Category Archives Guest Blogger

The Importance of Practicing and Sharing

Before I started blogging I was always playing around with Photoshop, Illustrator and other apps I had an interest in learning more about and wanted to improve my skills in. The idea was always the same…to try and recreate something I saw and liked using this tool. I pretty much spent a decade doing that, always saving to my computer.

Towards the end of 2006, life played its odds and my office was robbed. It turned out that the burglars chose to take my backup drives on the exact day that I decided to backup my files. So my laptop and my two backup drives were taken and I found myself completely lost in space. All those years of learning by practice were gone.

Since that day I decided that everything I learn I would put up online on my blog. So I restarted my routine of experiments and after these almost four years I’ve learned quite a lot of things besides to never take your two backup disks to the same place at the same time. The most important thing I’ve learned is that the best way to promote your work is through sharing your knowledge and the secrets of your work. It’s true and I have a few examples to illustrate that.

Super Interessante

I always liked to play with space scenes in Photoshop, trying to come up with solutions and techniques to create those scenes. I am also always checking out work by other designers (James White, Chuck Anderson, Scott Hansen, Eduardo Recife, and a bunch of others) so I can learn new things as well. In 2007 I was playing with brushes in Photoshop and created a nice space scene, and then I posted a tutorial on my blog showing how I created it.

A few months after that tutorial I received an email from one of the largest publishers in Brazil asking me if I wanted to recreate that exact same scene for the cover of one of their magazines.

I thought to myself, if I hadn’t published that tutorial, I would never be hired to create a cover for that magazine.

Illustration for Wired

After that experience I was convinced that it was merely a coincidence, or beginners luck as they say, and would never happen again. Nevertheless I stayed true to my idea of practicing and sharing to not only learn more but help others as well.

In one of these practicing days I decided that I would have to create an abstract scene using vectors. So I spent a few hours in Illustrator and came up with a very cool design using only vectors, then in Photoshop I played with some textures and boom! The design was done and it was nice.

A few months after that I was checking my email and I saw one from the guys over at Wired Magazine UK telling me that they were inviting designers to create the cover of one of the sections of their magazine. They also said that they saw my tutorial and really liked it and invited me to create a version of that illustration for them.

Once again the same idea came to mind, without practicing and sharing that never would have happened.


In 2008 I was writing a Photoshop tutorial for a popular web site, and that same year MSNBC had released their new site with a very colorful background design. I remember that I received quite a few emails asking me how that was done and if I could create a tutorial on that.

I took some time and started playing in Photoshop trying to recreate that effect. I learned that we could create that same sort of effect using the Fibers filter with Motion Blur. So I created the tutorial, published it, and it was a big hit.

Almost three years later while checking my email I saw this message from a designer over at MSNBC saying that they use my blog for inspiration and saw some of my tutorials including the MSNBC one I had created. They invited me to come up with a background for their new web site design. I was totally blown away.

These three examples show how important it is to practice new things and to evolve through personal projects especially when you’re just starting out your career as a graphic designer, illustrator, or digital artist in general. Working on projects for ourselves allows us to do what we love and to follow our passion, because we are our own clients.

However, perhaps just as important as practicing is to share what you learn. In the past I used to do my personal projects and keep them in a vault just for myself, waiting for the great day to show the world what I was capable of. That day can sometimes take longer than you think though. So why only keep it to yourself?

Sharing my technique and skills allowed me to evolve quicker and to apply the things I’ve learned on professional projects with clients that otherwise I am sure I would have never gotten the chance to work with.

“Put yourself out there, being awesome is long tail” – Allan Branch

To see more from Fabio and his team, check out

Hello everyone, my name is julieanne kost.

First of all, I want to thank Scott for letting me play in his sandbox today!

I imagine that the best way to get started is to tell you a little about myself. Then, I’d like to talk about a small number of images that I’ve chosen from some current personal projects. And finally, I’ll leave you with three suggestions geared towards staying creative. So now that we know where we’re going, lets get started.

About me.

I have always been interested in photography and grew up in a household that had the perfect combination of left and right brain influences. My father is an engineer: very logical, pragmatic and disciplined in his work and he always encouraged me to master the technology necessary for a particular field of study. We had a darkroom set up in the laundry room and he taught me how to develop and print my images. My mother is a creative, imaginative and free thinking artist who encouraged me to explore different ways to express myself and communicate through many channels including music, drawing and photography.

During college I continued taking both art and photography classes along with the required units to complete a degree in psychology. However, upon graduation, instead of continuing my education to become a therapist, I took a position at a medical imaging company where I was responsible for the capture, editing and archiving of a large library of ultrasound images while I pursued a degree in photography at a local community college.

In 1992, I learned of an opening for a Technical Support Specialist supporting Photoshop and Premiere at Adobe Systems and jumped at the opportunity. I have been with Adobe ever since. I spent the first two years in technical support, them moved to the Customer Education Team, and finally landed on the Photoshop team as a product evangelist. Although I am not technically using my degree, I still utilize my early study of human behavior to try to find ways to simplify complex techniques and procedures as I present seminars and workshops about Photoshop and Lightroom at industry events, workshops and schools around the world.

About my photography.

