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.
I hadn’t seen this in 10 years, and I had never seen the full version.
My friend Kevin Gilbert sent me this a week or so ago and it’s just so wonderful — It’s just a few minutes long, but totally worth every minute. I hope it makes your Tuesday, and your upcoming year in photography, a little bit brighter by remembering it’s all about emotion.
Thank you, Kevin for bringing this back to life for me and my readers.
To wrap up my three-part look at 2014 and the “Best of the Blog” for this past year, I put together my picks for my favorite episodes of “The Grid” (our live weekly talk show for photographers, which airs each Wednesday at 4:00 pm ET).
These are the episodes (in no particular order) that seemed to really resonate with our viewers (based on comments, emails, etc.) along with some that I just felt were really helpful, or fun, or hopefully both. I’ve embedded the episodes right here in the post so you can just hit play, sit back, and come along on a weird and wonderful journey (that sounds better than just “well, here they are”). ;-)
Joe McNally | Open Q&A
Anytime Joe is on the show, it’s always special, but this one was particularly fascinating and Joe was so “on.” Having our viewers ask Joe literally anything created some really fun, interesting, revealing and sometimes hilarious moments. Really a special episode.
Blind Critiques with Gregory Heisler Gregory is one of the most interesting photographers out there. Heck, he’s one of the most interesting people out there, and his critiques were insightful and eyeopening. What a truly great speaker, a fantastic guest, and a brilliant teacher.
Kevin Gilbert on backing up and the launch of Mylio
I shared Kevin’s wonderful Tedx talk earlier this year about the importance of protecting our images (not the copyright stuff, the “not losing a lifetime’s worth of irreplaceable images” stuff) and it was a big hit, so we had Kevin take viewers’ questions about this topic and to show a little bit of Mylio (technology for protecting and accessing all your images across all your devices). Everybody who cares about protecting their images should watch this episode (and Kevin was just terrific).
Tony Corbell, along with RC & Me revealing the magic behind “Photoshop for Video”
For me, this was the most important episode we did all year because it made an immediate impact in a lot of photographers lives. You just cannot believe the comments, emails, even phone calls we got after our five-minute reveal of a little known “secret” about creating mini-movies right inside of Photoshop, using just Photoshop and the video clips from your DSLR. That was the first part of the show, then lighting guru Tony Corbell came on and hit it out of the park.
Linday Adler: When Inspiration Becomes Imitation
Lindsay is always a great guest because she is a mixture of super-creative photographer with savvy businesswoman and gifted instructor. That’s a combination that makes for great TV, but the stuff she uncovered and unpacked in this episode made it a jaw-dropper. Just some really eye-opening stuff that you will find hard to believe is happening. A really interesting, fun episode with lots of learning moments.
Joe McNally: Taking the next step with your photography
I could listen to Joe talk about milk. His stories, his unique insights from a lifetime behind the lens — he’s just a treasure trove of valuable information and his stories are just so captivating and real. Great teaching moments throughout this episode — definitely one of our best. You’ll dig it.
Ask Peter Hurley Anything Day [plus, a farewell tribute to Matt]
Peter is a blast. Just a blast! He’s smart, funny, a great teacher, great photographer, great guy all around, and we let the live viewers drive this episode by asking Peter anything, and it was a great episode from start to finish. Also, this was Matt’s last episode of “The Grid” as he was leaving us that week to join OnOne Software, so I did a little look back at my personal and professional life with Matt as we wished him the best in his new career.
How to become a better photographer in 2014 with Karen Hutton
This was one of our first episodes of last year, and man, having Karen on started the year off with a bang! She was an absolutely excellent guest, and has such a creative, artistic, and just wonderful look at photographers and the art of photography and there were some really great ideas and inspiration throughout. Even though this kicked off 2014, it could have just as easily been our kick-off for 2015 — the info is still 100% valid and valuable.
Photographer’s State of the Union Address
Matt and I looked back over the past last year and tried to offer a realistic, truthful look at where we are as an industry, and where photographers stand at this point in time, with an emphasis on the emotional state of photographers now, and where we see things going in the future. Worth checking out.
Pete and Brad on What Photographers Do in the Winter
I was up in Canada for some meetings, and people were texting me in the middle of my meetings to tell me what an incredible job Brad and Pete did on this episode. Then I read the comments. These two not only did the show proud in my absence, they did one of the best, most useful episodes of the entire year. Both inspirational and informational.
Stacy Pearsall on Photography If you’ve never seen Stacy’s work (she’s an award-winning military photographer embedded in Iraq) it’s amazing, but Stacy is more than that — she’s a real life hero, and her stories and images are just stunning. Plus, Stacy is funny as all get-out, and it was an amazing hour. You’ve gotta see this one.
