Category Archives Guest Blogger

Hey, I’m Courtney and I’m a commercial beauty photographer located in Los Angeles. I was pretty excited when Brad asked me to do a guest blog, simply because I respect the Kelby Blog and its audience so much.

A bit about me: I’m originally from The Detroit Suburbs. I started my photo business in 2004, in Pontiac, Michigan. After about two years of fighting my way in a small competitive market, I set my eyes on a bigger prize. I had to move to a bigger market! NYC or LA? My sole determining factor of choosing LA, was its zillion sunny days and lack of snow. I know SO many of you feel me on this. Now I’ve been in LA for nearly 9 years and I’ve fine-tuned my studio down to one genre: I shoot beauty editorials, campaigns and e-comm for health and beauty companies. Basically, I get to work with gorgeous women all day and make money doing it. Not a bad gig at all!


Cosmopolitan Mexico


Allure Russia


Campaign image for a Fashionable health and beauty line

Back a few years ago, I had an opportunity to teach on the photography tradeshow and workshop speaking circuit. It was exciting and scary all at the same time. But, I had 10 years of professional work under my belt and many war stories. After years of fighting in the trenches with contracts, NDAs, and painful negotiations, I felt I was ready to guide others on how to close deals and how to not be taken advantage. That’s when I launched PhotoBeautyCoach.com, my coaching site. Over the last few years, I’ve seen a trend in the most common topic I deal with in Skype sessions, “Licensing Images for Commercial Use.”

With the rise of social media, and specifically Instagram, the business is changing rapidly. But I always advise photographers to stay true to their business, aka don’t be a sellout.

Let’s say you are a portrait photographer in Omaha, Nebraska and you are contacted by a large mall store chain. Their email fluffs your ego as they gush about an image on your website. They would absolutely love to “feature” you in their next catalog, campaign, mailing; pick your poison. For this use, they will offer you a gift card, exposure or maybe a t-shirt. I use this as an example, simply because I see and hear of this scenario weekly.

This is where it all begins, This is where you set yourself apart from the others. Time to negotiate.


Temptu Cosmetics

Personally, I would never move forward with a large company offering me payment in something so small, for so something so large. It’s insulting, and exposure equals nothing. A t-shirt costs them most likely $2. I have YET to see exposure work in the real world. And you’re worth more than $2.

Before you even consider to think about what the use means to you and your business a few questions MUST be asked.

I'll walk you through the process of getting the information you need to make it worth your time for someone else to benefit from your hard work. Because no one should profit from your work, unless you're profiting too!

Footnote: Im just barely touching upon this.  These are the questions I advise my clients to get answers to before I Skype with them. 

FIRST: COPYRIGHT THE IMAGE IN QUESTION
I CANNOT stress this more. Do not negotiate until the Copyright Office have been paid $35 and it’s processing your claim. It takes 10-15 minutes and will save you a huge nightmare later! Also, if there are clients in this photo in question, look for your release STAT.

Second: Now what to ask the buyer?
You need to rank the client in order to set your fee - Are they are an ad agency, editorial, direct client, mom and pop shop, individual, etc.? I’m much more flexible for an upstart or mom and pop shop than I am for a large company. If they have a giant budget, they should have a proper budget to pay for use. I was recently contacted by a well known dentist in Detroit to do work for his billboards. Five billboards along the side of every major freeway in the area. $150 budget. Thanks, but no thanks. The way I see it is, if someone is going to market and make money off my images, I should be compensated fairly. I took the time to explain my estimate and why I charge what I do. (Every opportunity I see to educate a client, I do!)

Third: Licensing
Ask how exactly will the image(s) be used. Here are factors to consider when estimating:

  • What is the use?  Print Ad, trade ad, packaging, direct mail, billboards, Brochures – single use or multiple use?
  • What is the circulation? Local, state, regional, national, international?
  • What is the frequency?
  • What is length of the desired license? 1-2 years max Is advisable
  • Would they like the image to be used exclusively by their company (i.e. can you sell it to others or do they want to be the only entity using it?)

