Photography Tips – Stuck in Customs


I’m on Meta’s new platform on the @treyratcliff account where I’ll be sharing my photos, wisdom and just randomness that passes through my brain. If you’re on there, I’d love a follow. If you’re not, come play… 🙂

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New Podcast – Brass and Unity

Brass and Unity just shared a podcast I recently recorded with them. We cover all sorts of topics including Art, AI and DMT. You can listen here or watch it…



A question for the photographers amongst you… where does Flickr fit into your life? I was thinking about this today regarding my own little chunk of the photography world and really I don’t use it in any useful way. Maybe I should? What am I missing that has been added in recent times (since SmugMug bought it?). I see from the banner on my profile that they’ve added “Virtual Photography” as a category which seems to be sharing game screenshots. Kinda weird (and I say that as a gamer!).


3 Essential Tips for Making It as a Celebrity Photographer

I decided to write this article because I found a really interesting guy to interview about this subject-matter! Here’s a quick story of how we met…

I’ve ended up with a few celebrity/famous art collectors who get my limited edition large-format works. On occasion, I have them over to my art studio in New Zealand. One day, I got a request from Brandin Cooks, who some of you may know from the NFL. Anyway, he came into my studio here with a gentleman named Eric George. We all hit it off immediately! These are two of the nicest guys I’ve ever met in my life. We liked one another so much that we decided to visit Japan together!

Tokyo Fun  (275 of 286)

We had a great time exploring Japan together! And, even better, we’re going back soon!

Anyway, it turns out that Eric often hires photographers for various purposes. Oh, it’s worth noting that he didn’t pay me to take these photos, since I was just doing it as a friend. However, since he does hire photographers often, I thought it would be useful to ask him a bunch of questions about this rather lucrative and unknown field.

Hmmm, so what’s up with this guy, Eric George? He’s a nationally renowned hand surgeon, serial entrepreneur, and investor. Apart from treating NFL and NBA athletes, and owning a hospital and several ambulatory clinics, he founded and currently runs ERG Enterprises, an investment company valued at more than $1 billion to boot. He’s also a recent author of the new book, We: Ditch the Me Mindset and Change the World. His book, released earlier this year, has received endorsements from names like Thomas Tull, founder/former CEO of Legendary Entertainment and minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers; Archie Manning; Jim Breyer (who was an early investor in Facebook and is a billionaire like Tull); and others.

This is all to say, Eric is among those in rarefied air, who celebrity photographers make their living on. I talked to him and here’s a copy of the transcript for you! 🙂

Question (Trey): Hey Eric! When do you look to hire a photographer?
Answer (Eric):
I feel like I’m always in need of a good photographer. From a personal standpoint, we hire photographers to travel with me and take pictures that I want to remember. Earlier this year, I took a trip to Southeast Asia with my family. We hired a photographer to travel with us and capture the experience. There are also other instances when I want to be photographed—most involve some degree of travel. A wedding, a party, a graduation. It always has to do with capturing a memorable experience, and it always involves the people who are most important in my life.

On a more professional note, I do a lot of speaking engagements and events where I need media captured. Partly to build my brand as a thought leader, and partly to stay active. For example, the best way to secure a keynote is to have a recent photograph of you giving a keynote. So, we look for photographers in that context too.

And beyond me specifically, we hire photographers for any number of reasons. To update a website, for instance, or capture pictures related to a project. ERG is a very active investment company, and we’re fully diversified, meaning we have a lot going on. We’re heavily involved in real estate and hospitality, for instance. Every property that we acquire, we need pictures. Our company has a unique investment philosophy, and that is to acquire and renovate existing properties, which means we always need pictures of the renovations and the eventual grand reopening. We’re also involved in other industries such as consumer goods, technology, health care, you name it. In those cases, we need photos that tell a company’s story, advertise a product, speak to a value proposition. We’re connected to all these different businesses that all need a good photographer with the right skillset.

Question (Trey): Yep… it’s all about good story telling. That’s a tough skill. What do you look for when hiring a photographer?
Answer (Eric):
To be honest, the people who work for me evaluate and select anyone we work with. But I can speak for them.

First and foremost, we look for someone with a strong network. I say this not because it’s most important to us, it’s just how we start the process of finding a photographer. Personally, whenever I’m looking to hire anyone, I ask my kids, wife, friends, professional connections. Our team does this too. “Do you guys know a good photographer? One I can trust to do [A, B, C]?” This isn’t unusual. All of us follow this process for any important transaction.

Starting with our network streamlines the process and it’s more effective in helping us find someone we can truly trust. So, having a strong network is key to getting our business. If I were coaching someone on how to be a successful photographer, I’d tell them to get out there, network, and build a base of loyal customers to grow from. That’s true of any discipline, but particularly freelance photography.

