Blog en-us (C) ( Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:11:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:11:00 GMT Blog 120 80 Acheiving Goals by Investing in Yourself! © 2017,

I don’t care what your ‘career choice’ is, these concepts apply… and your future depends on your ability to faithfully and consistently apply them to your own life, your own craft, and goals. Whether you are a musician, a photographer, a videographer, a sound person, a salesperson, a cook, business owner/partner, athlete, employee, or student.

The concept of KNOWING YOUR JOB, and DOING IT TO THE BEST OF YOUR ABILITY… REPEATEDLY and CONSISTENTLY, and ‘as good as, or better than’ your competition, is the key to separating you from ‘everyone else.’

Understanding and striving for this will make you different, better, in greater demand… and ultimately, worth more than your ‘competition.’ It will help you get employed, stay employed, work your way up – in authority, responsibility, income, and ultimately succeed at just about whatever you want in life. It helps you open doors, gain access, and do more than others in your same field. If it’s physically within your means, the application of this is key, can HELP YOU ACHIEVE GREATNESS!

Merely ‘showing up’ really isn’t good enough, anyone can ‘just show up.’ But, it takes a special type of person and skill set to show up AND EXCEL AT YOUR JOB (whatever it is).

I ‘stumbled’ across these words of wisdom in a business course, many years ago. I don’t remember if it was in high school or college, but the words, the lesson, the concept struck an element of ‘absolute truth’ once I bothered to ‘look around’ at those people I believed to be amazing, successful, and to have accomplished some of the things I hoped I could one day accomplish. Success for most people is demonstrated by money, for some it’s status or reputation, but ultimately there are millions of talented and capable people that get lazy, cease pushing themselves, plateau their ability, stop learning new stuff or better ways, and their practicing is toward the bottom of their list, after all, it does take time. However, the reality is, your choices and actions absolutely impact your future!

I don’t recall which ‘teacher’ (person, instructor, or professor) first pointed out the words. And years later, I was able to track them down to a book written in 1944, “Psychology for Musicians” by Percy C. Buck. I assume it stuck a cord for the person that told me those words, as much or more than it did me. So, in the spirit of sharing, here are the two sentences of wisdom, from Mr. Buck, that stuck with me, not because of who he was, because I didn’t know the man… but because of WHAT HE SAID, and HOW I thought those words should be applied to MY LIFE and future:

“An amateur can be satisfied with knowing a fact; a professional must know the reason why.”~ Percy C. Buck

… and …

“Amateurs practice till they get it right; professionals practice till they can’t get it wrong.”~ Percy C. Buck

If you step back and consider this for a moment, the amount of truth to both those sentences. The vast wisdom in them, I believe, if you care about your own future, you’ll understand HOW & WHY those phrases will be applied to your own life.

Next, consider Henry Ford's words, "Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently." and "Whether you think you can, or you think you can't - you're right."

Then there is Thomas Edison, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.
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Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.
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Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.
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Understanding that 'perfection' necessarily requires failures, loss, and learning what didn't work... but KEEPING GOING is key. Knowing  WHY something does what it does, tends to lead to innovation, creativity, improvement, because you understand ‘the limits’ – you learn how to push them, work around them, and/or do something that ultimately allows you to exceed them.

It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting, or already a professional or star in your field, because the reality is that even the heavy weight champion of the world doesn’t stop working out, doesn’t stop the runs, hitting the speed bag, or sparring… not if they hope to defend their title. Evil Knievel didn’t stop after a crash or a world record, nope he got back up… planned, practiced, and pushed a little harder… a little further, with as much safety as possible. Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, the Wright Brothers, Nikola Tesla, and Michael Jackson kept pushing, continued learning new things, trying it more and differently… so they could succeed, accomplish, and achieve more than anyone else in their fields.

Consider, the average ‘professional’ spends 4 to 12 years learning, practicing, doing… and re-doing, and re-doing again… whether in school or real life… learning, practicing, and honing their craft… until it’s ‘muscle memory’ – second nature – and then, still has outside parties (whether peers or instructors) giving them ‘continuing education’ – new technics, different methods, new information, updates on changes, better ways, easier ways, more efficient methods, and even constructive criticism… ultimately SO THEY CAN IMPROVE, become better, more, and ultimately expand their base, their ability, to be their best in their field. 10,000 hours is the generally accepted amount of time most accept as ‘the standard’ a person needs to invest to ‘master’ a skill, profession, and career.

Whether an attorney, doctor, musician, camera person, sound person, farmer, builder, or chef… if they are successful at what they do, they all have some vital things in common: AN EDUCATION (whether academic or vocational) and are dedicated, motivated, able to adapt and learn from their mistakes, and continue pushing themselves forward… EXPERIENCE… and TIME. Regardless of the setbacks, challenges, hurtles, and even failures. They WANT success, expect MORE, and strive for more. Ultimately, THEY DO NOT SETTLE, don’t stop, and continue trying to improve, and strive not to have any serious problems, or public failures.

Bottom line, YOU CAN DO IT! It just takes time and effort, and continued positive thinking!

( advice failure how improving learning practice success tips to Tue, 03 Jan 2017 15:53:58 GMT
The Business of Making Music © 2016,

I'm convinced, after 5 years of being involved with hundreds of bands, over a couple thousand musicians, dozens of venues, and other industry professionals while in the background, behind a camera, that BUTT'S IN THE SEATS is all that really matters; and that one singular point is ultimately the 'hub' of all successful artists making a living doing what they love. It's more important than having 'a label' - or 'great sound' - or 'meaningful' (or funny) songs... or a 'catchy tune.'

The fact is, the worst 'sounding' (to you) group can make the most amount of money, if they can target their fan base correctly... capitalize on their fans well, properly monetize their resources intelligently, learn from their mistakes quickly, effectively (and consistently) produce things their fans are willing to spend money on, and ultimately STAY TOGETHER! If in doubt, pick the 'front person' - and promote that person, making the rest interchangeable (if they really are).

Most of the 'best' and 'most profitable' artists fit in one of two categories: a) the band that plays together, stays together, and works together... and is promoted together... and b) the 'name' is the front man, and the majority of the rest are interchangeable from show to show, album to album. In the first, the 'band' generally 'owns' and controls the rights to their music & words, in the latter the front man or label control the copyrights. This is important if there is to be any licensing for TV, Movies, or other venues in the future. 

The most profitable bands are made of up people that get along, complement each other, work well together, AND are willing and able to live in the same geographical area, and can stand each other in the tight confines of vans & buses, and hotel rooms, for weeks and often months at a time. They can travel, together... to save money and time... live together while on tour, and ultimately get along well. They have a similarly strong  commitment and goals FOR THE BAND, and usually some 'skin in the game' (a personal investment, beyond just getting paid for doing the gig(s)). They also share an understanding of what it takes to 'make it' in the music business (and have personal mates willing to support their dreams, allowing them to travel with the band, at what ever schedule it is... and, ultimately keep the drama away, especially while they are 'on the job' (on the road)). Jealousy has no place in a relationship with a band member. You either trust or not, accept or not, question or not. Ignore or not. Because if a band is successful, they will have fans, groupies, and people offering them all types and varieties of stuff... for all varieties of reasons... with a wide variety of claims. Ultimately, it's THE INDIVIDUAL BAND MEMBER'S character, integrity, ethics, honor, and morals that determine their ability to ignore temptation, if they are in a relationship. Few bands can afford to make it a 'family tour' (unless the family is helping work some aspects of the show).

Success happens through networking, building a fan base, a PR force, continued, consistent effort, and BUTT'S IN THE SEATS (at live shows) that helps them sell merch, sell songs, get more bookings, and move up the proverbial latter (as their fan base grows)!


If they can't build a fan base, a following, and actually get people to want to go to their shows... purchase their merchandise or music, then all their effort is meaningless. It's akin to having the most amazing book, that was never published. The most beautiful painting, covered and hidden in a closet, never shown to anyone else. AUDIENCE is all that matters. More than the music. More than the money. If a band can't fill the seats, and entertain their crowd, grow their crowd, they will forever be playing at dives for pennies, and facing an uphill battle. That's just reality.


There are thousands of people with amazing talent, that will never grace a big stage... that most people will never hear or know of. To 'make it' the talent has to entertain; has to amaze, and significantly touch the fans pocket book... via their words, actions, and performance. The successful artists have to clearly define and grow THEIR FAN BASE, and make decisions that WILL HELP that goal.


I'm convinced that the 'best bands' have a dedicated group of people OFF THE STAGE... like their tour manager, able to intelligently book the shows, on a path that makes sense, so there is little to no zig zagging around the country. And able to justify what they are making - as an individual & band. The PR firm, pushing and promoting their goals, their music, their songs, their shows... with the goal of getting that radio play, and those fans buying tickets to COME TO THEIR SHOW(s)... and spend more direct money AT THE SHOWS, on THEIR MERCHANDISE!


I'm convinced that the band really needs to have good quality merch FOR SALE, and a variety - at their shows, every show... stuff they can easily autograph. They should have an experienced,  dedicated, and trustworthy person willing and able to deal with exchanging that merch for money... and capable of running credit cards, making change, and keeping up with the inventory property... and figuring out what things are the most popular and best, and which aren't.

I'm convinced that the most impressive bands have a Meet & Greet BEFORE the show... for the venue, the radio station(s)... to help promote the show that night, and get more people there, talking, inviting their family & friends (when possible)... and giving out those 'warm fuzzies' to their biggest fans, their fan club, their fan base in that geographical area. Yep, it's important... if necessary, BRING SOME TO START IT... and make it seem more 'popular' and 'cool' - but limit it (generally no more than 20 to 50 people). THEN, every band should have an 'after show' Meet & Greet, which they promote (during the show, many times)... that photos and autographs are available to THOSE BUYING MERCHANDISE TONIGHT (during the show). This not only helps promote more merch sales, but limits the after show M&G to people that SPENT MORE MONEY for the band! And never, ever, tell the fans you'll be having an after show M&G and leave them waiting in line for more than 15 to 20 minutes. And dang sure don't 'just drive off' without doing the M&G; as they will feel lied to, cheated, let down, and angry! That latter 'feeling' will cost you a fan. Never promise what you can't deliver, always try to deliver more than expected.


I'm convinced that the band should have someone local (or within a reasonable distance they are willing to travel) that is willing to work with them for a reasonable fixed price or percentage deal... to deal with their PHOTOGRAPHY NEEDS - both still images & videos. This can be the venue photographer (for the M&G shoots), But the cell phone images should be seriously limited, and ultimately a professional experienced photographer used when ever possible. Not only will they take better images faster, but often times that shoot is the majority of their income from doing that shoot at that event. Supporting them, ultimately helps support you, because they become an additional PR arm that isn't costing you, out of your own pocket. 


The band's front man should understand the necessity of 'doing things right' and CONTRIBUTING TO THE CONCEPT(S)... helping manage all the 'set up' and 'show' aspects. Understanding that 'cell phones' and amateur photos often suck, and should be limited. And all those hands up holding cell phones, trying to share or live stream videos for those 'not there' - doesn't help. And often ticks off the real fans that will be spending money on more than just the tickets, in the future. Simply, cell phones or GoPros are NOT often designed for low and ever changing light, and aren't usually the best way to promote the band. Remember, hours are spent in the studio to capture & create awesome sound, for one 3 minute song... so, producing a quality video should be with a similar goal, commitment, and dedication ...TO GETTING IT RIGHT, and as perfect as possible... yes, that's VITAL, and TIME CONSUMING, and other that 'b-roll' (filler) 'live show video' shouldn't usually be 'the' video for a variety of reasons, sound being the main reason. If you can't have a dedicated person mixing the live sound, or at least properly capturing the live tracks to mix after the show, then just don't do it!


