I had the absolute pleasure of chatting recently with Photoshop Guy, Photographer, Best Selling Author & Trainer Matt Kloskwoski.
We talked for quite some time covering all manner of things such as how he first got started, how he came to be one of the Photoshop Guys and end up working with the Scott Kelby and everyone at the N.A.P.P. and Kelby Training, Adobe Lightroom, his latest book and much, much more…
Everyone who knows and has met Matt will vouch for him not only being incredibly talented but a a gifted trainer who genuinely gets a kick out of helping others to develop their skills. His generosity too knows no limits and it’s for these reasons that I’m really excited to be sharing the content of our conversation here with you…
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Glyn: Hey Matt great to speak to you again.
Matt: Yeah it’s been way too long
Glyn: Matt before we start going through some questions I just want to say a huge thank you from Anne and myself for sending over the picture that you did; it just blew us away mate it really did.
Matt: Hey well I’m glad it found a good home
Glyn: Absolutely it did. We got it framed by a company over here called Kaleidoscope who have done a cracking job and it’s now taking pride of place in our living room.
Matt: That’s really great to hear.
Glyn: Well I just want to say firstly how grateful I am for you giving up some of your time for this cos it’s clear to see that you guys are real busy to say the least.
Matt, what I’ve done is put together a few questions and also I’ve a few questions that people sent in via Twitter, but I don’t want to take up too much of your time and I promise you that none of them are too probing…well, not all of them anyway 🙂
Matt: Ok sounds good to me, let’s go for it…
Glyn: Alright then let’s kick off with the first question which is probably the most obvious, but how did you first become involved in Photoshop and then with the N.A.P.P. and Kelby Training ?
Matt: Alright so I first got started with Photoshop, and it’s really kind of boring, and that was after I graduated from College back in the early 90’s having studied marketing so I got a job selling construction equipment and our advertising department was pretty busy so it was hard to get any advertising from them so I kind of took it upon myself that if I wanted any kind of flyers or any type of handouts that I could give to customers as I came across them, you know anything that was different to the standard company literature, then I pretty much had to create it myself. So, I got a copy of Photoshop and started making my own and that was my first use of it.
I actually dropped out of it for a couple of years after that and then I came back into it when I went to a night school and got my IT Degree in Computer Science and Programming and all that stuff. When I went to work in the IT field I was doing alot of web development and this was in the beginning or like the infancy stages of the web so maybe 1995/1996 when if you had a Red Button on your website that was considered Hi-Tech. So my boss walked over said we need to make our website look better, dropped a copy of Photoshop on my desk and that’s when I started to mess around with it again.
Glyn: Ok so from that point how did you finally come to work with Scott, Dave and guys at the N.A.P.P. ?
Matt: Well I took a liking to teaching but you know I never went to school with the intention of one day becoming a teacher or anything like that, but I just kind of developed a liking for it. I adopted certain technologies at the company I worked for, the IT, Web Development Company, that became ‘needed’ pretty quickly so because I adopted them when I did, I was the only guy that knew what to really do with them. This was when people were just starting use XML, ASP and all that kind of stuff and it just wasn’t that mainstream so I became the guy that they needed to teach people because the IT business was growing so rapidly and we were hiring people that didn’t have that much real world experience. So that’s how I got into teaching and into Photoshop and I then started sharing my knowledge online and I sent emails to every book editor, magazine editor and web site that would have me; the N.A.P.P. happened to be one of them and I just started doing weekly articles for them on a freelance basis. Then one day they needed somebody full time and they gave me a call.
Glyn: Obviously that’s different to being in the UK here because the Photoshop User Magazine which is produced by the N.A.P.P. would be something you’d have been able to get off the shelf in a newsagents or magazine store?
