Saturday, May 31, 2008

Saturday Morning Cartoons

Enjoy today's installment of Aaron Johnson's photocentric comic strip "What the Duck."

Friday, May 30, 2008

This Weekend: Shooting My First Wedding!

Well, tomorrow is the day that I nail my first wedding assignment! I say it this way because I really believe that thinking positively will affect my outcome....besides it's really all in how I measure what I think "nailing" or "succeeding" at something is. For me, succeeding tomorrow at the Villanueva/Simpkins Wedding will include several realistic goals that I know I can achieve based on past experiences: having at least 50 to 100 sellable prints (which is totally doable for me); keep fresh batteries in my flash/camera; hand out out business cards to at least half of the 175 guests attending the wedding, have fun and try to relax. There, that's not bad, right? I should be able to pull that off! From that point on, everything else will just be gravy!

I have spent the last week having nightmares, sweating and worrying about this assignment. But I woke up this morning finally having reached a calm stillness in my soul that says, "I am talented, and I have worked hard for this. I am supported and loved. I can do this!" I don't have enough time for fear anymore. Now I need to do what I do best: GET OUT THERE and GET THE JOB DONE!

Here's the plan, Stan:
1) I will be shooting with my Canon 5D and a Canon 30D rented from Camren Photographic Services. Each camera will have a lense (the 16-35 on the 5D and the 70-200 on the 30D). Find out why in a subsequent post when I share what I learned from Daniel Doke in the PhotoVision DVD session, "Weddings. Part 2".

I will be responsible for all must-have images, including formal wedding party portraits, bride/groom shots, cutting of the cake, the first dance, etc. etc. While I will have two assistants on this shoot, I've been told to try and shoot the entire event as if I were the only photographer there. "You are the lead photographer; shoot as if everything was depending on you," said one of my instructors, Efrain Cruz. I will shoot the bride while she is getting ready at home, then follow the family to the wedding. Formal portraits will be after the wedding, and then it's off to reception!

2) My buddy and 2nd shooter Jason Peckovitch, owner of the Illusive Dreams photography company, will start off shooting the groom while he is getting gussied up at home, then follow to the wedding. Jason, who specializes in portraits, will be responsible for snapping candids and those terrible "Grip and Grin" shots you already know I hate. Truth is, those images sell. Jason will also set up lights for a mini-portrait locale ala "Prom Night" while at the reception so he can score some more print sales. It has been agree that my shooters will get to keep all the money they make from their print sales so they will have more incentive to get great shots.

3) My third shooter is Mike Haley, my boyfriend. I'm so happy to have him with me on this assignment! His skills as a wonderful landscape photographer will help him capture storytelling, all-encompassing background images with my wide angle lens. He will also shoot some detailed oriented shots as well of decorations, flowers, keepsakes, etc. etc....all those little things that add life to any circumstance.

My goal is to cover this event the same way I would if I were sent out to cover an event for the newspaper, trying to get every angle and every side of the story possible. Got anymore words of encouragement? I would love to hear from you!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Get the Goods: Tried and True XTi or Spanking New 5D?

I just got my new Canon 5D on Tuesday with a picture quality and extended ISO which should be great to work with during my indoor wedding shoot on Saturday. But a question posed by friend and colleague photographer Tiffany Trott got me thinking: Should I shoot the wedding with the tried and true XTi or use the untested and somewhat unknown 5D?

I've been studying the 5D every chance I get to become more familiar with its settings. Some buttons are in different places and my hand hasn't really gotten used to the 5D's new grip. My boyfriend Mike, who will be assisting me at the wedding, needs to use a digital camera (most likely my XTi), but is it a mistake to rely on new equipment during such a challenging shoot? My buddies at Wolf Camera spent an hour with me going over the differences between the two cameras, and they seem confident that I will be just fine shooting the 5D. I still have two days to study it....Here are some test shots I took yesterday just playing around with it. Neither of these photos have been seriously edited in PS3..I just took them through some general editing with Picasa.

Potted Flowers in the World Trade Center Building in downtown Denver

Canon Heaven

Just Me

Breaking News: Quantum Battery Blowout or Faulty Speedlite? Part 2

Earlier this week, I posted up about my Quantum Turbo 2X2 battery charger and the short circuit it may have caused in my 580EXII Speedlite. I am very thankful for the staff at Denver Pro Photo who quickly refunded my money for the questional battery charger as well as the sync cord without any argument or hassle.

They tried using the pack on a Nikon flash, and it worked well. It could also be possible that my flash was faulty; I have yet to hear from Canon about whether my own flash can be revived. Staff confirmed using a third-party product could cause a malfunction, however other wedding photographers have used the Quantum product the same way I hoped to use it without any issues.

Either way, I feel more comfortable now knowing that I got my money back and a new Canon-appropriate CP-E4 battery pack will be arriving soon. Maybe this is just a way for Canon to get people to only buy other Canon products instead of relying on third-party items, and maybe my Speedlite was faulty to begin with. I just hope the Quantum dealers might be willing to offer Denver Pro Photo some type of compensation for their time and efforts as well. As long as I have SOME flash to work with during the wedding, I will be more at ease.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Get Out There: Becoming My Neighborhood Photographer

My dogs could be THE best advertising campaign I could ever have had (second only of course to letting my work speak for itself). When I walked my dogs this evening, several of the people who had seen me before waved at me as if they knew me. My dogs, a lovely Siberian Husky and Alaskan Malamute, were quite the attention-grabbers. And it was then that the idea came to me: Since everybody in the neighborhood knows me as the lady with the two "big arse dogs" as one neighbor said, why not use that exposure so the area comes to know me as "the photographer in their neighborhood (with the big arse dogs.)"

