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Interview with Mark S. Johnson – Photographer

Interview with Mark S. Johnson - Photographer
What is your title, and can you explain what your daily responsibilities are?
I’m owner of Mark S. Johnson Photography.  For almost 20 years, I’ve been sharing creative and inspiring Photoshop techniques with my audience through tutorials on my website, the KelbyOne and Planet Photoshop sites, and also in books and magazines.

What inspired you most to become a Photographer? Why did you pursue this as a career?
There were several influential individuals/moments that inspired me to pursue a career in photography.  The first individual was a teacher in high school who encouraged me to think outside the box and create images and stories that resonated with my personal vision.  The second individual was a paintbox artist at a video post-production facility where I worked who introduced me to the astounding universe of Photoshop.  To this day, I’m still giddy with excitement that Photoshop allows me to create practically anything I can dream up.  The third moment was when I first spotted a sheet of Fuji Velvia sitting on a light table.  The vivid colors and gorgeous tones sold me on the idea that it was finally possible to share via film what I saw and felt while I was in the field.  When digital capture was introduced several years later, the idea of being able to jump from capture to Photoshop in a matter of minutes made my heart flutter.  Suddenly the creative process was wide open to me.

What do you think is the biggest obstacle to pursuing a career in the creative fields?
The biggest obstacle is self doubt, negative criticism from others, and believing that there is only one right way to do something.  Over the years, I’ve encountered hundreds of students who have been convinced by a parent, teacher, or camera club that creativity is bound by rigid rules…somehow photography is limited to capturing only tack sharp images with minimal post-processing.  This way of thinking causes us to shut down to our personal creative wisdom and begin creating what others believe we should create.  I encourage anyone who wants to develop a sustainable career as a creative artist to learn to quietly dismiss criticism and learn how to listen to your own authentic voice.

With all the new versions of Photoshop and Lightroom what changes do you personally feel are the most exciting or brilliant?
I’ve been using Photoshop since version 2.5 in the early 90s.  Over the years, I’ve witnessed numerous innovations that have knocked my socks off.  The first was when Adobe introduced layers and masks.  To this day, I believe that understanding masks is critical to unlocking the full potential of Photoshop.  The next was the dawn of adjustment layers.  The idea of non-destructive color and density correction was revolutionary.  A few other less sexy, yet game-changing innovations include blend modes, layer styles, smart objects, background save, and the Camera Raw dialog.

What Photographers & Photoshop artists do you follow, and why do they stand out from others in your opinion?
As an instructor, visual artist, and boundary buster, Corey Barker is hard to beat.  Julieanne Kost’s evocative imagery and gentle teaching style continue to make her one of my all-time favorites.  Since photo compositing is one of my greatest passions, I’m in awe of the work of Uli Staiger.

What social networks do you like most? Which present good examples of Photography the best?
I’m relatively new to the world of social networking, especially Facebook.  Since joining not long ago, I’ve developed some great relationships and seen a lot of inspiring work.  As a platform, I love Google+.  Google has created a clean and simple interface that makes sharing fun and easy.  Their platform puts the focus on imagery.  I’m a particularly big fan of Google+ hangouts because they allow us to share knowledge and inspiration with hundreds (even thousands) of people in a live, interactive learning environment.

What is your prediction of the evolution of social networks? How do you think these networks will showcase artists and Photographers better in the future?
Facebook groups and Google+ communities are already exceptional places for photographers to share images and ideas with like-minded individuals.  I’m guessing that there will be even better ways to collaborate on projects and market our work in the future.

What predictions do you have for the future of Photoshop and Lightroom?
It’s hard to say what’s ahead, but I’m hoping for innovations that include particle brushes and atmospheric effects generators.  These tools will be particularly useful for compositors.  The Quick Selection tool and Refine Edge feature are already pretty amazing, but I’m wishing for continued improvements to selection-making and edge-refining technology.  I’d also like to see Adobe add more (and better) natural media filters and brushes, such as oil paint (which disappeared in CC 2014), watercolor (which needs improvement), acrylic, pastel, ink, pencil, chalk, charcoal, impasto, and crayon.

Please follow Mark here!  on Facebook  & on Scott Kelby’s blog

Interview with Wes Maggio – Sr. Evangelist for Creative Products for Wacom Technology

Interview with Wes Maggio - Sr. Evangelist for Creative Products for Wacom
What is your title, and can you explain what your daily responsibilities are?
My name is Weston Maggio and I am the Senior Evangelist for Creative Products for Wacom Technology. My responsibilities in this role vary widely, but my essential function is to keep the pulse on relevant creative markets and share with them the value that Wacom products bring to them. This involves constant study and practice in creative fields ranging from photography, design, illustration, animation, visual effects and more. I work with professional individuals and organizations in these fields to ensure that they are able to work as efficiently—and creatively as possible. Having a background in art, I have a sincere interest in seeing people realize their creative vision. That is what drives me. Oh, and I am also a photographer too!

