Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be an underwater photographer? Imagine sitting on a boat, putting on this heavy gear (40-50 pounds) and then, after you giant stride into the water…. you’re weightless!
Actually, more than that, you’re floating (“wait, what?”), yep, floating. You get your camera rig handed to you from the boat, hook up with your buddy, let a little bit of air out of your BCD and descend, weightlessly gliding through the water in search of adventure, from the smallest sea critters to the largest pelagic predators, maybe even spotting a wreck!
You may be thinking “very cool, but how do I get there?”
Well, you have to start by being comfortable in the water – which takes education and practice – because when you are shooting on land, you don’t have to worry about breathing, but underwater, there is no air except what you bring with you. Even the best swimmers can always use practice and improvement; though I grew up freediving and spearfishing, I recently took a freediving class just to hone those skills even more.
Depending on what type of underwater photography you want to do, if it’s in a pool or other shallow water or you’re looking for large pelagics like dolphins and whales you don’t need SCUBA – you can simply take a freedive course to learn how to handle that environment, but don’t neglect a water-based first-aid course to keep yourself and others safe.
Now you’re feeling good and your comfortable in the water, how do I get my camera in there with out ruining it? There are several answers anywhere from a $50 plastic bag off Amazon that I would advise against, up to a pro level DSLR with an aluminum underwater housing and strobes that would run you the price of a small car.
But let’s start with something that is good and won’t break the bank, if you are planning on just working in your pool or in the shallow waters of a spring or river (Less than 33 ft.), Outex makes a great solution around $400. If you are looking for something a little more robust like a surf housing from AquaTech you will be between $1000 and $1500. The pinnacle will be a full dive housing that’s rated to depths from 60 meters or more; like Ikelites ABS-PC housing going for $1600 up to a fully machined aluminum housing like the one from Seacam for $5000 and that’s just for the base housing no ports or lights.
This is all assuming you know the camera you want to use, which is a topic in and of itself because the optics underwater are more different than on land and what makes a great land lens might make it a poor underwater lens.
Hey there, I’m Meika, a content marketer by day and a photographer by night (and during any other time that I can free up). I specialize in portraits, food, and lifestyle photography. I’m a lover of studio settings, but I found my visual voice while exploring the concrete jungle that is downtown Philadelphia. There’s so much sauce there.
I started this photography journey by capturing landscapes. Finding interesting buildings that stood out to me because of their composition or their color. I also found beauty in odd shadows, shapes and combinations of natural and manmade objects. I told myself that there was beauty in everything. Some people who saw my work agreed, others scratched their heads.
Looking back, I think starting there was important. Vital, really. Starting from ground zero, not knowing anything about photography or why I thought certain things were breathtaking, was and is a gift. I didn’t know anything about the rule of thirds, s-curves or composition. Now that I’ve been taking my photography more seriously, studying terminology and conducting my own research, I’ve come to realize all of that beauty I was seeing was what people like to call “My Eye.”
“Girl you’ve got an eye!” “Wow, there’s no way I would have stopped to take that picture, you make it look so beautiful.”
You know, that stuff.
Did you know that having “the eye” can be taught? The fundamentals, the maneuvering, the structure of an image, the composition, it can all be taught. Brilliant artists have been writing about it for ages. One thing they may not teach you in some of those books is the sauce.
What’s The Sauce, You Ask?
It’s the vibe, the funk, the freshness, the dopeness, the sway, the love, the heart of an image. The reason you stop dead in your tracks to glare for a second longer. It’s the tilt in your head and the squint in your brow. You can’t find that in those books.
I know when I’ve got the sauce when everything aligns both in front of the lens and behind the lens. When the sun is kissing my subjects’ forehead with such grace, and the lines from the architecture behind them sit so nice that it makes me pull back from my viewfinder and scream “THIS RIGHT HERE!”
When the shadows feel right, when the wind picks up a piece of hair and carries it across the subjects’ face, when the posing isn’t forced or directed, when the eyes of my subject aren’t calculating anything, but instead, just existing. That’s when I know.
