I’ve been quietly following Scott Wyden Kivowitz for some time now on Google Plus. I honestly cannot remember how I found him, but after I did, I started hearing other people talk about him too. Even in real life. His name would come up and I would think to myself, “yeah I know exactly who you are talking about!” From time to time I would comment on his posts and just loved to candidly talk with him. Short and sweet conversations.
More recently I suddenly felt compelled to get to know Scott better. I wanted to pick his brain. You can learn much about him on his website, but what’s his story? So I sent him an email and here we are. One awesome interview.
Below are the interview questions and Scott’s answers…
What’s your story? How did you get involved with photography? You have a background in music, but it doesn’t seem to be the focus of your career.
Scott: In high school I was focused on music, and did attend Berklee College of Music for a semester until I realized I didn’t like it. I continued as a music recording major at a local college and then once I had to spend more time with music theory I began hating my major. After some discussions with family and friends I switched to photography and fell in love with the theory. I had always had a camera with me, growing up. But I never really put much thought into it. My father and grandfather were both hobbyist photographers, so when I was handed my father’s camera I started my journey.
I continued at the college as a photography technology major and had the great fortune of working with top of the line medium and large format cameras all with digital backs. Having the ability to work with equipment like that, it makes you appreciate the art on another level. I had the pleasure of developing the film in a black and white and color darkroom, and work with some amazing photographers along the way.
During college I apprenticed with two amazing portrait photographers that were local to me at the time. I learned so much from them both, and are still in touch with them today.
When college was over I landed a job at a local camera store, who also is the largest camera warranty company in the world. I worked my way up from a retail employee to an assistant service manger. This allowed me to work with equipment on a daily basis, further growing my knowledge. I was also doing the social media marketing for them at the time and decided that I wanted to learn more about it. So I began self teaching myself about marketing, SEO, etc.
Now I work for a company who develops WordPress plugins and WordPress theme for photographers, called Photocrati. There I interact with other photographers as the community manager and also write articles on various blogs to educate photographers.
As a side job I continue my own photography with a freelance business. I provide portraits, landscapes and real estate photographs to those who need it. Of course, I spend as much time as possible photographing for myself as well, which is where I get the most joy in the art.
Was there a specific “a ha!” moment in your photography that really helped you grow in your work?
Scott: I do not photograph in HDR, but I have to say that the moment I heard of HDR and started trying it – my eyes opened to new things. I began experimenting more with HDR and other techniques as well. I did spend quite some time making horrible HDR photographs just like so many other photographers to when first trying it. But, yet I taught myself new ways to process them and make it more realistic. The experimentation also had driven me to try new things with tilt-shift lenses, and with focus stacking and so on. So if I had to pick one moment, it would be learning about HDR because it definitely changed the way I think now when I make photographs.
What is your focus now with photography?
Scott: I do not have one centralized focus with photography. I’ve recently published eBooks on long exposure photography, panoramic photography and street photography. So I am kind of all over the place. I find that changing it up makes me a better photographer rather than spending all my time doing one thing. With that said, if I had to pick one type of photography that I enjoy the most it would be landscape photography. I know that is kind of general, but with landscapes there are so many things to experiment with and done.
You seem to be very involved in blogging and social media? Why? What do you love about it?
Scott: As mentioned earlier, I started doing social media for the warranty company. It just grew on me. At some point I realized that I wanted to teach people what I’ve learned. Social media and blogging was a way to do that, and it still is. So now my photography blog is 80% education and 20% about my work. The article might be text, photos or video. Either way, it’s offering photographers something to learn. Social media is just a way to reach old and new people who haven’t already seen what I have to share.
The interactions received on social media are usually positive. Every so often I come across people who just have a need to be negative all the time. But the average conversions are on the up and up. It’s the conversations that drive social media, and I enjoy that.
You have written a few books on photography through different publishers. What’s the story there?
Scott: There was a moment in time where a friend said “you need to write a book on that.” So I sat down and made a list of topics that I felt I could write books on. I started with Absorbing Light which talks about the many ways to learn photography, how I did it and so on. That was self published alongside Set Your Passion Free, which is about breaking the rules of photography, and When Photography & Karate Merge which is free. When I wrote Time Is On Your Side my original intention was to self publish it and market the heck out of the book. It was doing well, but I knew it could reach new audiences so I reached out to Flatbooks to see if they would be interested in republishing it. A couple months later it was redesigned and ready to go.
At the same time, I received a call from Peachpit Press saying they wanted me to write ebooks for them and we made our own list of topics. My first ebook with them is called Go Wider with Panoramic Photography and is available now. After I completed the pano book and it was in the editing process, I started on a new book idea on street photography. I didn’t want to write the typical street photography book that already exists. Instead I went for something different as a means to create new thoughts and ideas for like-minded street photographers. The ebook is called Ambivert’s Guide to Street Photography and the will be available from Flatbooks in August, 2014.
I don’t know what the future holds, but 3 ebooks in a year definitely takes a lot out of a person. Especially a dyslexic person who does not have a background in writing. So I will likely be spending more time teaching and photographing in 2015 and less time writing books. But books won’t end there. I have a lot more ideas I want to explore.
If you were to give one piece of advice to a new photographer, what would you tell them?
Scott: Take your time. That statement goes for a couple things. Take your time learning because you don’t need to rush. There is no race. There is reason to think you know more than you. Also, the learning never stops.
Take your time making photographs. Just because digital is the way most photographers are going these days, and you never run out of film, it doesn’t mean you should capture everything that could be a photograph. Take steps back and take your time thinking about what you are about to photograph. Why you are about, what you are about to and how you plan on doing it.
Take your time before sharing photographs. Don’t shoot and share. Instead, process the photograph and let it sit for a month. Then come back later and see if your process might have changed. Make some more edits and then share it.
Scott, thank you so much for this interview. It has been awesome to get to know you better. Hopefully some day we can connect in person!