The best training is PAID training

Of course I would not recommend for people to try this without full confidence in at least coming through for a client. Although I could care less if someone tells us we will never work in this town again, I would not recommend making too many enemies. We are always prepared to provide for the client no matter what!

One of our goals this year is to dive head first into multimedia. But it is always tough to take on such a new thing with little pro training and even less time to do training. I always believe the best training is to just shut up and go out there and do it. I tend to learn much faster through making mistakes than by reading a book or sitting in front of a classroom.

But the best way ever is to have a client that wants to pay!!!

We got a call today from someone who owns a kiosk at a nearby mall. He wanted to have two "Quick and Dirty" commercials (one spanish and one english) made for Youtube. We told him we could do it, but we would not be cheap. He agreed to pay what we asked for which wasn't as much as a super pro, but within typical editorial standards and rates. With all our new gear in tow, we showed up, shot for about half an hour and spent the next few hours editing. We learned from a TON of mistakes. Audio and video (mostly audio), but we did it. We are happy, we know the client will be happy and we got another experience under our belt. The best part is we made a new client that was even more impressed by the speed at which we came through for him and he is going to refer us to his friends.

It isn't something we are going to retire off of, but definitely pays for our little trip to Key West this weekend. ; )

Marco Andretti photo shoot

Today, we had the privilege to photograph Marco Andretti for his website promo. He lives in an Apartment in Miami Beach and we only had 2 hours which to me is TONS of time. When shooting celebrities it is always important to be very very prepared as they don't usually give much time. In the past I have only had 5 to 15 minutes. But since this shoot is for his website promo the time was not as important as the images I needed to get to show him as a personable and approachable person. When we arrived, he was outside with his two very nice and very expensive cars. He asked if we could shoot that first. I wasn't expecting this as I had all the gear ready in the back of the truck to be set up inside his apartment. But we went with it and shot away. For this shot (and the others) I used an Elinchrom Ranger RX kit, one S head and Elinchrom umbrella. Anna held the umbrella on the end of a Bogen stand high overhead. I pumped up the power to compensate for the very bright 330 pm sun. My exposure was at f/22 and 1/250 of a second. I would love to have a faster shutter, but this is the fastest the elinchrom S head will sync at. The A head syncs at a much faster rate ( 1/5120 s ) so this is something I may consider getting later for stop action, but for now, 1/250 works.

It was just at the perfect timing when the sun happened to come behind a little cloud and give a few beams of light to give this larger than life feel to this young superstar.

These where my favorite shots. Other shots from this shoot will soon be on his website at

Heart Gallery photo shoot

Today was a great day for a great cause. As a member of ASMP we (Anna and I) were invited to volunteer our time and service as a photographer to the Heart Gallery. Visit the Heart Gallery of Broward at

This is a traveling exhibit of photos of children in foster care and in need of permanent adoption. This is a great cause which has shown great results and we are very proud to now be a part of it. In 2008, members of ASMP photographed 98 children. So far, 39 of them have either been adopted or are matching with prospective families. That is pretty amazing. These images are a few from todays shoot of Juliette and Julius who are siblings currently staying with separate foster families. Sometimes doing shoots like these can be more rewarding than the biggest budget job ever. 

Visit to find one of 80 galleries near you and for more information on donating your time to this wonderful cause.

My first multimedia project

My cousin's boyfriend was playing his first Hockey game yesterday. We shot for about an hour using a D90. We used an Edirol R-09HR for audio. It took us about 2 to 3 hours of editing using iMovie 09 and Garage Band. Of course we would probably be moving to Final Cut Express in the near future, but honestly, I was able to do everything needed for a multimedia project using iMovie 09 and Garage Band.
I know there are tons of things that can be done better, but I am pretty happy considering that two days prior I didn't do video. It was easy and I took the challenge head on. Does this make me less of a passionate photographer. Absolutely not. It makes me a better communicator.

ASMP National now has a business blog!!!

Hopefully you subscribe to my blog. I always try to put stuff up here that is important and has bearing on either your progression as a photographer, being creative or in the business life of photography.

More importantly though is the blog that has just been announced. 

