All posts by Mark Wallace

Mark is a traveler, photographer, and writer.

DVD series in pre-production

I’ve had many, many requests to offer my Studio Lighting 101 and Digital Photography 101 workshops on DVD. A lot of people just live to far away to attend the workshops. I’m happy to say that we are now in pre-production.

What does “pre-production” mean? Well, I have to translate everything that usually happens in a classroom and studio to a flat 2D screen. There is a lot of location scouting, creating storyboards, planning animations, research, and drinking coffee. Pre-production includes creating shooting schedules, finding local talent (models, camera operators, assistants), getting permits, etc. Oh – and did I mention writing?

The pre-production should be finished by the end of January with shooting starting in February. This is a large project and I estimate it will take about 6 weeks to shoot and edit. Once that’s done it takes another 3 weeks for Amazon to get all their ducks in a row (yes, it will be available on Amazon).

We’ll also need artwork for the DVD set which means I’ll be working with some graphic designers along the way. There may also be a workbook that accompanies the video so you can take notes and have a field manual when you are doing the exercises.

Yes, there are exercises for every lesson on the DVD and we’ll have a Flickr group so you can post your results and discuss them with others who have the DVDs.

Once the DVDs are finished I’ll be working on a teacher’s guide so that schools and photo clubs will be able to use the DVDs.

The first set of DVDs will be focused on basic photography – a translation of my 8-week course. That should be done by the end of March. Once that’s out the door I’ll be working on some studio lighting DVDs.

Along the way we’ll be posting behind-the-scenes photos and updates. We’ll also be posting new Digital Photography One on One videos – don’t worry.

This is going to be a big project and I’m looking forward to taking on the challenge. I’m sure it will be worth the effort when it’s all done.

Everything is Inspiration: Books

Yesterday I wrote a bit about the types of activities that help me keep my creative skills sharp. As I started to compile my list of inspirational things I realized it was pretty long. So I’ve decided to break it up in to several smaller posts.

I’ve created a new category called “inspiration” to make it easy to track these entries in the future. It also allows me to add everything I forgot along the way (I know I’m going to forget a few things).

Hover your cursor over each link to get a full description (this will not work in your RSS reader – sorry). If you have suggestions just leave a comment.

Great books to read:

Everything is inspiration: Part One

There are times when I’m in the zone, you’ve been there too. You’re brain is cracking at a million miles an hour, ideas are flowing and creativity is second nature. And then there are those times when my brain is just a dusty cobweb. When my brain becomes a barren land I need inspiration. Luckily everything is inspiration if you know how to mine it for good thoughts.

Through all of the 90’s I was part of a creative team that had to create a high volume of quality ideas and then turn those ideas into something that could survive on a stage with a live audience. On our team we had actors, writers, video editors, camera operators, musicians, and producers. It was my job to figure out a way to get all of these people in synch.

I’d love to tell you that I discovered a way to make everyone creative and brilliant every moment of every day. I didn’t. But as a team we did discover a few things. One of the best things was Doug Hall’s book, “Jump Start Your Brain.” If you can bear with the silliness you’ll find gold in this book.

Hall asserts that “wicked ideas” are born by using things all around us as “stimuli” to feed our creative selves. He gives some practical methods of working in groups to take a new and unpolished idea, an “ugly baby”, and nourish it until it grows into a beautiful thing.

I’ve taken Hall’s methods and fine tuned them for my brain and work habits over the past 19 years. I’ve discovered that a few things work very well for me.

I agree with Hall that everything is inspiration and so I look at a wide range of things over a wide range of topics. Everything you do (or know) informs everything else you do (or know). Here are some of my regular mental exercises:


I read magazines, blogs, and newspapers when I have a spare moment and I budget time every day for books. I usually read for at least an hour a day. I believe that reading is one of my most important mental exercises because it allows me to experience things not possible by any other means.

If you are finding it difficult to find time to read I have one suggestion: TURN OFF YOUR TV. Do you want to crank up your creative prowess instantly, just turn off the boob tube. You won’t miss it.


Writing forces you to think. And thinking is what makes our brain stronger. You can write a blog or scribble in a journal. It doesn’t matter, just write. If you’re not sure how to write then head down to your local bookstore and buy some books about writing. I suggest Steven King’s book, “On Writing”.


I’ve been accused of loving coffee a bit too much. It’s true, I love my coffee, but there is another component that I love even more – conversation. I rarely drink coffee by myself, I’m usually meeting someone to have a conversation over coffee. I don’t think a week goes by without me meeting a friend or student at the coffee shop for a good conversation.

Sharing your thoughts with someone gives them feet. You may discover your ideas aren’t as easy to quantify as you thought, you’re friend will help you get your ugly baby back on solid ground by asking questions and helping you feed the idea. When you speak something it becomes real.


