Photoshop Week Exclusive: A Sit-Down with Daniel Kudish + Lisa Carney

I recently had the opportunity to attend Photoshop Week at CreativeLive. While in attendance, I got to sit down with two of the instructors and ask them a few questions. Because both instructors have widely different backgrounds, it was interesting to see their different perspectives on things such as inspiration, trends and creative ruts.   

Daniel Kudish

Daniel and his wife Davina are the co-founders of The Image Salon in Montreal. They have photographed hundreds of weddings in over 30 countries around the world, have been featured in dozens of international publications and are award-winning members of several international photography contest organizations. At CreativeLive Photoshop Week 2018, Daniel taught a course on Lighting to Simplify Your Edit. I sat down with him to chat about his motivations, upcoming projects and moment defining careers.

What is your biggest source of inspiration?

I’m like a lot of other wedding photographers and pull inspiration from documentary photojournalists. I really love their compositions and their use of lighting in photos. The way they create drama or tell a story. I try to use that in the context of a wedding day.

Are there any specific photographers that you look to?

The ones that you would kind of expect. Photographers like Steve McCurry, Alex Webb, David Alan Harvey, or any of the Magnum photographers.

What do you do to stay fresh or get out of creative ruts?

I think over the years we have learned what our limit is, so we try not to shoot too much. We will only take on 15 weddings that are well spread out throughout the year so we never get into this area where we are physically and mentally tired. But on the opposite end of the spectrum, you do want to keep shooting so that you can stay motivated. We try to photograph our kids on a daily basis. It gives us a way to stay sharp and keep thinking about composition and moment and all those things that we try to apply during a wedding day.

So I know Davina has her Motherhood project, do you have any personal projects that you are working on?

I love hockey and in Montreal, we probably have the best hockey culture in the world. A few years ago I started documenting the fans. In our city, I made some contacts with the organization and I started shooting behind the scenes content for them. So whenever they need something from in the locker room or photographs of the coaches at the bench during the game, they call me. It’s something I enjoy shooting outside of weddings that helps me see better.

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What’s one thing you wish you could tell yourself 10 years ago?

That I should be patient with the process. There’s a lot that we have learned even just in the last year or two. It takes a long time to fully understand concepts and really be able to apply them as you shoot. I didn’t know starting out how much of a process it was going to be. You are going to learn a lot about yourself and it’s going to take some time to just be patient.

Looking back can you see any moments that you have had that defined your career up to this point?

Not so much moments, but there are some weddings where we feel everything really came together. Visually there was great light, everything was well-timed, ran smoothly, the couple was into it and we were vibing. The type of wedding that you know only happens every year or two. These stand out in our career and whenever we do those weddings, something changes in our approach. It allows us to evolve.

Obviously, having our kids is something that really changed our approach to wedding photography. We are in a really special place now because we get to relate to the couple more. We know what the couple is going to value. We get to see the wedding through a parent’s eyes.

What’s been the biggest help to improve your shooting?

A lot of practice. Making sure that we know our gear well. Making sure that we understand lighting well. There is a workshop with David Alan Harvey I did a few years ago in Mexico and it’s not a technical workshop by any means, but it just helped me with getting closer to our subject. Getting to know them better and interact with them. That was really groundbreaking for me.  

Do you see any styles right now that you feel are a bad trend?

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I feel like there are 3 main styles happening right now. We have the ‘Pacific Northwest Portral’ type of editing. Then we have the ‘bright and airy’ film look. And we have the punchy ‘Two Mann’ type of editing. They all have their place and have a timeless look, so I don’t think any of them need to fall off or go away.

I feel like the use of prisms, mirrors and glass in front of the lens has started to become a little bit more trendy. Do you feel like one day that’s going to be the selective color of 2018?

Maybe, but I think there’s always going to be people who learn how to do it well and put their own twist on it. There’s a lot of attention brought to crazy creative stuff, but there is so much more than just getting the one or two epic photos from a wedding. I’d rather have a hundred storytelling photos that are going to be really valued by the client than a crazy reflection shot that’s going to give me an award. What I hope that happens is we all put more attention on the value of what we are really doing. It’s interesting that the images that are most valued by your clients are the ones that no one else cares about.

Lisa Carney

Lisa Carney is a high-end retoucher who has spent over two decades working with the most dynamic players in the print, motion picture and television industries. Besides being a regular presenter at the Adobe MAX conference, her teaching roster runs the gamut from beginners to professional retouchers, and includes universities, design studios, movie studios, corporations and private students. Lisa has worked with all major movie studios and many television networks. At Photoshop Week 2018, Lisa taught Compositing for Commercial Photography, Retouching Clothing and Fabric, Advanced Content Aware and Cloning and Alien Skin Software Demo.

What is your biggest source of inspiration?

When you do retouching for entertainment, someone else comes up with the designs. I find that question really hard to answer because I’m inspired by the designer and their work. I’ll just try to make their stuff look better. That has changed in the last 10 years though. When I started, we had a lot more involvement and were more like digital illustrators. 

What do you do to stay out of creative ruts?

Things like this at CreativeLive. I get out where other folks are because in my industry, we primarily work in a vacuum. We work in dark rooms, often by ourselves or not with many co-workers. So it’s very hard to find out what’s new and what’s going on.

What’s one thing you wish you could tell yourself 10 years ago?

You don’t need to know everything. I totally thought I had to know Photoshop better than anybody. But you’ll never know all of Photoshop. I wish I could have relaxed about that.

Is there anything you feel like you spent too much time trying to learn in Photoshop that, now looking back, you realize you don’t actually need to know?

I think trying to figure out every bell and whistle. Like every filter or every way to change color rather than find one way that worked for me. There are all these tutorial videos, and everything is about being fast. A video will show you how to do something in 30 seconds. People spend so much time trying to learn all these tools or trying to do things as fast as possible instead of mastering their craft.  

Are there any moments that you have had that define your career up to this point?

A big defining moment was when I got asked to take over the creative television retouching division for a company called BLT. This was 20 years ago and they had just landed the ABC account and it was huge. I found out that I was really good at it and I didn’t know that I was good at it until then. I just felt like a junior player until then.

On a secondary track, I’m a retoucher for a living, but education is really important me. I really love doing it. 

What’s been the biggest help in improving your skills?

Being an educator. Because I have to teach it. I have to research and find out how to answer questions and explain what I’m doing. 

What’s one trend you wish you never took part in?

Body shaping. There are these women that have the most incredible athletic bodies that they earned. Whoever is in charge of marketing decides that they need to have these stupid, pencil legs.

Harness the power of Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom and take your creative potential to the next level. Shop the entire Photoshop Week 2018 bundle now.

Photoshop Week 2018