Category Archives Guest Blogger

Editor’s Note: In honor of Tracy’s new KelbyOne course, Retouching In Lightroom: It’s All In The Details, we’re sharing her guest post from September 2020!

FIVE TIPS TO CAPTURE AUTHENTIC MOMENTS IN CHILD PHOTOGRAPHY

Well Hello! Tracy Sweeney here, owner/photographer of Elan Studio in Bristol, Rhode Island. I’m thrilled to return and guest blog about an absolutely important topic in family photography.

Have you ever viewed an image that was so powerfully driven in “something” that it physically stirred you? Perhaps it was “something” so evocative, a single moment crafted from someone else’s time, and yet the picture’s energy mirrored an indelible memory of your own, bringing forth genuine connection? Or possibly there was a level of emotion that resonated so profoundly that it made you just feel “something?” That “something,” that thing that pulls us, draws us in and makes us wonder, anticipate, relive, laugh, cry, gasp, pause, that “something” is authenticity. 

Authentic imagery is powerful, and because I know that, I approach every photo session with the goal of crafting beautiful images through authentic means. Authentic, in elementary form, is defined as real and genuine. And through this consideration, it might seem paradoxical that my entire aim is authenticity, because, after all, I am a child and family photographer who poses, orchestrates, and directs; I am not a lifestyle photographer. Do I capture candids? Absolutely, but my style is certainly not photojournalistic. So then, how does one, under these self-imposed parameters (that have shaped my business), create natural, authentic imagery?

1. BE YOUR AUTHENTIC SELF

The key to creating natural, authentic images is quite simple: be authentic yourself. That seems rudimentary, right? Perhaps there was a specific tool you were hoping I suggest, or an actual phrase, game, gear, or direction I would give to guarantee that, even in a melange of subjects, you would be able to draw each out naturally, and each of their best selves would shine.

Well, in part, that’s true, because your authenticity, your approach that makes you feel so natural and fluid, will attract that likeness, and in other trending words, “your vibe will attract your tribe.” If you are interacting with your clients in a way that feels fluid and true to you, your subjects will respond effortlessly and relaxed, allowing you to capture them naturally. This applies to adults and children.

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Editor’s Note: This was originally published in 2016, and I thought it would be great to share again along with Frank’s latest KelbyOne course!

A while ago I posted the following online: When you look at carpenters, you will not see them laughing at each other because of the brand of hammer they use. They know it’s all about the work they create, the end result.

Still in almost every workshop I teach, I will have attendees who think they can’t do something because of the camera (or even the brand) they use. In essence it’s all about the work you do, it’s just a tool.

Much to my surprise, some carpenters responded and told me that this was not true and that there are indeed (just like with photography) people that talk down to carpenters using a certain kind of hammer. To say my dream was destroyed goes a bit far but… Well I was actually a bit surprised.

Of course there are fields where gear is incredibly important like biking, racing, etc. that are highly depending on the gear. Fine tuning the car a bit more can be the difference between placing pole position and all the way at the back. The driver is also vital, but sometimes I wonder what the combination is; I think it’s mostly machine “helped” by the human driving it.

Now, with photography I won’t tell you that the gear isn’t important at all. I wish that were the case because that would make our passion a lot lot cheaper! But what I do want to tell you is that the human factor is incredibly important.

Our History

When my wife Annewiek and I were still living in our caves and I came home from the hunt with my dinosaur and could relax while Annewiek was preparing our meat on the BBQ, I couldn’t watch TV so I started drawing on the caves walls. I didn’t draw beautiful women in tiger skins (realize the women back then were also carrying weapons). What I drew were literally stories about my heroic adventures and how I discovered fire and later the wheel. Fast forward to our pyramids and we also used drawing/imaging for story telling.

For me photography is not only story telling, but I do like it if most of my images (if not all) have an element of story telling.

What Is Story Telling?

When you talk about story telling, for a lot of people this means letting the model/sitter do something. Add a REAL element of a story and this is 100% true. I would rather call this a concept shoot, meaning you really tell a story.

Nadine Juli 9 2015 0091

For me story telling is more adding some elements in a shot that make the viewer go, “Mmmm I wonder what he/she is thinking?” or, “What is going on?” It can be done with a simple element like a camera, but it can also be done with something like an expression.

Sometimes people ask me why most of my models look away from the camera. I think this is actually part of that story telling element. If a model looks straight into the camera, this can be incredibly powerful (don’t get me wrong). However it can be even more powerful when the model isn’t. Then the immediate question becomes, “Where is she looking, what’s going on over there?” Hence your story telling element.

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On stage at Self Help Festival 2018. Thanks to Adam Elmakias for the photo!

What’s the Best Photo Advice You’ve Been Given?

Hi! I’m Steve Brazill, and I’m a Southern California based music photographer, and the host of the Behind the Shot podcast. I want to start by thanking Scott for having me back. I read this blog regularly, so it is truly an honor. Also, thanks to Brad Moore for all you do.

