Monday, June 29, 2009

Instructor's Tip: Hold Your Head Up

I hope you enjoy this week's "Instructor's Tip" by one of my favorite instructors, award winning nature photographer Russ Burden. To learn more about how Russ captured the above image, join him on one of his photo tours. Visit Russ Burden Photography to get more information.

Encountering wildlife is always exciting. Even in a place like Yellowstone where its expected, excitement is constantly evidenced by the number of elk and bison jams that occur on a daily basis. Having an animal gain my trust and carry on its normal behavior is special. It’s as if a silently communicated agreement occurs wherein the animal lets me take pictures provided I don’t invade its space. Having said this, I strongly encourage you to not become a suicidal, injury defying photographer who attempts to have his or her kids stand next to a bull moose while using a 28mm lens to capture the moment. This is a tragic accident waiting to happen. Use a long lens to keep you and your loved ones alive and safe.

As I said above, encountering wildlife is exciting but just because the animal is in your viewfinder, the situation doesn’t guarantee you’ll get a good shot. Large mammals often have their heads in the grass as a good part of the day is spent feeding. A better photo can be had when the animal lifts its head and provides you with a regal, alert, or some sort of comical glance. Images of grazing bison, deer, or elk, are very common. This is why you want to wait until it holds its head up so a stronger image can be made. It takes patience, but in the end you’ll be rewarded with better pictures.

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 27, 2009

Saturday Morning Cartoons

Here is my favorite "What the Duck" comic from this week. Rock on Aaron! "What the Duck" is an online comic strip created by Aaron Johnson. Viewers are welcome to link, post, copy/paste, or save the strips to their own sites, blogs, forums, newsletters, etc. Aaron also allows viewers to suggest titles for his individual strips, which I think is a great way to interact with his blog readers.

Friday, June 26, 2009

This Weekend: Busy, busy, busy

Graffiti Falls

Starting Saturday morning, I will be Jim Turley's second shooter at a wedding held inside an exclusive Cherry Hills Village mansion. I've been looking forward to this adventure so I can learn from an experienced wedding photography and be able to give better direction to assistants I may work with in the future. It will also be nice to "take a breather" and experiment with some of my photographer as a second shooter and watch how Jim handles the pressure of shooting a wedding and direct client contact. Even though I won't be working specifically with the bride and groom, I am still representing Jim's company, Sweetwater Images, and will treat this event with the same respect as if I were the lead shooter.

Sunday afternoon, I will be shooting during a boudoir workshop hosted by the Mile High Photographers . This is the first time I will be attending a session with this organization, and I'm excited about a chance to add some new images to my boudoir portfolioIn between both days, I will be editing photos I took during a model shoot at Graffiti Falls in Manitou Springs hosted by AM/PM Photography, members of my Mile High DPS Social Group. It was an amazing session in a type of location I've never shot at or experienced before. In the above shot, David and Alyssa brave the cold flows of the waterfall, willing to do whatever was necessary to get an amazing shot.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Get the Goods: Internationally celebrated photographer Claudio Basso in Denver!

There are still a few days left to get a discount on a fabulous two-day "reality training" event shooting models both indoors and outdoors with internationally recognized fashion photographer Claudio Basso. Basso has 25 years of experience and has shot for major fashion magazines around the world, including the Italian and American Vogue, French Elle, and Vanity Fair, just to name a few.

Basso and I have become colleagues since we both joined the photographer network. The event sounds great, especially one that allows you access to how a noted professional works AND shooting time with his models. Claudio believes the same lighting setups that are used to help make models look amazing in the fashion industry can be used with your everyday photography clients as well.

Sign up early to save $100 on registration fees by June 30th. Register here. And consider signing up for the two-fer program that offers marketing techniques to improve your business identity.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

An Aside: Coping with unreasonable client requests

They say adversity is the building blocks of character. As my photography business continues to pick up steam, I keep having to cope with some of the more difficult aspects of studio management that will hopefully help me grow a more successful company.

Lately, I've been trying to address specific client concerns that deal with customizing more affordable photography packages based on their individual needs. For example, when a potential client called to say she needed more wallet sizes than was included in her package, I saw no problem with trading out some unwanted 5x7s for a couple more pages of the wallets she wanted. Another client wanted to have all of their images from an event, both edited and unedited, while yet another wanted to trim their budget, cutting out the photo album in exchange for a lower session charge.

