Lions, Tigers and Bears (and portraits)

I was asked recently if I would meet a Class of 2013 senior at our local zoo for her senior portraits. Frequent visits to the zoo with her grandfather as a young girl, made this the perfect site for her portraits.

I packed up my Nikon D700, a shoulder bag full of lenses and my trusty SB900 flash on a radio trigger, and headed to the zoo.  The technical challenges included:  The busiest day of the summer at the zoo (zillions of people, with far too many huge strollers), high sun, few clouds, middle of the day and we had about an hour scheduled to get it all done.

The key to a fantastic senior portrait experience is to collaborate and capture images that shows off the personality of every student we photograph.

We were thrilled with the results, and I am already excited to photograph my next senior at the zoo!  Call us at 651-426-0232


Sealed with a Kiss

Engagement sessions are a blast!  The groom to be from this session brought his dog along.  It was comical trying to work with them above the zeal of the barking dog who was none too please to be tied up around tree after tree.

After getting a few adorable pictures with the dog, I asked that they kiss, and that one of them make some kind of noise to get the dogs attention.  I got exactly what I was looking for!  The dog giving a wet kiss to his master (I wonder if that dog is just a little jealous these days…).

I really enjoy spending time with couples long before their wedding day. Building a good relationship with my clients is an essential part of our success.

Pets are great.  We encourage folks to include them.  Give us a call anytime to schedule your senior portrait, family or engagement session at 651-426-0232.

Photography costs too much

Or does it?  In 30 years of business, if there’s one constant, it’s that most photographers know what they are worth, and charge accordingly.  A recent conversation led me to write this post.  While on a commercial shoot this past week, I visited with a bride who saved $1000 by hiring a Facebook friend who is a photographer, instead of hiring me.

We had a great conversation, and oh how she wishes she would have spent the extra money.  As the planning was unfolding, the groom, and her mother were convinced most photographers just charged too much. As a result, she has pictures that she just doesn’t love, and that makes her sad. As it turns out, her photographer had only done a few weddings, and was not able to handle the timing, lighting and logistics of the day.

I won’t dwell on the value that experience, training, skills, awards and professionalism add to a fantastic wedding photography experience.  I know what that is worth.

Cheap just isn’t always the best decision.  Sure, I’ll fill up my tank at whichever station posts the lowest price, but we’ve all gone the cheap route on something only to regret the decision at some point. A friend recently bought a knock off, lame excuse for an mp3 player for his daughter, instead of the iPod she was hoping for.  He saved $50, and felt horrible when he saw the look on her face when she unwrapped the gift.  He made her keep it, but after 3 months, you guessed it, they were off to the Apple store to buy the real deal.

He got a do-over, not all photography is so easy to replace.  Buyer beware is the one thing commonly overlooked today when choosing photographers.  Everyone seems nice, everyone’s pictures look amazing.  You owe it to yourself to make certain you are hiring the right photographer, it’s just that simple.

I have the opportunity to mentor several photographers who are working hard on figuring it out, and that’s great.  It’s the growing number of photographers, that “don’t know, that they don’t really know” what they are doing that is troubling.

Call me anytime to discuss,  Barry, 651-426-0232


Photoshop is a tool, not the answer.

There is a growing notion among consumers, and to a degree photographers, that anything can be done in photoshop.  As time and technology advance, the tools at the avail of professional photographers is both exciting, and at times numbing.

Picture Place Photography has developed a significant market shooting, designing and selling Panoramic Sports Posters.  Clearly, Photoshop is the tool of choice to stitch multiple clumps of athletes into a grouping that appears normal when viewed.  If you’re interested in more technical info, or if your group or organization needs a quote, give me a call.

There is a common misconception however that with Photoshop, any picture can be made to look good.  If only it was that simple, and many inexperienced photographers quickly learn that Photoshop is a lot harder to use, and the results, far more challenging to achieve.

Photoshop is a great piece of software, and I use it daily.  The challenge lies in knowing when to use the capabilities of such software to enhance an image, as opposed to fix it.

The debate will rage forever over what is, or isn’t appropriate to manipulate in a photograph. Photographic evidence (once one of the most reliable forms of evidence) is non-existent today.

We use Photoshop to enhance, retouch, crop and finesse every image we sell.  Everything from correcting acne in a high school senior portrait, to softening wrinkles and age lines on adult clients allow us to create stunning final prints for our clients.  Our exclusive Velvet Touch enhancing uses additional tools that allow us to take retouching to a whole new level.

Rather than looking for someone who is good in Photoshop with a camera, give Picture Place a call at 651-426-0232 to experience the difference.  We just happen to be great photographers, that are also highly skilled in Photoshop–and that sets us apart from many.

Be thankful for value, not price in your portraits.

The Groupon, Living Social buzz has created yet one more controversial thing for photographers to deal with.  For those of you that haven’t signed up for these daily deals, they are simply a highly discounted offer (goods or service) that get shot out to a massive audience, and customers have typically only one day to “grab the deal”.  Photographers are (to no surprise) one of the hottest vendors in this new craze.

