This Story About Photography is About Much More Than Photography

(Above: OK, this is not the most flattering photo of me, but luckily this story isn’t about me — it’s about the guy I’m posed here with — Matt Lange).

Well, it sounded like a good idea at the time…
One day back in 2009 my buddy, pro-sports photographer Mike Olivella, calls me with a really fun idea — we’d hold a sports photography contest for amateur sports photographers and the winner would get the opportunity to shoot on the sidelines of a Florida State football game, alongside Mike and me (We’d pay all their expenses; airfare, hotels, etc and would ship the winner some long glass to shoot the game with). We called it “Shoot on the sidelines with Scott and Mike.” Here’s a link to the post where I announced the contest.

Folks, we have a winner!
Mike was tasked with picking a winning image, and he picked a fantastic shot by photographer Alex Walker, who won with an outstanding shot of his son, a soccer goalie. I was lucky enough to get to call Alex personally and tell him that he had won. Alex was a really great guy, and after talking to him for five minutes, I couldn’t wait to meet him in person at the game (over a month away). Here’s a link to see the finalists and Alex’s winning entry.

No good deed goes unpunished
For reasons neither Mike nor I still quite understand, a group of very vocal sports photographers got really, really, really mad about our contest. They started some incredibly hateful threads at a popular sports photography site that got so many comments, they had to close the original thread and start a new one so the hating could continue in full force. Besides just generally hating on Mike and me (OK, mostly me), their other gripe was that letting this one “amateur” on the sidelines would make the already hopelessly over-crowded sidelines that much more crowded, but worse yet this amateur would basically “run-amok” endangering himself and everyone around him. This had to be stopped!

Light your torches, grab your pitchforks!!!
These sports photographers were so incensed that Alex would get to shoot this college football game, that they went beyond the forums —  they carried their angry protest directly to the school and convinced them that letting this reckless amateur shoot the game was endangering the school, the other photographers, and even the players on the field. Their outcry was so loud the school felt they had no other choice then to revoke Alex’s sideline photo pass (by the way: FSU is not to blame one bit in all this. Mike explains why in a comment on a blog post that I’ll link to in a moment).

A great day for sports photography
I now had to call Alex with the news that his dream of shooting a college football game had been taken from him. I wrote about how these photographers were able to steal Alex’s dream from him in a post called “A great day for Sports Photography.” It was, until my recent “Open letter to Adobe” post, the most commented-on post in the history of my blog. It’s a very short post, so if you have a minute I encourage to give it a quick read right now — I promise it will make this story much more meaningful. Here’s the link (but remember to come right back and pick up here).

Friends to the rescue!
In that post, when I told how Alex wouldn’t be shooting on the sidelines after all, you couldn’t believe the outpouring of support from friends of the blog. For example, photographer, blogger, and social media guru Scott Bourne (of literally sent Alex over a thousand dollars in Photoshop plug-ins and software to help to make up for his loss of the shoot. He wasn’t the only one — lots of folks stepped up to send Alex all kinds of goodies, and we sent Alex a “care package” ourselves but of course, I felt really awful about the whole thing.

The only person that felt worse was Mike Olivella. Here he tried to do something nice, and not only did Mike and I wind up getting barbecued at a level I don’t think either of us had ever experienced in our professional lives, but Alex wound up without a shoot to boot. Luckily, Alex took the news like a pro. He was incredibly gracious, understanding, and was just happy to have won and didn’t want anything else — no replacement prize — nothing. Now I wanted to meet him in person even more.

I hate asking for favors, but I needed a favor…
I hate calling friends for favors, but in this instance I felt I just had to. A dear friend of mine, Mike McCaskey, is one of the owners of the NFL’s Chicago Bears, and at the time Mike was the Bear’s Chairman of the Board (Mike has since retired). I called Mike, told him the story about Alex losing his sideline photo pass, and Mike said, without hesitation:

 “The Chicago Bears would welcome Alex on our sidelines!”

I was thrilled, and I called Alex to tell him the news that he was now shooting an NFL game at Chicago’s Soldier field (Whoo Hoo!!!). It was one of the most fun phone calls I’ve ever made! Alex was blown away (Mike and I were thrilled beyond thrilled for him), and we arranged Alex’s flights, hotel, and so on, but I asked Alex to keep all this quiet until after the game, so the angry sports shooters wouldn’t try to ruin this shoot for him, too.

Jumping ahead to the game
Well, the plan came together and Alex got to Chicago to shoot “Da Bears.” I met Alex early that morning for breakfast, and he was just a wonderful, down-to-earth guy, and a very proud dad of his son, who just earned a college scholarship with his soccer skills.

We talked a lot about our families, our jobs, and life in general and I really enjoyed getting to know him. Before you knew it, we were at Chicago’s Soldier Field. We met up with Bears Chairman Mike McCaskey as soon as we got to the stadium and Mike treated Alex as though he was the single most important person at Soldier Field that day. Mike invited Alex to join him for lunch in the owner’s suite, and even went out shooting with Alex during the tailgating festivities.

I know a lot of Bears fans only know Mike as part of the ownership or management group, but I can tell you they would have seen a side of Mike McCaskey, (one that I’ve seen time and time again), that would have made them really proud to have Mike leading their organization. I wrote about Alex’s trip to the Bears game right here (without ever mentioning that it was in place of the shoot Alex had lost. In fact, I just called the post “Shooting On The NFL Sidelines”).

The shot you see above, is (from L to R): Mike Olivella, me, and contest winner Alex Walker, taken on the Bears Sidelines by Mike McCaskey (by the way, Mr. McCaskey is a very accomplished photographer himself, with gallery showings of his work, and numerous photography talks and presentations under his belt. He’s now focusing on his photography in his retirement, and I saw him last week at Photoshop World in DC soaking it all in).

OK, this story is about to take a turn, because it’s not what you think
I know this is long, but hang in there with me — I promise it will be worth the extra time.

