Category Archives Guest Blogger

An imperfect pub shot is both a rare portrait as well as a great memory

Recently the Ethernet support on my DroboPro stopped working so I thought I lost access to 12 terabytes of archived photographs. I had used Drobo's dual disk redundancy feature to make sure I was covered if a drive crashed, and I had seen this work flawlessly several times over the last few years. However, I didn't count on the connection between the computer and Drobo dying. After multiple attempts to get help from Drobo that went unanswered I started to panic!

Photos from fun days with our family are irreplaceable

I used to have all my images backed up "in the cloud", but after spending nearly a year getting all of my images upload my service providers rate went from $9.99/mo to nearly $400/mo so I cancelled the service. I kept saying to myself that I'd take care of this problem next week, but I kept procrastinating. When the iCloud hack happened I also began to get concerned about having my images in the cloud, so that had me reconsidering my local backup solutions again.

Priceless expression photos are the ones I treasure the most

This experience really got me to think deeply about what had happened and what I'd do if I could go back in time. The funny thing is that I didn't think much about losing my money making commercial photos that had provided for my family. I did think about losing the snapshots and videos taken of my family and I was sick to my stomach about it! My older children were born when I still shot film so I had negatives to fall back on. However, my youngest (age 5) was born in the digital age so the only backups were electronic!

Kids grow fast, so milestone shots remind you of those fleeting moments

After racking my brain I remembered that all wasn't lost because of the work that I had done for my printing series a few years back. While I certainly hadn't printed enough, I did have some prints of some of my most cherished moments with my family. I also had some images stored on Facebook as well as my very rarely used sites on 500px and Flickr. I don't like storing my best images on social media so all that was really there were a bunch of cell phones shots or stuff that I didn't care as much about.

This unexpected pose from my grandma "in-law" is a priceless treasure

What was missing for both print and online were the personal photos that captured memories of my favorite life experiences, few of which would be considered works of art - ha, ha! It was for this very reason that I hadn't taken the time to print those, because even I don't want to wallpaper my house with photos from my kids' birthdays, pictures of my meal from a great anniversary dinner, or the incredible hotel room in Asia with the jaw dropping view. These aren't works of art, but they are more valuable to me than my photos which had built my career. In the old days these were printed out as 4×6" photos and stored in photo albums, but the cost of film and printing limited how much I actually kept. In addition, negatives in a safe deposit box offered a plausible backup for the print photos that I'd toss for lack of storage space for them.

I never throw away old hard drives, so I did find a few years worth of photos on my fireproof ioSafe, as well as some scattered across loose drives. About a week after thinking the rest were lost, I remembered that my DroboPro not only had my normal iSCSI Ethernet connection, but also a USB connection. I plugged it in and I was back in business, albeit slower than before.

A rare shot of a my wife and her mother who are now a half a world apart

With access to my photos restored, the first thing I did was export my entire collection from Lightroom as JPEG's that were large enough to print at 8×12". After a couple of days of my computer chugging away, this shrunk my massive storage needs down to a more manageable 500 GB. This gave me "at least something" I could hang onto if all were lost again. I also took this time to go back and look at some of the photos that I had feared were lost forever. This sent me down the rabbit hole of editing some photos that I never planned to edit where I discovered another problem - some of my images shot in only RAW format were no longer readable by current raw processors from major camera makers. Sure, I could see the thumbnail but that's just a small jpeg. However, the ability to use that precious raw image data was gone. Using older versions of their raw processors that I thankfully still had backed up on CD worked - but only after I found an external CD drive to use to install them!

The last pre-puberty shot of a camera shy son isn't art, but it's important to me

Last year I saw this article entitled "This may be the oldest surviving photo of a human." Earlier this year I also read this great article about "Why your digital photos might die before your grandkids see them," and as I was writing this article the web was buzzing about an article entitled "Print Your Photos or Risk Losing Them to the Digital Dark Age, Internet Pioneer Warns." In the end, all of these great articles say basically the same thing - the most certain way for your photos to outlive you and deprecated technology is to print your photos (using archival worthy ink and paper). However, I have hundreds of thousands of photos! I have neither the time nor the financial means to print them all, much less space store them all!

As a result, I've decided to go about solving this problem in a more manageable way.

