Happy Birthday Mom!...

Today is my moms birthday, though I won't mention any numbers for fear of having my lungs ripped out through my nose.

I may be 52, but I still have a healthy fear of my mother.


My mom was a single parent of 5 (2 girls, 3 boys) and we were poor (though I didn't know it when I was younger). We lived in the projects in Boston area and my mom would try to make ends meet with some pretty crappy jobs, cleaning other peoples homes and taking in their laundry.

Two things I remember, being happy and always having a wonderful Christmas. No matter what the year had held for us, when Christmas came it was magical. It seemed no matter what we had asked for from Santa, we would find it under the tree on Christmas morning.

I knew there had to be a Santa because there was no way my mom could afford to buy us these things.

When I got a little older, and knew the big man was more myth than man I couldn't figure out how my mom did it. Because by then, I knew we were poor.

Then one day stumbled upon five envelopes that were rubber banned together. One had my name on it and the others had the names of my brothers and sisters. Each envelope had the same about of money in it, all in ones and change.

Then it hit me, after a long day of cleaning houses my mom would take some of that money and split it evenly between the 5 envelopes. And she would do this after every basket of laundry, after every dirty house, all year long. So by the time Christmas came, mom could make the magic happen.

Though at the time I understood the process, I could not appreciate all her hard work, all her sacrifices until I was older. As I write this it still amazes me.

And I know why we were happy, because we were loved.

Well, it's time to head to mom's. My daughters love this for several reasons, not the least of which is that when I walk through her door I am no longer their dad, I am my mothers son. They get a kick seeing me in that role.

The picture below is from a couple years back, Cathy and the girls made my mom a birthday cake that looked like a platter of spaghetti and meatballs (cream cheese "spaghetti" frosting, strawberry "sauce" topping).

Happy birthday mom, I love you!

For all you Twilight fans...

Chances are if you have a daughter (or several) you are well aware of the Twilight books and movie by Stephenie Meyer.

Even if you don't (have daughters) you've probably seen the advertisements and images that have blanketed the media.

Well, photographer Zach Hodges did an outstanding (and elegantly simple) reproduction of the "Twilight style" and was kind enough to share how he did it.

So, if you want to see how, check out Zack's detailed tutorial on his blog here. If you want to see some of Zack's other work (and you should), check out his website.

One of the tools used in creating his Twilight image was a DIY beauty dish, you can find the plans here. Since the original posting of the beauty dish plans there have been two updates, you'll find them here and here.

Zack also used some actions as part of his image processing that you may not have (or don't want to buy), you can try using the "Dave Hill" technique that we have talked about in the past.

I am in the process of making my own beauty dish and my daughters (and their friends) or chomping at the bit to make this image, so I will let you know how things turn out.

The merriest Christmas to you…

This was the first year of “non-believers” in our house… no milk and cookies for Santa, no reindeer mix for Rudolph and company.

I know, I know, my mind tells me that I have absolutely no right to complain, and I’m not. I have too much to be grateful for, but my heart is having a hard time letting my little girls become young women.

May you and yours have a warm and loving holiday season.

Let your new year be full of love and family.

I hope there is always food on your table and those most important to you sitting around it.

That your home is warm and your heart is happy.

That as you look back over this past year you see happiness, and as you look forward to the new year you see nothing but hope.

Photo contest reminder...

I just wanted to remind everyone that the December Photo Contest Extravaganza ends on New Years eve.

The winner will be announced in New Years Day (between bowl games, nachos, and naps).

It's an outstanding holiday prize package that includes Dave Hobby's "Strobist Seminar" on DVD.

So you have 8 more days to email your winning image.

18 inches of snow later...

Below you will see my birdhouse and picnic table after Friday's storm and then again after Sunday's storm.

I can't show you the sunflower (that I posted Friday) because it's under the snow.

And now my dogs can simply walk over the top of our fence to freedom, if they were only that smart.

Well, it's off to blow some snow.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

I don't want to seem like a whiner...


It was just a week ago that we had that incredible ice storm, in fact there are some poor folks who still don't have their power back.

Well, last night we had a foot of snow dumped on us!

But wait, there's more, we are expecting yet another big storm tomorrow.

Yeah us!


