Rob Thomas for REAL Magazine

I’ve been waiting to talk about this shoot all year. When REAL Magazine asked me sometime in March if I’d be interested in shooting Rob Thomas, I jumped at the chance.

Now, I know exactly what you are thinking. No, not that Rob Thomas (although he’s on my list too). This Rob Thomas is the creator of the show Veronica Mars. You probably heard about him in the news earlier this year, as he and Kristen Bell led a Kickstarter campaign which raised over 5.7 million dollars for the production of a Veronica Mars movie. Since then, other high-profile film projects have gone the Kickstarter route (most notably Zach Braff’s “Wish I Was Here“), but no crowd funding campaigns so far have been as successful as Rob’s.

Talking with the creative people at REAL Magazine, we decided on something fun to match Rob’s personality. I sketched up several ideas, one of which involved him at a lemonade stand selling props from episodes of the tv show to help fund his film. Rob liked the idea, so we scouted locations around town that could serve as our neighborhood house.

Right before the shoot, I thought it would be funny if we added in a Ferris Bueller reference and played off the “Save Ferris” idea with our own “Save Veronica Mars” riff. In the Ferris Bueller movie, an iconic scene is the “Save Ferris” water tower that appears in the film. We added that to our image below and the scene was set.

Rob did a great job with a variety of expressions and poses, and after our shoot we took some additional shots that his agency could use for promo purposes.

Below is a great little BTS video that the crew from Reel Visuals put together. I loved working with Terrell, Lauren and Richard on this, and if you need something similar, you should definitely look them up. A big thanks to Bert Mclendon and Justin Leitner who helped out on this shoot, and a heartfelt thank you to Nell at REAL Magazine for the opportunity.

Rob Thomas Veronica Mars Image 1

Rob Thomas Veronica Mars Image 2

Rob Thomas Veronica Mars Image 3

By |September 25th, 2013|Photography|0 Comments

Wading Giraffes

I’ve had this image in my head for a while now. I’m not sure where it started, but I remember that I photographed the ocean in Hawaii last year. Once I had the idea, I started collecting giraffe images where I saw them. Some of the giraffes here are from Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and some are from the San Diego Zoo (which, to me, feels a lot bigger than Animal Kingdom).

This was a fun personal project I came up with, and I might do more animal shots like this in the future.

Wading Giraffes


can you still be creative in today’s world?

photo sketchI’ve been thinking about this the last few days. It’s a challenge, to say the least, and it’s not just limited to photography. Think of every creative service industry that’s been affected by a transition to digital: photography, music, art, advertising, etc. They’ve all been inundated with new talent that’s able to learn and produce at a rapid pace. If you can see the results of your work right away, you can progress through those 10,000 hours much quicker. The baseline for what is considered acceptable work changes as well. As an example, look at audio. When the digital revolution started, audio professionals slammed MP3 for it’s crappy compression and frequency response. And where are we now? The pros still slam MP3. And MP3 is the dominant audio format. Not “cd quality” files. Not HD audio. This kind of market ‘attitude’ adjustment has happened in every field affected by digital. And it’s not completely a bad thing. It’s great, for example, to be able to get a beautiful print out of today’s printers without worrying about CMYK or color separations or any of that stuff.  So how can you stand out in your field among all this change?

It’s Christmas Card Time

It’s almost October, if you can believe it. Fall is practically here. And around this time every year, I start my Christmas card work for families and businesses.

It started a few years back when we sent our infamous diner image as our Christmas card. Since then, I’ve enjoyed creating similar holiday cards for my clients. Each of them tells a story of the family: what they look like, their personality, and what they enjoy doing.  And I work in humor wherever I can.

This year, I have tweaked the package a little bit and made some changes. I’ve also put up a brand-new website at Check it out, watch the intro video, and get in touch if you’d like something a little unique for your holiday card this year!

One on One, Part One.

