Rock & sport photography tips from Michael Zagaris

Michael Zagaris is a legendary rock and sports photographer heaving captured iconic photographs of rock stars — from Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, the Rolling stones, the Who and on and on. He then went on to become the team photographer for the San Francisco 49ers with images of Joe Montana and Bill Walsh to today’s team. Michael passes along his tips and advice for how he gets inside the world he is photographing. Watch and listen then go out and try what he tells you, to advance your own photography


In the latest video from Silber Studios, Marc goes behind the scenes with photographer Bob Holmes at the Hess Collection in Napa Valley. Holmes, a three-time Travel Photographer of the Year, takes Marc on a tour of the incredible gallery while offering tips for lighting, framing, and finding punctuation points in your photographs.

“Know your equipment.” The saying might seem obvious at first, but listen to the way Bob explains the importance of a photographer’s familiarity with his camera and you’ll have a new-found appreciation for your equipment. Watch as he shows Marc actual examples during an impromptu photo shoot at one of the world’s most prestigious wineries.

Holmes is an internationally revered travel photographer whose images have appeared in Time Magazine, National Geographic, and The New York Times. Check out other interviews we’ve done with Bob to help improve your photography, and be sure to check out more of his work at Robert

This interview with Camille Seaman is packed with so much goodness. She talks about using natural lighting in shooting subjects as varied as giant icebergs to TIbetans who don’t use lights indoors at all during the day. More importantly what really struck a chord is how WHO a photographer is plays a central role in their work.


What would you suggest if we just want to get better sports shots of the friends and family?

You know, two of the things that I would suggest are that. One: clean. That is my biggest thing that I am looking for in an Image is make your background clean. Clean up those backgrounds, make the image, the personal subject pop out of the frame. So think of yourself as a director and you are placing people on the screen. So you are the person who gets to place them there you get to pick the screen. So when you are shooting your photos clean up those backgrounds, nothing to distract what is going on so you can focus right on that subject.

Any final tips for our viewers who just want to get better photographs?

You know the one of the biggest things that I think the imagers struggle with is taking their off full automatic. You know I would say learn that camera. Put it on semi-automatic, your time value, your actual priority, learn how those functions work. And the biggest most important thing that I think now is that you can shoot ‘raw’. Sure it is an intimidating thing you get these huge files you have to manage them. But it’s like having a negative. It’s like having a fujichrome velvia and you get to print that image whatever way you want. When I see students work who had gone from jpeg to raw during one class session. It’s amazing, and they come back and say “I will never shoot jpeg againî. So that would be the biggest tip I have for everybody-’Shoot raw’.


To see more of John’s work click here


Karl Taylor Explains The 4 Main Types of Light

There isn’t just one type of light. There are 4 main types, and Karl Taylor does a great job of explaining them in this video about the various types of light.

Knowing the type of light that you’re dealing with can change the way you shoot the scene. He also has great tips on how to shoot with natural light using a reflector. This 10 minute video can completely change the way you see light.

John Lennon memorial, Strawberry Fields, Central Park NY
John Lennon Memorial, Central Park, NYC

What’s your most essential tool as an artist?  While the right equipment can be an enormous aide to your success, we’ve all seen artists who can create with very little. And who runs all that fancy gear and tells it what to do?

Imagination is what gets the creative process started and keeps it rolling. It’s what drives your whole creative flow, as you can see from Picasso, “I paint objects as I think them, not as I see them.”

Michelangelo said,   ”I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”  He removed the marble until his vision appeared to others the way he had imagined it.

But if this is such a major tool, why has it been battered down since we were kids? You can remember being hit by zingers like, “that’s just your imagination” or “nice pipe-dream”  Yep, there seems to be those who would just as soon send you to camp bummer as see you as create your next piece of art.

So, if it’s the key to the whole game, then what? Are we all born with a certain amount of it and have to just watch it diminish as we grow up?

How about exercising your imagination? I mean like a regular exercise program.  Yes, you can develop this creative skill, like any other skill that you practice.

Here’s a few ways to do so.

  1. Practice pre-visualization of your art. Ansel Adams taught photographers to do this in this short video, but this applies to any artist.
  2. Get a notebook-sketchbook and note down your ideas, put your imagination and vision down on paper, and just that simple action helps it comes to life.
  3. You can also use your iPhone camera like a sketch pad and shoot patterns, colors, images of all sorts for later use.  That’s how I got the shot above while wandering through Central Park with friends.
  4. Look at other artists’ work and imagine how they did it.  Find the parts you love and try it yourself. If you’re shy about this remember one of Steve Jobs’ mantras was what Picasso supposedly uttered, “Bad artists copy. Good artists steal.”
  5. Push yourself to try new ways of expressing your art. If you are always shooting landscapes, make yourself go out on the street and capture people, up close.

    Try this out and let’s see what happens. You can post any of the above in our Critique Group (even if you’re not a photographer, go ahead.)


    Your first Photo-Dojo assignment for 2012


    For our first Photo-Dojo assignment of the year, we have 2 tasks for you.

    The first one is to let us know what your photography goals are for 2012, whether it’s to shoot more, or post more photos in the Photo critiques group, it really is up to you. The second part of the assignment is to share a photo that illustrates “a new year”.


