Posts By Brad Moore

A Loose Collection Of Thoughts From An Emerging Photographer
I’ll be honest, I spent way too much time trying to pull all of these thoughts together into a semi-cohesive blog post. I’ve revised the whole thing about seven times now. I was going to write something practical and easy to read, something that might show off my work or my process, but after a while I just felt like I needed to get some things off my chest. The following is a loose collection of thoughts I have put together about my last few years spent trying to break into the photography industry.

Being a creative comes with its own unique set of challenges and obstacles, many of them tangible and plain to see, many of them deeply personal and harder to overcome. I think one of the most pervasive things artists have to wrestle with is self doubt and self defeatism. As creatives, we are all intrinsically and emotionally tied to our work. Our work is a direct representation of who we are. It’s a piece of ourselves that we willingly give to the world to admire, or rip apart.

David Bayles writes in his book Art and Fear:

“To the artist, all problems of art appear uniquely personal. Well, that’s understandable enough, given that not many other activities routinely call one’s basic self-worth into question.”

This is one of my all time favorite reads. It’s informed much of my worldview as a creative. The rest of the quotes in this blog post are from the same source. Consider the above quote my guideline for this write up. I want to talk about the ridiculous mental gymnastics young and emerging photographers in particular have to attempt just to survive. I want to open up about what goes on inside a young photographer’s head, and hopefully show some of you out there that you’re not alone in your struggle to find your place in this amazing industry.

Before I jump into things, a little background on me. My name is Matthew Simmons, and I’m a photographer based out of Nashville, Tennessee. I work primarily with the music and entertainment industries. As I said already, I am in fact young… ish.  I’m 27 years old, and I’ve been a photographer for 8 years. I spent the first few years of my career as a lighting assistant, working for some of the biggest names in the photography world.

Right now though I’m smack in the middle of trying to make a name for myself. I haven’t “made it” yet or done anything sensational or worth mentioning. I’ve never photographed Taylor Swift or traveled the world. I am completely unremarkable. One thing I do have though is experience fighting tooth and nail to keep my head above water in this industry. I’ve been through the highs and lows of being a professional creative full time, and I’d like to open up about those experiences and lay bare what it takes to survive as a young photographer.

Comparison Kills The Artist
I originally entitled this blog “Don’t Listen to Successful People.” I wanted to make a whole list of points about why it’s dangerous to blindly follow those that preceded you, and why making your own path is important. I also wanted to drive home the point that comparing yourself and your work to the work of others is one of the most vicious and malignant tumors that can grow on a young creative. Seeking out the wisdom of those who are better and further along than you is one of the very first things young creatives do, but so often we can get entangled and trapped by the fear that we will never be as good as those we look up to.

However, after writing for a few hours I realized that my overall subject here is bigger than just this one facet, so I’ve just made it one of the main pieces of the greater whole that is this blog post.
So, prologue and introductions out of the way… Don’t listen to successful people?

Ok, that might have been a bit of a sensationalist title if I’d followed through on it, but I do stand by it to some degree. The internet and social media has allowed us to connect with successful artists in a way we never used to be able to. We see success stories daily. We see photographers get big features in online magazines, we see behind the scenes videos of photographers shooting big celebrities, we see creatives offering e-books and workshops and tutorials on how to be successful just like them. Social media has elevated some artists to the status of celebrity, and many of us yearn for that success, we want to be just like them and live their lifestyle. The problem is, you can’t live someone else’s life. You can’t use their career as a roadmap for your own, but so often that’s what young photographers buy into.

I fully comprehend the irony of me telling you not to listen to people who say they know what’s best for your career, while I sit here and tell you I think I know what’s best for your career. All I know is, I’ve seen behind the curtain. I’ve worked closely with many of these hyper famous photographers. I spent years behind the scenes soaking up all that knowledge and I know their real secret: Work hard, get lucky.

There’s simply no substitute for those two things. Every big talk/speech, every workshop, every video tutorial about how to “make it” as a photographer should boil down to those two ideas. The problem is, everything young and emerging photographers hear from their elders is often the opposite. Everyone seems to have a 5 step plan for success that they want to sell you. Buy my presets, buy my workshop, buy my e-book that’ll show you how to shoot just like me. Those are the things we see on a daily basis.