It’s also important to have a strong online presence. Once we get a recommendation, the first thing we do is look up that person on Google. We check out their website. When it comes to photography, at a bare minimum, we look for a portfolio, their bio, and any endorsements and testimonials they have. The portfolio is key and must show us that they know what they’re doing. If they have great pictures, great. If they have great pictures of recognizable celebrities or business leaders, even better. That speaks to their professionalism, marketing, customer service. It also tells us they’re adept at meeting high expectations.

Outside of just finding a website, we also check out social media. For photography, that means mostly Instagram. Again, we’re looking for a great portfolio. We also take notice of the number of followers they have. It’s an added benefit if we know they have, say, 10,000 people following them, since that’ll go a long way in terms of promotion when they share their work.

My Last Photo Of Anthony Bourdain

I take a lot of photos of celebrities. To me, it’s all about the connection and understanding who they are in the eyes. That’s the best storytelling mechanism of all.

Question (Trey): Let’s say you find the right photographer. What do you expect from that person?
Answer (Eric):
During the actual process of working together, I expect great customer service. That’s because there’s nothing for me to see yet. What does great customer service mean? It means anticipating, sensing, and addressing my needs. Am I uncomfortable? Do I need assurance? Direction? It also means being honest and direct. We don’t have much time together. Should I do something to improve the shot? Does the light make me look terrible? If it does, I expect that person to tell me. (Tactfully, of course).

Great customer service means making the experience a positive one, while providing me the direction and information to make the best product possible. It means taking care of me as customer during the present as well as the future.

That’s very different from someone who only tells me, “Everything’s great. These pictures are wonderful.” Sure, I’ll enjoy the photoshoot, but I’ll be incredibly disappointed when I see the finished product. To me, that’s an example of terrible customer service, it’s customer disservice. There’s always a way to make the experience enjoyable while adhering to the parameters of one’s craft.

That brings up another thought worth mentioning. For personal photos, customer service becomes even more important. That’s because I want whoever I’m working with to become a part of the experience of a family trip, say, or an excursion. I want them to blend in with the experience at the very least, enhance it if possible, but certainly not to hinder or distract from it.

I sound like I have really high expectations, and I do. But again, I wouldn’t say I’m an outlier. I think I’m a part of the majority in this respect.

Question (Trey): What qualities do all successful photographers share in your experience?
Answer (Eric):
The most successful photographers, in my experience, are entrepreneurs. What I mean by that is they’re great at all the functions needed to run a successful enterprise. It’s not just about being skilled at the craft and mechanics of photography, even though that’s most important. Success means they have to be great at marketing and relationship-building, which helps us find them. They also need to be skilled at sales, so we buy their value proposition. Of course, they also need stellar customer service, which I just mentioned. They need to do all these things, and it’s a lot for anybody. But the most successful photographers can manage each process effectively. That’s what I think it takes to compete at the level we’re talking about.

Question (Trey): OK, last question. Do you plan to hire a photographer soon, and if so, for what?
Answer (Eric):
For ERG, we have several projects underway that call for a photographer. Two are luxury hotels that we’re very excited about and plan to announce soon.

I’m also going on a book tour and need a photographer to come along. I also plan to take a long trip next spring with you, Trey, and Brandin Cooks, who is like a son to me and a good friend of yours. The plan is to go to Japan, and of course we’re relying on you as our tour guide.

Trey: See you guys in Japan! Let’s have another sushi party and take some crazy photos!

If you want to learn more about Eric, head over to his website, There, you’ll find the exciting businesses and projects he’s involved in. I’d also encourage you to check out his book on Amazon. It’s a great read and provides insight into how Eric approaches life and business. He’s one of the nicest people I have ever met!

Tokyo Fun  (40 of 286)

Here we are exploring the Kabukicho area of Shinjuku, Japan. Right after this, I took them over to one of my favorite secret bars in Golden Gai that is only big enough for about seven people!


The Lonely Dunes


Be sure to visit our workshops page to find out what’s happening next. In this little promo video below, you’ll see quite a bit of footage from Africa!

A Street Scene From Paris

I’ve had a ton of fun going back into my unprocessed back catalog and re-processing them with some of these latest tools. In today’s adventure, you’ll see a fairly “harsh” (maybe that is too harsh of a word) treatment of this street scene from Paris.

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Daily Photo – The Lonely Dunes

Here’s one of my favorite (and rather simple) photos from Namibia. The deserts there are so beautiful, and it is a little confusing to figure out where to shoot. It all sort of looks the same, in a strange, flowing way. So, I found this all to be a particularly interesting challenge… actually I think everyone at our Africa workshop did!

The Lonely Dunes

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2014-09-26 19:22:30
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/200
  • Aperture8
  • ISO64
  • Focal Length17.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias+0.3



Rocket Man Passport Sunday!