    Good luck!

    Taking photos of phones, tougher than it sounds.

    Award winning Korean photo studio Indylab shot this award winning advertisement without the aid of computer generated imagery. Instead, they manually tossed and photographed phones one at a time, and then composited all the images afterward.

    Here’s a behind-the-scenes photos that gives a glimpse into how it was done:

    Indylab photography BTS from indylab on Vimeo.

    (Via PetaPixel via ISO 2000)


     are you in the matrix

    Have you been brainwashed about photography?  What me? How absurd!

    I’ll bet you have been, and it’s so deep you don’t even know it. Just like the Matrix, it’s all around and so “real” that we think this is “reality.”

    Right about now you’re thinking, “come on Marc, what the hell are you talking about?”

    Ok, alright, let’s jump right in, are you going to take the blue pill and forget, or the red,  and find out  just how deep the matrix goes down the rabbit hole? (or is it the other way around?)

    Here’s the first thing you’ve been to lied about: To take a great photograph you need the newest, fastest, highest- ISO, multi-media camera out there.

    To that I say, as my friend Guy Kawasaki is fond of saying, Bull Shitake!

    Look at all the great photos that were taken pre-digital with fixed, low ISO, no-trick cameras.

    But before you miss my point and think I’m just some old geezer who’s stuck in the glories of film and can’t go with the flow of digital, that ain’t what I’m talking about.

    I’m talking about what’s really important in photography, versus what we’re being brainwashed into believing to fuel the consumer-driven industrial-photo-complex, that needs you to discard your “old” equipment that you bought just 3 years ago and shell out big bucks for the new version. That’s crap and I bet you’re starting to see just how deep this rabbit hole is (hint: this is much more than about photography, but we’ll leave the rest for another day.)

    Let’s start with the basis of it all. Who makes the picture, you or the camera?

    Hint: Bambi Cantrell said, “people take pictures, cameras don’t!”

    How often do you need to be able to  jump to 25K ISO or shoot at 8 frames per second?  Show me your great photographs where this really mattered.

    Now look, I love new cool stuff as much as anyone, and shoot a lot of photos on my iPhone, but I don’t kid myself into believing these will ever be great. Just because it’s been proven that you can do a fashion shoot with one, doesn’t mean you should.

    I believe in using the right tool for the job.  Learn your camera so well that using it becomes instinctive and get out and focus on what really matters: You, your camera, your subject and how to put them together in a frame that tells a story.  Do you have this simple equation mastered?

    If not, let’s get out of the Matrix for just a moment and do this for yourself, and no bull shitake about how you’re too good already to need this exercise.

    1. Go over to your nearest drugstore and buy a disposable camera. You know the ones that you take back and they develop the pictures?

    2. Now visualize the photos you want to make with it.

    3. Then go out and make them. You only have the 12 or so exposures it comes with, no cheating

    4. Post your best in our Photo-Dojo.

    I will pick the best over the next 2 weeks and I’ll announce the winner August 1st. The winner will win a 38mm Diana F+ Super Wide Lens, cool eh?

    And stay tuned for further installments on the Maxtrx, and how to get out.

    (and I can’t wait for  wisecracks from those deep in the Matrix!)


    When we interviewed Bob Holmes, one of the biggest things that he wanted to share was to always be prepared. Preparation is key to getting the shot that you desire, because if you’re not prepared, you’ll miss it. Read an excerpt from our interview with him to learn more.

    You can watch the video here

    “One of the biggest lessons I learned was, when I first started shooting professionally…it was in 1980…I was shooting for National Geographic in Pakistan, and it was the first time I felt as if I were a real photographer, I felt really good.  I’d got National Geographic film, things to send it back to Washington, and I had three cameras, all with motor-drives. I felt like a real professional.  And I was shooting in a little village in a very remote part of Pakistan, and there was a shaman predicting the future for the next year.  And this was a unique experience, I was the only Westerner there. I started shooting, and there’s a lot of exciting things happening…

    The shaman is getting high, smelling…they’d been drinking a local brew, which was awful…it was dreadful stuff.  If you served it at Betty Ford Clinic, you wouldn’t have got any takers.  And it was some fermented grain from this village, and he’s getting really high on that, and smelling juniper smoke.  And then they dragged a goat to the front of this group of villagers, got a machete, chopped the goats head off, and the shaman picked the goat’s head up and started drinking the blood from the goat’s head…and it was very dramatic, obviously, and I ran out of film in all three cameras.

    I didn’t have a single frame left in any camera, and it’s not the sort of situation where you’re just, “Could you do that just one more time please?” And it’s a huge lesson, you know, I’ll never let that happen again.  I always made sure, even if I was…and I think, coming from an amateur background, I was very careful about costs, and I would always try to get 37 frames off a 36 exposure roll, and I hadn’t got out of that mindset.  After that, if I got to frame 30, I’d take the film out…and Geographic was paying for the film, but it was habit.  And I learned that you always have to be prepared, because you never know what’s going to happen, and that was a very, very valuable lesson for me.”

    You can find more of Bob’s work here and you can watch his video here

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