Just a post

Photographing a Story

In my last post Endless Possibilities, I showed how photography can be used in unique ways to market your message. The images were used to market the buildings and architecture for Aimco Apartment Communities. But how do you tell a story with images?

Stories have at least four parts: a beginning or introduction, the middle or the ‘story’, the climax when it all comes together, and the end, the wrap up. The ending can even be the climax if you want to leave the reader hanging and wanting more. Advertising is like a story without the end; you want to leave your customer to want more. If the story is a good one then the customer will then contact you about the ‘more.’

Another company that I work with is How Properties and they also develop apartment communities. However, rather than build apartment building from the ground up they renovate existing buildings in the Philadelphia area and turn them into beautiful modern apartments that people yearn to live in. These buildings have history and they have had at least one story told in them from beginning to end. How Properties gives them new life and starts a new story.

So How (pun intended) to tell that story? After all this is more a sequel than a new novel. First you have to know the history and you need to convey that to the reader, or in this case the renter. The chances are that a true documentation of the old building isn’t very complete but enough is known to portray the buildings first (or second) life. That is when the new story begins and that is where I come in.


1226 Mt. Vernon – Office

The images here are images of a building in Philadelphia that was once a trolley repair/assembly station. It was then converted into a body shop for cars and trucks. The building’s future is to be rental homes.


1226 Mt. Vernon – “Main Street”

In the center there will be a main “street” or common access space that leads to the multi-level interior apartments. This is planned to be the hub of the building and create a mini community in and of itself.


1226 Mt. Vernon – Exterior

Here we have laid the ground work for our story of this building. What will it look like? This story has just begun; you will have to come back after I photograph the finished project to see what happens. After all, it is a mystery.


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Endless Possibilities

I can’t believe that it was a month ago today that I posted about the three women that “(We)All Have a Star Inside,” It seems like yesterday and at the same time it seems like forever. In that post I mentioned the masters and their approach to photography. I love studying and attempting to recreate those old, classic styles but I also like the things you can do with images today. I have so many more tools than the masters had but one thing that we have in common is mastering the light.

Light is the constant whether it is light we control or light we wait for. The day I shot the three ‘stars’ I was manipulating the light and I was the one in control. To be honest the reason was because I was actually testing, and getting comfortable with a piece of equipment that I needed for a shoot that would take place over the next couple of days. The difference was that at this second shoot I didn’t have control over the light. Mother Nature was in control and I had to know this new camera, a Hasselblad HD4, really, really well.

The masters never had the benefit of a this type of medium format camera and most often they shot with what is called a large format camera: the kind with the hood and giant film plates you see in old movies. They certainly didn’t have the advantages of digital cameras, and they had only a limited amount of things that they can actually print their images on.

Today we can get our images printed on so many different types of materials that the possibilities of what we can do with these images is nearly endless. The goal of the project I was working on was to print images large and realistic enough to almost feel like you could walk right into them. In fact, two of the images I delivered were for exactly that: to walk into… into an elevator that is.

The images are being applied to elevator doors at the corporate headquarters of Aimco in Denver, CO to show a few of their locations throughout the country. What better opportunity show their properties than while someone is waiting for the elevator! Here are couple of the images I created for them.


The Sterling – Philadelphia PA


Riverloft Lobby – Philadelphia PA

If I do say so myself the whole concept came together rather well and the end result is now on the elevator doors in Aimco’s corporate offices in Denver Colorado. The image below was sent to me by Holly Schnitzler shortly after the installation. Thank you Holly!


Riverloft Lobby on Elevator Doors in Denver

This was a great and unique approach to showing off the properties to visitors and it allows everyone to remember that what they do every day doesn’t end at their office but reaches out to other cities all over the country.


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We have a Winner!

A little over a week ago in my last post, I asked which shot you liked better day or night. For those that voted they had a chance to win a print of the image they chose. There were a a number of votes and more than 60% of you voted for the night version. So did our winner, Don Keane of Thorofare NJ. A print suitable for framing will be going out to Don later this week. Congratulations Don!

