Afterexposure Photography

Image Hotness


If you’re a photographer, repeat after me: “I will go to WPPI next year… I will go to WPPI next year… I will go to WPPI next year…”.


Why? Because somewhere in some other blog, some model has said:


“If you’re a model, repeat after me: “I will go to Las Vegas… I will go to Las Vegas… I will go to Las Vegas…”


And WPPI is held annually in Las Vegas. Make sense?


Take Brittney, for example. She isn’t, strictly speaking, from Las Vegas, either. But she still showed up after a loooong drive, and WOW did she kill it! I think this was one of her first, if not, her first photoshoot.


The location for this was perfect: an old ghost town that is far enough from Vegas to never be overrun, and is very photographer friendly. Especially for a ‘shootout’ format group shoot, where 5 or 6 photographers basically surround one model before moving on.


The only almost-uncool aspect was the “No nudity!” rule. Kinda silly, given the awesome outfits chosen for the models, I think! Although in hindsight I think the feathers all by themselves would be cool… maybe an ideal I’ll stash for now.


Anyway, back to Brittney. Here, in semi random order, are my faves from 36 minutes of shooting. Yep. 36 minutes. This was a shootout in a ghost town folks, so you have to work fast!


Let’s start with a bang. I think the red feathers make the whole thing work:









My second favourite detail: The Judith Leiber handbag. This thing cost … well, a lot. It’s kinda special. And it came with a bodyguard, too!











And now for some basic Brittney. No feathers, no bags. Just a wicked dress and some really high heels.







And a few last off-the wall (pardon the pun) shots… remember, “Only in Vegas…”







(No, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you, her eyes are green in this shot. I got to messing around with this shot…)


Ooooh… now for the boring part, the credits:


Photographer: Noel Dodd

Model: Brittany

Event Organizers Emma & Josh Smith /

Event Stylist – Michelle Barrionuevo-Mazzini MB Wedding Design and Events

Hair and Makeup by Hair by Liz – Liz Gopwani

Hair and Makeup by Sarah Diaz Professional Makeup Artist and

Wedding Gowns – The White Dress

Accessories- Renee Pawele

Purses – Judith Leiber ( the Forum Shops at Casesrs Palace)



From Nelson Ghost Town, just outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. This is one of those times where getting away from things for a conference is awesome; but then getting away from the conference to do a shoot can really bring you back to why this is so much fun!


If you’re considering going to Vegas for WPPI, remember that there is more going on than just what happens on the 3rd floor of the MGM Conference Center. Spend some time listening to the Print Competition judging, hang out with people you’ll otherwise never meet, and above all, bring some of your gear ‘just in case’.


You’ll never know who you might find in front of your camera!


Image Credits:

Photographer: Noel Dodd

Event Organizers Emma & Josh Smith

Venue – El Dorado Canyon Mine Tours

Hair and Makeup by Hair by Liz – Liz Gopwani

Hair and Makeup by Sarah Diaz Professional Makeup Artist and Hairstylist

Hair and Makeup by Mayra Jauregui

Wedding Gowns – The White Dress

Menswear – Tuxedo Junction

Fashion Wardrobe – Kristy Rose

Accessories- Renee Pawele Bride

Purses – Judith Leiber ( the Forum Shops at Casesrs Palace)

Pre-WPPI Insanity (and plans!)

The month before WPPI is always nuts! Gaaahhhh! So I kinda feel like Fredau looks. Except I have a beard.



I thought if I took a few minutes and blogged about it, the stress might seem less, and you might be just as excited about it as me.


First, what’s WPPI all about? WPPI is short for ‘Wedding and Portrait Photographers International’, but usually it refers to the week-long annual shindig in Las Vegas, where 16,000+ of our closest friends get together for learning, networking, checking out new vendors and equipment, and the occasional margarita or late-night tattoo quest.


Simply put, WPPI is for photographers like me who take their craft seriously, but with a dose of fun when it comes to our annual re-charge before the shooting season starts.


So what’s my WPPI plan look like?


First, I’m staying at the MGM Signature again this year, but in a one bedroom this time. It’s super close to the conference center and trade show, it has suites that almost pass as real condos, so there are kitchens for early morning / late night foraging (important if you don’t want to spend 30 minutes in line at ‘Wichcraft, or eat at McD’s). And it looks super cool, so I can shoot in my suite.


I decided to not do any Plus or Master classes, and I don’t think you need to do WPPI-U more than once – all of which I did last year. So that leaves the Platform classes, the trade show, and the best off-site distractions – group shoot-outs!


I’ll need a grocery store run on the 17th after I arrive… if anyone wants to do a run to Von’s and split a cab that evening, let me know!


I’m spending part of Saturday the 18th in my room, shooting. Because the suite is so awesome I thought I’d get some mileage out of shooting some boudoir at a different location, since the Hotel Arts in Calgary is probably the single most used place here at home.


Then I’m getting down to business on Sunday the 19th with classes, and I’ll probably try and find some friends to hit up the Photographers Ignite mini-talks… these are fun, rapid-fire presentations that I’m sure will be what everyone talks about for the rest of the week.


Monday morning I shift gears and I’m shooting a styled wedding with emmajanephotography. I’ve shot with Emma before, and she goes all out to organize productive shoots with great details. The afternoon there is only time for one class, so I’ll have to choose carefully!


Tuesday I’m catching as many platform classes as I can, and at 10am I’ll be around the conference escalators with the Fast Trackers for coffee.


Wednesday morning I’m hitting up the tradeshow to see what’s new, and that afternoon I have to skip Dane Sanders platform presentation because I’m back with Emma for a Ghost Town shootout – a MASSIVE schedule foul-up on my part, because I’m missing Dane speak – but I know he’ll rock it out. Hopefully I’ll catch up with the gang after the shootout.


Thursday it’s back to school all day, which after a week of Vegas might be tough. We’ll see!


