Monthly Archives February 2010

Photo by Andrew Allen Morton

For 5 years, I have worked behind the scenes as a photographer’s assistant. This is (or can be) an illusive job.  In short, I get paid to be surrounded by celebrities while they are being photographed for print advertisements, music packaging, world-wide publicity uses, book covers, movie posters and television shows.

I got into this occupation in  an unusual way. Although I had done photography as a hobby since I was 15, I had no idea what the business was like. Since moving to Nashville, I had started shooting live music shows as well as live burlesque performances for fun. I received a Nikon point-and-shoot digital camera for my 24th birthday and started taking it everywhere I went. Since I am also a performing singer-songwriter, I  knew a lot of peer musicians that were more than happy to let me take photographs of them at their shows. Before getting that first digital P&S camera, I had only used 35mm film, in fully manual SLR cameras, so the new convenience was astounding.

I was introduced to professional commercial photographer Tony Baker around this time. While working on his house, I started asking him questions about his photography and his shoots.  I had been a fan of his music photography work for some time but didn’t know much about how he made those photographs, including the team of people that assist him in the process. Since I had a background in construction, he asked me to build a set for a CD packaging job he had coming up.  The shoot took place in the beautiful gardens of the Opryland Hotel and Convention Center, and my job that day was to build an underwater platform that the artist would stand on to appear to be floating on water. The set also involved large, fake trees, a sod-laid grass surround, and a 20’x40′ scenic background.  There were two other guys that showed up with a huge grip truck full of photography equipment. After I finished building the set, I volunteered to help the other guys with their jobs. There was a lot of equipment I didn’t know the names of, and a lot of terminology I had never heard, but that didn’t stop me from asking “what can I do?” and “how can I help?”


The shoot lasted at least 14 hours. Maybe longer. Without a hitch.

Tony Baker appreciated my willingness to help the production, and my ability to “jump right in” and soon I was on almost all of his local jobs. In a few short months, I learned the names of the photography equipment used, how it works, and the right way to operate them. I also built friendships and working relationships with the photographer’s assistants who  I worked with, and assured them of my ability to help them do their jobs, all the while learning every lesson I could to be a better photographer. Since the main reason I started assisting was to, in fact, become a photographer.

Through other assistants, I was called by other photographers and producers to help on their productions. I soon learned that EVERYONE is different in their behavior, work ethics, production etiquette, and lighting style. What one photographer ALWAYS does, another photographer NEVER does. What didn’t change was my willingness to work as hard as I could, safely, for as long as it took. I ALWAYS asked questions, and still do, in regards to personal technique and creative lighting. Although at times I CAN offer my professional opinions regarding lighting and possible shot ideas, often times it is my job to create the desired look for the photographer, and HIS/HER client.

Photo by Joshua Black Wilkins

I became  aware of Jeremy Cowart’s work in the spring of 2007. At the time, he was the “new” guy on the scene and quickly gaining popularity in the music industry for his dynamic photography. Nashville buzzed with talk of his talent and everyone took notice. One assistant who I had worked with a lot was working with him, and it wasn’t long before I approached his producer to offer my assistance.

Nashville is a big city with small circles. In any given industry, you’re 3 degrees of separation from just about anyone.

The first shoot I worked on with Jeremy was for a Fox TV show that was to be called “Nashville.”  I was given the wrong call time and showed up late. Usually this is a death card. I wasn’t nervous to meet him, but quite embarrassed about my 1 hour tardiness. I showed up at a Nashville studio surrounded by 50+ people I didn’t know, including a full TV film crew.  Other than apologizing for being late, I wasn’t able to talk to him much that first day. We had 5 locations to shoot, 5 assistants, two grip trucks, a full blown digital rig, and the sun set at 8pm.  That job was 18 hours long, lasting well into the night .

Shortly after, I was called again to work with Jeremy and have been with him since.  I’ve traveled with him to remote locations without a GPS unit. We’ve worked in the August heat of Savannah, Georgia, and the snow-covered deserts outside Santa  Fe, New Mexico.  And many places in between.


