Category Archives Guest Blogger


Thanks to Scott and Brad for inviting me to write a post on this blog. It’s an honor to share the stage with so many talented photographers.

On my own blog, I normally write about the nuts and bolts of each photo shoot. For this special post, I’d like to share the key to making a living in this crazy business of photography:

You need to separate yourself from the pack.

But how do you do that? I’ve realized that there are a few things I consistently do when preparing for a shoot.

1) If I see a group of photographers standing together, I run the other direction.

At most of the events I cover, there are a lot of other photographers. The wire services and local newspaper shooters always do a great job covering the event. So what can I bring to the table? If I just shoot the same images as everyone else, there’s no reason for me to be there.

The easiest way to separate myself is to literally move away from the other photographers. I try to take chances and go for the high risk shot. It doesn’t always pay off, but when it does, it’s worth it.

For example, I was assigned to shoot the Live Eight mega-concert in Philadelphia a few years ago. This was a huge international event with performances by Kanye West, Stevie Wonder, Keith Urban, Maroon 5, Jay-Z, and more. There were expecting a million fans.

When I arrived, I saw that there were only two photo positions for the 50-plus credentialed photographers and the spots were way back by the sound board. I don’t like shooting from the back because the pictures just aren’t as dynamic as the shots from the photo pit in front of the stage. More importantly, there were more than 50 photographers all shooting exactly the same thing! I don’t care how big the event is, there’s just no reason for me to shoot the same pictures as everyone else.

It wasn’t going to be easy to break away from the group because the publicists and security guards had made it very clear that we weren’t allowed to shoot anywhere else. I knew I wouldn’t get into the pit in front of the stage, but as fans started to stream in, I noticed that they were giving out wristbands for the front, standing-room section.

I left my 600mm lens with a friend in the back and pretended to be a fan. After seamlessly melding into the line, I managed to snag a wristband! Next thing I knew, I was in the front row pressed up against the barricade and right next to the photo pit. The only thing to do at that point was hide my cameras until the last minute and hope I didn’t get kicked out.

I’m not suggesting that it’s always necessary to break the rules, but in this case, most of the fans in that section had cameras anyway. I shot the entire show from that spot and made pictures that were different from the ones shot in the back.


2) Use technology to my advantage.

I’ve always been an early adopter of technology. I remember beta testing a digital camera at a Chicago Bulls – Miami Heat playoff game in the early 90’s. The files were basically unusable and the camera was nearly impossible to operate. But it gave me a jump on the competition as the tech improved in the following years. I was one of the first full-time digital newspaper photographers in the world. I’d rather struggle with new technology and help the companies make them better than have it forced on me later without any say in the matter.

When I was assigned to photograph President Obama’s inauguration last year, I had to figure out what to focus on (literally) and how to document it.

Of course, this was an historical inauguration so I had to make photos of the swearing in. But I was coming from New York and am not a Washington regular. I knew that the local political shooters would have all the best photo positions. I probably wouldn’t be able to talk my way past Capitol Security and onto the podium to stand next to the first family.

I figured that the other big story was that two million people were going to attend the event. That’s significant. So I researched different ways that I could show the entire crowd.

I had heard of the GigaPan system, but had never used it. The technology was developed by NASA so that the Mars rover could photograph the Martian surface in high resolution. The commercially available GigaPan units were relatively new and had mostly been used for landscape type photos.

Since the GigaPan shoots a series of photos over a period of time, I called the company to ask how well it would work with a group of people who might be moving around. They offered to send me a loaner unit to try at the inauguration. They even loaned me a camera because I don’t own a good point-and-shoot, which is all that the original GigaPan could handle.

It arrived the day before I had to leave for Washington so I didn’t even have a chance to test it. The night before the inauguration, I took it out of the case and read the instructions just to make sure it worked.

On the big day, I set up the imager the way I wanted it, input all the parameters, and let it go. While it worked, I shot “regular” photos with my Nikons and long lenses.

In the evening, after I had transmitted all of my photos, I checked the GigaPan and was pleasantly surprised. The stitching worked while I slept and I uploaded the 1,474 megapixel image to the next day. The resolution allows you to zoom into the image and see many of the people who attended. An embedded version on my blog and a post on Facebook later, I had over 12 million views. If you Google the generic phrase “inauguration photo,” my site usually comes up as number one.


