Just a post

Outlawing Photography

What is going on in the world today? In the last 2 months I have seen two bills proposed in two states that could seriously outlaw photography. This is ridiculous!

The first bill that I learned about is New Hampshire HB 619-FN that states, “This bill prohibits images of a person’s residence to be taken from the air by a satellite, drone, or any device not supported by the ground.” Here is the bill as introduced. I know a number of photographers that make their living in just this manner.

The bill in NH was just written in a very vague manner and the representative was very receptive to a colleague of mine that chatted with him via text. Jim Cavanaugh, a former national president of American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) spoke to Representative Kurk the author of the bill saying this bill may “prevent many businesses from obtaining aerial photographs that they routinely use in their businesses. This may be construction documentation, road planning, news gathering, urban planning, images for companies’ marketing use, crowd estimation, environmental documentation, airport planning, wetland conservation, tourism and many others.” Representative Kurk said he would revise the language to resolve the issues Jim mentioned.

The problem is that it isn’t the only legislation being introduced.

FelonyPhotoYesterday I was reading my local news source and came across new legislation proposed in Pennsylvania that would make photographing a farm a felony offense. A felony!? Really? State House Representative Haluska (R-Cambria County) put forth a proposal that would make it a felony to take photos or record video or audio. I’m sorry but for me, this is just a bit of overkill and a true example of over legislation.

In New Hampshire the bill proposed had limited scope in that it would most likely only effect professionals. Rep. Haluska’s proposal would affect enthusiasts, real estate photographers, nature photographers, aerial photographers, and just about anyone that wanted to just capture an image of a beautiful landscape. The effect on tourism alone could be devastating!

Haluska stated that the idea for his proposal came from farmers in his district who are afraid of people trying to photograph or record farm operations and show them in a less than flattering way. He was quoted on NewsWorks.org (full article) as saying, “Sometimes you can take some things out of context, if you have a sick animal or something or if you have to (kill) an animal, which is just a normal part of doing business in the farming community, and sometimes it gets trumped up.”

Below is what I wrote to Rep. Haluska (and CC’d my local representative, Rosita C. Youngblood of Philadelphia. Neither has yet to reply.

Dear Representative Haluska,

Your proposed bill that would ban the photographing of farms is a dangerous bill. First of all how often does a tourist or day tripper actually take a Photo of farm where something that can be misconstrued actually happen? Yes farmers have to kill animals. Yes some things that happen on farms on a daily basis are unpleasant for people that don’t have a history of country living and understand the nature of how food gets to their grocery store. But is hiding that a good idea? I think not.

Don’t let my Philadelphia address fool you, I was born and raised in Delaware county when it was considered the boonies. My home town wasn’t on the map until the early 80s. But my knowledge of farming is not why I am writing.

I am now an architectural photographer and a good portion of my business is aerial photography of farms that are being considered for development as well as the completed projects.

The bill you have proposed will make it a felony for me to take those photos. That will stop me from renting planes, hiring pilots, and hinder the construction companies from developing the lands. This will then cut the potential for new jobs in the commonwealth and put us behind other states that don’t have such laws. The ripples of your proposal will go much farther than I believe you anticipate, and in my opinion, will do much more harm than any good, not to mention what it will do for my own income.

What you are proposing is to make a felony for someone’s curiosity, and subsequently their ignorance, about the “idealistic farm life” they believe our hard working farmers have. This law is trying to outlaw ignorance. If ignorance were a felony, most of Washington would be in jail.

Representative, please withdraw your proposal. Rethink your goals and why you proposed it in the first place and lets educate people about farm life, not outlaw the observation of the reality of it.


Michael Albany

To me making any type of photography a felony is well, a felony! Keep an eye open in your area and make sure that legislation against photography isn’t pending. If you hear of something, write your representatives and call everyone you know and have them write them too! If you don’t you may be hearing the click of hand cuffs right after the click of that shutter.


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Your Profile image. Really?

