Category Archives Photography

I get asked this question a lot (well, not exactly the $1,000 amount — it’s based on the person asking the question’s budget — sometimes it’s $1,200, sometimes it’s $800 so I went with something in the middle).

As an educator, my first thought is always “the answer is education!” (if all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail, right?), and I will include some education in my recommendations, but when it comes to portraiture there surely are a few things you could pick up that would have an immediate impact if (here’s the gotcha) you learn how to use them (there’s that education thing again).

OK, here are some ideas for your portraiture shopping spree:

A Westcott 5-in-1 Diffuser
It costs just $29.90 yet it’s probably got the most bang-for-the-buck of anything on this list. The four reflectors that it comes with are certainly handy (White, Gold, Black, and Silver) but the white Diffuser that comes with it (which you simply put between the sun and your subject which turns harsh ugly direct light into gorgeous, soft beautiful light is worth it’s weight in gold. If you did nothing but start using this diffuser outdoors, you’d see the impact in your outdoor portraits immediately. Here’s the link. 

Wacom Intuos Pro Small
Portrait retouching is such an important part of being able to deliver professional looking results today, and even though our job is “photographer” our clients expect that any image we give them will be a “final” image, retouched and ready to go. All of your competition will be retouching their portraits (after all, would a pro take a portrait and just hand the client a raw untouched image? Probably not, right?), so getting decent at retouching today isn’t an option — it’s part of the job, and a Wacom tablet is tool that makes retouching so much easier you’ll be amazed you ever tried retouching without it.

I carry the “Small” (that’s the model name, and it’s also its size) with me everywhere I go (it fits perfectly in my laptop bag) and I won’t consider retouching without it. This will make a bigger difference than you think. It’s $227.17 at B&H Photo. Here’s the link. 

An 85mm f/1.8 portrait lens
Portrait lenses are notoriously expensive — except this one. It’s about $1,100 LESS than an f/1.4 or f/1.2 and you’ll still get that magnificently shallow depth-of-field for natural light portraits that we love without breaking the bank (after all, is 2/3 of a stop more really worth that extra $1,100?). The only downside is — you’ll probably never want to use any other lens. Right now it’s only $369 at B&H (they have a $50 instant-saving deal on right now). Here’s the link.

OnOne’s Perfect Photo Suite 8
These are the essential plug-ins that cover everything from portrait retouching to portrait effects, from black and white conversions to lens effects, and pretty much everything in between. This Suite creates those trademark “looks” that have become the bread and butter of many portrait photographers and today being able to create those looks is really important. You can buy the whole stand-alone Premium Edition of the Suite for $149.95 right now, but if you’re a Lightroom user and only want just the plug-in version that works inside of Lightroom, you can get it for $99. Here’s the direct link.

Take These Online Classes
OK, this one is going to sound a little self-serving, but I take these online classes myself at KelbyOne to learn more about portraiture and lighting and it’s what I would recommend to a friend. Start with Peter Hurley’s class on Mastering Headshot Photography — even if you’re not ever going to shoot head shots, you’ll learn what really makes a great portrait and how to interact with your subject’s to get more natural, real expressions. Then watch “A Day with Joe McNally” to learn how to light with just one or two lights (mostly one). Then go watch Jeremy Cowart’s two-part series on location photography. He teaches you how to shoot pretty much anywhere with very simple light.

If you watch one class from each (you can rent individual courses for $7 a piece) you’re into this for $21. I’d just go ahead and spend another $4 and subscribe for a month ($25) and then you can also watch classes from Frank Doorhof on lighting, and Erik Valind on lifestyle photography, and Joel Grimes on lighting and compositing, and you can catch my classes on retouching, and more Joe McNally (you get the idea). Here’s the link. 

Get a Simple Lighting Kit
I imagine you already have a hot shoe flash of some sort, but a hot shoe flash alone, without a kit to make the light soft and beautiful, is a recipe for some harsh portraiture. This kit (made by Impact) is a steal, and it comes with a 24″x24″ pop-up soft box, flash bracket, tilt head and light stand and it’s only $149. That’s a pretty insane price. If you’re only going to shoot in natural light, you’re only going to be a part-time photographer (during the day and in ideal conditions). Learning to use just one flash will open doors you never dreamed of, and this kit is just $149. Here’s the link. 

So, how much have we spent?

TOTAL: $950

Round things off by picking up Gregory Heisler’s fantastic “50 Portraits” hardcover book for sheer inspiration ($34 at Amazon) and then use the rest for lunch on your way to your next portrait shoot.

