Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Get the Job Done: The Garden of Eden

Eden's portraits taken in a sunflower field on an empty plot of land near my subdivision were a great success! And not a moment too soon either! Just one week after I shot these images of "Little E," the entire field was mowed over, wrecking plans that I had to take senior portraits in the same location.

Apparently what I saw as an ideal spot for some fun portraits was just blight to the neighborhood. Oh well. Next year, I will try to plan some shoots based on the sunflower blooming season (and of course as long as that piece of property remains vacant which could be a while given our slow economy!)

Here are some of the favorites from the set.

Monday, August 30, 2010

An Aside: Which new watermark should I use?

Sometimes I admit, I'm a little slow when it comes to graphic design. After wringing my hands for more than a year trying to scrape up enough money to pay a Photoshop Guru to help me create an official business logo, I realized something. I already LOVE the one my buddy and fellow photographer Paul Martin and AM/PM Photography designed for me!

After asking dozens of clients what they thought about the design as it appears on my splash page of the world map with my pictures inside of it's continents, I was convinced that I should keep it. Everyone remarked how much they loved it. Didn't get a single negative comment! Other than my signature "Teri's Rose" image continuing to draw in new clients, the logo as it appears has become it's own brand for my company. Yes, it's true. It can be argued that it's not a traditional logo in a sense because it wouldn't work small. But I think I may have solved that problem if you can help me choose which watermark I should start using to really nail my branding.

Which one do you like more?

Option A with the watermark appearing as a white world map on a transparent background in a corner, side, bottom or top of the image.

Option B with a transparent world map outlined in black right in the center of the photo, most likely lowered in opacity so it blends in while still being able to be seen.

Option C with a white world map, placed in the center, and it's opacity lessened to help it be a little see-through?

I will hold my initial gut instinct until I hear what others think. Appreciate your help!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Get the Job Done: Who are these masked women?

Who are these masked women? Last night's "alter ego" photo session with BFF Monique and Jessica was crazy, sexy, cool! But this school teacher and business woman must keep their identities hidden.

Check back later for the great reveal!

Here kitty, kitty!

Crouching tiger...

Friday, August 27, 2010

An Aside: Info on old hard drive can't be recovered!

Well, it's official. All of the information I had on my old XPS 710 hard drive can't be recovered unless I'm willing to pay an arm, leg, several toes and maybe an ear to get it fixed by a RAID 0 recovery specialist.

Of course before this whole catastrophe struck, I had no idea that my hard drive system was a RAID 0, nor did I know what a RAID 0 meant. I'm not very computer savvy, but I'll tell you what...becoming a photographer has definitely forced me to become more technologically sound than I ever thought I could be. I just wish all my new learning didn't come at the cost of so much loss and heartache.

To try to understand exactly what happened with my old computer, I turned to my trusty photo colleague Sean Donnelly who has always been an walking encyclopedia for all things photography/computer/technology related. Sean is definitely a "teacher in the making" because if he can get my feeble brain to understand his techno-babble he can teach anyone!

So my initial system on the XPS 710 was a: RAID 0 which sounds like a good idea on paper. You use 1 or more smaller disks to make 1 bigger one and get a performance gain because it can read from 3 different disks. But there's a big downside. There are now also 3 points of failure for the volume instead of 1, and even though RAID stands for Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks, RAID 0 had 0 redundancy. So if a RAID 0 fails, it can not be rebuilt or recovered. Sure, it's a great to have with gaming machines because of the performance increase, but it's a really poor choice for archiving and storing things I care about as a photographer, including contracts, invoices and of course PHOTOS! EEEEK! Two drives acting as one means the chance of losing everything increases with no redundancy in place.

And that's exactly what happened! When my motherboard died in the old XPS rendering me unable to even turn on my computer, the data on my hard drives because virtually unrecoverable. The Geek Squad said I might be able to send to a data recovery service, but it would likely cost me more to recover the data than I spent on it.

Thank God I had just taken the time to backup all of my photos on two new external hard drives. And the most recent shoots I had were still on their original CD cards, so they were easy to recover. Unfortunately, I lost all of my contracts and invoices dating back from 2008 and about 3,000 songs. Most of those contracts were printed, so I can scan them in and resave them.

"I would never put anything I couldn't easily re-install on a RAID 0. Programs that I can re-install or re-download fine. Music, photos, things I can't replace? Never," says Sean.

