras or they have been shot for print. Attention to detail is key here but it’s important to always remember your timings. Most studios are very fast paced, but you’ll pick up speed as you get used to their processes and practises.

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Have fun.

By all means, this isn’t an extensive list of the skills and traits that a retoucher must have, but perhaps some of the most important to succeed in the industry. Don’t feel put off by these either; most traits can be learnt, especially the most important trait – learning Photoshop.

My last point, is to simply have fun. Whether you’re just starting out or are thinking of joining the retouching industry, always enjoy what you do. Whether it’s retouching a product shot for web or retouching a billboard for a major fashion label; do your best and enjoy every second.

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Get creative, educate yourself, pick up your speed, solve problems, be patient, manage your time, collaborate, have fun.

Thank you for reading!
– Fran Hughes

You can see more of Fran’s work at FrancescaHughes.com and follow her on YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter.

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Photo by Angelea Presti

This is my story, and I’m grateful and excited to be sharing with you all. It isn’t the prettiest tale… but it’s real. So, my name is John Brown, and I’m a photographer in Nashville, Tennessee.

I was born in Würzburg, Germany, and mostly grew up in Mons, Belgium until I was 8 years old. My father served 25 years in the US Army, so my brother and I were fortunate to have such a unique experience growing up. After my dad retired we moved to Shelbyville, Tennessee. Shelbyville is pretty small, and, at least when I was in high school, there wasn’t much art or music around, which is what I’ve always gravitated towards. I didn’t do very well in high school; I believe my GPA was 2.75 or somewhere close. Looking back it makes sense. There wasn’t any creativity, but when there was I thrived and put forth effort.

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After I graduated high school (barely), I went to a small community college called Motlow State, located within a short drive of the Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee. I believe I first majored in Mechanical Engineering because I wanted to build things, but I realized math was not one of my strengths. So I changed to Business Administration the next semester, and I realized math was not one of my strengths… again. My third semester I took a math class, and a guitar theory class, for a whopping total of 4 credit hours. I’m sure my parents were just stuck in a never ending eye roll at the point. But thankfully the next semester I finally took an art class… which completely changed my life.

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The art professor was this incredibly talented, quirky, and underpaid genius. I remember him stressing the importance of composition over almost anything else. That really stuck with me. I finished out my 2 year associate degree in art, and transferred to MTSU nearby as an art/music double major, with no idea what I wanted to do afterward. I loved to draw, and play guitar, drums, and sing. But there still wasn’t really a niche standing out to me yet. At the same time, I was a 21 year old college kid that didn’t know anything about anything. Life was really good. I had just moved out on my own for the first time, and I was going to a big college with interesting classes and lots of new people (and girls) to interact with. Life was good. And then… it wasn’t.

Half way through my first semester at MTSU, in fall of 2007, my mom attempted suicide. At the time I thought it was my fault, because I was the youngest son and I had moved out. I wouldn’t learn till later that the truth was something much different. Basically my mom had a migraine for about a year straight, and was actively going to a couple of doctors about it. After some months of not figuring out the cause, they gradually put my mom on a dozen or so prescriptions. And all these drugs literally drove my mom crazy to the point that she tried to take her own life. I thank God every day for having parents that love each other like mine. My dad is the the reason my mom is still around. And just so you know, she’s doing very well now.

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I flunked out of school and ended up moving back home. I got a job at a sweet woman’s gift shop down the street, who I’m certain took pity on me. I felt like a failure. I had no direction, no goals in mind, no idea what to do with my life. So of all things, my escape from this small town was truck driving. I became a full blown truck driver.

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I traveled the country driving an 18-wheeler, hauling HAZMAT (hazardous material), steel, brake calipers, dry foods… basically anything you could imagine. I was only 22. It was super weird… but it was a much needed adventure, time to think, and a confidence boost. I saw a lot of things good and bad. I witnessed terrible accidents, drugs, sex trafficking, violence… it was an eye opening experience.

I drove full time for about 15 months and finally decided it wasn’t for me. I moved to Nashville two days later, and I was hired as a valet at a high end hotel downtown. Because, hey, “If I can drive a semi, I can park your damn Mercedes.” (Literally the cockiest thing I’ve ever said in my life… to the guy that hired me.) A few months after I’d started working there, luck brought me a camera from the lost and found. I had never used one before, but I just thought it was the coolest thing ever to play with. This was six years ago, and the camera was a Nikon D80.

