Category Archives Guest Blogger

Not Every Shoot Is A Winner
Here's the scenario: You go do a shoot, download the images, go through the take, pick the keepers, do your editing, and deliver the shots. The client loves them⦠But you don't. They’re okay, but they don't quite send you to your happy place.

Sound familiar? If it does, I have some good news for you. You're not alone.


Is there anything wrong with this shot? Not technically, but it’s not winning any awards.

I would guess that most photographers go through this, even the best ones. No matter how much we try to make the best possible images we can, not every shoot is going to result in a new portfolio image. You can plan all you want, put together your shot list, research the location, research your subject, make inspiration/mood boards, clean your lenses and sensor, and carry your lucky rabbit’s foot; but when you do the shoot, the shots are decent, but not great. The client is happy, so you're happy that you're getting paid, but you wanted to come away with better shots.


Arrive at the venue only to find out there’s no photo pit, and you weren’t there early enough to stake out a spot up front? Better hope you brought a telephoto lens.

Sometimes your subject just isn't ideal. Or the location you picked days ahead of time fell through on the day of the shoot and you had to quickly find something else that worked. Or you were unexpectedly battling the harsh sun on what was supposed to be a cloudy day. Or you just flat out had an off day of shooting and don't know why.


Right place, right time? Not this time. When the singer takes off down the other end of the stage and you can’t get there in time, this is the result.

For me, it's concerts. There are so many things that come into play here that can make or break an image. How's the lighting? If there's lighting, is it always the same or constantly changing (to give variety to the shots)? Is the band doing fun and crazy stuff, or are they all just standing in one spot throughout the performance? Is there so much going on that I don't even know where to point my camera to try and capture peak moments? Can I get to the spot in the pit I want to be in, or are there twenty other photographers vying for position and I'm stuck where I'm at?


Even when you’re in the perfect position to capture something you know is going to happen, things don’t always come together to capture the best moment.

I get lucky sometimes and I'm in the ideal position as the guitarist jumps off her amp in the perfect light, and my camera focuses, fires, and I nail the shot. Other times I see it happening out of the corner of my eye and turn to try to capture the moment from the wrong spot and there's so little light on her that my camera can't lock focus, and I get a blurry shot. Or a lot of the time I get what are, for me, mediocre shots of the singer with their mouth open and eyes closed standing in front of a mic. It's a perfectly fine shot that you've seen it a million times, but you won't see it in my portfolio.


Is there ANYTHING good about this shot??


Keep firing shots and hopefully you’ll get one that works. Still won’t see this one in my portfolio though!

But here's the thing⦠You've gotta keep shooting. You have to push through those bad days to get to the good ones. I once heard Jay Maisel explain it this way to a frustrated photographer:

"It’s like, if I’m trying to be a well built body builder⦠If I go to the gym on Monday next week maybe or maybe Thursday, or just when I find a day, then it’s not going to happen. You have to go to the gym and work out. I don’t go to the gym and work out as a photographer, but I do the visual pushups everyday. If you shoot once in a while you may get some nice pictures, and if you shoot very rarely you’ll get fewer. But if you shoot all the time, the number is going to go up."


Is there something cool happening but you’re just not sure of the best way to capture it?


Keep working the scene, trying different angles, and sometimes you can work through and find the shot.

So don't let a bad shoot or two get you down. Keep doing those visual pushups so you increase your chances of finding those holy grail shots that you add to your portfolio. When you get them, we'll rejoice with you. And if you don't, just remember⦠You're not alone!

You can see Brad’s keepers at BMOOREVISUALS.COM, or browse the archives to see more of the mediocre stuff if you want. And you can follow him on Instagram and Twitter.


Photo by Mike Silberreis

Loving Light

Hello everyone. My name is Tilo Gockel. I'd like to start by saying that I am incredibly honored to have the opportunity to share my thoughts with you on Scott Kelby's blog. I've been a professional photographer for seven years now. Previous to that I was an engineer, where I was in close contact with image sensors, video transmission, pattern projectors, and optics. Nevertheless, it took me quite some time to understand the technical challenges and the creative impact of photography. After years of practice I've now come to think of photography like learning a new instrument: I had to (and still have to) practice the scales, so to speak.

Let's rewind to when I started out. It did not take long for me to become totally addicted to light and lighting. From there, the obsession grew to include flash, because flash yields the most possibilities of all the artificial light sources. Then I took another small step and got interested in the "Strobist" field and community. I thought, "Wow, look at all these shots made with some inexpensive off-brand speedlights from Asia. I want to be able to do this!"

Lighting with all variety of flash units does imply a bit of technical expertise, even in a time of tethered shooting, TTL, modeling flash, and many other great options and features. For me, as a former nerdy engineer (still nerdy, to be honest), using flash offered the perfect combination of fiddling a bit with cool technical stuff and being creative.