Now, take the time to consider all information given, and to think about where you’d be comfortable. Knowing what you know now for use, that sweet t-shirt that was offered might seem really uncool. So many companies are not very transparent when it comes to facts. They are hoping their charm will woo you. Look away from the shiny red t-shirt, and focus your attention on your worth.

Draw up a proper estimate. I use BlinkBid for my bids and invoicing. You can also use Quickbooks or other invoicing programs. What makes BlinkBid my personal choice is it has a built-in Bid Consultant that gives a range for pricing based on many of the questions asked above. Sometimes on larger bids, it really helps me find my target. Also, searching stock archives and seeing their pricing can help give you a gauge of where you should look to put your decimal in the amount. Note: do not look at Microstock for pricing. Microstock is sold over and over, and isn’t exclusive. Getting estimated rates there will only make you sad.

I promise I’m not sponsored by them. It has just been a lifesaver!

After you determine what your pricing should be, issue a PSD estimate and send it to the client. Use a friendly, but professional tone, explaining your rate and the terms of use. Ask them if they have any questions. Often they will come back with either a, “This sounds great!” or a, “This is outside our budget.” If it’s outside their budget, respond with, “Let me see if I can work within your budget. What is your range for this placement?” and most certainly they will come back with a dollar sum that is much more then that t-shirt.

It is now up to you, if the price is right for your business.

Warmest regards and Happy Bidding,
Courtney Dailey

You can see more of Courtney’s work at CourtneyDailey.com, check out her coaching website at PhotoBeautyCoach.com, and follow her on InstagramTwitter and Facebook. If you’d like to learn from her in person, you can register for her upcoming Las Vegas workshop, Wondergloss! Use the promo code GLOSS to save $200 when you register!

The views and opinions expressed in the Guest Blog series are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Scott Kelby or Kelby Media Group.

Pete Collins here filling in for Scott…

I don’t know about you, but when another photographer says to me… “You have to go there!” I tend to nod politely while internally I am thinking… yeah right, it can’t be that good. So for a couple of years now I have heard about Old Car City outside of Atlanta, and how great it was, but I was secretly like “it can’t be as good as they say.” Well, I am here to admit that Old Car City is definitely worth putting on your bucket list. According to the Internet, which only tells the truth, this place is ranked as the third best junkyard in the world behind the Russian space junkyard, and the Airplane boneyard out in Arizona. (of course I don’t know who rates these things or what is the criteria, but at the end of the day this place is pretty darn impressive.)

Fancy sign Fancy spelling. Photo by Clint Brownlee
The inner lair of Dean Lewis... Photo by Clint Brownlee

Located about 50 miles outside of Atlanta in White, Ga. (Yep, way too easy to make inappropriate jokes so let’s move on.) This dixieland automotive museum spans 34 acres with over 4000 American cars covering over six miles of trails. The thing that makes it so unique is that the cars are becoming one with the environment… some of them have been around since 1931 and have been reclaimed by trees, grass and bushes. I could give you a lot of facts, etc… about the place, but I am going to write this from my perspective as a photographer and first time visitor and hopefully you will enjoy the images and the insight with the end result being that you having a new place added to your bucket list. Be sure to check out their website, OldCarCityUSA.com.

The Journey
I drove down from Chattanooga with my buddy and fellow camera junky Mike Daniels; he did the navigating. I tend to get distracted and miss places, so I was glad he was there to guide us. I was then extra glad that he came along since Dean Lewis (the owner) only takes cash and I conveniently forgot my wallet. :D The cost of entry is $25, and Dean is happy to direct you down the road to an ATM if you forget. Dean was busy doodling on one of his cups and talking to a gentleman named Clint Brownlee when we arrived. Dean is what I like to call “a mess.” Now for those of you not from the south the term “a mess” can be used in a variety of ways depending on the tone/inflection and twinkle in the eye of the one speaking. This particular use of the term means “someone who is unique and inspiring, and yet maybe a bit strange.” Sort of like that uncle that you hope will come for Christmas and bring his amazing set of fireworks, but then you spend the whole time trying to not let him drink too much eggnog before he goes out to light them so he doesn’t lose yet another finger. :D (I hope that makes sense… someone you want to watch, just to see what he will do next.)

