Category Archives Guest Blogger

5 Lessons From A Nomadic Photographer

I didn't intend to become a travel photographer. In hindsight, perhaps it was obvious, but it wasn't something I originally set out to do.

In March 2007 I turned over the keys to my house and set out to travel around the world for a year.  Like many people who travel, I purchased an expensive SLR that I didn't know how to use in the theory that an expensive camera will take better photos.

I was wrong.

After only a few weeks on the road, I quickly realized that my camera wasn't going to take good photos on its own. I was committing all the rookie mistakes: shooting in jpeg, shooting in program mode, not editing my photos and not putting any thought into my images.

Over the next several years I slowly figured out what I was doing by reading blogs and forums, and a whole lot of experimentation. I went through all the stages which most photographers go through, including an HDR phase.

Since I started traveling, my year around the world has turned into eight, with no end in sight. I've been to over 170 countries and territories around the world and all 7 continents. I've done photography underwater, in caves, and from helicopters.

I've shot dog sleds teams in the Canadian Yukon, and sand dunes in the Namib Desert. I've captured holy week in Jerusalem, a Holi Festival in Singapore and New Year's Eve fireworks in Sydney.

My work over the last 8 years was eventually recognized when I was named Travel Photographer of the Year by both the Society of American Travel Writers and the North American Travel Journalists Association.

What I have learned over the last eight years of traveling around the world and growing as a photographer is something which any photographer can benefit from.

Lesson One: Be Brutally Honest With Yourself
You will never improve unless you are honest with yourself about where your photos are at. This doesn't mean simply being hyper critical with your own work, but also recognizing when you've created something good. You also then have to try to distill what made a given photo good or bad, so you can try to replicate those techniques in the future, or at least when circumstances are similar. Simply pressing the shutter button isn't going to improve your craft unless you are pressing it in a conscious manner. Every time you go out you need to be conscious of what you are trying to accomplish and how you are trying to accomplish it.

Lesson Two: You Don't Need A Lot of Gear
I've spent the last eight years traveling around the world with a single camera body, 3 lenses and a tripod. That's it. My camera isn't even a full frame camera, which shocks many photographers. While there are some limits to what I can do because of my gear, there aren't many. Cameras and lenses are technical items designed to solve technical solutions.

Unless there is something you physically cannot do with your current gear, upgrading probably won't do much for you. Technique and being at the right place at the right time will do more than new equipment ever will. When I do need a longer lens or something I can't carry with me, I will just rent it.

Lesson Three: Get Out And Shoot
All the gear and technique in the world won't help you take a great photo of a landscape or an animal if you aren't there. At the end of the day, the great photos are taken by those who are willing to go out of their way to get great photos. Opportunities for great images will not come to you. Photographers tend to obsess about gear and settings and forget that in the end, you have to be in the presence of a great photo opportunity.

Many of the most iconic photographs of the 20th Century are not technically perfect. They are slightly out of focus, overly grainy, or suffer from other problems. What makes them great is that they captured a moment in time which was special, and that couldn't have happened if the photographer wasn't there.

Lesson Four: Make Your Work Public
For over 7 years now, I have posted a daily photo on my website. Over 2,500 consecutive days of making my photos public. Not every one is a home run, but the fact that I know I have to show my photos to the public is a huge incentive to improve and make sure I'm taking quality images. If no one sees what you are doing, you'll never know if you are getting better and it allows you to coast.

Because I travel full time, I never had the benefit of being part of a photography club or other network of other photographers. I was able to get feedback by sharing my images with the public, which in many ways is a much stronger feedback mechanism than even sharing with friends.

Lesson Five: Love Your Subject
I love traveling. I'd travel even if I couldn't carry a camera with me. I know many wildlife photographers who would go and spend time observing wildlife even if they couldn't capture an image. One of my persuasions is photographing UNESCO World Heritage Sites and North American National Parks. Whatever it is you are shooting, if you have a passion for the subject, it will improve your images.

You don't have to travel around the world to improve your photography. The skills I've learned from 8 years on the road can be replicated by anyone with a camera and a passion for photography.

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

I'm with the band. Not just tagging along to take photos of a live show, I'm literally in the band. I'm Chris Hershman from Chicago and I'm a rock n' roll filmmaker, photographer, and musician. Being the bassist of my Chicago-based band, Tall Walker, doesn't always make it easy for me to film or photograph my own band. After all, I'm the photographer and filmmaker that produces nothing but rock n' roll content for a living and here I am now facing the challenge of having to visually brand the band, all while playing my instrument and being equally as effective as a musician; A challenge that I imagine faces many photographers who are also musicians.
Nikon Cinema: Filming a Music Video Feat. Tall Walker

I'm honored to be asked to speak on the Kelby Guest Blog. I'm 27 and I've have lived through some really excellent adventures all due to picking up a camera. So I'd love to share all the things that seemed most important to my success as a young creative making a living with his camera alone!

I've been shooting stills since my junior year of high school, so it’s been a full decade of working with DSLRs. Photography was only a part time job for me, and I was working at a music store selling instruments to bands like Mos Def, Sigur Ros, Angus Young and even Slash. It was a great place to be surrounded by musicians but I knew I was meant to take my photography to the next level and turn my passion into my profession. I figured it was time, and I was done making excuses for not becoming a professional photographer, so I went to a federal credit union and took out a loan for my first semi-professional camera body. And that’s when much like the Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air, my life got flipped turned up side down.

