Monday, June 30, 2008

Vote Now: Which Topic Should Be July's Monthly Photography Assignment?

I've contacted both Mike and Athena who tied as winners of the June Monthly Assignment topic "Night Shot." Since winner gets to chose the next month's topic, I asked both of them to tell me what they would like to spend July trying to shoot and I would like my readers to vote for the final topic. Which one do you think you would have the most fun capturing this coming month:

A) Fireworks


B) History

I will open the poll now and it will have a quick turn around, closing this time tomorrow evening.

Breaking News: Monthly Assignment Tie!

Wow, this month's photo assignment contest was a nail-biter right to the very last hours the poll was open. But alas, PWYP has its first ever tie between images submitted by Athena Otto and Mike Haley, with each receiving 5 votes.

I had to do some thinking about how to address this, and decided to go with an idea I got from Mike: Both Athena and Mike will be allowed to choose a topic for next month's assignment. Then, readers can vote on which topic they would like to shoot for July. I will post up another poll once I get the topic ideas from Athena and Mike. Polls will be open for one day only, so I can give everyone the full month to get their submissions in.

Until then, congratulations to Athena and Mike. Here are some great comments blog passersby let regarding what they thought about your images:

Image by Athena Otto

REBELRESCUER wrote this about Athena's image: I have no technical expertise, but photo "B" is my fav! There's something about the street light, and the front of the building that gives it a certain feeling. Really like that one!! Hope to participate in July!!

Image by Mike Haley

DIZZLE wrote this about Mike's image: I like D. If I am not mistaken that is Heritage Square...childhood memories come flooding back and capturing it night makes me remember days gone by when my mom would let us run around there with no fear of anything bad happenign to us other maybe a scraped knee from a fall during a game of playing and just enjoying the summer night.

Instructors Tip: Wear Your Photo Eyes

Enjoy this week's "Instuctor's Tip" by award winning nature photographer Russ Burden Burden:

"When I first got bit by the photography bug, its juices took over and
I was hooked for life. Although it was a long time from the day I
took my very first picture until the time I purchased an SLR, I was
always aware of the power of the bite. As I got more and more into
the art, I began to view the world as if I had a camera fixed to my
eye. I would use telephoto eyes to pick out small slices of the
landscape. I would use my wide angle eyes to incorporate entire
skylines and envision what they would look like as a print. Whether
I’m sitting in my kitchen or leading a photo tour to a gorgeous
location in our country, my awareness of light, composition, and
color is heightened thanks to photography. So where am I going with
all of this?

The lesson to be learned is as you walk around with your camera,
don’t allow yourself to get tunnel vision. In other words, open your
eyes to any and all subjects you encounter as you head to your target
to photograph. Case in point is demonstrated in the accompanying
shot made while leading a tour to WA. The focal point for the morning
on which it was created was Rialto Beach’s sea stacks. As we
approached them, I viewed every step I took with my photo eyes wide
open. In what could have easily been stepped on, when my eyes met the
new growth of the tiny fern emerging from the black beach stones -
CARPE DIEM! I seized the opportunity, we all made the close up, and
still got to photograph the sea stacks."

- Russ

The photo(s) in this post were taken by Russ Burden. To learn more about how Russ captured this image, 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.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Get the Job Done: First Wedding Assignment Complete and Successful!

My presentation with bride Tolisa was a success, and I can't tell you how relieved I am to finally be done with this assignment. Tolisa (seen above) is very pleased with her photos and she took a handful of my business cards and new postcards to give to all her friends and relatives. For her presentation, I chose to display all the images in a slideshow on my MacBook Pro. To hear Tolisa react so positively to the images was a great confidence booster.

I wasn't able to complete the photo album in time as it was a very difficult process and would have required about two hours putting it together. So instead, I went back to my original idea of blowing up this fabulous shot Mike Haley took of the couple walking out of the church and into their new life together. I printed an 11x14 of this, framed and matted it. Turns out this was one of Tolisa's favorites (mine too!) and she plans to purchase it as well as several CDs that have 4x6 print versions of select images taken throughout the day. Tolisa, Jordan and their friends and relatives will purchase larger prints directly from my website.

I managed to cull 3,000 shots taken from three very different photographers to about 600 cohesive "Picture Your World Photography" images. All of those images were then separated into six galleries. I wanted to thank Mike Haley...

and Jason Peckovitch again for a fabulous job! Love you guys!

Now, I wait to see if I will get some print sales from the website. Tolisa mentioned that the first photographer she considered hiring was going to charge her $3,500, so she recognized that my charge for $500 was an incredible steal (and she will be the ONLY bride to ever get my services at that discounted price!). She promised to keep that between us, and she intends to push her guests to buy prints to help me make up those lost sales. Plus, I think I may have secured a new client for life, as she is already making plans for numerous sessions, including a glamour/boudoir set and Christmas shots to be taken later this year. Her brother is graduating this year and needs senior shots. Her god daughter's family needs portraits done. And I hope to be their chosen maternity photographer when the couple gets pregnant. Here's hoping for many more opportunities to work together in the future. Besides, Tolisa and Jordan just moved into a house right up the street from my house....why should they go to anyone else when I'm so close by. ;)

Friday, June 27, 2008

This Weekend: Wedding Photos Presentation and a Night Shoot

I will be presenting all of my wedding photo galleries Tolisa, the bride, tomorrow morning, so send me some good luck vibes! Mike and Jason will be there as well, and I'm pretty excited, as well as relieved to be just about done with this project so I can move on to my "gallery" showing at Heidi's Deli.

