Meet Brian Miller: Project 52 Photographer, St Augustine

Meet Brian Miller: Project 52 Photographer, St Augustine

Website URL:
Instagram URL: @totallyswellstudio
Facebook Page:
Phone: 904-377-9438

What brought out your interest in photography? How’d you get started?

Always been interested in cameras and making photographs but was consumed by music so I never took the time to learn photography properly. It wasn’t until my music career slowed that I picked up a camera and a book about photography. That was about 13 years ago. When I get into something I get deep into it.

What is your favorite subject matter – and why?

People. An expression can be the most powerful subject. It wasn’t until recently that I realized I had a way of making people feel comfortable in front of my camera, mostly because I’m awkward myself. When the subject gets comfortable I get more daring. Photography brings out a personality in me as much as my subject. Sometimes I leave a job feeling introspective.

How long have you been pursuing a career (or part-time career) in photography?

3 years professionally

Who or what is your greatest influence?

My greatest influence is myself. Once I stopped following and mimicking other photographers I started to follow my own path. I’ll see where it leads me.

Describe your dream photography job. What makes it so?

To stay with a variety of jobs. Some days I want to shoot action and some days I want to shoot food. Rarely is action combined with food!

How do you think your work is unique from others? What makes it yours? Style? Subject matter? Context?

I’m probably the least dramatic person you will ever meet but any sort of drama within comes through in my work if I give it enough time. Same with music. Once I get comfortable and find my confidence I start to notice dramatic improvements.

What is your most effective marketing strategy so far?

Networking, being nice to people and always doing what you say you’re going to do. People talk and word of mouth has been my biggest ally.

What is your pet peeve about photographers (or photography)? Or do you simply not have one?

Trends. Not really a pet peeve but if I’m in the right mood I will go on a rant!

What personal projects are you working on at the moment?

Film. All kinds. Completely obsessed at the moment. Starting to shoot film on paid jobs. Also very much into storytelling lately.

Your most favorite 5 pieces of gear are?

Nikon 58mm, Sigma 135 1.8, Nikon FM2n, Godox flashes, ThinkTank Airport International Bag

Bonus: What/who do you listen to during long editing marathons?

Wide variety of stuff that varies from jazz to rock and even (real) country.


More Interviews with photographers and creatives here.

Have you wanted to take a look at the Project 52 workshop without committing for a year?

Well here is your chance. An 8 Week Project 52 Pro Membership is ready for you to get into - NOW. And it is the full deal. All of the resources, assignments, reviews, webinars and more are there for you to work with. This is NOT a truncated offer, but a full opportunity for you to take advantage of the most unique photographic workshop on the internet.

Real-world assignments, with art direction, layouts, brand ID info and more. This is shooting just like a commercial photographer in any city shoots. And it is an introduction to a lot of different genres, styles, challenges, and subject matter.


24 Frames in May: Film Is Still Alive and Well

24 Frames in May: Film Is Still Alive and Well

These submissions were from the 24 Frames in May project we did in May.

The goal was to shoot one roll of 24 exposure 35mm film or two rolls of 120 on a medium format camera.

As you can see, we got some great work. Film is not dead – it is alive and vibrant.

And no, I don’t want you to trade your DSLR for a film camera. I am just asking you to consider the possibility of adding it to your toolkit for another look.







10 Black and White Portraits That Look Like Film

10 Black and White Portraits That Look Like Film

From some of the students in the 8 Week Black and White Class comes this selection of ten images that really look like film and paper. The assignment was to make sure the image was designed to look as though it was shot as a black and white, not simply a converted color image.


Julie LHeureux

Greg Pastuzyn

Leonardo Ferri

Brian Miller

Janice Eddington



Coty Montroy

Gloria McDonald

Tom Ladwein

Ivan Singer

Dawn Gardner

The Origins of Halloween, 2016

The Origins of Halloween, 2016


A Project 52 Assignment

Just before Halloween (October 31, 2016) the assignment for the Project 52 students was to shoot to layout for this fictitious piece.

The magazine layout is a two page (spread, or “double truck”) and calls for the photographer to be very cognizant about what is on the right side of the image. The right side of the image will have copy set there, and it is important to keep that copy readable. The text is set as reversed (light text on a dark background) and was not to be changed.

This is a deceptively difficult assignment. Making sure the image captivates, fitting it into a layout, helping direct the viewer to the text are all decisions made BEFORE taking the shot. Planning the image is as important as executing the image.

This kind of exercise helps the photographer understand the image making process – whether for practical, commercial applications or simply to make a photograph that is deliberate.

There were many amazing shots. These are my favorite ‘scary thirteen’.

(Cover shot by Anne Stephenson.
Careful blending of a ghostly figure with a shot of an old, abandoned cemetery brings a cinematic feel to the image. Anne also used a color grade technique to look more like moonlight.)

Photographer Dirk Brand used a model with the “day of the dead” makeup to give us a start. A single light source still keeps the tonality of the dark scarf, and the high contrast of the white-face makeup.