Clint Brownlee is another one of use crippled with the photography bug and is responsible for putting together the Old Car City blog, and he happens to follow Scott and our crew, so he was able to vouch for me with Dean. Actually, Dean knew of our group because last year at Photoshop World in Atlanta we had a workshop come out, and then Bill Fortney has done a class out there. I told Dean that I was Scott’s boss… but I don’t think he bought it since he then tried to charge me double. :D Make sure to check out Clint’s blog. Clint volunteered to show me around the place… which is a huge undertaking… only 34 acres… meh, we should be done in no time. As we started out, he shared with me that he and a friend of his had been coming out here multiple times a week when they first discovered the place and I now understand whey.

To get a true feel of the place, you need to appreciate this new installment that Dean has placed near the entrance to the cars. Yep, that is pretty creepy. Larry Becker titled it “Youth Springs Eternal!”

Dean says welcome! Don't mind the dolls!

Once past the baby dolls, it became sensory overload… It wasn’t a matter of trying to find something to shoot, it was trying to narrow your focus so that you could actually not spend the entire day just at the front of the place. You know that feeling when you come across something so neat and cool that giggles sneak out spontaneously? It was at that point that I felt like Roy Scheider in Jaws… “We are going to need a bigger boat!” We were going to need a longer day and more energy to be able to take it all in.

Clint was doing his best to be a tour guide, but at a certain point I just needed to play, and so I asked if I could take off on my own to wander around with my camera. It was early morning, hot, humid, wet and I didn’t care… I was in heaven. How good a place is it? I don’t know about you, but I hold my breath when I take a picture, and at one point I realized I was really out of breath from taking too many pictures back to back… it was such a target rich environment. Think of it like a giant easter egg hunt with 4,000 golden eggs.

The old Old Car City office
Just past the baby dolls, the fun begins
A photographers playground awaits
Wonderful mixture of man vs. nature

Let’s talk about my gear and my approach for the day.

(more…)

Hi everyone and happy Monday! Corey Barker here filling in for Scott today because he is on vacation and Brad “The Beard” Moore asked us to post a little something. With Photoshop World coming up in a few weeks I wanted to share my thoughts around what used to be one of my most favorite parts of the event and that is the Guru Award competition. (I say used to because I can no longer enter, I actually help judge them now.) Anyway in case you are unaware, the Guru Awards is a contest open to all Photoshop World attendees who can submit images in a number of categories like Commercial, Retouching, Artistic, Photography, etc. These images are then judged by a panel of experts and then the winners are announced at the event. The reason I think this is such a great thing is because where I am at today can be somewhat attributed to winning a couple of these very awards.

Long before I was an instructor for KelbyOne and Photoshop World I was a regular NAPP member and had attended several Photoshop World events. When I first heard about the Guru awards I was rather intimidated because I did not think my work was good enough to win. However one year I found a piece I had done and decided to just submit it to see what would happen. Besides it was free to enter so what was there to lose? Well it turns out that image ended up getting me recognized as a finalist in the Artistic category. Suddenly my confidence got a little boost. So the next year I was determined to do better so when I registered for Photoshop World I immediately started playing around with images to submit. After coming so close the last time, I just had to see what I could do for the next one.

Why was I so motivated? I wasn’t getting paid. Yeah there is the glory of winning but I also realized I was getting something worth more. It is because competition breeds creativity. It wasn’t necessarily the award itself that was the goal, though having an award is certainly great for marketing purposes. I was once told by one of my instructors in art school to always enter art contests. Big or small, local or national, enter as many contests as you could handle because selling yourself as an award winning designer gave you and edge over others but later I discovered it was more than that. I started to realize that I was becoming better and better at Photoshop and I found ideas were coming to me a lot easier than before. The result of pushing myself to do something different, that no one had seen before. I was having fun!

A couple years later I ended up taking home the Guru award in the Commercial category. I was getting recognized for my work at a major industry event. Which was pretty cool, but I was also getting something much more valuable, I was advancing my skill set. I continued every year to enter not just the Guru awards at Photoshop World but also other design competitions until, in 2006, I was hired to be an instructor for what was then the National Association of Photoshop Professionals as well as an instructor at Photoshop World. It was a dream come true!  I found out later that they had remembered me winning a couple of Guru awards and that was how my name stuck out more than others for the job.