  1. I'm returning to storing my photos locally on one ioSafe drive for each year as I used to do back when I got a new ioSafe each year. This spreads my risk to only one year per drive and protects me against fire, water, and connection problems between the drive and my computer. I already break my Lightroom catalogs up by year, so this old system is one I will get back into the habit of doing again.
  2. My backup software will now backup all of my drives to a new NAS. Currently I'm considering the ioSafe NAS powered by Synology. This gives me a solution for the big backup of everything that is available for quick access and recovery, yet protected from on-site disasters. This isn't a cheap solution and it may not be for everyone, but with my 12 TB of data that will likely double in the next couple years it works for me - for about the cost of a new camera body.
  3. I'll use one a 1 TB drive to hold JPEG's large enough to print at 8×12 for my whole collection, and I'll store that drive in a safe deposit box. This will be my digital photo album of everything that uses a format that should be around for decades and saves me the hassle of sorting through tons of photos for what needs to be backed and what doesn't.
  4. I'll definitely start printing more of the memorable photos at 4×6 again with a printer that uses archival ink. I wrote an article about Getting Great 4×6 Prints Without Any Hassle for those "honey, can you just print this" scenarios that never seem to go as smooth as we hope. It's time for me to stop waiting for my wife to ask me to print and just get in the habit of doing it at least monthly. I'll also take a few extra minutes at import into Lightroom time to mark the photos that need 4×6 printing so they are easy to find when I'm ready.
  5. These images that I flag to print will also get uploaded to my Zenfolio account in the form of a private password protected gallery. This experience made me and my wife realize how many photos we take that the world never sees simply because there's just not enough time to edit them (even with Lightroom).

A day with the gators is a trip that we still all talk about

Caution, Don't Be Too Ambitious
Decades from now when people see your meaningful family photos they will care less about the color, cropping or distractions you removed in in Photoshop. Even today my mom still can't understand why I don't put my subject in the center of all of my shots so she sometimes thinks the unedited shots are better - ha, ha!

When doing your archive printing I also recommend that you print any of the photos that you haven't already edited straight from the in-camera JPEG (if you have it, otherwise the from the RAW). I learned this lesson long ago which is why I just buy extra memory cards and shoot RAW+JPEG. This allows me to have a JPEG that matches what I saw on my rear LCD when I took the shot, not today's software interpretation of how it should process the RAW file (which does change over time and not always for the better).

Like many people, I have many photos that are awaiting the final step – printing

Since I love printing, I've never had a problem printing the photos that I've taken hours to edit as that's my favorite part of the creative process. To hold a print in my hand rendered exactly as I intended gives me the ultimate satisfaction. I don't have to worry about other's poorly calibrated displays or web browsers rendering things differently than I intended as you see the image exactly as I envisioned on a substrate that adds to the experience. As a result, I can take a little time to mark the photos that I'd like to give this attention to later, but the key point here is to not let yourself get bogged down trying to edit while you archive print. If you do, archive printing will be so cumbersome you'll never get it done.

Are Your Images Really Safe?
I've had conversations about backing up with fellow photographers and geeks many times over the years. Nearly everyone I talk to falls into two camps: those who think they have it all figured out; and those who know they are screwed if something bad happens. To find out what camp you are in, consider the following ways your data could be lost:

  1. Your computer hard drive crashes and you lose the photos you spent the last couple days editing. Imagine your client is threatening legal action if they don't get their images today no matter what your signed contract says.
  2. Your house destroyed by a natural disaster (fire, tornado, flood, etcâ¦). What if the disaster was so bad your hard drives can't be found (mudslide, etcâ¦)?
  3. A hacker gets remote access to your computer without your knowledge and unleashes a virus that corrupts every file to every computer connected on your network and those connected to them remotely.
  4. The file format your raw files are stored in stops being supported and the current operating systems (perhaps a new future smartphone OS) you use can't run the old software? What if all software dropped support for DNG 10 years from now because it wasn't popular enough? What if PSD was an unsupported file format 20 years from now?
  5. Your computer and external drives are physically stolen and lost forever.
  6. You die and nobody knows how to get to your images.