Matt: Exactly…you can buy it off the shelf here. In fact before I was even a NAPP member I used to buy the magazine and then I realised I can become a NAPP member and get it for free
Glyn: You see that was something I was always intrigued about because I literally stumbled across the NAPP completely by accident. I’d not long got into using computers, my uncle who was using photoshop showed me some stuff he could do…you know high end editing like removing red eye and all that kind of stuff but when I got a copy I remember sitting there thinking ‘what the heck do I do with this?’ and I was just browsing round the internet looking for tutorials and came across the NAPP and it was just blind faith really that said ‘go with it’
Matt: Yeah totally, I remember where I was when I got my first Photoshop User magazine…I was in a Barnes and Noble store.
But hey I already kind of knew everybody at the NAPP having met them before and living in Tampa but anyway I came along for the interview and a week later I got
Glyn: So how long ago would you say that was now?
Matt: Almost 7 years now I guess
Glyn: Ok so I take it from what you’re saying there then Matt is that it was the Photoshop that came first before the Photography?
Matt: Yeah. I took classes in Photography at High School and then moved onto College and well you know it kind of got forgotten about. I always enjoyed photography, I was always the guy with the camera but I didn’t really do much with it to be honest with you.
I probably started to get back into it maybe 10 or 11 years ago when digital started to get more and more popular, I was starting a family and it just brought back that interest again.
Glyn: When I first joined the NAPP, it seemed very much Photoshop orientated only but then there seemed this kind of transition where more photography was being brought into it so was it at that kind of time when you really kicked in with it too would you say?
Matt: Yeah I guess it’s kind of where the market went. How can I explain it? You know take Graphic Design as an example, that’s a job. People who work in graphic design will do that during their day at work and then go home and that’s it; obviously not every person is like that, but by and large it’s a job whereas Photography is a passion for many, many people. You don’t stay in the photography business because you like it, you stay in it because you love it. For most photographers it’s not like it’s this incredibly lucrative business but photographers do it because they love it.
Also if you look at Photoshop and Adobe, that’s where all the features were going. I mean when was the last time you saw a feature come out that was specifically for Graphic Designers? Almost all the new features that come out in Photoshop have some kind of Photography slant to them.
Glyn: Ok so seeing as we’re talking about Photography, I know you’re a Nikon user but if you had to choose your ‘Go To’ kit and you could only take certain limited kit with you on a shoot and let’s say it was a portrait shoot what would be the lens you’d choose?
Matt: I have a Nikon D3 right now and I’ve shot with a number of different camera bodies so to be honest unless I was shooting sports or a wedding in low light I wouldn’t care about the body but the lens I would take would most likely be the 70-200 f/2.8. That’s just my favourite lens; it’s beautiful what you can do with it…
Glyn: Sure it’s a great lens. I remember when I spoke with Photographer Bert Stephani about the very same thing and at the time he said he was really trying to force himself away from using the 70-200mm because he said it’s the lens that he can’t seem to take a bad photograph with and he was pushing himself to try and use his 24-70mm alot more…
Matt: Yep that’s me. I got the new 85mm f/1.4 from Nikon recently and that lens is just amazing. I did a portrait shoot, kind of a lifestyle portrait shoot, in New York last October in Central Park with all the Fall colours and everything and the photos that came out of that, if you zoom into the eyes they look like they’ve been through the Unsharp Mask Filter twice already, they’re just so sharp right out of the camera.
Glyn: I’ve got the older version of the same lens and I gotta say I love it. Don’t use it as much as I should but do love it.
Matt: I’ll have to send you a photo taken with it
Glyn: Sounds great but my only concern with that is I’ll start justifying to myself why I need to upgrade and before you know it…”Buy Now” will have been pressed.
Glyn: Ok so you obviously get to mix with alot of the top guys out there but who would you say you draw most of your inspiration from?
Matt: I guess it’s like what happens to you and alot of other people out there in that it always changes, so this week it’s one person and then next week it changes. But that being said I always draw inspiration from Joe McNally; he’s just inspirational no matter what. You mentioned Bert Stephani and I’ve followed his stuff for quite a while and I’m always interested to watch his stuff and honestly I like to watch your stuff too…
Glyn: Ah geez you don’t have to say that …
Matt: Hey don’t worry you can send me my $20 later on.But seriously if you want to talk about lately, I draw alot of inspiration from Scott’s work you know, just watching some of the ideas he comes up with.
