Product Cloud

Available for local and destination weddings and portrait sessions.  Each project is different, so contact me for an exact quote.  Portrait sessions start at $300 and wedding coverage begins at $3,000.  Typical wedding fees are about $5,000 - Send an email to me.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Gary Fong Puffer

Don't want to get out an external flash and a big diffuser? But you don't want the harsh, direct light from the pop-up flash on your camera? Here's the answer -- the Puffer, from Gary Fong.

Gary Fong Lightsphere - Universal

Just a quick video on how to attach the Gary Fong Lightsphere-Universal to your flash. It's a one-size-fits-all (up to 2 x 3.5 inches) light diffuser, perfect for your hotshoe-mounted flash. Currently available only as a Cloud. Since it fits so many of the most popular flashes, you don't have to buy different sizes to fit all your flashes.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Gary Fong Lightsphere or Whaletail

This question came in yesterday:

"Hi I am looking to buy two lightspheres for my 2 Canon 580EX II flashes that are mounted to light stands for quick off camera flash portrait setups. Would you recommend the clear or the cloud for this type of setup or would the whaletails be better suited for this. Thank you" - Tony



The whaletails give the most versatility. That is what I prefer for studio use. If you go with lightspheres, I would use the Cloud as your main light. Another Cloud or Clear is then your background or fill light.

One thing -- the Gary Fong website has an error. It lists the size 4 for the 580X-II. Actually, that is for the older , and smaller 580EX. Most people are getting size 2 for the mark II.

Gary just introduced a lightsphere-universal (has a one-size-fits-all mount), at PhotoExpo+, last month, in NY. It is only produced as a Cloud, but it will fit a variety of flash models. Unfortunately, he sold out at the show and won't have them in his eStore for a couple of weeks.

Whaletails are in stock. If you go that route, get a Studio for your main light, and a Reporter for the fill/background.


Monday, November 5, 2007

Using the Gary Fong Whaletail Flash Diffuser

I just had a question about using the Whaletail, outdoors at night. He was also concerned about getting the raccoon eye effect.

"I have two questions, what kind of shots can you get with the Whale Tail at night time outside, where you would not be able to bounce at anything, except for trees and whatever is hanging around. My second question is, what settings do you use in doing this? I have a D80 and a SB-600, I don't want the Racoon or the headlight shot effect in my pictures.


First, let me talk about outside, in open shade. In this case, you are pretty safe with the flash on TTL and the camera on Program. Usually, you can keep both flaps closed, because you are only looking for fill flash. If you find that the specular highlights are too hot, you can add negative compensation on the flash. The idea situation would be to have the flash off camera so that you can move it closer or further away. with changing camera location. If you have a flash meter, you could meter for the sky or backgrond, then dial the flash it at a stop or two less.

At night, you are probably getting most or all of your light from the flash. In this situation, point the curved portion of the WT toward the subject and open the top - top flap straight up. Depending on distance, you may want to add the chrome/silver flaps -- or just line the flaps with foil.

Instead of shooting in program mode, put the camera in Manual, open to the widest aperture, and drag the shutter -- maybe 1/30. Also, shoot at ISO 800. The flash is on TTL. Since the flash is putting out 1/10000 - or faster - burst, you don't have to worry about motion blur.

The raccoon effect comes from the angle of reflectance being to sharp -- the angle that the light bounces of the ceiling is so sharp that it puts a shadow in the eye sockets, under the chin, etc.

This generally occurs when you are under a low ceiling -- like a home or office. The obvious solution is to back up - increase the distance between the flash and the subject. Unfortunately, that may no be possible, so the other solution is to reduce the amount of light that is being reflected from the ceiling. Do this by closing the top flap -- or trimming it (partially closing it) until you get the desired

Remember, with the WT, the SOFTEST position is with the curved top pointing AWAY from the subject and the top flap straight up -- giving a large flat surface from the two flaps. The POWER position is to have the curved portion of the WT pointing toward the subject, with the top flap almost straight up.

Indoor settings are flash on TTL, aperture fairly wide open (2.8, 4.0), ISO 400 - 800, and shutter 1/60 to 1/30.

These are all starting points. You may want to modify some of them, depending on your specific situation.

I hope this helps.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Using the Gary Fong Lightsphere -- Video in Spanish

This is going to be Spanish Day on the blog - the first post is a video explaining how to use the Gary Fong Lightspher flash diffuser.

The second video is an explanation of foofing, by one of the top wedding photographer in the world -- Denis Reggie. If you've ever heard the term "foofing", here's the master:

Monday, October 8, 2007

Making Money with Your Camera - Quick

A number of years ago, I was one of two partners in a small, regional ad agency. We served a number of local hospitals, some ethnic food distributors, and the formed phone company - Pacific Bell. Our annual billing was just over $1 million. That's not a lot of money for an ad agency, but we were small and had low overhead.

My partner was the 'outside sales rep' -- he got the doors open so I could make presentations. We had some contract graphics designers and a copy writer. I also did copy writing, produced videos and TV commercials, and handled the commercial photography.

We won a few national awards, but, in the late 1990s, many local hospitals were being acquired by hospital management companies and many small hospital groups were being bought by larger groups. Each time this happened, the larger company would have their own ad agencies. Sometimes we were able to compete with the bigger ad agencies, and sometimes we weren't even given the opportunity.

Eventually, we decided to close the agency. Actually, I stayed on for a while, because I had a studio attached to the offices, but that, eventually, became much more than I needed. My expenses were over $4,000 a month. Even now, that's a lot of money, but prior to the year 2000, I rally had to attract a lot of clients to justify it.

I just didn't enjoy the constant beating of the bushes to get and keep advertising clients and when I got new clients, it was a full-timer job to service them. And, honestly, I just wasn't all that happy doing 'commercial' photography.

Once I decided to close the doors, I didn't have daily access to a well equipped studio, so I began to think of other ways to make money as a photographer.

Weddings and other events became the answer, but you don't just decide to be a wedding photographer, on Wednesday, and have a job on Saturday. People book their photographer 6-18 months before the ceremony. Fortunately, I had always shot a few wedding every year, so I had some work on the books, but I needed to generate some cash almost immediately.

I remembered going to an amusement park and while standing in line, a photographer came down the line, snapping pictures and handing out a small card. Now, this was pre-digital, and there was a kiosk where you could go to see the pictures. They would give you a small print, make a pin-on button, and a few other trinkets. Then I remembered seeing an old photo of my parents. It was a black and white, taken in a nightclub at the end of World War II. It was probably a 5x7 or 8x10, in a folder with the name of the club on it.

How many times have you gone to dinner and a pretty girl, with a basket of roses approached you?

I picked two local restaurants and approached the owners. They were both family owner places - not large chains. I talked to them, offered 10% of anything I made, and one agreed immediately.

I didn't go to the expense of having custom folders made, but I printed some flyers. On the flyers, I show three sizes: 4x6, 5x7, and 8x10 - I used an actual photo and just overlaid the smaller sizes on top of the 8x10. I though that was better than just drawing an outline. On the flyer, I had y web address. I didn't yet have an ecommerce site, so customers had to call or email. That was almost eight years ago, Today, it would be a lit easier. Everyone has internet access and ecommerce sites are inexpensive or free, and almost automatic.

OK, so here's what I did. After getting an agreement with the owner, I showed up at the two busiest nights - in this case, Wednesday and Saturday. After a few nights, he agreed to put a flyer and a small poster board display of images from the previous evenings. People would stop and look at them and even ask what nights the photographer was available!!!

I'd dress nicely - usually a blazer and open-neck dress shirt. Check the style of the customers and dress in a similar fashion. The best time to approach a table seemed to be right after the dinner order was taken. Once the food arrives, people don't want to be bothered -- and they my has spinach in their teeth :-).

I didn't normally ask if they wanted a photo. I'd just motion for them to squeeze together. Nearly always, they'd do it. At times, I could sense that they didn't want a record of the occasion. That might have been when they were having dinner with someone they weren't supposed to be having dinner with!!

I'd hand them a flyer -- with a business card stapled to it - and tell them that their samples would be online with about 4 hours. Surprisingly, I would get orders that night.

