Category Archives Guest Blogger

I have no idea what Mr. Kelby was thinking when he chose me to be this week’s guest blogger. I am very humbled by this opportunity, and I must say that my name belongs nowhere near the long list of other guest bloggers, which includes some of the greats like Jay Maisel, Bill Fortney and Joe McNally. I’m always looking at the blogs of photographers whose work I admire, and trying to soak up as much information as I can.  And now I have the opportunity to speak from the same podium as they, but I don’t know what to  say!  I’m only 18 years old and still have a lot to learn when it comes to taking a picture, not to mention trying to figure out how to play this game called life. So I am going to simply share what I’ve learned so far, and how I’ve learned it…

I have been unbelievably fortunate when it comes to photography. I have had the opportunity to be mentored by Senior Staff Photographer for Golf Digest, Dom Furore, since the day I first picked up a camera. One of the first things I was taught was the importance of looking at the work of great photographers. “You can’t take a good picture until you know what one looks like,” he said.  More and more, I realize how new ideas are inspired, not invented. I find it funny when I see some article about a photographer who came up with a “new look” even though it looks exactly like something that’s been done a million years ago, and done better with a lot less equipment. Another thing that has helped me to grow as a photographer is studying different kinds of work. For me it is always important to put my own “twist” on inspired work and to give credit where credit is due, something that I learned from Jim Clark.

In 2009 I was able to attend the North American Nature Photography Association annual summit in Albuquerque, New Mexico as a high school scholarship student. I met a ton of very talented people and had the opportunity to learn from the best. Jim Clark met with our student group and he said two things that have always stuck with me, “Always give credit where credit is due” and “Don’t make yourself a legend in your own mind, let others make you a legend.”

Another tremendous source of progress for me has come from the opportunity to attend the Great American Photography Workshops and learn from legendary photographers like Bill Fortney, Rob Sheppard, Tom Bol, and George Theodore. Bill Fortney has become a mentor and friend, and his work has served as a tremendous source of inspiration for me.

It is amazing where life can take you when you have a camera in your hands. Last August I found myself assisting Dom Furore at the PGA Championship golf tournament. At the PGA I had the opportunity to meet some of the professionals whose work I admire. I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to meet people like John Biever, Fred Vuich, Sam Greenwood, Simon Bruty, Matthew Harris, Scott Diussa, and Christian Iooss. Countless times I have taken my eye away from the viewfinder and realized what a blessing it is to be where I am. Having the opportunity to assist and learn from Red Wings Team Photographer, Dave Reginek, was one of these times. The more I get out, the more people I meet, and the more help I get. I am surprised by how helpful many of my “photographic heroes” are. One of the things I really like about the photography business it that it seems to be passed onto the beginners from the greats.

There are two more people I need to thank before I finish. First, I owe a great deal Bill Pekala at Nikon for providing me with some of the greatest cameras being made: Nikon. Finally, a big thank you to Scott Kelby for giving me this opportunity. I’m not sure what the next step is for me, but I enjoy every second spent behind the camera.

You can see more of Luke’s work at

Photo by Ted Wood

The question is….

I know. Every Wednesday you hurry to Scott’s blog to see who the guest blogger is. You expect a successful, professional photographer with a stunning portfolio, and a series of inspirational stories about their fabulous career.

Sorry, I’m not that kind of guest blogger.

I’m just a regular gal in Los Angeles, with a passion for photography. I got my first camera at age 5 and never looked back. I might never make any money from my photography and I don’t care. My goal is to keep learning and growing, and just be a better photographer each year than I was the year before.

So if you’re not a professional photographer, my question is, what do you do with your photography? How do you make it part of your life?

Some ideas:

First of all, if it’s your passion, treat your photography like it is your profession. Get the best gear you can afford, and take good care of it. Find classes or tutorials and take them. (If you ever get a chance to take a class with Scott Kelby? Mortgage the house, sell the kids, do whatever you need to do to take it. You’ll never learn more or laugh more in a class.) Read all the books and magazines you can. Get to know other photographers (Scott’s annual Photowalk is a great way to meet locals). Attend trade shows if you can. And, of course, if you’re not a NAPP member, join! That will help you with all of the above.

