Creating with a purpose

Back in October I upgraded to truly professional photography gear.  I had good lenses before, but with a rather mediocre camera body, a lot of my work was falling short of what I wanted.  I made the big plunge, and since then I have been SWAMPED!  It has been a wonderful thing.  Throughout the 2.5 months of being so busy, my most rewarding and favorite sessions have been fundraising sessions.

This has given me an idea… for all of 2016, I would like to pick a different charitable cause to support for each and every month.  I will seek to do at least one or two specific projects in order to generate donations for specific causes.

This is where I need some response and feedback from readers and viewers.  I need ideas of great charitable causes with which I can try to partner for 2016.  I am going to try to make March a month devoted to Music Education.  It is music in the schools month, and as a life-long music teacher during the day, it is something I am deeply passionate about.

Another thing I definitely will be including is pet rescue … probably bulldog rescue, as I have a rescued bulldog that I absolutely adore.  I have a tentative thought of doing something for bulldog rescue in October, 2016.

I need other ideas… I want to have some very obvious ones… healthcare causes, for instance.  But I would also LOVE to have some under-served causes that might really need a boost in awareness.  Sometimes the most obvious causes get SO much attention and focus, that I feel issues which effect a smaller population may not always get as much focus.  Another one of my tentative thoughts would be to do something with Cystic Fibrosis.  I have encountered two incredibly special young ladies in the past few years who are battling this disease, and I think that would be particularly meaningful to me as well.

In order to make this a viable thing, the cause will need at least some sort of pre-established structure in order to reach out and create interest.  Of course I can do a Facebook ad, and share things out on social media, but what would really work best is to have a partner.  For example, if a local chapter of a group is already holding an event, and I could be an add-on option, just as a random example: October might be a bulldog event where I do costumed pet photography, and a percentage of the proceeds goes directly to the bulldog rescue where I adopted Lily.  The ability for the rescue to share out information about the event, and help me generate interested participants is a HUGE piece of the puzzle to make it successful.

So here is where I need your help.  Do you volunteer or work for a charitable organization in the Southeastern PA area?  (Summertime could be anywhere, really… Surf City, NC or Wrightsville Beach, NC come to mind, I’m there a LOT!)  Feel free to reach out and make a suggestion.  I would love to discuss the possibilities with any charitable organization that might be interested in combining our efforts to create a wonderful event for a great cause!

Please direct inquiries and suggestions to:

Have a wonderful holiday!!!!



Aluminum and Acrylic Prints

Most of the time when I write, it tends to be either philosophical, or possibly just to explore some aspect of photography or creativity that has occupied my thought process in recent days.  Today, though, I am going to depart from that, and write about a specific photography product.

As a photographer, I like to explore what different types of prints are available.  A few weeks ago, I decided to take the plunge with two different printing techniques.  I purchased exactly the same image in two formats: as a 20×30″ aluminum print, and also as a 19.5 x 25″ acrylic print.

The acrylic print was ok.  I like it.  In fact, if it hadn’t been for the aluminum print at the same time, I probably would have loved it.  But the aluminum print was AMAZING!

First of all, the aluminum print is not normally intended to be framed.  It usually hangs via a floating mount on the back, and without a frame.  There is an iridescence to it that is absolutely incredible.  The lab which I use (Miller’s) offers the aluminum prints in two formats – with a base coat of white applied prior to the print, or directly upon the metal.

I chose the white base coat.  I haven’t gotten one directly on metal yet, and sooner or later I will, and I’ll write some feedback at that point regarding the difference.  But today’s comments will be just specifically for the white base coat.

Just about 24 hours after receiving it, I was proudly showing it off at an art show, when someone bumped it, and knocked it to the ground.  This could have been the saddest moment… in fact, I was really upset at the time that it happened.  Then on our way home from the event, my wife and I were talking, and one of us came up with the idea of building a custom frame around it to hide the damaged edges.

It just so happens that I have a good friend who is an exotic wood importer.  He grows exotic hardwoods in Costa Rica on a sustainable farm, and imports them to the US.  So, it was off to the wood warehouse!  I couple of days later, I had a stunning frame built out of cocobolo rosewood.  Since the print is of the Blue Ridge mountains, the frame not only hides the damage, but it truly completes the work, and makes it FAR more striking than before it was framed!