Remember that saying “beauty is in the eye of the beholder?” Well, think about that in relation to photography. Having the sauce isn’t a scientific measurement or statistical calculation, (remember art is subjective). It’s a feeling. When pairing down my images with clients, I’ll express my love for images that sometimes they dismiss. What you find saucy, others may consider bland and vice versa. What I found that works for me is creating a set of images for my clients, and sometimes selecting a separate set of images I can display on my website.
Making Your Own Sauce
The best way to make your own sauce is to get out and shoot until you start hearing yourself say “THIS RIGHT HERE” when looking at your RAWs. Take to social media to find your favorite artists and figure out what makes them your favorite. Sit with that. Take those thoughts as inspiration and develop your own sauce. You can grab your angle inspiration from one place, your color theory inspiration from another, and your posing inspiration from a third and combine them all to make your individual magic. The sauce.
March 12, 2020. Thursday. Lunch time. It could have been just a regular day at the office, but it wasn’t…
The rising number of Covid-19 infections in Portugal forced me to send home everyone on my team. I grabbed a pen and wrote on our whiteboard “we will be back soon,” then turned off all the lights, and slowly closed the door while looking at the empty office that was being left behind.
On that day, I had absolutely no idea how our life was going to be impacted. I was able to anticipate a few things – and no, that did not include the rush for toilet paper – but it took me a while to realize how my photography was going to be impacted.
One of my goals for 2020 was to become a better portrait photographer. After being a landscape and travel photographer for many years, I was feeling the need for a change. I still love landscapes and I really enjoy traveling, but I was getting tired, and I needed a change and a challenge. Perfect timing, right?! A change? A challenge? Could I have asked for more?
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic we were not allowed to travel anymore. I couldn’t (and still can’t) travel freely, not even within my country! Forget landscape and travel photography! I guess my new-year’s resolution of becoming a better portrait photographer had the perfect timing! Except for one reason: I had no one to create a portrait of. Now what?
During the first few weeks I didn’t even reach for my camera. Just like everyone else, I had to adapt to stay home and work from home full time. Suddenly zooming was not a thing I could do with my lens; it was something I would do on my computer.
Part of my work involves some public speaking in front of an audience, and now I had to do it from my home office. “- How am I going to do my job?!”… Enter the wonderful world of live streaming: “- I need lights! I need a chromakey green background! I need a better microphone! A video mixer! I need to learn a lot of new things! Noooo!!!” It was a bit overwhelming, but at the same time, everyone likes to get some new gear, right? Is it just me, or do you also love the smell of new recently unwrapped electronics?
While all this was happening, I was also nagging Erik Kuna so that we could an online meeting with the KelbyOne Community members. What better excuse than a pandemic?! So, on Friday, May 1, 2020, we had our first CommunityLIVE meeting: Erik Kuna, Ross Chevalier, and me as co-hosts, plus a group of around 30 members including some famous names like Scott Kelby himself, as well as Rob Sylvan, who were both kind enough to stop by. Participants liked it, so we decided to do it again (and again, and again…).
CommunityLIVE meetings are private meetings for the KelbyOne Community members. You know the KelbyOne Community, right?! If you are a KelbyOne member – and I hope you are! – and you have never visited the KelbyOne Community, you are missing a big part of your membership. If you are not a KelbyOne member, stop reading now. Open a new tab on your browser and do yourself a favor: become a member today! Now, back to where we were…
Yesterday was Portfolio Day, so I thought I would share some of the most valuable advice on portfolios I’ve been given over the years!
First though, let’s talk about Portfolio Day. It was started by designer Audrey Gonzalez in 2018 as a way for freelancers to share their portfolios online as a sort of virtual job fair, and has grown into a worldwide event in the years since. It’s a quarterly event, so if you missed it yesterday, you’ll have a chance to participate again in July. If you want to share your portfolio, or if you’re someone who hires freelancers, check out the #PortfolioDay hashtag and account on Twitter!
Show The Work You Want To Be Hired For
As creatives, we’re going to take on work that we don’t necessarily love sometimes. But that doesn’t mean we have to show it in our portfolio! Make sure your portfolio is focused on the kind(s) of work you want to be hired to do. If you want to be a food photographer, you probably don’t need any photos of your kids playing soccer next to a photo of ice cream.