I have uploaded all the galleries to my website, save for the reception pics which I want to present to Tolisa when she views them on a slideshow on my MacBook Pro. You can get a sneak peak at some of my favorite shots from the reception held at the Tivoli in this thread. Taking the time to see the photos full screen the way your client will see them has been very beneficial for me. It helped me decide which shots to ultimately keep or reject. It can be difficult to see images or catch mistakes when files are only viewed in thumbnail or monitor screen sizes. I didn't realize so many images were out of focus or had some color balance issues until I blew them up to 100 percent viewing (a trick I learned to spot problematic noise issues from

It also helped to allow more "eyes" to look at the photos. I finally got the nerve to let other photographers on the various forums I frequent critique the images. Most everyone had great things to say, and others were very constructive, yet helpful, in pinpointing some of those tale-tell issues.

I am also going to surprise Tolisa by presenting her with a photo album she can purchase that I created at the Wolf Camera store in downtown Denver. One of the clerk's there gave me an amazing deal and coupon to have the album built and produced right in the store. At first I thought about printing and framing a large 20x30 image, but I think the photo album showcasing the complete story of her nuptials will have greater emotional impact (and more likely lead to her buying the album as well as other prints).

Also this weekend, I will be heading downtown with Efrain Cruz, director of Illuminate Photography Workshops, and several of his students for a fun "Night Shot" outing. If only this event could have happened earlier in the month, I might have had something more innovative and creative to submit for my own blog's monthly assignment (besides the overly done shot of the moon). But hey...I haven't had that much experience shooting at night, so that moon shot was the best I could come up with. It will be fun to learn how to master this challenging photographic technique that really forces you to use all your knowledge of exposure.

Here is a great shot Efrain took during the outting he held last month:

Efrain will likely host a new outdoor session every month for socializing and meeting potential new students. Want to hang out with us and shoot? Email Efrain at or check out the school website here.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Breaking News: Canon Repaired My Flash! Part 3

I back got my 580EX II today from the Canon repair center, all fresh and fixed! Turns out the flash PCB (or flash printed circuit board) needed to be replaced, a service that cost me $150. I blogged a few weeks ago about how stressful it was to have my one and only flash die a few days before my first wedding assignment.

In spite of the expense, I think I still came out good considering how much a new flash cost would have cost me right before the wedding. Now I have two!

I had tried connecting a Quantum Turbo 2X2 battery pack to my flash to give it more and faster recycle times. But something happened when I connected to the two devices: the flash pilot light button flickered rapidly and then died out. I couldn't get the flash to work from that point on. I still don't know if the battery pack caused the malfunction or if that flash already had one foot in the grave. I'm starting to think the flash was faulty since my friends at Denver Pro Photo said Quantum gave the battery pack a clean bill of health and the store sold it a few days later.

Here's proof that getting those service warranty agreements are a good thing. I routinely get those things whenever I buy photo equipment now, but I didn't a year ago when I first started buying items. And I didn't get one for my flash. If I would have, the service would have been covered under the program for free! And to make matters worse, I have no idea where the receipt is for the flash, so I had no way of proving to Canon that the flash was still under warranty.

All kinds of cuss words! But I'm happy to have a new flash so I can start experimenting with triggering multiple strobes.

An Aside: One Man's Stock Trash is Another Man's Stock Treasure

Last week, I couldn't wait to tell everybody that I finally got accepted to I'm not quite as excited to fess up to this next fact, but I think there could be a good lesson learned from it for all of us budding photogs: Shutterstock rejected every photo I submitted to them!

Shutterstock required I submit a batch of 15 images as part of its application process. Of course I used the three that iStockphoto had already accepted and 12 more I culled from my external hard drive where all my photos live. It looks as though they might have accepted the shot of the deer and the clouds reflected on the office building, but they couldn't be approved because they were unable to approve at least 7 out of the first 10 submitted. To add insult to injury, my uploading function was promptly, though temporarily disabled, as I can try uploading again in a month.

I was shocked by the images they turned down, as they have been some of my most popular sellers in other forums. Even the eye contact with this marvelous fox didn't sway them!

What were the reasons you ask? The fox shot was rejected due to:

NOISE--Noise, film grain, over-sharpening, or artifacts at full size.

While this one and others similar to it were axed because of:
COMPOSITION -- Limited commercial value due to framing, cropping, and/or composition.

I posted about this issue on several of the forums I frequented, including Digital Grin and Digital Photography School, and thought you might be interested in hearing other's responses and experiences they've had trying to get into stock photography.