The last time I was here I talked about “The Joy of Live Music Photography,” and the first time I talked about “Five Lessons Learned from Hosting the Behind The Shot Podcast.” Today, I want to talk about the photo community, and how supportive we are of each other.

Jerry Horton, of Papa Roach, at Fivepoint Amphitheater, Irvine, CA, Aug 23, 2022

If you’re like me, you get a lot of questions about photography. Looking back over the years that I have been doing this I find it interesting that this has happened the entire time I’ve been into photography. Even when I was just starting out, knowing less than I do now, people asked me questions – often ones that were beyond my skillset. If I didn’t know the answer, I would usually try to do a little research to help them find an answer.

Well, fast forward to today and I still get questions, only now I get them more often, and on everything from photography, to licensing, copyright, printing, what to charge, podcasting, and networking (as in actual networks, my background is in I.T.). To be clear, much of this is still way beyond my level, but people ask anyway, and I try to answer, time permitting.

In my case, part of this stems from hosting the Behind the Shot podcast. Each episode I have an amazing photographer as a guest and we dissect one of their images. On occasion I do a special episode, but for almost six years that has been the basic formula, and it creates the impression I know more than I actually do. But every photographer I talk to seems to get a lot of questions too, and every single one of them, in my experience, takes the time, when possible, to help. The creative community just feels unique.

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If you’re still wondering whether you should register for Photoshop World, here are just a few more examples of what you might learn, or be inspired by, from our instructors. Below are excerpts from just a few of our favorite Photoshop World instructors’ guest blogs. Click on their names to view the full posts. And if you find inspiration in these, just imagine what’s in store for you at Photoshop World! It’s coming up on August 30 – September 1, so don’t wait to register.


Tracy Sweeney: Newborn Photography

Often, when styling newborns, I include seasonal elements. I think about the cyclical nature of life and documenting a baby’s entry into this world in a seasonal fashion adds interest and meaning to my images. Since I live in an area where seasons are so distinct, I am rejuvenated throughout the year with the transitional colors and textures and my images are always changing.

I do this either through natural elements, in fall for example: pine cones, leaves, pumpkins and apples, or with color: gold, brown, orange and red.

Fall

Similarly, I do this for all the seasons with various natural items or nature inspired textures.

Winter

Spring

Summer

However, remember: one set, many images. I recognize that not everyone will necessarily want a seasonally focused image, or they do not want many. So, I begin with the full set, and then detract items for a simpler look.

Tip: Do not invest a lot money in seasonal pieces as they are only used for a short amount of time and trends change quickly. Find natural items outdoors that you can incorporate (i.e. pine cones, leaves,  flowers, wood, etc. Inspect everything carefully for bugs and debris prior to using. If you photograph in an urban area or prefer artificial elements, check the sale aisles after the holidays and seasons for discounts.


Kirk Nelson: Special Effects for Photography

Smoke is generally a difficult element to work with as real smoke is dangerous. More people die from smoke inhalation than from fire, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Smoke is also difficult to control as it generally stems from fire and not something I like to have in my studio space!

There are products on the market that do a great job of creating smoke safely, and I’ve used smoke grenades before for some fun setups with models, engaged couples, grads, etc. But for crafting digital resources to use in compositing, I like using something a little more controllable, cheap, and easily attainable: Dry Ice. Mixing dry ice and water doesn’t produce smoke, it produces water vapor, but that looks identical to smoke and behaves in a very similar fashion. Plus, it’s completely safe to breath around! The primary difference is that smoke rises, and water vapor sinks. That just means you have to find a way to elevate the container producing the vapor, and that can be as simple as a cookie sheet on the edge of a table.

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If you’re wondering whether you should register for Photoshop World, here are just a few examples of what you might learn, or be inspired by, from our instructors. Below are excerpts from just a few of our favorite Photoshop World instructors’ guest blogs. Click on their names to view the full posts. And if you find inspiration in these, just imagine what’s in store for you at Photoshop World!


Gilmar Smith: Make The Best With What You Have, and Develop A Personal Style

I still work with the first and only camera I’ve ever had. My trusty Canon 5D Mark II. I bought my Elinchrom strobes at around the same time I bought my camera. It was probably September of 2011, and those are still the only ones I have. My computer is about that old too. It even died on me a couple of months ago, and I got a new hard drive, a new battery, turned to YouTube, and fixed it myself. This is proof that when you want something you go for it. I can’t make excuses. I do drool over gear, but I’m supporting two kids on my own and building my empire brick by brick. So, I make the best with what I have.

It goes back to what makes you unique. I get a lot of messages from people asking me how can they jump into the photography business to make a living. And, to be honest, those questions were the inspiration to write this blog post.

I don’t have all the answers. My process hasn’t been easy. I’ve gotten a lot of doors shut on my face, and I’ve had to dust myself off, get up and try again. But I’ve been fully committed all the time.