Picture Place is looking into the options, and we may well do one some day as a way to try to expand our customer base, but it won’t change our approach to delivering great results, a great experience, and a great value for every client.  The campaign could be effective, if used right.  A close friend (photographer) had a client boast about a Groupon photography deal she grabbed, and when she posted the result on Facebook, well, sadly, she got what she paid for…

Too many photographers are making price the most important factor in marketing their photography.  Picture Place has been able to provide incredible value to our customers because of our willingness to aggressively discount certain items at certain times of the year.

With so many photographers giving away their time and talent, it makes it difficult to compete, and impossible to survive if all we want to talk about is price price price.

Anyone who thinks price is overrated though needs only look at the chaos that is Black Friday.  Yes, we all want a great deal, and that is worse than ever with a struggling economy, high gas prices, increasing taxes…

Photographers need to be able to be compensated for the incredible amount of time, and investment required to become truly great in this profession.  Picture Place has been balancing the price/value equation for 30 years which allows us to keep growing and improving what we do for our valued clients.

Every week I seem to hear another story or two from a customer sharing a really bad experience, at the hands of a photographer that seemed to know what they were doing, were a “great deal”, but ultimately came up short on the results.  We chat about this a great deal on hosted by my good friend Gavin Seim.  I participate regularly on a roundtable panel as a way to give back to the industry through this regular podcast.

To any  future and prospective Picture Place clients, I welcome the challenge to provide awesome portraits, a fun and rewarding experience, and a value you will be thrilled to get.  I recently worked with a family who brought 2 of the cutest kids you’ll ever see in for portraits. We had a blast, and the customer has purchased multiple canvas wall portraits for their home and the proud grandparents.  This customer had multiple bad experiences with cheap photographers.  I suspect I have a client for many years to come.

I have been a big fan of BOSE audio products for many years. Their products are not cheap. But they deliver incredible sound, are built well and last a long long time.  I once had a power adaptor that developed a bad connection. Fully expecting to have to purchase a new power supply, they amazed me by offering to just replace the entire unit, after I had owned it for 2 years!  Now that’s customer service!

So as we gather around the table on Thursday, I encourage us all to also be truly thankful for vendors we deal with who are willing to help us get what we really want, and are able to demonstrate that value beats price every day of the week.  Call me anytime at 651-426-0232 for more information on how I can help you decorate your home with portraits of the people in your life that make it all worthwhile.

From all of us at Picture Place, have a great Thanksgiving with your family!



Giving the client what they want, what a concept.

I just had a great conversation with a customer that enjoyed working with us on some senior portraits five years ago.  They have since moved over 8 hours away, and had horrible experiences with not one, but two local photographers.  We are setting up a session for her daughter here over the Christmas break.

Here’s what I’d like to share about the conversation that is very interesting.  While flattered that they are willing to drive into town just to have me do these portraits, I wanted to learn as much as I could about their bad experiences.

Simply put, there was an attitude from these photographers, that they knew what looked best, which was very frustrating for a mom that had an idea or two of her own on the subject.

As creative professionals it is important that we explore new looks, follow current color and fashion trends, but in the end, it’s always about what the customer wants.

“My favorite portrait for any given client is the one they love”.

Those words resonated well with a past, and now future client.  I enjoy working closely with all my clients to give them what they want.  I’m not shy about suggesting a few ideas, and concepts, but being a good listener is a huge key to a successful portrait experience.

Give me a call at 651-426-0232 to schedule any kind of portrait session, wedding or event.  As it turns out, I’m a pretty good listener.

Is photography an art, a science, a profession or just a hobby?

The answer class is, all of them. Sorry for the trick question, but it is more important than ever to take a moment and consider each category. Interest in photography, or should I say “Picture Taking” is at an all time high. Wow, that must be great for people in the profession right? Well, not exactly, allow me to explain

Photography has been, and always will be an art form. Art is subjective, so it is not up to any one of us to decide what is and isn’t deemed art worthy. The long established tradition of photographic artists include pictoralists like Ansel Adams who with great care and planning, photographed scenes that to this day are breathtaking pieces of art, as close to technical perfection as there is. Modern day photographer Rodney Lough Jr. is following a similar path shooting spectacular landscapes and nature with an 8×10 view camera, with no digital manipulation.

The science of photography is lost to a large degree in the new breed of photographers. The simplicity and ease of use of modern DSLR cameras do not require the photographer to really know anything to be able to take a good picture. This saddens many of us that have taken the time (or a lifetime) to study, learn and use the science of photography in everything we do. That blurs into photography as a profession.

Professional photographers are still around, and are being forced to adapt to a very different market. It’s not entirely bad as many of us are finding exciting new ways to apply our skills and knowledge to truly take photography farther for our clients. It is more critical than ever that potential clients carefully assess what any given photographer can or can’t do for them. Give me a call anytime and I’d be happy to discuss this point in more detail (Barry-Picture Place Photography 651-426-0232).