When you’re looking for photo opportunities, my best advice is to get to know people doing interesting things. And if they ask you to go with them, always say yes. That’s how I wound up in an LA police helicopter, pursuing a bank robber. I met Sgt. Doug Abney when he was at my local station, running an annual holiday charity airlift. Private pilots donated their time to fly toys and supplies down to a mission in Mexico. I helped raise some money. Soon I was eating fish tacos at the border with twelve cops and a priest. When Doug started flying helicopters for the LAPD, he invited me along for a shift. After we caught the bank robber, we touched down on the tallest building west of the Mississippi, cruised by the Hollywood sign, then flew over to the beach (at 150 mph!), flew UNDER the jets at LAX, and found my house–I’m on top of a mountain, it’s easy to find. When we got back they told me they’d taken up 38 civilians that year and I was the only one who didn’t get sick (I took home my barf bag as a proud souvenir). I made a photo book and sent a copy along to Air Support, since I’d met all the officers at roll call. They used it to show visitors what a typical shift is like. For years afterward, I’d be in the Jacuzzi out back, and along would come a helicopter at eye level. Wave hi to the nice officers!

“Our” bank robber. He tried to hide under a freeway but we got him anyway.

Then there was the time I was in Outer Mongolia, drinking vodka and singing folk songs with a shaman. My friend Jeremy Schmidt started Conservation, Ink to bring printed materials to the Mongolian National Parks. Five of us raised some money, then spent a month in the Altai Mountains in western Mongolia, traveling with the nomads. City Girl had to ride a horse across the river and up the glacier, and sleep on the ground with the goats and yaks. For most of the trip we had no electricity, so we hot-wired the Russian jeeps to recharge my camera batteries. We stayed with the shaman, and an eagle hunter. At the end, we donated our photos. So today you can buy maps and postcards with our photos on them, and the Parks make money. You can also buy Jeremy’s partner Ted Wood’s amazing photos to benefit the Parks. After the trip, I made photo books for all of us. I also sent 400 prints to the families we stayed with–they got there eventually, by plane, jeep, horse, camel. If you ever promise to send photos, please do it. Most people don’t, and that just hurts the next photographer that comes along.

Archer at Naadam, Mongolian national festival in Ulaanbaatar.

Closer to home, my friend Mollie Hogan runs Nature of Wildworks, a wildlife refuge in Topanga, California. She takes in injured wildlife, or wild animals that were pets and shouldn’t have been. I just love getting that call, “Want to come see the baby owl?” We had a fundraiser at my house, and she brought the animals, including a bobcat, serval, great horned owl, skunk, turkey vulture, and more. We set up a portable Canon Selphy printer (very easy, just plug in your memory card and get great 4×6″ prints instantly), and everyone took home a photo of themselves with the mountain lion. Mollie also uses those event photos for publicity, and we made photo books for the volunteers.

Me and Phoenix, the best lion ever. Photo by Terry Matkins.

My friend left her dog with me when she went out of town. Turns out her dog will do about anything for a cookie. I made a book of silly dog photos and we sell it to benefit local rescue groups.

I love photo books, but for a real impact, consider making a framed fine art print or a canvas. They cost more than books, but there’s something special about that big image, presented as art. Mpix makes beautiful framed prints, with superfast delivery and surprisingly affordable prices. I’m also fond of Artistic Photo Canvas, and not just because of their gorgeous canvases. They have wonderful customer service, and went above and beyond on my recent order (thanks, Lew!). And of course I loved the canvas.

The cute, I mean talented, second-line band walked past the hunky, I mean heroic, Cajun firefighters on my birthday in New Orleans. I think that’s worth a canvas.

No Assignment, no problem! Make your own.

So you’re not a professional, and nobody’s paying you to take photos. You don’t need to go to Mongolia (but I recommend it, lovely land and amazing people). Find a project like the amazing Help-Portrait, that’s been mentioned here before. They take and print portraits of people in need, around the world; congratulations on their success this year! I’m also a huge fan of Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, a national network of photographers who photograph stillborn infants to preserve their grieving parents’ memories. Heartbreaking, I don’t know how they do it, but bless them. Google “photographers charity” to find other photographers helping those in need.