Usually I don't have any issues working with the client to deliver the best services possible. But I'm sure we've all been there when a customer tries to overstep boundaries that are (hopefully) clearly defined in a contract or service agreement. Because I know times are tough, I often find myself wanting to cave to requests that other photographers wouldn't even consider. And sometimes I throw in a few freebies as well, say for example, some unedited snapshots I took during the wedding rehearsal which wasn't included in my coverage, but was something I attended anyway as a fact-finding mission. If you are like me, it's just hard to say no. But I found this video that may be helpful to all of us:

While humorous and outrageous, I think I need to work harder at taking these steps shared by wedding photographer Sean Cayton to stand firm as a professional:

1. Just say no. “No” is a word that when used appropriately, draws boundaries that otherwise might not be apparent to the client. Being mealy-mouthed when you should just say no is an invitation to a negotiation.

2. Offer an unconsidered option. Customers are often single-minded when it comes to telling you what they want. But if you understand the reason behind their demands (e.g., they have a limited budget), you may be able to offer an alternative that works for you and still makes them happy.

3. Pre-qualify your clients. In my initial phone calls or e-mail correspondence with prospective clients, I ask them almost as many questions as they ask me. I want to find out if the couple places a priority on their wedding photography. I want to understand their budget. If they value photography and have a workable budget, I’m in. If not, I refer them to another photographer who might be a better fit. Pre-qualifying your customers saves everyone a lot of wasted time and effort.

To add to this, one of the things I've been doing is to have my clients explain to me what kind of services they want instead of concentrating on the price. This helps both professional and client prioritize what's important instead of getting paralyzed by the fear of cost. Once those desires are all laid out, then we can come up with a package that fits their needs.

4. Create a set of policies and include it in your contract. Sometimes problems arise after you’ve already taken on the client. The best way to combat this is to create a list of policies and include them in your contract. Our company’s standard contract is a direct reflection of our previous client experiences. Clients who waited years before fulfilling album orders, for instance, generated a new policy: a time limit of one year from the wedding date. Every time I get the client to sign off on a policy beforehand, it helps me to avoid future problems.

In this vein, new procedures I'm going to be instituting include having all payments made before each session (a deposit and then the balance due before the shoot begins) to avoid having to be a debt collector in the future. Galleries on my website will only be up for a specific amount of time before they are taken down and only reuploaded at additional fees. And clients will only be receiving edited photos, trusting in my education, ability and professionalism to capture their treasured events.

5. Maintain your professionalism. When working with a client who is being unreasonable, stay professional. Some customers think that the harder they push, the more they will squeeze out of us. While it can be frustrating to work with this type of client, you should never take things personally. Simply stand firm. Patience and professionalism are the best response when clients overstep their boundaries.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Get the Goods: Lumiquest FXtra

This past week while wondering around drooling at equipment inside Denver Pro Photo, a sales clerk told me about this really cool new product called the Lumiquest FXtra. The FXtra is a compact gel holder that mounts directly to your flash and makes installation and removal of colored gels simple. I've been very interested in learning how to use gels to colorize my light and make some cool background effects, and I think this is a great and inexpensive product to get me started for just $20.

Eight Rosco gels are included (CTO, ½ CTO, ¼ CTO, Plus Green, ½ Plus Green, Sky Blue, Canary Yellow and Fire Red ) inside a handy integrated storage pouch that fits both Rosco and Lee gel samples. Need a sample gel pack? Get the Rosco Cinegel Swatchbook at B&H for just $2

Any LumiQuest accessory (and many other brands) can be attached while FXtra is in place allowing you to colorize the light while using a variety of light modifiers. It's crazy easy to assemble by just placing adhesive velcro (also included) to your flash. A plastic bag keeps everything in place. I can't wait to try it out! Need a visual? Check out this video on the Lumiquest site.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Instructor's Tip: Details, details, details

I hope you enjoy this week's "Instructor's Tip" by one of my favorite instructors, award winning nature photographer Russ Burden. To learn more about how Russ captured the above image, join him on one of his photo tours. Visit Russ Burden Photography to get more information.

“So small, but so important” has me reflect back to a wedding I photographed. The bride was gorgeous and outfitted in a magnificent beaded dress with a four foot train. Her veil perfectly framed her face that displayed just the right amount of make up. Her bouquet was an array of peace lilies that was as delicate as her personality. I couldn’t wait to start taking pictures. The problem is, I had to wait. She was so distraught over the way a small section of her bangs looked, she wouldn’t let me begin the picture taking until her hair was perfect. The point I’m getting to is, even though there are many magnificent subjects to photograph, always try to be aware of little details that may make the end result better.

Whether you’re photographing people, flowers, animals, landscapes, architecture or whatever, always be aware of the little things that can be tweaked to improve the shot. With people, wait for an expression that really captures the person’s personality. With animals, a simple turn of the head may make all the difference. With landscapes, photograph them at sunrise or sunset and wait for that perfect cloud to get into position that ties the composition together. Regardless of the subject, being patient and persistent will net you better photographs.