I was 24 and a proud owner of a Nikon D300s and a 50mm f/1.4. It was time to start making my mark and defining myself as a photographer, not just a music retail employee. One day when I was managing the drum shop, a fresh professional walked in doing some tire kicking on some drums. After striking up conversation, he mentioned that he was from out of town and here to supervise a photoshoot. I immediately lit up! I was talking to a professional photographer, perfect! I'll never forget the moment he said, "I work for Nikon." All of a sudden, this man became the greatest rock star that I had ever met in my music store. I had so many questions and so many awesome things to tell him about my new camera and my journey into professional photography. After working around so many professional musicians and famous rock stars, I learned that the key is to keep it cool. So, I kept conversation light and just made mention of my new camera purchase and that I'm excited to test it out. Right before he left he handed me his card and said, "Keep in touch." Little did he know, he just gave me the open door that would change my career forever.

I bought the D300s because it was one of the cameras in my price range to offer video recording features. My brother was a video editor so I figured if I shot some video maybe he and I could work together one day or at least I had someone to go to if I needed help with video. It was time to test out the video function on my camera so I asked a good customer friend of mine from the music store if I could film his band performing live at their next show in Chicago. He granted me all access to film them where ever I'd like. On stage, off stage, in the green room, full access! I had overheard them say that they've been wanting a music video for one of their new songs so I made sure to film the singer as much as possible when I heard the song they mentioned begin to play. Since I only had one camera but all access I filmed from every possible angle of this venue to make it feel like I was using several cameras. I wanted to have a surplus of footage to fool the viewer into thinking this was a live multi-camera shoot. I shot behind the drummer on stage, from the balcony, and everywhere imaginable on the main floor of the venue. By the end of the night I had captured about an hour of this band’s performance. I took the entire next day to edit the video and ended up staying put for over ten hours mashing together footage and syncing it all together to look like a proper multi-camera shoot! I had caught the fever, for more video!

That day I had created my first music video. After delivering it to the band to check out, they immediately asked if they could use it as their official music video and post it online. I said, "heck yes!" Soon after, that band went on to compete for the chance to be featured on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. The competition lasted several weeks and drew a lot of attention to the band. The best part of it all is that they submitted the video I shot of them to be in their band's bio for the Rolling Stone competition. Which is how, in a strange round-about way, my first music video made it straight to! This is when I started feeling like filming bands and music was going to be a big part of my next move to become a professional photographer who recently tagged on "and filmmaker" to the end of my title.
Empires "Hello Lover" Live in Chicago

I immediately sent the video to the Nikon executive that I had met in the music store and sent him a link to the video. He then told me he was passing it around internally and everyone was really enjoying it. The important thing to remember is that Nikon was specific to still photography cameras up until recently when they began releasing video into their cameras. They're not like Canon who have always made video cameras, printers, scanners. They were just still photographers at corporate and were happy to see what people were doing with the video features in their cameras. This was also at the beginning of their introduction of these features in the cameras and they were not quite meant for professional filmmaking. The camera only shot 720p and had no manual control over the exposure of the video.

After my new Nikon friend started passing my video internally, he suggested that I add it to Nikon's Vimeo Cinema group. Its a collection of videos that users on the Vimeo platform can add their videos to if they were shot on a Nikon. After posting the video another Nikon employee commented on my video and asked me how many cameras I shot this music video with. I replied by saying that it was shot with only one camera. He then replied again saying that we have to get lunch and talk about how I put that video together.

That’s when Scott Diussa, Nikon Professional Services Field Manager, became my new best cinema friend. Scott was kind enough to make some time to sit me down and encourage me with my work, letting me know that I was onto something and he also said the he was excited to see where all this will lead me. He was onto something himself by making that statement and 5 years later, I'm here getting to the story of how I quit my day job to follow my passion and to make visual art my career.

That's the story of how I transitioned into what I'm doing now, professionally. I took so much time going into detail about it because I think there are several extremely valuable and pivotal things that happened in that process. It was about surrounding myself with what I love, what makes me happy, and inspires me the most: Music! I listened to my heart and followed the opportunities that opened once I applied myself. The funny bit of it all is that I began this journey to become a photographer, not a filmmaker. However it was a hidden talent and once discovered, became the most valuable skill I had acquired. I used my ability to socially network to reach the people who could help me reach the next level in my career. The people at Nikon have been so kind to believe in me so much, that it's been like having an entire company mentor me and cheer me on as I take on new territory. You never know who you're going to meet and what that connection might do for your life. So smile, shake some hands and be genuine about getting to know people. Establish authentic relationships with people and they'll see that you're someone they can trust and invest in.

Let’s fast forward to right now. We just rang in the new year and it’s 2015. I'm currently several days away from giving a presentation at the CES show in Las Vegas. One of the world's largest consumer electronic shows. I'm speaking on making music videos with Nikon cameras in the Nikon Theatre set up in the Nikon Booth. I love speaking and sharing all the great information I've learned throughout the past few years and I feel that its equally important to share what I've learn to others eager to learn about it.

Back to my opening paragraph… I mentioned being in a band and needing to create content for my own band’s branding needs. That was the result of me creating an entire presentation earlier in 2014 about how I had stepped out from playing in my band for a day so that I could create our live music video. It was a collaboration I did with Nikon and their Cinema Blog, which is amazing and full of inspiring articles from excellent filmmakers that use Nikon cameras specifically for cinema use. It’s a great resource if you're looking to learn all about what you can do with Nikon cameras when you flip them into video mode. Nikon asked me to speak at NAB earlier in 2014, and that’s when I gave my first presentation as featured director at the age of 26. I had only begun using video features on my camera four years previous to that moment.