I won't tell you that I ever got a lot of repeat business from those couples - none ever called me to shoot their wedding - but I did get some birthday parties and a few family portraits. As my website improved, my volume of 'add-on' inquiries did increase. Also, I think that most of the restaurant's clientele were married couples and families. Had I picked a more 'romantic' location, I might have gotten other types of work.

After about 3-4 weeks, I went back to the other restaurant - the one that turned me down - and made a second presentation, based on my experience at the first place, and they agreed, so I added Friday evening and Sunday brunch.

I only did this for about five months. In that time, I was finding corporate events, more weddings, and even some commercial work from previous clients, so I decided to give myself some nights off.

Was it enough to pay all the bills? No, not at that time. Probably not now, either. But, today, it is much easier. You have many more ecommerce options. You could even use your laptop to set up a slide show, if there is space near the register. One of my former interns does this. The restaurant is so supportive that they even allow the customers to add the print sales to their dinner checks. She feels that this is the perfect way to do it. People are happy, feeling good, and have their credit cards in their hands :-) This venue has a trio that plays music throughout the evening, and they make several announcements about the photographer and the slide show.

She says that she does make enough, each week, that she can cover the cars payment. Money from the other weeks goes into her equipment fund. So far, she managed to buy new laptop and a spare camera body.

If you are just starting out, or looking for a way to keep your day job, while getting some experience this is an inexpensive way to get started.

I'd love to hear of your experiences.

OK, what do you need to get started? First, any consumer level digital SLR. I prefer Nikon, so a Nikon D80, would be a great choice. A kit lens will work - the one that probably came with your camera. Most of the lenses that come with today's DSLRs are zooms with Nikon 18-55mm or 70mm focal range. I used a Nikon 24-120mm. You'll need a decent on-camera flash. For Nikon, consider the SB-800 Speedlight-- or SB-600 (Not the SB-400). You don't need a flash bracket, but you will want a Gary Fong Lightsphere or Gary Fong Whaletail. If you are just starting out, I'd go with a Cloud Lightsphere. If you have lots of experience with flash - and bouncing the flash (or want to use multiple, off-camera flashes) - consider the more versatile Whaletail.

Scroll down this blog for a couple of videos on how to use the Lightsphere or Whaletail.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Differences Between Gary Fong Lightsphere and Whaletail

One of the questions I most often hear, regarding Gary Fong light diffusers is: "What's the difference between the Lightsphere and the Whaletail?"

Both the Lightsphere and the Whaletail are flash diffusers -- they are designed to soften the light of hotshoe mounted flashes. In many ways, they provide studio quality light -- without the studio.

The first Lighsphere was a hard plastic, translcent body with an external (convex) dome -- a bubble top -- that snapped on the top. It offered a wonderful, soft light, but it was bit heavy, it was difficult to get a perfect fit, and the external dome sometimes stuck out beyond the lens hood, and created lens flare. Still, it was like nothing else available, and allowed many photographers to acheive results never before seen outside of the studio (or without using large lightstands, umbrellas or softboxes). In that sense, it was revolutionary.

Original Lightsphere

I'm not certain when they were first realesed, but I bought mine sometime in 2002 or 2003. In the Fall of 2005, Gary Fong replaced the original Lightsphere with a pliable, vinyl version. Interestingly enough, both the original and the replacement were called the Lightsphere II. In fact, Gary had been developing light diffusers for his own use for several years, so what we now call the 'original Lightsphere' was actually in a chain of evolution that still continues.

The 2005 model came in two versions: Clear (photojournalist) and Cloud (portrait). Both had 'photojournalist' embossed on them because they came from the same molds with only the color of the vinyl changing. The Clear was a transparent vinyl, while the Cloud was translucent.

Cloud (L) & Clear (R) Lightspheres

There were two major design changes in the '05 models. First, the top fitting dome was changed from convex to concave: It now fitted inside the body of the Lightsphere -- and was called the Inverted Dome. It was a hard plastic, frisbee looking device and was translucent. It was the same color dome for both the Clear and the Cloud Lightsphere. The second change was in the way the Lightsphere attached to the body of the flash. It came in four sizes and had a combination of different size ribs that gripped the flash much like a swim fin fits your foot. This solved most of the fit problems without the use of any adapters or gaskets.

Gary Fong was a wedding photographer for twenty years. He was a well know speaker and instructor, within the photography industry and the primary users of his Lightspheres were other professional photographers -- especially wedding photographers. These new Clear and Cloud Lightspheres were so popular, that by the beginning of 2007, there were over 90,000 in use, worlwide.

In March of 2007, at the WPPI (Wedding and Portrait Photographers International) annual conference in Las Vegas, Gary introduced a new flash diffuser called the Whaletail. Readers of Gary's blog were anticipating this release for months as Gary presented preliminary drawing for 3-4 months, before the official introduction.


The demand, on the conference floor, was so great that he immediately sold out his entire inventory and it was months before he could catch up with the demand. Even at this writing, there are sometimes shortages. New manufacturing capacity is expected to come online this Fall (2007).

The Whaletail is not a replacement for the Lightsphere. In fact, the Gary Fong Lightsphere is still the top seller. However, the Gary Fong Whaletail is more versatile than the Lightsphere. While the Lightsphere has one opening -- on the top -- and you can either have it open, or covered by the internal dome, the Whaletail has two openings. One is on the top, and the other is on the back -- or on the front. This is completly up the the user. Many flashes swivel 180 degrees, so it is very easy to change the position of the second opening. Since the Whaltail is attached to the flash with a hook & loop (Velcro) cinch strap, if your flash does not swivel, it is a simple matter to take it off, turn it around, and reattach the diffuser.

Studio (L) & Reporter (R) Whaletail Light Diffusers

Instead of a snap on cap (dome), the Whaletail uses two hinged flaps. These flaps can be adjusted to any setting between fully open and fully closed. This means that the photographer can vary the ratio of direct light to bounced or diffused light, giving a wide range of creative lighting contrtol. The Whaletail comes in two sizes: The smaller Reporter and the larger Studio. Both are made of a translucent white plastic.

If you are reading this, you are probably a photographer, and will appreciate pictures over words, so I made a short video, showing the Lightsphere and the Whaletail models.

One mistake that I made on the video -- I say that the Whaletail will fit any rectangular flash up to 2x3 inches. In fact, it will fit up to 2x3.5 inches.

Search for Gary Fong Light Diffusers

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Gary Fong Lightsphere - Difference between Cloud & Clear

Gary Fong makes two versions of his popular Lightsphere flash diffuser: Cloud and Clear. So frequently do I get asked what the differences are, that I decided to make a little video to explain it.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Flash Diffuser for Pop-Up Flash

I always have a camera nearby, but I don't always want to drag out external flashes and diffusers, if it's not a 'job'. For family gatherings, a walk in the park, or just when I see a shot that I want to grab, sometimes I'm left with only the camera's pop-up flash. In most cases, that little light bar is too harsh, and I just prefer not to use it.

Well, Gary Fong has changed all that with the Puffer. The Gary Fong Puffer is a small diffuser that slides into the camera's hot-shoe and converts it into a serviceable flash for those moments when you don't have other options.

It won't fit every camera, but if your camera has a standard hot-shoe right behind the pop-up flash, you are in business.

Take a look.

The Puffer

Sunday, September 23, 2007

How to Make Money with Your Camera

Have you often wondered if you could be a professional photographer?

Would you like to make some extra cash from part-time work with your camera?

Are you a working pro who would like to add additional income streams?

Do you simply want your photography hobby to pay for itself?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, then we have good news for you.

I've searched the internet for the best opportunities for both amateur and pro photographers who want to increase their income while doing what they love.

I've done most of the hard work for you, but not every opportunity is suitable to every photographer, but we are sure that you will save time and money by reviewing what we have discovered. Check back, often, as new ideas are added as we discover them. Not all will make a lot of money - some will just make you a better photographer.

Today's feature is:

How To Photograph A Wedding. - Wedding Photography Techniques For Photographers. Photographing A Wedding, Find Out The Secrets Of A Professional. Includes Events And Groups.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Attaching a Gary Fong Whaletail Flash Diffuser to Your Flash

In the previous post, we answered an email question from Frank about attaching a Gary Fong Lightsphere flash diffuser to his Canon 580EX. In this post, we answer a voice mail question from John. He wants to know how to attach a Gary Fong Whaletail flash diffuser to his Nikon SB-800.