Or do it yourself. Find a local group you support, a sports team, animal rescue group, school club or classroom, senior center, church group, charity (I once ran the massage booth at a Basset Hound event, but that’s another story). Offer to be their official photographer. Attend all their events, provide them with high-quality photos for their newsletter and website. Make prints or books for the volunteers. Treat it as you would a job, take your responsibilities seriously, make sure they credit you every time they use your photos. It’s a great way to practice your skills and build your portfolio.

Photograph your friend’s house. It’s great fun to see your house through someone else’s eyes. (I swear, I will get up to Wyoming to shoot my friend, mystery writer Craig Johnson’s ranch next year. Really! I promise!) Or photograph a friend’s party. No posed shots, all candids and don’t forget the food and decorations. I had friends shoot my big birthday party and write messages on 3×5″ cards (the more mojitos, the funnier the messages)–great souvenir.

Keith Carter (one of my favorite photographers) says you should always have at least one ongoing project, wherever you go. It might be as simple as shooting people in red hats. Reflections in mirrors/windows. Street musicians. I always stop and shoot abandoned shoes. You’ll build up a collection of images, you’ll try new techniques or effects, and you’ll train your eye to be on the lookout for a photograph wherever you go.

Or create your own personal project. In 2010 I did my favorite photo project ever. I decided to make a visual diary of my life. I shot places and things around me, especially things that might be different five or ten years from now. The more I shot, the more I thought of. Favorite restaurants. My dentist’s office. What’s in my wallet. My pantry. My medicine chest. Gas prices. Fast food menus. Magazines and newspapers. Favorite clothes. I wound up with over 800 photos, that got edited down and sorted (Adobe Lightroom was a big help). I made a book that I love to flip through. You can read more about it here (including my comparison of three photo book companies). I’m going to do this every five years, and I wish I’d done it before now.

Many thanks to Scott and Brad for asking me to guest blog, it’s an honor. One thing this blog does is build an incredible community of photographers all over the world. So now I’m asking you, what do you do with your photography? How do you make it part of your life? Can’t wait to hear your ideas!

Janine Smith is a writer, photographer, proud NAPP member, and financial consultant to nonprofit organizations. She lives in Los Angeles, California, with two demanding dogs and a convertible that is not aging well. You can keep up with her at and, and follow her on Twitter.

Hey everybody, Matt Kloskowski here. First off, a big thanks to Scott for letting me write about this, as I’ve been wanting to for a while now. So here’s the question: “Is Photoshop a bad word?”

Personally, for photographers, I think it’s 100% necessary if you want to compete today. Technology has changed everything. The world knows that Photoshop exists. The standards by which photography was judged, even just 10 years ago, don’t hold up against today’s standards. We expect more from a photo.

It All Starts with A Good Photo
Of course you expect a guy that makes a living teaching Photoshop to say this right? Before I get too far into it, let me set the record straight. As a professional photographer, I realize it all starts with a good photo right out of the camera. Like many of you, we spend way too much money on tripods, lenses, lighting, camera bodies, etc… to just accept any photo out of the camera and say “I’ll fix it in Photoshop”. Lighting on a person, for example, is impossible (or really difficult) to fix later. Same holds true for landscape and outdoor photography. You can’t reproduce the light you get from sunrise or sunset. Photoshop can’t make a blurry photo sharp. I totally get it. That said, I think there is a time to fix it in Photoshop (yes, I said “fix it”. Not just to finish, but fixing is perfectly acceptable too).

When to “Fix” It?
I once watched a photographer doing a live demonstration where his photos were showing up on screen as he took them. Well, part of the light was hitting the area behind the subjects and the photographer proceeded to spend the next 10 minutes working through the issues that this brought up. He was very quick to say, “Sure, you could fix this in Photoshop but I prefer to get it right in camera”. Being a Photoshop guy, it wasn’t really the statement that got to me, but it was the way it was said. The tone of that (and several other things he said) led the audience to believe that Photoshop was something you should be ashamed of. It was almost as if Photoshop was a bad word.