I wrote a feature article once business people, including real estate agents and private practice dentists and therapists, said they experienced an increase in sales once they started displaying photos of them and their pets on business cards and fliers. People tend to respond and relate to cute puppies and babies in positive ways that may make them give your business a second look when others are quickly forgotten. The next business postcard I pass out should probably have a picture of a person interacting with their pets.

Since I don't have a lot of money for advertising, I have to be my own brand, my own product. If my neighbors get used to me walking my dogs every morning and evening, passing out promotional fliers, coupons, or business cards, I think they will come to think of me as an extension of their space, a part of their community. It may make me seem more real to them, someone they can approach. I've been told several times that some think of photographers as being elitist. I want them to see me as a part of them, somebody working hard trying to showcase a special skill set. Either I will become my neighborhoods photographer or they will thing I am a big pain in the arse, It's a fine line, I'm sure!

Get Out There: Almost Ready to Display My Photos At Heidi's Deli

The owner of a Heidi's Brooklyn Deli in downtown Denver has given his final blessing for me to hang 8 to 10 of my images in his restaurant, since we now know that I can do so without destroying his store walls. Marty was concerned about nail holes, plaster and paint damage. So he asked if I could try using those popular 3M™ Command™ Adhesive Products which guarantee an easy, clean removal.

To test this plan, I hung up one of my 11x14 images in a glass frame with a mat and wire at home. The first time, I only used one large hook, and I didn't give the adhesive the full hour it needed to adhere firmly to the wall. So of course the picture and the mount slid down the wall and hit the carpeted floor with a sickening thud. Once I made sure nothing was broken, I tried it again, this time using two large hooks and waiting at least an hour, if not longer, for the adhesive strip to stick before hanging the picture. This time it worked, and it was very easy to slide the hook cover up, grab the tab and stretch the adhesive off the wall without removing the paint or plaster. I bought about 16 of those tabs and tested the plan again hanging up one image at Heidi's.

So far so good! The image hasn't taken a swan dive, yet. And I think the 11x14 size is large enough for a potential customer to buy the image right off the wall that same day. Marty has agreed to accept payment from customers. I would love to work out some kind of agreement where he could get some profit from a sale too, but he keeps saying he doesn't want payment. Maybe I could just have all of my friends have lunch at the Heidi's in honor of the showing so he can make some extra sales that way.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

In My Library: PhotoVision Video Magazine Issue 67

Every other month I receive a 2-hour video from PhotoVision Video Magazine , an ongoing educational training seminar for professional photographers hosted by Ed Pierce. Each DVD contains photography styles and techniques, digital work flow, lighting and posing, Photoshop tricks and marketing and sales strategies from photographers working on actual sessions with real clients. The 67th Issue featured: "Wedding Part 1," a segment where celebrated photographer Daniel Doke took viewers on set to a bride's home the morning of her nuptials.

Here are some of the tips I took away from the interview with Doke:

1) He uses a 50 mm 1.2 lens, often shooting wide open to blur out a distracting background
2) One of his signature images is to capture the bride's shoes in focus in the foreground with the bride out of focus in the background
3) He goes for detail shots such as "save the date" notices
4) When the bride is getting dressed, he concentrates on the finger's of helpers zipping or lacing up the back of the dress.
5) He photographs expressions of both happiness and frustration for a storytelling, documentary feel
6) He combines mixed light and flash with ambient lighting
7) He gains the bride's trust so he can "control" them without seeming pushy.
8) He uses curtains and railings, nooks and cranies to frame the bride or act as leading lines to emphasize her face
9) He shoots the bride with all of her bridesmaids in one image, and then the bride with each bridesmaid separately, in both serious and funny poses. He also shoots combos of the bride with her parents and grandparents..."the more combos you have, the more albums you can sell."
10) He shoots indoors and outside the home, favoring the soft even light that's available when shooting on the porch.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Vote Now: May Monthly Assignment Entries Are Up!

I wanted to thank Mike, Jason and John for turning in entries to the PYWP inaugural monthly assignment. This month's theme was "Self Portrait," and I'm very pleased with how my fellow photogs interpreted the subject.

Please cast your vote for what you believe was the best execution of this assignment. Feel free to leave comments here on why you voted the way you did, as the constructive criticisms might be helpful for improving all of our skills in this craft we share and love.

Next month's assignment will be announced at the end of the week. The winner of this month's assignment will chose what we will shoot in June. Here's hoping for more entries.

From My Portfolio

One of my friends at Wolf Camera told me that this image is one of his favorites that I've uploaded to my Flickr account so far. This was an experiment I learned from a fellow photographer, Bruce Norman, while attending a Colorado Strobist meet and greet.

Bruce took this image of model Brandy spinning and the image was so incredible, it became an instant Flickr Fav. And I knew I would have to give it a try. Bruce captured the image like this: "Slow shutter 1/6 - 1/15 second. Single Strobe off to side to add momentary freeze with some detail."

So I tried to use the same set up, slowing my shutter speed down to as little as 1/5 while Tolisa spinned. A quick burst from my Alien Bee was able to freeze her for some detail in the center of the image, and the slow shutter softened her spin.

My buddy Larry Hendler offered this experiment to try as well when he left a comment on my image in Flickr:

1) With an open shutter start with the flash and then twirl with a low light setting. Experiment with the intensity of the flash and the intensity of the low light and the duration of the twirl to achieve the balance. Starting with the flash gives you the pose exactly how you want it to end up.

2) Same thing as above, except you start with the twirl, and end with the flash.