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So this is the part where I feel like most people would maybe gloss over things, or just skip parts because it’s not flattering, or that it’s career suicide to be this open… because what I’m about to share isn’t at all something I’m proud of… but I’m just going to be completely honest with you, because I think it’s important, so here we go. (I used way too many commas and I don’t care.)

I worked at this hotel for nearly 3 years, and I worked my a** off. And you know where it got me? Nowhere. I worked 60+ hours a week valeting, working third shift on Saturday nights, and also at one point shooting the photography and managing social media for this place. I was paying rent, but not making enough to save much. I also wasn’t feeling appreciated. At the same time I felt lots of pressure from family to start figuring out my future by either finding a career or going back to school. I needed to be responsible, and have a savings account, health insurance, 401k, a retirement plan, because I want to have a home and a family one day right?

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I’m not quite sure when this started, but I developed an anger problem. I would lash out at people I was close to. Including my own brother, who’s the nicest guy I know. My boss. And at my worst, my own girlfriends. This went on for a few years. The height of which was when during an argument about something I don’t even remember… let’s just say it was something as dumb and trivial as the weather. Yes, during an argument about “the weather,” I shoved my girlfriend of one year, who I loved, on the floor in her own bedroom. I’d never done anything like that before. I instantly realized that this wasn’t because I was “hangry.” We had just had dinner together. This was something real. I stepped towards her to help her off the ground, and she jumped back with this expression of terror. She was literally afraid for her life, because of me. It’s something I will never forget. And as I write this all these years later, it still makes me feel emotional.

The next day I called my pastor and had coffee with him. He chewed me out in the most loving way possible, if that makes any sense at all. And he looked me in the eye and asked me if I’d consider counseling. I instantly remembered back to the time my mom was sick, and I thought it was my fault, and I wasn’t doing well. I’d lost weight, I couldn’t focus on anything, and I wasn’t taking care of myself. At the time I was covered under my parents’ with health insurance, but I didn’t want to bother my dad. I didn’t want to add to his problems. MTSU probably had a free clinic or some sort of resources available as well, but I was too embarrassed to speak about it to anyone on campus. So I got online and tried to find other resources. I remember calling this number and speaking with a very kind woman who had no options available without insurance, or an amount of money I couldn’t pay. She got emotional on the phone with me. I’ll never forget it. So when I heard the word, “counseling,” I just said “yes.” Because I realized I had needed counseling since 2007.

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The next week I went to anger counseling with this awesome guy. One of the first things he said to me was that even though he was 50 something years old, he’d been thinking about taking a break from his current work and going to art school. Just because he wanted to. So needless to say we got along well. Over the next few weeks I learned a lot about myself. I realized how miserable I was, how unhealthy I was, how my anger was stemming from things that had nothing to do with anyone except myself. One big reason being that I’m this people loving, extroverted, creative person, but my life was not that at all. So gradually over the next few months, anger left my life for good.

(By the way if you’ve made it this far… I commend you and thank you for your patience. So now… I’ll just cut to the part that matters most.)

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Photography grew into something more than a hobby. I quit the hotel and had a variety of jobs afterward, from selling cars to serving tables. Along the way I started pursuing photography more seriously, and ended up with a job at a documentary company. One amazing perk of working there was that I was able to shoot with their secondary camera, which was a 5D Mark II. I worked there for 10 months, and over that time I was able to make my first website, build up a portfolio, and start charging for my work. In August of 2014, I was at the office, and I found out that a very dear friend of mine had been murdered. She was 25 years old. And she had just hired me to make gesture drawings at her sister’s wedding.

A week after that a friend from high school died of cancer.

A month or so later, a family friend died of cancer.

By the end of 2015 I’d lost 10 people, friends and family, that I loved and cared about. Including my first cousin who was in her early 30’s, and my grandmother who was 85.

Around the time my cousin passed, I was no longer working at the documentary company. Which meant no more access to a 5D Mark II. Which meant no more camera because I’d given mine away. At my cousin’s funeral of all places, I was having a conversation with a family friend, whose brother was one of the 10 people I’d lost, asking him for business advice. He then offered me an opportunity I never would have imagined… a business loan.