If you’re on a shoot, you’ve got your time, your client’s time, your assistant’s time, rental fees and many other factors that favor you moving quickly. As a photographer, you should know that this was a 20 second fix with a brush in Photoshop vs. the collective 40 minutes he wasted (photographer, assistant, and two models). And if you don’t know how to fix it, I think your job is to hire some one who does.

A Quote
I was watching a video from Jeremy Cowart and he said something that really stuck with me.

“Photoshop has changed the game, and every once in a while, Photoshop is the game”.

I think he nailed it. Photoshop has changed the game. Everyone you photograph knows Photoshop exists and expects you to retouch the photos. Every client you shoot for knows Photoshop exists and expects you to retouch the photos. Even your friends (if you’re a hobbyist photographer) know about Photoshop. If your photos aren’t seeing Photoshop (by you or your retoucher) then I’d have to venture to say you’re not getting noticed today. And take Jeremy’s work for example. Some of what helped build his career would be nearly impossible without Photoshop. It allows us to take a budget consisting of one person standing on white seamless and produce a movie poster that looks like it was shot on a mountain top with smoke machines, a race car, and the most dramatic sky ever seen.

So where does this dislike of Photoshop come from? Personally, I think it comes from not knowing Photoshop. Scott and I talk about this a lot after workshops and seminars. You can pretty much guarantee that when we hear some one criticizing Photoshop, it doesn’t take too long to realize that they don’t know it. Yep, 100% of the time when I ask the person that just said “I don’t like Photoshop” if they know how to use it, they say no. But here’s the thing and the key point I’d like to get across: if you’re a photographer, now it’s your job to know it. You’ve either got to learn it yourself or, if you lack the time/interest and have the budget, then find some one who is good at it to work on your photos for you.

And trust me. Those people are out there. They’re photographers who grew up with a digital camera and computer and have never known anything else. And they’re GOOD! They’re fast, they’re hungry and motivated and they’ll never know “what it was like back the film days” so trying to tell them is like trying to get toothpaste back in the tube. I can vouch for this. I’m 37, so I grew up with film. I didn’t touch my first digital camera until 8 years ago and I know my eyes glaze over every time I hear a “before your time, back in the film days” story :)

The Pros Know This
Whether you realize it or not, the pros already know this. In fact, they’ve known it all along. Even back in the film days there were a whole slew of things that were happening to photos before we saw them. The difference is that back then, those tools (and the time it takes to use them) weren’t easily available to the world so we never really heard about it. Today though, we have Photoshop, Lightroom, and even Photoshop Elements (and lots of books to learn how to use them ;-) ). So for as little as $59, anyone can use these techniques that simply weren’t available just 10-15 years ago. And whether you know it or not, just about every photographer (a general exception would be editorial photographers) you follow is either really good at Photoshop or has a retoucher/assistant that is. Photoshop is indeed being used, whether the photographer talks about it or not.

One More Thing
One last thing. Don’t be ashamed of using Photoshop. If you know it (or you’ve got a good retoucher), then you’ve got one helluva a competitive advantage out there today. A great image is a great image, and it loses nothing if we learn that Photoshop was a big part of it. And remember, anyone that does give you a hard time about it probably isn’t that good at Photoshop. So don’t justify or make excuses when showing your work. If some one asks if Photoshop was used, you simply say, “Of course!”.

So, my question to you still stands: is Photoshop a bad word? Do you long for the days when Photoshop wasn’t around? Or does Photoshop actually make the photography process better for you? If you’re like me, sometimes I love the artistic post-process just as much as taking the photo in the first place. Feel free to chime in with a comment and most of all, thanks for reading. See ya!

– Matt K.

My name is Annie Downs. I am the Events Coordinator for Help-Portrait. Jeremy does the challenging work- he takes the portraits. I do the easy part- I get to tell you about it.

It seems that most nonprofit organizations need two things: money and volunteers. If they need money, they probably don’t need volunteers; they are paying for people to do the good works around the world. If they need volunteers, they probably don’t need as much money. (But they still need money.)

For those in creative professions – writers, actors, photographers, musicians, and the like, money isn’t always easy to come by. Freelancers are struggling more and more, and yet the heart to give is part of what feeds the creative nature.

