The Art of Photography: The Inspirational Series with Matthew Jordan Smith
Join Mia McCormick and Matthew Jordan Smith as they sit down to discuss Matthew’s inspiring career as a commercial photographer. Matthew is known for his spectacular beauty, fashion, and celebrity photography, and more recently his personal book project Future American President. Spend an hour hearing stories of how Matthew got started in photography, and some of the many lessons he has learned along the way. From the importance of overcoming the challenges that life sends your way to the necessity of believing in your own vision and seeing it through to the end, Matthew shares insight and perspective into what has fueled a successful career that spans three decades.
Want to learn from Scott Kelby, Joe McNally or Joel Grimes live in person? Check out these seminar tour dates to see if they’re coming to a city near you!
A question that I frequently hear of photographers and creatives, which always makes my skin crawl, is, “What’s your approach to social?” Of course, the person asking wants an answer related to how to gain followers or boost their engagement metrics to drive revenue. Those are the questions we’ve been trained to ask as artists scrambling to find a consumer for our wares. While having a sound social media strategy is only a good thing, my challenge to you as an artist is to do something much more rewarding: don’t get social—be social.
If you’re looking to gain marketing insight from the rest of this post, read no farther, as that nugget won’t follow. I’m going to talk more about that oh-so-rare interaction that won’t help pay the mortgage, but is what I feed off of as a photographer: a unique shared experience with awesome output that everyone involved will enjoy for years. The key is finding a dance partner who’s as adventurous and open to experimentation as you are.
A freelancing sports job introduced me to the lovely Natalie Taylor. While she was TV-facing and I focused on stills, our coverage was often of the same events and naturally I showed her some of my work over a coffee break. When she introduced me to her boyfriend, Walter I could tell she had found a solid guy and had hoped it would go the distance. Sometimes you’re lucky enough to hear good news before the rest of the world. When you’re really lucky, you get to play an active role in helping to announce that news as well! For my friends Natalie and Walter, this was the news of their unannounced engagement, which we (my wife Elise and I) were thrilled to shoot.
Since both are media personalities, we knew that shyness in front of the lens wouldn’t be an issue at all and were thrilled to hear that they wanted to introduce their new family to the rest of the world with Rookie, their fur-baby, in tow.
When hiring voice-activated light stands, I recommend asking them about their dog-wrangling skills early in the interview. They might prove invaluable one day. Creative personalities who were willing to be part of a collaborative and experimental shoot were the key to a great day that was personally rewarding for all involved.
This is going to sound silly, but you’d be amazed how many photographers I know that lament never having anyone fun to shoot. When I ask them who they’ve asked, they look at me like I’m wearing a Canon hat and a Nikon vest. Absolute honesty and transparency will get you very far. “Hello, my name is Ken and I’m a photographer. You’ve got a really great look, would you ever be interested in shooting?” It’s clear, it’s concise and it’s honest. If they’re receptive, you can immediately start getting a feel for what kind of shoot they’d be up for, but by all means, have an idea ready.
Meet Erica, by far one of my favorite people to shoot. We had chance encounters when she was an employee of my favorite hockey team and she wore her adventurous personality on her sleeve. Who better to ask to climb a utility tower with me on the edge of town? I had just acquired some new strobes and felt like test-driving them in a bright outdoor environment, and I let her know just that. The expectation was set that she’d meet up with my wife and me for the shoot and stroll around an area and experiment. We came away with some of my favorite photos that I’d made in a long time:
Not only did we have a great time making some great photos during our first outing but I now have Erica as one of the first people I reach out to when I start thinking about a shoot that might take a little bit more patience than most can muster because I know how well we work together. Normally when asked if my wife and I shoot weddings we find ourselves washing our hair that weekend but when I heard of Erica and her fiancé Liam’s pending nuptials, we jumped at the opportunity to be there on their special day because we know that we’ll have an engaging bride and groom that will want to make some memorable images.
Sometimes the key to your social networking will be the social networks of your subjects. Meet Chris and Steve, an incredible couple. Chris was a co-worker of mine, and (though he had recently moved on to other endeavors) Steve had worked with my wife. Chris and Steve have long been active members in the Columbus community, serving in roles that would help further local transit, LGBT advocacy, and initiatives to attract young professionals to the city. Our concept for their engagement shoot was to articulate their lazy Sunday afternoon routine as a couple and get some great environmental portraits in an urban setting. I remember sitting Chris down to ask him what their perfect lazy Sunday looked like, and he mentioned it was often hitting up one of their favorite local establishments for brunch and a beer.