As his 1st assistant, a title I don’t take lightly, my primary responsibilities are to show up on time, discuss the shots for the day (if they have been decided yet), plan the lighting for those shots, help organize the production and flow for the day, and generally be available to help make the shoot a success. One thing special on his shoots is that everyone helps everyone else.  It takes a team of people, working together.  No matter how hectic the day becomes, the atmosphere around him is fun, happy and creative. We almost always have other assistants on Jeremy Cowart shoots. Again, we keep this circle small.  Egos have no place in Jeremy’s world and the people hired to create his shoots are friendly, helpful and fun to be around.
I could list the artists we have worked with, but chances are you already know them through Jeremy’s work.

In contrast to MANY other photographers I’ve known and worked with, Jeremy has an amazing ability to keep his cool.  In the most stressful situations, Jeremy maintains a professional and easygoing attitude.  In situations where most of us would have a complete meltdown, Jeremy does not.  One of the many things that has inspired me about him over the years is his never-ending quest to create “different” photographs on a daily basis. And it doesn’t stop at photography. He is ALWAYS creating.  When he gets bored with something, he might paint. I hear he also plays guitar. When he is troubled about a social tragedy, he looks for ways that he can HELP people. He doesn’t do this for his ego, Jeremy truly GIVES his talent and heart to those he feels deserves a little help from a friend.

This brings me to something I am most proud of in my life.  HELP Portrait Project was something Jeremy HAD to do.  He’ll tell you that. The compassion in his heart for those less fortunate was so great that by mid-2009 he came up with an organization that he felt could help people.  The basis of HELP Portrait was to make, and give photographs to people that have lived through, and continue to struggle with social and personal downfalls.  This includes the homeless, battered and abused women, orphans, ex-gang members, foreign refugees, the disabled, the elderly and alone, as well as anyone that needs a little boost in respect and love.  Needless to say, I signed on before he finished his proposal.


The idea was simple.  Gather groups of photographers, assistants, hair and makeup professionals, producers, catering companies, camera stores, printing services, video crews, grip houses, studios, civil organizations, church groups and ANYONE that wanted to help people.  Assemble all these people together for one day, arrange for those in need to come to this temporary studio,  take their photographs, and give the photographs to each person .   Okay, it wasn’t that simple.  There were blogs involved, and online commercials, and TV stations, and websites, and coffee shop conversations and many sleepless nights making sure he was doing the right thing. Brainstorming phone calls at 11:30pm were not unusual. On top of that, there was no money to play with. The idea was to give. And we did. And he did. And he continues to, at any cost.

As I write this, Jeremy is in Haiti (you can see some of the shots from his project if you look through his tweets from the past few days).  He is doing whatever needs to be done to help the people who need it most. The celebrities can wait. The movie posters can wait. The CD packages can wait. His family will wait, knowing that he is doing what he HAS to do, all in the name of love.  If that isn’t inspiration for us all, than we have no heart.

You can see more of Joshua’s work at, and hear some of his music on MySpace

Jeremy Cowart’s first assistant, Joshua Black Wilkins.  Joshua is continuing our ongoing assistants guest blog series with a look into his world.  He shares his story of how he came to know and work with Jeremy, and gives a bit of insight into working in what seems to be one of the new photography hotbeds (in my, Brad’s, opinion), Nashville.

Personally, I think it’s very interesting to see how each assistant has their own unique story of how they’ve come to where they are in life and their career.  So come back tomorrow to see how Joshua went from being a construction worker to assisting a celebrity photographer!

New Player

Lot’s to cover today, and not much time to do it. Here goes:

Yesterday we Released a New Video Player for Kelby Online Training
We’ve been gathering your feedback and ideas for a while now, and yesterday, after many months of development, we launched a totally new player for Kelby Training Online, and we’re pretty psyched about it (a small version of it is seen above). The new player has a much larger screen size, lots of great new features (requested by you guys), and the initial feedback has been just fantastic! (If you have additional feedback or need support, you can go here and send it to us. This way it goes directly to our web team and they can make changes more quickly, rather than having to come here to check the comments). If you’re a Kelby Training subscriber, make sure you watch Matt’s quick guide through the new features. Here’s the link.