The truth is, all of those photographers worked their damn butts off to get to where they are. Most of them weren’t handed anything, and absolutely NONE of them blew up overnight. That’s something I hear all the time, that one artist or another just “blew up” all of the sudden. No, they did not. You missed the years of hard work and suffering they put in to get to where they are. It’s no surprise then how it makes my blood boil when I see those same creatives that worked so hard to achieve their goals try to package their life experience into a neat and tidy step-by-step process and try to make money off of it.

I don’t want to make it sound like anyone selling a workshop is a bad person. Don’t hear me say that. The practical lessons you can learn from tutorials and workshops are invaluable. I’m merely cautioning you away from anyone who claims to own the road map to your career path. Only by working as hard as you possibly can, and by giving yourself as many opportunities as possible to be noticed (aka get a little lucky) can you achieve your goals. You have to make it happen for yourself. You have to put in the hours. There are no shortcuts.

“But the important point here is not that you have — or don’t have — what other artists have, but rather that it doesn’t matter. Whatever they have is something needed to do their work — it wouldn’t help you in your work even if you had it. Their magic is theirs. You don’t lack it. You don’t need it. It has nothing to do with you. Period.”

The reason I think these things are dangerous for young photographers is because we are often extremely susceptible to comparing ourselves to others. Comparison is the thief of joy. I’ve heard that old proverb many, many times, and it’s true. I’ve seen close friends with similar or equal experience get better work, better opportunities and bigger paychecks than me. I’ve seen photographers who I (wrongly) consider worse than me get handed huge gigs that I’ve been dreaming of for years.

Tell me you haven’t thought to yourself that you deserve a particular gig more than one of your peers. You’ve worked harder, your work is stronger, your personality is more effective and your client relations skills are out of this world, right? Well… Yeah, maybe that’s true. But brooding on those thoughts won’t make that art director call you and give you the job instead. You have to stop comparing yourself to your peers, and especially your heroes, if you’re going to maintain a healthy head space.

So again, “don’t listen to successful people” was probably too much of a simplification. Rather, I’ll say this: If a hero of yours is trying to sell you advice or information, and that advice neglects to tell you that the price of success is anything other than hard work and determination, tread with caution.

Anxious Mornings
I don’t know about you, but waking up in the morning is the hardest part of my day. I’m not a morning person. I need three or four cups of coffee before I can even think about getting started. My bed is my sanctuary. I’ve specifically built it in such a way that it is so remarkably comfortable that the thought of leaving it pains me. I’ve got a memory foam mattress, high thread count sheets and more pillows than I actually need. It takes me about an hour every morning to drag myself out of my happy place.

But that’s not why waking up every morning is so difficult. My mornings are difficult because I open my eyes every day and immediately feel the crushing weight of anxiety in my heart. It feels like someone is standing on my chest, trying to crush the will right out of me. Immediately my head floods with worries and lies.

You’ll never make it…

You’ll never be as good as XYZ photographer…

You’ll try and try every day but you’ll still fail…

Being an artist truly is unlike any other occupation. No other profession demands such a high toll on one’s self worth quite like being a creative. As I said in the intro, we sell ourselves in a way. Our art is a piece of ourselves that we willingly sacrifice for the world to partake in. When you also tie your livelihood and your ability to feed yourself to your art, that high toll on your self worth only grows.

So, what gets me up in the morning? Well, I have to. That’s it. I simply cannot NOT continue my work. Not because I need a paycheck, or because I need the affirmation that comes from creating good work, but because I am incapable of not creating. It’s one of the only things in this world that truly gives my life purpose and meaning. It’s what I’ve been gifted with and by the grace of God I will use the gift I’ve been given.

“What separates artists from ex-artists is that those who challenge their fears, continue; those who don’t, quit. Each step in the art making process puts that issue to the test.”

My graduating class in college had 28 photography majors. Of those 28 young and emerging photographers, only four of us are still currently working in this field, last I checked. What I’ve always found interesting about that statistic is, it wasn’t the grind of breaking into the industry that broke the other 24 photographers. No, they never even made it that far. They took their degree in photography and ran to safer, more sure territory. The remainder of us, well, we were stupid enough to take the leap into this industry and have struggled and fought every day just to keep our heads above water.