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I came to the realization that I could literally die any day. It could be tomorrow, or when I’m 85. I had just witnessed over the last year and a half how fragile life really was. So I accepted. With no client work ahead of me. No business plan. Fully accepting that I may very well have to sleep in my pickup truck with my camera, and I was completely okay with it. After two weeks of getting my gear, I went to Chicago for 22 days. I took the above photo while I was there, and it ended up going viral in the millions of shares and likes. You can find it on Alicia Keys’, Amy Schumer’s, and even Adriana Lima’s Instagram pages. Which is awesome and super random. (Alicia… let’s do lunch.)

It’s been a year and a half… and I’ve had three nights since May 27th, 2015 where I’ve nearly had to sleep in my truck. Even with such little financial stability at times, something always pops up, and I keep moving forward.

I have a personal project in the works. I’m learning and growing as an artist, and a person. And I’ve never been as happy as I am now. I work 80 hours a week so I don’t have to work 40. And honestly it’s the best decision I ever made. This has been quite the adventure, and it’s incredible to be doing something that makes my friends, family, and parents feel proud. It’s the best feeling in the world.

I’m sorry this has been long, and crazy, and not necessarily fun or flattering… but this is my life. If there’s anything I’d love to pass to you, it’s that life is fragile, short, and way too valuable to live miserably. I encourage you all to seek out things bigger than yourselves, to think of others when the opportunity arises, and not to wait for loved ones to pass before you realize what’s truly important. No matter who you are, no matter your religion, political views, identity, race, or nationality, we can grow every day, we can learn every day, and above all we can love every day. I hope you all are well, and I wish you the very best. Cheers.

-John Brown

You can see more of John’s work at JohnBrown.photography, and follow him on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

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That’s Phil Barnes on the left and Brad Moore on the right. We’re Phil and Brad. We make videos.

A Look Into The Making Of Matt Wertz’s SnowGlobe Shop Videos

Most of you here know me, Brad Moore, and that I moved to Nashville earlier this year. Since coming here, one of my new ventures has taken me into the world of video. I met Phil Barnes, seen above, when we both arrived at a mutual friend’s concert with the idea of making a video for him. Rather than make two videos, I asked Phil if he wanted to work together on one, and he said yes. Through the experience of working together on this one video, we decided to team up and keep making videos together. Thus was born Phil and Brad Make Videos!

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when we were approached by Matt Wertz, asking if we’d be interested in making some videos to help him launch his annual online holiday store, The SnowGlobe Shop. Each year, Matt launches this shop to sell some of his own merchandise, but also some other items that are made locally in Nashville. He wanted Phil and I to help tell the story behind each of the locally made products… Why he’s working with each company, the care that goes into making each product, etc.


The introduction video to The SnowGlobe Shop. This was actually the last video we made as it’s mostly made up of clips from the other six videos we created.

For each shoot, I filmed with a 70-200mm f/2.8L lens on the Canon 1DX, shooting at 60fps for slow-motion footage. Since I was shooting at 60fps, my shutter speed was at 1/125 and my f-stop and ISO varied depending on the shooting location. Phil filmed with a 24-70mm f/2.8L lens on the Canon 5D Mark III, shooting at 24fps for a cinematic feel. His shutter was at 1/50, and his f-stop and ISO also varied from on location to the next. We both shot handheld and only used available light since we had to move quickly and had limited time at each location.

Our first shoot was at ThreadCo, a startup fashion company that focuses on creating high quality closet staples at an affordable price. This was where we found our groove and dynamic for this project. I started off shooting wide, then quickly switched to shooting tight once we got into the space and realized what exactly we needed to focus on. As long as I was shooting tight and Phil was shooting wide and we stayed out of each other’s shots as much as possible, we knew we had wiggle room in the edit.

The next day of shooting was when we filmed the vast majority of the footage we used in the videos. We started the day filming with High Fancy Paper, owned by Matt’s sister Bekah, then visited Consider The Wldflwrs, Humphreys Street Coffee and Soap, and ended the day at Ranger Station Candles.

The last bit of filming was spent getting vanity shots, both video and stills, of each product. Throughout the process, Matt was also recording voiceovers for the videos, either spoken by him or one of the people involved in making each product. Once we had all of these pieces captured and created, it was time to put them together. To the edit!

Phil and I have a pretty great dynamic figured out, which allows us each to play to our strengths. I tend to be the primary shooter, then he drives the edit once we have all the footage. Once he has a pretty decent cut ready, I’ll take a look and give notes and we’ll discuss what fine-tune tweaks we need to make.

