Category Archives: Photography

Mango Smoothie

Meet Armando, a fantastic photographer from Colorado.  He is a professional retoucher as well and from what I understand his work is printed throughout Colorado on billboards. Neat stuff!

During our recent trip to Maine a waitress accidently called Armando the name Mango.  It turns out that when Armando was younger that people would call him Mango.  We got a good laugh. But then we all realized that Armando’s personality is very smooth and to the point.  So it hit us to start calling him Mango Smoothie.  The name stuck.  I don’t know for sure if he likes it, but he laughed as well the first time we said it.


Armando is also one of the two photographers who run The Photo Frontier.  There he and Justin Balog publish educational and inspirational ebooks, workshops and also very useful Lightroom presets.

This photograph was made at the Lawrence mills.  I asked Armando to pose as if he was making the best photograph he has ever made.  As you can see, he is fixated on the scene in front of him.


Do Photos Have To Be In Focus To Be Good Or Interesting?

What do you think?

There are thousands of photographs from the history of photography that are not in focus.  So why do people get upset when a photograph is out of focus?

It really depend on the photo. That’s my opinion at least.

Photos don’t have to be perfectly in focus to be interesting.

Out of focus photo

This photo from a NYC subway is soft because I did not want to look like a creepy dude making a photograph of the dude standing that close to me.

So I did the fake “looking at my screen” quick framing and capture. The photo is super interesting and a fun “street photograph” although it’s in a subway stop. But as I said, it’s not perfectly in focus.

If this photograph was of someone I was hired to photograph then focus would matter.

If this photograph as a loved one then I would want it in focus, and it would matter.

So focus priority is a matter of perception, desire and need.

For this photo, it’s unnecessary.

Thanks for reading,


Thoughts from Padawans – Kyle Van Etten

I decided to start a series of articles from my apprentices at The Arcanum. It’s a way for them to get their work out there, and at the same time share their thoughts from their experiences learning in The Arcanum. With that said, read on to learn from my apprentice. Kudos to you if you caught the Star Wars reference. – Scott

I have to say since joining The Arcanum and taking on the challenges as I level up, I find myself trying new things constantly, making bolder processing decisions, experimenting, looking things up, figuring out how someone did something, recreating, revisiting, reprocessing, and in general thinking about my work in new and exciting ways.  And in all of it I feel more free, free to produce great images, free to produce some that flop, and to learn from both.  Free to have fun, to learn, to expand my “style,” to try new things, and I am loving it!!!


The opportunity to have feedback on your work and to be able to have a field test of how other people see a photo you have created is both artistically valuable and technically valuable.  Not only does it help you to improve the current image you are working on, you learn to watch out for pitfalls, find shortcuts to a faster more efficient workflow, and learn lots of new processing techniques and tricks.  And, the best part is you will always have your safe community to try things out in before blasting them to the world of social media and the internet. This gives you the freedom to experiment, and in an environment like that I believe true growth is fostered.


Another piece of the Arcanum that has been amazing is the constant inspiration I get from seeing the work of my fellow apprentices. Other apprentices are trying things that had never even occurred to me, seeing places in ways that I would have overlooked, and making wonderful art out of subjects that I would not have considered. Nearly every time I check in to my cohort and to the larger Arcanum community I get inspired to try a new thing or to see the world differently. One of the best parts about it is the community itself is a learning community. Instead of being intimidated or feeling like I need to compare myself to other apprentices, I feel like we are on an adventure together.


In many ways the structure of the Arcanum is fairly flat – the level of engagement is often peer-to-peer, and even the masters are not set on pedestals high above the apprentices, but walk with us and get to know us and our artistic journey. Though I don’t want to speak for them I do like to think, and do get the impression that at times we also provide the same kind of inspiration for them. Ultimately I feel like The Arcanum is not something you simply join. Instead a more accurate way to describe it is as something that you get caught up in or swept away by. Each time someone produces some amazing piece of art the community is launched forward and elevated by it. It has been an incredible way to learn and grow and I cannot recommend it highly enough!

by Kyle Van Etten | SmugMug | Facebook | Google Plus

Learn more about The Arcanum

My Favorite Photography Podcasts

photography-podcast-favoritesI have had the honor of being a guest on many photography podcasts.  In fact, two of them are by far my favorite podcasts in the photography industry.

Every so often photographers ask me what podcasts I recommend.  I never kept a list like that before, so I figured now is a good time to share my favorites.

When choosing my favorites I decided to share a business, a technical and a general photography podcast. I hope you enjoy these three as much as I do.


Sprouting Photographer is the newest of these three podcasts, but Bryan and Rob do an amazing job interviewing photographers, educating photographers and just blowing the minds of so many photographers.  Each episode is packed with amazing photo business knowledge that you cannot help but to walk away having learned something new.

