1-Day Portrait Photography Workshop in San Diego, CA – October 2, 2010

Portrait Photography Workshop - San Diego, CA October 2, 2010

The Workshop 411:
As I mentioned on Friday, I have a workshop coming up in San Diego, CA on October 2, 2010.  This workshop is only going to be one day long, but we will move efficiently to cover portrait photography and workflow.

The cost to attend the workshop is only $150.00, which covers the entire day and even includes lunch!  We will be focusing on portrait photography and all the aspects that are encompassed by it.  I’ll talk about lighting, posing, subject interaction, working with models, and more.  Towards the end of the day we’ll discuss post processing and working with images on your computer, as well as turning your photography into a vocation.

When I teach, I prefer to demonstrate and then let my students try their hand at the technique that I’m covering.  This method of “see and do” is much more conducive to learning than the “show and tell” method.  My goal isn’t to stand in front of you and tell you about this stuff, it’s to show it to you and then let you try it for yourself.  I’ll be there for guidance – but I want you to practice so that you can repeat what you’ve learned when I’m not around.

Check out the workshop page for all the details and to sign up!

A Few Words About Our Sponsors:
The workshop is sponsored by Zenfolio and Lumodi, companies whose products I already use.  Zenfolio is THE place to host and sell your photos online!  They provide excellent service that is packed with the features that photographers want.  The fact that they use my favorite lab in the world, Mpix, to fulfill print orders is simply icing on the cake.  Lumodi produces some of the coolest and efficient speedlight beauty dishes available anywhere!  I use both their 11″ and 14″ beauty dishes and love ’em!  I’ll show you how I use them throughout the workshop too!

All workshop attendees will receive a coupon for 15% discount off a new account with Zenfolio and there will be product on hand from Lumodi for giveaways throughout the day!

If you live in or around the San Diego area or if you are going to be in town on October 2nd, come on out to the workshop and I’ll teach you all about portrait photography using the “see and do” method so that you’ll remember what you learned after the workshop is over.



Friday Photography Roundup


Friday is here and I’ve rounded up some of the interesting things that I came across this week.  Check ’em all out and let me know what you think in the comments section below.

Workshop News

On the workshop front, I’ve got a workshop coming up right here in San Diego on October 2, 2010.  This will be a 1-day portrait photography workshop and I’ll cover the same material that I cover in the 2-day workshop, but I’ve condensed it for those who have a little more experience and want to work in the studio and on location.  We’ll be using studio strobes and speedlights for our lighting setups, and I’ll even show you how to properly set up and shoot on a white seamless background.  It’s going to be a full day of shooting and working and we’ll wrap it all up with post production and talking about photography as a vocation.  And since it’s only a one day course, I’ve reduced the price to $150.00 and it even includes lunch!  Here’s the link to my workshop website where you can read more and sign up!  There are only 15 spots available, so be sure to reserve yours soon!

Great Finds This Week

Here are some of the cool things that I discovered:

  • Brian Haferkamp has a pretty cool blog called Shooting in Manual.  Brian shares cool tips and tricks for getting out of automatic mode on your DSLR and working in Manual.  Here’s the link.
  • Kathleen Clemons, a photographer based on the Maine coast, wrote a cool article about photographing spider webs!  I have yet to see anything like it and it’s certainly worth checking out!  Here’s the link.
  • If you currently shoot HDR photos (or even if you would like to) Nik Software has announced their new plug-in called HDR Efex Pro and it’s due to ship in October of this year.  It looks very promising and I’m sure that it’s going to give programs like Photomatix Pro and Topaz Adjust a run for their money!  Here’s the link.
  • For the latest and greatest with what’s happening with Adobe Lightroom, be sure to check out Wade Heninger’s most recent edition of Lightroom Tuesday which is packed full of great stuff about all things Lightroom.  Here’s the link.
  • Nikon and Canon both announced new gear this week.  My advice?  Don’t worry about gear.  Concentrate on your craft and your vision and forget about the new gear for now.  (Unless of course you have to replace something, then by all means…)
  • My buddy Don Giannatti over at Lighting Essentials has been hosting a live video show on Wednesday and Sunday evenings at 9PM Eastern/6PM Pacific.  He talks about all things pertaining to photography and making a living in this business.  I highly suggest you check out this show!  Here’s the link to his blog where you can watch the show!

That’s it for this week folks.  Don’t forget to check out my San Diego workshop if you’re going to be in Southern California and would like to learn more about portrait photography.  I hope you have a great weekend and don’t forget to backup your photos!

No Risk, No Reward


Risk.  A word comprised of four little letters that scare the hell out of many people.  Dictionary.com defines it as, “exposure to the chance of injury or loss; a hazard or dangerous chance“.  So what does risk have to do with photography and creativity?  A lot.

