My Portrait Project of 2010: Sessions

Matt Kloskowski
Plays: Ibanez Roadstar Series Electric Guitar | Shoots: Nikon D300

Back in 2009, I had been talking with Joe McNally about kind of being in a rut over my own photography, and Joe encouraged me to come up with a personal photo project—something that would span a series of photos, and cause me to really think about a body of work instead of just “one-offs” like I normally shoot. I thought it was a great idea—-I just didn’t have a great idea on what to do.

Finally, Something Hit Me

After thinking about it for quite a while (and being quite frustrated by how hard a time I was having coming up with something creative and fun), until one day I came up with the idea to combine two things I love—music and photography, into a portrait series based on photographers who are also accomplished musicians. I would call the series  “Sessions,“as I felt that name fit both music (like a recording session), and photography (like a photo session).

My idea was to shoot each photographer with their musical instrument (or a part thereof), but since they were photographers, I would make the backdrop and lighting part of the scene (so you’d clearly see the softbox, the back light, light stands, etc.), to bring the two arts together in one frame.

I decided that I would convert all the images into Duotones, and create a poster layout with the name of the series, then under it I would have the subject’s name, their favorite instrument, and their camera (for example, Matt Kloskowski. Plays: an Ibanez Roadrunner. Shoots: a Nikon D700). Then I would make a 24″x30” print (on Epson Exhibition Fiber Paper) and have each of them sign the print, large, above the series name, which would bring them further into the layout like a celebrity signing a promo photo.

The Series Gets Tweaked Right Out of the Gate
I took the first couple of shots, (taken in our studio, with the backdrop set up in front of a white syc wall), and I sent a couple to Joe to see what he thought, and while he liked the concept, he thought I needed to have a better background than just the syc wall. He said to either move the entire set closer to the subject (like backstage at a concert, or on stage before a gig, etc.), or to someplace completely opposite the two subjects, like putting up the set in a desert, or near a waterfall.

I agreed, and I knew that I’d have access to a backstage area at Photoshop World for our opening keynote concert, so after the few first shots, I took the set backstage and did the next set, and of course, Joe was right.

Anyway, I thought I share some of the images from the series here with you today. You’ll recognize these photographers, but you might be surprised to find out that they’re musicians, which I think is one of the coolest things about the project.

Rick Sammon
Plays: Martin DC-16RGTE Acoustic Guitar | Shoots: Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Drew Gurian
Plays: Spaun Custom Drums | Shoots: Nikon D3s

Eddie Tapp
Plays: Ludwig Drums | Shoots: Canon EOS 5D Mark II

RC Concepcion
Plays: Martin Acoustic Guitars | Shoots: Nikon D700

Jim Divitale
Plays: Pearl Drums | Shoots: Canon 1DS Mark III

Scott Diussa
Plays: Carvin DC127T
Electric Guitar | Shoots: Nikon D3s

My humble thanks to Joe McNally for inspiring me to try something new and shoot my first series, and for encouraging me to get serious about my sports photography in 2010 as well by just getting out there and shooting and learning. Both projects have taught me an awful lot, as I’m sure Joe knew they would.

Also a special thanks to my photo assistant Brad Moore, who was a tremendous help throughout the entire project, and a big thanks to these photographers who graciously posed for my project, especially since I knew full well that they would have been much more comfortable on the other side of the lens. :)

  1. What a wonderful project and what a great idea to combine your two passions.
    And how lucky are you to be able to say that Joe is your friend.
    Actually, how lucky are you to be able to call ALL of those photographers/musicians your friends.
    Thanks for sharing your project.

  2. Scott, I love this series of portraits. Often portraits are too stiff, but here your informal-formality vibe really rocks. The whole series idea — especially a self assigned series — has always been an opportunity for personal growth for me. It is good to see it works for you, too. I’m so pleased to hear you accepted Joe McNally’s suggestion about the background. Although I always have a point of view on my own work, I love bouncing ideas off someone who’s work I admire.

