Why I Think You Should Watch My creativeLIVE Show in April

Why I Think You Should Watch My creativeLIVE Show in April

Hi, gentle readers of this blog/zine… err, whatever it is.

If you have been following along for any time you know that I don’t have a lot of stuff to sell, nor do I spend much time hawking how fabulously cool I am.


But occasionally I need to do a little self-promotion and this is one of those times. I hope you bear with me. If I could indulge you for a few minutes, I would like to tell you a little bit about the upcoming creativeLIVE show/workshop/thingy I am doing.

It will be on April 5, 6, 7, and it will be a lot of fun.

And somewhat serious as well.

I got a tweet one day from @creativeLIVE wondering if I would be interested in doing a workshop with them. I had been a fan of the project for a while, and of course said “sure… talk to me…” Apparently many of you folks had emailed and talked about me in the chats, so they took an interest. And, BTW, thanks so much for that you guys… wow – appreciated.

I was asked to submit a video of me teaching, and I thought “no problem”, I have plenty of those. And I did, but there was a catch… they all pretty much sucked. Craig asked me to submit a bit of the DVD I did 5 years ago and – well, it sucked pretty bad too.

But I guess they saw through the suck and saw something I hope you all see.

A little bio for those who don’t know who I am.


I am not a famous, world traveling photographer. I have been a commercial photographer for over 30 years and a photographer for over 40. I have had studios in Chicago, and New York, and spent a few years in the LA market back in the day.


I am a working, nuts and bolts photographer /  designer, and I have run my business on cash flow from the beginning. I have never had a business loan or a line of credit. I shoot photographs and get paid for it.


I specialized in people, product and location work (mostly corporate) but have shot nearly every genre out there. I added graphic design to my work and by the year 2001, I was Creative Director/Partner of Ocean IMG, the third largest advertising agency in Arizona. Sitting on both sides of the “hiring” table is quite interesting to me. From being a photographer interviewing with a creative director to a creative director meeting with hopeful photographers taught me so much about the business I hadn’t realized before.


These days I shoot, design, do marketing and advertising for a few select clients, write and generally have a blast being creative. Oh, and I teach. Whenever I can, wherever I can, I teach.


At the end of things if people ask me what I would like to be remembered for, it would be the teaching. The legacy of the teacher lives in the power of the students.

I LOVE to teach. I think it is one of the most interesting things anyone can do. Sharing the knowledge of 4 decades of being a photographer, and the big ideas and small ideas that come from that life is important to me. Teaching is simply a passion with me.

To teach.

Definition of TEACH

a : to cause to know something – taught them a trade
b : to cause to know how – is teaching me to drive
c : to accustom to some action or attitude – teach students to think for themselves=teach
: to guide the studies of
: to impart the knowledge of – teach algebra
a : to instruct by precept, example, or experience
b : to make known and accepted – experience teaches us our limitations

What I will bring to creativeLIVE for those who watch;

Real, full on, no-holds barred, all-in discussions on lighting and photography and life. Life as a photographer.

No bullshit. No attitude. No unreal expectations driven by over inflated sense of self worth.

I will be leaving that all at the office here in Phoenix, heh.

Last November I was voted one of the top workshop instructors in the world by a reader’s poll at the prestigious Photo District News. I am incredibly proud of that… even more so because it was a reader’s poll, not some sort of good ol’ boy accolade thrown out by some ‘in crowd’ photographer. The people who took my workshop took the time to let the editors of PDN know how they felt about my workshop.

And, well… damn! Thanks to all of you again who took the time to nominate me.

I think the reason why the folks who take my workshop feel that way is not because of my witty repartee’ or dashing good looks… it is because I tell the truth, at least the truth according to me, with no regard to what that means to the overall general wisdom of the ‘net. There is reality, and there is fantasy… I choose reality in my work as an educator.

I am not there to impress you with my life story. As most go it is not that interesting. I am not there to dazzle you with all the latest toys and cool glass and incredibly expensive accouterments that spell out “PRO” in rhinestones and neon.

I am there to teach. Lighting, photography, working with talent, creating images under pressure, making the images you see in your mind’s eye a reality. I am there for YOU.

Some of what I will be discussing:

  • Why Light Matters
  • What Makes “Good Light”
  • Subject Centric Lighting Explained
  • Wizwow’s “Rope Meter” = a Visual Inverse Square Law Exposure Tool
  • “Light Does the Same Thing Every Time”
  • Creating the Light You Want
  • Simple Lighting for Effect
  • “Placing Exposure”
  • Emotional Lighting
  • The Tools and Their Effect: Understanding Light
  • Subject Qualities to Look For
  • Working Talent in the Light
  • Editing the Image: What to Look For
  • “Owning” the Light You Love
  • “Creating the Photograph”
  • Meeting “Creative Block” Head On
    (“What to do when you don’t know what the ^&$*% to do!)
  • Keeping Your Ideas Sharp
  • Professional Presentation
  • Making Your Own Path in a Crowded Field

We will be doing a lot of shooting as well. I want to show you as much about lighting with finesse and how to do it with an understanding of the subject as I can.

Photography is Jazz with a Camera

In order to play jazz, a musician must be able to master their instrument well enough to improvise – to ‘make stuff up – which is the heart of jazz.

Photographers must be able to improvise as well. Lighting must conform to certain rules and be repeatable in order to make sense to the photographer. Subject Centric Lighting helps photographers master the lighting and produce results that are predictable and easily repeatable.