From the moment I began making videos on my Nikon camera to right now, I've created over 400 videos consisting of live performances, interviews, gear demos, and inspiring music performances like the one I made called "100 Riffs." This video is super simple, just one guy, one camera, and in one take plays 100 guitar riffs in a row without stopping or messing up. This video has over 10 million views and continues to be one of the most inspirational videos to many aspiring musicians.
100 Riffs

The fun doesn't stop there! Nikon reached out to me again in summer of 2014 and asked if I thought it would be possible to make a music video using the Nikon 1 v3. However, I wouldn't be able to use the video function. They wanted me to use rapid fire burst of RAW images and string them together like video clips to make a full music video. Well I wasn't going to say no before I had even tried it, so I took on their challenge and ended up creating a 4K music video that is made completely out of still images. This took several months and over 20,000 RAW images to create. There is a whole article and behind the scenes look at how we accomplished this film.
Tall Walker "Dance All Night" 4K Music Video

I've been a massive fan of a band called Switchfoot. I grew up listening to this band in High School and probably attended upwards of 8-10 of their shows. I was a huge fan. Recently, my aspiration has been to travel and document rock n' roll tours. So one day I reached out to the band and asked if I could join them for a small leg of their tour to take photos and videos of whatever they needed. Several emails later I ended up snagging a bunk on their bus and joining them on the road. I've worked some of the band members on projects outside of their band, so we were not complete strangers by any means. Establishing a relationship previous to scoring that tour was totally needed in order to make that happen.

Every night I would get to stand right in front of these guys pouring everything they got into their music and performance. It reminded me of why I fell in love with this band in the first place, because they were the definition of rock n' roll to me. All musical taste and preference aside, you can't attend a Switchfoot show and leave there without your heart pumping and your neck sore from rocking out with the band. The frontman, Jon Foreman, surfs crowds and runs through crowds to make them part of the experience. When you watch this band, you understand that music performed live is incredibly special. It's worth buying tickets and experiencing in person. To actually "feel" their music and the sound waves rush through your body is not something you can get in your car or through headphones. Ever since that tour I've gotten the itch to do it again to help preserve the live performances of bands and the lives they live on tour.

A lot of these opportunities happened, not because I'm the best or most talented creative out there, but I can contribute some very important attributes that I learned about myself that helped get me to where I got in my career in visual art. There will also always be someone better than you, more qualified than you. But if you let those things cloud your vision, you're unable to realize that talent doesn't always get you there. People don't care how talented you are if working with you is a pain in their ass because of your attitude or rude behavior. One of the most important things I've ever been told was by my mentor at the age of 16. He said "Chris, talent gets you there, but character keeps you there." I have found this to be more and more true as I get older and further both in my musical and visual career. I work hard on keeping healthy relationships and a balanced lifestyle so that no matter where I am with my career, I'll always maintain a level of professionalism and believe in myself that will keep me working hard toward accomplishing my professional goals.

F#@& Fear!
If there is ONE, just one thing you walk away with by reading this article, it should be that you cannot let fear stop you from the flood gates of awesome opportunities waiting to swing open and pour out into your life. I have countless people ask me daily how I snagged certain opportunities like joining a tour or filming a music video for a popular artist, and I always some back to same answer, which is to live bold and without fear.

Fear can so quickly prevent you from reaching out and taking what you want. Whether it’s getting photo passes for a show you want to cover, or a band interview you want to do, or if you want to join a band on tour and live on their bus. We don't ask, mostly because we fear they will say no, resulting in some form of embarrassment. I can live with embarrassment, but what I can't live with, is regret. If I hadn't taken bold moves in reaching out  to people who seemed very out of reach or intimidating, I wouldn't be writing you, I wouldn't be shooting photos and videos for a living. I'd be retreating back to living at my parents’ place in rural Indiana, working behind the counter of a music store! Which is exactly where I started and loved working there, but just knew I had a passion for photography and video that needed to be pursued in order for me to feel completely fulfilled with my work.

Living with the parents is not a negative thing for all people, however I moved to downtown Chicago eight years ago, immediately after high school, to surround myself with other artists and musicians. I knew that I was meant for something bigger than what a rural town could offer me when it came to opportunity. If I had decided to give up and move back when things got tough and full of financial struggle, I wouldn't have been able to sneak into greenrooms at my favorite Chicago rock-venues. I wouldn't be able to be surround myself by bands, music industry professionals, and rock shows that occur every night of the week in our lovely city. I threw myself into the music scene by boldly introducing myself to bands after their sets. Not to just tell them about how great they sounded, but that I'd love to work with them and help create a video with them next time they pass through town. I reached out to bands’ management and shot them emails to ask questions like, "Would your band like some new press photos when they swing through Chicago?" or let them know, "I have a studio that your band is welcome to come film and perform live in to make a music video." Even if they didn't have time to film a video or take some new photos, I'd ask if my band could open for theirs.
Alabama Shakes "Hold On" Official Music Video

The most inspiring thing about what I do has got to be the fact that anything I work on, is based around my first passion and love, music. If I'm using my camera to film or shoot stills, you can bet it’s mostly music related. Press shots, live shots, music videos or tour updates. At some point you realize what kind of work brings you the greatest joy, and you try to focus in that arena. Mine was music and I made the decision to not try and be the jack of all trades, but to pick one direction that I knew inspired me the most and to strive to be come an expert in that thing, which for me, became anything related to rock n' roll!

One of my favorite quotes, which originally came from a Nuclear physicist named Niels Bohr, brilliantly phrases his opinion on what its means to be an "Expert". It goes as such: "An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made in a narrow field." This rolls into my second point of what contributed to me getting from where I started to where I am now with my actual skill level. I didn't go to film school or take photography classes. I just picked it up and messed with every knob on the damn thing. Ten years later I still have not tried every available function on my camera or in my editing software. However I try on nearly every photo to take a different approach. I know that I have to push myself to learn the things I don't know, and for me I learn through personal discovery and attempting it on my own. I don't think I've nailed down my exact post process, however I try every which way to edit and to snap an image with a different approach. And yes, sometimes I make massive mistakes, but each time I screw something up, I learn what not to do next time around. And I'm not afraid to make "mistakes" by being bold with new approaches to finding angles or for coloring images, because through that process I've found all the different and small characters that are embedded in my films that make people enjoy what they see in my work.