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 20, 2009

An Aside: Local photography instructors in the news!

Photo Credit

An article I wrote in today's Denver Post "Inside & Out" section features four local photography instructors! My editor thought it would be a great idea to write an article explaining to readers how to take better vacation photos. And since I'm the budding photog in the department, she thought I would have the perfect perspective to help demystify the process.

I turned to nature and people photographer Russ Burden, who's weekly photo tip appears on my blog on Mondays, Efrain Cruz, the director of Illuminate Workshops, Jeffrey Rupp, an instructor at the Denver Darkroom and Greg Cradick, executive director of the Working With Artists photography school and gallery. What I found interesting about these interviews was how each photographer was able to offer a specific piece of the photographic pie in an easily digestible format.

Saturday Morning Cartoons

Here is my favorite "What the Duck" comic from this week. Rock on Aaron! "What the Duck" is an online comic strip created by Aaron Johnson. Viewers are welcome to link, post, copy/paste, or save the strips to their own sites, blogs, forums, newsletters, etc. Aaron also allows viewers to suggest titles for his individual strips, which I think is a great way to interact with his blog readers.

Friday, June 19, 2009

This Weekend: Waterfall model shoot

Early Saturday morning, I will be heading to Manitou Springs to shoot several models at "Graffiti Falls", a waterfall with fresh graffiti on the underside of the bridge that runs adjacent to the it. The site is popular because adventurous teenagers are known for climbing up and jumping into the base of the falls. The event was set up by Paul Martin of AM/PM Photography, and
I've been needing to add more variety to the fashion section in my portfolio, especially more images of male models. I continue to have difficulty shooting males, so I welcome any opportunity I have to explore poses that showcase their strength.

Here are some of Paul's location shots:

Thursday, June 18, 2009

An Aside: Scam Alert for Photographers

I was flying high when I got an email today saying that my listing on the Professional Photographers of America online referal program had netted a potential customer. But it turns out a con artist in a "fund forwarding" scheme is targeting photographers on the list!

Here's the note verbatim:

Dear Sheba Wheeler,

A potential customer has requested additional information about your photography business. Their contact information and/or questions are included below. Please make every effort to reply to them as soon as possible.

Name: Paul ******
Message: Greetings! I am PAUL ******* from ENGLAND, I came across your profile after an effortless search for a professional photographer. We are relocating to my new house that I just buy in Colorado ,USA. I mean I and my wife and children on July 26th 2009, but I will be celebrating my birthday on August 13th, So I want your service on my birthday August 13th 2009. My address which the birthday party will take place is below: 1890 S Marshall Cir Lakewood, Colorado 80232 USA That is my house address that I just buy and moving from ENGLAND to in USA. The birthday party will start 12pm to 4pm, so you can arrive the same day to our house if you like, or you can arrive at our house day for the party, just let me know which one you wish to do, but my house have adjacent rooms which you can stay in one of them if you like to come for the day of party. I invited 30 friends and that is all we are expecting on the day. So let me know your charges rate for the party including the Airfare or your transportation amount, and let me know the amount all together, so I can arrange for the payment in time and you can be able to book the day for my Birthday Party. I want you to contact me through my personal email, so i can always receive your message in time, because am always on it, (GET BACK TO ME THROUGH MY EMAIL) l am attending conference meeting in china now so you can reach me on this mobile number +8613720041272 Anytime from Monday to Sunday. Thanks.

After the surprise and amazement wore off in a few minutes, my journalistic-induced skepticism kicked in. I had received a letter similar to this in the past from a scammer who wanted to rent a room in my house and tried to send me a check for nearly triple the amount of my rental free. I checked the Lakewood address which did exist, but the poor grammar and the fact that the address didn't exist made me doubt this even more.

Thank goodness, I got an email from one my most respected photography colleagues, Mark Hayes confirming my suspicions. He had received the exact same letter! A little more digging and I found this message from the PPA warning about a rise in email scam activity.

Here is how the scam works: the photographer is contacted by e-mail from someone out of the country asking for pricing information for a wedding or other event. Once the photographer sets a price for coverage, the con artist offers to retain the photographer’s services - and sends a check for an amount well above the cost of the wedding coverage. The con artist then requests that the photographer forward the overage of the funds via wire transfer to the minister conducting the ceremony, who is also in another country. For example, if the photography fee is $1,000, the con artist sends a check for $5,000 and asks that $4,000 be forwarded.

The check, of course, will bounce - but the victim will not receive that notification for up to 14 days. In the meantime, the con artist has pocketed $4,000 that was wired to them and disappeared.

