Our friends at MPIX (the only photo lab we use a NAPP headquarters) just took the wraps of their totally redesigned site. I’ve just been through their redesigned site and it’s way more than just a new look. The new site is much more visual, even easier to use, has much more functionality all the way around, and it makes the process of uploading, managing, and buying prints just crazy easy. (It’s such a big improvement, they’re calling it MPIX 2.0. I think it’s more like 3.0, or at least MPIX CS3).

Anyway, they’ve got an online tour of the new site you can take, and on the last page they have this little slogan that so nails what they do, that I think it oughta be their official slogan, in huge letters, right on their home page! It reads:

“Shoot today. Upload tonight. We ship tomorrow.”

I thought that pretty much nailed it (If I were MPIX, I’d have that flying on a flag outside the building!). Anyway, if you haven’t checked out their new site, click here to jump over there (don’t forget to take the tour if you’re new to MPIX).

One last thing; One of things I use MPIX pretty often for, is sending large prints, or specialty prints like metallic or stretched canvas prints as gifts, delivered right to their door. I just sent my brother’s girlfriend a huge print, and a canvas just this week, shipped straight from MPIX to her house. They shipped them same day (because I got the order in early), and they ship everything packaged flat—not rolled up. I totally love that. Anyway, I can’t recommend them enough (and if you have any doubts, go read the comments photographers who use MPIX posted after I wrote about them back in March. Here’ the link).


If my childhood exposure to Star Trek taught me anything it’s that you can’t mess with the time/space continuum without seriously screwing things up for everyone. Still, the reckless part of me would love to go back and have a heart-to-heart with the fourteen year-old version of myself as I fell in love with photography and began what has been a 23-year passion. Last weekend thousands of photographers converged around the world to walk and shoot, most of them hobbyists still aflame with an enthusiasm for their craft that would humble many professionals. It reminded me of those early days, made me a little nostalgic.

Still, if I could go back, give the young me some encouragement and direction, these are the things that I suspect would be foremost in our conversation. We’d probably also have an awkward chat about dating, but that’s between us.

1. Learn your craft.
In the early days you’re laying a foundation on which the rest of your photographic pursuit will be built. So dig in now. Now is the time to geek out to the limits of your ability, but make it well-directed geekery. Learn the ins-and-outs of exposure, learn to handle your camera like it’s part of your body, learn to read a histogram, and learn to competently post-process your images. Shoot, and shoot, and shoot some more. Go to the library and expose yourself to as many of the past masters of photography that you can. Get online and look at thousands of photographs. Soak in them. Immerse yourself. Read books, watch videos. Study your craft intentionally.

2. Find a mentor.
Find someone you respect, someone honest enough to productively critique your images, but kind enough not to discourage you along the way. We all take thousands and thousands of lousy photographs, it’s the dirt you have to dig through to get to the jewels. It’s the shots that work, the ones you love, that matter. The others are just the path to getting there. If we gave up the moment we took some lousy photographs, none of us would get where we’re going. A good mentor will help you navigate that. Look for gentle critics, not fans. A good mentor, or a series of them, is a priceless asset.

3. Don’t compare yourself.
Especially to the so-called pros. Being a pro doesn’t mean you’re better. It means you get paid. Being a hobbyist doesn’t mean you’re not good enough. I intentionally avoided doing this professionally for years, scared that doing it as a career would kill the passion. Eventually I found the stories I wanted to shoot so badly that I changed my mind. But in the in-between years I was no less a photographer for my lack of a pay-check. The goal of photography is not the transformation from hobbyist to professional. That may be your goal, but photography itself, the craft, has no such aspirations. It’s about expression and vision and you can do that no matter how you make a living. In fact, the hobbyist may be able to do that with fewer obstacles than the pros.

Comparing yourself to others is wasted energy and it generally only fuels the voice in your head that tells you one of two things, both of them harmful to your vision and your soul. The first message is, “that guy’s work is so much better than mine, I can’t possibly shoot that well. I will never be that good.” The second is its evil twin, “that guy’s a hack, I’m way better than that. Why is his work in National Geographic? I could shoot that stuff blindfolded.” Both comparisons will stall you in your creative tracks. And you’ll be missing the point. The point is not where you are on the ladder, it’s how true you are to your vision and whether your craft is equal to the task. It’s a journey. Compare yourself to others and you’ll miss the joy this craft can bring.

4. Become visually literate.
Photography is a unique visual language. Learning it is like learning French. It has nouns, verbs, grammar and syntax. The more fluent you are the more subtly and powerfully you can use your language skills to communicate. Composition is not something that accidentally happens as you go about making photographs, it’s the language through which photography speaks. Master composition. Learn about balance and tension, light, gesture, colour. Learn how elements relate within the frame, and with the frame, to tell your story. But learn it. I strongly recommend reading Michael Freeman’s The Photographer’s Eye.