First, find your niche, then, make your work stand out from the rest. You can only do that by investing long hours on your craft. Try different techniques. There’s no shortcut. Put the hours in and be creative.


Moose Peterson: Passion Tells The story

Where do you start? Well in this instance, you start by first making introductions and the simple portrait. Always working on making the uncommon from the common, we start at the hangar. With nothing more required than a camera and lens, I’ll show you by simply moving a subject back into a hangar you can find dramatic lighting to create that first portrait. That huge door wide open is a great light source and the hangar is a place pilots are very comfortable. Combining the two is how you introduce your skills and passion to the pilot that can lead to so much more, hopefully that air to air photo mission. In our Air to Air class, we also start in the beginning, which means on the ground. Light is what wraps up our visual storytelling and learning that on the ground is essential! How do you do that? You’ll see as we “fly” a model around looking at the light falling on it, the background and then the combo to tell the story. You learn just like the pilots do, in ground school before you take to the air. We’ve laid it all out for you so all you have to do is insert your passion to make it all come to life!

Photographers come to photography often thinking the f/stop, shutter speed and Photoshop are the biggest challenges to be conquered to be successful. Not to scare you, but that’s the easiest and simplest to master in this craft. It’s not till after you think you understand light that the challenge really becomes personal and the mastery creeps along. Because it is then you must invest the most important ingredient for improvement, time! Personal projects where you invest your heart, time and personality to tell the visual story are the true calling of photography. Stories unfold every second of every day around the world providing us all with an opportunity to explore and invest, to fail and succeed in and what I still feel is the grandest pursuit in life. The ball is now in your court to move forward, just remember, passion tells the story!


Kristina Sherk: Retouching in Lightroom vs. Photoshop

Let’s say you want to make five changes to the iris of your model. So – let’s hypothetically think about how we would do that in Photoshop versus Lightroom.

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Photo by Sam Haddix

Editor’s Note: Can you believe there was once a time we may not have known who this rockstar was? In honor of her latest KelbyOne class, Best Kept Secrets to Amazing Dog Photography, being released, I thought we would revisit the guest blog that started it all!


Hi! I’m Kaylee. And I’m going to tell you something that will knock your socks right off. Ready?

I love dogs.

And oh my gosh, I wish I could say this in a sort of casual, non-chalant, “Yeah I think dogs are pretty cool, no big deal,” sort of way. But you guys… I mean it. I mean like, in a totally and completely bonafide ‘crazy dog lady’ kind of way.

So, it’s kind of embarrassing when I walk down the street and audibly and uncontrollably squeal with delight over every little wiggling, passing pup I see. My friends actually try and deter me from the path of an oncoming dog as we walk down the sidewalk – for fear that we’ll get stuck in a 25 minute interaction that includes me excessively ogling, squishing and kissing a strange dog with a sometimes slightly terrified owner looking on.

The truth is, I find more beauty, purity and joy inside the iris of a happy dog than I do anywhere else in the world. When all else seems to fail me – I find solace in the smile of a dog. Dogs have this perfect ability to live simply – to live in the moment. And that just fascinates me.

Luckily for me, I was blessed enough to be able to turn my copious amounts of “dog crazy” into passion – and that passion into a profession.

Yup, you heard it here folks – I am a professional dog photographer.

I know, I know. WHAT? (accompanied by a cocked head, big eyes and sometimes a giggle at my expense; this is the typical response I get when people first discover my job title.) A professional dog photographer. I’m wildly humbled and grateful to say that I’ve turned that passion into a very busy reality that has me booked almost one full year ahead with both private and commercial jobs. Who would’ve thought that could even be within the scope of reality for someone who only photographs dogs?! Good gravy! Sometimes I have to pinch myself. I wake up every day and smile. I smile because life is so silly and full of wonder. I smile because Im living my real live dream. And that dream is called Dog Breath Photography.

If you told my five-year-old self what my profession would one day turn out to be – I think her head would have actually popped off with joy. If you hang on just a sec, I think I can hear her squeals of delight from all the way back in 1990. Holy banana sandwiches.

So, after being invited to write this guest post on Scott’s blog (but not before I finished the elaborate robot dance of joy that I executed quite fabulously all alone in my studio with my dog looking on judging me harshly), I thought how wonderful it would be to share some of my best tips and tricks. The little golden nuggets of wisdom that I’ve felt blessed to have learned over the past 5 years of my dog photography adventures. While getting great photos of your client’s or your own pets sometimes feels impossible, I can assure you with the utmost conviction – it’s not.

I’ve got some stuff up my sleeve that you just might find helpful – especially when you’ve got Rufus set up for the most perfect frame, arranged meticulously in the gorgeous, golden afternoon light, and he suddenly runs off in the direction of that squirrel for the 45th time. (Let me tell you now, as much as you try to reason with them, dogs just don’t appreciate the nuances of really good light.)

So, let’s dive into some content that will help you get amazing photos of your pets, that will create the illusion that you’re working with a perfectly trained dog every time.

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