Up Close with Scott Wyden Kivowitz
Posted on June 18, 2013 by Patrick Smith
Scott Wyden Kivowitz is a New Jersey photographer with a focus in portrait and landscape photography. Scott is also the Community & Blog Wrangler at Photocrati Media where he teaches others how to improve their photography business through their websites.
Tell us about yourself.
I have been taking pictures since I was young and dabbled a little in high school with photography classes. However, it was not until I was in college that I realized photography was what I wanted to do with my life. I was originally going to school at Berklee College of Music in Boston, for music recording. I wanted to own a recording studio in New Jersey where there are very few. However, after one semester at the school, I decided to move back home and transfer to a county school with a fantastic music department. I continued with that path for another year or so until I realized how much I really despise music theory. After an in-depth talk with friends and family I made the decision to take a curve in the road of life, and head towards photography. As it turned out, I fell in love with photography theory.
My first camera was a Fujifilm SLR which was originally my biological father’s camera. He passed away when I was just two years old, but we have a lot in common. He and my grandfather were both big photography nuts. They both had cameras with them all the time, and my father was also a Johnny Cash fan like me. When I decided to pursue photography as a career, I used my father’s Fujifilm camera for a while. Eventually I picked up a Nikon D80 and some autofocus lenses. When my grandfather passed away, he left me all of his camera equipment including a Nikon F in pristine condition. While I did use it for school here and there, I keep it on display with my camera collection in all of its beautiful glory.
My career path has changed drastically since college. I really thought that one day I would own a photography studio, but as it turned out I am a full-time blogger for Photocrati. There, we develop WordPress products for photographers. So, although I am not taking pictures on a daily basis, I am fully engulfed in the photo community, teaching other photographers and writing about the art regularly.
My current setup includes a Nikon D800 as my main camera, with a D700 as a backup. My lenses include the Nikon 24-70 f/2.8, 70-200 f/2.8 and a wide range of primes including 24mm PC-E, 35mm, 50mm and 85mm. I decided to have the choice between zooms and primes for a couple reasons. For one, primes are typically sharper than zoom lenses. The second reason is because sometimes I want to carry light, and primes are pretty darn light. For transporting my gear I stick with Think Tank Photo products because of their strong and weather protected materials, customer service and warranty. I’m the type of photographer who would rather save money and pick up the best product I can rather than anything else. So I saved enough to pick up a Really Right Stuff tripod system and a complete Lee Filter solution. You can see all of my gear on my website.
Piece of gear you can’t leave home without. Why?
If I am not going out to photograph something in particular, then I always have my 35mm lens attached. It’s the most diverse lens in my opinion. It allows me to get portraits and landscapes but also keep the weight down. If I am just walking around somewhere I don’t have my tripod in hand, but usually nearby. No matter what I always have an extra battery and memory card in a pocket because you never know if they will be needed.
My favorite lens, and workhorse is my 24-70mm f/2.8. I use that on majority of my commercial shoots, and many of my landscapes. With it I am able to have a sharp wide view at 24mm with practically no distortion and vignetting. I can also zoom to 70mm and grab some portraits on the fly.
How would you describe your style of photography?
I find myself to be a mix of a purist and experimental photographer. I always try to capture my vision in camera to reduce the amount of post processing time. When processing I never add clouds that weren’t there, or textures over photographs. While I appreciate the ability to do it, I prefer keeping the photo original.
Whose had the most influence on you and your work?
This is a difficult one because when browsing Google Plus there is so much inspiration in every direction. If I had to pick from all the photographers, I would say Lee Friedlander and Robert Frank influence my style the most. Or at least did when I first starting my photography education. By the way, photography education never stops.
What is the coolest person, place, or thing ever photographed?
My favorite place to photograph is Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Every time I go there, I find something new to photograph. There is so much color, texture and destruction. It’s an amazing place to visit. For those who do not know what ESP is… it is a museum converted from the oldest prison in the USA. They are slowly restoring bits and pieces but leaving as much of it in original form as they can, safely.
How do you incorporate onOne Software into your post processing workflow?
I am sure I am not alone on this but I find Adobe Photoshop to contain way too much for the average photographer’s needs. So I try my hardest not to use it in my workflow. Most of my photography processing is spent in Adobe Lightroom, and that is where my library sits. I do the bulk of my edits within Lightroom to save time, and stay consistent. Then, when I need that extra boost of that special something, I open the Perfect Photo Suite and keep flowing through my processing. Typically I am inside of Perfect Effects and Perfect B&W for monochrome conversions. Depending on the scene I will use the other software in the suite, like Perfect Portrait and FocalPoint. I processed the church landscape photograph using Lightroom 5 for debris and spot removal (from the water not my camera) and Perfect Effects for added vibrancy and tones.
What is your favorite onOne product and tool? Why?
Perfect Effects because the endless possibilities, easy tools that anyone can figure out and the Perfect Brush which is such a time saver. Styling a photograph in Perfect Effects is not only effective for a photographer, but also a joy.
Do you have a favorite photograph you’ve shot?
It has always been a toss up between two photographs. The first was taken in Boston on a horribly disgusting day full of mist and fog. I decided to over compensate with the HDR technique in order to get some type of detail out of the scene. So I captured 27 or so brackets and used the ones that had the most details and the best light. The other photograph was taken from the Statue of Liberty. I say from instead of at because of where I was standing. In the photo you will notice that Lady Liberty is not actually in the photographed, but rather her shadow is. This is one of those photographs where the sun works perfectly in the photographer’s favor.
Tell us more about your current projects.
On June 29th I am hosting what I hope to be the first of many niche photography workshops in New Jersey and eventually around the country. The first workshop is on long exposure photography and is happening in Asbury Park, New Jersey. The workshop details can be found here.
I am also working on two workshops with Photocrati that is designed to educate photographers on how to increase business through their websites. Currently there are two workshops scheduled. The first is June 24th in Denver, Colorado and the second is in Hamilton, New Jersey. We decided to combine an educational workshop about business with an informal photowalk around the venues, because the venues are just that awesome. Details on those workshops can be found here.
The final project I have in the works (very early stages at this point) is a portrait series that will be made into a book. I cannot go into too much details on that, but I say that it will “rock”.
Any advice you can offer other photographers?
First and foremost, if you’re not doing what you love on a daily basis you need to rethink what you do on a daily basis.
If you are just getting started, I recommend learning everything you can about light, the camera, techniques, etc. Never stop learning, because that is extremely important. Ask for help when needed. I’m color blind and dyslexic and I am a photographer and blogger. I have always and still ask for help when needed. Don’t be afraid to do so. Try new things and fail. Learn form it and then try again. Most important, love photography or move on because it is a lot of work and it can be expensive.