I'm convinced that 'the best' or most talented people aren't often who gets the promotions from the radio stations or media... or even labels, and venues. It's rather the people with the deepest pockets and most dedication of time and money, understanding that getting a percentage of something is far better than owning a 100% of nothing! That those .009 cent radio play royalties add up, IF THE SONG IS PLAYED, and the fans AND ADVERTISERS ultimately help drive the play list. SO MUST THE ARTIST... THAT INCLUDES EVERY MEMBER OF THE BAND ON AND OFF STAGE.


I'm convinced that far too many bands blindly believe in the 'Field of Dreams' - thinking if they build it, the fans will come. While they have to build it, for there to be any fans... and word of mouth is great... the ultimate combination is PROMOTIONS, MARKETING, FORCING THE WORD TO GET OUT THERE.  BEING ABLE TO REPEATEDLY PRODUCE SOMETHING THAT IS CONSISTENTLY GREAT, that the fans will want to spend money on, coming to see and buying merchandise from.

Having the band, and knowing the material is the proverbial horse... but it's the fans - the money - that is the CART! While a horse can pull a cart, and a cart can push a horse, without the two working together intelligently, the number of wrong things that CAN HAPPEN are nearly limitless. Every member of the band MUST understand their role, both on and off the stage. Their attitude, their public presence, their acts & actions... because those things all absolutely will impact the fan base, the venues, the radio station managers, the reality that it takes a team of committed people to help a single or group of musicians become and remain successful.

Your effort and consistency determines your relevance in an industry where someone is always trying to take your place.


To more specifically answer the questions, "Why does an artist need to promote themselves? Why doesn't the venue push and promote them?"

I don't believe most small venues like dealing with booking agents because they've had some bad experiences with 'agents' in the past... and when they eventually confront the band, the band claims to not know anything about it or that agent is gone. They generally want to deal with the person(s) that truly and really speak for the artist. Most small to medium size venues want to 'see the horse' (they are betting on)... and know there is both a commitment and understanding. Because until there is are a few positive experiences, this industry is proven fickle more often than not.


In reality, the venue usually thinks they are providing the roof, the space, the power, the security, the servers, the clean up of everything after the show, the parking, the liability for nearly everything before - during - and after the show... oh, and lets not forget the stage, lighting, sound system, sound board, often the person(s) dedicated to running to sound (and lighting)... did I mention stage security??

So, it is the artists job is to bring the music and fans.


Seems pretty reasonable, really. Few venues do a whole lot of promotion... unless there is really something in it for them, and that ultimately depends on the number of seats and amount of 'sales' (food & drink) they can reasonably expect... especially if there isn't much of a ticket price. Most have an idea of what number of 'regulars' will frequent their place, and what those people usually spend. Most know that if they charge at the door more than $xx then yy customers will pass them by for the next club that doesn't have as high of a price, UNLESS it's a well known name that they are coming to see.


Your big venues, like the Bridgestone, in Nashville, have a real good clue what they did in PRE-SHOW SALES... and what it costs to power and staff the place. They often know their profit isn't going to be a whole lot on the concessions for most concerts, unless they have some reasonable intermissions (most true fans aren't going to leave to get something unless they have to also go to the bathroom). So their ticket prices are MUCH HIGHER.  Any extra on the back end, after paying for the concessions & personnel, is gravy... which varies from show to show. Some events have the concessions a completely separate third party business entity that paid to rent the space, and gambles upon people coming to buy stuff from them to make a profit, so concessions can't always be factored into the profit for all venues.


Another example: the concert photography my wife & I do... some venues pay, most do not. It doesn't matter if it's a musical concert or sporting event. Different events have different rules, and it really depends on the 'known' profitability and 'gamble factor' for the venue owner(s).  In general, we make money ONLY when we capture images the fans, the artists, label, or PR firms wish to purchase - either the downloads or prints, or license for commercial use.  If we don't capture images that sell, we don't make a dime.


Thankfully we have a sponsor,, which allows us to shoot more events... by helping fund our out of pocket gas & food expenses, and enabling some of our other expenses that venues don't pay for. But our time is still THE GAMBLE FOR US. Some times that burger flipper at Micky-D's makes more than us, other times we do well. It really depends on the event, the number of committed fans, and the ability to get the images that stand out enough people are willing to pay something for... either a download, print, or license. It really is a double edge sword, because on one hand the venue generally has some expectations that they are going to 'get' some free images and/OR that we are going to help promote them or artists (helping put some butts in the seats in the future) just because THEY ALLOWED US THE ACCESS TO SHOOT THE EVENT.  The reality is we are invited back, because we captured cool photographs more regularly, more often, and more consistently then whom ever else they've allowed to try in the past. We are still, and always, subject to their whim.


Another interesting and frustrating thing is that I often capture some video footage of the show(s)... but because of the music copyrights... I CAN NOT do anything with that footage, legally, unless I get the artists permission. Which is another double edge sword because I don't want to take the time to process the HD video I captured for free... but most bands don't want to pay - or even necessarily work something out that allows us both to potentially profit. Since most bands don't stay on a click-track, and ad lib the footage can't easily be used for anything more than b-roll, but it's usually some pretty good HD footage. Mind you, when I'm focused on shooting video, it's even better than stationary footage from a camera merely focused toward the stage.


Remember that everyone you meet COULD BE A SOMEBODY in the industry. If you disrespect, put down, or shun them... THEY MIGHT GET EVEN passively down the road. They could be married to, siblings of, the family, or long time friends with someone that really matters in your future. Play nice, be responsible, and keep pushing forward positively... consistently with good product, and you'll go far.


Anyhow... expecting a venue to promote you outside of their doors, aside from a few social media mentions is - in my experience - something that only happens when a venue can consistently pack their doors with YOUR FANS, that are coming there & spending money TO SEE YOU! Look at every mega star... EVERY ONE of them has their own PR team, PUSH THEM in every geography they have a show, as well as in every nation (trying to get more shows & bigger shows). They STAY in the media. They PROMOTE their BRAND (not always their music, though it's usually combined in the background) in virtually everything they do in life They ARE THE MACHINE THAT DRIVES THEIR SUCCESS!


In the mean time, it's YOU - that needs to develop the 'street team' - the promotional engine - the push - the hype - the press - the coverage - the radio stations that play your music and talk about you - the media talk - ALL TO GET FANS THROUGH THAT VENUES DOORS.


Do all that, do it well... and soon you'll have the big venues offering you the big bucks, and investing their own money in HELPING YOU promote you. Notice, I said HELPING YOU?!?! That is because ultimately and forever, PART OF YOUR JOB (or that of your label or manager) IS TO PROMOTE YOU... your music, your sound, your ideology, your ability TO PUT BUTTS IN THE SEAT!


Remember it will never be anyone else's job, unless YOU ARE PAYING THEM!



Comments are welcome.  I'll try to add more, as I see and learn more...

( advice business how to learning music photography planning tips tricks wisdom Sun, 23 Oct 2016 21:24:20 GMT
Don't be an idiot and 'delete' images from your camera DURING THE SHOOT! © Terry Mercer


Today, I saw someone calling themselves a 'professional' photographer claim that people should try to 'cull' (delete) their bad images on the spot... before leaving the event, venue, shoot... to 'save time' when they get home, and have to download, rate, sort, tweak, export, and upload images.
Here was my response to that person:
Wow ~ I totally disagree with that one! Because I'm 100% sure, unless I KNOW it's a crap shot, someone stuck their arm, or an object in the way, that an image on the back of my camera(s) will look different on the computer (and some of it *might* be saved, or used for some other purpose. And, more importantly, deleting from the card during a shoot is the #1 way to cause a corrupted memory card. In the last 30+ years of shooting digital, I've lost one card (sadly, the big race at the Kentucky Derby - on the finish line). Since then, I ceased 'culling' onsite. Do it on the computer. Not only does it help your memory card work correctly, no holes of gaps to fill in (or split files over), because the 'recording' (to the memory card is no contiguous)... it saves you battery life... keeps your camera ready for 'the next shot' (rather than down looking through the images you've already taken)... and frankly, virtually anyone can cull faster in bridge or LR (and more accurately) than they ever can on the back of their camera.
If you think of a 'drive' (including memory cards) as a deck of cards... you'll quickly understand that file 1 comes before file 2, which is necessarily before file 3. If you delete file 2, and snap a shot for file 4 that is a different size (which is 99.999% likely, unless EVERYTHING IS EXACTLY THE SAME - number of colors, focal point, focus, depth of field, focal length, etc.). When the file is large, part of it will go where file 2 was, the rest will be placed after file 3. Thus causing a fragment. The more 'fragments' there are, the tougher it becomes for the 'computer' to keep track, which not only complicates things a bit, but ultimately slows down the future 'writing' (and reading) of your memory card (or drive). If the file 4 is smaller, then it would leave a 'gap' in the spot where file 2 was, thus making file 5 fragmented 100% of the time. With part after file 4 (in the remainder of the file 2 spot), and the balance after the file 3 spot.
So, in my opinion and experience, a person is 100% (or more) safer, and better, just shooting everything they are going to shoot... never deleting anything on that memory card, until it is fully downloaded to the computer, then culling there. Once you are 100% sure you have the files downloaded, and you know you for sure have them all, THEN you can either delete all files on the memory card OR reformat the memory card (which is what I personally do, so I'm starting each shoot with a clean, clear, blank slate... and start the process all over again).
I don't understand why anyone would try to tell people to purposefully create a problem for themselves, unless they just want to help set them up for challenges, let downs, and failure. I can only assume they haven't yet experienced the problem, or were too obtuse or ignorant to understand that 'fractionally shown' file (missing part of the information, and picture) was really because they deleted files on that card previously, and created fragments, which the camera was incapable of filling in the gaps quickly (especially if you are shooting in burst modes, multiple images in a second). Anyhow, that's just my two-cents... backed by some experience, a few tests, and the reality of how computers (and cameras) actually write to their 'drives' (whether hard drives or memory cards... or thumb drives).
( advice camera canon cards corrupted data how to learning lost memory nikon photography pictures planning tips tricks wisdom Sun, 23 Oct 2016 18:51:57 GMT
GLASS (aka Lenses) ©2016, Terry Mercer

Over the years, I've learned that one thing that is consistently true far more often than not: Having ANY camera is better than not having one.   it's far better than no images, and no ability to start learning to capture moments & memories. The second thing, a great camera body but a mediocore lens, and using 'automatic' settings, you'll get mediocore to good images inconsistently.

20160424-IMG_237220160424-IMG_2372 - Mallard Duck IN FLIGHTIf it flies like a duck, quacks like a duck, and well... this is a duck, just a duck... on an afternoon flyby while shooting pictures of an Osprey.
Just a duck ... doing a fly by... while we were shooting images of the Osprey we've been checking in on for weeks.