The day I was finishing up my frame, a client was stopping by to approve the layout I did for a large collage that was going to be printed as a large-format canvas.  Upon seeing my framed aluminum, she switched her order to be an aluminum print!  Just one look at the beautiful iridescent print, and she wanted that type of look on her wall.

The surface of the metal is highly reflective.  I suppose the look is somewhat akin to looking at an image on a computer monitor.  It definitely reflects fare more light than a paper or canvas print, and as a result, it appears almost brighter in a way.

I jumped “all in” with a fairly expensive 20×30″ print.  The good news is that you can purchase aluminum prints for substantially less money if you are interested in a smaller one.  The smaller ones come with a wedge stand.  The larger ones come with the mount.

Oh – and just in case anyone wants them, I am having custom hardwood frames now manufactured abroad, and I can frame your aluminum prints in any of a wide variety of exotic hardwoods!!!  These make exceptionally stunning pieces of art.

Enjoy your experimenting!!!



Gift Cards For the Holidays

I’m very excited to announce that I am offering gift cards for this Holiday season!  The gift cards are available in four different amounts:

The mini $85.00

The mini session includes a short photo session, intended for one grouping or individual.  This is great for a head shot, getting a few great images to use for social media presence, a couples photo, photos with a pet, etc.  The recipient will receive low resolution files that are watermarked, perfect for sharing on social media.  From those images, they can select their favorite image, and the will receive that image both as a high resolution file for printing, and also as a professionally printed and mounted 8×10 art print.

The Family Portrait $250

This session provides a full family photo session.  With this session, we will meet at a mutually agreed upon location, and spend up to two hours getting photographs of a family.  After the session, the recipient will receive a set of low resolution, branded photographs.  Those images are free to share on social media, and also serve as the proofs for the session.  The recipient can select their favorite photo from the session, and they will receive a professionally printed and mounted 16×20 art print along with the high resolution digital file of that image.  Any additional prints from the session are an extra fee, but each image printed will also be provided in high resolution.

The Family Portrait Deluxe Session $300

This is the same as the regular family portrait session, but the print will be a 20 x 30.”

The Family Portrait Premium Session $500

This session operates the same as a Family Portrait session, but the print will be a 30 x 40″ art print, professionally printed and mounted.  This session also includes five 8×10 prints (5 different images, or multiple copies of the same image – up to the recipient.)


Please consider shopping small this year for the Holidays!

To order a gift card, contact me at:

And most importantly, have a wonderful time with your fiends and family throughout this Holiday season.


Evolving Skill Set

This has been an incredibly busy week of shooting.  I had a few portrait sessions over the weekend, and they went very well.  I am still very new at the business side of photography.  I have shot for years and years, but I have just recently begun actively pursuing a photography business.

As a photographer accepting payment for services, it is no longer acceptable to take a bunch of shots, and hope that something nice comes out in the end.  The biggest difference when working for hire is that you are claiming to be qualified to get good photographs based on your skill set, experience, and I suppose on one level, your equipment.

What I have noticed in my own work, is that I am developing and growing much faster now that I am booking paying clients, than I did over the year or so leading up to starting my business.  This is based purely on the fact that I feel that every shoot NEEDS to be better than the last one.

Am I shooting $6000 wedding packages?  No, I’m not.  But I’m accepting a sitting fee, and I’m selling very good quality prints.  That’s another BIG source of growth – when you sit down and look at spending $200 to get something printed in a huge format, all of the sudden the importance of the quality and perfection in that image goes to a completely different level.  Nothing is worse than getting a print back from a lab, and discovering that it is flawed in some way that you didn’t catch.

Although I don’t have any paying gigs lined up while I am there, I return to North Carolina for the first time since I got my new equipment.  I’ll be photographing a surf competition, and if I know my own natural tendencies, probably some migratory birds (hopefully).  I’m incredibly excited to see what results I can produce.

Here are just a few photos from my sessions this past week:



New print available!