I hope this helps.

Attaching the Gary Fong Lightsphere to Your Flash

I received an email from Frank:

" Hi - Saw .... diffuser at a wedding this weekend. Did not disturb the photographer but I am interested in how this attaches to my flash and how the unit holds together. Can you help me or direct me to a location on your site?


Good question, Frank. There is a tutorial DVD that comes with the Gary Fong Lightsphere, but if you haven't purchased, yet, that doesn't help you :-)

So, I made a quick video to demonstrate how to attach the Gary Fong Lightsphere, and also show some of its accessories. Hope this helps.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Amazing Movie Made From Still Photos

Do you ever go to the dictionary or encyclopedia to look up something and end up looking at dozens of other entries?

Yourtube is something like that. Today, someone sent me a link to a video on the Gary Fong Lightsphere. I went to look at it and found that the creator had links to several other 'movies'. One was to a series of movies from a South American photographer named Martin Crespo.

To quote Martin:

"This is my first short movie, done entirely with photo sequences from my Nikon D50, with non professional actors, original soundtrack and ambient sound (masterized). Three days "filming" (15.000 photos) and 2 months in the editing room and reconstructing the sound."

In other words, he created a movie just from still photographs - 15,000 ofthem!

I'll post the Trailer to his movie, but you should go to his youtube page and see his other work.

OPACO (trailer)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

On locatiion Shoot with Gary Fong Whaletail Flash Diffusers

Last week, I had an on location job. I took a couple of Gary Fong Whaletails, so I made three videos to show what I took, and how I used them. The first explains what I had to take prior to using small flashes. It then shows what I use, now.

Parts 2 and 3 give more detail on how I lit the subjects and shows some samples.

The original videos are posted on youtube. Youtube is a great concept, but there isn't much production value. I capture the video with an elderly analog Hi8. I then convert to analog into video and import it to a MAC Mini. From there, I use iMovie to put the video clips and stills together. The result is a rather grainy and out of focus looking production -- I hope you can get some information from them!!

Part #1

Part #2

Part #3

Monday, September 17, 2007

Model Photo Session Using Gary Fong Whaletail Flash Diffuser

I get lots of questions about how to use the Gary Fong Whaletail flash diffusers to replace studio lights.

This video demonstrates the use of two Whaletails -- a Reporter size and the larger Studio size -- in a simple two-light studio setup. The session takes place in an apartment living room. Only about a 10 foot wide area was necessary - in order to allow for a simple black muslin backdrop.

Thursday, September 6, 2007


Since the last post, and accompanying video, dealt with shutter speed, I figured I'd better complete the discussion about exposure by making a video about aperture.

The aperture is the opening in the lens. The wider the opening, the more light that will be recorded on your film or digital sensor.

Take a look at the video, and the one of shutter speed. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me.

Shutter Speeds

While this may seem pretty basic, I often get questions on what shutter speed and aperture are -- and how they relate to exposure - and to each other.

Shutter Speed is the time that the shutter remains open, when you press the shutter release button.

Exposure is determined by the combination of how long the shutter is open, and the size the lens aperture (opening).

Shutter speeds can range from one second (even longer if you have a B [bulb] option) to 1/4000th of a second on most prosumer cameras and higher on pro level cameras.

If you are shooting fast moving action, you will want to use faster settings. In low light, you will use longer settings, and may even need to put the camera on a tripod.

Here is a quick video demo of shutter speeds.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Camera Settings for the Gary Fong WhaleTail Light Diffuser

I got this email over the Labor Day Weekend.

It occured to me that other might have a similar question, so I made a quick video.

The Question:

I was checking on your site for settings and suggestions for owners of the Whaletail and a Canon 400D (XTi). I recently received my Whaletail and am enjoying playing around with it; but I am experiencing some lighting issues. I own two lenses. One is the Canon 1.8 50mm and the other is the Canon 17-85 EF-S f4-5.6.

The manual states to put the camera on Aperture Priority and set the F-Stop from 2.8 to 4.0, with an ISO of 400 to 800. Problem is that only one of my two lenses even goes that low, and that's my 50mm. I'm also noticing that my camera, even on program mode, dips below a flash shutter speed of 1/60.

This means I get a bit of blur, sometimes a lot of blur. I'm sure most of the purchasers of this product are professionals and have fully professional equipment. I'm still learning my XTi and I know it isn't professional grade and neither is my 17-85mm lens. yet, I have a suspicion there is a way to make this all work right even with my limited equipment.

Can you point me in the right direction?

Thanks! Kelly

The Answer:

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Getting More "WOW" from Your Engagement Sessions

If you’ve been reading this blog for a few months, you understand that our whole marketing strategy is about getting ‘wows’ and ‘raves’ from the client. Go back to the April posts and read the 4-part series on how to get your photography business online, for an overview. The foundation of this philosophy is routed in world-famous photographer Gary Fong’s Getting Rich as a Photographer, 2-DVD set.

Gary was a trendsetter, and unique in his approach to the business of photography. He recognized that photography is a competitive business, and new ideas are necessary to keep one step ahead of that competition.

Today, I’d like to make you aware of an idea that can do three things for your wedding photography business:

1. Book more jobs
2. Make more money
3. Create more “wow”.

Before I ‘reveal’ the idea, let me tell you what I have been doing for several years. Anytime someone books me (pays a deposit) for a wedding, I offer them a FREE engagement session.

There are several reasons for this, but, primarily, it is to allow us to get to know each other. I’ve always thought that it is better to photograph a wedding as a friend, than as some hired gun shooter from the internet. (I also encourage you to go to rehearsals, if possible).

Now, since I don’t ‘include’ the engagement session in my wedding ‘package’, I present it as my gift to them. We spend about 90 minutes, usually on a Sunday morning in Laguna Beach, CA. I provide them with an 11x14 inch print, that they can have framed in a signature mat, for display that the reception. Since this is a FREE gift, I never have to worry about scheduling, travel to locations, etc. It’s a gift and they need to come to me. Of course, after the shoot, I do offer them a chance to have a Guest Book made from the engagement session images. Normally, I place 1 or 2 images on the right page, and leave the left side black, for guests to write little notes. An inexpensive way to do this is through I charge about $250 for these.

Here the BIG IDEA. I’m sure that other photographers are doing it, but I first heard about a photographer in Santa Barbara, CA – Damian Langere --. He does Fashion Engagement Sessions. Rather than just a few wardrobe changes at the beach, Damian puts his couples through a complete ‘make-over’. He hooks his bride and groom up with a style consultant, who helps them pick the wardrobe. Then he schedules them for a ‘hair and makeup’ session. When the couple is ready, he does a fashion style photo shoot using multiple locations in the Santa Barbara area. Here’s a video that explains it all.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

New Canon 21megapixel Camera!

Most of you know that I use Nikon. Yesterday, I talked about getting on the waiting list for the D-300. In the iterest of equal time, it is only fair to tell you that Canon has new 21meg camera -- as well as the 40D - which is a prosumer model.

Get on the waiting list (40D shipping in September, and the 1DS-Mark III will ship in November). For a look at the new Canon offerings, go here. There is an interesting audio interview with Canon's Mark Westfall.

To be fair, I did shoot Canon SLRs for several years, before I went digital -- which will six years ago this weekend Labor Day).

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Nikon D-300 Waiting List

OK – I didn’t write this – this is directly from the Nikon marketing material – but it’s still exciting, if you are a Nikon shooter. Chris James first sent me the information, a few days ago, and now Ritz Camera is taking waiting list orders. (I bought my first DSLR – a Nikon D-100 – after being on a waiting list).

“The D-300 will be available from The Nikon Store @
beginning in November 2007 for an estimated selling price of $1,799.95**. ENTER "d-300" IN THE search box. With the introduction of the D300, Nikon's current lineup of digital SLR cameras now includes the new D3, D2XS, D300, D200, D80, D40x and D40.

“Nikon's D200 digital SLR camera was a runaway success for because it embodies everything that performance-conscious photographers demanded. With the D300, Nikon has raised the bar with remarkable new features, greater resolution and speed, and even higher image quality. The D300 delivers an unmatched combination of quality, performance and value that's hard for discerning photographers to resist.”

