It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Andrew Ryan Shepherd!

by Brad Moore  |  14 Comments

Photo by Eric Ryan Anderson in Portland, Maine, via disposable camera

Under a fire escape in Brooklyn across from Prospect Park, looking up at what seems to be unending row of century-old brownstones — this is where I come to think, to reflect, to rest — to imagine.  I guess I’ll never be able to have that thumbing through B&H Catalogs or lusting through the aisles of Calumet.

This is not a post about gear or Photoshop tricks or a wide angle lens for your iPhone. In fact, I actually avoid gear talk unless absolutely necessary. I want to know how to create compelling images, how to properly capture beautiful scenes and portraits, but ultimately, I don’t necessarily want to know how someone else did.

I want to know that you made something beautiful; that you contributed to the collective whole, that you are spending your time to make a difference — to enlighten, to edify, to redeem, and to make the world more whole. But I don’t necessarily need you to ruin the mystery of the process that preceded it. I know this is a place I potentially risk a credibility loss, but I’m a bit more comfortable with that than I once was.

When more of my time was occupied by making music than anything  visual, I loved gear. I loved to think that a hand-wired Class-A Greenback AC30 was my access point, finally, to my secret garden of personal sound. That it would give me my particular  “voice.”

To disrupt the idiom, hindsight isn’t 20/20 — it’s somewhere closer 20/16 (if glasses taught me anything). And when you have enough separate creative processes (print design, some web work,, photography, videography, writing, music, sound) interrupting your professional career like I have in the last half-decade, an objective, comparative study is much easier to initiate. Of course there’s a technical competency (and years of sweat and blood in practice) involved in creating anything of value, but I’m reacting against the idea that the argument goes both ways.

Music has always been an important part of my life. Mom sang in the choir when I grew up, and early on had me doing the same. Dad was a trumpet player and had studied performance at the university. In 9th Grade, he taught me how to play a G chord, along with the sustained hammer-on Bob Dylan adds redundantly under his harmonica drone.

I didn’t take guitar lessons (save a few jazz chord introductions years later), on a blind effort (even the blindness itself was blind) my own sense of direction, my particular taste, and really what I could accomplish with a few triads.

My vision for making music was of course constrained by the parameters of physical ability and mere mental understanding of music theory, but what didn’t propel me was a desire to remain within parameters and discover new meanings inside— what propelled me was the desire for the dissolution of parameters, and to know what could be possible outside the walls. Parameters kept me moving forward because what exploration meant was overcoming them. It was about imagining new musical worlds — worlds that were specifically mine.

What I don’t have is any tips about upgrading your lens arsenal (i.e. whether the II series is better than the I), Manfrotto vs. Gitzo, my 35 foot Profoto Octabox, firmware updates, or even how much I love photography, because honestly I love photography a lot less than what led me into using a camera in the first place.

I also have no intention of providing anything profound or revolutionary or subversive as advice. What I hope to provide is why I do what I do (regardless of whether or not you even know what that is), and how it is one of the few static pieces of my life. The methods change, the parameters always move with the process, but the motive is what I hope to show as the highest importance.

Why is our world beautiful, and what are we supposed to do about it?
Why is our world ugly, and what are we supposed to do about it?

“We need imagination to cope with that.” -N.T. Wright

What is higher in our value system? Is it the ability to technically light, execute, and digitally process a photograph, the ability to illustrate with the pen tool in Illustrator, the capacity to assemble a complex 30-minute Final Cut Timeline in a half day?

Or is it more important that we have inability?  To admit that struggle is real, and must be overcome somehow — and to allow that to be fuel for what we create.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about imagination lately, and what it is I’m doing to actually strengthen my own, and, what it actually exists for. A big question I have is, am I becoming more human — more whole — and adding anything to the collective consciousness — by using my own brand and cultivating it and, begging it to grow.

The inverse question is this: am I only watering it down by consuming information, things, and buying into the myth that more makes more; as, finally, an entry point into success; believing that success is not about imagination or concepts or my family but about money and getting published and having a cool portfolio and rubbing shoulders.

I read a book called War of Art by Steven Pressfield not too long ago. My reaction to it was as crippling as everyone else’s: I was convicted. I was mad at myself. I was guilty. I was guilted into wanting to become better because I was apparently far too lazy for anyone’s good. I was so ready to do more stuff. Into typing more words into an email. And I was creating in the way that I consumed. And my work was more prolific, but it was getting worse qualitatively.

Although innocent and motivating as literature, it was compounding what prevented me from doing my best work, and from seeking the one thing that actually is uniquely me, and my vision: imagining.

I posted the question I’ve been thinking about the last month on Twitter a few nights ago. “What disciplines are you cultivating to strengthen your imagination?” The question was multi-faceted, as most things are. Here’s how I would break it down this way into its hierarchical forms:

Do you believe imagination is important?
Do you have a vision for the world as it ought to be?
Are you scared of what’s not completely apparent and in need of discovery?
Are you imagining anything at all?
What is it like to imagine?
How are you working to imagine better — more fully?

