Monthly Archives April 2017

Photo by Daniel Stark

Three Years of Shotkit | Photographers & Their Camera Gear

Hey guys, this is Mark here from a site you may have heard of called Shotkit. Thanks for having me here on ScottKelby.com – it’s truly an honour.

I started Shotkit back in 2014 to scratch my own itch of wanting to know what my favourite photographers carried in their camera bags.

Everyone knows that a good camera does not a good photographer make, but most of us in the industry are still very passionate about the photography equipment we use… and whilst few like to admit it, we’re all a little curious about the camera gear used by others!

What photographer wouldn’t be curious as to what on earth this wedding photographer takes with him on shoots?!
Photo by Emin Kuliyev for Shotkit

Since 2014, Shotkit has morphed into a popular blog for all things photography and gear related, but the raison d’être of the site is still a place for nosey photographers to have a snoop at the gear of their peers.

To celebrate Shotkit’s third birthday, I put together a one-minute slide show of the hundreds of successful submissions I’ve received over the years. Keep your eyes peeled for Scott Kelby’s own gear load-out… or I should say, one of his many!

After receiving so many submissions from photographers from around the world, I’ve been given a unique insight into the most popular photography equipment in use by professionals today.

As perhaps no surprise to many of you, wedding photographers outnumber all other genres of submission to Shotkit. It’s also unsurprising that the wedding photography gear in use around the world is by and large, very similar across the board.

The effort that photographers go into with their Shotkit submissions is very impressive. Being creative with how we lay out and photograph even our gear is often just an extension of the creativity used each day in our jobs, after all.
Photo by Neville Black for Shotkit

Nevertheless, it’s interesting to see how other camera formats continue to disrupt the industry, with photographers of all genres slowly switching to the best mirrorless cameras available, mostly from the likes of Sony, Fuji and Panasonic.

Whatever your stance is on the great mirrorless cameras vs dSLR debate, the future of cameras which rely on cumbersome mirrors to capture images is looking admittedly bleak.

Personally, I’ll be sticking with my trusty dSLR for a few more years though, and I’m sure I won’t be the only one…

Whilst Mirrorless Cameras may be the future, the fight isn’t over just yet…

Whilst I continue to publish a new photographer and their gear every other day of the year on Shotkit, I spend the majority of my time writing content for the Shotkit Blog, the newsletter, a range of ebooks, and most recently, development of an interactive tool for Lightroom & Photoshop Shortcuts.

The topic of photographer workflows is one that I’m passionate about (I’m an avid follower of Scott’s excellent Lightroom Killer Tips), and I intend to explore the subject more in 2017.

Using keyboard shortcuts in the software we use for post production every day as professional photographers is an important step in spending less time behind a desk and more time behind a camera. I hope this shortcuts tool will be a step in the right direction in helping us all achieve this.

Save some time whilst editing and speed up your post production workflow with this handy interactive shortcuts keyboard

As for the Shotkit blog, posts such as the best cameras under $500 and the best camera bags may seem like an Amazon affiliate link carnival to some (!), but they’re actually very popular posts, especially for beginner photographers who need some advice about their first purchases… not to mention of course those of us with a dose of the dreaded G.A.S.!

I’ve tried to include a selection of links to some of the most popular blog posts published on Shotkit in this article, but the truth is, I’ve really only scratched the surface.

From photographers showing off their best work and favourite photography gadgets and gizmos, to gear reviews, business advice and creative inspiration, there’s something on Shotkit for everyone. I hope you enjoy reading Shotkit as much as I do putting it together!

My own camera equipment and travel gear which I take for destination wedding photography work.
Photo by Mark Condon for Shotkit

I’ll close this guest post off by thanking Scott, Brad and the team behind ScottKelby.com and Lightroom Killer Tips for producing such incredibly useful content for photographers like us. Sites like these are a constant inspiration for both my own photography work and my work with Shotkit.

I’m looking forward to seeing you part of the Shotkit Community and I encourage you to submit your kit!