Back to the ice storm for a second, there was so much work to be done that Nova Scotia (Canada, hey!) sent a 45 man crew to help with the work of restoring power. Each member of the crew receives per-diem pay of $11 every day they are here.

The 45 men decided to donate their per-diem pay to the York County Food Rescue program.

$11 may not sound like much, but when you do the math that comes out to $500 day ($4,000 so far). Regardless of the amount, it's pretty darn impressive that these men, far from home and working long hours in freezing weather are thinking of the needs of others.

Yeah them!


One last post about marketing...

I'm going to close out this week with one last post about marketing, specifically, the marketing of your website.

Having a website is perfect for photographers, as we are visual artists and get to setup shop in a visual market place.

But I won't be talking about marketing to clients, I'm talking about marketing your website to search engines, because they will be the first ones who'll see it, and if they don't like what they see, no one else (other than your friends) will see it either.

Success is work, it's preparation, it's understanding what you are doing and doing it well.

Though having your site setup correctly for search engines AND visitors is important as all get out, the search engine part is "overlooked" because it's boring (almost mind numbing), behind the scenes work.

Too often we are concerned with "pretty" and "shiny". A website is not one of those "build it and they will come" scenarios.

Sure there are those who are "discovered" and experience great success, but for every one of those there a hundred others who will forever wallow in obscurity.

If you don't plan for success, you're planning for failure.

Your website design is more than picking out what images you are going to use, it's understanding the environment.

It's knowing that the search engines will "spider" your website and if you don't have meta tags they will have no idea who you are and what you do. It would be like going to a job interview with a resume that was simply a blank piece of paper. You aren't going to get the job.

If you have a website you should know what keywords are and why your site should be designed with search engine optimization (SEO) in mind.

Bored yet?

One rule that is more important to us as photographers is to correctly name images because we use so many to market ourselves, and not naming images correctly is probably the biggest missed opportunity for boosting search engine rankings.

Which is better, Logo.jpg or Scott_Eccleston_Photography.jpg?

Search engines can't "read" graphics, nor does DSC_0142.jpg (or Logo.jpg) mean a thing to them, but Kennebunkport_Wedding.jpg or Wedding_Photographer.jpg sure does.

Here are some of the reasons for naming your images with keywords that relate to your business:

1. many folks use Google image search to find what they are looking for

2. the image name becomes visible when a mouse passes over the image

3. the image name appears whenever the image fails to load

4. the latest HTML specs require that images have an Alt tag

You should read this article for more on image optimization.

Okay, okay, I will stop before you drive that pencil into your eye.

In closing let me say that just because it needs to be done you don't need to do this yourself. You wouldn't re-wire your own home or install a furnace yourself, you just need to know it has to be done and have a qualified person do it.

The same applies to setting up your website correctly.

Go big, or go home (it makes me feel so macho to use sports metaphors).


A great marketing idea...

I blogged about this a few months ago, but it is such a great marketing idea I thought it well worth repeating.

The fact that it's a great idea should be the first clue that it did not come from me, it came from a post by Dave Cross.

It's how one photographer uses his existing clients to bring in new ones.

For each print order that he places for his clients (portrait, seniors, etc.) he also places an order for a small run of custom business cards (50-100) that has the clients favorite image on the front and his studio information along with a special promotion (it can be a percentage off, a free print, etc.) on the back.

When the order is delivered it includes these business cards and the client is encouraged to hand them out to their friends and family.

Of course they’re happy to give out “their” cards.

But wait, it gets even better.

He rolls the cost of the cards into the price of the session/print order so there is zero cost to him, but he gets to write off the cost of the cards as an advertising/promotion business expense.

So the upside of this marketing idea:

1. You have a client singing your praises

2. They are also handing out promotional materials for you

3. These promotional materials were free for your studio

4. At tax time you get to deduct the cost of the business cards your clients are so eagerly handing out

now let's look at the downside:

1. hhmmmmm...

2. aaahhhhh....

Wait, there aren't any!


So not only are his clients bringing him new business, they are doing the leg work, AND paying for it at the same time.

Now that is freaking brilliant!

Marketing your photography studio...

Every photographer I know, even those with high profile & successful studios, are all saying the same thing "my bookings are down" and "I don't have as many weddings next year as I usually do".