The joy of my son who sees his dad for the first time in 3 months

I know that I have work to do to really protect my data, so there's not really just one solution to address all the possibilities. I'll have an offsite backup solution with a regular schedule for updating and storing that drive offsite (TIP: having two to rotate between is wise). I'll also print to make sure my most cherished photos are archived saved for future generations to protect against technology challenges. Finally, I'll store those 8×12 sized images of my most cherished photos online in a private protected gallery for family members so that there's zero chance that they'll never be seen.

I hope this article inspires you to think about the true value of your non-portfolio shots to yourself and your family. I also hope it helps you to put together a plan to make sure those images outlive you by many decades or even centuries to come!

You can see more of Ron's work at, keep up with his blog at, follow him on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter, or learn about his Printing Series, right here!

What’s going on, I am Justin Wojtczak with 375 Photography from Atlanta, Georgia. We are commercial photographers who do 40 weddings a year, have been voted Best of Weddings for the past three years and I’m an instructor at

As a commercial wedding photographer, light can be your best friend or worst enemy. We have been doing this for almost 10 years now and I have found that what has helped stand out is the ability to light and get the shot that the bride and everyone at the wedding will remember and talk about. At the beginning we relied on speed lights. They were great and easy. But there were so many times where we went out to light a shot and the speed lights did not fire. They became to us an unreliable light source.

So in 2012, we got introduced to Profoto by Lee Morris and Patrick Hall of Fstoppers. Ever since then, we rely on the D1 Air light kit. With these lights we can light any situation that we encounter during the timeline of a wedding day.

Let’s get right down to the good stuff and break down three shots.

The Moment
At 375, we get to know each client on an emotional level throughout the wedding day reading their body language and how they react to certain people.  With this shot, I knew in advanced that she and her dad had a great relationship. Knowing your subjects allows you to anticipate these moment so you’re ready when they happen.

The Breakdown:
This was a two-light shot.  We had one behind the bride and dad set to 4.0. Then we had our key light behind the camera with a shoot through umbrella pointed at ceiling.  TIP: Use the ceilings to help bounce the light to light your couple. This will make a big difference in your shot.

Last Light
This is actually two shots. With this wedding, it was all after dark. We did not get to the wedding location till 5:30pm, which was 15 minutes after sunset. I knew beforehand that catching any sort of sky would be critical to making the pictures beforehand memorable. After rushing down the stairs to the front of the house and getting the bride in place, we started to shoot. When trying to capture the sky, I wanted to draw in as much ambient (natural) light as possible.

Tip: Your shutter speed controls the ambient light in a shot when using flash. We had one Profoto with a shoot through umbrella at 7.0. as high as we could go, angled down. Look at the difference between the next shot as the umbrella being high and just facing the bride:

Umbrella facing the bride

Umbrella above and angled down toward the bride

The simple change of the angle of the umbrella made all the different in the feel of the image.

5D MkIII at 1/20 sec, f/3.2, ISO 200
Key light: D1 Air at 7.0 with shoot through umbrella
Lens: Sigma 35mm f/1.4

Having been to amazing venues all over the southeast, I’ve learned that it is critical to build trust with your bride and groom so when you see a shot that takes a little bit of time to get to, they know that you are asking for the best shot possible. This was up a ridge at her parents’ 1,000 acre farm. We had to take a truck to the parents’ house, then run down the fence line to the gate, then sprint to the edge of the ridge. It was well worth it!

The breakdown:
What made this shot was the height and angle of the umbrella. I wanted the umbrella just out of frame, right above their heads angled down so it illuminates the bride and groom but then to get a little spill onto the grass. I love the how the bride and groom and the grass give you a feel of the location and for the background.

5D MkIII at 1/20 sec, f/3.2 ISO 200
Key Light: D1 Air at 4.5 with shoot through umbrella
Lens: Sigma 85mm f/1.4

Shooting weddings every weekend and being in sometimes remote places, it is critical that our ability to light any moment is not hindered by our light source not working for a mysterious reason. Since shooting with the Profoto D1 Airs, we have not missed a moment. They are reliable, consistent and add value to our final product. Using the D1 Air has advanced our understanding of light and has enabled us to capture moments every time where in the past it was a frustrating hit or miss moment. Capturing these moments in the way that 375 does helps to add to the bride and groom’s experience which goes well beyond the wedding day.