And when you understand that lights do the same thing every time, and that you can master the process, the ability to improvise and create becomes much easier.

I call the method I use “Subject Centric Lighting” and I do believe that if you understand my thinking, it will open your ideas about light in ways you have not thought of. Quite simply, you will not think of light the same way again… even if you do not adopt my methods.

Do you know how a softbox renders light differently than an umbrella?

Do you know that there are “optimum” placements for your lights based on the size of the light?

Do you know that with a single piece of string you can have all the ‘metering’ you need to make images in the studio and on location?

Do you know that one meter reading for a strobe is all you need to know for making very educated ‘guesses’ as to placement for exposure?

Do you know that you probably already know what the exposure is when you are working outside in ambient light, but haven’t thought about it in the right way?

Would you like to be able to make a shot on a moments notice with no preparation and all the wrong wardrobe and in crappy light?

Can you create emotional light?

Do you “own” your light?

What happens when you get creative block? Can you push past it and make an image that rocks?

Do you see the finished image in your head before you start to shoot, or are you hostage to what happens as you shoot?

We will be discussing these and many more areas as we spend three days together.

There have been many wonderful presentations on creativeLIVE, many.

But I will bring you my interpretation of working with light to make YOUR photographs. I want YOU to make images that move the viewer, that engage their emotions and senses. I want you to embrace the power of lighting and use it to make the images you see in your head.

So I would like you to do something right now… I want you to head over to creativeLIVE and register for free. The workshop is free on those three days. And even if you can only watch a little during the LIVE cast, and catch what you missed on the rewatch, I would still like you to register.

Those who register will be able to download a small part of the workbook that will accompany the presentation in full. But even that small part should make you think about light in ways you may not have thought about.

I tell my workshop students that my goal is to do the best, most comprehensive workshop around. I am telling you the same thing… my goal is for this to be one of the best workshops you have ever attended… whether online or in person.

Well, that’s my little marketing moment. I am proud to be an educator, and prouder still of the photographers who I have met at the workshops and been privileged to watch grow and meet their potential. So many former students are now colleagues in the world of commercial photography that it makes me smile with that big ol’ dumb smile my kids love so much.

OK… I am outta here.

Appreciate the time, and I do hope that you decide to watch the show. I promise to do my absolute best for you.

— Don

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  1. LOL. Well those old videos were gold on the teaching content. What may have sucked was the video production quality. But CreativeLive is good at that, so I don’t think they worried about that part….

    Will be good to have you back in Seattle for a few days :-)
    Jan recently posted..Pinterest Debate–Part 2My Profile

    • LOL – thanks Jan. Yeah, the audio was pretty weak. Adding to that the camera was not an adjustable one… sheesh.

      Appreciate the support. my friend.
      wizwow recently posted..Shooting For An Annual ReportMy Profile

  2. We cannot wait to have you on creativeLIVE! Personally I’m extremely excited to see your magic ‘metering’ string AND teach us “What to do when you don’t know what the ^&$*% to do!” Basically I want to “OWN MY LIGHT”! Love that. I look forward to asking you questions from around the globe!

    • Thanks Kenna.

      I am looking forward to working in that room with the giant windows… sigh. Looks like perfectly incredible light!
      wizwow recently posted..Shooting For An Annual ReportMy Profile

  3. Don, I am looking forward to the workshop! I was thrilled to be selected as an audience member and I am counting down the days until I leave for Seattle.

    This is going to be amazing!
    Tracy recently posted..Cupcake – Wendy WilsonMy Profile

  4. I had the good fortune to take a workshop of Don’s about a year ago in Seattle and it was one of the best workshops – ever! He is an outstanding teacher and you will learn a LOT! I can’t wait – will be great to have a full 3 days to learn from a master. Thanks Don!

  5. To Jenny,
    Don is an amazing teacher and you should benefit even as a beginner. I had the pleasure of taking a live workshop with him, and I learned a lot. Don believes in Subject Centric Lighting, which means there is no magic formula for every situation. Don teaches the basics of how to use your equipment if needed, but more importantly he teaches you how to see, and how to approach a situation and solve a problem. He is a real treasure and nice gentlemen. What impressed me the most is that once you meet him and take his seminar, you have made a friend and mentor for life, not someone who made a few bucks from you and moved on. I know he has put a lot of work into preparing for this, and I am sure it will be great.

    • Wow Chuck thank you! I think you sold me : )

  6. I am looking forward to your workshop! There is always something for me to learn, especially from a professional who has been in this line for 4 decades! :)

  7. Don, regrettably your creativeLIVE workshop is during Easter weekend, and the wife and I will be out of town Friday – Sunday. Since I really wanted to see it, I have already paid my $99 at creativeLIVE so that I can view it, and study it, over and over again later.

    I have watched 4 of the 3-day creativeLIVE workshops in the past. That’s a signifincant time committment to do that, but each and every time that I have, I always learn a tremendous amount. creativeLIVE does a very good job with the production, and they always get “top-notch” presenters. You seem like a perfect fit for what they have to offer, and I sincerely can’t wait to see it, and to learn from you!
    Gregg Mack recently posted..CowParade Austin Calendar – April – CowBellaMy Profile

    • Thanks Dwayne and Gregg and Tracey and Chuck and all who commented here. The big day arrives soon and we will be getting right to it. Thanks for all the support and good wishes – they will accompany me to Seattle and much further, I assure you.