Friday I’m checking out as late as possible because my flight home isn’t until 6pm, so I’ll have time to wander around. Post-WPPI Vegas is actually depressing, so if you’re like me and trapped in Vegas, hit me up and we can talk shop until our flights home.


In between all that I’m hoping to squeeze in a few shoots of my own with friends made on past trips, but we’ll see how I hold up. Sometimes an afternoon siesta is just what the bartender ordered!

See y’all in Vegas!


Getting Ready… Indoor Winter Shoots!

So much goes into making great images that it’s hard to list them all. Getting ready for a session can start weeks ahead of time, especially when there is much to coordinate; peoples schedules, including hair and make up artists, getting the style elements nailed down, and sometimes finding the right wardrobe, style elements, and equipment,  and transporting them to the shoot.


Often one of thing that is a major barrier, especially in a winter city like Calgary, is location. While I post a lot of outdoor images, and I like working outdoors when the weather is cooperates, it’s not always possible, or what clients have in mind or are comfortable with.

When it works, and all the stars line up, it really works, like it did with Miriam (above). But this week the outdoor temperatures in Alberta are between -25C to -30C (-30 to -40 with the windchill), and this bench in Prince’s Island Park looks more like the surface of the moon than  an idyllic autumn scene right now.

Add to the weather the challenges of doing hair and make-up, dealing with lighting, and the occasional curious member of the public (or meddling security guards)…. What to do?


Well, shoot in a studio, of course!


No more weather worries, far more consistently great images, storage space galore, an actual make-up station, private areas for wardrobe changes… the list goes on and on.


Starting very soon I’ll be offering shoots in my new studio space in downtown Calgary. There are a ton of details to work out before I can open, but the time savings for me is going to be a huge thing, and I’ll be able to shoot more frequently, on a consistent schedule, and at more consistent package prices.


If you’re a model and are interested in something truly creative, I have a project I’d like to discuss with you. I prefer to test out the session format and end product development using free shoots with models, before I offer it to clients as a package with set pricing. For just your time you’ll get something really beautiful and 100% unique – no other photographer is doing this – yet!


So stay tuned, and if you’re already interested, drop me an email!

Countdown to Vegas

I normally post only my latest glam, beauty, and fashion shoots on this blog; in fact I do have one experimental shoot not yet posted, but I’ll save that for next week. This week I’m going to take a little behind-the-curtain detour and look at where I’m going next!


It’s January, so it’s time to start the countdown for my annual trip to WPPI in Las Vegas, which means spending more time getting ready, less time shooting, and finally leaving Calgary for a week of fun, learning, and adventure. WPPI is a great place to see what’s happening in the photo industry, and it’s not just for ‘wedding’ photographers, since a lot of brides also want boudoir-style shoots as well. I don’t really like the term ‘boudoir’ to describe what I’d like be providing my clients – but I’ll get to that later.


Going to Vegas isn’t a warm weather vacation, either; in fact it’s so unusually warm here in Calgary that the two cities are about the same temperature this week. It’s so warm here that I snuck out before dawn today to snap the colors in the clouds:


Calgary - January 8th

With so much going on in December it wasn’t until the Christmas break (a week of street photography in Vancouver) that I had time to step back from day-to-day concerns and consider where I’d like to take my style and my business. So much has happened in a month that it would be impossible to ignore it all.


I met with Rockie Lee, a photographer in Vancouver that’s just written a book about developing more unique photographic styles, and we chatted for hours about it. He’s also a “don’t call it boudoir” boudoir photographer – looking at his portfolio I think you’ll see what I mean. He is gifted, but he’s constantly working hard to keep refining his ‘look’, so his message is pretty relevant to me. And his energy and enthusiasm are infectious! If you’re in the lower mainland and looking for a photographer, stop looking and call Rockie. Seriously.


I also took some time to evaluate where I’m at. For starters, I need to turn all the dials up on my business; how often I shoot, what I charge, and the level of what I produce. The good news is that I can see a path forward now, which I couldn’t before. If you’re a photographer, check out Dane Sanders; he’s a photographer and author from California that can really help to put the puzzle pieces together.


The first dial I have to turn up is the frequency of shooting; the effect of working in a creative frame of mind more often that working on non-creative elements of the business has a positive, measurable effect on my work. I can do this by outsourcing a few more of the mundane administrative tasks, and possibly rent a permanent studio… I find my work surroundings really influence my mood and behaviours… if I don’t feel like I’m at work, then I don’t do work. Studio space is expensive (like $25k – $50k a year), so this also is going to play a part in the business plan.


The next dial I have to turn up is price. Doing client work is more expensive than you’d think; certainly more expensive than personal work, where you can negotiate all kinds of compromises with yourself to stay on budget but still get what your after. By raising my prices a bit I won’t be stuck worrying about shoot expenses when I should be thinking creatively. The biggest new expense for me is going to be adding a bit of video to the mix.


The last dial I have to turn up to 11 is image quality and style. If I’ve nailed the first two, then I know from experience that part of this, the creativity, happens naturally for me. What isn’t natural for an artist is thinking creatively about business and the style or ‘feel’ of who I am and what I’m putting out there – but I think I have that licked now too.


The final part of the plan involves some gear purchases. I’m really happy with my gear as it is – photographically it’s great – but I can’t shoot video with it. And video is going to be a really important part of the new product offerings! I’m not intending to move to full time / full length videography, but rather use moving images as part of the photographic story telling process. Besides, I don’t like the word ‘video’, it just sounds tacky and cheap. Moving images sounds sooo much nicer! My current gear does allow me to shoot very short clips in HD, but processing is a chore – but after seeing the results mixed in with still images, it’s pretty cool. So offering a mix of still and moving images – a ‘video portfolio’ – is going to be on the menu for models and actors.