Get the Job Done: Gearing Up for My First Wedding Shoot

The nightmares have already begun. Last night, I dreamt that I was shooting at the bride's house, but I couldn't get my camera to fire. All of these wonderful moments were passing me by....the bride getting dressed, the bride coming down the stairs in her wedding gown for the first time, relatives arriving and hugging and kissing. To make it worse, the bride kept asking to see the photos on the LCD screen and all I had to show her were blank, black screens....

I think the only way to quell some of my irrational worries and anxieties are to keep honing my skills. To do that, I'm going to spend the entire week reading up on wedding tips and techniques and reporting what I've learned here. I've been getting a lot of compliments about the shots I took of the bride in studio, so I will use those comments as encouragement as well.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Breaking News: My Flash Died!!!

My Canon Speedlite 580EX II died a premature death yesterday. What was the culprit? My new Quantum Turbo 2x2 external battery pack! Thank God I tried this new system out at home before my wedding shoot this coming Saturday. If my flash would have died while on location, I may have had a heartattack.

For the life of me, I'm not sure what happened. Per the instructions, I charged the battery pack for three hours before using the Quantum Turbo Flash Cable "CZ," which is supposed to be the correct cable to connect the Canon 580EX II to the Turbo. I plugged it in, and the green "pilot" button on my 580 flickered rapidly and then went out! I didn't realize the 580 was dead until I disconnected the cables and then tried to use normal alkaline batteries to fire it up. Nothing happened, save for burning my own fingers, because the batteries were scorching hot when I took them out of the flash.

My flash was out like a light, and my wedding assignment was just six days away! ALL KIND OF CUSS WORDS!!!!!

I went to sleep, and the next morning I tried to put another set of fresh batteries in the flash, hoping it had all just been a bad dream. No dice. I frantically called Canon only to be told that using non-Canon external power packs can cause malfunctions. No, really! You think???? To make matters worse, I couldn't find any of the paperwork or receipts for the flash to proove it was still under warranty. Sigh.

Luckily for me, my buddies at Wolf Camera had a 580EX II behind the counter. They reserved it for me, and I picked up a new one today. The service reps there think the Turbo may have shorted out the flash. Wolf will also send my old flash into Canon for repairs estimated to cost me $150, if they can repair it at all. You can bet I bought a service plan for the new one on top of the Canon warrantee, and I placed all the paperwork and receipts in a safe place.

Canon makes its own battery pack, the CP-E4 which uses eight size-AA alkaline or Ni-MH batteries, as well as AA lithium batteries. A customer service rep at Mike's Camera said they don't even sell battery packs like the Turbo 2X2 anymore since the lithium batteries are so strong. Good Lord, I hope the Denver Pro Photo shop where I bought the Turbo will allow me to return I paid more than $500 for this piece of equipment. I'm too scared to try to use it again on my new flash. What do you think went wrong and has this ever happened to you?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Saturday Cartoons

Here's your weekend installment of the What the Duck comic strip. Enjoy!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Get Out There: Passing out Business Postcards

I purchased 500 business postcards from Prints Made Easy and canvassed my neighborhood this morning, handing out a stack full of the cards. Because my neighborhood is largely comprised of young families with children, I decided to use this image of model Michele and her daughter Aeona to appeal to their needs.

While walking my dogs, I stuck postcards in door jambs and on car windshields, occasionally running into neighbors walking their dogs as well or watering their yards. The face to face interactions were beneficial I believe because I got the chance to explain my business and share the fact that I lived in their neighborhood and was easily accessible for services. "Do you shoot senior portraits?" one mother asked. "My son is graduating next year." Yes, I sure do! A couple of people said they would definitely contact me later!

While walking, I took note of all the avid gardeners and pet owners that live in my area too, thinking that my next postcards might include photos of pets and flowers in bloom. It was tough work, and I was pretty much done in after an hour of being yanked by my young dogs who were pulling on their leashes. Maybe next time I will do the job alone or consider hiring someone else to do it! Here's hoping I get new customers!

See anything I might need to change? I would appreciate your comments about the card. Is it too wordy? Am I missing important information clients should know?

This Weekend: Much Needed Break

I have been so busy this month that I didn't realize that there was a holiday with a three day weekend ahead. So I'm going to take advantage of this time and get some sorely needed rest before my big wedding shoot next week. I'll have to spend some time cleaning my equipment and testing out new items I purchased, especially that new Canon 5D which should be arriving any day now.

One of the things I may do though is head to some Memorial Day events and take some shots of people commemorating this day of remembrance for those who serve in the current war and those who gave their lives for this nation to remain free.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Get the Job Done: First Round of Wedding Pics Done!

I just finished editing my first round of pictures for the Villanueva/Simpkins Wedding I'm shooting on May 31. I'm very proud of these shots, and I think having portraits of the bride will be a great asset to my overall coverage of this event. Check them out and tell me what you think. Here are a few of my favorites in this post.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Get the Goods: Now Accepting Credit Cards

Solution Graphics

Picture Your World Photography is now set up to accept credit card payments via PayPal. Colleague Dave Scott recommended his blog readers to follow this business practice, adding that doing so himself increased his sales by 21 percent for shooting specific services, namely portraits.

According to Merchance Made Easy, accepting credit cards may increase sales by as much as 50 percent or more. Credit card users spend nearly 3 times as much as cash customers, and credit card users are less concerned with comparison shopping than cash or check customers. Customers also prefer merchants who accept credit card and ATM card payments.

As a consumer myself, I personally appreciate it when I can pay for a purchase using my credit or debit card because I rarely keep cash on me. I thought my customers would like the same convenience, so I took Dave's advice and opened a Paypal, "PayFlow" Account. My bank serves as my merchant account services while Paypal acts as my gateway for accepting payments. I paid a one time set-up fee for both Paypal and my bank, and I also have minimal monthly service and transactions fees. My Virtual Terminal application is pending to also be able to accept a client's credit card information securely via your web browser and get a transaction number and confirmation code right away.

