In this installment of the photographer interview series we're talking with Scott Wyden.
Scott Wyden is a photographer, blogger, author and educator from New Jersey, USA. He has over 10 years experience photographing portraits, landscapes and businesses.
slow down and stop thinking like digital photography doesn't cost you anything. Force yourself to
use a tripod all of the time.
- Who or what was your biggest influence in photography and why?
- First and foremost, my father is my biggest influence. He passed away when I was very young but over the years I've learned that he and I are extremely similar. He was a hobbyist photographer and always had a camera with him no matter the family event or trip. I now have the fortune of using his old Fuji film camera, which was my first camera.
I have always admired the work of Lee Friedlander and Robert Frank. They both have unique street photography styles that I find similar to mine. The step back and admire then create style feel. Or Lee's sneaky reflection and shadow portraits.
For landscape work I am influenced by my friends, like Brian Matiash and Colby Brown. Their work is absolutely stunning and they continue to drive me to improve every time they finish and share a photograph with the world.
- What's your biggest failure and what did you learn from it?
- I used to do extreme favors for friends, by offering their friends or colleagues incredible deals on my photo services. For example, photographing bar mitzvahs. I did these jobs for very cheap – way less than I was worth, as a favor of course. I literally broke even on the job. It also turned out that the customer wasn't the easiest to work with. So in the end I finished with no profit and a headache.
From those experiences I learned to never (ever ever) do favors like that again. Discounts are one thing, but giving the work away for next to nothing is not worth the time or energy.
- What is your biggest success or thing you're most proud of?
- One day out of the blue I received a call from a magazine asking if I was interested in photographing a cover. It totally shocked me, but I hopped on the opportunity. It turned out that the cover was to be a portrait of an executive at a major corporation out of New Jersey. So it worked out very well. Not only was the magazine happy, and wound up running multiple photographs, but the executive wound up hiring me outside of the magazine for other photographs for their business.
- What's your one “can't live without it” piece of gear?
- The obvious answer is my camera. However, as odd as it may sound my answer is actually my 35mm lens. That has become my daily use lens. While it is not ideal for portraits, it can be used as a portrait lens if I have no choice. But the 35mm on a full frame camera becomes the ultimate in diverse lenses. I can photograph landscapes, street photographs or architecture all with the one lens. And it's super light and small.
- Your favourite image you've ever taken and why?
- My all-time favorite photograph is called Split, which was photographed in Boston during one of the Kelby Worldwide Photowalks. The day was disgusting, foggy and humid. I could barely see across the water. I decided to go for a HDR photograph and over bracketed by a long shot. Typically with a HDR you only need a few brackets, but on this day more was required.
The photograph has been featured on Digital Photography School (#8) and a hotel that is in the photograph had their marketing agency reach out to license it as well.
So in the end it's my favorite because it was the hardest to capture and process, has been enjoyed by many people and business. The photo is a reminder that my creativity and hard work pays off. That should also be a reminder to everyone reading this. Hard work and creativity definitely pays off.
- Your favourite image from another photographer and why?
- I definitely don't have just one favorite. Although I can relate to so many photographs, none have the same personal impact as my own. Hopefully others can understand that. Instead of sharing just one I'd rather direct readers to my 500px favorites section. Every few days I browse through 500px for inspiration and favorite ones that I think are amazing, and then share them out on social media.
Another thing I'd like to mention is my favorite photography book The Americans by Robert Frank and Jack Kerouac, which contains some of my favorite photographs from a very influential and aforementioned photographer.
- What one thing can then viewers do right now to improve their photography?
- This question came up recently while doing a critique at The Arcanum of one of my apprentices.
In summary, one way to improve your photography right now is to slow down and stop thinking like digital photography doesn't cost you anything. Some of the ways to force yourself to slow down is to turn your camera completely into manual (ISO, aperture, focus, shutter, white balance, etc). Another way is to force yourself to use a tripod all of the time.
Slowing down makes you think more, which in turn will help your photography.
- If you could do it all over again would do anything differently? Photographically or life wise?
- Out of high school I went to Berklee College of Music thinking that I'd spend four years studying to become a recording engineer. Turns out I disliked it greatly. If I could start over I'd go straight to the community college where I spent two years studying photography. Then I'd spend the other two years, which would have been more college, and practice and study by doing. Although going to music school and moving away was a good life experience, at the same time it was wasted where I could have been doing more photography.
Photographer Interview Series
See what makes professional photographers tick, learn about their favorite images and their greatest failures as well as their greatest successes. Check out others in this series below:
- Nature and landscape photographer Jay Patel
- Wildlife photographer Martin Bailey
- Photography educator Andrew S Gibson
- Food photographer Nicole Young
- Scott Wyden Kivowitz
- Photographer and Digital Artist Renee Robyn
- Snowflake photographer Don Komarechka
- Outdoor Photographer Sean Bagshaw
- Celebrity photography Gina Milicia