Photographing Some of my Heroes

At this past Photoshop World in Orlando, I realized that I had never fully taken advantage of the opportunities that I have there sometimes. I’m surrounded by a number of people who’ve been great influences on my life and career. I have lights and a camera. And, even though I’m busy, I can at least try to find the time to make something happen.

So I looked at the schedule, found a small block of time where I didn’t have too much going on, and set up a couple of lights in an empty room just around the corner from the staff office.

You know how when you’re watching someone work, you have epiphany moments where you see something that you’d never thought of before? I had always seen lights put in front of subjects, but never behind. Until assisting Joe McNally on a job one day when he had me do just that, and I was astounded at the result. So I wanted to use a similar setup for this shoot as a bit of a nod to one of the many things I’d learned from my time working with him.

Once I was set up I asked Joe if he would mind stepping in front of my camera for a few minutes. Truth be told, I was nervous about this and he could probably tell. I mean, I’d been in front of his lens plenty of times in the past as a test subject, and I doubt he was too nervous about shooting me in those instances. But the tables were turned this time and I definitely was. I know he’s had his share of nerves over the years, especially when photographing his heroes (like Arnold Newman), so I’m hoping he could relate.

Once I thanked Joe and let him get to his next presentation, I went back to the staff office to see who else might have a minute and allow me to photograph them.

If you’ve followed me at all, you know I’m into concert photography, and I wouldn’t know half of what I do if it weren’t for Alan Hess. From day 1, he’s helped me figure out who to contact for photo passes and given me all kinds of advice for shooting. I like to pop into the concert workshop he teaches at Photoshop World when I can and pick up new tips, and he always has great new work in his presentation.

After finishing up with Alan, it was back to the staff office to see who else might be around. Luckily, I saw just who I was hoping for.

There are lots of legendary photographers who teach at Photoshop World, and Jay Maisel is at the top of the bunch. I was honored when he said yes to my request for a quick portrait. I wanted to respect his time and get him in and out as quickly as I could, but he jumped right in and started making suggestions and giving me advice! I couldn’t have been more tickled.

We finished, and I went to find my final subject, another person to whom I owe quite a lot.

It goes without saying that I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunity to work with Scott Kelby. I have and continue to learn from him not only in the way of photography and post processing, but also business and life lessons. From great ideas and work ethic to balancing work and family, I’m always learning something from him.

There were definitely other instructors I would love to have photographed, but with everyone’s limited time and busy schedules, I got what I could. Hopefully I can continue this project at future events and add more of the people who have been great influences on me to it.

You can see more of Brad’s work at, and follow him on Twitter, Google+, and Instagram.

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  1. Great stuff Brad.

  2. Keep it going Brad. It will soon get to the point were, if you’ve not stepped in front of Brad’s camera, you’re a nobody in the photography world :)

  3. Great first picks.

  4. Great images and a great post!

  5. Nice job Brad. Best Scott Kelby portrait I’ve seen. Great work.

  6. Great photos and nice to see you grab the chance.

  7. Wow, Brad … those are fantastic photos! How lucky you are to have this giants pose for you! Awesome! Nicely done!


  8. Brad,

    You definitely have an awesome job! I would take advantage of every opportunity possible. You’re surrounded by a wealth of knowledge and really cool people. You are really fortunate man. I would love to go to a Photoshop World someday. I think you’ve got some nice shots here. Curious if you’ve done any black and white conversions with these? I love that first shot of Jay. Great expression.

    I was at the seminar yesterday in Chicago. Truly inspiring to say the least. Scott just has that ability to truly captivate an audience.

    Quick question for you. I didn’t realize it until I was stuck in traffic on the way home, but I didn’t receive a workbook. I know you guys had planned on handing them out at the end (instead of the beginning like usual). Doing these was awesome and let me focus more on the class. So I only took a few notes (since they were going to be in the workbook). Did you guys forget to hand them out at the end? Or did I just miss them? I thought maybe you would go down the roes and pass them out. Is there any way for me to get one? Sorry to have to ask, but it’s driving me crazy lol. Thanks man!

  9. Brad,
    Great images! How about sharing the lighting set up with us! You should be very proud of these captures.

  10. Are you sure those photos are great?
    Scott and Joe said once, that portraiture is all about faces and emotions of these faces. Here I can see nothing, except the further part of face. He has great friends, great strobes and cameras, I think these pictures should be different. Much like David Hobby’s, coz I think Brad is moving in that way with his Elinchroms.
    Brad may be great person(I never met him), but pictures are sucks. Black eyes (like in a Grudge movie) of Jay is a great failure.

    • Ummmm…. I think it’s ok to have an opinion, but at least have some manners when you express that opinion!

    • This is not constructive feedback it is destructive feedback. Art is in the eye of the artist. You have your opinion which is fine, but know it is not shared by many.

      • I’m really sorry. I really didn’t want to harm anybody. I was a shocked about “black eyes” of Jay Maisel. I think if we had an opportunity to take studio pictures with them, we’d try our best, not just “oh, it’s Jay, it’s Joe and it’s ok, people will love them without faces”

      • Funny how so many people are attacking you for just having an opinion. I have to agree with you, I think the lighting in these photos is horrible. The black stripe running down their face obscuring the eye just looks really, really bad.

      • Thank you! I really appreciate what you said.

    • 3 comments, 0 following, 0 followers… figures.