Lastly, I have to start ‘getting the brand out there’. I don’t talk much about ‘AfterExposure’ (or Amazing Expressions, for my wedding work.) as a brand; in fact I don’t like talking about marketing, branding, or even doing advertising. The name ‘AfterExposure’ originally had nothing to do with models being after more exposure; exposure was being used as a photographic term. But the name stuck, and I’m too lazy to go back 5 years and re-watermark all those pre-Lightroom images with another name. For the moment it works, and I’ll continue to use it for working with models and ‘industry’ shoots. I’ve also started to work with the process for refining my style that Rockie suggests in his book, as a longer term personal project, so I’ll still be doing creative/experimental trade shoots with models who are interested.


But for ‘civilian’ work – ie clients that aren’t interested in modelling or the unknowns of an experimental shoot, I need to do something under a different banner. A new name; a new style, and a new, unique product offering. I’ve toyed with a few names that match a few markets; ‘Dames and Daggers’ for the Pin-Up & Hot Rod crowd; and variations of “Notorious/Decadent” for the more clean lines of a modern, non-retro style. Great ideas… but different styles… so I need something unique, and something that will last as my style evolves. And the new style and product doesn’t really fit either of those names, in fact I don’t think it’s ever really been done in a big way before, so I’m pretty excited about it!


Then I realized that I should use my own name (I’ve had my name registered for a while on the interwebs). It’s unique, and I’m kinda attached to it. So look for the new product offerings soon; by the time I get back from Vegas I should be able to post some fresh new samples of what I’m going to be offering. It’s going to be awesome!


It also addresses head-on one of the constant struggles that working with digital has – the selling of digital media – and the loss of future print sales, the negative effect on the value of the art, and the perception of the photographer and what they deliver. Photographers aren’t always publicly chatty on this topic, but it boils down to traditional business models that  are built on the idea of selling both the artists time (the session fee) and prints (the physical art itself) to stay in business. Photographers who ‘give away’ their digital files, but are otherwise operating in a traditional way, are cutting their own throats. Some photographers sell digital files priced in a range that offsets the loss of print sales, but the issue here is that clients often have these digital files printed at low cost, and at low quality at places like Costco or WalMart. This is exactly how a photographer who cares about their craft doesn’t want their work produced and displayed!


But what about moving images? They don’t fit the model of physical art, they have to be delivered digitally! They key difference here is that at HD resolutions as a DVD or mpeg file the images don’t lend themselves to client printing after delivery. I can still offer wall art and books, and in fact I can reduce the prices of the physical products because because the primary product is the digital media, and most of the time to get the images ready (editing and retouching) is already costed into the digital media production. Look for pricing on these packages soon!


Professional photography as a business is a strange animal. It can be difficult for clients to know what they are getting, what they aren’t getting, and why. If your photographer can answer a few simple questions and believe in their own answers, no matter what the answers are, chances are you are dealing with a pro who has experience and knows what works and what doesn’t for the way their business.

So it’s not a case of answering these questions with a single ‘right answer’, often it’s enough that the photographers answers fit both their own style of business, and your own expectations as a client.

This season I decided to test if my own answers made sense to me, to my business, and to my clients, and to make some positive changes. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, too, so I’ve left comments open (but moderated; spam comments are annoying!).

To illustrate I’m going to use some images from a recent ‘1 hour Mini Shoot’ that I did locally. Sala was a terrific model; she’s put time into her posing and facial expressions, so it made the shoot quite productive. She also reminds me of a few actresses from those swingin’ European 60’s movies that had no real plot or dialogue, but great cast, cinematography and locations.

Question 1: “Can you make me look my best?”

My Honest Answer: “Of course! But what does that mean to you?”

Everyone has a slightly different opinion of what ‘best’ means, especially when they are looking at images of themselves. Have an honest discussion with your photographer about what you like and don’t like photographed, and the images you get will be 100% better. I tend to emphasize a persons positive aspects and features; this naturally means that trouble spots get less attention in the images. That might mean I see personality traits like being funny or charitable in their eyes; or I might find a womans lips or legs to be their best features, so it really depends on who I’m photographing, and what or who the images are for.


My favourite image of the day. The sun had already set, so I used a flash bounced off a reflector as a fake 'sunset'


Before you Buy

Before your start shopping you should consider what it is you want the finished images to look like. Consider the location, wardrobe, hair and makeup; chances are you’ve seen an image or own wardrobe that has inspired you, so discuss that with your photographer. If you are working to a common goal it will show in the results; if you have a mental picture already and don’t discuss it with the photographer you’re really leaving things to chance, and you’ll probably be disappointed in the results. Collectively I call this style and styling.

Style and Styling

These are really two completely different concepts. The style of an image refers to the qualities of the image itself, not the subject or wardrobe. Are colors vibrant or faded? Does it look retro or modern? Is it grungy, gritty and dark, or is it soft, light, and airy?

Styling an image refers to getting the details right for the type or genre of shoot; everything from shoes to dresses to props and furniture. Often getting styling right means the subject is going to look ‘right’ and fit the shoot; getting it wrong means the image won’t be memorable or have that ‘ring of truth’ and the viewer will sense something is off. Your photographer should either know a few stylists or have ready access to all the goodies needed for the shoot.

What’s really great is when the style and styling work well together. They don’t have to match, but they should compliment or contrast each other in a way that’s consistent.

Originally I had thought this image would look good with the look of retro-film, but it's better with a more natural tone.


Behind the Camera

Besides those obvious things that are in the frame, I think about things like lighting, posing, composition, and the choice of lens as the key ingredients to making a great image. These all have to suit the style of the shoot, because once the image is made, changing these things is practically impossible. It can be done, but it’s better to get it right from the start. Have a look at your photographers portfolio, and see what they’ve done, and let them know if there are specifics that you want to see in your images.

The Skinny on Retouching

Retouching is something that clients expect in vastly different amounts. Some people dislike the plastic look of retouched skin; others adore the look of airbrushed models in cosmetic advertisements in the glossy pages of magazines. By talking to your photographer you’ll know what to expect, and if there are additional charges to ‘photoshop’ the images in major ways.