Thanks to Brad Moore, Pete Collins, Justin McGough and Grant Norwood for the help of this video, and to Scott Kelby for giving us this platform to share with each other!

You can see more of Justin’s work at, and follow him on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, and Vimeo.

To grow our photography businesses, we make images that serve specific, narrow functions. For example, our wedding photography needs to attract and satisfy a specific demographic with a certain look in order to allow us to charge a particular price and create a consistent brand. Our commercial photography needs to assist clients in generating specific feedback from their customers that are in line with business goals. Even though my photography offered me creative expression, it was being undermined by a mechanistic approach that treated photography as a utility. I realized my photography needed to participate in something.  My photography lacked a community and I needed to have an outlet where my photography could give and serve.

I thought this personal crisis was more widely shared among photographers, so I was a little surprised to find out that so few professional photographers have volunteered their time to serve their local chapter of the Boys and Girls Club. I cannot speak broadly about philanthropic photography, but my goal here is to highlight why the Boys and Girls Club is one of the best organizations for your consideration.

With over 4,100 club affiliations spread across America, the Boys and Girls Club is likely the most conveniently located nonprofit organization that you could serve. I called my county-level organization for the first time, two years ago, and was met with gratitude and opportunities to photograph almost immediately. When I said I wanted to offer service on a continuing basis, they were justifiably skeptical. Pro photographers are known to serve local nonprofits infrequently and only when they need to create an inflated tax writeoff.

By offering my photography at the county level, I was able to work with the administration team and became involved with multiple Clubs. That is a great strategy. If you volunteer exclusively at an individual Club, they will appreciate your service and your images will be put to good use, but there may not be enough opportunities to sustain your service for multiple occasions.

Most people think that the Boys and Girls Club is just afterschool care: a place where children go to hang out or do homework until for their parents finish their long hours working.

Yes, there is homework, and academic mentoring available, but you'll be pleasantly surprised to see that the Boys and Girls Club is filled with broad opportunities. This will give your photographs variety and you'll see yourself as photographing the life of the Club rather than repetitive stock moments.

In fact, many Clubs offer genuine outlets for play: like summer camp and networked computer gaming. And in our case, we've created a strong relationship the the Carolina Hurricanes hockey team, where professional athletes frequently mentor and play with our kids.

"The Club" or "teen centers" are Clubs that cater specifically to teenagers. I teach photography at my local teen center, and if teaching photography is your passion, many teen centers will welcome you with open arms.

Jay, for example, is one of my photography students. He doesn't own a camera, but with a little networking, we got him a media pass to photograph alongside professional photographers at a Duke University Football game.

The Boys and Girls Club has an internal, nationwide photography competition for it's Club members, sponsored by Sony. And this year, Jay entered and won 1st place in two categories at our local level. We're hoping he'll win again at the regional and national level.

Some teenagers like to be expressive and playful in front of the camera, so if you're interested in practicing your commercial photography techniques with teens you're mentoring, some of them will be happy to model for you. This is also valuable if you become involved in teaching photography because your teenage photography students will frequently want to photograph other teens.

Since the Boys and Girls Club is a nonprofit, they fundraise and need donations. But that means they need to schedule events for donors and create an atmosphere of celebration for successful contributions. This creates opportunities to provide event coverage photography.

Internal to the Club organization is a structure created to allow youth to overcome a classic leadership phobia at these events: public speaking.

I hope these experiences and photographs I've shared have encouraged you to find a nonprofit organization worth serving. The Boys and Girls Club, in particular, is both locally available and historically underserved by the photographic community. If you decide to serve a local nonprofit on a continuing basis, the life of the organization will unfold in front of your lens. You'll experience a satisfaction that will sustain you through the routine affairs of operating your photography business.

You can see more of Shaun’s work at, and follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

On the field pre-game

Last Sunday I shot my 39th Super Bowl.  I know that sounds like a lot of Super Sundays, but it pales in comparison to photographers Mickie Palmer, Tony Tomsic, John Biever and Walter Iooss, -each of whom came into last Sunday's game having photographed all 48 of the previous Super Bowls.   (For more of their stories check out Neil Leifer's cool new film Keepers of the Streak on ESPN.)

