Stars do align…

When I was in elementary school in Colorado Springs, Colorado I was a decent student. Above average. I was a little full of myself, but I was very competitive in class. I wasn’t the most popular kid in class, but for my part I was generally well-liked other than maybe a couple (or few) times I tried a little too hard to get people to like me. But who didn’t back then? There was a girl who was consistently my main competition for the highest scores in class ever since she arrived at our school in second grade. At least I saw it that way. She probably didn’t, nor did she care. She was also perceived as one of the prettiest girls in our class. Her name is Kaylah.

Kaylah and I were in elementary school back in the 80’s and early 90’s. Back then I was among many with the infamous Mullet hair cut. When we finally trimmed our mullets, we left a little bit long in the center called a Rat Tail. A lot of the boys in our class would jockey to sit in front of Kaylah because she would do a highly intricate braid of our rat tails. You were the coolest if Kaylah did her famous braid on your rat tail. Here is a photo of of photos of the 5th grade mullet which eventually became the rat tail (left) and a photo of the 2nd grade mullet I had when Kaylah joined the elementary school.

I have no clue how to give photo credit here. These were taken in 1989 and 1986 respectively.

Kaylah and I went to different junior high schools, but we went to and graduated from the same high school. Here is a photo of Kaylah from our yearbook when we were freshmen.

Palmer High School Retrospect 1994 – Volume 65, Page 113

Social networking makes it possible for people to keep in touch without leaving their city. Kaylah and I had been MySpace and later, Facebook friends. I was able to meet her in Washington DC for a beer or two during a business trip because of social networking in 2007 or 2008. I had so many trips to Washington DC at the time, I really don’t remember when it was, I just remember it being after the ten year high school reunion we both didn’t attend. We kept in touch loosely, I’d see her posts with her kids, including daughters who look exactly like I remember Kaylah looking in elementary school. Every once in a while, we’d “like” something the other had posted. And I was definitely happy to see her get married to a guy who looks like Clark Kent for her second marriage.

Fast forward to 2013. For my photography business, I put in a couple of bids for weddings and I hadn’t gotten traction on any of them. The feedback was consistent, I didn’t have any wedding experience. How do you get experience if someone doesn’t give you a shot? I had a cousin getting married, I offered to shoot his wedding and I didn’t get a response. What was I to do?

I did something absolutely crazy over Facebook. I offered to do a wedding for free, throw in a hundred or more dollars of prints in for free, and I paid $30 to boost the post. It reached 7000 people. Then the stars aligned…

Kaylah asked if I was free on November 2nd. Her little sister, Hannah was getting married outside of Durham, North Carolina. Being a couple hours’ drive away, it wasn’t a hassle at all. So I got on the phone with Hannah, and we agreed to have me photograph their wedding. It would be a “win-win” situation as I would get some valuable experience and add to my portfolio, and Hannah and her fiancé Josh would get a break on a photographer at the risk of my inexperience.

I remember Hannah as Kaylah’s little sister. She was two grades behind us, and I remember her having brown hair where Kaylah had light-brown to blonde hair. They were both very pretty girls, you could tell they were sisters but they also looked distinctly different. Here is Hannah’s yearbook photo from her sophomore year (Kaylah and my senior year).

Palmer High School, Retrospect 1997 – Volume 68, Page 136

So my first wedding shoot was the little sister of a girl I went to elementary school with from second to sixth grade, and graduated high school with… in Colorado Springs. And we’d be outside of Durham, North Carolina. According to Bing Maps, it would be a 1623 mile drive taking approximately 23 hours and 33 minutes from Colorado Springs to the venue. And to add to the stars aligning, we’ve had a late fall in the Carolinas and the fall colors were near peak. Last year at this time, the leaves had all fallen. The venue was Het Landhuis in Pittsboro, NC.

SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA@ f/4.5, ISO 100, 1/800s

Nothing really prepares you for your first wedding shoot. I looked all over the internet, looked at magazines, I even looked through wedding albums. In preparation, I bought a Minolta Maxxum 5 35mm camera, new in box for very cheap and some rolls of film. I bought ten 35mm disposable box cameras to randomly pass around for wedding guests to shoot with. I upgraded my tripod and head. I bought filters for my lenses. I bought umbrellas and lights. I brought almost every piece of equipment I own. I didn’t bring my Sigma 600mm f/8 mirror or my cheap 2x teleconverter. That’s it. Everything else came with me.

I arrived about four hours early to scout the location. Here is a shot I took where my little girl was playing the part of the bride. I didn’t use this camera/lens combination the rest of the day.

DSLR-A900, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @f/4, 1/500s, ISO 200

My first lesson was almost immediate. I brought too much equipment. I had to decide what to park and what to take with me. I parked my two biggest lenses, the Minolta 300mm f/4 HS APO G and 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G. No white lenses for this shoot. My daughter carried an A900 with a Minolta 50mm f/2.8 Macro as my backup shooter. I had my A99 and A77, a Maxxum 5, my 85mm f/1.4, 135 STF, 24mm f/2, a Minolta baby beercan (35-75 f/4), and a Lensbaby Composer with Edge 80 optic (80mm f/2.8); I also had my Minolta 3600 HS Flash, all of my backup batteries and a few rolls of film. I hid my new Vanguard carbon fiber tripod and BBH-200 ballhead under a bed in the preparation cabin or in a storage barn. The rest went to my truck. At the end of the day, around 60% of my shots were with my go-to combination, my A99 and 85mm. The combination with the next closest percentage was my A77 and 135 STF at around 20%. A vast majority of the shots were between f/2.8 and f/4.5. I think I would have benefitted from a 70-200 f/2.8.

I sent my daughter to roam around the estate and told her to take as many random photos as possible and I would park her in a certain spot during the ceremony. My first real shooting started out in the cabin where the bride was preparing. Of course, while Hannah is preparing, I would expect a visit from her big sister, Kaylah. What I didn’t expect was a visit by their older sister Susannah, who is a few years older than Kaylah and I, but you’d never know by seeing her. She doesn’t look a day older than her mid 20’s. I had never met Susannah. I got this shot of the three. (Left to right: Susannah, Hannah, Kaylah)

SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/3.5, ISO 1600, 1/50s

Being an outside wedding on an estate with cabins and farm houses, I had some backlit situations, and I had to deal with some shadows as well. I couldn’t exactly interfere with the ceremony to say “Excuse me, can you guys move to under the shade?” so I had to work with what I worked with. I tried to get shots atypical of some wedding shots I have seen, some which tell a story.

SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/4, ISO 100, 1/200s.

This was a second wedding for both Hannah and her fiancé, Josh. The role of the bridesmaids and groomsmen would be fulfilled by Hannah’s son and daughter, and Josh’s daughter. Hannah was walked down the “aisle” or path by her son, Caedon.


SLT-A99V, 135mm f/2.8 [T/4.5] STF @ f/2.8/T4.5, ISO 100, 1/400s, +1EV

The actual ceremony was performed in some woods about 200 yards away from the cabin, nestled down below ground level. The ceremony area was completely surrounded by woods and their fallen leaves. Walking on the leaves was LOUD. When I realized how loud it was, I decided on two lenses, on two bodies and parked the rest of the equipment behind a tree. I had my A99 and A77 and my 85mm f/1.4 and my 135 STF.

In order to shoot one side of the ceremony and then move behind it, I had to go up a hill and around the edge of the trees, which was probably a 20 foot rise and 100-150 yards of a sprint while missing potential shots. While behind the ceremony I got this shot.


SLT-A77V, 135mm f/2.8 [T/4.5] STF @ f/2.8/T4.5, ISO 400, 1/320s, +1EV

It was a very unique ceremony, done with some Native American tradition. It was very spiritual. The entrance and exit were done with a chanting drummer performing. The vows were done for the bride and groom to the rest of their family, not just to themselves. There were some symbolic gestures performed ritually in the ceremony. Most of the ceremony the bride and groom were covered by a woven blanket. I certainly wasn’t prepared for that!