Today, I’ll post two photos from the same shuttle launch that I recently worked on. This launch was particularly cool because of the low cloud cover. Anyway, if you’re a Passport Member, you’ll get to see both edits today!


Editing the Rocket, man

Today, a two-for-one! You’ll get to see me edit two of these space shuttle photos. I also show a pretty cool trick to add more trees so that I can fix the horizon. Well, the horizon was not actually off, but the trees made it look like it.

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Daily Photo – Postplume

One of my favorite things about this photo is how you can see the shadow of the vertical plume as it kept going up, up, up. I tell ya, these rocket launches are really emotional and exciting. It’s a strange combination of fright and awe.


Photo Information

  • Date Taken2011-07-08 10:30:43
  • CameraNIKON D3X
  • Camera MakeNikon
  • Exposure Time1/180
  • Aperture13
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length28.0 mm
  • FlashNo Flash
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias


Blade Runner in Hong Kong

SmugMug Galleries

Just in case you don’t know, I now have four different portfolios. I am never totally sure how to separate all of my portfolios… but, for now, I’ve decided on four:

Main Portfolio
Burning Man
Portraits and People
Big Cities and Little Ones

Daily Photo – Blade Runner in Hong Kong

I feel like this Blade Runner trope is getting old. I wish I had another comparison to make. Fifth Element, maybe? Yeah, either way, even though I am a total introvert, I do enjoy spending a bit of time in these crazy cities. Maybe because I live in a tiny town of less than 50,000, I get overly excited with my camera when hitting these megacities in China.

Blade Runner in Hong Kong

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2018-03-16 00:16:35
  • CameraILCE-7RM3
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time8
  • Aperture6.3
  • ISO200
  • Focal Length141.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias+2


Over Monte Carlo

Euro Tour

Check out this highlight video of our European Photo Walk Tour!

Listen to Sam Harris talk with Yuval Noah Harari (author of Sapiens)

Also, here is an interesting podcast I just finished listening to where Yuval Noah Harari talks about his new book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. It is a wide-ranging discussion which is well worth some of your Sunday.

Passport Sunday – Art Talk in Glenorchy

If you ever find yourself in New Zealand, check out Camp Glenorchy as a place to stay. I was there a couple of weeks ago to do an art talk and not only is it a gorgeous location, but they also have the best projector known to humankind. In today’s Passport video, which is the complete talk, you’ll not get to experience the projector in all its glory but you will get to hear some stories from my travels along with a fun Q+A session towards the end which focuses on art, life and creativity.

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Daily Photo – Over Monte Carlo

On the European Tour, we stopped in Monte Carlo one day to take photos and have a dinner before getting back on the bus to drive overnight to Cinque Terre. I had been to Monte Carlo a long time ago with my dad and I remembered being down by the marina. When I looked at the map, I saw there were two marinas, and I was not sure which one to be dropped off at. I chose the wrong one! And there were no taxis or Ubers around, so we had to walk up this mountain… when we got to the top, I turned around to take this picture of the scene below. Yeah, it’s a cool marina, but not as cool as the one on the other side!

Over Monte Carlo

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2017-05-01 19:46:32
  • CameraX1D
  • Camera MakeHasselblad
  • Exposure Time1/15
  • Aperture4
  • ISO200
  • Focal Length30.0 mm
  • Flash
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias


Complete Photography Bundle – $2,500 products for just $89

Featuring the likes of Zack Arias, Photoserge, Skylum, Phlearn and some guy called Trey…

Time to decide fast, because it’s time for the Complete Photography Bundle from 5DayDeal. It’s packed with photography resources which are 100% brand-new. No repeated products. Period.

There are over $2,500 worth of products for just $89. This year it includes two of my most awesome new video tutorials, one for total photography beginners and the other for drone newbies, who will quickly get addicted to this fun new form of photography and videography. Elsewhere in the 5DayDeal product, you’ll find courses on Lightroom, Photoshop, model photography, color grading, wedding photography and even zero gravity product photography. Seriously.


And if that isn’t enough, a portion of every sale goes to charity. Everyone wins!

Click here to grab it now, all of the products can be downloaded immediately.



Aurora HDR 2019 Launch Day!

Today’s the Big Day that Aurora HDR 2019 is ready for download! Come grab it pronto in our store.

Last year, we won Apple’s App of the year, and that was very unexpected and exciting. We have over 3 million downloads from their store and our stores, so it looks like we really hit a nerve for this thing. It’s especially great for beginners that want to add a special look to their photos.

The new features include noise-free results immediately, no halos, better for interior architecture shots with bright windows, new HDR sliders, and better processing for RAW files. I have a TON of videos I recently made that show off all the features over on YouTube.

I think this new tool is really gonna get your creative juices flowing! 🙂