Your Portfolio Is Only As Strong As Your Weakest Image
Worry less about hitting a certain number of images in your portfolio and more about the overall strength of it. When people view your work, their perception of your ability is going to include your weakest image.
Start Strong, End Strong
Not only do you need to focus on the overall strength of your portfolio, but you’ll want to make and leave a lasting impression with the viewer. Start with an amazing, attention grabbing image, and end with an image they can’t forget, and you’ll be off to a great start!
Tell A Story
Think about the sequencing of your photos. Don’t just let them be in whatever random order the filenames dictate. Tell a story with the flow of your photos, take the viewer on a journey through your work if you can.
Think About Image Pairings
As you’re thinking about sequencing, also consider how photos look next to each other if you’re creating a physical book or creating a web page layout. If you have a two-up, maybe the images compliment each other with similar colors. Or maybe they contrast with opposite colors. Maybe the subject matter mirrors each other, or creates an interesting/funny juxtaposition.
Be Who You Are, Not Who They Want You To Be
Just because you work or want to work in a certain genre doesn’t mean you have to conform to what everyone else does. Take a chance and do something different so you can stand out from everyone else. Make sure your personality comes through in your work. As they say, there’s only one you, and your perspective is unique. It might take some time to find your voice and style, but it’s worth that time, effort, and experimentation to get there!
Show Work You’re Passionate About
One of my favorite portfolio meeting stories is from Jeremy Cowart. He told of a meeting he had with a potential client in the entertainment industry. He started off by showing them his celebrity portfolio, and they flipped through it quickly, unimpressed because it was the same type of shiny photos of famous people they saw every day.
He thought the meeting was basically over as soon as it began, but then remembered he had a book of photos from a personal project he had done after the Haiti earthquake. He pulled it out and handed it to them, and their eyes lit up as they started to look through it. This was something different that they didn’t see every day, so it caught their attention. They loved the stories of the subjects, and how Jeremy was able to capture such captivating photos with minimal gear. They could see the passion and heart in the images.
They ended up hiring Jeremy for some of the biggest campaigns he’d done at that point in his career, and it was all because he showed work he was passionate about.
More Helpful Resources
If you’re a KelbyOne member (or want to become one), here are a few courses to help you build an amazing portfolio:
Building a Winning Portfolio: Editing and Sequencing Your Images with Stella Kramer
Become a better photographer through editing and sequencing! Join Stella Kramer, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photo editor, as she teaches you how good editing and sequencing can help to do a better job of telling a story with your work. You’ll learn the basics of editing and sequencing, the importance of knowing your objective, how to deal with critique, why you should stand behind your work, and the value in letting go. Stella brings all of these points home in a series of live edit and sequencing work sessions with three different photographic projects.
The Art of The Edit with Peter Hurley
It’s all about the edit! You’ve just had an awesome photo session and now you need to narrow it down to just the best ones. How do you do it? Join Peter Hurley as he walks you through a series of live headshot sessions and then talks through his editing process with the subjects at the end. Peter is joined throughout the class by Scott Kelby, and together they edit through multiple different shoots that Scott has brought in. Editing is all about narrowing shots down to just the ones that will go into your portfolio to help you get more work. Learn how to develop this muscle and find your own shabangs!
Professional Photography on a Budget: The 5k Challenge with Zack Arias
(NOTE: The portfolio section of this class begins at Lesson 9). What could you do photographically with five thousand dollars? Join Zack Arias as he sets out a challenge to show what can be done on a budget of $5,000. Zack does everything from buying the camera gear to covering his expenses for a weekend of travel in New York City, and even hiring a photo editor to sit down and help him edit his photos down to a tight new body of work. At the end of the project he’ll have new gear, an interesting experience, a new portfolio, and money left over to do it again.
Getting Your Portfolio Online Using Adobe Portfolio with Scott Kelby
Take advantage of the online portfolio option that is included in all Creative Cloud subscriptions, and showcase your work! Join Scott Kelby to learn how to use the latest templates and features found inside of Adobe Portfolio. In this class you’ll learn how to get started with Portfolio, how to build a single gallery, how to add multiple galleries, how to add a contact page, how to add an about the artist page, and how to customize the most important settings to make your portfolio reflect your personal style and taste. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to use once you learn the basics.