Everyone has to start somewhere, and the worst of today's cameras are often better than some of the best cameras available when I was first starting. I started around age 10, with a simple 126 Instamatic, 12 to 24 exposures at a time, and very selective pressing of that shutter... and often weeks or months before I could afford to develop and print the images to actually see how I did. However, I learned to enjoy photography, enough that in the 70's I learned to roll, develop, and print my own film. Every chance I had, I'd borrow better camera... and up grade whenever possible. You can imagine how quickly I embraced the instant gratification, fast answers (about exposure & composition, especially), and less expensive options of digital photography back in the early 90's. I think my first digital camera was only .3 megapixels, but it was perfect for 'web site' images of products, prototypes, and quick family stuff... and could be easily emailed and shared among family & friends without spending any money. So the money I was spending on film & printing, was converted to money spent on upgrades, body's and glass. It was during that time I also learned the fact that having great glass is vital. Even on a mediocore body, great glass and the right settings WILL help you create & produce good to great images more consistently.

One might think lens quality only matters with removable lens cameras, but that's not quite true. It effects filters, screw on tele & wide angle adapters, and virtually anything you put in front or behind your lens... whether removable or fixed. The better and more consistent the quality, the better and more consistent your images will be. It wasn't until about 20 years ago, when I played around with a cheap CP (Circular Polarizer) vs a very expensive 'multi-coated' glass CP. The difference was as huge as a cheap pair of plastic lens sun glasses vs a more expensive quality multi-coated glass pair that are QC'ed (quality controlled). Plastic scratches more easily, and the cheap glass tends to have more flare issues. The sharpness of the focus, and the even potential for distortions are different. Magnification (focal length mm's, cropping, and higher ISO's) would also significantly effect and impact the visual significance of any disparity, exponentially.

Image Stabilization (IS) or Vibration Reduction (VR) can also be important, and useful, generally allowing the user to gain a stop or two of light (meaning slower shutter speed, lower ISO... and still sharp image, even free hand). But quality IS lens are more expensive. Personally, I'd most usually select a non-IS "L" (professional grade) lens over a consumer grade IS lens that has a higher f-stop minimum, with very few exceptions.

There are a variety of issues and considerations when it comes to lenses (GLASS).

  • What is it actually made of?
  • What is the minimum f-stop? Is it consistent or variable? (hint: consistent is better)
  • What are the mounts made of? (metal or plastic, metal is better and matters 99% of the time)
  • How 'tough' (durable, weather, dust, and drop proof) is it?
  • WHO is the manufacturer, and their quality and consistency of a given model.
  • Does it offer any image stabilization?

Generally, the more expensive the lens, the greater the quality control, and more consistency there is from lens to lens, and through the available f-stop range of that lens.

Next, the 'faster' the glass (i.e., wider the f-stop, lower the f-stop number) the better the optics of that lens. Few people have the opportunity to use glass with a consistent f-2.8 ability, or faster. And most of your long lens are lucky to have a f-stop of even 5.6 when fully extended. Understanding the importance of the f-stop, is part of learning about the exposure triangle... and DOF (depth of field)... and Boken (intentional blurring of the background)

The way things are 'put together' is really important... and impacts how long things last, and how well they work. If you are really out there, shooting often, and in situations out doors that you can't control, eventually your camera (and/or lens) will get dropped, ran into, tripped over, or find it's place in some other accident scene. That's just life. Having a back up is important, but having tough good quality equipment will help you even more.

Over the years, I've learned to favor the PRO GLASS... since I shoot mostly with Canon's, the "L" glass is nearly always my first choice, though it is usually far more expensive than the other options, it is what I use 99% of the time. I have my favorites, for different purposes... but the L glass has never let me down, is weather resistant, and tough. Over the years, it's been dropped, fallen, knocked over, ran over by a football or basket ball player, and sadly hit the ground as I was falling a few too many times. But, they have survived. In the last 40 years, only twice have I had to have a "L" lens repaired because of some accident, and never (yet) had the optics damaged. I've had cameras drop off mounts, people trip over tripod legs (twice), atheletes bump and almost tackle me, horses charged right at me, motor cross bikes jumping over me & my camera, and I've been smashed against the rocks while taking under water photos too close to shore when the wave hit. It's all part of the gig... the quest for capturing something that is truly different, unique, and provokes some thought or emotion. 

Now, while Canon L glass is my personal favorite, only serious photographers will get much of the often expensive L glass, though many of my "L" lenses are 10 to 15+ years old, and still working. And I dang sure didn't start there. Over the years, I've tried a variety of lens form a variety of manufacturers. And I really have to give a shout out to my second favorite manufacturer of Canon mounted lenses: TOKINA. They are heavy, all metal, and tough! I've also never yet seen a Tokina lens I didn't like (and I've had a few over the years), and used the hound out of them until I could get a comparable "L" lens. Tokina's generally aren't as quick with the auto focus, and not always as quiet as the "L" glass (more mechanical sounding, rather than the ultra quite), I've generally found the quality of the glass, and the images I was able to capture quite pleasing. They are usually a very solid option, and have some great choices.

Over the years, I've tried a wide variety of manufacturers, and some have been impressive, so really not. Consistency of the manufacturer's quality is important. Personally, I would seriously have to think twice, and really 'touch and try' anything made by Phoenix, Sigma, or even Tamron... and with few exceptions (Sigma has a $26,000 bakooka lens (200-500 f2.8) that is interesting, but at 26 pounds, and nearly 2.5 feet long, about as big around as a pie pan. The 'green monster' is not something most people will ever see outside of photos, and clearly not ever own). Tamron is getting great reviews on their new 150-600mm lens, which is quite affordable at under $1500 (especially compared to the Canon L version at over $12,000).

Sigma & Tamron tend to be generally 'better than nothing,' but usually have lenses that have to be babied... and don't hold up as well as better made lenses. I'm happy to test and try just about anything, but until I see it 'in action' and every day use, and see how it holds up in everyday tough situations, I'd think twice about spending money on most of their lens. These manufacturers often and mostly made of plastic, not weather resistant, and seldom have multi-coated, or more than a few elements of glass within the lens. Often, but not always, their products are considered disposable... like those cheap sunglasses, and just better than nothing, especially when they are under the $500 price point.

So, double check, and test the lens, make & model, before you purchase, when ever possible. Both the Canon "L" lens AND the Tokina lens I've used are 'tanks' - all metal, tough, with finely created multi-coated glass.

The SONY brand G-Series glass (whether e or A mount) is great glass, metal, and pretty tough. I use those on my Sony video cameras with a great deal of happiness.

Sorry, I don't know much at all about the options for the Nikon, Fuji, Olympus, or other brands. Canon & Sony are the brands and types of cameras I've used most since the 90's. But the logic, considerations, and problems tend to be about the same.

Maybe you have some questions, or something to add?


( Canon Fuji L lens Nikon Olympus Panasonic Samsung Sony fast glass glass lens lens quality sigma sony tamron tokina Thu, 05 May 2016 20:40:23 GMT
Traveling... Minimum CAMERA EQUIPMENT NEEDED Over the years, I've been asked what the MINIMUM CAMERA EQUIPMENT was needed for a trip. The answer really depends on the trip, the goals & purpose of the trip, and type of shooting you are planning to do. Ultimately, the answer is ENOUGH & A BACKUP!

Remember, the camera YOU HAVE & KNOW HOW TO USE is better than nothing. If it is just for fun... take your main camera, and consider a back up camera - even if just a point & shoot (that uses AA batteries), just in case. If it's for money - a paying gig, then you really should have a quality back up... which hopefully you'll never need. 

20160424-IMG_246320160424-IMG_2463Large Ultralite air plane flying over the edge of the lake.

Unplanned, unexpected... ultra-lite flying by where the Osprey were flying, on the other side of the lake. Thought it was interesting, especially since it's clear the pilot fills the cockpit and there are a couple empty seats in the back. ~ Ft. Loudon Lake, Louisville, TN May 2016

Ultimately, most of photography is being in the right place and the right time, especially when you are outdoors. But it's meaningless if you can't quickly change your camera settings to accommodate the rapidly changing surroundings, and new opportunities. Having a working camera available is the starting point. Knowing how to use it in a variety of situations is the second vital point. But being fully prepared for the 'what-ifs' is something that comes with experience, practice, and learning that Murphy's Law really does exist, but far less for those prepared!

But for those that like more information, here are some of MY list:

BASICS: At least 2 or 3 extra battery sets, at least 1 or 2 extra memory cards, ability to add light (either on camera or off camera flash, preferably the latter if you know flash photography will be required... but on camera & a good flashlight can work in a pinch)... both wide angle and telephoto option (at least 35 to 200mm minimum). Ultimately, it depends on WHO & WHAT you will be shooting. More landscape and portrait type stuff, means you'll need a wider angle lens; whereas, less ability to move around and get close to the subject means a further reaching telephoto, potentially up to 400 or even 800mm, depending on the subject and project. Remember, lower light projects will require either wider aperture ('faster') glass or more light (maybe both... again, depending on the topic/subject).

BATTERIES: The purpose of extra batteries is understanding that you won't always or conveniently be able to recharge the battery currently being used by your camera, for a variety of reasons. And, the sad reality is that sometimes batteries wear out, fail, have other issues, or are accidently not charged fully after their last use. If the batteries aren't common, then finding extras isn't likely to happen outside a mega electronics store or the internet. So, GET EXTRAS before any trip or major event! Figure out how many photos you usually get out of your camera, in HOW YOU ACTUALLY USE IT. Some cameras are lucky to get 200 images on a set of batteries, some will take over 1000. Personally, I seldom ever use the LCD view finder on the back, which nearly doubles the life of my batteries on virtually any camera I'm using.

Knowing what your equipment needs, uses, and requires is key to making wise choices. Personally, I usually take 2 sets of batteries PER DAY I plan on shooting, 3 or 4 sets if I'm not sure I'll have access to power, which has happened a few times over the years. Few things suck worse than having a camera that requires proprietary batteries that can't be purchased at stores ready to use... and not have any way to charge the battery(ies) you have. I try to take both an AC & DC charger, and if I'm backpacking or really away from power I'll take a solar charger & USB Battery Pack with a 12-volt outlet to recharge batteries with. 

MEMORY CARDS: Though modern memory cards tend to not be a problem, there are times that they really do 'go bad' (for whatever reason). Non-mechanical cards, like CF (compact flash) or SD (secure digital) seldom have issues, but seldom still happens. So, always have an extra... and know exactly what your devices limits are, how many images will fit on what size of a card... and consider just how many images you're likely to take during your trip. For example, I have some cameras that won't allow any cards above 32Gig, others that will take any size up to at least 256 Gigabytes. My 20 megapixel cameras save images at file sizes in RAW format around 15 to 20 megabytes each, even larger if you save to TIFF and smaller (but less color detail & flexibility in post) if you save to JPG format. Don't forget HD video can take up a pile of space.  So, factor what and how you shoot, and leave yourself some room... some extra stuff you just might need, as you'll never know when you have that once in a life time opportunity... and need for extra memory to save your creative captures to. Understanding the write speed of your current camera is also important. Faster cards allow faster writing, but if your camera won't write that fast, there is little sense in spending the extra money on a card that is 2, 3, 10 times faster than your camera... unless you're planning to upgrade soon to a camera that uses that same type of memory card. 32G cards are really cheap these days... it's wise to have at least 2 to 3 times more than your projections think you MIGHT NEED. And remember, when you download the images to your computer, verify they arrived... back up the card, and RE FORMAT IT! So you're starting with a fresh card. (But don't do it until you verified you have the images on your computer, AND backed up).

