Thursday
Jun
2014
05

It’s Free Stuff Thursday!

by Brad Moore  |  24 Comments

Photoshop World Las Vegas
You may be thinking that you still have plenty of time to register for Photoshop World since it isn’t until September. That’s true, but if you’re planning on signing up for one of the in-depth workshops that happen the day before the conference starts, you could be running out of time! Two of these workshops are already sold out, and I know of at least one other that only has a few openings left. If this is something you’re hoping to make part of your Photoshop World experience, sign up now before it’s too late! Or, you know, if you just want to save money by registering early, you can do that too ;-)

Once you’ve registered, make sure you book a room at the official Photoshop World hotel, Mandalay Bay, so you can stay where the instructors stay!

Leave a comment for your chance to win a free spot in one of these workshops (must be registered/registering for Photoshop World Las Vegas):
- Art In The 21st Century with Fay Sirkis
- Lightroom Crash Course with Matt Kloskowski
- Photoshop for Beginners with Pete Collins
-The HDR Workshop with RC Concepcion

On Location Photography: South Beach Edition with Jeremy Cowart
In this class we get a behind-the-scenes view as Jeremy creates unique and dynamic setups in the most unlikely locations, with Scott at his side asking him all the questions that you’d want answered. Jet away to South Beach, Miami, Florida to meet up with Scott Kelby for the next segment of our On Location Photography with Jeremy Cowart series. Jeremy Cowart has an amazing ability to clear away clutter, eliminate distractions, and make his subject the primary focus in just about any setting you can throw his way. You’ll be amazed at what can be accomplished with minimal gear and a creative mindset that will surely change the way you view new locations.

Leave a comment for your chance to watch this class for free!

KelbyOne Live
Want to spend a day with Scott Kelby, Joe McNally, or Corey Barker? Check out these seminar tours!

Shoot Like A Pro with Scott Kelby
June 17 – Nashville, TN
Aug 26 – St. Louis, MO
Aug 28 – Kansas City, MO

One Flash, Two Flash with Joe McNally
June 19 – San Jose, CA
June 27 – Seattle, WA
July 24 – Milwaukee, WI
July 28 – Boston, MA

Photoshop Down & Dirty Master FX with Corey Barker
June 25 – New Orleans, LA
Aug 1 – Miami, FL
Aug 13 – Austin, TX

You can check out the full schedule for seminars through August, and we’ll be updating it with more dates soon! Leave a comment for your chance to win a ticket to one of these events!

Last Week’s Winners
Frank Doorhof Book
- Pedro Oliveira

Lindsay Adler KelbyOne Class
- Konfral

KelbyOne Live Ticket
- Reba Baskett

If you’re one of the lucky winners, we’ll be in touch soon. Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday
Jun
2014
04

It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Andy Barron!

by Brad Moore  |  8 Comments

i am admittedly the least technical and gear-minded photographer i know, so to be featured on this blog is a pretty humbling experience, so first off, thanks.


Photo by Ashtin Paige

my name is andy barron and i live in LA. most of the stuff i shoot is music related, and more specifically tour related. my mindset of capturing images has always been to be a person first and a photographer second, so that combined with my love of music and travel has helped me get to doing what i am now. i love just being in a situation and observing, being a fly on the wall and just documenting what happens. some people might balk at this, but i love having limitations put on me when i’m shooting. whether that may be a dark backstage, a small tour bus, a tv show that doesn’t allow professional cameras; anything like that just makes me try and figure out solutions within these so-called “problems,” and that’s where i love living and shooting.

for the nerds out there, here’s what i travel with: canon 5d mark2, 24-70 f/2.8, 15mm f/2.8, 70-200 f/2.8, canon g12, fuji instax. that’s it. i’ve had the same setup for years now and i love my gear. i’ve tried new lenses, prime lenses, different cameras, but always come back to this setup which i can easily throw in a backpack and go at a moment’s notice.

currently i am on tour with the band foster the people, and i could not ask for a better group of guys to tour with. they are my brothers and i am so thankful for the role they have played in my life. i also run their instagram, so while we’re on tour, a lot of my shots go up there. here’s one from this year’s coachella.

for this post i figured i’ll just show some of my favorite shots over the last few weeks of tour. sweet.

a few years ago i took a shot backstage at the roseland theater in portland during a 20 second photo shoot sitting on this couch. that photo ended up being their promo shot for a long time and i believe is still the image that comes up for them on iTunes. we were back at the same venue years later, and the couch was still there, so we had some fun recreating the shot (well, almost).