Glyn: That recent fashion shoot he blogged about…that was just superb! [Link]
Matt: Yeah absolutely, very cool stuff. Lately I’ve taken a slant towards alot of the compositing work that’s out there and you know what I realised is I really, really like to use Photoshop and sometimes I’ll go out on a portrait shoot, come back and throw a vignette onto it and I’m done aside from a little bit of sharpening and maybe a contrast boost which is great you know but I also love being creative in Photoshop and I’ve found myself getting away from that because everything in Lightroom’s so easy. So anyway I’ve really gotten back into that and I’m looking alot at work by Joel Grimes and Dave Hill. You know talking about Dave Hill, people talk about the ‘Dave Hill Effect’, but forget about that just look at Dave Hill’s work. You know even if it didn’t have that, I don’t know what you call that look to his photos but you know what I mean right, that contrasty almost surreal type of look to it, but even if it didn’t have that there’s some killer compositing and Photoshop work that’s going on behind the scenes.
Glyn: Yeah and also the great photography to start of with…
Matt: Yeah and that’s the main thing you know…light it right and make sure everything is done well, but I do really enjoy the compositing side of things alot.
Glyn: You’ve had Calvin Hollywood out spending some time with you guys at Kelby Training too right?
Matt: Oh yeah I follow Calvin, I like him alot…he’s a real good guy. I’ve spent a good amount of time with him. There’s another guy out there too…Clint Davis who does alot of commercial work.
Glyn: Matt one of the things I’ve talked about alot to other Guests here on the blog aside from the Photography itself has been the subject of having your own ‘style’. Tim Wallace who you’ll know, always says that ‘style’ is something you can’t force, it just happens and he believes that your style is dictated by your own life experiences.
David E. Jackson said that you don’t choose your style it chooses you, so I know it can potentially be quite a deep subject but when it comes to having a ‘style’ what’s your take on it?
Matt: I think my own style has come from looking at all the work that’s out there and kind of just sometimes knowingly and sometimes unknowingly making decisions that merge all the styles you see out there, which eventually becomes your own style if that makes any sense.
Everybody follows people they like and hey let me tell you something, if I was to wake up tomorrow morning and somebody said “Matt, your photos all look like something Joe McNally would take”; I’d be pretty damn happy about that I can tell you.
Glyn: I’d want to shake their hand
Matt: Not like anyone’s ever gonna say that but I guess what I’m saying is it comes from watching other people and just picking different bits of what I like.
Glyn: What’s your favourite subject matter to shoot? Are you a portrait guy, a landscape guy…what’s your preference or do you like shooting all stuff?
Matt: I really enjoy portrait photography. I like shooting people and believe it or not and I know some people think I’m crazy for this but I like shooting kids and family portraiture generally. I also love shooting landscapes.
Glyn: You see Landscapes is what I thought you might have said…
Matt: Yeah I love landscapes. I have no problem getting up for sunrise as I’m kind of an early bird type of person so I don’t mind getting up early and I love to get out there and shoot. I like the process of it, I like the feeling of being out there, providing the weather’s nice of course, and I just love trying to capture that huge place that you’re looking at into a photo. And that’s not always easy because it doesn’t translate well into a photo but that’s the challenge I enjoy of trying to convey that scene I’m standing infront of to other people.
Glyn: Ok moving on then, Lightroom…
Matt: Never heard of it
Glyn: We briefly mentioned Lightroom and obviously I know that you run a blog called ‘Lightroom Killer Tips’ [Link] but it’s possible that in some far flung corner of the world, hiding themselves away in a dark room is a person who’s never heard of it so for their benefit can you just give us a brief run down of what the blog is all about?
Matt: Ok the blog is all about me trying to be the world’s source for Lightroom information. Whether it’s to let you know the news of something new and just come out, a tip, a plug in, I make presets available to download, I do videos from time to time…basically a one stop shop for Lightroom information.