It's not enough to accept credit cards. Dave suggests going one step further by letting your clients know to with key phrases such as "We Accept Credit Cards" in your graphics, logos, email signatures and newsletters. "Remember, accepting credit cards is all about making it easier for more clients to spend more money which leads to an increase in your bottom line," Dave explained.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Get the Goods: Who is Pilfering Your Images Online?

A disturbing post from my blogger buddy and fellow photog Dave Scott frightened me: one of his images was hijacked by another web page! He discovered it while looking through some log files that noted a reference to his images and a referrer page which was not on his website. Dave was able to put a copyright on his image, but it got me to thinking about how I could find my own images possibly being pilfered on other sites without my permission.

I read up on this image search engine currently in beta from TinEye that allows you to type in the URL of a photo and find it on the web. I am currently on their private wait-list. I've read from other bloggers that it usually takes about 10 minutes before your invitation is approved, so once I get in, I'll try it out and let you know what I found. Until then, you can read more information from and a review by Howard Grill.

Breaking News: Great Rebates for Top Brand Cameras

Now's the time to upgrade your equipment. Top brand manufacturers, including Canon and Hasselblad, are offering nice rebates on bodies, kits and lenses.

From now till June 19, Canon is offering up to $300 in instant rebates . I just used my rebate to snag a coveted EOS 5D from Dell! I already had a customer credit account with Dell which was free and in the clear. Not only do I get a one-year warrantee from Canon, since Dell is a certified Canon product distributor, but I got a deal on a two-year accident plan from Dell on top of that for three years of consecutive protection. A second, backup camera is a must-have during shoots in case your equipment malfunctions. The Rebel XTi has served me well, and I will continue to use it, especially when I shoot my wedding on May 31. I also have to give a big shout out of thanks to fellow photog Tiffany Trott for getting the word out about these great rebates!

If you are really ready to take your photography to the ultimate level, then get your hands on a new high-end Hasselblad H3DII DSLR camera. Between now and June 30, 2008, you can receive up to $5000 off the price of the H3DII when trading in your old 35mm digital system.

Q and A: Networking

JESSICA FOLWICK ASKS: "Congrats on your opportunity to shoot at the wedding expo! Wedding shoots are one of the best kinds of photo shoots to do, in my opinion. You have any suggestions on networking with businesses for photo services especially the bigger business names from local malls or expos?"

ANSWER: Networking is definitely a skill set that I'm still trying to learn myself! To prepare for this marketing opportunity, I read a series of articles on related to "Business Networking for Entreprenuers." If you are like me, you have very little money for advertising, so you have to be your own walking and memorable advertisement.

One of the things I made sure I had on hand with me at the expo were as many business cards as I could carry. I made the mistake of running out of cards at one event, and of course that was the time when a potential client wanted to hire me for a shoot. All I could do was scribble something on a piece of paper with the feeble excuse that I didn't have any more cards on hand. Slips of paper are far too easy to misplace. How many times have you jotted something down, lost it, found it and then couldn't remember what or whose number it was you had written down? Business cards are more tangible and less likely to get tossed.

But arming myself with cards wasn't enough. I systematically went to every booth at the expo and introduced myself to each owner. I spent time with all of them, learning about their businesses and products as well as asking questions about what kind of photo services they might need. Many of those businesses were small and up-and-coming like me, and they needed business portraits and product shots for their own advertising. I took photos of them working behind their booths and interacting with potential customers.

The next step is follow-through. I was always good about making the initial contact, but, but my biggest mistake was never contacting potential clients again. I would get too busy doing other assignments for those few people who contacted me. But I would miss out on other opportunities I could have had with prospective customers or referrals if I had only contacted them again! One of the things I intend to do is email each contact a free photo I took of them during the event to help them remember who I was. I have also reserved Fridays as my day to work on my contact lists, following up on meetings and past phone calls. Consistency is key to networking.

As far as contacting larger businesses, the only thing I have as a far instance is my contact at Remo Men's Wear, a men's clothing store in a local area mall. I met Hossam at a fashion show planning meeting. When "Sam" introduced himself, he said that he was hosting his own fashion show at a local club later that month and would need photographers. Apparently, no one else paid attention when he was speaking! I was one of only a few other photogs who spoke with Sam that night about his own upcoming show. I got a call from Sam later that week asking if I was still available to shoot his fashion show, which I did for free. Sam liked what I produced and he hit me up with the wedding expo shoot which led to the wedding I'm shooting next weekend...and so forth...and so on. Get it? One thing can always lead to another so take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way.

I might suggest heading out to your local malls and speaking with their public relations specialists to see if they have a photographer on tab for their various events or shows. I think the same tips can apply. I have made several contacts with chain stores, event promotion companies etc. by networking with their representatives and company spokespeople. Even if they already have a photog on their staff, you never know when someone may be sick or unable to shoot an event, and you get the call to step in! Sow the seeds and reap the benefits whenever they bloom.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Instructor's Tip: Fill Flash on Animals

Enjoy this week's Instuctor's Tip: "Fill Flash on Animals," by Russ Burden Burden's "Mandarin Duck" featured above one first place in the Art in Nature category of the prestigious Nature's Best Photography Windland Smith Rice International Awards 2007.

Working in direct sunlight creates contrast problems of deep shadows
and bright highlights. In that both film and digital capture can’t
reproduce detail at the extremes of these conditions, augmenting the
light is essential to produce a good image. Reflectors can be used to
bounce light back onto the subject but they are awkward in the wind.
Diffusers soften the light but if you’re photographing animals other
than insects, their size makes them impractical. Of all the light
controlling tools out on the market, the product I most rely on is

Flash is a great tool as it’s light, portable, easy to use, and the
larger shoe mounted units can throw light a good distance. These are
assets when working with animals as they can be very stubborn as to
where they decide to let you photograph them and often position
themselves in a location where artificial light is needed to fill in
deep shadows. The use of flash can tame a contrasty lighting
situation. This is true whether you’re photographing animals in your
backyard, the zoo, or out in the wild.