In photography, you have to be willing to take some creative risks in order to improve your craft.  It’s how we as photographers push ourselves to become better at what we do.  Are creative risks considered to be a hazard or even dangerous?  Maybe.  It depends on when you take them.

If you’re shooting an image for a client and they have hired you because of your portfolio and your vision, it’s probably best to not take large risks with the image(s) as they may not like the direction in which you choose to go if you veer too far of the path for which you were hired.  But doing something a little out of the ordinary and pushing the envelope just a bit can pay big dividends with your clients.  Why?  Because you have given them something that is just a little unique – different that what you have done for every other job you shoot.

Personally, I think it’s best to take big creative risks when you’re experimenting for yourself.  I like to try things that I don’t shoot all the time or that I am not all that good at.

One of the areas that I have been pushing myself to improve is product photography.  I’m a people photographer and so I rarely shoot products.  But I have found that I enjoy shooting them because of the challenge they bring.  Products are a lot harder to light, you want the image to be as clean as possible, and you don’t want the image to look like every other product image out there.

I can tell you that without a doubt I have learned more about lighting by shooting products than I have when shooting people.  Can I apply that knowledge to people photography?  Absolutely!

Without risks, your work won’t evolve and improve in the same ways that it will if you take them.  Sure, there is something to be said for playing it safe.  But eventually your competition will move ahead (along with your clients) and you will be left behind shooting the same old stuff in the same old safe ways you always have.

In photography, there is no destination.  It’s a continuing journey that never ends.  It’s that journey that has me captivated, knowing that I’ll never reach a stopping point.  I’ll always have somewhere to go and I can continue to push myself to be better and create something unique.  No risk, no reward.

Photography and Staying Fit

Perfect Pushups

Let’s face it – most photographers that I know aren’t exactly what you would call fitness junkies or health nuts.  As artists, we are drawn to all things creative and this includes good food and drink.  Am I right?  Couple that with the fact that when we’re not out shooting we’re usually in front of a computer – either editing, blogging, tweeting, or building our businesses.  It’s what we do.

It adds up to a lot of time spending being fairly sedentary.  Even if a photographer has the occasional 5-mile hike to reach a location she is shooting at, there is still a large quantity of time spent in front of the computer or at a desk.  And lets not forget the photographers who are constantly traveling while on assignment.  Those guys and gals hardly have time to sleep sometimes, let alone maintain some sort of fitness regimen.  So how do we combat this?  How do we keep ourselves healthy?

Dyna-Flex Powerball - Shot 2

Personally, I use a couple of pretty handy devices that I can take with me very easily.  The first shot above is of the Perfect Pushup Mobile Unit, which folds down flat and fits into a handy travel case that’s easy to pack in my bag.  The handles come off and the bottom plates face each other, then the handles are attached to the sides to form one piece, nice and flat.

Second, I use that funky-looking ball thingy (technical term) that you see just above.  It’s called the Powerball Pro and it’s made by a company called Dyna-Flex.  It uses a gyro to create resistance and it is designed to help work on grip and arm strength.  It’s a lot of fun to use and wears you out in about 10 minutes.  I can tell you without a doubt that my grip strength has most definitely improved since using it and it’s gives my a therapeutic effect that I truly enjoy.

I chose to use both of the devices above because they are easy to use, easy to travel with, and very effective.  I can’t depend on having a gym everywhere I go and I don’t want to come home from a long day at work and then go to the gym.  I’d rather spend that time at home with my family.  So I usually get my workouts in while I’m catching up on a show with my wife in the evening.  The workouts are short and effective, which is the way I prefer them to be.

Photography Stuff

You didn’t think I was only going to talk about fitness stuff, right?  Good.  I took the shots above in the studio, using some black seamless paper and black granite tile.  I used a flash with a gel on the background for the color and in the case of the Powerball, I snooted it too.

Dyna-Flex Powerball - Shot 1

This was the first shot that I took of the Powerball and I didn’t like it because it really didn’t do much to add shape and dimension to the ball.  It sort of fell off into the background and so I had to do something different.

Dyna-Flex Powerball - Setup 1

This was the setup shot for my first shot of the Powerball (just above).  Since nearly the whole object is round, shiny, and reflective, I had to do something to try and minimize that as best I could.  So I feathered the softbox from behind and used a couple of fill cards to help light the ball.  I still wound up with a specular highlight but I put it in a place where it seemed the least distracting to me.

Dyna-Flex Powerball - Setup 2

For my second go-around I added another speedlight with the fresnel zoomed to 105mm and used it at 1/128th power (big advantage of using speedlights in product setups) to bring back the shape to the ball and separate it from the background.  I was much happier with the result and that was why I showed that image of the Powerball first.