If you buy one, I’d love to hear your ‘review’.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Retouching Portraits

No matter how well lit and composed a prortrait is -- and no matter how well the make up is applied -- most portraits can benefit from a little retouching. Depending on your intended use of the image (an 8x10 on the mantel, editorial content in a magazine, inclusion in a wedding album, or even a magazine cover), you will retouch your images to a greater or less extent.

For most uses, you want to 'improve' the image, but not make it 'perfect'. The subject should remain recognizable and natural.

Last week, I took some shots of a pretty girl with lots of freckels - lots of them. I asked a friend of mine, Chris James, to apply his magic touch to the image. Chris is an accomplished digital photographer and retoucher (Photoshop wiz), on the East Coast (USA). If you are a professional photographer, and you need some images retouched, Chris is an excellent resource. Even if you are just shooting for the family album, you might have Chris work on a few of your most 'special' shots.

Above, is the original image, and a link to what Chris did to it. Take a look. It was published on August 26, 2007.

Contact Chris James

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

How to Book and Shoot a Wedding -- Step-by-Step -- Part 2

If you haven't read Part 1 of this Guide, please scroll down to the post immediately bellow this one, and read it first.


Now I should say something about my fees. My basic fee is $3,000. That includes a $1,000 print credit. Sometimes, a couple will ask what they get for the $1,000. I tell them that I don’t know – I haven’t even taken the pictures, yet. I say that with a smile. The truth is, until the bride sees the images, she doesn’t know what she wants – and I will go into that more deeply when we discuss albums.

If pressed, I will tell them that it includes a 20-page, magazine-style, flush-mount album. That’s not what I want them to end up with, but I can nicely tell the story of their wedding and produce a 20-page, 10x10 inch album for about $180-$350. The money represents my hard costs – what it costs me to have the album printed. It doesn’t consider my design talents, nor my time.

OK, let’s break down my fees. With $2,000 towards the shooting fee, I make $250/hour at an eight-hour wedding. Some jobs are longer and some are shorter. I don’t care. I am only booking one wedding that day and will give them as much time as is necessary to tell their wedding day story.

Another $1,000 is a print credit. If my hard costs are $250, I have $750 available to cover my time. I can layout a typical 20-page album in about three hours. That’s $250 an hour.

So – you see where I am: About $250 an hour for the shooting time and basic album. Now, that’s not what I want to make -- $3,000. I want to make about $5,000 from each wedding – and I can consistently do that. I will show you how.

Before we go on, let me tell you that the numbers are not important. What I will show you will work in any area, city, state, or country. The numbers may be higher or lower, for you, depending on your talent, experience, and local economy, but the principles will still apply. Whatever you are currently making, from each wedding, you can expect to nearly double that, or more – and you will be able to do it with the same type of clients that you currently have.

If you are charging $600, expect to make $1,200-$1,500 from your very next wedding – while still charging $600. PLEASE don’t charge $600. The kid next-door, who just bought a DSLR, last week, can do that. If you intend to do a good to great job of telling your couple’s wedding story, don’t lessen its perceived value by shooting and burning a CD and charging $600!

There are several key elements in this process. The first is album pre-design. I’ll have a special article on album pre-design, soon.

Back to what you charge: I assume that you are working in a developed country. If you in a developing country, then you will have to be guided by local economics. However, the process will not change. Do what I will teach you, and you will double your wedding income – or better.

If you charge more, or if you do destination weddings, you will also be able to double or better your wedding income.

Remember – they first important factor is album pre-design. We'll talk more about this, soon.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

How to Book and Shoot a Wedding -- Step-by-Step -- Part 1


When I first began to keep this journal, it was with the intention of using it to provide a step-by-step guide to how I prepared for and executed a specific wedding – a wedding that I shot on June 23rd, 2007. However, since the goal was to give as much insight, as possible, to newer wedding photographers, by showing my experiences, it soon became obvious that a single wedding was but a snapshot.

Consequently, I decide that I could share more useful information if I used the June 23rd wedding as but a guide and create a composite wedding. The result, in the following paragraphs, gives the reader the benefit of my 35 years as a wedding photographer. More specifically, it explains the procedures that have followed since I converted to digital photography almost six years ago.

During that time, I averaged about 40 weddings each year, up until I had a series of strokes, which have forced me into semi-retirement. While I am fine, now, and probably could resume full-time wedding photography, I prefer to enjoy a slower paced shooting schedule and now accept wedding jobs only by referral.

In the article that follows, I will take you through every step of the wedding job, from the time that I put it on my schedule though delivery of the finished album.

I will explain what I do, how I do it, and why I do it. While this is only a blog post, I will sometimes refer to more detailed articles or reports on specific topics. Originally, I intended to publish the entire article at one time. However, what was expected to be a simple journal seems to have grown to be a little longer, and more in-depth. Consequently, I will post segments, as time allows.

So ... are you ready?

Good. The first post deals with finances – it’s called the Deposit.

The Deposit

If you make money based on a service that you provide, then the calendar represents your inventory. As a wedding photographer, your inventory consists, primarily, of 52 Saturdays per year. Once you schedule a wedding, for a particular Saturday, you reduce your inventory by one. If, for some reason, the wedding is canceled, and you have not been paid, your income is reduced by some amount. Consequently, you need to develop a process that will protect your income. You see, if a job is cancelled, and you cannot replace it, you car payment, mortgage, and the price of milk and bread do not decrease.

For me to remove a date from my inventory, I require a non-refundable deposit of 50%. Since my typical fee for covering a wedding is $3,000, I take a $1,500 payment to reserve the date. Normally, I am booked from 18 months to one year in advance. The balance ($1,500) is due 30 days before the ceremony.

I shot my first wedding in 1972 and in those years, only twice have I broken that rule. On one occasion, the mother of the groom asked if they could pay the balance the day of the ceremony. This was about 2002 or 2003. I had never been pressed on this, before, but had a good feel about the family, so I agreed – after all, I would have all the files, so I could ‘hold them as ransom’. Anyway, the groom’s father paid me, that evening, and gave me a $100 tip! By the way, most clients realize that you are in your own business, and don’t give tips. On several occasions, when I have had an intern with me, the client has offered a tip, which I always give directly to the intern.

On a second occasion, a bride contacted me to shoot her wedding. This was a last minute thing – about 2 months before the ceremony. It had been moved to California from where the family lived, in Utah. I had shot the wedding of two of her sisters, several years earlier. She did not want ceremony photos – only the reception – for religious reasons. I gave her a lower price and she promised to mail a check. On several occasions, she said the check was ‘in the mail’. It never arrived, so I called her father – who had paid for the previous two jobs. He said that if she didn’t pay, he would cover it. Considering my history with him, I didn’t worry about it, and it all worked out.

That’s it – in nearly 800 weddings, those are the only two were I didn’t get my fees, in full, before the event.

Photographers – especially those new to the wedding business – sometimes ask what happens if the wedding is cancelled. The answer depends on several things.

The purpose of the deposit is to compensate me for removing a date from my inventory. As I mentioned, earlier: If they cancel, and I cannot replace the job (because I have stopped marketing that date, or may have even turned down other requests for that date), my living expenses do not decrease. So here’s my rule-of-thumb: If I can replace the canceled event with another one, I will give a refund. If the wedding date is changed and I am open on the new date, I will transfer the deposit (this is very generous, because I have now allowed someone to tie up two days with a single deposit). If the wedding is canceled or postponed due to military orders (ask for a copy of the deployment orders), I will refund everything.

Once, I was hired by the older sisters of two 18-year-olds who where about to elope. The sisters convinced them to have a small ceremony, and the family arranged for a beachside ceremony and rented hotel banquet room for a reception. Three days before the ceremony, the couple backed out. On one hand, I was not going to be able to schedule a wedding in three days. On the other hand, it wasn’t the sister’s fault that these kids called off the wedding. The hotel wasn’t willing to give back the deposit, and neither was I. However, I know the banquet captain at the hotel and we agreed to transfer the money to another date. The girl’s father was about to celebrate his 50th birthday. We held a family reunion/birthday party about six weeks later (on a week night) and applied the money to that.

It’s your business, so you can run it anyway you like. Just remember: It is a business!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

When Customers Rave About Your Photography, but Don't Buy

On Sunday, a fellow photographer emailed this question. I'm not expert on selling individual prints, but this is the answer I gave.