Of course I went to the manifest for the new Alienware Aurora Dell replaced my old XPS 710 with and discovered I'm cruising for yet another bruising unless I make a change. Yep, it's a 1TB Raid 0 2x 500GB SATA-II, 7,200 RPM, 16MB Cache HDDS. Basically I'm in the same boat even with a new computer!

Sean suggests a couple of options to protect my data.

1) Add an additional 1 TB drive to an empty bay (I have four more empty slots in my Alienware!) and use a Carbon Copy Cloner type of backup to make identical and bootable backups of my RAID 0. That way if it fails, I have an exact clone I can replace it with. This can also be achieved with an external drive.

2) A second option is you could buy 2 more 500GB drives and set up a RAID 1+0 array with the 4 drives. This is basically two RAID 0 arrays mirrored as a RAID 1. In this set up one RAID 0 mirrors the other, so you have redundancy if a drive fails.

3) A third option would be to make a clone type backup to an external drive, convert the two hard drives to a RAID 1 and restore the clone back to the RAID 1.

4) A RAID 1 setup. While it halves the capacity of the disks (ie, if you use 2 1 TB drives you only end up with about 1TB of storage), there is redundancy, so if one of the two drives fails, you simply replace it with a new one and the RAID is rebuilt.

"In any case you definitely want to have some sort of constant clone type of backup for a RAID 0, because while slightly faster, they are a problem waiting to happen," says Sean. "Honestly I would rather have 1 single 1TB drive than a RAID 0. RAID 0 has double the chance to fail with only about a 10% performance gain. Unless hard core gaming is all you use the machine for, it isn't worth the trade-off."

So here's what I'm gonna do: I will get an extra hard drive and then use the Carbon Copy backup since it's the cheapest and easiest one I can work with right now until I can afford something else better. Carbon Copy works for Macs, so I will try Arconis instead for the PC. Arconis does disk imaging (carbon copy clone) and constant backup! Works for me, especially at only $50! Check out this great website to get more tips on how to prevent a hard disk failure. I totally agree that "Prevention is better than a cure!"

I'm loving this system from LaCie. I might consider getting this later on.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

This weekend: Hosting a photo booth at the K9 Cancer Walk!

Tomorrow morning, Jason Peckovitch and I will be hosting a photo booth at the 2nd Annual K9 Cancer Walk at Estes Park hosted by the Morris Animal Foundation! If you are in the area, please drop by out booth, No. 19. We will be shooting portraits of humans and their furry family members on location, editing them and printing them on-site! We sell 5x7s for $5 and 8x10s for $10!

Dogs are very important to both mine and Jason's households, as we have three dogs apiece each! You've read me blog about Isis and Raina before, but earlier this month I adopted Maximus the Malamute from Ark Valley Humane Society in Buena Vista, forever transforming "The Wheeler Girls" into "The Wheeler Gang." Jason, his girlfriend Tera and I wanted to participate in this event because our vendor fees will be used to raise money for canine cancer research. The walk hopes to raise $30,000. More than $16,000 has been raised so far! Participate in the walk, or go on a "virtual walk" where you sit this one out but still donate.

Canine cancer is the number one cause of death for dogs over the age of two. Half of all dogs will battle cancer in their lifetime; and 1 in 4 will die. Also earlier this year, I served as a hospice care for Plato, a 7-year-old Malamute who was diagnosed with canine melanoma. Vets were able to remove the original tumor found in his mouth, but the cancer grew back. Plato was an amazing dog for the short time that I had him, and it's almost uncanny how much Max resembles him.

Maximus "Max" Wheeler

Raina Wheeler

Isis Wheeler

To prepare for some of the fun portraits we hope to take of walk participants with their pets, Jason and I attended a VIP Photography Workshop called "Models and their Pets!" Here are some of my favorites that I took from that fun session out at Commons Park in Lodo:

Monday, August 16, 2010

Get the Job Done: Bath Tub Boudoir Session

Tonight I will be shooting a boudoir client who is taking me up on my idea to use the massive soaking tub in my basement bathroom as her background/scene. I'm talking warm water, bubbles and candles! Throw in some lingerie and some heels and my client is going to knock her husband's socks off when she treats him with this sensual anniversary gift! There is something lush and intimate about a woman getting ready for a bath. I hope to be able to capture that appeal inherent in this natural, everyday sort of activity.