there are so many surreal moments on tour with a band that make you question what you do for a job in the best way possible. the day we went to NASA and were led on a tour by an astronaut was definitely one of them. a couple instax shots from that day (including the original apollo 13 desk, crazy.)

being able to travel a lot is a definite upside to touring (i only have two more states to go, maine and alaska i’m coming for you) and hands down one of the most gorgeous venues in america is the gorge in eastern washington. we were there the other day for sasquatch festival, and i snapped a couple photos of the guys on this back porch with a fairly decent backdrop.

later that night the guys played to about 20,000 people and then we got to watch outkast before hopping on a bus to seattle. definitely a fun night.

speaking of fun, we definitely have a lot of that out on tour. we play a lot of mariokart on n64 and we even have a few crazy carts out on the road with us. our drummer mark did some drifting at cain’s ballroom in tulsa before soundcheck. this was shot with my g12 and sometimes i just love how a point and shoot looks.

i also end up using a point and shoot a lot whenever bands i am working with play tv shows. a lot of studios have restrictions about SLRs in their space, so i usually lay back and try and get what i can with whatever i can. a few weeks ago the guys played letterman along with a children’s choir and i took this after their performance.

natural light has always been my favorite and even when doing a proper shoot for people i tend to shy away from any strobes or external light. some of my favorite natural light i have seen in a long time was a few months ago at the ryman in nashville, tn. such a historic and beautiful room.

speaking of beautiful rooms, during every show i at least try and get a nice wide shot of the room to showcase the actual venue, and the fillmore in detroit was definitely worthy of a good showcase.

to end, here’s a few of my favorite live shots from this last run. i love shooting the same show over and over trying to perfect and improve on shots i’ve taken from previous shows.

see you on tour. cheers.

to find andy and keep up with his photos, his travels, and his thoughts on this season of the bachelorette, head over to andybarron.com, his instagram, foster the people’s instagram, and his twitter.

Tuesday
Jun
2014
03

If I Had $1,000-ish To Spend on Improving My Landscape Photography, I’d Get…

by Matt Kloskowski  |  68 Comments


Hey there! Matt Kloskowski here today with an unofficial guest post. See, a while back, Scott wrote an article here on his blog called If I had $1000 to Spend on Improving My Portrait Photography, I’d Get… Well, I was talking to him later that day and he asked if I had read the blog post. I said “Heck yeah, and I wish I had thought of it first” :-) So he said I should write one for landscape photography as a guest post here.

First, as Scott mentioned in his original post, this is a question we get a lot. It may not be exactly $1000, but it usually around there. It may be $1200, or $800 but it’s in the ballpark. Also, I’m going to assume you have a camera body and lenses already (we’ll talk more about lenses at the end though). Either one of those will immediately eat up our $1000, and then some. Finally, I really tried to give some thought to the title of this post that Scott started. The key word I noticed was “Improve”. So I tried not to just go through my camera bag and list every piece of gear. Rather, I tried to really add things that I think can actually improve your photography. Ready? Here goes:

Remote/Cable Release – Vello Shutterboss ($50)
First, if you don’t already own one, you need a cable release or some kind of remote way of triggering your camera. As with many areas of photography, sharpness is critical for landscapes. You’ll see it on screen and you’ll definitely notice it in print the larger you go. So you have to make sure you’re not touching your camera and introducing any vibration or camera shake. I use the Vello Shutterboss remote for my Canon 5D Mark III. It’s great for simply triggering your camera, but it’ll grow with you if you ever get in to time-lapse or long exposure photography too since it has various timer modes.

They make them for other camera brands too and will run you about $50. They also make wireless ones, but personally I go with the wired version since I don’t have to worry about losing the little pieces that come with the wireless one.

Neutral Density Filters – Tiffen ND Kit ($95)
Neutral density filters are a huge way to improve your landscape photography. They help smooth out water for that dramatic surreal effect and also add some motion in to an otherwise static looking scene. While there’s a ton of filters out there, and I’d love to recommend you to my favorite Lee Big and Little Stopper filters, they’ll eat up half of our $1000. So instead, I’ll go with my first set of ND filters I ever owned and still use often today – the Tiffen 3-filter kit. It’s got a 2, 3 and 4 stop filter in it. For most sunrise/sunset shooting as well as waterfalls, these will work fine at extending your shutter speeds enough to get that longer shutter speed that you’ll need. Plus it even comes with a filter pouch to hold them so they don’t get lost.