I can't speak high enough about this group of people. They are a perfect example of our industry leaders. They don't just talk the talk, they walk it as well. 

Too many times I have found myself having conversations with people that continue to loose their faith in themselves and their business. They compromise too much and end up selling themselves short on too many occasions. This is dangerous. It causes a chain of events that can (and many time will) lead to a photographer hating his "JOB" despising others for their success and eventually being out of business. 

How many people out there 
1. Have ever done work for hire?
2. Still do work for hire?
3. Even know what Work for hire means and how damaging it is?

How many know about the world's largest advertising agency holding company and their recent change to their contracts with photographers. This change is dangerous and reckless and you can be damn sure that other agencies are going to start copying this. If you aren't actively involved with knowing what is going on with your industry, then how are you going to stay afloat?

Seriously, is there any other business industry out there today that does not have to keep up with changes in the industry? A doctor has to learn new advances, a lawyer/new laws, car mechanic/ new cars, etc.

How to find the shutter count on your camera!!!

I recently sold my D200 on Ebay and replaced it with a new D90. This is going to have to become an annual (or bi-annual) event. Digital cameras are not meant to last ten or more years like film cameras. Isn't it crazy, I still have my first N90 that I purchased 15 years ago, but I know my D90 is not going to be in my hands 3 years from now?

While selling my camera, I came across a difficult question someone had about my camera. "What's the shutter count?"

I have absolutely no idea how many times the number counter on the camera rotated past that 9999 count in the file name. So how can I give an honest answer?

Someone recommended a couple programs. One of them is very popular, but only works on PC ( ). You have to buy the program too which doesn't make sense for me since I only need to know the number ONCE... When I sell it. There is a program for mac ( )
 but it only reads a jpg file and I wasn't able to get it to work.

Then I came across this website that works very nicely. You select an image, it reads it and you can see your shutter count right then and there. 


If you are a good metadata person and keep all your info in the image and someone wants to find who took the shot online, they can paste the html link and this program will gather all the available info from the image. Very cool.

If you aren't concerned with this crap, you better be. Orphan works bill is coming and the last thing you need is someone doing a 'resonable search' for who took your shot, not finding your info and calling it an orphan and therefore theirs.

Read more about this stuff at

Be prepared and know the weather, but it's never a guarantee the model will show up

First I have to give pops to a few websites.
I always check these and other sites days and hours before a shoot. Not like it ever makes a difference. You sometimes never know. 

Especially in South Florida. It always amazes me when I can see it poring rain on one side of the street, but be bright and sunny on the other side.

I typically don't do model's portfolios, but this couple approached us and wanted to hire us to shoot their portfolio and we agreed. Our plan was to begin the day at 630AM on Ft Lauderdale beach shooting through the morning and then on to studio work. We had very cool shots in mind and it was going to be super fun to be creative with two beautiful models.

Unfortunately the models heard on the news there was to be a slight chance in rain and wanted to cancel. My first response was, "Bad weather is good weather." 

When it comes to dynamic photography everybody knows about the Golden Hours. The hour in the morning and in the evening when the sun is at the horizon and the light is Golden and beautiful. I go a bit further and ask for the clouds to look cool and dramatic. This morning couldn't have been any better.

Of course we would never know if we didn't get up and go. On a Sunday nonetheless. And trust me, I like my sleep.

Of course this is always a chance and you have to be prepared. I always carry in my camera bag a set of OP/Tech rainsleeves. These are disposable and do the job just nicely to keep the rain from getting in the cracks and frying your camera.

For my SB-800s I use regular 1 gallon ziploc freezer bags which work just fine. For my Elinchrom kit I use some more durable rain gear. Most of which from my Navy days, but trying to work with a company to design more specific cases for the elinchrom ranger kit.

No matter what, RAIN SHOULD NEVER STOP YOU!!! As long as you are safe and secure with protecting your gear, your models and yourself, the images will never let you down. If they do, the experience won't.

Hopefully when we reshoot the models in a few weeks, the clouds will be as cool as they where today.

Drew Gardner Epic Location Photography Teaser

Came across this photographer recently. I love his animal scenes. Truly awesome. Check out his website at
A very nice collection of images that are very out of the box. Love it!!!