    One of my favorite collaborations was at a wedding over 25 years ago. The groom was an advertising photographer and most of the guests were, too. We were all asked to bring a 35mm camera and many rolls of film were supplied to each of us. When the wedding was over, we turned in all our exposed film and the newlyweds had the work of 35 of the top ad photographers. The photos that came out of that wedding were amazing and it is a real testament to how giving true professionals can be.

    Thanks for continuing to inspire us.

  3. That’s a fantastic portrait session. Getting the rest of the gear in shot is something very different but creates a kind of environment as well. The duo tone setup is really looks wonderful. Great idea to get everything together rather then the wall.

    By the way couple of photographs, when I click for the high resolution end up with page not found.

  4. Hi Scott,

    hope you are reading the comments. Could You please contact me back on the email entered with your email or phone number ?
    I am following you since years now, and I think I have a pretty cool idea how I could help you and your Springs of Hope in Kenya.
    I will explain you more about the idea in my email…

    Many thanks


  5. Long time lurker, first time poster!
    What a great series, Scott. It’s so sincere and honest – very inspiring. Joe’s suggestion about the background was great and I think it worked out brilliantly. Whadda yasay, Joe’s not a numnuts after all. He knows his stuff :)

    Show some more!

  6. What a fantastic project! Seriously liking these shots Scott; the set up, the poses, the post…the lot…totally nailed it!

    Just a thought, but a short run of coffee table style books containing these images would a ‘must have’ for any NAPP member; I for one would be ordering without hesitation. A book of images of folks who have, and continue to have a positive impact on my life would be a wonderful keepsake.

    Thanks so much for sharing this; very inspiring!

  7. Scott, really loving the mood in this panel of images – the lighting, the duotone effect and of course the poses just oozes mood & emotion. Personal fav is the shot Scott Diussa – there’s the raw passion of a guitarist captured in that expression!

    1. LOL… Thanks, David! I prefer to be on the other side of the camera so I started out with some serious, pensive sort of poses (kinda like Matt’s image… you look great, Matt!) and then Scott got me going by asking for some “Rock God” stuff and that’s the best I could some up with! It’s hard to do that when the guitar’s not plugged in!

      Also, I didn’t tell RC that the stool actually started to break during my shoot… (I know, it’s a “sign”!) and he was right after me! Sorry, RC! Glad Scott didn’t get an action shot of you falling on that Martin acoustic! :-)

  8. I love these shots. Especially the raw setup with all the equipment part of the scene that seems to take the viewer further into the the mind of the photographer:-)

    Now the big question is: Does Matt shoot with a D300 or D700:-)?

  9. While I completely love the results (even more because they are completely unlike what you usually share with us), the project really got me thinking. It turns out that quite a few of my friends are photographers or musicians (I shoot Nikons and play a Stratocaster ;))… but I don’t recall a single one of them being both. Interesting, since both professions generally attract the “right brain” people. Maybe they all just need a chance at the other thing, who knows, maybe I’ll find some real talent down this way :)

  10. I love the feel of these images Scott – the post processing really suits the atmosphere and the concept it great.

    Has inspired me to think about doing a personal project – though not sure I have quite the same access to such unique subjects, but its about exploring your own unique situation to express something only you can present isn’t it?

  11. Seems everyone is commenting on how great a job you’ve done bringing the two passions together. What inspires me the most is how you’ve captured the personalities of the subject. Matt’s thoughtfulness, RC’s zest for life, Rick introspection, Scott’s larger than lifeness (is that a word?). Objects are one thing. The spirit of an individual is quite another. Really nice job and a cool post.

    1. That’s a very good point, Tom. I don’t know any of these people personally, but from what I’ve seen on the podcasts, Matt and RC are captured to a tee (short of maybe having Matt kick his Ibanez in two). I especially like the one of RC. It has a great, fun feel to it. Nicely done, Scott.

      P.S. Trevor Johnston… Plays: Mean washboard | Shoots: Nikon D300

      1. Hey Matt,

        I’ll gladly trade you my vintage Roadstar bass for that D300. Or a D90 or D5000. It is slightly older than your guitar, I believe 83-84. Plays great.

