Feeding the Sika Deer in Nara, Japan. 2012. (Captured by my sister, music writer, Alex Vickery.

I stared at this cursor for a good ten minutes before I actually let a line stick. I feel like the ending to an episode of Doogie Howser, M.D.

An enthusiastic, "Yes," was my response to Brad's request that I pen a guest post, without question, because Brad is awesome, but the fact is I spent a lot longer than ten minutes catching up on the past guest posts here that I had missed. I was blown away at the inspiring words and visuals and was suddenly at an impasse.

With 62 pages of posts from world-renowned artists, what was I going to bring to the table? After considerable thought I decided to try to answer a question that I'm casually asked all the time.

"What is your favorite photo?"

Now I'm sure most are implying an image that I personally took, in which case I have frames that I like at any given time. To get those out of the way here are a few of my own most recent images that I personally enjoy.

Houston artist Kelsey Jackson. 2014.

Houston-native, Machine Gun Kelly. 2013.

Actress Katlynn Simone of BET's "The Game". 2014.

Polar Vortex 1. Buffalo, NY. 2014.

Old Forge, NY. 2014

Houston artist Cray Cray. 2013.

Back to the question at hand. My answer is the same every time. My favorite photograph is one I didn't personally take, in fact I don't really know who took it. It's a medium format print of an image of my grandfather teaching a firearms class during his time in the Air Force stationed Tachikawa AFB near Tokyo, Japan. I always loved the texture of the image and the official stamp on the back. The photo, as old as it is, is sharper than 99% of digital captures today. It makes me want to use my Hasselblad more.

Both of my grandfathers died in the late 90's and I loved both of them dearly, however the reason why the image is so important to me isn't just because of who is in the photo, but more of what the image represents: family.

I remember being envious of grade school classmates that always seemed to have several cousins close by or a huge family gathering every weekend. My family was stretched from San Francisco to New York to Tokyo to Cleveland to Paris and everywhere in between. I moved with my family from Houston, TX to Paris, France in the middle of my 5th grade year. Then we moved back 3 years later. It was a tough adjustment, but I got through it. In the end I had been to a dozen different schools, as many or more different houses, different environments and different memories.

No matter where we were, I always loved that I could open up our photo albums and see the same photos of friends and family. Those photographs held it all together.

My dad and his brothers on Halloween. Buffalo, NY.

Ever since I started to really enjoy photography several years ago, I have been on a quest to preserve as much of my family's negatives, prints and old video footage as possible. It started with the tedious task of converting our family's old VHS tapes into digital files and progressed into scanning prints, negatives, and sometimes other interesting documents like postcards or report cards.

Me. Normandy, France. 1994.

As photographers we take the greatest care organizing and archiving our own photography, so why not make that same effort to protect our family's historical record? Regardless of how organized and secure our own pixels are, for most of us, there is an aging box of yellowing prints from a pre-digital era that aren't part of that archiving workflow, but they should be.

My sister recently moved back to the states from Dublin. My mom lives in Singapore. Before that they were in Brazil. It’s tough not getting to see some of your family as much as you'd like. In 2012 I visited my grandmother in New York whom I rarely get the chance to see. She had a very old photo from 1914. It was a photo of her mother, my great grandmother as a young schoolgirl in 1914. She was about to throw it out. I had to save it.

I rescued the photograph and scanned in a ton of old photographs she had collected. It's important to me, these photographic records of my family's history. Sometimes, if not all the time, the process of scanning and organizing an overwhelming pile of prints is tiresome, but the look on your family's face when they've re-discovered an old memory at the bottom of that pile that you unearthed and preserved can make it all worth it.

In 2010, for my grandmother's 80th birthday, I compiled my favorite scanned images into a 400-page book that I self-published as a surprise for her. Check out my blog to read more about that project.

They all don't have to be a book project, but if that unorganized pile exists for you and your family, scan them in. Burn them to a disc or drive. Make copies and give them to family members for safekeeping.

My grandmother. Akron, Ohio. 2010.

Family Selfie. Zugspitze, Germany. 2012.

My favorite photographs are the ones of my sister as a baby in Paris, the ones of my dad holding me as a baby, my grandma making me fried rice, grandpa as a kid.

I am their historian. I am their archivist. I am the only one who knows how to work the scanner.

