Thursday, February 18, 2010

Photo of the Day - Guest Blogger #1:

Above image by Jessica Acox, Art by Emmie Duval

Welcome back and happy Thursday! Today I welcome one of my great friends and an amazing photographer Doug Levy as my very first guest blogger. I can't wait to share the interview with all of my readers (and some of his)! Doug is one of my best friends that I have never officially met. We crossed paths a few times while I was living in Jacksonville while he was in town for work. I will leave the rest of that explanation for him in some of the questions below. I was bouncing around ideas to increase the blog readership and my photography web presence and Doug helped me with this idea and what direction to take so it is fitting he is my very first guest blogger!

Doug is my one stop encyclopedia when it comes to photography. Just last night I shot off an email asking for advice on what ball head to buy for my tripod and within 10 minutes he was already back with an answer and guidance. He's such a great resource and friend and at times I hope that I am somehow doing my part to reciprocate as a friend. Either way Doug has stuck around and put up with me and I couldn't be more thankful. We'll see how long he sticks around once I'm done assaulting him with questions. Welcome Doug! I know I would not be the photographer I am today without his help and guidance and I am so honored and happy to have him as my first guest blogger! Enough with the soft stuff...on with the interview!

The Basics:

How do I know you?

I met you in 2007. I was umpiring professional baseball (in the Southern League) in Jacksonville and you'd seen some of my photos and hit me up for some tickets (and got some sweet shots of me working).

Where are you from?

Sharon, MA - about halfway between Boston and Providence.

Something or some things that most people don’t know about you?

Hmmm. Photographically? I've never used a meter, never owned a "real" film camera (my girlfriend bought me an antique Brownie for my birthday last year), and really think if I had to shoot film I'd find a new job.

Where’d ya go to school?

Syracuse - graduated in '03 with degrees in Finance and Journalism.

When I met you, you were doing something COMPLETELY different, what made you decide to make the big leap into professional photography?

The move toward working professionally for me began in the fall of 2007 when I shot my first wedding. I look back on those images now and wince - I want to call the couple and give them a full refund! They paid me $800 to shoot and give them a disc, and I cringe now at the quality of work I was doing at the time - John and Min, I'm sorry!
I can't believe I'm sharing this, but here's one of the terribly over-Photoshopped images from that first wedding. (I think I applied about a dozen actions. Seriously.)

Did you go to school to become a photographer?


How long have you been shooting?

In 2006 I was umpiring in the Florida State League, and before the season began there was a bit of a labor issue between baseball and our umpire union. To make a long story short, baseball was threatening to cut off our health insurance and I had started saving money to pay for coverage. Two days before the bill was due the strike was resolved and I had an "extra" $1k in the bank. I promptly spent it on a Nikon D70s and 18-70mm lens.

Why did you get into photography?

I've always had an interest electronic toys, and at the time I just saw a nice camera as another fun toy to play with.

What do you shoot most? What kind of photographer are you? Feel free to add photographic evidence as you see fit!

I think it's really difficult (and dangerous) to pigeon hole oneself as a photographer. That said, a lot of clients like to hire photographers who have a specialty. Think about it - are you more likely to hire a dedicated basketweaving photographer for your homemade wicker baskets? Or someone who shoots NFL football? For me (someone with the attention span of "a flea" as a friend likes to put it, I shoot people, and I'm always trying to capture expression. I think my twitter profile is basically my elevator/napkin pitch. "Moments + vision + emotion = photos"

How often do you shoot?

Weekly, if not daily. If I'm not shooting for a client I'm shooting for myself. I very much subscribe to Nick Onken's ABS theory of things, "Always be shooting."

Show me your top 3 favorite photos of all time and explain to us why you like them so much:

First I have to say that this changes weekly, if not daily. And second I assume you mean photographs I've taken, because it would be impossible to narrow down all the photos I love so much to 3. But here's a few of my personal faves.

Lets see some more of your work!

Whose photography inspires you?

I'm a big fan of both Nick Onken and recently, music photographer Danny Clinch, both of their work is both inspirational and inspiring.

What event or person have you not yet photographed that you really want to shoot soon?

As for what I want to shoot soon..."I'd love to shoot Boston from a helicopter, and I also hope to have some more time this summer to do more street portraits, like I did when I was in LA this past fall ( I'm not sure how that might play out on the East Coast, but I think it will be cool to find out. I think people on this side of the country are a bit more reserved, so it will certainly be a challenge. In LA, I think only 3 people said no when I asked if I could take their picture - I think the numbers will be significantly more against me on the East Coast."