I don’t ever wonder what my life would be like if I’d taken a different path, like my friends from college. I don’t ever wonder, because that was never an option for me, and I truly don’t believe it’s an option for any artist. Those of us that wake up every morning not knowing where our next paycheck is coming from, those of us who wake up wondering how long we can even keep this up… We chose these bitter mornings, and we attack them willingly, because we don’t know anything else.

For a long time I thought I was just a tightly wound person. I thought I was alone in my anxiety and genuine skepticism about my own career. After years of sharing my struggles with other artists, and hearing their stories I learned that I’m not alone, not alone at all.

“Fears about yourself prevent you from doing your best work, while fears about your reception by others prevent you from doing your own work.”

What do you fear? Do you fear ridicule and criticism from the masses? Do you fear that you won’t ever be as good as someone else? Do you fear failure? How about success? I fear success, very much so. Every step I take, I know I have to take one more. Every photo I take, I know the next photo HAS to be better. My clients expect greatness from me, meanwhile I expect perfection. None of these fears can break us though. None of them can stop us from doing our best work. We have to wrestle these fears into submission, if only for a time, and say “not today.”

I believe that it’s critical for us as creatives to stop hiding behind the tough facades we put up for the outside world to see. Our lives aren’t perfect, and neither are our careers, much less the art we make. It’s invaluable for us as a community to be honest and transparent about this: Art is hard. Making art is a career belittled by many, and completely written off by others.

What we do is often very much unappreciated, and much more often completely misunderstood. Unlike most of the rest of the world, our careers are more than just a job, and even more than just a passion. Our art-making is intrinsically part of who we are, and that takes a toll on us, and that’s okay.

My question for you, reader, is this: Is your art part of who you are, or is it just something you do? Do you wake up every morning and buck the doubt and self defeating tendencies that tell you you can’t? When you fall, do you stay on the ground or do you get back up, time after time?

I hope you do. If you don’t, I hope you learn to. I hope this rambling essay lets you know that you’re not alone, I hope it helps you. We’re all in this together, we have to build each other up and be honest and transparent about our struggles. We need to share our trials and hardships with younger, greener artists so they know that what they’re in for is a tough, painful road, but one that yields so much joy. Because that’s the reward; true and meaningful joy.

There’s nothing quite like creating something you’re proud of. There’s no better feeling than making something beautiful out of nothing. The best feeling in the world to me is showing someone a portrait I’ve taken of them and see their eyes light up. Everything melts away for me in that moment, and I’m reminded that what I do is important, not just to me but to others. All the pain, all the self doubt is worth fighting through if the reward is being able to make a career out of doing the one thing that makes you happy.

Matthew Simmons is a music and entertainment portrait photographer based in Nashville, Tennessee. See more of his work at and follow him on Instagram.

Advanced Photoshop: The Psychology and Science Behind Color Grading with Viktor Fejes
Join Viktor Fejes for an advanced look at essential elements of color theory. From understanding color models and the science of RGB, to how to apply this knowledge when performing practical tasks such as color correcting and color grading. Viktor starts with the fundamentals and works up to advanced techniques used in cinema. If you want to manipulate color at will, understand the reasons why, and make your images look fantastic while doing it, then this class is for you.

In Case You Missed It
Learn the essential elements of retouching. Join Viktor Fejes as he provides you with a solid a foundation for how to approach retouching. This is not a class on how to use the basic tools of retouching, but rather how to think about retouching in a logical and methodical fashion, so that you can develop a workflow to properly retouch a photo from start to finish. You’ll learn how to evaluate an image, how to start in Camera Raw, how to structure your layers in Photoshop, how to use techniques involving false colors to fine tune texture, tones, and color, and all the while gaining a firm understanding for why you would approach retouching in this way.

Try The TDN Single-Layer Sketchy Technique


Now I’m not going to break with guest-blog tradition in my opening paragraphs, so before introducing myself and delving into the topic of my post, I’d like to say a massive thank you to Scott for having me over to guest on the blog, as well as to my good mate (and @vectorgenerians co-host) Dave Clayton for arranging it.

So, I’m Tony Harmer, a.k.a The Design Ninja (#TDN); a Specialist Solutions Consultant at Adobe UK, looking after the design/mobile ideation segments. In my day-job (I’m also an author for LinkedIn Learning and a YouTuber in my spare time) and as far as Photoshop is concerned, I’m about 20% Photographer, 50% Illustrator/Digital Artist, 25% Designer and 5% 3D (actually, at the moment I’m too 3D for my liking, but that’s another story); so I deal with most of the designery, paintery, brushy, filtery stuff, in short.