Perfect Pushups - Setup

Here’s the setup shot of the Perfect Pushups.  I brought my key light in from above and at an angle and then used a speedlight with the dome diffuser at 1/64th power to provide separation.  The reason I put the dome diffuser on for this shot was so that I would really soften any shadows and prevent the light from being too harsh.

I hope you enjoyed the images and the setups – as well as my advice for staying fit.  I’m not going to preach to anyone and I don’t believe in forcing one’s beliefs on people either.  But I do think it’s an important thing and so I thought I would share what I do to try and stay healthy and keep myself in decent shape.  I say “decent” because I’m no bodybuilder either! 🙂

Enjoy your weekend and I hope you have the opportunity to get out and shoot!  It looks like I might have something cool lined up for Sunday.  If it pans out, you can bet I’ll post in on the blog next week!  Take care and happy shooting!

Self-Assignment: Stills and Video with iPhone 4

Over the weekend we made a family trip up to Legoland.  I wanted to be able to go on rides with the kids, have fun, and not worry about my camera.  So I decided to give myself an assignment: to only shoot stills and video with my iPhone 4.  I had been wanting to play around more with the iMovie app as well, so this was a perfect opportunity.

The video above was shot and edited solely on my iPhone.  I even added the music right in the iMovie app.  The app still leaves a lot to be desired though.  It doesn’t allow for titling and you only get one audio track which is kind of a drag.  Nonetheless, it’s not bad considering the platform that you’re working on and it’s well worth the $4.99 price tag.

I took the images below with an app called Hipstamatic, which is based off of the Hipstamatic 100 – a cheap plastic camera that used to be around in the 1980s.  They were a little plastic camera body with a plastic lens – and you never really knew what kind of print you were going to end up with.  You can read more about them here.  They were a lot of fun to play around with, much like the app.  It’s one of my three favorite iPhone camera apps – right along with The Best Camera and Camera Bag.





I had a blast shooting with my iPhone 4 because things were so simple, quick, and I have it with me all the time.  Just another reminder that you don’t need a fancy camera to make great photographs.  There will be more down the road on video with the iPhone 4, including using it on an upcoming project that I am working on that will be announced soon!

That’s it for today – I hope you have a great day and don’t forget to bring your camera with you!

Wanna Learn Lighting? Take This Workshop!


Light.  It’s the language of photography.  It’s how we speak through our images.  It adds drama and emotion to pictures.  It creates mood.

So, you wanna learn lighting for photography?  Then I highly recommend that you take one of the workshops available from Don Giannatti at Lighting Essentials.  Don is a great photographer and teacher and you will learn a ton about light and photography.

I had the pleasure of being a local host for Don’s workshop in San Diego back in February of this year.  I had heard a lot of great things about his workshops and I am a regular reader of his blog – Lighting Essentials.  I also sat in on both days and assisted some of the students who had questions or who were working on some of the techniques that Don was teaching.

It was immediately obvious to his students that Don loves photography and loves teaching about both light and photography.  Even at the mixer the night before the workshop started, he was already diving into photography and gauging what the students knew (and didn’t know) in order to prepare for the next day.  The mixers aren’t required, but are very helpful because everyone gets to know each other prior to ramping up on Day 1.

All types of light were covered – ambient, studio strobe, speedlights and flash.  He covered modifiers like umbrellas, softboxes, snoots, grids, gobos, beauty dishes, and pretty much the entire gamut of objects that can shape or modify light.

The students got to work through each of these and find out for themselves how they worked while shooting images both in the studio and outside.  The “See and Do” approach is far more effective than the “Show and Tell” approach which is one of the reasons that the Lighting Essentials workshops are so successful at teaching photographers how to light.  At the end of each day, he also talks about business and going pro with your photography.  He’s got a lot of great insight that he willingly shares with his students.

Don now has several workshops available for all skill levels from beginning amateurs to emerging and professional photographers.  His advanced workshop is geared more toward the working photographer and he even offers a one-on-one workshop for emerging pros.  All of them are excellent.

The standard 2-day workshop is priced very affordably at $450.00 for two days of instruction and shooting, a DVD packed with lots of great information, and a workbook.  At that price, you can’t go wrong when you see what other workshops cost.


The Ground Truth

Some of you are probably wondering why I am talking about someone else’s workshop here on the blog.  I’ll try and answer most of the questions that will likely come up in an effort to clear any doubt about my motive for this post.

Q: Is Don paying you to write this?
A: No.

Q: Are you getting any sort of kickbacks?
A: No.

Q: Then why bother with writing about his workshops?
A: Because I believe in spreading the word about products and services that I believe in and know to be worthwhile.