How do you learn while you shoot?

When I started it was all trial and error (the beauty of digital, no cost per click). Now it's a matter of building an ever-expanding library in my head of what works and what doesn't and being able to quickly apply what works best in varied situations, quickly.

The Equipment:

Nikon/Canon/Something else?!?!?

Ah, the list. Here goes:

Nikon D700 and D300 bodies

Nikon SB-800 and SB-600 flashes (I also have one Alien Bee 800)

Lenses (all nikon): 10.5mm fisheye, 14-24mm, 24-70mm, 50mm 1.4, 85mm 1.4, 70-200mm VR1

Random accessories: Pocketwizard Plus II's, remote camera cable (used most on the D300 at events), tons of color correction and effect gels for the flashes, Honl grids, Lastolite Tri-Grip reflector, Lastolite Ezybox (looooove this), and a ton of random umbrellas, brolly boxes and other light modifiers.

Are you a gear hound? What's on your photo gear wish list?

Honestly? Not much on the wishlist at the moment. I'd love a set of Elinchrome Ranger lights, but I'm really trying to push myself creatively, and I think if I can't make awesome images with the gear I have it's my brain's fault, not my gear's.

What is your favorite piece of photography gear other than your camera?

This is a toss-up between the Lastolite Tri-Grip and Ezybox, both are so portable and versatile - I never leave home without either.

Like the golf challenge where you're only allowed to use one club in your bag, if you could only use one lens for a shoot which one would it be and why?

I guess this really depends on the job. I could shoot an entire wedding with the 24-70 if I had to, but in terms of which lens do I love the most? Definitely the 85 1.4.

How do you light? Au naturale? Artificial light? On camera or off? Big strobes?

I'm the kind of guy who walks into a room and my first thought tends to be, "Where should I put the lights." It's a mindset I'm trying to move away from actually to focus more on things like moments and expression in favor of letting the light accentuate the subject, instead of the reverse.

What digital darkroom software do you use? Any other software important in your work flow?

Nothing fancy here, just Lightroom 2 and Photoshop CS4.

What digital darkroom tools, plug ins or presets do you use the most?

For Photoshop I use a small number of homemade presets, including one I wrote for LAB color (for more info check out this guest blog I wrote for my friends at LensProToGo). I also do occasionally use the "Pro Retouch" action from Totally Rad Actions.

Have you ever had any disasters while shooting? Lose or have equipment break? What happened?

I've been pretty lucky in this regard. Nothing too horrible has happened to me on a shoot. The most common "problem" if you can call it that is that 30 minute shoots turn into 15 minutes, and 10 minute shoots turn into 3 minutes. That seems to happen weekly!


If you could shoot with any professional photographer dead or alive who would it be and why?

Oh man, not a short list. At the moment I'd love to just follow Dan Winters, Sam Jones and Platon around for a month (or longer if they'd have me). Each have such unique ways in which they use light to communicate with their subject and viewer

Where would be your dream shoot?

I've had an image of a ballerina at sunrise in front of this background in my head for a year and a half, I just haven't had things come together yet where I can pull it off.

If not a photographer or umpire, I would have liked to be…

I am what I want to be. It'd always be nice to be busier and tackling more expansive and comprehensive projects, but I wouldn't change a thing otherwise.

First thing you would do if you found $10 million dollars?

After the boring stuff like paying off college and my car? Sign up for one of Andy Biggs' African photo safari's ( and take and invest in a medium format system to take with me.

Movies, TV, Music, Books & Mags (oh my!):

Favorite movie?

So cliche, I know, but probably "Field of Dreams."

Favorite TV Show(s)?

24 - I'm totally an addict. I think my dad and I watched the first 3 seasons on DVD in about 2 weeks.

Photography publications you subscribe to?

Oh man. There's a ton (but I think I get the most inspiration out of GQ and Esquire - amazing images every month). I have a thumbtack board with clippings from magazines, most of them are from GQ and Esquire. But I subscribe to: Digital Photo Pro, Photoshop User Magazine, Rangefinder and American Photo.

Other Magazines you subscribe to or get on the newsstand:

GQ, Esquire, MensHealth.

Best photography book you’ve read?

The Moment It Clicks by Joe McNally

Best non photography book you’ve read?