3) Do something differently.

As I write this, I’m on the road shooting a series of Bon Jovi concerts for my company It’s a dream gig and I love documenting the show each night.

But while the set list changes every day, photographically it’s pretty much the same thing. Fans can buy prints from the shows, so I have to make the expected shots of Jon and Richie on stage. But I don’t want to make the same images night after night, so I push myself to try different things.

I often use remote cameras for my sports assignments, so I decided to put one up at the concert. I mounted a Nikon D3 and 14-24 mm lens right next to Tico Torres’ drum set, looking out at the crowd. During the show, I triggered the camera with my Pocket Wizard whenever I thought it would make a good image.

Obviously, this is a shot that very few people will ever get to take. But now I’ve got to find yet another way to shoot the show.


4) Give them more than they expect.

It’s not easy to get hired for a shoot. My clients are investing in me and I’d better produce. I try my best to make them want to hire me again.

I like to imagine potential clients in a meeting trying to decide who to hire. They could be saying, “There are a bunch of people who can do this job. Just hire one. If the first photographer is not available, it doesn’t matter. Just hire the next one on the list.”

That’s not the group I want to be in. I prefer that they say, “We’ve got to have Bergman for this one. Give him whatever he wants.”

Of course, it doesn’t often happen like that, but you get my point.

The way you make them remember you is to give them more than they expect.

A number of years ago, Sports Illustrated sent me to cover the NFL draft. Photographically, it’s a difficult event to cover because nothing happens. The player’s name is called, he comes out and shakes hands with the commissioner, and walks off the stage. Traditionally, the pictures are important only for their historical significance but aren’t very memorable.

This is another event where the photographers were all told to stand in one assigned position. Sports Illustrated can get pictures from the wire services so it allowed me to take some chances.

I wandered around before the event and found a balcony that overlooked both the “green room” (the area where they keep the players and families) and the stage area. I thought I might be able to get it all in one shot, so during the draft I went up there for a bit and made some pictures.

The image ran as a two-page spread in Sports Illustrated’s coveted “leading off” section.

Because of that, SI now calls on me to cover the draft every year. Of course, I have to come up with something different each time. One year I set up a portrait booth outside the building to make pictures of fans. Last year, I set up multiple remote cameras all around the stage so that I’d have unique angles that no one else had.


There are a LOT of photographers out there. It wasn’t that long ago that most people had trouble simply loading 35mm film. But the camera companies have made it very easy for anyone to properly expose and focus an image.

To make a living as a professional photographer, you’ve got to stand out:

1) If you see a group of photographers standing together, run the other direction.
2) Use technology to your advantage.
3) Do something differently.
4) Give them more than they expect.

Run through that checklist before each shoot, and you’ll be on your way to separating yourself from the pack.

For more from David, check out his website, and keep an eye on for his exclusive concert work.

Photo by Dale Zanine

I want to thank both Scott and Brad for the invitation to compose a blog entry for what I consider to be the most informative photography/creative blog on the web today. Scott is a true pioneer within the creative industry, and his site is always the one I look to for answers when I am lost. So, when Brad sent me an email asking me to guest blog, as many of you might imagine, I was about as jacked as I have ever been.

Soon after, I began to realize the heavy burden of following in the footsteps of Joe McNally, Bill Frakes and all those photographers whose work I have on a pedestal so high I could not reach it if I were on a trip to the moon.

All kidding aside, those that know me well will tell you that I have never been an out-front, in your face guy; I have always wanted my work to speak for itself, so if you have never heard of me or seen my work, no fear… After reading this Blog/Book, you will know why… I am Paul Abell, a relatively new photographer mostly known for sports photography.

For the last several weeks, I have contemplated my approach and how I might present something different from those that have come before me, and once again, reality set in… What could I possibly share with you all that these amazing photographers have not already shared? Conclusion: I did not find a thing…

Scott, thank you for thinking enough of me and the work that I have done to ask me to share it here. To those that are reading this, thank you for allowing me to share my work and story with you… Most of all, best of luck in all live and all your creative endeavors.


My journey as a photographer is more than likely different than most photographers. It began just eight years ago, this April, while working as a graphic designer for an arenafootball2 (af2) team named the Macon Knights.

Today, the Knights are no longer a team in operation, but I credit their ownership for giving me every opportunity to succeed at the highest level.