Tom_Nason_2013-Web-002I am very active on LinkedIn and I manage a couple of groups for photographers. Recently I got fed up with all the bad profile images out there even from those photographers! I have written about this before in “Has your company lost its face?”  After seeing all the bad profile images and having written about it before I decided to post the following:

I am a manager of a couple different photography groups here on LinkedIn and I look at roughly 50-75 profiles a day. I am shocked at the images on people’s profiles. I understand the person who is looking for a receptionist’s position or an accountant that has an image taken with a cell phone or a webcam. Now when I say I understand it, that doesn’t mean I approve of it. I think it’s horrible and a really bad way to present yourself to potential clients or employers.

But when I see people who call themselves professional photographers with really bad profile images, or none at all, do you really think I would hire you to take images for me? Really? Think again.

When I look at bad profile images I really have to think “does this person really know how to capture an image”? I don’t care that they are a nature photographer, for heaven’s sake there is a timer on that thing isn’t there? Learn to use it and go stand next to a bear or something. Do you know another photographer? Trade portrait shots!

If you want to be a professional image creator start with creating a good image of yourself.

sydni-web-035Well that created the proverbial sh*t storm!  Most photographers agree with me that a good profile image is essential to putting forth your best first impression. As a portrait photographer I am a bit biased, but I do believe in having a good (preferably) professional image on all your social media.

Some of the photographers on LinkedIn spoke of how some of their clients have compared a photo session to going to the dentist. I hope that my clients feel better than that when they leave! Sure the majority of people hate having their picture taken. My wife for example can’t stand it but at the same time she has posed for me many times and even she has been impressed with the results.


The reason my clients go away happy is because I do my best to make it fun. I want my clients to relax and I think I achieve that. I will do anything I can to help you relax when you have your portrait taken. If that means we bring in a makeup artist and a hair stylist to pamper you, no problem I can do that. I have even gone so far as to have a massage therapist on hand to relax my clients. If that is what it takes then that is what I shall do. After all, your portrait should not feel like a root canal.


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“You Charge How Much!?”

In my last post I wrote about how I need to explain what my rate is and how it applies to each project. I thought that I should also explain what makes up a photographer’s rate and why it seems like it is so much when in fact it really isn’t as much as it seems.

I am almost always asked by a potential client, “what is your rate for…” which is often followed up with, “Wow, that seems like a lot just to take a picture.” Well, when I create an image for you I don’t just take a picture. First let me explain what goes into the actual image creation.sydni-web-013

There are multiple parts to each project whether it be a family portrait, or a series of Architectural photos of a newly constructed facility. They do have many things in common though. Each requires a consultation, the actual photo shoot, editing of the images, producing the images in either  electronic or print formats (or both), and finally delivery of the images themselves.  So how long does that actually take?

Task Time Average
Consulting 1.0 1.0
Shooting 1.5 – 3 2.25
Editing 17 min per image 11.3
Production 1.5 1.5
Delivery 1.5 1.5
Total Time Spent 17.6

You may not be interested in what the photographer makes per hour and for those of you reading this, I will summarize this up for you right here. If I deliver to you 45 finished images (my personal average) after  a 2.25 hour shoot, that comes to a total cost of 10 units (or dollars) per image. Not bad to have a professional photographer get you high quality results!

If you want to know more about the cost of photography, read on. It’s long but it is at the very least, interesting.

Some projects will take more time than others, setup and preparation has been excluded for this example. Most projects will take more time than is mentioned here but for the sake of argument I am going to go with an average of a 2.25 hour photo shoot. Those two and a quarter hours where you are working with me actually means a minimum of more than 17.5 hours of work including the time ‘behind the scenes.’

If we use the same rate I used in my last post of 200 units per hour and divide that by the 17.5 hours we arrive at an hourly rate of 25.72 units per hour. Not a bad hourly rate for an individual, however that’s not all there is. We have to look at how much it costs the photographer to actually create the images. In short, what are the expenses?