SLT-A77V, 135mm f/2.8 [T/4.5] STF @ f/2.8/T4.5, ISO 100, 1/250s, +1EV

The sun was in the girls’ faces, which was apparent in many of the shots I got. She covered her face with flowers in 90% of the shots I took. Fortunately, they didn’t look at the sun for this shot.


SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/4, ISO 160, 1/100s, +1EV

Once the ceremony was performed, it was reception time. The sun gave way to rain clouds. I was fairly happy about it before it started raining. This shot was the out of body jpeg.


SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/2.8, ISO 100, 1/320s

I got a couple from this position, rotated a few degrees to my left and shot some more, a little closer.

SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/2.8, ISO 100, 1/160s, +0.7EV

And then we moved around toward a small pond. Beforehand, we stopped at this tree.

SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/3.5, ISO 1250, 1/100s

And we took a few with Hannah and Josh on the bridge over the pond.

SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/4, ISO 1600, 1/80s

I thought the rain would miss us. I even said “I think the rain is going to miss us.” Boy, I messed that forecast up. Rain hit us hard and fast. We quickly moved to a barn. I was going to have to face my biggest weakness. The flash.


SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/3.2, ISO 400, 1/250s

Despite the darkness in the barn, I got a few of the “must-have” shots including the cutting of the cake, the first dance, and some family shots. Once the rain stopped we decided to take advantage of the lights outside. Josh told me he wanted this shot and it was just a matter of me not messing it up, and Josh staying still.

SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/4.5, ISO 400, 2s

And if you thought one person staying still was hard. We attempted two.

SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/4.5, ISO 400, 2.5s

Between my A99, A77, and A900 I had taken more than 1000 photos. I still haven’t gone through them all. These are the heavy hitters. I still have a few I would like to post-process more. My daughter took almost 300 shots. I took 2 rolls of 35mm film and received 9 of the 10 disposable cameras back. I’ll be interested in seeing how those turn out.

I’ve been pretty long-winded already. I could fill another post with wedding photos. I learned a few lessons. I need to bring less equipment. I need to probably invest in a good 24-70 or 70-200 lens and use one body, rather than moving around with a few primes. I need to not try to get cute with 35mm film. I need to use film to augment digital (I feel a 35mm film-centric post coming soon). I also learned I need to not only make a playbook, but to follow it. I made a playbook and since the ceremony wasn’t traditional, I had to improvise a bit. I totally should have gone back to it once the ceremony was over. I missed a few shots I should have gotten. Fortunately for Hannah and Josh, many of the wedding guests filled in some of those gaps with their phones and I imagine the disposable camera photos will help fill their album with the playbook shots. I spent a lot of time chasing down cell phone photos posted to Facebook for their album. Finally, I need to spend more time shooting with a flash. I had a hard time getting the flash photos right with the weird ceilings of the barn. The few that came out right were beautiful.

Hannah and Josh seem like people who live their life with little to no regrets. Hopefully the risk of having me learn on the job won’t be one of them.


Catch Up Post (Series 2, Number 4): Pretty girls on horses

Hello from 32000 feet! Yeah I am on an airplane from Charlotte headed to Phoenix. Short layover in Phoenix and then I go to Northern California. Busy busy.

Bear with me as I am going to try something new. I don’t have these photos with me anymore, so I am trying to link photos from my website. I am hoping the post looks as good on the web as it does in my editor.

A few weeks ago… Actually more than a month ago now, I had the opportunity to return to the same farm I shot Stephen and Deanna to shoot Deanna and her friend Laura on Galileo and Sylvester. Here is Deanna with Galileo.

SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/1.7, ISO 100, 1/1250s

I learned a valuable lesson much after this shoot. I posted all of the photos, whether I liked them or not but picked a handful for selective editing. Horses usually attract flies. The photos I initially liked  and chose to edit were also the some of the same photos Deanna and Laura liked, except there were a handful Deanna liked where I wouldn’t have given them the time of day. She liked a few straight off the body with no editing. Maybe I need to shoot more shots which need no editing! This shot, however, I did a ton of editing on with no regrets. This is Laura and Sylvester.

