Tag Archive for: Portrait

I owe you…

To all my readers and followers, I owe you. You see before May of 2014 I was posting on this blog pretty regularly. From May through December I was strangely quiet; as many of you know that in and of itself is very strange. I am rarely quiet. You read this blog to see images […]

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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Work, Work, Work!

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 www.neshamacarlebach.com and www.joshnelsonproject.com 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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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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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!


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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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.

People First

It never ceases to amaze me the wonderful people I meet in this career of mine. Every type of person, business, charity, everything needs images of something and I am the lucky person that gets to meet the people seeking those images. Another example of great people doing great things is Anatomical Designs (AD) in Uniontown PA just southeast of Pittsburgh. I went there to create images for their brochures and marketing pieces but what I found was a fantastic group of people that really care about their patients and their families.

I arrived in Uniontown late Sunday and checked into a hotel that was pre-booked for my assistant and me, a room for each. The town itself is much like most small towns throughout Pennsylvania but this one is special. Not far from where we were staying was the AD offices, a subdued little house like office but within is a place where wonderful work is happening.

We met the office manager and the owner then received the nickel tour to give us an idea of what and where we would be shooting. We saw the kitchen area, waiting area, the medical offices and therapy rooms; as we moved downstairs we came upon the workshop where the real magic happens. This is where they make the prosthetics join to the person in need of them. In this small lab skilled craftsmen labor over hot plastics and plaster molds to form a union between the person and the man-made. The work they do is not at all production line; everything is custom made and built to meet the needs of the individual. The work they do has to be seen to be appreciated.

Setting up lights and talking to the staff I learned about the advances in the technology and how each person can have completely separate needs even with the same type of amputation. I took great interest in what they told me because this was personal in a way. I still have all my limbs, at least for now, I don’t need a prosthetic. However my grandfather lost his leg in the early part of the 1900’s due to infection after a train accident. I never saw my grandfather use his prosthetic leg because he said it was heavy and uncomfortable. In fact I never saw the actual leg until years after he passed away and we were cleaning out his house after my grandmother had also passed.

I remember going up into the room on the top floor for the first time (I wasn’t allowed up there as a child) and in the corner was the wooden leg just standing there. I went over and picked it up and it was very heavy, probably 30 pounds or more. It was bent slightly at the knee but had no hinge or anything; it was one solid piece of wood carved to the height my grandfather needed. No wonder he never wore it. That thing had to exhaust him and I it had to be uncomfortable.

At Anatomical Designs the prosthetics were completely different. Some looked like a piece left behind by the robot in the movie Terminator, thin, and the skeletal structure exposed, but depending on the need of the patient they can be modified to do so many things. Each person is different and so is each prosthetic.

Of course photographing the lab would tell an incomplete story so the people at AD had arranged for a few patients to come in and act as models. Finding one legged models that also happened to be local to Uniontown would be darn near impossible. These were everyday people who for some reason had lost a limb at some point. One of them had a special electronic sensor in his leg to assist him with walking and another had a complicated spring and pressure design type of limb and the third, well the third was a young woman who at first I didn’t even notice that she had a false limb!

As Jessica and her mother walked into the office I looked down to see which person was the patient and the first thing I saw was 4 feet in sandals, all with perfectly painted matching toenails. Jessica also had some type of material over her thigh so it looked like, well, it looked like her. After a moment of thinking they were there for some other reason I notice the leg. There was no hint of it in her walk or her pace, in fact if she had jeans or a long skirt on I never would have been able to tell.

The youngest of the three patients, her accident (I believe) was the most recent; but there was no way to tell that though. The staff at AD had taken her into their care and they taught her how to not only walk in the new leg but she told me later she can dance in it too!

The work these people do is nothing short of amazing. As I needed to photograph all aspects of a patients care in only one day, I got to see the many stages of learning and more importantly, coaching that is needed.  From the fitting of the device, to the training, to the emotional and physical support, what these people offer is truly special. They aren’t there to just push patients through some system; these are craftsmen and healthcare workers that truly care about the wellbeing of the individual. They went so far as to help a young woman have a foot where she could paint her toenails!

Later in the day when I was packing up after the shoot one of the patients was still there and I mentioned to him how far the technology has come since my grandfather lost his leg. I also mentioned to him that if I ever lost a limb that I would make the 5 and a half hour drive to Uniontown just to have the people at Anatomical Designs take care of me. His comment was, “Do it! Having all your limbs isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.”

My hats off to all the folks at Anatomical Designs; bravo for putting the people first and delivering so much wonderful care.

Where Does The Time Go?

The past 10 days have been a whirlwind of shooting editing and delivering images. From a commercial shoot in Uniontown PA (near Pittsburgh) to a family portrait session this past Saturday; I have spent a lot of time with my camera in front of my eye and nothing makes me happier!  After all, I did get into this business to create images.

I will write more about the commercial shoot in Uniontown shortly but for now I want to focus (no pun intended) on the family shoot I did Saturday. Let me say first and foremost it was a pleasure to shoot the Lehr family and they are a great family. I met Teresa the mother, many years ago before any of the children were born actually, and lost touch with her over the years. The last time I saw her, the oldest girl Tara was 4 or 5 and Teresa just found out she was going to have another child. Well that other child was just one of two more children. Justin has graduated college and is on his way to start his engineering career in Louisiana. Where does the time go?

Teresa and I got back in touch a few months ago via my photography Facebook page and we have been talking on and off since. A couple of weeks ago she mentioned that she liked my work and she needed to get family portraits done as her middle child (who am I kidding, he is a grown man) was moving away soon. We set a date and the shoot was on!

Tara, the eldest, I have known since she was born and I kind of figured that she would be as attractive as her mother and I wasn’t disappointed. She has grown into a very intelligent woman like her mom. The other two, well I had no expectations. I knew and used to work with their father. In fact I was responsible in a roundabout way, for Teresa and Brian meeting. Actually I just let her know there was a job opening where I worked all those years ago and well, the rest is history. So I knew they all came from pretty good stock, two loving parents, strong and independent and an all-around good family.


What I didn’t know was how perfect and photogenic these people were! Wow! Talk about making my job easy; even when these siblings gave that “oh I am getting my picture taken, I better smile” sort of smile, they looked great. All I had to do was set the lighting and create the images, well and get their real smiles. On top of being hospitable, smart, engaging and photogenic, they all have the patience of saints. The location we chose was a local park that used to be called Turks Head Park, a block away from their home. Little did I know the first spot I chose as a backdrop was actually the breeding ground for every mosquito in all of the northeastern United States. If you ever want to attract mosquitoes, expose some skin, sweat a little bit from the warm summer sun and then pop off a few bright flashes. Sure enough you will have a few hundred in a few minutes. Did any one of my 5 subjects complain? Barely a mention; they were all wonderful.

The images here in this article are just a few of the images that we got. Although there was not a skin blemish amongst the 5, I think I did have to retouch a couple of mosquito bites but other than that, this is how beautiful the family is.

While typing this I just got a Facebook Message from the mom, Teresa.

“Thank you Michael for a fun relaxing shoot. I was a ball of nerves and you set me at ease. Also thank you for confirming what I already knew…..My kids are gorgeous outside and in!”

Teresa, No problem, it was my pleasure!