One of my longest, ongoing personal projects centers on photographing from airplanes. For as long as I can remember, I have been afraid to fly. Of course this presents a wee bit of a problem as I board a plane almost every week. To try to overcome this fear (or at least distract me from thinking too much about it), I started taking photographs of the view from the window seat. I discovered that putting a camera between myself and the (very distant) ground below, enabled me to separate myself from the scene and converted my roll as an active participant into a passive observer. After a number of years of shooting and editing, I published “Window Seat – the Art of Digital Photography and Creative Thinking”. But that didn’t end the project; today I still leave the window shade open preferring to watch the incredible view from 30,000 feet over the pre-packaged in-flight entertainment.

Needless to say, I have very little control over these aerial images. Certainly I choose when to shoot, how to set the camera and (sometimes) which side of the plane to sit, but I have no control over the route, the weather, time of day I need to travel, the clarity (or lack there of) of the window etc.. This is a very passive project; one that I thoroughly enjoy because flying is my time, as an introvert, to recharge. With earplugs in, I can literally watch the world go by, quiet and serene. I don’t allow myself to get frustrated if I don’t see something unique or if we fly at night. Instead I look at each image that I am able to capture as a gift that I am given.

Another personal project evolved out of a game that Jack Davis suggested I try. To get me to step out of my comfort zone, he challenged me to take photographs out of a moving vehicle – without looking through the viewfinder. I just looked at him. “Really?” I asked. “Take a photograph without looking at what you’re shooting?” It sounded like crazy talk. However, it only took one look at the images that he had captured, and I was converted. Now, I’m hooked and in the final stages of a book project.

Similar to the aerial images, I have almost no control when shooting from the passenger seat of a car or train. I have learned to appreciate giving up control in order to allow myself permission to simply experiment and take chances with my imagery. It’s the spontaneity and coincidence of this type of work that results in the gift of capturing a vision that would otherwise go unseen. The majority of these images have little work done beyond what could traditionally be done in the darkroom (cropping, dodging and burning, color and tonal corrections). All of the motion is captured in camera. I also uphold a self-imposed rule with this project – there are no “go-backs” – meaning that if I miss the shot when I pass by, I can’t have the driver turn around and try again. I encourage all of you to try this – but you must find SOMEONE ELSE to drive the car! I find that these personal projects are a fundamental way to keep myself energized, try something new and expand my skills. Plus, they help prevent burnout by means of a non-work related creative outlet.

The composite work that I do is on the other end of the spectrum. I am able to control the exact elements that I want to merge together to form a cohesive message. The interactive process of selecting and assembling images is one of the most challenging and thought-provoking aspects of my creative exploration. As a result, I am able to create a composite image more powerful than its individual parts. Although overall, the images may appear serene and calm, the act of creation is anything but passive. I begin with a concept in mind, yet I may not know exactly how the pieces will fit together at the end. As the image takes on its own life, I often allow myself to explore additional directions, sometimes finding that the final image only faintly resembles the one first imagined. This type of photography mentally challenges me the most.

With this type of work, the digital manipulation is essential to my process. Photoshop’s ability to layer images and blend them together seamlessly is critical. Obviously I’m not compositing images together to imitate reality. In fact, quite the opposite. I am creating my own. In these images, I am taking what I see in my mind, my dreams, thoughts and feelings, and making an image that communicates that concept or vision. Here, a computer isn’t merely a shortcut for what is possible with a camera. Instead, it’s about exploring what’s possible in no other medium and taking advantage of the flexibility and options for creative exploration. The computer has been properly relegated to being one of many tools in the process. However, with the digital realm being so forgiving and offering so many options for exploration, it is here that discipline becomes part of the challenge. The paint is never dry, the exposure is never fixed, and the print is never final. All of it can be done differently at any point. Here, the art form is knowing when to stop. It’s about realizing when you’ve said what you set out to say.

Three Ideas.

I have several goals that I try to accomplish every year that I would also like to share today. They may not be new ideas for most of you but I will challenge you to make them a part of your creative being. They have helped me to improve my photography, my outlook on life and (I’d like to believe) myself as a person.

1) Fix whatever you complain about the most.
Every year, this is the single most challenging task for me do. But I do it. I fix the most “broken” part of my life. I challenge you to do it too. First you have to identify what “it” is that you complain about the most. What do you spend the most amount of energy worrying about that is within your control to change? Make a list, and write them down. And don’t be concerned; the list is just for you so don’t be afraid to note whatever you’re thinking. Then, prioritize the list. Sleep on it. Finally, identify the one thing that you expend the most negative energy on and make it your goal to change.

You know that it will be difficult, but imagine how much more energy you would have if you didn’t have to worry about “it.” Think of the weight being lifted off of your shoulders (like taking off a soggy, musty wool coat). Consider how much more time you would have to spend thinking about the positive things in your life and how much more creative you could be without “it” bringing you down.

In the past, I have “fixed” a wide range of things that I complain about. One year it was my diet (eating healthy on the road is always a challenge but I found that it really can be done), last year I required myself to spend a predetermined number of hours in my studio working on my own personal projects (it is really helpful to make the goal quantitative so that you can easily measure your success).