Of course the spirit in which it was said was rhetorical, and ultimately I have been asking myself these things, and hoping others would as well.

This is the starting point for why any of us do what we do. This work is not about who can wield a camera better than another. The point is, are your ideas original? Are they repeated concepts? Are you making anything new? Are you working to make the world new? How can we imagine that new world, and what opportunity do each of us individually and collectively have in it?

Why is the world beautiful, and what do we do about it?
Why is the world ugly, and what do we do about it?

We need imagination.

The past five years have been characterized by a certain healthy struggle that I think any freelancer can describe, and that description is that this entire thing is paradox. The ultimate freedom of it and the complete necessity for self-erected boundaries; the need for cosmos and the need for chaos and how they duel and how they go hand in hand. The war of Chronos (sequential time) and Kairos (appointed time), and how both are needed and both are enemies and both are allies and they are enemies and they are allies and so on.

Long story short, I began my time as an adult in New York as a musician, which transferred into a broader role doing a confluence of visual and aural creative projects, back into print design (where I developed the love for the creative process not too dissimilar from music), on into photography (I began freelancing in 2007), and now into film, which I think closes the circle of my love for narrative, for imagination, and how to express that in ways that actually makes a difference in the lives of people, and leaves the earth a more whole place. I have no mislead awareness that I’m actually achieving that high thing, but it doesn’t elude my thoughts.

Recently I finished the largest project I’ve ever taken on alone. When I moved back to New York at the beginning of the year, my vision was in film (or really simply, video) and in the broader/specific (more paradox!) way film allows you to explore every facet of human experience like no other form allows (not a bad mark on any other trade).  I decided in March to take on a series of eight commercials for a company based in Manhattan specializing in a type of boutique bags, 8 in sum, featuring a number of New York creative professionals, all who use a camera to accomplish their unique, storytelling vision.

It was a monster of a project that took months of pre-production and scheduling and rentals and permits and cars, and even now the pieces to me aren’t incredibly stunning, and I often question the difference they make for society. However, it reminded me that imagination must be cultivated, and that the parameters for it are real, and the choices we make daily to work and create something new and interesting and affective must be rooted in hard work, consistency, and rhythm.

Wake up at 5:30am. Make a french press. Sit down and write for hours. Make a French Press. Sit down and write for hours.

Any author will tell you the importance of force in work. Inspiration doesn’t arrive with consistency. Inspiration doesn’t build itself under your fingers into a wall of bricks. It’s wind, and we have to be like flags.

One of the most difficult aspects of being a freelancer is the decisions about how to best use the time commodity. What is it for? Who is it for? The ultimate question being, What is actually valuable and noble, and how do I, in this particular context, with these particular social, historical, creative, and technical skills embody that?

Via Media is a particular line of thought I hope to subscribe to consistently.

At the University, we learned about the concept in the context of Christianity — that in all the dissension and splits in the church history, that certain sects  held to a philosophy of the “middle way” or “everything in balance.”  I do believe everything about our existence is intended for balance and harmony, but it wasn’t until I began this solitary journey into a freelance creative professional (or whatever language category is needed to feel comfortable) that I really began to understand its necessity.

Freelancing really is about paradox, choice, and value, and the balance of those things alongside people, and time. And without that understanding, I wouldn’t be able to ask the question about how I’m supposed to imagine a better world — particularly a better me. I would be tossed and turned by the thousands of impulses and external factors that effect each day (especially in New York — phew). Without my own choice each day to wake up, turn on the coffee water to boil, and get my hands dirty with work, no work would be done, and I would not afford rent, and I’d be fishing somewhere on the coast of Texas (which sounds pretty great until about week three I imagine).

I think it’s very important to understand our own fears, our own struggles, and how they are opportunities for imagination.

I tend to have a fear of being one-dimensional. Of lacking balance; of becoming too focused on one thing that all the others lose their importance in my life. Of not understanding the beauty and complexity of a person, a situation, or an idea. I can let myself decay in it, leading to a low self-esteem and admittance to the ultimate inability to achieve that perfect ideal, or I can use this to work hard to understand, to represent, and to create things that are multifaceted that not only help others, but that work to make the world whole.

My final thought is not a thought as much as it is a question I ask myself every day — what am I doing to make the world better (I know it sounds lofty), and what can I practically do in my own rhythms and practices to work toward that?

How do I work to strengthen my imagination so that I can better perceive of a world that ought to be, and what role do I have in that as a person — whether or not I’m a photographer?

Being creative is about being more fully human, and imagining is about incarnating that.