  12. Awesome series Scott! I have to say it doesn’t surprise me though that so many photographers are musicians as well, after all they are artists and it seems to just naturally go hand-in-hand.

    I really like the duotones of these and how you showed the sets in the portraits. I think it really tells more about each individual. So… where’s your self portrait? :)

  13. Hi Scott,

    Wow! Just awesome pictures! The idea is fantastic and your execution was Amazing! Love the duo tones and the back drop idea. Works really well! As always, you’ve got me thinking about my photography … I’m kind of in a rut also. Looking for something to expand on. This has given me an excellent idea! I retired last May for Nestle (made Hot Pockets) and all my friends there are really young and athletic. So I think I’ll do something with them in their athletic attire, but in the test kitchen environment. Tying the two together. Of course any ideas from you or others would be greatly appreciated! Also, I agree with Glyn about a photo book with your session pictures. I’d purchase it in a heartbeat! You guys have inspired me so much over the last four year and would cherish having a memory like this!

    Thanks again for everything!


  14. Saying Joe was right is kind of like saying the ocean is deep, DUH. Great series. I am with Doug K, no bass player. I happen to have an Ibanez roadstar series II bass, early 80’s, that would match Matt’s guitar quite nicely. Are you holding auditions to fill the spot? I could use some Florida sun. Its dumping snow and freezing rain on me up here in Washington.

  15. Hi Scott,
    Is Drew shown above, Joe’s assistant?
    I love the looks of these images. However, I like the idea of the way Joe almost “Made” you think outside the box to improve. Damien Jemison (met him in Vegas 09) has a project 52 on flickr that I have proudly became a part of because I too want to improve by doing something different. This idea of allowing others to help is great. I feel for those who are close minded and won’t seek or accept help whether they know they need it or not.
    Thanks for another amazing blog post.

    1. Hi Mike: Yup—that’s Joe Assistant. He’s a serious pro drummer (and a great concert photographer), and a really great guy on top of it all. Joe has a track record for having great photographers and people as his assistants. :)


      1. Hey Scott,
        Thanks for the answer. I thought that was him, talking to him on the Photo Safari outside Vegas was a complete pleasure.
        I sure wish I could play something besides a volume control. :)

  16. Great series, Scott! Love the posing and the post-processing. I agree with TomPeterson above that it looks like you captured the subjects personalities as well (intentional or not). That Joe McNally….always coming up with great suggestions and ideas!

    Tell Rick Sammon that it appears that all photographer/guitarists shoot Nikon, so he will have to switch camera brands or start playing drums. :D

    Glyn had a great suggestion on making a book of these available to NAPP members. Maybe the proceeds could go to Springs of Hope Orphanage? I’m sure you would have a lot of interest in this from the NAPP membership, especially if you had the subjects speak about their passions printed on the opposite page of the book. Food for thought!


    1. One other thing….The only photo that can be clicked on and viewed in higher detail is the Rick Sammon photo. The other ones fail to load or are unselectable. And the large version of Rick’s photo is not the same as the small one (the captions are different).


      1. Hi John: For whatever reason, I just could not get the images to link to the high resolutions images. I’ll have my Web team look at it.


  17. So you’re going to continue this with a booth at PSW this year, right? Now I have to figure out if I bring my Strat, Les Paul, or the ’52 Tele.

    Thanks for sharing. It’s nice to see a body of work with similarities, yet each one is unique.

  18. Very cool for a number of reasons. Interesting how many photographers are musicians, too. Great.

    Love seeing the lighting setup. Simple yet powerful. The poster layout is great, too. What font?

    I also now realize my problem. All these guys have better cameras than guitars. Guess I need to make some changes. I have great guitars and a D300. :-)


    Goodall Koa Parlor
    Collings OM2H-SS
    Martin Steve Miller OM
    Fender Blackie Frankenstrat

    Nikon D300

  19. I like that the series looks like you set up a quick photo shoot backstage. It gives it a very authentic feel. I think the duo tones was also a nice touch. I’m a bigger fan of music than photography, so this is a great series in my opinion.