So the moral of the story is to push yourself to be better than you are. There’s is always more to learn. Always try to show the world something it has never seen before, or perhaps to look at something in a different way and enter as many design contests as you can. Not just for the industry recognition, which is great, but because the nature of competition will enhance your skills and make you more creative.

If you are in fact going to Photoshop World this August in Las Vegas you still have time to enter the Guru Awards. The submission deadline is July 20, 2015. Go to www.photoshopworld.com for more details.

A Creative Exercise
I want to leave you with a little creative exercise that I do often that helps me keep my creativity alive and also presents problem solving scenarios. It’s called the 30-Minute Composite. Choose 2-4 random images in your library of photos. Then give yourself just 30 minutes to come up with something cool. You can only use the images chosen beforehand and give yourself an assignment like a movie poster or a package design, or whatever. The key is to stick to the time limit. By limiting resources like the number of images and the amount of time you are forcing yourself to be creative in a pinch. This will condition your mind to come up with creative solutions. Now you will not succeed every time. Many times I have gotten to the end and had nothing to show but I may have gotten a better understanding of the software or how to approach something the next time. We can learn from failure as much as we can from success. Try it and see what happens. I do this exercise at least once a week to keep my wheels turning. It beneficial and it is a lot of fun! Have a creative week!

Editorial Note: Scott’s taking some time off from the blog, so he’s asked Brad Moore, Corey Barker, and Pete Collins to take over for a few days. Thanks for checking out Brad’s post today, and come back Monday to see what Corey has for you and Tuesday for a post from Pete!

Red Rocks Amphitheater… It’s one of the most iconic concert venues in the US, if not the world. It was on my list of places where I wanted to see a show during my lifetime, and thankfully I got to do that and more this past weekend! Here’s a rundown of what happened.

A few years ago David Carr, drummer for the band Third Day, started getting into photography. He found the Kelby videos and books, and through those found some of my concert photography and saw that I had photographed them before. He reached out to me to invite me to shoot an upcoming show of theirs, and since then we’ve been buds! During that time, I’ve had the opportunity to photograph them a number of times, including at their sold-out Third Day & Friends show at Gwinnett Arena in Atlanta last year.

This year they decided to do another of these shows, not just in Atlanta, but also at Red Rocks. As soon as I found out about it, I contacted the band and told them I’d be happy to come out and cover this momentous show if they wanted. Thankfully they agreed, and out I went!

As soon as you arrive, you realize this place is just breathtaking (especially if you’re going up and down the stairs a bunch)! The band took the stage for sound check, and I wondered around snapping shots without getting in their way. Over the years I’ve learned that the stage is not just a performance space, but it’s also a workplace for the band and their crew. As I am their guest, I have to be very respectful of their space and make sure I’m not doing anything/going anywhere I’m not supposed to. Now that I’ve had the opportunity to cover their shows a number of times and gotten to know the crew a bit, this becomes easier to navigate. But if it’s your first time working with a band, you want to tread lightly and triple check with the crew before doing anything.

One reason you want to make friends with the crew (besides just to be a kind, decent person) is if you want to set up a remote camera on stage…

This is a Canon 5D MkIII with a 14mm f/2.8. On top is a PocketWizard Plus III, and it’s all mounted to a Manfrotto 244 Variable Friction Arm with Camera Bracket and Super Clamp. The clamp goes around the rigging for the lighting, then I positioned the rest of the arm and camera accordingly. Once everything was in place, I tightened it down and secured it with zip ties and a safety cable. Because of the wide variation of light, I set it to shoot bursts of three bracketed shots: two stops under, even, and two stops over. Auto ISO, aperture priority at f/5.6 (just for depth of field/focus safety), evaluative metering. I also focused the camera, then switched it to manual focus so it wouldn’t be focus searching during moments of low light.

Because of the size and uniqueness of the venue, I wanted to set up a remote camera at the top/back as well (also so I wouldn’t have to be going all the way up and back down throughout the show and missing up-close moments).