The goal of fill flash is to make the end result look natural. Too
much added illumination gives the image an artificial look while too
little gives the impression nothing was augmented. Ideally, the look
should go undetected. The contrast between the light and dark areas
should be lessened, yet not appear evident.

All photos in this post were taken by award winning photographer Russ Burden. To learn more about how Russ took the following photo in this post, join him on one of his photo tours. Visit Russ Burden Photography to get more information.

To take a class with Russ or a fellow Digital Photo Academy instructor in your area, check out the Digital Photo Academy. I took Russ' intermediate and advanced courses last year, and he continues to be a strong source of knowledge and encouragement as I progress in my photography.

Don't forget to check Take Great Pictures for Russ' most recent tips. On the home page, click on the "Photo Tips And Techniques" button in the left hand column. Additionally, check out his "Digital Tip of the Month" found by clicking on the Digital Photography button.

From My Portfolio

On Saturday I was supposed to be scouting out the church where I will be taking wedding pictures on May 31. But instead, I ended up having a photo session with the bride-to-be in my home studio!

I shot about 200 pics and they turned out fantastic! It was good to get to meet the bride and interact with her, her brides maid and best friend. Their excitement was infectious and melted away any worries I had been harbouring about my ability to shoot this wedding. The bride is fun-loving and was willing to try anything I suggested during our shoot. The women's laughter filled my home when the young bride tripped over the hem of her lovely, though constricting wedding gown, slipped off the stool she was sitting in while posing and landed on the ground! Of course I kept snapping away, catching pictures of the bride hitting the floor with her legs sprawled in the air, and her friend trying to yank her up.

Even then, the bride was up for hiking up her skirts and spinning for me. I took the above pic of her in mid spin. I used a very slow shutter speed....1/5 of a sec I believe and tried a panning technique. I like how this one was able to focus on her face and then have the dress swirling around her. I think the affect is very mystical and beautiful.

I think referrals are definitely the bread and butter of just about any business. Every shoot you complete is an opportunity to lay the ground work for additional assignments. In this instance, I started out shooting the wedding, but it's clear this young family will come to depend on me for numerous stages in their lives. The bride fell in love with the beautiful artistic nude shot I took of Teri holding a red rose, and she's thinking about surprising her new husband with similar sexy shots of her own. The brides maid pegged me to do some personal shots of her and the best friend wants me to take portraits of her and her pets! The bride also wants couple shots of her and her soon-to-be-hubby for her parents' Christmas gifts, and she asked if I could take maternity shots of her when she gets pregnant.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Monthly Assignment: Procrastinators ;)

Alright folks, this is your LAST WEEK to get your self-portraits submitted for the Picture Your World Photography inaugural monthly assignment. Here is my virtual kick in the butt to get those entries turned in. To motivate you (or horrify you, how ever you choose to interpret it) I posted this pic of a self-portrait I took for a Colorado 4x4 Photo of the Week entry. The theme was "music," and I had fun with the topic by showing me doing what I often do: singing in the shower! Imagine how difficult that was jumping out the shower wet every few seconds to see if the timer on my camera worked!

My boyfriend had this image as the wallpaper on his computer for months just to annoy me. Brat!

While I didn't win that week's competition, I got major props for creativity (and bravery to boot!) I truly believe these monthly assignments can give you material to include in your portfolio, but I think it's just as important to stretch your imaginations and have fun. Need a refresher course on the rules?

Now.....get out there!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Friday Funnay

I just got an email from Aaron Johnson, the inventor of the hilarious photography lingo comic "What the Duck." He said he's been enjoying my blog (thank you, thank you!!!) and he thought I might like today's comic. He was right, I LOVE it! As a matter of fact, I think I have one of these moments just about every time I use my camera! ;)

Aaron says I can repost his comic on my blog, so I think I'll do this every Friday to get folks in the mood for shooting throughout the weekend. You should check out his website too because it's pretty cool. I've got to get me one of those T-shirts that says "Photoshop: Helping the Ugly Since 1988!"

This Weekend: Scouting

This weekend I will be scouting out the St. Cajetan Church in Denver where I will be shooting a wedding later this month. I will be going at the same time the wedding will take place so I can study the lighting I must cope with and check out some architectural details of this wonderful church to include in my photos.

Since this is a very young couple and this is truly my first full wedding experience, I worked out a deal with the bride to shoot this for $500. OK, before everybody starts yelling at me, hear me out:

1) The bride is giving me carte blanche to do WHATEVER I want so I can use these photos in my port (and hopefully charge more for my next wedding)
2) I will be shooting the full day, starting from the time she wakes up till later that evening for a full photojournalism type session covering the event.
3) I am calling in help from other fellow photogs to triple team the wedding. One of the recommendations I've been given is to make sure both sides of the family are captured in images. To do that, I've asked my photo friends who also need wedding shots in their port to help me shoot this, with one focusing on the bride and her family and one focusing on the groom and his family.

Then, during the ceremony, I want one photog shooting from high up, another shooting the crowd and me concentrating on the nuptials themselves. Afterward, while I'm shooting the reception, I want one photographer responsible for setting up a portrait session with lights so people and can stop in and get individual glamour shots taken.