What does a new photographer do for equipment?

I was recently asked the question as to equipment. If I own my own and how I afforded it. Did I purchase when I was in the military or after I got out and how.
I thought the question (and answer) is a good one and thought to share on the blog.

The answer can be made in many different ways by many different people. Most importantly is what you are comfortable with. With owning gear you have the ease of having a camera whenever you want the ability to shoot with little overhead, etc. The bad part is now you have something that has to be upgraded every few years. In the past a film camera could last for years. Now you buy a digital camera, in 2 years it will be outdated. The same goes with computer gear. It all seems to work together. The newer the camera, the larger the files. Therefore you need a faster computer to process everything.
There are different thoughts on this. Some simply rent equipment and bill the client, while others have a basic kit and rent when the need arises (like me). Others buy everything they want and end up with a trunk full of stuff.
Then comes insurance. What if you destroy a camera on a shoot and have no insurance? A certain person at the DC shoot off mentioned this, but he didn't seem to be too bothered about loosing a new camera without insurance. I hope to get to that point with a disposable income, but not be that careless.

I won tons of cameras during my Navy career from MILPHOG. I then sold them and bought a Hasselblad medium format kit. I wasn't planning on getting out until my 20 years, but I got hurt. When I was on Limited duty, I started saving and buying when I could doing small jobs here and there. I sold my Hasselblad for more than I paid for it (the beauty of Hasselblad) and purchased a D2X. That was 2 years ago.

I am working on a 2 year plan where every two years I upgrade to a new kit. The initial investment is always hard, but it also teaches you to take care of your gear better when the budget is tight. We had it good in the military. Almost too good.

I am now selling my D2X and planning on getting a D700. My D200 is on Ebay right now. I just bought a D90 kit at costco and selling the lenses that came with it.

Right now, the D200 kit is at $450 and will most likely go up today and tomorrow. The lenses are most likely going to sell for more than their listing price too.

I spent $1300 on the D90 kit that came with a D90 and 2 lenses.
If I sell the two lenses at their asking price I will make $280.
I bought the D200 2 years about for $1300. It is selling right now for $450. That puts a total of $720 (so far) in selling of gear.
This means that I actually bought the D90 for $580. And the price is going to go down further as the ebay sells for more.

This is a camera that does everything needed for studio, location, video, and more. On top of that it is 12 MP which is exactly what my D2X does. I bought the D2X for $5000 2 years ago.

I hope to make $1700 from it so I can buy a D700. Then onto a D3X or D4 this year.

Two years from now, how small and advanced do you think gear will be?

My recommendation is to be realistic on your budget. Don't overspend. The economy is shit right now. Don't put yourself in debt. EVER!!!! It's a great thing to pay cash for something and an even better thing to not be able to pay cash and realize you REALLY DON'T NEED THAT RIGHT THIS MINUTE.

I think you did that kick ass portrait session at the DC shoot off with bare minimum lights, right?

Since the new SB-900s came out, there are guys upgrading and selling their SB-800s. You can buy Alien bee light kit for little money. I was buying wood stripping at Lowe's and muslin at Wal-Mart to make backdrops. This was only 7 years ago. Natural light is nice too. 

It isn't the gear! Ansel Adams once said, "The most important part of the camera is the 12 inches behind it.

That said, He would be pissed too to find the D3X costs 8K. 

All that said, there are other photographers that say if they could do it all over again, they would have taken a $60K loan and start off right. This is dangerous in my mind fir a few reasons. You aren't ready yet. Do you have any business sense yet? Do you know how to bid for a job? Estimate properly? Know how much to charge one client and not another?