Oh yeah…Notice I didn’t include a graduated neutral density filter. That’s because I don’t use ‘em. I wrote a little about why they’re dead to me here on my personal blog, in case you want to read up on it. But feel free to save some cash and not buy any.

Polarizing Filter ($150)
A polarizing filter is a must-have for landscapes as well. In fact, I’d buy one of these before I bought any ND filters mentioned above. Most people think of using polarizers for the sky, to get a deeper darker blue. While I do use them for that sometimes, I mostly use my polarizer to help cut down on glare and pop the colors/contrast a little. Glare on mountains, trees, rocks, water, you name it. It really helps subdue haze and glare so you can appreciate the details in the photo.

The one I’m going to recommend is a bit pricey. It’s a B+W Circular Polarizer and it runs about $150. You’ll definitely find cheaper ones out there, but I’m going to suggest you get a really good quality filter first – it’ll last you forever. I bought my B+W Polarizer nearly 10 years ago and I still have it today. Well worth the extra $50 from some of the more cheapy ones.

Backpack – Vanguard Adaptor 45 ($110)
It sounds kinda weird if I say a backpack will improve your landscape photography, but hear me out on this one. If all you have is a rolling bag, a shoulder bag or something similar, then it’s going to be hard for you to climb around. Part of improving your landscape photography is getting in to the right place. And sometimes that means hiking, climbing and moving around a little. That’s really hard to do with something hanging off your shoulder. You’ll need both hands free sometimes and a backpack is the best way to go.

The one I use the most is the Vanguard Adaptor 45. It’s a backpack but can also serve as a sling bag if you need to get at your gear quick without putting the bag down. It’s not huge and really only holds a camera body and maybe 2 lenses. But I try to keep it light. Remember, you’re a landscape photographer which means you have the luxury of needing very little gear. A camera body, lens or two, some filters, lens clothes, and maybe an extra battery and you’re good to go. You don’t need to be lugging around flashes, reflectors, etc… Travel light and keep your backpack small so it doesn’t kill your back.

Tripod and Ballhead – Vanguard Abeo Pro 283 with Ballhead ($230)
This one is tricky. Remember, I’m writing this from the perspective of having about $1000 to spend. And if you’ve ever done any tripod research, you’ll know that you could easily spend $1K on just the tripod (without the ballhead). So, while I personally use a Really Really Stuff TVC-33 most of the time, that’ll break our budget right away. So, I’ll go with another tripod I’ve used that I absolutely loved as well. It’s the Vanguard Abeo Pro 283 with ballhead. Vanguard makes great products. They’re sturdy, well made, and hold up well outdoors. Plus, this particular model even comes with the rubber feet with spikes to help dig in to the ground if you need it.

Post-Processing – onOne Software Perfect Effects ($100)
Just like I’m assuming you own a camera body already, on the post-processing side, I’m going to assume you already have Lightroom (preferably), or Photoshop. From there, the only other thing I use all the time on my landscape photos is onOne Software’s Perfect Effects. Earlier I said sharpness is critical. Well I’ve not found anything as good as onOne’s Dynamic Contrast (which is a preset effect in Perfect Effects). It helps take that sharpness, detail and contrast to a whole new level. It’ll run you about $100 for just that plug-in, or a little more if you want to buy the whole suite.

Rain Cover – Kata E-702 PL Pro ($65)
Some of the my favorite landscape photos were taken in crappy weather. Don’t get me wrong. I love the gorgeous light we get during sunrise and sunset, but dramatic clouds and storms can really make your photos stand out from the rest. In order to stay out there shooting in that weather, you’ll need to keep your camera and lens dry so make sure you pick up a rain cover. I use the Kata E-702. It keeps your camera and lens dry, while letting you see all of the controls on the back of the camera. Now, you’ll find a ton of other options as well (and many that are way cheaper than this one). I’ve even used some of them, and they can be pretty good. But I keep going back to the Kata. The build quality and ease-of-use make it my favorite.