Here is the winning image:


This contest was so much fun that I am sure I will do it again. So keep an eye out for the next contest!

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We All Have A Star Inside

As I wrote in my last post “Excitement!” I very much enjoy the images from old Hollywood. The variations, the light, the dramatic looks all lend themselves to the mystery of photography that grabbed me so long ago. The more I see of it the more I want to see and shoot! I can’t get enough of these images. I wonder what they would look like in color, what would the photographer of the 1940s do with the equipment available today, how would these old masters capture the personalities of today?

As a photographer myself I can wonder or I can give it a shot (har har). Today’s celebrities very much fit a certain look and are within the elite of a certain type. Back in the golden years of Hollywood a broader sense of beauty was the norm. By today’s standards actresses such as Joan Crawford, Jean Harlow and Barbara Stanwick would not fit into the “stunning good looks” category but I defy you to say these women were not considered some of the most beautiful women of the age.

In order to try to figure out what the old masters would have shot I needed to find women that don’t consider themselves beautiful; actually they are more than just pretty, they are strong, wonderful everyday women and that in and of itself makes them beautiful.

A while back I started planning this photoshoot when I ran into a friend I haven’t seen in almost 10 years. Lisa and I ran into each other when I was photographing an apartment complex she was just moving into. It was great to see her and within minutes we decided to do a shoot together. It just blossomed from there! I invited my new neighbor to join us; she is an acting student at a local university and a tall statuesque blonde with amazing eyes that penetrate you to the core.

The shoot preparation was coming along well and I had no plans to add another model. One day my wife and I stopped by a restaurant after picking up some things at Target near our home. As our server came to our table I saw something that got my attention. “Uh Oh” was the look in my wife’s eye. “Here we go again.”

Although she is rather used to me pulling out a business card and asking someone if they would like to model for me I know it isn’t her favorite conversation to have over a meal. In her defense she does help me too by telling the person that, “No he isn’t a weirdo, he is really a professional photographer.” I honestly think this puts many people at ease and actually lets them consider the idea.

I told our server, Allie, about the shoot I had planned and that if she was interested to give contact me. I was very pleased when I heard from her shortly thereafter. She thought the whole thing would be fun. She was right: it was a blast!

I’ll never really know whether the old masters would have shot these three amazing women in the same way I did but I can tell you that these three everyday women became the Hollywood Stars I knew was a part of them. I’ll let you click through the images below and you tell me who is the Actress, the Mom, and the food service Server.

Who are you hiding inside? Bette Davis, Jane Russell, Katherine Hepburn, or maybe you have a little Mae West in there. Here’s my card, let me know if you want to find out. It will be fun! Just ask Allie.


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One of the reasons I originally got into photography was due to the Hollywood glamour shots of the 1930s, 40s and 50s shot of Hedy Lamar, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, the list goes on and on. When you add that lighting to the boudoir style images of the same era something magical happens! I was fascinated with that style of images and especially the lighting.

Today I don’t often get to shoot that style, but a shoot I did last week with model/actress Grace Gordon started to lend itself towards that style. We didn’t exactly go all the way to the Hollywood drama lighting but at the same time the images do have an old Hollywood look and feel to them.


Grace Boudoir 1

If you have been following my blog for a while you may remember Grace from a shoot we did a couple of years ago. She appears in my portfolio gallery “Portraits & People” in 4 separate images as well as in the second image on the home page.  Needless to say we like working together.

Last week when Grace came to the studio we only had a loose idea of where we wanted to go with the images. We wanted something alluring and that would catch people’s eye. We decided to go for that old fashioned look and see what came out. I have to say that we were both very happy with the final results.