But before we got to the Bears game…
I saw a comment on my blog — on that same “A great day for Sports Photography” post from a guy whose name I had recognized from posting on the blog, but I had never met. His name is Matt Lange (the guy shown posing with me at the very top of this post), and he worked with Louisiana Tech University as a graphic designer and sideline photographer. He said (I’m paraphrasing here):

“Look, I saw what happened to Alex and I feel terrible for him, and I want to do something to help. I was able to arrange a sideline pass for Alex to shoot a Louisianna Tech University football game. We’re not a huge school like Florida State, with a giant stadium and 80,000 fans, but we have a great program, and it’s a great place to shoot, and at least this way Alex would still get to shoot a college football game on the sidelines.”

I was blown away that Matt would reach out and do something like this, especially for someone he didn’t know, and I called him to let him know that thankfully we already had Alex covered with an NFL shoot with the Bears, and then I swore Matt to secrecy about the Bears shoot. He was really thrilled for Alex, and Matt seemed like a really great, down-to-earth guy (kind of like Alex), and although I had just met him, I already had a lot of respect for him.

One door closes…another door opens…
Since Alex wasn’t coming to shoot the game, Matt asked if I wanted to come up and shoot an LA Tech game some time and I took him up on it. Matt was right — LA Tech has a great atmosphere, and I got some of my favorite football images in that game (including some that are still in my football photography portfolio to this day [link]). While I was there hanging with Matt (I went to their tailgate party before the game, which was a blast), I made another friend in Matt’s buddy Donald Page (whom we all refer to now as simply “Big Daddy Don Page,” a nod to drag racing legend Big Daddy Don Garlitts). We all hit if off so well, that Matt and Don came to New York City with me the following week for Photo Plus Expo, and everybody from our crew took them in like they were family (we’ll all still great friends).

As it turned out, both Don and Matt were shooting NFL games for a small sports wire service called “Southcreek Global Media” and the more they told me about Southcreek, the more interested I became, and I eventually applied to shoot locally for Southcreek. A month later, I got picked up by them, and wound up shooting everything from Tampa Bay Bucs games, to Indy Racing, to Major League Baseball, College Bowl Games, Hockey, and all sorts of cool sports gigs. Really a great experience (and more on Southcreek in a day or so here on the blog). So, not only did I have a great football shoot, I made two new friends, and even wound up shooting sports for a wire service. Hey, ya never know, but this story isn’t over yet.

It was at the end of an episode of D-Town TV…
In 2010, when Matt Kloskowski and I hosted D-Town TV  we always closed the show by highlighting the work of a photographer, and in one episode I turned our viewers onto the photography and design work of my new friend Matt Lange. Matt is an absolutely kick-butt designer, for both Print and Video, and his work for LA Tech looks as good as anybody’s out there — totally EPSN or SI quality stuff, so I really wanted to share his work with our viewers and help him reach a larger audience.

So who was watching that episode that day?
Well, as luck would have it, Michael Benford, the Creative Director of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons (a terrific guy, and kick-butt designer and photographer himself), was watching and he started following Matt Lange’s work, just in case one day an opportunity came around to add to the Falcon’s in-house design staff.

Well, I’m thrilled to share with you that last week my buddy Matt Lange moved up to the NFL where he started his dream job as a full-time designer with the Falcons (Michael Benford clearly has a great eye for talent!). You could not wipe the smile off my face when I got the text from Matt Lange telling me that Michael had offered him the job and he and his wife were on their way to find a new home in Atlanta.

I had dinner two weeks ago with Michael Benford, the night before my Atlanta seminar, and he told me the story of how he found Matt — from that mention on D-Town TV. I’m still smiling.

I love when good things happen to good people
It was Matt Lange reaching out to help Alex Walker, back in 2009, with no agenda but help out a fellow photographer who he felt had been wronged, that unknowingly led Matt to his dream job in the NFL just a few years later.

Funny how that stuff works out, isn’t it? By the way, Matt got his dream job, but the Atlanta Falcons also just added one of the most talented graphic designers, video designers, and photographers in the industry. They won, too! (Go Falcons!).

There were lots of heroes along the way
People like Mike McCaskey, who literally saved the day with his offer to have Alex on his sidelines. To Scott Bourne who sent loads of plug-ins and software to Alex. To Mike Olivella who is still licking his wounds from just trying to do something nice with his original contest idea in the first place, but still couldn’t let it go that Alex lost that shoot, so he wound up arranging for Alex to shoot with him on the sidelines of the ACC College Championship Game (here’s the link to that story. That’s Alex and Mike at the game, shown above). To the many photographers who offered their support, sent gifts, and became fans of Alex Walker through this contest. I even asked Alex to write a guest blog here on my blog, and he totally rocked it. Here’s the link to hear Alex’s story. You’ll totally dig it now that you know Alex, and you’ll love the photos, too!

You can be a “Matt Lange” too!
Matt helped out somebody else with no thought whatsoever of what it would get him, but look what it got him. Life has a way of doing that. You do things, and good things seem to boomerang back to you. That’s not why you do good things — it’s just a wonderful side effect. :)

Sometime soon, you’ll have an opportunity to be a Matt Lange. Maybe it’s to help someone at work. Maybe a friend. Maybe like Matt it’s to help someone you’ve never met. Take that opportunity and do it. By the way, the feeling you get when you help somebody else — that right there — that’s your good deed already coming back to you. If you never get anything more from it than that feeling, you’ve already moved ahead in your life (and you helped somebody else move ahead in theirs). If you ever sit and wonder what life’s about. That is what life’s about. :)

  1. Scott-
    Awesome job, Bountiful of blessings, it is more than words can describe, give and watch what happens, deny yourself for others, it makes no sense, but you are always blessed so much more. Thanks for sharing.