Live Performance Music Videos
Small examples that led to me having my signature "Chris Hershman look and feel" were things like putting large DSLR cameras directly over top of the drummers drum kit in my live music video performances. As a musician I have a huge appreciation for musicianship and I don't like to "glam" up a live music video as much as I want to clearly show just how talented a band's performance can be, not just by showing cool rock moves from low positioned wide angles but showing close-ups of the musicians actually playing their instruments. Their performance is the important factor in live music videos. So by focusing on the actual musicianship of the band by choosing angles and positioning cameras in places that you can show a musician's precision and actual talent to play their instrument, I think you're putting more purpose, more heart into what you're filming. People need to be captivated and that doesn't have to be by flashy lights and awesome denim jackets, but by giving them the reason why they came to watch the live performance video, to see music performance with authenticity displayed in a way that respects the music and musician. Of course they need to look cool in the process, but if you stay true to capture the honest and real moments that happen in live music performances, you get to show the love that musicians have for music, and again, add purpose to your work.
Brian Blade and The Fellowship Band (Live) at Chicago Music Exchange

Find Your Fight
Are you happy with what you do? Are you madly in love with the work that you’re producing, and if not, why not?! It's just my opinion, but I firmly believe that photography and filmmaking is one of the most enjoyable jobs to ever have. But I've been in places where I was working with my camera and still wasn’t completely satisfied with what I was doing. A good example of how often I see this is when I asked one of the young photographers I mentor to tell me what she's hoping to accomplish in the next year of her life when it came to her work. She began with a dollar amount, then broke that dollar amount into how many gigs and of what sort that she'd need to do in order to hit that goal. I stopped her right there as she was sighing about how much time she spends on gigs that she has no aspiration or drive to do, just to make a dollar figure. I asked, "Why are you shooting things that you don't enjoy?" I explained that I think she could keep that kind of mental attitude toward photography for about a year before she would become too burned out on photography that she may never want to pick her camera up again. Don’t let photography always be the source of your income, but the source of your inspiration.

When you talk about what makes you happy, I think it’s important to ask yourself, what's going to continually make you happy and have longevity? To answer that I think you can just look at happiness when it comes to your work, however it's inspiration that continues to constantly drive ourselves to keep going, keep growing, to keep feeling like the work that we're doing matters most to us as artists.

I have to look at what I'm doing all the time to make sure the work I'm accepting is work that’s inspiring me, not dragging me down and wearing me out. That may mean less work at the beginning, but when you find what you're most passionate about, you quickly thrive in that area and can end up becoming an "expert" in that field. When you find your deepest aspirations in the work you choose, you find that it's somewhat that that can sustain you, fill you with propose and drive you further than you ever thought you could go before. So find your fight, find what makes you truly driven, and make sure that every time you pick up a camera, you realize that you have the best job in the entire world.

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

The Season For Giving
Since it is approaching Christmas, you may think this is an blog entry about Christmas gift giving, but it's actually not!

Let me start with a funny story! You may have heard Scott Kelby refer to me as "Bill Fortney - A Man Barely Alive!"  and wondered what that is all about? Well let me give you the back story. I met Scott about a dozen years ago when I worked for Nikon and called on him as a client. We went on to become great friends! My father died at age 66 and I was in my mid to late fifties when I met Scott. I guess I thought with heredity and all I probably wouldn't live much longer than my father did! I was a two times cancer survivor and I'm a type two diabetic so I guess I thought my leash was short! Scott found it amusing that I would answer questions about if I would be a such an such event and I would say, "Sure, if I'm still around."

So that is how that whole a man barely alive thing got started. Let's fast forward a decade and I'm coming up on my 69th birthday in February, and even closer to the big last trip! I am a huge football fan. I once was actually the official photographer for the Washington Redskins, and in football terms I'm definitely in the 4th quarter! Since none of us knows the exact moment when we will be leaving this sphere, the two minute warning could have sounded for me already, who knows!?

Being at this stage in the game of life causes one to consider some pretty important questions, questions we should consider long before the middle of the fourth quarter! What is this life really about? How famous we are? How rich we become? Who admires us? I think not. I think this life is about leaving something valuable when you leave. For me, I have three main goals at this stage of my life: Serve my Heavenly Father and share his love with everyone I meet, be the best husband, father, and grandfather that I can possibly be, and lastly leave a photographic legacy I can be proud of.

How do you leave a photographic legacy? I'm not talking about a body of meaningful or beautiful work. I'm talking about helping others that love the same craft that I do. A lot of people have inspired me, and taught me over the past 45 years and they helped me to get better each day! It's my turn. I teach workshops, speak at events, do classes on KelbyOne, and write books because I want to share what I've learned with others.

Am I a good enough photographer to have anything worth sharing? I hope so, but the "information" I share, I know can help other photographers! I am at heart, and have always been a teacher. I love to see others learn and get excited about this craft I love so much. You can visit my website to see my work, learn about my workshops and even buy my eBooks, but that is not why I wrote this article.

I want to encourage you to consider how you can take your considerable talent and knowledge and share it with those that could benefit from it! You could offer community classes in photography at your public library, or maybe your church. You could volunteer to teach a photography class for your local high school or adult education program. Many camera clubs and civic organizations are looking for programs, you could share your knowledge and entertain them! In Jay Maisel's wonderful new book, Light, Gesture, and Color, he thanked his high school art teacher Leon Friend for the incredible start he gave him, and the chance to become a member of the "Art Squad!" Just think what this high school art teacher gave us, all of us, that have learned so much from Jay!