In 2003, I had the opportunity to work with multi-talented, award-wining creative director, Kurt Tausche. Over his career, Kurt has won more than 500 national & international awards, and he was brought in by the Knights to help create a sports brand second to none in any level of professional sports.

Kurt and I hit it off from the start, and I credit him for taking the time to work with such an unknown photographer; Looking back, I am not sure how we accomplished so much, but I credit the final award-winning productions to his abilities as a national, award-wining creative director. With all of Kurt’s award-winning projects, he could have easily refused to work with me, but for whatever reasons he did not, and I was awarded the opportunity to work alongside one of the top creative directors in the advertising industry.

Over my 5 years with the Knights, I worked on and produced over 30 award winning designs & photographs, taking home photo of the year 2 times, Media guide of the year 5 years, as well as numerous other local Best of Show, Gold & Silver ADDY Awards.

SAMPLE DESIGN: 2003 Macon Knights Pocket Schedule, design & photo by Paul Abell

This was one of the award-winning designs I produced shortly after beginning my work with Kurt Tausche. Prior to the season, Kurt and I scheduled a photo shoot with many of the Knights’ players. The image seen in the design is of Knights’ fullback Byron Douzart. Our lighting was even and flat, as is was all I knew how to do… For the session, we used (more…)

…..Pro sports photographer, and all around cool guy, my buddy Paul Abell.

Paul has helped me SO much with shooting sports over years, and any time I’m stuck on something, he has always been incredibly gracious to help me out by sharing what he learned in his many years of shooting pro sports.

In the meantime, go check out some of Paul’s work right here (make sure you check out his Football portfolio).

Make sure you stop back here tomorrow as Paul takes the blog for the day. I can’t wait! :)


Let me start by thanking Scott for giving me his blogspace for today, I will try to leave it the way I found it :)

My name is Frank Doorhof and I’m a Dutch fashion and sometimes glamour photographer. In our business we made a quite drastic move into teaching workshops instead of aiming for the magazines. I still shoot for magazines and advertising of course, but our main focus is on the teaching of workshops. In the last few years this has resulted in workshops worldwide and the release of 6 instructional DVDs and this year number 7 will hit the market.

So what is the thing I try to do in the workshops? In a time where you can see a lot of photography on the web and photographers who have only been shooting for three months already teaching workshops, it’s a market that is very confusing for the people just starting out with photography or simply people looking for a good workshop. What also struck me with amazement is the lack of basic knowledge in most posts you see online. One of the most asked questions for example on my shots is, “How did you light this?” In most of my work, with just the basic knowledge of light, you can clearly see how something was lit.

To make a long story short I try to start with my students on square one. Don’t, however, think that I only focus on how you should put the lens on the camera. That’s something I skip completely. What I do teach however, is understanding (and I mean really understanding) what light does. Too many photographers are just placing their lightsources in the trusted setup they have used for many years or which they know will work because they copied it from someone else who is successful. The problem with this is that when you don’t understand what you are doing you will one day run into big problems when a situation occurs where you have to improvise, and those situations are the ones where you can get customers for life.

By understanding what light does and how it behaves you can get a good shot in almost any situation, whether it’s with natural light, strobes or bounced light. Because even this blog space is not long enough to explain everything in detail I will give you some very quick tips which I hope will trigger you to search further on the net or maybe visit one of the workshops I teach :) Also please look into one of the greatest teachers ever – Dean Collins.


Why fake it when you can create it?
Most questions you see online are about recreating a certain style. The funny thing is that after seeing pages of people trying to recreate that style, most fail. The reason why most fail is very simple – they use different light setups. In the old days of photography everyone knew that light was the most important thing in a photograph. When your light was wrong, the picture would not come out correct. However, somehow in this day and age with Photoshop, most photographers seem to think that there is a filter for everything and they can just shoot a bad picture and the magic filter will transform it into art….. Well, I’ve seen some amazing things done with Photoshop (just visit Scott’s seminars), but even the best Photoshop users can’t make a bad picture really shine….. That instant killer shot filter still doesn’t exists….. or does it ?


