Questions on Promotion and Salability – Insights from the Creative Path Q+A


I have an automated email that gets sent to every person who purchases my latest book “Insights from the Creative Path | Find Meaning, Explore Your Vision.” It gets sent about 30 days after the initial purchase, and it asks “What are you struggling with the most in your photography?” As you can imagine I get lots of responses, and I answer every single one in detail, even if I don’t have an answer. I am backlogged at the moment, but I do enjoy answering and giving back in whatever way I can.

I plan to post a series of these questions and answers over the next few months, so here’s the first of many. I hope it helps you in some small way as well.

I struggle the most with trying to find my “style”, and composition. I like some landscapes, nature and some wildlife. But there are a lot of these type of photos out there, so I’m looking to be more creative with my photography to make it more salable. I am finding this extremely challenging. I am also thinking to tell the story of farming and agriculture past and present, including the old barns, windmills, implements, etc.
Thanks for the book, it has been helpful! I’m really trying to move from taking snapshots to creating images, and I am gaining with this!

Thanks for sending me your questions, always happy to help.

I totally understand where you are coming from – I have struggled with similar questions in both of my careers as a musician and photographer. Here are my suggestions based on personal experience, nothing more.

First, you really can’t make your work more salable, and at the same time develop your own “style.” These are two opposing forces that will always be in tension. That’s not to say that your images won’t sell, but ultimately they should be about what you care about, how you see the world, and what resonates with you as a photographer and human being. Otherwise, you’re just trying to make images that others will like, and that will eventually lead to a creative void. People will buy your work because they enjoy your vision, not because they like the “scene.” Again, the value you offer others is in your unique perspective – otherwise anyone with a decent camera can make a great picture of any scene.

Second, developing a vision and style requires that you place some limitations on yourself. Creativity needs focus, and by limiting the subjects you photograph, you will see them more deeply, more creatively, and move towards a deeper sense of vision.

Think about the things that move you emotionally; that resonate with you. This is how you develop a connection with the subject, and that is what others need to see. I’m not suggesting you stop photographing varied subjects, but simply be more deliberate when you do go out to photograph. Distraction is the enemy of creativity. So consider how you can eliminate visual or mental distractions so that you can really work on developing your photography in a way that is meaningful to yourself and others.

Thanks, Robert, your answer was VERY helpful! Years ago, my mother told me that if I get good enough at something, the people will come and find me. I guess that is another way to look at this! I am now inspired to continue on, and am continuing to take local photography workshops and classes, gathering all information I can, and I do get out there and make photos!

Glad it was helpful. I agree with your mother in respects to following and developing your vision. However, the reality is that regardless of how good your work is, no one will notice if you don’t promote it.

Promotion does not mean you have to be self-centered, arrogant or an egomaniac. Instead, be honest and humble about your conviction to share your work and your unique perspective. It takes time and experience to find the right balance, and it doesn’t feel natural at first. In fact, it’s one of the things I struggle with the most. But it can be done. There are lots of examples, but Ansel Adams comes to mind as someone who had to promote his work yet never let his ego damage his reputation.

A great book I highly recommend is Show Your Work by Austin Kleon which addresses this very topic.

Questions, comments or feedback, I’d love to hear from you!

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October 2015 Free Desktop Wallpaper – Campobello Is, Canada

The October 2015 Free Desktop Wallpaper is now available for download.

As always, come closer to nature in maritime Canada.


1920 x 1200

1920 x 1080

1680 x 1050

1280 x 800


First determine your screen size. Your Current Resolution Is:

Then click on the link for the correct size. When the image opens in a new browser window, right click on the image and select “Set as Wallpaper” (on a Mac, select “Use Image as Desktop Picture”).

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Making vs Taking

Marsh Lines, Acadia National Park

“Creativity is imagination and imagination is for everyone.” Paul Arden

As I walked along this marsh in Acadia National Park, many photo opportunities jumped out at me. But I challenged myself to exclude as much as I possibly could. Why? Because a strange visual thing happens when you limit your viewpoint and focus your concentration on an isolated area, it frees you to see more. 

I struggled with this idea for many years, and often gave in to my overriding instinct to capture the wider scene. But I’m slowly learning to give nature more time, and giving is always better than taking, especially when we are engaged with “taking pictures.”

When we’re focused on taking, that leaves little time and attention for what really makes a difference in developing vision. A mindful awareness that lets the details speak, the colors sing, and the mystery of each moment reveal itself. Then you can go inwards to find the vision that compels you to make an image.

There is no room for “taking photographs” this way. Instead you enjoy the process of making photographs because it becomes personal and meaningful.

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Essentials of Creative Composition in Landscape Photography – Video

Strong composition is one of the essential ingredients of landscape photography, yet it remains difficult and elusive for most of us. While the art of composition is learned through practice and experience, there are fundamental concepts that can help to improve your ability to make stronger images.

In this recent presentation at the B&H Event Space in NYC, I had the opportunity to share these fundamental concepts, and examples of how I use them in my own work. I hope it inspires you to apply them to your own image making. Enjoy!

Watch the video on Youtube

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Photo Journal: Pond Light, Acadia National Park

Pond Light, Acadia National Park  – Olympus E-M1, f/8 @1/30 sec, ISO 200, 40mm

I’ve been traveling for the past few weeks with the family and enjoying a much-needed break after a busy spring and summer workshop schedule. Because my kids are homeschooled, I have the advantage of visiting the national parks and other popular areas after school has started, and crowds are less of a problem. Plus for me there’s no better way to spend time with my family than on great hiking trails discovering the beauty of the natural world.