5. Chase your vision.
At the beginning and end of photography is vision. Jonathan Swift said, “Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.” It’s a personal way of seeing, it makes you see ordinary things in a new way and go, “A-HA!” and the camera allows you to interpret that moment and make others go “A-ha!” too. There’s a great deal to be said for the craft of photography, but unless you have something to say, it’s like learning a language with nothing to say and no one to talk to. Author Anne Lammot says that to be great, art must point at something. What you decide to point at – whether it’s the ugliness of injustice or the beauty of Vermont in the fall. is your vision. How you point at it is your craft. The more unique your vision, and the more practiced your craft, the more powerful your art.

Of course, if I were saying this to a fourteen year-old version of myself he’d be staring at me with his eyes glazed over by now, he’d probably respond with, “but I just want to make photographs.” And that’s ok too. That’s where it all starts and ends. The need to express yourself in increasingly clearer ways .The advice, that just smooths the path, takes out some of the unnecessary bumps and discouragements as you learn to put the world into the impossible constraints of the frame.

-David duChemin


My original goal was to try and sell 100 books, which would have meant $4,499 would go directly to the building of the orphanage, but I just got the final tally from yesterday sales and you guys bought 236 books, which raised $10,617.64 to help build the orphanage. Amazing!!!!

I’m humbled by your generosity and compassion, and I was so touched by some of the comments you guys posted yesterday, like:

  • I am getting it shipped to Scotland, which took the price up to $65.99 – but it is worth it (and that is before I have even read the book!!)
  • I already have the book on order with Kelby Training so I've mailed a check directly to CMCC today.
  • I don't use Lightroom (yet!) but I've ordered a copy anyway.
  • Well, I just bought the book and I don't even have Lightroom.
  • I have already had a copy on backorder but I ordered another one for such a great cause. It will make a great present for someone!
  • I just canceled an already running order (for a lower price) for this book and ordered it here.
  • For the last month I've been thinking of pre-ordering this book. But for some reason, due to circumstances the purchase never materialized. Now I know why.
  • Now, I've ordered the Lr 2.0 book and feel a bit guilty that I'm receiving this autographed title while you donate all your proceeds to this cause, so I also made out a little check to CMCC to help a little bit – it's not much, but I know the generous and kind nature of NAPP members, I'm sure they'll all add up.
  • I was the photowalk leader in Fresno, CA so I will be getting a copy of the book but purchased another one so that I can help Scott support this effort.
  • I've been waiting FOREVER for you to release this book! I'm glad I waited until now to buy it.
  • Just ordered the book! Already have another one ordered, so I figure someone is getting a nice gift.
  • I just ordered two copies. I'm going to keep one for myself, and give the other as a gift
  • Oh, and I ordered your new Lightroom book today. I don’t use Lightroom but I figured if you are willing to donate the entire proceeds to this worthy cause, it was the least I could do.

Those are the words of some remarkably caring and giving people. Saying “thanks” is so inadequate for what you all did yesterday, but it’s the only word I have, so….Thanks. Yesterday you made a big difference in the life of some children who really needed us to help. Bless you all.


Yesterday, when my book publisher Peachpit Press, heard about what we were doing to help build the orphanage in Kenya, and that my goal was to sell 100 of my Lightroom 2 books, they immediately called to donate (you guessed it), One Hundred Books!

I’ve written over 50 books with Peachpit Press and their New Riders imprint, and I’ve never worked with anyone else all these years. Today you just saw another reason why.

My heartfelt thanks to Peachpit Publisher Nancy Aldrich-Ruenzel, my Editor Ted Waitt, Scott Cowlin, Glenn Bisignani, and the entire Peachpit/New Riders team. I’ve never been prouder to be one of your authors than I am today. :)


(Adove: From the Windsor, United Kingdom Photo Walk. Leader: Glyn Dewis)


(Above: From the Chinatown, New York PhotoWalk. Leader: Alessandro M. Rosa)


(Above: From the Portland, Maine PhotoWalk. Leader: Scott Eccleston)


(Above: From the Atlanta, Georgia PhotoWalk: Leader Ken Ross)


(Above: From the Rome, Italy PhotoWalk. Leader: Michael McGuire)


(Above: From the Amsterdam PhotoWalk. Leader: Hans Schachtschabel)


(Above: From the ZĀ¼rich, Switzerland PhotoWalk. Leader: Axel Len)


(Above: From the Los Angeles, California PhotoWalk. Leader: Janine Smith)


(Above: From the Koloa, Kauai, Hawaii PhotoWalk. Leader Jo Evans).


(Above: From the Alexandria, Virginia PhotoWalk. Leader: Jeff Revell)


(Above: From the Penang, Malaysia PhotoWalk. Leader: Matt Brandon)