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Interview: Rafael (RC) Concepcion on His New Book, D-Town TV, and Finding Inspiration in Technology

by Rhonda Callow on March 31, 2011 · 7 comments

I was recently given the opportunity to chat with RC Concepcion, a photographer and Content Developer for Kelby Media Group. In this interview, RC talks about his new book, Get Your Photography on the Web, and how he became involved with NAPP. He also offers advice to those who are trying to get their photography noticed.

Rhonda Callow: Let’s begin this interview by taking a look at who Rafael (RC) Concepcion is. Could you provide us with a brief background on who you are and how you developed your career as a creative professional?
Rafael Concepcion: I’m one of the “Photoshop Guys” here at Kelby Media Group. I spend my days playing with the Adobe Creative Suite to help people better understand it, and how to apply it to their creative world.  It’s wild because I have a background in education, so I get to mix my two passions – education and digital photography – into what I do.  Prior to being a Photoshop guy, I spent several years doing technical training for large e-commerce companies and working as an IT Manager. I’ve spent time at IBM, Intershop Communications GmbH, and Buy4Now out of Dublin, Ireland. While I started out in education, I took a turn into tech and got very deep into it. During off times, I would teach at technical schools because I missed it. There’s something to be said about sharing knowledge.

How did you become involved with NAPP?
Before coming on board with Kelby Media Group, I was a NAPP member myself.  In the IT industry, it’s important to keep current. At the time, Adobe and Macromedia were two companies that I had always followed, and NAPP felt like a great organization to keep me in the know when it came to big programs like Photoshop. In between IT projects, I’d schedule my time to go down to the Photoshop World conferences to network and catch up.

On one of these conferences, the folks at NAPP ran a pre-conference workshop called “So You Think You can Teach Photoshop.” My friend Stacy Spilkewitz was attending the class, and I thought I could lend some moral support.

So I’m sitting there, and in comes Scott Kelby, Dave Cross, and Matt Kloskowski. As it turns out, they are judging a series of presentations everyone had prepared for this class. Except for me.  I had just signed up, and had no idea I needed a presentation.

I looked at the guy to the right of me and asked to borrow the DVD of images he had in his hand. While they got themselves ready, I quickly jotted down some ideas on what to talk about and raised my hand to do my “presentation.” I figured, at the end of the day, it’s always a good idea to get feedback on teaching technique.

Little did I know, I’d win the competition! My prize? Teaching on the show floor for the following day for an hour! Into my room I go to prepare a lesson for the next day.

Well, as it turned out, they were impressed with my floor show, and Scott, Matt, and I kept in touch. When it came time for them to add another “Photoshop Guy” to the roster, Scott gave me a call – one of the best calls I’ve ever got.

How did you decide to become an Adobe Certified Instructor (ACI) in Photoshop? Is it something that just sort of happened, or did you have a goal in mind and set out to accomplish it?
I used to teach for the New Horizons Computer Learning Centers in Commack, NY as a Photoshop expert. I felt that to do that, I really needed to prove mastery level at the software – so I set out to become an ACI in it. Now I am an ACI in Photoshop, Illustrator, and Lightroom.

I understand you’re now a host for D-Town TV. Can you tell us a little more about that?
At Kelby Media Group we have a lot of free podcasts that users can use to get up to speed on things. D-Town is a show that covers all things related to digital photography and was hosted by Scott Kelby and Matt Kloskowski. Scott and Matt ran the show for several seasons, but they wanted to get other people’s perspective on digital photography. We’re not only teachers but all professional photographers, so we definitely have differing tastes when it comes to it. Because of that, Scott thought it would be a good idea to have Larry Becker and I give our spin on what gets us excited in the world of digital photography.

My photography tends to be focused on environmental portraiture/ flash based, while Larry spends a lot of time working on DIY solutions for photographers. That mix can prove to help a lot of people on the podcast.  We hope it does, at least. :)

Your new book, Get Your Photography on the Web, has been dubbed a “game changer.” Can you tell us more about it?
It sounds very cliché to say these days, but the Internet is the place to share everything.  This becomes especially true when it comes to photography. Time after time, I would run into people who would stop me to say, “I want to make a website, but I really don’t know where to begin.” These people were photographers, wanting to set up a presence online and their needs weren’t being met.

Being an IT/tech guy, I thought to myself, “Great! How about I write a book that talks about the benefits of working in CSS, XHTML, and maybe even sprinkle in some concepts in ActionScript 3 so people can develop their own portfolios from scratch?” I thought about that for a while and spoke at length about it with Scott Kelby, who is about the best mentor out there, and I came to four realizations:

1. Photographers want to focus on photography. It would be a disservice to write a book that forces them to learn some form of programming or scripting just to get them on the web.

2. When faced with a multitude of options for a given situation, many of us will choose to do nothing than make the wrong choice.

3. There are things out there – like WordPress, which is free – that many in the tech industry are using as a solution to getting a website up and running quickly. Yes, there is code to it, but you largely can stay away from working in code if you don’t want to.

4. People would like to solve their problem quickly. While desk references are great, we want to feel like we can work through a book.

So I thought, “What if I made a book that didn’t get into the technical nitty-gritty of HTML and just gave people a ‘you start here and work through it’ approach?” I make very specific references to very specific things – the same things that I use when I want to work on a website for myself. The book serves as a solution – a very simple, easy to understand roadmap on how to get from no website, to a website. If you’re an HTML expert, this book isn’t for you.

If you’re just dabbling in web development, you may find some cool things along the way, but this book was designed for the “…the rest of us.”

What types of photography have you been looking at recently?
While I love doing portraits, I tend to have a very wide net when I’m admiring photography. I spend a lot of time following the work of people like Joe Mcnally, Gregory Heisler, Jay Maisel, Moose Peterson, Greg Gorman, Joey Lawrence, Trey Ratcliff, Rarindra Prakash, Andrzej Dragan, Dan Steinhardt, Steve McCurry, Susan Meiselas, Alex Webb, and Lois Greenfield.

Where do you get your inspiration from?
I look to a lot of my photography heroes for inspiration, such as those I just mentioned. I also spend a lot of time listening to music. I find that music inspires a lot of what I want to shoot. The music becomes a score for a series of images that I see inside, but am trying to bring to the surface – so to speak.

What do you think is the biggest challenge for new photographers who are trying to get noticed?
There are a lot of photographers out there in this day and age. Getting noticed amongst the din is one of the biggest problems that a new photographer faces – mass is the biggest problem out there.

That said, the community is very well knit in places like Twitter and Facebook.

What advice can you offer to those who are trying to overcome these challenges?
I believe that this community that we spoke of previously is more than willing to push you to the forefront of it, provided that you show something that’s different from the throngs of photographers out there. Personally, I think that differentiation will now come from the quick adaptation of new technology out there. For example, how fast can you adapt the incredible low light capabilities of these new DSLR sensors. Imagine leveraging that into a vision of photography, and putting that out there. The more you can show the adaptation of the edge, the more you’ll be seen out there.

Do you have any other tips you can give to our readers who are just starting out in their photography and post-production careers?
It’s going to be obvious to say that you should definitely consider joining Kelby Training and NAPP. These two resources will give you so much knowledge on the hardware, the skill, and the software when it comes to photography. From there, I say the next thing that you need to do is watch other photographers. Check out Flickr. Register for a Twitter account and follow some photographers.  This will get you out there checking out the things that you like and don’t like. The sooner you get that, the sooner you’ll start working on what *your* individual voice will be.

Check out RC Concepcion’s website and follow him on Twitter. You can also find him at D-Town TV.

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