Tag Archive for: Portrait

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 www.phillypre.com. 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?


[fancy_images width=”200″ height=”200″]

Leaping Van Gogh


Just the other day I had the opportunity to photograph a local modern dancer. Deneane is a dancer and choreographer in Philadelphia and we met when she needed head shots done for her portfolio. When I photographed her head shots in the studio we got to talking and had all sorts of ideas of how we might be able to get creative and do a few images that would be above and beyond. What better way to go above, than to actual leap over a building!



I had the idea of Deneane doing high leaps on the top of the Philadelphia Art Museum steps. No matter where you are in the world if you have seen the movie “Rocky”. One of the most famous scenes is of Rocky running up those steps and putting his arms up in a victory stance at the top.

Read more

Special Moments


How important can images be? I mean everyone has a digital camera these days and the ones in our phones are dynamite, right? Meh, they are OK if the image you want is only going to be displayed on your phone or your friend’s phone. Professional portraits cannot be replaced because it’s not just that image that means something. The memory of you at this age, this time in your life, perhaps your partner’s life and your time together; maybe it’s not about you or your partner but the magic of life the two of you share. The magic of a child.


Read more

Portrait Shmortrait


“Portrait shmortrait. All my portraits look the same, why do I want to have another one done?”


I have written on this blog before about how often it is recommended that people get their portraits done in the articles “Has Your Company Lost Its Face,” “Putting Your Best Face Forward,” and many others. But that seems almost like useless information if each time you get a new portrait it looks just like the last one. That can happen if you go to a place that is creating images en masse and all they focus on is bulk; lots of people with a simple formula that gives consistent results every time.

Read more

It’s Also About Having Fun!


First my apologies for not posting recently but I have been busy shooting some great people. Why are they great? Because they embrace the idea of having fun throughout the shoot!


This past Monday was the most recent portrait shoot: a mother and daughter that just have a kind of chemistry that really comes through in the images. These two danced and relaxed and really played it up. I had so much fun shooting them that I want to do it again and again! Then even played “Patty Cake” together.


Read more

Memories Are Priceless

Just this past Tuesday I saw a post from another photographer that about knocked me out of my chair. In short it is a letter that the photographer had received from a former client to thank her for the years of memories that she captured for her family. The client had the note hand delivered as she was too sick to deliver it herself. You can read the article here and I encourage you to do so. Warning: have tissues nearby.


Welcome back. I will wait while you wipe the tears away. Now that you can read the screen again I will continue.

Read more

Do I Need A Professional?

Many times I don’t hear the question “Do I need a professional?” but I do know that many clients and potential clients ask the question, at least of themselves. The answer is, to be honest, not always. But if you want the quality that either creates memories or helps you achieve your goals, yes you probably do. Making the decision to hire a pro is actually rather easy to answer. The real question is how do you find the ‘right’ photographer for your project.

The task can be daunting to say the least. With the popularity of digital cameras and their ease of use there are so many more photographers now than there ever has been. Some are good, some are great, some aren’t. So what makes one photographer better than another? Of course there is always the matter of style. This, like many other things, becomes a matter of taste. But certain skills are consistent in all good photographers whether they are an amateur or pro. The biggest is the understanding of light and composition. Even composition is a matter of taste to a point. So it comes down to light and the understanding of how it can work for, and against, you.


The study of light is critical in creating great images. The subtly of shadow and light can make or break an image in so many ways. An image needs to create a mood or emotion to be successful. The balance of positive and negative space is not just a matter of the balance of the image but more of a balance of the image and the message you are trying to send.


Each image can have its own message as well. The image included here tells a story but only enough of the story to make you want to know what happened: why is the woman in the image hiding, what caused her to feel so vulnerable? Technically this image could be criticized for too much negative space, being too dark, or any number of things, however the image does make the viewer wonder.


Being able to use light and dark, shadow and highlight; understanding how light and the lack of it can tell your story or send your message is what defines one photographer over any other. Being able to do that and understand your needs is what makes a professional.


What story can I tell 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.


The old adage that opposites attract remains true in all aspects and especially in photography. Powerful images from the likes of Helmut Newton and his industrial women series, Robert Mapplethorpe from his powerful nudes to his delicate orchids in B&W and many others show how something soft and beautiful when placed up against a contrasting opposite not only stand out but scream to the viewer about how a harsh background makes a soft subject jump out at you.


