A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to publish an article about Dramatic Lighting in the digital photography Good Light! Magazine.
I want to get into detail here because the magazine is a neat power-piece fully packed with stunning, great and simple tutorials. Issue by issue.
The best part of it: it’s created, edited and led by a photography enthusiast. Not a pro, no! An enthusiast full of verve and a mind filled with an infinite source of ideas. That guy’s name is Michael Zelbel and I’m pretty sure a few among you already crossed his path in the web due to all of his extensive activities in photography.
Michael lives and works in Germany. Besides his quarterly published photo mag, he’s a heck of a creator for all of us photography enthusiasts out there.
It’s my personal concern to present and promote Michael’s work, endeavor and his vision for the magazine that comes with a crazily low price tag – hint, hint!
However, I also strive to yet reveal his understanding of the photography enthusiast world.
Hey it’s Cousin Michael Zelbel
I thought it’s a good idea to ask Cousin Michael a few questions to check him out and in order to get a more personal impression in the first place. Side note: Michael calls all his followers, creators and probably everybody on this planet simply “cousin” – elegant, isn’t it?
So let’s get into the first question which is basically more of a list….
Interview by Dan Hostettler
Michael, it’s safe to say that you are mixing up the photographer-enthusiast’s educational sector: successful author of “The Art of Boudoir Photography”, editor and head of ideas of Smoking Strobes and now for over a year the proud and successful publisher of Good Light! Magazine, the photo e-zine for our mobile devices.
Who are you?
I guess I am just an amateur photographer, who is quite passionate about people photography. I love genres like beauty, glamour and nudes. What I really enjoy is the exciting lifestyle that comes with this kind of hobby. It’s very free, creative, and it allows me to meet a lot of very interesting and heart meltingly nice people. This also lets me want to give back to our community. When I figure out an interesting technique for beautiful photos, then I really like to share it with my fellow photographers and see how they make use of it.
How did you get the idea to start sharing your knowledge and when did you begin?
My wife Emily, from China, was my first model. When I first started photography it was simply because I was fascinated by Emily’s looks. I soon discovered that I can use photography to bridge the cultures of Asia and the Western world.
I do voluntary work in various organizations that deal with cultural exchange. A topic like nude photography is very interesting for both sides and it’s more emotional and more attractive than the topical topics such as food or language.
So, Emily and I used our hobby to demonstrate Asia and the Western world that they are not so different after all and we also hope to bring a tiny bit more open-mindedness into both cultures.
There’s one constraint: Emily and I have only so much time. Our answer to that was to motivate fellow photographers to join us in this nice hobby and in a way become multipliers for our message. These good photographers also bring more openness and freedom to this world than we could ever do by ourselves. Let’s say Emily and I have time for one good boudoir photo shoot this month, maybe with friends or maybe just the two of us. This in and off itself would certainly be a good thing. But, if we make a little video that explains this photo shoot, then it multiplies. For example, the boudoir video that was created by Emily and me has been watched by more than 1 million photographers on YouTube. If it animated just 1% of them to reshoot the whole thing, then we initiated 10,000 of these nice photo shoots – that is if I just got the math correctly. In any case, with this one single video we fueled many more photo shoots than we could do ourselves in our complete lifetime. That feels pretty rewarding to me.
I know you have a full time job in your real life but you also run a studio and offer commercial shoots, all aside of your enthusiast’s education. At this point, I’m not quite sure which one actually is your real life and how you can manage all of this time-wise. Could you please enlighten me and my readership?
When I am coaching people, I see again and again that “enlightening” really needs to happen from their inside out. I can only facilitate quantum leaps forward, but I cannot simply hand them over as the blue or red pill. The closest thing I can probably do is tell you the two things that brought me the biggest gains in productivity:
- Eating in a way that keeps me healthy, fit and energetic. I follow a methodology called “Slow Carb”, which was published by the awesome Tim Ferriss . This allows me to eat lots of food thus have lots of energy while at the same time staying slim and agile. So, in case you want to know how stuff yourself with donuts and butter croissants every Sunday and still keep your body fat below 10% without doing any exercise? Go ahead and look up “The 4-Hour Body”. It works.
- Every morning I am starting my day by looking at my goal. I choose 4 to 6 tasks that will bring me closer to my goal. Then I start knocking out exactly these tasks. Until I am done with these tasks, everything else – and I really mean EVERYTHING ELSE – is a distraction. This keeps me moving into the right direction. Sure, my day job and my life require me to do certain things that distract me, but I always find my path back to my really important tasks for the day. I learned this by using the online tool “Simpleology” invented by the great #1 bestselling author and marketing expert Mark Joyner.
