It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Erik Valind!

Wow, what an honor to be guest blogging for Scott Kelby! When Brad called me up to see if I would like to fill this Wednesday’s guest spot, it was a no brainer – Of course I would! Later as I reread the posts of previous contributors it started to sink in, this talent pool ran deep, one could easily drown in there. As anyone who has read a guest post on Scott’s blog before will attest, it is not the usual cut and dry photo or lighting shtick. People really bare it all here. On top of that I’m following Dave Black whom I’d only just met earlier this year, but who had me on the verge of tears while telling his life’s story of toil and triumph at the Photoshop World closing ceremonies. (Does anyone have that on video somewhere?!)

This is really just a round about way to describe a feeling most photographers encounter a lot. Or maybe it’s just me, but I’ve heard the sentiment whispered in the halls before. It can be downright awe inspiring, intimidating and depressing at times to look around at the raw talent in this big & small photo community of ours.

Just browse a few websites or a couple magazines and you’re bombarded with some awesome imagery. It’s daunting to think that that’s the level your competition is at. It could be enough to make you think about throwing in the towel some times. Once we overcome that though, our peers quickly become our greatest assets in this life behind the lens. Every one of these guys has a history of bad images behind them and are still making more everyday; everyone has to put in their 10,000 hours of sweat equity.

I guess what I want to write about is community, and how it is especially necessary for a creative. As romantic the notion is of the isolated artist toiling away in obscurity, I don’t think I could live like that for longer than a short weekend. It’s awesome to be able to look to our massive online community of photographers from around the globe and to be inspired by how much great work is being created everyday.

I’m entirely self taught as a photographer. By that I just mean I didn’t have a scholastic community to help rear me, but rather a tight knit community of friends and family. They posed for me endlessly, helped me lug light stands and weren’t afraid to share with me what did and didn’t work for them as subjects. Then there was my small ragtag group of photographer friends, without which my photography might not have developed from avid curiosity into the obsessive pursuit of learning and taming light that it did. I’m a people shooter after all, and I can only talk to and about a still-life for so long before losing interest.

There have been two moves in my life where the need for a community really hit home, and it snuck up unexpectedly the first time. I had just moved back to the beaches after a number of years away and was experiencing my first bout of creative isolation. I didn’t know any other shooters in town that I could call up on a random afternoon to try out a new piece of gear with, or talk shop, or borrow a light stand from – it sucked! So when I heard about the Help Portrait event happening at a location down the road I figured it would be a great way to spend the weekend, giving back and possibly meeting some like minded photographers. (Help Portrait is an event where for one day a year photographers find someone in need and give a portrait rather than take one. By the way it’s coming up soon so check it out).

Just as I had finished setting up my lights one of the other guys grabs me and asks if I can lend a hand in bringing up some more gear that had just arrived. I said sure thing and headed down to grab what I thought would be couple more umbrellas and some background paper. In the door walks Scott, Matt, Corey, Brad and the whole Kelby crew. Plus they had brought an entire office & studio worth of gear with them. A weekend charity shoot turned into a high production event and our awesome subjects that day got the royal treatment, after all THEY were the reason we were there. Once the last lady’s portrait had been made, we all went down the road to grab a burrito and that guy who had asked my for a hand earlier turned out to be RC, who I count today among my best of friends. Plus it was pretty cool realizing that the the Kelby HQ was in my backyard all along and getting to watch those guys retouch in realtime is pretty darn impressive.

The following week RC invites me out to Tampa to meetup with his friend Kathy and their massive Strobist group. It was a blast flooding the streets with photographers and over the course of that week I went from flying solo to having a large creative community to call friends. Those friends have helped to challenge, inspire, push and prod me into becoming a better photographer and person. That’s what friends do, so thank you guys.

The second more recent move occurred when I relocated from sunny Florida to Detroit, MI‚ during the “Snowpocalypse” earlier this year. I did prepare myself for two things before the move and have been working through them daily. First, rather than wait around for serendipity to strike again, I immediately struck out to get engaged in the photo community here.

With sites like Twitter,, and the awesome NAPP community it’s not hard to get out there… like actually out there. I really dig the online conversations and tweet too much sometimes, but my goal was to get together in person, shake a hand, share a drink, and go shoot something. I took this same approach in establishing my business locally as well. Let’s just say the coffee shops and restaurants are loving me!

The second being a glaringly obvious issue once I walked out the door of my new home. Detroit is different. Different from what I’ve known as a shooter thus far. Gone are the sunny scenes ready-made to drop a model into. It’s been like an extended case of that traveler’s high you get when on the road; your brain is busy trying to process a new place and the possibilities are endless. Of course old habits die hard and I still love the light and colorful imagery that came naturally when working in Florida. It’ll continue to be interesting as my style evolves and I adapt.

I am a creature of habit though and have enjoyed lighting a scene to create whats there in my mind. I’ll be writing every month for the new Light It Magazine that just launched, and a lot of the techniques and tips I’ll be covering come from experiences and obstacles I’ve overcome while shooting up here this year. It’s amazing how with a couple lights and a gel you can turn a gloomy snowy day into a warm inviting afternoon, at least in camera anyway. The snow can’t keep this Florida boy down and all of the new friends and photographers up here go the extra mile to help each other get that next shot and succeed. It’s all about being there for one another with a helping hand, recommendation or referral. It takes a village.

That’s what I really love about Scott and the rest of his gang. They don’t just produce educational material.They develop and nurture a community of creatives around learning. I wish college had been more like that, I may have gone on and gotten a real job! Then again probably not :)

Thanks Scott and Brad for having me on the blog! I hope to keep shooting and sharing with you all for many years to come.