      1.  This story is a  perfect example of BS dogma (the so called  ‘pros’ at Florida) getting run over by the karma of Scot Kelby, Alex Walker, Mike Olivella, Mike McCaskey et al BRAVO!

  2. Hi Scott, I’m a first time “commenter”, but it just so happens that I posted one of my all time favorite quotes on my FB page tonight…goes along with your whole story!
    are not here merely to make a living; you are here in order to enable
    the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit
    of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you
    impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.” – Woodrow Wilson

  3. This is by far THE BEST photographer good news story I have ever heard. Thank you Scott, Matt and Mike and all those who Scott mentioned for offers, for doing such wonderful things. This makes me happy to call myself a photographer as there are Photog’s out there who are some of the BEST PEOPLE!

  4. Scott – another first-time commenter here as well.  I missed your previous stories but got all caught up with the links you provided.  All I can way is – WOW!  It really does pay to be nice.  I think this should be required reading by anybody picking up a camera.  I’ve run across too many of those stingy naysayers and try to avoid them like the plague.  You really can “beat them at their own game” and persevere through kindness.  I’ve always been impressed by your willingness to share, now I’m speachless.  I’m posting a link to this blog post for everyone in our local camera club to read.  Kudos…

  5. Scott, 

    An amazing inspiring post! 
    I love that when I read your blog it’s your voice I hear in my mind as the narrator haha! 

    This is how the world works, you never know who is watching or what could happen…the overall moral of this story should be to always be doing! It was because everyone mentioned within this article was doing something; along with that, doing something that they love!

    To bring back one of my favorite quotes mentioned on your blog by Larry Becker, “Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely believe in luck and good fortune. But I don’t believe the ‘Law of Attraction’ works in isolation from preparation and work (usually hard work). You have to get off your butt and do something. You have to be prepared for ‘luck.’”

    P.S. I’ve been in music studio mode exploring that talent but I still pass by at random to your site because this is the domain that inspired my life and shaped my thoughts / attitude to everything forever!

    Tu Amigo, 
    DT. | Nassau, Bahamas | Miami, Florida 

  6. Great post! Makes me think of the Nike slogan – Just do it – I am not promoting their products here, but the idea of helping and just trying to make things better and more fun for someone we don’t even know. It’s not only about photography, it’s not only about sports . It’s about humanity.

  7. scott

    congrats to matt – i thought that was him with you in new orleans for the saints-falcons game, but i wasn’t sure.  hope he continues to have a great career.  take care !

  8. This story demonstrates how we don’t have to be in constant competition with each other. It doesn’t take much to be nice and/or lend a hand, but the rewards reaped-tangible or otherwise-are well worth it. Congratulations Matt and good luck.

  9. Great post, Scott.  Glad to hear it worked out so well.  I’ve been given soooo many opportunities by other photogs and I continue to pay it forward whenever I can.  Helping others is one of the greatest thrills in life.  It is part of the cycle of life. 

  10. Scott, there is such a lesson to take from this story, help others and it will come back. I think all of us know someone that can help another fellow photog, it’s what makes being a part fo the family of photographers so great. I feel this story is not over!

  11. Hey Scott, that’s a great story! The thing that I want to tell you is that this happens all over the world and I may say especially in Russia. Haters all around stop themselves trying to stop someone’s improvment in whatever photogrpahy they do. 
    I wasn’t lucky enough to get to know someone as Matt or somebody else. I never recieved a usefull advice from any of photographers I know in person, who shoot travel, sports, landscape or wedding photography… I don’t know what are they affraid of… maybe that someone could turn out to be better than they are, I’m not sure. For good people to find someone better would be a chance to know something new and usefull, that is an ability to share experience, find friends and as you said, help someone, for others just another person to hate… It’s a shame that photography, which is considered to be an art has come to this thing.

  12. Awesome! This is the kind of story that gives me hope. Being in Orlando I constantly face the same issue, too many people fending for themselves, being selfish, and unwilling to help another or repay the favor that was once probably given to them when they started. Great to see there is still some type of kindness left in humanity.

  13. This is a great story that should serve as a lesson to us all. The good that you do comes back to you whether that’s someone else doing something nice for you or just the good feeling of having done something nice for someone else.  

  14. Scott, this is one of the best stories I think I have ever read. I’ve had many times when I just wanted to help someone, not to get something out of it but just because I want to help. Usually, I feel like I’m not in a position to do something, but one day I will be and on that day, I’m definitely going to be first in line to give someone a hand.

  15. Scott, this post really hit home today. I’ve always believed that you get much more back from helping others than you can imagine. Thanks for proving it in such a great story (and, no, it wasn’t too long). I remember when we chatted during your Light It seminar in Boston last year, and you said “good things happen to good people”. Words to live by, and it’s happened time and time again. Nice guys finish first sometimes, I guess! Congrats t

  16. When I graduated as a ‘mature’ PJ student in New Zealand a senior shooter at the local daily took me under his wing for a Super 12 rugby match – where to stand, where to look, hints on shooting. I’m stoked that he took the time to do so – I’m now working as a ‘card-carrying’ PJ in Sydney, Australia. I try and pass it forward with less experienced shooters and was warmed to read about this. Kudos to all the made it happen, and shame on all those that fired up and threw their toys out of the cot. Righteous.

  17. I love this story! I love when good karma hits the right people as it did here. It helps give me faith in everybody since there are so many people who will not help others because there’s nothing in it for them. I love helping others with stuff not because it’s something I’ll get something out of, but just because it’s the right thing to do. I remember the original contest and the venomous threads on that “other” site, and was so happy for Alex being able to shoot the Bears. Congrats to Matt!!

  18. I remember seeing all the flaming on the sports forum back then. Some people just is a bit crazy to say it nicely. 

    Very nice to hear that it all worked out in the end :)

  19. Great story Scott!!  Thank you for sharing.  Only goes to prove that things do happen for a reason.  Or, as you put it, when one door closes, several more open up.

