What is your title, and can you explain what your daily responsibilities are?
This is a funny one, I really don’t have a title and I’m not sure what I do anymore. I just follow my passions in digital art and see what happens. I’ve been lucky that this journey has lasted 20 years so far, and still going. Part of my passion caused me to found PhotoshopCAFE.com 14 years ago. This is my baby, or my home base, however you want to look at it. I create art and then I create tutorials on the techniques used. I post these tutorials for free on the CAFE and have been doing that for over a decade. I also started recording videos 10 years ago because I want to teach people that way that I wanted to learn, all the training at the time was dry, intellectual and devoid of inspiration. Today, I still record full length training videos and have opened up PhotoshopCAFE to some of my talented friends, this provides a platform for us to keep it real, and produce training that is inspired and rooted in the real world. None of us are motivated by money, we are an independent publisher and are driven by our passion, not corporate greed. A lot of other things spring out of this, and these are the things that fill my day: making photos, digital art, flying quadcopters, experimenting and always learning. Out of these experiments have come 19 books and 3 national tours as well as invitations to speak at conferences and events on a regular basis. I don’t work, I live my passion and consider myself very fortunate.
What inspired you most to become a Photographer & Photoshop educator? Why did you pursue this as a career?
I think the passion was always there, the desire, no, the need to create. Since I remember as a child I was always drawn to the visual arts (and audio, Im also a musician) I always enjoyed painting, drawing and making things like scale models. I worked as a graphic designer, then moved more into interactive for a while. This just became a huge mix of everything, design, illustration, animation, 3D video and yes, photography. I considered myself one of the luckiest people alive to be able to work in the creative industry for a living. I worked for a couple of companies, became a creative director and then struck out on my own as a freelancer. I don’t know that i call myself a photographer. I have been making photographs for a number of years, own some nice equipment, understand lighting and composition and have been paid to make images. I have been fortunate to work with great clients that include Sattchi and Sattchi, Toyo Tires, Microsoft and some Hollywood entertainment companies for both Design and photography. This still makes me reluctant to call myself a designer or a photographer. I feel that titles put restrictions on people, sure, they also provide definitions where you can get work, but I’ve been fortunate that I have been able to make a living without having to wear titles. The funny thing is I have rarely shared any of my commercial work, that’s for clients and it’s their property as far as I’m concerned. I’m fascinated with art and technology, so when the 2 converge, I just play and have fun.
As far as an educator, that’s also funny. I never set out to be an educator, in fact I was happy that I wasn’t. I just have a burning desire to share what I discover with other people. I love experimenting, exploring and then sharing what I discovered. Then suddenly I wake up and realize that I have become an educator, I panic, and realize I need to create more art. I want to keep everything in balance and I have a fear of being stuck in one thing and becoming stagnant, comfortable and ultimately obsolete.
What do you think is the biggest obstacle to pursuing a career in the creative fields?
Permission and confidence. People it seems, are walking around in a state of stasis, always waiting for someone to give them permission to follow their crazy idea. (I left my home New Zealand almost 20 years ago to pursue my dream, to follow my path and see where it goes). Don’t wait for permission, give yourself permission to follow your dream, take a chance, get started on whatever it is that you want to do. The second part is confidence, many artists, especially the talented ones are afraid that their work isn’t good enough, so they hide it away and no one sees it. They don’t step up and promote themselves because they are afraid they aren’t good enough. I also want to add one more, worried about the opinions of others: Many people don’t understand what it is to be a creative and discourage people from following that path and to “get a real job”. I used to work as a telecommunications technician in NZ. I used to draw pictures all day, and “Sandy” my supervisor at the time said “stop doodling, there is no future in it”, all I can say is “look at me now Sandy”.
With all the new versions of Photoshop & Lightroom what changes do you personally feel are the most exciting or brilliant?
Oh boy you would ask this. I don’t know, I get excited about all the new features except for the dumb ones. I shouldn’t say this, but occasionally a feature or direction is put into the software because a committee of executives thought it would be a good idea to.. because such and such a company are doing.. and therefore it would be good for our … to do it too. Fortunately that doesn’t seem to happen too often with Adobe, but you know the features because they stay in for a couple of versions and then get dropped. Recently I have been very excited about the content aware tools in Photoshop. I also love all the GPU enabled features because they are fast, as well as the direction with non destructive and 32 bit workflows. I really love the synergy between Lightroom and Photoshop’s Camera RAW. Being able to go back and forth is huge, although I normally do the big adjustments in Lightroom and them move to Photoshop for fine tuning, retouching and compositing. It’s a great time to be a photographer!
What Photographers & Photoshop artists do you follow, and why do they stand out from others in your opinion?
I know this sounds terrible, but I have never really followed other artists much, I know I should. I see stuff that really inspires me, but it’s more genre driven. I like big, cinematic and epic imagery as well as clever simplistic concepts. I have never been much of a fan of impressionism, always favoring ultra realistic styles. I do admire the work of Dylan Cole, who is a Hollywood matte painter and appreciate the work of anyone who is skilled in their craft.
What social networks do you like most? Which present good examples of Photoshop and Photography the best?
The social network I spend most of my time on is Facebook, (kiwicolin) because everyone is there. I think 500px presents the best photography and I also have a account there (I go by kiwicolin, but don’t post much). Google + are trying hard to be the social network for Photographers and I also have an account these as ColinSmith1. I am starting to post more there. The social network that I post the most to as far as training is youtube, I post a new tutorial every week on the PhotoshopCAFE channel. I also engage with Flickr and deviant art.
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?
My advice is to post on Social Networks but make sure you build your own entity. You can’t depend on Social Networks for your brand. 2 examples are the recent change to Facebook pages, where they now encourage you to pay to reach your fans and also the attempt of Instagram to take ownership of your photographs. So, post on them , enjoy them, engage with other users, which I love to do, but don’t fully depend on them.
What predictions do you have for the future of Photoshop and Lightroom?
I see them becoming faster and easier to use.When I say easier to use, I mean that more tools like content aware will come along where anyone can do task that used to be very difficult in the past. This is great because the user can concentrate on their creativity and not be always thinking about the technology or the tool. I also think that the learning curve will get steeper though because of the sheer amount of features available. However, If you think that Photoshop is complex, try opening Maya.I think the future is looking very bright of Photoshop, Lightroom and the people who have the courage to follow their creative dreams.