Sport Photography with Elsa Garrison
There are only two women on the entire planet that shoot sports for Getty Images. One lives in New Zealand and the other is Elsa. Wow. Just a “wow” show from start to finish. She’s a brilliant photographer, a funny and engaging guest, and she shared lots of valuable knowledge (and I picked her brain on everything from camera settings to shooting positions). You know I had to love this episode. You will, too.
There ya go, folks — a look back at the best of 2014.
We’ve already kicked off 2015 with some great episodes (including one that will probably make my picks for 2015 with Joel Grimes, which aired just last week). Our in-studio guest this Wednesday is one of the best wedding photographers in the business — Cliff Mautner, so I hope you’ll join us then, live at 4pm (here’s the link). Thanks for watching. :)
Milestones for 2014
Besides the most popular and most commented-upon posts (which I posted here in Part 1 on Monday), we were pretty busy here on the blog during 2014. Here’s some highlights of what we shared:
We raised nearly $40,000 for the Springs of Hope Orphanage
I don’t think anything we did this year was as important as this — by having folks who participated in my 7th Worldwide Photo Walk donate $1 when they signed up, we made a major difference in the lives of some really wonderful kids. Of everything we did this year, this is what I’m most proud of.
I started my love affair with Exposure.co
Last year when I posted my “Favorite Football Shots from the 2013 Season” I tried Exposure.co for the first time, and literally fell in love it, and it became my go-to source for photo-storytelling. I used Exposure.co for a number of photo stories from the year, including:
A Walk in Rome (images from four days in Rome) – link
Shooting The U.S. Open – link
A Colorful Journey (images from my trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico) – link
Shooting The U.S. Open Men’s Final – link Game Day with The Vols (shooting Tennessee football) – link
A Rolling Museum (my images of the classic American cars of Cuba) – link Automotive Photography – link Shooting the Firestone Grand Prix Indy Race – link The World on a White Seamless Background – link From Prague to Budapest (images from my trip along the Danube river) - link A little bit of London (shots from my quick trip across the pond) – link
I tried some “silent movie style” 30-second Micro Photoshop Tips
I tried something new — super quick tips I could do, at my kitchen table at home, without hooking up a mic and I would do them like a silent movie, with just text to explain the tip. The tips were cool, but ultimately the experiment failed, with many folks leaving me comments that “the audio wasn’t working.” You can check out some I posted here on the blog right here.
We Took The Photoshop World Conference & Expo to Atlanta for the First Time
It’s pretty much been in Orlando for the past 15 years, but this year we thought we’d try something new by taking the show to Atlanta. The Cobb Galleria venue in Atlanta was absolutely ideal for a conference, and it was one of our best conferences ever! (but of course, everybody still wants to go to Vegas).
I taught at the WPPI Conference for the first time
What a great show, and a great experience. I spoke on the Conference Track teaching retouching and I got to speak in Canon’s booth to just huge crowds. Totally had a great time from start to finish and met tons of great people.
Adobe Launched Lightroom Mobile…
…and we were there with not only an in-depth Launch center, but we launched our first online class on Lightroom mobile to get everybody up and running fast. Here’s the link to the class.
Karen Hutton made me cry
I’ve never actually seen the finished interview, because it was so upsetting (and embarrassing) at the time, I couldn’t bring myself to watch it (if I had, I’m sure I would have made them cut out that part.
Apple pulled the plug on Aperture, and we had a Webinar on “How to move from Aperture to Lightroom” that very night
We can be really quick when we need to be. And of course besides that, we put together a full-length KelbyOne.com online class on exactly how to make the big switch.
We produced a free live Travel Photography Webcast called “From Prague to Budapest”
After my trip, I shared some photos, some tips, some tricks, some post processing techniques, I answered questions — it was so much fun. You can watch the entire Webinar above.
I told probably my most embarrassing photography story ever (above). It is NOT pretty.
We broke some news about a little secret Adobe kinda snuck into the release of Lightroom 5.5 to allay a lot of folks’ concerns about the Creative Cloud photographers’ bundle. After you watch the video above, read the Q&A I put together to help explain it. Here’s the link (but again, watch the video first so the Q&A will make sense).
We got more love from this than you can imagine
It’s called “How Photographers Can Turn Their DSLR Video Clips Into Movies in Just 5 Minutes (using, believe it or not, just Photoshop). The clip is above. Yes, this is for you.
I Shared a Little Known Feature of Lightroom Mobile here
I shared a quick video tutorial (above) about a little-known feature of Lightroom Mobile that is just so darn cool. I do a live model shoot in the video above (which is much better than a dead model shoot) to show you how it all works. You’ll dig it.