Photographer Duck Unitas chose a macabre still life with rich color and the look of candlelight. The old books give an air of mystery, while the lighting keeps us guessing as to its origins.

Photographer Frank Grygier brings his image as a still life of old toys. Well lit, well composed and definitely a bit whimsical, the image leads us to the text perfectly.

Photographer Joe Tharp brings a macabre makeup on a model to invoke the mystery and frightening aspects of Halloween. A single light keeps it simple, and letting the shadow side transition into the dark makes it more mysterious.

Photographer Melissa Wax transports us to a mythical land where druid like dancers seem to be calling forth a spirit. She had wonderful models to shoot on this very cold morning. The backlit fog and flare add to the mysterious mood, and the direction of the dancers lead our eyes to the text.

Photographer Michael Klinepier took a subtle examination of the simple terrors of a nightmare. From makeup to wardrobe, to an eery handful of fire, the image makes us look, and also drives us to the copy by careful placement of the flame.

Photographer Nadine Eversley used light and Photoshop to create this interesting, graphically strong image. An iconic carved pumpkin, and beautiful leading lines take us right to the copy.

Photographer Richard Neuboeck used dramatic light, an iconic carved pumpkin and strong, leading lines for this mysterious image. Photoshop was used to carefully assemble the pieces, and the result is a striking, graphic photograph.

Photographer Neville Palmer presents a workbench from hell. From a potted head to a skull, to a mass of dead leaves, the still life is creepy and made it even more by the excellent use of lighting throughout the image. Note how well the copy reads over the background even though it may seem too busy at first glance.

Photographer Gloria McDonald gives us a ghostly image wrapped in gauze. The location is all the more eery. This is a composite shot, but works very well to bring an otherworldly mood to the image.

Photographer Iryna Ishcenko takes a still life approach with rare glass pumpkin ornaments. While not a traditional approach to ‘scary’ Halloween, it is a wonderful editorial approach to the product, or collectibles. This is the fun of photography – bringing in different approaches for our clients.

Photographer Rick Savage takes a ‘day of the dead’ view, and offers us up a model who seems to be dripping out of the next dimension. Clever use of a mottled, shiny background and one light make the shot work well.



For the last time this year, I am running this very popular class on Black and White Portraiture. Lots of information on shooting people and converting the images to monochrome (black and white, sepia, toned etc…).

Please check out the page for a lot more information.

For the last time this year, I am running this very popular class on Black and White Portraiture. Lots of information on shooting people and converting the images to monochrome (black and white, sepia, toned etc…).

Please check out the page for a lot more information.

Photographing Chocolate: A Sweet Challenge

Photographing Chocolate: A Sweet Challenge


Photographing chocolate is very challenging. For one thing, humidity and temperature can play a big part in what the chocolate looks like. And chocolate is very susceptible to damage from fingerprints, casual bumping against other product, and time.

Working with chocolate to make it look great is what we worked on with this Project 52 assignment. I chose these 11 images to show a cross section of the work the students did on this difficult assignment.

Cover image by Terri Queen.


Soft ambient from the back with a little kick from the rear-right bring these ridges of chocolate alive. The perfection of the chocolate is revealed by well thought out lighting.


Notice the beautiful lighting on the different types of chocolate. Dawn used a large light from above with carefully placed fill cards to keep the dark tones readable.


Super soft lighting and wonderful composition show off these rare, exotic chocolates with fruits and nuts. A very large, diffuse light source in close to the subject creates this look.


A frame within a frame helps create a bit of mystery for these specialty chocolates. A large light source in close to the subjects presents a wonderfully soft light that helps fill the shadows.


A small drip of chocolate on a white pear is a beautiful treat for the eyes. Melissa used a very soft ambient light to create this image. The liquid like highlight in the chocolate help sell the difference in textures.


A single light helps define the textures of this simple chocolate cupcake. Using a gradient surface allows the highlights atop the chocolate swirls to look even more glorious. A small shiny fill to the front opens up the cake toward camera.


Yep, that is chocolate wine. I haven’t tried it yet, but it is on my list. Kurt’s lovely lighting and beautifully shot bottle helps show off the candies all about the surface. The small splash light behind the bottle and glass help keep them front and center.


Chocolate in a very simple form. Strong backlight, and a specular on the surface of the pan leads our eyes to the chocolate ball. Styling to include the chocolate powder helps keep us focused on the subject.


A colorful display of fancy chocolates lit gently from behind with a softbox behind a little kick of light from the front for fun.


Shallow Depth of Field helps to present the textures of these fine chocolates, while giving us a pleasing composition.


For the last time this year, I am running this very popular class on Black and White Portraiture. Lots of information on shooting people and converting the images to monochrome (black and white, sepia, toned etc…).

Please check out the page for a lot more information.

If you love still life photography as much as I do, you may want to check out this 8 Week Still Life Class. It is one of the most popular I offer and it will be the last time I do this in 2016. We take a deep dive into the structure, techniques, and styles of still life photography.

Please see this page for more information.