I want to be that kind of a teacher, one that has students produce art long after I'm gone! Here is a secret… If you want to have a really great life, help others get what they need and want! Trust me, a thank you from someone that you have helped learn, is worth far more than fame and fortune!

Merry Christmas!
Bill Fortney

Greetings everyone! Corey Barker here to share with you my latest holiday project. Once again I collaborated with headshot photographer Peter Hurley and we decided to do another movie poster project. Some of you may remember a little project I did with Peter on recreating the poster for the Chevy Chase movie Vacation using Peter as the main subject and then we also recruited Mia McCormick and Brandon Ford to be part of the fun. We gathered everyone in the studio and we had RC shoot the images I needed. I then took those images that afternoon and created the poster below. I love projects like this where I feel under the gun because under pressure is where I most creative. The result came out so nicely that it ended up being a featured tutorial in my Down & Dirty Tricks Book Vol 2.

Now jump ahead 2 years and it is November 2014 and Peter has once again come to visit our office. This time to work on his new book, which is going to be awesome! So while he was here some of us went to lunch and we started started talking about the Shabang! poster and how much fun that project was. He told me that he was going to be back here in December and that we should do another one. Since it was going to be Christmas time and we wanted to keep the Vacation theme going we decided to do the obviousâ¦Christmas Vacation! I was so excited and yet so bummed because I had to wait another month until we could do it. Though I had plenty to keep me busy in the meantime.

Now it is December and Peter has returned and I cannot wait to get this project started. This time he was here filming a KelbyOne class on headshots and the art of the edit, so he already had the studio set up and ready to go. Of course, while he had it set up I took advantage of that and had Peter take some new headshots of me (see the image above), but then after that it was Peter's turn in front of the camera. Using the original Christmas Vacation poster as a reference, I wanted Peter to have a similar expression to the Chevy Chase character on the poster. He was doing well but still wasn't quite there until I told him to act like a cattle prod just got shoved in his bum! That worked and gave me the shot I needed. I only needed the head because I was going to create the rest entirely in Photoshop. Let the fun begin!

The Photoshop Process (Abridged)
So now I had the shots of Peter and now I was ready to get started. Again referencing the the original post I noticed that it was originally an illustration and not a photo. Being an illustrator myself I thought I would go ahead and illustrate the whole thing. However two things occurred to me: One thing was time, to illustrate the entire poster would have taken days for me. I had two days at most to do this. The other thing was the teaching aspect. If I had illustrated it and did tutorials on it it would have only appealed to a handful of digital illustrators out there. There are no doubt designers out there that can't draw so well but really want to achieve this level of design. So I decided to mostly composite the whole poster using stock photos with a few illustrated elements added in. This would make it easier for someone to learn the technique. So I started by building the background. I created the snow and illustrated the rooftop and chimney first. This established the environment and also establishes a reference of scale as I add other elements.

Once I had the background set I was ready to get started on the main subject. Like I said, my original thought was to illustrate this but just had no time. So I went to and started searching for images of Santa. I obviously could not expect that I would find a Santa image that looked just like the image in the poster, that would be wishful thinking.

Instead I had to shift my gaze and not look at the entire image but rather break it up into parts. Each of these Santa images are obviously from the same series but each one was picked for a specific part of the design. I chose the first because of the legs and torso because they were facing front, the second and third images I chose for the boots, and the fourth one was used for the arm. I needed a straight arm and this was the closest I could find, but no problem with Puppet Warp. So now I had all the parts I needed to create the body, I already had the head shot of Peter so I was ready to go!

I started with the legs by extracting just that part of the image minus the boots and then brought it into the main design then scaled and position them in place. Then I extracted one boot each from the other two images. I needed them to be turned and did not want to use the same boot and duplicate it as that would have been obvious. Next was the torso, once again I extracted just that part and then added it to the image. Though the torso and legs came from the same image I needed them separate so that could manipulate the torso shape without affecting the legs.

Now the arms. I used the one arm of the Santa holding the bell for both arms. I extracted it then used Puppet Warp to straighten it. I erased the hand and bell and filled in the the fur cuff. I then used the Warp tool to basically sculpt the arm to the scene. Then I duplicated it and flipped it to put on the other side. Because of the abstract nature of the fabric and such it easy to make them look different. I then copied a couple little patches of the fabric to fill in the gaps.

Next I added Peter's head to the scene and then used a strip of fur I got from the Santa hat image and made it a collar around his neck. The last thing of course was the hands. I found a simple open hand stock image and then used it for both hands. However I did use puppet warp again to manipulate the fingers just slightly so they were not obviously the same. Oh and I almost forgot the pillows, in the original he had a couple pillows stuffed in the suit so thought I would add that too. Now the main subject is assembled, but we are far from done.

Once I had all the pieces together I went ahead and merged all those layers together so I could edit the subject as a whole. Did a little bit more cloning and patchwork to make the suit a little more seamless and then did some dodging and burning to make the lighting and shadows consistent.

Now it was time to start with the surrounding elements like lights, flying presents, and such. I started with the lights. I used Illustrator to create the cord for the lights because you get much smoother paths using the Smooth tool. Once that was done I brought that path into Photoshop and then used it to draw not just the cord for the lights, but I also created a brush tip in the shape of the light and painted that along the same path in various colors. Then used some layer styles and some blur effects to get the lights to glow.

Now the lighting effect around the subject I created using a custom lightning brush I created. I then just scatter painted the lightning around the edge of the subject. After that I added an Outer Glow layer style to enhance the effect. Finally there were just the prop elements floating around the subject. In the original they were just presents floating around so I wanted to use that but also add a some Peter touches as well, like a PhaseOne camera and lights. The camera you can see floating in the air and the light is in Santa' sack. Once I had those elements in place I added lighting effects based in their position in relation to the subject. The very last touch of course was the text. Peter came up with Squinchmas Vacation and I added the Yule Wonder Why! at the top.

