Aug 8, 2014

Client Photos: If It's Broke, Don't Fix It!


This post takes me back to a session I did a few years ago. It was a portfolio building session that brought me about $100 in cash and cost about $700 in time. Nice. Talk about a HUGE lesson learned here.

I'll break it down like this...

The session went very well that day. Mom was happy. Dad was happy. Baby was happy. And, I was feeling confident. On our walk back to our cars as we finished the session, I decided to grab a few last "just in case" shots. In camera, they were awesome. The trees framed the family perfectly. The baby was smiling. We ended on a high note.

Fast forward to post processing. As I was sorting through the images, I got to those money shots. It didn't take long until I realized that those money shots were worth about 2 cents. My shutter speed was at about 1/60. Doh. Still feeling very good about the session and the gallery that I selected for the family, I pushed on. I brushed those images off as my "lesson learned" images and continued to edit the rest of the gallery.

Shortly after delivering the gallery I received an e-mail from the client.
Michelle, I really love the gallery, but am disappointed that those last images by the trees are not in there. My son was laughing and giggling and they seemed perfect. Can you add them? I'm confused as to why they would be excluded.
Oh boy... I proceeded to inform my client that, while the situation was perfect at that moment in time, the images were not perfect and were excluded. And then, I did myself in. What happened next still haunts me to this day.
I'd be happy to give the edit another go so you can have at least one image in your gallery. Would that work for you?
What happened next was a cacophony or one issue after the other. As per is usually the case, the client chose the image with motion blur for her full size print. Against my better judgement, I ordered the print, had it shipped to her house, hid behind my couch and prayed to the photo Gods that she would know no better and hang the dang thing on her wall.

Well, I guess the photo Gods know my stance on religion and did nothing for me that day. Soon after, I received another e-mail from the client.
Michelle, I just wanted to let you know that there is something wrong with the image. It's very blurry. Maybe it's the printer's fault? You may want to contact them.
She's so sweet. After informing her that it was in fact the image that was the issue we resolved to order a different print from the gallery. Before placing the order I receive the following e-mail.
Michelle, We are so excited to receive our next print, however the frame that I have purchased is for a landscape photo and the print is portrait. Is there something you can do about this?
Clearly lesson not learned...
 I'd be happy to give that a go!
In the end, about 50 hours and several prints later, we settled the matter. There were no frustrations on the client's part (at least she was sweet in her e-mails to me) but there was much on my part. I should have been clear from the get go that the first image was unfit for print and politely encouraged her to move on. Once again, another lesson learned.

Running any business requires a learning curve. The next time a client asked me for a specific photo that didn't make it into the gallery because it looked like sh!t, I responded in the following manner.

Yes, I sure wish those images turned out well, too. Unfortunately, the light was horrible and the image just didn't turn out as we had hoped. But, on the plus side, you still have many amazing photos in your gallery to choose from. xoxo~Michelle
Thanks, Michelle. That's too bad, but we understand. We love the gallery and are looking forward to the prints. Signed~ Client

BONUS TIP - If you LOVE an image, but it's just not right in color, DO NOT create a black and white and give that to the client. Why? Because there is a 99.9% chance that they will ask for the color version. And, guess what? You'll be busting your hump to fix the crappy color picture. (Yeah...just another lesson learned from good ole Michelle...) 

Aug 6, 2014

Take Pictures Like It's 1999!!

It'll be vacation time in about a week for my family. We'll be packing up and heading to OBX for a week of beach and fun and running after kids, cleaning up after ourselves, doing laundry, cooking and breaking up fights with the kids...all of them, BUT it will be fun. This year, I've been doing some thinking and reflecting on vacations of the past and how exactly I document those vacations.

Like most of us, documenting those oh so precious moments usually involves my DSLR and about 1500+ images. (I'm stressed just thinking about it.) 1500+ images. There are beach images and there are more beach images. There are pictures of food and the mess that we leave behind. There are pictures of kids playing and kids sleeping. There are pictures of adults laughing and reading. There are sunrise pictures and there are sunset pictures. There are pictures of virtually everything caught in eyesight in those 1500+

1500+ images.

1500+ images.

What exactly happened to those 1500+ pictures? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. By the time we get home and I upload all of those images to my computer, I am completely overwhelmed with the amount of images to go through that I just leave them on my hard drive. Yes, there are attempts to create memory albums, but I've come to know myself well enough to know that it will never happen. Ever. So there they sit, on my hard-drive just waiting for me to make a move. This will be our third trip to OBX and our forth family vacation, and not a single print to show for it.

As I was tripping over all the junk in the storage room in our basement the other day, I saw a small book shaped object. It was purple and black and grey and it was small. As I pulled this small shaped object out of it's little hiding space I thought, "Holy shit! It's a photo album!". As I stared at this long lost relic I decided, with white gloves on, to open the album and view it's contents. It was from our rehearsal dinner over 12 years ago. There were pictures of family and there were pictures of friends and then I spotted the most important picture of all; a picture of me with my Nana and my Dad. She was old and she was frail but she was there. As I stared at this photo, in an album, in my hands, memories of this amazing woman came rushing back. Then I thought, do I have any pictures of my kids with their grandparents? Is there anything in print? Probably not. Why? Because I'd probably have to sift through 15-20 images just to find that "one" image that would be just right. Then I'd have to edit that one right image. Then I'd have to upload it somewhere and then I'd have to order the print.  That's already 3-4 steps too many.

