Wednesday
Dec
2012
05

It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring David Bergman!

by Brad Moore  |  11 Comments

I’m honored to be back here for a second time as Scott’s guest blogger. Like my last post, I’m going to share some non-technical thoughts because it’s too easy to get lost in gear and megapixels.

It’s hard to believe I’ve been a professional photographer for as long as I have, but here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.

People Still Love Prints

Technology is awesome. I sleep with my iPhone next to my bed and am at my computer within minutes of waking up. Photos look great on the iPad and my online portfolio is an important marketing tool.

But physical prints are still king.

When is the last time you held one of your favorite images in your hands, printed on 11X14 heavyweight matte paper? Try it. Have a real print made, frame it, and hang it on the wall. It feels good and looks good.

I’ve created a modern business by selling prints. I tour with a number of bands (most recently Bon Jovi), and offer officially licensed prints through my company TourPhotographer.com. It’s a fun gig, makes money, and fans seem to enjoy getting real prints.


Fans can buy various sizes of my 2011 image of Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora in Istanbul.

Prints have an impact that screen images just don’t have. You can scroll through hundreds of photos in a Facebook web gallery and they’re gone in a flash. But go through a box of mounted prints, and you’ll instinctively handle the artwork more carefully.

After I shoot a job, I try my best to make a big print of my best image, sign it, and mail it to the PR person, manager, subject, etc. Sometimes I actually get a call or email back thanking me for sending it, and the next time I see them, they remember me.

How often does that happen from a web gallery?

There Is More To Being A Professional Photographer Than Just Making Great Images

Photographers are everywhere. Digital cameras, autofocus, and Instagram have made it simple for anyone to make “decent” images.

But how many people do you know who are full-time, working professional photographers? There aren’t that many of us.

Why?

Because “point, click, and share” just isn’t enough.

I was fortunate to begin my career nearly 25 years ago, before technology lowered the entry barrier to the profession. What I learned is that “taking the picture” is only about 10% of the job.

There is so much more that goes into making a successful photography business: Marketing, promotion, invoicing, managing and archiving your image library, backups, balancing the books, buying and testing new gear, commercial insurance and workman’s comp, pre- and post-production, taxes, and more.

Of course, having the right gear for the job is important as well.


Here’s the gear I used at SuperBowl XLVI. If I missed a shot, I couldn’t ask the players to do it again.

Your Uncle Bob may have a shiny new DSLR, but would you trust him to capture a once-in-a-lifetime event like your wedding? What happens when his only battery dies or he’s in the bathroom during the cake cutting?

Just because you occasionally make a good photo doesn’t mean you should quit your day job.

Relationships Are Everything

People hire photographers that they know and like. It’s rare, if ever, that you’ll send in a portfolio or web link cold and get a gig. It just doesn’t happen that way.

If I go back far enough, I can trace most of my best jobs back to friends from college. You never know how it will happen: that guy was friends with this guy, I did a job for his sister and met this person at the gig, and ten years later he works at a big ad agency. Fast forward another ten years and, well, you get the point.

That doesn’t mean you don’t have to do the work. Once you get in the door, you still need to do a great job or they won’t hire you back or recommend you to anyone else.

I recently photographed my fifth Olympic Games, but it was my first time working for NBC. A few months later, when they put together a telethon to raise money for Hurricane Sandy relief, I called my contact at the network so I could do my part to help the storm victims. The next day, I found myself backstage shooting portraits of some of the artists before the show.


I photographed Jon Bon Jovi, Jon Stewart, Steven Tyler, Tina Fey, Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Joel, and others at the telethon.

I donated all of my profit from print sales of these images to the Red Cross. You can see them all at TourPhotographer.com.

Don’t burn any bridges. You never know when you’ll have to cross them.

—-

Those are just a few of the important things I’ve learned over the years. Photography is a service business and, like any other, it’s important to be professional, valuable, and memorable. Treat your clients well and hopefully they’ll keep coming back for more.

You can see more of David’s work at DavidBergman.net and TourPhotographer.com, and follow him on Twitter and Facebook

Monday
Dec
2012
03

My 7th Annual Holiday Gear Guide

by Scott Kelby  |  52 Comments

Welcome to my “7th Annual Awesome Holiday Gear Guide.” I think what has made this guide extra awesome the past couple of years is that I’ve really tried to focus on choosing great value-for-the-money gear. As always, this year’s gear guide is packed with some really cool stuff that we absolutely, positively don’t need on any level, but we desperately want because that is, after all, half the fun!