From the comment below, looks like they even tried to hit up noted photographer Richard Peterson too! The con artists have gotten smarter too, using real addressed they've taken from Google Maps, and promising to make payment by credit card or money order (before switching back to a check payment offer after they get a response). But I'm with Mark: They still smell the same!

Mark says there may be an upside: "On the bright side, most of the wanna be photographers never get scams." Guess that means I'm legit now! :P

Breaking News: Business is heating up!

Woohoo! Things are starting to cook at Picture Your World Photography! I was shocked when I received an email on Facebook from another woman interested in having me shoot her wedding in June 2010! I thought her message was so cute...she was worried it was unprofessional to try to contact me through Facebook. I think it's WONDERFUL and definite proof that people are using Facebook for more than just socializing. Donna is actually a friend of Jessica, the client I spoke with earlier this week. I haven't even officially shot for Jessica yet and it's clear she has enough faith in my ability to refer me to her friends! If Donna books me to shoot her wedding, Jessica will receive $25 worth of free prints!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tips of the Trade: How to stay sane during wedding season

While exploring some of the news items on, I came across this great list of "rules" about surviving wedding season from photographer Susan Centineo of Studio C Photography. I love Centineo's candor and transparency. especially her willingness to share how to maintains good relationships with her clients through communication. Here is a sample of one of her letter's to a client to summarize the events of the wedding day as was originally discussed when the wedding was booked, serves as the reminder for any balance due, and assures that the photographers will have their break during the meal. Here is a sample letter:

Dear Lauren and Aaron,

This is Rickilynn Dyer, your Coordinator of Services at STUDIO C Photography. As you know, we are coming up the big day, and I’d like to summarize a few things to assure that on your wedding day there will be smooth sailing. CAREFULLY READ THE FOLLOWING and contact me if there are any discrepancies.

Your photographers will meet you at Morningside Inn at 4 PM, approximately 1 hour prior to the ceremony. We will take pictures of you separately, with your wedding party, family, and friends. We will photograph the ceremony, and continue through approximately 10 PM, or until all key points of the reception are completed. The photographers usually stay through all but the last hour, by which time all key points are covered.
We understand that you are requesting both traditional and candid shots, which is typical of most weddings, and your photographers will capture images in both styles. Your photographers are prepared for both outdoor and indoor shots.
Please ask your officiant to make a short announcement right after the ceremony about immediate family and the wedding party remaining for photos.
Your photographers will take their break while everyone is eating the meal. Please remind your catering/venue director to provide a separate table for the photographers to take their meal, and to check camera gear, etc.
After the wedding, please allow a full twenty-one days, at least, for a proof gallery. The editing process is lengthy and time-consuming, and thus it is often closer to four weeks. Please be patient – you don’t want to rush the editing! This is what makes the difference between great STUDIO C images and awesome STUDIO C images.
Once you have your proofs, take all the time you need to view them and decide on your favorites. Your photographers are available to review them with you in our Studios if you need guidance choosing album photos, or if you would like to see our latest products. According to our records, your balance has been paid in full.
In the meantime … Enjoy your Wedding Day, Honeymoon, and the beautiful life that we are sure you will have together in the years to come.:)


Rickilynn Dyer
Service Coordinator

The tips that spoke the most to me:
1) THE JOYS OF POST-EDITING – JUST DO IT! – Weddings are really two-day events, the wedding itself, and then the day of editing. No matter how good your images are, there is always a certain amount of cropping and general enhancement that must be done, not to mention the special effects that we always add to at least a handful of images (about 25 – 30) to really ‘wow’ the bride and groom. With 800 – 1000 or more images to wade through, narrow down, and edit, this takes a full four to six hours on a really good day. Rule of thumb: Edit the entire thing before the next wedding. Now, if Wedding A is on Friday evening and Wedding B is Saturday morning, you aren’t going to have time to squeeze in your editing unless you choose to forego getting any sleep, which of course we do not recommend. The key is to schedule a full day on Monday or Tuesday to knock out both weddings, and be thus ready for the next. If you don’t, you’re going to find yourself backed up on three weddings, and this is when we start to sweat, forging a stressful path for ourselves to be sure. Treat it like an appointment: Schedule it, be there, be on time, and leave when the appointment is over, and not before. Too many photographers leave editing for that vague and indeterminate future date, ‘when we have time.’ We never have time – you know this – and before you know it, you’re backed into a corner. Forcing yourself to edit before the next gig with be worth it’s weight in gold – and your sanity – later on.