Many weekend warriors or Uncle Bob’s as many photographers call the faux pro photographer, don’t have some of the overhead that a pro has. An example is insurance and/or a studio. I do make my living from photography so I do have those expenses. I won’t go into a long dissertation of justifying them other than to say it is just good business and call it done. Besides, insurance protects both my clients and me!

So what are the real expenses? To be even more conservative I am going to use insurance as the only “soft” cost (mostly because I just paid that bill yesterday) and all the other costs are hard costs or the cost of physical equipment. These costs include, insurance, rent, lenses, cameras, lighting equipment, backgrounds/backdrops, stands for lights and backdrops, computers, software, printers and much, much more. Some of the things I am leaving out are marketing, websites, internet services, electricity, studio/office furniture, costs for assistants, accountant, and the list goes on.


Each piece of equipment has a limited lifespan, my primary camera cost almost $5500 before I put a lens on it and it only has a limited amount of exposures before it has to be replaced. Lenses last much longer but also need to be replaced and updated. Computers and software has an average lifespan of about 18-24 months. Photographic equipment can last longer but the average is about 2-3 years before it is upgraded or replaced.

The average photographer has about 50,000 – 100,000 units in hard costs (equipment and space). If that needs to be replaced every 2 years the average annual cost is over 30,000 units a year.  Again, let’s be conservative and say that our photographer is the frugal type and can cut expenses in half to 15,000 units a year.

If I divide that expense by our hourly rate that we came to earlier of 25.72 units per hours worked it means that our photographer has to work 1166 hours a year to pay his expenses, we will call these Expense Hours. If you work a 40 hour week you work 2080 hours a year without vacation. If we subtract our expense hours of 1166 that leaves us with about 913 hours, multiply that by our rate of 25.72 per hour and our photographer makes 23,480 units per year take home.

Oh wait, we forgot that government wants a piece of that. In my area that piece comes to 47.25% in taxes, that includes, sales tax, Business Privilege taxes (which to means it’s not a privilege to do business here), income taxes for city, state, and federal; all that has to come out before we pay expenses. So let me redo those numbers one more time.

2080 hours @ 25.72 53,498
Taxes 25,251
Expenses 15,000
True Take home 13,247




In the United States that is well below the poverty level. So why do photographers do it? Because we love to create images, plain and simple. We have a passion that drives us to be creative and to make the images you want and need. We just love what we do and our goal is to have you love it too.


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Photography Rates Explained

I got a call this morning from a client that is also a friend and has known me forever. He has hired me in the past for his company (he is the owner) to do Architectural shoots so he knows my work and he knows how I make my living. Even though we have known each other since we were both in diapers he was surprised by my day rate.

“What are you doing!? Smoking crack!?” he said when I answered. “We can’t afford that much! I am offering you x amount of shoots and you want to charge us that much? No way!”

He wasn’t really protesting what I charge but how he thought I charged it. When I met with his art director a little over a week ago I quoted her my hourly rate and my day rate. When she talked to my friend on the phone she told him that I charge X per day, which I might add is correct. However my friend thought that was for every shoot. That part was not right.

I am going to say “units” rather than dollars, pounds, euros or whatever denomination just to keep this internationally friendly. Let me say here and now that these are not my actual rates and they are only made up to better explain how rates work, and to keep the math easy.

Let’s say my rate is 250 units an hour. I might offer a day rate of say 1600 to 1800 depending on travel, needs for assistants etc. for 8 (or more) hours on site. In reality that is actually a 10% – 20% discount over the hourly rate. Discounts a good!  Good for the client, good for me because the client likes to come back for the discount.

However my friend was upset because some of the projects he needs shot may only be a single state of the art room or a part of a new building. These things can be shot in as little as an hour. He was under the impression that the day rate was for any job or project. If that were the case I could live really well!