The only thing better than actually buying cool gear for someone you love is having someone you love buy you cool gear (kidding—kind of). So, without further ado (that’s right—everything up to this point was “ado”), here’s this year’s collection of really cool, handpicked gift ideas. (Remember my motto: It’s perfectly acceptable to buy gifts for yourself if it has lots of buttons or any kind of LCD screen.)

THE RULES

These are my self-imposed guidelines for which products make it into the guide. It’s just two rules actually. To be listed here they have to be:

  1. Products that I use myself and that I absolutely love, and now can’t live without (well, I could live without them, but I just wouldn’t want to).
  2. If a product makes the guide, it has to be one I would recommend to a close friend without hesitation, especially if my friend was a rich doctor (kidding).

A Large Print of One of Your Images

Giving a large print of one of your favorite images is a very personal gift, and you don’t even have to have your own printer to do it. I use Mpix.com a lot around the holidays for this very reason. I upload an image, choose a matt, plus a simple black metal frame with clear glass, and they ship it directly to the person on my gift list. Same thing with ArtisticPhotoCanvas.com. If you want to send someone a canvas print, they kick butt at it, and people lose their minds when they receive either a framed print or a canvas. You can buy gift codes from Mpix so the photographer on your list can choose to have her own image printed and framed or mounted just the way she wants.

LINKS
Mpix
Artistic Photo Canvas

 

Snapseed from Nik Software

This is one of the most clever, fun, and powerful photo-editing programs ever for iOS (for iPad and iPhone), and there’s even a Mac and Windows desktop version. If you want to give it as a gift, you can “gift” an app directly from the iTunes Store. Snapseed is only $4.99 for the iOS version and $19.99 for the desktop version, which honestly is way underpriced.

LINK
Snapseed by Nik Software

iOS: $4.99
Desktop: $19.99

 

Moo Cards

Moo makes business cards, but what makes them really unique is that you can upload 50 images and they’ll put one image on each card. So when someone asks for your business card, you can basically fan out your portfolio and say, “Choose whichever one you like.” The quality is excellent and they’re surprisingly affordable. Perfect for designers, photographers, and illustrators. They’ll dig it.

LINK
Moo Cards

Price: Starting at $19.99 for 50 cards

 

A Blurb Photo Book

Even though custom photo books are becoming a big thing these days, there’s a darn good chance the photographer on your holiday gift list hasn’t made one yet. If she uses Lightroom (and she almost undoubtedly does), then she can choose her photos, click on the Book module, create a custom book right within Lightroom, and upload it directly to Blurb.com. In a few days a beautiful photo book arrives (well, as long as she takes beautiful photos), and you just pick up the cost of the book. She’ll be hooked once the book arrives, and you’ll be a hero.

LINK
Blurb Books - Order by Dec 16 and save 25% off your order by using the discount code KLBYVID456

Offer valid through December 16, 2012 (11:59 p.m. local time). A %25 discount is applied toward your product total. Valid for printed books only. This offer is good for one-time use, and cannot be combined with volume discounts, other promotional codes, gift cards, or used for adjustments on previous orders.

Price: Starting at $12.59 for a 20-page, 7×7″, softcover book on premium lustre paper

 

SmugMug Pro Business Account

If the photographer on your gift list wants a way to showcase and sell his images online, he would totally love a SmugMug Pro Business account, which lets him do both without having to have any Web design skills. Really well designed, but it’s a tad pricy. Well, pricier than last year anyway since they just raised their annual rates, but you’ll be a holiday hero for it.

LINK
SmugMug Pro

Price: $35/month or $300/year

 

Sigma 15mm f/2.8 EX DG Diagonal Fisheye Lens

It’s not a lens you use every day, but when you use it, it really has impact. If the photographer on your list shoots sports, weddings, or travel, she will be psyched to see this super wide-angle fisheye lens with a red bow around it. Plus, it’s significantly cheaper than the Nikon or Canon fisheyes, but it’s sharp and works great.

