Just Because…

Haboob in Arizona

At the end of my meetin

A wall of dust…

And a big wall at that!

Time to go back to Philly!

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Where I’ve Been

I want to take a moment to apologize to my readers for not posting in almost 3 weeks! Bad Michael!  But Good Michael has been busy shooting weddings and portraits and bears (bulldogs actually), Oh my!  I will be back writing very soon but in the mean time here are a few of the sessions i have shot since I wrote last. And yes a couple of these people are return clients like Grace and Gayle. Leave a comment below and give them a shout out.

Click on an image to view larger images.

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[image title=”Wedding Shoes” caption=”Wedding Shoes”]https://secureservercdn.net/[/image]
[image title=”Grace 2″ caption=”Grace 2″]https://secureservercdn.net/[/image]
[image title=”Shawn” caption=”Shawn”]https://secureservercdn.net/[/image]
[image title=”Fedora” caption=”Fedora”]https://secureservercdn.net/[/image]


It’s Simple


Simply put, Happy Holidays to all my readers. I thank you for a great year and I wish you all the best this holiday season.

Recipe Of Light


Recently I was working with a potential client and a number of issues came up that seem to come up time and time again.  The client said, “With digital, taking pictures is free or next to it. Why are photography prices so high?” They were truly under the impression that to take a photograph costs nothing other than the cost of the camera. Mostly they believed this because that is what the manufacturers of cameras want you to believe.


In fact just to take a digital photograph only takes the cost of a camera. The issue begins when you want to do something with the image you have captured. You need to upload the image somewhere and that takes a computer usually. Then what if you want to fix something in the image? Now you need software. If you want to print the image, well then you need a printer too, either yours or the local print shop.


Let’s just look at cameras for a moment.  Sure you can pick up a pocket, point and shoot camera and take a snapshot. The results you get are a lot better than they were with your last film camera too, but are they professional quality? Probably not. But you could get one of those cameras advertised on TV where the guy is running around snapping pictures everywhere of the model types at the party or the models on a runway. Again, a better image than your last entry level SLR film camera but pro quality? Maybe a few of your images are better than the pocket camera. At least as a professional I hope so!


All cameras are not created equal and I am not speaking about Canon vs. Nikon vs. Pentax vs. Leica vs. Kodak or any other brand. I mean point and shoot versus enthusiast level vs. professional level cameras.  If they are there are a whole lot of people, not just professionals that have been fooled and taken to the cleaners! In fact there are many differences and those differences justify the price differences.


I won’t go into all the differences such as sensor sizes and pixel ratios and, and, and. If you want those there are plenty of resources on the internet that can teach that to you, just Google it. For a now lets just say there are differences; now there is the question of what those differences can get you. Well I can get my $5,200 camera to take a picture that looks very much like your $300 camera, I just set it to Auto everything and the results will be pretty similar.


But the advantage of a professional DSLR is the control I have over it; over every aspect of exposure and light. Now I can begin to create, not just take snapshots. Creating an image doesn’t end there. Sure I would like to get the image perfect in camera every time. We live in an age where “Photoshopped” is a new word in the dictionary. That implies more can be done to an image than what the camera is capable of, and that is true.  It doesn’t stop there, there are other tools like Lightroom, Photomatix, and plugins like Portraiture, Nik Software Suite  (5 separate plugins) and thousands of others. Each combination can take a similar image and make it completely different like the different images of Hasign in this post. Both were taken on the same evening about an hour or two apart, both have similar ingredients but the results are completely different.  It’s a bit like food, thousands of options, billions of combinations.


Comparing photography to food, sure you can make a great meal at home. In fact you can do it cheaper than if you go to a restaurant. In fact you can even produce something that is as good as any 5 star chef, sometimes. The chef on the other hand can create that wonderful, mouthwatering meal every day, time and time again. As the chef gains experience he will experiment and create new dishes and perhaps even a new style of cuisine that you can almost taste just with a whiff of it being prepared.  Over years of training the chef has learned what ingredients go together and what compliments rather than covers.


Sure you can try to make the same dish at home but often you are just a little different in your results. I’m not saying the meal is less than fantastic, but it’s just not the same as when the chef made it. You have to try though because you want to know if you can. Besides, going out for 5 star meals can get quite expensive quite quickly and by trying it at home, your results may differ, but your budget is kept intact.


Photography is very similar in that professional photographers create a recipe if light and shadow, dark and bright, soft and hard light. We cook, we simmer, we blend the ingredients until we find the perfect recipe and then we capture it, add a few select side dishes of technique and post processing. We tantalize the visual palate as the chef tickles your taste buds.  And yes we have those secret ingredients that are ours and ours alone. After all those are the signatures of each professional.


So what can I cook up for you today?

A Face Made For Radio


That would be my face.  I am certainly no beauty but I don’t scare little children either. I am not a svelte, buff guy either (as you can see), and I don’t have wonderfully wavy hair that blows softly in the wind; I haven’t seen a hair on my head in years! So yeah, I am more of a fit for the radio – internet radio at that.


The good thing is I will be on the (internet) radio on June 10th! I have been asked by Michael E. Stern to be on his radio show along with Beate Chelette, my success coach, also known as The Photography Business Coach.


Beate is joining me at 9am PST (noon eastern time) on the radio as we are interviewed my Michael on his radio show, Build A Better Photograph. Every Friday Michael interviews photographers, mentors, teachers and other celebrities in the world of photography. I have no idea why he asked me to be on the show.  You can listen live at http://www-cyberstern-com.photoshelter.com/page1 on Friday the 10th. Michael will be asking me about how I got into Photography, a little about my history and anything else he can think up. At the end of the show there will be a Q&A session where you can ask me anything you want.