If you are one of these, you might look at the other option – volunteering. There are many great nonprofit organizations that love to see hands that are ready to help – to build, to feed, to clothe. And without having much skill, you can make a significant impact.

Giving in any arena is great, but there is something really unique and special about giving within your gifting, about identifying the things you are good at, the things you do for a living, and finding a way to donate within that field. It’s not often that opportunity arises, unless you are a carpenter or a cook.

Photographers are an interesting bunch. They are competitive, yet team players. They are quiet when working, but loud when communicating. They are on the frontlines of technology and media, and they are temperamental artists. They are, at the core, a collection of people who hold the camera in one hand and their heart in the other.

In 2008, one of your own, Jeremy Cowart, found a way to use his skill as a photographer to give back to the community. And there began Help-Portrait – in a gym in East Nashville one cold Saturday morning in December.

The next fall, a tidal wave response occurred when a simple video about Help Portrait was posted here at Scott’s blog. Maybe for the first time, the photography community was given a chance to unite and give back where they excel – with their hearts and their cameras.

Whereas 2008 was a small event in Nashville, Tennessee, 2009 was a worldwide event occurring in more than 40 countries involving almost 4,000 photographers. In any other profession, that type of unity, birthed simply via social media, would be followed by massive personal praise from those involved.

And rightly so.

But you photographers, you just do the work. You find the subjects in need, shoot the portrait, print the portrait, give back and sleep peacefully that night. You don’t ask for thanks or praise or hugs or money. Yes, there was national news coverage in 2009, but nothing compared to the stories you lived. We read them. Every last one. We cried at the power of your Help-Portrait moments. And there were thousands more that we never heard.

The photographs taken were by amateurs and professionals. With lighting or natural. Indoors and outside. The subjects were children, adults, homeless, sick, broken, poor, sad, wounded. Those in need were cared for and those doing the photography were changed forever.

And here we are, Help-Portrait 2010 right around the corner (Saturday, 4 December 2010). The potential is limitless. Events are being planned right now all over the world, from New York City to Kenya to Brazil to Korea.

You can still be involved. Just head to the Help-Portrait community site and join – then locate the group that is in or near your city and connect so that you can be a part on December 4th. With 585 groups of people in 57 countries and 49 U.S. States already created, you will probably find a location near you. If not, start your own!

As the day approaches of our second international Help Portrait event, we just want to say thank you. This community is unlike any other that exists and you deserve to be celebrated – not only for the fine artists that you are, but for the deep kindness that you show to those in need.

May your heart always be full and your memory card always have room for one more portrait.

When I was in college I took a speech class and learned that when speaking publicly, it can sometimes be a good idea to start off with a joke. However, being introduced as “Big Daddy” already made me laugh, so I hope you did too. I’ve never actually called myself big daddy before, but when I met Scott shooting on the sidelines of my alma mater, Louisiana Tech University, it was what he started calling me (referencing to the original big daddy, Big Daddy Don Garlits). Before I knew it, so did anyone he’s ever introduced me to :)

But with that said, Scott has become a good friend along with Brad and much of the Kelby gang, and I would like to thank them for the platform they’ve created here with the guest blogs and the opportunity to share a little bit about myself and my work.

There are basically only two things that I’ve done in the past 5 years to support myself, one involving my camera and the other involving my body…but we we’ll get to that in a little bit ;)

As an emerging photographer in a world of emerging photographers, I’ve done what I can to get noticed and do the type of work I enjoy, all while trying to continue to learn and still pay the rent. I have to be careful who I’m trying to get noticed by though. Being noticed by your peers (you guys) certainly can have its benefits, but is mostly just a confidence booster to continue in the grind when you start feeling lost in the crowd. If I had something I was selling you, I might need your attention, but I don’t really do workshops/seminars or make any products you might be interested in (although I’d like to write a book one day). I am just a photographer. I am another person helping over-saturate our market and overcrowd our sidelines. It pushes me to get better so that I can continue to do it and still make a living. We shouldn’t fool ourselves. Being a photographer is easy. It’s making a living being a photographer that’s hard.