My first Super Bowl was 9 (I'll spare you the roman numerals).  It was supposed to be played in the brand new Louisiana Superdome-the historic first indoor Super Bowl.  Unfortunately the â˜dome was not completed in time and I found myself shooting in rusty old Tulane stadium with the game-time temperature hovering in the 40's and a steady rain coming down.

New England's Ron Gronkowski makes a touchdown catch in the second quarter - Canon EOS 1DX, Canon EF 400mm f/2.8 IS Series II lens, f/2.8 @ 1/1600, ISO 2000.

Leading up to Sunday, Phoenix had a pretty rainy week. Fortunately for all of us, the photographers, the players, and the fans, the sun came out on game day. In fact the weather was so good that they opened the roof to the University of Phoenix Stadium (aka "the big toaster"). While it lacks the grandeur of AT& T Stadium in Dallas, the U of P is a pretty good place to shoot with its roomy sidelines and good light.

“The flyover" - Canon EOS 1DX, Canon EF 8-15mm f/4 lens @ 15mm, f/4 @ 1/8000, ISO 1600.

Most of my winning images have come from shooting on the sidelines, so let me take a moment to explain the setup here. Sideline space at any game is precious, but especially at the Super Bowl. There are several hundred credentialed field photographers and at least as many TV, video, and NFL Films personnel all sharing the same space on the field. Most of the crowding happened in the corners of the end zones. The end zone space was at a real premium due to the fact that there were at least 10 television cameras in permanent positions in either end zone. Crossing an end zone was a little like running an obstacle course requiring stepping up and over photographers, assistants and film runners, then back down to your knees for a few feet to duck under a camera, then up again, then down again. To avoid the gymnastics routine, I decided to shoot almost exclusively from the Patriots side of the field.

Seattle's defense gets a piece of New England running back LaGarrette Blount - Canon EOS 1DX, Canon EF  400mm f/2.8 IS Series II lens, f/2.8 @ 1/1600, ISO 2000.

Locations aside, my gear selection is just as important because there isn't a do-over opportunity to run back into your car to grab that extra lens or accessory. So what gear did I use for the game? My go-to sports action camera has been the Canon EOS 1DX since it was introduced in 2012. On Sunday I used three of them to capture the game. My backup was my new favorite lightweight action camera, the Canon 7D Mark II. With a burst speed of 10 fps and incredibly fast auto-focus, the 7D2 makes a great companion to the 1DX.

My gear packed for the game

My long lens for the game was the EF 400 f/2.8 IS Series II exclusively. I went with this lens over my beloved EF 200-400 f/4 because if you add the Canon EF 1.4x Extender to a 400mm, it will give you a 560mm f/4, while the 200-400mm built in extender will drop it to f/5.6.  The extra focal length is a big help with shooting at a crowded game like Sunday's. And although the light at the beginning of the game was sufficient to shoot f/5.6 at ISO 4000, it soon started dropping as the sky darkened.

Seattle's Marshawn Lynch runs after a catch in the fourth quarter - Canon EOS 1DX, Canon EF 400mm f/2.8 IS Series II lens, f/2.8 @ 1/1250, ISO 2000.

My exposure for most of the game was set to 1/1600 @ f/2.8 at 2000 ISO. When I shot at f/4 with my 70-200 zoom or with the extender on the 400, I cranked the ISO up to 4000. My physical set-up was the 400mm with the EOS 1DX set on a monopod, and one 1DX with a 24-70 on a short strap and the other 1DX with a 70-200 on a longer strap below it both around my neck. This is my favorite set-up for accessibility, although it does eventually take a toll on my neck.

Leading up to the Super Bowl this year, a number of my Twitter followers asked me how would I approach shooting the "biggest game of the year"? My answer: "Hopefully not any differently than I did any other game I shot this season." After my first Super Bowl I had a conversation with Dave Boss of NFL properties.  Dave was a friend and mentor, a multi-talented artistic genius who founded NFL Creative Services. I told him how disappointed I was with my photos from the game, how I thought they should be somehow better. Dave made the point that the Super Bowl is, at the end of the day, a football game. The teams will play 60 minutes, or more if you are lucky. Passes are thrown, tackles are made, touchdowns are scored, balls are fumbled and field goals are made, or missed. Players will play with intensity and brilliance and sometimes they make mistakes that will stay with them a lifetime.

