Wednesday
Oct
2012
03

It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Brian Smith!

by Brad Moore  |  9 Comments


Taye Diggs & Brian Smith

Huge Thanks to Scott, Brad and the entire gang at Kelby Media for kindly allowing me to hijack the Photoshop Insider blog to share a few of my favorite portrait photography tips from my new book Secrets of Great Portrait Photography

I never set out to be a portrait photographer. I started out shooting news and sports photographer but gradually made the move to magazine portrait photography when I realized that I preferred connecting with people face-to-face instead of from the distance of a 600mm lens and I’ve learned a lot along the way.

Here are just a few of my favorite stories from the last two decades photographing celebrities—stories that reveal what really goes on behind the scenes of a high-profile portrait shoot. I learned a lot in the course of these shoots and I hope you will too.

PUSH THE RIGHT BUTTONS


David Hyde Pierce & Kelsey Grammer photographed for Art & Soul

The first key to successful portrait photography is finding a way to connect with your subject. Portrait photography is kind of like mixing psychology and speed-dating. You’ve got to quickly figure the right approach to take with your subject to connect with them and draw out their personality.

I get asked all the time how I pose people or what I say to them to bring out a great expression. There is no magic phrase or pose that works every single time. I’m not trying to be coy or hide any secrets, but there’s simply no formula to this. An approach that works for Donald Trump will likely fail miserably with Bill Gates. The best way I can answer that is to say: It’s Different Every Time!

When I was shot Art & Soul in partnership with The Creative Coalition and Sony as a way for celebrities to show their support for arts education, David Hyde Pierce was one of the first actors I photographed for the book. David has such an amazing face, I didn’t have to do much to come away with a memorable portrait.

That photo of David was enough to convince Kelsey Grammer to pose for the book. After just a dozen frames, I’d only started warming Kelsey up when he turned to leave with the words, “Certainly, you must have what you need.” I only had a split-second to save the shoot, so without pause I replied, “Yes, I suppose I do, though we got a lot more out of David Hyde Pierce.” The sheepish look on Kelsey’s face is his reaction to being upstaged by his Frazier co-star.

Peer pressure can be a wonderful thing.

FIND THE PLACE


Jack and Elaine LaLanne photographed in Morro Bay, California

When photographing an environmental portrait on location, the shot is about the person and the place, so I always spend time before the shoot getting to know the location and searching out the most interesting place to shoot.

I grew up in the 60s watching guru Jack LaLanne on TV every morning whip Americans into shape. When I got the chance to photograph Jack and his wife Elaine at their home in Morro Bay, California, I wanted to shoot the couple together at sunset with the Morro Bay Rocks behind them.

It was a landmark suitable for a legend – yet until they struck a pose flexing their biceps, I hadn’t pictured that the Morro Bay Rocks would become a third bicep rising out of the sea. Sometimes you just get lucky.

SEIZE THE MOMENT


Jeff Gordon photographed for Ocean Drive

Reportage and sports action photography are all about anticipating what’s about to happen and putting yourself in the right position to capture it when it unfolds. Portrait photography is more about directing and creating and making something happen. It’s not uncommon to hear photographers loudly debate the merits of one over the other – particularly when cold beers are involved. Honestly, one is not better than the other, they’re simply different. The great thing is that the skills you learn from one can make you better at the other.

The idea for this shoot NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon was to combine the expected with the unexpected. We got approval to shoot Jeff at Homestead racetrack, which is a place you might expect to find him, but gave it a twist by shooting him in a spot he could never be during a race—standing in the middle of the track along the final turn leading to the grandstands.

Anything can happen in the course of a shoot, and embracing these elements of surprise rather than fighting them can result in some unique portraits. In this case, I noticed that the wind kept blowing Jeff’s tie up, but instead of pinning the tie down, I asked the stylist to pin it up to match the sense of motion in the checkered race flag. Even when directing a shoot, keep you eyes out for things that happen naturally.

SELL YOUR IDEAS


Donald Trump photographed for New York Magazine

A great concept is worthless if you can’t convince your subject to do it. Convincing celebrities to take the risks that make great portraits is a bit of an art form in itself.