I love to try something new on every shoot. I really don't like to do the same old routine day after day. I remember a photo job during which I had to shoot rubber gaiters and shoe stretchers. Dozens of them, in all colorsâ”after two days, I hated it! For me, I have to be doing something new to stay interested, like shooting underwater, "bokehrama" images, powder and ashes, motion, and of course, experimenting with different light sources.

What I also like to do is teach. Each summer I give a lecture on photography basics and I also teach a flash photography workshop. So, it was only natural that I wrote a book called One Flash! Great Photography with Just One Light to help even more photographers understand the crucial elements of flash photography. What made me even prouder was when this book was translated from German to English.

What I cover in the book is what I've deemed "the one flash approach." This is a very zen-like approach to flash photography, emphasizing the use of one single flash. You might think that is a very challenging restriction, but actually it is quite liberating--less stuff to buy and maintain, less to carry. More time to set up that one light properly and to shoot. I really enjoyed every single shoot in this book. And we shot a lot. The book covers motifs like food, products, and people, and techniques such as bouncing flash, supersync, flash composites, and bokehramas. One part of the book that I found to be really interesting was about shooting with shadow patterns. Here's a sneak peek.

Imagine you are forced to shoot inside in an empty room and you only have your camera and one speedlight with you. Now, to get shots that are a bit more creative than the typical "girl in front of a white wall" shot, you have to think outside the box. I chose to project some interesting shadows on the subject. For the first example, I cut some reeds from a nearby sea and shot the flash through them. This not only makes the light a bit softer, it also gives that interesting pattern projection on the model's face.


A bunch of reeds and a speedlight-a simple scene to shoot photos with interesting shadow patterns.


The outcome: Safari girl, lying on a cowhide, looking sexy!


"Like Rita Hayworth!" Photos with lots of shadows also look fine in black & white.

For the next shot, I used a piece of cheap synthetic lace and shot the flash from a long distance through that "gobo"--the longer the distance, the sharper the projection.


An even simpler setup: A single speedlight shining through a piece of synthetic lace.


The resulting image with the floral pattern on the girl's face.

Traveling light and shooting with only one flash is easy, and it has great potential. Being freed from all the technical complexity that comes with more gear, you can focus on the things that really matter, like communicating with the model and creating images with emotional impact.

--Tilo Gockel

You can see more of Tilos's work at his blog (in German) and follow him on Flickr, Facebook, or via the author's page at Rocky Nook. If you want to find out more about the projects and workshops in the book, have a look at the image gallery on Flickr.

My Three Inspirations
If you had told me ten years ago that I would be making a living by traveling internationally 7 months a year while taking photos and making films, I would have laughed at you. If you had told me I would start a company called Resource Travel to share inspirational travel visual stories, I would have called you crazy. But that’s exactly what I do. And every day I try to figure out how it all happened.


Shaban, the Shisha Man Of the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan.


School children beg for money outside of a temple in Cambodia.


A man pauses for a reflective moment in the Taj Mahal, India.

I mean, I didn’t even leave the United States until I was 27 years old. Traveling and experiencing the world had mostly never even crossed my mind. I wasn’t against the idea at all, I just hadn’t had that “wanderlust” feeling since childhood, when I would thumb through my father’s National Geographic magazines.


A woman sweeps the streets of Oropesa Peru in the afternoon light.


A group of children sit on their boat outside of their home in a floating village on the Tonle Sap River in Cambodia. 


A boy shows he can write his ABC’s at a school in India.

But that all changed when I found the first real inspiration of my life. Photography. Even at 27 years old, and I had never really found anything that I was passionate about. I signed on to photograph around Peru with a company called The Giving Lens. This would be a scouting trip to work with an NGO in Oropesa, Peru called Picalor House. That trip would be the start of what would become the second real inspiration of my life. Travel. When I hit the ground in Peru, I noticed that looking at the world through my viewfinder made me see things that I had never seen before. I saw smiles, happiness, tears, and pain on the faces that I would encounter. And I felt compelled to capture those faces through my lens. And surprisingly, even the people with the tears and pain would let me take their portrait. I learned that even if someone was having a bad day, they would still let you into their world.


Lek Chailert often sings Thai lullabies to her elephants to help them fall asleep after a long day at the Elephant Nature Park. 


A Monk walks through the Tep Preah nom Pagoda while a girl and a dog play in the humid mid morning Cambodian air.


A boy stands outside of his home in a barrio in Granda, Nicaragua.