This year, there are two things in my life that I’m “fixing” to free up my time and my mind.
1) The completion of a 5-year house restoration project. This year I renovated the garage and landscaped the back yard.  It has consumed every bit of my time and will be such a relief when it is complete. I am anxious to shift focus and spend my evenings and weekends on other things.
2) I also finally took the time to have some basic legal documents drawn up – including all of those things that I didn’t want to think about such as power of attorney, wills and trusts, advance health care directives and burial instructions. Finishing this gave me peach of mind that if something were to happen unexpectedly that all of the necessary paperwork is in place.

What will you do?

2) Take up an interest in something that you know nothing about.
This is another yearly objective I take on. I was noticing that as I became more experienced in my career, I wasn’t learning nearly as much as when I was a beginner. And this wasn’t because I knew everything, far from it –it was because I had become hesitant to ask questions. So I took up something I knew nothing about so that I could be a beginner again and exercise my mind and think about new things.

This notion of continual learning isn’t new and, in fact, is very similar to the “do something different every day” assignment. This exercise challenges you to change something (no matter how big or small) every day.  For example, you can change the route that you take to work, eat something different for breakfast, listen to a different radio station etc. Both exercises are designed to break you of your habits (and trust me, humans are, by nature, creature of habit!) so that you see things with a fresh perspective. This is why I go out of my to try to see different locations when I’m in a city. Visiting a museum or a park for example exposes me to new thoughts and ideas, enables me to look at things with a new perspective and perhaps makes it possible for me see things from another persons point of view.

Is there something that you have wanted to learn? What would make it possible to pursue? Could give up time in front of the TV in order to change your physical perspective by learning to scuba dive or fly an airplane; maybe you’ll change your mental perspective by joining a book club where they read autobiographies instead of fiction (or vice versa!). Maybe you’ll decide to try to view something from another person’s perspective by volunteering at a community garden or taking a class in another medium such as painting, pottery or woodworking. Remember the goal here is not necessarily to become an expert, but to learn about something new, something unrelated to you normal daily life to allow you to see things differently.

3) Master your tools.
If the reason that I suggested that you to learn something new is to broaden your view of the world, I must also ask you – even more fervently, to master the tools necessary for your craft. In photography, it is critical that you know your camera, lighting, and post processing in the most intimate detail possible. Of course (as most of you already know), mastering any skill takes time. Few individuals (if anyone) will “master” anything overnight. Dancers, musicians, writers, athletes, pilots- almost anyone who is at the top of their field will admit that they have devoted a significant portion of their lives to reach their peak. Sometimes it’s difficult to remember, in this day of instant gratification, constant distraction and over stimulus, that it takes time to really gain the knowledge necessary to excel in your profession.

Mastering your tools will make your life easier and cut down on the amount of stress that occurs when you are faces with a challenge in your work. For example, in my composite images, I know that if I truly learn Photoshop’s layering, masking and compositing tools then I will be able to create the image that see in my mind with the least amount of frustration. When I have a idea in my head, and I want to see it come to life in the computer, the less time I have to think about the technical process, the more natural the creative process can become.  Knowing how the tools work also enables me to add my personal style and, when met with obstacles, give me the resources to overcome them.

And since studies have shown that we learn much more rapidly through play than through work – no matter what you’re trying to learn (perhaps the latest version of Photoshop or Lightroom), make it fun! Give yourself a personal assignment and be flexible so that you allow yourself to try new things.  And don’t feel that you have to learn everything by yourself. Learn to collaborate. The successful photographers that I know freely share technical information with one another.  They know that their most valuable assets are in the way that they are able to solve problems, their unique vision of the world and their ability to work with clients.

I think I’ve rambled long enough for today, so with that, lets call it a wrap. I hope you found the information meaningful in some small way and can use it to advance your personal work.


You can find more information about Julieanne as well as tips, tricks and tutorials on Photoshop and Lightroom at, follow her blog, follow her on Twitter, or view her portfolio.

Many thanks to Scott and Brad for inviting me to write a post on this blog – It’s an honor to follow many inspiring photographers as a guest blogger here.

On my own blog, I normally write about the process it took to get a single picture or ramble so much that I sometimes wonder the next day what I was talking about. I hope not to ramble and I’ll try not to leave behind after the first sentence, but can’t promise anything.

There are many things I could talk about, and I had a hard time thinking of something, but since I am laid up injured and out of work due to an injury, I thought of something I am currently forced to do and try to do often even when healthy.

This tip I am passing along is very helpful to myself and can be translated into any form of photography – whether you consider yourself a: commercial, photojournalist, portrait, food, wedding, bad, good, struggling, world-renown, or what-have-you photographer.

Leave your camera behind every once in a while – see without your camera.

When I first began shooting a couple years ago in college I was a huge Strobist fanatic. I started shooting with artificial light in very controlled environments. I knew whom I was shooting days before, I had a game plan and I knew what gear to bring. I was ultimately in control.

Since then a lot has changed.

Now my days comprise nearly of all natural light and in uncontrolled environments. As a photojournalist, I sometimes only know what I am shooting minutes beforehand, and even if I do know my assignment the night before, I rarely know anything about the surroundings, people or lighting conditions.

In short, I need to be able to walk into any situation, and make photographs that are not only candid moments, but also both telling to the story and visually appealing to readers.