Too ambitious? Probably, but this is my chance to find out what works and what doesn't before I use this virtual bombardment technique on a higher-end client.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

SPECIAL OFFER: $50 Sitting Fee for Father's Day Portrait Gift

You aren't out of the woods yet! You may have made it through Mother's Day, but Father's Day is just a month away. Why not surprise Dad with a professional framed portrait of yourself so he can have visual proof about you in his office when he brags about you being a "Chip Off the Old Block!"

If you book a portrait session with me from now between June 11, I will offer you this special promotion:

One hour-long sitting for $50 and one favorite 8X10. Purchase additional prints through a private online gallery.

My friend Kristen booked a session with me and gave her mother the gorgeous portrait above. During Christmas last year, this set of siblings gave their parents portrait for a gift.

Act now if you are in the Denver metro area! Email me at

An Aside: Can I Serve Two Masters?

Something has been troubling me. Greg Moore, the editor of the Denver Post and a trusted colleague, said at some point, I will have to choose between being a print journalist and a photojournalist.

He thinks that I need to focus on only one thing to be good at it. "Great photos win Pulitzers just like great articles," he says. I immediately disagreed with him, explaining that I thought being able to shoot photos and write articles made me more marketable in a changing and troubled media industry.

Honestly, I love being able to write articles in the day and focus on my photography at night, and I think doing both has made me a more whole person. But what if Greg is right? What if dividing my passions will make it hard for me to fully succeed in either one?

Get the Job Done: Photos Published on Denver Post Blog

Several of my photos appeared on the Denver Post Home Girls Blog last week. My editor, Elana Jefferson, asked me to take pictures while she toured the 33rd Junior Symphony Guild Designer Showhouse, an event gives decorating divas a chance to peak inside one of the city's most celebrated homes, the Phipps Mansion. The above pic is my favorite from the set, featuring a stenciled, leafy, art deco pattern by painter Cathy Gibbons near a brick entryway leading to an outdoor patio.

Overall, I enjoyed this assignment because it was a great chance to try blending my print and photography journalism skills. While reporting and taking notes, Elana pinpointed some architectural features and furnishings she wanted me to shoot so the images could accompany her blog entry. I dig design myself, but getting to photograph it was a challenge under these circumstances because I had to navigate between tour participants who always seemed to be in the way of my shots.

Working with flash indoors continues to vex me. I really need to work harder at learning how to blend existing ambient light with flash. There was a tremendous amount of natural sunlight filtering in through the windows throughout the mansion, but I still needed to use a touch of fill flash to fill in shadows.

Get the Jone Done: Using My Studio Lights on Location and Battery Woes

Thank goodness Jason brought his studio lights to the wedding expo earlier this month! As I continue editing those photos, I was nearly distraught to see that hardly any of my shots of the actual fashion show were too my liking. As the light source in the high-ceiling, windowed space changed from afternoon sunlight to evening dark, it became increasingly difficult to adjust my exposures.

By the time the models were on the runway, I had to use full flash to have enough light. Because my flash was on my camera hot shoe, I have those annoying shadows. Hopefully my new Stroboframe Quick Flip flash bracket will help. The shadows should be all but eliminated now that I can mount my flash atop the camera.

Honestly, I think the only good shots I got out of the expo was when Jason and I took the models aside and set up a portrait area with his hot lights. Only then did we have adequate light to really be able to bring out the details in the exquisite wedding gowns showcased during the event. From now on, I think I need to get used to lugging my own lights to sets too. I think natural light is always great when you have access to it, but there is definitely a craft and an art form to learning how to use hot lights effectively as well.

I think my Alien Bees will be my best bet for on location lighting. I've seen other photographers set up a shooting area with just one powerful strobe. I will invest in an Alien Bee Vagabond II Portable Power System. If power lines aren't available for my AB1600s, I can use the Vagabond battery powering unit, which offers faster recycle times.

I also purchased a Quantum Turbo 2x2 Battery Power for Digital Cameras and Flash. I can't tell you how tired I am of having rechargeable batteries drain out during a shoot, not to mention how much I must have spent on buying batteries! It had gotten to where I was buying a new pack every time I went to the grocery store because I was always anxious about running out of juice during a shoot.

I replaced the batteries four times in my flash during the wedding expo, and each time it was annoying and threw me off my game. The Quantum Turbo should give me enough power to shoot more than 500 flashes. But I also like knowing I can power my camera with it too if I need it, although I don't seem be having the same problem with my camera. The Canon BG-ED3 Battery Grip keeps me shooting for days before I need to recharge the two Canon NB-2LH batteries that fit snugly inside.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Breaking News: My Own Private Gallery Showing at a Local Deli

Good Lord, this month is BLOWING UP....

Jeffrey Rupp told me today that he has secured another print sale from Friday's exhibit showing (that's two so far!)

AND...drumroll please...

The Heidi's Deli in my building will be featuring 8 of my pics in my own private showing! The store owner, Marty, has got to be one the coolest guys I've ever met, and he's totally up for helping me get my name out there. Since the Democratic National Convention is coming to town, he says he wants primarily images showcasing Colorado -- yet another incentive for me to do more landscapes, but he already likes several things I've got on my website including this gorgeous picture of a fox I took up in Jefferson County.

I think this just goes to show you that it never hurts to ask. Someone just might say yes!

Get Caught Doing It!

Did you get caught doing it? Get your mind out of the gutter...I mean, did someone photograph you in the act of taking a picture? Jason Peckovitch, owner of Illusive Dreams Photography and one of my good buddies, took this pic of me while we were working at the wedding expo together.

Send me your shots of you working, and I'll post them here!