Glyn: So when we’re talking about Lightroom then what would you love to see come out in future releases or do you think it’s already a complete program?
Matt: No I definitely think there’s still some gaps in there. Sounds kind of silly but I’d actually like the interface to be a little more customisable. Photoshop has keyboard shortcuts you can assign to things, you can move your palettes around and sometimes I wish I could do the same thing in Lightroom.
Glyn: Personally I really like using Lightroom but when I see what some folks are doing with it, honestly I think sometimes all I do with it is use it as a cataloguing program but then thinking about it differently that’s the good thing about it i.e. we use it how we see fit.
Matt: But that’s the beauty of it you see it is so simple; it’s meant to be a very simple program and some people get really caught up in it. You know, just put your photos into a folder and import it into Lightroom. Don’t move that folder cos Lightroom’s not going to know where it is and if you do move the folder then it will show a little question mark so just right click and point Lightroom to where it’s at. It gets a little complicated but I always tell people not to over-think the cataloguing process, just put your photos somewhere like you normally would and let Lightroom import them for you.
You don’t have to use all the stuff in there like keywords, flags, picks and ratings. Just use what you want…if you like it, press ‘P’ to pick it and leave it at that. If that works for you then great.
Glyn: Funny but that’s exactly all I do aside from a few minor tweeks in the Develop module
Matt: Yeah cos in the Develop module you’re basically in Camera RAW but what’s nice about it is that it’s all in one place and you’re not going back and forth between programs.
Printing though there’s nothing out there that comes close to Lightroom’s Print Module.
So all in all I guess a little bit of customisation would be nice. Photo Books…I think they’d be huge. Slideshows…well there’s some things they could do to improve here but honestly if they just looked at Apple’s iPhoto and make it more like that I think it’d be great.
Video editing doesn’t do that much for me because I don’t need it but I think the industry is going to need it.
Oh and one of the biggest things I’d have in Lightroom now we’re talking about it is an automated Backup Solution. It needs a 1 click backup solution for people because backing up is so difficult for people right now.
Glyn: I am so hyper paranoid about backing up. Ok so what’s your backup workflow?
Matt: Now my photos are always on an external Hard Drive so my photos are always backed up as I’ve always got several backups of that. My catalog is on my computer and so I just make sure I backup my computer and I do that every night so I know it’s really just one day away from being there. That pretty much gives me everything that I need and if something crashed I’d be ready to go again.
Glyn: So where are you spending most of your time now then?
Matt: Most of the time is still spent in Lightroom as far as getting the photo to look it’s best between exposure, white balance, sharpening and all that kind of stuff. The creative stuff, well that’s done in Photoshop because really that’s what it’s for. Lightroom is for the most part meant for global adjustments to your photos.
Glyn: You’ve recently written a second edition of your ‘Layers’ book which I did a review for on the blog [Link]
Matt: And thanks for doing that too by the way
Glyn: Hey not at all. I saw the wording you’d put out there saying if anybody had the 1st edition then maybe they wouldn’t need this new release but I tell you what I’m so glad I did and I’m not just saying that because we’re talking now but what a cracking book. Like I said in the review, that final chapter made the book worth every penny.
Matt: That’s really cool of you to say
Glyn: Yeah I seriously enjoyed that and I know alot of folks have too from all the messages I had sent over since the review
Matt: Since the first version of the book came out it kind of shattered all my expectations. I just hoped to have a decent book and it turned out to be a Best Seller and I was really happy with it and it continued to do well in the rankings even though I’d written it for CS3. That lasted too through CS4 when it remained in the Top 10 of all Photoshop books but when CS5 came out we knew it was time for an update.
Glyn: I guess putting a Best Selling book together takes a considerable amount of time; is it something that you really enjoy doing?
Matt: You know I enjoy writing to a degree but I enjoy speaking alot more. I think given the choice I’d probably do a video over writing books only because I prefer to learn that way. So it’s not that I don’t enjoy reading because I do alot, but when it comes to software training, for me personally, I enjoy watching it rather than reading it. That being said though, there’s obviously a huge audience out there that prefers to read their training so I just want to make sure that I cover their needs too.