My suggestions for many guys getting out is to shotgun and shoot as much as you can. Go out there and pound on doors. Make it happen. Shoot like crazy. Make a portfolio of something YOU want. The money will come. If you are not honest with your images and who you are then people will see this. The images will lack in soul. If you put passion behind your work then it will show also. No one cares or asks what brand of light you used or what camera you had. If the quality is good that is. That is also important, but like I said, If I can buy a 12 megapixel D90 kit at costco for super cheap, then anybody can. But that doesn't make you a professional.

woohoo!!! It pays to attend ASMP meetings

Times are tough. The earth is warming. The economy is shit. Terrorists could be living next door. Blah Blah Blah. I can't imagine what our kids are going to be like when they grow up with all this fear in their heart. Our civilization has made it through worse times and we will make it through this time. I do my part to help and keep aware of things, but what am I going to do? I am out of the military and done hunting terrorists. I recycle and stay as green as possible. I donate and help others who are bad off already. So what else can I do?

I can learn better business and help others to learn better practices in photography. If I can help others to have a good head on their shoulders and be a better business person in photography then wouldn't that be good. Just think about how many people live their entire lives NOT doing the things that make them happy simply because they feel they can't make a living any other way. 

I take picture for a living damnit!!! I love my life. Of course it is hard. Of course we wish we had more money. But what are we doing about it.

I am a new member of the board of ASMP in South Florida simply because I showed common interest and desire to catch up to my mentors and leaders. I am working diligently to be a better photographer, but more importantly a better businessman so I can have more financial freedoms to be a better photographer. Do you see the circle. 

I was really worn out last night. I didn't want to attend the meeting last night where we were showing the current project on the Light of Florida , but I alwasy feel like it is my obligation to attend and show my support. Besides it is great to get out of the house and see some friends in the community. Anna and I always enjoy ourselves after we make it and we are getting to know the members well. Last night was no different except they had door prizes.
I started reading it last night and was fully engulfed. Most of what is being said is info I have already learned over the years or from the Strictly Business 2 seminar I took last year. This is definitely THE manual for becoming successful in the world of photography.

I highly recommend it.
More importantly I highly recommend taking a look at ASMP and what they have to offer. Trust me, I don't benefit in any way by anybody joining. Only from the fact that I would have a new friend to see at future meetings.

The truth is out. I edit my images!!!

I just recently returned from the DC Shoot Off and renewed with tons
of photographic energy. Just in time to get tasked with sitting down
with the arduous task of going through all my digital files from the
last ten years.
While going through them, I came across this set of images that has
bearing on a conversation I had with some young guns this weekend. The
issue was about manipulation and the truth.

I will agree I am not the purest of the bunch. I manipulate images to
make them look good... When the assignment is commercial and calls for
it. But when it comes to editorial images and perception in the news
media, I stick to the principals passed down and approved by pretty
much every news outlet. Dodging, Burning, cropping, etc.

A few years ago, I was doing a weeklong story on the Dolphin Trainers
in San Diego. The day was calm and dreary (and I still got seasick).
The fog was nice and eerie and I knew what I was after when I started
to see this dolphin coming up and swimming by the boat. I composed my
shot and kept shooting until I got the right angle from the dolphin. I
nailed it on the fifth shot. A slight crop and rotation to fix my
horizon, and an adjustment in the color contrast and I was done. This
is about as untouched as it gets.

The problem. It is too good. Every single person I have ever met that
has seen this photo automatically discounts it as a cool trick in
photoshop. Even the judges at the military photographer of the year
judging that year thought the same way. Isn't that sad?

Who knows what people will think of us 20 years from now.

Fwd: Invitation from Aaron Ansarov to vote on an image

Click on the link to vote for my image. I entered a bunch of images. Go to the website and look for my images. Any support for these images is hugely appreciated.  
here or click on the image below to link to the website and vote. You will need to register with a valid email address to vote.
submitted photo

You can find out more about the contest here:

DC Shoot Off was a success

Wow! What a time. I just returned from the 4th annual DC Shoot Off held at the Navy League building in Arlington.
It is amazing to always see so many passionate and determined people on BOTH sides of the carpet. The instructors aare all my dear friends. It is like a family reunion every time. Then the students may change, but many of them are familiar faces who grow each year. 
I thank everyone for their time and determination. 
Of all the information that was put out, there seemed to be one statement that resounded throughout. It was Chip Maury's statement that we are all speaking the same language, but just different accent.
It is quite a privilege to be a part of such a group and I am very excited about what is to be coming in the year(s) ahead.