So here's what I plan to do: I will dedicate all of my initial efforts into giving iStock what they want, learning how to deal with noise and artifacting, etc. by studying their guidelines. Once I get a handle on what differentiates stock photography from other types, I will try again to branch out to other agencies, including Web Shots and Shutterstock. I even asked my instructor Efrain Cruz to consider hosting a stock photography class with Illuminate Photography Workshops to get some tips and techniques from the pros about how to be successful at this type of production.

So how do you fix noise or artifacting? And I can't help but to wonder: do all of these stock agencies reject you on your first try just to see how you will respond? Will you try submitting again or will you hang your head in shame and never turn in anything else? I think it could be a good way of separating the folks who really want it from the ones who just dreaming of success. What do you think?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Vote Now for June's Monthly Assignment: "Night Shot"

Vote for your favorite interpretation of the monthly assignment topic: "Night Shots." Polls will be open from now until next Monday with July's subject announced at the same time.

Feel free to leave your comments about why you voted for a certain picture here. These assignments are designed to stretch your imagination, challenge yourself and start shooting on a regular basis. Constructive criticism only helps us all get better at the craft we share and love.

Instructor's Tip: Patterns In Nature

Enjoy this week's "Instuctor's Tip" by award winning nature photographer Russ Burden Burden:

"Mother Nature works miracles in what she creates. On a grand scale,
the sheer majestic beauty of the Teton range, the gorgeous array of
sea stacks along the Oregon coast, and the awe inspiring formations
of the desert South West leave many who witness these areas
speechless. On a small scale, the wonderment is no less amazing. The
intricacies of color within a flower, the intensity of hue of a
tropical fish, or the bark pattern of a bristle cone pine all equate
as works of art.

Patterns in nature can be swirls, flowing lines, repetitive shapes,
rounded or cornered off objects, colors, etc. Capturing them in a
pleasing composition with good light is necessary to create a
powerful photograph. With regards to composition, the key is to
reduce what’s in front of you to its primary components. Photography
is a subtractive art. The world in front of your viewfinder is filled
with clutter and confusion. Zero in on a selected part to reduce it
to a composition that’s pleasing. This is your task.

When approaching a potential subject, look for an area that’s clean
and has strong lines. Target this portion and begin to work it into a
composition. Look for a prominent focal point and place it in the
rule of thirds. Arrange the elements so lines lead the eye to the key
part of the image. As a rule of thumb, try to have the eye enter from
the lower left and be lead up and into the picture."

- Russ

The photo(s) 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.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Monthly Assignment: Last Day to Turn in "Night Shot"

Today's the last day to turn in June's monthly assignment "Night Shot." The polls go up tomorrow morning and the voting will continue until June 30. The winner will be annouced and a new assignment chosen for the July.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Saturday Morning Cartoons

Enjoy today's installment of Aaron Johnson's photocentric comic strip "What the Duck." I had a hard time picking my favorite from this week, so you get two for the enjoyment of one! Congratulations Aaron for having these newspapers pick up your strip: Kenosha News, Wisconsin State Journal, Beaver Dam Daily Citizen, The Toronto Star. Good luck for securing more spots with other papers as well!

Friday, June 20, 2008

This Weekend: Presentation of Wedding Photos Next Weekend!

Next Saturday, I will present my first set of wedding proofs to the bride and groom of the Villanueva/Simpkins nuptials. I completed the wedding ceremony set this morning and just have to edit the reception images to be completely done.

The above photo was taken by Jason Peckovitch for Picture Your World Photography. Shots of the newly married couple walking down the aisle are a must have, and I'm so pleased that Jason was able to capture this image from the front while I shot a picture of the couple from behind.

I've been doing more research about how to present my images, making the presentation both memorable and emotional in hopes to garnering more sales. I had no idea so much planning went into wedding photography. It seems as though taking the shots was actually the easy part!

Do I have the bride and groom look at albums, prints inside a box, a computer slide show, DVD movies or framed prints? I'm thinking about doing a combination of these options, minus the DVD movie. I can frame one large image into a 20x30 to show them what the images look like in poster-size print and put some 4x6 in an album. I think I could pull out 20 to 50 of my favorites and showcase them in a slide show and then have them look at all the proofs online. What do you think? Do you have any tips on wedding proof presentations?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Breaking News: iStockphoto Accepts My Application!

Second time is the charm! I just got an email this morning confirming that iStockphoto has accepted my application to begin uploading and selling my images on their site! Web designers, writers, and publications are always in need of professional quality images to accompany their websites and stories and often turn to sites such as iStockphoto to purchase photos. I have included the accepted images in this blog entry.

"Welcome to, the designer's dirty little secret. Congratulations,
the iStockphoto administrators have determined that your files are commercially
and technically ready for Please begin uploading at your
convenience. There is currently a limit of 15 uploads per 168 hour period."

Last October, I submitted three photos during the application process to become an iStock contributing photographer, but only one of the images was accepted. The other two were declined because of compression artifacting, a common noise and color distortion problem with photo submissions. It probably happened then because I used to keep saving and re saving JPEGs, a process that degrades the image quality every time I save.