2) STAY IN TOUCH AFTER THE FACT- OK, you’ve gotten all their images and products to them, signed, sealed, and delivered, and a big check-mark on the file. Now what? Stay in touch, that’s what! Your past clients are rich sources of future referral business, and by maintaining a system of regular contact you will stay fresh in their minds. We start by sending a feedback form in a thank-you card about 2 weeks after the products are delivered. The letter starts like this: “A penny for your thoughts … how about a dollar?” A crisp new one dollar bill is in the envelope, along with a self-addressed, stamped envelope, as inducements to complete the form. We get about 95% of them back. Next, we send Christmas cards, a one-year anniversary card, and two or three emails over the course of the year sharing a gallery here, a special there. No overkill, just a system of occasional communications. If we receive a referral and the client books, we send our referring clients a gift certificate to a good restaurant, or a general Mall certificate, which they can use in any store there. Always reward referrals, and make each reward better than the last for multiples.

That last one is filled with great ideas to make your wedding clients repeat customers through occasional communications. I definitely need to work on this.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Get Connected: Photographers Summer Party!

Visit Mile High Photographers

I am so excited that my hectic schedule has finally lossened up a bit so I can attend a Mile High Photographers event. The group is hosting a "Summer Kick-Off Party," tonight with appetizers, drinks, and raffle prized available from Digilabs and other sponsors.

Every one who attends will receive:

*One year FREE of web services (applies to annual fee plan
*30% off all Book Orders (ordering quantities of 1-100)

Raffle Prizes include:

*2 free coffee table books (8.5x8.5 Ashbury Books 20 pages)

*2 free calendars (12x18, 11x17 centerbound or topbound)

*2 free boxes 5x7 cards

*2 free proof magazines (8.5x11 50 sides 25 pages press printed soft cover)

This group is very active and has monthly meetings with speakers, shooting workshops, special interest groups and numerous events planned by members:

June 16 Kick-Off Party
July 21 Super-Marketing with Kristy Chenell from The Wedding Summit
August 18 Album Show and Tell
September 15 Social Networking
October 20 Family Portraits Workshop
November 17 End of Season Party

Join us and add me as your friend!

Get the Job Done: A wedding booking with a twist

Yesterday evening I had a wedding consultation with a young couple who's nuptials I will be shooting in December. Jessica and Nathan are such a fun pair that I know I'm going to have a blast with them. In fact, their wedding will present me with a new challenge: their church won't allow me to shoot the actual ceremony!

During the consultation, the couple explained that their church's restriction not allowing any photography to take place during the nuptials, deemed a sacred rite that shouldn't be disturbed with flashes, etc. The only chance I and my assistants might have would be to shoot from a balcony. That wouldn't be so difficult if it weren't for the fact that the wedding will be at night and the balcony is very far away from the altar. I have the equipment that would allow me to get some decent shots even in low light and no flash (High ISO and a tripod to the rescue!). Another photography colleague said she and her lead shooter had to work under similar circumstances and got good results by turning most of the images into black and white, allowing the low light to create ambience and mood.

But my client voiced concerns that she didn't want to upset anyone at the church by not following their rules. I think my best course of action is to speak with the officiant and church wedding planner to hear out their concerns and see if there will be time allotted for us to recreate some of the key moments from the ceremony after the wedding, including the bride walking down the aisle, the vows and ring exchange and "the kiss." The church will be decorated for the holidays with clear lights and gold and silver bulbs shimmering. It should be gorgeous! And if it snows, which is likely, we can have fun with that as well!

Jessica and Nathan want full coverage of the wedding preparation, including both of them getting dressed, formal portraits of relatives and the wedding party and about an hour or so of their reception, capturing highlights such as the cutting of the cake and the first dance. My assistants and I will also be working off a shot list to expediate the shooting, as my clients only booked three hours of actual shooting time. During the meeting, Jessica also booked a bridal session, which is wonderful!

Even though I have set wedding packages, I think every couple I've worked with so far has appreciated knowing that my ala carte items helped them create a custom package based on their specific needs. Jessica and Nathan also enjoyed having access to view a previous wedding I shot last month. That allowed me to talk to them about the differences between candid captures and traditional posed shots, as well as the type of shots they preferred. They both picked out the photos included in this post as some of their favorites, taken during Harriet and Peter's lovely day.

It's interesting to note how Jessica became my most recent wedding client. About six months ago, Jessica's company sent her to my house to do an estimate for some work I needed. I remember her walking around my home, asking me if all the photos I had up were my own work. I had no idea at the time, but Jessica would soon be getting married, and when it came time for her chose a photographer to capture her special day, she said I was the first person she thought of, "because I knew you did good work!"