Hope you found that helpful, and I encourage you to share any of your picks, ideas or suggestions here in the comments below. Hope you all have a kick-butt Monday (if there actually is such a thing). ;-)





Above: It was pitch dark when we got there, and we were all in position just before sunrise.

Hi Gang: Right before I headed up to Photoshop World in Atlanta earlier this month, I got a chance to shoot the US Navy’s famous Blue Angels parked on the flight line at dawn (I was speaking the following day the annual ISAP Summit (the International Society of Aviation Photographers and they took a group of their members along with Pete Collins and me, out to shoot the jets at dawn).

Above: Once the sun came up, I got down low and hid the sun behind the tail wings.

I shared a couple of these on Facebook and Twitter, etc., but I realized last night I had never shared them here, so here ya go. These were all shot with a Canon 1Dx using either a 24-70mm lens, a 16-35mm or a 70-200mm lens f/2.8 lens. This was a pre-dawn shoot and so I shot on a tripod the whole time. As usual, I forgot my cable release, so I wound up using my camera’s self timer to take the shots. No filters or anything fancy.

Above: Once the sun was pretty high, I got in closer with a 16-35mm at 16mm to get this super wide-angle shot with the sun hidden behind the jet. It was my last shot of the day, because once the sun got above the jet, things looked really harsh, really fast.

We got lucky — it was a beautiful morning, great sky and contrails, plus the weather was just perfect. Had a blast â” special thanks to Larry Grace and the great folks at the ISAP — what a great organization (if you’re into photographing airplanes of any kind, you definitely need to check them out. Their annual summit is a blast and it’s amazingly affordable, too! Plus, they always get great access to stuff like this for their members). Highly recommend.

Above: This is the one-and-only time I’ll be showing this shot. I love the straight on shot of the jet, but the mess of planes and construction fence and tailors, and all made the background so busy I blurred it out using the Lens Blur filter. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve done this, and this reminded me why â” I’m not sure which I hate worse â” a really busy background or fake depth of field effects. LOL!

Well, that’s it to kick off this Monday. I’m working from home today as I’m on the home stretch on my new book. We’ll see ya’ll back here tomorrow. Hope yours is a good one. :)


Big, big App news today for KelbyOne subscribers as we’ve just released a major update to the KelbyOne App for IOS, and it includes the #1 most-requested feature by our members: the ability to take a class “off-line” so you can watch it on a flight, or during a commute, or any time you don’t have access to wireless.

This new version has already been released (along with a bunch of other happy new features), and it’s available free to KelbyOne Subscribers from App Store for iPad.

Oh I can’t believe this day is finally here — we have an Android version!
Well, technically our Android version is available to download as a BETA version (meaning you can download it, try it out, and give us feedback now since it’s not “fully baked” quite yet). To download the Android version Beta, just go to — give it a whirl and give us your feedback (the “taking a class offline” feature has not yet made it to this Android version quite yet).

OK, gang — there ya have it. Believe me, I know both have been a long time  coming (thank you so much for your patience), and I’m just really happy they’re finally here. Hope you find them helpful.

Tomorrow, on “The Grid”
We have our in-studio guest lifestyle photographer Erik Valind, and I’ll be sharing the fiasco, I’m mean story of my shoot at the Bonneville Salt Flats, including never before seen photos (how that’s for enticing). That’s tomorrow at 4:00 pm ET on “The Grid.” See you at there:  http://www.kelbyone/thegrid

Last week, while we were all at Photoshop World, the always amazing Karen Hutton released an interview she did with me on her show “The Chat” and of all the interviews I’ve ever done, a lot of folks have told me this was the most revealing. I wouldn’t’ know, because I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch the interview because of something that happened to me during the interview as it went to a place I was not expecting, or prepared to go.

Anyway, I shared it on social last week when she posted it, but I wanted to share it here with my readers who have been with me for so long because we’ve all been through a lot together here on the blog. Here’s how Karen described the interview:

“…It was a revelation; so moving, so deep, heartfelt and genuine. Scott opened up in ways that will probably take you by surprise. He is incredibly passionate about teaching - and about making knowledge accessible to the many, not only the few. You're about to find out why⦠and discover the moment in Scott's life that started an empire.”

You can watch the interview right here on the blog (above), but even though I doubt I’ll ever be able to watch it myself, I am still grateful for Karen being for being such a wonderful and caring interviewer and for bringing out something different in each of her guests. Her show is really taking off, so I hope you’ll jump on board with her â” here’s the link to her blog so you can check out other “The Chat” interviews as well.