As has been the case, my client was reeled in by the ever popular image of Teri's Rose seen above. She would like to try to recreate that look during her session. But she was also pretty taken with this shot of Kristen:

My sistah from another mother Heather M. Smith-Matthews of Fortuitous Photography will be double-teaming this assignment with me. Heather has really excelled in her boudoir photography, and I can't wait to experiment with he and my client in my spa-like basement bath decked out in neutral shades of black and white. Here's one of Heather's fabulous shots:

Get the Goods: Attending a Nude Maternity Workshop

Tonight I will be attending a pregnancy shoot hosted by the Artistic Photography of Denver Meetup at the North Denver Photography Studio in Northglenn. Cellista the model is about 8 months pregnant and has posed nude for both art and photography classes. Here is a great shot of Cellista taken by IFD Photography in Boulder.

I'm really excited to be able to working with someone who is comfortable with nude photography. I think adding several tasteful shots to my portfolio will be an inspiration for mothers to be who might have been skeptical about this kind of portraiture before. I've been wanting to practice more with the use of light and shadows in nude photography. Here is a similar shot I took with Mandy earlier this year. Mandy has since delivered her beautiful baby.

For just $25, I get two hours with this model during the Meetup which has been limited to only 7 photographers so each of us have the time to craft our ideas. Plus, the smaller group setting ensures that photographers won't need to be fighting for access to the sweet spots when we find them. It's also going to be another great opportunity to keep practicing with strobes and remote triggering with Pocket Wizards. I hope to be able to capture images like this from Ottawa photographer Paul Couvrette:

If you haven't already, consider joining the dozens of Meetup groups being hosted by experienced photographers, models and makeup artists. They are great opportunities to network, meet new friends and get some experience and shots to make you a better photographer.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Breaking News: New Dell arrived today!

Thank God! My new Dell Alienware computer arrived today! It was sitting there all nice and pretty in a larger than life black box in front of my desk at the Denver Post. It's gonna take two people to help me get it downstairs to the garage and into my car.

The forced vacation time gave me a chance to rest after a busy spring shooting special events. But after a few days of not being able to edit, I thought I would pull my hair out! Dell customer service said it would take up to 15 days for them to build my new computer and ship it, but they made extraordinary time, getting to me just eight days after a technician declared my XPS 710 could not be repaired. Dell is no longer producing that PC and didn't have any parts to replace the dead motherboard and power supply.

Friend and fellow photography colleague Tiffany Trott has offered to help me transfer my files from the XPS hard drive to the new Alienware hard drive. And I can't wait to see how Adobe Photoshop CS5 will behave on a new Windows 7, 64-bit operating system. For the past few weeks, I and numerous other CS5 users have been coping with a "Not enough storage is available to complete this operation" error that causes Bridge to seize up after editing photos for about an hour. I would have to reboot my entire computer once Bridge froze. Some have said that Windows and extra RAM prevented the issue. Meanwhile, Adobe technicians have since discovered that a Norton security program may be causing the memory error. Check out the forum conversation here.

Again I'd like to express how pleased I have been with Dell customer service. Don't skip out on those extended warranty plans. Because I was still under warranty, I was able to get a brand new computer for free. And my clients get the benefit of a new computer for faster editing and process return times.

Now let's get this baby out of the box!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

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. I just love how Aaron's wry sense of humor reflects the current state of the photography industry. But what really freaks me out sometimes is how much they reflect whatever situation I'm currently experiencing as a professional photographer ...whether it's working with clients, desperately trying to stay on top of equipment and technology upgrades or trying to figure out social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter.

The genius of his strip is the way viewers can interact with Aaron and his comic character. Folks 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, and post photos of their own plushy and stuffed W.T. Duck working or hanging out.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Get Connected: Business project with a Mary Kay consultant

BEFORE, a fresh face
AFTER, a glamorous makeover by Lisa Young, a Mary Kay consultant

This month, myself and photography colleague Jason Peckovitch of Illusive Dreams Photography are developing a partnership with Alicia "Lisa" Young, a Mary Kay independent consultant that we hope will be profitable boons for both our businesses. The plan is still evolving, but basically when Lisa holds her beauty consultations with new clients, Jason and I also will be there shooting "before" and "after" images and selling prints on-site of their new glamorous makeover. The arrangement is going to be fantastic and I can't wait to get started this month!