New York Magazine, assigned me to shoot Donald Trump at his Palm Beach mansion, Mar-a-Lago. I went in the day before to scout the location with the stylist, my wife Fazia. When we spotted a pair of massive poolside swan fountains and pictured the Donald, decked out all in white and sitting on the swan so that it looked like he had angel wings.

Without hesitation, my ballsy wife called the store where she’d reserved Trump’s wardrobe for the shoot, canceled the suits she had lined up and asked for every white suit they had in Trump’s size.

The next day we showed up at Mar-a-Lago with nothing but eight white suits. Trump’s handlers were worried since they’d never seen him wear all white and they were concerned that it might not be the best look for him. But I’ve always found that dealing with people confident egos is actually a piece of cake since we all want the same thing—to make them look good.

When Trump showed up, he took one look at his wardrobe and said, “I’ve always wanted to do a shoot in a white suit. Don’t you think I’ll look good in a white suit?” As it turned out, he did look good in a white suit. And he loved the look so much he even bought the suit!

LESS IS MORE


Don King photographed for Forbes

When Forbes assigned me to shoot Don King, art director Bob Mansfield’s direction consisted of two words: “Think cover.”

I knew I had to bring back a bold, eye-catching image if I wanted to land the cover and figured that nothing could be more eye-catching on the cover of a business magazine than King’s signature hair.

We kept the shot very simple. With King in profile, I backlit him from both sides to rim light his face and make his hair glow, and his face is lit from the front with ring flash. Right before we shot, Don did his part, combing through his hair to make it stand up. Did Don make the cover? Absolutely!

SHOOT LESS – THINK MORE


Simeon Rice photographed for ESPN the Magazine

When you’re shooting pro athletes, it’s virtually a given that your time will be limited. You can either panic or embrace it.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were in the midst of their Super Bowl run when ESPN the Magazine sent me to shoot defensive end Simeon Rice. With only a half hour to do so, my job was to come away with as much variety as I could in the time I had to make my editor happy.

Sure, you can walk in with a high-speed motor drive and machine gun the hell out of the shoot, but often the best approach is to do the opposite. We kept things very simple, shooting outdoors in available light against a plain black background with my vintage Graflex Super D camera and Polaroid Type 665 Positive/Negative film. You shoot, pull the Polaroid to process, wait 15 seconds, peel it apart, drop the negative side into cold water, and look at the positive to see what you got. Out of the 39 frames we shot, five shots ended up in the magazine.

Shoot less. Think more. Make every shot count.

SHOOT ONE FOR YOURSELF


Christy Martin photographed for Sports Illustrated

Never leave a shoot without at least one shot that makes you proud. Although some magazine assignments can be very open-ended, others read like a shopping list. You always have to photograph what’s on the list, but you shouldn’t overlook a great shot just because the magazine didn’t think to ask for it.

This Sports Illustrated shoot of boxer Christy Martin read like an endless shopping list of shots. We started early in the day and had knocked out the sixteenth and final shot and everyone was beat. When I told Christy I had an idea for one final photo, she shot me a look like, “You know I could kick your ass.” But she agreed to do it if I made it quick.

I pulled out my 4×5, placed a single flash head on a boom directly overhead to mimic the tungsten spotlights you’d see at a fight, and taped a full CTO warming gel over the reflector. I shot just four frames of 4×5 and sent Christy on her way. When I shipped the take to my editor at SI, I made certain those four frames were on top.

A week later I got a call from my editor; “Congratulations, you got the cover—and it wasn’t even one of the shots we asked for.”

Always shoot one for yourself because there’s often more to the story than just what’s on your shot list. Those four extra sheets of film got me a cover I wouldn’t have had if I’d done only what was asked.

HAVE FUN


Nude Golf photographed for Sports Illustrated

If I had to rank these points, I’d actually put this number one. Never, ever forget that photography should be FUN, both for you and the person on the other side of your lens.

One of the keys to successful portrait photography is having all the technical aspects of the shoot nailed down before the subject walks in front of your lens. Then put all the technical stuff out of your mind so that you can concentrate on the person you’re shooting.

As a photographer, there’s nothing better than getting a call from a photo editor who begins the call with the words, “I’ve got a shoot that’s perfect for you…” unless their next words are “nudist golf.” With those two words, consider my calendar cleared. Our shoot was not only tons of fun – it also resulted in some of my favorite photographs ever.