Visit the DC Shoot Off website to see images from the event.

Photo by Mark Suban from Nikon

Invitation from Aaron Ansarov to vote on an image

I am uploading images to the faces contest by PDN magazine. I would appreciate as many votes as I can get. I am entering images from my 1:1 project and my backyard project. Wish me luck. Thanks, Aaron
here or click on the image below to link to the website and vote. You will need to register with a valid email address to vote.
submitted photo

You can find out more about the contest here:

Blurb is what it is. A cheap alternative. But at what cost to your patience?

I have ordered quite a few books from in the past months I think I can now say a few things with an education so you don't have to learn yourself.
1. Quality. Don't expect blurb books to be the best quality in the world. The images can look great and if you are paying attention to your monitor calibration and ICC profiles, the images can come out great. But every now and then it is weird that one image in a group can come out way dark. I have ordered various versions of the same books and seen the difference so I know it isn't just on my end. But, then again. If I wanted superb quality, I would use someone awesome like asukabooks. Asuka is incredible in their quality, but they are very expensive. They only just recently started a larger size of 11x12.5 vertical. Which is better than the 10x10 they only offered for years.

2. Quality 2. They offer two types of paper now. regular and premium. The last books I ordered, I made apoint to order one of each to see the difference. I could not tell. I thought there was an error in the order. So when I emailed the customer service they said to weigh the book. One was slightly heavier (SLIGHTLY). Also they said the contrast was a little more on one than the other. I could not tell the difference. I see it as a waste of $10 and more dollars.

3. Quality 3. I recently had an issue where I ordered 2 books and they both came in with a nasty film on the cover. This is clearly a coating they put on the top to protect the cover, but it was terrible. It looked as if some guy in the factory was in a rush and just brushed a couple times and sent on down the conveyer. Look at the photos for proof.
4 Speed. These guys take a long time to deliver on a product. Sometimes taking up to two weeks to receive a book even when ordering overnight delivery. This is a tough pill to swallow. Especially when you have a client that wants to see a special collection of work and you want to mail them something they can keep. 

5. Public books. This is a really cool service where if you purchase a book, you can list your book in their site fro people to order. This is a great marketing technique for a photographer because it is one more outlet for people to see a sample of your work.

6. customer service. I can't really complain about the customer service. They are fairly fast to respond and have had no issues with sending me replacement books. 

BUT... I just got my two replacement books in the mail, only a few days before flying to DC where I will be meeting with an editor from National Geographic, and the books look about as bad as the previous two. I am very upset with this. They understood my problem, sent replacements and STILL the books suck. I am very disappointed.

I will have to just deal with this in this instance and learn that maybe the quality in the Asuka book would be outweighed by their price. First impressions matter. Hopefully the editor will understand. 

Finally, I use Mpix. The prices are nice. The quality is descent and they have a great option of using linen paper which looks awesome. I prefer to actually order the soft-bound books which are much cheaper and get the job done very nicely. The problem with this though is their software SUCKS!!! It is clearly meant for grandpa to throw pictures in templates and hit print. The option I use is to make a template in photoshop and import each file as a background full bleed. 

Shooting dead animals is easy. They don't move!

I don't know what it is with me and projects.
I was recently commissioned to photograph a wealthy developer's private collection of animals. Not any typical collection. Probably the largest private collection in the country of more than 100 animals shot by the owner over the years. I was only allowed one day to shoot the entire collection which made it a challenge, but I decided to take a more documentary approach to this collection and an attempt to bring these animals back to life through camera position and lighting. It was later suggested to me buy my friend and mentor, Jorge Parra  to convert everything to black and white. At first, I didn't know if this idea would work, because (when shooting animals) I am always trying to show the beauty in color as well as their details, textures, etc. But when I tried this, I quickly fell in love even more. Although I love Black and White as a way of showing more in an image, I think what moved me even more was when I started to think about the stark contrast with my other animals photographed. These animals are dead. No matter how hard a taxidermist or photographer can try to bring life into these animals, they are still dead. Black and White will further this idea.

The images can be found on my website under the nature section. I have put together a collection on a gallery that you can go to by clicking here