You can see more of Andrew’s work at, keep up with him on his blog, and follow him on Twitter


Issue #8 of “Light It Magazine” (our iPad-based magazine on hot shoe flash and studio lighting) is here! (The Android Version is now in Beta)

by Scott Kelby  |  20 Comments

The new issue of “Light It Magazine” (issue #8) is out, and available in Apple’s Newsstand App on the iPad (it’s only $2.99. Crazy cheap!), and (BIG NEWS) we are currently beta-testing the Android version and so far the testing is going great (the mag looks and works great — just a couple more things to address before we release it, so it won’t be long now).

This issue I’ve got a behind-the-scenes “Photo Recipes” food shoot using two Westcott TD-6 Spiderlites along with some things you can pick up at your local hardware store (seen above).

This is one of my favorite issues so far. Great stuff from Joel Grimes (you’re seeing the opening page above, which includes an embedded video), plus Frank Doorhof always brings great stuff,  and there’s lots of cool stuff cover to cover.

It’s available now, so I hope you’ll check out the new issue, (which costs less than the price of about any McDonald’s Extra Value meal, which that unto itself either says a lot what an incredible value this magazine is, or about how expensive Extra Value meals have become). ;-)

P.S. We now have annual subscriptions available for just $19.99. Insane-o cheap. Cheaper than dinner at Chili’s (well, if you at least order chicken Fajita’s, some chips and salsa, and maybe a Corona) and you get a whole year of issues. Seriously, that’s hundreds of pages of lighting techniques, so subscribe at the App store right this very minute before your fajitas get cold. 






Joe McNally is headed to Canada with “a Couple of lights”

by Scott Kelby  |  11 Comments

Joe’s brand new tour (produced by Kelby Training) kicks off in Canada next month and today on Joe’s blog he wrote about how the tour came to be, and what he’ll be teaching during this incredible workshop.

Seriously, Imagine spending the day learning all the amazing things you can do with the simplest of lighting set-ups, using just one flash (or maybe two), from the magical unicorn of hot shoe flash himself (OK, that last part is what I call him, but I don’t think I’m alone). ;-)

Here’s how Joe described the tour in his blog post today:

“The point of the day is keeping it super basic, super simple and super fast. “

Here’s the link to Joe’s blog to hear it in his words.

> If you’re like me and you’re thinking, “Hey, it’s Joe. I’m “in!” then here’s the page with all the info and sign-up form.

We’re working on the dates for Joe’s US Tour right now and they’ll be announced very shortly, but if you’re in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary or Vancouver, you’re in for an incredible day of learning. It’s just $99 ($79 for NAPP members).

Congrats to Joe on launching the new tour and I can’t wait till he comes near me — I”ll be there for sure!



“One on One with the Adobe Photoshop Team” Free Rebroadcast

by Scott Kelby  |  9 Comments

Earlier this week, Bryan Hughes and Zorana Gee from the Adobe Photoshop Team stopped by the studio to answer your questions about Photoshop CS6, and they shared some of their favorite CS6 tips and improvements.

Also, here’s the full list of JDI changes they mentioned during the show. Our thanks to Bryan and Zorana — they’e connecting with Photoshop users directly and I just think that’s really cool (and really rare these days).



It’s Free Stuff Thursday!

by Brad Moore  |  58 Comments

Photoshop World Las Vegas
This summer, take advantage of this special offer for Photoshop World Las Vegas… If you register now and sign up for pre-conference workshop, you can get a free Kelby Training DVD! Plus, by signing up now, you save $100.

Don’t miss out on all the exciting fun (like you see in the video above), sign up now!

Fay Sirkis Webcast
Fay Sirkis is back for the second part of her Portraits with Passion webcast, Senior Portraits. This is only available to NAPP Members, so head over to to check it out!

Sallee School Live
Check out JB Sallee and Joe Buissink LIVE on tour for Sallee School this Summer! They’re heading to Dallas, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and a bunch of other cities. And, just for readers of this blog, you can use the code Kelby to get in for only $49!

Rick Sammon’s Social Media Marketing for Photographers App
Rick Sammon has released his 10th app: Social Media Marketing for Photographers! For $9.99, you get 60 minutes of advice on growing your business through social media.

If you’re an early bird, use one of these four codes to get the app for free from the iTunes store!





The Fine Art of Painting with Light from Ben Willmore
Ben Willmore
just released his first eBook which is called The Fine Art of Painting with Light. This 94-page $9.97 PDF eBook is available at along with a free sample PDF that has enough information to get you started on your first light painting.

Leave a comment for your chance to win one of five free copies!

Last Week’s Winners
Photoshop CS6 for Photographers Seminar
- Scott ONeal

Lightroom 4 Live Seminar
- Steve Saragian

One Light, Two Light Seminar
- Thomas Elthom

Photoshop World Las Vegas
- Miriam

NAPP Membership (1-year)
- Joe Crusso

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