Articles about shooting portraits

OMG What a Month!

First let me apologize for not writing sooner. It has been whirlwind of a month! Two trips to New York and a complete computer system switch all in about 3 weeks!

Yes you read that right, a complete computer switch. The terminal PC guy has switched to the dark (well, white and silver actually) side; I am 100% Apple and the Windows machines have been retired. Before you ask, no I am not switching from Nikon! I’m not that crazy. The computer switch was fairly easy, not seamless and not as smooth as I had hoped, but so far it is working out well and all my devices actually communicate with each other. Weird huh?

Something tells me that you are not reading this to know about my computer woes however. Perhaps it has something to do with images? You know that photography thing. Well that part of my life has been busy too! Very busy in fact.

I have been working with a couple of non-profit organizations on a calendar project and 6 images of mine will be in the calendar! More details on that in the next post that should come out about the same time as the calendar itself. Because of that project though, I got a second great project.

The Art Director of The Calendar Project happens to work for two amazing musicians and they needed images for their new albums that are coming out soon. I have no idea who they could get to shoot that. Oh wait, I could do that! Last Friday not only did we shoot, we did a fantastic shoot!

Josh Nelson and Neshama (pronounced NEH SHAH MAH) Carlebach are two talented artists that do “New. Jewish. Rock.” as Josh puts it. I have to be honest, if I hadn’t met Josh and Neshama I wouldn’t know about this type of music, I can say however that it is fantastic and you all should take a listen. These two take the music to a new level and they are raising the bar for everyone, not just Jewish Rock artists but all musicians. You can check out Neshama and Josh’s work on their sites and but keep in mind the new stuff isn’t out yet!

I am so excited about the images that we created that I am giving you sneak peaks. These aren’t the final images, these are just the beginnings and the final edited images will be on the new CDs they are releasing soon.

Josh was right when he asked, “Doesn’t it feel good to just let go and be creative?” Yes Josh it certainly does, and this is the next shot we got of him right after he said it.


Josh Nelson

However, my favorite shots of the day came shortly before that when Neshama and I were working on a concept I had that, for me, just screams “vocals!” In this image you can see Neshama’s passion for her music. The music on her upcoming CD is actually her father’s music and perhaps that is why it means so much to her. It certainly came through in this image.


Neshama Carlebach

We had a great day shooting and even when the day was ending, the creativity wasn’t. We had to step outside and get another set that included the light from the sun setting over New York.


Josh and Neshema – The Streets of Brooklyn

We even went back in and did a few more after this one. The shoot was much like their music. No matter how good it is, you just never want it to end.


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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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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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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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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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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 ( 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!


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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