When I explained to him that smaller jobs didn’t mean a full day rate he was able to understand that in fact I did not have a crack pipe in my hand. I better explained to him that my day rate was for 8 or more hours (per day) of shooting on his bigger projects. The smaller projects would be  charged only by the hourly rate.


Now in this case my friend was offering me a large number of projects that will in fact keep me fairly busy this year. Because he is a friend, but more so because he will guarantee me (in writing) all of these projects I offered him the discounted rate of 200 units per hour on all the projects not just the ones that take a full day. As long as he was getting his 20% off he seemed happy.

Historically photographers are not good at communicating verbally about business stuff. Many of us are more artistically oriented. What this (true) story tells me is that I and many of my colleagues need to spend more time communicating to our clients so they better understand things like rates. Although my friend was jumping to conclusions and that I had taken up crack smoking, it is my job to better explain how my rates work, why I do things in a certain way and most importantly, why doing them is a huge benefit to him and his business.

Next time I go into how rates break down, what you are actually paying per image, and how much a photographer really makes.


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Year in Review

2012 is over and the new year has begun. I am more than confident that this new year is going to be more than last year. More what you say? More everything! More photography, more business, more work, more creating, more success, more of everything good! How exactly do I know this? I am predicting more. I feel it in my bones that your year is going to take off and so is mine.

I close friend of mine launched a new branch of her business last month, showing her art in a new way. Sonya Sanchez Arias opened a new website (SonyaSanchezArias.com) showcasing her amazing Reclaimed Beauty Jewelry and if you have even half a moment I think you should take a look. Her work is amazing! When you look at her stunning designs you will see artistry at its finest and yet all of her work is made with recyclable materials. I’ll let you figure out what is made of what.

At the very end of the year she became ill for the first time in a very long time. She is doing well now and recovering. I believe it was her body casting off the year of 2012 and launching her into a new life as a creative. Time will tell but once you see her new work I think you will agree that her jewelry is amazing, much like everything she does.

Her positive attitude through it all got me thinking. Sonya is an amazing person and she has helped me in so many ways. She and I actually met via LinkedIn and I have visited her in Florida. Almost every time I speak with her she is positive, strong and creative in all that she does. She has kept me thinking and at times helped me stay excited about my photography when I started to wane even the tiniest bit.

In honor of her positive motivation in my work I decided to put together a bit of the best of my photography from 2012. Below is a gallery of my favorites form the last year. Some have been posted on the blog before, some not.

Farewell 2012. It is time for me to make this next year shine even brighter.

Here is to a fantastic New Year!


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Casting Call!

I’m sorry that I haven’t been posting regularly but that is because I am planning a new project for the business!  I am putting together a team of clothing designers, Makeup Artists and Hair Stylists so that I can offer a special type of experience for you. This team will take time to pamper you, dress you up and make you a model for a day!

This isn’t just for the girls either, guys will get that special treatment like James here did not too awfully long ago. This is going to be one step further though in that you will get all the pampering and primping that you want or need. The team i am putting together will take your photo-shoot beyond the “next level!”

I am still building this team of expert artists and for that I need to call out to all the cutting edge Makeup artists in the Philadelphia area. Here are the details to the casting call.

I have some wonderful ideas but in order to make some cutting edge concepts into reality and I need the help of a talented team of a Make Up Artist, Hair Stylist, and another clothing designer (no such thing as enough cloths!) who are willing to collaborate with a creative photographer who can create great editorial images and help you take your portfolio to the next level.

I have access to some of the best punk, leather, and fetish clothing in the city of Philadelphia but that’s not all! Clothing Designers are encouraged to reply too! I am looking to build a team that is willing to collaborate with me on this and other Fine Art Photographic projects, so I’d like to find that special Make Up Artist, Hair Stylist and clothing designers who are comfortable pushing the envelope and creating new and cutting edge looks.

I’m open to just about any style that is edgy, avant guarde, steam punk, goth, baby doll, punk, pin up etc. This is a great opportunity for you to work with a professional, who will create the perfect lighting for each scenario. You will have the opportunity to create make-up looks the way you want to, and to be involved in producing the kind of high-fashion editorial images you have always envisioned. In addition to working on a true professional team you will also have the opportunity to have high quality, high resolution images for your own portfolios!