LINK
Sigma 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye Lens

Price: $830

 

Lexar Professional 1000x UDMA 7 CompactFlash Cards

If you have a sports shooter on your list, there are two things you can count on: (1) The faster the speed of the memory card, the happier he is (for numerous reasons he already knows), and (2) he needs more memory cards. The new Lexar Professional 1000x cards are screaming fast (it’s what I use). Full disclosure: I’m one of Lexar’s “Elite Photographers,” so I might be biased, but I had Lexar cards even before that and, either way, for sports I’d still be using their 1000x speed cards.

LINK
Lexar 1000x UDMA 7 CF Cards

Price: Starting at $78 for 16-GB card (at B&H with Instant Savings deal until Dec. 31st).

 

Wacom Intuos5 touch Pen Tablet

Want to really score some points? Get your designer or photographer the new Wacom Intuos5 touch wireless tablet. They’re amazing and they’ll change the way he works in Photoshop forever (and he’ll think of you every time he picks up the wireless pen). I use the Intuos5 touch Small when I travel (it slides right into my laptop bag), and the Intuos5 touch Medium in the studio. This is a can’t-miss gift!

LINK
Wacom Inutos5 touch Tablets

Price: Small—$229; Medium—$349; Wireless Accessory Kit—$39.95

 

FolioBook Photo Portfolio for the iPad

If your photographer has an iPad, then she has probably been searching for the perfect portfolio app to show her work on the iPad, and there are a ton of them out there (and I’ve tried a bunch). But I think FolioBook is hands down the best one, and it’s cheap (just $12.99). Gift her the app directly from the App Store or buy her an iTunes gift card to get it.

LINK
FolioBook for iPad

Price: $12.99

 

LASTOLITE 8-in-1 Umbrella

LASTOLITE came out with this clever, very handy, and inexpensive shoot-through umbrella that acts like softbox, and I’m really impressed with it. Clever design, and it’s big enough that you’ll look like you spent a lot more on it than you did.

LINK
Lastolite 8-in-1 Umbrella

Price: $173

 

Really Right Stuff BH-30 LR II Ballhead

This year I’ve been using a smaller, more compact ballhead from Really Right Stuff (in my opinion, they’re the masters of ballhead manufacturing), and it has lightened my travel gear load while still letting me use the best ballhead on the planet. Same great features as the bigger BH-55 and BH-40 but in a smaller, lighter size. They’re not cheap, but they’re worth every penny. Give this to someone you love and she’ll love you forever.

LINK
Really Right Stuff BH-30 Ballhead

Price: $290

 

Jay Maisel’s DVD Collection

Jay Maisel is a living legend of photography, and the two classes we produced on location with Jay in New York have become classics, melding the feel of a documentary with a master class in learning photography. People’s reactions to Jay, his work, and these classes have been amazing, and you’ll get lots of hugs for giving these two DVDs as a gift—one she will treasure.

LINK
A Day with Jay Maisel 2-Part DVD

Price: $89.99

 

Some Cool Books

  

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our own books because they make really great gifts. Matt’s book on compositing is, I truly believe, the best book ever written on the topic. Period. RC’s book, The HDR Book, focuses on postprocessing in Photoshop, and it’s been a megahit (and helped to make RC a household name in Photoshop and photography). I have two new books out: The Adobe Photoshop CS6 Book for Digital Photographers and The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 Book for Digital Photographers. My company produced all of these books (just so you know).

LINK
Books from Kelby Training

Prices: See website

 

Another Cool Book

Here’s another book to check out: Moose Peterson’s new eBook called Taking Flight (for the iPad) is a fantastic book for anyone into aviation photography.

LINK
Taking Flight by Moose Peterson

Price: $14.99

 

B&H Photo Gift Certificates

There’s nobody on the planet who wouldn’t love you to death (like a puppy) if you get him a B&H Photo Gift Card. That way, he can get whatever he wants (within the limit of how much you put on the card, of course), but I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want something from the greatest photo store on earth. You can order them directly from the B&H site—they send a card and a catalog so it looks pretty substantial.

LINK
B&H Gift Cards

Price: Completely up to you

 

Silver Efex Pro 2 from Nik Software

If the photographer on your gift list is into black-and-white photography, this Photoshop and Lightroom plug-in from Nik Software will make him lose his mind. I don’t know a single black-and-white pro not using it because it’s just that good. You’ll score lots of points for this one.