I took some very nice candid and staged pictures of two couples. Both couples (the ladies in particular) were very, very interested in obtaining copies of the photos I took. They kept in contact with me from the minute I launched my blog page up until I sent them, via email- a secured (copy protected/no printing/no editing) PDF automated slide presentation. Immediately, they emailed me back and "raved" about how beautiful the pictures were and wanted to know how much it would cost to purchase all of the pictures.... Well, I gave them the price and never heard from them again. I'm sure the price was not the problem because I was very reasonable in that department; 4x6= $7, 5x7=$12, & 8x10=$17...something like that. I even offered a discount if they wanted to purchase all o f the shots that I took. After about a week, I got back with the two ladies via email and said, "I'm glad that you enjoyed my work and if you had any additional question, please let me know, in the meantime, when your ready to order, let me know......never heard from them again.

Why do you think the two couples just totally stopped their communications with me after such incredible "rave" about the photos? Do you think that between the both of them, somehow or someone figured out how to copy the files and print them out somehow? Should I attempt to contact them again, or count this as a loss? I don't wanna seem desperate, but I just think it's weird that all of a sudden, I have not heard from them at orders, nothing.


Hard to get in the head of these people -- there is the saying about the girl who had a great first date and thought everything was perfect, yet the guy never called again. When she asked Dr. Phil (or whomever), they simply said: "Well, he just wasn't that into you". Hard to hear, but it happens.

I met a guy at a kid's baseball game. He asked to see some of my shots (on the LCD), then told me which kid was his, so I got a bunch of photos of him -- good shots -- sliding into third - scoring - action stuff. The father brought a few of his friends to me and I gave them all cards. Four or five parents ordered prints (from my photoreflect site), but the guy who was singing my praises ordered nothing. Never heard from him.

Once, the guest at a wedding emailed me to complain about the 'high' price of my prints. He said that it only took me a second to take the picture and cost 19 cents to make the print - so where did I get the nerve to charge so much????? I wrote back, and very politely agreed that it did only take a second, and he was correct that prints were not very expensive to make -- BUT that the rest of the price was my creative fee for making his ugly ass suitable to put on my website!..

Hey, I'm a photographer -- not a public relations agent :-)

Lot's of people love our work UNTIL they have to pay for it.

What I do suggest is that you have a photoreflect - or other ecommerce site - and always direct inquires to it. It makes it look like this is a business and that you sell prints all the time - and that people regularly pay for your work. Sometimes, especially in the case of a relative's wedding, others don't understand that this is your business, and don't think you shouldn't even be charging -- sure -- they are idiots!

Also, never make a 'special' presentation - like the slideshow. If you have a few, as samples, that is one thing, but if you make a special one, for someone -- and you do it for free -- you have just diminished it's perceived value and it is now very hard to get them to pay for something. (I'm not talking about a client who has already paid some kind of shooting or creative fee -- you want to WOW them -- that's why you do the online album -- but they already perceive some value, since they have paid something. If you want to show off your work, make some samples, using other photos, and tell the 'customer' that you'd be happy to do something like this for them, at a reasonable fee. Better to loose them right away, that do the work and still not get them.

In this specific case, I'd just let it go. Sometimes, I will send a follow-up message, saying: "Not sure if you got this, so I am just resending". That's it. If they are interested enough to pay, they will get back to you. Otherwise, forget it, but, at least, you now have some sort of sample to send to others, if the situation presents itself.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Great Ideas

We just got this email, this morning, from Bev, in the UK.

We got the Gary Fong ‘get rich quick’ as we ventured into wedding photography this summer. The blog idea has excited me and I’ve been busy creating it for my husband who is the photographer. We are in the early stages of managing the album showcase, getting to grips with time management etc. and the newness of setting up this process. We do have a slideshow at this point, but obviously it takes time to make too, another job of mine. However, I have just read one of the early posts about putting up a collage straight after the event – simple idea, great! I will definitely be doing that for the next wedding, in fact, I can’t wait, I’m there handing out cards already!!

I’m loving that I can utilise my blog skills to promote our business and am learning a bit more about our website because of hosting the shows there – who knows I may be able to give the website the make over it needs soon too??

Cheers everyone!!!

A very excited photographer’s wife,


Hi Bev -- Thanks for taking the time to write. Send us the link to your photography blog, and we'll share it with our readers.

You mentioned handing out cards. A great idea is to do an engagement session with the bride and groom. Normally, I make an 11x14 inch print that is put in a signature mat for guests to sign. Beside it, I place a smaller copy -- 8x10 or 5x7 -- with my website and phone number. Just make a text layer in Photoshop and drop your contact info on it.

Also, I make a busness card with the engagement photo and my contact info. The cards are in small card holders near the gift table, and I also hand them to people after I snap their candids.

This drives traffic to your blog or website, and it increases your print sales to family and guests

Friday, June 22, 2007

Step By Step Guide to Shooting a Wedding

I've had several emails from readers asking how I prepare for a wedding, how I shoot the wedding, how I do the post-production, etc. As most of you know, I am semi-retired. I really don't take new clients unless I know them, or have covered an event for one of their sisters, neighbors, etc.

Tomorrow, June 23rd, I am shooting a wedding, so I have been keeping a little journal -- just making notes on what I have been doing -- so I can write an article. The article will be posted in about 10 days. Once you read it, it will be obvious why I am waiting 10 days. Of course, I could post a little bit, each day, but since the newest posts are at the top of the blog, you would have to login almost every day, or you would be getting things in reverse order. For that reason, I am waiting until the job is done, and then publishing it as one post. --- so come back around the 4th of July.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Where I Host My Websites

Often, photographers will ask me where I have my websites hosted. I think there are many good web hosts, and some terrible ones. I build my first website in 1994, so I've experienced both the good and the bad. For the past several years, my answer has been simple: I use HostMonster. To be honest, if you click on my link to HostMonster, and sign up, I get a small referal fee. Well, that's nice, but it isn't the reason I recommend them. I recommend them because I use them and I am happy with them.

It's that simple!

There is a link to HostMonster in the right margin -- and there is one here.


Saturday, June 9, 2007

Home Run Baseball Photography

I didn't write this article. I found it while surfing the net and though some of you might find it interesting. Information on the author is included at the end of the post. After reading this article, if you'd like some tips on getting a good entry-level digital SLR that's perfect for photographing youth sports, please scroll down to the next post:

Home Run Baseball Photography Tips Strike one! Strike two! Strike three! Baseball! America's Pastime, and a sport growing in popularity throughout the world, where the Boys of Summer slug it out. A baseball game is the perfect way to spend a lazy summer afternoon, plus it provides opportunities to take photos that last a lifetime.

While many claim the sport of baseball is a slow-paced affair, when action does occur, it can happen very swiftly, almost too fast for an unskilled photographer to shoot the photos they desire. Baseballs fly quickly when hit or thrown, and timing the action for when to take a digital photograph requires split-second reflexes. Thus, before you plan on taking photos at a baseball game, you may wish to read the following advice:

1) First, make sure you are allowed to bring your digital camera to the baseball game. Some ballparks have no restrictions, others on the zoom length, some on using flash, and some may not allow you into the baseball game at all with your camera!

2) Change your camera settings to take the quickest photographs possible while still providing plenty of light for the photograph. You'll need to read your camera's manual on how to change these settings; for example, consider saving photos as JPG instead of RAW to take photos faster.

Just remember that the quicker the shutter speed, the less light enters the camera to take the picture. Thus, you'll need to compromise picture speed and the amount of light to take great photos. That is why baseball games work well with photography - many games are played on sunny days or in well-lit domes or stadiums that allow you to take crisp, high-action photos.

3) Before going to a big league ballpark, make sure you know the rules and nuances of the game. Practice taking photos at a minor-league, college, or high school baseball game. The stakes aren't quite as high if you miss a shot, and taking your camera to a game will give you more insight into when action occurs and when players just stand around.

4) Have extra batteries and digital camera memory handy and practice switching both out quickly before the game! A three and a half hour game can put a tremendous strain on even the most power-miserly camera, and more often than not you will have to switch out power or memory in the middle of an inning.

5) Don't worry if you miss a shot! Unless you have tons of digital camera memory, you may not be able to continuously shoot photograph after photograph. If you miss a key pitch, the swing of a bat, or a forced out, don't get angry! More often than not, new opportunities will arise for great photographs.