One of the painful truths about photography is that as folks have less disposable income, it's one of the first things to come of their list.

So today's post is dedicated to help you market your photography business.

1. Professional Photographers of America. Even if you don't have the money to join another organization right now, they have a great many resources available for free on their website, You can also access many of the articles from the latest monthly magazine here.

2. David Ziser. Not only will you learn how to be a better photographer, David will help you run a better business. You need to make "Better Business Thursday" a regular part of your week.

3. You will find "10 Low Cost Ideas" for marketing your photography business here.

4. Virtual Photography Studio will provide you with marketing techniques, pricing strategies, and tips for selling your photographs.

5. Tin Shed is another blog that is dedicated to helping you market your studio.

6. Photography Marketing’s Weblog will give you marketing advice and a free newsletter as well.

7. ArtBizCoach.com is not photography specific, but has much to offer.

8. Academy Internet. If you have a website, you should subscribe to this podcast.

9. "Help, my business sucks!" is a weekly podcast that “get more done and have more fun”.

10. Ping.fm. If you are part of the social networking trend (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) Ping will allow you to post to 30 different social networking sites with just one entry. A BIG time saver.

11. David Hobby (Strobist god) gives you "Four Reasons to Consider Working for Free".

If your favorite marketing tool is not listed here, please share it with us.

More ice please...

Here in New England there are 1.2 million folks still waiting for power after yesterdays storm.

Fortunately I am not one of them.

The temps are not supposed to get out of the teens for the next couple days, so the ice isn't going anywhere soon.

Here are a few more shots from my neighborhood (click on any image to view larger a larger version):

Would you like ice with your winter?

A huge ice storm has hit us here in the northeast, the latest update has over 1 million people without power.

We just got our power back after six hours of darkness, and it was starting to getting rather cool in my house.

Here are some images I took from my back porch:

How some feel about the Nikon D3x...

I have been a Nikon shooter for quite some time (translation - big fan), but the release of the D3x has me baffled.

My impression, like many others, can be summed up in one word - "underwhelmed".

But don't take my word for it, read what Ken Rockwell has to say about it here. and Scott Kelby's comments here.

Or, you can just watch this video which pretty much says it all:

Lexar 2 GB Pro Memory Card for $2.95...

You can pickup this Lexar 2 GB 133x Pro Series Compact Flash Memory Card for (after rebate) just $2.95 with free shipping!

Photo Contest Prize Package Extravaganza!...

As many of have have noticed (and me emailed about) there was no photo contest winner announced for the month of November, I didn't want the winner of the November contest to see the December prize package and wish they had waited just one more month to enter.

So all of the entries from November will be added to the December pool and a single winner will be picked.

The winner will receive the following prize package:

1. Strobist Lighting Seminar on DVD

2. Dane Sanders Audio book “Fast Track Photographer

3. A hard copy of Kim Levin's new book "PhoDOGraphy"

4. A compact flash case from Hakuba USA

5. A Lens Pen from Hakuba USA

6. A Battery caddy

7. The Wireless flash” DVD by Uzair Kharawala

8. The Doug Gordon DVD "The Closer"

9. A LumiQuest Pocket Bounce

10. A 2 GB memory card from EDGE Tech Corp

and a couple other prizes for good measure!

So get your entries in, and Ho, Ho, Ho..... Merry Christmas.

Strobist Lighting Seminar on DVD review...

First, this is not your typical "seminar on DVD", often seminars will be boiled down to an 1 - 1 1/2 hours of "highlights" that leave you less than satisfied and hungry for more (a bit of desert, but no meat and potatoes). The "Strobist Lighting Seminar" is the full meal deal (great appetizer, prime rib to die for, and enough desert to feed two).

This seminar comes on 8 DVD's and has over 10 hours of mouth watering substance.

One of the DVD's sub-menus sums it up perfectly in just six words:

"Less Gear - More Brain - Better Light"

The first DVD, "Lighting Gear for Beginners", is just over an hour long and covers it all. Light stands, umbrellas, flashes, diffusers, and more. David covers what works, what doesn't work and "why's" on both occasions. He will also give more than one option for doing the same thing, the the DYI version, (Do It Yourself), the inexpensive option, and the gold standard.