Contact me soon before the positions are filled!

Click on the Pinterest link here to spread the word and to see some of the Photography Inspirations I have pinned!


CCPA at Reading Terminal

My goodness, where have I been!  Three weeks since a post, not good form for a blogger. Then again I blog but I am not a ‘blogger’. In fact, you may not have realized it but I am actually a photographer. Not sure if anything on this site would give that away or not. 😉

Recently I was hired to photograph an event for the Center City Proprietors Association at the Reading Terminal Market. The event was packed with all types of businesses from Center City Philadelphia. These are the real movers and shakers of this city. They are the people who create the jobs, keep the city clean and make Philadelphia a great place to live. People like John Cipollone, one of the best networked independent sales people in the city.



Men like Joe Wolf of Liberty Property Trust, a CCPA Board member, have been working to better the city in more ways than I can even mention. Can that man rock a bow tie or what?



The band was fantastic too! The George Weldon Jazz Trio had us all swinging and swaying all evening.



Bill Mignucci, the owner of Di Bruno Brothers, and his crew brought some fantastic cheeses for us all to take home (which made my wife very happy I might add). If you have never been to Philly make sure that when you do get here you check out Di Bruno Brothers. You can’t miss a Philly favorite like this!



I met Freda Magee, and Deborah Levin (National Penn Bank) while cornering Ben Frank the Executive Director of CCPA, near the Silent Auction tables.



But no matter whether you go to Reading Terminal for the food, an event, or just to experience the busiest and best market in Philadelphia you have to swing by and say hello to Philbert! I had to make sure that he got his own name tag. 😉



The CCPA, their members (yeah I am one of them too), and all of the people in Center City make Philadelphia a great place to live, work and have fun!


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Love in the Dark

First let me say that my thoughts go out to those that probably can’t read this right now, specifically those affected by super storm Sandy. Although my wife did get stuck in Denver because her flight was canceled, we faired very well and have not had to deal with the long term loss of power and short supplies like our friends in Manhattan.

A day or so after the storm I got a message from a photographer friend of mine from Boston and my immediate thought was something happened to her or her partner, thankfully I was wrong. She was reaching out to ask if I could cover a wedding for her that she was supposed to shoot this past Friday. Due to the storm she wasn’t sure she was going to be able to get her car repaired in time to make it down to Philadelphia for the wedding. That close to the end of the storm there was no other way to get from Boston to here.

As luck would have it I was available and I would be more than happy to cover for her. As it turned out she was able to make it down but normally 5 hour ride took closer to 9 hours.

She still wanted me to assist and I was available so why not. I love weddings and this one was special. You see the couple getting married just barely got out of Manhattan just before the storm where they had actually taken their vows. This version of the wedding was for the families. They had decided to get married in NY because here in Pennsylvania if you have two brides they don’t let you get married.

The brides were gorgeous and the bridal party was stunning, it was however very difficult to tell in the dark. Unfortunately the venue they had chosen was one of the harder hit areas in Philadelphia and we had no lights for the event! Needless to say it is very difficult to focus in the dark. With generators running to cover the bare minimum of necessities and with the aid of my mighty speed-lights we were able to witness a very romantic ceremony and a fantastic reception.

These are just a few of the hundreds of images I was able to create that night. Through the sheer determination of the brides and the crews they called together, it was in fact a beautiful wedding and probably one of the most fun I have ever been to.


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First Impression… or Last

Just the other day I received a connect request on LinkedIn from someone I didn’t recognize. At first I thought it may be SPAM but I took a look anyway.  I get a lot of connect requests because of the groups I own and manage on LinkedIn, the group I created is “Photography: Clients and Professionals Network” and is geared to the professional photographer and anyone that at some point, hires a photographer. I thought maybe this person found me through that group.