  20. Best post ever! Truly inspirational. Shame on small minded individuals who can’t or won’t see the forest for all the trees too. Congratulations to you and everyone who reached out to turn things around.

  21. Holy crap! First it is all great, no doubt. Second, I need a roadmap for that blog. It literally covers a lot of real estate and people. When they make the movie be sure to use Springsteen’s ‘Land of Hope and Dreams’ on the soundtrack!

  22. Hi Scott ~ Wonderful post.  I make my living in Human Resources so I can support my NAS Photography.  I see the unselfish giving to others on a regular basis.  If people spent 1/4 of the time and energy on positive ways to help as they do spewing hate and discontent we’d be well on our way to a better way of life. 

    Thanks again for this wonderful story of how just reaching out and helping people with no thought of personal gain found their just rewards.


  23. Wonderful story, Scott. You’ve probably seen that movie “Paying it Forward”. Kind of reminds me of that principle. Your blog is on my daily list because it not only has great photography, photo ideas, tips, and deals, but mostly because of the human side which you so often highlight. Great work!

  24. Wow Scott, it’s been a while since one of yor articles moved me that much.  I remembered almost every step of the story from when it happenned and I have to admit that everyone involved in making all this turn out the way it did proved the size of their heart.  Still, to see how this turned out as a way to give a job in the NFL to a guy who just did what he felt was right, this is the best ending anyone could have hoped for. You said that no good deed goes unpunished, but someone who believes in God more than I do would say that it was probably God’s work right there.  I prefer to say that it’s all the work of really friendly and passionate guys who did the right thing, but is it really any different?

  25. Thanks for taking the time to share those great stories and it just goes to show where those crazy things show up around that is the time to just keep going because there are great things coming just like in your stories thanks again for keep puting yourself out there.

    Best to you

    1. It’s my last chance for the season. I’m definitely getting more comfortable with it, and I’m REALLY starting to enjoy hockey (the game) and not just shooting it. Me and my Bed, Bath & Beyond collapsible stool will be on the boards tonight! :-)

      1.  Enjoy! Too bad they are not going to make the playoffs this year. Nothing better than playoff hockey!

  26. Wow. Just goes to show you how positive energy, not being a jerk, and helping people whenever you can goes a lot further than anything else you could possibly do.
    I hope those complainers learn a thing or two. Never too late to turn it around, but I’m thinking it maybe for people like that.

  27. Your post brings to mind a comment I made on my blog a long time ago: “If criticism comes from a qualified source, who looks you in the face
    and challenges you to be all you were created to be, then honor it with
    determined change but if it’s the kind that snickers at you behind
    your back, reach over, flip the determination switch in your brain, and
    drown the petty little thing in a massive wake of unrelenting talent.
    Either way, move forward!”

  28. Hi Scott, 

    I remember the Alex Story and went to the Sports photographer’s site … I couldn’t believe what I was reading!  At first, I got angry, then I felt sorry for these self centered people.  In my career, I’ve had the opportunity to mentor a few great Kids (most of them could have been my kids :-)) in their careers.  What a fantastic feeling to see them come alive and just flourish!  When you said smiles, that’s how I felt seeing them grow!  What a great opportunity for both Alex and Matt!  In these times, it’s uplifting to know that there are still people who really care about other people! 

    Great post, and a Big Thank You to You, Mike O., Mike Mc. and  Michael B. for giving Alex and Matt the boost they deserve!  Wow! 

    Thanks Scott!

    God Bless!


  29. Great story Scott! I didn’t realize how insular some sports shooters are. Happy to read it turned out well in the end.

    Also, a belated thanks for a great PSW, it was my first. I live in the DC area, so I could not pass it up.
    I was really, really impressed with the talented presenters you lined up. They are more than happy to share their knowledge, and I appreciate it.I hope PSW comes back to DC some day.

    Ray Fitzgerald

  30. Scott,
    Sincere congratulations to Matt! Well done! But also, sincere congratulations to you, Scott. I think you have no doubt helped many more people land great jobs than you realize. Your commitment to teaching and inspiring those of us in the industry has most assuredly lead to many, many successes for those who learn from you. Congrats all ’round. And thanks you, as well.

  31. Thank you Scott.
    I am looking forward to the next chapter of this story. It just keeps getting better and better.
    It is heartwarming to hear of  people treating each other so well.
    Take care,

  32. What a beautiful way to star the week…and to live life! Thanks for sharing this particular pebble in the water…the wonderful rings created continue to multiply far and wide:)

  33. Wonderful tale for a Monday.
    When i started reading the post, my main emotion was anger, but by the end it was great to read and for Scott to recognise, all the good deeds by various people.
    Well done to all those who took action to make things better.

  34. Matt definitely got what he deserves.  After a string of bad luck he stuck in there and landed on his feet in the NFL.  You guys are great for all the help and love you spread around to all the members of this Community, and im happy to be friends with a lot of people Ive met along the way as well.

    1. Big Daddy Don!!!!! :-)  Good to hear from you, and I agree — Matt stuck in there and I’m thrilled for where he is today!!! Thanks for the kind words too man! We missed you at Photoshop World. 

  35. Scott,

    A wonderful story and something to always remember. It always surprises me when someone comes back to tell me how something I took as small had a huge effect on their lives. Nobody does this better than you. Your generosity to others is hugely inspiring to me.

    The web has created great communities among people who would never had the chance to meet otherwise, the dark side is the anonymity leads to an overload of agression. You seem to take it in stride.

    But that also explains the RPG you’re holding in the photo at the top of the article :-)

  36. Wow, this is completely unexpected.  Thanks Scott!  That really started my Monday off right, haha.  It is funny how things work out.  And they couldn’t have worked out any better for me.  Everyday has been fantastic.  Go Falcons! #RiseUp

      1. Will do.  He’s the one for me to thank in all  this.  All I did was work and it all fell into place.  It is weird how it all comes full circle.