What I’m most about however, is efficiency—my thinking is that people should perhaps spend their time more on meaningful, creative decisions than on fighting with the tools, and hopefully this will also make them more profitable, too. So I spend at least 15-30 minutes of every single day looking at techniques and tutorials, seeing what people want to do, how others are teaching it and asking myself, “Can this be done faster, and ideally better?”

And so another TDN tutorial is born.

Enough already—Let’s Dive In:

And that brings us to what I would like to share with you today—what I call the TDN Sketch Technique; it is my recipe for an effect that pops up every now-and-then: turning a photo into something that resembles a pencil sketch or piece of hand-drawn art; there are over three-quarters of a million videos on YouTube showing ways to do this, so I’m guessing it’s at least a bit popular (anyway hear me out—it’s my first time here).

As I’m only a little bit photo (and a whole lot rock ‘n’ roll—pardon me) I have decided that for this article, that a bit of stock imagery will save me from any potential embarrassment in the face of such an esteemed audience, so I have selected some images from Adobe Stock:

  • File #103142589 “Rothaarige Frau” (“Red-haired Woman”) By drubig-photo
  • File #38908186 “Closeup man” by CURAphotography
  • File #15354239 “Rusted Abandoned Car in Desert” by ASP Inc
  • FILE #100684757 “Abandoned Shipwreck in the Bay” by swoodie

And that’s the first thing you should look at. Not every photo lends itself to becoming a sketch-like image immediately; connect with your inner-Leonardo and be critical; for example, sketches do not often have really busy backgrounds around the subject—sometimes there’s an indication of an environment, but keep it simple—so you may have to work your image a little, but you’ll see suggestions for that towards the end of the article.

The Basic Technique
All of the techniques that I’ve found use at least two layers, the most prevalent usually with a duplicate of the original that’s blurred, inverted and colour-dodged, or similar. So what’s wrong with that method? Well, technically nothing—it works perfectly well—but it’s inflexible, and potentially destructive, which means if you are working on a series then you will have to do each one manually; the TDN technique is infinitely flexible, and is ultimately based on one, simple thing: working on a smart object (and that means this uses one layer).

Stage 1: Blur and Divide
So we have this image to begin with and of the many ways to create a smart object, I’m going to right-click on the background in the Layers panel and choose Convert to Smart Object.

Then select Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and go for a value of around 4 or 5 to start with—it’s of no consequence though as you can revisit and tune it as many times as you like afterwards—so relax and apply the filter.

Here’s the bit that does the magic—changing the blending options for the filter you’ve just applied; go to the filter in the Layers Panel and double-hit the sliders icon just to the right of the filter name; change the blending options to Divide, then hit OK.

The Divide blending mode divides pixel values between the target and blending layers (or as in this case, the target object and the filter) and works using simple arithmetic: any value divided by itself will equal 1, which with 0 being black, means white. Now, hopefully you can see where the blur comes in, and you can double-hit the gaussian blur filter effect in the Layers Panel and tune your blur, if you wish; don’t worry about the colours right now—we’ll deal with them in the next stage.

Stage 2: Raw Power
Now invoke the Camera Raw Filter: Filter > Camera Raw Filter… or SHIFT+CMD+A (SHIFT+CTRL+A on Windows) and the mini-application launches in dialog form; if you like, tap F on your keyboard to make it full-screen.

You can now use the power of the ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) engine on your smart object; in my opinion this is the most powerful thing to have arrived in Photoshop since layers, and it is truly magnificent. From hereon in, you can pretty much create almost infinite variations to suit your image, but we’ll take a look at what’s been used in this example, starting with the Basic tab:

  • The image temperature has been cooled down quite a bit (that lovely sloping histogram all the way over to the right is just what we’re after with this technique)
  • There’s a lot of green in the image so the tint has been moved in the opposite direction
  • The exposure has been lowered, and the contrast increased
  • Some negative clarity brings removes some definition, but we’ll improve that further momentarily

Now moving to the Sharpening tab, a little tuning there may be helpful, as it is here; if you want an accurate preview, don’t forget to make sure you’re zoomed in to 100% or more

Then on to the HSL / Grayscale tab, and check the Convert to Grayscale box (Boom!)