Monday, June 15, 2009

Instructor's Tip: Basic Photoshop Optimization

Photo credit: Russ Burden
I hope you enjoy this week's "Instructor's Tip" by one of my favorite instructors, award winning nature photographer Russ Burden. To learn more about how Russ captured the above image, join him on one of his photo tours. Visit Russ Burden Photography to get more information.

Capturing in RAW means spending a bit more processing time in front of the computer for each of your images, but it’s well worth the effort. In what only took a few minutes, I was able to transform the original shot into something that was pleasing.

STEP 1: CROP - The composition that was created in camera left a bit to be desired dictated by the longest focal length of the lens that was on the camera. I cropped the original horizontal into a vertical and got rid of the extraneous material.

STEP 2: Use Adobe Camera Raw to process the RAW file - I tweaked the highlights using the exposure slider, the shadows using the blacks slider and the midtones using the brightness slider. I also removed some of the blue cast using the white balance temperature slider.

STEP 3: Burn Tool - I wanted just the top of the the sky to be darker so the viewer’s eye would drift toward the lower portion of the image and not be lead to the top as it was too bright. To accomplish this, I clicked on the burn tool, set it to midtones at 10 percent and dragged it across the top of the sky two times.

STEP 4: Remove it: The houses along the bottom of the image were distracting so I used the clone stamp tool to remove them. The end result is an image where the paraglider looks as if he’s flying very high rather than skimming the ground.

Photo Credit: Russ Burden

If you're receiving this week's Tip of the Week and you're a local Denver resident, of special interest to you is a Photoshop class I'm teaching for the Digital Photo Academy on Saturday June 27 from 8:00 - 4:00. Feel free to call me for the details or visit to register on line. I'll share many of my tips, tricks and secrets as to how I optimize my images in Photoshop.

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 14, 2009

Business Briefs: Facebook ad snags a new client

This past week, I was contacted by a new client who wants to give her husband boudoir photos for his wedding gift. Where did she find information about me? From my advertisement that is currently running on Facebook!

Since my current was created on May 14, 101,675 impressions of it have appeared on pages viewed by Facebook users for just $2 a day. The ad has been clicked 128 times, leading interested parties to this blog post announcing my boudoir special for the 2009 Wedding Season. To date, I've been emailed three times with inquiries about boudoir photography.

What I like about this new client is her expressed willingness to refer me to several of her friends and family who will be getting married in the coming months and years.....and she hasn't even had me shoot her yet! That vote of confidence is inspiring and motivational. I wish I could shoot her wedding next June, but it will be out of the country and she has already booked a photographer there. She definitely likes to plan ahead which I think is great!

As soon as possible, I plan to increase the number of times my FB ad appears in hopes of gaining more bookings.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Saturday Morning Cartoons

Here is my favorite "What the Duck" comic from this week. Rock on Aaron! "What the Duck" is an online comic strip created by Aaron Johnson. Viewers are welcome to link, post, copy/paste, or save the strips to their own sites, blogs, forums, newsletters, etc. Aaron also allows viewers to suggest titles for his individual strips, which I think is a great way to interact with his blog readers.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Get the Goods: Outdoor Portrait Class

This is the class I've been waiting for! Photographer Russ Burden will be teaching a customized Digital Photo Academy course called "Outdoor Portrait Shoot." Given that Russ specializes in people and nature photos, I think this will be a great blending of the two and a great opportunity for picking his brain for some coveted location shoot spots. Plus, I could always use good pointers in learning how to blend ambient and artificial lighting, especially when dealing with the harsh sunlight we have here in the Mile High City. I'm saving up for this one now!

NOTE: All photos in this post were taken by Russ Burden.

Here are the deets:

Sunday August 16th 8am - 5pm $150

Be it a single subject or a small group, sign up for this exciting class to learn how to improve your portrait photography. Russ will meet his students at a park in Littleton and show what he does when he’s in the field working with his portrait subjects. The class will be limited to 9 students keeping the instructor to student ratio low so make sure you get on board early.

Signing up for this class will benefit you in many ways. If you have kids / grandchildren / spouses and want to bring them along to be photographed, we welcome them. Additionally, feel free to bring your dog! Please make sure someone is with you who can bring them home as you will be involved in the class. If you want to take advantage of this perk, please make sure the person you bring dresses accordingly to maximize the best possible images for all the participants. Signing up for the class requires we share each other’s files if one of us creates a nice photo of anyone in the group. This will be done when we convene at my studio for the Photoshop portion of the class. Bring a flash drive to swap files. The photography portion of the class will run from 9:00 - 1:00. Your invited subjects will be photographed during these hours. (one restriction - no high school senior portraits)

Russ will show you how to work with subjects to bring out their best. He’ll share the techniques he uses to control the harsh Colorado sun using flash, reflectors, and diffusers. He’ll give you tips on posing single subjects in addition to how he sets up a group to make the image look clean. He’ll work the subjects in both strong sun and in the shade and while doing so, discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each.