Now, which photographers’ camera bags would you most like to take a peek into? Leave their names in the comments below…

Mark Condon is a British wedding photographer based in Sydney. He is the founder of Shotkit and author of the Shotkit Books, Lightroom Power User, More Brides and LIT. You can follow him on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Hi folks, and greetings from the Wayne County, Michigan (I’m here for my seminar today – over 300 Detroit area photographers here today for my Lightroom seminar. Whoo hoo!). A big shout out to all the kind folks who came out and spent the day with me yesterday in Chicago. Always love being in the Chicago area – so many friendly folks – thanks for coming out. :)

Watch ‘The Grid’ on Facebook’s App for Apple TV
So, it’s Tuesday and I kinda got nuthin’ – our flight was delayed and we didn’t get in until around 1:00 am, and well, blah, blah, blah I don’t really have a post. However, while I’ve got you here – my buddy Terry White sent me the shot above of ‘The Grid” (which airs live every Wednesday), being seen on the Facebook App on his Apple TV (on a 70″ HD screen). The reason this works is—we simulcast to my Facebook page (http://facebook.com/skelby) so if you have the Facebook App for Apple TV you can watch our Facebook stream live (and you can comment right there on Facebook – we monitor all your comments there as well).

Hope you’ll join us tomorrow and try it out.

Who: Me and a guest usually
What: The Grid (our weekly photography show)
Where: http://kelbytv.com/thegrid 0r http://facebook.com/skelby
When: Wednesday at 4PM ET (New York time)
Why: ’cause for six years this is what we do on Wednesday at 4pm – we talk about photography and stuff.

Hope you all have a stellar Tuesday, and we’ll catch you back here tomorrow for Guest Blog Wednesday.

Best,

-Scott

P.S. The next stops on my nationwide seminar tour are next month in Minneapolis and Indianapolis. Hope to meet you there. 

Happy Monday everybody — ready to learn about Actions? Wild cheers ensue! (Hey, it could happen). Anyway, I still get questions about Photoshop’s Action feature, so I thought I’d do a ‘quick start’ kinda post to get you up and running in five minutes.

What’s an Action?
If you’re wondering what “Actions” are, basically it’s like a tape recorder in Photoshop that records your steps and plays them back really fast, so you can automate repetitive tasks. Best of all, simple actions (yes, you can create really complex ones if you want), are really easy to create and use.

In our example, let’s say you want to resize a high-res image for posting on Facebook, Twitter, etc., and since you’re resizing it down pretty small, you want to sharpen it before you post it (you lose some sharpness when you size down like that, so I always apply a little sharpening to bring it back, and maybe even a bit more than I lost so it looks nice and sharp). So, rather than going through the process manually from now on, you’ll create a simple action; assign it to an F-key on your keyboard, and from now on the process becomes a 2-second, one key automated thingy.

Let’s get started:

STEP ONE: Open an image you would normally post on social, then go under the Window menu and choose Actions to bring up the Actions panel (shown here). To create your own custom action, press the ‘New Action’ button (it’s looks like the New Layer button — I’m clicking right on it in the capture above).

STEP TWO: This brings up the ‘New Action’ dialog (shown above) where you name your action (I did), assign it to a Function Key on your keyboard (I chose F11, as seen here). You’ll notice there’s no ‘OK’ or ‘Done’ button. Instead it says ‘Record’ because once you click that it is now recording your steps.

STEP THREE: Now do the things you want Photoshop to automate from here on out. In this case, we’re only doing two things, and the first is resizing the image to 1000 pixels wide (as seen here). Note: take a look over at the Actions panel on the left. See how there’s a red dot? That’s the ‘Record’ button, and it’s letting you know it’s recording your steps. Just a handy visual.

Above: After you resize your image, then go under the Filter menu, under Sharpen and choose Unsharp Mask. Input your favorite settings (I used 70, 1.0 and 10 here, which are pretty decent settings for sharpening low res 1000-pixel images like this for the Web). NOTE: Take a look over at the Actions panel and you can see it now lists the first thing we did to the photo — Image Size. The red dot tells you its still recording.