Canon announces winners of NFL shooting contest
Congratulations to 19-year-old Casey Berner (who won the adult division) and teen division winner 15-year-old Justin Tijerina who won Canon and Pro Football Hall of Fame’s “Why Do You Love Football?” photo challenge. They scored some sweet Super Bowl tickets, along with having their images displayed at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. You can see Casey’s winning images here, and Justin’s images here. Congrats you guys! :)

Killer Deal on Epson Wireless Printer
Last January (2009), Terry White gave me a “Terry White Tech Day” for Christmas, and he flew down to Florida to spend the day setting up/fixing/tweaking all the tech stuff in my house. It was the greatest gift ever (here’s the link). Anyway, one of the things I fell in love with was the all-in-one (printer/scanner/copier/fax) Epson Workforce 610 Wireless printer he had me get. Since it’s wireless, my whole family uses this printer for everything from printing homework assignments, to printing boarding passes, to printing photos on photo paper.

Well, Terry just let me know that Office Max has it on sale for just $99. That’s a killer deal on a killer general-use home printer. Here’s the link (Note: This isn’t a printer for serious photographers, and the scanner is adequate for general scanning, but just keep in mind—it’s a wonderful all-in-one home printer—not a lab-quality photo printer, though it does a pretty decent job when you print on photo paper).

Catch My “Photography Masters Tell You How” Interview at
I did an online interview for as part of their “Master Photographers Tell You How” series. Although we start with a look at how I got into this business, from there out we pretty much focus on the marketing side of photography, and how to give yourself a competitive edge these days. If you’ve got a minute (and you can put up with the stretched/squished/distorted photo they have of me on their site, here’s the link (hey, it could be worse—-at least they didn’t stretch some of the images from my portfolio, eh?).

Follow me on Twitter
If you want to follow me on Twitter (don’t worry—no tweets about me dropping my kids off for soccer, or what I had for breakfast type stuff), you can get on board right here.

That’s it for today folks. Hope you guys have a fantastic Tuesday!

Here’s the 3rd episode of the New Season, featuring special in-studio guest: Chase Jarvis! Plus we’ve got Larry Becker with another installment of “Cheap Shots” where we shows how to create a modeling light for your off-camera flash for under 5 bucks. I’ve got a great tip for sports shooters who need more frames per second, plus Matt has a tip on better focus if you’re shooting things that move, and even more cool stuff. Check it out below.


I realize that anytime you write a post regarding Apple or an Apple product, like I did on Thursday after Apple’s iPad announcement, it triggers a lot of emotional responses from both Apple lovers and haters, but I’ve gotta tell you, after reading some of the comments from my post, and how people reacted to Terry’s post (which I linked to) and other articles around the Web, I think this iPad product announcement has actually wound up making some people madder than Nikon’s pricing for the D3X (and I didn’t think that was possible, though I think it’s just as silly).

So, here’s a quick Q&A to wrap up this blog’s coverage of the iPad until it actually ships:

Q. Wow Scott, some people were really mad about you recommending that they should buy an iPad. Why do you think that is?
A. Actually, if you re-read the post (link) I didn’t recommend that anyone should buy an iPad. I just said I was going to buy one (well, two. One for my wife as well).

Q. Then why were they so mad?
A. Anytime you use the word ‘Apple’ in a sentence, and you’re not referring to New York City or a healthy snack, it triggers something in people who hate Apple with a passion that knows know bounds, and they go on the attack.

Q. They really hate Apple that much?
A. Just ask the folks at (one of my favorite sites), who ran a post yesterday on how to get a custom RSS feed that excludes their news about Apple for “…people who hate Apple news.” (their words).

Q. OK, but why do they have it in the for iPad? Is it because of all of Apple’s hype around the product?
A. Apple didn’t hype it at all. Apple didn’t even mention it. In fact, you couldn’t get anyone at Apple to even admit the existence of the iPad until the moment it was actually introduced.

Q. So Apple never promised anybody anything in the iPad?
A. Nope. Apple is notoriously secretive about product releases, so there were no “the iPad is coming” ads, or banners, or anything from Apple itself. Even Apple’s media invite only said “Come see our latest creation.” The hype wasn’t created by Apple.

Q. So why are some people so Mad?
A. Because they were led to believe the iPad would have some features it in it doesn’t have.