I’m in Salt Lake City today
My first time in at least 10 years, and I’m excited to be back. I’ve already had an adventure or two and the seminar hasn’t even begun.

Here’s wishing you all an adventure-filled day (in a good way)!



I posted some of my favorite images from the race, and the story behind them, over at — if you’ve got a minute, here’s the link. 

What I didn’t postâ¦
…were the shots I never got to take because quite honestly, I kinda blew my game plan for covering this race by biting off way more than I could chew.

Anytime I’m covering an event, shooting sports, planning a complex location shoot, or even shooting a wedding, I start by coming up with a game plan based on what I want to come away with. It starts with the equipment I think I’ll need, and in this case it was a pretty simple set-up:

> Two bodies (I want to switch lenses as little as is humanly possible, so I’ll be carrying two bodies)
> Three lenses (1) My main lens would be a 200-400mm f/4 for the race action shots. (2) For getting shots of fans, vendors, etc. I would use a 24-105mm, and for wide sweeping shots of the track and downtown from up high, I’d use (3) the 16-35mm.
> A monopod to hold the long lens, a Black Rapid Strap for my 2nd body, and a Hoodman Loupe.

I was given a shot list of the things they needed me to cover (I was one of four photographers covering the event for them on race day), and it included everything from fans to fun to very specific race action, and lots of sweeping shots showing the race taking place on the waterfront (otherwise, the track shots could have been taken at any Indy event).

Where I went off track (no pun intended)
A solid game plan includes making good decisions about what you can cover in the time you have to cover it. The race lasts around 2-1/2 hours from start to finish, and I plotted out the course I wanted to take from one end of the track to the other. That was my first mis-step — this is a huge course — nearly 2 miles long and to get from one end to the other, making your way through huge crowds while lugging a bunch of gear, takes at least 20 minutes, especially if you decided to first climb up to an airport control tower for part of the race, and then soon after wait while your assistant gets shots from the top of a Ferris Wheel with a 30-minute wait to get on. I tried to do way more than I ever should have, and because of that I didn’t get to cover all things I really wanted to and as a result I didn’t come away with the type of shots that made me want to shoot the race in the first place.

Above: Here’s the view from the airport control tower that I really had no time to be up in, but at least I got a shot of the Ferris wheel that threw us off by 40-minutes. 

Eerily Similar Shots
The worst part — I pretty much came away with mostly similar shots to what I took last year. Nothing really new and special. I gambled on shooting from an office building outside the track (I had to actually leave the race track to reach the building), and while it was a great place to see the race from, there were so many trees obstructing the view that I only got around one single shot out of it, yet it took 20+ minutes to get there, and 15 or so minutes up there, and the race actually ended on our way back, because I didn’t manage my time well and tried to do WAY too much during a 2-1/2 hour time frame.

Above: I’m still smiling at this point because the race hasn’t started. LOL!! Photo by Rob “State of St. Pete” Foldy.

The Smart Thing Would Have Beenâ¦
To choose a few key locations, not far from each other, and really try to work those to come up with something special — not traipsing around a huge track where you spend more time walking than shooting. I was pretty cranked at myself (still am), but I learned a valuable lesson about not trying to cover too much ground, and too many different locations. It’s hard to find your “groove” when you’re constantly relocating.

Luckily, I was more concerned with getting the images the City needed than what I wanted, so I got a lot of shots for them (about 4x as many shots as I turned in last year), so that’s a good thing. The other good thing: I learned a valuable lesson about future game planning for an event. Come up with what I want to do, and then cut that number in half.

Today I’m only shooting one thing!
I’m out an airfield this morning for a sunrise shoot of one of the world famous Blue Angels — they’re rolling one out on the Tarmac for a group of photographers from the ISAP (the Int’l Society of Aviation Photography) along with an F22 Raptor. I’ll be tired, but I’m only shooting that one thing. OK, maybe two. ;-)

In case you missed itâ¦
Here’s the link.  to some of the shots I actually did get. :)

Have a great weekend everybody, and I’ll be back on Monday to kick off Photoshop World Week!




Hi Gang: I covered the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg all day yesterday. I have lots of stories, but I also have loads of shots to go through and I didn’t get home until late, so I don’t have images to post yet (well, here’s one, taken during a pit stop).

I hope to post more shots tomorrow along with a story that I hope will help you in covering events (what I learned will certainly help me).

Lots more going on this week (this is the week before the Photoshop World Conference in Atlanta), so I’d better run. Hope you all have a great Monday, and we’ll see you tomorrow for some Indy stuff. :)

Hope you have a rockin’ Monday!