The Fx tab enhances what we have already:

Dehaze brings back some contrast and detail, if required

Grain can enhance the sketchiness, especially with clumpier roughness

Some positive vignetting lightens the edges of the image, where not a lot of drawing takes place often in a real sketch

If you wish to apply these settings to other images with one-click, then go to the Presets tab and create your own preset based on those settings; hit the icon at the bottom of the tab and in the resulting dialog, name your preset and choose which settings you want included in it. This is a smart move, and if nothing else it gives you a springboard to getting the technique done even faster next time you use it.

You can revisit any step in the Camera Raw filter now and tune as desired; hit OK once you’re done.

Optional Stage 3: Filter Gallery
At this stage, you may well be happy with your results, but the final tweak that often clinches the effect for me is to add some slight tuning using an effect from Filter > Filter Gallery… and using something like Angled Strokes from the Brush Strokes set, as has been done here, shown in the image above.

Optional Stage 4: Colouring In
My favourite application of this technique is that of an image dissolving into (or maybe out of) a sketch, and that is easily achieved by using the layer mask that is automatically added to your smart filters. In the example above, a brush with some cool dynamics has been used at a reduced opacity to reintroduce some of the original image (the brush used here is from the Aaron Blaise Hair and Fur set) but I urge you to experiment (it’s fun, anyway).

The TDN Technique: The Movie
If you’d like to see a variation on this technique in movie form, you’ll be pleased to know that Steven Spielberg, Ryan Reynolds and Halle Berry teamed up to make a movie just for you (okay, it was just me, really) and you can watch that here:

Cranking It Up a Notch (Bam!)
All right. That’s all good for the folks in the cheap seats, but I know I’m dealing with some hardcore NAPP folks here so you’re going to want a bit more, and I have plenty but you can start with these three:

  • Replace the Gaussian Blur with Filter > Other > Maximum; this can actually help a lot with some images
  • Add a second instance of the Camera Raw Filter if you’re reaching limits in the first

  • Use the local adjustments in the Camera Raw Filter, and selectively fine-tune your results
  • If you’re working on a design project—rather than your own photography—and using Adobe Stock, you can work with this on the preview image until it is approved, then license the image and all your edits are transferred to the full-resolution unwatermarked asset without any effort on your part!

Wrapping Up
We’re done for this time, but I really hope you’ve enjoyed looking at this technique; as I suggested at the start, it doesn’t perhaps come out of the box too often, but at least when you next need it, you know there’s a much faster, and flexible way to achieve it.

Columbo Moment
Oh, one more thing; the TDN Technique can be applied to video smart objects, too—with the exception of local Camera Raw Filter adjustments—so I’ll be interested to see if there’s a resurgence of A-Ha “Take on Me” videos in the near future.

Tony Harmer is a Specialist Solutions Consultant at Adobe. His specialism is in interoperability and he has a massive enthusiasm for the integration of mobile tools with design workflows. With more than 160 technical certifications , Tony has presented and delivered training related to graphic production across the EU and US.

Tony offers tips, tricks and techniques weekly on, and you can see more of his work at

Newborn Photography Master Class with Tracy Sweeney
Join Tracy Sweeney for a masterclass in newborn photography! Filmed on location in Tracy’s studio, you’ll learn the essentials for getting started photographing newborns. Safety and comfort is job one in newborn photography, and Tracy starts off sharing her methods for keeping babies safe, warm, and soothed. From there, Tracy takes you through her choice of gear and lighting, and then gives you a front row seat for a series of newborn sessions. You’ll learn how to wrap the baby, how to pose the baby on a variety of props, and how to maximize the time spent on set to give you a variety of looks in a short amount of time. Family photos are part of the package, and Tracy shares her process for working with the family in a variety of configurations. After the shooting is done, you’ll learn Tracy’s workflow in Lightroom and Photoshop for creating the final polished images that go on to become timeless heirlooms for the family.

In Case You Missed It
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.

Five Lessons Learned from Hosting the Behind The Shot Podcast

First things first, thanks to Scott and Brad for having me as a guest here, a blog I have read so many times over the years. My name is Steve Brazill. I’m a Southern California based music photographer, and the host of a podcast called Behind the Shot (BtS). Hosting the podcast has taught me more about being a photographer than any of the research I have done, not necessarily the technical aspects, but the heart of photography. Let me explain…

Don’t just take a shot, make one. Everyone else was shooting from the right, but I wanted to get the festival logo, and position the jump between the lights. One OK Rock at Self Help Festival.