  37. It sort of goes back to Anne Herbert’s phrase “Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty”.  In this case, the random act of kindness resulted in something beautiful.  Congratulations to Matt and thanks to you Scott for sharing the story.

  38. Incredible story.  Our church has been focusing on giving to our community lately, whether that be time, money or whatever, with no regard for any kind of “reward”or acknowledgment…and this rings true to exactly what we’ve been talking about.  It’s amazing to see the results of giving in it’s purest form, with no need or desire for recognition.  Thanks for sharing, Scott.

  39. Scott – this is a great story and Im really glad you wrote this one. We are very lucky to have Matt on board with us and cant wait to shoot a few Falcons games with you in the 2012 season.

  40. Stuff like this never gets old. The old school mentality of photographer hierarchy is withering like a bad piece of fruit, while the current push to share knowledge and encourage opportunities is growing like a good idea.

  41. Brilliant story! Absolutely made up for Alex and Matt! Just imagine how much more fulfilling and enjoyable everyone’s professional lives would be if more people just had this attitude. I’ve done photography work for charities and whilst I did it for the enjoyment of it and to help my portfolio, it’s so true that often it comes back on you in great ways. Definitely the way to be :)

  42. Scott, this is also my first time commenting.  I do not consider myself one to comment on blogs but saw this posting on Facebook this morning.  After reading the whole story I have a couple of remarks:
    1 – to the photographers who caused this whole mess – SHAME ON YOU!  I am so glad that this whole story ended the way it did.  I started taking pictures like Alex just so I could have images of my son playing football.  
    What you guys did for him is amazing and I as another proud Father that started taking pictures of my son on the sideline and now shoot professionally can’t thank you enough for giving someone the opportunity!

    I would love the chance to contact Alex and share my story with him, I’m not sure where he is located but I’m in the central Florida area.

  43. What a fantastic story.  It’s great to see the good guys pull out a few wins, but I think it’s even better to see how your network was able to come together to make a couple dreams come true.  Pretty cool stuff — thanks for telling the story.

  44. That is what life is all about Mr. Kelby!!! Thanks so much for all your words!! And I am so glad the people that got the reward was the people that truly tried to give the reward. 

  45. Great read! I have always thought of Matt and Scott as mentors of mine even though we have never met face-to-face. Both have always been willing to step up and give me some tips or pointers without any concern of what’s in it for them. In a day where it is the standard to push others down rather than appreciate personal achievements, these two promote the business. I’m mentoring some young photogs (third grade through high school) and they will compete in a national church contest this week in Nashville. When we talk about the ups and downs of winning and losing competitions, I will be sure to relate this story to them. 

  46. Karma has a way of coming round and firmly believe that those of us [people] who are kind at heart and compassionate will always be served icecream and cherries. We may just have to wait for it but it does eventually come around. Great story Scott and yes i agree, you should be included in that good karma side of things. You are too an influencial person and i can only say thank goodness for people like you. As a photographer myself having moved from South Africa to the United States i can say that its a very tough world out there to crack into as there seems to be ‘big boys clubs’ everywhere. Perhaps one day my chance will come around but until then, we carry on with a smile on our face and love in our heart…

  47. Ive had the privilege of getting to know Matt and have him do work for me over the past couple of years. I  am extremely excited for him and his wife. Great guy. Thanks for telling the world, Scott!

  48. That was an incredibly special read and I enjoyed every word.  I think there is an awful lot of goodness in the world.  So glad it won out here.  What a beautiful story.:)

  49. This is an amazing story.  From the moment I began reading your blog I have learned so much, and to me the most important piece I have learned is not about photography.  I have learned how many incredible people there are in your community who care not only about what they do, but to share this joy with others.  People like you Scott, and your friends touch us in more ways than you can imagine.  Thank you for being there and inspiring us.

  50. Hi Scott,

    This is simply the best thing I’ve read in a good while. I’m so glad for all the guys and how it all worked out, and I know how grateful they are to you for making it all happen. Things do happen for a reason and there are some great lessons in your post to us all. Thanks for taking the time to put this together.

    Warren Thrush

  51. Great story.  I was not aware of all this until now since I wasn’t following your blog back then.  I am fortunate to be able to do a few NCAA football assignments each year, mainly for D2 teams that play at D1 schools in SC.  The notion that this 1 inexperienced photographer would somehow destroy things is a complete joke!  What about all of those people on the sidelines with point & shoot camera, Rebels, etc. that are on the sidelines not because they are working or have earned that right but because they know an alumnus or someone else at the school who got them a pass?  Even though those people are supposed to stay behind the working photographers my experience is that they pretty much go where they want and have to be told to move.  If anything causes unnecessary overcrowding it is this so their rage should be directed elsewhere (of course it won’t for fear of losing their credentials so they try and pick on someone they feel is easy prey).  I’m glad that things worked out for both Alex and Matt.  This is a great example of how helping someone one else can be a blessing for you and the person you help.

  52. I just “bumped” into your wonderful story while checking a message on Google+, and, in turn seeing an article on Alex Koloskov who mentioned you in his blog. I do not frequent internet social or other media.
    It is really inspiring to see the great human spirit, starting with you, and all the other “great hearts” in your story who contributed to Matt Lange getting his dream job and Alex Walker being rewarded with great opportunities to shoot a great NFL team.
    As an amateur photographer, and a human being, it is heartworming to see someone of your standing in the Digital Photography world, Mr. McCaskey, Matt Lange and all the people who contributed to this great outcome. It keeps hope and joy alive.
    Thanks for sharing it.