Part of our trip included camping on Mt Desert Island and enjoying Acadia National Park. Even when traveling with the family I always make sure to schedule some time for myself to go out in the early hours of the day and enjoy a hike alone. Henry David Thoreau expressed it best for me when he said, “I never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.” It’s an important part of my day, and while I may not specifically be thinking of making photographs, I’m always open to whatever nature may bring.

Making the Image

I didn’t get very far on the trail this particular morning when I noticed this rare combination of light, reflections, and calm water. The day had started mostly overcast, but as the sky became brighter and brighter, a beautiful cloud pattern emerged. But it was the reflections in the pond that really caught my attention and made the whole scene in front of me feel almost surreal and dream like. Soft but vibrant colors filled the entire vista from the grasses at my feet all the way to the sky above my head. And as time passed it became more and more exciting as the light and colors intensified, but never became harsh.

Once again I was in awe of nature’s beauty, and I felt no rush to make images. I took my time seeing as much as I could, resisting the urge to snap way. Trust me, it was a strong urge, but I knew I needed to slow down to really resonate with the moment visually and emotionally.

While very busy in terms of textures and patterns, it was rather soft and balanced in terms of contrast. Understanding what the key elements are in a potential composition is extremely important in deciding how to arrange those elements. Decisions such as what to emphasize, what to remove, and how to lead the eye through the image are critical to conveying what was going through my mind. I certainly wasn’t thinking about grasses, water, trees, sky. For me, it was a tapestry of color and shapes, divided by simple diagonal lines.

I set up my tripod at the edge of the pond at about eye level. That’s rare for me as I often prefer lower perspectives, but going lower would diminish the diagonal lines I wanted to emphasize.

Rule #1: never follow any rules if breaking them makes a better image. Anyone who says “always do this or that…” should learn Rule #1.

I make a point of this because it’s so easy to fall into creative patterns, especially when those patterns have lead to success in the past. This is prevalent in photography today. We’re inundated with rules, formulas, and an ever growing army of gurus that want to show you how to make images that will get the most likes online. Sorry for that rant, just needed to get that out there after several emails about rules and when to break them. Make the best image you can make, that’s all that really matters.

Ok, back to making the image. I chose a 20mm lens for my Olympus E-M1 (that makes it a 40mm) because I didn’t want to go super wide but instead limit my field of view so that I could fill the whole composition with the colors and patterns. Making the diagonal lines extend to the edge was critical for me, and that increases the abstract nature of the image. As photographers, we start with chaos, and through the use of focal length and careful composition remove until the essence of the idea remains.

I tried a few different compositions including removing the sky all together but decided to include part of it to reinforce the diagonal lines. That was an important decision I thought, because removing the sky emphasizes the trees in the background and the reflections as well. But ultimately I decided the continuing pattern was more powerful, as well as the contrasting highlights and shadows. But I was never really sure until l reviews the images a few days later.

Here’s an alternate composition which I ultimately decided was not as strong without the sky.

Camera settings were basic: f/8 @ 1/30 sec, ISO 200. That’s plenty of depth of field to capture the details in the foreground grasses as well as the mountains in the far side of the pond. I manually focused on a point just in front of the grasses making sure to focus on the waters surface, not the clouds. With no wind whatsoever, I benefitted from a mirror like reflection and no movement of the grasses, so 1/30 was more than fast enough.No filters were needed for the image I wanted to make.

Processing in Lightroom

In Lightroom 6, the most important editing decisions were to set the proper white balance, white point and black point. This is subjective of course, but for me it was important to keep the proper feel and mood of the image. Too far with the white or black point (which results in higher contrast), and the subtlety of the colors would be diminished. Again, see Rule #1.

I also applied a few adjustment brushes to manage some of the light and dark areas. I dodged (lightened) the grasses in the middle of the pond, and lower left slightly, and also lightened the fog along the far shore. It certainly caught my attention when I was there, and so wanted to make it feel more “alive” in the image. I also darkened the sky very lightly to emphasize the beautiful cloud formations.

  • Red lines indicate the diagonal lines I wanted to emphasize – they lead the viewer up an back into the image in a rhythmic and flowing pattern.
  • Yellow lines indicate the variation in textures, which work together with the diagonal lines to emphasize the depth and balance the composition from bottom to top.
  • Blue lines along the edges show how I tried to maintain this flow throughout the image. A wider angle lens would have included elements that would distract from the simplicity of movement. 

Proof Print

I made my initial print on Canson Infinity Velin Museum Rag, a velvety fine art paper I hoped would complement the softness of the moment, yet retain the detail in the highlights and shadows. The slight texture of the paper enhances the overall depth of the textures in the image and gives it that extra “dimensional” look I love to create in landscape images.


Canson Infinity Velin Museum Rag has a soft and painterly look, yet retains the high detail so important to any landscape image. 

I hope that gives you some insight into how I made and printed this image. Feel free to leave your questions and comments below, I’m always eager to help and learn from your perspective. Thanks for reading!

BTW– I still have a few spaces remaining on the Acadia Autumn Adventure workshop coming up in October. It’s the best time to be in Maine photographing the seacapes and glacial lakes of Acadia. Learn more here!

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