That leads us into photography as a hobby. After concluding a big shoot last night, I was discussing this topic with a close friend who has been in the business both professionally, and as a college educator in photography for as long as I’ve been in the profession. He made a great point that there is a growing number of hobby level shooters buying different cameras, lenses, flashes and accessories in a chase for the holy grail of that one thing that will transform their work so they can magically become professional.

In conclusion, photography is only as magical as we equip ourselves to enjoy. If a simple snapshot on your cell phone makes you happy, and brings pleasure to the picture you just shot, fantastic! If you want to find and appreciate photography as art, or learn the science, or explore what professionals are doing these day, head to google and have at it.

If you want to discuss hiring me to photograph your family for Christmas, or for senior portraits, or a wedding, or your kids sports association or dance school, give me a call. I have been around photography since grade school and still love every minute of it. Picture Place is celebrating 30 years in business, we must know something.

Do I want to go on location for my portraits?

Shooting portraits in our studio is one of the most satisfying services we offer our clients.  We are facing a massive number of “location photographers” who have no choice but to shoot on location, as they have no studio.   Add to that the fact that most of these photographers simply don’t have the working knowledge and skill set required to properly pose and light studio portraits.  Our exclusive Velvet Touch retouching makes the studio portraits just striking.

Approximately 75% of our seniors for this year have chosen to do at least some outdoor/location photography as part of their senior experience at Picture Place.

These images were from this past Saturday, where for the second Saturday in a row I found myself facing a high noon, cloudless day.   I was contacted recently by a young photographer who asked how I light outdoor portraits.  She was stunned when I listed about 5 variations of flash, flashes, reflectors… she was hoping there was just a magical setting to make them just turn out.

I welcome the challenge and love matching the environments we choose, to compliment exactly the look and feel each client desires.   Natural light is amazing, but sometimes, it just needs a little help.

Call Picture Place at 651-426-0232 to schedule your Senior Portrait Experience in the studio, and on location!

Is technology replacing photographers?

Well I certainly hope not!  I get asked this question frequently.  My typical answer is: “Do YOU think I’m being replaced with technology?”  The responses are fascinating.  Friends ask from a base of empathy while customers ask almost panicked that “photographers” are being eliminated.

Photography has been evolving for over 150 years.  The introduction of the Kodak Brownie camera surely marked the end of professional photography, or the introduction of the Single Lens Reflex cameras, or the autofocus point and shoot compact cameras, or the introduction of digital SLR cameras, or digital compact point and shoot cameras, or the introduction of camera phones, and now the new iphone 4s (with a truly amazing camera)…

More people than ever are taking pictures.  That’s great.  As technology improves, and cameras get better and better, it only stands to reason that everyone’s pictures will be better than ever which spells trouble for working professional photographers.

BUT, that is where true professionals will continue to innovate and deliver photography that is truly different.

Photography has no rules, but photographers that fail to gain any base knowledge fool themselves, and their clients sadly with sub-par photography, that they pass off as “awesomeness”, and gladly collect undeserved fees for the amateur work performed.  If poor images weren’t bad enough, many of today’s aspiring photographers spend their time in post-production changing, warping and destroying images, rather than spending the time to learn how to shoot it right, or shoot it better in the first place.  Just because cameras are easy to use, does not excuse a new photographer from having to learn a few things. If someone gives you all the answers to the test, you might get an A, but if you never attended one class, you’ll have learned nothing.  Welcome to the jungle of professional photography today.

“Nature is constantly producing picture after picture upon principles of the most exquisite beauty, but nature is not lawless, but makes pictures in obedience to the aesthetic rule of unity in variety, the subordination of the many to one. Nature  observes laws, why not the photographer?”    – The Photographer, May 1920!

So here we are 91 years after this article was written, still dealing with the same issue.  It is our job, no our calling as professional photographers to truly be artists, not just picture takers for our clients. Just as nature observes laws of beauty, we have what technology will never offer, an artistic eye. Our developed skill set affords us total command over our ability to shape and control certain elements (light, form and function) to create timeless images for our clients, and it is our way of making a dent in the universe.

Call Picture Place at 651-426-0232 to schedule a photography experience with a photographer that “gets it”.

Making it work-the mark of a pro

I enjoyed a fantastic location session last Saturday with an awesome Senior, a classic red convertible, and a run down barn.  Sounds great right?  Well it was, but it was also scheduled at high noon, on a beautiful sunny Saturday.  Great weather for a visit to the Apple Orchard, but boy does it present a challenge to photograph.

Photographers love early morning light, late afternoon and evening light, and even an overcast day can be great.  But, full noon sun requires a skill set that few photographers have these days.   I love the challenge that each portrait session I photograph presents.  We did an in-studio session that morning for this client.  As great as these barn shots are, I am thrilled that we remain committed to the importance and precision of studio shooting.

Our exclusive Velvet Touch retouching provides the perfect finishing touch for your portraits.  Don’t settle for some nice pictures, when you can just call Picture Place at 651-426-0232.

People often ask me if it ever gets boring photographing so many sessions.  The answer lies within one of my favorite quotes from the great Steve Jobs:

“And the only way to do great work is to love what you do…. Don’t settle”.