Q. Did Apple lead them to believe this?
A. Nope. Just rampant rumor and speculation all over the Web.

Q. So they’re mad at Apple because the rumor sites made them think the iPad would have more or different features?
A. Yup, pretty much.

Q. That’s crazy.
A. That’s a statement, not a question.

Q. OK, isn’t that kind of crazy?
A. Yup.

Q. And they’re mad at you because you told them you’re buying an iPad, even though it doesn’t have those features, right?
A. Yup.

Q. But you never told them to buy an iPad, right?
A. Right. I just gave my opinion, which is, I think Apple’s going to sell a lot of them. That’s what my post was about.

Q. And that made some people really mad?
A. Oh, yeah. They let me know in great detail why I was wrong, why Apple was wrong, and exactly why they weren’t going to buy one.

Q. Why would they take the time to write a long comment on why they wouldn’t buy a particular product?
A. Ahhhh, this is what really amazes me the most. You see, Olympus just came out with a small point-and-shoot digital camera called the Olympus Optio I-10, and I looked at a very favorable article about it, but it’s not really for me. There are some things I’d want in a point-and-shoot that it doesn’t have, and there are some things it has I don’t need, so I’d probably go with something else. But yet, I have no urge whatsoever to write a long detailed comment to that Olympus blogger about why that Olympus isn’t for me, or where I think Olympus messed up in not creating the perfect product for me, nor do I post something telling the writer that he’s an idiot for writing about it. You know what I do instead? I just don’t buy that camera. Instead of spending my time writing comments like that, I figure I can use that time to write a book or two, and it’s worked out pretty well so far.

Q. After the iPad was introduced, most analyists greatly upped their predictions for how many million units Apple will sell in the iPad’s first year. Do they know something we don’t know?
Yup. They know that the iPad isn’t for everyone, just like the iPhone isn’t for everyone, but they also know there are enough people who, when they see and hold one in person, will absolutely fall in love and buy one right there on the spot. There is a big market for the iPad, it’s just not for everybody, but it doesn’t take everybody to make a product a hit. It just takes a lot of somebodies.

Q. But it doesn’t include a phone? How it could it not include a phone?
A. It’s not a phone. We all already have a phone. This is supposed something in-between a phone and a laptop (at least, that’s what Apple says).

Q. But isn’t just a big iPod Touch?
A. Kinda. It’s actually more than that, but wouldn’t a big iPod Touch be really nice? I always wished mine was bigger (stop snickering).

Q. But it doesn’t support Flash, right?
A. I know, that’s the one thing I really wished it did, that it doesn’t.

Q. Well, that’s a deal breaker for me.
A. Then don’t buy it.:)

Q. Hey, you’re being kind of harsh, aren’t you?
A. Not at all. Seriously, if it’s not for you, you shouldn’t buy it. The iPad’s not for everybody, and not everybody will buy it. If it makes sense for you, great. If it doesn’t, why in the world would you buy it? Besides, I put a smiley face after my comment to take the harshicity out of it, because I don’t work for Apple. If you buy it, don’t buy it, etc., it doesn’t change my life one way or the other.

Q. Aren’t you going to write a book on it?
A. My plate’s pretty full this year with all the updates and new titles I have coming, so no iPad book for me.

Q. Hey, are we going to be able to shoot tethered into the iPad?
A. Maybe. Terry had a post on his blog about Apple’s “iPad Camera Connection Kit” which lets you import images from your digital camera into your iPad.

Q. Shouldn’t Apple have come out with a product that is for absolutely everybody, that immediately fulfills everyone’s individual needs, and included all the speculated and rumored features, no matter how far fetched?
A. Yes.

Q. Then why didn’t they?
A. They never have. No one ever has. Well, maybe except for Microsoft. (wink).

Q. Hey, aren’t you just a big shill for Apple?
A. Yup. Hey—-anything to boost the stock price for my Apple stock.

Q. Do you have Apple stock?
A. No.

Q. So what do you get from Apple? I’ll bet you get lots of freebies from Apple, right?
A. Nope. I don’t get “jack squat” from Apple. If I want Apple software or hardware, I buy it like everybody else. I did get a free t-shirt from a guy in the SoHo Apple Store after I spoke there once. That was cool.