The idea of progressing in your career comes with exposing yourself to new ideas and fresh work from others that have gone before you and/or are doing what you would like to be doing. (I realize there is an argument out there that talks about looking at other people’s work/copying/being original, but I’ll let someone else get yelled at for that. That’s not where I’m going today). I would simply like to state that I have gone to a lot of seminars/workshops/classes/live webcasts in the past year or so that have been nothing more than a “look-at-me-and-what-I-can-do—fest”… so today I’ll try to spare you from that.

Every photographer who is making a living gets asked “How do you get to where you are” or “How do I get cool jobs like the one you have?” And if I knew that, I’d write that book I was talking about and sell it and become a hundred-aire :) … All I can tell you is a little bit about my path so far. It’s certainly not what you need to do or the way it should be done, but for me… so far so good. There are so many talented people that didn’t go the traditional route in learning photography, and I admire those people so much. Some of them are my favorite photographers. But for me, it was a pretty straight forward traditional route in learning. For the most part…

Before the rumors get too out of control, this is the part of the story where I made money with my body. I got really into MMA. or “Ultimate Fighting,” and even eventually reached professional status. I was working my way through college by being a weekend warrior. Please don’t start envisioning me as the next cast member of Jersey Shore; I never took myself too seriously and still don’t. It was a sport and I wasn’t bad at it. I did however, stubbornly realize that I would never make it as a fighter for a living, and that I was a better photographer than a fighter. I’m okay with that and I’ve accepted it. Getting paid to be outside the cage and not feel like I got ran over by a truck the next day is equally as awesome :) This next image might be a better illustration of why I made the switch :)

Photo by Kevin Beasley

All joking aside, and despite what this photo would lead you to believe, I did develop a confidence in myself and my ability that has certainly transitioned into my photography and allowed me to approach high pressure circumstances and shoots with confidence. Without that, I would have surely buckled. Developing relationships with people and clients wouldn’t be possible if I didn’t believe in myself. Don’t get me wrong, I still doubt myself and tell myself how much I suck almost daily, but at least I can look myself in the eye and say it.

Somewhere between the blows to the head and the miserable internship I had at an architecture firm, I realized that I wasn’t going to really make a living doing either of those and bought my first DSLR. A Canon 10D. I had saved up money fighting to buy my first car, but blew it all on my first camera and a set of terrible Sigma lenses instead. TOTALLY WORTH IT. (** side note – SIGMA does make some good lenses, but the ones I had back then couldn’t focus on the broad side of a barn, so I’m not Sigma hating… totally)

Here I am, struggling to stay awake in art history class, learning about the forefathers of photography (all of which I am very glad to have studied and learned about) when the guy next to me leans over and says “Hey I’m about to go quit my job at the school paper, want to come with me and see if they’ll give it to you?”

Huh? Me? He was the sports photographer and I had never even attempted to shoot any sport. I hadn’t even pointed my camera at a little league T-ball game, much less an NCAA Division-1 sporting event. So I replied as an avid sports fan would… “Of course!” Why I got that job still baffles me to this day, but sometimes luck and angels play a part we will never know about.

I would like to say, “The rest is history. I was awesome. The end”. False. I was terrible. I thought it was my equipment, but I couldn’t do it on borrowed equipment either. I later found out that I was 1 game away from being fired. Yeah, that’s how bad I was. Fired-from-the-school-paper bad.

This next image is where it changed.

If you’re thinking to yourself, “That isn’t really that great either,” then that just shows you how bad I was. What made them keep me around for a while longer, was the effort it took to make this image. I drove (with some friends) 12.5 hours to Gainesville, Florida to take this image, wait for it….. without getting paid. ***gasp*** Since then, the lesson of what it takes to be a sports photographer has stuck with me. It’s not easy, and it’s not getting easier, but if you enjoy it, then you’ll do it and you’ll find a way to keep doing it.

Now I could probably stop here and call it a day, but there are a few more lessons I’ve learned so far in my career that have been pretty crucial to how I think and how I approach every area of photography, not just sports. So if you’ll bear with me, I’m going to give as much as I can here.

