Category Archives Guest Blogger

….a man known to virtually anyone who has attended a Photoshop World Conference; it’s photographer, educator, Photoshop freak, and the official un-official head of Security for Photoshop Midnight Madness and our official mascot, warm-up act, poet, trained killer, raconteur, and general bon vivant at large, the one….the only….. Vanelli! (also known as “Robert Vanelli” or “Mr. V” or just plain “V” to his friends and the various people he stalks).

I first met “V” back in 1999 at the first Photoshop World conference ever. He saw me use a Martial Arts logo that I had designed in a project in one of my classes, and after the class he came up and introduced himself.  We soon found out that we had some mutual friends in the martial arts industry (we both were martial artists, but at much different levels. I was just another black belt; whereas “V” is actually a Master Arts Master running a thriving Karate school for many years).

V has won aclaim for what he’s done as a Karate instructor, but in the past few years he’s taken his gift for teaching karate and expanded it into teaching his other passions: photography and Photoshop, and it’s a honor to have him here tomorrow as my guest blogger, and it’s equally an honor to call him my friend. I hope you’ll stop by tomorrow to see what Vanelli has in store for us.


First I want to thank Brad Moore and Scott Kelby for inviting me along as a guest blogger. I’m flattered and excited to share some random insights about what I do. I would like to inform that I am a young digital born photographer that has been practicing for three years. I will try and keep this concise since the last thing I want to do is bore anyone with quotes and clich©s. If anyone has any technical questions about how I created an image please email me and I will get back to you with detailed specifics.


The title of photographer can mean so many things these days that I have come to dislike the question of, “What do you do for a living?" Nothing is more difficult than trying to explain the randomness that is my job. I sometimes reply, “Yes, weddings and stuff like that,” just to change the subject. It is not uncommon that a person who asks the question is, of course, also a photographer, and they immediately ask me which brand of camera I use. Ten minutes after trying to explain why I personally don’t care which brand is better, I am asked to take a group photo with a point and shoot camera because well…I’m a photographer.

a very quick bio.

When I was very young, I wanted to be a cartoonist and the evidence of that was all over my school work. During high school I could care less about anything that didn’t involve a skateboard. And in college, graphic design kept my interest for a short while until I began dabbling in film. During film school I found most of what I loved about film could be accomplished using one frame. I began coordinating photo shoots with friends to create film-like stills. I quickly realized that for the types of images that I wanted to create I needed to learn everything that I possibly could about lighting for photography.



Before a shoot I’ll sometimes sketch out how I want certain shots to be framed. This helps my subjects to better understand what I want from them.


I feel that I developed my style early because I knew what I wanted to create from the start. I feel that many photographers struggle with finding a style because they start a business purely based on the fact that they enjoy photographing, simply love photography gear, or are in it to make money. Looking at my style from a business standpoint, the images on my website are not always the best display for the job at hand. Sometimes I have thoughts of updating my site with a more diverse portfolio, but always decide to stay with what I love. The truth is, I do many types of photography whether it is product, lifestyle, weddings, editorial, documentary or advertising. I can easily say that I enjoy some jobs more than others although I am extremely lucky to be getting paid to create images at all. I choose the style I display in my portfolio as my identity because these are the images that I love and what I ultimately want to be hired for.





When I look at an image, I don’t want the first thing that I notice to be the light. I would much rather be confused as to how the light in an image was created, or whether it was lit at all. The photographers that I am most impressed by are ones that puzzle me with their process. I think that sometimes we forget, since we have access to many varieties of expensive portable strobes, that natural light could possibly be the best answer. One of my favorite things to do recently is to take one small strobe with me and limit myself to just that. I’ll use sunlight as my key and pop the tiny strobe on the subject’s hair or cheek to give the image a more three dimensional look. You can also use the available light as a hair/edge light and the strobe with a modifier as the key. I would say that ninety percent of the time I would rather have large studio strobes, but a hot-shoe flash on a stick/stand allows for virtually no set up at all and can save you when you are guerrilla shooting on location. It is amazing how much you can do with one light and knowledge of how to use it effectively.


One small strobe behind subject shot in an actual down pour.


One small strobe on ground and angled up camera left.


Here I set off all my battery pack would allow in my car.


I have been working full-time with this for roughly three years now. I owe most of my photographic knowledge to the endless amounts of information available on the web. Three years doesn’t seem like a long time, but when you’re hungry enough to constantly improve, there is nothing stopping you from teaching yourself. I don’t scour the web looking for pointers the way that I used to, I mainly just learn from happy accidents or thinking up a technique and giving it a try. I used to get nervous before each shoot and wondered if I was going to be able to deliver. After countless jobs, I can say that a client has never been displeased and I always try to deliver far more than is expected of me. If I struggle with anything today it is mastering photography as a business. Unfortunately being a successful photographer isn’t purely based on photographic talent, but knowing how to conduct a proper business as well. I think that I myself, as much as the next person would much rather study their craft than read practices on how to promote it. I have become better at my business over time but I think that everyone faces similar challenges when their work is also their play.




So I think I’ve taken up enough of your time and I thank you all for your interest. I’d like to thank Brad and Scott again for allowing me to go on a rant here. I have tried to mix it up a bit with the images chosen for this blog, but if you would like to see more you can visit my website and also keep up with me on my blog.