You can listen to the Sprouting Photographer podcast multiple ways:

PhotoNetCastPhotoNetCast is one that I have been a guest one multiple times. Antonio runs the podcast, but Dave is a regular cohost on the show. The beauty about this podcast is that each week the topics cover something new to the show.  When the topics are technical, Antonio and guests often break the technical content down to a more understandable language.  Each show also discusses recent photography industry news and answers questions from listeners.  It’s also worth mentioning that more recently PhotoNetCast is recorded live via video, but the podcast shows are audio.

You can listen to the PhotoNetCast podcast multiple ways:

photofocusPhotofocus is a website that regularly shares awesome tutorials about photography in general.   Topics talk about anything and everything in photography, including technical, business and software.  So really Photofocus can fit in any category.  My only gripe with the Photofocus podcast and website is the amount of “sponsors” or advertisements and “sponsored” posts.  It’s to much, but the overall content shared throughout Photofocus is awesome.

You can listen to the Photofocus podcast multiple ways:

So now you have seen my 3 favorite podcasts.  I subscribe to each in iTunes and listen to them as often as I can.  What are your favorite photography podcasts?  Comment on the article and let me know what it is and why you love it.

Thanks for reading and happy listening,


No Spilled Milk

It is always a blast to photograph the Lawrence mills.  It is one of those locations that photographers could visit over and over and always see something new to photograph.

On the way up to Maine for a big photo trip, we made a pitstop at the mills.  This time I noticed something I somehow missed the last time.

On a table was a box of Pasteurized, Homogenized, Standardized Milk.  Directly next to it was a box of soup.


Turns out that those two items have been on the table for years.  In fact, my friend Dave Wilson photographed it a couple years ago.

One of the beautiful things about photographing locations with friends is perspective and vision.  It would be nearly impossible for Dave and I to make the same exact photograph.  Even if we shared the same tripod setup and camera setup.  Vision is a beautiful thing.


WE35 Research & Presenting Faces in 35

My friends at The Photo Frontier have a new research project going on called WE35.

The goal is to use only a 35mm lens (or equivalent) and to document various things that come up in scenarios.

So I decided to take my first project and put it into full effect during Thanksgiving.  I knew I would have about 30 family members and friends that would be willing to let me make funny photos of them.  So that’s what I did.

Faces in 35

I put my 35mm lens on my Nikon D810, put on a Nikon SB800 flash and a ring light adapter. I have two of them:

  • Ray flash (It broke shortly after buying it, but still works)
  • Orbis (Requires additional parts to mount to the camera)

The camera’s settings are as follows:  ISO 64, 1/8000 shutter speed and f/2

The camera was set to high speed sync so that I did not have to worry about any backgrounds.  I only used the one light as well, which meant that the subjects I photographed are only being lit by the ring light.  The end result a pitch black background and high contrast light on the subjects face. This effect brings out texture and color.

The beauty of the ring light is also the super fun reflection in the eyes.

So throughout the Thanksgiving dinner I asked each person to “step into my office” so I could make a photo of them.

Faces in 35 - Jeremy

Here are some of my thoughts and findings from the research:

  • 35mm is very close for portraits, which professional photographers already know.
  • 35mm is not a very good portrait lens, which professional photographers also already know.
  • Seeing reactions to portraits that close is interesting.  Some people get really into it. Some get scared out of their minds.
  • The ring light is so bright and close that it scares them.  That forces me to photograph at least 3 frames.
    • 1st so they know what’s happening
    • 2nd with a straight face
    • 3rd with a funny face
  • Shooting in a darker room lets their pupils dilate, so I bring them into the darker room first and talk for a little so their eyes adjust.  Then I make the photo.
  • The first flash makes them squint and pupils close which is another reason to do the 3 frames.
  • People realize what’s happening and they make funny faces which many times is the best one.

After making these portraits I have decided to keep the tradition going.  So I’m happy to introduce the Faces in 35 project.  I will continue using the same setup for each portrait so each photo is consistent.

If you’d like to see more from the Faces in 35 series please visit the full gallery here.

2014 Black Friday & Cyber Monday Deals For Photographers

Every year I like to share some of my favorite Black Friday & Cyber Monday deals for photographers. This year I’m happy to share another list and this time also some of my own fresh deals!

My Deals

From November 26 – December 1, 2014 you can save 66% on any of the products sold on my website. This includes my ebooks, presets and the Wedding Photographer Conversion Kit. This deal does not include my ebook sold by Peachpit Press.

Save 66% by using the coupon code GobbleGobble.


Deals from Work (WordPress!)