6) Study the lineup first. Know who are the key players and those who barely know how to swing a bat. Likewise, learn who has loose hands in the outfield and who is likely to win a Gold Glove. Focus your attention on the stars as they most likely will make the best photographs, but don't be so drawn to celebrity that you miss a role player making a crucial steal or diving catch that wins the game for their team!

7) When the opening lineup starts, look at the dugout. If you're rooting for the home team, the beginning of the game is a great time to get player photographs as they are running out onto the field. If not, take photographs during the middle of the inning. If you don't get the perfect photo, delete bad photographs during lull times and try later during the game.

8) To take a picture of a swinging batter that will last a lifetime, do the following: *) Preparation is the key. First, before the game, know how to operate your digital camera. Practice focusing the camera and quickly deleting unused photos - sometimes you can delete an unwanted photo before it is completely saved to the camera's memory.

*) Before the pitch, focus your viewfinder on the batter's box and try not to cut out any of the batter's body. Zoom in as appropriate, but remember the more you zoom in, the slower the potential shutter speed needed to take a clear photo.

*) Anticipate shutter lag. Lock your focus before the pitch; this usually is done by pressing the shutter button down half-way. *) Time it... time it... then as soon as the ball is about to hit the bat, press down fully on the shutter button.

*) If the pitch is a strike or the swing is not one to be remembered, cancel the save so your picture is not written to memory. This way, you can save room for other photos.

9) Look around for photo opportunities not directly related to the action. Take a photograph of the grounds crew cleaning the bases and raking the dirt between innings. Get a few shots of the crowd. Take a picture of the scoreboard. Look at the surrounding area. If you want to remember the full experience of a baseball game years from now, you should take advantage of one of the best features of a digital camera - the ability to take lots and lots of photographs - and shoot photographs showcasing the FULL baseball experience.

10) Take a break during the game! You came to the baseball game to enjoy the spectacle, not just to take pictures, right? Designate a few innings as photo-free time where you just sit back, munch on a hot dog, drink a soda, and soak in the environment.

Remember to study your digital camera manual first and practice, practice, practice! Follow these ten tips and you'll be on your way to taking "home run" baseball photographs in no time.

--- Copyright 2005 Andrew Malek. Andrew Malek is the owner of the MalekTips computer and technology help site at . Want more great tips on buying and using digital cameras? Visit for more free digital photography advice.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

A Good Entry-Level Digital SLR Camera

A few weeks ago, a fried of mine (Ron) asked for some camera advice. He isn't a professional photographer -- he's a professional dad. He has a son who is an excellent baseball player and they travel around Southern California to tournaments. I was taking photos at one of these tournaments and got a few of Ron and his son.

Well, since Ron doesn't want to pay a hight priced pro, like me :-) to travel around with him, he decided to get a suitable camera for himself. Here is the list of things that Ron is looking for:

Interchangable lenses
basic editing
simple operating features
nice & sharp photos for action shots
6 to 12 mega pixels
3 to 5 shots per second
light weight
not too bulky
reliable & lasts a while if taken care of

There is a wide range of cameras that will do the trick, but I am recommending the Nikon D-40. Actually, the Nikon D-40 comes in two models: The D40 and D40X.

The D40 is a 6-megapixel camera, while the D40X has a 10-megapixel sensor. BOth are sold with an 18-55mm zoom lens. They both have a built-in, pop-up flash. You might want to augment that with Nikon's SB-400 Speedlight -- a flash that mounts in the hot-shoe on top of the camera.

Both versions have a good sensitivity range : ISO 200 - 1600 (3200 on the X model). They have a good 2.5" LCD monitor on the back and with autofocus any of Nikon's AF-S lenses using a fast and accurate three-zone system.

The D40 will shoot 2.5 frames per second and the D40X will fire at 3-fps. In-camera editing allows for cropping, image resizing, color adjusting , filter effects, redeye removal, and conversion to black 7 white or sepia tones. Edited images are saved as new files, preserving the original files, incase you want to go back to them.

Either the D40 or the D40X will work for Ron. He might want to add the Nikon 55-200mm f4-5.6G ED AF-S DX Nikkor Zoom (Black), as an inexpensive lens with a long reach, acceptable for outdoor sports photography.

Meet Someone Who IS Doing It Right

We have a blog reader on the East Coast who has done a great job on his first wedding. His name is Chris James, and I encourage you to see how he is developing his new blog and displaying his first wedding album.

Visit Chris James, here.

If you need a portrait, wedding, or events photographer in the Virginia, Maryland, DC area, Chris would be a great choice -- he really puts his heart and soul into it.

Also, if you are a photographer and need someone to help with image correction or album design, get in touch with Chris.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Getting Your Photography Business Online - Part Four

This is the fourth post in a series about getting your photography business online. If you haven’t read Part 1, 2 and 3, scroll down and read them, then come back here.

OK, now you have a blog, a place to host your album showcases, and an e-commerce site. They only thing left, to get your photography business online, is to develop a website (this is the last step, but it is an important one). While the blog is an excellent ‘first-step’, it is most effective when it works, hand-in-hand, with your website.

Why do you need both a blog and a website? The answer is within the nature of each.

A blog is a very dynamic thing. You can add to it everyday (we suggest adding to your blog as often as possible, but at least, weekly) The last post goes on top and readers have to scroll down to see earlier posts. Of course, you can have a table of contents and archives.

A web site is more static. While you want to keep it up-to-date, it is a more permanent source of information about your services, prices, photo galleries, etc.

The two go hand-in-hand and you link from one to the other.

There are several ways to get a web site. First, you can hire a web designer to create a custom web site. These custom sites can be wonderful, but they can be very expensive to create, expensive to maintain, and very difficult for the owner to modify or add to, without paying a fee to the designer, each time you want to add something. If high quality is your goal, and money is not an object, this might be the way to go.

After the custom sites, you might want to consider buying a template site. These can be a good value and give professional results. Often, you can customize them to some degree, but they don't give the design flexibility of a custom site.

The third option is to design the site, yourself. This can give you the maximum flexibility, and lowest cost -- if you have the time to learn the skills. However, once you learn how to build a site, if is easy to make additions and changes.

Years ago, web builders had to learn a complicated series of "tags" to control what a site looked like and how it functioned. Over the years, a number of web design programs have been developed. Today, most of them are WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get). You can place graphics elements and text anywhere yo want, and the program will generate the HTML code (or tags).

The web design program that I recommend -- and have been using since the mid-1990s --is Net Object Fusion. NOF comes with templates, which you can easily modify, or you can begin with a blank screen and add your own elements.

Finally, there is another solution. I will build a basic web site for you. This offer is for photographers only. It is not the fanciest site, but it is a clean design and has the functionality that a photographer needs -- at an affordable price. Go here for details.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Getting Your Photography Business Online - Part Three

In the last post, I told you that I would show you how to get a free e-commerce site, and give you some hints on developing your own web site. If you haven’t read Part 1 and Part 2, scroll down and read them, then come back here.

In Part 2, we talked about putting a collage from the wedding online, the day after the ceremony. Next, we designed a proof album, and posted that. Now, about 10 days – two weeks after the proof album has been online, you will need to put all of your proofs online.

There are two reasons for putting all of the proof files on line. 1. Your bride will need to see them, so she can ask for any additions to the album. 2. So that you can sell photos to family and friends of the bride and groom – without having them bother the b&g – and without them needing to contact you, directly.

A good reason to be concerned about #2 is that many photographers regularly make $300-$500 (some much more), from individual print sales to wedding guests. You might find this surprising with so many guests carrying digital cameras, but mostly, they take snapshots. A wedding is often the only time, all year that a whole family gets dressed up and goes out together. Take advantage of this by getting nice, semi-formal portraits of family groups, throughout the day. Get couples, brothers and sisters, parents and children – you can quickly arrange them in front of a nice background and take a few portraits, then hand them one of your cards, with the blog address. You’ll me amazed how many people will appreciate this – and you’ll make a few extra dollars.

There are many places where you can post files and visitors can order prints. Some are just ways for photo labs to make money, and you get nothing. Others allow you to set prices, but they charge you to host the images, and they take a commission on sales.

