2014 in Review

I know its been a long time since I posted. It’s been a very busy year! my first shoot of 2014 was doing my own portrait, then off to New York to work with Beate Chelette. That was just the beginning!

Rather than bore you with the details check out the video. It is just a few random shoots from this this great year. Enjoy!

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“Aw Hell Naw!”

Last Friday I got a text message from a source saying that there was going to be a surprise rally held in the Tacony section of Philadelphia. OK, not a big deal, In Philadelphia rallies are almost a daily occurrence. So I wrote back, “And?”

“And it’s being held by the Klu Klux Klan.” Ok that got my attention!

It seems that there was some type of issue with a KKK member trying to get into the neighborhood watch program and he was rejected. This person thought it was strictly because he was a Klan member, which I couldn’t confirm, and he told his Klan friends. They decided that this warranted a little, un-promoted, not announced, little rally on the Tacony library steps.

What they didn’t quite understand is this particular neighborhood is very in touch and the word got out. Quickly. Tacony is one of the “live and let live” area’s of the city and they are proud of the fact that there is little or no racial issues in that area. “Sure we have issues,” one neighbor told me, “but there just issues. We work through them.”

When I arrived at the library there were a few people in the area and a few young men were about to go into the corner store. When they saw us arrive with our press badges and such they asked, “What’s going on?”

When we told him about the rally his reply was, “In Tacony? Aw hell naw!”

The young man know as “Twin” promptly got on his cell phone and shortly there were quite a few neighbors there to counter any numbers the KKK were sending. You see the KKK was importing people from surrounding states to boost their numbers. They had people from New York, Maryland and Virginia but we think when their scout reported back that some decided against coming as they didn’t have a whole lot of people at the rally once it actually got started.

This neighborhood grouped together within minutes and stood together to push a known racist group out of their area. They refused to stand idly by and let them have their say without saying something back; and they certainly gave it back with gusto. This is the type of Philadelphia I am proud of.

Yo Tacony, thanks for making me proud!


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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 (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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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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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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Vacation Photography

You just got back from vacation and you finally get to upload all the images you took while you were away. Excitedly you wait for each image to appear on the monitor, anticipating that one shot that you know is just perfect, the one you are planning on putting up on the wall or in a frame on your or your spouse’s desk; that one that just shows how much fun you had and how relaxed you were.  It’s coming… It should be the next one! Anticipation…. Excitement!!! And… and…

Drat. The image is blurry/fuzzy/dark/your head is cut off or that special sunset just doesn’t look like it did when you were there. AARRGGHHH!!! Alas it becomes just a memory and not a special moment to be shared.

There is a way to solve that problem; hire a photographer while you are on vacation. “Too expensive” you say? Well, not really. In the last few years digital photography has brought a ton of people into the business of photography, many of which should go back to their day jobs, which has driven down the market in price for those of us who remember the smell of hours spent in the darkroom.  Our prices have not really gone down so to speak but they haven’t gone up either.

Inflation means that prices rise but in the current economy most of our paychecks have not kept pace with that increase. That means what was once too far out of reach is actually quite affordable now. For the price of a nice meal you can spend an hour or two with a professional photographer; one that has a portfolio to back up that talent.

In the past hiring a photographer to shadow you and your family while on vacation was out of the question unless you were in the income bracket reserved for those who require champagne for breakfast to wash down their caviar. Times have changed and having a personal photographer for a day, or even the whole week, is more affordable than it has ever been. It’s not just reserved for those times on the islands or on the Florida or Southern California beaches either. People are using photographers in places like New York, Philadelphia, South Carolina, Portland (Maine and Oregon), Seattle, San Francisco and any other place you may go on vacation.

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Perhaps you don’t take the average vacation; maybe you like climbing mountains or searching out old ruins or maybe finding interesting old buildings. If it exists there is a photographer that is willing to photograph it and most likely one who wants a subject like you in the picture too. We photographers are always looking for reasons to go out and shoot those things we love and capturing you in those locations gives us a reason to get away from a computer and get out there shooting! Sure it is our profession but it is also our passion, and that is why we are good at it.

An example of a totally diverse area is Philadelphia. Here you can investigate the thousands of shops and specialty stores, learn about history, go to world class museums, and hike on a nature trail in Wissahickon Park all in the same day. If you still have energy you can even run the Art Museum steps just as Stallone did in the original Rocky. No trip to Philly is complete without a stroll through the Italian Market or a leisurely walk in Old City. The chances are that your photographer is going to know special places in the city that no vacation guide knows! Did I mention how close Valley Forge it is or how beautiful  Chadds Ford and Lancaster County are?

Imagine enjoying all that the Philadelphia area (or any vacation spot) has to offer and not having to remember your camera, not have to remember to use it, and never miss that one shot that is perfect for your desk or wall. Wouldn’t that be relaxing and isn’t relaxing what vacation is all about?

