Sometimes There’s Just No Figuring

Like most photographers I have a Flickr account.  There’s some 388 images in my galleries.  More than some.  Less than others.  I really only like to post my best work up there.  I don’t think of it like Instagram or Facebook for pictures.  There’s really no need for everyone to know about every image I take.  But something interesting has happened over the past month and I really don’t have any reason for it.  I shattered my one day views.  My previous high was 147.  But three weeks ago I had 583 views in one day! Then 400 and some the next!  Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m not complaining.  But I did nothing to prompt this.  I hadn’t even posted any new images.  It just happened out of the blue.  To top it off the image that got the most hits was one that I had taken more than 9 years ago.  I have to admit it is still one of my favorite images and have had multiple requests for copies.


It was taken at Joshua Tree National Park in California during a workshop.  I’m sorry to say that I can’t remember the instructor’s name.  But it was a lot of fun and I did learn a lot.  This isn’t the only great shot I got that weekend.  Here’s one more.  Taken in the early, early morning on the last day.


I’m trying to remember but I think it was all done in PS3.  Long before I really knew anything about Photoshop or Plug-ins or anything else really.


And have a safe and happy New Years.

Please don’t drink and drive!  I know it gets said ALOT at this time of year but don’t let your fun end on a bad note.

‘Twas the Day/Night Before

Haven’t blogged in a couple of days.  Not a whole log going on.  Finalizing accounting for the year.  Trying to get some sort of game plan together for 2014.  I really need to step-up my game next year.  I fully realize that I’m going to have to be much more aggressive in my marketing and try even harder to separate myself from the masses.  Not quite sure how but it has to happen.  Next year marks 3 years I’ve been doing this as my sole income.  While not quite unsuccessful, I really need to be more successful.  The real estate market is doing much better and I really hope to increase the number of shoots I do 2014.  But I do need to find other sources of income.  I am really going to push the architectural aspect.  I’m sure there is a little confusion when I say that.  Most people would be asking, “Aren’t real estate and architecture the same thing?”  Well not really.  Over the past year or so I’ve come to some really profound realizations regarding the delineation between the two.  First is to understand that for realtors the images are just another tool.  One that they aren’t going to care about after the property is sold.  Secondly realtors don’t really care about how good your images are.  As long as they are better than they can take with their point and shoot that’s all that matters.  Thirdly because the initial cost comes out of their pocket, they don’t want to spend a lot of money.  I’ve done some research on this and the national average price for a real estate shoot is $300.  That is for 20-25 images.  When you break this down to a per image price it is $12-$15.  Remember that’s for unlimited usage.  Which usually includes, MLS, Realtors website, print brochures, and God knows what else.  As for architectural.  These are typically for portfolios, advertising, magazine spreads.  These images will be used for years by the architect, builder, or designer.  A much different area.  As a photographer you get to spread your creative wings a little and can really craft an image.  These clients are considerably more discerning when it comes to the quality of image they want.  This is where you can really show off your talents as a photographer and create that special image.  These clients are also willing to pay for that creativity.  I would really love the opportunity to spend several days photographing a property.  Waiting for the light to be just right in each room.  With real estate you never get that opportunity.  Because of the cost limitations you can’t afford to scout the property and wait for the right time of day to shoot each room and spend all day at the property.  Personally I like to limit my on-site time to no more than 3 hours when doing a real estate shoot.  This way I can get  two done in a day when I have to.

Well here’s to a great 2014.  Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year!!

Westtown Demo_V2I’ll leave you with the Holiday ad I did for Westtown Township.

It’s Been A While

It’s been awhile since I’ve gotten on my soapbox.  A recent email has set me off.  A little bit of the back story first. Earlier this year Kim and I had to replace the gable vents on our house.  The original ones had rotted and one was leaking significantly.  So we purchased new ones on-line from a company by the name of Architectural Depot.  The product we received was great and installed fairly easily.  That brings us up to speed.  On Monday Kim forwarded an email from their marketing department asking for images of their product as it was used in our project.  Here is a copy of that email:

Hi there. We are doing a series of photo spreads in our new catalog, on our website, in our blog, and in magazine advertisements. We still need a few more photos of the exact product you purchased from us earlier this year. 

Would you be willing to snap a few photographs of how you used and installed our product? I would really appreciate it. 

Just reply to this email with your photos (my email only accepts files smaller than 2MB). If your picture is larger than 2MB, just click the link below and load it directly onto our website.

The more pictures you can send, the better. You will be able to see your project on one of our websites or even in our printed catalog.
There will be a winning picture selected and that person will receive a full page spread in one of our upcoming brochures! 

We look forward to seeing your project and thank you very much for your help. 