SLT-A77V, Minolta 50mm f/2.8 Macro @ f/5, ISO 100, 1/640s

The girls both wore two pretty dresses and I was able to push my equipment to the edge. Vivid colors, fast action, and I had to be quick on the trigger to ensure I got faces when they weren’t concentrating.

SLT-A99V, 135mm f/2.8 [T4.5] STF @ f/2.8, ISO 100, 1/200s

Some action shots I went with a slower shutter speed to get a bit of blur on purpose.

SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/4, ISO 100, 1/320s

Other shots, I tried to burst at the fastest speed the body would allow.

SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/640s

At the end, however, it was a matter of getting the color right.

SLT-A99v, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/1.7, ISO 100, 1/500s

And those I may have not gotten right, I can always improvise.

SLT-A99V, 135mm f/2.8 [T4.5] STF @ f/2.8, ISO 100, 1/320s

Out of the comfort zone

I’ve had a couple of things which have had me step very far out of my photographic comfort zone lately. First is starting a new business and looking for clients. The more I look for work, the more I find I really don’t have much to show for the work I have done so far worth showing where my wife or kids aren’t involved. I find myself searching for photos without my wife or kids and trying to post-process them to post as examples and I am more of a candid shooter than anything else, so it makes it difficult to sell portraits. I’ve also been guilty of shooting wide-open or close to wide-open at near minimum lengths so I have a ton of faces, not many bodies and not much depth of field. So I have a ton of these:

SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/4, ISO 250, 1/800s

Another thing I am realizing is I haven’t touched the surface of what I can do with post-processing and the NIK Suite is making it much harder to realize when something is good enough. I’ll like what I see after running something through HDR Efex or Color Efex but then I want to see what Silver Efex would do to the original or the post-processed copy. I have made 4-5 copies of a photo to figure out which one I liked most. Here is an example, first with the original:

SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/4, ISO 200, 1/250s

And then I ran it through Silver Efex:


And then ran it through HDR Efex, and didn’t like the results:


So I ran it through HDR Efex first and then Silver Efex:


And finally I cut my losses and went back to the original with some slight modifications in Silver Efex:


Which doesn’t look much different than the first iteration through Silver Efex.

The third thing making things more difficult is I am evaluating Portrait Professional 11. Let me tell you something, this thing can be really cool. It basically uses a face mapping and will do all the smoothing and sharpening and everything for you, but you have to be careful or you’ll end up with an alien. Here is a crop from an original, the subject (my wife) is about 20 meters away:

SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/4, ISO 125, 1/250s

Here is an attempt of editing done with Lightroom/Color Efex, I needed to do a little more work, but I figured I would stop at 15 minutes:


This is an example of the interface of Portrait Professional 11. The first “suggestion” really isn’t too far from better than what I came up with in Lightroom/Color Efex.


I played with the sliders a bit and this is what I came up with:


Not too bad. A combination of the post-processors may be out of control. I need to figure out which one does what best.

One thing I need to be careful about with Portrait Professional 11 is going too far. Here is an example:


Yeah, it is a powerful tool but it can be used to create aliens if you don’t watch out. I’ll spare my wife the embarrassment.

The final factor causing me to be out of my comfort zone is an impending deadline. I was published in an annual coffee table book my employer puts out for charity and the perfectionist I sometimes strive to be didn’t want to submit anything less than perfect. I tried a few different things, got out and shot some different stuff. And the only thing I submitted was the horse above and a couple of shots I get every other day. Here are some of the shots I got before I came to the conclusion I did.

SLT-A99V, 24mm f/2 SSM ZA @ f/8, ISO 50, 1.3s, +4 ND Filter + Polarizer
SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/5.6, ISO 50, 1/5s, +4 ND Filter


SLT-A99V, 24mm f/2 SSM ZA @ f/5.6, ISO 50, 1s, +4 ND Filter

Not bad, not great, none of them I liked enough to submit. If I get accepted we’ll find out which one made the cut.

