Industry News

WPPI Reflections: Scott Kelby

April 20, 2015

By RF Staff

Scott Kelby is a very busy man. Not only is he an award-winning author, photographer and entrepreneur, he’s also the CEO of KelbyOne, the editor and publisher of Photoshop User and Light It Magazine, and the co-founder of the NAPP (National Association of Photoshop Professionals), among many other roles in the industry.

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Photo © Scott Kelby

In March, Kelby attended and exhibited at WPPI in Las Vegas and immediately following that show he flew to Dubai to collect the HIPA International Photography Award. As someone who is extremely passionate about photography and business, we wanted to talk to him not only about his WPPI experience but also about the state of the industry.

Dennis Tyhacz: You had the KelbyOne Show Floor Theater at WPPI this year and over three days had 12 seminars (each open and free of charge) with a very impressive roster of speakers, including Joe McNally, Cliff Mautner, Tony Corbell, Rafael Concepcion and many more, including your own presentation. As a strong believer in education, how would you advise younger photographers who want to grow their business or craft?
Scott Kelby: I know this is going to sound kind of obvious but I really do believe education is the key. You can learn things the hard way or you can sidestep a lot of pitfalls, problems and “taking your lumps” by learning from the people who were once in the same position you are in now. If you do things right from the start, photography can be a really rewarding career, but if you kind of “go it on your own” it can be a tough road. I always recommend that folks who are new to this industry really look to the expertise of the guys and gals who’ve already been down that road. As my dad used to say, “When you’re just going, I’m already coming back.”

You also have to have develop your own signature look. It doesn’t matter whether that look comes from how you compose an image, from your shooting style or what you do in post-production. If you want to work, you have to have a consistently repeatable style that becomes your trademark look. That way, when clients hire you they know who and what they’re getting. If you look like everybody else, they might as well hire somebody else.

DT: What role would you like to see photography education play for the “end user” in 2015? Where do you see things heading in the future?
SK: A lot of clients today are asking for more than just final stills. Their social media presence is very, very important to them and to stay working, you’re going to have to able to deliver everything from behind-the-scenes videos to shots for their social media accounts. The more you can offer them, the more you’ll wind up doing.

As for where photography is going, I don’t think there’s anyone out there that doesn’t believe that mobile phones are going to continue to get better and better. That poses a challenge for everyone in the industry. Look where mobile phone cameras were just a few years ago: the iPhone had a 2.3-megapixel camera and nobody was too concerned. But just this past week I saw billboards [that were] shot with the current iPhone 6. In Dallas, Apple just put up a 20-story-tall poster on the side of a building, an image of a waterfall shot with an iPhone 6. This mobile phone quality revolution isn’t coming; it’s already here. Photographers using DSLRs are going to have to up their game to stay competitive. You have to create something different, bigger and better than what everybody else is taking with their own phones. When everybody can shoot good photos, a good photo doesn’t cut it any longer.

DT: Was there a moment from this year’s WPPI that really stood out for you?
SK: There were two moments—one was Joe McNally’s Keynote presentation. The guy has about 40 years behind the lens, and he was as passionate on that stage as if he just started out today and landed his first real job. He is so emotionally engaged with his subjects and he is so good at explaining his technique without beating the audience over the head with it and truly engages with his anecdotes. He just loves people. He loves their story, their heart, and he takes that passion and puts it straight into his images.

The other thing I remember is really slowing down and looking at all the award-winning Print Comp images posted out in front of the main hall. It was very clear that here at WPPI the image is king; the print is king. Everything else is about the tools to make that image happen. It really creates a wonderful atmosphere that opens peoples' minds to learning, sharing, making new friends and just soaking it all in. I was really digging that whole side of WPPI this year, one that has always been
there—you just slow down enough to see it.

DT: What’s up next for you?
SK: Lot’s of fun travel. Anytime I get to go someplace interesting, I always try to build in a day or two for personal shoots. Dubai was amazing, I was there once before and the architecture is truly stunning. On my current roster is teaching in Amsterdam (and shooting), then off to France (more shooting) and finally Madrid (shoot fest). At least I’m racking up some serious Frequent Flyer Miles. Photographically, I’m working on some personal projects later this year and investing in making images for my portfolio, instead of just buying new gear, and that excites me in a very big way. At the end of the day, we all just want to make better images. I’m on a mission to pull more of those out of me in 2015.

For more on Scott Kelby, visit his blog at

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To read Scott Kelby's Wedding Day Recipes for Making Brides Shine in Rangefinder's recent April Lighting Issue, click here.