TELL THE STORY


Richard Branson photographed for Time Magazine

I’ll close with this portrait of Richard Branson from the cover of Secrets of Great Portrait Photography since it encompasses so many of the points I’ve made in this post.

“Richard Branson…on Necker Island…in a spacesuit.” That pitch from TIME magazine photo editor Dietmar Liz-Lepiorz is as good of a pitch as I’ve ever heard, but to be honest, he had me at Branson.

Branson is a photographer’s dream subject: He’s extremely media savvy, and he knows a great concept when he hears one. So when we suggested putting him in a spacesuit for a story about his new Virgin Galactic space flights, he was immediately sold on the idea.

Necker Island had a lot of great locations ranging from palm-lined tropical beaches to red rock cliffs that looked like Mars, but my favorite was a little sandbar just off the island surrounded by nothing but the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean. After discovering that I wanted to shoot on a spit of sand just off the island at sunrise, Branson leaned over to me at dinner and slyly said, “Sunrise is at 5:30 a.m.” Without skipping a beat, he added, “So you and I need to be at the dock at five.”

The next morning, which just happened to be Christmas Eve morning, we were all up before dawn boarding the boat to the sandbar just in time for Branson to don the spacesuit as the sun began to break the horizon. I shot from one knee so that Branson and his spacesuit rose heroically into the sky. We shot for about and hour starting at first light. The resulting portrait, blends conceptual and environment portrait with a touch of the unexpected and boy did we have fun!

You can see more of Brian’s work at BrianSmith.com, keep up with him on his blog, and find him on Facebook and Twitter.

For a limited time, you can also get 35% off Secrets of Great Portrait Photography using the code SMITH at the Peachpit Store!

Tuesday
Oct
2012
02

Moments of Football Photography Non-Greatness

by Scott Kelby  |  32 Comments

I know it’s early in the season, but it’s never too early to start sharing those all-important de-motivational moments that speak to football photographers in a way that only moments of non-greatness can. I hope you enjoy this series I created with some of my most non-glorious moments.

Above: Commitment. It has three “m’s.” It’s sticking with it, even if you know it’s wrong. It’s following the running back without second-guessing. It’s going where the Quarterback leads. It’s what makes #6 in my series of De-Motivational Posters. 

Above: A lesson in sports photography or a lesson in life? Why can’t it be all three?

Above: I call it, “Courage.” If you take away the C and the e and the g, it’s oura. Creepy, right.”

Above: Remember, Focus is more than just a word — it’s a five-letter word. Think about it.)

Above: Imagine isn’t just a song. It’s a word, too. I created Number 3 in my series of de-motivational posters to inspire you to soar high to greater heights of towering highness up really high in the skyness.

 

Above: I created #4 in my series of de-motivational posters in hopes that it inspires you to inspire others about inspirational aspiration of inspiring impassioned inspiration and the perspiration that comes with not using deodorant.

I’m off to Los Angeles for my seminar Wednesday, so I’m out. I hope you have a totally motivating day of motivational motivationalness!

Monday
Oct
2012
01

We Raised Over $2,000 For The Springs of Hope Orphanage

by Scott Kelby  |  3 Comments

That’s right!!!! From our Guitar Raffle for Springs of Hope Orphanage in Kenya we raised a total of “$2,225.o0″ for the orphanage!!! Seriously, how sweet is that!!!!!! :)

I’m thrilled that we were able to raise that much and very thankful to ALL of you for helping to feed, clothe, educate, and bless these wonderful children. You guys have come through once again!!!! :) :) :)

Also, once again our congratulations to raffle winner Henry Heerscap (your guitar should be on the way this week!).

Monday
Oct
2012
01

If you missed my live “Light it, Shoot it, Retouch it” tour….

by Scott Kelby  |  6 Comments

..when it was out on the road (or if I didn’t come to your city or country)….you can watch the entire seminar online, from start to finish, no matter where you are in the world.

You even get the same tour workbook (but in color no less), plus all freebies I gave out for attendees.

The full-day seminar is now available as a digital download (just like you’d buy a movie online to download to your computer), for just $49.