Get Out There: Business Postcards


There's a simple reason why Phuoc Nguyen is my new landscape guy: His business postcard that he taped to my house's screen door. I could also argue that I chose Nguyen because he was the only person out of three who responded to my frantic call for service (hey, I'm terrible at maintaining my lawn). But that's really just good follow-through. Fact is, there are tons of companies I could have contacted for lawn care service by just thumbing through the phone book. But Nguyen's postcard was immediate, and it gave me some ideas....namely, "if it worked for him, could it work for my fledgling business?"

Several aspects of Nguyen's postcard were affective:
1) it was simple and easy to read
2) his phone number and address let me know he lived in my neighborhood
3) it included a comprehensive list of services
4) it was timely, arriving right when my yard seemed to look the worst.

Sure, maybe he could have paid more to have the postcards directly mailed to me. But at the same time, taping it to my door worked for me, and I think I was less likely to toss it since I had to peel it off my screen. Looks like he simply hired someone to canvas the neighborhood with the postcards, and it seems to have worked because I know of at least two other neighbors who hired him to do some work, too.

To that end, here is what I've decided to try. I created some postcards using some easy templates with Because I ordered some new business cards from there too, I got a great discount. I have to walk my dogs anyway, so why not tape some postcards on some screen doors, too? Later on, I can pay for a mailing list of everyone who lives in and around my neighborhood. I'll use my money from the exhibit sale to pay for this advertising venture and see what happens!

I wanted my postcard to feature my ability to capture a moment and my Photoshop skills using an eye-catching (and hopefully unforgettable) graphic technique. My neighborhood is largely comprised of young families with young children, so I figured either of the above images would speak to them.

Which of the pics do you think I should choose on my postcard? Or do you like something else from my port that could work?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Get the Goods: Buy One Print/Get One Half Off at Wolf Camera

My buddies over at the Aurora Wolf Camera store tipped me off about a great deal they are offering this month: buy one 11x14 (retail price $12.95) and get half off a second one. This is definitely an opportunity to stock up on images because an 11x14 is a great size for gallery and personal prints.

I have to give props to the Wolf Camera in Aurora where the manager there, Jeff, helped me print the fabulous artistic nude shot that was purchased at the exhibit Friday night. I do all of my personal printing with Wolf Camera. Two years ago, all the stores started printing with Epson's Pro 7800, and the results are fantastic! Everytime someone asks me where I get my things printed, they seem shocked when I tell them "at Wolf Camera." They guarantee same day prints (and usually within the hour as long as they aren't backed up already).

The personal service I received the day my exhibit prints were due was phenomenal. Not only did the staff check out my pics and give me encouraging remarks, but they reprinted all of them (that's four 20x30 size prints that cost $29.95 each) immediately without a contrary word when it was brought to their attention that a printer error was leaving some strange lines on my images. Some basic maintenance fixed the problem, and I got some outstanding prints. I bought frames there as well, and staff helped me frame my prints. Jeff was also very instrumental in helping me nail down a working knowledge of "aspect ratio" so I could get the best print available.

So thanks Jeff, and his staff at the Aurora Wolf Camera store on Havana, for the personal treatment. You guys helped me secure my first gallery sale, so the honor is just as much yours as mine! If you are nearby, check 'em out:

Wolf Camera & Video
1802 S Havana St
Aurora, CO 80012
Phone: (303) 696-9700

In My Library: Get this month's issue of Popular Photography

If you haven't already subscribed to Popular Photography yet (which you should), then make sure you get your hands on the June 2008 issue. It's the "Big How-To Issue," and it has more than 20 tips that can help raise the bar on your techniques, from shooting to post processing and editing.

I really enjoyed the section on sharpening your photos because I am notorious for overdoing that. The tip, according to Pop Photo is to use the Smart Sharpen tool in CS2/3 and keep your radius low. Get ideas for "blue skies," "flash," "portraits" and a cool section on "time-lapse."

Breaking News: Win a Tamron AF 28-300 mm VC with Vibration Compensation Lens

Some lucky winner is going to walk away with a new Tamron lens by
The website is hosting a sweepstakes and this Tamron AF 28-300mm VC with Vibration Compensation is the grand prize. You've got until now and June 8 to subscribe to the site and get entered to win. My readers will know that I frequently post about information and techniques I get from the talented pool of shooters associated with TakeGreatPictures, including one of my favorite instructor's Russ Burden who provides information for Monday "Instructor's Tip." So don't just subscribe to get the camera, but take advantage of the great tips of the trade available for free on this site.

Here are some details about the lens:

"The new AF28-300mm F/3.5-6.3 XR Di VC LD Aspherical (IF) MACRO zoom lens is a high power zoom lens designed for DSLR cameras with full-size image sensors (Model A20) and now equipped with a Vibration Compensation (VC) mechanism, delivers a remarkable 4 stops of extra shutter speed. The AF28-300mm F/3.5-6.3 XR Di VC is the ultimate high power zoom lens that covers everything from wide-angle to telephoto and macro. Tamron has incorporated a Vibration Compensator—an anti-shake mechanism developed by Tamron—into this highly versatile zoom lens. The new AF28-300mm F/3.5-6.3 XR Di VC LD Aspherical (IF) MACRO zoom lens offers the convenience, comfort and versatility of a high power zoom lens and the capability to reduce hand-shake blur on DSLR cameras using either APS-C size or full-size format imagers.

When the AF28-300mm F/3.5-6.3 XR Di VC is used with a full-size format SLR camera, it covers a tremendous focal length range from 28mm in wide angle to 300mm ultra telephoto. When mounted on a DSLR with an APS-C sized imager, the lens covers a 43mm wide angle to 465mm ultra telephoto (full size format equivalent, in a diagonal angle of view of 5°20’)."

My Tamron 24-70 mm was a great replacement for the kit lens that came with my Canon Rebel XTi, so I think Tamron produces so good quality glass for the price. Hey, if you win, hit me up with a little something-something, you know? You heard it hear first!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Monthly Assignment: How's The First One Going?