I’ve discovered that I can create best when I have music to help me along. I have a modest collection of music and it’s constantly growing. I tap into classical or instrumental music while writing and working on thought rich processes. I crank up Radiohead when I need some extra adrenaline to make it through a long shoot.

I also have a collection of guitars. I’m not beyond pulling out my Fender and strumming a few chords when I need to get my brain in gear. Learning how to play an instrument is a terrific exercise because it teaches us patience and persistence.

Live music is incredible inspiring as well. Get out and go see a band. Even if they aren’t famous you’ll have a blast and come home happier.


I study the lives of people who inspire me. How did they become who they are? What did they do? Where did they live? The questions go on and on. I try to learn everything I can about people I find inspirational so I can emulate the good and avoid the bad.

I love meeting new people and learning about them. When I travel I try to talk to as many people as I can. It helps me understand that the United States isn’t the center of the world – and I’m not either.

Elderly people are gold. Sit down and talk with someone who’s over 80 years old. Ask them to tell you their life story. Sip your coffee and learn.


I believe that you don’t know who you really are unless you’ve travelled. Get out of your town. Get out of your state. Leave your country. Go see the world. You’ll be amazed at what lies beyond your borders.

For years I wanted to visit India. I studied the history of India. I watched movies. I talked to anyone who was from or had been to India. I looked at thousands of photos. I studied maps. I thought I knew India until I walked out of the New Delhi airport and smelled India for the first time.

If you want to know a place go see it for yourself. It will change your perceptions of the place you call home because you’ll return changed.


I’m a movie addict. It’s true, I watch two or three movies every week. Sometimes more. I love foreign films and documentaries and comedies and movies of all types. But I’ve also studied how movies are made and visited sets and studied acting, writing, and directing. I’ve been involved in short films and editing.

When I watch a movie I pay attention to camera angles, color, DOF, blocking, editing, acting, etc. Sometimes I’ll watch a movie several times in a row. If I want to get a better feel of the camera moves I’ll watch a movie with the sound off. I’ll pause and rewind and replay.

Then I’ll watch it again with the commentary. Sometimes this drives Diane nuts. But I am a bit nuts.

Art Galleries

Go to every gallery you can. Look at painting, sculpture, photography, film, and every artistic discipline available to you. Travel and see the famous galleries.


That’s right, practice. The more you do something the better you become at that thing. If you’re a photographer you’ll become a better photographer with more confidence. That confidence will allow you to try new things which will in turn make you more creative.


There are times when I’m just beat and nothing I do will produce the results that I want or need. Sometimes that means I need to work harder, dig deeper, push my limits, or get help. Sometimes it just means I need some rest. Don’t be afraid to take a day off and do nothing. You need it.


I always try to have fun when I’m working. Ask any of my students, I’m a bit of a wacky guy. I’m more motivated to continue working when things are enjoyable. Laughter is a great source of inspiration. And it’s contagious. Once I start laughing I usually feel relaxed enough to throw out ideas that are just dumb and sometimes those become a reality.

The name of our business was created when Diane and I were laughing our heads off talking about my finger snapping abilities. I was making a bunch of dumb jokes about how my snaps were going to change the world or something silly. At some point one of us said we were going to create a snap factory to manufacture cool finger snaps. We then realized that we had the name of our business.

Keeping an open mind

You never know when a good idea is going to hit you. If you keep your mind open and always looking for ideas you’ll find them much more frequently. Diane and I had been looking for a studio name for weeks when SnapFactory came from a joke.

A few months ago I was stuck at a red light when I saw a girl on a tandem bike ride across the road by herself. Why was she riding alone? Was there someone else in her past? Was the bike new? I scribbled down this experience and am now using it as the basis for a short film.

To Be Continued…

Now that I’ve described a few of the things that help me in my creative life I’ll take a break. In Part Two I’ll give you some specific examples of people, places, and things I find incredibly inspirational. I’ll name the books, magazines, papers, blogs, and more.

Stay tuned…

Twitter shoot

Gwen Lindvig by Mark Wallace. Copyright 2009 Mark Wallace/SnapFactory

Today I had a terrific shoot with Gwen Lindvig. At the last minute I decided I would give real-time updates via Twitter. It was a lot of fun and a lot of my twitter friends enjoyed it. I think I may do this again but I’ll do it a bit differently.

Things I liked:

  • People were asking questions via Twitter during the shoot. I was able to answer and even snap iPhone shots to illustrate what I was doing.
  • People were talking about things real-time. It was a blast to have a group talking about things as they progressed.
  • It was great to take snapshots of the lighting setup and then show the results so quickly.

Things I’ll change:

  • I’ll probably create a Twitter account just for the live updates. I’m not so sure EVERYONE wanted to get so many updates.
  • It was a spur of the moment idea. Next time I’ll make announcement so people will know in advance.
  • It was too much to shoot iPhone updates, tweet, and conduct a photo shoot all at the same time. In the future I’ll have a dedicated “reporter” shooting and typing updates for me.