This is the same setup as on stage, but with the 8-15mm f/4 fisheye lens at 15mm, also set to f/5.6. The fisheye allowed me to capture the full rock on the left side of the image all the way over to the stage on the right, as well as some of the landscape beyond that, which you’ll see later. I triggered both of these remotes with a third Pocket Wizard Plus III that I kept with me and fired by hand instead of putting it on one of the cameras I had on me. I did it this way because the moments I would be shooting with the cameras I had on me wouldn’t necessarily be the moments I wanted to capture with the remote cameras. The remotes were more about the crowd than the stage, so I had to wait for moments where the crowd was lit up and not just the stage.

After sound check, there’s a good bit of time to set up the above remote cameras, chill, and grab food before the show starts. Of course even the dressing rooms in this venue are amazing because the venue is built around the natural rock formations!

The first half of the show was the “Friends” portion featuring Warren Barfield, Peter FurlerPhil Wickham, Brandon Heath, and Matt Maher. During this portion, the acts alternated between performing on the main stage and a secondary stage that was set up above the front of house sound area in the middle of the crowd.

To cover the show, I had two Canon 1DX bodies on me set to auto ISO with a 1/250 minimum shutter speed, aperture priority, and spot metering. One had the 70-200mm f/2.8 and the other switched between my new favorite lens ever, the 11-24mm f/4, and the not as favorite but still very useful 24-70mm f/2.8, all shot wide open at f/2.8 or f/4.

After the Friends all performed, there was intermission, so I retreated back to the band’s dressing room to snap some candids of them getting ready.

Just before they took the stage, they took a minute to go sign the iconic tunnel that leads from backstage, underneath the seating area, and up to the front of house sound area…

Pretty much everyone who plays at Red Rocks signs the tunnel, so it’s covered in legendary names. You could spend hours searching for your favorite musicians if you wanted!

With that rite of passage under their belts, the band took the stage for their sold-out show!

As the band performed, I shot from on stage, in front of the stage, side stage, the front of house sound area, and anywhere else I could find a decent vantage point. And all along the way I kept an eye on the crowd waiting for moments where it was lit up, then laying down on the remote trigger and hoping for the best.

I learned a lesson about remotes that are a decent distance away from you in large crowds of people that night… Theoretically every time I hit the trigger, both cameras should have fired, thus having pretty close to the same number of shots by the end of the show. But that was not the case… The on stage camera fired over 3,300 shots, while the one at the back of the venue only fired around 500 shots.

When I set them up, I tested the trigger distance, and it worked from the back of the venue all the way to the stage. But my guess is that once the venue filled up, all of the cell phone and radio frequencies caused interference. Since I was much closer to the stage throughout the show, that remote fired more reliably than the one at the back. Should I do another similar setup in the future, the remedy to this would be to set up another PocketWizard Plus III halfway back in the venue to serve as a “repeater.” This would receive the signal from the trigger, then relay it on to the remote with a stronger signal to ensure it fires reliably.

At the end of the show, the band took a bow, then I ran out to get a shot of them facing me with the crowd in the background.

And that was that! It was an amazing experience, one that I won’t soon forget. A HUGE thanks to the band for bringing me out to the show and letting me have a dream come true experience!

You can see more of Brad’s work at BMOOREVISUALS.COM, and follow him on Instagram and Twitter.

"I've seen the birth of three amazing boys. I married the perfect woman. I've been around the world, a few times. I've climbed mountains. I've failed. I've won. I've lost. I've fought. I've followed. I've lead. All with a camera in hand.

With a love of adventure and process, I'll embark."

-Corey Lack

Wow, what an honor. Thank you to Scott Kelby for the opportunity, thank you Brad Moore for asking me, and thank you Myles for connecting the dots.

I'll try and keep my thoughts in the fairway and out of the sand traps as I drive these ideas home. With so many different styles of photographers reading this blog I thought I'd talk about something I'm passionate about and see if it will resonate with you. So here we go. FORE!

I used to think but now I know…

– Bob Goff

I used to think, “I need that lens…” You know the one I'm talking about? You probably have it in an online cart somewhere and you're just longing for the day you can click “confirm purchase.” You've read all the reviews about it, and looked at thousands of images you can create with it. I had that lens… then it fell out of my pack and shattered on the floor.