  53. Scott, I know exactly what you mean about Matt.  I am from Louisiana, I live in Texas, and I also have been following Matt’s work.  Like you said, it is incredible and his new job is WELL DESERVED ! I have Matt on my Facebook, and even with what must be a very busy schedule for him, he has always taken the time to answer questions for me and even chat a little when I wanted to know about the Louisiana Tech Graphics Design program for my son that is looking to following in his footsteps!  It is people like him and you for sharing his work that makes the profession of photography and graphics design that much more rewarding!!

  54. What a wonderful story. I remember the original posting on your blog and was shocked as I know so many others were at the initial outburst. Wonderful to see that the good guys win again. If there’s one thing that is so evident with this industry, as in all aspects of life, be good to others and one day it will return 10 fold. However…don’t give to receive but give because it’s the right thing to do. 

    What a great read to start the day; thanks!

  55. Best post ever. 

    This is why I follow your blog and am happy to be a member of your million-fan community.

    Your commitment to teaching, to showcasing others, to encouraging new and experienced photographers to work with passion (whether job or hobby), your support of Springs of Hope and so much more. 

    Thanks, and safe travels….

  56. Scott, thanks for sharing your inspirational story, which evolved into several other positive stories. In your case, the good guys came out ahead.

  57. Scott, in 2008,9, and 10 I was fortunate enough to photograph the Bears front office staff for their official picture at Halas Hall.  The first year I did it, I was extremely nervous and was very concerned about how I would handle the shot.  As you know, Mike McCaskey played an important role with the Bears for many years.  On the morning of the shoot, as I was bringing my gear in to set up on viewing area overlooking the practice field, Mike came up to me.  He greeted me like an old friend and was very helpful in offering any assistance I might need to get the shot.  It does not surprise me at all that he came through for your contest winner.  He is a class act and I was fortunate to see a side of him that the public would never know.

  58. Excellent story Scott…your contribution to photography is far more than you imagine…just reading your book on retouching has taken my work to new heights..

  59. It is so great to hear good things happening to good people.  Our world and news agencies tend to dwell on the negative side of life.  It is wonderful that everyone was smiling in the end.  Thanks as you also brought a smile to my face.

  60. Great story Scott. I just had my second 30th birthday last week (turned 60), well way back when I was having my first 30th birthday, working at a little hole in the wall store called Adrays (Orange, CA), I was feeling down about having this milestone birthday and not being more successful. Well, when I came into work that day several of the crew surprised me by wishing me happy birthday, buying me lunch and giving me presents. I left work that day thinking turning 30 wasn’t all that bad.

    I decided I wanted to pay it forward so from that day on if I ran into someone feeling down about turning 30, even a stranger, I’d go out of my way to try and make the day something positive for them.

    Its been as much of a treat for me as (I hope) it has for them. I always tell them what happened to me and ask them to pay it forward in their own way. I’ve made a lot of friends over the years. 

    I wish this pay it forward idea caught on and when someone does a favor for someone they in turn will help as many others as they can and start a wave of people helping people.

  61. There is something special about a successful photographer, book author, business owner, and instructor who takes the time to help the little guy.  Just sayin’….

  62. Scott,

    That is by far one of the best posts I have read not only on your blog, but on the entire Internet. Thanks for all that You, Kelby Training, and NAPP do to help us developing photographers become the best that we can be.

    -Rich Frollini

  63. Hey Scott. I’m friends and a former co-worker with Matt (he actually got me to start looking at your site and commenting under the Donnie Bell Design name where I was working at the time). I can’t tell you how right on you are about his talent and how floored he is that you made this post. All of us creatives out there hope to land our dream jobs one day, and Matt’s story proves that it is possible. Keep up the good work.

  64. Wow, what an amazing story!  I’ve got goosebumps!  This is the type of thing I wish I saw more often.  Thank you for sharing the wonderful story Scott!

  65. What a great story.  Sowing and Reaping at its best.  It always works…just not when and how you expect… maybe feeling a little bit concerned for all those others.

  66. Thank you for making this post, Scott. Pay it Forward is a wonderful concept, what positive outcomes happened through the efforts of a bunch of big-hearted people!

  67. Great story!  But, good Lord, don’t ever let that group of arrogant pro sports photographers find out that the Alabama Press Association gives four sideline passes to each Alabama and Auburn home game to selected AMATEUR photographers from various newspapers around the state.  I’ve been to three Bama games and one Auburn game.  I’d hate for that group to know that, even though I’d never been on a college field, I have yet to injure a fellow photographer or athlete.  It would ruin their theory.  Now, I have been hit by one errant pass, and I learned to stay down on one knee while shooting in the end zone, but I’ve never caused an injury.  Heck, I even took a photo of Erin Andrews and it didn’t hurt her.  Ha!

  68. Great job Scott, Its one of these dreams that does come true. I have been knowing Matt fro a while and he’s just that good and creative in photography and graphic designs. He’s going to do well. Now, if I can squeeze Matt  a photography pass when the Saints plays the dirty bird. I’m step closer, haha.


  69. Only Scott Kelby could turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse like he did after what happened in 2009.
    I think it’s important, though, to make sure everyone knows some of the details that were glossed over by Messr. Kelby. SCOTT was going to foot the entire bill for Alex’s airfare to Tallahassee and SCOTT was going to pay for Alex’s hotel and meals in Tallahassee. Scott makes it sound like I had any great financial involvement in the saga but au contraire, it was Messr. Kelby that was putting up the funds to pay all expenses for the contest winner. I should also note that Messr Kelby not only arranged for Alex to shoot the Bears, SCOTT also paid for Alex’s plane fare to Chicago and picked up all of Alex’s other expenses. But wait, there’s more – SCOTT also bought my airline ticket to fly to Chicago to shoot the Bears with him and Alex.Folks, in life you sometimes run across people who redeem one’s faith in humanity because of their nature, their kindness, their generosity, their decency and their modesty. Scott Kelby is such an individual and I can’t tell you how fortunate I am to call him a friend.  