Thanks for everyone who joined in on the fun. Let me know if you have suggestions or comments.

Diane was the makeup artist today and did a stellar job. Our model was Gwen Lindvig. I’ll post some of the photos once they’ve been retouched.

New… Threaded Discussions!


I’m happy to announce a new feature of our web site: threaded discussions.  You’ve always been able to post comments on our blog, but now you can post comments and discuss those comments with others.  You can even start your own thread (topic) and get input from others.  It’s the lite version of an online community.

So how does it work? Easy, to comment on something you see on the blog, just click “comment” and type away. Want to reply to someone’s comment? Just click “reply” under the comment. Want more? No problem, just head over to our Disqus community:

Use the comments and threads to ask us questions, make suggestions, and grow as an artist.

Happy commenting!

2008 in review

We just have a few hours of 2008 left and I thought I’d take a moment to review the year from my perspective. 2008 brought some big changes to SnapFactory and 2009 looks like it’s going to be even more exciting. Here are a few of the hits and misses for 2008:

  • We moved in to our new, larger, studio. The new studio allowed us to improve our workshops and gave us a permanent home for our video projector. We added new furniture and finally got a real coffee bar.
  • Diane had a great year shooting for several magazines including Desert Living, Perfectify, and Runway. The 8-page spread in Runway is on store shelves right now.
  • I challenged myself with some architectural photography and was pleased that the photos ran full page in Phoenix Home & Garden Magazine.
  • Our entire web presence got an upgrade. We upgraded our blog, gave our website a facelift, and created a new easy-to-use enrollment system for our workshops.
  • We were able to make it out to New York City a few times where we were able to connect with some great clients, make some new friends, and check out some awesome galleries. We did not go to Paris this year. Boo.
  • Two of our workshops were cancelled due to lack of interest: Photoshop Basics and our screenwriting workshop. Darn recession!
  • Our new On-Camera Flash workshop sold out in record time and we had standing room only; two people had no chairs – sorry Jeff and Craig. The next round in February is nearly full already. Take that recession!
  • Diane launched Red Lion Photo, a company dedicated to her family and kids photography. Families all over America are loving the memories she captured. Her Christmas cards were a HUGE success. Way to go Diane!
  • We created 6 new episodes of Digital Photography One on One. Our series has now passed the 1 million view landmark. With over a million views we’ve had some very interesting comments on YouTube and other sites about our videos. To all the people who sent us great questions and gave us constructive feedback, thank you. To the few who did not like the videos – your refund check is in the mail.
  • Diane was able to invest a lot of time volunteering at the Arizona Humane Society. Many of the animals she photographed were adopted. Her tireless work has saved the lives of dozens of animals this year. She’s a real superhero.
  • I spent many hours talking to artists about a new way to use art to change the world. The Artists Group at SnapFactory was created and will launch in March 2009.

Wow, that’s a lot, and those are just the highlights. Thanks for being a part of our lives in 2008 and we look forward to many more years in the coming years.

A very special thanks goes out to a few people who went above and beyond to help us out this year. In no specific order thanks to: Erin Markis, Jeff Carolli, Craig Bolton, Daniel Anderson, Yasmin Besonia, Phil Bradon, Brandon Bohling, Matt Hill, Ray Vitiello, Ed Hidden, and Bill Crawford.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

POV shooting…


A bunch of people have responded to yesterday’s video about the “Luka-Cam” asking for more information. The Luka-Cam video will be included in a much longer video about PocketWizards that will be finished in a couple of weeks. So until then I suggest you check out these two terrific resources.

Chase Jarvis TECH: POV Photography. In this video Chase walks you through his process of creating “killer point-of-view (POV) images.” This is a great video and the page also has some video stills to help illustrate the details.

PocketWizard: Behind the Scenes with Jack Reznicki. This video will show you how to use a pocket wizard to trigger your camera. It’s three minutes of fun.

In the video I used two PocketWizard Plus II transceivers; one on the camera and one in my hand. The PocketWizard in my hand triggered the PocketWizard on the camera which in turn told the camera to take the picture.

I also used a pre-trigger cable from the PocketWizard to the camera. This is a special cable that keeps the camera “alive”. It’s just the same as holding the shutter release button halfway down. Check the PocketWizard site for the cable that matches your camera.

The Magic Arm is made by Manfrotto. B&H Photo has a Magic Arm Kit that is a great deal. The whole thing is just under $140.

The most important part of the photo shoot was, of course, Luka. Luka was rescued by Diane in 2005 and he’s a big part of our family. We are very pro-adoption and encourage everyone to adopt a pet if possible. Check out and skip the mall pet stores forever.