What inspired you most to become a Photographer and Educator?
I became a photographer in a roundabout way. I had taken photography classes as part of my college studies to become an illustrator, but at that time photography was merely a foundation.

When I graduated, I hustled as a freelance illustrator, which was challenging to say the least. I was lacking in overall business experience, but also technical knowhow. As in, I had little experience with technology in terms of drawing on the computer, which was beginning to take off. Frustrated and discouraged, I wanted something a little more stable so I took what I call a digital detour, taking a sales job with a leading computer reseller. I did so on a promise that they could teach me the “computer stuff”. What they saw in me was knowledge of the creative industry. Specifically, they wanted me to focus on the thriving advertising and design community in Chicago. My knowledge of the creative industry enabled me to support the needs of that community. This experience started my appreciation for sales and business.

Over the next few years I went to work for a software developer who specialized in high-volume document archive and retrieval. Think insurance companies, banks and the like. Boring stuff in terms of software, but very insightful in terms of learning how businesses operate. In that time, freelanced as an illustrator wherever I could, but the software biz kept me busy.

Nearing the end of the 90s, I had reached a point of burnout for business alone and wanted to get back into art on a more full-time basis. At the same time, I had grown accustomed to eating and a stable income! So, I began thinking about a career that could combine my unique skill set. Fast-forward to 2000, I joined Wacom Technology, managing their field sales operations in the Midwest US and Canada. With my broad experience in art, design, technology and sales, I enjoyed early success. This later led to an expansion of my role and responsibilities.  Being a constant student in the creative industry, as “digital” photography became more prevalent, I developed an appreciation for the art and process. In what little spare time I had, I began shooting a variety of subjects: From landscapes to sports to portraits, you name it. At the same time, this knowledge enabled me to stay relevant in my role at Wacom. For that I am extremely fortunate and thankful to be able to wrap my skill set, knowledge, and passions all up in one.

Aside from my roll at Wacom, I am a professional photographer; though I take jobs conservatively as my time at Wacom, (and the travel that goes along with it) and family are priorities. Photography for me enables me to stay abreast of the challenges and needs of one of Wacom’s most valued markets. Which is a win/win.

In terms of education, I am extremely passionate about imparting my experience and knowledge on my peers so that they may be more creative. We all learn when you see the light bulbs go on over someone’s head! Creativity flourishes and everyone is better for it. Speaking at conferences and teaching classes for Wacom affords me the opportunity to meet and work with some of the most creative people in the world. Again, for that I am truly grateful.

Why did you pursue this as a career? What do you think is the biggest obstacle to pursuing a career in the creative fields?
Why did I pursue this career? Well, in this interview I’ve talked about my work with both Wacom and my photography.  While I can say that I chose to pursue Wacom, photography sort of chose me. As a wise mother once said you become the company that you keep.  By virtue of my work with Wacom, I could not help but be inspired be the people that I work with. That said, I do have a funny story about my entry into photography. In my work for Wacom, I have to demonstrate a variety of uses of our products. In photography, this involves enhancing photos, such as making the subtlest tonal adjustments to making complex composite images. Prior to having a camera of my own I had to rely on a variety of sources to gather assets for my demos. Including asking photographers for images. Now I have said that I have the great fortune to work with some of the most creative people in the world. At the same time, I have also worked with those with lesser skills. With a new appreciation for photography, I thought to myself, “I could do this bad! Perhaps I should start creating my own assets.” So I picked up the hottest camera at the time—that I could afford—which was a Nikon D70.  From there I began to grow my love for photography (and collection of gear!)

So, I guess my career in photography started in an unorthodox way.  But then, I bet if you ask 100 photographers why or how they got into photography, I suspect that 95 of them did not whole-heartedly pursue it right after school.  They found their way to the business through a personal passion or hobby.

Regardless, I think that the biggest obstacle to pursuing a career in photography or any creative field is gaining confidence and overcoming rejection. Looking back at my start as an illustrator, I can tell you that remaining confident and overcoming rejection were my biggest struggles. Having a lack of technical prowess didn’t help my cause, but I figured out away to overcome that challenge—by taking a job that would enable me to learn the skills that I lacked and at the same time make a living. What I missed in art school, I picked up in business. Combining my unique experiences in art, technology and sales, would later lead me to successes in the creative industry.

With all the new versions of Photoshop and Lightroom what changes do you personally feel are the most exciting or brilliant?
From a Wacom perspective, the addition of multi-touch for Windows 8.1 is a huge improvement. Now Both Windows and Mac users can benefit from pressure-sensitive pen input and gestural input using one or more finger swipes right on the tablet. Together pen and touch input are enabling creative professionals to work more efficiently and creatively. In the same vein, Windows users are also benefiting from an improvement in brush stroke smoothing thanks to higher-frequency sampling. Anyone that draws in Photoshop will most certainly appreciate this update.