    • “Portraiture is all about the faces and emotions of these faces.”

      Agreed, and that’s something I know that I need to work on, but we all have to start somewhere. If I wait until I’m the perfect photographer before I ask anyone to let me photograph them, then I’m going to be waiting for a very long time. I have no guarantee that I’ll have the opportunity to photograph these people in the future, so I did what I could in the time that I had.

      Trust me, I am my own worst critic. I know that I have quite a way to go before I’m on the same level as any of these guys. But for what I know at this point in time, I’m glad that I seized this opportunity and am mostly happy with the result.

      These are photos I wanted to create for myself, and they mean a lot to me. If you don’t like them, that’s totally fine because I didn’t make them for you. Based on the photos I see on your Facebook page, I’m not going to be losing any sleep over your displeasure, especially since two of the people shown here have commented saying they’re happy with them.

    • Hey, Constantine…I just Google’d you and found some of your work. Before you fall off your high horse, you might want to learn how to use a camera in the studio. Your images are soft, you obviously don’t know an f-stop from a hole in the ground, and your processing skills are amateurish. Your photography is worse than your English so you might want to be careful about calling someone else’s image a failure.

      • Have you seen the date of my pictures in Google plus? Then watch the episode of “The Grid”, when Scott told his oppinion that social network is not the best place for sharing professional photos. So I agree with him and I’m using G+ like Instagram, or Facebook for nothing and talking with friends.
        If you don’t like my English, so talk with me in Russian;-)

      • Yeah, every photographer only posts crap on line for the world to see….and I didn’t look on Google+, I looked at other portfolios you have posted on line.

        Basically, you’re a legend in your own mind and have no business calling anyone else’s work a failure.

        Game, set & match, Comrade.

  11. Awesome shots man, and quite the group of subjects. Speaking for myself, but I’m sure others as well, I would have been thrilled to death to get the opportunity to shoot any one of those guys, much less that whole group. Great lighting set up too!

  12. Great job Brad. The next time, it will be easier on the nerves. We are always nervous about asking people to pose for us. You did a great job. I really like the image of Jay with his glasses up on his head. You have inspired me to try this lighting.

  13. Awesome Brad, all icons!

  14. I would like to know how you lit these, too. The lighting is just right, very subtle but capturing exactly enough of the faces. I especially like the first Jay shot. Nice, dramatic portraits.

  15. Dude….congratz! I would love to have Jay in front of my camera.

  16. I like the openness and innocence of this post. It is something I can readily relate to and understand. Thanks for sharing it.

  17. Really honored to be a part of this group. And I think I need to start wearing glasses.

  18. These are fantastic Brad. This lighting is dramatic and effective for male portraiture of this type. Any of these great photographers that have influenced you could be credited with shooting these (if credit was removed), but they did not, and you did. You have learned well, my friend!

  19. Thanks for sharing Brad. This is a great example of setting a goal and getting it done. Be bold. Ask. You never know what might happen.

  20. Brad, you continually amaze me with the choices for photographers for the Wednesday Guest Blog. A great choice today! :-)

    Seriously, I love these shots you posted today, especially the shot of Jay with his glasses on his forehead and the shot of Scott (Shebang!). Keep up on this series at future PSW’s…these are all iconic photos that you’ll treasure forever.


  21. I have an iPhone pic of Jay, Joe and Alan and I feel lucky :)

  22. Great post Brad. What an awesome opportunity!!! I attended that PSW and dont even have the nerve to get the iphone shots.

  23. Brad, I love the shadows on all of the faces & I could see why you were nervous shooting Joe, Alan too for that matter. :) Would it be possible for you to shoot me an email on how your lights were set up? The reason I’m asking is that it’s for my Digital Imaging class. I brought my lights to work with me today to set up for tomorrow’s class. I think some shots like this would be amazing for my students to do and learn. I’m sure my email is at Kelby Training somewhere especially since I got an email from Dianne Brisson on Monday about my Photoshop World extras I bought!
    Thanks Buddy, and I’ll see you in about 4 months!

  24. Great idea and great pics Brad. Would be good to see a lighting diagram.

  25. Really terrific shots of legends Brad! Thanks for sharing.

  26. Very honored to be in front of your lens this time Brad….glad to be considered an influence on you and your photography. You are one of the ones who always gives back from their experience. You have wonderful gifts not only as a person but as a photog. Now, when it comes to my portrait above, I might have some advice about choosing more pictorial subjects, but other than that, nice job! :-)))

  27. Great photos Brad. You even got an awesome expression from Jay! Keep making Scott look like he knows what he is doing!!!!

  28. Absolutely top notch Brad!

    Absolutely love the portrait of Joe.

    Enough said.

  29. Awesome Brad! Way to create an opportunity for some memorable images! Also, thanks for helping out at the hockey workshop, it was great to meet and work with you. I am hoping I can get that St. Lucia time we talked about.

  30. Brad – Great project and I liked the out of the box execution. Although I liked them all, i think the strongest photo is the one of Jay with his glasses up. I don’t know Jay, but from what I’ve seen of him via the web, it really captured who he seems to be. I could really pick up on the emotional connection you had with the project and this blog post. Keep it going, I’d love to see lots more photos in this series!

  31. First off, the images are beyond amazing. The lighting set up really kicks. Great work, dude. Next PSW, I ‘ll try to make myself available for you since I know deep down I must be one of your heroes :-).

  32. Nice job brother!

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