    1.  But I am the luckiest guy in the whole story because I met some great people along the way and am able to call both you fine gentlemen friends! I owe you both a debt I can never replay! Thanks many times over both of you.

  70. Great story fella’s. I think most of us in the industry could use an increasingly positive story like this, all advanced through the good will of the next guy down the line. Despite a slurry of negativity in this business, I’ve always appreciated the people along my path who’ve offered to pay it forward, just like their predecessors did for them. 

  71. Scott. This is the best ever. It’s a wonderful and inspiring post. Congratulations and thank you from all of us beginners trying to improve our skills and live our passion. Pay it forward.

  72. This is probably the best blog post I’ve ever read on this site, and one of the best I have ever read. No wonder SK is so successful. His attitude and optimism are uncontainable. They seem to be what make him who is he is. Glad to buy the products and support a organizations run by a guy like this.

  73. Amazing story Scott!  I remember when this first went down, and it’s wonderful to see how well it worked out for you, for Matt, for Alex, and for others.  I’m continually impressed by how you work to help others improve, to improve yourself, and to make shooting a fun and engaging activity.  Thanks so much!

  74. Okay I confess that I didn’t check the blog this morning because I am in Charleston,SC on vacation and of course shooting pictures…..about 800 so far today! And tomorrow I am headed to Augusta,Ga to shoot a practice round at The Masters! So I was totally blown away when I saw this just now. I am so very happy for Matt Lange and I hope one day I get to meet him and thank him personally for the La Tech game offer. I was blown away by that offer as well. It really looks like karma rocks… usual! I told both Scott & Mike Olivella that I felt the only reason I won was because I had given so many pictures of kids my son played soccer with , that karma smiled on me! It’s so nice in today’s world to see good things happen to good people. I feel like the circle has been completed now , but who knows? There may still be more good things for the fine people who did so much for me in this story. My sincerest congratulations to Matt Lange and my sincerest thanks to him, Scott Kelby, Mike Olivella, Mr. Micheal McCaskey, Scott Bourne  and everyone else who helped me along the way! As Mike Olivella took me once “You’re the luckiest & most famous amateur photographer in the world”……..I am truly blessed , that’s for sure! Thanks again everyone…..especially you Scott, hopefully we will shoot together again someday!

  75. Great story and outcome!  thank you for sharing, so many genuinely good people out there and it’s great to read about them!  God Bless you all!

  76. wow.  love that play it forward concept…very nice story.  These things happen every day, but writing it and sharing it is worth it, because we all need to hear/read it.  Thanks Scott.  

  77. In 2010 scientists reported evidence of Neanderthals mating with humans 60,000 to 100,000 years ago. Today some people have as much as 4 percent Neanderthal DNA. We know them today as hate-posters on the Internet.

  78. Fantastic.  I vividly remember reading all about this back in 2009 and wondering what the heck all the fuss was about.  I did not understand it then and still don’t.  Great ending to a long story!!

  79. After reading the blog post and all the comments, I have many things I like to say.  Foremost is a big THANK YOU to Scott and everyone for all that was done for Alex, Matt, and all those reading this.  There is a big lesson for those that are willing to learn.  For those that know the lesson, it is a wonderful and inspiring refresher.  And I have a thank you to the those nay-sayers that that set the whole chain of events into motion.  Little did they know that their selfishness and insecurity would stop a one time shoot of a college game by a non-professional and deliver much greater things for many people. 

  80. Scott — Great article…   and what a great story about what can happen when people extend a hand when they don’t have to — and jump at opportunities instead of letting them slide by.  It’s also a great reminder that you reap what you sow…  Some crops may take longer to sprout, but they’ll come up eventually.

    – Jeff

    PS — I remember the uproar over the original contest — was a lurker on that site as well.  Haven’t been back to it since.  

  81. Wonderful and inspirational read to start my day. :-)  I applaud all of you involved in helping a person’s dream come true. Having the pleasure of knowing you personally Scott  and having met Mike McCaskey several times over the years it is of know surprise to me to read this today as both of you, well it seems all of you that were involved are people that make this world a better place. :-) Thank you Scott Kelby for being you and making a regular habit of creating and spreading happiness in the world!

  82. Another first time commenter here… 

    I hope this becomes the post with the most comments to outshine the negativity. “Kill ’em with kindness.” This is a story of the true human spirit. Experiences like this would happen more frequently to more people if everyone were to pay it forward as each of you did.

    Thanks to each of you (Mike, Matt, Scott, Alex, Mr. McCaskey, etc.) for being the example of kindness that I will share with my kids today.

  83. Dear Mr. Kelby,
    Wonderful story and inspiring too. Sometimes, all people need is a break in order to have a breakthrough. Having been out of work for a very long time, and finding my passion for photography (sports in particular) as a result, this kind of story really hits home. Thank you for posting 

  84. Awesome. Great to see that professionals can act like professionals. Maybe if all of the guys and gals that protested remembered what it was like to be that wishing he could be on the sidelines…well maybe their tune would change a bit. Great job for giving him his shot!

  85. Back in the mid 70s I was shooting for a small weekly paper in St. Johns, Mich with my Canon AT-1s with winders. I did have a 200mm lens but not exactly pro equipment. For 2 years running I got press credentials (through the paper) to photograph 2 Michigan State home games per year. It was a fantastic experience watching the pros with their 5fps motor drives. I am glad there was no outcry about an ‘Amateur” on the sidelines. Some people need to get over their insecurity..

  86. A smile on my face…tears welling in
    My eyes and sheer joy in my heart to hear how well this worked out for every one! What an emotional post, it should be movie of the week! Good on all of you that pitched into help!

  87. Great example of the bounty received by the go-giver! Congratulations to Matt (and commiserations to Louisiana Tech on losing a great servant leader). It sounds as though the Dirty Birds have made a great pre-draft draft!