Image of Jason Peckovitch by Picture Your World Photography

Image of Lisa Young by Adrian Michael Green

Jason met Lisa last month when he manned a vendor booth for Picture Your World Photography at the 2nd Annual Diversity and Outreach Fair. I was out of the state that day driving back from Ali's Quinceanera in Nebraska. Jason didn't make much profit that day shooting photos and selling prints because a rainstorm shut down the event early. But a chance networking encounter with Lisa (Jason took her photos and explained how our photo booth set up worked) lead to the great opportunity we have before us now.

Earlier this week, I took before and after shots of several of Lisa's coworkers to jump start her Wonder Woman Portfolio. I will be writing more about this project in future blogs as it develops. It was a lot of fun to see the transformations take place under Lisa's adept tutelage and makeup artistry skills. Even I couldn't refuse when she said I needed my own makeover. I loved the results so much that I'm now using the image as one of my business portraits! "You were already so pretty I just waved my magic wand and let the fairy dust settle on the pretty parts LOL!" Lisa said. But I think she's underestimating herself. Her choice of colors helped my features popped, and I was amazed to discover that I do have eyebrows!!!! I personally can't wait to try her oily skin/blemish prone skin care. She promises me she has a product to help end my "shine." I tell people I produce enough oil on my face to supply fuel to a small country. :)

Here are several more of my favorites from the shoot. These portraits haven't been edited yet since my desktop is still out of commission:

If you are interested in getting your own makeover with Lisa, contact her at this link and have me take your portrait! We would love to help you reaffirm or rediscover that you are a WONDER WOMAN!

Here's a personal note from Lisa:
"Calling all WONDER WOMEN! I am completing a Wonder Woman Portfolio.
Ladies join me in spreading the word on what makes you WONDERFUL!
MEN nominate your lady friend, female companion, coworker, MOM, daughter and girlfriend to join me to show the world our BEAUTY inside"

I think this is the start of not just a great business opportunity but a beautiful friendship!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Get the Goods: A brand new Dell powerhouse desktop!

Wow! I'm truly amazed at the Dell customer service I received today! Earlier this week, I blogged about my XPS 710's motherboard dying an untimely death just three years after I purchased it. But I was still under warranty, so Dell sent out a technician to replace the motherboard, power supply and front panel. Turns out Dell doesn't make 710s anymore and the company was hoping that a 720 motherboard would work.When it didn't, the technician called in, told them the issue, and a customer service rep determined that I would be receiving a brand new Alienware Aurora.

Dell bought out Alienware which produced powerful gaming machines with expandable performance, amazing 3D quality graphics, HD gaming immersion, and lightning speed with no lagging. The Aurora's standard features should be plenty for my photography needs. But I dropped a ton of change when I purchased my XPS 710 because I had numerous upgrades, including a souped up processor, video card and extra memory. So the technician told me to make sure that when I get the new computer that I check its manifest against my XPS 710's manifest to make sure I at least had all the upgrades I had before or something better. The new Aurora comes standard with Windows 7 64-Bit, so that will be an instant upgrade from the Windows XP Professional I was working with.

I should be getting the new machine in about 15 days. Until then, I've got to take the old 710 hard drive out and back it up. My photos are all safe and sound on external hard drives and a SmugVault. But I've still got some music files and documents on the old hard drive. And of course I will have to reinstall all software such as the new Photoshop CS5 and the latest OnOne plugins.

That's are hardship I can live with if I get a new and better operating computer out of it! Dell rocks! Now I have an AlienWare computer to match my AlienBee strobes!

I recognize that while this may be a beneficial outcome for me, it is going to be a major inconvenience for the Dermer Family, whose reunion photos I was in the process of editing when my desktop died. I am offering the Dermer's a free 1 hour photo session and a free 20x30 enlargement of their favorite image from the reunion in hopes of stemming the disappointment of waiting so long for their finished CD.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Get the Job Done: Second shooting for a photography instructor

This evening I will be second shooting an event with Efrain Cruz, director of Illuminate Photography Workshops in Denver. My readers know that Efrain Cruz was the instructor of my first digital photography class three years. His encouragement and support during those first crucial weeks is what I credit as the reason I'm a photographer now. I was all set to drop that photography class thinking everything was way over my head. Back then, I was too afraid to take my camera out of the box. All the dials and modes scared the crap outta me. And words that other students used fluently such as "aperture" and "depth of field" flew through one ear and out the other. I was lost and confused - a place no self respecting control freak likes to be.