New England's Tom Brady drops back to pass - Canon EOS 1DX, Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 IS lens, f/4 @ 1/1250, ISO 2000.  The low angle was achieved by shooting from ground level using the Canon Angle finder C.

When I am not shooting from the sidelines, I teach workshops around the country to aspiring sports photographers or photographers looking to build on their craft and I always tell them the same bit of advice Dave gave to me:  "As a photographer, your job is to cover the action that takes place on the field and not to be distracted by the hype, the hoopla, and the shear tsunami of bullsh*t that goes on around this game."

Sunday's game was a fantastic NFL football game. From the comfort of your home, there is a lot that you don't see of what photographers have to go through on the field. Here's what you missed:

– A two-hour bus journey to the game including mysterious waiting around and being transferred to other buses.

– A thorough security check. I get the importance of heighted security during an event like this, but it took some folks up to an hour to go through and lay their gear out on the ground to be sniffed by bomb dogs (I'm glad I left my doggie bones at home!).

– The chaos during the Katy Perry half-time show. Photographers who were trying to shoot Ms. Perry were moved from spot to spot and moved again and again until it was nearly impossible to shoot anything except the very end when she flew above the field.

– The double chaos during the last few moments of the game. In an effort to keep photographers off the field at the end of the game, the NFL places hundreds of security personnel shoulder-to-shoulder on the sidelines. Did you see at the end of the game where some photographers almost reach the line of scrimmage with 18 seconds left on the clock? Yeah those photographers probably ended up missing the most important shots of the game. After so many years, you'd think they'd figure it out.

– The worst trophy presentation (visually speaking) since they started doing them on the field (as opposed to the locker room). The presentation was aimed away from everyone except for a stand of television cameras and the background of LED advertising boards when usually it's the darkened stands with showers of confetti.

New England DB Brandon Browner tires unsuccessfully to break up a Russell Wilson pass to Seahawk WR Jermaine Kearse - Canon EOS 1DX, Canon EF 400mm f/2.8 IS Series II lens, f/2.8 @ 1/1600, ISO 2000.

The chaos, and waiting aside, being on the sidelines is definitely worth it. This past Sunday's game had the Super Bowl's usual series of difficulties and distractions, but unlike so many of these games, it was, I think, one of the most exciting Super Bowls ever. It was a great 39th for me and it left me looking forward to next year's game in San Francisco.

The rarest moment of NFL action-a happy Bill Bellichick - Canon EOS 1DX, Canon EF 400mm f/2.8 IS Series II lens, f/2.8 @ 1/1250, ISO 2000.

You can see more of Peter’s work at, pick up his book On Sports Photography, and follow him on Twitter and Facebook for updates on his latest shoots and workshops.

I've been afraid to admit this for a while… afraid to say this out loud.

But this is a safe place right?

For years I felt like a fake. I would be so nervous the night before a shoot that I felt like tomorrow was the day that I was going to come undone.

Tomorrow the world will discover that I'm faking this. I'm not really a good photographer. They really shouldn't pay me for this. I'm not worth anything.

I'm pretending to know what I'm doing. When really, I'm scared as hell.

You may or may not know this, but I'm a celebrity, music and advertising photographer in Nashville. I make most of my living shooting album covers for musicians and photographing advertising campaigns for companies like Pepsi, March of Dimes and Cracker Barrel.

But I owe all of my clients an apology.

A few years ago I had some big breaks. I shot an album cover for a band that sold over a million copies. I probably copied an idea from someone else or slightly altered someone else’s style and claimed it as my own. Regardless, I was the new hot thing in Nashville for a minute or two.

After a few more successes and working my butt off trying to take amazing photos… I realized I could just keep doing what I was doing. I found a couple of things that worked. Like shooting on a white backdrop and a specific lighting set-up that would look killer every time. It became my "old faithful." I became more confident in my craft… or at least a few of my tricks.

I didn't want to feel insecure anymore or worry that I'd be discovered as faking it, so I started playing it safe. We've probably all experienced this right?

I found myself saying by default, "How about we shoot that band on a white seamless backdrop. That would be cool and original!" Even though I'd already done it a hundred times.