The Fed Ex driver brought me a couple of exciting new additions this week! This beautiful artwork is printed directly on metal. My selfie is the farthest thing from doing it justice. The photo was taken from the Blueridge Parkway, and there is ZERO colorization! It looks like I added the blue, but no… absolutely no modification of color whatsoever.

Metal Print

A beautiful view from atop Whitetop Mountain in southern Virginia.  Blueridge and Appalachian mountain ranges visible as far as the eye/lens can see.
A beautiful view from atop Whitetop Mountain in southern Virginia. Blueridge and Appalachian mountain ranges visible as far as the eye/lens can see.

The print is available for sale. If anyone is interested, you can reach out at

Have a beautiful day!

My first scam

So I guess it’s a sign that I am becoming easier to find on the internet, when I am the recipient of my first attempt at an online scam that is fairly popular. They will have to pardon me for not being flattered. I won’t go into the entire extended details of the same, but here is a link to an article about it in Popular Photography.

The scam in my case was verbatim from the screen shots in the article.

It was rather easy to spot as a scam, for two reasons. First, they were constantly making WAY too big of a deal out of the fact that I needed to take credit cards. From the very first contact it was stressing the necessity of a credit card. Second, they originally said that they were a referral client. When I asked for the name of the person who referred me, they backtracked, and said that it was actually just a google search.

The fact that someone would lie at all was a HUGE indicator that this would not be someone with whom I would have a working relationship – even if I had thought that they were legitimate clients. If you are willing to lie to me, I am unwilling to be your photographer. I am in the tremendously fortunate situation where I don’t NEED my photography income. I have a great day job, and thus I can select and refuse clients purely based on my desire to work with them. It is a luxury many photographers don’t have, and I am afraid the guys and gals most likely to fall for this are the ones who REALLY needed the booking.

Anyway, I detected it as a scam immediately, did a quick little google search and found the article that I linked above, then I went ahead and spent the next several days making all sorts of arrangements with the fake client. I told them all about their luxury prints, we went into GREAT detail about the shot list that they needed to generate for me.

I think the fun is just about over now – they have stopped replying to my requests for more extensively complicated and drawn-out forms. The good news is, I wasted more of their time than they wasted mine.

Keep your eyes open, and hopefully nobody gets drawn in by these idiots!

Yelp, Google, Small Business in 2015

When I was a kid, my Dad was a small businessman.  He had a gas & oil drilling business, and he would spend his evenings talking to various companies’ representatives to set up his work for the upcoming day or two.  From my earliest years, I had a very solid foundation in entrepreneurial enterprise.  While in college, I worked for Tower Records as a shift supervisor for a few years, and eventually spent a number of years in sales for a high-end stereo retailer in Philadelphia.  During that time, I had extensive training in sales techniques.  I absolutely love business.  I love working out “deals” and figuring out solutions to problems.  I really do believe that a good business person is good at helping people solve problems.  Great salespeople help other people find solutions to problems that perhaps they didn’t even know about until the sales meeting took place.

So over the past few days, I was home sick from my day job.  It is entirely out of my nature to just do “nothing,” so I spent a lot of time working on my photography business.  I set up much more professional email – something I should have done months ago.  I set up my Yelp business page, and even established a ‘deal’ on Yelp, plus the ability for folks to purchase gift certificates through them.

I decided that as a photographer, I really needed to have a bit of a working knowledge of photoshop, so I got some templates for business cards.  I designed a new business card, and found a producer… and it’s going to be AWESOME… a clear plastic business card is not cheap – but they are COOL.  I can’t wait until they arrive!

So… I have a blog, a website, online print ordering, business cards, a account, SmugMug account, an EIN, an LLC application… bottom line, I have taken HUGE steps toward growing my business.   I have developed several relationships with a number of clients.  I have shot my first wedding, several events, some mini sessions and concerts.  I have an event set up for Small Business Saturday!

The best part of all of this… I’m having a WONDERFUL time doing it!  I absolutely love meeting new people.  I adore producing images for others, and the feeling that I get when they love their photos.  It’s incredibly exciting to book photo shoots and showings!