James | Marketing Department | xt. 7105



So the basic gist is send us your photos so we can use them to advertise our company both on the web and in print.  Your compensation will be nothing unless we like it enough then we’ll use as a two page spread.  OOOOOOOO!  And oh yeah.  We won’t even give you credit for the image.  The sad and unfortunate part of this is there will undoubtedly be hundreds of people who will oblige them.  Once again taking work from photographers and providing (free of charge and licensing) countless images for this company to grow their business.  Maybe I’m alone on this but it strikes me that these companies should be paying for these images.   This type of corporate glad-handing sickens me.  As professional photographers we scrape and scrounge for every client we get.  To have these companies discount our work by basically saying “We don’t need professional images.  We can grow our business using Johnny Client’s images free of charge.”  Makes me seriously wonder what path the commercial photography business is heading.  The saddest part of this is that once started down the path of cheap photography, there is no turning back.  These companies are single handedly destroying a portion of the photography business.  How long before other major corporations like Bank of America, Gucci, Macy’s start down this path?  Just to save a few dollars.  Dollars that make up an infinitesimal percentage of the annual income generated by those images.  I saw this happen in the music industry and then the film industry.  All it did was generate a lot of crappy music and crappy films.  It lead me to coin a phrase.  “Shove crap down people’s throats long enough, they acquire a taste for it.”                                                                                              Sorry for the rant.  I promise it will be the last one for the year.

A Little Something for Myself (and my Family)

It’s only been 6 months since my girlfriend’s daughter Emily graduated high school.  And No this isn’t a calendar update. (But there is only 9 days left before Christmas).  What it is is more of a statement as to how busy I’ve been this past summer.  Things just kind of exploded after Emily graduated.  Both professionally and personally.  The thing is I’ve finally gotten caught up on a bunch of personal work including Emily’s graduation pictures.  These were both taken in natural light with my 7D and my 70-200 f2.8IS and finished in LR5 and PS CC.   I think they turned out great.  Now the grandparents will be happy.



The Final Count (For the Year that is)

Yesterday I did what will undoubtedly be the last real estate shoot of the year.  Nothing huge.  Just a 1000 square foot condo in the beautiful Wireworks building in downtown Philly.  With that it brought my total to 108 real estate shoots in 2013.  Not too bad.  But my goal is to increase this number by a 15-20%.  I also want to continue branching out into doing weddings.  I know.  I know.  My About page and previous comments would lead you to believe that weddings were the last thing I’d be branching out into.  But I found myself enjoying the experience of the few that I’ve done over last 2 years.  It’s a lot of hard work.  A LOT.  And I’m not just talking about the actual event.  There are sooooo many people out there calling themselves wedding photographers.  Trying to compete with other professionals, the part-timers and the mom’s with cameras can be daunting.  It has become an especially competitive arena.  The other thing that has happened as a direct result of all this competition is a market full of potential clients that have become VERY price conscious.  But I’m going to give it a shot.  Hopefully with the help of Corey and his company Faymus Media, it will be a successful foray.  Keep your fingers crossed.  I’ll keep you posted

Reyes Wedding

A Snowy Tuesday

Well here in the Philly area we woke to a beautiful blanket of snow.  After growing up on the East Coast then living in Phoenix and Los Angeles for almost 30 years, I relocated back to the East Coast about 3 years ago.  This is the first real snowfall I’ve encountered since my return.  I loved California and especially the Central Coast area.  Absolutely beautiful area of the country.  If you ever get the chance this area of California is highly recommended.  The one thing that I did miss was the change of seasons.  I found it difficult to get into the Holiday Season without that snap in the air and maybe a dusting of snow.  The snow we woke up to (about 4″ and still snowing) just makes it seem that much more like the Holidays.  So kind of being home/studio bound today I’m working on my Holiday card that I’m going to send out to clients, friends and family.  Here’s the final result.  The background shot is from Longwood Gardens here in SEPA.


Monday. Monday.

Got a late start this morning.  So just trying to get caught up on the events of the day.  Not much going on though.  So i guess it’s not too bad of a start of the week.  I’ve been busy getting some computer/file maintenance done.  Including getting my girl’s pictures taken off of an old computer and getting them migrated to new hard drive.  While I’ve been doing this I’ve been watching a Creative Live webinar with master photographer Tony Corbell.  Once again it’s an awesome webinar and Tony is an absolute lighting genius.  I thought I had a lot of the lighting theories down but Tony has just reinforced that knowledge.  He has made me start thinking about lighting techniques and how different modifiers effect the quality of light and the quality of shadow.  I really can’t understate how awesome it’s been and I can’t wait to dive into the next two days with him.  Even if you think you’ve got lighting down, WATCH THIS WEBINAR!  If nothing else hopefully it will get the creative juices flowing.  I know it has for me.