If you've been shooting for a while, I bet you can relate to having a specific set-up that you know will work. Maybe you shot a killer senior portrait session in your secret location, or a bride in a beautiful backlit garden, and you kept replicating your past successes.

No one knew it wasn't your best. But you knew. You knew it was only a copy of your previous best.

Sometimes early success is not good for you (or at least me). We turn to coasting on the momentum we luckily gained from a big break.

I've heard it said, "If you're not growing, you're dying.

Well, here's my confession:

I've been stale. I've been coasting. I've been lieing to you. Cheating my clients.

I told the artist, I loved the idea. I told my clients this was my best work, I told you… well, what you wanted to hear. I didn't want to be vulnerable, I didn't want put myself out there again, I wanted to be comfortable. Frankly, I wanted stay on my couch where it is warm and cozy.


The world needs your art. It needs all you have. It doesn't need my half-assed effort anymore. It needs my best. It needs me to push limits. To do things that scare me.

DON'T WITHHOLD YOUR BEST. If you're not absolutely spent after a shoot… you've cheated the world.

I've had a few moments of being shaken back to reality in the past few years… but then I fall back into the same creative rut or safe zones.

Until recently, I hadn't done any test shoots for myself in the last 3 years. I hadn't gone out and tried something new. In contrast, my first couple of years, I was shooting every chance I could to build my portfolio, to learn, and sometimes just to create something beautiful.

Everything I've been doing recently has been from techniques that I learned years ago… and I kept doing the same things over and over.

Maybe for you, you need to stop shooting the same backlit portraits at the same location over and over shooting at f/2 to get that same super shallow depth of field. I need to stop shooting on the same white seamless background.


I love Jon Foreman's lyric in the Switchfoot song: "This is your life. Are you who you want to be?"

I've been in a creative rut. I've been doing the same old things over and over… because they are safe and I know they work.

But that's lame. I've been a coward.

I dare you to join me. I dare you to get uncomfortable. Let's push the limits.

I dare you to risk being discovered as a fake… again.

You can see more of David’s work at, and follow him on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

When I was a teenager, I was a Canadian expat living in a US border town whose main interest outside of a rapidly growing fascination with photography primarily consisted of the acquisition and digestion of as much music as I could get my hands on. I mainly listened to a lot of punk, and even as I grew up there were certain things about that movement that stuck with me: bits of lyrics, simple lessons, a strong DIY ethic, etc.

But it was the saying Talk – Action = 0, a slogan of Vancouver band D.O.A. that always resonated with me most. Even though it was originally meant to relate to politics and activism, the idea of words that aren’t backed up by taking real action being meaningless always felt appropriate when I thought about my photography and other creative endeavors, and I think it's a lesson that a lot of photographers would benefit from taking to heart.

We've all run into the photographer who has a million good ideas and two million excuses as to why they'll never pull them off:

“Plane tickets are too expensive.”
“I don’t have a studio.”
“My camera isn’t good enough.”
“I need better lights.”
“People won't like my images.”

They can talk themselves out of anything before they even get close to starting. Others might be so tied up in their past successes that they spend most of their time talking about a shot they took years ago and might have difficulty moving on to new projects. Sometimes the reasons for not pursuing ideas are more internal and might be due to dealing with some issues related to self-sabotage or impostor-syndrome (both of which can affect photographers at any time in their career, not just emerging shooters), that can leave them frozen in place and verbally beating themselves up, talking more about why they think their work sucks rather than making new images or improving their skills.

There's a good chance that all of us, at one point or another, are going to deal with some of these issues. It's a natural part of being in a creative career, and despite our best intentions and discipline we sometimes slip into bad habits and negative patterns of thought that can really throw us off our game. Some people talk about their work and creative issues as a therapeutic and cathartic action, seeking advice and working through problems with others so that they can move forward, and having a discourse about how photography interacts with culture, commerce, and art is hugely important. But, sometimes, we start to use talking about our work as a surrogate for actually making it. People tend to take the path of least resistance. Talking about making work is a lot easier than actually doing it, and it takes a lot less effort to sit still than to start walking. But as Mark Twain supposedly said, “The best way to get ahead is to get started.”