Q: Don’t you teach workshops?
A: Yes.

Q: Then why are you promoting this workshop and not your own?
A: Even though I teach an occasional workshop, I teach something completely different.  In my workshop, I teach about portrait photography workflow and Don teaches about light.

Q: What’s your favorite thing about this workshop over other lighting workshops? 
A: In Don’s workshops, it’s all about “See and Do”. You see it, then you do it.  Other workshops are “Show and Tell”.  The photographer gets up in front of a large audience and shows and tells about the setup and techniques and all you get to do is watch and listen.

If you want to take a workshop on lighting, THIS is the one to take.  Not only will you see and hear, you will set up and shoot.  You’ll take away a lot of knowledge that you can apply to your photography.  It’s an excellent tool to help you take your work to the next level.

For more information, be sure to check out Lighting Essentials and the Lighting Essentials Workshops.  You can also follow Don on Twitter.

5 Tips For Becoming A Pro Photographer (That Don’t Involve Gear)

Five Tips for Becoming a Professional Photographer

Being a professional photographer entails a lot more than just knowing how to create excellent photographs.  Professional photographers also have to be savvy and efficient business people as well.  In fact, if you want to be considered a “professional” in any field of work, you need to be good at many things that go beyond the scope of your trade or craft.

I wanted to discuss this subject on the blog because I am often asked the question, “What does it take to be a professional photographer?”  There is a lot more to it than meets the eye, and I feel it’s important for anyone who’s considering earning money from their photography to know some of these ground-floor principles.  So today I’m going to share with you five simple things that I feel are of the utmost importance when dealing with clients or potential clients.

  1. Be punctual. Professionals are expected to be, well… professional and one of the quickest ways to lose a client is to show up late, call late, or miss a deadline.  It makes no difference if your taking family portraits or if you are shooting commercial work for an ad agency – you have got to be on time, all the time.  Artists typically aren’t the most punctual people in the world and you will lose work and clients at a dizzying pace if you aren’t on time.
  2. Communicate, communicate, communicate. I can’t say this enough: you have to make yourself accessible to your clients.  That means answering phone calls and e-mails promptly, returning messages, and having contact information all over your website and/or blog.  If clients can’t reach you or get you to call them back, they will fill their need with another photographer no matter how good you are.  If you aren’t going to be available for awhile, make sure that people who may contact you know that and know when you will be available next.  If they like you that much, they might wait until your available but it is key that they know when you will be available.
  3. Under promise and over deliver. Don’t promise your client something that you are not 100% certain that you will be able to deliver on.  It’s far better to promise your client less and give them more and it will keep them coming back time and time again.  Say that you agree to provide your client with 40 digital images and while they are going through their proofs to select their 40, they really like 45 of them and are having a tough time deciding which five to discard.  Would it hurt to throw in those extra 5 images?  Most likely it wouldn’t and they will remember you for it and gladly call upon you again.  A little goes a long way when it comes to making your clients happy.
  4. Stay organized. One of the biggest barriers to running a successful and professional business is organization.  If you can’t find the contract that you were supposed to get to your client or remember what day you were supposed to deliver it to them you are putting your business in serious jeopardy.  Make time to sit down and get organized.  Write out a schedule.  Keep a calendar.  Maintain a to-do list.  Organization will keep your business running efficiently and effectively, allowing you to spend more time working on the most important part of your business – the clients you serve.
  5. Serve your clients. Have you ever heard the phrase, “The customer is always right”?  If it weren’t for your clients, there would be no income for your business.  And after all, that’s why we’re doing this in the first place isn’t it?  We want to make a living doing what we love.  Your clients have chosen to spend their money on you and it’s critical that they find value in the services that you provide them.  It’s also extremely important to let them know how much you appreciate their business.  A simple Thank You card or gift is a great way to show your appreciation and it reminds them that you are there for them in more ways than just to receive the check.

These five principles are the foundation of any good business and play a huge part in your success.  If you ever wonder why there are mediocre photographers who are making a good living, it’s more than likely due to the fact that they follow some of these principles.  You can do a little research in your area, but believe me when I say that I see it all the time.

Remember that you don’t have to give yourself away or let clients take advantage of you in order to serve them.  There is a big difference between over delivering and giving yourself away and it can cause you problems down the road if you don’t understand that difference.  If you brand yourself as an inexpensive photographer or one that gives a lot away – that reputation is going to stick and it will be hard to get away from.

Rome wasn’t  built in a day, successful businesses aren’t built overnight (or even in a year or two), and it takes more than just excellent photography if you want to be a professional.  If you apply the five principles above to your business then you will have a solid foundation to work off of when it comes to taking care of the number one asset in your business – your clients.