There are a bunch, but I'm partial to anything by Jeffrey Archer.

What’s next in your book queue?

I should probably get one...

Favorite kind of music?

Springsteen - though I've been on a country kick of late, especially Randy Rogers and the Zac Brown Band.

Favorite musician or group right now?

New music? Haha. I think my Ipod is full of old rockers - Springsteen, Tom Petty, Zepplin, I'm boring, I don't have many new artists on my playlists.

What's playing on your iTunes right now?

Digital Photo Radio (I know, I'm a dork.)

Websites, Blogs, Tweets & Tips:

Have any favorite websites or blogs that you check regularly?

My Google Reader tells me I'm currently subscribed to 155 blogs and I've read 908 items in the last 30 days. That said, I do have a "Favorites" folder including the following blogs:, Chase Jarvis's blog, Vincent LaForet's blog, and Joe McNally's blog.

Belong to any professional photography associations/groups?

I'm a NAPP member ( as well as a member of a local group of photographers, the Boston Photographer's Guild

How do you market yourself and your work?

I make liberal (I think my girlfriend would say too much) use of my Facebook page, my Twitter page(@douglevy) and my blog

Do you advertise?

Not beyond social media. 90+% of my business comes via word of mouth from other photographers and past clients.

Do you have a website or a blog? Hit me with some links!

My Website

My Blog

Any must follow twitter accounts?


Is your website/blog a big part of you getting clients/meeting other photographers?

Having a web presence is so so so important. Having a consistent one even moreso. That's why you won't find me blogging about babies and maternity shoots or tweeting about my favorite restaurant.

What is the best way to get more people to view/talk about your work?

Shoot better photos, and show more people. Seriously. Think about it, if you're not getting enough work it's because either your images aren't good enough or they're not being seen by enough (and the right) people.

The Future:

What goals do you have as a photographer?

I think if I keep on the path I'm on, things will work out. What does that mean? I think building a brand and a business is such a linear process - you have to walk before you can run. Goal-wise I'm just trying to make better images than I made yesterday (and to spend more time behind the camera and less in front of the computer).

5 years from now I will be...

Making better images than I am today. Not to sound overly simplistic, but if I can make more complex, more meaningful images the rest will take care of itself.

10 years from now...

Maybe I need a 10 year plan, but 10 years ago if you told me I'd be doing this today I'd have said you were crazy. I think I'll just enjoy the ride.

#1 on your bucket list?

I should probably start a list so there could be a #1...

Wrapping things up:

Is there anything you would have done differently during your photographic career?

I wish I'd owned a camera before I was 25, but that's not so much something I'd change than a bit of a regret.

Is there anything you are still learning either in your profession or in life?

Always. Small steps. I'm just trying to make better images than I made yesterday.

Which five words or phrases would your friends likely use to describe you?

Loyal. Inspiring. Motivated. Tireless. Persistent.

Any advice for fellow photographers that we haven't already discussed?

I think we've just about covered it. Shoot more. Show more people.

I’ve learned the most from…screwing things up and trying to avoid making the same mistakes twice.

Well, that finishes things up for our first guest blog ever! I've learned a ton and I am sure you have too! Thank you so much to Doug for putting up with me and my questions and for joining me as a guest blogger. If you know Doug be sure to make a comment and give him a hard time and if you don't know him still feel free to leave a comment and either give him a hard time or show your appreciation for his posting a blog entry instead of me. I imagine all of my regular readers were pleased to have a break! Thanks to all of my new readers that stopped by today to check out Doug's entry as well as my regulars. If you're new here I hope to get to know you all better and hope that you stick around for a while! If you're still wondering who the hell I am and why I am doing this check out my interview and be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter and check out my web page! Hope to see you again tomorrow for Friday's edition of the photo of the day and be sure to stay tuned for more guest blog interviews in the coming weeks. See you tomorrow!


Meg said...

Great post! Doug is quite the lighting guru around here, but I never knew he liked Jeffrey Archer books! Impressive.

Velvet said...

Great post, Tim. Doug is definitely a good resource.

1. Yeah, something tells me that people in the NE wouldn't be quite as receptive to street portraits as they are out here. But hey, you might get a really great mugging story out of it!!

2. You so need a book queue.

3. Did you see the Roger Ebert portrait in Esquire? Amazing.

"Hey, ump, how about a warning?"
"Sure, kid. Watch out you don't get killed."