One other feature that has recently caught my attention is an improvement to the content-aware tools: Fill, Patch, Move and Extend offer better color blending. These content aware features are awesome, but I myself prefer their brush counterparts: The Healing brush and Spot Healing brush. Not that the brush functions are bad by any means, but if the new blending algorithm that is being employed for the other tools can be harnessed for the brushes I would be ecstatic!

What Photographers & Photoshop artists do you follow, and why do they stand out from others in your opinion?
Two photographers that come immediately to mind are Joe McNally and Drew Gurian. I have worked with both on numerous occasions over the years and learned a great deal from them. If you’re in the photographic industry, you’ve no doubt heard of Joe McNally. Joe has enjoyed a career in photography for over 30 years. He has shot for Time, Newsweek, Life and hundreds of other publications as a photo journalist. Joe has a knack for bending light at his will but what has always intrigued me most about Joe is his ability to identify with people and make them comfortable in the most trying environments. Drew Gurian is Joe’s former first assistant. I had gotten to know Drew, when he assisted Joe—a great photographer in his own right.  Drew stands out in my mind because of his tenacity and drive to make a name for himself, which he has quite successfully. When I think of great photographers, of course I consider their work but I also consider them as individuals and what they bring to the industry and the clients that they serve.

From an artistic perspective (as in drawing), a couple of individuals stand out to me: Jason Seiler, Sam Spratt and Patrick LaMontagne. While I am reluctant to put a label on any of these individuals, I will generalize them as artists, illustrators and painters. They use Photoshop as a medium just as they would use watercolors, markers and oils. Each of their styles is unique and multifaceted. Some classically trained others self-taught. In either case their work is simply brilliant!

I would be remiss to fail to mention a true educator—and great photographer—that left an indelible impression on my career and me. Dean Collins was a successful photographer in the 80s, who at the same time influenced the industry like no other. Dean was a master at lighting and exceptional at teaching it, breaking down complex situations in terms that everyone could understand. He was a great presenter and producer of educational materials.

I was fortunate enough to work with Dean to create the first Photoshop tutorials that I ever recorded. Looking back at those videos, I laugh at how stiff my delivery was. But I recall Dean’s coaching like it was yesterday. I got a lot better over time!

When I met Dean he was in the middle of a 3 year battle with cancer that he would sadly lose. One of my fondest memories of Dean was a time that we were in the studio recording a series. We had just gotten the set together for the shoot when he looked at his watch and said, “Ok, get on it. I’ll be back in a couple of hours. Gotta get in a round of chemo before lunch.” Dean’s courage and determination is still an inspiration to me today.

What social networks do you like most? Which present good examples of Photography the best?
What networks do I like most?! That’s a tricky one. Unfortunately they have all become the bane of our existence. They honestly have a place in our personal and professional lives and they can be extremely helpful in terms of making connections, finding work and expanding our knowledge on any given subject. But they can also be a huge time suck! And if you’re not careful, a means of terrible de-motivation!

I caught a presentation recently by a photographer who was talking about social media. She told a story about a conversation that she had with a peer about his work. This peer seemed to be extremely busy as she saw a consistent post about his work on Facebook week after week. The photographer (presenter), wondering what she was doing wrong reached out to her peer to see what he was up to. When she asked what this “busy” photographer was up to, he shared that he too had few and far between jobs over the last couple of months! He explained that he had simply been posting personal projects and past work to appear busy.  Now that’s not a bad thing necessarily but as creative professionals we need to keep in mind who exactly we are marketing ourselves to.

Anyway that was kind of a tangent. To answer the question, my primary network is Facebook. I mix a bit of personal and professional content there. All respectful of course!  But in terms of representing one’s photography, I really like Behance for its image quality, and ability to share images across multiple networks.  I also like the way that 500px looks, however I don’t have any personal experience with it.

What is your prediction of the evolution of social networks?
I’m probably not the best person to make predictions on social networks, but as platforms and technology go, the first to market is the force to be reckoned with the longest. But, even the best can be unseated, and usually is, eventually. We already have a slew of networks that cater to specific industries and interests. I think that the number of these networks will continue to grow. As the “BIG” platforms continue to diversify and get watered down, the need for even more targeted networks will grow. As such, the selection of which network that is best for your business continues to be a challenge. While maintaining multiple social profiles is feasible today, the successful networks will make the process of sharing one’s work among one another easier and more manageable.

How do you think these networks will showcase artists and Photographers better in the future?
Similar to my response to the previous question about the evolution of social networks, I think that the most successful platforms will ease the process of placing images, protecting them, and sharing them appropriately based on the specific needs of the artist.

What predictions do you have for the future of Photoshop and Lightroom?
What can I say about the leading image creation applications? They’re going to get better and easier to use. We’re also going to see greater integration and sharing between desktop and mobile platforms.  That’s not much of a prediction as we’re already seeing this, but I envision an expansion of hardware and software tools-both platforms-that further enable artists to realize their creative vision.

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