  20. Very cool Scott. You’ve inspired me to do a jazz scene series for this year. Funny how so many musicians are also photographers. Me??? jazz trumpet, bass guitar. I’m very outnumbered as a Canon shooter (5D mII, 7D)

    Have you ever considered a musicians jam at photo shop world? I’ve do that at other large trade shows and was a blast.

  21. Great work Scott. As has been said, you’ve created wonderful portraits and capture their personalities too, which is key to a great portrait. Old J. Mackers still has some gooduns up his sleeve.
    Perhaps you could look up photographers in the different cities you travel to and continue the portraits including their other passions. Push the boat out a little.

    Jonathan, Canon 1DS mkiii, play at being a pro shooter

  22. Wonderful portraits, Scott! I especially love the look of the duotone. Any chance on seeing a “recipe” for how you achieved the look in Photoshop, either here or on Photoshop User TV?

  23. Okay… Here’s a quote from Tom Peterson’s comment above…

    “What inspires me the most is how you’ve captured the personalities of the subject. Matt’s thoughtfulness, RC’s zest for life, Rick introspection, Scott’s larger than lifeness (is that a word?). Objects are one thing. The spirit of an individual is quite another.”

    How about a fun side project here… If each of these photographers/musicians had Sirius/XM Satellite Radio in their car and they gave you the keys, what station would be on when you start the car??? :-)

    So, you have: Matt, Rick, Drew, Eddie, RC, Jim, Scott D and how about Scott K? You can find the list of stations available here…

    Just for fun, reply with your choices on this based on what you see in these pics! :-)

    1. Here are my guesses:

      Matt: Alt Nation
      Rick: Radio Margaritaville
      Drew: Lithium
      Eddie: Classic Rewind
      RC: The Coffee House
      Jim: BB King’s Bluesville
      Scott D: (hmmm… I’ll tell you later)
      Scott K: He gave it away below but I was totally going with Hair Nation… lot’s of Bon Jovi on there! :-)

      1. OK, I totally didn’t pick up on that quiz thing the first time around. Here are my guesses:

        Matt: 90s on 9
        Rick: Real Jazz
        Drew: Hits 1
        Eddie: The Bridge (Mellow Rock)
        RC: The Spectrum (Album Rock)
        Jim: Classic Rewind
        Scott D: Hair Nation

    1. My suggestion as well, Janine (a few posts above yours)! I think Scott has an untapped market here for his images (as well as some of the images made by his staff). I’m sure the proceeds could benefit a charity.


    1. Hi David: It’s just a mottled muslin backdrop I brought at a photo tradeshow some years back. I don’t remember the vendor, or name of the background—I just saw it in their booth and bought it. If you’re looking for reasonably priced backdrops, try Denny Manufacturing (


    1. I wanted to get Scott a signed one back but when Brad sent me the actual print (looked great btw) UPS had decided to fold it in half! It was actually flat between some good heavy cardboard and should have been fine. I bet it got crushed in a truck between two heavy packages…

      So, that’s my excuse for not having my homework done! :-)

  24. I hardly ever comment on blog posts no matter who’s they are, but this series is one of the coolest I have ever seen. I too am passionate about photos and music. Thanks so much for sharing. Awesome work.

  25. Cool Idea.
    Just a few critic if you don’t mind :
    – Matt guitar should face the light
    – On the poster layout, your name should not be 10 times bigger than the subject name. I think your name should actually be a lot smaller smaller than the subject name. The serie is done by you, but is about the subjects, not about you.
    – backdrop is kind of “cheesy”. looks like a “lesson 101”. A plain one would have been more “classy”



      1. ok ok…

        Sorry for not commenting on how awesome you are.
        I’ll make sure to keep my comments for me in the future.

  26. Awesome Scott. Its not surprising to see so many with dual talents. I have found creatives tend to be creative in more than one area. For example I can’t play a single note or sing, but I do sketch from time to time.

    I think doing personal projects are so much fun. Its even more fun when you have people that will help you do them.