Photo by Bill Fortney

“Jack of all trades…”

Hey everybody! I can’t tell you how happy, excited, anxious, intimidated, honored and humbled I am to be today’s guest blogger! When Scott asked me to do this a few weeks ago I was speechless. It truly is great to be here today.

My first question to Scott was… who am I following??? ;-) I will say that it worked out perfectly for what I want to talk about that I am following the incredible post by Mike Olivella from last week. Mike’s specialty in sports photography, and the fact that he has so many other shooting talents as seen on his website, will bring home a point I want to make in just a little while. So, great job, Mike!

My thoughts on what to write about have gone in a multitude of different directions but they always come back to some basic points… creativity, learning and teaching. How can we, as creative people, learn as much as we can from others and also teach what we know to help others? My inspiration to write about something like this rather than a photography “how to” lesson was a quote I read recently in a book my friend, Bill Fortney, gave me…

…..wonderful photographer, gifted teacher, and manager of Nikon Professional Services (NPS), Scott Diussa.

You’ve heard me talk about Scott’s blog numerous times here on The Photoshop Insider (you might remember his excellent article on concert photography), or you might have seen him as a regular guest my weekly show for Nikon DSLR shooters; D-Town TV, but tomorrow I’m honored to have him here as my special guest blogger.

I talked with Scott last night and he gave me a hint about his topic for tomorrow, and I can’t wait to give it a read, so I hope you’ll join me here tomorrow as well.

Data Volatility

>> Dead MacBook Crisis: Day 14
Howdy folks! That’s right, I’m still battling with the massive hard drive crash I had the day before my Lightroom Tour in Denver last month, but after jumping through a few hoops (and with some help from Apple), I believe that by the time you read this my MacBook Pro will have been fully restored from my Time Capsule backup, and my work life will be somewhat back in order.

There are half a dozen reasons why this restoration took so long, most of them are my fault, but I’m just glad it appears to be behind me (for the most part), and I can get back to full speed.

>> The Review That Could Have Been
I’m still working off a stripped machine for this post, so I don’t have my review of the Topaz Adjust plug-in for Photoshop that I hoped to have for you today, but if all goes well, I’ll have it for you on Thursday, so keep your fingers crossed for me.

>> The Crazy Numbers Continue for the Worldwide Photo Walk
I am just amazed at these numbers, after only two weeks:

  • 665 Worldwide Walks are now active
  • More than 8,000 photographers have already signed up to participate in their local photo walk.

I don’t know what to say, but “Whoo Hoo!!!” This is going to be a blast!!!! (here’s the link to a list of active cities).

>> Online Gear Guide for Photo Walkers
If you’re going on the Photo Walk, B&H Photo put together a brief Photo Walk Gear Guide with some tips, and links to accessories used by photo walkers. Here’s the link.

>> Auto ISO for Sports Shooters
On last week’s episode of D-Town TV (the weekly show for Nikon DSLR shooters) I did a little tip for sports shooters on how to use the Auto ISO feature for making sure you’re able to freeze the action no matter what the lightning conditions (well, within reason, anyway). This tip is especially helpful for anyone shooting night games, and we’ve gotten lots of great response from that tip. In the same episode Matt has a great segment on our #1 most asked about feature from the past few weeks—Active D-Lighting. You can watch the episode online right here.

>> Moose on “Nikon’s Best Kept Secret”
When I was out shooting in Portland, Oregon a couple of weeks ago with Laurie Excell, I saw Laurie shooting with Nikon’s 70-300mm f/4.5 – f/5.6 VR lens, and I was surprised to see her shooting such an inexpensive lens (around $500) because Laurie owns about every high-end fast lens known to man (after all, she runs ““). Anyway, she was raving about how incredibly sharp the lens was, how surprisingly lightweight it was, and that it worked with the new full frame cameras without cropping the frame, and so she let me shoot with it for the rest of the afternoon, and as soon as I got back, I ordered one myself (it came in yesterday). Anyway, so I’m on Moose Peterson’s blog tonight, and I see a post called “Nikon’s Best Kept Secret” with a video clip from Moose himself, and son-of-a-gun if it wasn’t about this very same lens. Take two minutes and watch Moose’s video (here’s the link), and check out the shot he got of the Thunderbirds using that lens. Amazing!

>> Tomorrow’s Guest Blogger is…...
…a guy who’s taught me a lot about shooting sports, and about getting access to shoot professional sporting events, my buddy (and pro sports shooter), Mike Olivella.

Mike has picked a topic that I’ve had so many requests for here on the blog, and it’s something you’re not going to see just about anywhere else, so make sure you’re back here to see what Mike’s got up his sleeve tomorrow.


That’s it for today, folks. Thanks again for stopping in, and I hope I’ll catch you back here on Thursday. There may well be a photo there that will give you a flashback to a simpler time, when there was no Internet so we didn’t know we weren’t supposed to wear parachute pants or thin ties.

Portrait of Eddie Tapp / Image © Phillip Charis

Half the Image

There are primarily three ingredients that make a photograph become a part of you. Looking at images from the likes of Joe McNally, you would make a quick assumption that the subject matter is high on the list, and naturally the subject matter itself is what we see. But that is aesthetical rather than technical, and aesthetics I’ll leave for later. Technically, there are three ingredients that bring us into a photograph. I’ll get to that later too.

Without thinking about it, look through a magazine that you’re not so familiar with (and maybe ones that you are). As you flip through the pages, something will stop you and you will give this page your undivided attention. When this happens, chances are something visual grabbed your attention first. (more…)