You can see more of Erik’s work at, keep up with him on Twitter, and find him on Facebook

  1. I actually did not read it entirely and went ahead to your website. I really like the images. I like you photograph people. Wonderful use of light !

    Now I came back, read the entire post and am replying here.

  2. Erik fails to mention what he’s given back to the photography community. So I will. I met Erik and Kathy last summer at a workshop in Tampa. I ask a LOT of questions. He encouraged me to continue to ask questions. Erik IS one of the good guys and thanks to him I have an awesome community of supportive people who share the knowledge, encourage growth, challenge my skills, celebrate my successes, and provide critical feedback when I need it. He and Kathy urged me to get to Photoshop World in Orlando, despite my severe apprehension, and now I’m heading to my 2nd one! Erik is one of those guys that doesn’t dwell on your lack of skill, rather he lifts you up to grow and educate yourself and work hard, take on challenges and, every-so-often just take a chance because you don’t know what lies around the corner. I’ve said this to you before and I’ll say it again, thanks for your encouragement. The confidence, support, knowledge, advice and laughs that you, Kathy and so many others have given me is priceless. See you in Vegas my friend! Congrats on all of your success. You’ve earned it!

  3. Fantastic to see Erik as the guest blogger this week. I met him last year at PSW, and we chat on Twitter every once in awhile (and I got to hang out with him again in Orlando). Nicest guy you’ll ever meet, has no problems explaining stuff if you pester him with questions. Looking forward to seeing him again next week!

  4. I must concur with my buddy Mel – Erik is a GREAT guy and I am fortunate to call him a friend.

    I met Erik at that first Help-Portrait event he mentioned and became a member of Kathy & RC’s strobist group at the same time as a result of the Help-Portrait event.

    From the get-go I have been impressed with Erik. Not just with his technical skills behind the camera and with lighting, but most importantly, his social interaction with his subjects and photographers alike. His enthusiasm, smile, and genuine all around great personality makes me marvel anytime I’m around him, as I am a much more reserved person around those that I don’t know. I consider him the “total package” as a photographer. He may be younger than me, (and he probably doesn’t know this) but I look up to him as someone that I aspire to be as a photographer. I have doubts that I will ever attain that level of “totality”, lol.

    I am not the least bit surprised at how much he has achieved in the past 2-3 yrs. It (and more) is richly deserved.

    Great blog post Erik. I look forward to seeing you again when you’re back “home” :)

    BTW, here are some BTS shots from that first Help-Portrait event –

  5. I’ll never forget the day I met Erik Valind!:)

    We were out at one of our photography groups gatherings to share images and talk shop with my buddy RC Concepcion and in walks this young personable guy with some 4×6 prints in his hands. As images start getting passed around I am instantly impressed with Erik’s work… I whisper to Rc who is this guy as I’m really digging his work! :) Mind you we are constantly exposed to see lots of awesome photographers work….
    I introduce myself to Erik and as we start chatting I was instantly attracted to his humble, radiant and warm personality…. I Have been a huge fan, supporter and friend ever since.
    I am the organizer of a group The Tampa Bay Strobist with nearly 500 local members as well as blessed to know and been exposed to some of the industry’s most talented but I have to say Erik has always been that guy that I knew from the beginning and as Robb H. says had the “total package” to become a successful photographer.
    Keep an eye on this wonderful guy as he’s seriously talented with a camera in his hands and a mover and shaker in the world… not to mention one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet!
    Should you get the pleasure of meeting him someday please pass on a hug from his photography mom! :)
    Erik, your village and photog family of Tampa Bay couldn’t be more proud of you and here to support lend a helping hand should you need it … come home to visit soon as we miss you!

  6. Erik you are an amazing person and photographer so happy to see you here on Scott’s blog! You have always been so helpful with any questions and always willing to give feedback.. Thank you so much for helping me, and wish you all the best for more success in the future! Hope to see you soon back in FL, miss ya!

  7. Erik, what some wonderful replies from your friends and peers.
    We would like to add a few accolades but our vision is a little slanted because we knew
    you would become a great photographer. Wish we could say it is in the genes.
    From an 80 year old former Qualified in Black and White and Color Commercial Photographer
    you can really show me some lighting tricks.
    Love, Grandpa and Grandma Demsien

  8. Great guest blog Eric! I have also benefited from the community of the Tampa Strobist group. I was lucky enough to get to shoot with Eric at last years Help Portrait! I one day I learned so much about lighting and working with your subjects! Eric, you passed along your knowledge and so now I came pass it forward to the new members in our meetup group. Thanks to you, Kathy, RC and the others in our group the let me borrow there lights and showed me a whole new path on my photographic journey! Hope to see you soon!

  9. I grew up not too far from Detroit and I’ve lived in six other states now. I’ve landed in Alaska. Talk about some bad lighting – almost 24 hours of darkness really makes me love summer even more. I’m terrible at “night” photography and will really be enjoying Light It Magazine. As you can see, we don’t get enough sun for a few months a year and I can’t wait that long to take out my camera! Thanks. I enjoyed your post.

  10. Great read, Erik! I’ve got an APC canvas picture of me posing with Scott at PSW Orlando in my living room, and it’s the only picture of me that I like (so you must be good! :) ).

    Seriously, congrats on your success and thanks for writing such a good post about community, especially the one that Scott and crew have built up over the years here. Hope to see you @ PSW in Vegas next year!


  11. Could’nt agree more with this guest blog. Ive found my knowledge has grown and (more importantly) my love of photography has been rekindled since discovering NAPP, Scott and the other community that has evolved from this group of passionate teachers/photographers.

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