    When you get done all of you guys should get together and form a band called Shooters.

  27. Very cool images! What I loved about this is that creative people have many ways to express themselves! Love the lighting on each one and the Duotones give them an even more artistic feel! Love them!

  28. Great Idea Scott! i often wonder why all photographers play a musical instrument (usually Guitar or Drums!) is this a worldwide phenomenon? I play guitar, my buddy plays Bass and my drummer friend just bought a Nikon!
    You might be on to something here!

    Declan Colohan (Ireland)

  29. I played bass in a band back I high school, have 3 guitars gathering dust now. I was doomed with tone-deaf genetics though, but I never stopped trying though. Cool series, btw.

  30. Love this concept. Of course you need Tony Sweet. Might be harder to get access to muscians who are into photography, but they might be happy to get noticed as a photog. Patti Smythe? PDN ran a feature once on actors that are passionate about photography. There are a lot of them – Brad Pitt and Leonard Nimoy to mention two.

  31. I love these photos. Good start. Gorgeous photos but still inside your comfort zone. When I think of your neighborhood, I think horse people. There is a whole side of Florida, people just don’t realize…

  32. Awesome project Scott. I love the idea, love the set-up and I love the final presentation. In my humble opinion it is a 5 star achievement!
    Just GREAT!
    Will they be on sale?

  33. What a great idea and well executed to boot! Thanks for sharing your project Scott. I thoroughly enjoyed the photos as well as the sheer concept. There must be some sort of connection between photography and music.

    I happen to be a professional musician who shoots a little on the side. I do shoot for money, the occaisonal wedding, bands, senior portraits and corporate gigs when I have time but also the love of the art and science of photography. I must also point out that everything I have learned so far about photography has been from your digital photography books and blog. I got into photography in a strange sort of way,……. because a (now defunct) magazine’s photographer quit and I volunteered the job of shooting………. the cover………Paul Reed Smith of PRS guitars was the subject. I never even held a DSLR before and this was my first assignment. So I went right out and bought your digital photography book (book 1 was the only one at the time), read it cover to cover in two days, practiced all I could with little sleep and a shiny new Nikon D80 with kit lens and some speed lights and did the shoot for the inaugural issue. I had a few bumps and bruises like not knowing enough to tell my assistant not to obstruct the SB600 slave speedlight’s sensor with objects and to make sure the sensor was pointing toward my SB800 on my camera. But thanks to you I got the job done.

    My primary income is not photography but I’ve finally been persuaded to put up a little site so I can begin to show some of my work. It’s not at all finished & since I’m not a full time professional photographer I don’t mind sharing my humble link to what I hope will someday be a portfolio I can really be proud of. Thanks again Scott for the knowlegde and inspiration.

  34. Now where do I remember to “think outside the box” making you choose the “wider shots” :)

    It most certainly makes for a TOTALLY different set of images – and I’m loving the look of them

    Well done!

  35. A cool series for sure – and a great starting point to offer inspiration for others. Two observations:

    1. Why are Matt and Rick the only ones who “signed” their portraits?
    2. The template for each is portrait, but the photo itself is in landscape position – was this intentional or just the way each was composed? I wonder how the composite would look with a portrait presentation throughout…

  36. Hey Scott,
    This is totally off subject – but I can’t seem to find the (old ) post where you talked about this.
    I think you used an acronym, WISP, to check settings on your camera, before a shoot. Could you tell me what the acronym stands for? W – White Balance, I-ISO, ?????? I can’t remember the rest. Any info would be helpful.

  37. Must be that “artists” tend to branch out into multiple mediums… I shoot Canon and play a few different brands of guitar (although not nearly as much as before I got into photography!)

  38. Hi Scott,

    What a great idea, taken that one step further by giving the instrument and camera info for each portrait. You’ve now got me thinking about what kind of series I can do! Thanks so much for sharing and inspiring.


  39. Wonderful series Scott. I think the thing that makes it for me is the fact you have all of the studio in the picture.

    They’d be a great shot cropped in with just the backdrop but for some reason having the “clutter” really pushes these over the top.

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