One day a couple years ago, like a lot of us do, I was sitting around with a bunch of photographers and we started looking at some of them real fancy type picture books, with really fancy type pictures in them. There was an image taken by Annie Leibovitz of the Queen of England. Just as I started to admire it, one of the people there started saying what was wrong with it.

What the…? Are you really telling us what this famous photographer did wrong? I really couldn’t contribute to the conversation because I knew that if I hadn’t been a fighter in a former life, I probably would just throw up on my shoes at the thought of taking the Queen’s portrait, much less light it properly. Since that day, it is pretty much weekly I hear someone, either online or in person, talk about what’s wrong with these accomplished photographer’s photos and how they do it. You can always look at others’ work from the outside looking in and find a better way to have done it. But from my experiences, these accomplished photographers do it like they do it for a reason, and until I’ve walked in their shoes, it’s not my job to criticize. All I can do is get my own experiences and learn from them.

I used to think sports photographers looked stupid with those utility belts and would say, “Why would they do that? That’s lame and there is no need for it.” Now that I’ve seen it and done it for myself, if I don’t have an assistant, I’m rocking the biggest fanny pack you’ve ever seen and I love it.

“I can do that.”

When I was in school studying other artists and their work, I would think to myself, “I can do that, I could take that photo.” I would get so angry that, somewhere deep inside, I knew I had the ability to take the photo that someone else took. (Which was completely not true, because like I mentioned earlier, I was terrible). Finally it clicked. It *now* seems like a very big no-brainer. But the reason I could not shoot that epic image of Muhammad Ali, or the iconic images I see in National Geographic, was because I am not there. Whether I can get the job done or not is irrelevant at this point, because I can’t shoot the Queen of England for Time Magazine if I am never in front of the Queen of England with permission to take her portrait. I can only shoot what I have access to.

So I have to focus on getting better as a photographer. If I ever want to shoot on the sidelines of the Super Bowl, I have to put the time in shooting teams you’ve never heard of in order to hone my skills enough to make it to the next level. If I want to shoot supermodels one day, I have to spend time shooting models you’ve never heard of right now. If I want to shoot for NGOs or National Geographic one day, I need to get myself to unique places and shoot. It’s called paying your dues, and you’re not ever going to get top level shoots unless you prove you can shoot at a top level…. Well, unless you’re Joey L ;)

The lesson learned was that I could appreciate what others have done without getting mad that “I could do that too.”

Prove it… Go do it.

You can see more of Donald’s work at, keep up with him on his blog, find him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter. While you’re at it, go check out this week-long time lapse video he did during a road trip earlier this year!

First off, I would like to say that it is an absolute honor to be asked on as a guest blogger on Scott Kelby’s  site.  A very important thing for me is expressing gratitude for opportunities that have come my way, and understanding how the good things in my life have come to pass.  Scott has been on the giving side for me on more than one occasion, both directly and from happenings through the ripple effect caused by the NAPP, and I just can’t say it enough.  Thank You.

For my few seconds up here on the soapbox, I would like to share with you a quick story and a few ideas that I THINK I know.  I say think with emphasis because I realize that life hasn’t given me all of the pieces yet. I’m here with the rest of you just trying to figure things out while everything around me, as well as myself, continue to change on a day to day basis.  One big thing I know for sure though is that I don’t know everything, and I never will.


Of all of the images that I have had the pleasure of dreaming up, or seeing happen before me, one of my favorite that comes to mind was more than ten years ago.  I wasn’t a professional photographer at the time, much less a professional anything. I was working a 9-5, collecting a paycheck, and living a pretty happy simple life.  That is an “uninspired” simple life. A few months prior I had picked up my first SLR from a pawnshop, a Minolta x-700, with a few lenses, pretty sweet deal. (That’s right all you purists, I was a film guy too back in the day. Let go.  It’s okay. I liked the little red light too, and if you miss the smell of fixer and stop bath that much you can always keep a tray of it next to your monitor. It’ll be ok.  8tracks were a great idea too at the time.  I digress…)   I carried that thing with me everywhere because you just never know right?  There I was, driving down Highway 270 in St. Louis, minding my own business when it hit me.  Nope. Not the car next to me, the image.