Snowy, Rainy, Blech

To say it’s a crappy day would be putting it mildly.  We had about 10″ of snow over night, the wind has kicked up and it’s currently alternating between raining and snowing.  It’s just not pretty out there.  So I’m going to spend the day finishing the images for house I shot yesterday.  Yes.  I shot a house yesterday.  A very nice 5600 square foot house complete with an in-law suite.  So I should have something later today to show.  That is the one thing I do miss about Southern California.  The ability to shoot year round.  Though I will admit it’s been the best January and February I’ve had since I’ve moved back East.  

The Bride

Yesterday I promised I would post a couple of shots of Kim, the bride from the last wedding I shot.  She had beautiful skin and a lovely smile.  Well you can judge that for yourself.  I also wanted to thank Corey and Faymus Media for the opportunity to capture this wedding.  I forgot to mention this fact yesterday.  All of these shots are natural light.  Captured in her hotel room.  I used my 5D MKI and a Canon 24-105 f4IS.  This is a great lens and I love it.  All post work was done in LR5.  Nothing fancier than that.


Brooklyn Bound

Sorry I’ve been MIA for a little bit.  What can I say?  Been busy.  Since I last blogged I’ve done 4 real estate shoots, an event for the JDRF and a wedding up in Brooklyn.  A week and half ago I did my first Friday wedding. A little odd considering it wasn’t the height of wedding season but the families were Seventh Day Adventists so a Friday wedding it was.  Kim and Alton were a great couple.  She was originally from Bermuda and he was from Jamaica.  Kim was great.  A wonderful personality and stunningly gorgeous skin. (I’ll post a couple bridal shots at a later date as I haven’t finished them yet) The ceremony was small (and fast) with family and just a handful of friends.  It was a quick 20 minute ceremony.  It seemed like I blinked and it was over.  After the formals I ventured to a small street with bride and groom that had a view of one of the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge.  Kim and Alton wanted to get some shots with the bridge in the background.  I readily agreed since I wasn’t familiar with the area and didn’t get anytime to scout things out and it was Winter.  The location presented a couple of issues.  Bright Sun on the bridge and cityscape.  We were in the shadow of a building.  It was necessary for us to stand in the middle of a street.  There were cars parked on either side and snow to contend with.  And it was only about 20 degrees.  Since we rode together I didn’t pack all the gear.  The cameras, a flash and a 42″ reflector.  While I wish had brought more I was still able to get some good shots with the aid of a variable neutral density filter that is.  Here’s a couple of shots.

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A Great Start!!!

At the end of 2013 I made a commitment to myself to not only grow as a photographer but to grow the business as well.  If January is any indication, I’m not going to have any problem growing the business.  I’ve already done 4 real estate shoots in the past week.  I’ve got 3 more scheduled for next week along with an event for the JDRF South Jersey Chapter, a wedding for Faymus Media and one more real estate shoot at the end of the month.   If everything on schedule comes through I will have more than doubled the number of real estate shoots I did last January.  Plus put another wedding under my belt.  The biggest trick is getting all of the future promotions and work together and getting my name out to more realtors.  This year I’m also going to put significantly more effort in getting my name to architects and designers.  I REALLY want to get into more architectural work.  It would be nice to spend the time really putting together a nice architectural shoot.  I love getting all of the details together for shoots like that.  The planning.  The preproduction. And the ability to really craft an image.  In the meantime I will continue honing my craft with real estate shoots.  Speaking of which.  I did a shoot last week for Charles Rappa.  A realtor based in Northern Delaware and SEPA.  He had me over to shoot a beautiful home of about 4500 sq. ft.  While I was getting set-up Charles mentioned to me that house had been on the market before with another realtor.  And that realtor had had the house shot several times because the owners were extremely picky in how they wanted the house represented.  All Charles said to me was that the owners said  “It’s all about the lighting.”  Oh boy.  Well, I did what I do and held my breath.  The owners were out of town and wouldn’t be back for a couple of days.  I completed the images and sent them off.  Fingers and toes crossed.  I heard back two days later.  The owners loved the pictures!  Thought that they truly represented the house.  YEAH!  Here’s a couple of examples from the shoot.