In the end this version took about 10 hours over two days. I built it to the dimensions of a full-scale movie poster which is 27 inches wide by 40 inches tall. It is comprised of about 50 layers and the file says weighs in at about 1.5 GB. This project will be broken down in step-by-step video tutorials as part of my Photoshop Master FX Series exclusively at in the the next couple months.

A big thanks to Peter Hurley for once again being such a good sport and allowing me to to create this image. I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and watch out for cousin Eddie! LOL

You can see more of Corey’s work at, and follow him on FacebookTwitter, and YouTube.

A bowerbird gracefully lands three feet from the front of my lens, like the 500 or so birds before her (or him, I’m no ornithologist). She has come for the smorgasbord of delights I’ve spread out in the guise of capturing them on camera.

Hopefully, she’ll ignore the photographic paraphernalia surrounding her and in the exact moment that I’m ready, strike the pose I’ve been looking to incorporate into my latest body of work.

This is the dance we’ve been playing for sometime now, weeks in fact.

Step 1 / Bird lands on table.
Step 2 / I desperately trigger the camera from inside my house some 40 feet away.
Step 3 / The bird; food in beak, decides not to wait around for the second 2000 w/s strobe flash.

So… how did you gain access to a 400 year old baroque castle? I’m frequently asked this in reference to the series (A Frozen Tale) I shot last year (2013) in Skokloster Slott, one of Europe’s finest examples of baroque architecture. And much like the birds above, hundreds of failures culminated in the gaining of access to the location which would ultimately set the stage for this series.

It’s rare to see the evolutionary failures today, we’re fed a constant feed of content through social media, a story carefully curated to display the success of the individual. Of course it needs to be curated to create headlines, buzz and click-bait, but what’s missing from it is the sense that the success is the sum of our failures.

With this constant barrage, we can sometimes incorrectly assume that these individuals are constantly given all the breaks, handed the keys to the castle if you will. However, what’s more likely the case, was that you never saw the 499 rejections, the failed attempts, the heartbreak, and the …

If you’ve never experienced unrelenting failure… then watch this video for a glimpse. Just quit before you see the P&G logo, and go buy Ludovico Einaudi’s album on itunes, it makes for great retouching music.

Originally when I was asked to write this guest blog post, I had just finished a commissioned artwork for a rather large charitable organization. This artwork, which my team and I took months to produce for little recourse is for a cause I fervently believe in. I had hoped to de-construct this project in its stages, to lay bare what it took to create what I think is one of my best works to date.

However as with lots of projects involving many cogs (re: people), delays often push back launch dates and with them, extend the silence I must hold.

In its place, I thought I’d de-construct the pivotal chapters to how I claimed the keys to the castle and in turn the commission for the charitable organization.

We all need to draw inspiration from somewhere to get us started. It was the early to mid nineties and while studying art-history at Australia’s National Art School (NAS) I was struck by the pre-raphaelite brotherhood, a group of painters from the mid 19th century. Their genre was depicting the romantic form in narrative and symbolic pieces. Perhaps it was the emotionally charged teenager in me or my love for the theatrics that drew me in, who knows, I was hooked.

I was majoring in photography & sculpture, and progressively spent more and more endless nights hunched over the enlarger, inhaling the crisp smell of developer & fixer, it became an endless world of trial and error, and error, and error. At times the other classes that NAS forced me to take seemed trivial and meaningless, I had shunned the archaic forms of drawing and painting, after all if “Botticelli was alive today, he’d be working for Vogue” — Peter Ustinov. But to graduate I would require passes across the board. Today drawing, illustraion & painting are crucial to my image making process.

Frustratingly… for the faculty that was, Photoshop was starting insert itself into the domain of traditional arts photography, threatening the status quo of those who fought so hard to establish photography as a validated medium (in fine-art).

They rejected the practice from many of the institutions.

Literally for over a century manipulating images in the darkroom was completely acceptable, want to dodge and burn for contrast, no problem! Want to composite the head of a president onto the body of another, sure, splice some negatives together, but add the ability to do it without inhaling noxious chemistry, that be witchcraft!

I wanted to see what was possible in Photoshop and soon realised that unless I had very very deep pockets I was going to have learn the craft. Having recently graduated and only just coming to grips with the $6,000 I spent on printing and framing for my exhibition earlier that year, I needed an avenue which would grant me the opportunity to learn while just scraping by financially. Fortunately I was granted two scholarships, one for my post-graduate masters in fine-art, the other a traveling scholarship in association with my masters. Remember this was pre dot-com boom 1.0, so there was no online learning, no YouTube tutorials. Like my darkroom escapades 3 years earlier this was going to be trial and a whole lot of error. I needed to produce a series for my masters, one that encompassed the emerging technology coupled with my love for the romantic.

I set off on my grand tour, like so many before me seeking inspiration through the arts, architecture & culture of Europe. The traveling scholarship was only partial funding and ended up being a very tiny component of the expenses I incurred on the trip. Its real benefit was to give me the confidence to back myself, to understand that if you don’t back yourself (in life), can you expect someone else to? I returned to Australia with a wealth of background imagery, to be exact: 100 rolls of 120 negative film. I had borrowed the Uni’s Bronica 6×6 and now, upon my return had the mammoth task of scanning, cleaning and documenting 1200 background plates.

The biggest gift the experience bestowed on me was the concept for my masters. For the next three years I compiled a list of the famous, infamous, powerful & obscure women of the past two millennia. They were all interesting in some way, and the list was excruciatingly long. From hundreds of stories I whittled them down to a manageable twelve. They would become the regal twelve, my regal twelve. These twelve women would reside somewhere in the 1200 plates shot prior, and they would all be composite images. I had set the framework which would push my skills way beyond my comfort zone.