I love photojournalism. It’s always something fresh and exciting. I’m always meeting new people, traveling, and learning something. There is something about documenting someone’s life, even if for a couple minutes, that is rewarding and keeps my blood pumping.

But whether it’s a posed lit-portrait, a football game or walking around aimlessly looking for a picture to fill a void in the newspaper, some assignments aren’t always stimulating to our pupils. Let’s face it, we as photographers get assignments that are just as boring as they sound.

We lay in bed the night before, or in my case, sit in the office minutes proceeding, trying to visualize moments that will never come. We try to think of the lighting that will be nowhere close to what it is. And we try to convince ourselves that we’ll come away with something spectacular.

As mentioned above, I used to do that a lot when I began shooting. I’d literally stay up hours on end trying to conceptualize what I was hoping to see. But I quickly found out that I was always setting myself up for disappointment. Nothing is ever how we picture it before hand. It’s life.

So why I decided to over-think a recent essentially mundane assignment is beyond me…

I was told to “find a nice moment” at Thanksgiving Point, fundamentally a large museum and petting zoo, to go along with a story. There is no real thought process when I am handed an assignment like this. I typically show up to my assignments and play it by ear, as they tend be like a scavenger hunt. It’s fun, but can be frustrating at times.

I walked around the complex multiple times searching. I knew children having fun were a huge part of the story, so I tried to blend in, which can be hard when you’re sporting lots of facial hair, a large camera and snapping pictures of kids. But I trucked on ignoring the probable judgments.

As I snapped pictures, I quickly realized my images of children petting animals were boring. The angles were wrong. The light was harsh. Walking around an environment, even when it’s fresh to your eyes, gets old really quick. Alas I was being too critical of my images.

Instead of dwelling on this aspect of the assignment, I put my camera in my car, and walked into the museum. I had to look without any pressures of my camera.

It’s amazing what I saw. I simply meandered through the gallery of artifacts as a visitor. I wasn’t forcing myself to take pictures or find moments.

After one walk through, I returned to my car, grabbed my camera and made maybe 40 frames.

I think it’s a good exercise to see without your camera.

Sure, as a photojournalist it’s not always ideal with tight deadlines and multiple assignment days when time is tight. That goes with being a commercial photographer when a client is looking to have pictures turned around quickly. It goes with whatever type of photographer you are.

But hoping to run into something great is not going to happen everyday. Sometimes it just has to be a no pressured scavenger hunt. Leave the camera at home one day, take a day off or simply take a 10 minute break if your images are up to your own par.

Sure you’ll see pictures everywhere, and kick yourself for not carrying your camera, but you’ll be forcing yourself to look outside your normal vantage and see things in a new light.


In high school I used to be more into video than I was photography. I think it’s where I found my real passion for story telling and documenting others. Being into cars, my friends and I would drive from Baltimore to Philadelphia to document illegal street racing. While not apparent at the time, I learned to tell what was happening in front of me truthfully.

I now continue to do the same, but it can be complicated when you’re juggling shooting stills, video and audio all at the same time. But it allows the viewers and readers to get a better sense of the story by not just reading, but seeing and hearing the subject.

At my current job at the Provo Dally Herald in Utah, we photographers are each given a couple days a month go out into the small community and find a story which appears on the front page every Monday. In the couple days we have, which are usually bookended by normal daily assignments, we are sent to find a story, shoot stills for print, write the copy, and produce multimedia.

Recently I found Mike Hayward of Payson, Utah. He was concrete trained by trade and had been working with his father since a young age. But overshadowed by the dwindling economy, he had been out of work for quite some time. That was until he received a lathe for wood working from his father-in-law three months ago.

Before meeting him, I knew nothing of Hayward. I only knew he made wooden vases and bowls in his garage. The first day I went to his home we sat and talked for an hour to get to know him better before even shooting any pictures.

I usually decide to shoot pictures first because when I start combining video and stills during the same assignment, one isn’t going to be as good as the other. So the first couple hours I hung out I simply got to know him and shot stills.

The next morning I went back to shoot video and get a bulk of my interview audio. With that in mind, every subject is different, some take time to open up to you, others feel comfortable right away. Hayward and I connected quickly, so he made my job easy. He wasn’t afraid to open up and tell me the real story of him being out of work and now starting a new venture.

In the end, I like to keep my videos short to two-minutes to hold the viewers’ attention. I also like to tell a short part of the story, not the entire thing. I feel like the video should be an extension to the article, not a summary.

You can see more of Patrick’s work at his website, keep up with him on his blog, or follow him on Twitter.

Photo by Mark Suban

Pay it Forward

“Pay it Forward” is a phrase that might sound familiar because it was the theme for a popular book and later adapted into a movie. The concept of Pay it Forward is not about repaying a good deed or a favor to the person who did something for you; it’s about paying it forward to others. It’s how I feel about teaching photography. I’ve received a lot of assistance and good will throughout my career that I can never repay. But I can give back; that’s why I think things have come full circle.