I recently had an experience with a couple of my models that happen to be roommates. The two young women are also my neighbors and I asked both to model for me. These two women are both full of energy and life; they both are very attractive in different ways. I had a certain expectation of how each shoot would go but as this was a “fun shoot,” meaning it was more just for each of us and no specific results were needed, I decided to start each out in a certain direction and then just let it go and see what we got for the final shots.


I was not surprised by the energy and life they both put into each separate session. These women are fun loving and full of positive energy. I did have a certain expectation in my mind though of where the shoot would go and boy was I wrong! The one that I thought would be all beauty and glamour turned out to be the intense dramatic images and the one I thought would be the lighthearted jump around and get goofy showed the beauty side. Not to say we didn’t get goofy, she made some faces in the beginning to get relaxed and those shots were fun and turned out well. However the images that stood out after the shoot were of a more sedate side of the model. Her intensity and strong features just screamed glamour.


I think the highlight though was the fact that each of them can do both just shows how even individuals can be almost polar opposites in life. The images of the women turned out better than I had anticipated and we were all very pleased with the final results. In fact both of their images are being included on some of my new marketing materials. Even my success coach (Beate Chelette) says that my new promo cards are some of the best I have done to date.


In case you like the images and the models, well, they will model for others but I have told them that I have to be their manager. 😉  A huge thank you to my models, Brooke and Sydni!

Next Right Thing

I write about integrity, honor, and ethics all relating to business – specifically the photography business and how photography helps my clients. But what about me, Michael the man and Michael the Photographer: do I live these principles in my life?


I like to think that I do and that these characteristics in business come from the personal side of me. I want to always do the right thing; to stick to my principles. I have a way of trying to do that every day and that is by doing the next right thing. Doing the next right thing is not an easy task sometimes. In fact doing the next right thing means that I have to be paying attention, for starters. How else am I going to even recognize it?


Not all that long ago I worked in the corporate world at a Fortune 500 company and I made a rather good salary. Life was financially comfortable and all the bills were paid. I maintained a basement studio in my home and I did my photography as a part time business. My goal was to learn and grow as a photographer so that someday the photography would overcome the corporate income and I could branch out on my own and leave that rat race.
Life has a tendency to force your hand at times and that is what happened to me. Due to corporate politics I was forced out before “I was ready.” To make a very long story short, I had the opportunity to let a situation pass and go seemingly unnoticed or I could report it to the chain of command. Reporting it to my higher-ups meant that there was a good chance someone was going to lose their job. That someone turned out to be me. But it was the right thing to do and it is was in line with the ethics the company felt was one of their core values.


I could have fairly easily gotten another position in the corporate world and it very likely would have paid a similarly salary and my photography business was nowhere near fully supporting me and my (now) wife. Yet deep inside myself I knew that if any situation that came up like the last one it would cost me my job again. Even though I was doing the next right thing I was the one paying the price and the corporations were sacrificing something for profits. That ‘something’ was not something I was willing to sacrifice, at least not sacrifice and have an easy time sleeping at night.

So what to do: go back into another position that will cost me my honor, which I place higher than anything else, or take the difficult route of building my own business doing what I love anyway? As you can see by reading this I chose the latter. I preserved my principles and my ethics but I lost my house and studio. I lost many of my material possessions, my 401k and most of my savings too. Now every day I work to better myself, my skills and my business; I compromise nothing and I stand tall knowing that though it is a difficult path full of uncertainty and financial doubt, I am doing the next right thing.


Making this choice was both the hardest thing and the easiest thing I have ever done. On the one hand I am my own boss; I get to work with wonderful people like the woman in the images above. On the other I never know where the next job is coming from or the next month’s rent, I went from 8 hours a day, 40 hours per week to an average day of 15 hours and a 100 hour work week. But I know that what I do for my clients is the right thing to do. They get the work they need, they get the value I promise and they will rarely have someone work as hard for them as I will. And when I lay down at night next to that wonderful woman who supports me in all that I do, I know that I will rest well because I will continue tomorrow doing the same thing I did today. I will do the next right thing.