STEP FOUR: After you’ve run the Unsharp Mask filter, go ahead and Save the photo, and then close the image window. Yes, it records the ‘Save’ and the ‘Close.’ Now press the square ‘Stop’ button at the bottom of the Actions panel (as shown here). That’s it — you just created your first action. At this point, I usually open a different image, and I then I click the ‘Play’ button (it looks like a triangle — just to the right of the red record dot), just to see if the action works properly (of course, you could also press F11 on your keyboard, and it will run the action). Doesn’t matter which one you use — you’re just testing it to see if it works. Now you’re ready to rock! (Guitar pun intended. I know. Groan). ;-)

Q. Hey, how many steps can an action like this record? Just two?
A. Nope — it will record for as long as you do stuff — your action can have one step, 10 -steps, 500-steps or more — I haven’t found a limit  (there may actually be one, but I haven’t found it yet). 

Next Time: Applying an Action to an entire folder of images
Where Actions get really fun is when you create an action, and then apply it to an entire folder of images at once, and you simply walk away from your computer (or switch to another program), and in the background, Photoshop just cranks away working on your behalf, totally unattended, like some autonomous robot from Skynet who will soon become self aware and take over the world. But not this year, so they’re safe to use for now. I’ll show you this ‘Batch Action’ feature on another day — for now, go and make your first action.

If you want to learn more about Actions…
And all the other automation stuff Photoshop and Lightroom can do (and there is plenty), we have a awesome course on it (here’s the link).

I’m up in Chicago today with my Lightroom seminar
So looking forward to meeting a whole bunch of photographers up here today (and tomorrow in Detroit — got a packed house!). Hope if you’re there, you’ll come up and say hi between sessions. Next month I’m in Minneapolis and Indianapolis. :)

Best,

-Scott

P.S. Only 10-days ’till the Photoshop World Conference (Whoo hoo!). It’s not to late to come join us, ya know. Weather’s beautiful in Orlando this time of year.  :)

I ran across this Blend Mask tutorial on one of Adobe’s official blogs over in the UK, and it’s a great little tutorial (a little more of an advanced technique, but well worthwhile and easy to follow). It’s from Adobe’s Richard Curtis, and the post itself is from September of last year.

In the tutorial Richard shows how to make the robe of the 2nd monk (well, the 2nd from the left), perfectly match the color and luminance of the first monk. Really good stuff.

Here’s the link to Richard’s Blending Mask tutorial.

Hope you found that helpful (and thanks to Richard for sharing it). Looking forward to meeting a whole bunch of you in Chicago and in Detroit next Monday and Tuesday (respectively) with my Lightroom OnTour seminar. :)

Have a great weekend, and we’ll catch ya here on Monday.

Best,

-Scott

Family Photography: The Art of Storytelling with Tracy Sweeney
Learn how to cultivate beautiful memories for your client families! Join Tracy Sweeney as she shares her years of experience as a family photographer to help you prepare for success in this business. Tracy starts off the class with a focus on planning, preparation, and scouting; all of which will help you get the most out of your session while feeling confident and looking professional. From there you’ll witness Tracy at work with two different families in a park and on the beach. Tracy talks through her approach to lighting, to working with the families, the importance of building a relationship with the family members, and how she poses them as a group and one-on-one. After the shooting is done, you’ll head to the studio where Tracy teaches you her post processing workflow from Lightroom through Photoshop to create the final images that go on to become family treasures for years to come.

In Case You Missed It
This class is all about photographing kids! Tamara Lackey covers the technical side of working with natural light, reflectors, and her go-to gear, as well as the critical people skills needed to recognize personality types, handle tantrums, and roll with the range of moods your subjects will exhibit.

I’ve always been fascinated by the nature of creativity. There are all the usual questions, of course… What is creativity? Where does it come from? How close do I have to stand to a creative person for some of it to rub off on me?

The last question comes with certain social restrictions (also possibly certain restraining orders), but the first two we can sit and discuss over coffee. Even better, we can put the results of that discussion to use, make the answers work for us. Ready? Go!

If I had to nail down a working definition, I’d say creativity is seeing and thinking about and exploring new connections. We tend to view creativity as having some element of surprise – when we see something we would call ‘creative,’ it’s almost always because there is something we didn’t expect, and it usually is built from pieces we know that are put together in new ways. It shows us a connection we had not previously considered.