I graduated Providence College with a major in English and a concentration in photography. My dream was, you guessed it, to be a photojournalist. I loved writing, loved taking pictures. But I didn’t have any experience right out of school, so I worked for a magazine publisher as an administrative assistant. Then six years later, after gaining experience as a proofreader/copyeditor/production manager, I was hired as an editor at an international publishing company.

My commute was a long one – over an hour each way. One morning I found myself in the elevator at 6am, alone. Barely looking up, I pressed “2” and the shiny elevator doors closed in front of me. I leaned against the wall and saw my reflection; I looked like a zombie, a robot. It was an ordinary Monday morning. There wasn’t anything “wrong.” I loved the people I worked with – they were good friends. But something was missing. The work itself wasn’t interesting to me anymore and I didn’t want to be there.

What else was I going to do? I didn’t have a portfolio, or tear sheets, or any ideas on how to get back to my original plan – becoming a storyteller. That’s when you sit down and just start somewhere. Didn’t have a portfolio, but I could change that. I started freelancing as a photojournalist on weekends writing travel articles, lifestyle pieces, you name it. What would a magazine find interesting, different? Then it happened. A relative told me about a driving school course at Skip Barber Racing School. “It was the best gift, ever!” She said excitedly. She couldn’t tell me the details fast enough.

This was good stuff! I could write about safety benefits, the notion of “bad” female drivers (a guaranteed hot topic in a women’s magazine! :) ), and hot-looking car photos couldn’t hurt.

I pitched the idea and got the assignment, but had a slight problem. I didn’t know how to drive a stick. Never learned as a kid and was setting myself up to learn as an adult, in a class full of guys. What was I thinking!? (Here’s where the research part as a journalist is key.)

Good fortune did come my way because my teacher was Bruce MacInnes, legendary race car driver and instructor. He agreed to pre-class practice on double clutching – thank goodness! Bruce became a dear friend and mentor; his enthusiasm, positive energy, and passion for teaching were contagious.

“It’s pretty simple,” he’d say, smiling. “I see it like this. Every morning when I wake up I have two choices: I can be happy or I can be sad. I choose to be happy because I’m alive. I could have died so many times in a race car or in an Ultralight. I am so lucky! It just keeps things straight for me.”

Once I finished the driving school, the temptation to “go on” with the racing school was irresistible. I worked an angle to get published in a few more magazines – Smoke and Robb Report – and eventually found myself in a Formula Dodge open-wheel race car.

You know how hooked I got? I traded in my automatic transmission street car for a stick shift. :)

I was the only woman in my class and I didn’t want to be singled out as the “slow one.” You know, that car that everyone is passing. I was very motivated to practice, a lot.

Sitting behind the wheel of a race car means that you have to make split-second calculations. And sometimes, no matter how hard you concentrate, those calculations will result in misjudgments. One day, I miscalculated in a spectacular way. I did the ever-fateful pedal snap (when you lift off the gas too quickly) down the straightaway before Turn 1. I whipped around quicker than my eyeballs could follow. In a blink, I was looking up the downhill, got sideways across the track, and then skidded into the grass. I didn’t get hurt, but I did eat some dirt. It was an especially long walk back to pit lane. I couldn’t have felt more embarrassed, like a big ‘ol “L” was stuck to my forehead.

Bruce told me what I did wrong and was predictably encouraging. I nodded, then walked over and sat on the wall.

“You’re up, Annie,” Bruce shouted when they got my car ready.

I shook my head side to side. “Yeah… no freakin’ way,” I mumbled under my breath as he walked over.

“Nope, this isn’t for me, Teach,” I responded, resolutely. “I’m done.”

“Ahh… no you’re not. You are getting in that car again. Right now.” He looked at me with his piercing blue eyes. “Your pride’s a little hurt, but you’re not quitting. Get up…”

That was that. No discussion. I got back in the car. Talk about getting back on the horse again! Those three days changed my life. Dealing with failure, humility, self-confidence – tough stuff. I wanted to improve so I had to push myself, risk failure and learn from it. It’s as true for race car driving as it as about photography. I also saw how important it was for an instructor to believe in his students and not give up. My workshop students hear me say: “It’s not about the pictures you bring home, it’s about the learning process. It’s about getting out of your comfort zone.”

I loved being at the track so I signed up for more high-speed lapping days, more “seat time.” The only way I could afford it though was to publish more articles. A major incentive to keep writing and shooting! When I wasn’t driving, I’d walk around and photograph the instructors, drivers, cars, scenics of the track. Word spread and the next thing I know I became “the photographer.”

“Hey, I hear you’re a photographer. Tomorrow I need shots of me runnin’ Race 5 of the…”

I’d say “yes,” of course. Photographers are always counseled to say “yes” and then figure it out later, right? Feel the fear and do it anyway.

Gulp. Now the pressure was on to actually get professional looking shots of moving cars. I could make pretty pictures in the paddock area, portraits, but I had no real experience capturing moving cars. So I searched out any pro photographer at the track and asked for advice. It wasn’t easy at times navigating my way in a predominately male environment (like racing school), but I just had to prove that I was serious and committed to learning. Mastering the technical aspects of the camera set up was important, so I did a lot of experimenting. But I needed a mentor. Someone to take me beyond the instruction book. A local track photographer tolerated me asking questions, but I needed someone I could shadow.