- Michael’s Blog: http://smokingstrobes.com/
- The new nude art project: http://MindsUnveiled.com
- Boudoir Photography for Beginners & Enthusiasts: /go/the-art-of-boudoir-photography-michael-zelbel
- The Art of Baby Belly Photography: /go/the-art-of-belly-photography-michael-zelbel
- Ask Michael any question on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MichaelZelbel
You are frequently appearing in your own videos and shows that get hundreds of thousands of views. You are talking with a thick German accent. You are acting, explaining, joking. Give us the truth: are you really that much of an extroverted person without inhibitions (let’s call it a limelight hog) or is it rather an effort for you to be in front of a camera?
I am kind of strange. I would not think of myself as extroverted at all. If I am at a party, then it might happen that I am hanging out the whole night with the 3 people I already know and not talking to anybody that I didn’t get introduced to yet.
On the other hand, I probably have much less inhibitions than most of my viewers would assume from just watching my videos. It might happen that I am on a really wild party and I do pretty wild things with a lot of people that I have never met before. At the very beginning of this year, Emily and I wanted to put an event in place that we would look forward to throughout the whole year. We decided to book a year’s end holiday in a very nice clothing-optional hotel for adults in Spain.
Seems like a contradiction, but all of that are sides of me. However, I strongly believe that there are a couple of things that all of us, who are lucky enough to live our lives in civilized countries, simply don’t need anymore. These are emotions such as inhibitions, jealousy or envy and all the actions that arise from them. The life that we lead in our societies is so incredibly good compared to anything we saw in history, that I think it’s almost a shame if we spend time on such negative feelings any longer. This believe is ingrained in my values and it is what I am bringing across in my life all the time, not only on stage and not only on video either. Probably that’s what might make me look “extroverted” even though I not really am.
It feels like you’ve built a small media empire with different brands. Is this based upon the fact that you can pack your ideas and topics into each channel in more specific ways? Or is it rather more of a natural growth over time?
There are simply lots of changes happening regarding the way we consume media – exciting changes, if you accept them and leverage them.
When I started out with my video blog SmokingStrobes, I was able to hold the attention of my viewers over the course of a 10-minute video. By that time, people were using laptops to surf the web or to browse YouTube for example. Nowadays, our attention is on our mobile device and a 10-minute video on YouTube feels like an epic. I had to find a new format that would be attractive on mobile and would put the viewers into a mindset that allows me to grab their attention long enough in order to transport real content. This is why I came up with the idea of the electronic magazine. Starting a mag at a time during which the print magazine industry is obviously painfully dying may look like a stupid idea at first. But I believe we can actually make Good Light! Magazine a success. It’s really the single most useful magazine for portrait photographers at the moment. Even if I can’t scale up this magazine hugely, there are at least a decent number of traditional publishers, who would love to get to know what I have learned about success factors in digital magazine publishing so far. From that perspective I have already won by simply starting to publish this magazine.
I’ve flooded you with a lot of superlatives here. Final question: Do you already have your next stunning idea in the pipeline that all of us can happily look forward to?
It’s probably not all that stunning, but my cousins can look forward to participating in my next project. I started a little nude art project, which actually celebrates people, who dare to go nude in front of the camera. For me those people are brave and role models in terms of self-confidence. In the next issue of Good Light! Magazine I am going to publish exact instructions on how photographers can shoot photos for publication in this project. You can already get an idea about the thing on the website MindsUnveiled.com . Just be warned that there are not only beautiful people on the photos. It’s also a photo of yours truly right after eating like a pig for 2 weeks straight during holiday. But should the 8 kg excess fat on my hips now stop me from having my nude photo taken by my wonderful friend and photographer Sarah? No way! Of course we took that photo. Life is wonderful, isn’t it?
Thank you so much for joining BLOG+, Michael!
Michael’s Good Light! Magazine
Good Light! Magazine is most definitely a leading photography e-zine primarily developed for tablets like the iPad. In Apple’s Newsstand, the magazine is constantly residing in the USA Top 10 list of iPad Arts and Entertainment magazines.
For the rest of us (I’m not an iPad owner neither; I’m a Samsung guy…) there is also a “normal” PDF version available for all devices (Win, Desktops, Droids).
Issues are published quarterly. The publication provides you with tutorials, tips and behind the scenes videos of professional photo shoots in the areas of portrait and glamour photography.
The mag demonstrates a deep understanding of what is important to us enthusiasts and photographers because – as I mentioned before – it is made entirely by photography enthusiasts.