Annnnnnnnnnnd We’re Off

The new year is here.  And with it all the hopes and dreams that it brings.  I look at the new year as an open book.  One that we write the story line.  One that we control the destiny of the characters.  I’ve mentioned previously that I was really going to dig in and grow my business this year.  Well it’s started.  And I really haven’t’ done anything yet.  While have been working on a marketing plan and moving forward with some promotions, the month has caught fire all of a sudden.  I have done 4 real estate shoots in the past 5 days.  I have 3 more scheduled for later in the month and I have a big event for the JDRF in a week and a half.  To say I’m happy would be an understatement.  This is  the best January I’ve had!!! And it’s not over yet.

I have taken the turning of the new year to change things up a bit.  I’m always on the look out to improve my skills.  So I’ve adopted some new techniques for my real estate work.  In the past I relied heavily on HDR for my images.  While I satisfied for the most part using this technique, I thought that the HDR softened and added some unwanted color caste that required extra time to remove.  But the biggest thing was the softness.  I’ve tried a lot of different sharpening techniques and multiple sharpening passes but a lot of times all they did was bring up unwanted noise artifacts.  So I took the plunge and ordered a couple Yongnuo 560-III flashes to compliment my 580EXIIs.  These are really awesome flashes and I’ve been very impressed with them.  For $75 they are truly incredible.  While they lack any TTL it doesn’t bother me.  I usually work in manual anyways.  I highly recommend these flashes.  The new technique I’m using involves multiple flashes and some compositing.  I will say I’m much happier with the results.  What do you think?

Reyes Wedding Reyes Wedding Reyes Wedding Reyes WeddingReyes Wedding

What’s Wrong with Philly?

I am always on the lookout for ways to improve my photography.  I love the webinars and tutorials I find on-line.  I especially love Creative Live.  Their webinars are usually a two or three days with world renown photographers or Photoshop specialists.  These are absolutely awesome!  But to be honest I’d really like to attend a live seminar.  So with that in mind I went on-line to see if I could find anything coming to the Philadelphia area.  Know what I found?  Zip. Ziltch. Nada.  I could find plenty in NYC (of course).  I found a bunch in Washington DC, Atlanta and other big cities.  I even found a couple in Richmond, VA.  So it begs the question.  Why not Philly?  It’s not that I don’t like these other cities.  It’s not the cost of the seminars. (I believe that you can’t put a price on furthering ones career)  It’s the added cost of Hotels and meals for a couple of nights that often makes it hard to justify the cost.  Often times these factors more than double the cost of the seminar.  And while my business isn’t doing badly, these added costs push the price to a point where I just can’t justify the expenditure.  I know that there is a lot of photographers in the Philly area and it has a fairly active art community.  Is it just too close to NYC?  Is it seen by many as an outgrowth of NYC?  I do know that some commercial work is done by photogs from NYC.  Is it the misbelief that photographers in NYC are superior to those here in Philly?  So, what is wrong with Philly?

Portraiture and a Gift for Myself

With the beginning of the New Year my Christmas gift to myself arrived.  It is Gregory Heisler’s  50 Portraits.  I had been reading from all the photographers that I hold in high regard (Scott Kelby, Joe McNally and few others) that this was a MUST read.  I must agree.  I’ve had a really hard time putting it down.  It is well written and Gregory’s writing style is very genuine and flows effortlessly.  His description of each portrait is, to say the least, engaging.  After reading each of these descriptions I find myself examining each of the portraits with a fine-toothed comb.  Looking for all the clues to the lighting techniques.  But what I find is more than just lighting technique or high tech cameras at work.  (In fact most of the images are created with either an old school 11×14 view camera or an RZ67 medium format film camera.)  What it is is Heisler’s ability to capture the essence of the subject.  Whether and extreme close-up or a full length portrait of Al Pacino, his ability to connect with the subject.  With each subject placing their trust in this artist to capture them in a way that is not always about flattery but honestly.  If you are a photographer let alone a portrait photographer this IS a must read.

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.