Todd Spoth is a commercial and editorial photographer based out of Houston, Texas, USA. When he isn't making pictures, writing sentimental blog posts or speaking in the third person he writes and records his own music which can be heard here.

See more of Todd's work at ToddSpoth.com and connect with him on Twitter and Instagram.

Well, we’re back from our Valentine’s weekend getaway (with Sharon and Moose Peterson) and did we have a blast! (We packed a lot into 2-1/2 days).

I put together a photo-story-gallery post over at Exposure.so of my self-assigned photo project while I was there — I chose “Color” as my subject (and I explain why in the Exposure post) and share lots of images there as well.

If you’ve got a minute, I hope you’ll check it out (here’s the link).

Although I’msharing photos from my “color as my subject” project, we did lots of other fun stuff including:

(a) Visiting a way-off-the-beaten-path white cliffs/mountain-thingy in Abiquiu, New Mexico called “Plaza Blanca” where key parts of the movie “Cowboys & Aliens” was filmed. It was actually pretty cool (even though I’ve never seen the movie). I took plenty of photos. None of them good (we were there at “high noon”).

(b) Making over an hour drive to a State Park that was “Closed for the Season.” Ugh.

(c) Dining at what Joe McNally called “The best Mexican food he’s ever eaten” (Joe doesn’t like Mexican food, so that’s saying something). It’s called Gabriel’s and it’s just outside of Santa Fe. Super yummy.

(d) Getting lost and accidentally winding up in Taos, New Mexico, which as it turned out was not a bad thing.

(e) We laughed for 2-1/2 days solid. Our sides still hurt.

Now I’m back to work, and ready to roll — lots of fun stuff to work on this week.

Hope you all have a great day, and hope you get a chance to check out the shots from the trip. :)


Well, I say that but by the time you read this we’ll actually already be on our flight back home from our Valentine’s Day getaway weekend, where Kalebra and I met up with Moose Peterson and his wife Sharon in Santa Fe, New Mexico to spend a few days relaxing and shooting a few pictures in between (including this shot of the famous San Francisco de Asis church in Taos made famous by Ansel Adams).

Even though I’ve taught workshops out in Santa Fe in the past, my wife had never been, so we all decided to meet up here and spend a few days relaxing and just having fun (and we did plenty of both). The weather was absolutely beautiful (in the low 60s° in the days, and a bit cooler at night), and we had such a great time â” Moose and Sharon are a blast to hang out with.

I have lots of shots to share, but couldn’t get them done for today’s blog, so hopefully I’ll have them later this week. Tomorrow I have a Commercial Shoot for a new client, and then Wednesday and Thursday Peter Hurley is in town to finish up work on his new book which we’re producing for Peachpit Press (and of course, Peter will be our in-studio guest on “The Grid” on Wedneday at 4pm ET). Then on Friday I’m teaching my first “Shoot Like a Pro” seminar of the year to an already sold-out crowd in Tampa, and then on to Atlanta on Monday (there still a few seats left in Atlanta if you want to snag one of the last ones. Here’s the link). Ya know, as I write all this, I can see why I needed a few days off. LOL!

Hope you all have a great Monday, and hope to see you here tomorrow.



Howdy folks. Sorry for the late post, but I took today off to spend with my sweetie (we actually took the day off work, and snuck away to spend some time together). :)

By the way: the photo of Kalebra and I above (taken by our dear friend Mike McCaskey), was taken in Paris, France on the “Love Lock Bridge.”  To take part in this romantic tradition,  you  buy a lock, then take a marker and write your names on it; then you  lock it somewhere on to this bridge to symbolize your love. then you toss the key into the Seine river below, so the lock can never again be opened, and thus your love can never be broken.

This shot was taken while we were in Paris taping my Travel Photography online class and “A week in Paris with Jay Maisel” for KelbyOne but on my birthday that same year my wife surprised me with a return trip to Paris (one where I didn’t have to teach a class), and she presented me with another lock with our names engraved on it and we attached this new lock and threw away the key. :)

Today we're celebrating our 27th Valentine's Day together (and this year we'll be married 25 years!). As all my friends (and people on Facebook and Twitter) are quick to remind me â” I am the luckiest guy in the world, and are they ever right (and man, do I absolutely know it, and am tremendously grateful for it). :)

Here's wishing you a Valentine's Day to remember, and safe, happy, fun weekend! :)



Shoot Like A Pro Tour
In less than two weeks, Scott Kelby’s Shoot Like A Pro seminar tour is coming to Atlanta! On February 24, come spend the day with Scott, the photographer who wrote the bestselling book on digital photography, as he brings the concepts, images and ideas from his best-selling book series to life in this one-day live training seminar.