Of course I can run all kinds of software to smooth out skin, shave off pounds, or even distort your limb length, but I really don’t like to do it to excess. I like to create images in the camera that reduce the amount of time I have to spend removing blemishes and smoothing skin, and I really dislike warping images to create thin or ‘more attractive’ subjects; in fact I’ve only done it a couple of times, and I didn’t really like it.

Does reality need a little nudge once in a while? Sure, zits, scars, and blemishes happen, and I deal with those. But it doesn’t need photographers altering body shape drastically. I think it sets an unrealistic burden on young people to fit an idealized image, when in fact they are great just the way they are.

Don’t believe me? In these images of Sala from the 1 Hour Mini Shoot, I chose the most flattering poses and compositions for her, so she didn’t need any ‘photoshop’ to make her thinner or distort her. Notice that she looks slightly different in each image as the camera changes position. I did a few very minor touch-ups on her skin, but this is what she looks like in person. Fo Realz, folks!


Question 2: “Why does photography cost so much?”

My 2¢: “Hey, I’m not that expensive!”

But really, the question should be “Why does that photographer cost so much?”. Photography is fairly inexpensive. Photographers, on the other hand, are not.

Digital has really changed things; there is no direct cost for clicking the shutter as there was with film. A decent semi-pro camera can be had for about $1500. A pro lens is about the same. You could add all the accessories, software, lighting, etc to the list, but it’s no different than any other profession where the tools are part of the cost of doing business. Sure, it’s more than a $99 point-n-shoot pocket camera, but pretty much all the dSLR’s can produce some solid images, even with cheap kit lenses, if they are used creatively.

So if the cameras are all more-or-less the same, what’s left? The photographer.

The photographer is the unique element; each one of us is different and produces different looking images. Because there is only one of me, I’m the only one who can deliver what I do. This is another reason why you should like the portfolio of the photographer you hire; asking them to work outside their style can doesn’t always work, so look for confidence in your photographer that they feel they can deliver what you are asking for.

But back to pricing; the two unique factors that each photographer might charge for are time and talent. They may not package it that way, but I do.

The time cost is sometimes referred to as the session fee, sitting fee, or shooting fee. This is the compensation for the time and expenses for the photographer to show up and deliver a great experience and capture some awesome images. If you’re in a studio, chances are the session fee covers the rent and upkeep of the studio itself, so those tend to be higher priced. ‘Boudoir Marathons’, where a photographer sets up shop in a posh hotel for a day can spread the cost of the room across all the clients, and it’s a great way to reduce the prices so everyone can have fun. Your photographer might even have a ‘rep’ program for you – I do; if you organize your friends for a marathon shoot, you’ll get perks for your effort to get your friends involved.

The other factor is talent of the photographer; it shows up in the price of the images you get, either as prints, in an album, or maybe as digital files. So if a photographer has a print price list, make sure you’ve read it and understand what kind of investment you’d like to make. It’s one thing to afford a photoshoot, it’s very disappointing when you then realize you can’t afford to purchase any images! This is why I package things as a combination of session fee and print credit, or a specific product like a boudoir book; it ensures that you’ll be able to have your cake and eat it, too.

The biggest in-joke / insult for photographers is when someone sees a really big camera and comments to them: “Geez, I bet that thang really takes some puuurrty pikturz!”. That kind of statement discounts the talent of the photographer completely.  In fact, the photographer makes some pretty pictures, they don’t take them. The difference? You make an image when you know what you’re doing, and can use the equipment to get the result you envisioned.

Here are a set of similar images from the 1 Hour Mini Shoot; the difference between each pair is that I’m taking one step to the left or right to catch the sun in the lens. Sometimes I like the washed out effect, sometimes I prefer the punchier colours or less lens flare. I know a few really skilled camera owners (note: I didn’t say ‘photographers’) who take really boring shots with really expensive cameras. I much prefer something creative, even if technically it isn’t a perfect image because I was shooting into the sun.

Which leads us to the next question…

Question 3: “How much do you charge for digital files?”

My not-trying-to-duck-the-question Answer: “It depends… keep reading…”

Digital files are a slippery slope for photographers. Unlike film, where there was only one negative, and having control of the negative meant something, digital files can be copied, shared, and printed. Digital rights management is something new (and confusing) to most clients, and it can really be done badly. But there are ways to simplify it.

Answer #1: “Digital Files are not for sale.”

This works really well in situations where both the client and the photographer agree to keep the images private, or to only publish/blog those that the client is ok with showing. My intimate portraits and boudoir sessions are good examples; a client may want images for a photobook or canvas, but the absolute last thing she wants are those digital files to end up on facebook or their husbands laptop at work. I don’t even offer online proofing for these shoots for just that reason; it keeps those images off the internet.

Answer #2: “Digital Files are (in the accent of Dr. Evil) ‘One Million Dollars’…”

Ok, so maybe not a million, but kinda spendy. Why?

The files are essentially a piece of unique art, and buying full resolution files means you are buying that art in it’s purest form. To the photographer the risk of having someone do a very bad editing or printing job, but still having the photographers name associated with it is a real possibility, and for some a real worry because they feel so strongly about their art and what it means to be an artist.

I price digital files as if they were large prints; after all, if you order a print of an image the same work goes into the file, and often the bigger the print, the more work is needed to ensure all the details are right. Selling a full resolution digital file could mean that it’s going to be printed large, and if it’s not prepared and sharpened for output at a particular size, it won’t look it’s best, so photographers, like any visual artists, they like to have control over how their final products look.

The other thing that is often not made clear with digital files are image rights. Often clients assume that if they get a digital file they can do anything with it, when really that’s almost never completely true. The best thing to do is talk to your photographer if you feel that you want a digital copy, and what their stance on digital files is. I’m finding more of my colleagues are reluctant to sell digital files because it cuts into their print sales or they have concerns about print quality, which I agree with. But I don’t loose sleep over it, because I now rarely sell full resolution images, instead I talk to my clients to ensure I’m providing them the products they really want.