LINK
Silver Efex Pro 2 by Nik Software

Price: $199.95

 

G-Technology G-SPEED Q Drives

Photographers are constantly fighting the battle of shrinking hard drive space, especially with all the high-megapixel cameras today with their giant file sizes. This year I switched all my photo archival duties over to G-Technology drives, and I’m loving them. I use their 12-TB G-SPEED Q system, which would definitely be for someone you’re very close to because they cost a few bucks, but giving one of these will change your relationship status on Facebook for sure. (That’s right, I’m saying the photographer on your gift list will marry you, or if you don’t get him one, he’ll divorce you. I’m kidding, of course. Kinda.)

LINK
G-Technology G-Speed Q Drives

Price: $799.95–1,799.50

 

1.4x Teleconverter

This is a reasonably inexpensive way to make a zoom lens even longer. It increases the zoom magnification by a factor of 1.4, so a 200mm lens becomes a 280mm for a fraction of the cost of actually buying a quality 300mm lens. I recommend buying one made by the same manufacturer as the zoom lens it’s going to be used with, so Nikon users would buy a Nikon teleconverter, Canon shooters a Canon, Tamron owners a Tamron, and so on.

LINKS
Nikon 1.4x Teleconverter
Canon 1.4x Teleconverter
Tamron 1.4x Teleconverter
Sigma 1.4x Teleconverter

Price: Starts at around $250, depending on brand

 

Subscription to Light It Magazine

If your photographer is into lighting, for $20 you can give him an App Store gift certificate so he can subscribe to my magazine on studio lighting and hot-shoe flash called Light It magazine (for the iPad). Of course, you could buy him just one issue for $3, but then it definitely goes in the stocking. For $620, you can get him a 32-GB iPad with retina display and a subscription and then you win the holiday gift-giver award for sure.

LINK
Light It Magazine

Price: $19.99

 

The Big Stopper ND Filter by LEE Filters

If you think the photographer on your list might want to make some of those gorgeous long-exposure black-and-white images (where the sea looks like silk), or she wants to shoot waterfalls in broad daylight and have beautifully smooth water (rather than frozen water), then get her an ND (neutral density) filter. It lets her keep the shutter open longer to get those wonderful water effects. Get her an 8- or 10-stop ND filter and she’ll lose control of her faculties. The Big Stopper will give her 10 stops, but it also requires the Lee System Foundation Kit filter holder, plus adapter ring, which will run you an additional $115 or more.

LINK
Lee Big Stopper ND Filter

Price: $160

 

Lexar USB 3.0 Dual Card Reader

Everything’s moving to USB 3 right now, and the faster the card reader, the faster your images download from your memory card to your computer (and faster is better). I use a Lexar Professional USB 3 Dual-Slot Reader that has both SD and CompactFlash in the same unit and supports UDMA 7 (read my Lexar disclaimer above).

LINK
Lexar USB 3.0 Dual Card Reader

Price: $64.99

 

Friday
Nov
2012
30

OK, we haven’t officially announced this yet, but….you can now “Rent” our individual online classes

by Scott Kelby  |  23 Comments

…and my new “Light it, Shoot it, Retouch it for Hot Shoe flash on-a-budget” is one of the first classes we have available for rent, just like you would rent a movie or TV show from online (that’s one of the shots from the class above   — here’s a link to a 1-minute video clip where I explain what I teach in the class). You get to rent it for three days (and watch as many times as you want during that three-day period).

Our special intro deal is  just $6.99 for the three day rental (here’s the link). The regular price will be $9.99

We’re rolling this new feature out in stages, and so only 12 or so classes are available for rental at this time, but of course more will be coming (we have literally hundreds of full-length online classes at KelbyTraining.com)

Now, why would we rent classes? I’m betting on the fact that you’ll watch one or two, you’ll totally dig ‘em, and then you’ll want to sign up to access all our classes 24/7, unlimited, all year long (after all; if you rent two or three classes, it’s a better deal to at least sign up for a month [or, better deal, a year] and watch as many as you want, right?).

Here’s some comments from people who have watched this new class: 

This has been the most informative tutorial I have ever watched !! Thanks Scott. I love how this guided the audience from the very first step (set-up), right to the finishing touches on Lightroom and Photoshop.