GLASS (aka Lens): Obviously, if you have a fixed lens camera, you don't have to think or worry about this; though most of your good fixed lens cameras do have the ability to add filters, adapter lenses (tele-converters and wide angles) which can be extremely useful and add power & flexibility to your images. But with dSLRs becoming so inexpensive, new & used, lens options are something many need to consider. Pick carefully, and wisely, because once you get started investing in glass, you're a tad stuff with a brand and style. While I personally prefer L glass (the weather resistant professional glass that is almost always faster than the kit options, and definitely tougher), there are times I'll pack a kit lens just because it weights about a third of what the L version weighs, and the likelihood I won't 'need' it for the majority of the shoot. If I'm going on a shoot that will be MOSTLY telephoto work, and I'm cramped for space or weight, I'll toss in an 18-55... because it works well, and can work in most wide angle situations; plus with the reverse lens option (an EF 'mount' - that screws on the to front end of the lens, like a filter, allowing you flip the lens around backwards on your camera, which can create amazing super macro lens). It's not as great as the 16-35 or 24-105, but smaller and lighter. If I know I'm going on a wide angle shoot, then I'll usually pack one of my tele lens, like the 50-135 or 55-250 just in case. If I'm limited to JUST ONE lens, I'll pick either the 28-300 or 35-350 EVERY SINGLE TIME! (And usually toss in a 1.4 extender. Those are my 'backpacking' and long hike, kayaking, lens.) Knowing WHAT you'll be shooting is vital... a 70-200 would be very limited on an African Safari, and a 100-400 or 150-600 would be pretty useless for a basket ball game (but potentially perfect for Track, Football, most equine events, and that African Safari). The more you know about where you'll be shooting, the better your choices and options should be. And remember, you can always RENT if the trip is a 'once in a lifetime' and you really want to use something you don't have, and it's usually a fraction of even the used cost... and always in top notch shape, ready for you to capture moments & memories.

BACKUP: The other HUGE benefit to having a 'like minded body' for a backup... one body for telephoto lens (images), and the other body for wide angle stuff. Same batteries, same memory cards, same lens. More importantly, when you have similar bodies, you don't have to mess with any lens changes in the rain, dirt, pollen, dust, pollution, or any other potential air born issues. But for the average person, packing two like kind bodies isn't likely, or common, because they just don't have them. It took me a couple years to learn I really needed to have an extra quality camera, especially when I began shooting professionally - once in a life time type of events. If you're a two body shooter, then you'll want a third body, in case something happens to one of your other two bodies (but you usually don't take the third body with you, and it can be a model or two below what you're using now). However, another fundamental concept is that it is better to have two less expensive good bodies, just so you have that back up, than to have just one awesome camera body. Because when a body hits the floor, gets messed up, or has problems, which will invariably happen, you'll be unable to shoot without either borrowing, renting, or buying another body... until that one is repaired. Also, virtually all beginning to intermediate photographers, it's better to invest in great glass THEN good to great bodies, not the other way around. Get the best you can afford, and start saving up to get another (backup) as soon as you can.

STABILITY: I try hard to take at least a monopod, if I don't have room for a tripod. The stability a stick or tripod can offer is really helpful, but some places don't allow them to be used. However, the monopod I use is a actually a video monopod - with small movable feet, and a fluid head. (It also makes a great walking stick, opens high angle opportunity with a remote shutter, and keeps pesky snakes and critters away in a pinch). There are a couple really cool tripods that allow one leg to 'come off' to become a monopod. A couple of my friends have them and love them, I don't... because they are too short (I'm tall), and they usually have a weak ball head (won't deal with a large telephoto lens and full size dSLR). But, if you are under about 5'8" and don't mind working with the ball head... they are worth looking into.

FILTERS: realistically, a CP (Circular Polarizer) is the most important outdoor filter anyone can carry (or have). Think of it as expensive sunglasses for your camera. The two other filters one might consider, and are really cool when you can use them right... the Variable ND, and Gradient ND. Unless you are on a pro shot, or have a specific reason... or shooting using film, not digital... there is little to no reason for any other filters, if you're packing light.

CLOTHING & STUFF: Some type of hat if you're going to be outdoors, proper clothing that allows the necessary range of motion, comfortable shoes, a rain jacket for your camera (just in case), and I've found a pocket mosquito head & shoulder net to be real helpful at times, especially if you'll be in areas there are a lot of mosquitoes or bees.

GUIDES & ADVICE: If you are unfamiliar with an area, do some research. If it's common, popular, and public... be careful and consider bringing a friend or family member that is used to that area - or type of area, and knows a bit about the plants, wildlife, and terrain. If neither you or your friend is, then consider a guide - especially if it is remote or dangerous. Your photos are meaningless if you are severely injured or dead.

WATER STUFF: You need to know the depth you'll be shooting, so you can determine the housing requirements... there are three basic options, each benefiting from a red filter and some variety of auxilliary lighting when under water more than a few feet. One is a 'soft case' which is generally good to about 15 feet below... great for boating, rafting, kayaking, even basic snorkeling. These cases are usually like a heavy clear flexible PVC plastic, pliable, foldable, light weight, easy to travel with... and is certified to varying depths (usually 30 to 100+ feet). Then there is the basic hard case, usually good to at least 130 feet, which is the deepest most recreational scuba divers are supposed to go. These cases are usually hard, your camera fits inside... and o-rings seals out the water. They generally double the size of your camera... and absolutely specific to the make & model of your camera, and will take up space in your gear. The big pro underwater setups, well they are usually in big pelican box of their own, weigh a lot, and saved for those that aren't concerned about extra bags, cost, and  plan on some serious bottom time.

TECHNICAL STUFF: Know your gear... understand the limitations, and how to work around things when necessary. Consider YOUR GOALS & what you most want (need) to shoot, and preapre for that, plan for it... and be prepared to adapt, overcome, and relax, YOU CAN DO IT!

You understand the exposure triangle, the manual settings, and how to employ extra lighting when necessary. If you don't, then learn... practice, and experiment BEFORE YOUR BIG TRIP. Whether the trip is for fun or money, or if you're lucky, both, know that what you see, what you capture, what you choose to show others is totally up to you! And capturing one amazing image that really stands out is the goal most photographers have, the rest are just icing!





( advice camera equipment nature photography photography planning tips travel travel photography vacation photography wisdom Tue, 03 May 2016 15:43:57 GMT
Photography Math… there is more real time involved than most people think. © 2016,

Let's do some math, something most people (on either side of the camera) don’t consider, know, or often think about…

Getting the right gear for the job… is not even calculated into the equation, as that could be a few hundred to tens of thousands. You can look in tons of places, and see people telling you what equipment they use, promote, or even found that didn't work well for them. The vast majority of clients don't care, and wouldn't have much of a clue about employing fill flash, spendy 580 or 600 EXII's or Alien Bees… or even what a light meter really does. It's not their job to know, and frankly unless they are striving to be a photographer, THEY DON'T CARE! They want finished work that accomplishes what they want.

They won’t understand the benefit to post processing and professional services, unless you explain the differences, and then most only believe what they CAN SEE. They care about THEIR FINISHED PRODUCT. No more, no less, other than the cost. Face it, they generally want the most they can get for the least amount of money; and most firmly believe ‘a photo’ is limited to the few minutes you spend to ‘snap’ the picture thanks to cellphones & cheap digital cameras. Most non-photographer people have become jaded to accept ‘better than nothing’ over high quality keepsakes; well-exposed images that took the background, foreground, angles, lighting, shadows, eyes, and distractions into account before (and after) the shutter was pressed.

The following are some important factors a person should really consider BEFORE selecting a photographer:

~ Budget (first and foremost... how much can you spend, for what)
~ Camera Persons SKILL (look at their work, would you be happy with it)
~ Expectations (are they achievable & realistic, within the budget)
~ Logistical challenges (how is the lighting, space for gear, security, and time - it will impact cost)
~ Experience (for that type and style of shoot, have they ever done it before, and are you happy with what they have done)
~ Technical expertise (with the equipment, and goals... CAN THEY REALLY DO IT? And they experienced enough with THAT TYPE OF SHOOT, that they understand where they will need to be, and can actually get there... and deal with what ever the location and situation tosses at them)
~ Geographic location (some of the best locations have legal & logistical limits, space & lighting could be issues, safety and security might also be issues)
~ Deadline, and Necessity to get it right the first time (i.e., staged & repeatable vs once in a lifetime)
~ Limits (maybe part of logistical challenges, but different ~ that expression caught only happens once)
~ Creative solutions (conceptual input can be helpful or not)
~ Style (different than Skill... look at their other work... are you generally happy with it)
~ Reputation (do they keep their word, do what they say, and accomplish what they promise)

Far too many clients 'feel' the 30 or 60 minutes of actual shooting is all there is to it, and balk at the $200 or $500 or $1000+ for that 'little bit of time they are in front of a camera.' At the same point, there are far too many people with cameras ‘giving away’ their time, without any goal or awareness of actual investment, costs, value, time, or professional CONSISTENCY. Some experienced photographers offer discounts during their off season, or do it to test new equipment or learn something more or new, but most are just hobbyists hoping to get their foot in a door or trade for other goods & services.

Most photographers struggle to ‘make a modest living’ and are often trying to make their images faster, easier, better, or just stand out more so client’s might actually SEE THE DIFFERENCE!  

TIME… it really MATTERS ~ there are only 168 hours in a week, 1440 minutes in a day, and unless you know some secret, we ultimately only live once. This is something virtually any client can quickly understand:

Preparing your gear (charging batteries, formatting memory card, testing camera(s), testing flash(es), off camera options/batteries… backups… and other necessary items).  And either double checking it and/or having backups for your backups. 1 hour

Traveling to the location *getting there on time (and getting back)

1 hour

ACTUALLY Shooting the event (average is often about 40 to 90 minutes of actual time, minimum, positioning, unpacking gear, set up, even if it’s a quick 30 minute shoot… unless there are people waiting in a line, and there are multiples to be shot)  

1 hour+
Downloading files from the camera (memory card) to the computer... most people don't understand that EACH image is 10 to 20+ megabytes in size, and even with fast cards, and a fast computer, it takes a bunch of time to just transfer the images to the computer before they can be seen, much less worked with (or on). 15 minutes+

Post processing the images (basic sorting, rating, edits & cropping) – doesn’t count the learning curve of any software employed, or the cost of that software, or even really the time spent individually tweaking images (zit or blemish removal, softening skin, whitening teeth, brightening eyes, removing obstacles from the back ground, playing with the colors or process, etc.)

2 hours+

Exporting the images to High-resolution usable format (from Camera Raw)

30 minutes
EITHER posting proofs to the internet AND/OR traveling (again) to meet the client 30 minutes+

Actual discussion with the client, creating images to tweak more – if necessary or wanted       

1 hour

Doing whatever is necessary to get the product to the client (internet, thumb drive, prints)

30 minutes

Backup/Archival of the files (so that memory isn’t lost)                    

15 minutes

So we are looking at nearly 8 hours of actual work, just to really do a single 30 to 90 minute shoot, from the actual start to finish. Of course some can be faster, some slower; it really depends on the topic, subject, setting, and expectations. Ultimately, having a line up of people is a lot faster, but there are fewer 'poses' and fewer images to sort through, merely because there is a line... waiting for their turn in front of your camera. And, all of that is after you have already invested thousands of dollars in gear, and have spent thousands of hours learning how to use all the hardware & software. So, ultimately, at $200 minimum, if you are honestly using your camera FOR A VIABLE BUSINESS, you’re left with about $10 to 15 an hour after all the basic expenses are paid, help is paid, and the government gets their piece of the pie. The person asking if you want fry’s with your burger is often making more than you as a photographer, and they don’t have any business overhead, added responsibility, stress, or personal liability, other than getting to work on time. Impressive, huh?

