Dustin Abbott / Member Interview
Dustin is a dual-citizen, born in California, USA, and more recently became a citizen of his adopted Canada. He currently resides in Petawawa, Ontario, Canada.
Dustin Abbott is a photographer, gear reviewer, YouTube influencer, Pastor, and published author. His gear reviews are viewed in every country of the world on a monthly basis and help people around the world make informed decisions. His photography work has been published in a number of major magazines and newspapers. While he is a professional photographer, he still engages with photography for the love of creating art, and while a gear reviewer, he has been known to grab his 40-50 year old classic lenses and embrace their glorious imperfections...just for the fun of it.
What inspired you to become a photographer?
First of all, my dad was an amateur photographer and loved to shoot slides. We would often watch slides from the past as children (he had somewhere close to 10,000 slides), and it was really our replacement for watching movies. As an adult, I was actually elected to a position within my religious organization (that I still hold) where I was placed in charge of the media. I began shooting our events and getting into photography, and, because I had a natural interest in gear, that avenue began to slowly open up for me.
Tell us about your first photo that really validated your interest as a photographer.
I would say my first image that was “Explored” by Flickr. It showed me that I had the capability of producing photographs that other people were interested in.
What do you enjoy photographing the most?
Hmmm, that’s tough for me, actually, as I tend to be very engaged in the moment and what I’m currently doing. I honestly enjoy all types of photography. I rarely go back and look at my old work, actually, unless I’m showing it to other people.
What has been your proudest moment as a photographer?
Probably seeing my work on the cover of a magazine. There is something about print that still feels very permanent in a digital world.
How do you feel photography has impacted the way you see the world?
That’s actually a very profound thing. It has changed everything. There was so much that I just didn’t see before. The beauty in the little or mundane things. The play of light and shadow. The expressions on people’s faces. The potential distractions in the background that could ruin a photo or make post-processing difficult.
I would also say that an incredibly important shift in your mind (that has to happen to any photographer for them to become excellent) is to learn to instinctively know what works as a photograph and what doesn’t. Not everything that looks appealing to the eye works well as a photograph, and many things that aren’t particularly appealing to the eye can make fantastic photographs through use of proper technique.
What do you see photographers doing today, that if done differently tomorrow, would improve their success?
Being lazy about letting the camera do all the work. I actually wrote an article for Digital Photography School once about how every photographer needs to use a manual focus lens. Not all the time, but enough to start to really understand aperture, depth of field, and slowing down a little and actually visualizing a shot. Sometimes underexposed or overexposed images make better photographs than perfectly balanced or exposed ones. If you know how to actually do things manually, you can easily create more compelling shots. Too many people don’t realize their potential because they never take the time to understand how their camera actually works.
To get your creative eye focused, where do you draw your inspiration from?
This question actually ties into the next one, so I’ll answer them together. The tip I most often give to aspiring photographers or those who want to get better is to look at a lot of photos. Find some people whose work inspires you and follow them. Not to copy their technique, per se, but rather to train your brain to know what makes an amazing photo. I’m an incredibly busy person, but I try to take a little time every day to look at photos that I haven’t taken. I want to see work from people that are better than me...so I can keep getting better myself.
Your photos look amazing, what are some must-use tools in your post-processing workflow?
I use a fairly broad range of tools for specific things. As noted, I start in Lightroom and a lot of my work there. I’ve taken the time to develop a lot of presets that help with color management, creating a certain “look”, and maximizing the potential of my lenses and cameras. I often then go into Photoshop for the layering potential, and from there I will launch other programs as plug-ins to retain that layering ability. I use programs like Luminar, Alien Skin Exposure, Aurora HDR, and then utilize Jimmy McIntyre’s Raya Pro tools within Photoshop along with my own custom actions and overlays.
I see a lot of pros using Luminar. What do you like most about this software?
One of their best tools is that all of their presets have intensity sliders. Sometimes presets at lower intensities look fantastic. Their new Sky AI is also very cool, as it essentially eliminates the need for masking (time consuming) to target the sky. You can quickly make a photo more dynamic with this tool.
What are some ‘must have’ items in your camera bag?
One basic is a LensPen (particularly since the Sony a7RIII’s sensor is a bit of dust magnet). Extra batteries and memory cards. I also keep a Peak Design Leash strap in all my bags. It’s so small that it’s easy to tuck into a corner, and yet it’s strong enough that I can carry any of my cameras (at least for a while) on it. This also eliminates the need to always have a strap attached to my camera. I also put grip extenders or something on my cameras to make them Arca-Swiss compatible so that I can quickly put them right on a tripod without the need for a quick release plate. This saves time, and because I live in Canada (where winter is long and cold), I often don’t want to mess with trying to screw something into place while in the field.
What camera do you use the most?
What is your all-time favorite lens?
The Canon EF 35mm F1.4L II. It does everything well.
What is your favorite post-processing software?
Adobe Lightroom - it’s my home base that I access everything else from. And I use Luminar as a plug-in.
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