Immediately I started trying to think about ways to emulate the vibe of that restaurant and Chris told me to stand by. Moments later, I got a message from him: we were cleared to shoot in the bar prior to their opening. We were given free run of the place, including a tour of the haunted basement and free pour at the taps while we were there. Since we were shooting in a bar at 9am, it was my task to set the lighting up to feel more like a late, cozy afternoon… so as not make my friends look like alcoholics. Their patience was key here. The beer certainly didn’t hurt.
Once we’d had our fill (of beer), we moved on to a great urban art cooperative which Chris and Steve had reserved for their local reception after eloping. Once again, because of Chris and Steve’s great social natures, we were given carte blanche to make some truly unique engagement photos that captured the two of them so well.
They may not be your money-makers, but that’s not always the point. Take time to make photos that are rooted in genuine social interactions, and aren’t driven by the trending social media metric. It’s here you may find your most rewarding experiences that you’ll treasure for as long as the photos themselves, if not longer. This certainly won’t help pay for your newest Nikon body or Canon L Series lens, but it will make you look forward to picking up your gear that much more.
Before I get to this, I want to go on record saying that I absolutely LOVE Periscope. I think it’s one of the most important Apps in years, and it does it in a way that leaves its competitors flat. In fact, last week I recorded a tutorial on how to use this new live streaming App from Twitter (available free from the App store for the iPhone), and the tutorial (above) does two things:
(1) It shows you how easy it is to use the free Periscope App to view broadcasts, and make your own live broadcasts (2) In this tutorial, I snuck in a full tutorial on lighting a product shoot
I do love Periscope, and it’s one of those things where once you try it once, you’re hooked. However, it’s a 1.0 version of the app and it wouldn’t take much to make this the App of the year, and in that vein, here are a few ideas:
Seven Things Periscope Needs To Fix Now:
(1) You need to be able to shoot horizontal video
Periscope is designed for vertical (portrait mode) shooting, but video on phones is best-suited for horizontal (wide) shooting. YouTube (and all professional video) is designed up the same way — for a wide horizontal screen, not a tall one. While technically Periscope will let you turn the screen sideways, it also forces the viewers to turn their phone as well, but it keeps the messages coming in sideways, and it cuts them off, and people start yelling at you immediately when you turn your iPhone sideways. They need to fix it so you can shoot either tall or wide, without the viewers having the comments get messed up and the chat text field go away.
(2) They need better, faster, and easier control over bad users
I have seen some absolutely mortifying, disgusting, and downright filthy comments appear on screen while watching a broadcast, particularly if the person broadcasting is female. I’m stunned at some of what I’ve read, and which you can click on their comment, go to their profile and then hit the block button, this takes too much time, and is often impossible to do while trying to record and talk live. My friend Terry White suggested these fixes along those lines:
(a) Let us just triple-tap on a name to block them permanently from your feeds
(b) If you triple-tap someone, it removes all their comments from the rebroadcast
I think these are great ideas, and if Periscope doesn’t do something meaningful to curb this type of very inappropriate comments, it may be its undoing. Also, my buddy Jeff Revell suggested a visible flag of some sort to let viewers know before they click on a stream that it contains “adult” content. Right now, you might click on a stream and then see something you were just not expecting.
(3) Swiping Down to reveal the Stop Broadcast button is a bad idea
I wish I could count the number of times I’ve seen people (myself included) swipe down and instead of stopping the broadcast it brings down their Notifications panel, which covers right over the broadcast. Give us an easy way to stop the broadcast. Make a smaller version of button visible all the time.
(4) Let us choose which camera we want to start broadcasting with
The first thing I usually do when broadcasting is double-tap the screen to switch to the rear-facing camera so I can address the viewers directly. Not everybody will want to do that, which is fine, but when we’re starting a new broadcast, give us a choice of which camera to start with: front-facing or rear facing. While you’re at it — the double-tap to swap cameras isn’t very responsive — often times I have to double-tap four or five times before it actually swaps the cameras. How about a button, ya know, right beside that stop broadcast button.