In the world of digital photography, this shows up in works of photographers like Erik Johansson, Kirsty Mitchell, and Cheryl Walsh, among many others. Connections, however, are not just between conceptual elements. They are also between tools, interactions with media, and technical pieces. Check out the beautiful work of Bonny Lhotka who uses unique transfer process to create amazing physical pieces, or the sculpture of Andrey Droszdov.

How can we make use of this notion that creativity is seeing connections? Well, we can give ourselves more opportunity to see connections, for one thing. And we give ourselves opportunity by setting up situations where we’re likely to be exposed to new things, especially new thoughts. Like most things, it takes practice, and practice is something we generally know how to do. But for practice to be useful, we have to want to do it, and we have to do it with intent. One technique I’ve had success with is directed experimentation. The basic idea is to do what you already know how to do, but change one thing.

That by itself is not enough, though. You have to be receptive to the previously unseen, and you have to let it get into your head so you can hang on to it for future use.

The secret sauce is to pay attention when the connection is made, and that’s what loses some people. It’s not necessary to go in looking for any specific revelation – in fact, that can be counterproductive. What you are aiming for is to provide the raw materials and set up the situation where your mind can wander a bit, but then condition your reflex to store that connection when you are triggered by surprise. Going through your normal routine lets your mind work more subconsciously, and that one change is what seeds the possibility of a new connection.

A great way to get yourself to plant this seed is to ask yourself “What if?”

Let’s say you’re a portrait photographer. You know your craft and get great results, but you want to spice things up. “What if” you say to yourself with a devilish grin, “my model was facing the other way?” You’ve changed one thing. Without any other action or thought, you look through the viewfinder. Hopefully at this point, you start asking yourself some other questions. Should the lights be adjusted? How will you show emotion or character? Are other things in the scene jumping out that you previously missed? If you think this is a weird concept, check out Tony Gale’s personal project of women’s backs (link contains artistic nudity).

Not only are you seeing something new, you’re engaging and thinking. You’re paying attention. More importantly, you’re present in the moment. And you’re unconsciously making new connections. The next step is to save those connections actively. Let the seed germinate.

For the human mind to really hang on to things in a meaningful way, it generally uses language to describe the things. Feelings and memories can be incredibly powerful, but they’re difficult to act on or share without putting words to them. This is especially true for new concepts, and every time you get creative, you’re working with new concepts. When you discover something, when you’re surprised, delighted, thrilled, annoyed, or bored, use words. They can be in your head, you can write them down, you can talk with someone, but use words. The seed sends out roots.

By describing what you’re thinking, feeling, or seeing, you’re better able to retain memory, but you’re also able to build on it. In the portrait example above, you might suddenly notice the angle of your model’s shoulders, so think about how you’d explain that. Maybe you go into Photoshop and start drawing gesture lines like an animator over the pose and that gives you an idea about movement or relationships. As a side benefit, you might discover a career in stick-figure cartooning. It’s been known to happen.

Comic by XKCD

The other thing about using words, especially when you’re trying to describe something to another person, is that you’re forced to find common ground if you truly want to communicate. And that frequently means finding simpler and clearer concepts that you can stick together. Which brings up deconstruction. Sometimes before you can build up, you have to tear down.

Deconstruction is frequently just another thought process. Look at something and allow yourself to wonder. Start with, “why?” Why did I get this effect when I twiddled this knob? Throw in some “how?” to the mix: how do these things relate? Move into the future with a few “what if?” questions and you’re just primed for success. What if I put this one weird rule in place for my next photoshoot? You don’t have to answer completely, let alone correctly; you just have to create the space for the answer to eventually reside. In our seed metaphor, deconstruction is the process of providing basic nutrients. It’s fertilizer. You can laugh if you feel like it.

Deconstruction isn’t just for language, though. You can use it with your tools. This brushed ink portrait was the result of limiting myself to the Threshold adjustment layer in Photoshop as a starting point, then using the Smudge tool with the Bristle Brush to refine it. I didn’t have a solid plan going in except to start exploring the Threshold tool. I call this a Limited Challenge because I set a rule for myself going in, limited to and requiring only one tool as a starting point. Where deconstruction is the fertilizer, practice is the light and water. And this is the end of the plant analogy.