Up until very recently I shared a studio with a guy who is a perfect example of putting your money where your mouth is. Scott Gable has self-funded a number of high risk trips around the world to capture some amazing stories. He's traveled to Alaska to photograph the commercial salmon fishing season, and most recently he spent four months trekking through China, Taiwan, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam to create a series on the rice harvest (the first part in a planned trilogy about the world's staple food products of rice, corn, and wheat).

Photo by Scott Gable

I could think of a million reasons someone might talk themselves out of going to China, Alaska, or even across their own state – people can talk themselves out of anything, especially when money is on the line. But rather than looking for reasons to say no, Scott wholeheartedly said yes to every opportunity he had, and where he didn’t have them, he made them.

Don't speak the language? Scott took Mandarin lessons for months leading up to the trip.

Don't have a client willing to send you? Scott saw this as an investment in his work and funded these projects himself, often with his credit card (he calls it his most valuable tool).

Don't know where to start? Scott reached out to programs like the Cornell Rice Intensification program who helped make introductions with several of the programs and contacts he worked with during his trip. He also hit the books, doing extensive research on rice production in the region.

Photo by Scott Gable

Sometimes you have to get dirty to chase the images in your head. This wasn't a trip full of luxury hotels and creature comfort, on the contrary. And despite all of his careful preparation, Scott often found himself hiking inaccessible footpaths for days at a time, being sheltered and fed by people he met on his trip, and getting close to his subjects.

The results were unbelievably intimate portraits of people in all aspects of rice production, from rural cultivators to industrial workers in larger cities who were involved in the later stages of the process. Scott created stunning portraits of the people he met and created gorgeous landscape images of farmlands and valleys where huge amounts of the world's base nutrition come from. He's also created a short film about his work and experiences on this trip.

While you may not be in a position right now to self-fund a trip across the world to photograph the rice harvest of a half dozen countries, the spirit of what Scott did is accessible to everyone, at any point of their career.

Whereas Scott is fairly established in his niche, I also want to talk about a photographer who is just entering this business. Valerie Kasinski is one of the most exciting young artists working in Western NY right now. She recently graduated from Villa Maria College's photo program and has been an active part of WNY's ASMP chapter, which is where I first met her. Val even interned for me for a little while, and I've always been really impressed by her work and her dedication to making the images in her head real.

Photo by Valerie Kasinski

While Scott Gable has traveled the world to document and connect with other communities, Valerie has had her own share of journeys and adventures in her efforts to connect with a community she already belongs to. Part of a loose group of creatives that she originally met through Flickr, Val and her online friends have become something of a real life photographic family.

At a time when a lot of students were focusing on taking the easy way out with their work, or focusing only on their given assignments, Val was taking days long cross-country train trips to create work and collaborate on projects with this group. When other photographers can't find a reason to interact with their local photo community, Val has traveled all over the United States and Canada to create work that explores portraiture, nature, and her own fascination with self-created worlds. Her current project, Together We Are, has grown out of the relationships that she's built and the community she's worked hard to be part of.

Photo by Valerie Kasinski

She could have stayed home.
She could have slept late.
She could have decided to try something easier.

But she worked at it, built those relationships, took those long trips to get where she wanted to make the images she was chasing. I know thirty-year veterans of this business that aren't that dedicated to their work, who won’t pick up their camera unless they're getting paid for it.

I've seen too many photographers with ambitions like Scott and Valerie stall. They talk a good game about what they want to make, where they want to go, the endgame is right there for them. But the product never seems to materialize – It's like their own goals are outrunning them. Eventually it starts, that litany of excuses that we talked about; a million reasons why they can't, won't, or shouldn't see their vision through. They can't go anywhere because they never really get started. They’re so mired in the holes that they have dug themselves into mentally.

But you have got to remember that big things start with small steps. So send that email, set that date, take that first shot – do whatever you have to do to build momentum. Yes, there are going to be walls, but you can break through them, if not all at once, then brick by brick. And once you start, once you begin to generate that momentum it is so much easier to break through those walls, the ones that circumstance puts there, and more importantly, the ones we put in our own way.

So right now, this second, make a commitment to yourself to stop talking about that project you always wanted to pursue, and take those first actions towards actually doing it.

Luke was kind enough to share the work of other photographers he admires here today, and you should also check out his work at, and follow him on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.