(5) Help us to find a user’s broadcasts
If I find a user on Periscope, I’d love to be able to see a list of all the broadcasts they’ve made in the past 24 hours. Right now, finding them is a bit of the needle in the haystack thing
(6) Give us a way to link to our videos
Once we’ve completed our broadcast, there’s no easy way (from the App) to share a direct link to the rebroadcast. We need an easy way to share our broadcasts and lead people to us on Periscope
(7) Give me the option to see only broadcasts in my language, or just a few languages
I see a lot of broadcasts where the title is written in arabic, or Turkish, or Russian or other languages I can’t read, so I don’t know what the topic is, but it shows up as a featured selection at the top of the TV page. In fact, sometimes two or all three have titles in foreign languages. I might still like to see someone’s morning commute in Paris, or breakfast in Sydney, but I wouldn’t even know that’s a choice unless the titles are in English (luckily a lot of them are). Just give me a choice: show me everything, or hide the broadcasts in languages other than English (or the language I choose in the preferences).
None of those fixes compare with the technological features they’ve already mastered, so addressing these issues (which I’ve heard again and again from users), would go a long way to making Periscope the App of the Year. Just my two cents.
Hope you all have a great Tuesday, and we’ll see you over on Periscope (you can follow me there, I’m [wait for it, wait for it] @scottkelby ;-)
P.S.I’ll be doing a live Periscope broadcast later today. Hope you’ll stop by and check it out (here’s a link to download the free Periscope app).
I know I’m just officially announcing it today, but that’s only because I’ve been waiting on the video about (it’s just 1-minute and 25-seconds long) that explains what’s new in this ALL NEW tour.
In just one week from today (Monday the 13th) I’ll be kicking off the tour in Salt Lake City, and then on Wednesday I’ll be in Los Angeles teaching it at the LA Convention Center. We’re adding more dates all over the country (basically, if I came to your city with the original seminar, I’ll be back with this RELOADED seminar, too!). :)
I designed this new tour from scratch, with all new concepts, ideas, and techniques to pick up right where the original “Shoot Like a Pro” seminar left off, so it’s ideal for photographers who attended the first seminar who feel ready to learn the next level up. If you don’t feel like reading a bunch of stuff, just watch the video above which explains (really quickly) what the day is about.
Here’s the link if you want more info, or want to sign up (it’s just $99 for the full day, and includes my detail workbook).
Thanks so much for listen/watching, etc. and here’s wishing you your best Monday of the year so far!
P.S.A big shout out and my humble thanks to everyone who follows me over on Twitter. I hit one-quarter million followers there this past weekend, and I’m very grateful to everyone who allows me to be a little part of their day. Thank you very much. :)
We really had a lot of fun last night, and we even gave away a Canon Pixma Pro-1 printer last night to one of our live viewers, thanks to our friends at Canon (that’s us with the Pixma Pro-1 taken right before we did the Webcast).
Thanks again to all our viewers, and here’s wishing you a really great weekend!
Unpacking Dubai with Scott Kelby, RC Concepcion, and Brad Moore Tonight, April 2nd at 7:00pm ET, join Scott, RC and Brad as we take a look at Dubai and our recent middle east adventures! We’ll be showing photos, sharing stories, and giving away prizes, including a signed print from Scott! To register for the webcast go to KelbyOne.com/dubai then watch live for your chance to win.
Want to learn from Scott Kelby, Joe McNally or Joel Grimes live in person? Check out these seminar tour dates to see if they’re coming to a city near you!
Leave a comment for your chance to win a free ticket to one of these events!
It’s Not About The f-Stop by Jay Maisel
You are about to go on a visual journey and learning adventure with one of the greatest photographers of all time, Mr. Jay Maisel—a true living legend whose work has impacted, informed, and inspired generations of photographers from all over the world. Now, for the first time ever, Jay’s amazing insights, captivating stories, and expressive images have come together in a groundbreaking book that has the power to change the way you think and create photography forever.
In It’s Not About the f-Stop, Jay takes you beyond the buttons and dials on your camera to teach you the most important parts of photography: how to finally “see” like a photographer, and how to capture the world around you in a way that delights, intrigues, and challenges the viewer.
You can pick up your copy from the KelbyOne store, or leave a comment for your chance to win ONE OF FIVE FREE COPIES that we’ll give away right here next week!