So, once we have all of our footage downloaded and backed up, we start making our way through it to find the best shots that are both visually attractive and help tell the story of how each item is created. We bring it all into Adobe Premiere Pro CC and delete the clips that are garbage, and cut and trim down the clips that aren’t.

We put the clips together in the order that made sense for the story of each item and slowed down the 60fps footage to 40% for the slow-motion effect, and also scaled it to fit the frame (the 1DX shoots 60fps at 720p, but it looks fine when scaled to 1080p). We also added in the graphics and credits at the end of each video.

Since we were working with a musician on these videos, we knew we would be using his music as the underlying track. He gave us the instrumental title track from his Snow Globe album, and we trimmed it to fit the length of each video. Once we had the voiceover for each video, we did some minor editing to take out the distracting elements (ums, breathing between sentences, etc), then added those to each project. Even once they were in Premiere, we were able to cut them and space them out to be better timed with the pace of each video.

After we got everything just right, Phil mixed and mastered the audio to make sure levels were good and, honestly… I’m not sure what all he did so I could just make up a bunch of technical stuff to sound smart, but just trust me when I say that he made everything sound great ;-)

All that was left from there was to export each one, send it to Matt, get his notes, and adjust each one accordingly! The final edits for each one are here, and I hope you enjoy them. Matt, Phil, and I all put a LOT of time and effort into making these, and I for one am pretty happy with how they turned out. I honestly can’t wait until our next project, whatever it may be.

You can see more of Phil and Brad’s work at PhilAndBradMakeVideos.com, find more of Phil’s music at PhilBarnesMusic.com, and find more of Brad’s work at BMOOREVISUALS.com.

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Photo by Conrad Meyer

Capturing the Shot of a Lifetime

On July 26, 2016, after several weeks of slowly progressing miles down from the Puʻu ʻŌʻō vent on the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, lava entered the Pacific Ocean creating the world’s newest land. This was the first time in nearly three years that lava had returned to the ocean. It was a moment that I had waited oh so patiently for years on, and when it happened, the frantic search for flights began. Photographing an active volcano was the number two item on my bucket list, right under photographing the aurora borealis.

Unfortunately, money was a bit tighter than I had hoped for at the time, and with a few previously planned trips to teach, it looked like my excursion wouldn’t be able to happen for at least a month. It was an extremely hard pill to swallow. Would the lava still be flowing in a month? Would I miss capturing the shot I waited years for? Who knew, but I have always believed that everything happens for a reason and patience pays off.

In early September, I was finally able to catch a flight out to the Big Island in hopes of seeing the lava ocean entry up close and personal. During that painstaking month of waiting, I did an ample amount of research on how to safely approach the ocean entry from both land and sea. Needless to say, both were dangerous, and to be honest, I was never very good at the game “the floor is lava,” when I was a kid. There was definitely a bit of anxiety and fear on my behalf when the time came to actually head out to the lava flow.

With only three days to be able to visit the 61G lava flow, I put together a shot list of what I hoped on capturing. It was quite simple, nothing out of the ordinary, nothing like what I captured on one of my last frames out in the field. I honestly just wanted a nice long exposure of the ocean entry, a close up shot from the boat, and some sort of surface flow with a nice sunset. I wasn’t asking for much in my opinion.

On the first two days, I was able to document the lava entering the ocean from the cliffs near Kalapana, as well as from the ocean thanks to a ride from Ocean Lava Tours and Captain Shane. During those days out though, surface flows were non-existent except for a distant flow just coming down the Pulama Pali, a good couple of miles away from the ocean entry. That area was my only chance of being able to get close on foot to the lava, as any chance to get close to the surface flows going over the cliffs was impossible due to the area being closed off for safety reasons. The hike was going to be long and included crossing some areas that may still be hot from recent flows, vents with volcanic gases, and collapsed lava tubes. Needless to say, it had its risks. After consulting with some local photographers and national park rangers about the trip out there, I felt I had enough of an understanding on how to safely make the trip.

On the evening of the last day of the trip, it was go time. The trek began with a four-mile bike ride down the emergency access road from Kalapana to the ocean entry point. After that, it was another two-and-a-half mile hike across the old lava flows where with every few steps, you risked twisting an ankle or falling and getting cut (which happened several times). Once the bottom of the Pali was reached, almost all hope was lost as the lava that was seen coming down that morning, was nowhere to be found. I used a pair of binoculars to scope out the area in hopes of seeing even the smallest of red glow coming from somewhere accessible.