I have always been fascinated by the path people take in the pursuit of learning photography. When we first start taking photos we seem to just be happy if we capture something… anything. Then, as we develop our technical skills, learn about composition and exposure, and refine our photographic eye, we actually start to critique our own shots in the hopes of improving further.

The problem is that the better we get, the more issues we find in our own images. Sometimes I look back at my early work and cringe, but at the time I loved those shots. Now that I have been doing it awhile, there are days I come from back from a shoot feeling like I don’t like anything I shot, like I have lost my touch. Why?

Because I have a broader knowledge base to critique from, and a better eye to judge from. While that can be frustrating sometimes, it’s what makes photography amazing! You will never fully learn photography. Yeah, you may get better at the technical aspects, but there is always something you can refine.

Be prepared! I always have a 15mm on my second body for times like these. Barb Wire Dolls at Vans Warped Tour 2017.

When I started learning photography, I found information everywhere I could. I used KelbyOne, browsed YouTube, bought some great DVDs, and became a huge podcast fan. I was already listening to a few tech based podcasts, and once I turned my attention to photography I found Scott’s shows, like The Grid, as well as podcasts by people like Rick Sammon, Scott Bourne, and Frederick Van Johnson.

I learned so much from those shows, but I also found a hole in my studies – the images. I would listen to these great interviews, with some of the best photographers and educators in the business, but never saw their work.  That’s like watching a cooking show and wondering if the food really tastes as good as the people on the show say it does (if the chef is Bobby Flay, yes, it does).

Another example of “making a shot.” When Heart played with Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience I knew I needed to document that story. I positioned myself to fit Nancy Wilson and Jason in the frame.

Don’t misunderstand me. There is a place for the type of interview where you learn about some talented person, but I found myself wondering if I was listening to talented photographers or just friends of the host. The reason a photographer is interesting to us should be because of their work.

That got me thinking…. every time I see an image, I have questions about how it was made. And that’s when it hit me. What if we flipped the interview around. What if we interviewed a photograph to get a better understanding of the photographer’s mind. Why did they make the choices they made, did they pre-visualize, how did they create and edit the shot, and what issues did they overcome? So often I see a shot where I feel I could learn a lot if only I could ask the photographer a few key questions. And so I started Behind the Shot. Now I get to ask the questions I want, and get to learn more about the art of photography.

Experiment when you can. I had no idea if it would work, but with no front light I thought a silhouette, with the name KORN on the fan, would be cool.

Has it worked? Oh yeah. I thought I would share some of the things I have found as common threads throughout the shows. Most are just simple things, things we may all know about but forget under the pressure of a shoot.

Don’t Just Take A Photo, Make A Photo
This is one concept that shows up over and over when I talk to great photographers. I have heard Rick Sammon say something like this so many times over the years, and in the episode below he uses that approach perfectly to capture his image “Sunrise at the Blue Swallow.”

Travel photographer Peter Levshin used this idea to great effect when photographing a young monk in Burma. I’ve never done this trip, but I have always heard how dark some of the temples are. Peter, rather than do what most people would and just take the shot, asked if they could bring in more candles. So simple, and the final shot turned out fantastic.

Know Your Gear
The second episode of BtS I recorded was with London based music photographer Christie Goodwin. Christie is one of the best there is, and the shot we discussed was an iconic image of singer Katy Perry called “Fireworks.” This image is amazing, but once you hear how little time she had to capture it, and the fact she had no idea what the fireworks would do to the exposure, the shot seems almost impossible. Knowing her gear made a difference because she was able to adapt quickly enough to capture the shot.

Be Prepared
I mean really, this almost goes without saying, but sometimes it’s the little things. Wedding Photographer Troy Miller was shooting a wedding on a rainy day in Southern California. It happens, but he was ready. He knew he needed to get some images of the bride and groom outside, so he used an app that gives up to the minute rain status. When the app told him there was about to be a break in the rain he got the couple ready, and then just as predicted the rain stopped. The result was a beautiful photo, with amazing colors and sky, he calls “Stormy Kiss”.

The lighting for Judas Priest was very dynamic. Knowing your gear makes adjusting to changing conditions much easier.