The person trying to connect was also trying to sell me online photography courses which I found a bit odd. I took a look at the person’s profile image. The image was blurry, washed out, cropped way too close, and flat looking. Really?  You can’t post a decent image of yourself but you can offer me online photography courses? Do you really think that anyone is going to give you the time of day when your profile image that bad? This image was bad too, take a look for yourself below.

Needless to say this brought all the bad profile images I have seen over the years, the ones with the wife or girlfriend cropped out, the bad cell phone images, images of someone holding a drink, the ones where the person is just a tiny dot in the distance (yeah that looks great as a 150×150 image) rushing back into my mind! These images are ‘fingernails down a chalkboard” for a photographer and this guy just brought them all back in a split second (shiver).

So what is a good profile image?  For starters it should be in focus; if your image isn’t in focus, then how will I know if you have the focus to teach me anything? I can go for hours, possibly days on what a bad image is but rather than ramble on let’s ask what is a good image.

A good profile image is at least a good representation of what you look like so that when you go to a networking event or a business meeting with a potential client, or even just talk on the phone, other people will recognize you and know what you look like. Granted 150 pixels square is not a whole lot of space to work with but if you can create an image that also says what you do, even better. Many photographers have images of them with a camera in front of their face, I even did for a while, but truth be told, this is a bad idea. Holding a camera is plenty; remember I need to know what you look like.

If you are a car salesman perhaps you should be leaning on a bright shiny new car, or if you are a banker, in front of your company logo, a doctor may want to have a stethoscope around their neck, a scientist in a lab, anything that hints towards what you do. If what I am saying is true (and it is), then when I see a person that doesn’t take their profile image seriously I think they aren’t going to take me or my business seriously either.

Another consideration is that your profile image should be current, as in taken within the last 6 months to a year at the most. Keeping your image fresh means you care about how you appear to your potential clients. If you show me that you care about your business, then I am more likely to believe you care about mine too.

Facebook, twitter, your own blog or website are the same thing, keep it up to date, and keep it current. Just remember your profile image, no matter what social network it is, it may very well be someone’s first impression of you. Don’t let it be their last!

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An Arresting Smile

Recently I was hired to do a portrait shoot for a wonderful woman about to celebrate her 40th birthday. Jessica is a vibrant woman who I would have thought was much younger than she is and her images prove that. The images here are her and they are basically untouched except for size and a little color correction. The flawless smile is all Jessica.

I actually met Jessica while she was at work one evening. I was on my way home from an event where I was meeting a potential client and I stopped to get something to eat at a local convenience store  .  When I pulled up there were a couple of Philadelphia police officers there taking a break (OK, it was a doughnut shop but they didn’t go inside!) and we started talking about events that made the news that day. After a few minutes there sergeant pulled up. In that squad car was Jessica. We started talking as well and she saw my logo on the back of my car and asked if I did portrait work. A few minutes later we had set and appointment to do portraits for her birthday.

We decided to shoot at Jessica’s school Chestnut Hill College. We set the appointment for later in the day when the light would be warm and not too harsh. The weather was perfect, the light was fantastic, the grounds picturesque and Jessica was wonderful! She had a blast too. After the shoot she mentioned how much fun she had and how much she enjoyed the experience.

After the prints were delivered to her last week, Jessica called me and mentioned again how much fun she had and how empowering it was to work with me. She said that she felt beautiful and spoiling herself was such a wonderful feeling. The idea of playing ‘model’ made the fact that she is about to turn 40 an fantastic experience and one she enjoyed immensely.

That is what a portrait shoot is all about, empowering yourself, reveling in being the center of attention for an hour or two. Just enjoying who you are and how you feel. Portrait photography shouldn’t be stressful or something to fear. Having your portrait done is something to spoil yourself with and a way to savor how you feel today. The experience is all about you and it is my job to make you feel and look special.

For the record, Jessica didn’t arrest me, but her smile sure did!

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