Passionate doesn’t equal Professional

Google “Passionate about Photography” and see over 21 million results.

I do not discount that many photographers are indeed sincerely passionate about photography, but it is hardly the only attribute one needs to be a successful photographer.  The competitive space is being overcrowded, and everyone is passionate and creative so in my view, it’s all starting to look the same to the consumer.

Everyone takes pictures, but not everyone should instantly brand themselves as professional after 10 minutes with their new camera (even with a zoom lens…).

The art and craft of photography is one of the most interesting historical journeys over the last 100 years in America.  My good friend Gavin Seim is preparing for another road trip with his family themed “A Journey of Technique & History”.  You can read about his project at and find me as a regular roundtable member of where we discuss an ever changing industry.

It is great to see a photographer like Gavin, come full circle from starting out in the “digital age” only to discover film, other formats and now he is on a journey of learning and discovery  of how photography evolved.  For a guy that still loves film cameras, I think that’s pretty cool.

My “passion” for photography really began on a family summer trip to Europe after my Sophomore year of high school.  Within days, I had become the official family photographer and gladly slugged the camera bag with a Konica Autoreflex T, 3 lenses and a Honeywell Strobonar Flash, yeah, I was that cool.  I experimented with many long exposure night shots and constantly looked for unique scenes, and natural lighting.  It was torture having to wait 2 months to finish the summer travels, return home, and send the slide film off for processing.

The day the slides arrived, I spent hours at the dining room table with a small viewer inspecting my work.  Most of what I tried worked, and the pictures were fantastic. At that moment, I wanted to learn everything there was to know about photography, and so it all began for me.

To achieve “Professional” status, you had to conquer technical skills, and over time, develop your own style and determine what type of photography suited you best.  Young/inexperienced photographers had great respect for established pros in all genres of photography.  It was not uncommon for a photographer to shadow/apprentice for example with wedding photography, for a year or more with an established wedding photographer.  Only then, would you consider taking on the weight and responsibility of photographing a once in a lifetime event like a wedding.

Technology has changed everything.  Not all for the bad, but with cameras that do pretty much everything for you (if you choose to give up control), the case could be made that too many shooters are fast forwarding to a perceived level of expertise that just doesn’t exist.

There are 507,000 Wedding Photographer listings, just in Minneapolis, MN.  Impressive considering the overall population of the Twin Cities is just over 3 million people.  Is it any surprise that very few photographers are thriving, let alone surviving with such statistics?

The quality of photography (especially for weddings) is both better and worse than ever before.  The creativity, and fresh looks continue to add a very photojournalistic feel to wedding photography.  I contend that far too often however, the “passionate” photographer shortchanges their clients as a result of the lack of technical skills and experience.  This was brought to light (pun intended) with a conversation this weekend while photographing over 50 youth hockey teams, at an outdoor rink (see my blustery self portrait).


I visited with a gentleman whose wedding I photographed in 1990. He shared with me the fact that when his daughter got engaged, they suggested talking to me (I have done a few second generation weddings already!), she already had a friend from college who was “awesome, amazing, passionate and cheap” in mind to shoot the wedding.  Well, it didn’t end well.  The young photographer arrived with one camera, one lens and a flash.  The flash pictures inside the very large, dark church were either super dark, or blasted light. The photographer tried to tell the family that there’s nothing that she could have done differently, the camera is totally automatic (which in my book doesn’t mean automatically right).  The outside pictures were fine and they got some fun shots.  There were no pictures taken with the parents or grandparents.  When requested, the mother of the bride was told by the photographer that “no one wants those images anymore.   As it turns out, this “passionate photographer” charged almost the same I would have charged.

It saddens me every time I hear a story like this (and there is no shortage of them coming my way).  I cannot save the profession, nor is that my goal.  All I can continue to do is provide Professional Photography that inspires, amazes, and probably generates a tear or two for my clients.  I have talked about experience many times.  Recently I began using the slogan “1000 brides can’t be wrong” as I have indeed photographed well over 1000 weddings. I still love what I do, and do what I love.  My professional life spans a wide range of photographic events.  Figuring out how to make the gear work perfectly, in everything I shoot is a challenge. Yesterday started at zero degrees, and I am glad to report all the gear worked perfectly, and never failed.  Here’s a link to a fun time-lapse that one of my photographers created just for fun of our outdoor hockey shoot.

My next blog will focus on what I am doing to re-brand and re-launch my wedding photography.  Email me anything you want to know about planning a wedding, or if you’d like the pdf sent to you of my soon to be released wedding magazine.