Thanks to a friend of a friend, I not only got the assistance of a sports photographer, it was iconic Sports Illustrated photographer Heinz Kluetmeier. Heinz orchestrated a trip for me to assist legendary motorsports photographer George Tiedemann at the Indy 500. I could barely breathe from the excitement knowing I’d be at Indy, credentialed, with a camera.

George took me under his wing, as did the other Sports Illustrated photographers I met, and told me what books to buy, what to study. The guys filled me in on the “do’s and don’ts” of working in the pits and trackside. It was an extraordinary opportunity. They took me to Roberts camera store and told me which Nikon gear to buy. I put myself in debt, (wouldn’t be the first time for photography!) but I knew it would be temporary. I trusted my instincts that it was going to be OK. It was risky, maybe a little impulsive, but it turned out to be a worthwhile investment. I needed professional gear if I was going to shoot like a pro.

George and the other photographers were so generous with their time and instruction. They were the best in the business, and yet, they took the time to teach me.

One thing everyone agreed on was that there was no shortcut for practice. I was told to photograph anything that moved – including traffic! Dutifully, I picked a busy intersection near my house and practiced panning with traffic. I felt pretty self-conscious at first, but then just concentrated on what I was doing and not on people staring. :) There I was standing on the side of the road, swinging left to right trying to get wheel spin and the “nose-to-tail” of a car in the frame.

My print sales were slowly increasing at the track when I was introduced to the media liaison for Skip Barber Racing School (SBR) at the time, Rick Roso. After being persistent (maybe borderline stalker), Rick gave me assignment work for the pro series at SBR. He took a chance on me even though I didn’t have as much experience as the other photographers. That’s the whole Catch-22 thing with experience, right? Someone has to be willing to give you a chance (and possibly not deliver), so you can gain experience to ultimately move forward. And not only did Rick give me the chance to shoot, I watched him edit. Watching a good editor work through your take is an invaluable learning experience.

Slide from early coverage of Skip Barber Racing School

I continued to work at my publishing job and freelance for about two years. During that time, I met Mike Corrado, a Professional Markets Technical Representative for Nikon. We became friends and talked about cameras every once in awhile. Then one day I got the call.

“Hey, I think you should interview for a job here – it’s my old job,” said Mike. “You ask me more technical questions than anyone else and you actually read the instruction manual! You wanna be a photographer for real, right?” Mike was being promoted.

I didn’t fully process what he had said until I put down the phone. I read the quote (below) that I’d taped to my wall. I read it again, and again.

“…That the moment one definitely commits oneself then Providence moves too.

All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.

A whole stream of events issues from the decision raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.

Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.

Begin it now.”


I interviewed several times with Bill Pekala, General Manager of Nikon Professional Services (NPS). I knew this was it. I wanted to work for Bill. I wanted to be involved in photography every day. He hired me and I began my training as a technical representative for Nikon @12 years ago. Bill has an impressive, far-reaching knowledge of photography that is unmatched – he’s been with Nikon for over 30 years. He’s widely respected in the photo industry and I can’t even begin to quantify all I’ve learned from him and my colleagues at Nikon here in the States, as well as abroad.

As a Professional Markets Technical Representative (PMTR), I’ve learned valuable information about the cameras, lenses, flashes, software, but I’ve learned so much more about becoming a better photographer technically and also creatively. I’ve been trained by the best there is. I’m privileged to work with an amazing group of talented men and women who are not only accomplished photographers, but also experienced, knowledgeable, dedicated educators.

You’ll see us behind the counter at a photo show, or answering questions during a workshop, or on the sidelines, or in a press center because our primary job is to support photographers – whether it’s answering technical questions, helping with loans or repairs, every day is different! Whether I’m explaining FP High-Speed Sync to a pro or helping a dad take better pictures of his son playing soccer, it’s all good :)

DLWS workshop with pal Moose Peterson, Killington, VT

Our customer base consists of a wide variety of photographers, including photojournalists, sports and nature photographers, commercial, industrial, military, and law enforcement. I’ve worked field events such as the Olympics (total of 3), World Cup, Kentucky Derby, Masters, World Athletics, the list goes on! I’ve had the honor of being flown onboard a US aircraft carrier (USS Harry S. Truman CVN 75) twice and shot off, plus photograph a space shuttle launch. Incredible experiences.

Synchronized swimming during 2000 Olympic Games, Sydney, Australia

I signed up to be a student in as many photography workshops as possible when I first started at Nikon. I was going to be working with the industry’s best and wanted to improve my own skills!

Light, Gesture, Color – Jay Maisel’s Workshop, Tuscany

I will always be humbled knowing I not only do what I love, I now teach what I love. Jay Maisel has been that example for me as a photographer and an instructor, and continues to be a source of inspiration.

I took one of Joe McNally’s lighting classes early on and learned that if you really want a photograph, you have to go for it…

Hopped on a stranger’s bike during Joe McNally’s Lighting Workshop, Rockport, Maine

Portrait of a friend

Look behind you…This was a gift. Everyone else was shooting the warm-up of the horses on the track when I turned around.