One example is remote triggers, David gives you the ins and outs of what they are, how they work, why Cactus triggers is a good place to start your wireless flash education and will work just fine for some folks, and why many will graduate to Pocket Wizards.

This first DVD is a must view and not just for beginners.

The next four DVD's (two cover the morning session of the seminar and two cover the afternoon) are almost five hours from the actual seminar itself.

Watching these I learned that David is smart, real smart. He is a great public speaker, and he doesn't take himself too seriously. All of which made me realize that David Hobby was the perfect vehicle for delivering this message.

To give you an indication of the quality of the content, after watching just the first two DVD's my friend and fellow photographer went right down to the studio and started shooting and got these results:

Not bad, huh?

The four seminar DVD's are a wealth of information, things I had not given much thought to, like gels. David covers everything a photographer should know about gels, like how to use them to get the correct color temperature when shooting under florescent or tungsten lights. He will also show you how to use one gel to make the background an interesting color and another gel to warm your subject.

Speaking of interesting backgrounds, he will also show you how to use a plant or a stack of glasses to turn a blank and boring conference room wall into an interesting and vibrant part of your portrait.

Think you know how to deal with the problem of photographing folks who wear glasses (tilting their glasses)? David will show you how to use broad lighting to do it correctly.

You will learn how to use snoots, grids, gobo's, and you'll learn how to make them all from things you already have around your home.

From the first the first DVD to the last there are two constants: doing it well, and doing it as inexpensively as possible.

There is sooo much knowledge and insight that you can actually see information oozing out of the edges of the DVD's.


In the last three DVD's David Hobby will take you through ten different shooting scenarios. Indoors, outdoors, in a conference room, in a gymnasium, at a pool, outside at sunset, and more. He'll show you how to evaluate the pros and cons of the shooting environment, how to use what is available to get the best possible image, selecting the right gear for the situation, setting up your gear, and finally getting the shot.

One of the things I like so much about his instructional style is that David not only tells you how things should be done, he goes into great detail regarding the "why" to do things that way.

Knowledge is power and this DVD seminar will make you feel like a king.

You want to know one of the most phenomenal things about the "Strobist Lighting Seminar"?

You can have it for just $139! Yup, $139.

Unless you have a PhD in lighting, this should be your very next purchase, not another lens, not a memory card, do not pass go, do not collect $200. Nothing else you could buy would be more important to your ability to take the best possible image than the knowledge and information that is contained on these DVD's.

It's available at Midwest Photo Exchange and is only $139 (yes, I've said that twice already, but deserves to be repeated).

Throughout the seminar when David talks about equipment, like everything else, he goes into details/specifics like the manufacturer, model numbers, and retail prices.

Midwest Photo Exchange goes to great length to have those items available and at the best possible price.

Hopefully, it's not too late to get this onto your Christmas list, if it is, start writing this very minute: "Dear Santa..."

The only thing that is not shown in the Strobist Lighting Seminar is using Speedlights in a wedding environment, and to see some stunning examples of what can be done using the techniques taught by David go take a (long) look at Flash Flavor.

Here is a ten minute excerpt from the DVD... one last thing, does anyone want to buy some studio lights?

David Hobby (Strobist Wizard), Part II…

And here is the second half of the interview with David Hobby.

See you tomorrow for the review of his DVD set; suffice it to say I have a man-crush on David.


David Hobby (Strobist Wizard)…

Here is part 1 of an interview with David Hobby.

Strobist Preliminaries Video...

Here is a great Strobist primer video.

It’s eight minutes long and every second is packed with useful information.


Maine Strobist Meet-up in January...

First, you should know that this is going to be a "Strobist" kinda week, starting with today's post and ending on Friday with a review of David Hobby's "Strobist Lighting Seminar" on DVD.

Just makes you all tingly, doesn't it?


On Sunday, January 18th (2009), Gary Lowell (friend, photographer, and next door neighbor at the studio) will be hosting a Strobist meet-up here in Biddeford (Maine). It will be a great opportunity to meet (and make) new photography friends, improve your skills, drink whiskey, and skin some cats.

You can find more details on the announcement page here, which also includes some great shots of the mill where our studios are at (North Dam Mill).

Below you is a video of the last Strobist meet-up that was held a couple months ago.