Google and Yelp, and… online coupons, online gift certificates… all of these things portend to provide business opportunities.  I’m not entirely sure that I buy it.  I think they are all tools… but they are NOT going to generate business.  Business is going to build slowly, and surely, by networking the good old fashioned way.  It will build by letting people know that I WANT to be of service.  It will grow by folks seeing the work that I do, and hopefully having them form a very positive opinion of the work that I do.  It will grow by my colleagues from my day job moving through life, and needing a photographer, and knowing that I am interested.  It will grow by the sons and daughters of acquaintances as they get married.

I’m excited to be building a small business in the era of the internet.  I’m very thankful that I can beam my photos to a print lab in the mid-west, and have the finished products sitting on my front porch in 2 days!  I’m grateful for the modern conveniences and tools.

BUT… more than anything, I’m excited about building relationships.  I’m excited about making people happy.  I’m dedicated to the idea of surpassing the expectations of my clients, and providing a better product than they thought I was capable of producing.  Those are the things that make me excited to move forward with my business.  Those are the things that fuel my obsession with the business side of photography.

Professionalism, enthusiasm, drive to succeed – this is my recipe.  We shall see where it leads.  I’m excited for the ride!!!





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Mini-session Fundraising

Last weekend I held my first mini session fundraiser.  One of my colleagues at my day job is battling cancer, and I wanted to help her raise some extra funds.  I set it up to be extremely affordable ($50.00 for a session, the client then got digital files to use as they wish.)  Then I donated $20 of that into a fund for my colleague.  An area farmer allowed me to use his pumpkin patch and farm area, at no charge, for the event.

For my very first one it was quite a great success!  I posted a targeted Facebook ad, which produced three sessions, and then I also emailed the faculty at my school, and a few other ones in my School District where the Principal gave me permission to share the details, and seek participants.

Johnson family

The folks who came out were all thrilled with their photos, and we did a great thing!  Tons of positive energy across the board.

Family Portrait

This family was one of the ones that responded to the facebook ad – I was a little wary of spending money on a facebook ad for something that was essentially not bringing in much revenue anyway, so I set it up to spend only $20 on the targeted ad campaign, but I specified very carefully what people would see the ad.  I wanted folks all within 25 miles of the shoot location, all of whom had an interest on Facebook for either cancer awareness, philanthropy, charitable giving, or some other sort of interest that would make them very likely to be interested in participating.


One of the folks that came out was the daughter of a colleague.  She was dressed and made-up beautifully, and not only did she get some wonderful images, but I also got some great portfolio images as well.


Another participant was a colleague who had done some modeling in the past.  We actually filled up a lot of the time between my scheduled appointments by shooting at various locations around the farm.

This was a GREAT success both as a charity event, and for me as a photographer.  I have a number of subsequent shoots for relatives, folks who were simply too busy on the date I had chosen, etc.

For folks that are just getting established with a photography business, I would highly encourage something of this nature!  It gives back to the community, lets you practice your craft without someone paying super big money for a full portrait session, and everyone is just thrilled with the entire process.

Happy shooting!

Photo Shoot

Last week I had the great pleasure to photograph a wonderful pianist and her husband perform a recital in New York.  It was work for hire, so I am not permitted to share most of the photos from the shoot, which is a bit of a bummer, because there are a lot of images in the shoot of which I am very proud.  The one exception was that I was permitted to add a couple of the images to my portfolio.

One of the photos which I added to my portfolio is a photo of one of the ‘behind the scenes’ folks for the day – Elizabeth.  She was turning pages for a couple of the pieces, and I captured this image while I was trying to figure out my white balance settings for the crazy lighting in the room.  The entire shoot had to be performed without flash, which made things very challenging after dark.  This photo, however, was taken during the afternoon, and there is plenty of natural light coming in through the huge windows.

White balance is definitely a major focus for me right now… I have always been aware of it, and I haven’t been horrible with it in the past, but I’m constantly trying to improve the look of the image directly out of my camera, without any editing.  This image is almost completely unedited.  I’m not looking at lightroom at the moment, so I can’t swear to having zero adjustment, but it is VERY minor if at all.

I especially love the classic elegance and beauty of her smile.

I’m looking forward to returning in May to do another recital!