You can find information about the 'Cost of Doing Business' (CODB), the gear, accounting, hard goods - like paper, ink, printing, and yes those nasty things called insurance & taxes, and even backgrounds, lighting, and props... all stuff that costs the camera person tons of money, but Clients don’t care WHAT make or model of camera you use, the number of megapixels, or how much it all cost you.

Far too many ‘feel’ photography is so easy these days, anyone can do it. Granted, every cell phone has a camera... but even most cameras aren't consistent in 'automatic' settings. Although film is usually not involved; there are still thousands of dollars in just storage space (quality digital files are large, and add up quickly). Tens of thousands in equipment (hardware & software), and countless hours learning, experimenting, and honing skills to do it well & right consistently... but you'll inevitably be price shopped. That's life. However, when someone is tasked with taking pictures in terrible or ever changing lighting, or situations they don’t have ready backups for or experience with… then, wow, your special moment may be just a memory in your head, because they WILL miss the moments more often than not, and 'better than nothing' is the best you'll get! Professionals that know the importance, have backups, alternate plans, and a means in which to GET THE SHOT NECESSARY, NO MATTER WHAT. But you’re stuck, because some parent is apparently happy with ‘better than nothing’ because it’s cheap, or buys into a hobbyist’s attempt to start their own variety of a photographic Lemonade stand. It’s basic business economics. You usually get what you pay for, especially when experience and skills are necessarily involved. If something is really a ONCE IN A LIFE TIME... and you're spending tons of money on hair, makeup, clothing, etc. why leave the pictures up to a beginner (or a cellphone)???

Ask yourself, if you value your time & reputation. What happens if you have a contracted shoot, and your gear is stolen or damaged during the shoot? It’s not common, BUT DOES HAPPEN! What if you’re sick? Do you have a backup plan? The client doesn’t want excuses, especially not on ‘once in a lifetime’ type of occasions! That’s a huge liability if you don’t have contingency plans… for what if scenarios!

There are often and usually ONLY three ways a photographer is paid...

1) for 'the shoot' ('setting' or 'shoot' fee - or day rate - which may or may not have 'packages' or 'rights' associated with them) -

2) for what they actually sell (downloads, prints, or licenses) the only question is TO WHOM the images are sold, and how much work will it be to turn the images, the photographs, and artwork into dollars (and that depends, to a large degree, as to where the photos were taken, how they might be used, and whether any photo release(s) were signed by the person in the image... which directly limits or expands what can be done with the image(s) after the shoot) - or

3) under some shoot contract (often limited to commercial purposes, or for a special event, like a wedding).

Even most of the newspaper and magazine photographers are no longer 'salaried' - but rather 'freelance' these days, or 'contracted' (on a case by case basis), unless they are also editors or syndicated, or in management. Few photographers are salaried, and fewer are guaranteed any income when sick, disabled, or on vacation. Most 'Freelance' or 'stringer' photographers fall into the second category... meaning they only make money when people actually spend money purchasing their goods (or services). A 'stringer' is a freelance photographer that is regularly used by a newspaper or publication, but often paid by the size of the image or number of words. Back in the old days, the measurement was often done by the inch, and a string, rather than a tape measure, was used... they are generally a step up from just a freelancer).

Just because a person regularly works at, with, or seemingly for a venue does NOT mean the venue pays them. In fact, often the venue GETS SOMETHING IN RETURN for free (or very little money), just because they are enabling that photographer to work semi-exclusively on their property, and to sell their images... and if they don't sell, they don't make any money. The photographer is gambling on their images to be good enough quality, unique enough, that people are willing to spend money for downloads, prints, or licenses (the right to use the image commercially). So, the next time you see a photographer working a concert or special event, if they are doing a good job and working hard, and producing good to great images... reward them... whether with cold hard cash money (i.e. tip or purchase), or just a acknowledgement like 'great job,' because you might be what paid the gas or food bill for them just to be there that night!

Consider for a moment, a tow truck driver is paid because he has a tow truck, and knows how to use it. They are paid per mile they tow, with the cost of insurance, taxes, fuel getting to & from the tow, and their skill at doing the job correctly. Why should a photographer be any different? After all, they often have as much or more dollars invested in gear, and usually far more time because of everything that happens after the shoot. Show some appreciation for those that work hard... helping you capture your once in a lifetime memories!

( Cheap Photography, Prom Senior Wedding advbice charges cheap cost of photograpy, experience photography shoot charge shoot fees time tips traps tricks Mon, 25 Apr 2016 22:54:22 GMT
Macro Photography ~ Super Macro?!?! 20160403-IMG_709020160403-IMG_7090

This tiny flower is about the size of a large pencil eraser, smaller than a dime, in reality.


However, it filled my camera's view finder... and would blow up to poster size without any issue or problem. It's not cropped, not digitally enlarged, not created in photoshop. It's an optical magnification... using a regular kit lens, and a special 'toy' (errr, TOOL) that enables some awesome undocumented ability.


I used a REVERSE 18-55mm EF kit lens, not some expensive macro lens. I was about 1 inch away from the tiny little flower as it filled my viewfinder, with the sun light in front of the camera (so I didn't produce any shadows).


You'll need to purchase a mount adapter for REVERSING THE LENS (literally turning it backwards on your camera). It allows you to screw the front of your lens to the the mount - like a filter would, then mounts on your camera body (backwards).


You will need to pay close attention to the filter size of the lens you want to use... but the really cool part is that it turns your lens into an amazing 'magnification' (or macro) lens. I'd suggest getting the biggest one you believe you'll use, and then spending a few dollars on step down rings to allow it to work on different lens. (The problem with step-up rings is vignetting around the edges when you have too small of an adapter on larger lens).


Add a focus rail, I prefer a two axis (back & forth, as well as right or left). So, for about $50 USD, you can turn that little inexpensive kit lens you got into an amazing macro lens... capable of more than you can easily get out of a $400-1000 'real' macro lens, by just turning it around (backwards). Pretty cool, huh?

The 'zoom' works well, and the manual focus will still work (some lens will require you to also switch to manual focus when you change the aperture). In reality you have to move the camera forward or backward to 'get' the really fine focus on the object, which is when macro rails can really help save you a pile of time and headaches.

There are different size reverse adapter rings... though 52, 55, and 62mm are the three most common and least expensive options you can find on eBay. And you'll want METAL, not plastic.


The aperture is set in a bit of a strange way... you first have it on the camera the right way. Set the aperture you'll want, remember the lower the number the shallower the depth of field. The higher the number, the more depth of field there is. Unless there is a specific reason to change, to - for example - blow out a background, I usually try to set the f-stop around f/8 to f/11 for the most 'focal range' without 'stacking' (a photoshop trick, where multiple images with different focus points, are stacked). Once you have the f-stop set, POWER OFF THE CAMERA!

Then remove the lens... the internal leafs controlling the f-stop will remain the same unless they are powered on (by re-attaching the lens correctly).

And viola' you have an amazing piece of glass already in your kit... if you just flip it backwards, and have a little patience.


There are two ways most tripods can be adapted to help with macro photography.

a) MOST tripods with legs that can be moved out to nearly flat, has a piece at the bottom that can be moved in place of that often foot long center post. Or,

b) If the legs don't open out flat (where they are closer to the ground)... then the center post can usually be turned around (upside down), allowing you to mount your camera upside down.

Either option allows you to get closer. Either way, macro rails allows you to move the camera more finely, more quickly, more easily for optimum focus and positioning. Allowing you to get closer to the tiny object, which is particularly important if it moves.


Any questions?


( How To Macro Photograph Super close daisy inch macro photography magnify up Wed, 20 Apr 2016 22:03:42 GMT
The FLYING SMILE... 20160403-IMG_725120160403-IMG_7251


I've only found this common and possible with birds that often fly in formations... geese & ducks. And usually, at least for me, more common as they are flying AWAY, rather than toward you. However, there is often a 'smile' (or frown) in their pattern... if you just look (and have your camera ready).

This image was is about 800mm



1/1000th Shutter Speed

ISO 200


Late afternoon, with sun starting to go down behind them (and me).


Any questions?


( God's birds ducks flying formation geese how humor in smile to Wed, 20 Apr 2016 21:17:11 GMT
Osprey - IN FLIGHT... 20160419-IMG_045920160419-IMG_0459


Capturing Birds in flight... depends on your goal - wings stopped or blurred... and ability to accurately track and predict the movement. The settings on this image is:

400 mm x1.6 (crop factor) = 560mm Equivalent, plus about a 35% crop out (digital enlargement & framing) for a total of about 800mm total.
1/800 at f/5.6
ISO 200
The goal was to focus on the eye(s)... or as close to the head as possible, and to keep as much of the bird IN FRAME as possible.
Large birds are usually easier, as they are usually slower and predictable... you just have to watch, and be positioned to 'follow' them in camera.
Personally, I shoot with BOTH EYES OPEN, and often glance out of my 'off camera eye' for anything else moving, and where the critter is most likely going to be (or is)... especially if I lose tract, which sometimes happens.

I've found the best 'place' is usually within about 50 to 100 yards of 'their nest' or 'search grid' (hunting territory). For predators, it's usually the same day after day, though different critters have different size areas they patrol, most raptors are usually limited to a few hundred yard circle... and usually around where they usually feed. They move only if their feed, nest, or life is threatened. This is true for most predators... though other critters tend to cover more space, and can be far more challenging.
Blending in, not appearing as a threat, and not infringing upon their life is important. Having a good telephoto, extenders (when necessary and possible)... and using a crop sensor (rather than full frame) to give you a bit more boost in distance can all be helpful factors.

With things like WiFi, it's sometimes possible to set up REMOTE cameras... even controlling them remotely. This often only works in limited situations, with limited focal points... such as bait, food, or even a nest. Upside, amazing shots are possible. Downside, you can't just leave or pull your equipment when ever. There are many tools out, and even some camera bodies, that allow remote control. You just have to set things up in the right place... and be patient. Ultimately, the first problem is you can't change focal length in most cases, or pan & tilt, so position is key... as important as 'the settings.'

I've found that most critters will 'get used to' you being around, and will continue living as if you aren't there, so long as you're quite... don't move around a lot or quickly... and don't appear to be a threat to them, their mate, or their young.

Any questions?


( Hawk River avian birds flight flying how in osprey photography photographying raptors tips to wildlife wings Wed, 20 Apr 2016 21:00:42 GMT
I want the new camera body... REALLY? © 2013, updated 2016 Terry Mercer Photography
Seriously, having been behind cameras for over 40 years, and in the photography 'business' for over a dozen years, and messing with video shooting and editing since 2012. The one thing I've learned is that the average person does NOT NEED A NEW CAMERA BODY, or the latest body, if they already have a camera body with a detachable lens that meets their USUAL EXPOSURE NEEDS. (sorry, Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fuji, Olympus, Pentax, Hasselblad, etc. but I don't belong to the 'body of the year club' ... or even every 3 to 5 years usually). I purchase bodies based on NEED, PURPOSE, and usually buy wise enough that I run that body until it dies or gets broken. THEN I replace the body, and with few exceptions, ONLY THEN!