If a client can’t afford a $750 large-format canvas, but can afford a $150 canvas from a big box store at the mall, they often get frustrated, because they think they can get the same product for much less, if they only had the digital file. What’s missing in the equation is the cost of the art and the preparation for the medium, not the product it’s printed on (see Question 2). Although the photographers costs for professional products is often higher than ‘big box’ retail prices, the value of the image also has to be factored into the final price as well.

I now charge an additional fee for full resolution images; if you’ve ordered a print, canvas or book product already, then do you need a full resolution digital copy? Probably not, if you’ve purchased the products you really want. But how about smaller resolution files? You might want these if you want to brag on facebook. That’s what I do, and I provide smaller resolution files for exactly this reason, which leads to Answer #3…

Answer #3: “Digital Files are included in the package”

This is how I answer most of the time. For clients (including models) one item of value is a smaller digital file, usually sized at 720 pixels wide, called ‘Social Media Files’. This fits facebook perfectly, and works with all other social media and model networking sites. I usually watermark the image with my logo, and grant the client rights to use the images ‘for personal display, for advertisement and self promotion’ (ie, model portfolios), with a photo credit.’ They are sized and sharpened especially for display online, so it’s easier to just supply a set of pre-sized/pre-sharpened files of all the images the client has paid for.

So if you’ve ordered an image as a physical product, like a print or in a book, the social media files are yours, because chances are someone will see the image, and my logo, and give me a call. Simple, huh?

Question 4: “Can I get all the images from my shoot on a DVD?”

My Short Answer: “No.”

But why? The client is paying, right?

Not really. Remember, as the client you are paying for the photographers talents to provide specific images or prints; the session fee for time and expenses doesn’t cover the value of any other images. And just as importantly you are paying for a positive experience!

As an artist I’m a bit self-concious about what I put out there as my portfolio both online and printed. I take pride in the images, and I only want my name to be associated with my best work. Could you still have the full resolution files and edit them yourself? Generally, no (see Question 3, above)… images that aren’t 100% often get deleted, I kept this one below as an example. Why delete them? At 25 megabytes per image, RAW files are 2 – 4 times larger than jpeg files. A full day of shooting can mean as many as 64 GB of files, so even lower quality jpegs from a shorter shoot often fill one 4 GB DVD. That’s a LOT of data that nobody will ever want to look through twice!

If you’d like ALL the images from a shoot discuss it with your photographer; what you might find is that the session fee is higher, but since you aren’t asking for them to cull, edit, or post-produce the images, there is no ‘per image’ print fee. This is more like a commercial arrangement, where the client has their own in-house editing staff and you’re just paying the day-rate for the photographer.

To illustrate, take a look at the *cough* anaemic image below, and compare it to the next image down… they are really the same image, the first one straight out of camera (sometimes abbreviated ‘SOOC’), and the second one is the ‘finished’ version. This was taken right at the start of the shoot as she was looking for some good footing on the hillside, and as I adjusted the reflector to put some more light on her, so it was never going to be a ‘keeper’.

Another reason the files aren’t consumer-ready is that I often shoot in ‘RAW’ mode, instead of shooting jpegs. What’s the difference? RAW means the files are what the camera sensor recorded, which is often a bit flat looking; not the vibrant, punchy colors and contrast of a consumer camera in jpeg mode. Recording this way gives me about twice the data, because in this case I know I’m going to edit these files later to give them a more ‘sunset’ look.

I think this makes the point; are all the images from the shoot worth it? While I prefer to get things looking great in-camera (meaning no endless hours fiddling with the image on the computer later on), that’s not always the case. And sometimes, as I was doing here, I’m just using the camera as a capture tool, because to get the look I want I will have to edit it in the computer later to bring out my vision from those pixels.


Straight out of Camera, this lacks punch.


Finished image. Punch? Yes. But is it a keeper? No.

I hope I explained things in enough detail to make sense; if there are any questions – fire away in the comments section!

Ana – Sneak Peek

Ana is perfect, don’t you think? The location is perfect; a quiet spot in Kananaskis Country, which is just west of Calgary, about 30 minutes. The wardrobe is perfect; a bizarre mix of glam and First Nations (in this case ‘Indian’ might be more accurate, since it’s more Hollywood-accurate than historically accurate). Did I mention the weather was perfect; warm, just a bit of a breeze? And for most of the shoot the clouds, sun, and light were perfect.

You know what’s coming next, right? All that perfection can’t exist without some sort of karmic balance. So how could a shoot this perfect go wrong?


Lot’s of ’em! (and horseflies, ants, a deer wandered thru our ‘set’ … the only think we didn’t get was a bear!)

If they weren’t being distracting by biting, they were getting in our eyes, up our noses, and I inhaled two of the little monsters accidentally. I only coughed one out.

But Ana is a trooper, and with two different kinds of bug spray we made this crazy shoot work:


The themed part of the shoot... fun!



At the end of the shoot the sun was down (this is lit with strobes), I was packing gear up, and she was swapping her wardrobe under this blanket, trying to keep the bugs away.

In that one moment everything came together for a few last shots. But this is just a sneak peek… so you only get one! :)

The not-themed part of the shoot... also fun!


Cherise – Sneak Peak

I had a spare day in Victoria, B.C. recently, and put out a last minute casting call on Model Mayhem to see if anyone was up for a shoot – and Cherise was there, and rocked it. I didn’t give much direction to her, and when I started to say something, she did what I was thinking. Either she is psychic, or I’m a Jedi. I think she is just in tune with what might work for a shot. She has a bit of a Cate Blanchett look from some angles, but not from others – and would be outstanding in print work.

The shoot went much longer than I anticipated – over 4 hours – so we had plenty of time to move around, although given the time I’d wished we had chosen to use more of the wardrobe she brought with her. We shot an epic 700+ images; not quite my record, but a few hundred too many to make any easy decisions for a blog post, or even her proof previews.