Your viewfinder is your Photoshop
It depends on what you see as filter. For me the viewfinder of my camera is the first and most important step. Learn to look through the viewfinder, and I don’t mean look through the viewfinder to see the subject and shoot, but REALLY look through the viewfinder. Find the right composition, look for factors you don’t like and look for your shadows. Too often I hear the expression, “I’ll will fix that in post.” Remember that, often, fixing it right away will take you seconds while fixing it in post can ruin your picture or take you forever. If you load a picture into Photoshop that’s already almost perfect, then there are some stunning things you can do and really finish that shot into art. But remember, the shot has to be there. In fact, the raw file should already be the finished product. Photoshop should only be used for the finishing touches, or in some cases to create the real art that was envisioned.

Metering is everything
You don’t want to know the discussions I had about using a light meter. According to some the light meter is something from the past and should not be used anymore. “Just use the histogram” is the well known expression. Well think about this… When you look at your models and you look at their skin tones, are they all equal? ?I don’t think so, so when you are shooting on a histogram how do you know when you nailed the exposure? Exactly – you don’t. You can get close, but how about reshooting the same model a week or two later? Can you make a 100% accurate series? With the meter you can, and it’s lighting fast, just use the incident metering, aim towards the light source and you have your exposure. But also invest in a meter that can do spot metering. When using the spot meter function you can very quickly calculate the white or black backgrounds.?Let’s look a bit more into that very quickly.


It’s all in the numbers
To understand the method to calculate backgrounds, it’s important to first understand that 18% gray is seen as middle gray, or in fact a spike in the histogram in the center of it. (Some people claim it’s 12% but I’m more in the 18% gray camp). When you know that one stop of light is double the amount of light it’s very easy with a reflective meter to calculate the backgrounds, but also to see if a dress still holds detail in the shadow areas or highlights.

Let’s start by making a white background really white. When we start out with a measurement of our model on F8 (incident) and we want the background to turn white we can very quickly calculate how that should work. We switch to reflective reading metering and measure the background. For this example it’s also measuring F8 (to make it easier). If we shoot now, our model should be correct and the background should be 18% gray. But we wanted it to be white…… Well it’s not as hard as it seems. Every stop is double the amount of light so one can calculate white at 2.5 stops over. 18% is middle, 1 stop higher is 36%, one stop higher is 72% and add a bit more and you are at app 100, so we normally can say it’s app 2.5 stops over. For black it works the same way. 18% is middle, 1 stop less is 9%, 1 stop less is 4.5%, 1 stop less is 2.2%, 1 stop less is 1.1% so we normally put black at 4.5 stops under.

With this knowledge you can measure incredibly fast if a scene holds its detail (perfect for wedding photographers). However with the new cameras and growing dynamic range it can happen that the numbers will change slightly, so test this with your own camera, but for most cameras this technique will work flawless. When mastering this techique you will know exactly when to use fill in flash or when to just take away light.


Ok, a meter is fun but it’s not accurate?
It’s always a letdown when you buy an expensive meter and it doesn’t work the way it should. However with most light meters this is a fact. This is not the fault of the meter however, not all cameras are using a real ISO100 so you have to “calibrate” the meter to the system you are using. That sounds complicated? Well it actually isn’t. In fact you can do it within a few seconds. As mentioned before, 18% gray should render a spike in the middle of the histogram, so the proper and quick way to calibrate your light meter to your camera is to simply shoot an 18% gray card and check the spike. If it’s not in the center you can use the offset of the meter to make sure it is after the calibration. You now have an accurate tool for measuring your light setups.

Another small tip
I get a lot of mails about the high contrast shots I make, especially in the portraits. People are mailing me examples of their attempt and they don’t seem to be able to pull it off. So very fast the conclusion is drawn that it must be the expensive camera and the expensive light. In reality this is not true (luckily).

The first thing I try to teach is to start out with just one light, don’t be afraid for the shadows. They are (when properly placed) wonderful. But also understand a thing that’s called the inverse square law. The inverse square law dictates the fall off of your lights. When understanding this rule you will know that when you place a light source very close your subject the light will fall off very quickly and for a portrait this will pay back in one side of the face lit and one side of the face in darkness, and this can be done with even the largest softbox.

Understanding this rule will give you an incredible amount of power to use on location and in the studio, and the option to create every possible combination of light and shadow you have in your head.