Ultimately, I'm going to assume you have a camera, and that it already has a body that employ’s a REMOVABLE LENS... if you don't, then THAT IS YOUR NEXT LOGICAL STEP.  And making a wise decision for WHICH BODY (with the option of removable lens) you should get, honestly depends on a wide variety of factors:
~ response time (of the shutter)
~ low light ability (low noise high ISO)
~ features that you will honestly & actually USE... like remote shutter, built in flash (yes or no), wifi control (wireless see what you're getting, remote shutter), articulating screen, video ability, underwater housing cost, etc. etc.
~ cost of glass (lenses) for that body, and the ability of any lens you purchase to work with future bodies.
Please review another blog post/article I have on Buying a Camera.  This is primarily for people that ALREADY HAVE a camera, and are thinking of getting a new one - upgrading, or replacing their existing camera.
If you already have a body that allows removable lenses, then you really need to consider if you have all the RIGHT GLASS for what you are wanting to shoot. If not, I suggest INVESTING IN GLASS over the latest 'body of the year' upgrade game.

What the average (hobbyist and professional) needs is GREAT GLASS, better glass, quality glass! NOT a new body...


Fact: Camera companies release a new body every year, often two or three, with some bell or whistle that they generally hope adds enough value, or marketing purpose, over their previous model, to get you to think about spending the money for the upgrade. Maybe it's a slightly higher megapixel, a faster frames per second, or more focus points, or even some fashion of built in Wi-Fi. But 99 of 100 'photographers' (of all levels) that already have a detachable lens camera body really and truly won't improve the quality of their images from the NEW BODY, only the maximum size (or crop ability)… or low light capability (because of a higher ISO, and better processor).

Again, 99% of the photographers today, will NOT improve the quality of their work with the latest and greatest camera body. I say this after having a multitude of bodies over the years, including Mark II’s, III’s and even using a Mark IV, as well as an assortment of crop sensor bodies, and fixed lens cameras. They are ultimately a TOOL… and if you know how to use it correctly, like a framing hammer, verses a roofing hammer, verses a general purpose hammer… they are all basically the same, and do the same thing. But if you are really using it on a daily basis, and doing so as your career, then selecting THE RIGHT ONE FOR YOUR NEEDS is important; but fewer than 1 in 100 photographers really ‘need’ (or can benefit from) the latest generation ‘new’ body.

Another vital thing people need to understand, bodies will quickly depreciate in value (about 25% in the first year, and as much as 90% in a decade); whereas glass & most non-model specific accessories are more likely to MAINTAIN their value, usually plateauing at a low value of about 50 to 80% of their original costs up to 10 to 20 YEARS LATER! Of course, to a degree, it depends on the quality and popularity to begin with, and care you take of that item. With bodies, those ‘care’ and ‘quality’ factors just don’t matter much for resale value. Example: a 24-104mm L f4 lens was new about $1,000, over a dozen years later in good working order is still worth $500-700 today on a pretty quick sale. Whereas a Mark II - 1Ds purchased at the same time was nearly $8,000 in fall of 2002, but one would be lucky to get $300 to 600ish out of it today. Huge difference! I’ve seen the MKIV’s that were initially sold for over $6,000 go for under $1,000 on a quick sale in a pawn shop, craigs list, and eBay. So, camera bodies, by and large, are NOT a wise investment, unless you are able to use it better, faster, or more than what you currently have to make significantly more money.

Plus, most importantly, the new body - in and of itself - won't 'improve' your photos; with very few exceptions. Going from a crop sensor to a full frame can enhance the ‘drop off’ (depth of field), but only if you have the glass necessary to take advantage of that. The full frame will allow ‘more’ of the wide angle landscape to be captured than a crop sensor camera. (Note: there are always exceptions, but in general, for the vast majority, a new body won’t improve their photographs or enhance their ability to make money, this is true 99.999,999%.)  Either you’ve figured out how to make money with photography, or you haven’t (and hopefully are learning).  Either you’ve learned to correctly capture images, with proper exposure and focus, or you haven’t. If you aren’t shooting RAW, aren’t shooting in manual mode most of the time, aren’t using a camera body with interchangeable lens, then you’ve got a long ways to go yet.

The exposure triangle remains the same, though noise at higher ISO settings is a big deal for some low light photographers. And, of course, higher megapixel cameras allow for more cropping IN on an image, which allows for a larger finished product. So, that 40 megapixel image can have 75% cropped out, and still leave the average person with a 10 megapixel (poster sized) finished product without pixilation. However, with interpolation and technology, I've seen 'wallet size' images blown up to murals and billboards without any nasty pixilation, so it's ultimately WHAT TOOLS ARE EMPLOYED, and how much the photographer know about up-sizing images. Anything above 10 megapixels is usually sufficient, unless you’re shooting for billboards. Anything that shoots in RAW, with manual override settings is all that matters, in a body (regardless of the lens). Then there are 'features' - like 'articulating screen' (which I love, and none of Canon's full frames have yet). There's the built-in flash, which while not perfect... it's perfect for big/busy events, and long backpacking trips… and there when you need it, for objects within about 20 feet. There's the built in Wi-fi, which is cool & awesome, and more cameras are shipping with that feature (but it's existed for about 5 years or so... so can be purchased on an older model camera for much less than the newest model of the year). And frankly, few people even know how to really use or benefit from it (and for most, there is a slight delay that makes it impractical for remotely controlling a camera in sports action settings).

In general, 99% of the avid camera users that are already using an exchangeable lens camera body will NOT benefit by up grading their camera body nearly as much as they will by upgrading their glass. Also, most (not all) body upgrades, necessarily require paying attention to battery type (especially if you already have a bunch, because camera makers love changing things up on occasion, to enhance their ‘aftermarket sales’). Oh, and if you have a vertical battery grip, kiss that goodbye, because most won’t work on a newer body type, EVEN IF IT USES THE SAME BATTERY! Any remote controls, special triggers (lightening, motion, sound, laser, etc.) might also require different cable connections… be sure the tools you have & use work, or it will add to the cost of the upgrade (and is another set of things to be aware of before you buy a different body). Also pay attention to lens mount type (especially if you already have some glass, or want to get new/more in the future) ~ for example the Canon EF-S glass will NOT work on a full frame camera, yet all the EF & EF L glass, and EF-S will work on a crop sensor Canon body. Then, of course memory card type (frankly, if a body doesn't use SD or CF cards, it's pretty worthless to me… and should be a concern to you), but it’s another thing you should double check. With SD Cards now in the 256 Gigabyte range, and 95ms (megabytes per second) write speeds, and solid reliability, it's tough to consider anything else.

IF you are already using a reasonable removable lens body and are already optimizing their settings, shooting manual, in RAW, and already have some great glass... and you're either making money with what you have, or you have money you want to toss at 'keeping up with the Jones' (who ever the Jone's are)... then by all means get a new body. If you truly want to toss the money at it... get the 200 megapixel medium format Hasselblad (unless you're a sports action photographer)! For a mere $30,000+ you too could have the body (and digital back) that most photographers drool over. And that's awesome; IF you can afford their glass... and aren't shooting a bunch of action or low light fast shutter required photography... or wanting to take that body underwater... or in a dust storm... or in the rain, on the ocean... or that might get ran into or over... each of which can quickly make short work of that expensive body if not cleaned and cared for quickly, correctly, and EVERY TIME! 

There are massive options for the 'Professional' (and pro-sumer) market. Ultimately, you have to define the TYPE OF SHOOTING you are doing, HOW & WHERE you'll be using your camera, and what type of camera will best suit your needs, and what your budget really is… both now, and per year in the future. (See  I Want to Buy A Camera for more details about that).

I repeat: 99.999% of the camera users - hobbyist or professional, WILL BENEFIT FROM BETTER & MORE GLASS! aka Lens. The better the lens, the wider the aperture, the more controlled and accurate the settings, the lower the ISO requirements, the faster the 'snap to' of the focus, and better 'image stabilization' options, the better the photograph will necessarily be, with the exact same body. Getting 'faster' (wider aperture, for lower ISO's in less light, with faster shutter speed) glass should be the ultimate goal of every real photographer. Even if you can't - yet - afford the $1,000+ on a "L" series (professional) f2.8 of faster glass, getting the glass you can readily use, and immediately benefit from for decades to come, through multiple bodies in your future, should be your goal… before seriously thinking about spending money upgrading your body.

Some of my personal favorite lens, that most ‘professional’ photographers, and extra serious hobbyists, should have (these are CANON LENSES, as that what I shoot - with the still cameras):
Wide angles: 10-22, 16-35 f2.8 L, 28-70f2.8 L, 24-105f4 L, or 18-105f4 pro lens.
Telephotos make sure you CAN reach out and touch your subject well with lenses like: the 70-200 f2.8 IS EFII L, 100-400 IS EFII L, or 28-300 IS L... or 150-600mm IS EF L.

Good glass, good fast memory cards, good quality accessories that can be upgraded or aren’t ‘make & model’ specific are all wise investments that can last you for many years to come. The flavor of the year body will be available for 25 to 40% less within 6 to 12 months, 35 to 60% less within 24 months. So, unless you have all the glass you really want and need, it’s a better investment than a body… especially any body that ‘just comes out.’ Ultimately it’s your money, do with it what you want. But from my experience, 99.999% of the time, glass is more necessary and helpful to improving images than ‘a body’ (any body) has ever been.

If you enjoyed, appreciated, and benefited from this article, or any of my other ‘blog’ posts on photography, and you have joint issues… knees, hips, shoulders especially… then I highly suggest you check out my sponsor: ( & I’ve been personally using those products since 1998, and they easily gave me 20 years of pain-free movement back, and faster recovery from joint related injuries when I get ran over or fall.


( Canon Fuji Nikon Olympia Pentax Sony buying a new camera camera body cameras learning lens photography upgrading Wed, 24 Feb 2016 23:56:42 GMT
f-stop understanding Nope, it’s NOT a ‘dirty word’ and is something everyone behind a camera should learn. They are one of the most commonly questioned, and misunderstood… and misused, parts of photography. Basically, the f-stop is simply THE SIZE OF THE OPENING INSIDE THE LENS, and the amount of light that lens is capable of allowing through. On still cameras, it's usually referred to as 'aperture,' whereas on video cameras the same thing is called an 'iris.' It all boils down to the SIZE of the hole that allows the light in. The bigger the size, the smaller the number... which is logically opposite of what most people think, but it's been that way since the beginning of cameras and photography.

Again, opposite of common sense and normal logic, the smaller the f-stop number, the wider the opening, the less light is needed for a shot… the faster your shutter speed can be, or the lower your ISO, for the same amount of light. The larger the number, the smaller the hole… the less light is allowed through… the higher your ISO or slower your shutter will need to be, to get the same image. But the f-stop is vital in professional photography, and PURPOSEFUL BLUR of the foreground or background.

If you understand the ‘exposure triangle’ – then you know that you have to PICK THE ANCHOR POINT: if you’re shooting moving objects you don’t want blurred, then shutter speed should be your 'anchor point.' The most important factor of your shots at that time, for that subject, for that day, regardless of the amount of light available... if you are attempting to stop motion, your shutter speed is the key, with very few exceptions, unless you want blurred movement. If it’s still objects, then shutter speed is only important if you’re shooting freehand (or while moving), and aperture is your anchor point. ISO is almost always the variable, adjusted based on the goals (and needs) of the other two points. The aperture is a key part of photography, and ultimately one of the most powerful tools to master.