> Thanks Scott Kelby, for a thorough well thought out and complete short course on inexpensive lighting, and taking the shoot all the way through. I have been a shooter for many years, and even I learned a lot from your course. Thanks Again.

 

Okay … i’m raving about this course!!! thank you, thank you, and, thank you!!! I so needed every bit of what you gave us … not surprised … but very grateful!!!

 

Great course! I have been waiting to see some more photoshop & Lightroom classes and this one was great! Love the lighting and photoshop and Lightroom mix! Thank you Scott you nailed it:-}

 

Awesome class Scott. This class alone is worth the cost of Kelby Training. While I can afford (some) expensive studio gear, I can’t rationalize it nor do I have the space for it. This training hits the sweet spot for those who want to take better portraits of their family and friends without investing a bunch of money. Of course the retouching closes the loop. Thank you!

 

Well done Mr. Kelby! It’s nice to watch a tutorial where the focus was [not] on inexpensive gear.

 

Excellent Tutorial Scott! I especially liked the retouching segments – a perfect blend of beginning & advanced training!

 

It is, in my opinion, one of the better training videos I have watched on Kelby Training. Thank You.

 

Please do more like this i absoutley loved this course i already have all the gear you used in this class and i dont have any studio equipment…it felt like this class was designed for everything i want to be able to do… thank you so much!!!!

 

Simply an outstanding course! I really appreciate the focus on getting great results with a modest investment in lighting equipment.

 

Scott, I cannot wait for my Holidays time off to experiment with my off-camera flash. You got me all excited and I am now confident I will get great results! Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!!

 

This was one of the most useful courses for my photography. Thank you SO much for this.

 

I have been waiting for a course like this. It thoroughly and simply answered so many questions I had about using hot shoe flash for portraits.

 

Scott.. good video! Purchased the $70 Flash just to see how good..or bad.. it was. I am VERY surprised by the build quality, great. I put it to work last night in a quick shoot and it worked just fine! Thanks for the tip and the detail.”

 

Thanks for such a great lesson Scott! It’s like you read my mind.

OK gang, it’s available right now for rental (follow this link, then click the yellow button on the right side to get the rental). Hope you enjoy the class. :-)

 

Thursday
Nov
2012
29

LensProToGo Launches iPhone App!

by Brad Moore  |  3 Comments

Our friends at LensProToGo just announced the release of their free iOS app, which allows you to browse and order equipment quickly and easily right from your iPhone!

The app adds two new features not yet available on the website to make the rental process easier and more efficient. Users can mark select gear as a “Favorite” while browsing over 400 items by brand (featuring an up to date line up from both Canon and Nikon) or type.  Favorite items are always quickly accessible in the “Favorites” view so a renter can immediately select gear from their personally created list. Additionally, experienced users will benefit from the new “Quick Add” icon which allows them to add multiple items to their cart instantly, even from their Favorites list, without viewing the items detail page.

 

If users do want to learn more about a piece of equipment, the app’s item detail page provides photos, descriptions, technical specifications, suggested accessories and even a related item for comparison. Because LensProToGo is staffed entirely by working professional photographers and DSLR filmmakers, their expertise is essential to providing these relevant suggestions.  The app also provides links to camera manuals for photographers to view while in the field or on the go. Additionally, customers can access LensProToGo’s social media accounts and blog, as well as find directions to the store.

 

Paul Friedman, owner of LensProToGo, and his team wanted to make it easier, faster and more convenient for photographers and filmmakers to get the gear they need no matter where they are. Whether they are on location, waiting in line at the grocery store, or on the side of a mountain, renting gear is now just a few taps away. From a development standpoint, they wanted to focus on efficiency. As photographers and filmmakers, he and his team understand just how precious time can be.

The new app can be downloaded from the App Store by searching “LensProToGo” or by clicking right here.

You can also check out the LensProToGo blog, follow them on Twitter, like them on Facebook.

Thursday
Nov
2012
29

It’s Free Stuff Thursday!

by Brad Moore  |  95 Comments

Light It. Shoot It. Retouch It. – On A Budget with Hot Shoe Flash
If you’re a photographer who is looking to start using flash but don’t know where to start, Scott Kelby has you covered in his latest KelbyTraining.com class, Light It. Shoot It. Retouch It. – On A Budget with Hot Shoe Flash! And if you know a photographer who fits this description, this class provides a great gear guide that could provide some affordable gift ideas.