While the image above is not perfect by my photographer's standard (I have red eye, for Pete's sake!), it's perfect by the "memories it brings back" standard. Not only is this one of the final pictures of me and my Nana together, it's a picture that sparks memories of an awesome wedding weekend. I married the love of my life the day after this picture was taken and that's something I never want to forget.

So, on this summer vacation I decided to go old school. That's right! I'm taking pictures like it's 1999! I busted out the old ELF APS camera, ordered 12 rolls of film from Amazon, ordered a new battery from Amazon and hope to bejeezus that the camera still works.  This year I want to be in the moment with my kids and not focus on capturing every knook, cranny and little baby pee break that happens during our 7 day vacation. I want to capture memories that we can hold in our hands, not view on the screen. My shots will be limited and a complete mystery until I send them out for processing. GEEEEEE I'm as giddy as a school girl!

Will I order doubles??  
Not sure.

3x5 or 4x6? 
Good question.

Glossy or Matte?
Totally Matte!

With or without borders??
No borders, please.

Will I shoot in Panoramic mode?  
Most definitely!

In the end...
My kids don't need "Pinterest" picture perfect memories. I just want them to have a tangible piece of evidence of their good times. End of story.

What are your thoughts about this new digital age? Is it taking time away from being in the moment with our children? Are just a few good memories captured on film better than 1500+ images sitting on a hard drive?

Aug 4, 2014

Mentorship in Photography - Is it out there?

When I was a dancer, mentors were at every turn. We had our teachers who would provide us the knowledge of a professional who had "been there, done that". And, if our teachers weren't there to help solve our problems or give advise on how to move forward, we (as students) had each other. There was chat before class. There was chat after class. And, there were countless hours spent in the dressing rooms...just chatting. Support was everywhere. Whether we wanted it or not, there was always someone to talk to.

When I started this adventure I never once realized just how hard it would be to find that same type of face-to-face camaraderie in photography. I never realized just how fortunate I was all those years ago when I had former principle dancers at my disposal handing me endless tips and tricks regarding the craft. In this new electronic age, it seems that much has shifted in a very different direction. However, even though it seems like the "face time" part of mentorship is few and far between in this industry, there are many other avenues that a photographer can take to get advise and knowledge from the pros (or even other photographers in the same boat as they are).

1) Paid Mentor Sessions

There are several photographers out there who are more than willing to critique your skills (editing, workflow, business, portfolio, etc.), but for a price. These one-on-one sessions usually last a few hours and are conducted via WebEx (or some other web platform) and can be costly. Before investing in a paid mentoring session, be sure to do your homework. Read their reviews and ask questions if you have any. Make sure they fit YOUR bill and what you're looking for at that moment in your journey.

I haven't invested in a paid session, personally, and have considered it, but don't want to spend that $$ right now.

2) Attend a Conference

Attending a conference is an excellent way to meet new photographers and grow your photographers network. It's a great (and again, costly) way to talk face-to-face with other photographers. You'll meet a lot of new people and hopefully make some really new and great connections. If you have the time and the money to invest in at least one conference a year, I'd say do it. But again, be sure to read up on the conference and make sure it's the right fit for you. You'll be investing a lot of money in a conference and you want to be sure you walk away with more than just new friends (i.e. valuable information from the pros that are leading the sessions.)

3) Join a Local Photo Group

This is something that can be very beneficial, but can be tricky. is a great place to start. Some groups are very active, but some are not. I live in an area that sits directly between Baltimore and DC and I see a lot of new photo groups popping up left and right. Most of these groups appear to have a lot of "virtual" members, but when it comes time for the actual meet-up, crickets are the only guests. Take a look at what groups are in your area and go from there. I've personally attended some very beneficial group photos walks, but I've also been on the receiving end of a "crickets only" meetup session.    

4) Join a Forum

Forums are an excellent way to meet new photographers, receive excellent advise and gain access to some of the pros that monitor the site. But again, forums comes with a price. I received a lot of very helpful information from forums and continue to do so. As with the paid mentors and photo groups, find a forum that works for you. I was a member of several forums when I started three years ago and have scaled back to only include forums that are beneficial to me now.

5) Facebook Groups/Google+ Communities   


To date, Facebook Groups and Google+ Communities have been the best places for me to receive advise from pros and hobbyists alike. It's free and most of the communities that I'm a member of are extremely active. However, as with any group or site, you take from it the information that is useful to you and know when to leave behind those not so useful comments.

While it may not be the one-on-one long term hand holding that some of us may long for, these five options are a pretty decent 2nd place. Learning this craft is a marathon, not a sprint and many photographers today are not will to train their competition. In the end, finding what works for you depends on only one thins...YOU.