I have found only one (there may be others) that allows you to store 1,000s of images (no restrictions on the quantity) for FREE. Actually, you only store a thumbnail. When an order is received, you get an email with the file number, and the path to where you have the photo stored on your computer – even if on external hard drives. You can also log in to your account and see the status of orders.

Once you are notified of a new order, you log on to your account, edit the photo, if necessary, and send it to the lab (there is a network of labs, nationwide, to choose from). When you have finished making any adjustments to the image, you release the order to the chosen lab (there is also a self-fulfillment option, so that you can print the order, yourself). It will be printed and mailed to either your customer, or to you.

They will charge the customer's credit card, deduct any lab charges, charge the appropriate tax, and mail the order. It’s a complete, turnkey e-commerce solution and it costs you NOTHING until an order is placed.

You can add as many galleries, or catalogs, as you want, for each event. For example, if you shot a wedding, you many want to break the event into sections: Getting Ready, The Ceremony, The Reception – and you can break it into even smaller segments, if you want to.

You can set up a storefront, displaying a few of your best images, and well as your contact information, and a few words about you or your studio.

I’ve been using this site for more than five years. Well, I’ve told you everything but the name. Go to Set up your account, upload the files from your next event, and wait for the orders to come in.

OK, now you have a blog, a place to host you album showcases, and an e-commerce site. They only thing left, to get your photography business online, is to develop a website (this is the last step, but it is an important one). While the blog is an excellent ‘first-step’, it is most effective when it works, hand-in-hand, with your website. That will be the topic of the next post.

Setting Up Your Photography Business Online - Part Two

In a previous post, we talked about the necessary first steps to getting your photography business online. If you haven’t read Part One, please scroll to the post just below this one, and read it, then return here.

We have been using the example of a wedding. You shot the wedding, and Saturday. On Sunday, you made a collage and posted it on your blog. You sent an email to the bride and groom, and as many family and friends as you have email addresses for. You will want to collect these email addresses, either throughout the reception, or before hand (in the case of the bride and groom, their parents, and members of the bridal party.)

If you clear it with the bride and groom, prior to the wedding day, you can print inexpensive ‘business cards’ that say something like:

Jane & Tom’s wedding photos online at

Log on tomorrow, for a surprise!

(123) 555-6789

If the bride and groom agree, you can add one of these to every place setting, at each table. You also have a stack of cards near the guest book.

If you want to save money, you can get larger quantities and have a generic first line:

“Today’s Photos Available At”

If you really want to impress, add one of the engagement photos to a custom card.

In Part One, we told you where to get the software to design you wedding collage. You will use that same software to design a proof wedding album. Yep! You are going to design the proof album before your bride and groom even see their proofs. Hey, it’s a proof album, it is online (you don't have to pay to print it), and you are the professional storyteller. Oh! Did you think you were a professional photographer?

Sorry, Bubba! The only reason you capture those images it to tell a story. In fact, you will soon learn that the best way to decide what pictures to take – and how to take them – is to shoot with the album in your mind. Every time you take a photo, you should have an idea how you might use it in the album. Of course, you won’t actually use every image, but you will always have a reason for releasing the shutter -- and you’ll do a better job of setting up your shots, rather than just reacting to what happens.

Don’t get all-uppity and tell me that you are a ‘purist” – a photojournalist and you capture events – not set them up. That’s not what I’m talking about. You see, you have options: Flash or no flash, bounce or direct, diffused or not? What angle are you going to use? Are you going to print is in color, black & white, sepia tone? You have lots of choices, and we will discuss them at another time. Right now, we are just trying to get an effective web presence for your business.

Now that you have your proof album all designed, you to do two things. First, you want to get it to your bride and groom. Secondly, you want as many other people to see it, as possible.

You can use Photoshop’s Web Photo Gallery. While that is an option, it is not a very dynamic one. There is a better choice – one that will take you album design and turn it into a Flash movie. First it will place your 2-page spreads into a frame that looks like a real book. It will allow you to put links to your blog or web page, a link to your e-commerce site, so the family and guests can purchase prints (without bothering the bride and groom, or you), and it will allow the bride to email the link to her album to everyone she knows. Whoa! What are you going to do with all THAT free marketing? Do you think she has any friends that might be looking for a wedding photographer, in the future? You just got a free, unsolicited recommendation from a satisfied customer!!

So, you ask, where do I get this amazing software that will all me to become a well-publicized and highly recommended photographer, almost over night? Dude, if I know that, I wouldn’t be writing this blog at 1AM! Wait a minute – maybe I do. Yes, you can use a program called Web Album Showcase. You can get it from Gary Fong. It’s neither cheap nor expensive, for what it does – about $150. If you are just starting your business, you might not want to spend that, right away. There is an option – a service that will take your album design and create a Flash movie for you. If you are shooting less than a dozen weddings a year, it may be more cost effective to have the service create your online ‘shows’. If you shoot more than a dozen weddings a year, then you should probably purchase the software.

Purchase here. Contact the service here.

To be really successful, you have to WOW your customers. You have to do things that almost no other photographer can do, or is willing to do. Putting up the collage on Sunday (the day after the ceremony) was the first step. The second step is to have the proof album ready and online by Wednesday or Thursday. Expect that the bride will want to make changes, but have her album online before she even gets back from her honeymoon. Oh, and remember all those email addresses that you collected? You got it: email them a link to the proof album. Of course, when you emailed them about the collage, they came to your blog. On the blog, you mentioned that the proof album would be up by Thursday.

Put the cover, or one of the album pages, or 2-page spreads on your blog and link from there to the actual album.

Now are might be wondering where you put that album, for all to see. After all, you only have a blog, not a full-blown website. If you do have your own website, and have the capability to create folders and upload files to those folders, then you can host them, yourself. If you can’t yet host them, yourself, you can use the same service that you used to create your show. They will host your shows for you. Details here.

There are two more steps to getting your photography online. 1. Setting up an e-commerce site. 2. Developing a website to complement your blog.

The next post will cover both of those issues.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Your Photography Business Online -- Part One

This is a step-by-step guide to getting your photography business online.

I will give you some free resources, and some that are not so very expensive, especially if you don’t have to invest in them, all at once.

Step one is to get an overview of how to run your business. The best resource is Gary Fong’s “Getting Rich as a Photographer”. While not free, it is the single most important tool in your camera bag. Written specifically for the wedding photographer, it has lots of good information for all photographers, regardless of your specialty.

I’m not going to cover everything that Gary mentions in his DVD, but I will tell you that you have to have a web presence. We’ll use the example of a Saturday wedding. By Sunday evening, you will have designed a collage from the wedding and posted it online. While you can create the collage using one of several pieces of software, my suggestion is to use the Album Designer and Collage Builder – also available from Gary Fong. If you are seeing a pattern, it’s because Gary was a well-know wedding photographer, for 20 years. Recently retired, he has been inventing and discovering tools to maximize his profits as a photographer since he entered the business. In recent years, he has made these tools available to photographers, both professional, and aspiring, from all over the world.

If you don’t have a website, yet, you may be asking how you are going to put your collage online. The answer is with a free blog. There are other sources, but I use blogspot.

When you apply for your free blogspot account, you will have to choose a name:, so it is important to pick a name that you can also use for your website. Even if you don’t have a website, yet, you can reserve a name (a domain name). You can check on name availability, and sign up for a web hosting account at many places. I use HostMonster.

Reserve your name, as soon as possible – even if you don’t sign up for a hosting account, you will want to reserve your website’s name. Let’s say that you registered “”. When you create your blog, you will use the name “”. If the name you want is already taken, try using a hyphen: johndoe-photography”.

Back to the collage. Your collage can be approximately 12-20 images from the entire day, or just a portion of it. Often, you will have a series that tells the story of a particular portion of the day – for example, the cake cutting. It may be less the 12 photos, but it can make a nice collage. Put it on your blog, along with a paragraph or two about the couple, or the big day.

Be sure to have email addresses for the bride and groom, their parents, and members of the bridal party. Tell everyone to check his or her email on Sunday evening. Not only will the collage be a big hit with the bride and groom, but it will get your name in front of many of their family members and friends – some of whom my be looking for a wedding photographer in the near future. People buy form those whom they know and like. By getting to know family and friends, and showing them your great work, you will have the inside track when they are looking for a photographer.