I learned a new digital work flow a couple of months ago when I took a Photoshop class with Nat Coalson through Illuminate Photography Workshops. Coalson's suggestions are to shoot in RAW and save original edits as TIFF files (saving the last copy as a JPEG to avoid compression.) I really think this work flow change made the difference in my images.

The first rejection was a tough pill to swallow, and it was a definite blow to my confidence. But I think having that in the back of mind and being aware of all the reasons why iStock won't accept nothing less than quality work made me try harder to become a more competent and technically correct photographer.

Get the Goods: PhotoVision Educational Videos

You've got only 2 weeks left to get your hands on some of the training videos I used to help prepare me for my first wedding shoot.

Subscribe to PhotoVision, using this PROMO CODE: PV058
and get a regularly priced subscription of $149 for only $35!

Every other month receive a 2-hour DVD hosted by Ed Pierce with the latest and greatest happenings in the photography industry. Designed for professionals, PhotoVision's educational DVDs cover all aspects of both technique and business while the digital calibration targets help you achieve perfect color balance and exposure.

I haven't used the calibration targets. But the DVDs I have received since I attended Ed Pierce's "Captivated by the Light" seminar and the interviews with wedding photographer Dan Doke give me everything I needed to be ready for my first wedding shoot.

Plus, save on all educational DVS and digital calibration targets. The sale ends July 1, 2008. Order online here or call 1-888-880-1441

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Get the Goods: Buy One Frame, Get One for a Penny!

One of my new buddies over at a Denver-area Aaron Brothers Art & Framing store tipped me off that the store will be offering a "Buy One Frame, Get One for a Penny!" sale. If you need some high quality frames, this is the time to act!

I have been purchasing 16x20 frames to hang up my photographs in the Heidi's Deli. I took this image into the store to see if I could find a suitable 11x14 mat to fit my frame.

A helpful clerk unearthed this gorgeous hardwood frame with textured tree bark coated on the outside of it -- the perfect compliment to the red fox I discovered hanging around my friend Mike's mountain cabin. I was all set to buy it for $50 when the clerk said, "Wait a minute! If you don't need this right now, come back on Saturday when you can get another one for a penny more." He certainly didn't have to do that, but you can bet he will likely make more money from me when I comb through that store on Saturday.

Check out their website here to see if you have an Aaron Brothers store in your hometown.

In other news, Marty, the storeowner of the Heidi's Deli, is really proving to have an eye for this kind of advertising. He carefully selected each of the images he thinks will be most likely to sell and he has given me direction on how to market the images, including contact information and a written statement about my work and other services I offer. He wants me to include facts about where each image was taken in the state so the out-of-towners expected to desend on Denver in August with the Democratic National Convention will be able to take a "piece of Colorado" back home with them.

Marty says people have been asking about this image that is currently hanging up in the deli. It's easy to tell by all the fingerprint marks on the frame that people can't seem to keep their hands off it. "They keep asking me if it's a painting or a photo," Marty says. He is very excited. "Finally my place will start to feel like home," he said.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Q and A: More Things To Consider When Shooting Weddings

QUESTIONS: CANDLEMAN from Digital Photography School forum asks: "What was the most important tips/techniques you learned when you shot your wedding? I'm doing a wedding in 4 weeks and would be very interested...."

ANSWER: First all, good luck on your wedding assignment Candleman! I have really appreciated your encouragement on the DPS forum. This is a good question, and I really had to stop and think about my response.

As I finish up editing the shots from my first wedding assignment, several things seem to keep cropping up, forcing me to spend far more time editing than I should have. Things are moving pretty fast during a wedding, but if I would have taken more time at the beginning to slow down enough to be aware of what was in my viewfinder first and repositioning for better composition before I pushed the shutter, then I wouldn't be having such a hard time editing now.

1) Be careful of distracting backgrounds. Most of my post processing has been desperately trying to correct aspects of poor backgrounds, namely things that appear to be sticking out of people's heads (branches, bookshelves etc.) or things that just detract from the main subject (bright track lights on ceilings, unsightly things like trashcans etc). Sometimes I could save the image, but other times I had to ditch it.

The above photo is an example of what I'm talking about. I took this image at the bride's house when she was getting into the car to be driven to the church. I think this would have been a great photojournalistic-type image that would have provided plenty of memories for the bride about how heavy and cumbersome that dress must have been. She needed nearly constant help from her bridesmaids to keep the dress from trailing on the ground and it was difficult getting in and out of the car.

But take a closer look: That boat in the upper left hand corner of the image is a major distraction. I tried everything I could to clone that out, but I wasn't able to do so in a manner that I would have liked. This could have been solved by taking the image from another angle, maybe while standing in front and to the side of the vehicle shooting over the window at the bride and her helpers. Then I would have had those wonderful green vines and the brick house for a more uncomplicated, uniform background.