NPS sponsors a wide range of workshops and events across the country, but it took all these years before I ended up at a Nikon sponsored motorsports event at my old track Labor Day weekend. I got to work with my mentor George Tiedemann after 15 years! And fate would have it that my friend Rick Roso (who works at Lime Rock Park) would be my contact once again.

“Ok. Be straight with me. I really sucked…! I can’t believe the stuff I turned in. I can’t believe you hired me!” I laughed, reminiscing with Rick about my early years at the track.

Rick laughed harder, “Well, you were OK. It took a little while. Then he paused. “You know. It wasn’t like that; it was really more than the pictures you were giving us. You had such enthusiasm and determination. You just had something. I knew you’d figure it out.” He gave me a chance, the “lucky break.”

Being at my old track, years later, was a blast because I got to shoot pictures, look at portfolios, listen, learn, and it was all a part of my day job. Thanks to Rick Dole, George Tiedemann, and Robert Laberge, all extremely talented, wonderful sports photographers, for a fantastic event and making my “homecoming” weekend so memorable.

Practicing panning during the Motorsports Photography Workshop at Lime Rock Park September 2010

More practice at 1/30th of a second

Photography has afforded me the opportunity to create, travel, meet interesting people and make lasting friendships. I am very fortunate. Now I’m often in the position where I’m able to “pay forward” the good will that was given to me. Whether it’s young photographers looking for advice and career direction, or looking at portfolios, I am happy to do so.
My travels include teaching week-long workshops, such as the Nikon D-SLR Class at Santa Fe Workshops.

And I am thrilled to be at the CreativeAsia conference for the first time next year in Malaysia!

The best of both worlds is teaching and traveling with my husband, the man I love and admire most, one of the most extraordinary photographers and educators, Joe McNally.

A BIG “thank you” to Scott Kelby for the invitation today and for all the support he and his team have given to photographers. Thanks for stopping by!!

You can find Anne here on Facebook



I’m thrilled and honored to be this week’s guest blogger. I’ve been a member of NAPP and a follower of Scott Kelby for many many years, and I can’t thank him enough for all the wonderful information he provides through his books and online videos.

I’ve been making my living as a photographer for more than 25 years, specializing in location work for annual reports and other types of business collateral material. Making a living as a professional photographer is hard work, no doubt about it!  You need passion, persistence and an unbridled faith in yourself and your abilities.  As hard as it is to build a successful business in photography, it is the most rewarding career you could ever imagine.

My love affair with photography started back during my high school days.  I was a staff shooter on the school paper as well as the yearbook. I enjoyed shooting B/W film, developing the negatives and making prints. My interest in B/W photography grew and I became a big fan of Ansel Adams and his beautiful landscapes. I taught myself the zone system and began shooting “rocks and trees”.  Like a lot of young people, I had no idea what I wanted to do for a living, but I did know that photography would always play a part in my life.  I had no idea that it would consume my life.



Back in the late 70’s I worked as a flight attendant for a major airline.  We had a saying in the industry, “There is a smile in every window and an ass in every seat!”  Fate was with me one day when I met a passenger that changed my life. He was a professional photographer named Joe Baraban, a Houston based shooter who shot corporate annual reports and advertising work.  I can’t remember if he was one of those smiles in a window or just another ass?  Long story short, I quit the airline, moved to Houston to assist Joe and learn the business.  I stayed for about 15 months before moving to Denver to start my own photography business.

When I moved to Denver, the economy really sucked, much like it does today.  Being young at the time, I didn’t know any better and I really didn’t care. All I knew was that I was determined to strike out on my own and succeed at becoming a working professional photographer.


Over the years I’ve photographed for all sorts of industry, however it was the engineering, oil & gas and mining work that captured my interest.  I love shooting large-scale projects and the challenge to make those industries look glamorous.  It is this sort of work which allows me a tremendous amount of creative freedom, travel and the opportunity to learn about how things work and how they are built.  I often compare my assignments with that of the Discovery program “Dirty Jobs”.


Aside from my assignment work, I also teach a lighting workshop called “Small Strobes, Big Results.  I’ve been teaching for three years now. I really enjoy sharing my many years of experience with those interested in sharpening their lighting skills.


I also I teach workshops for Nikonians, The Santa Fe Workshops, Maine Media Workshops, GPP (Gulf Photo Plus), PhotoPress Productions and Popular Photography’s Mentor Series Treks.

I’ve been very fortunate to earn a living doing something I love, and I realize that not many of us are able to say that.  When I have the opportunity to speak to young people, I encourage pursuing a career that brings them joy.  I encourage them to follow their dreams, seek out those who are succeeding in their field of interest.  Life is to short too spend your days doing something that you’re not interested in.  Reach for that golden ring!


The Role of the Picture Editor

It is not important if photographs are “good.” It’s important that they are interesting. What makes a photograph interesting? I’ll count the ways: It can be our first look at something. It can be entertaining. It can evoke deep emotions. It can be amusing or thrilling or intriguing. It can be proof of something. It can jog memories or raise questions. It can be beautiful. It can convey authority. Most often, it informs. And, it can surprise.


Nothing is more important than the trust of photographers. Since they are not employees, but freelancers, photographers often operate from a disadvantaged position. Remember that:
· You are the photographers’ advocate. No one else will be.
· You are the photographers’ counselor, explaining the magazine to them and them to the magazine.
· You are the final arbiter when disagreements arise with other members of the staff.