All of the above unto itself makes for a fantastic workshop but it gets even better. Following the time at the park from 9:00 - 1:00, we’ll discuss what we shot while at lunch and then convene at Russ’s studio to do Photoshop work on the files. We’ll do a critique of our photos, learn how to optimize each file in Adobe Camera RAW, and learn how to further tweak each picture in Photoshop. We’ll concentrate on how to touch up a portrait. It’s a jam packed, fun filled photo day that starts at 9:00AM and doesn’t end until 6:00PM so if you’re wanting to learn a lot about portrait photography, don’t miss this class.

Details: Meet at Sterne Park in Littleton at 9:00AM. Bring lenses in the range of 50mm - 200mm / flash and lots of extra batteries for it / reflectors if you have them / extra camera batteries / plenty of flash cards / flash drive to trade files. Bring interesting or unusual hats and props to give the shoot some spice.

To save on additional costs of hiring models, we’ll use each other and/or the guests you invite as detailed above for both the individual and group shots. Using real life people in real life situations makes for a great learning experience.

If you would like to learn more or to register for this fun-filled workshop, please call Shelby on our toll-free line at 1.877.372.2231 or log on to Digital Photo Academy and click on Denver from the list of cities on the home page to register. We hope to see you there!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Get the Job Done: My first gig as a second shooter at a wedding!

Jim Turley of SweetWater Images has asked me to be his assistant/second shooter for a wedding later this month at the gorgeous Buell Mansion, a lovely old 3-story brick mansion opposite the Cherry Creek Country Club in exclusive Cherry Hills Village. Exuding Old World class and prestige, the mansion is set on a secluded hilltop and is graced with mountain views and a grove of cottonwoods. It features multiple crossed gables and steeply pitched roofs -- all of which should make for amazing backdrops for this wedding event.

If you remember, I met Jim while taking his photography business management course offered by Illuminate Workshops last year, and he has continued to be an excellent resource for my budding photography business. I can't thank Jim enough for thinking highly enough of my abilities to grant me this opportunity. I know I have served as a lead photographer now for three events, but I have been hoping to be a second shooter so I can gain more experience and flex my creative juices without the same kind of pressure a lead photographer must take on. Jim's photography business specializes in weddings, so it will be great to see and learn from a master while at work. Plus, being a second shooter will help me learn how to give direction to anyone who assists me in future shoots.

The wedding will be held outside, if nature cooperates. My last wedding planned for outside was forced indoors when a spring rain storm hit. I will primarily be shooting, since this is a more casual, three-hour event, which is often the case when the nuptials are the 2nd marriage for both as it is with this couple. There will only be 75 guests and no bridesmaids and groomsmen, so I can focus all of my attention on them. Then the reception will be held inside the mansion proper. Jim hopes the contacts gained from this event may lead to work for future high-end clients, which is a must, at least I believe, if I ever hope to do photography full time.

Jim often uses a video light, so I will get some experience holding that source for him and learning how he uses it. All of the images will be mine to keep for my portfolio. Jim has asked for 100 of my best images without post production, which he will do to maintain a consistent product look. I am looking forward to such a great event and proud to be included.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Get the Goods: Getting my camera professionally cleaned

I have spent entirely too much time editing out dust from my images. Thank goodness I finally found a place to have 5D and one of my lenses professionally cleaned. Turns out that Ray Pong of Ray's Camera Repair and Service (303-595-3213) is now conveniently located in a shop right inside Denver Pro Photo. Ray is a certified photographic consultant & camera repairman and Pro Photo is one of the premiere photography stores in Denver. Talk about one stop shopping!

Ray explained to me how to access my camera's CCD sensor to check for dust. Sure enough, there were three rather large specs that have shown up on all of my photos. The process is commonly called "cleaning the sensor," but in reality we never actually clean the sensor itself, but a low pass filter mounted in front of the sensor. While he said I could use the "swab and methanol method," using a Photographic Solutions Sensor Swab (No. 3, since it's the only one large enough to clean a full frame sensor), he said not to do it unless you are completely comfortable, have steady hands and a good mechanical aptitude. I may have the steady hands sometimes, but my mechanical skills are lacking when it comes to fear of doing something that would severely mess up my camera. I think that $60 isn't much to pay for peace of mind for this first cleaning. Ray's going to throw in cleaning services for my dirty Sigma 24-70 too. I may be a little more confident and willing to try cleaning it myself later on.

