Insights and ideas from Scott A. Woodward
Choosing a new adventure
Change can happen in an instant. One day I was working as a regional marketing manager at American Express in Singapore and the next I was a freelance photographer. A call from a friend in trouble during the devastating tsunami in Thailand in 2004 made me realize that life is short, and I should spend my time doing something I truly love. Taking a page from my favorite Choose Your Own Adventure childhood books, I decided to change the ending of my story. My new adventure involves making editorial and commercial photography, all enhanced with Adobe® Photoshop® Lightroom® 3 software.
I grew up in Canada and was introduced to photography at an early age by my father, who taught me how to operate a manual camera, interpret light, and imaginatively compose an image. He also instilled in me a sense of wonder and adventure that I take with me on every shoot. My work is people oriented and my desire to tell great stories drives me to discover new and remarkable photographic opportunities throughout Asia, where I continue to live and work.
Whether it’s a camera or software, I’ve always believed that technology can make a good photo great, but it can’t make a bad photo good. I developed my first portfolio and began marketing my work in 2003. I was still shooting with 35mm film, and after having my best photos digitized, a friend imported them into Adobe Photoshop. Minor adjustments made a noticeable difference, and I immediately realized what a profound impact digital photography could have on my career. I worked with Photoshop for years, and when I added Lightroom to my workflow, it quickly became the most important piece of software I own.
I love shooting location-based narratives, where it’s just me and my camera. For a Travel + Leisure Australia shoot, I spent 28 days on the Mekong River traveling through Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand. I shot 12,000 images and went through and flagged my selects in Lightroom at the end of each day. I then used the Develop module to work on cropping and fine-tuning exposures, brightening shadows, and bringing back blown-out highlights. I feel the resulting images represent the truth of the world around me.
I balance the isolation of my reportage work with collaborative advertising and fashion photography. Working with teams of models, stylists, and art directors energizes me, and I’m able to apply techniques from my editorial work in advertising settings, and vice versa. The immediacy of shooting tethered to Lightroom when I’m in the studio or on location saves time and helps me ensure I’m delivering on a client’s vision.
The nondestructive editing tools and a host of presets in Lightroom let me quickly get the look I need, whether it’s brightening shadows or making precise overall adjustments to color and contrast. I’m amazed at how many high-quality presets are available online for free. Just a few years ago, I purchased a tutorial book to get instructions on how to achieve a specific look in Photoshop for a fashion campaign I photographed on the Eastern & Oriental Express train. Today, I can achieve the same desired effect with the press of a single button using Lightroom and presets.
Living in Asia presents me with amazing opportunities to travel to exotic locations and work for top brands. It’s exciting to see my work featured in a wide variety of international publications, and I was just recently honored by Lürzer's Archive as one of the “200 Best Ad Photographers Worldwide” (2010/2011). It’s a different career than I had planned, but I chose my own adventure and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Scott’s 1970’s nostalgia preset