Here’s the link to Tony’s Website;



A Rainy, Rainy Day

It’s been raining since about 1 this morning and hasn’t really let up.  I guess it’s not really supposed to let up until tomorrow with it getting heavier this afternoon.  So I’m sitting here in the office printing images from the Westtown Winter Fest for the people who placed orders the day my computer took a nosedive.  I had gotten away from printing my own images for a while.  It’s a lot of hard work.  You go through a tremendous amount of ink and paper to get the image looking properly.  Then there’s writing of custom profiles for the different paper types and the time that takes.  But you know what.  I missed it.  That feeling of the print coming out of the printer and looking great.  That feeling of “Wow!  I made that!”.  In this digital age we as photographers  don’t  print the majority of images we take.  Yeah it’s fun to post them on-line.  Have your friends and peers send you all sorts of emails and comments about what a beautiful image it is.  But that feeling of holding the printed image.  I had forgotten what that feels like.  That visceral feeling of having a tangible print.  Yes it’s a digital age.  But take the time to create print.  Feel the texture of the paper.  Examine the subtle tonal shifts that sometimes get lost on the computer screen.  Take a moment to admire your craftsmanship in the creation of the image.


It’s ALL about the Client

Yesterday I started watching a webinar on CreativeLive by Scott Robert Lim.  He’s an amazing wedding photographer based in Southern California.  Yesterday was the first part of a three part series he’s doing titled “How to Shoot like a $10K Wedding Photographer”.  His high energy and coupled with a great approach to the job is just amazing.  He is SOOOOO into it.  Most of the day was spent on posing the bride and groom and what he does to capture some of images he gets.  Well it got me thinking.  How much time does he spend with these clients before the actual wedding day?  More importantly.  How much time do they spend getting the images that day?  Well it got me thinking even more.  How much of this is really about the client taking the time and effort to make these images great.  He makes a point to note that in all of the wedding images he’s displaying neither the bride nor groom are professional models.  As he said.  It’s easy working with models.  They know how to pose.  The trick is getting people who are not models to pose like one.  Here again it all gets back to the client.  I started to think about a wedding I couple of weeks ago.  Granted it was a slightly different situation.  I was called last minute.  Had no opportunity to talk to the couple prior to the day of the ceremony.  And was just handed a scheduled and told where to be.  A tough position for even the most experienced photographer.  I knew it was going to be a tough day when the bride showed up at 3:15 for a scheduled 3:30 shoot on the beach.  Oh.  Did I mention she wasn’t dressed, didn’t have her make-up done and didn’t have her hair finished.  Then the groom showed up an hour and 15 minutes later.  The bride wasn’t done getting ready for another hour. Oi!  Not a great start.  NOT a great start.  That left us a little more than an hour to get all of the formals, the group formals and the family formals.  (I knew that we weren’t going to get half of the shot list done.) Well it turns out that neither bride nor groom were really into getting the formal portraits taken.  This is the point of the this rambling.  The biggest factor in getting great wedding portraits is…………… the couple.  Understand that I’m not talking about getting nothing but beautiful people.  I’m talking about a bride and groom that really want to be there.  And most importantly are into getting beautiful images. They have to be into it.  If they’re more into being with their friends and family (or eating) then the images are going to show that.  A large part of it too is connecting with the couple.  It’s a tough thing to do when you’ve only met moments before the shoot.  I guess it all just comes down to getting it all together.  Sometimes no matter how hard you try to connect with the couple it’s just not going to happen.  So make the most of those times where you get the convergence of a couple that you connect with, a couple that’s into making beautiful images and beautiful venue.

The Creative Cloud


I finally took the big step of upgrading to Photoshop CC the other day.  It was a little more involved than I initially thought but it is done and I’m really enjoying the new versions of PS, LR and Bridge.  If you’re a photographer you really should upgrade.  They are currently running a package called “The Photographers Bundle” which includes Photoshop CC, LR 5 (CC) and Bridge CC.  It’s just $9.99 per month for the first year. Be careful. This special expires soon. What I think is awesome is that you get the upgrades to all of these for the equivalent of $120.  How sweet is that?  I know the price is going to jump after the first year but to not have to worry about constantly paying for updates and upgrades is not a bad trade off.  The update went relatively smoothly and all of my presets and actions transferred without a hiccup.  I’m not usually a big corporate rah-rah kinda guy, but for some reason this seems to make a lot of sense for multiple reasons and is something I can get behind.  A word of warning.  If you’re a Mac user make sure you’re running 10.7 at a minimum.  Certain programs (LR) won’t install if you’re  OS is not at least to that point.