Debbie emailed me last November from Atlanta. She’s a wedding photographer and was looking for ways to change things up in her lighting and the post-processing of her work (including her portrait work as well). A “creative bootcamp”, as she put it, in her initial email. She asked if I did any workshops. I didn’t have any plans for one anytime soon. She began suggesting that she be a ‘guinea pig’ for a full-day one-on-one training thing. We emailed back and forth, and it finally worked out this past Friday. She came into town and we spent all day covering lighting and post production. I had no secrets – we opened every image she wanted and I discussed in detail what I was thinking on set and I how I did the work in Photoshop afterwards. We talked about lighting modifiers, how they affect the light, and how to get more efficient use out of her gear.

We also enjoyed an Italian lunch at Mandola’s. I probably would have been there that day anyways because I like fresh mozzarella (being half-Italian and all).

Debbie showed up with images that she wanted to discuss, and she took great notes:

And I made use of a whiteboard to, well, “sketch” things:

It was a great time! I could see doing it again.



10 ways you can kick your photography to the next level this week

Start a personal project
Some photographers do a 365 project (where they take an image every day). Unless that idea is super-appealing to you, I’d instead look for a way you can merge photography with an interest you find fascinating. Perhaps you volunteer at the local animal shelter, or you are an expert on Ford Mustangs made before 1984. Whatever it is, build a personal project out of it. I recently started one of these based on a shoot from over a year ago. It’s more of an endurance event than a short period of focused work, and I’m looking forward to the end product!

Take a class
This could be something as simple as a short workshop, a dvd/video class, or even a conference. Specifically seek out one that covers something you don’t know. Don’t get caught only going to classes that you know your friends will be at (this is super-important at conferences.)

Trade for practice
Come up with an idea for a shoot, and trade that (for free if necessary) just to get the practice in doing it.

Read non-photo-specific things 
It’s easy to collect a list of photo blogs in your rss reader to lean on for inspiration/etc. Try instead to read books about creativity and business that don’t specifically deal with photography. Some of my recent favorites include The War Of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle by Steven Pressfield and The Power of Full Engagement
by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz.

Inside-out learning (on a lens, modifier, etc)
Pick a lens, modifier, or light, and spend a weekend learning as much as  you can about it. Some photographers recommend using that piece of gear exclusively until you know it inside and out.

Flat-out copy
Find a photo you love and spend the time to create an image exactly like it. Don’t worry about putting it in your gallery (since it’s a copy). The exercise of creating the image will be a great learning experience, and eventually you will take a small piece of that technique and merge it with your style.

Reach out to someone you admire
Social media tools like Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus have made people more accessible than ever. Find you someone you admire and reach out to them. You don’t need to send them a 5 paragraph email with a ton of questions. A quick “Hi – I really enjoy the work you’ve been doing!” can get the door open to future communication.

Force variation (at least 5)
Along the lines of inside-out learning mentioned above, try forcing variations on yourself. Shoot a subject the way you would normally, and then force yourself to get 5 different looks of the same subject. You could try different angles, lighting, nighttime vs daytime, lenses, etc. Getting into this practice is good for you, because it always comes in handy on jobs for paying clients.

If you haven’t rented gear before, it’s worth the effort. Most online rental houses have the process down when it comes to shipping you gear and making it easy for you to return it. With some sites you can get a special deal on weekend rentals (3 days for the price of 2, etc). And be sure to check out any local companies in your area that rent gear. I use a mix of online and local rental options, and I will always be renting certain types of gear vs. buying. I love online and Texas Grip locally.

Break from social media
This is the toughest one in this list, and I find myself struggling with it all the time. When I find myself spending too much time on social networking sites, I try to remember that there are plenty of incredible photographers who don’t have any interest in social media. Go try to find Dan Winters in some social network online, for example. Realize that great photographers get great ultimately by doing, not just by networking.


I hope some of these have been helpful. If there’s a technique that has helped you out recently, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.