CamRanger Wireless Camera Control ($300)
Okay, at this point we’re right around $800. You could easily stop here and call it quits at $200 less than $1000. And honestly, it’s hard for me to think of anything else that will greatly improve your landscape photography. But I’m going to include one more piece of gear if you’re a little more advanced and really want some control over your photos out in the field. It’s called CamRanger. It’s a wireless camera control device that creates it’s own network. So even if you’re out in the middle of nowhere, with no wireless signals, you’ll still be able to use it. It works with iPad, iPhone, Android, etc…

Basically it’s an app that you install on your tablet. From there, you can see your photos and control your camera right from the app. It let’s you do things like wirelessly stream live view from the camera to the device. You can even zoom in and get really precise focus adjustments, as well as focus stacking. It’s also great if you get your camera in a difficult place where it’s hard to see through the viewfinder, because you’ll be able to see the image right on your device.

What’s really nice is that it displays full resolution images right on the device. So you can do things like check sharpness, highlights, shadows, etc… I’ve always found the image on the back of the camera’s LCD to be too small to really make any decisions from. The CamRanger helps you actually make decisions in the field, and walk away from the shoot knowing that you nailed it.

Training
Oh and you didn’t think I’d let you go without recommending training did you? ;-) I’ve got two classes that I think could help out a lot. First, if you’re just getting in to Landscape Photography then check out my Landscape Photography Basics class. And if you’re in to long exposure photos that you’d take with those neutral density filters I mentioned above, then check out my Long Exposure Photography class. You can rent them for $6.99 each or subscribe for an entire month for $25.

What About Lenses?
You’ll notice I left out lenses. Scott did indeed include a lens in his portrait photography post, but remember the spirit of the post is money I’d spend on improving my landscape photography. While I definitely agree with Scott that an 85mm f/1.8 lens can improve your portrait photography, I can almost guarantee you that you already have the lenses you need for landscapes. And that buying a new one won’t “improve” your landscape photography.

But I won’t leave you hangin’ on this, because I know there’s a lot of lens questions out there. So here’s a few thoughts if you do need to buy a lens.

1) Don’t worry about prime lenses. If you’re on a budget, don’t get caught up in to thinking that prime lenses will change much in your landscapes. I’ve done side-by-side comparisons with a prime lens vs. a zoom lens and the difference is nearly impossible to see.

2) Don’t worry about “fast” glass. Fast glass is generally known as lenses that can shoot at very wide apertures. f/2.8 is known as “fast” glass. But you’ll see lenses go down to f/1.8 and even as low as f/1.2. As landscape photographer, you’ll barely ever shoot with apertures that wide, because you’ll want to capture everything sharp from foreground to background. So you’ll more likely be at f/11, f/16 or even higher. So, while I may not recommend a lens with a widest aperture of f/5.6  for portraits, I’d totally recommend one for landscapes.

3) If I had to list the 3 lenses I use for landscapes, here goes:
- My most used landscape lens is a 24-70mm. Canon, Nikon, Tamron… they all make good ones.
- My second most used lens is the Canon 16-35mm. Nikon also makes one. Actually, if you shoot Nikon you can definitely save some money and buy the smaller and lighter 18-35mm.
- My third lens is the 70-200. It definitely doesn’t get used as much as the others, but it’s nice when you want to get in tight to some details further away. And if you do shoot portraits, it’s my #1 go-to portrait photography lens too.

What To Spend Your Money On If There’s Something Left Over…
If you decide to skip on anything above, and you absolutely feel like you have cash burning a hole in your pocket, then the last thing I’d spend my money on to improve my landscape photography is a plane ticket or gas in my car to get myself someplace cool. At the end of the day, location is the most important aspect of landscape photography (and lots of luck with the weather). Get yourself someplace great, and making great photos becomes that much easier :-)

Thanks for stopping by today and I hope you found this list useful. Also, I’d love to hear any ideas you have so feel free to leave a comment below.

Monday
Jun
2014
02

How To Take The Stress Out Of Photography

by Brad Moore  |  7 Comments

Hey everyone, Brad Moore here with a quick post. Did you miss last week’s episode of The Grid? Don’t worry, you can still watch it right here! On this episode, Matt Kloskowski was joined by both Lou Freeman and Moose Peterson where they discussed a number of ways to stop stressing over photography and enjoy it. If you’re the kind of person who worries about always getting a killer shot every time you go out? Do you think, “If I just had that one lens, I’d be able to take my photography to the next level.”? This episode might help you put things in perspective and get back to enjoying the art of photography.

Thursday
May
2014
29

It’s Free Stuff Thursday!

by Brad Moore  |  26 Comments

In-Depth Workshops with Frank Doorhof
August 29-31, Frank Doorhof will be hosting a workshop in New York City at a great location that will combine studio work, shooting with natural light, working with models, and post processing.