I just wanted to check in and see how things are going for everyone who will be participating in the Picture Your World Photography inaugural Monthly Assignment Contest. All of my readers (already up to 25 from 12 or so) have been asked to submit a photo that I will post on my blog (with links to your respective websites). The photos will then be judged by public vote.

You've got two weeks to get your image of this month's theme "SELF PORTRAIT" emailed to me...that's until May 24 for those who are calendar-challenged. I will post the images and voting starts promptly on May 25, running until June 1.

Need a refresher course on the rules? Read the announcement blog here.

Need some ideas for a pic? The image above is one I turned in for a similar online weekly photo assignment themed "Self Portrait: Pieces of You." I set my camera up, put it on the delayed timer and then captured myself kissing my dog Isis. Some creative cropping helped me focus on my lips....hence fulfilling the concept of a self-portrait and pieces of yourself.

Also, the photo I use in my "Q and A" posts is a self portrait I turned in for my Digital 1 photography class. I was supposed to be showing "where I was in life..." and at that moment, I was feeling in-over-my-head regarding photography.....hence the idea came to me to show myself getting caught reading "Photography for Dummies."

So have some fun and start turning in your submissions now!

Q and A: Image Hosting Services

"I was looking at your site, and I was wondering how you got a website through Smugmug with all that information and what not. I really need to redo my website, and I've been using Zenfolio, but I haven't really tried Smugmug. How does that work?"

ANSWER: Smugmug is the digital photo hosting service I currently use for posting galleries and selling prints to clients. Feel free to take a look at my business website here. Everything you see on that page was created thanks to the wonderful Customization Support team available through Smugmug's forum at

I didn't know a thing about HTML or customizing my page with slideshows, navigational bars or links. But all I had to do was post a question on the Smugmug Support thread, and by days end, I had help from gurus like Denise and Allen (I love you guys!) who created code to help me cut and paste designs onto my webpage. As a matter of fact, Denise helped me design the code that put a slideshow on my Blogger page, and helped me link photos directly from my blog back to my business website! Whenever I get a crazy idea I want to try out on my website, I just post a message: "I want to try putting my slideshow BENEATH my nav bar instead of having my slideshow on top of it. Can someone please explain to me how to do this?" I swear, the Customization Gods at Smugmug are up for any challenge.

Having the courage to customize my own page took some time. Until then, Smugmug had numerous templates I could use until I grew more accustomed to the site and had a better understanding of what services I wanted to offer. Smugmug also allows members to use registered domain names for their site address if a domain has been purchased. And clients who have ordered prints directly from the site said the images they received were beautiful and of great quality, which is one less worry I have to contend with.

Not only do I get to customize my site as a Pro user, but I can create custom watermarks for all of my uploaded images. And I can mark up my prints for sale where I get 85 percent of the markup over the base photo price. I'm still working on developing packages for my clients, since I've been told that offering them is a good business service. But many of my clients like the ala carte ease in being able to pick whatever sizes and prints they want, as well. And Smugmug is always coming out with new features, such as the recently added "digital downloads," of my images that are also available for sale.

Given all that and the ability to upload an unlimited number of photos, I think the $150 annual membership I pay is well worth it. But if that's more clams than you can afford right now, opt for the Standard membership to get you going. I get tons of compliments from clients about how professional my website looks, and I think that speaks highly of my product as well.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Breaking News: First Exhibit Sale!

One of my photos sold Friday night at the exhibit showing! The lovely photo above was purchased for $150 by local successful artist Skye Mason. It was also selected as third place "Best of Show" for the Arts on 7th studio showing.

Having someone buy one of my photos is an honor in its on right. But to have an accomplished photographer and painter like Skye be interested in my work is fantastic! Skye has had the privelege of shooting legends including Grace Jones, Tony Bennett, Charlie Pride, Roy Clark, Tommy Lasorda, Mickey Mantle, Indigo Girls, Kansas, Roman Gabriel and Arthur Ashe.

Congratulations also to the other four photographers who sold prints as well!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Get Out There: Gallery Showing

I haven't heard anything from the Denver Darkroom yet about whether or not any of my photographs sold at Friday night's exhibit. But whether I made a sale or not, I still think the experience was a terrific opportunity for me.

Seeing my photos blown up to an impressive poster size of 20x30 was amazing. I kept looking at them thinking, "Wow...did I take that?!" As people wandered through Jeffrey Rupp's studio in the Arts on 7th building, I held my breath while guests made comments about my photos. I didn't hear a single negative word, and many of them didn't know that the artist was standing right there next to them. "Whether you are able to believe it or not, you are a hit!" Jeffrey beamed with confidence. I want to thank Jeffrey for allowing me and other Denver Darkroom students to showcase their work in his studio. His passion inspires me.

"...really enjoyed seeing your work at the show Friday night -- beautiful images!" from photographer Dave Wood.

I also enjoyed being able to meet with other local artists to see how they presented themselves and their work. And I was introduced to an art form I've never seen before. Betsy Duzan and Judith Babcock both use a technique where paint is applied to a canvas in large, thick blocks with a spatula. I have always enjoyed texture in photography, and I couldn't stop myself from touching the canvases. I haven't told anyone yet but you, but I also started to feel that familiar tingling in my gut...the same sense of excitement I get whenever I take my photography. Could it be that maybe painting is in my future too? Perhaps I could do both such as Ron Zito, another artist I met at the showing.

"Aspen Solitude" by Judith Babcock was one of my favorite's at the showing.

Do you practice both art forms? If so, do you have any suggestions on how I could get started? Many of the artists said they often start painting an image they've seen in a photo...hmmmm

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