I used to think that I needed “that” camera body. The one that can shoot 400 frames per second and has so many megapixels I could crop in and see the faces of astronauts on the international space station. Then it was stolen on a job.

I used to think that I needed to have that light. The one I can use to melt my talents face off if I so desired. The one that made the sun run in fear. Then it was knocked over on a shoot by my talent.

I used to think I needed all this gear to justify calling myself a photographer, and this one hurt: I had to sell all of it to support my young family.

Was I still a photographer? I no longer had anything to identify myself as one except for the random rogue lens caps and broken rocket duster…

This isn't a feel-sorry-for-Corey moment. Just the opposite actually because those are the moments that helped me identify who I am, what I am, what I believe in, and how much more I can do with less. They would also obliterate all my excuses and force me to become CREATIVE with what I had or lack there of.

"Nice gear makes things easier for sure, but you're a Photographer and didn't sign up for easy."

– Someone Smarter Than Me

Let's boil that down into a digestible stew. You with me? Creativity is often associated with art but you can be a creative plumber just as easily. All it means is Problem Solving. I need you to get this. If you get anything out of this entire article get this… Be a Problem Solver. I don’t give two flips what gear you have or how many lights you own. Coveting what others have will put a serious limitation on your own creativity and how you shoot. Don't sabotage yourself. This not only applies to amateurs but professional too. "Well, they have XYZ that's why they can do that!" Translation: “I'm not willing to put in the extra work required to make up for my ignorance.” That stuff is poison.

Wanna hear something funny? I didn't have two pennies to rub together when I go into photography. I had to DIY everything! That just fueled my creativity for when everything breaks around me. I know how to fix it with duct tape and old 2GB compact flash cards. You can't pull out what you haven't put in, right? Too often you want to rush the process and you don't take in the lessons you were supposed to get along the way. That's why I believe so many people fail. When it gets tight, rather than solving the problem you look outward for someone else to do it for you. Maybe you're supposed to figure it out? Invest in yourself. Log hours on KelbyOne learning from others before any situation will arise. Make sure you get out of your comfort zone. Go make opportunities for mistakes and stretch out a bit!

Anything Amazing Happens Outside of Comfort
My first mountain trip was the hardest thing I'd ever done. Hang with me on this! It was 10 hours of climbing that day, and an additional 10 hours the day before packing to basecamp. I'm 500ft from the summit and my body just completely gives out. It stops and I can't go any further! I ungracefully collapse to the rock… My partners are ahead of me and oblivious to what has just happened. I'm physically, mentally, and emotionally DONE! No more and no further! I roll over onto my back re-accounting and questioning the life decisions that had brought me to this exact moment. What the HECK was I thinking!? Who talked me into this? I take in the class 4+ pitch I had just scrambled for what was a ridiculous amount of time and quickly realized in my fatigued mind. There's no one out here that can save me… I'm probably going to die! Keep in mind my total exhaustion and clouded judgment at this point… Dehydration and low blood sugar aren’t a great combo for clarity.

But, I start having this vision/hallucination of my little boys. I'm back home, they're looking up at me and they say, "Daddy what was the top of the mountain like? What did it feel like to walk in the clouds?" "Walk in the clouds?" I say. "I don't know, boys. I couldn't make it… I failed…" I noticed the look of excitement fade from their faces and the little sparkle in their mother’s eyes began to fade. Completely… Utterly… Devastating. I had let them down and I myself started to wander into a very bad place mentally. A gust of wind blew past me sending loose scree into my face and I'm snapped back into reality.

Infuriated is probably the best I can do to describe how I felt. This fire lit inside of me from a place I'd never been before! I rolled over and literally started crawling up that stupid mountain until I was able to stand. I'd love to say I sprinted up to the top but it was one ugly pain staking step after the other until I finally crested the summit. I was met by my tear filled buddies, and this momentous event of my life, this defining moment that would ever change me was met with, NOPE, I don't feel anything… Nothing. The view was great and a few things they don't tell you about climbing mountains. The summit is only the halfway point. You still have to climb down! They also fail to mention you don't get to just hang out up there for as long as you want. Storms roll in everyday around noon and the likelihood of you getting hit with lightning rises exponentially the longer you're on the rock. Anyone want to come climbing with me yet? What was I to make of this? That's a great question. The story kind of depends on you asking it too!