The Right Light

As a photographer I am always looking at other photographer’s work to inspire me and to learn what others are doing that is new and different in the photography world. Recently I have run across a lot of photographers that claim that they only work with “natural light” or say “I prefer the look of natural light and never use artificial lighting.” That is all well and good but what I think they mean is they don’t use studio lights or flashes. Let’s think about that for a moment.

If you only use natural light you only shoot outside, often use a tripod indoors, or shoot a lot of nature. If you shoot indoors and there is a light on you are using unnatural light; after all, anything coming from a lamp is manmade and therefore not ‘natural light’. If that works for the particular photographer that’s great!

Personally I use the right light to capture the image that I want to create. I often use flashes or other light modifiers to enhance the standard image that is created by the ambient light in a shot. Just as often I will use artificial light to create a mood or emphasize a part or all of an image. When the image I want to create calls for it I will use reflectors, bounce cards, and other things to modify the light that is already available.

The point here is that anyone who uses only one type of light may only be getting one type of result and in my case that is very limiting, and it stifles my ability to create the right image. I prefer to use whatever lighting tool is available to me to make an image say what I want it to say or convey a feeling that I need it to convey.

In the image below I have used only natural light and the image works well. The soft light in the shadows spreads an even light across Kat’s face, yet it is very bright just under the eaves of the fire escape and this allows for a great reflection in her eyes.

In this side by side image I used only a double sided reflector to modify the natural light. On the left side it appears that I did use a flash when in fact what I used was only the reflector to bounce the natural light coming from the window back onto the model’s face. On the right I used the same reflector to bounce the warm light of the setting sun back into the young woman’s face; this was to remove the harsh shadows that the bright sun was creating. In both cases the only light used was the sun and the only modifier was the 36” reflector, the left using the silver side to create a harsher light and the soft white side to create a softer fill light on the right. Is this still considered Natural Light?

To light this final image I used a combination of natural light and a single flash to gain the mood I wanted. This image is not Photoshopped other than a slight oversaturation of contrast and color. In fact if you look at the dancer you can see she has a sheen to her skin from having to jump over 40 times to get this image just right.

All of this means only one thing: that light is available to us to use and modify in any number of ways and, as a photographer, it is my job to use whatever tools I have at my disposal to make an image correctly. In my opinion if I ‘only shoot with’ anything I am limiting my opportunities to get the image you want. For me it isn’t a matter of what I use as long as I am using The Right Light.

Life is a Cabaret Old Chum…

I had the fortune of helping one of my favorite charities last Friday. The Mt. Airy Art Garage was putting on a fund raiser to try and raise money to build out the studios they have planned for local artists to grow, learn and share their art (Feel free to donate to the cause!). The fund raiser was a cabaret and the singer was excellent! Michael Richard Kelly has a beautiful voice and he sang some of my favorite old tunes: “Where or When”, “Moonlight in Vermont”, and The Very Thought of You” to name but a few.


It is a rare event where the singer really grabs my attention in such a way that I almost have to concentrate on my job as a photographer. Mr. Kelly nailed it in such a way that I found myself wanting to put down my camera and just listen. My wife thinks my camera is permanently attached; he’s that good.

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Party! Business Portrait Party

Perhaps you have seen the Special Services section of this site that briefly explains Portrait Parties; maybe you haven’t gotten there yet. A Portrait Party is just one of the services I offer and it is where you can host a party with your friends and get yourself a free portrait. Your friends can save a whole lot too; it’s kind of like buying in bulk.


A couple of weeks ago I was asked if there was such a thing for business portraits. Of course there is! Well, it’s really not any different. One person (the host) gets their portrait done for free and everyone else saves up to 75% off my normal portrait session rates. It’s a heck of a deal actually. But back to the business portrait party.


Like most business people these days I belong to a number of networking groups and one, PRE (Professional Referral Exchange) in Philadelphia, wanted to do something different for their members and shake up the normal lunchtime meeting. I worked with the chapter vice president and we setup a speed networking/Portrait Party lunch event. Members and their guests could come in, have lunch, do some speed networking, and also have a chance to get an updated business portrait taken. All in one shot! (har har!)


In fact quite a few of the people attending did get their portraits done and everyone had a chance to get to know each other and their respective businesses a little better. The entire event took only about an hour and a half, which is the usual amount of time for a PRE lunch meeting. Everyone had a good time, met some new business associates, and got a good lunch too.


Here are a few of the images that were taken that day. Just click to see a full size version of the images. Oh and that lovely lady at the top: That is Chris Coward, the chapter’s vice president. She holds the business coaching category for Philly PRE. You can meet her and all the chapter members at I hear that their Member List page is going to be updated with a new format and some images. Hmm… where ever could they get those from I wonder?


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