Thanks to all who continue to support true professional photographers around the world. Just because cameras have made it easy for anyone to be a photographer, true professionals still exist, you just have to work harder to find them.

Thanks for listening, the journey continues.


Picture Place Photography •  651-426-0232 •



Start your own Family Portrait Tradition

I have had the honor of photographing the Oanes family for the last 15 years before Christmas.  Each year, they get in front of my camera and we capture a simple, vertically cropped family portrait.  Creating a vertical grouping has gotten increasingly challenging as spouses and grandchildren have entered the picture (pun intended).

The family has been telling me for years how the pictures line the walls of the staircase, and now wrap around the hallway between the doors.  I had to see it for myself so I personally delivered this year’s order.

It was very fun for me to walk down memory lane and recall each session (seeing what background, grouping, lighting I used).   Having gotten to know the family, it was cool to see the kids grow up (while the parents of course never changed).  The two things I can always count on seeing is dogs, and some Harley-Davidson gear.

Start the new year with your own resolution to start such a tradition.  It’s not too late to get the family gathered for your first, in a series of annual family portraits.

Give us a call at 651-426-0232 and clear some wall space, this will be epic.

Picture Place –



1000 Brides can’t be wrong

It dawned on me recently that I personally surpassed 1000 weddings a while back, and that seems like quite a milestone!  So it’s safe to assume I’m somewhere in the neighborhood of a million exposures at weddings alone.  It’s fun to think back to how I got started.  A college roommate, and high school buddy got hired by a local wedding studio and bought a Hasselblad 500CM.  I was a year younger, so it only made sense that I jump into the game the next year.  I may or may not have had the experience the studio thought I had when I interviewed, but I was hired anyway.I shot my first wedding within months after I shadowed the studio owner on a few weddings.  I was paid $75 plus an extra $25 to cover the reception (hey that was good money at the time!).  My wedding career had begun.  Within a few months, I was the first photographer booked after the owner and the studio manager! I was working at a local camera store so I used my employee discount to purchase my first Hasselblad, for $1200 (camera, lens and film back).  I sold the camera several years later for $1800 and continued to build my medium format system.  I still have one Hasselblad 500 ELX motorized camera with an 80mm Zeiss lens that I still use on occasion, and it is always a thrill to burn a 12 exposure roll through that camera!  I have a special mount that allows me to use that lens on my Nikon D700 which is totally cool.

Weddings came naturally to me, and I was determined to keep getting better at everything I did at a wedding.  Back in the prehistoric days before the internet, it was quite a challenge to find examples of quality work.  I attended every seminar and workshop I could find.  My breakthrough was having the opportunity to spend a week studying with the legendary Monte Zucker (google that name, he’s not hard to learn about).  Monte ushered in an era of elegant, high end wedding day portraits that few had ever thought of at the time.  To this day, I use many of the posing foundations, and lighting patterns I learned using both natural light, and studio lighting that I always have at the ready.  Just a few years later I was honored to win the top wedding album in the Minnesota Professional Photographers Association being awarded the Haga Top Wedding Album!

Today, the wedding photography world is filled with approximately 4.2 billion shooters (ok, I made that up but you get the point) that just put their cameras on program and fire away. I am one of the lucky ones that can hang right with them on all the photojournalism fun and creative shots, but am glad I have so much more to offer my wedding clients.

Experience at weddings shows more and more that the ability to quickly scout settings and locations, and immediately know how to execute a great series of images produces pure gold, everytime.  I can work with soft natural light, full sun, morning, dusk, dark, inside, tungsten, reception halls…  I tend to shoot my cameras on full manual settings most of the time, including all the off camera flash I use so that I can be in total control of every element in the scene.

There is a growing trend among today’s brides to bring some elegance back to the party. The time tested classic portrait series I so often use creates images that truly stand out.  “What’s old, is new again” comes to mind as couples react to seeing my Monte inspired portrait work at weddings.

I’ll soon be releasing my own wedding magazine style publication that I am developing as a more complete guide for couples to use as they plan their wedding day.  It’s about time I start passing on my many years of wedding day insight and tips (even some that have nothing to do with photography).  The more weddings I photograph, the more excited I get for the next one.  It must be all the dinners that are so appreciated after long busy days (the food always tastes amazing when you’ve been working that hard) that keeps me going.

Plenty of things have changed with weddings, but the one thing that will never change is the thrill of creating images that people look at and just say “wow”.



For more information, or to check availability call me at 651-426-0232


Picture Place Photography