Not every summit is for you. I later learned that my summit was 500 ft below when I made the choice to keep pushing when outward circumstance told me to quit. The actual summit of this mountain was for someone else. My little boys at home, you see? They can look up to their dad telling them all about what it was like to walk in the clouds and speak from a position of authority. That when everything around you is saying give up because it is hard… Don't. Keep pushing! That summit was for you too.

I wonder how many things are telling you that you're not qualified enough? I wonder how many of you are at the trailhead of your own mountain. The summit seems so far away! Maybe you are like me at 500ft from the top. Here's the secret… Take the next step. “Well, Corey you don't know what I have going on in my life.” Nope. I don't. Take the next step… “Well, Corey, I have to get XYZ in place before I can do anything.” Nope. You don't. Take the next step. I've grown to hate excuses for why not or someone else putting their own limitation on what I can do. Well, I can't so you can't. Also, a little golden nugget I found along the way. You know how many bills I thought about on that mountain? Zero. You know how many people I thought about that had done me wrong over the years? Zero. It was a reminder to not make mountains out of mole hills. Perspective.

One last story and I'll let you get back to work. Your bathroom break is probably nearing concern from your other co workers. Oh, I know!

It's 12 years ago and I'm an aspiring graphic artist working as an overnight security guy. It's 3:15am and I tune into this low production show on iTunes of these guys eagerly wanting to teach me how to use this amazing piece of editing software called Photoshop. An application I could only dream of owning at the time. I was using Corel Draw and Paint trying to use the same tricks and techniques these dudes were showing me with the software I had! Geez… 6 months into religiously watching this show I was finally able to save up enough pennies to buy a version of PS that was 2 version old, but I was so stinking excited about it. Now I could follow along and not just make it work, but you see something happened I didn't expect.

I knew that software frontwards and backwards before I owned it and didn't realize it. I knew all the shortcut keys because these guys would always verbalize what they were doing and it stuck in my head. The day I installed Photoshop I knew where everything was and how to use it because of these guys. I learned a ton about photography, how to create a website, how to present a portfolio, and I laughed at how silly they were. The show has been on for years now and to say that it has grown is an understatement. If you haven’t figured it out by now those guys were the original Photoshop Guys: Scott Kelby, Matt Kloskowski, and Dave Cross. I'm a product of that show and super excited to have been asked to share with you. I've been shooting for around 10 years professionally and been all over the world with a camera in hand. I've had the pleasure of working on so many projects that pushed me mentally, creatively, and physically. But, I still make time to tune in and remain a student to this day.

I love this quote:

“I’ve got to keep breathing. It’ll be my worst business mistake if I don't.”

– Steve Martin.

You got this! Now go do something significant today.

You can see more of Corey’s work at CoreyLackPictures.com and follow him on Instagram, FacebookTwitter, and Tumblr.

The views and opinions expressed in the Guest Blog series are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Scott Kelby or Kelby Media Group.

[Note from Brad: Nick was getting questions about this topic after his first guest blog, so he offered to do a follow-up post about it. Enjoy!]

Additive Color Theory and How to Have Fun with Flash Gels
Since the success of my guest post last month, I have received a few emails from people wanting to know the process behind the multi-colored, multi-shadowed image.


Flash setup


Final image

I will now break it down for you, starting from the beginning.

My absolute favorite publication and source of constant inspiration (and self-doubt) is Interview Magazine. A few months ago, there was an interview and editorial of Game of Thrones actor Michael Huisman, shot by master S¸lve Sundsb¸. Being the lighting phenom that he is, Sundsb¸ once again peeled back my brain with his insanely gorgeous and experimental images of the actor. And being the lighting nerd that I am, I immediately started trying to reverse engineer his techniques, based on shadow hardness and direction.