If you miss the show, or maybe you actually have a job that requires you to be in front of a desk or doing some type of physical labor, you can download the show from iTunes, or you can listen to a recording of the show right on Michael’s site.


OMG My voice will be on the internet. As you may have realized by now that once something is on the internet it is there forever. I guess that means if I am wrong about scaring little kids you can save the show and scare kids for generations. Your call.


In the meantime, save the date, that is June 10th at 9am PST, noon eastern at http://toginet.com/shows/buildabetterphotograph. Read up on my blog and think up some good questions for me!  Let’s see how many of you actually read this blog of mine.

A Different Level

I have asked this before and I will ask it again: “Where does networking end? “


I am a member of a group called PRE (Professional Referral Exchange) that meets every Thursday for lunch and networking. PRE has a unique view on networking because at PRE networking never ends. In fact the premise is that we work as each other’s sales force; always trying to promote not just ourselves but others in the group as well.



Our PRE group is original in a number of ways, and not just because we are a group of professionals that want to help each other in any way we can. A PRE group enlists as many professionals as it can but only one representative of each business category; for example I am the only photographer in the group, Walter is the Personal Financial Manager, Dana the one Business Banker, Bob the only website designer, and so on.
As I mentioned before we are each other’s sales force. Of course I have made referrals and introductions to bring two businesses together, but it goes beyond that. We truly do work for each other. Just yesterday I was at the local Home Depot picking up a few things and one of them being fuses, a woman and I started talking about the cost of electricity and how expensive power is getting. Well in our PRE group we have a gentleman who is in the power supply business. This gentleman also happens to be a pastor and his name is Paster, so we call him Pastor Paster.


I took the time to speak to the woman I met in line at Home Depot and told her that Pastor Paster could possibly help her with her energy bills and that he is not the type person that just goes knocking on doors, he will only speak about his power business when asked. I gave her my card and Pastor Paster’s card and we parted ways.


That is what is different about PRE, not only do we make recommendations and introductions but we are willing to tell people about our colleagues’ businesses. By spending one lunch a week together we learn about each other and our businesses on a whole different level. This gives us a unique ability to be advocates for each other.  It feels good to know that there is someone other than myself out there driving my business forward, but it is an even better feeling helping others drive their businesses.


‘Da-Ra’ and friend

Our group is a bit different than other PRE groups too; we tend to be a bit goofy at times but that makes it fun and makes it more personal too. Our president Eleanor had a brief speech impediment one week and had problems introducing our new Real Estate Agent, Damon as “Raymond… Damon, Da-Ra!” and this shall now be his name forever; well at least on Thursday’s at lunchtime.


We have a heckler lawyer, a twisting (as in the dance) large format print man, a guitar playing and singing fulfillment coach, a salsa dancing personal beauty consultant, a former football star now travel consultant, a motorcycle riding small business legal consultant, a highly fashionable Internet Cash Flow Consultant, and a slightly psychotic photographer-wait, that would be me!


My point is that we not only do business with each other, we do business for each other.


My name is Michael Albany, photographer; who can I introduce you to today?

Hiring Well

I don’t know a single business person that hires the cheapest candidate available. Each candidate is hired based on their qualifications, knowledge and (perceived) abilities.  You review resumes and references and then you start the interview process. If the best fit is close to the salary range you have reserved for the position, you hire them; if not you negotiate to see if a compromise is possible. After all, you are going to be working with this person for a long time and you want them to fit into your business culture and atmosphere. It is the smart thing to do.


So why not use that same business sense to hire a vendor?  In many cases vendors are chosen strictly by the price of their bid. In many cases business owners/managers are so concerned about the immediate spend that they miss the value of the proposal and product offered. Does this mean that the cheapest is always the best deal?  In fact most of the time the “best deal” is not a good value at all.


In my last post, ‘The Value of Quality,’ I used the automobile business as a scenario to make my point. To carry that forward let’s look at another vehicle, the Yugo. Yeah I hear all of you groaning. The fact of the matter is that towards the end of the Yugo’s life in the US there was a deal where you buy one and get one free (BOGO).  It was a hell of a deal but was it of any value? Not really. Parts were almost impossible to find, the company was obviously not going to be around long and the cars didn’t have a good reputation at all. If you went for the BOGO your only hope was to use the second one to keep the first one running.


So why is it that many still go for the lowest price?  If I am going to fly to the moon I don’t want the cheapest rocket, I want the safest and most reliable. I want to come back too! There may be water on the moon but there isn’t much to eat.  Now if that rocket also is the least expensive, bully for me! But cost is not the major factor; quality of service and quality of product are.

When thinking about your photography needs, or any service for that matter, you need to consider the ROI and what is going to give you the best return on your investment. That is not calculated by just price either. Just a few of the contributing components are: lifespan of the resulting products, customer service, delivery schedule, quality of the service and product, etc. Let’s face it: if you don’t get your images on time and you miss a deadline what is the resulting cost of that mistake? If you are using the resulting images for advertising and they don’t convey your message properly what good are they? If your competitors have a similar product or service and their images shine a more professional light on them who is going to win the majority of clients?


Now if your images are more professional, better looking, of higher quality and have a longer usage period then you are getting a great deal!  You spread the cost out over a longer period, you gain more business during that period, you give your company a better presence in the market and you will probably get more clients.


Overall you have to decide what the best value is and you have to make compromises. When hiring that candidate you probably won’t negotiate a salary that is out of your total budget. However, if the candidate is going to increase cash flow, chances are they are worth a little more than you plan especially if you can more than recoup that investment in the long term.


So the next time you are going out to bid a vendor, especially a photographer, give them a call, interview them, check their references and see what the real value is and I will bet that you will work with the one that gives you the best return on your investment even if they aren’t the cheapest.

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