I guess it is official now.


It is official. I am a small business operator on top of my regular day job. Here is the logo I made (in Microsoft Paint).


I organized a Limited Liability Company in North Carolina. I got a sales tax license and a federal employer ID. I even registered a domain name.

I set up a twitter account:

And a Facebook Page:

I created full color business cards as well as advertised on Craigslist. I want to get paying customers before I decide to do any more. Until then, here is a photo I took. The maple looks like it is using the leaves as hands to cover up the face made by the bokeh light.

SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G@f/2.8, ISO 400, 1/200s

Catch-Up Post #0: Prologue

OK, I have a ton to catch up on and I need to get it all out. So I figure I will get it out in chunks but I want to outline it first and today seems like a wonderful day to do it.


1. Going Pro: If there was a day to start a business, it would be today. The way North Carolina works, if you establish an LLC, you have to file papers on April 15th of every year. So I am on the clock if I want to file that paperwork at this point. I am probably going to today. I also have to figure out advertising, print business cards, all that other stuff and I am hoping to get a handle on it all this week.

2. Kayden: A while back I posted about “Jennifer”. She was public offender #1. Well, I am happy to say I was able to at least change her Facebook cover photo for a week or so as I did a shoot with her little one, Kayden. Unfortunately, “Jennifer” decided it would be a good idea to put another Kissy Face or Duck Face profile shot up WITH Kayden. You can’t win them all, I guess.

SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/4, ISO 50, 1/320s

3. Spring (Finally!!): It is officially Spring in North Carolina, after waiting a long time. Now, personally I am tempted to cut Claritin into lines at this point as the pollen is out of control, I can handle a little bit of sneezing and coughing to get a million photos. And a million photos I may have gotten at the end of the day.

SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/4, ISO 400, 1/250s, +1EV

4. NIK Suite: I HATE Google. With a passion. And there is a good story behind it. Before Google acquired Nik Software I was entertaining getting their Silver Efex software if the price was right. It didn’t seem to be quite where I wanted it for $200. Then they offered the entire suite (Silver Efex, Color Efex, Viveza, HDR Efex Pro, Sharpener Pro, etc.) for less than $150. Sold. Effin’ Google! Now I am addicted. I have literally gone back into my vast library and tried to enhance many photos. Of course, I am pressed for time so I will show an enhanced version of the one I just posted.

Same as above, post processing with Lightroom 4 and NIK Color Efex 2

5. Austria trip:  I’m going to have a neat little trip to Austria via Germany this summer! I’m pretty excited about it, really. I’m going to meet up with another Sony enthusiast, Christian, who has been a really good mentor without me asking and I truly hope to learn from him while I am there. He has been gracious enough to agree to show me where to go to shoot. Christian has a unique set of lenses and I hope to try some of them as well as see what he can do with anything I have to bring. All I know is I may have to bring an extra memory card or two and maybe a hard drive. I ordered the Rosetta Stone and I hope to learn enough German to be able to ask to go to the bathroom.

6. Other random stuff: I have plenty of stuff to talk about so if anything else comes up I’ll put it in a random post. I have had some luck with the cardinals and other birds in my yard. I’m now trying to get the Hawks and Owls, who have proven to be elusive.

SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/4, ISO 160, 1/250s

As for right now, when I am home my wife and I take turns taking the kids to school. Today is my turn and I need to make sure lunches are made, teeth are brushed, and all of the important stuff in between.

Portfolio shoot tomorrow + Addicted

Tomorrow I am going to attempt to do some engagement photos for a couple in graduate school as a mutual favor. They understand I am trying to go into doing this whole photography business as a side-job and I need to bolster my portfolio to help obtain business. As a result, they are getting free engagement photos.