A wide aperture is your friend in situations like this too where a cluttered background could be blurred out, allowing your subject to stand out. Or try filling the frame with the subject to eliminate most of the background, whether it's distracting or not. I also like using a telephoto lens to move in close to the subject. Fill the frame and select the widest aperture to make the background soft and often awash with colors and light. This Kodak article also suggests staying away from bright colors and text (for example, store signs). I also like the suggestions this article made regarding the use of flash to render a background black.

Some will argue you can use editing software such as Photoshop to blur the background, which is true, or even put in fake "studio-like" backgrounds especially if you are working on portraits. I've used that technique before, but it's always better to get it right in-camera first. Besides, that stuff can look very unnatural if you don't do it correctly.

2) Have a second or even third photographer if you can swing it. There was just too much going on to not have at least a second photog with me. I just don't know how a single photog can get all the candid and posed moments that happen during a wedding. I am so thankful for having those extra pairs of eyes and perspectives to get as many storytelling shots as possible

3) Avoid shooting portraits in bright, direct sunlight. It's always best to put people in shady or evenly lit areas so they don't squint or end up with those racoon shadows under their eyes and noses. Far too much editing time has been spent on healing hot spots on foreheads, cloning out those undereye shadows and dealing. Also, have people remove their glasses if possible so you don't have to deal with those flares that show up in the frames.

4) It ain't all about the bride! Remember to get shots of the groom and his family's reactions to the wedding. I put one of my photogs solely on the groom for that day's worth of coverage so his relatives and friends will be more likely to buy photos and albums as well.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Instructor's Tip: Reflections

Enjoy this week's Instuctor's Tip: "Reflections," by award winning nature photographer Russ Burden Burden:

Reflections can be found on many different surfaces. Glass buildings,
mirrors, mylar, chrome bumpers, and puddles to name a few. All
provide the opportunity to produce creative images. Some provide
smooth and uninterrupted surfaces while others add a rippled texture
giving variations of the reflected effect. In the natural world, the
diversity of mirrored surfaces isn’t as vast narrowing the amount of
photographic opportunities. Nature photographers often rely on still
water for the effect. This mandates no wind. Early mornings and late
evenings are the best times to find this condition. A bonus is the
light at this time of day is warm and directional.

Still water reflections provide the nature photographer with great
opportunities to make gorgeous images. I encourage you to use a
graduated neutral density filter to even out the difference in
exposure between the reflection and top area of the photo.
Inevitably, the reflected part will be darker by as much as three
stops. With this in mind, I carry one and two stop versions on all my
workshops. I take a meter reading of both the actual and reflected
portions. If the difference is one stop, I use the one stop filter.
If it’s two stops, I use the two stop filter and for those times when
there’s a three stop difference, I combine the one and two to give me
three stops of filtration.

The photo 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.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Saturday Morning Cartoons

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

This Weekend: Almost Finished Editing Wedding Shots

The calls are coming in and the natives are getting restless: People want to see the wedding shots and I have just two more sets to finish editing. All in all, completing this assignment has helped propel my burgeoning photographic career. I am still in talks with the college working out a freelance contract and several families who attended the wedding want to hire me for various shots, including family portraits. And the bride wants to surprise her new hubby with some lovely artistic nudes! Wish me luck making it through the weekend. I hope to have everything done by Monday morning!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Breaking News: New Freelance Photographer for Auraria Campus!

Nice! I had no idea that the woman who referred me to shoot the wedding last month is the new PR person over at the Auraria Higher Education Campus. The campus houses not only the Metro State College of Denver, but the University of Colorado at Denver and the Community College of Denver!

The PR person just called to tell me that she wants to hire me to be a freelance photographer for the campus. She says they have events there every weekend and haven't had the kind of photographic coverage they've been wanting since she got hired. Heck ya! What a blessing!

Now...what do I charge? She said an hourly rate would be good and that I could expect no more than a couple hours per event, but you and I both know those few hours will translate into a ton of editing and traveling time. Plus, I'm thinking I should charge something for corporate use of the photos in their fliers too. What do you think? Any suggestions?

Get the Job Done: Favorites Emerging from the Wedding Shoot

As I've been editing photos from the wedding, I'm feeling more and more confident and pleased about the work Jason, Mike and I accomplished at this event. I think the photos are amazing, and I wanted to take a break from post production to share a few of my favorites thus far:

Mike Haley captured this photo while I was setting up the bride and groom for their private portrait session. I love the bride's natural glowing expression of ease, beauty and happiness in this image.

This great storytelling photo by Jason Pechovitch makes me laugh. Periodically, the groom would appear to have these moments when he seemed freaked out about the prospect of getting married. Jason captured him here and I got several of him doing the same thing right before he had to be yanked into the church. The way this groom looked at the bride with such love in his eyes, I have no doubts he loved marrying her. But his sense of humor was a joy to see too.

Mike and I both love the symbolism reflected in this photo I took of the bride emerging from the basement. It was the first time many of her relatives had seen her in the ceremonial gown, so their amazement of her beauty and their compliments were sincere. But capturing her coming from the basement could also be viewed as seeing her step into a new role in her life.