The Photocrati theme is normally $89, but from Black Friday through Cyber Monday it’s 50% off at only $45.50 a year!


NextGEN Gallery has over 11 million downloads, making it the most popular gallery plugin for WordPress.  Normally NextGEN Plus is $49 but during the big Black Friday sales, it’s 40% off at only $29 per year.

NextGEN Pro is the super awesome Ecommerce plugin for selling photographs. Normally it’s $99 but it’s on sale at 40% off making it only $59 per year.


Deals from my friends

I will categorize each of these to help make reading through the list a little easier.


Rachel Brenke is offering 40% off at her legal shop, The Law Tog,  between November 26 and December 1 using the coupon code BlackFriday40.


Jamie Swanson has an amazing deal on her products.  Jamie’s marketing course, Marketog, is $499 (half off!). The full course with Q&A won’t run again until January or February and will be full-priced again but you will get access to the study hall group and old Q&A info. One payment  only; no payment plans accepted for the Black Friday deal. This will be the only chance to enroll until early 2015.

Jamie is also offering an “Everything Digital” bundle – All of her products listed below EXCEPT Marketog: $399 (would normally cost $662 for everything)

  • Photographer’s Pricing Guide Workbook (retails for $149)
  • Go-To Guide for Client E-Mails (retails for $147)
  • Easy Client & Money Manager (retails for $129)
  • Easy Client Manager (retails for $59)
  • Profitable Portfolio Builder (retails for $129.99)
  • Client Questionnaire Library (retails for $49)

facebook-adsBy the way… Jamie now has a free eBook on Facebook advertising that is well worth downloading.  It gives a step-by-step tutorial (with over 30 screen shots showing them each and every button to press and setting to select) that helps set up ads that target specific visitors to your website (such as people who visited but didn’t inquire, those that have inquired but not booked, etc).  It talks about what makes an ad effective, what is a waste of money, and how to use this strategy with your photography business (and why it’s cheaper than other methods).

Joy Vertz is taking 50% off her super popular class “3 Weeks to Pricing Perfection” only through December 2nd using the code blackfriday50.

Zach Prez is taking $60 off his Business Planning Cookbook, with no coupon code required.  Pick it up for only $39.


Salesographer is the essential in-person sales and pricing strategy for portrait photographers. More specifically wedding photographers, but the idea works for many photography types. The program is on sale for $49 for 12 hours only (Midnight to Noon, on Black Friday) with no code needed

Jenika McDavitt from Psychology for Photographers is offering big savings on her Irresistible Website and Words products from Black Friday through Cyber Monday.  No codes are required as the products will be discounted already in your cart.

  • Irresistible Website – $109 (reg $159)
  • Irresistible Words – $199 (reg $249)
  • Bundle of both $299 (retail for both would be $408)

My friend Angela is offering a huge discount on her eBook, Worth More, which helps photographers strategize their pricing for better profits.  The book is normally $99, but from November 26 to December 1st it is only $19 with no code required.

Matt & Katie are offering 30% off their in person sales guide with and without videos, using the coupon code maytheforceofsavingsbewithyou. The coupon is good from November 28th to December 1st.

General Photography Education

Andy Lim is offering his SimpleSLR Photography Guides at 40% off from November 10th – December 2nd using the code BlackFriday40.

My friends at Photography Concentrate are offering 30-40% off their products with no coupon required.  The deal is from November 23rd to December 2nd.

If you are interested in boudoir photography then check out Boudie Shorts.  They’re offering two big sales for Black Friday.

  • 50% off Model Call ($79, normally $129, no code needed)
  • 50% off Boudoir BUSINESS Camp self study ($249 pay in full only, normally $498, no code needed)

John Dunlop is offering really sweet deals at Expert Photography from November 24 to December 2nd, with no codes required.

  • Beginner Photography ebook $5
  • Beginner Photography video course $47 (down from $97)
  • Landscape Photography ebook $5
  • Landscape Photography video course $47 (down from $97)
  • Website Building Service for Photographers $247 (down from $297)

Susan Stripling is offering 30% all books in her store (most notably, The ThinkBook Compendium, The Business and Marketing Workbook, and Case Studies) with no coupon code needed.

Photography Apps & Software

SmugMug is offering 40% their plans during Black Friday week only.

Preveal is normally $75, but the super awesome iPad app is $24.99 for 12 hours only (Midnight to Noon on Black Friday) with no code needed.

Swift Galleries, the web based version of Preveal will be available for pre-purchase for $50/yr, and only 500 spots are available, with no code needed.

As a super big fan of YouProof I’m excited to share that their iPad proofing app will be on sale on November 28th for $14.99.  Then from the 29th to December 1st the price will be discounted at $24.99 before going back up to the regular $34.99 price.