I did a lot of research online and saw a ton of engagement photo ideas, which I have harvested to a certain degree and I plan to put a unique touch to some of the standard shots and I have one or two unique ideas of my own which I am hopeful will be executed successfully and ideally, the couple will like their results. They’re not getting married until October 2014, so if I screw this up, they will have plenty of time to hire someone better. Hopefully I won’t screw it up.

In other news, I think I may be addicted. When I went to college, I studied Mathematics. I once heard a quote which has stuck with me ever since I heard it. “Lottery is a tax on people who are bad at math”. I bought my first and only lottery ticket on my 18th birthday, and won 40 dollars. I quit while I was ahead. I have gambled since, but typically I try to gamble in situations where the odds are stacked a little more in my favor. My problem is I am rarely in a place where this type of gambling is legal and usually when I am I don’t have disposable capital to risk it. Somewhere in the middle is my new addiction of submitting to I can’t say it is much better than the lottery as the first contest I entered, “Cat Photo Competition 1 2013” had 521 entries. But I do control my own destiny to a certain degree. If I don’t submit my best work, I have no chance. I guess at the end of the day I am paying a tax for being bad at taking pictures if I don’t win. And I can always dream. I paid 3 dollars and I may win $600+ and a $800 point and shoot camera. My entry into the “Black and White Photo Competition 1 2013” cost me $20 and right now the prize is close to $5000 and a $8000 camera. I definitely can dream.

My online friend Christian in Austria, who entered a competition and won a pretty good chunk of change and some nice binoculars on his first try!

So I guess no one’s perfect, except for Christian. Hopefully he quit while he was ahead. I spent another $6 on the “Child Photo Competition 1 2013”. I love this shot. It really violates a ton of the “rules” and I frankly don’t care.


SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/1.4, ISO 100, 1/800s.

According to depth of field calculation, I had about four centimeters to work with at f/1.4 or less. I doubt I was a full two meters away. Kyle’s eye is slightly soft, but sharp enough. the true sharp parts of the photo are his shoulder leading into the trains, specifically what he is focused on. Everything else is a blur, which I imagine is how he is playing with his trains.

What it takes to go pro: Step Zero (part II)

In my previous post What it takes to go pro: Step Zero I, I discussed how I had a perception of three types of family photographers. The guy at the school, the guy at the mall, and the guy who does specialized appointments. For the purposes of this discussion I will call him the guy in his car. I discussed how I was most like the guy in his car. I also said I didn’t want to be the person who tried to imitate their work for a discount. I talked in brief about building a portfolio and being able to distinguish shots as “acceptable”. The shot below is one I would have to deem “acceptable” as the child, my nephew, is actually looking at me and has somewhat of a smile.


SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/2.8, ISO 200, 1/500s

I’m not going to lie. I’ve put a lot of thought into turning my hobby into a second line of work. And I have thought a lot about the business model I would use to ensure I didn’t hurt the three guys, but at the same time I made it into a worthwhile venture for myself.

Some businesses have a mission statement or a charter. I’d have a very simple concept of what I envision my business model would be around but let me explain first so I don’t sound like I am going away from the statements I made in my first post about undercutting or undervaluing the three guys. Hopefully I can paint this picture for you so you can understand where I am coming from.

Business Concept #1: Provide low-cost services for people or events who wouldn’t be able to afford or wouldn’t normally hire a photographer. 

Let me make this perfectly clear: I already have a good job. I don’t need to photograph to support my family. I’m interested in helping folks who probably would hire a professional if they could afford it, but can’t afford it. How would I know they couldn’t afford it? I still haven’t figured that one out yet. Let me explain what I mean here and express a few of the ideas I have.

When my wife and I were getting married, we were given a meager budget of $2000 to plan and finance our wedding. We were both recent college graduates without anything resembling a job and our parents didn’t have much. The average wedding photographer cost around $1000-$1500 at the time on the low end and most of them charged a minimum of $500 just to show up. Needless to say, we didn’t have any professional photographers at our wedding. We engaged the sister of one of our bridesmaids who was invited anyway, and we got the basic shots we wanted, nothing special, and we got what we paid for, maybe a little more. To this day, my wife wishes she had more, but for what we had we appreciated the work.