An Aside: "10 Reasons Professional Photographers Charge What They Do"

I found a great blog article today about why professional photographers charge for a service that many people mistakenly believe anyone can do. Denver photography business guru Lori Osterberg puts everything into perspective and words that my lack of experience won't allow me to accurately express yet.

Since I've been working overtime editing the wedding photos that are due this weekend, I've had a lot of time to think about why someone would want to hire a professional for an event like this. There were plenty of other people who were taking snapshots throughout the wedding.

This article made me believe that I really am a professional and have a right to be charging for my work instead of feeling guilty about charging $100 for one framed photo. And if you ever need to explain to a potential client why you charge when someone on Craiglists said they would do it for free, put these tips to memory and heart and let them empower you to be compensated for the product and service only a professional can provide. And that professional is YOU and ME!

No. 6 really resonates with me right now. Mike, Jason and I may have only spent 8 hours shooting the wedding and reception....but I've spent countless hours editing the images so that they are more than snapshots but a professional product, talking to the client, taking orders and answering emails and phone calls.

"6. Professional photographers can spend hours producing one professional photograph. Time can include:

creating the marketing
answering emails and phone calls
meeting with the client to talk about the event
setting up for the event
drive time to and from the event
time for the actual photographing
running to and from the lab
meeting with the client for previews and decisions
processing the image
retouching the image
mounting the image
framing the image
packaging the image
dropping off final images
production work
follow up work

Add it all up, and you can see why one portrait session may include hours worth of work. It's impossible to stay in business if you only make a few pennies per client." - Lori Osterberg

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Saturday Morning Cartoons

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

This Weekend: Editing Like Crazy!

As if you really had to ask? I am still very busy editing the photos from the wedding shot last weekend. I started my normal workflow of using Picasa to move the photos from the CF card into numerous folders labeled: At the Bride's House, At the Groom's House, At the Wedding, Bride and Groom Portraits, At the Reception. Then I call everything up in Photoshop CS3 camera raw and start editing, creating tif and jpeg files (one to go online and one flattened from the Tif file for my clients). The above shot is one of my favorites from the "At the Bride's House" set.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Get the Goods: Win a LowePro Camera Bag

Capture the winning assignment image for "A View From Above," and Digital Days Photography Workshops will give you a LowePro Camera Bag!

Assignment #12 challenges digital photographers to seek out spectacular views only seen from above, such as from a plane or a hot air balloon. If taking your two feet off the ground is out of the question, then try shooting something from a moutain or clifftop.

The winning image will be featured in the July 08 Digital Days Newsletter and on the Digital Days Photo Workshop page.

1. Shoot the assignnment topic
2. Email your files to
3. Submit no more than 3 jpg images per person
4. DEADLINE is on Jyly 29, 2008.

What should you be striving for? Check out the last winning entry for Assignment #11: Enchantment by Carey Studt:

Judges comments: "This photo completely captures our idea of "enchantment." A simple forest path is transformed through the lens into a mystical world seemingly from from fairy-tale. The real becomes surreal in this beautiful image."

Got Caught Doing It!

Mike snapped this photo of me this weekend while we were both photographing at the bride's home of my first wedding assignment. Here, you see me directing the three flower girls and the mother of two of the little girls for a portrait.

Here is the resulting image. One of the keys to shooting group shots is to make sure all eyes are looking at you (or the camera). I had to take this a couple of times before I managed to get each pair of those eyes. It's also a good idea to have subjects sitting as closely as possible or even head to head to showcase intimacy and closeness.

I cropped the photo to emphasize the mother and her two daughters.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Instructor's Tip: Bounce Flash

Russ Burden is back from his latest nature tours (this time a 10 day trip along the Oregon and Northern California coasts) with this week's installment of the "Instructor's Tip."

Bounce Flash
Flash is a great tool as it allows photography to occur in situations
where it otherwise couldn’t. In poor light, flash can be used to
improve it. Direct flash in low light will allow you to capture an
image, but it doesn’t produce flattering light. But by bouncing that
light source off a ceiling or a wall, the light is softened netting a
pleasing wrap around effect.

Most accessory flash units tilt or swivel so their heads can be
positioned upward or sideways. In the upward configuration, the flash
can be bounced off the ceiling. In the sideways configuration, the
flash can be bounced off a nearby wall to create a sidelit effect.
The purpose of bouncing the light is to create a broader light
source. The broader the source relative to the size of the subject,
the softer the light.

Primary considerations that need to be addressed before using the
above techniques are how high are the ceilings and are they white. If
the ceiling is very tall, chances are the flash won’t have enough
power as the light has to travel from the camera to the ceiling and
back down to the subject. Opening up the aperture may help, but not
if the distance of the ceiling exceeds the power of the flash.
Secondly, if the ceilings are not white, whatever color they are,
those hues will be imparted to the subject and create an odd color
cast. White ceilings are the way to go as the reflected color will be
neutral. One final thought - bounce flash not only creates a nice
soft light source, it also prevents red eye.

- Russ

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.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Q and A: How Did I Prepare for My Wedding Shoot?