The group is limited so there is a lot of time for personal attention. This will be a learning frenzy with loads of tips and tricks on lighting, coaching the models, getting the right expression, natural light, strobes, mixing light sources, telling a story, building a brand, retouching and much much more.

If you want more info or to register, click here to book your ticket for the workshop you don’t want to miss!

Frank will also be hosting two-day workshop in the Netherlands August 1-2 where he’ll cover topics that you struggle with most, portfolio reviews, shooting on location with natural light and strobes, and retouching techniques. For more info on that workshop, click right here!

Leave a comment for your chance to win a copy of Frank’s book, Mastering The Model Shoot!

The Art of Digital Photography: The Inspirational Series with Lindsay Adler
Join Mia McCormick for an inspirational conversation with Lindsay Adler, a portrait and fashion photographer based in New York. Over the course of an hour their conversation touches on topics ranging from how Lindsay got started shooting fashion to how she found her own unique creative voice, and from how to use visual tools for finding inspiration to the importance of transforming your personal projects into paying opportunities that fit your style of shooting.

Leave a comment for your chance to watch this class for free!

KelbyOne Live
Want to spend a day with Scott Kelby, Joe McNally, or Corey Barker? Check out these seminar tours!

Shoot Like A Pro with Scott Kelby
June 17 – Nashville, TN
Aug 26 – St. Louis, MO
Aug 28 – Kansas City, MO

One Flash, Two Flash with Joe McNally
June 19 – San Jose, CA
June 27 – Seattle, WA
July 24 – Milwaukee, WI
July 28 – Boston, MA

Photoshop Down & Dirty Master FX with Corey Barker
June 25 – New Orleans, LA
Aug 1 – Miami, FL
Aug 13 – Austin, TX

You can check out the full schedule for seminars through August, and we’ll be updating it with more dates soon! Leave a comment for your chance to win a ticket to one of these events!

Last Week’s Winners
KelbyOne Class Rental
- Holger

KelbyOne Live Ticket
- scottoneal

If you’re one of the lucky winners, we’ll be in touch soon. Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday
May
2014
28

It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Brian Rodgers Jr!

by Brad Moore  |  20 Comments

When you’re in high school, you’re on top of the world. You have everything figured out; a plan for everything. You’re told the next step in the road to success is college…. I started my college experience at a large university. It only took me a semester to realize that I was wasting a lot of time and money, cutting out shapes and gluing them on paper in my “introductory” art classes. Not to mention, everyone around me was more interested in the party scene. I felt like an outsider. Like, I wasn’t where I was supposed to be. I was more focused than my peers and had nobody to relate to. I felt isolated and dark, with only my art and music to turn to. So I came back home, took a semester off and continued working in a retail job. I attended a local community college that fall where I majored in graphic design. It was in those classes that I realized I enjoyed creating images for my designs, more than the design itself. But it was too late to change majors, so I stuck it out and pursued photography outside of class. I began freelancing in 2006 shooting local bands, products, portraits and weddings, eventually winding up as a freelance retoucher for a local commercial photography studio. But freelance work was far and few between, so it’s not like I could sustain myself at that time.

As your life unfolds, things don’t always go the way you plan. I graduated college in 2007 and guess what? Companies weren’t handing out photography jobs. I went door to door in various cities looking for someone to give me a chance. But nothing was happening. Sure, I got to sit down with some agencies – but they weren’t hiring. So I continued working my retail day job while freelancing at night. I was no stranger to hard work. In fact, I learned what hard work was at a very early age. If I wanted something, I had to earn it. I bought my first electric guitar by mowing lawns in the summer of 97’. Teaching myself how to play guitar through the years taught me three things: discipline, patience and the ability to become a self-learner. These three qualities have transcended into other avenues of my life, including my career as a commercial photographer.

My wife Jill (girlfriend at the time) bought me my first Scott Kelby book, the 7-Point System, for Christmas in the winter of 2007. Reading that book was a mind altering experience for me in terms of my Photoshop education. For the first time ever, I had experienced a fun way to learn the software that would help me create the type of imagery that I had in my head. Scott’s approach to teaching was like nothing I had ever read before. It was fun to read, easy to comprehend and also entertaining at the same time. By completing the tutorials in the book, I felt a great sense of accomplishment. It also made me realize that I didn’t know as much as I thought I did. Through Photoshop User Magazine, I learned about NAPP (National Association of Photoshop Professionals). I quickly became a member and subscribed to Kelby Training. Scott’s original portrait retouching class blew my mind. It was full of “WOW” moments for me. Things just started to click. After graduating college and several failed attempts to land a job in a creative field, I became burned out. Kelby Media Group single handedly reignited my excitement and fueled my creativity again.