Don’t Be Afraid To Be Creative
Sometimes we forget that photography is a visual art. We could capture the most technically perfect and well composed image, and it might speak to no one. A great image has impact, a story, and feeling. When doing a shoot with rocker Tommy Lee, of Motley Crüe fame, photographer Dustin Jack did everything right. He made sure he got the safe shots he needed first, but then he asked Tommy to put on some glasses. Seems simple, right?

Those glasses unlocked Tommy’s personality, and the results were great on their own. But the experimenting didn’t stop there. Dustin had an idea to combine three of the shots to tell a totally different story, resulting in his image “See No Evil, Hear No Evil, and Peace.” Sometimes, it just takes being willing to experiment.

Stay Relaxed
This one sounds so easy. You most likely already know photographer Alan Hess through KelbyOne, this blog, or through Photoshop World. The first time I shot a music festival with Alan Hess was a huge learning experience for me. I walked up to him to introduce myself, but honestly was a bit star struck. Alan is one of the best music photographers out there – he literally wrote the definitive book on it. He was so amazingly nice to someone that was a fan of his work.

The rest of the day, while photographing the bands, I watched Alan and tried to learn whatever I could. The one thing I noticed more than anything was how calm and composed he was. Everyone else – myself included – was scrambling to get tons of photos during the limit of the first three songs. Not Alan. His shooting was relaxed and calculated.

When I had him on the podcast we dissected one of his Pro Bull Riding shots, and the same thing came through. The fact that he was able to stay relaxed, calm, and composed during 8 second rides was a key to his success. He was able to adjust his technique, position and gear on the fly to make the images he wanted through careful thought. Yes, there is that idea of making, not just taking, an image again. Amazing how often that comes up.

I know I said five lessons, but here is a bonus…

“Be Aware, Be Astonished, Share Your Astonishment”
OK, so this is one I almost didn’t include because the episode won’t air until about 3 weeks after this post goes up – it should go live on 9/21/17. Why include a tip from an unreleased show? Because it stopped me in my tracks when my guest said it. Trey Ratcliff is such an amazing talent, but you knew that already. When I got him on the show, thanks to Rick Sammon, Trey was so generous with his thoughts on photography and technique.

Throughout the interview he would share bits of knowledge that left me speechless. He talks about his editing, and even touches a little bit on color theory, but this phrase was the one that got me. It immediately meant something to me. I’ve been in radio for almost 40 years, and there was an old story I’d heard related to doing Voice Overs. The way it’s told, a legendary Voice Over artist was asked how he finds inspiration when he has to do a commercial for some common and mundane product.

His answer was that he imagines he is hearing about the product for the first time. In that sense even shoes are amazing. These three things Trey mentions are the same concept, but for photography. A Voice Over lesson I have shared hundreds of times, and yet never thought to apply it to photography. “Be aware, be astonished, and share your astonishment.” Wow. So watch for the episode, or subscribe over at the This Week in Photo site.

The Art of Photography is alive and well, and we can learn and become better photographers with every image we see.

Again, thanks to Scott and Brad. Such an honor to share this space.

You can see more of Steve’s work at, listen to his Behind The Shot Podcast, and follow him on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Using Photoshop & Lightroom to Create Amazing Cityscapes with Serge Ramelli
Join Serge Ramelli as he shares his secrets to creating amazing cityscapes. Great cityscapes start with great captures, and Serge begins the class with a discussion of camera settings and his approach to being in the right place at the right time. After the photo is taken, Serge steps through his editing workflow in Lightroom. Starting with the global edits that lay the foundation for a strong cityscape, Serge moves on into a detailed look at how to use all of Lightroom’s local adjustment tools to take your photos to the next level. Whether you are shooting with a DSLR or smart phone, and from stitched panoramas to merged HDR, Serge shares the tips and techniques that you can use in all kinds of situations.

In Case You Missed It
Consider this your very own photographer-friendly guide on where to go for the best photographs of London, England. Join Scott Kelby and Larry Becker as Scott shares his favorite locations to shoot, along with the kind of veteran traveler tips that will help you capture images that you’ll be delighted to bring back home. Timing is everything, so you’ll not only learn where to go, but what times will yield the best chances for great photographs. This is strictly a travel guide for photographers (including a downloadable PDF), so there’s no Photoshop or Lightroom involved, just the kind of information that will aid you on your photographic journey and inspire you to get out there and shoot.