About fifteen minutes into searching, it happened, a small breakout about 300 yards away grabbed my eye. It wasn’t the river of lava that I was hoping for but dang it, it was lava. I quickly made my way across the terrain and when I turned the corner around an area of uplifted lava rock, I was greeted with the crackling sound and scorching heat of a slow moving surface flow. The lava, at nearly 2300ºF, was so hot that I could only stand within a few feet of it for about five seconds before the hairs on my legs would begin to singe. It was an amazing moment to see something so beautiful and powerful, right there in front of me. I began to shoot away and as daylight faded, the fiery sunset I was hoping for was nowhere to be found, as the sky was cloudless from horizon to horizon. I was left longing for a more interesting shot than just a surface flow with a blank sky.

In the world of a landscape photographer, many of us know that it is a love/hate relationship with clouds. We want clouds for that stunning sunset, but then we want clear skies for our astrophotography images. With the clear skies available for the taking, I decided that it would be nice to try and create an image with some stars above the lava. After analyzing the sky, I noticed that there was a small crescent moon off to the southwest and it was still Milky Way season, so the celestial center should be off to the south somewhere. The question on my mind though was, would the crescent moon be too close to the Milky Way and wash it out, or would it be the perfect amount of light to add a nice element to the sky while being able to retain detail in the Milky Way core?

As twilight faded, I began to set up my composition and quickly realized another issue. The surface flow in front of me was way too bright and I wouldn’t be able to properly expose for both the Milky Way and lava in one frame. As easy as it would be to shoot the image in two parts, one for the Milky Way and one for the lava, I didn’t want a blended image if I could avoid it. I decided to move away from the larger surface flow breakout and towards the area of the lava that was cooling but still had a glow from just beneath the crust. This worked out perfectly.

The lava was bright enough to show through the cracks in a vibrant red color, all the while allowing the night sky to come through beautifully. I rattled off my first frame and then encountered another problem. The glow from the larger surface flow area was too bright and was flaring my frame so badly that the image wouldn’t be useable. I was shooting on a Nikon 14-24mm lens, so there was no lens hood, which meant I had to create one myself. All I did was simply stand a few feet to the left of my lens and positioned myself until my shadow covered the front element of my lens, and boom…human lens hood.

I rattled off my second image and noticed that I needed to move just a tad further back to be completely out of my frame, but besides that, everything was technically exactly where I wanted it to be. I took note of where I should stand, triggered my timer on my camera, and then stepped into position. The shutter opened and I took in the moment. Listening to the lava crackle like Rice Krispies, the moon and Milky Way shining above, and then in the blink of an eye, I saw a meteor streak across the sky. It was too good to be true and I almost ran to my camera to see if I captured it all before the shutter closed. Thankfully, I caught myself before I moved, which would have resulted in the whole image being lost due to that evil lava flare.

When I heard the shutter close, I quickly ran over and waited for the noise reduction to render out. After what seemed to be the longest 25 seconds ever, the LCD lit up with the image and had all the elements there, perfectly tack sharp. An active lava flow glowing up from the surface, the moon shining above, the Milky Way glowing brightly, and a meteor streaking through starry night sky. I couldn’t believe my eyes and I knew I couldn’t top that shot, no matter how long I stayed out that night. So with that said, I packed up my gear and began the long seven-mile trek back.

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After posting the image online, the shot went viral. It was published all around the world, including National Geographic – Russia. With the image getting so much attention, comments and messages began rolling in questioning the reality of the image and claiming that even if it were real, there would be no way possible to capture all those elements and differences in light in one shot. Well, as the guy who melted part of his shoes off while standing as a human lens hood near 2300ºF lava, I can attest…it is 100% real and 100% possible. It simply took an understanding of light and how to work with it. Oh yeah, and a little bit of luck and dedication.

The image you see here was shot at f/2.8, ISO 2500, and 25” shutter. Basically the settings that were needed to properly expose for the night sky. For post processing, minimal adjustments were made. I corrected the white balance, added a bit of clarity and contrast, and did a bit of dodging and burning. I hope this article enlightens you all to how this image came to life with so much planning before the shutter was even clicked.

You can see more of Mike’s work at MikeMezPhotography.com, and follow him on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

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