When you’re a hard worker and you work in the retail industry, they want to promote you. And promote me they did. In 2008, I landed a job at the corporate office of the largest retailer in the world. Nothing was happening with my photography at that time…what did I have to lose? My job was to create open flight 3D simulations of new and existing stores. Not a bad place to be in my early 20’s. My wife (girlfriend at the time) and I moved our entire lives 12 hours away from everything we had ever known for me to take that job. Although I had met some great people there, it didn’t take long for me to realize that the lifestyle of Corporate America just wasn’t for me. Sure, I was making great money, but I was sitting in a cubicle all day, behind a computer that never worked, having meetings about meetings. I never really felt any sense of accomplishment at that job. The only escape I had were my lunch breaks.

I had an hour. Everyday at lunch, I would go out to my car to get out of the office environment and clear my mind. I would spend that hour watching things like Zack Arias’ OneLight Workshop on my iPod, reading issues of Photoshop User Magazine, and Scott Kelby Photoshop books. That hour always flew by. So, if you think about it, I spent about 260hrs on my lunch period alone over the course of that year immersing myself in sea of photography and Photoshop related education. This is a trend that continues even to this day. I have a real passion for learning new things, not only in photography, but other areas as well. I studied studio lighting for a solid year and used nothing but cheap painters lights from Lowes before eventually buying real studio strobes. Experimenting with these cheap lights taught me how to really “see” light. As Joe McNally says, “Light is the language of Photography.”

After working at that corporate office for a year, I just couldn’t take anymore. I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t being fulfilled creatively. It was a soul sucking experience in my life. Something had to change, so we moved back to our hometown in Northern Indiana. I left the corporate life, and corporate wage behind, only to return to my old life as a retail employee. Only this time it was different. I felt like I had taken a step backwards. I felt like I had made a mistake. I had a perfectly good job, and made great money. I should have been content. But I wasn’t. I could have stayed there and worked my way up the corporate ladder. But it wasn’t about that. It was about something deeper…

Upon my return, I took a management position and took a large pay cut. Yes, I was manager and took a pay cut, you read that correctly. Things were pretty rough for a while. One day I remember being pulled into the office by my retail store manager. He was very adamant about having me join the upper level management team in his store. He told me that I was “wasting my time” with my freelance work, and that I should be focusing on inline management within the company. I had a decision to make… and it was an easy one. Needless to say, I traded that retail job for another one before finally landing a full time job as a retoucher for a commercial photography studio that I had started a relationship with back in 2006. I worked there full time for about a year before transitioning into a full time career as a commercial photographer/digital artist at an advertising agency.

My parents once told me when I was a kid (as most parents do), “When you grow up, you can be anything you want to be.” Today, I’m fortunate enough to say that I’m doing what I feel I was meant to do, at least at this point in my life. I’m Brian Rodgers Jr. Commercial Photographer/Digital Artist. I’ve been a dreamer my whole life, but I’ve also been a realist at the same time. One of the reasons I think I’ve gotten this far, is because I have two things going for me. In the words of the great Joel Grimes, “I have a passion for the creative process, and I’m a hard worker.” I’m always working towards my next goal.

Every artist has a different path. You must realize however, that the path never has an ending. “Life is a journey, not a destination” as the saying goes. Sometimes it’s almost easy to just give up on your dreams when you have people in your life telling you that “you’re wasting your time,” and that you should just do something else. Those people are detractors – don’t let them steal your dreams! It’s so easy to get comfortable in your unsatisfying day job. It’s so easy to put things off. So stop doing it! You alone have to fuel your fire and keep your dreams alive. Set goals, and push yourself to achieve them.

If you’re not getting the type of work you know you’re capable of doing, go out and create that work for yourself. Do it totally unpaid. Build your portfolio. You have to practice if you want grow as an artist. This is also how you get experience. This is how you become an expert in your field. Create the type of work that you eventually want to get hired to shoot. Building a portfolio of those types of images is the key to getting hired. Create your own opportunities.