Styling and concept
You can understand all the theory and light behavior you want, but it doesn’t guarantee a good image. Well, it will often guarantee a technically good image, but to make an image more interesting it’s very important to also invest in the styling and the model. For this a good team of creative people is vital. The best shots I see are rather simple in lighting setups but rock in styling and clothing. But I have to add that I just love over styled themes




A blog post is always difficult to fill simply because there is limited space and so much to tell. What I hope to have triggered is a little spark into the understanding of how you can use light to your advantage. When you know what’s going on and how you can control your light, you can make your own light setups without the need to copy others. And when you learn to look through the viewfinder in a photographer’s way you, will save loads of time in Photoshop. Or in simple words, “Why fake it, when you can create it?”

Thanks so much for having me here on the Scott Kelby blog.

For more info about Frank, check out his website, follow him on Twitter, or visit his blog.

A Different Approach:
A comparison between advertising vs. sport photography

Photo by Jefferson Graham

I have been shooting cars for over two decades, first as an advertising photographer and more recently, photographing motorsport for Rolex. The difference between the two types of photography is striking.


When I do advertising, I bring everything to the shot and I’m almost in total control. At a race, I use all the same creative skills, but the package is reversed: I have to use the light given to me and have to wait for the moments to unfold in front of me… in short, I have no control.

One thing never changes, whether it’s a race or an advertising shoot, the cars have to have emotion and they need to look sexy; that’s our job. Now let’s take a look at these two different approaches.

For advertising, let’s imagine an action shot in the city, like one of these.

My typical crew for a shoot like this would include a producer, first assistant, second and third assistant and a digital technology manager. We also need a grip truck, motor home, rig, water truck and a car preparation/transporter (which also means you need to find a staging area not too far from the shooting spot for all those vehicles).


The first step for mounting the rig onto the car is to establish the angle and the lens draw. This can take up to two hours, but once the rig is on, you are ready to start. The police will take care of traffic control while you take care of the car. If additional light is needed, I like to use HMI lights. When it comes to speed, we often let the car just roll along, depending on the road surface. If we need to avoid vibrations in the shot we can also pull the car with a cable. There is a fine line between having a comfortable speed verses a 200-mph look in the shot.

The cameras I use are medium format with digital backs and I will often rent a second camera and lens for the job. Seeing as the car does not have to go very far, we just go back and forth until all different speeds and effects have been captured.

Throughout the day we will review the shots with the art director and client. By the end of day we have the “hero” shots organized and a rough composite of a low-resolution file. When my clients leave the set there are no surprises.

The final step falls in the hands of the digital artist to put it all together.

We then go back and forth again until everyone is satisfied.


In car advertising we work really hard to show motion, whereas at a race the motion is all around us. This is now very different: exciting moments are happening very fast, in split seconds, and maybe only once. You have to be ready to capture it all.

I recently shot the Rolex 24 at Daytona, and what makes this event particularly exciting is the length of the race: 24-hours long, thirteen of which are spent racing at night.


I also like the variety of shots needed since we cover the whole event: night shots, portraits, details, ambiance, receptions, cocktail parties etc.

The crew for this type of event can vary, but typically we have an event manager, copywriter, webmaster, photographer(s) and digital photo manager(s) on-site, along with up to five translators usually working as part of the “off-site” support team. I generally have multiple photo briefs that can include an advertising focus, a PR focus and additional requests that come through the media, event manager or copywriter.

We use all these photos to create an event image gallery that accompanies press releases posted online in the team’s “virtual media centre.” The interviews, writing, editing, image selecting and editing, the posting – this is all happening at the same ferocious pace as the race.

At these kinds of events I use everything the camera has to offer in regards to top shutter speed along with low and high ISO. For the shots shown here, I used the Canon 5D and 7D, with 600mm, 100-400, 28-300, 20-135, and 16-135 lenses, then processed the images in Photo Mechanic, Photoshop and Lightroom. During a race like this, we have to move through 1200-1600 pictures a day and at the end of the event we end up with an average of 5000-6000 pictures per photographer. Once the race has ended we make a final clean up and caption all pictures, ending up with 200-1500 selected images for the archives, depending on the client’s needs.



So each approach has its benefits and drawbacks, but in spite of all these differences at the end of the day the satisfaction is the same.

You can see more of Stephan’s work at his website.

…automotive photographer Stephan Cooper!  Stephan gives an fascinating look into two contrasting sides of automotive photography – advertising and racing. One can be a slow and tedious process, while the other is a fast-moving and in the moment event.

So if you like cars and photography, make sure you stop by tomorrow and check it out :)