But as always, a few images stood out. The first image is actually the first frame taken during the shoot; I was intending the first segment to be shot in black and white, and a few of the subsequent images really worked well in this harsher style. These are my own proofs, to help me decide how much contrast -vs- grey tone I like, but I thought they were similar enough to post here as a group.

I’m sure I’ll post more of her later, but for now – just a peek…





Alysha Part 2

More Alysha… I finally (almost) decided on the look that I wanted for these; a little warmer, and very crisp. I think it reflects the feeling of being in Las Vegas, which was much warmer than Calgary. And the late afternoon sun was really picking up a lot of color as it was passing through the dust of the desert, so it really was a warmer color than the harsher winter light that left a week earlier. I can’t wait for Calgary to warm up just a little bit more… I’ve already booked my first outdoor glamour shoot for spring!

At the end are a few shots where a gold reflector was used for fill; these are naturally much more yellow, but it suits those images.


Rather than change the color treatment of these next shots, I decided to leave them alone… the warmth of the wooden fence and

a gold reflector really changes the look, and although I could force them to look like the first shots… why?

Alysha – Part 1

More goodies from the archives! On deck: Alysha. What an amazing face! It’s a bit of a faux-pas to shoot someone so straight on – except with proportions like this. So I did. And she looks terrific.

I found this one particular image and couldn’t really commit to a single style for post-processing. I’ve been watching, and the range of styles there is really interesting and inspiring… but with this image I couldn’t pick just one.

So what the heck – here are my six favourite versions of this one image, starting with the ‘normal’ view, a few different film-like styles, and my favourite monochrome (with a bit of signature pink).

More Alysha will be coming up over the next few days!

Kayla – Part 2

I use Adobe Lightroom to organize my shoots, and as I was doing some  digital housecleaning today I came across a ‘stack’ of images of Kayla that I hadn’t processed yet! This was a great shoot and proof that great natural light can really make a difference. I still used some fill-flash, because I’m basically shooting into the sun, but the effect comes from the golden sun, strongly backlighting her.

At the end are a couple of behind-the-scenes shots of the area we were working in.


I met Lauren back in February when I was in Vegas for WPPI…what a gem! And what an awesome shoot – we were in a super-duper rush, so this was all taken in less than 10 minutes!

Shoots like these make the whole air travel ordeal from Calgary totally worth it. And I can’t believe I left posting these this long… what a doll she is!

I had such a hard time choosing images for this post; there are a few more than normal, so enjoy!


I dig it when posts pretty much write themselves. Sometimes I kinda ramble – which is the exact opposite of what a photo blog should be.

So… here is Nicole. I won’t write about how she came well prepared, or that her hubby didn’t mind one bit when I enlisted him as a ‘voice activated light stand’ for the entire shoot. And I’ve already posted a sneak peek; so here are some shots from the rest of the setups.

First, some dramatic lighting and posing. I try and shoot in a logical order; start with the most structured & planned shots, then progress to the more experimental ones. This ensures that every shoot is productive, yet everyone gets to stretch their craft a bit.


The we switch it up a bit for some pin-up shots. Nicole has the figure for it, and really blemish-free skin, so it was easy to knock out a whole bunch of these:


Back to the sofa… these were shot in my suite at the MGM Signature, and I really liked the colors from the painting. I cheated a bit here and gelled the strobe reddish. For a little interest I wanted to mix up the posing a bit.

A little tighter in on Nicole. At this point we are sacrificing the hair and makeup for fun…

Another quick change, then onto the freezing balcony. This high up and this late at night it is cold out there!

For a more edgy look to match the wardrobe I took a whole bunch of creative license with the post-processing of these…

And last, a little more range from Nicole… I really like how this actually relaxes the facial muscles and loosens up the shoot, so I think I’m going to more of this type of thing earlier in the shoots.

That’s it for now; of course we shot more (a lot more!), and who knows – I may decide to do some mini-session marathons and travel back to Vegas!


This is Kayla, and she totally rocked the shoot! Thanks Kayla!

We were lucky enough to have a warm and dry day in Vegas… not what the weather forecast was predicting… so when the sun began to set and turn that golden color, we headed for a nearby vacant lot and got what we could in the last few minutes of sun.

I’m really happy with these results; this was shot on the Pentax K20D and their 50-135mm f/2.8 lens, filled with on-camera flash (probably an old Canon 430EX), and developed in Adobe Lightroom.

Meet Lisa – A story of Luck and Vegas

If you’re keeping tabs on me, you know that I was just in Vegas for WPPI, and decided to add on a two day workshop (a WPPI Plus class) with Kay Eskridge. As it happened, the photographer I was sitting beside was Lisa Jeffries… and what a remarkable woman she is. She has a poise and grace that really sets her apart from everyone around her; if I had to peg her to a stereotype … I couldn’t. I think she’s one of those people that gets reincarnated quite often, and I convinced myself she was both a southern belle and Playboy bunny in past lives. And it doesn’t hurt that she really does have a wicked little sense of humour.

Our class was a pretty fun group; at one point we were done shooting for the morning, and some of the women photographers ended up against a big window in the MGM Conference Hall, posing as our models did (actually, hamming it up a lot, but I’ll spare you the group-hands-on-butts shot, gotta keep it classy!)

That's Lisa and Kay in the middle

Now let’s take a little diversion, since we are in Sin City, and gambling is a big deal. I’m not a gambler – but I do believe in a sort of luck, the kind you can make for yourself. It has to do with being ready, making opportunities, and then taking chances when it looks like the deck is stacked your way. But you have to know that you might jump any minute, and in what direction. Photography is much the same; it’s one thing to have the camera in your hand; but an entirely different thing to know that an amazing shot is happening right in front of you.