If you live in the Phoenix Metro area we highly recommend two local charities: The Arizona Humane Society and Arizona Rescue. Diane spends almost every saturday at The Arizona Humane Society with her camera at her side. She takes many of the wonderful photos you see on their site. It’s amazing how much good a photo can do. Almost every dog she photographs is adopted.

A day in the life of Luka

I started shooting a some new footage for the next Digital Photography One on One video. In this video I’m going to be showing you how to use PocketWizards to control your camera. I thought it would be a blast to shoot Luka (our dog) from a very low point of view so we could see the world through his eyes.

Shooting mobile just a few inches from the ground required me to create a rig that would allow me to run while holding Luka and my camera and also let me take pictures. The PocketWizards worked great. Here’s a sneak peek at the next video and some of the shots from today.

Luka-Cam from Mark Wallace on Vimeo.

Luka checking out a tree.

Luka “getting some sniffs”.

More sniffs.

Jeff shooting the video.

A shot from our second setup when we had the camera mounted outside of my truck. I was able to shoot pictures of Luka while driving.


I’m very excited to tell you about something new at SnapFactory. We are calling it TAG.

TAG stands for The Artists Group at SnapFactory. The Artists Group is who we are; SnapFactory is where we are.

TAG is a local gathering of people dedicated to the exploration of ideas as expressed through art. We are a refuge for artists who desire to explore their medium and get constructive feedback along the journey. We believe that through our art we can change humanity in a positive way.

TAG is free to all who wish to participate. There may be costs associated with some of the activities but there will never be a price of admission to our events.

TAG is about ideas. We agree with TED in “the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world.” TAG is open to all forms of art and is committed to expressing ideas through our art.

TAG is local. While we understand the power and virtue of online community we choose to meet face-to-face. We believe that community is key to our growth. We meet at the SnapFactory studio in Phoenix, AZ.

TAG is global. We want to share as much as possible with those who cannot meet locally. To this end we publish our learning on the web in the form of blog entries, videos, and podcasts.

You can participate in several ways:

The Group

The Group is a select group of 12 artists who are passionate about their art. The Group meets frequently and the membership of this group is rotated regularly.

Each member:

  • Discusses their work and seeks constructive feedback.
  • Chooses a project that is beyond anything they have attempted previously and works on that project for the duration of their time with the group.
  • Will display their work to the public in a free gallery showing.
  • Will be available to answer questions during the showing of their work.
  • Will research art and discuss their findings with the group.

The Group hosts discussions with experts in different fields of the art world. These discussions are released on our website under a Creative Commons license so they can be freely shared and posted.

If you’d like to be considered as a member of The Group simply answer four questions and send them to us:

  1. What is your medium? (Photography, painting, writing, etc)
  2. What ideas or themes are you exploring in your art? Please elaborate.
  3. Who or what inspires you? Why? You don’t have to limit this to one person or thing.
  4. Please attach or give us a URL where we can see your work.

TAG Events:

Several times a year The Group invites an artist to displays their work in a local gallery. Everyone is invited and there are no admission fees. The artist is available to answer questions about the works displayed and discuss the ideas that led to their creation.

Throughout the year TAG will screen films that challenge us to think in new ways. Following each film there will be time for discussion.

We ask that you support the artists who are involved in TAG by purchasing their works so that we can continue to offer The Forum and Events free of charge.

We plan to launch the first TAG events in March, 2009. We’ll keep you posted on new developments right here on the blog. It’s going to be awesome.

Inspiration in the rocks?

About a year ago my friend Craig was telling me how uninspired he was about his photography. He had his new 1D Mark III and was telling me that there wasn’t much to shoot. I challenged him to a friendly duel. I told him there’s always something to shoot and told him to grab his camera.  We walked outside to a dreary drainage area and I proposed the challenge: 5 minutes in the pile of rocks, my iPhone vs. his fancy camera, may the best man win.

The scene of the photo challenge, just a pile of rocks in a parking lot.

As we shot I encouraged Craig to look for pattern (that’s easy in a pile of rocks), unusual point of view, rule of thirds, texture, line, form, etc.  Here are my results from worst to best.  Remember, these were all shot with an iPhone in about 5 minutes.

My shadow.  It’s not very original but I couldn’t resist.

Dried mud.  It’s a bit out of focus but I like the texture.

Tree from below.  Check out that blue!  The iPhone doesn’t have great white balance.

Rule of thirds from a nearby wall.

This is my favorite.  Some dead leaves on concrete.

Well there you have it. You can find a photo just about anywhere you look.  Now it’s your turn, take the 5 minute challenge.  Go out to your parking lot, back yard, park, etc and make some photos.  Post the URL to your shots in the comments section.  Let’s see what you’ve got!

Click here to see Criag’s photos and read what he had to say.