There are plenty of ‘visual’ examples on the internet about what ‘size’ comparisons of different f-stops are. For sake of argument, f/1.4 is wide open… say the size of a silver dollar… depending on the width of your lens (circumference) it will vary from lens to lens, which directly varies based on focal length (mm length of the lens) AND aperture, it might be even bigger in reality.  Whereas f/22 is about the size of the lead in a pencil, and f/36 about the size of a sewing needle. In general, the wider the aperture, the smaller the number (f/1 being the smallest and most expensive, and rarest).  The average person is stuck using f/3.5 or greater, with some ‘professional’ lenses still in the 4.5 – 6.3 range for their minimum aperture size because of their focal length (at costs under $20,000 for a single lens).

The circumference of the lens, and the aperture setting options, help determine a lens’ ‘drop off’ – not just ‘DOF’ (depth of field)… but also, just how FAR that ‘blurred’ (or Bokeh) area really can be. That all gets into some wild math, and often times requires either years of experience and repeated testing & practice… or a DOF Calculator… to really ‘plan’ a shot with.  For the sake of example, and the primary purpose of this post, is to get a person thinking… and hopefully wanting even more information. When in doubt, USE A DOF CALCULATOR (really, there are free apps available for all 'smart phones.'

When you see those amazing big blurred circles of lights behind a subject, the person behind the camera likely DID THE MATH (or has the experience) to create the Bokeh. It is real rare with 'stock' lens (glass), and requires a great deal of practice to consistently recreate it, if your widest aperture is 3.5… but very easy if it’s 1.2 (and nearly impossible to avoid it).

Each indoor location and activity is slightly different, but in general… to get the subject in focus, and blow out (blur) the crowd in the background:

  • f-stop: 1.2 to 4 is usually preferred (though few people can afford lenses below 2.8 or 3.5)
  • Shutter Speed: 250 to 400 preferred, for action (like basketball or football, faster for hockey & volleyball)… tough to go below 1/60th if there is movement, unless you want to blurr it (like I regularly do with a drummer’s sticks… depending on the speed of THEIR HEAD movement, I’ll usually shoot them at 1/8th, 1/10th, or 1/15th, seldom over 1/30th... regardless of the focal length of the lens I'm using).
  • ISO: 100 to 3200 preferred, without strobes (flashes) or just awesome lighting, it’s rare most people can get below 1600 ISO in low light situations without a flash… and some are up past 6400. (I've lit up audiences in low light with ISO speeds of 25600, but the images weren't as sharp as I would get at 3200 or less and a defused flash.)
  • Focus – spot, AI or Servo when possible with constant refocusing on moving objects, and learn to pan WITH the moving subject. (Personally, I shoot with both eyes open at most sporting events & concerts, and usually SPOT FOCUS, though if they are really moving fast & often I'll switch to AI... and usually only use 'servo' when using the dSLR for video)

Most concerts, basket ball games, and assorted other sporting events don’t want the participants blinded by a flash, thus not allowing a flash to be used. Believe me, you don't want some athlete, their parents, team, or coach blaming YOU for their player missing a vital shot because your flash blinded him (or her). Therefore, learning how to shoot without a flash (and still get the shot) is vital in many indoor environments. Some performers have literally STOPPED THEIR SHOW, and had someone popping flashes talked to (or kicked out)… because they don’t want to fall off the stage because they blinded by the flashing.

I’ve also been in museums (Bitmore Estates, being one) that will NOT allow any flash photography, at all… PERIOD… inside, as repeated bright flashes can degrade the colors in the paintings, etc. So, again, learning to shoot without a flash enables you to make captures when most people are told to put away their cameras. It helps distinguish between a beginner and experienced photographer.

Having the ability to control the settings of your camera is vital… having the practice and knowledge of what those settings do is even more important.

The cool part about digital… you can practice to your hearts content… and delete the failed attempts. Make a note of what works in which settings, and how those things effect the shot. You’ll pick it up pretty quickly… IF you pay attention.

“F8 And Be There!” For years, this was the cry of the photojournalist. It meant that a great photo was being prepared, in the right place at the right time, with a focal length set to F8 for the sharpest image (most reasonable DOF)... and 90% of the time those film photographers would 'get the shot.' True, it was simplistic, but in the Age of Photoshop, this maxim is too often forgotten… and proves that most of the outdoor photography doesn’t necessarily require a massively expensive hunk of glass. No matter how much you play with the bits and bytes, the best images always start out with a great vision, clearly and cleanly seen.

Be in the right place at the right time… prior planning, practice, and placement are key to most all action photography. Set your camera to “Program” (or MANUAL MODE, once you have enough experience)… adjust the exposure triangle, and GET THE SHOT. Back in the days of film, the right film (ISO) had to be loaded before anything else, not so with digitals. Also, contrary to what some pros claim (jokingly or seriously), the “P”, which stands for ‘Program,’ doesn’t stand for “Pro Mode.” Being ready and where you need is far more important than fretting over your camera’s settings (past ‘to flash’ or ‘not to flash’ – and how do you accomplish that). Though the 'A' mode is still pretty much the 'AMMATURE' mode, because other than where to point it... and when to click that shutter... the camera is doing all the thinking for you; even when it thinks a flash is necessary. You might get some good to great images, but you'll never learn to get them consistently... or how to shoot where a flash isn't allowed... or how to deal with motion, purposeful blurs, or shooting through obstructions.

Learning to play with the manual settings really helps change the photo. Aperture & Shutter Speed are the most important… ISO, WB (white balance), EC (exposure control), and focus points (and type: one spot, AI Focus, AI Servo) are also important, and will drastically alter the end results… as is shooting RAW (rather than JPG)… all of it adds up to something that will effect what can be accomplished in post processing.

Happy Shooting… and Best Wishes.

If this helps you, PLEASE SHARE with your photography friends. And check out my photography pages on facebook (likes on my website home page).

Terry Mercer
~ More than Just a Camera Guy

( advice camera f-stop help photo photography setting settings talk Sun, 25 Oct 2015 16:41:31 GMT
Iwanttobeaphotographer ©2016, Terry

So, YOU Want to be a Professional Photographer?

Every once in a while, someone approaches me saying that THEY WANT TO BECOME A PHOTOGRAPHER...


While I'm happy they see an interest, a desire & passion to get behind a camera... and hope they learn 'the exposure triangle' (intersection & symbiosis between the aperture, shutter speed, ISO settings),  and a good eye and brain to compose images IN CAMERA, as much as possible. Knowing how to use a camera, with manual settings, and working with RAW images, is vital to consistent quality images...

HOWEVER, I also want them to understand the reality of more boring & challenging parts of  'the photography business.' 

In all honesty, a counter person at Micky D's will often make more money the first couple years a person is trying to build a photography business, and will have more 'disposable money' (spendable on fun things) for the next five years (the time most photographer's are 'gearing up'... buying necessary equipment, software, computer power, upgrading camera or computer gear, testing, learning, etc.). The reality is that less than 1 in 1,000,000 can 'just start' a profitable photography business without a spouse or 'real job' helping fund their gear and shoot time for the first few years.

'The Business' side is not just 'snapping a few images' and then collecting money. It's not all fun & games, or going to cool places, meeting famous people, or how it's often portrayed on TV or the movies. It's usually not scripted or documented, except in the RESULTS (portfolio) of the well established photographers that have clicked tens of thousands of shots honing their craft, learning their camera gear, and dealing with shooting in a variety of challenging situations.

Nope, 100% of photography generally breaks down to about

  • 10% of the time behind the camera (once you KNOW HOW TO REALLY USE A CAMERA)... about 90% camera & computer UNTIL you've mastered the settings & controls to shoot consistently in different environments & conditions. Getting the feed back, mentoring, experience, and training... and figuring out WHAT TYPE of photography you most enjoy, and CAN make money at are often two different things.
  • 20% behind a computer post-processing (tweaking, cropping, editing, removing zits, straightening angles, and improving the images)... potentially much more in the beginning, as you learn the techniques, and assorted software tools necessary to effective 'post process' your images.
  • 10% accounting - Uncle Sam is going to demand his share, PERIOD! That's dealing with federal (and most cases, State Sales Tax)... and all that paperwork. Accounting & income expense tracking takes time, and is a necessary evil of any business... and you really want it to be AT LEAST a 'Schedule C' business venture, if for no other reason than you can use PRE-TAX dollars to purchase your equipment, which is usually a 20 to 40% savings. In general, a 'start up' can 'lose money' (spend more than they take in) legally, for the first three years, then have to 'make a taxable profit' at least three out of five years thereafter. Profit is often subjective, but in general, at least from my limited understanding, it needs to be at least enough to 'have to' pay federal taxes on. Because 'valid equipment & photography related expense are write offs' for a business, and these are 'acceptable expenses' (cost of doing business) which aren't generally taxed (but written off). So, dealing with the accounting allows you to SAVE & KEEP more of the money you earn. Failure, or ignoring it, CAN LAND YOU IN DEEP DOO DO with the IRS.*
  • 10% LEGAL... you'll have contracts, releases, and copyright issues to deal with. These are vital, important, and necessary... once they are done, the majority of this time can be spent doing more of the other stuff. But make no mistake, legal stuff will happen, is necessary, and you'll need to have either a good understanding OR COMPETENT HELP, or you'll end up with problems once people think you're making money or have something they can 'take' from you. Copyrights, trade marks, branding, use rights, licenses, and releases are common in most all types of photography. With some, there are actual 'contracts' for what a photographer can (and can't) do with their images... what a 'buyer' of the image(s) can or can't do with them. It's worth knowing, understanding, and having a source for legal help. Prior planning is a real time saver (especially if someone steals your work or accuses you of inappropriate behavior)... or demands you don't use their image(s) you took, after you've already sold or distributed them. There are rules & laws, understanding them is important. 
  • 30% MARKETING... especially if you aren't working for some established photographer (or photo company), and don't have a solid portfolio & clients lined up, you'll have to figure out how to attract paying customers, and turn 'raving fans' (of your work) into both paying customers & promoters of You & YOUR WORK.  Advertising, which will cost you money, is often necessary, especially if it's not word of mouth or social media promotions, may also be part of this equation.
  • 5% Gear... maintaining, selecting, saving up for, acquiring, and learning to master will require a little learning, if nothing more than it's limits of what it really CAN and CAN NOT do in real world situations. As well as, when and how you (and your client) will benefit from using (or not using) that tool or piece of equipment.
  • 15% RELATIONSHIP BUILDING/NETWORKING... different than marketing, different than shooting... it's all about 'getting IN' - that toe in the door - with the RIGHT PEOPLE, and establishing long term working relationships... sometimes sometimes friendships. So THEY WILL HELP YOU (directly & indirectly) build your business by refrerring clients.

In the photography business, not only are consistent quality images required, but so is reasonable and consistent COMMUNICATION: verbal & written. If you're lacking in these, a) study & practice, practice, and practice; or b) hire & pay someone to help (but still put in the effect to learn, improve, and become self-sufficient). Whether you're enticing new clients, exceeding the expectations of existing clients, or dealing with another business or job opportunity, effective communication is every bit as vital as quality images.

Once you are 'established' - have a solid reputation, consistent work that people are willing to pay for... and understand 'the business' - and regularly are dealing with the legal stuff (to protect yourself & your work)... and have the habit of 'working YOUR BUSINESS' - those percentages can change around a bit, but will most always be some component of the photography business.