That’s what happened with Lisa. Right after the group image above was taken, I was standing nearer to her when she turned away from the window, toward me, just a bit, and then… wow! There was only a moment to get just one frame. This was it.

Vegas – Behind the Scenes at WPPI

Ah, Vegas. If you haven’t been – go. If you have been, but not to a big convention – you’re still missing out. WPPI (Wedding and Portrait Photographers International) is a really big gathering (like, 16,500 photographers), and we totally overran the MGM for the week of the party. Er, I mean ‘industry learning event’.

If you’re going to WPPI it probably means you’re successful enough to be able to celebrate by going. It’s a great reward; think limo rides, dance parties, and realizing that you’re NOT in your own hotel casino at 2am, about to get a tattoo… well that’s another story. There is a ton of learning going on during the day. This trip I decided that I had to spend some quality time on my boudoir business – although boudoir isn’t really the right name for what I do here – it’s a close enough match.

And who better to learn from than one of the leaders of the style, but Kay Eskridge – I took her two day (and three night) long Plus Class. WOW! Her, and her brand, Celebrate Sexy, has the same kind of sensibility about photographing women that I do, and Kay has the experience of building and running a very successful studio, so she has the business chops to back up what she teaches. Her photographic style is different to mine, but part of why photographers all gaggle together at these things is to learn from one another.

Right after I wrapped up Kay’s class I had a chance to finally meet and photograph Nicole. She waited an entire YEAR (since the 2010 WPPI) for our schedules to line up, and we had a blast of a shoot; multiple wardrobe changes, lots of light and poses to explore, and generally doing what could be called ‘experimental pinup’. It’s not classic 40’s pinup, it’s not roll-around-in-bedsheets boudoir, it’s more like ‘what would happen if…?’. Nicole was a terrific subject, and photographed extremely well.

So I’m going to skip the headshots and classic portraits we did, and cut right to the chase. This image really jumped out at me, so I gave it the full monty of image tweaking – just because I can, and because it’s experimental. I kinda dig it.


New Tech / Old Tech

I’ve picked up a couple of new toys lately. One is this old Yashica-D film camera; another is this blog.

The Yashica is a gem. It has a super big viewfinder – the kind you look down into, and it’s focus is razor sharp. All of the dials and knobs give a tactile experience of using a really well crafted piece of equipment. I’ll post some shots from it as soon as I get the first rolls of film developed. and I’ll also post about some of the tricks that I use to  shoot film with a camera that doesn’t even have a meter.

The other bit of news is this blog… a year ago I merged a couple of blogs together over at, but the result wasn’t what I wanted; the posts about photography, shooting models, and general geekiness didn’t fit within a business blog. It’ll take me a week or so until I sort out what posts should be in which blog; until then there are going to be a few duplicate posts in each site.

Some Thoughts on Photography

Last week I visited my parents for my Dad’s birthday, and as usual mom had redecorated a little. Even though I grew up in that house, there is always something fresh and new there. (more…)

"Hey man, what’s in the bag?"

I’ve just created a page of resources for photographers. If we are talking over coffee, or at a Fast Track event and I mention some company, it’s probably listed here. (more…)

Fastest. Shoot. Evar.

I knew that we had worked quickly on the previous shoot (with Lexus Lee); but I didn’t realize how quickly. Here is the shot breakdown:

Setup #1: 2 minutes, 38 seconds. 48 proof images

Setup #2:3 minutes, 37 seconds, 65 proof images

Setup #3: 49 seconds, 15 proof images.

Shooting time: 7 minutes, 4 seconds; 130 images (two were in the car)

Total shoot time: 20 minutes from first shot to last shot; about 40 minutes total, as we drove around a bit at the end to get a better feeling for the location and what it offered.

Wow! Maybe I should plan all my shoots for bad weather…

So how cold is that stone on your butt, anyway?

Shooting Vamps and Vampires

A while back Lexus Lee and I had started conversing about a non-glamour photoshoot, something fun and different. One thing we both zero’d in on was the idea of an Underworld / Selene look… NO sparkles for us! I really like shooting in landscape orientation (ie, wide), as if making a movie, so this was something I could get into. And she got to do something that was interesting to her, personally… this wasn’t just another T&A shoot (which she obviously rocks at, but has plenty in her portfolio already).

For you budding photographers on Model Mayhem, take note. This one small fact – shooting what the model finds interesting – is probably why I have such a low flake rate, why the shoots are so much fun, and why everyone puts in 110% effort.

This shoot sat on the books for months, and we just couldn’t get our calendars to line up with the right conditions. Finally we got it together for Friday evening…. and the forecast called for snow. Great! We nabbed a few shots outside, and ran back to the car to warm up. Take a look at the makeup, contact lenses, and wardrobe… she did an AMAZING job pulling this together herself.

Waiting for the snow to stop

Waiting for the snow to stop

Before it really dumped on us we got in a few good, if brief, setups. The temperature was about -2C, so we had to work fast. The color balance in these shots is basically for incandescent, which is why it has an intentional blue cast, but it’s better than shooting in the correct white balance and doing in post production. Why? Because you can see the results while you are shooting, which means you can check highlights, background details, and watch for odd colored elements.

This was all shot in RAW (DNG, specifically), so I could adjust the white balance later if needed, and with the big buffer on the Pentax K20D I could still shoot rapidly. This is really important when the model is essentially wearing only a thin stretch lycra catsuit in below freezing temps! As soon as the teeth-chattering stopped we ran out and popped off a series of shots like this one, which might be my favorite for the day:

Hunting. Freezing, too!

Hunting. Freezing, too!

… and then back into the car. The snow really started to come down. There was no way to use anything but available light; everything was getting soaked.  I think I’d like to pick up a couple of clear plastic Pelican cases for my lights, and epoxy some 1/4″ mounting studs to them. My newly replaced lens, the Pentax DA* 50-135mm f/2.8, is weather resistant, and shrugged off the wet with no issues. I would have liked to get in closer with the 16-45mm for some funkier angles, but the snow was so thick the auto-focus was picking up on the white snow against her black outfit, so I knew we didn’t have much time left before it got really dark. The 16-45mm is f/4 wide open, and looks better at f/5.6 – meaning I would have been up another notch in ISO.