If you’re not in Atlanta, here are a few more cities and dates that are scheduled, with more coming soon!

Feb 21 - Tampa, FL (Sold Out)
Mar 12 - Phoenix, AZ
Mar 28 - Minneapolis, MN

Leave a comment for your chance to win a free ticket to the Shoot Like A Pro Atlanta seminar!

Creative Cloud Month at KelbyOne
Each weekday this month, a new Creative Cloud class is being added to KelbyOne! Take advantage of your full Adobe Creative Cloud membership by learning about the other programs you haven't been familiar with. Just this week we've added Getting Started with Acrobat CC, Adobe After Effects CC Basics, Getting Started with Bridge CC, and today Illustrator CC: Beyond the Basics is becoming available! Check back tomorrow for Lightroom 5 Basics for Photographers, and each day for the rest of the month for even more.

Leave a comment for a chance to check these classes out for free!

KelbyOne Live
Want to spend a day with Matt Kloskowski or RC Concepcion? Check out these seminar tours!

Lightroom 5 Live with Matt Kloskowski
Feb 17 - Houston, TX
Mar 5 - Los Angeles, CA

Photoshop for Photographers with RC Concepcion
Feb 19 - Lansing, MI
Feb 26 - Oklahoma City, OK
Mar 4 - New York, NY
Mar 26 - Arlington, TX

You can check out the full schedule for seminars through March! And leave a comment for your chance to win a ticket to one of these events!

The W.H.Y. (We Hear You) Project in San Francisco
What would happen if you gave students, ages 15-18, iPod Touch cameras and let them take to the streets of their neighborhoods? What stories would they tell? This is what Luanne Dietz asked herself before starting The W.H.Y. Project. She soon found out when she and other photojournalists teamed up with the students and were blown away by the emotions and stories the students captured.

The results will be on display in San Francisco at the Haus of Hipstamatic on February 28, from 6:00pm – 8:00pm. You can find out more about The W.H.Y. Project here, and get all the info about the gallery show here!

Last Week’s Winners
KelbyOne.com Class

KelbyOne Live Ticket
-Michael Allen

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

The Hunting Photographer

We live in an age where everybody is able to get their 15 minutes of fame. The internet has changed the way the world works. We all have our smart phones, tablets etc. and thanks to YouTube, everyone can now have the world as an audience.

This also means that there is a lot of traffic and a lot of people out there claiming their fame.

According to me (and this is personal) fame is very relative. I strongly believe that we as photographers are just artists and not "rock stars" although sometimes you do get that feeling :-)

If I see how many emails I get during a week about the topic, "how can I become famous?" I always think⦠"what are they after?" If you think being a working photographer means driving Ferraris with beautiful super models drinking champagne (and I don't promote drinking and driving here) well⦠you can't be more wrong. Most photographers I know are incredibly hard working people that sometimes can hardly make ends meet. We also drive a 6 year old car and are happy when we end up with profit at the end of the year. On the other hand I would not trade it in the world for a desk job (and I don't mean anything negative about people doing that work).

So what's the idea behind this blogpost?

Well, it’s very simple. Most of the people I talk to now a days are incredibly focused on being "famous," doing the stuff that they think will bring them boatloads of money and appearing on the cover of Vogue magazine. But when you ask further, it's often very clear that they have just started out in photography, sometimes shooting less than a year, and already thinking about quitting their day job and starting a career in photography.

Let's first look at this by a simple example.

Now, remember I'm doing this for my country (the Netherlands), so rates and taxes might differ from your area.

When we look online, we see several photographers offering photo shoots for a little over $100.00 (and often even much less but let's be reasonable). This sounds like a good deal, and let's be honest… If you do 10 shoots a week, that's a cool $1,000.00 you earn and this means $4,000.00 a month… Wow that's awesomeâ¦

What people often forget is that a lot of this "quick cash" is eaten up by taxes. For us in the Netherlands, we have 21% VAT, and after this you can give up between 31-40% to income tax, meaning roughly half of what you make is gone like "that."