Let’s pause a moment to see what we’ve got…

If creativity is being able to see new connections between things, we can use experiences in order to have more things to connect and thus increase our chances of being creative. But experience isn’t just going out to see new things, it’s also seeing old things in new ways. We can do this with simple changes, and we take advantage of the results of those changes by thinking about and describing them. Describing them allows us to find more common elements to put together, and helps us see the basic components that make things fit. We can begin describing things by asking ourselves questions about what we’ve experienced, thus making connections.

See what I did there?

And here’s the point of that little diversion: don’t build up expectations of your own creativity. Either it happens now or it doesn’t until later; it generally takes its own time; and it’s frequently unexpected. But you’ll have a much better chance if you set yourself up for success. Here are some of my favorite exercises for inviting creativity to come in and have coffee.

TLDR Version:

  • Set yourself up for surprise and seeing connections by experiencing new things
  • Be present
  • Describe what you’re seeing, thinking, or feeling about the connections

Change One Single Variable – Directed Experimentation

As I noted earlier, directed experimentation is awesome, easy, and it’s what I do most often. For me, this usually involves Photoshop or lighting, but it can really be anything, including rules. Take a process that you know really well and pick one thing to tinker with. Change the horizon line in a landscape, add a colored gel somewhere, swap layers around or change blending modes, whatever. Don’t get too hung up on sticking to the one thing, but do try to limit what you do so there’s some way to control it. Remember to pay attention!

Change Everything Except One – Limited Challenge

Think of this as related to the last exercise, but instead of picking a variable, you’re picking a rule. Give yourself just one rule to explore, and beat it up. Years ago, I was part of a huge Photoshop forum that devised some really amazing challenges. We would choose one tool in Photoshop that absolutely must be used, then we’d give some other guidelines or goals. For example, we might have asked you to create a landscape using only Lens Flares. You could warp, liquify, mask and blend, but all pixels had to start from the Lens Flare tool.

Ask Questions – Why & What If

This is the most common thing I do, but it takes a lot of energy and honesty with yourself. Pause a moment with whatever strikes you and engage, right then and there. Make a mental (or real) list of elements that grab your attention and ask yourself why they interest you. Be as specific as possible in your analysis, but don’t seek truth beyond what’s true for you. This is part of paying attention and being active in your viewing. What if another artist had tackled the same concept – how would it be different? This is mostly for viewing art, but can be applied to anything that catches your eye. Allow your mind to wander, but don’t try to capture everything – keep the connections you discover and toss the rest.

Final thoughts…

Some seriously creative folks genuinely do all of the stuff above automatically. It just happens internally and organically for them. Some have to nudge it along, and some pour blood, sweat, and tears into the process before anything useful happens. Can you imagine cleaning up after that? Anyway, the most usual thing I’ve discovered is there’s a mix. To be sure, some people just seem to do all of this better than others. But some of us just don’t feel creative at all, or at least not as often as we’d like. We don’t get it, we are flabbergasted at just how creative some people are. Well, here’s a dirty little secret about all those so-called “creative geniuses” out there: they are indeed creative geniuses. That does not mean all of them do it naturally, nor that all of them just work their keisters off to maintain their creativity. Some do, some don’t. But I don’t believe that creativity is an inherent characteristic that you can never achieve if you don’t start with it at birth.

Bonus! Make mash-up lists

This one can lead to some really wacky ideas. I use a spreadsheet with a randomizer function to pull words from different lists and put them together. I’ve got one that describes scene elements, one for Photoshop tools and functions, and another with just random dictionary words. There are several online generators for free, too. The point is to give yourself a project framework, then use a mashed-up combination to challenge yourself.

Now get out there and be surprised by the connections you find!

(All photo credits: Scott Valentine)

More Bonus!

My favorite contemporary surreal photographers:

You can see more of Scott’s work at Scoxel.com, and follow him on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Behance, YouTube, and Twitter.

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