Ray showed me one nifty tip of the trade that I do think I can do. If you look in the back of your lens, you might see a soft, velvety area surrounding the inside. The velvet was literally caked with dust. All of that easily transfers onto a photo. Ray took a toothpick, wrapped the end of it with a piece of Scotch Tape and circled around the velvet, using the toothpick like a lint dust. Worked like a charm! I should have my camera and lens back in a few days, and Denver Pro Photo has some of those sensor swabs on order for me as well, should I be brave enough to use them myself.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Instructor's Tip: Clearing/Impending Storms

I hope you enjoy this week's "Instructor's Tip" by one of my favorite instructors, award winning nature photographer Russ Burden. To learn more about how Russ captured the above image, join him on one of his photo tours. Visit Russ Burden Photography to get more information.

There’s nothing quite as dramatic as an ominous sky boiling in fury and thunder. Likewise, as a storm wanes, a crispness and vivid sense of cleansing occurs. Both circumstances make dramatic images. Listen to the weather to hear when a change in conditions is forecast. Be it an impending storm or the end of a snowfall, it’s at the cusp of these events that spectacular natural phenomena occur.

Watching a storm roll in is a multi sensory experience. Visually, the sky begins to darken and clouds thicken. Bands of rain can be seen in the distance as they build in intensity threatening the landscape in a downpour. The air takes on a distinct musty odor beckoning you to take cover. Auditorally, a bizarre quietness, brought on by the stillness in the air, envelopes the surroundings except for a distant rumble of thunder. Gradually the sky becomes more and more dramatic. Recording these events produces unique images in that no two storms ever form in identical ways.

As a storm dissipates, a sense of freshness fills the air. Another, yet different multi sensory event unfolds. The precipitation scours the atmosphere removing pollutants. The repercussion is heightened visual acuity as everything is sharper to the eye. The smell is fresh and alive and the sounds of birds and other animals can be heard as they emerge from their hiding places. Witnessing this transition always inspires me to take a myriad of images.

When the sun is low on the horizon, an added bonus of an impending or waning storm is the possible formation of a rainbow. Rainbows form when the sun is 42 degrees or lower from the horizon and there’s moisture suspended in the air directly opposite the sun. Using a polarizer can increase the intensity of a rainbow, but it can also eliminate it. The effect is visible through the viewfinder so fine tune it as you see fit.


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.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Get Connected: Paying homage to my wedding assistants

Sean and I in our matching Domke photo vests.

I wanted to dedicate this post to Christine and Sean, my wonderful assistants who helped me shoot last Saturday's wedding for Julie and Joe. I am so thankful to have had them with me, as I STILL don't know how one photographer can cover an entire wedding alone. Having three very different photographers focusing on specific aspects of the wedding made it easy to document this couples' "story," and I just know that if I had been forced to shoot this alone, details would have been missing.

Christine working the church floor. Photo by Sean Donnelly

Christine was responsible for capturing detailed shots, including the rings, the shoes and bouquet. She was also the only photographer stationed on the floor of the church and thus took numerous wide angle, story telling shots. I was behind the altar and Sean was upstairs in the choir loft shooting down. Having us all in different places using very different lenses (Christine shooting wide and with a standard 24-70 and Sean and I using largely telephotos) meant we got great angles of important parts of the wedding, including "The kiss," the ring exchange and walking down the aisle together as a new married couple.

Photo by Sheba Wheeler

Photo by Sean Donnelly

Photo by Christine Tydingco

It is fun to be able to see us all developing our own signature styles. Christine's images appear to be becoming very "illustrative" as opposed to traditional or photojournalistic. Illustrative wedding photography is known for really unique and unusual lighting effects and angles that make the image stand out from the ordinary. The photographer is given more ability to improvise and use his/her artistic sense to create the story of a wedding day rather than take images of individual moments that build up to the story as I like to do as a photojournalistic photographer. Here are some of my favorites from Christine:

Photo by Christine Tydingco

Photo by Christine Tydingco

Photo by Christine Tydingco

Sean focused on the groom, getting formal portraits of relatives and groomsmen. I love his edgy, high contrast style and lensbaby-effect which I think worked great for shooting the men. Here are some of my favorites of Sean's work from the day:

Photo by Sean Donnelly

Photo by Sean Donnelly

Photo by Sean Donnelly

I think Julie and Joe got a great collection of images to cherish for all time from three equally talented photographers, and I couldn't thank Christine and Sean enough.
Photographers have different ways of working with assistants. In some cases, a lead shooter will request that the assistants simply handover all of their unedited images so he/she can edit them for a consistent look. Since I had a wedding on Saturday and another on Sunday, I decided to let my assistants cull their own work down as well as edit them, giving me only their best 50 or so.

Now, are you guys ready for another wedding? :)

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