Leave a comment for your chance to win a 1-Month KelbyTraining.com subscription!

Kelby Training Live Seminars
Check out these upcoming seminars, and leave a comment for your chance to win a free ticket!

Photoshop CS6 for Photographers LIVE with RC Concepcion
Dec 3 – Ft. Lauderdale
Dec 6 – Seattle

Lightroom 4 LIVE with Matt Kloskowski
Dec 4 – Sacramento
Dec 10 – San Diego

One Light, Two Light with Joe McNally
Dec 17 – Houston

TAP! 2013 – Technologically Advanced Publishing Conference - January 8-11, 2013 | Orlando, FL
Photographers, content creators, multi-media professionals, authors and publishers – this is your event! TAP! 2013 is a cutting-edge training conference pushing new limits in digital content creation, publishing, marketing and monetization. The who’s who in this new emerging space will share case studies, talk tech and help you bring your digital publishing project to life. TAP! is designed for management and creatives alike. Sessions cover both strategy and vision as well as practical tools and techniques from content creation to final distribution.

Speakers include Scott Kelby, Guy Kawasaki, Rich Harrington, Terry White, Scott Bourne, and many more! Early bird pricing on all conference packages runs until December 7, use this code PHO12 and save an additional $150 on any registration package.

You can follow @iaepub on Twitter and like TAP! 2013 on Facebook for more info. Leave a comment for your chance to win a free 3 or 4-day ticket to this great event!

Panasonic Lumix GH3 Launch Event Tonight at Samy’s Camera
Tonight at 7:00pm, Samy’s Camera in Los Angeles is hosting a FREE launch event for the Panasonic Lumix GH3 camera featuring National Geographic photographer Ira Block! You can find out all about the event and register right here.

FREE Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT Workshop with Syl Arena
On December 19 from 6:00pm – 8:00pm, join Syl Arena for a free workshop in Hollywood! Syl will be hosting a two-hour workshop called Mastering The Speedlite 600EX-RT System at Canon Hollywood Professional Technology & Support Center on Sunset Blvd. It’s free, but registration is required. You can find out all about the workshop and sign up on Syl’s blog!

Extended Savings from B&H
Black Friday and Cyber Monday may be in the rearview mirror, but our friends at B&H still have some great sales happening! You can still save $70 on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 camera, and $35 on this Wolverine SNAP14 Digital Image Converter! Capture new holiday memories with the camera, and use the digital image converter to scan your old ones so they can easily be shared with your friends and family :-) And, don’t forget, NAPP members get free shipping!

500px iPhone App
If you’re a fan and user of the crazy popular photo sharing site 500px, you can now download their free iPhone app! Use it to keep up with your favorite photographers, find new ones to follow, and leave feedback on your favorite photos. If you don’t have a 500px account, you can get a free one right here!

Winners
Lightroom 4 Live Ticket
- Owen Colborne

KelbyTraining.com 1-Month Subscription
- Kim Spanulo

That’s it for today. Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday
Nov
2012
28

It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Brian Matiash!

by Brad Moore  |  28 Comments

I, Photographer

I believe it was last summer when I was having dinner with Brad Moore at City Fish in Oldsmar, FL when he asked me to write my first post for Scott’s illustrious Guest Blog series. I was humbled, giddy, and nervous. As a longtime follower of Scott’s work, being asked to contribute marked a milestone in my career as a photographer. I fully admit modeling a lot of how I teach and relate with our users at onOne Software based on Scott’s practices, so you can imagine my surprise when I got an email from Brad a few weeks ago with the subject, “It’s that time again.” I am truly honored to reprise my role as guest contributor and I’d like to thank Scott, Brad, Matt, RC, Corey, Stinky Pete and the rest of my good friends at Kelby Media for doing so much to help so many of us reach our own milestones as photographers.

<Cue the Wayne’s World wave dissolve and smoothly segue to the post>

I will always remember the first time I admitted to actually being a photographer to someone. It was in late winter of 2009 and I was photographing the beautiful and frigid coastline of Provincetown, MA. At the time, I had a full time job at a software company that created products for the financial sector and I was also starting to make inroads with my own little commercial photography business. I already had a few solid gigs under my belt and had been lining up some more. Things were looking good and my goal was to move into doing this full time at some point in 2010. While I was photographing the Provincetown coastline, an elderly woman saw what I was doing, walked up to me, and asked me plainly, “What do you do?”