  88. …and finally u (scott kelby) possess a good human being quality to share the good stories and letting the us aware of existence of good people..u inspired us to do good.
    good begets good.
    be good everyone.

  89. Awesome story.  What makes this story so ironic is it required the negativity of the FSU photographers to make it happen.  If they would’ve allowed Alex to shoot the game.  Matt would’ve never had the opportunity to offer assistance and then get his opportunity as well.  Problems come into our life not to be stumbling blocks but ultimately to be stepping stones to something greater!  What an awesome story!

  90. This is a great story, no doubt. I remember all the fuzz back then. It’s so great to hear that good things almost always payoff to those who deserve it. Keep it up!

  91. Scott
    What a great story, it is very true about the way life is, too many greedy people who want everything for themselves, will still have nothing at the end of it all.
    The saying is always very true, to give is greater than to receive.

    Congrats to all involved.


  92. There is nothing like meeting warm good hearted people who look out for one another. Thats what being part of society is all about. Heck.. thats what life is all about. We as humanity, need one another. What good is all of this “Connectivity” were afforded the luxury of, if it does not bring us together.
    When one acts from a place that is void of self servitude, it sends out a sensation that can not be denied in its ability to warm hearts… and warm hearts find each other.. friendships are formed and great stories hearty belly laughs, and thought provoking conversations ensue.
    I met RC Concepcion via Twitter, inviting him to use my family’s theater whenever hes in NY, simply because I love what you guys do, and stand for… and I wanted to give back. Say thank you for all the great work, and more importantly.. great vibes you all lend to the industry. Well.. I had to miss our meeting up at the Photo Expo in NY last Oct, but we’ve stayed in touch, and you know what….I’ve come to have such great conversations with RC that I’m glad I took the time to attempt to say thank you! I had a singer songwriter friend on Google + who RC opened up an on air hang for…just because, he wanted to do what he could to help someone who is talented get their name out there. Im always looking out for anyone I canhelp out.. and it was so nice to have RC offer to help her out! 
    I’m grateful to have warm hearted gracious humble friends, and its nice to be among people who would make any grandmother proud. We need more people like all those mentioned in this fantastic piece. Kudos Scott for sharing such a wonderful story…. and hey.. think about this, there are so many more like it to come! I’m sure of it!

  93. Hey Scott,
    Love this story! Matt is married to my daughter, so I am well aware of what an awesome guy Matt Lange is. He never shared the whole story of how his new job came about. Using the analogy of a pebble dropped in still water and the ripple effects of good deeds by good people, you are that pebble, and the concentric rings of goodness flow outward through all the people you effect…creating an infinity of goodness that is passed on by them for ever. I am so glad there are people like you in the world who renew my faith in the goodness of humanity. Keep it up.

  94. Aww that actually made me cry!  I am so thrilled for all of the players. The silver lining of those goofball, angry sports photogs kicking up such a fuss, has run quite deep!  So ironic that their poor judgement has been so beneficial to the good guys!  Congrats to Alex and Matt, from a new fan of each of yours!! x

  95. Best post I’ve ever read. I love it and I live by that “give and you’ll receive” attitude since years ago and it does really work like that. What you give out is what you get in.

    Fantastic story! I just want to get you all to Sweden and give you an awesome experience and get to know you!

  96. What a truly amazing story! A moment of happiness reading this today. So many dreams that have come true.

    I remember some of the posts from 2009 and it’s great to read that indeed where one door closes another one opens. So thanks to the grumpies because now we know that as a result of all their complaining some beautiful things have happened. And this outcome is so much better than any fiction writer could ever dream up.

  97. This is a great article.  I just got into photography last year, and having been shooting sports for about 4 months now.  I recently discovered that site a couple months ago.  Reading through the message board, a select few of these pro photogs come off as whiney, arrogant two year olds.  Ive posted stuff on Fred, and some of the photogs on sportshooter are on FM.  Its nice to have critique, but they come off on that site like they are gods gift to photography.  Whats so hard about giving critique, telling me what Im doing wrong, and helping me, instead of complaining about these guys come on this site looking for free advice from hard working pros.  As far as I knew, it was a public forum to look for sports photography help, and to help me better myself as a sports photographer, not to roast me over the fire.  Its not everybody, just a select few who are very loud, there are some good people on that board that I have become facebook friends with.  Needless to say, I wont be looking for help on that forum anymore, its a real turnoff seeing the attitudes on that site.  Its refreshing to read Scott Kelby’s blog, and to see how great it turned out for Alex Walkern, and that those crybaby’s at sportsshooter couldnt stop him from getting on the sidelines afterall.  Anybody know any good forums, or sites to go, to get critiqued for sports photography without all the drama?

  98. Big fan of your work Scott, fantastic article. It truly is a small world
    and it’s amazing how things work out. I was actually working for
    Michael as the Seasonal Graphic Designer for the 2011 NFL football
    season before I left to move back to Orlando. I had the toughest
    decision of my life to make – Stay with the Falcons or return to my old
    stomping grounds (I interned for the Orlando Magic) where I was offered a
    job. Hardest choice ever, as you could imagine!

    After I left, I knew Mike would find someone just as good, if not
    better. Now I don’t know Matt personally, but based on your article he
    seems like a great, talented, exceptional individual. – Gotta love sports!!

    Thanks for sharing such a great story!

    Justin Garand

  99. I think it’s also important to note here that one should never give up on a dream. Scott, what you did for Matt is life changing and I can’t personally thank you enough. I’ve known Matt since grade school and he is one of the most talented, genuine, big hearted guys I know. People like you give us hope that there are truly great people out there. In today’s times, that’s something we need!

    As I started off saying though, I wanted to point out that if you believe in something and put your heart into it, you can do it. You can do anything! I guarantee you that Matt never expected to be where he is today but he knew he could make a career doing what he loved if he put his whole heart into it. He never gave up or lost sight of his dream and, thanks to you, he’s living it!

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