For anything within a 100 mile radius of my house I would charge $50 or less for each trip, and if they provided meals, I would charge less. I figure this is cost balance on gasoline and food if it isn’t provided. In some circumstances I would waive those costs. If I was allowed to use an open bar, for instance. But I seriously doubt I would allow myself to be hired by anyone who had an open bar. If they can afford an open bar, they can afford a sitting fee. For anything out of town or requiring an overnight stay, I would require basic transportation costs and basic lodging needs. Gas if I am driving, an airplane ticket and a ride if I am flying, and a couch to sleep on. A basic hotel room if no couch is available.

I would develop a questionnaire for the bride and groom (mostly the bride), bridesmaids, groomsmen, and the parents regarding what shots they wanted, what they wouldn’t want in a shot and then I would work within those parameters and I would add my spin where I could. I would prioritize the shots with the bride’s needs at 1-100 and the rest would fall in line behind her. I’d show up, shoot until it was all over and then leave. If they wanted the whole experience captured, I would do the rehearsals and follow the bride around while she got ready and go up until the bride and groom leave for their honeymoon. If they wanted me to follow them to their honeymoon, they’d likely not be someone who I would likely target until I decided to look for a different type of subject.

I would use the same concept for family portraits or senior yearbook photos. Show up, maybe suggest some locations or scenes and shoot away. If I go to a family’s house and there is a BMW in the driveway, they’re probably not the right family for me to shoot. I’d want to help out the teacher, fireman, or police officer.

Business Concept #2: Charge nothing for Facebook-sized low resolution, low quality shots.

That’s right. Free. My bodies shoot 6000×4000. I would give 60% quality 900 pixel long-edge shots away for free. Why? Because they’re going to post the ones I shoot in a likely illegal-but-they-wouldn’t-know-or-care fashion anyway. If I disable right-click, they’ll use Print Screen. I’ll likely watermark the proofs on whatever site I have host them, but I will give away 900×600’s unmarked. I’d use a quality low enough that cropping or up-scaling wouldn’t be worth it, but they’d render fine on Facebook. This shot was, at one point, for four separate Facebook profile pictures:


SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA@ f/4, ISO 200, 1/200s

And in full resolution it could be cropped accordingly and provide high quality single person portraits.

But with the long edge at 900 pixels and at 60% quality, there is more than a slight difference.


It is fine for Facebook, though


This also leads in nicely to my next concept…

Business Concept #3: Different prices for post-processed full resolution shots/prints.

I’d give away uncropped, unedited 900×600 shots. I’d charge one price for uncropped, unedited 6000×4000 shots. Basically the JPEG straight off the body in RAW+JPEG mode. I’d charge up to a premium for post-processing above basics. I’ll get the white balance and exposure close. If you want whitened teeth or no gray hair, pimples, zits, or wrinkles, it will cost you more. If you want me to make your weird Uncle Jim disappear, it will cost you more. I will do some diligence as I have a couple of children myself, but if you forget to wipe your child’s chin, I’ll fix it for a small price.


SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/4, ISO 200, 1/200s

If you want selective coloring, or sepia tones, it will cost more. If you like the shot how it is, it won’t cost you any more than the base price. What is the base price? I haven’t figured it out yet. I would do the research and be consistent with the average professional.

Business Concept #4: Purchases open to family and friends.

I would use a site like SmugMug and make purchasing be open to family and friends. If a couple couldn’t afford prints or other printed artifacts, I would allow others to purchase it for them. This would also lead into a good model for family and senior photos, as well as events. Two parents who are teachers of a high school senior may not be able to afford good senior photos, so I provide the basics at a low cost and anything above and beyond that, people like grandparents and/or friends could chip in. This way, I still make a little money on the print, but the family gets good quality at a lower price.

I have some other ideas but realistically, I am not sure how this model would pan out. My goal would be not to undercut someone who does this for a living, but to provide a service to those who wouldn’t normally purchase a service.