Q. Yeah, but I bet you get special treatment at the Apple Store, right?
A. Sadly, no. I know one person there: Jessica (hi Jessica), and if I wait in line long enough, she’ll help me, just like everybody else. Hey, but when my son dropped his iPhone (a hand-me-down), the woman at the genius bar had been to my Orlando Photoshop seminar last year.

Q. Did she hook you up with a free replacement?
A. Nope. It cost me an arm and a leg to buy him a replacement. Well, it just cost an arm. I made him pay the leg part himself. It’s that whole parent thing.

Q. So you really have no “juice” at Apple do you?
A. Not a drop.

Q. So why did you say you were impressed with the iPad, and that you were going to buy one?
A. Because I was impressed with the iPad, and I’m going to buy one.

Q. That was pretty risky, ya know?
A. I know. Mentioning an Apple product is not without peril.

Q. Why is that?
A. Although there are three types of people: (1) Apple haters (2) Apple apologists and (3) Everybody else, when you write anything about Apple—–anything—you immediately hear from numbers 1 and 2.

Q. What’s an Apple Apologist??
A. That’s someone who defends Apple’s decisions no matter what.

Q. Have you experienced them first hand?
A. Not since I mentioned how much I hated my new MacBook Pro because the gestures on the new trackpad kept rotating my Photoshop CS4 canvas, but luckily Adobe released a plug-in that stopped the rotation, so my life is back to normal.

Q. So some people were mad that you pointed out that problem?
A. Like you cannot believe. I did a short video showing the problem to run here on the blog, but I stupidly posted it on and then embedded the video into my post. Big mistake. I still get emails from Apple apologists telling me I’m an idiot for trying to use Photoshop with a trackpad, and that the problem is my fault–not Apple’s. I just wish “idiot” was the phase they most often used. Sadly, it usually had one less letter. Those are Apple apologists.

Ask Terry White what happens if he posts something the least bit critical about Apple. When he posted that the USB ports were too close during his review of the new MacBook Pro (they are, by the way)—-so close that you often can’t connect two USB devices at once, people railed him in droves, claiming that instead of Apple properly spacing the ports, that instead all USB flash drives and cables should be redesigned with thinner bodies to accommodate the tighter ports.

Q. But you just said you agree that the ports are too close? Isn’t that saying something bad about Apple. Aren’t you going to catch a rash of $%&$ for posting that?
A. Absolutely.

Q. Doesn’t that worry you?
A. Honestly, I’m getting used to it. It used to bother me, but I find it bothers me less and less since I added the Delete Post key as an Apple Quick Key. ;-)

Q. Does any of this surprise you?
A. Not at all. In fact, I’ll guarantee you that after all this, at least a few people will actually post comments here today going on about how Apple has totally messed up, and then they’ll go on to explain why they’re not going to buy one.

Q. Seriously, you think someone will actually do that?
A. I would bet money on it.

Q. So you think because you mentioned the iPad missing Flash, now you’ll catch some heat for that, too?
A. Absolutely. It kind of comes with the territory, but somehow, I’ll trudge on.

Q. The iPad’s not even shipping yet. In fact, it’s still months away. Do you think we should hold our judgment until we actually hold one in our hands and try one out?
A. Absolutely not. Judgment should be passed immediately (if not sooner). Nail Apple, Steve Jobs, and anyone the least bit connected to it, on any level. That’ll teach ’em to try to introduce a new product that doesn’t appeal to every living person.

Q. So with all these people screaming about what it doesn’t have, do you still think Apple will sell a lot of iPads?
A. Yup. Millions and millions in its first year. I know, but not to you. You’re no sucker, you’re smarter than that, you’re no chump, etc..

Q. Hey, did you mean me?
A. No, not you. Them (you know who you are).





A big thanks to everybody who joined me for the Dallas stop on my “Photoshop CS4 for Digital Photographers” tour. We had a blast that day, and saw lots of old friends (Mike, Big Daddy Don, Austin Mann, and even Frank Cricchio was there), and as always, made a few new ones, too! (photos above by Dave Gales and Jeff Leimbach)

My next seminar stop with this tour is in Washington D.C. on Monday, March 1st, and I hope you can join me there, because I’ve got some way cool stuff to share with you. Here’s the link with all the details. See you in D.C.!