(Editor’s Note: This is the second of a two-part guest blog from our good friends Dave Clayton and Alan Hess. If you missed part one from Dave, it’s right here!)
Alan here. It’s good to be back as guest here on Scott’s blog as the He Shoots, He Draws podcast only really exists because of Scott. Dave and I met at Photoshop World. Dave and Glyn met through Scott in London. Glyn and I met at Photoshop World. So really, if you love the podcast, thank Scott, if you hate it, blame me.
I never planned on being a host of a podcast. I had been a guest on other podcasts, and I was the first guest on the He Shoots, He Draws podcast because I was such good friends with Dave and Glyn. I would see Dave and Glyn at events during the year. Dave stayed at my house when he came to Adobe MAX in San Diego, and we emailed and messaged back and forth regularly.
In March of 2020, just about everything changed. Suddenly there were no more events, or concerts, or sports, or gatherings of more than like two people… Everyone was suddenly working from home, and there was an underlying fear and anxiety about the future. I considered myself fortunate, as I was working on a project for Rocky Nook, and my wife could work safely from home. I could still talk to my friends which reduced the everyday stress and helped with my sanity.
I can’t tell you how I became the co-host of He Shoot, He Draws because it really wasn’t a conscious decision. I knew Glyn was working on his dream of moving into a new house and had other projects he was working on, and Dave was going to continue to host the podcast. Dave asked if I wanted to sit in on a few interviews because I knew the people he was talking to, and having a third person in the discussion can make for good listening. I had so much fun chatting with Dave and the guests that my role started to morph into a more permanent thing. Dave would tell me that he had a guest lined up, and I would get excited and ask to join in.
Let me give you a little peek behind the curtain of how the podcast is put together. Dave and I chat every week on Zoom about how things are going in our lives. How the family is dealing with whatever the latest crazy news is, the virus, the vaccine, the election, TV shows, movies, and then we think about who would make a good guest. We contact the guest and ask if they want to be on the show, and everyone (except for Mr. Brad Moore) has agreed so far. (Editor’s note: I never turned them down, I just said scheduling would be tricky for me being a new parent and working around my work schedule!) We pick a day and time, not as easy as you would think with an eight hour time difference between England and California.
Then Dave sends me copious notes on the guest with the full interview outlined and… okay, thats not true at all. We both do our own research and come up with different things to ask. I know Dave usually has a list of questions and things he is interested in talking about, and I have a few notes of things I want to know. But in reality, once we start stalking, it usually just ends up as a chat more than an interview. We all record our own audio, then send the files to Dave who puts the whole thing together and pushes it out on all those podcasting places.
Every guest we have had on has brought something new to the show, but what I have found even more interesting is how much we all have in common. The passion that our guests have for their creative endeavors really comes through. It fills me with hope, and keeps me from that creative dark place, which is really needed now. At the start of the pandemic, when all the events ceased, I put down my camera didn’t pick it up for long time. Listening to others who were trying to keep their creativity going, who were going back to get an advanced degree, who were starting their own podcast, who lost their job and had to look for a new one during a global crisis, gave me hope. I hope that it resonated with the listeners as well.
There is a faint light at the end of the tunnel. Let’s hope it isn’t a train.
Things are getting better. I have had my first vaccine shot and my wife has had both. There are signs that events and sports might start to look more like they did before the pandemic. We might even see concerts soon. Please stay safe, wear your masks, get your shot, thank you for listening to He Shoots, He Draws.
(Editor’s Note: This is a two-part guest blog from our good friends Dave Clayton and Alan Hess. We’ll hear from Dave this week, and Alan next week!)
Hello and thanks for checking in to Scott’s blog today. I am very fortunate enough to have been a guest blogger here before. Each time I was able to share my story, and each time it was nice to actually write down what I had achieved, not just to say, “Hey, look at me,” but to share how we can all take good things from opportunities afforded to us.