Many people will say, “Wow she looks great but I will never look that good.” If you think that, you would be wrong. True, Grace is a model and actress but she wasn’t 100% that day. She had a late night with a friend from out of town, she over slept and she had to dart to the studio to be only 30 minutes late. Excited is what she was; excited and enthusiastic! That is what shines through in these images.


Grace Boudoir 8

All actresses and actors are just normal people thrust into the limelight. At some point they still have to do laundry, cook dinner, and do the dishes. And who looks great the moment they wake up? Not me that’s for sure! The point is that they get excited about being in front of the camera and that is what shines through; that is what came through with Grace too.

Sure these are boudoir shots but they could be any shots of any person who is excited about having their picture taken. I shoot boudoir of both women and men too. Gender isn’t a barrier, willingness is all it takes. So when you schedule your portrait session, boudoir shoot or just your family portraits get excited, be enthusiastic and then be prepared to look as good as your favorite actor!

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Equality Matters

If you follow this blog with any type of regularity you may have noticed at the bottom of each post is a short list of the most popular posts on the site. Consistently for almost 4 years the #2 post has been Equal Marriage Rights and Photography. I have been and always will be a strong advocate for equality at all levels and that starts with all of us treating everyone with respect and dignity. In the area of marriage it has been the tradition to not treat everyone equally. The tides are changing, finally.

In Pennsylvania it is technically illegal for two people of the same gender to marry and have equal rights under the law. In fact, a person can still be fired for being gay. I’m sorry but I don’t see sexual orientation as being something to fire someone over.

This prejudiced thinking has spilled over into marriage rights and many rights of those considered to not live a “conventional” lifestyle. In short Pennsylvania is as conservative as it ever has been. The repression of rights to any person or group of persons is just wrong.

Since the Supreme Court’s ruling on the unconstitutionality of DOMA and the PA State Attorney’s statement of choosing to not pursue prosecution of same sex marriages stating that it is in conflict with the commonwealth’s own constitution, a local Register of Wills, Bruce Hanes, has begun issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples.

It is my belief that Mr. Hanes and his colleagues in Montgomery County are politely pushing this issue to the forefront and it is one of the few things I can be proud about in Pennsylvania. It is about time someone in this state stood up for what is right and just.

Yesterday there was a rally held on the Montgomery County Courthouse steps to show support for Bruce Hanes and his supporters in local government.  I was asked by Tom Cavanaugh, Executive Administrator of the Independence Business Alliance and Jen Colletta, Editor at PGN (Philadelphia Gay News) to photograph the story for them. Below are some of the images I captured (proudly) of the rally.


I look forward to this post becoming as popular as the one I wrote in November of 2009 but more importantly I want universal equality to not just be popular but to be the norm.


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The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful

It’s been a heck of a summer; the good the bad and the beautiful.

As you know by a recent post I lost my mother at the beginning of the summer. This week we had to have our cat put down too. Too much death this summer but isn’t there always. Keeping the memories is the important part now, not that the internet needs anymore cat pictures. All this definitely takes care of the “Bad.”

On to the good and the beautiful!

Just two weeks ago I had the opportunity to photograph a wonderful home going up for sale in Phoenixville PA.


189 Pembrooke Circle

This home was amazing; the in-law suite in the basement was bigger than my place! And it has a fireplace – I don’t have one. The people selling are downsizing and retiring to Florida. I have no idea how they can leave such a colorful, beautiful home. Thank you Chris Smith for introducing me to your clients and allowing me to photograph this wonderful home. To see more of this amazing home click here.

Shooting this home was good, now to the beautiful.

Last week I got a call from a fellow photographer Theresa Rivers, who asked if I would help her learn some of the techniques I use for lighting portraits. She had already set up the studio, the models were scheduled and all I had to do was show up. OK, I can do that!

Everyone was super professional, super excited to be working together and we had a great time!


Star & Mzseduction

The models, Star (left) and Mzseduction, were the perfect balance of fun and professional. We had a great afternoon and here you can see Theresa trying out one of the techniques I showed her.