By now we knew the shoot was going to have to be called off for another day. There were shots we weren’t going to get, like with the city skyline as a backdrop, that were now made invisible with the falling snow. We found another interesting location and rattled off a few quick shots:

So how cold is that stone on your butt, anyway?

So how cold is that stone on your butt, anyway?

The BB guns were her idea; we discussed what to do if the police were called because they are so realistic. I suggested that she not panic if  the cops drew their weapons and asked us to get on the ground :) Lucky for us the weather was so terrible nobody noticed us, and thankfully nobody got tazed!

We’ll be back, but not until it warms up a bit. In the meantime we have about 130 images from that day to study and discuss, so that when we next get a small window of weather we can take advantage of it.

A big thanks to Ms. Lee for coming out, freezing her tush off for a few minutes, and doing an outstanding job. I can’t wait for the next chinook!

[b]ecker's Crash Course

What a ride that last two days have been! Calgary was host to Becker thanks to the efforts of Patrick Kornak, (and Svetlana, and crew) and the Saturday presentation was a blast. And so was Friday night group meet. And so was Saturday night post-event… and I’m sure that the Sunday gang is going to be just as jazzed as we were to connect with fellow photographers, hang out, and ‘get it’.

I still haven’t distilled all the info and made it part of my DNA yet. It’s still percolating – some of the practical stuff is right at the top of my conscious mind – and some is bubbling around in my sub-conscious, making those all-important associations with everything else I know and am.

But I can tell you the experience was worth it.

I think the most important lessons were those about connecting – and not just with other photographers – but with customers and vendors too. That was a biggie; and not because it was something new to the audience, everyone knows ‘networking – yeah it’s important’ – that’s NOT it. It’s more about the quality and experience of those connections that has the biggest effect.

And there was a TON of info about the mechanics of why and how he does business, but that really serves more to illustrate the underlying philosophies, and in return how those practical things enable him to deliver consistently solid value every time. Nice.

Oh, and it was (just) warm enough for us to run outside and get a real-time example of how he works with subjects – even if he only has seconds to do it.  He shot a newlywed couple for 5 or 10 minutes, and then our headshots – all 90 of us – something like 2100 images in all – in the other 20 minutes. And not once did he say ‘smile for the camera’ – he didn’t have to! Again, nice.

Here is an iPhone / thebestcamera app image of him in a race against frozen fingers:

@thebecker - work'in it

@thebecker - work'in it!

So an open call to everyone who attended – from either day – I’ll see you at the [b]school.

And if you don’t or can’t join there, keep an eye out here – there will be a group meeting in a couple of weeks – comment here or email me if you’re interested in some of this kool-aid.

… and if you are trying to place my name with a face – I’m the Pentax shooter who wore Hawaiian shirts 😉

Creativity and Challenge

I finished reading the series ‘Becoming a More Creative Photographer‘ last weekend, and today by happenstance I had a few minutes to shoot on the way home.

But what to shoot?

Lucky me, I had printed the entire series of articles, and left them in my camera bag. All I needed to was pick out an assignment from the articles and shoot.

Just for fun I had mounted a Soligor 135mm f/2.8 on my K20D as another ‘one lens for the day’ exercise before I left the house this morning. I hadn’t really done much with this lens since buying it a few weeks back in Toronto, and with winter light being rare as it is, I really had to shoot something today… I could feel myself getting rusty, not really shooting for a couple of days.

I was quite surprised by the results of the assignment and the lens itself (click for larger images):


Pentax K20D, Soligor 135mm @ f/8, ISO 100, 1/1500

Pentax K20D, Soligor 135mm @ f/8, ISO 100, 1/750

Pentax K20D, Soligor 135mm @ f/8, ISO 100, 1/750

These aren’t going to win any competitions, but a few things stand out.

For starters, I do get a sense of the ‘3D effect’ that some people talk about with certain lenses from the first image. I had always written the effect off as just shallow DOF, but I think there is more to it… perhaps ‘correct DOF’ would be a better description, where most of the subject is in acceptable focus, and the not-subject areas are out of focus.

The other thing that strikes me about the first image is the richness of color. I don’t always get this from my Pentax 50-135mm lens, and combined with some users noting that Pentax lens coatings actually block some colors (like violet) perhaps there is something going on.

The other thing that’s somewhat interesting is the octagonal blade pattern that shows up in the out of focus highlights of the second image. I did play around with the greyscale mix in Lightroom a bit to make the individual highlights more even across their surfaces, but without the tweak I find the shape alone pleasing.

Now, the act of using ‘assignments’ like this might seem limiting or unnecessary; but I do shoot a lot, and most of the time it’s what I want to be shooting… in other words, it’s selfish. Applying a little external stimulus to the creative process can really show you where your comfort zone and limits are. As soon as you feel challenged or uncomfortable – or even more interesting – at a LOSS for a shot… that’s telling you something.

For me it’s interesting to see which of the assignments are a breeze, and which are a genuine challenge – and thus where I should be putting in more practice. Yes, I think that creativity is something that benefits from practice, especially when a lot of artificial equipment enters the equation, as it does in photography.

Oh, the lens? I bought it one weekend from an outdoor table at the St. Lawrence flea/antique market.

It was $5.

From the hip…

I’ve been shooting a lot with the Best Camera iPhone app lately, and I’ve learned to shoot what I see (rather than what I’d like to see), and to trust my instincts as to what to shoot.

What’s weird is applying this technique to shooting with a ‘real’ camera, and getting wildly different results than I’m used to; and framing shots in ways that I’d never had thought of as ‘proper’ before.

It feels good.

Granville Island, Vancouver

Granville Island, Vancouver