Since my beginning as an “evangelist” way back in 2009, I worked hard and was fortunate to become an instructor for KelbyOne, both online and at Photoshop World. I became a regular writer for Photoshop User Magazine (the very magazine that convinced me to join NAPP/KelbyOne in the first place. I then went on to write a book for Scott, “How Do I Do That In InDesign,” with Rocky Nook and all those things enabled me to teach at Adobe Max for the first time in 2020. The reason I mention these events is because becoming part of this wonderful community of photographers, designers and creatives encouraged me to start a podcast back in 2018. You can see my guest post about it.
I think we can all say that 2020 threw us all a massive and unexpected curve ball. But it meant that the events went away, we were all staying at home and trying to adapt to this strange new time. But having the He Shoots, He Draws podcast was one thing that actually bloomed during this time.
Around April 2020, Glyn Dewis (fellow KelbyOne/Photoshop World instructor and cofounder of HSHD) had to step away from podcast duties to focus on his other ventures such as the 3945 Portraits Project and also try to move home just as the pandemic took hold. Our good friend Alan Hess, also the first ever guest we had on the show, kindly and very quickly stepped in to help support the show as the “He Shoots…” part of the double act. I couldn’t have wished for a better cohost like him to fill Glyn’s shoes.
Being at home a lot can start to weigh heavy on you. Working and living from home with little to no escape can drive you stir crazy, but having the podcast really helped. Alan and myself would chat frequently over Zoom, the new communication tool of 2020… (Skype, what happened to you dude?!) Alan was already familiar with the format of the show (I will pretend that the show is professionally planned and scripted of course….it isn’t). Between us, we already knew most of the previous guests, and Alan was able to introduce some great photography guests to the show that I wouldn’t have thought of.
Finding guests was easier, whereas previously it was harder to pin someone down pre-pandemic, everyone had nowhere to go and it meant we were able to book some really fun guests over the year. These included familiar names to those that have followed KelbyOne over the years such as:
With 153 episodes under our belt as you read this, we just achieved the milestone of 250,000 downloads worldwide….and that’s in over 125 different countries!!
One thing I know I can take away from this past year, it’s that 2020 not only leveled everyone out, it also enabled us to adapt and find new ways to improve our own skillsets. We spent more time communicating, sharing stories, helping each other and finding work for each other. Online events began to thrive, people got recommended and started their own path in teaching. Many new podcasts started to show in the photography and design space, people were happy to share knowledge and assist one another with experience and connections.
Listening to our guests made me realise how close we all are in the same boat. It humbles us, it makes us realise what is important to us and who is important to us. Some of our guests endured covid or lost loved ones because of it. It’s a defining time in our lives and I hope it’s made most of us better people. It’s reminded us that no matter how high up we are in our respective careers, we all matter when it comes down to it, and everyone has the time to help others.
I know my relationship with Alan has always been close, but doing the podcast with him and chatting for another two hours after recording an episode was therapeutic in itself. We laugh, joke, talk politics, discuss new gear, gossip etc. He really gave me some sanity back and I want to personally thank him for stepping in and just doing what good mates do, support you even when their own world is turned upside down, and in the middle of writing a huge book for Rocky Nook!
Alan lost 99% of his own work. He shoots gigs as a house photographer for the Pechanga Arena in San Diego, as well as other live events. So for Alan it was a massive loss and a big change for him. Had he been working as much as he was pre-pandemic, he may not have been able to join the podcast, but for now, I am grateful to have him onboard.
As we now enter a period of positivity and a little hope of getting our lives back, I do hope that everyone comes back stronger, a little more patient and caring, finding time for others, especially like podcasts. We want to share your story and amplify you. We learn so much from our guests and each one has given us a little something extra along the way that’s made us better interviewers, better creatives and better people.
I can’t wait for events to come back, to be teaching to people again, to be at Photoshop World, Adobe Max, Creative South, Crop Conference and more. And when we do, make more time and effort to communicate with your peers. We all have stories to share, whether they are podcasts or not. Make your own little conversation your own personal podcast!
Stay safe, get vaccinated ,and hopefully I will see you soon at an event somewhere in the world!
And thanks for listening to the podcast – if you haven’t yet, please give it a try :)
PRIZE: Listen to the podcast episode with Scott Kelby. In it we both discuss our favourite TV show of 2020 and Scott mentions that I (Dave) am the UK version of this character. First person to email me what that show/character is, to firstname.lastname@example.org will win some goodies :)