The short one-minute video above gives you the full scoop, or go to the download site: http://kelbytraining.com/product/light-it-shoot-it-retouch-it-live-download/

Monday
Oct
2012
01

As the father of a Disney Princess of my own, I think this video is absolutely priceless

by Scott Kelby  |  8 Comments

I know this isn’t about Photoshop or Photography, but everything doesn’t have to be about that, right? Great!

In that case, take a moment watch this short “Celebration of what it means to be a Princess today” with your daughter (you’ll be so glad you did). If she has a brother, you should have him watch it, too! :)

 

 

Friday
Sep
2012
28

Quick Friday Update

by Scott Kelby  |  19 Comments

Hi Gang: We’ve been in the studio for two weeks straight now working on a big project for Kelby Training Online that we’ll be launching this fall, but even though we’ve all been pretty much heads down working on that, lots of other stuff is still rolling, so here’s just a few quick things:

(1) Yesterday we launched a NEW WEEKLY SHOW called “Photography Tips & Tricks”
We call it “Photo TNT” for short, and you can watch the currently streaming version right here (you jump in wherever it’s at in the show), or later today we’ll have the on-demand version online. It’s hosted by RC, Matt, Larry, Pete and Me and it’s just a series a quick tips and tricks — straight and right to the point. Hope you’ll check it out (and if you don’t mind helping us spread the word about it, that would be awesome!). The site to watch on-demand will be http://kelbytv.com/photographytnt/

(2) A lot of folks asking about the Nikon D600 for shooting sports.
Although it did great job as my 2nd body for the Titans game last week, if you remember my concern was that at 5.5 frames per second, it was a little slow. I was hoping by adding a battery grip I could get it up to 8 frames per second (like you could with the D700, which I believe this camera replaces). So far, what I’ve been able to dig up: the battery grip for the D600 doesn’t add fps. More if I hear anything more. Still an amazing camera for the price (it pretty much does what the D3x did (24 megapixels) for about 1/4 the price, and it has more features).

(3) This weekend I’m shooting the Redskins/Bucs game on the sidelines
I’ll post some of my favorites (providing I have favorites) here next week. Looking forward to shooting RGIII (what an athlete!). However….GO BUCS!

(4) Check out Matt Kloskowski’s “Ski Report”
It’s Matt’s new blog where he gets to talk about more than just Lightroom, and he’s got some great stuff on there about his shoot out West with the D800E and the just-announced Photoshop Elements 11. Here’s the link.

(5) Do you live in LA? Do you live near Los Angeles? Do you want to hang out with me on Wednesday and learn some really cool new Photoshop stuff? Awesome! Here’s the link. (I have a video there that explains what I’m teaching in the tour). 

(6) My birthday was back in July
Yet I still don’t know who sent me that picnic basket.  :(

(7) Back up the photos on your cell phone
I’ll bet your DSLR photos are backed up, but when was the last time you backed up the photos on your cell phone? A lot of these might be shots of your family and shots that are irreplaceable. Today’s a good day to do a quick back-up of those cell-phone photos. It’ll take you five minutes. Do it now. :)

(8) Quick Photo Walk Update: We have over 1,200 cities with over 23,000 walkers signed up
if you haven’t signed up to join your local walk…..what are you waiting for? It’s free and I promise you’ll love the experience. Also, Monday is the last day to apply to lead a city as part of my worldwide photo walk  so if you were thinking of it, do it now. Also, Here’s the link to join a walk, or lead a walk. See you Saturday, October 13th. :) 

(9) We have a ton of FREE training and fun stuff on YouTube
We have a free Kelby Media Group YouTube channel, including lots of classes from the Google+ Photographers conference, and sneak peeks at classes, tutorials, all the episodes of “The Grid” and a bunch of just fun or funny stuff. Here’s the link (you can subscribe for free and then you’ll know when we post new stuff).

(10) If you missed my “Light it, Shoot it, Retouch it” LIVE tour….
….you can now watch the entire seminar, from start to finish, and get the same tour workbook (in color no less), plus all freebies I gave out for attendees, no matter where you are as the seminar is now available as a download (just like you’d buy a movie online to download), for just $49.95. I put a one-minute video about it below that gives you the full scoop.

That’s it from a rainy day in Tampa. Hope you have a great weekend, and be sure to welcome the regular refs back to your local NFL field (all the replacement refs have returned to Foot Locker).

Cheers,

-Scott

 

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