Glyn: I got my copy on the iPad through the Amazon Kindle Store which reads really well…
Matt: Yeah I don’t want to read it if I can’t get it on my iPad; it’s got to that point now.
Glyn: I held off from getting one for so long but now I’ve got it I don’t know what I did without it
Matt: I must have 80 magazines on there and god knows how many books; it’s where I do all my reading now.
Glyn: Ok Matt, I’m conscious of your time here so just a couple more things….
What would you say are the common mistakes you see folks making? … and this can be either photography or photoshop related or both.
Matt: Ok let me think…
Glyn: I’ll give you an example….
When I asked the same question to Calvin Hollywood, he said that the common mistake he sees people making is working through their editing too quickly. Some folks will go out on a shoot, get home, import the photos, do a quick edit and then upload them straight away to their blog or FLickr or wherever. He said that rather than that just slow down. Do a little editing on your images and then walk away. Come back a while later and with fresh eyes you’ll see if anything else needs doing rather than trying to get it all done in one go.
Matt: Yeah totally so if I was going to say anything I’d build on what Calvin said in that what I try to do when I’m working on an image is leave up full screen when I go to bed at night and then the test is when I come back in the morning…how do I like it? When my computer wakes up and it’s the first thing I see, how do I feel about it?
So, I’ll do that alot. You know retouching there are some common mistakes you see…eyes that are too bright, eyes that aren’t bright enough.
People not doing things because they think Photoshop is a bad word. Eyes that aren’t sharpened and crisp, just not knowing that the way they come out of the camera isn’t good enough. If you want your stuff to compete whether it’s commercially or non commercially or just for your own hobby and you want your stuff to look it’s best then you’ve gotta sharpen the eyes. Skin that looks basically plastic because it’s been blurred so much, teeth that are glowing, yeah we see alot of those mistakes and alot of that can be fixed by doing what Calvin suggests and walking away from it and then coming back with a fresh set of eyes.
Glyn: Ok so to finish off Matt I always ask…if you could give one golden nugget of advice what would it be?
Matt: Golden Nugget of advice….
I’d say don’t be afraid of your Photoshop skills and don’t be afraid of Photoshop. You see it alot out there where it’s the unsaid thing when people ask “What did you do in Photoshop?”
Don’t be afraid of it, don’t dwell on it. Did you use Photoshop? Sure I did!
Glyn: It’s almost like a ‘put down’
Matt: Yeah sometimes it does seem like that and yeah of course this is coming from a Photoshop Guy who makes his money teaching and using Photoshop so you’d expect me to say this but I see it alot out there.
Don’t hide from it, don’t think you’re doing something wrong if you use it and you know all of the images out there that are great images and that compete have all had Photoshop work done to them to some extent.
Glyn: I’m so glad you’ve said that because there seems to be this thing that I’ve heard for example when some says they like what I do, but for themselves they say that they prefer to get things right in camera
Matt: Oh gosh, man if I hear that one more time! You know I hate to get it right in camera…lol
Glyn: Yeah me too, I just love spending hours editing out mistakes that I could have gotten right at the time I was shooting…lol
Matt: You know honestly, when someone says they prefer to get it right in the camera or “I’m a natural light photographer only”, most of the time they’re saying “I don’t know how”
Bottom line is that I too like to get it as good as possible in the camera and then do my bit in Photoshop so ultimately I’m getting the best out of the image.
Glyn: Well I tell you what Matt, I think we’ve covered a fair amount there so again I just want to say a BIG thanks from me for giving up your time to this I really do appreciate it.
Also, a BIG thank you to you, Scott, Dave, Corey, RC and everyone at the NAPP and Kelby Training for everything you guys do because on a personal note, I know hand on heart if I hadn’t stumbled across the NAPP there’s just no way I’d be in the position with my business that I am today let alone picked up a camera.
Matt: Absolutely no problem my friend, glad to do it. Talk to you soon.
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Kelby Training: www.kelbytraining.com