QUESTIONS: "Damn girl! Those wedding shots are ridiculous!and you say this is your first wedding? Great stuff!" -- smc1377 from Digital Photography School.

"..How did you remember all those shots? did you have reference notes? I always go blank when trying to figure out a pose." -- AdrienneN from Digital Photography School

ANSWER: The response to my first wedding assignment has been phenomenal as my friends, supporters and instructors have all weighed in, giving me a collective thumbs up! Several people stated they couldn't believe this was my first time shooting a wedding. But it truly was. I spent a full week doing little else besides researching how other successful professional photographers shoot weddings. I got great ideas from wedding photography blogs and the Digital Photography School articles. I remembered great poses (namely the one shot that focused on the flowers while the bride and groom kissed in the background), and I kept a mental list of all the "must-have shots" including family formals, etc.

The best help I could have gotten to prepare for this though was my bi-monthly edition of the PhotoVision educational series on CD. Issue 68 featured celebrated wedding photographer Dan Doke while he shot during an actual wedding assignment. Part 1 of the CD showed Dan shooting the bride at her home before the ceremony. Part 2 gave viewers a front row seat while Dan shot at the ceremony. I took notes and memorized everything Dan did. Here are some key techniques from the video:

1) Dan shoots with two cameras during weddings, one with a Canon 70-200 2.8 mm lense attached and a second with a wide angle 16-35 2.8 lense. I already had those two lenses, and I rented a 30D to go with my 5D.

2) He generally left his aperture wide open for creating depth...usually as wide as f4

3) He was very adept at "floating along" where people ignored him so he could capture candid shots

4) He mixed up his shots by shooting at many different angles: :The more angles, the more pages you can sell in your albums.

5) Learn how to be "politely pushy" when gathering people for family formals, or appoint someone to help you bring the group together

6) Get tons of combo shots ie: the bride alone, the bride with all of her brides maids, the bride and each bride maid separately, each bride made separately, etc. etc. The more combos you have the more potential print sales you can make

7) Get on the ground to take your shot. That's how I was able to focus a shot on the flowers and blur the couple in the background.

8) Don't just shoot from straight on. Move around in continuous circles, "bounce around"

9) At the reception, aim for detail shots, including the rings, flower arrangements, decorations, etc.

10) At the reception, try to take photos of everyone sitting at a table, but only groups of people who KNOW each other. If someone sees themselves in a picture with someone they don't know, they won't want to buy that picture.

11) Take your strobes with you to the reception for lighting set up shots.

12) Use a flashlight to help pinpoint light on the couple while they dance alone.

13) Night shots add drama. Dave likes his "ending shot" to be of the couple, standing in front of his truck with its high beams shining behind them for a glowing affect.

Do you have any more favorite wedding tips or poses? Drop me a line!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Get the Goods: PPA Webinar

I joined the Professional Photographers of America association last week and one of my gifts for joining the association was free attendance for Friday's "webinar," an online seminar by industry leaders for professional photographers. All you need to participate is a computer, high-speed internet connection and speakers. This one is called "Business Basics for Photographers," and it sounds like a great opportunity to get sorely needed business-sense in this creative field:

"Many photographers get into the business for the creative aspect…but it’s your business knowledge that will keep your dream alive and kicking. As photographers, you need to understand the business basics, especially when you’re starting out. And Ann Monteith, a leading authority on studio business management, has a good place for you to start learning these business basics.

Business Basics for Photographers
Participate in the online seminar Friday, June 6

Friday, June 6, 2008
with Ann Monteith, M.Photog.Cr.Hon.M.Photog., CPP, ABI, API, A-ASP
12:00pm-1:00pm EST
$49 *PPA members / $249 non-members
Register online or call 800-786-6277

It takes a lot more than good photography to build a successful business. In this Webinar, Ann Monteith will review the financial, sales, marketing and workflow fundamentals that must be mastered in order to build a successful photography business. Join now and start off on the right foot."

About Ann Monteith,
M.Photog.Cr.Hon.M.Photog., CPP, ABI, API, A-ASP, Hon.A-ASP
Known as a leading authority on studio business management, Ann Monteith serves as a consultant to studios throughout the country, both privately and under the auspices of major industry suppliers. A former chairwoman of the board of the PPA International School of Professional Photography and a past president of PPA, she received the Gerhard Bakker Award for excellence in teaching and the Charles H. “Bud” Haynes Award “for encouraging business awareness and practices.” A widely published author, she and her husband Jim are directors of Countryhouse Studios near Hershey, Pennsylvania, as well as a prestige portraiture business and teaching facility in Deep Creek Lake, Maryland.

*SEP, CPI, SPS, and EPIC members can register at the PPA member rate, but they must register via phone by calling 800-786-6277.

Visit the PPA's events section for more information on upcoming online seminars.

Breaking News: Contest for Nature Photographers

Birdy in m'Bush

The Nature Conservancy has called for entries for it's 3rd annual digital photography competition "to inspire others to protect our natural world."

"We're looking for beautiful nature photography representing the diversity of life on Earth. Your own original digital images of our lands, waters, plants, animals and people in nature are all eligible for the competition.