Smooth the way for the photographer. Make certain that the proper research has been done before an assignment and that there is actually something to photograph. (It sounds unbelievable to say photographers can arrive to find their subjects don’t exist but it happens.)

You should back photographers’ good ideas with conviction and shield them from misguided suggestions: Often, something that sounds intelligent doesn’t look good in photographs. Intelligent thoughts are often better in the mind’s eye than in the camera.

Other editors, with the story’s text in hand, may judge photographs by what they have read. Don’t join them. The reader sees before he ever reads and may never read if there’s nothing interesting to see.

A good subject for one photographer may not be good for another. Some photographers create a graphic and dramatic structure of a scene and then record it. Others leave a scene alone, intent on catching the ring of truth in a moment’s natural activity. Some do a bit of both. Label the extremes “posed” and “candid.”

You must spot young talent and encourage it, giving these tyros more than occasional assignments. Give those you select enough work to allow them to develop, but remember that when photographers start out, they often imitate one famous photographer or another. Challenge them to be themselves. When a photographer such as Alfred Eisenstaedt or Annie Leibovitz makes his or her reputation in your publication, everyone, including the reader, benefits.



Treat all photographers equally-those with whom you become close friends as well as those with whom you do not. Remember:
· React promptly to pictures you like when photographers call. Don’t wait days or weeks to satisfy their curiosity. Be an audience without flattery. Photographers rarely get informed reactions to their work.
· Don’t assure photographers that their pictures will be printed if they may not be.
· Be clear about what expenses you will pay. Don’t quibble with the photographer’s expense report. Pay promptly. Photographers are usually one-person operations-hardly businesses. They have to pay the airline and rental car bills the next month.
· If you must assign two photographers to do the same subject, make sure the reasons are known to everyone.
· Don’t hold on to a photographer’s work just to keep it from your competition.
Do all this, and when the time comes for you to hold a photographer’s feet to the fire-to urge him to continue to press a difficult subject or try a fresh approach-your mutual trust will be gold.

Since you wouldn’t ask a photographer to shoot pictures by the pound, don’t present their work that way. Take their pictures and narrow them down to the best. It’s your job to show their work so that others can clearly see its quality.

Learn to visualize photographs in scale, and understand art directors’ everlasting concern with fitting photographs, headlines, body type and captions into a page’s space. Appreciate their solutions. Make your points before layouts are made. No one wants to tear up finished work.





When a story is proposed, the picture editor should take a leaf from the newspaper editor’s handbook-the part that cub reporters have to commit to memory and recall when they start out on a story. Who (or what) is interesting to look at? When is it interesting to look at? And where? And how?
To be interesting, a photograph needs to show something distinctive. A two-headed cow is unusual. A bride in her wedding gown standing in a kitchen is a bit odd. But there can also be something special in what otherwise might be a common picture: a child’s yawn, for example, or a man’s gestures or a tree’s shadow. The flawless detail in print from a large-format camera may define the peculiarity of a subject.

“Peculiar” means distinctive, individual (we say “peculiar as the nose on your face”), as well as aberrant, bizarre and absurd. It’s a good word to use when thinking about photographs. Before making an assignment, ask yourself, “What is peculiar about the subject?”


Before I became a picture editor, I assumed that “good photographers” took “good pictures” because they had a special eye. What I found was that good photographers take good pictures because they take great pains to have good subjects in front of their cameras. (Reflect a moment on what cameras do, and this makes sense.) Good photographers anticipate their pictures. What good picture editors do is help them.


Don’t try to tell a photographer how to take a picture, (except, possibly, suggesting some special effect). You want the photographer to follow his own instincts. You should, however, let the photographer climb upon your shoulders for a better view. That is, explain your thinking about the story. Talk about what might happen. Wonder if the man who invented “Post-its” would stick one on his nose. Raise the possibility without demanding to see it. Instead, expect to see something better.
Encourage good photographers to work for themselves, for posterity, for their grandchildren-not just for you. A photograph that solves a magazine’s problem is more interesting when the solution is something you remember after the problem is forgotten.

Text editors do their work after the fact. But because photographers have something in common with Babe Ruth-they either hit the ball or they don’t-almost everything a picture editor does is done before the pictures are taken. What can you do after a home run except smile?

No photographer can go out today and take a photograph that sums up the Obama Administration. Photographs don’t generalize. But a detail, when photographed, often conveys a sense of a whole. A finger, the man. A leaf, the tree. A curbstone, the city.



Photographers don’t like leaving their pictures to chance. When shooting people, they gravitate toward making portraits-strong, static pictures they are certain will command attention-not riskier pictures that catch people doing things. As in a novel, action is always at a premium. And in truth, most subjects are static. Encourage photographers to take chances. Will the 100-year-old lady please bend and touch her toes?

How do you choose a photographer? Personality is not important. (Like barbers, photographers need to get along with almost anyone in order to earn a living.) But the photographer’s way of working is important-and so is the subject’s way of life. You must meld the two to ensure success.

Take the responsibility when assignments fail. (Your job is to see that they don’t.)

To view more of Mr. Loengard’s work, visit his website at