I would talk to people and try to get to know their stories. Every face has a story to go with it, and I was determined to hear them. Even if I never tell the stories when I post the photos, I will always remember them, and that is what inspires me to approach the people I meet on my travels, because I never know what their story is unless I ask them.


A monk enjoys a laugh inside a Pagoda in Cambodia.


A girl laughs on the steps of a mosque in Old Delhi, India.

I quickly became consumed with the idea of telling visual stories through the faces that I encountered on those dusty Peruvian streets. When I returned to my home in San Francisco, California, I couldn’t think about anything but traveling, camera in hand, ready to convey the emotions that I felt being in that foreign land. Soon after, I started leading workshops for the The Giving Lens, and have been fortunate to work with organizations around the world, helping to tell their stories and to highlight both the pain and successes that come from their tireless efforts.


An old merchant woman takes a nap at her stall in Peru.


Young children take a break from lighting off fireworks during the festival of Diwali in Delhi, India

While most of the travel photography you see today consists of beaches, hot air balloons, and people standing on the edges of cliffs, I still believe in also telling the stories of the people who aren’t fortunate enough to live by the resorts or walk down the main roads where the tourist shops reside. I fell in love with telling the stories of the people who make their home country come alive. Sometimes, the stories aren’t always pretty. Sometimes they can be rather uncomfortable to witness. But there is a big world out there, and a very small part of it lives in the tourist towns.


An old man enjoys a cigerette while he plays a local board game in the central square in Al-Salt, Jordan.


A merchant outside of a narrow ally way in Al-Salt, Jordan.

My love for sharing the powerful travel visual stories that I see every day is what led me to start Resource Travel. This has turned into the third inspiration of my life. I believe that, as a community, we can help others learn about the happiness and the pain of the world through our photographs. That is what inspires me to share the world’s   stories. As my friend Chris Burkard once said “If you aren’t sharing your work, then what are you doing?”


A merchant waits for a buyer on the streets of Oropesa, Peru.


A man walks outside of a Mosque in Old Delhi, India.

You can see more of Michael’s work at BonocoreVisualStudios.com, and follow him on FacebookInstagram, and the Resource Travel blog.

OBJECTIFY YOURSELF
Enter my world cautiously, for all is not what it seems, and behind every image, there is always more than a single truth. We're living in a world consumed by fear of the truthâ”but is there really such a thing as "the truth" anymoreâ”especially in visual terms? It is fear of the unknown that causes people to judge and criticizeâ”fear of an illusion created by our own experiences and teachings. One individual's perspective may not be the same as another's, because we process and interpret visual stimuli in a variety of ways. Thus, what is reality, if not a collection of diverse perspectives?

Now that I've got the exposition out of the way, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Gisela Calitz, and I like to create worlds that viewers can explore, fantasy realms whereâ”even if just for a fraction of a single secondâ”everything is perfect. These ethereal worlds are my personal attempts at escapism, snippets and daydreams, where anything and everything is possible and dreams can become realities (even if just in print). Sometimes, I find there are surprising amounts of people who share my love for these ethereal fantasies, which is why I do what I do. So, I guess the logical question from here would be, what exactly do I do?

I'm a high fashion advertising and editorial retoucher. Generally, we make a lot less money than our everyday advertising counterparts, but I guess if I were in it for the money I would've been a doctor, or a lawyer. Case closed. I fell in love with the industry at an early stage in my life and have not looked back since. I thrive on working with people who are stimulated by fantasy and all things whimsical in nature, and I strive to highlight these elements in everything I do. Sometimes, I get lost in an ocean of colour and light; sometimes my work feels like a lucid dream, and I don't want to wake up.

Now, I've come to a point in my career where I've embraced the parallel between what I do to make a living and how I live life. Like life, the journey of an image through various editing suites (whichever they may be), involves a series of choices, each of which has its own set of consequences. And just like life, these choices need to be approached with a certain degree of forethought and caution. In the end, tools like Photoshop and Lightroom are just that: tools. But it's the human on the other end of these tools that is instrumental in the progression and, eventually, the execution of a quality image. I'm that human on the other side.

In Photoshop, as in life, there are a myriad of approaches at your disposal. There are technical retouchers and artistic retouchers, just like there are doctors and surgeons. Sure, they may use some of the same tools, but the end results are often vastly different. In my line of work, experimentation is crucial in discovering the ideal creative process. That's why I've spent a large deal of my life experimenting. I've chosen to do things my own way, opting for a totally unique routeâ”the road less travelled, so to speak. The results⦠well, I think they speak for themselves really.

It all began a few years ago when I was studying design and working as model. I approached a photographer I admired to do a design project on his work. No holding back. We began collaborating on more projects, and so my love for retouching blossomed. From there, it developed so rapidly it consumed me entirely.

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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.

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