I would say that the success of the regal twelve was equal parts luck and relentless hard work. At the time the major fashion designers like Cristian Lacroix, Alexander McQueen & John Galliano were in a renaissance, re-interpreting the romantic past and in doing so setting the fashions of the time. The fact that my worked aligned with this renaissance was fairly coincidental, the exhausting work in creating the opportunity to take advantage of that luck was not.

After successfully exhibiting at numerous institutions in Australia, the work toured internationally, with each exhibition another would germinate, the work self propagating into new found regions. It was not perpetual motion, it required constant attendance and lots of persuasion on my part, but it was a different kind of work.

Years later, I received a letter from the Royal Armoury of Stockholm requesting the usage of my Christina of Sweden in their exhibition Bilder av Kristina. It was to be quite the regal affair with an opening from the King’s sister and artifacts flown in from the Vatican library. The letter extended the invitation to the royal opening and with my exhibition fee roughly equating to the cost of a return airfare to Stockholm, I thought it would be rude of me not to attend.

Of course, I had now become seasoned in the art of identifying opportunities where they weren’t quite as apparent. This would be the closest I have come to a royal bloodline, and it would be silly not to request the opportunity to photograph a princess. I had read somewhere before that Annie Leibovitz had repeatedly requested an audience with the Queen (of England), and Annie Leibovitz was rejected multiple times. (She obviously got there in the end).

I asked, and although I wasn’t denied, I wasn’t granted either.

I needed an angle, If I had a publication I’d get the royalty, and if I had royalty I’d get a publication. I contacted multiple outlets from fashion to news. I tried so many angles, from the interesting succession laws Sweden had passed granting the eldest child regardless of sex the line to the throne, through to my presence as an Australian in the exhibition. Nothing was biting, just a lot of rejection.

20,000 miles is a long way just to attend an exhibition opening. So if I wasn’t going to get an audience with royalty perhaps I could ask for something else. Perhaps a theatrical shoot amongst the amazing artifacts of the royal armoury, perhaps a carriage, or a horse in barding. Most of these requests, as always, were declined but if I never asked they would never have thought to offer Skokloster Slott.

I hit up Google images for everything pertaining to Skokloster, like the anticipation of a perfectly cooked medium-rare eye fillet, I was salivating at the visual feast that adorned my screen. I had to have it. Of course, later I would find out that it came with certain caveats understandable of a 400 year old castle, and a quid-pro-quo deal requiring an exhibition of my work without fee, but here was an opportunity I could work with, one that I could build a series around.

It isn’t cheap putting together a series, shot on location, where said location is literally on the other side of the planet. My partner/producer and I put together a quick budget and it was by no means a persuasive argument for the affirmative. Nevertheless the mantra of investing in oneself is powerful. Whether it’s education, equipment or the time & space you need to be creative, once you’re committed there’s no turning back.

I won’t talk about the specific production details from A Frozen Tale as they’ve been discussed on various blogs enough. All you need to know for this story is that; We, for the first time ever had handed over the production of the behind-the-scenes footage to a friend of ours who wanted to join in on the experience. We needed as much help as we could muster, with around 40 cast and crew volunteering time and services to make something special, my video producer (re: husband) was too busy with general logistics to pick up the 5D MKII.

The other piece of information you should probably know is that late the evening before the shoot, during our recce of the castle, I ear-marked some globes sitting up against a map as a possible location. I had pre-visualized nearly all the shots of the series based on what I could find online, but this simple wall, with the light filtering in onto the antique globes was simply gorgeous. My gut told me to use it, to incorporate it at all costs. Two evenings later with the crew exhausted, the batteries all but depleted and my body screaming for sleep, I carried the 80 megapixel Phase One medium format up the ten flights of stairs to the attic library and shot the only image that didn’t have subject in situ.

We landed in Australia only 120 hours after we had departed. Along with other commissions and obligations I decided to launch the work 4-6 months later. This would provide me with plenty of time to procure the additional photography I needed. You see one of the caveats of a 400 year old castle is that you’re not allowed animals next to a priceless Giuseppe Arcimboldo painting. Similar to the native wild birds I’m photographing today, I would spend hours each day in Sydney’s centennial park, canvassing dog walkers that suited my concept sketches.

The plan was to release the work in the fourth quarter of 2013, along with the behind-the-scenes video and an online workshop covering the complete post-production process. The deadline wasn’t randomly assigned, I failed to mention earlier in story that right when I was climbing those stairs to the attic, I was also 7 weeks pregnant. This whole project needed to be wrapped by December, ready for me to sign-off on 3 months maternity leave.

I love deadlines, I’m not sure why… It’s most likely the obsessive compulsive drilled into me during one of my summers as a chef tucked away in a smokey 104º F (40ºC) kitchen on the small island of Skiathos (Greece). Like cooking, photographic production requires specific ingredients, they need to be sourced, prepped, cooked, presented and consumed. It’s not formulaic, it’s a framework. Good chefs will continue to experiment with their recipes, they will refine their craft, they will do this within their framework, and a deadline just adds to the excitement.

I had knocked over the post-production of the work in a couple months around my day to day work. I had planned to do this so I could spend the majority of my remaining time recording the workshop, something I had not tried before. It wasn’t that I wasn’t willing to share my knowledge, I’ve lectured photomedia at the College of Fine Art and spoken at large conferences, it was that with anything new, expect the trial-run to contain a whole lot of error.

We had days remaining on the clock, and while I had completed all the artworks and recorded 17 instructional videos we didn’t have any behind-the-scenes footage from our shoot 6 months earlier. Unfortunately the relationship with our friend the video producer had diverged through differences of opinion and while we would have loved to share the experience with the world we respected his wishes not to release his footage.