Don’t stress over gear. You will acquire essential gear over time as you build your career. Gear is not nearly as important as vision. A little bit of gear can go a long way when you have vision. Nearly every image I’m posting today was shot with a Canon Rebel t2i, and 3 or less strobes. Two of the images were lit with a single LED pen light. Can you guess which ones they are? At the end of the day, the only people who really care about what camera you are using are other photographers. Gear is great, but only when it helps you achieve your vision as an artist. My personal work/self assignments are what landed me a job at the advertising agency I currently work at. My personal work also allows for freelancing opportunities. (All of the images that I’m posting today are self assignments, btw). Not only have self assignments opened up awesome opportunities for me, they have also helped me develop my own way of shooting and retouching; my own process.

Douglas Sonders wrote a great post on Scott’s Blog a while back about the important of self assignments. Go read it! Everything he is saying has merit. In retrospect, my college portfolio was not great. It was full of school assignments. It didn’t really show who I was as a photographer. So I had a lot of work to do over the years. I’m still working on new things all the time to take my work to that next level.

Through the past 7 years, my wife has been one of my biggest influences. She has always believed in me and pushed me to be better. She bought me my first Scott Kelby book. She made sure that I had a Wacom Intuos tablet for retouching (which completely changed the way I work.) When I needed a model to practice portrait lighting, she was always the first person to sit in front of my camera. She still to this day brings home cool things for me to shoot. Through everything, she has always been my support. She’s awesome!

I believe that everything in life happens for a reason. Why? What if I told you, that I met my wife in pre-school? It’s true! We first met when we were just 4 years old. And boy did we like each other. After pre-school, she was gone. I didn’t see her for many years after that because we went to different schools. All I had to remember her by were fragments of childhood memories. Fast forward 20 years from pre-school, we recognize each other at a Taco Bell drive through. She left her business card at the drive thru window with her cell number on the back. The Taco Bell employee gave me that card and the rest is history. That girl I had met in preschool, is now my wife.

Oh yeah, and those years of retail….it turns out that I learned all kinds of skills including how to communicate with different types of people. And wouldn’t ya know it, those communication skills that I learned over the course of 10 years in retail, are now coming in pretty handy in my career as a commercial photographer. Because I talk with all types of people on a daily basis. The year I spent in the corporate office, actually helped me develop a lot of Photoshop skills I may not have otherwise acquired. I had built a lot of retail products (including the boxes) from scratch in Photoshop, those products ended up being placed on shelves of retail store layouts in the 3D models my team and I were working on. The ability to create objects and products from scratch has helped me immensely in my retouching abilities. Furthermore, because of my struggles and hardships throughout the years, I have a deeper appreciation for what I do professionally. Because I really had to work for it. Photography is hard work!

The experiences that you will encounter throughout your life, help shape the work that you create. For me, it’s really prevalent when I’ve got that perfect playlist going and I’m in my creative zone. The frustration, the angst, the happiness and sadness; all behind those pixels we today call digital imagery. The images you create are a reflection of you. Which is probably why we as photographers get emotionally attached to our images.

If you’ve ever worked in a job that you dread going to everyday, keep your head up. If you have a passion for something, pursue it! Don’t make excuses. Keep putting everything you have into your craft. If you want it, you’ve gotta work for it. Being a photographer for a living is not an easy job. In fact, it’s damn hard. Photography has become somewhat of a fad these days. But I believe the artists that really work on their craft, and think like entrepreneurs, are the ones who are more likely to have the opportunity to do it professionally. It’s a very rewarding career, but it’s very hard work! I’m nowhere near the skill level I’d like to be, but I’m on my way.

Here’s a time-lapse retouch video that I created of a recent self assignment:

More info on about this self assignment on my blog.

Dream Big. Stay inspired. Never stop learning. Be honest. Be genuine. Be yourself!

I wanted to give a shout out to my buddy Melvin, who I met in Chicago at Scott’s “Shoot Like a Pro” seminar. Good guy!

Finally, I wanted to thank Scott Kelby & Brad Moore for the opportunity to share my thoughts on a stage shared by some of the best photographers in the world! And a special thanks to Pete Collins!

Brian Rodgers Jr. is an Addy Award winning Commercial Photographer/Digital Artist based out of the South Bend, Indiana area. When he needs to take a break from photography (and we all do from time to time), hes writing and recording his own guitar driven music. You can see more of Brian’s work at DigitalArtThatRocks.com and connect with him on Google+, Twitter, & Behance.

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