Ms. Theresa testing her new knowledge

Jahi of Intricate Photography lent us his studio I had no idea of how comfortable it would be but it was well equipped, comfortable, and had just the right lighting to produce images that will be added to my portfolio.


Mzseduction all inked up

Today I will be shooting Mzseduction again in my home studio and I hope to have some of those images up for you all to see soon. It certainly has been a busy and interesting summer and it’s not over yet! If you haven’t done it yet, get out and make some memories and make them the Good and Beautiful kind!


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Moving Forward

Needless to say that if you read my last post that the month of June sucked. Dealing with the death of a parent is not an easy task. If you have lost a parent then I feel your pain and if you still have your parents then tell them you love them even if you are arguing with them. You never know when the last conversation is going to be.

Our parents always want the best for us and that was true of my mother as well. When I first told her that I was leaving the corporate world to take my photography business full time she outright said, “Are you crazy!? You have a good job and are making good money.” I explained to her that money isn’t everything and that it would mean nothing if the stress of doing something that though I was very good at it, made me miserable.

In time she came to accept that I was a pretty good photographer and a good businessman as well; perhaps this wasn’t such a bad idea. After all the creative gene came from her. My mother was a painter and poet and she was more popular than she even knew. When we went to empty her apartment almost everyone that knew her asked if they could have a painting of hers. I on the other hand can’t draw a stick figure and make it represent anything I intend it to. Although I love all kinds of art, my father’s photographer gene joined with my mother’s creative one and I am the result.

Another thing my mother insisted upon was never sitting still; don’t wait for things to happen, make them happen. Also known as get off your butt and do it!  I can still hear her telling me that being bored was “a sign of an empty mind” and that I had to pursue things not be pursued by them. Of course that is why I was a bit surprised when she thought I should stay in the corporate world.

Although I would love to strictly do fine art photography, photography of any kind is my passion. When my mother learned that I would be showing my work at a library near her home in Delaware County Pennsylvania she was excited and was looking very much forward to seeing her son’s work displayed to the public, especially the public she knew personally.

webposterWhen my mother died unexpectedly on the 30th of May I wasn’t even thinking of the upcoming show. All I could think about was how much it hurt to lose her. After the funeral and the packing up of her belongings I remembered about the show and was considering politely backing out. About then is when I heard her in my head saying, “Are you crazy!?” She wouldn’t have let me feel pity for myself, she would have insisted that I move forward and not stop just because she went and died. Sure I can feel my sorrow and sure it hurts but keep moving while you do so, never stop pursuing the goal.

Starting yesterday some examples of my work are now hanging in the Newtown Public Library, Newtown Square, PA and on July 10th I will be the guest of honor at “An Evening with the Artist” at 7pm. The details are on Facebook.

I wanted to take a moment to invite all my readers to join me on the 10th or at least to stop by the library to visit and see my work. Help me to continue moving forward and let’s pack the house.

Details and to RSVP (not required) are here: An Evening with the Photographer, Michael Albany! And do me a favor, invite your friends!


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What is the value of priceless? Priceless is exactly that, having no price. Those things that we value beyond the ability to place a price on them. Memories are priceless.

Now you are saying, “Oh boy, here he goes again down the memories trail.” Before you stop reading I want to think for a moment, if you were to lose someone close to you what are you left with? Sure you may have some of their stuff, a sweater they gave you or a picture of them, something that sparks a memory. You will have that, if you’re lucky.

It has been a while since I posted an article and the reason for that is I recently lost my mother and I just couldn’t write. She died very suddenly while still very active, increasingly active actually. There was no warning, no illness, no sign that Mother’s Day would be the last time I would ever see her. She just got up one morning and sat in her favorite chair, leaned back and that was it, gone.

