Interview with Scott Kelby
[Manfrotto School of Xcellence]: Thank you Scott for letting us interview. We are very happy to have you on the Manfrotto School of Xcellence one of the most experienced photographers and finest Photoshop instructors. In in this very pleasing interview we will touch the milestones of your life as a photographer, and enjoy your memories. Let’s start from the beginning… how did you start taking pictures? It’s always interesting to find out how great and successful photographers like you have started, a lot of young people could always be inspired.
[Scott Kelby]: I started taking travel photos. My big brother was a photographer, and he kind of got me hooked. He had a Nikon film SLR, but I was pretty young (and broke), but I eventually scrounged up enough money to buy a Pentax SLR, and lens or two, and my brother and I spent the next year or two traveling on the cheap to fun places like Europe to take photos. Later I got into portraits, and wound up splitting the cost of a very small studio with a friend at work. Back then I used a Sunpack bounce flash and two hot lights for hair lights. I used a Minolta light meter and lots of seamless paper.
[Manfrotto School of Xcellence]: As one of the greatest educators in the world of photography we would like to know which were for you the beacons (metaphorically speaking) who guided you through your educational journey, which one the most inspiring, which one your favorite technical guide… and so on.
[Scott Kelby]: I learned a lot of the nuts and bolts of photography from Moose Peterson, Joe McNally and Bill Fortney. I also learned quite a bit from Jim DiVitale and Helene Glassman who really helped me take a leap in terms of portrait photography (they gave me kind of a crash course on setting up a studio). Over the years, I’ve picked up a lot of important techniques in specific areas from photographers like Vincent Versace, David Ziser, George Lepp and Kevin Ames. I’ve gotten a lot of inspiration from Jay Maisel, Moose and Joe. It was Joe’s wife Annie that got me into the tech side of off-camera, and then Joe got me into really wanting to the ability to create and control light a priority for me. He’s truly a wizard.
[Manfrotto School of Xcellence]: it might seem stupid to ask such a question to one of the greatest Photoshop gurus, but of course we do know your opinion here is more than precious. So here it is, how much post and how much in camera?
[Scott Kelby]: This will sound silly from a guy who made his name as “The Photoshop Guy,” but I actually try to do as much right “in-camera” as possible. I hate having to fix things in Photoshop that I should have gotten right in the camera, and in particular I hate cropping for everything but sports. If I have to recrop an image, like a portrait or a landscape, I always feel like I failed at some of the photography part of it all. So, I prefer to use Photoshop for finishing (portrait retouching, special effects, things like that). I’m not the least bit hesitant to use post processing, and I think it’s one of my strengths, but the less I “have” to use, the happier I am.
[Manfrotto School of Xcellence]: You have a very popular blog and your books and “Recipes” are best sellers in Amazon (and many other sotres) and in the Apple App Store. How important the Social Media, and the new technologies are in your work today?
[Scott Kelby]: I think it helps you stay connected with your readers, and as an author I think that’s really important. Also, it gives you instant feedback for ideas and projects and that can be invaluable when you’re trying to create content that helps people with the very topics they’re struggling with. I’m fairly active on Twitter (@scottkelby) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/skelby) and that’s where most of my interaction comes. As for the blog, while I do take comments on my blog, and respond back to many of the comments, it’s really more of a one-way conversation, which is why I enjoy Twitter and Facebook so much. I just try not to let either of those become “help desks” where people go to get their Photoshop or photography questions answered. If I started doing that, that’s all I’d be doing all day long, so it’s a struggle not to get sucked into that.
[Manfrotto School of Xcellence]: Any anticipations you can give us about the “Recipes 2”, which we have heard rumors of?
[Scott Kelby]: It was just released this past week, and so far the feedback has been great, with most folks saying they like it even better than Recipes 1, and as an author, that’s the best you can hope for, because that’s what you set out to do from the start. You want to next project to be even better, even more helpful than the last.
[Manfrotto School of Xcellence]: How much has changed in your daily job since the advent of the V-DSLR cameras?
[Scott Kelby]: Not much. I’m not much into the video side of DSLRs (although the video team at work loves it on a level you cannot imagine). I think when someone actually creates a video-editing application that is designed for photographers (and not video editors), then you’ll see DSLR video take off for photographers. Today, the video editing applications have too steep a learning curve for photographers. We have our hands full with Lightroom and Photoshop—we don’t have time to learn another complex program—we need something really simple that does just a few key things, and we need it to be simpler than the first version of Apple’s iMovie. Ya know what—I think something like that is right around the corner, too!
[Manfrotto School of Xcellence]: What’s your dearest piece of equipment?
[Scott Kelby]: I’d have to say it’s my 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. It’s my workhorse lens, and at the end of the day, I use it more than any other piece of equipment I own.
[Manfrotto School of Xcellence]: What, in your opinion, does really make a difference nowadays to be a successful photographer?
[Scott Kelby]: I think you have to have a very well-defined look that sets you apart. Nobody these days seems to want a photographer who takes great shots of everything. They want a photographer that has a look, either in how they compose, or what they do in Post, or both, but they want to be able to look at a group of different photographers, point to one and say “that’s the look I want.” If your stuff looks like everybody else’s, you can be assured they won’t be pointing at you.
[Manfrotto School of Xcellence]: Since we are an educational site, we always ask this question to the professionals. What would you suggest to a young photographer who is trying to find his way In the professional world?
[Scott Kelby]: The answer to being a great photographer isn’t found in a menu on the back of your camera. It’s in how and what you point your camera at. Yes, you should learn how to use the basic controls of your camera, but then quickly move on to shooting as much as you can, and developing your own style. Your look that sets you apart (see the previous question) and gets you work. Also, you need to be an absolutely shark Photoshop because your competition will already be very good at it. If you don’t think you can learn Photoshop at a pro level, then you need to get really, really good at the photography part, so you can send your images out for retouching to someone who is a shark, or you’re going to starve out there. This is about the hardest gig to make a good living at, because everybody wants to be a photographer today. Cameras have gotten so good, it’s almost hard to take a bad photo (the exposure, white balance, and stuff like that which used to be somewhat complicated and the work of craftsmen, are all now mostly automated). You really have to get really good to make a living when 100 other photographers are vying for the same 10 jobs. You’ve got to really work it. You’ve got to go the extra mile, and you’ve got to have a lot of talent from the get-go, so make a decent living. Also, plan on shooting something other than what you want to, to make a living. Find a sports photographer today, and then tell you during the summer they shoot weddings. Find a fine art photographer—they shoot weddings too. Architectural photographer? They’re shooting weddings part time. Who is suffering the most from all this? Full time wedding photographers. This isn’t an easy business. Get really good at the business and marketing side of this, because 90% of your time will be focused there, and you’ll be lucky if you shoot 10% of the time, but at least when you’re shooting, you’ll be able to charge enough to make a good living. In the end, making a good living at doing something you love is a dream, right? You just have to work hard, and be really smart, to make those dreams come true.
[Manfrotto School of Xcellence]: Thanks a lot again Scott for you time and kindness.