Despite this, I still needed a video, something to say thank-you to all those who helped us on our journey.

The idea behind The Cabinets of Curiosity, the final artwork for the series had been bubbling away in my mind since that day I saw the wall of globes. It was going to be a tough pitch to my partner that we should produce this artwork so soon after the birth of our daughter, but we needed a video and I desperately wanted to use that plate. 17 days later, on the last Sunday before Christmas we shot the final character for A Frozen Tale, and with it the 4 minute video that would launch the series.

I’m often asked how I know when I’ve finished an artwork (or body of work for that matter). This will no-doubt sound contrived, but the truthful answer is that I usually tear up. It’s probably the exhaustion, or the sheer delight that I’m finished, who knows. The Cabinets of Curiosity is a self portrait, not literally (I’m not a 19 year old model), but figuratively. It relates to me as the explorer, always looking for new opportunities in which to partake.

How does this entwine with the story I wanted to tell, the one about the commissioned work for that charitable organisation? A Frozen Tale was picked up and seen by the consulting curator to the organisation. It encompassed the spirit of what they wanted to communicate, the belief that we all can make a difference. The curator was litterally 1 in at least 3.2 million impressions (at last count).

It’s the 499 birds before the 1 that works.

Alexia Sinclair is an Arist, Photographer & Story Teller. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook. You can view the complete collection from her series at

Hanging with Queeny last month in London after the Shoot Like A Pro seminar

This past weekend I was able to shoot hip-hop artist Lecrae’s sold-out concert at House of Blues in Orlando. He’s out on tour supporting his latest album, Anomaly, which debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 when it released in September. Thankfully, I have some friends who have been working with Lecrae and his label, Reach Records, for a while now and were able to hook me up with an all-access pass to cover the show! I figured I would take this opportunity to share some of the shots with you, along with my thought process for covering the show and some post processing tips.

I started the set in the photo pit, the space between the stage and the crowd barricade. The stage at HoB is pretty high, so I always try to start from the sides and shoot tight to get those shots out of the way.

With a high-energy show, which hip-hop tends to be, there’s a lot of movement on stage, so I usually shoot a lot more wide shots than tight. While I still move back and forth in the pit to try and follow the action, shooting wide keeps me from having to move too much. There’s plenty of stuff to trip on in the pit, as well as the other photographers who are all trying to maneuver around each other, so the less back and forth there is, the less chance for bumping into someone.

This is one of my favorite shots from the show because it’s obviously a peak action moment with Lecrae flying high, but then there’s also the subtle background element of his backup singer also getting some air at the same time.

Needless to say, there was a lot of jumping.

Not always though.

There were even some quiet moments, which I took advantage of by getting in nice and close while he was at the edge of the stage.

But then there was more jumping! I liked the black and white edit of this shot more than the color version (below). I feel like not having the blue color of the lights and the red color of the screens intersecting his body below the arms makes it less distracting. Which do you prefer?

B&W PROCESSING TIP: One thing to keep in mind if you’re converting images to black and white in Lightroom or Camera Raw is that the color sliders still matter! Once you convert it to black and white, go back to your white balance sliders and tweak them. You’ll be surprised at how big a difference in light and contrast those adjustments will make.

Don’t stop there either. Head to the HSL sliders and you’ll see color sliders that will help you adjust your black and white mix. Depending on the colors in your photo, some of them might not do much of anything, but the ones that do affect the image will make a huge difference. It’s also a great way to selectively darken/brighten elements in your images.

And if you want more fine-tuning, head to the Camera Calibration sliders and see what you can do with those as well.

COLOR PROCESSING TIP: One thing I try to achieve in my color images is a nice contrast of colors. The main way I achieve this is also with the white balance sliders. Sometimes it’s a big move of the slider, and sometimes it’s the tiniest tweak. But I always try to find that sweet spot where the colors (in the case of the image above, red, blue, and purple) all pop the best. Then I’ll move down to the vibrance slider and see if pumping it up or, surprisingly, pulling back on it helps the image the most. In this case (and most of the shots from this show), dialing it back to -10 or so gave me the look I liked best.

After I was done in the photo pit, I moved up to a room upstairs and to the side of the stage that I had always wanted to shoot from but couldn’t because I didn’t have the access needed for it. This time I did, so up I went.

I only shot from here for a short time because there were already other people in the room, and I asked one of them if I could stand where they were for about 30 seconds just to get a few shots. I shot till I knew I had gotten a few shots with decent light and a good gesture, then moved back out to the main balcony.

From here I was able to get some shots of the whole stage from a different vantage point. And they broke out the lasers! Who doesn’t like lasers?

Apparently everyone loves lasers, because they turned them up to 11 and added a disco ball in as well. Because, well, why not?

While the crowd was blinded by the light (revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night), Lecrae snuck off stage and made his way into the crowd like the rule-breaking rebel he is (note the sign behind him).

I never am sure which shows certain moments better, tight shots like the first one, or wide shots like this one. In the first one, you can clearly see who it is and you have enough people around him that you can tell he’s in the middle of a crowd. But the second one shows the size of the crowd and the excitement of the people closest to him, and gives a bit more context by showing the stage and lights. What do you think?

During the last song of his regular set, my friends and I made our way backstage. Lecrae came off the stage for a short break while the crowd cheered for him to come back out, and I was lucky enough to grab this moment of him getting ready to take the stage for his encore. While it’s not the most exciting moment, it’s one of those things that few people get to see. So being able to capture it and share it with others is exciting for me.

I hope you like the images, that I was able to give a little insight into shooting strategy, and that the post processing tips were helpful! If you have any questions or input, leave a comment and I’ll get to you as soon as I can.

To see more of Brad’s work, check out, and follow him on Instagram and Twitter.