As the old saying goes, “The cobbler’s children have no shoes,” and so it was true with me. The photographer has few images he took of his Mother. In fact my mother hated being in front of the camera and I was rarely able to get an image of her. Since I got my first camera 44 years ago I have less than 25 images I ever took of my mom, and I have hundreds of thousands of images!

I did get lucky in that these aren’t the only images of my mother that I have. As I stated above she was getting increasingly active and she and her friends put together a little dance number called “Lima Grannies Walkers” and this past April I had the chance to capture it on video.


When my mother passed away I wanted to put together a slideshow of images of her throughout her life and I thought it would be easy to gather enough images to put it together. Not so much. As I said my mother hated having her picture taken so there were very few images to choose from. I was able to put together a short video slideshow from the few images I had. In the video below only one is one I took of her; the one of my sister, myself and my mother was taken by my wife. It is the first time in my life that I am grateful for cell phone cameras. Watch and see why.


So, yes I went down the road of memories again. I will tell you right now that nothing is as valuable to me as the memories of my mom. She was… well, she was my mom. That is what makes all these images Priceless.


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Photography is Communication

Here we go again. Marissa Mayer states, “There’s no such thing as Flickr Pro today because [with so many people taking photographs] there’s really no such thing as professional photographers anymore.” Now here comes  the (getting) old argument of “with the technology today anyone can be a professional photographer.”

Well, certainly it seems like everyone is trying to be one. I have more competitors bidding every job I go after. I have lost clients to these so called professionals that will shoot for less than what it costs to replace their equipment. I even know some of the best photographers in the country, possibly the world, that have lost work to their client’s nephew. In that case the nephew keeps asking how to work the equipment!

The issue is that everybody is trying to save money these days. Moms and dads are buying less for their kids and young people are in debt up to their eyeballs in student loans. Politicians are swearing that you have to cut costs to make greater revenue.

A CEO said to me a long time ago that he “could cut costs all day long, but that doesn’t bring more money in the door.” He was right.

Many of those clients that decided to go with the Faux Pro as I like to call them, have come back to me asking what I can do to help them get better images for their marketing. My clients know what it takes to bring that money in the door. It’s called quality.

Quality doesn’t end when you get good images, it does start there either. Quality images are only a part of the process, a long process.

Joe Grier - JMG Media

Joe Grier – JMG Media

In the days before all of this Faux Pro, price cutting, hiring the nephew, cut out the photographer stuff, all I had to do was deliver quality images. Now I have to do a lot more than that. Today I have to deliver quality images after I talk to you, learn what your pains are, and find ways that my work can ease those pains. Then I have to show you how I can help, talk to you about how I am going to help and then, maybe you will hire me to help you take your work to the next level. In short, I have to communicate to you the value of using me.

That’s right, communication. Communication is what it is all about; it is what everything is about. If I communicate to you how I can help, the chances are you’re going to let me. After I’m done you are going to use my work to communicate your message to your client, customer, or just your loved one. I am only the translator of your message.

So if communication is so important, possibly more important than the images themselves, why not hire some faux pro you can talk to? Perhaps because that person can’t communicate with you on the level you need, perhaps they can’t communicate the message you want to send. Maybe, just maybe they can. But do you want to spend your money on “maybes”?

I will tell you right here and right now that you can spend less on a faux pro than you will when you hire me. You may get lucky and you may get the images you want, you may not. If you don’t you are going to come to me and ask me to fix what is wrong. When you do you are going to pay me what you could have paid me in the beginning, maybe even more.

Or you can communicate with me before hand, you can be confident that before I ever even take the camera out of my bag I know what your message is, I will know what you want and you will know that a professional is going to do their best to help you communicate your message.

Maybe Ms. Mayer should have hired a pro to help deliver her message.


Note: Someone asked “why the image of Joe Grier on this article?” Well its simple really, if you click on the image you won’t get the usual link to a larger picture. Joe is larger than life anyway. Instead you will be taken to his website for JMG Media. What does JMG do? They help you communicate with your audience.