Now we also have to take into account that one has to upgrade/maintain gear, rent a studio, eat, pay insurance, pay for your house, do advertising, pay telephone bills, etc. etc. The costs are huge.

When working for a boss this is often not so obvious, all insurances are paid (like medical in the Netherlands), you are building up a pension and because you work for a boss you don't have to worry about business things like when you get sick, are being sued etc.

So the first thing you have to realize is that if you want to be a professional photographer you have to charge⦠and I mean charge.

A portrait session for $100.00 just won't cut it. We did a quick calculation here and ended up with at least $199.00 for a session of one hour, taking into account that you also have to retouch the images, store the images and give the people something to drink. This is on the low side. However we are forced to the low side because in our home town, portrait sessions are already offered for (believe it or not) $15.00 in which people get 1 hour studio time and have to buy the prints, but they do get Facebook versions⦠Now I hear you say, "well that photographer won't survive." But that's the problem, he doesâ¦. simply because he has a day job and does photography in his free time which is also great for his clients because they can come on Sunday, in the weekends and during the eveningsâ¦â¦

Don't get me wrong, I strongly believe there is still a great market for photography. But as a photographer you have to be different. Deliver something that is unique, know your social media because this is where now a days everything happens, but most of all have passion for your trade and learn your trade.

When you understand what you're doing you can create unique looks that actually differentiate you from your competition. Make sure you have a professional looking studio which is a totally different appearance from a living room that is being transformed into a studio while you are being sniffed by the large family dog.

Create something that others don't offer and ask a normal premium price for it. Start using your clients as your advertising, make them enthusiastic about the product, and maybe start actions where they can earn prints by bringing in friends and family.

As you can see, being a photographer almost sounds like running a "normal," "everyday" business. But I believe that there is no normal business, every business is unique.

If you are prepared to work 24/7 or be flexible, then being a photographer can happen for you. However don't hunt for the "famous" part. Build your business, and most of all start building your network, because when you want to be on the cover of a magazine it's often not about the quality of your work but about the people you know. Trust me when I tell you that if you want to survive on magazine work only⦠You will probably starve to death.

But the most important thing I can tell you, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart, NEVER and I really mean NEVER hunt for something. Just let it happen. Be the best photographer you can, enjoy what you're doing, but don't quit your day job and jump in without a bungee cord. Always have a backup plan, and if that means working 40 hours for a boss and 20-30 hours as a photographer, well so be it. In my opinion working as a photographer should not feel like work. We are image makers, story tellers and as soon as something feels like work you will lose that creativity and fun.

Hunting for something can ruin your creativity and fun and that's the worst thing you can do for your business. I've witnessed a lot of photographers try so hard to get to their goal that they were losing the fun in their work. If something did not work out they would be angry, feel let down and disappointed, and slowly but surely start hating photography and losing their interest.

My story is very simple.

I was brought up in a family of photographers, all hobby non-professional shooters, but they loved everything about it. My grandparents had their own darkroom, and I was brought up learning the fun in photography.

When I grew up I wanted to be a vet, but couldn't due to some allergies they found. So I started my own business, stopped photography for a while and picked it up again to shoot nature, birds and sports all in good fun. Totally by accident I ended up with model photography and fell in love with photographing people. I slowly built up my skills and portfolio while still running the computer store with Annewiek (my wife). After 10 years (actually 2013) we sold the computer store to focus 100% on photography. Yes you did read this correctly, it took me 10 years to build up a foundation that I trusted enough to quit my "day job."

In all that time I did set goals for myself, but never unrealistic, and if something didn't work out I really didn't care. I shot for fun and I taught for fun. Even today it's the same way. We weekly teach workshops in our studio and if sometimes we don't sell out the workshops (I always teach small groups ranging from 5-8 people) I will not cancel the workshop, I will teach as soon as we have 2 people in the group for the very simple reason I love what I'm doing and whatever happens next⦠Well, we will see. I do of course have some wishes and goals but I will not really hunt for them because I know that I will lose focus on the things that are important⦠the here and now.

Create art and set reasonable goals, but never lose your passion for the art called photography. And if you don't become rich and famous, at least you will have a passion for life called photography. And trust me, you will see if you show that passion to people I would not be surprised if you are getting much further than you would ever dream.

You can see more of Frank’s work at FrankDoorhof.com, and connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.