MacPhun is offering a super awesome deal on their Creative Kit Plus bundle.  It will be on sale for just $129.99 — which is $80 off purchasing the products separately — And each buyer will get their choice of either a $20 iTunes or $20 Amazon gift card. Offer good in North America only.

Black Rudis is offering 25% off his Zone Editing System Friday through Monday with the code black25.

The guys at OptinMonster are offering 35% off their optin plugin, using the coupon code BF2014 of course. The sale is from November 24th and will go until December 1st..


Stacie at Colorvale Actions is hosting a variety of deals this month.

  • November 1 – 30 – 20% off all digital items – Code: November2014
  • November 22 – 28 – 1 Week Giveaway with amazing vendors such as Colorvale, The Law Tog, Marie Masse Photography and more!
  • November 28 – 30 – 40% off all digital items – Code is:  ThanksWeekend2014

Website Hosting

WP Engine CyberHosting14 Special Offer My favorite host, WP Engine, is offering 4 free months of hosting using the code CyberHosting14. The offer expires on December 2nd. The offer is only valid for new customers with Personal, Professional, and Business Plans.

How Photographers Can Find Their Vision

Vision PathA common thread amongst newer photographers, and photographers looking to grow, is vision.

I’m often asked about how to find vision. The answer isn’t simple, and I have actually written about it in the past.

I don’t think it can be taught because a photographer’s vision isn’t black and white. There are so many colors and variances. The only thing we can do, as educators, is to offer guidance to push people towards finding their own visions. Using challenges that are broad so the photographer is forced to think using their creative brain. Or specific as we discover the photographer’s strengths and nudge them forward.

For the past few months I have been mentoring photographers at The Arcanum. It’s been an amazing experience, but with the cost of the daily personalization it’s not something that everyone can afford.

So I decided to create a product that is more affordable for people. Something that can help photographers find vision. Through it you will be faced with weekly challenges which are structured to help you find your own vision through researching, trying, doing, gathering feedback, rinse, recycle, repeat.

Vision Path is not as time intensive as The Arcanum but personalization still exists through public (social) feedback and a few detailed critiques from me. Check out this video talking more about it:

Think of it as a crash course to help you think deeper about your photography.

I hope you’ll check it out and start exploring the path towards your vision.


Vision Path Video Transcription

  • I suck
  • I am nobody
  • I can’t figure it out
  • I don’t know where to go

But I am always always learning, and I don’t care about being famous, and I strive to better myself, and I love being inspired, and inspiring others, and teaching others to also better themselves.

For over a decade I have been making photographs, growing as a photographer, improving my work, and doing it for myself.

I think doing it for yourself is the key to successful photography improvement. Loving the art, bettering the craft and absorbing as much knowledge and light as possible.

That’s why I created Vision Path. To help others achieve their goals through challenges and advice and critiques.

I don’t care what kind of gear you use, or what techniques you think aren’t worth your time. I care about what you think is best for you.

Vision Path is a place for you to be you, learn, and grow.

I have been told I am not good enough, but I keep going. I keep growing. I keep learning and making a difference.

So I’d like to encourage you to take off that hard hat and stop listening to those who say no. Start believing in yourself and put the desire to do better into action. Sign up for Vision Path and in 16 weeks you’ll have a clearer vision than ever before.

Jordan Pond in Acadia National Park

Jordan Pond is beautiful location tucked away in Acadia National Park in Maine.

It is a location where you can see mountains in the distance.  The mountains are called bubbles because the are extremely round and resemble bubbles.


I love scenes like this for a few reasons. The rocks and driftwood in the water sits perfectly so when doing a longer exposure their peak through the icy water perfectly.  Then the trees in the distance pop off the lighter mountain background.  To top it off, it was a very foggy morning so remains of the fog floats above the trees.

Talk about a beautiful view.


My Friend Daryl

This is my friend Daryl. He and I met via social media many years ago. One day he said to me that he keeps struggling to join the photowalks I was organizing on a regular basis.


So my reply to him was something along the lines of… “then let’s plan one together so you have no choice but to attend.”

And that is what happened. Over the years Daryl and I have become super close friends.

This photograph was made at my recent headshot photography meetup. It shows Daryl’s natural smile and that’s what these past 5 days have been about.

I have nominated myself for the smile challenge. The deal is that for 5 days you must post a photograph with one or more smiles and nominate another photographer to do the same. Today is day 5 of 5 for me. Today I will nominate Justin Balog for the challenge. With so much negativity in the world, sharing smiles for the last few days will lift my spirits and hopefully yours too.

Thank you,


Learn more about the 5 day smile challenge.