It was Efrain who told me that he recognized I had "an eye" (even if I didn't know that what meant just yet) and that if I stuck it out in his class, he would make sure I learned something and became comfortable with my camera and the new language of digital photography.

And the rest, as they say, is history!!!

Tonight, I finally get to begin the process of thanking Efrain by being his second shooter! We will be covering the unveiling of a new alcoholic beverage, and the event includes a tasting and a cocktail party hour. Efrain has a quick turnaround in that he has to have images ready for his client within 72 hours I believe. So he said it was important for him to work with a second shooter who knew how to cover an event like this and understood their equipment because he doesn't have the time for complicated post processing. We have to get as much of it right as we can in camera from the get go. Efrain will take all of my images and edit them quickly himself, most likely using presets in Lightroom.

To think that Efrain has that kind of faith in my abilities has really helped me recognize just how far I've come since the first time he and I met. Thanks Efrain for your support and I can't wait to shoot with you tonight as a true photographic colleague! Let's rock it!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Breaking News: Dead Motherboard!


Thank God for my Dell extended warranty! Last night, the motherboard on my Dell XPS 710 died a sudden and most unexpected death. I tried to reboot, but nothing happened, save for a steady yellow light on the power button and a continuously moving (and extremely noisy) fan. A few checks on my purchase documents showed that I am still covered under warranty until May 2011, so I called Dell and was thrilled to find out a technician will be out this Wednesday to basically give me a brand new computer....free of charge!

I will be getting a new motherboard, a new power supply and a new front panel on my tower -- something that the technician said would have cost me $1,500 to replace myself, or basically the cost of a new computer.

It may seem like a large chunk of change to add those warranty plans when you are making such a large purchase as a new computer. But it was definitely worth it for me. Even though my current photo editing orders will be delayed, my clients will benefit from a new, more efficient operating system.


Get the Goods: My first stint contracting out post processing services

ORIGINAL IMAGE (with my own post processing)


The more backlogged I get with my photo editing, the more I have been thinking about trying to save time and get caught up by contracting out editing and post processing services. I've always loved editing in Photoshop. It's a different way for me to be able to work some creative muscle. But as demand for my services has grown, the time I take post processing has prevented me from building my business.

I've researched numerous online retouching services from those that specialize in editing weddings and other multiple photo events to those that work on individual portraits. Choose from basic retouching such as softening wrinkles, whitening teeth and head swapping to artistic enhancements and B&W conversions. Some require the RAW image for processing, while others will accept a JPEG. And of course they vary in cost. So far, I've liked the services offered by and may likely

Silverback Imaging and Design
Great Touching

I decided to try Retouchup.com for my first trial run because it was offering it's first 10 retouches for free. A few of the images taken during the 2010 Success Summit & Expo in June needed some glass glare removal. I did everything I could with my limited Photoshop skills but just couldn't get the look I wanted.

After signing up with retouchup.com, I uploaded six JPEG files on Thursday, July 29 at about 4:30 a.m. and the photos were completed and ready for me to download two days later. I opted for the "Complete Plus" service because it includes eyeglass glare and brace removal along with standard retouch services such as facial glare, stray hairs, whitening teeth and eyes, removing blemishes, softening or removing bags under the eyes, even fixing spots in the background. You get all that for $5 -- that's per image not per head in the photo.

Here's some before and afters:




Considering the previous hours I spent cursing and unsuccessfully trying to remove the glare, I think the work the artist Rossi did was incredible. The turnover time was quick and the overall upload process easy and convenient. While the first two images I posted are fairly true to form and still look like the subject Hanifah without appearing overprocessed, I think the third image was edited more heavily than I would have done, especially around the eye area. When I edit, I like to try to keep the subject's face looking more human rather than magazine airbrushed. I actually prefer the specular highlights commonly seen on the nose, cheeks and forehead (although I like to soften them alittle). Retouchup.com knows that every photographer's style is different, so I think next time I will specify a softer touch on the skin shine removal. I will definitely be using this service again. Make sure to follow Retouchup.com on their Facebook fan page as well to get coupons and free orders.

I can't wait to see what Hanifah thinks, as I've given her both options to choose from when she downloads digital images from my website. I would also love to hear which photos you think look best.

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