I could tell that he was using 3-4 hard (un-modified) lights from the side. It just so happens that I own 3 speedlites, so I immediately set up a test shoot with the first model that was available (I am an impatient guy). I locked in Stephnaie Flor, a illustration major from a local art college, and I met her in the hallway outside her classroom (after all, all I needed was 15 minutes and a white wall). In Sundsb¸'s image, difference in flash distance from the subject was the cause, I reasoned, for varying opacities in shadow. So I set up the three flashes, a bit lower than her head, keeping six inches between them and staggering them one foot in front of another.


Flash setup


Successful homage to Sundsb¸

I was happy with the results, but wanted to play with the technique a bit more.

A week or so after this experiment, I found myself thinking a lot about additive color theory. I had taken a color theory course in college and had really enjoyed it. I loved learning that there is a science behind which colors complement each other and why. I had also learned about how to balance the Cyan, Magenta and Yellow adjustments in the darkroom, with the color enlargers. For reasons unknown to me, I had started thinking back to what I had learned about different color theories- specifically CMYK and RGB and the difference between the two. I was fuzzy on the info, so I looked it up. To sum up, when red, green and blue light overlap, they create cyan, magenta and yellow light. When cyan, magenta and yellow light overlaps, white light is created.

It just so happened that my flash gel kit contains cyan, magenta and yellow gels and I own three flashes. Serendipity. So I grabbed a vase of flowers (best thing I could find in the five minutes I spent looking) and set up a product shot.


Flash setup

I had no preconceived notion of what the resulting image would look like, or if the experiment would even work at all. I was just experimenting on a slow day of work. I placed one flash on either side of the flowers and one directly overhead, zooming the flash heads in to 105mm. I aimed the heads so that they would all intersect on the flower vase.  And wouldn't you know it- it worked!


Cyan + Magenta + Yellow = White Light

The cool, unexpected thing that I came from the experiment was the unplanned, happy accidents.  I hadn't accounted for the chaos factor. For example, if one flower petal or leaf blocked the yellow strobe from lighting part of the vase, only the cyan and magenta light was illuminating it, resulting in a purple shadow. Likewise, if the magenta light was blocked, only cyan and yellow light was mixing, creating a green shadow. And so on. The layered colors didn't just create white light, but it created a layered, complex light. Compare the previous shot to this shot, lit with un-gelled lights…


Un-gelled flashes

Kinda bring, right? Now to try with a real life model.

This is when the two experiments came together in my mind. I found myself connecting the dots between the shoot with Stephanie, where I staggered three flashes, and the shoot with the flowers, where I was arranged three, gelled lights. What if I arranged the lights the same way I did with Stephanie, but they were gelled cyan, magenta and yellow? Why wouldn't it work? Well it sure as hell would, and did.


Raw file

As with the flower experimentation, I was figuring out the process as I went. When all three flashes overlapped, white light was created on the model, resulting in a black shadow. Also, like with the flower, when one of the three colors was blocked by part of the model, only two of the colors were able to mix, resulting in multi-colored shadows.


Cyan, magenta, and yellow light overlapped to create white light, resulting in black shadows

Once I saw the kind of colorful chaos that was created when parts of the body blocked a color, I immediately knew that I needed to photograph a dancer, using this method. So I reached out to my ballerina friend, Kristie Latham, and asked her to come by ASAP. I had her bring a white outfit and a black outfit option. For this shoot, I actually needed to use a white sweep, rather than a wall, since I wanted to capture a seamless shadow (with no floor to wall transition). I prefaced the shoot by directing her to place her arms, hands, legs, whatever, between herself and the flashes as she moved, in order to create multi-colored shadows on her body. It worked splendidly.


Clean light, multi-colored shadow


When a body part comes between Kristie and the light, a multi-colored shadow is created

All that to say⦠experiment! If work is slow, try new techniques. Don't have any ideas? Go pick up a magazine and reverse engineer an interesting lighting scenario and try it out. Even if you fail at recreating it exactly, you've learned something in the process, which is a win.

If you enjoyed this experimenting process with me, you may also enjoy my new book, Studio Anywhere: A Photographer's Guide to Shooting in Unconventional Locations.

You can see more of Nick’s work at NickFancher.com, and follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and YouTube.

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