I gave Project Luca a shot
This was fairly recently — it’s a new iPad-based photo storytelling app, and I tried it out by doing a story on my very short photographic journey in London a few months ago. I wouldn’t say I trashed it, but it needs a few things before it’s ready for prime time (it’s still in beta, but the developers saw the article, responded the same day, and are fixing a bunch of stuff before it ships, so it’ll wind up being pretty darn cool). Here’s the link
I launched Part 5 of my “The Digital Photography Book” Series here on the blog — this one is all “Photo Recipes.”
I released a big update to my book, “The Photoshop CC Book for Digital Photographers” – it’s my first all “CC” version and it’s gone over really, really well. Still very excited about it (the video above explains it).
I released an ebook of nothing but my Chapter Intros (to raise money for the Springs of Hope Orphanage) - The book is available right here.
We did some stuff that mattered
Like Behind the Lens: An evening with Joe McNally — it was just an electrifying presentation, a magical night, and one of our most popular and most talked-about classes of the entire year. Every photography student should be required to see it. (link)
We also did our first documentary: Moose Peterson’s “Aviation Photography: Warbirds and the Men Who Flew Them.” It came out so wonderfully, we shared it with the world with a one-night free premiere, with Moose himself on hand. There’s wasn’t a dry eye in the house. This was something we were all really proud of.
We launched a new series of in-depth interviews called “Trailer Blazers: Powerful Women of Photography” showcasing women who changed and challenged our industry.
We also did our first-ever “Creative Cloud Month” where each day we released a new full-length online class on one of Adobe’s Creative Cloud applications. (Interesting note: When we launched this, Adobe had around 1.5 million subscribers to the Adobe Creative Cloud. Today they have only 3.5 million).
Jeremy Cowart in Miami — portraits on location revisited
A few years after our classes in Venice Beach, California with Jeremy (which were such a hit), we caught up with Jeremy again on Miami’s South Beach and, son-of-a-gun, man can that guy turn nothin’ into something. It’s like a masterclass on how to shoot anywhere, and it was as big a hit as his classes from Venice. You can watch the intro right here and you’ll see what I mean (even if you’re not a KelbyOne member).
SmugMug Films mini-documentery on me (above) as an educator and photographer was such an honor (and they produced it beautifully).
That’s just some of the highlights of what we covered in 2014 here on the blog and at KelbyOne. Next week we’ll wrap up with Part 3, which will be our top-10 episodes of “The Grid” (our weekly photography talkshow) and I’ll embed the episodes right on the blog so you can watch ‘em right there.
Have a great weekend everybody and we’ll see you next week!
The Inspirational Series with Jay Maisel Jay Maisel is an internationally acclaimed photographer who is equally gifted in his ability to distill the wisdom earned from decades of capturing light, color, and gesture through the lens of his camera. Join Mia McCormick as she spends an hour as a guest in Jay’s iconic home discussing topics that range from the aspirations of his youth to how the transition from film to digital opened the doors to new photographic opportunities. Over the course of their conversation Jay reflects on lessons learned from professional assignments, personal projects, and life itself. Jay is a true living legend, and getting the chance to hear him speak will leave you amused, inspired, and reaching for your camera.
Photographing Cityscapes with Matt Kloskowski
There is tremendous beauty to be found in cities throughout the world. Join Matt Kloskowski as he demonstrates various ways you can photograph a cityscape. Starting off with some tips on how to research locations before you go, Matt takes you through the gear and camera settings he uses before heading out into the field to show you how to pull together all of the key ingredients for an absolutely stunning photograph. From long exposures to dramatic black and whites, Matt shares the post-processing tips in Lightroom and Photoshop that you’ll need to know to create these killer looks.
Want to see Scott Kelby live in person? Here are the first three dates for Scott Kelby’s Shoot Like A Pro Tour for 2015! If you’re in one of these cities, come check it out:
Leave a comment for your chance to come to one of these events for free! And keep an eye out for soon to be announced dates for our brand new tour featuring Joel Grimes!
The Photoshop Elements 13 Book for Digital Photographers
We just got our first copies of the brand new Photoshop Elements 13 Book for Digital Photographers by Scott Kelby and Matt Kloskowski in! This book breaks new ground by doing something for digital photographers that’s never been done before–it cuts through the bull and shows you exactly “how to do it.” It’s not a bunch of theory; it doesn’t challenge you to come up with your own settings or figure things out on your own. Instead, it does something that virtually no other Elements book has ever done–it tells you flat-out which settings to use, when to use them, and why.
You can pick up your copy here, or from wherever great books are sold. And leave a comment for your chance to win one of three free copies we’ll give away right here next week!
100,000 on YouTube!
We want to thank all of you on YouTube who subscribed to our channel, we hit 100,000 subscribers on New Years Day and now have a total of over 9 MILLION VIEWS! You can catch us on YouTube and you can also view all of our shows at KelbyTV.com.
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 RollingStone.com! 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.
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.
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.