And to that, for the first time in my life, I answered, “I’m a photographer.”

Prior to that, I would have likely stumbled and stammered to justify what I was doing and I’m sure that more than a few of you can relate. For some reason, there is this layer of self-doubt that we have when owning up to answering this particular question. It’s almost as if we are trying to justify it to ourselves as we answer it. Before I move on to how this memory spurred the point of this post, let me clear the air. We are all photographers. Whether you are a casual hobbyist, an avid enthusiast or a part/full time paid professional, just by virtue of picking up a camera with the intention of freezing a moment in time, you are a photographer.

So why is it that so many of us get defensive when someone calls you an amateur photographer? It’s such a beautiful word, so appropriate for so many of us out there, and yet in the same breath, it is seen as a form of denigration—a lower rung in a caste system of photographers. Have you ever actually looked up the definition of amateur? While there are different interpretations of the word, the definition I wholeheartedly subscribe to is ‘a person who engages in a pursuit.’ Doesn’t that sound so lovely? It almost has a romantic feel to it. And it’s true after all, isn’t it? Aren’t we all actively engaged in the pursuit of our photography? While I consider myself a working photographer, I also wholly consider myself an amateur. Photography is my life and I will dedicate my time here to mastering it in my own way and helping others find their own paths.

But let’s go back to the issue at hand—namely, the consternation that we feel when we have to justify whether we are photographers. It was in thinking about this that I realized what I should write about. The problem lies in this pervasive need to seek the approval of as many people as possible in order to justify whether you are a photographer, and worse, whether you are even a good photographer. For many of us, the quality of an image has been relegated to the response rate and engagement percentage of a post you made on your social media outlet of choice. Good, honest, quality feedback has been supplanted by mindless Likes and +1s. Our entire scale of artistic growth has been commoditized whereas the clear voices of a small group of mentors and trusted friends have been replaced by a cacophony of fleeting words and phrases left as comments. And then there are the trolls and the flame wars. Small-minded people getting off on slicing and dicing anything that you share with impunity, no matter what the nature is.

The culmination of investing your emotions and tying your growth to all of these things can be terribly destructive and stifling for those photographers out there who are doubtful of themselves and not sure whether they feel like they can contribute anything meaningful to the world with their work. All of this static may serve to turn someone away, making them gun-shy to share their work or even pick up a camera in the first place. I am saying this because I know it to be true. I have friends who are impacted in this way and it truly saddens me and that is why I wanted to bring it to light here. Photography is only what you make it out to be for yourself.

Understand this: photography isn’t easy. There are no shortcuts. It’s laden with frustration and disappointment, but it’s also a labor of love. Yes, the barrier to entry for creating an image is extremely low—just pick up any device capable of capturing an image and press a button. If that’s as far as you want to take it, then by all means “snapshoot” away. I’ll support you 100%.

There is one lesson I’m hoping you take away from this: true growth in photography, or in any craft or vocation, requires confidence in yourself and confidence in your ability to dust yourself off when you do fail, because you will. It also means that you have confidence to weed out the static and confidence to pursue meaningful growth from those you trust and who will give feedback that is both constructive and supportive and not laced with anything else.

If there is one concept that I am vehemently passionate about, it is sharing of work. I share my work because I believe that is how I infuse the last piece of soul into my image. I also share the anecdotes and technical details surrounding the creation of my images because I absolutely love teaching my techniques and giving away the farm. I don’t share to get comments, +1s or Likes. They are most certainly appreciated but please understand that they aren’t any sorts of driving forces for me. I share because I am a photographer and sharing is the elemental outcome of being a photographer.

I’d like to leave you with what my hope is that you’ll take away from this post. Do you remember when I defined the word ‘Amateur’ up above? It is a person who engages in a pursuit, and in this case, the pursuit is photography. What I’d like you to think about is ‘who are you pursuing photography for?’ By determining the true answer to that question, I suspect you’ll find your individualized path to artistic growth appear a bit more clearly.

And always remember: never stop shooting.

Thank you for your time.

You can see more of Brian’s work at BrianMatiash.com, and find him on Google+, Twitter, and Facebook.

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