We are especially interested in images that showcase the wide range of habitats across our planet, including all types of forests, grasslands, lakes and rivers, deserts and arid lands, rainforests, marine habitats and coral reefs."

To enter photos, upload them to the Conservancy's Flickr group and tag them with PhotoContest-TNCO8 or complete an online form and email each photo, one at a time.

Submit as many photos as you'd like, as often as you like up unitl 11:59 PST on OCTOBER 15, 2008. Make sure to read all the rules. They want photos of flora and fauna found in the that trip you took to the local zoo won't count last summer won't count!

I've already submitted some photos to the Flickr group, including the shot of the chick in this blog and my favorite shot of that elusive red fox in my boyfriend's mountain cabin backyard. I was shocked to see that more than 75,000 photos have already been entered. But don't let that hold you back. You won't know what the response will be until you do it.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

June Monthly Assignment Posted: "Night Shot"

Congratulations to John Freeman, the winner of my blog's first monthly assignment. His ultra cool "Self Portrait" taken with a fisheye lens took top honors.

Voters Comments:
"I voted (c) as the picture just has bags of personality coming out of it..." says Scatterbrain from the Digital Photography School online forum.

As the winner, John has chosen "NIGHT SHOT" as the topic for June's assignment. Brush up on the rules by reading this past post. You have from now until June 22 to submit an entry. Voting polls will be open and will run for one week, with the winner announced on June 30.

A) By Mike Haley

B) By Jason Peckovitch

C) By John Freeman

Get the Job Done: First Wedding A Success!

Whew! Man am I exhausted! I have to say that shooting yesterday's wedding was by far one of the most challenging photography experiences I've ever had. Not only was my brain done in Saturday, but my muscles were sore and taunt as if I'd run a marathon. Of course I didn't feel any of this while I was working. Adrenaline must have kept me going. But the enormity of the event hit me as soon as we stopped, and Mike was driving us home. I could barely bring myself to speak as the excitement drained away and all that was left was fear and worry. I stared blankly out the window while Mike held my hand. I kept thinking: "God I hope I did a good job. Please don't let me have messed this up."

But I can now say with great certainty though (after spending most of Sunday editing) that I think Jason, Mike and I did a great job covering my first official wedding assignment! The photos are fabulous and it's going to be very hard to narrow it down to only the 100 or so best.

I couldn't have done this without Jason and Mike. How does any one wedding photographer working alone get the job done? There is so much going on that I think it would have been a disservice if I tried to tackle this alone. There were simply times when I didn't have the best angle, but Mike did. While Jason drove to Watkins to be with Jordan, the groom, Mike and I hightailed it to Englewood to be with Tolisa, the bride. While I shot the bride and her bridesmaids getting dressed in the basement, Mike shot the bride's father and other male relatives outside.

My flash started to die right when I was supposed to be shooting the rings, so Jason and Mike stepped up to shoot. When the dancing started, I was on the ground while Mike took some amazing shots with an entirely new perspective from above, shooting off the balcony. The triple team idea was fundamental to making this a success.

I had the best young couple to work with. Tolisa and Jordan were fun, adventurous and up for anything. Capturing their happiness was easy. I'll never forget the moment after the ceremony was over, when the couple ran out of the church. I followed them and witnessed a memorable moment: while standing alone in front of the church, Jordan gripped Tolisa's hand and they quietly prayed together for strength in their new journey together. (I kept shooting the whole time...hope that was OK!)

Now here's the bad news: Between the three of us, we must have taken nearly 3,000 shots. Can somebody say OVERKILL! It's going to take a herculean effort to edit all of this, so I think I better get ready to "kill some babies." That's the term we use in the newsroom when a reporter has the terrible job of cutting their own stories down from 60 inches to 25. Those stories are often as dear to a reporter's heart as their own child. To have to edit anything can be an almost painful experience because you are so connected to each word, each sentence. I sorta feel that way about these photos, so I better prepare myself for the difficult process of culling them down.

One of my instructors Efrain asked me what "major catastrophes" did I encounter, what lessons did I learn and what went so well that I'm beside yourself? I'd have to say that should I get another wedding assignment, I and my assistants will have to be pickier about the shots we choose to take. I think that's the only way to avoid walking away from the event with thousands of photos.

I will surely be charging more, too. I completely understand why so many wedding photographers have high prices for their wedding services. Shooting a wedding is tough. You have to be quick on your feet, moving around constantly. And the work isn't done when the bride and groom leave -- we easily are talking about several hours of more work to edit these photos and give them a cohesive look.

I was paid upfront for my services while at the reception, and the bride as agreed to pay extra for a CD of all the images, but my greatest worry now is that I won't make enough money in print sales to even cover the cost of renting the 30D. Several people asked for business cards, so that could mean some business later. The groom's father needs promotional shots for his Christian ministry (he has a daughter getting married in Oklahoma that he asked me to shoot, but I'm not so sure about that assignment!) I will definitely have to look at this as more of a portfolio-padding, learning experience.

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