This is the end of part one. If you haven’t already done it, register your domain name and get a blog started. For your first entry, just introduce yourself. Talk about your love for photography, the reasons you became a photographer, your specialties, your family, your dog and cat – anything that makes you human and give people a reason to like you. Put a photo of yourself on the blog.

In a following post, I’ll show you how to put a display album online and how to put all of your proofs online, at no charge. We’ll also discover how to create an e-commerce site so that you can sell photos to wedding guests and you will not even need to have a merchant account to accept credit cards.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

One of My Favorites - Nikon Coopix P5000

From time to time, I will post information about a piece of equipment that I think is worth noting. This is the new Nikon P5000. It is an amazing little camera. Not to bore you with technical details, but it is a 10 mega pixel digital camera with both program modes and full manual capability.

It is a really great camera for learning about aperture and shutter speeds, without spending thousands of dollars on a DSLR (digital single lens reflex) and lenses. Nikon developed VR Image Stabilization - vibration reduction - for its pro lenses, to minimize camera shake. It now carries the technology to its newest point-and-shoot digital camera. Combined with a sensitivity of up to ISO 3200, and you will be able to shoot long after the other compact cameras have been put away.

Speaking of compact, this is the perfect camera for a pro shooter to carry all the time. How many great shots have you missed because your regular DSLR is just too big to carry when you go out to run errands, take a walk on a Sunday afternoon, or just plain don't want to carry a lot of stuff? It has a 3.5x optical zoom.

To be fair, this is a link to my Amazon affiliate page. I do get a small portion of the sales -- and it helps keep this site available to you. That being said, I will only recommend those products that I believe in. Now, for you Canon shooters, please don't let the fact that I mostly recommend Nikon stuff make you think that I don't like Canon -- I do like Canon -- but I use Nikon. Just a personal choice.

Using Photo Filters -- in Photoshop

Look at these two images. One is just a little bland, and one is much warmer.

It may be too warm for some tastes, but it illustrates a point. Photoshop provides a group of Photo Filters (in film days, you had to screw these onto the front of your lens). With digital photography, Photoshop has become your digital darkroom (there are other image manipulation programs available. Some are very good, but Photoshop is the choice of most professional and serious amateur photographers).

Back to the images. The first is straight out of the camera. The second has been warmed up in Photoshop.

Open Photoshop (either version CS or CS2 – this will probably work on CS3, but I haven’t used CS3, yet).

Open an image – for this example, use a headshot/portrait.

Now, on the Layers Palette, create a new Adjustment Layer.

A popup menu will appear. Select Photo Filter. Make sure the Preview box is checked, then scroll through the filters, looking at the effect they have on your image.

Also, notice that you now have the Adjustment Layer, and it is labeled Photo Filter 1. We are only going to use one Photo Filter, but if you plan to use several, you can click on the words, and change the text to something more meaningful.

In this example, select Warming Filter (85). You can adjust the Density using the slider.

When you are satisfied, click on OK.

Duplicate your original image layer. You can do this by dragging it onto the Sticky Note icon at the bottom of the Layers Palette.

Drag your duplicate layer (background copy) to the top.

Change the Blending Mode by using the menu at the top of the layers palette. Select Overlay. The default is Normal.

Decrease the Opacity – on the duplicate layer – with the Opacity Slider, until you have the effect you want.

Finally, Flatten the image.

You can download a PDF version of this post, complete with screen captures.

Friday, April 13, 2007


OK, this isn’t actually about digital photography … ah … isn’t about any kind of photography, but it’s still pretty cool. Come to think of it, you might be able to come up with some ways to incorporate into your photography. It’s called podcasting (and no, you don’t need an iPod).

What is podcasting? Well, basically, it’s a recorded audio or video broadcast that you can either play online or download for listening to or watching later. There are thousands of podcasts on the internet. Some of them are about photography, especially digital photography.

So – how do you get started?

First, decide what your podcast is going to be about. Have a specific topic. Get your ideas together. It’s not much different than writing an article. Once you have the points you want to cover laid out in some logical manner, you are ready to start.

What equipment do you need?

You don’t need any kind of studio – you just need a way to capture your audio (or video – or even screen captures if you want to demonstrate how to use software). But that’s for a different post, at another time. There is a free audio capture program called Audacity. If you are a MAC user, you’ll go with GarageBand.

Next, you’ll need a microphone (and web cam, if doing video). Sit down and record your podcast. When you are happy with it, save it as a .mp3 file.

You can host your new podcast on your own website, or use a hosting service. Check out Upload the .mp3 file.

That’s it – you are now a podcaster! If you are going to make podcasting a regular event, you can offer automatic notifications to your listeners. If you offer a feed – RSS or XML – listeners can subscribe to it and get the latest.


The depth of field (DOF) is the distance in front of and behind the subject that appears to be in sharp focus.

Have you ever wondered how professional photographers make their subjects stand out from the surroundings? While you can’t do this with a fixed focal length camera, you can do it with most consumer cameras, and will all SLRs (single lens reflex cameras – those with interchangeable lenses), if you have the right lenses.

For example, a flower may stand out against a blurred background, or a small insect is set against a blurred leaf. Perhaps, the most striking example is when a person seems to be almost detached from the background – they pop out of the page. Well, it’s not difficult to achieve this effect.

The trick is to use selective focus.

With this technique, we can choose one part of the image to be sharp and in focus, while the rest of the image is kept out of focus. It's very useful in macro and close-up photography.

So how do you achieve selective focus? Here are some tips.

Aperture Size

For selective focus, try choosing your widest f-stops (i.e. aperture size), such as f/2.8 or f/4. Couple this with a fast shutter speed to ensure enough light is present in the photo.

Focal Length

A good tip is to zoom (remember to only use the optical zoom –- not the digital zoom feature, if your camera has that option -- in as much as possible, or choose a telephoto lens. The longer the lens, the less depth-of-field it has -- conversely, the wider angle, the more DOF.

Angle to Subject

This tip takes a bit of practice, but is very effective at times. Choose an angle to the subject that causes background and foreground elements to be farther from the focused subject. This causes them to be strikingly out of focus.

Note that it is in fact possible to achieve the selective focus effect using image editing programs. You can simply select one part of the photo, keep it sharp and then blur the rest. However, if shoot the image with selective focus because the effect always looks more natural.

We will talk about achieving selective focus, with software, in another post.

Photography Tutorial - Depth of Field

This is a nice sample of what you can achieve with different depths-of-field.

Adventures in Photography: The One-Year Old

OK, this isn't really a photography 'tip' except to say, "Get out your camera and shoot!"

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Get Closer

Some of our photography tips are pretty complicated and technical. Some are very simple. Here is one that will improve your photography whether you are using an old box camera, or the latest digital camera.

Here it is. Are you ready? Write this down

Move in closer to your subject!!!

Nearly every shot will improve if you move a little closer – even if you just take two or three steps will help. Whether you are shooting landscapes or people, filling the frame entirely with your subject will make a big improvement.

Of course, there are times when you can’t get any closer. In those cases, use the optical or digital zoom of your camera to get a closer shot.

Instead of putting the whole body in a shot, try framing the head and shoulders – or even just the head. Think of how much more dramatic and old man’s face, with it’s wonderful character lines, would be than a full body shot with almost no details.

We all naturally look at the eyes. Make sure they are in the sharpest focus – even if the background is out of focus – we’ll talk about how to achieve ‘selective focus’ in another post.

Sometime you can't get close enough and you might not have a zoom lens on your camera. All is not lost. In another post, we’ll talk about cropping your images, using Photoshop, or some other image manipulating.

One final note: The zoom lenses on digital SLRs are optical zooms. Most point-and-shoot digital cameras have both optical and digital zooms. Avoid the digital zoom -- which isn't truly a zoom. You can achieve the same zoom effect later, when you edit the image in your software. Stick to the optical zoom and crop the image in 'post-production'.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Purpose of This Blog

The purpose of the Photography-Solutions Blog is to offer -- hmm....... let's see -- how 'bout photography solutions for a range of digital photography topics. Whether you are a long-time professional photographer or an advanced amateur photographer considering how to make the jump to pro, we hope to provide solutions to many of your photography questions. Even if you are just interested in digital photography as a hobby, there is something here for you.

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