If you have a 'salaried' (or regular) gig/job, or are an 'intern' (usually no or low paying, until you can capture marketable images consistently), or second shooter (rather than intern, because you KNOW HOW TO CONSISTENTLY CAPTURE QUALITY IMAGES) for an established photographer... then there are some of these steps OTHER PEOPLE are potentially doing FOR you. Pay attention, learn all you can... ASK QUESTIONS, listen & watch. Everyone does 'their' business a bit differently, some are far better than others at marketing & selling their work product, which may or may not be better than yours. They are just better at CAPITALIZING THEIR WORK, and very potentially working harder & pushing some most every day to grow their business.

There are ultimately two types of photographs -

    1) PERSONAL IMAGES (of and to specific clients, individuals)... usually prints or downloads, one at a time... or in package deals. And,

    2) COMMERCIAL IMAGES (which can be resold for marketing & advertising, PR, news papers, magazines, etc.)... which can be sold with specific use rights, and limits multiple times over.

Most photographer's specialize in one or two specific types of imagery... niche markets they believe they can make some money at (in). Few photographer's will focus on trying to market for more than 2 or 3 'types' of photography. Here are SOME of the most common types are:

Aerial                                From a drone, plane, helicopter, balloon, or other airborne device. (Subject to FAA regulation & threats)
Action/Adventure        Adventure & sports, it's all about the MOVEMENT & MOTION. (one of my personal favorites)
Amateur/hobbyist Any type of photography practiced by non-professionals… for fun, not money. (No tax write offs here)
Animal, Pet                      Pets (often interacting with their owners) - Personal or Commercial potential (MUST BE GOOD WITH ANIMALS)
Architecture, Real Estate            This is all about making property appear attractive. 
Artistic  (Fine Art) Photography with creative composition & often photoshop mastery is often required.
Astrophotography            Photography of the sky, stars, milky way, planets, usually through a telescope.
Aura Some claim can photograph a person's aura. 
Black & White            Black and white photography explores & exploits shapes, tones, and textures. Shadows and highlights are vital.
Commercial            Product shots, advertising, for brochures, catalogs, billboards, web sites, etc.
Digiscoping            Photography through a telescope or binoculars.
Journalism/Documentary           Documenting the story… in a journalists style... Events, Historical, Political, etc.
Event (not wedding or music) Charities, parties, festivals, etc.
Forensic            Police and legal photography (different than PI work… often includes crime scenes).
Infrared            Specialized photography equipment, where the recording medium is sensitive to infrared light. (often thermal)
Large Format            For use on posters, billboards, etc. (special requirements, aside from just massive megapixels)
Macro            Extreme closeups, but not 'microscope' photography. Usually very small objects taken real close (i.e., insects eyes)
Medical            Clinical purposes, to help reveal and diagnose illness, or educate others about diseases.
Microscopic            Any technique for photographing objects too small to be visible to humans (but not 'macro' (super closeups).
Modeling            Not to be confused with 'models' (humans). This is photographing objects to be rendered into 3D models (wire frames, SGI, CGI type stuff… Avitar, special effects).
Music (Concert) Low & terrible lighting, no control, crowds of people (sometimes drunk or rowdy), and often seemingly unreasonable contractual requirements
Nature            Landscapes, animals, plants, water, etc.
Night            Any technique used to capture images at night, usually including the sky… sometimes includes infrared photography. Sometimes 'light painting.'
Panoramic            Views of wide areas, up to complete 360° panoramas. (Stitching multiple images usually required)
Paranormal            Ghosts, unexplained phenomena, etc.
People            Huge variables: From Candid (not posed), to posed, usually of clients, their Family, Fashion, Glamor, Passports, Head shots, Portraits, Pregnancy & Newborns, School, Sport teams (non action)
PI Photo documentation covertly (there are laws about this, different in each state… some requiring a license or permits)
Scenic            Landscape, Cityscape, Astro-scape (can include 'Night' photography)
Satellite            Views from space (not something most citizens/people are even capable of doing)
Scientific            Any specialized photography used by scientists (and their students) e.g. electron microscopy photographs, medical photography, astrophotography, etc.
Sports           Akin to Action/Adventure, but often specialized in to specific types of sporting events, and requiring a working knowledge of the actions before they happen (for the mid-air images)
Stereoscopic (3-D)            Involves taking two photos simultaneously to simulate 3-D vision.
Stock            Photographs taken for distribution to other people, usually for little money, to  use in their projects (personal or business). These photos tend to be generic, with model releases. 
Time-lapse            Photographs of the same object,  from the same exact angle & settings (usually), at timed increments... to illustrate something happening over time.  Such as cloud movement, plant growth, etc. 
Travel            Showcasing highlights of a given locations, for travel literature, web sites, etc.
Ultraviolet           Recording ultraviolet light, rather than the normal visible light spectrum. (common in Forensic Photography, and Medical) Requires special equipment. 
Urban, Industrial            Emphasizing urban environments, industrial plants, buildings, structures, parks, etc as they relate to the community.
Water, Underwater            Any type of photography taken at water level or under, using a special camera housing (usually requires special lighting also).
Wedding Self-explanatory, but the variable difference can range from $600 to $30,000+ dollars for one day of shooting. (Average is in the 2-5k range)


For example: A school photographer goes into schools, takes the class & individual photos based on a specific lighting combination, camera settings, and sends them off to another company to process. They are usually paid 'hourly' for their work, or 'per person' (student) - and the company they work for 'owns' the images (contractually). The company they 'work FOR' employs them, hustles the jobs, and sends them around to the different schools so the year books can look better, and consistent. Knowing WHO OWNS your images... and what you can do with them (legally) is important. A contract (work for hire) can trump 'copyright laws.' 

Many high schools & colleges have their own photography teacher & students running around with cameras... shooting events, sports action, etc. for the yearbook, school paper/website. And some pro-photographers actually pay the school a fee to have an 'exclusive' photography contract, in exchange for getting exclusive access, and the ability to sell the images at prices agreed to by the school. And yes, most schools have some 'media' camera people around for the big events, usually news paper people and tv stations. So, getting in prime positions to shoot at schools can be tough, and making money quite challenging (because you're usually limited to what the parents & athletes purchase... with the occasional news paper request or potential (if you're real good & consistent). 

For those over 21, there are clubs, bars, and venues that have concerts & 'contest' type events... some have 'house' photographers, some allow pre-approved 'freelance' photographers... some, don't allow any at all. It's tough to 'get in' - and to 'get paid' - by the venue, artist(s), or people there. But, it's possible.  At most of these type of gigs, if your camera equipment is lost, stolen, or damaged... OH WELL, your problem (as the photographer)... hopefully you have insurance. It's something to be aware of, and not for the faint of heart or argumentative personality types. Professionalism, patience, and assertive behavior is necessary.

There is the 'wedding' (engagement, family, newborn) type of photography.... it's often the second most lucrative (highest income generating)... but you're constantly hustling NEW CLIENTS with money.  If you rock their engagement photos, you generally get to shoot their wedding (fees usually range from $600 to 30,000 for a full day wedding shoot)... and if you have a studio or are mobile, you can usually get their newborn and family photos in the future. But, make no mistake, there will always be people 'cheaper' (often a family friend... with a camera, which is frankly a joke most of the time)... and there will always be someone 'better' (that just 'photoshop creates' an amazing image (usually only one or two key images per wedding). It's all up to you... but it requires patience, persistence, and pretty thick skin. Many will love your shots, until someone points out their little fat roll showing, or a zit you missed removing in post... then you potentially have bridezilla to deal with. Personally, "I try to avoid wedding photography altogether (but I'll shot a divorce)" at least that's been the running joke the last dozen years.

Senior Pictures can be a profitable type of photography, especially if you're good with teens. While some is done 'in studio' - most is outdoors, in nature, around buildings, and usually done in 20 to 45 minutes.

Child photography is a whole different set of challenges... and whether you are male or female, young or old, I personally wouldn't ever do it without a parent or guardian PRESENT, and a signed release... especially not in private or a studio setting.  0 to 18 years old can be an amazing niche' market, especially the 'teen years' - 13 to 19... and most of the 'modeling agencies' and Commercial catalogs, and magazines want new, fresh, talent, looks... and there can be a whole lot of money made, if you have the right faces, shapes, and looks... a cooperative teen, and supportive parent (or guardian).

BUT BE AWARE... even if you've done nothing, YOU CAN BE ACCUSED! It's always important to CYA (Cover Your Butt... the polite version). Thankfully I've never had that issue, but know more than a few photographers that have over the years. A couple were a total scam by the teen or parent, attempting to get 'free' photos, or some other special treatment (for them or their child).

I'll write more as I have time... let me know if you have questions.





Disclaimer: *Please consult a bookkeeper or CPA, and attorney for the legal stuff, as I'm in no way giving any specific or individual advice on these 'specialty topics,' or nor am I licensed to offer such advice, and don't bother keeping up with the rules & regulations as they change on a regular, especially here in the states. It's generally not terribly difficult, and there are 'smart' people licensed on these topics that can help you for a reasonable fee. I accept no responsibility or liability for your screw ups, or for attempts to follow my advice. (Smile, and remember, Don't Step on the Top Step of a Ladder) 


















( advice business how to of out photographer photography requirements starting types Fri, 27 Feb 2015 19:35:35 GMT
IT IS ALL ABOUT THE EYES... EXPECT IT, and DEMAND IT~ 20131206-IMG_874320131206-IMG_8743


Regardless of the lighting, props, planning, goals, and emotions... there are essentially only fours 'types' of portrait photos...

  1. tight (head shots)
  2. medium (waist up or a tad wider, but ultimately just you)
  3. wide (you - with some interesting back ground),

    and lastly... the one the photographer has little to no control over. Often not even the lighting, the position of the subject, what the subject is doing, how they are positioned, or even what obstacles are in the way... but one of the funnest (to me) and most challenging (for most people)

  4. LIVE SHOW/ACTION - EVENT Photography - where having flexibility, adaptability, and patience is key, and complete control over the functions and ability with your gear necessary.

I can't say this enough... TIGHT MEANS EYE BALLS! IRIS' and LIPS/JAW LINE. ALWAYS THE EYES... they should be sharp, in focus, and as clear and well lit as possible. The eye color should pop, sparkle, and be as bright as possible. The eyes should capture the attention of the viewer, and whether looking at you - or away - then should display WHO THE SUBJECT IT, and some emotion.

Medium is still about the EYES, but add in the shoulders and upper body.

Wide brings the tummy, hands, and legs into play... but it is still ALL ABOUT THE EYES & FACE if they are in the frame! Though the iris' don't have to necessarily be seen, the eyes still should look like they ARE THERE (and colorful, if they aren't black or dark brown)!


LIVE SHOW/ACTION... often don't allow a flash or any special lighting or reflectors, or tripod, and one must hope the stage lighting is reasonable, the photog is patient, and camera setting are correct (and in manual mode). It's common that it's the 'scene' - not always the eyes, that is captured, though the eyes & head should still (and always) be the primary goal in most cases. (Some times the action, the hair flip, hand gesture, or scene is more important than the eye's, but that's rare).


Maybe I'm weird, strange, or some perfectionist type... but it bugs me when I see 'head shots' that are 'staged' and 'posed' still images, taken in a controlled settings, which often leave the eyes bland, dark, shadowed, and doesn't make those IRIS's pop out of the image. Before facebook, instagram, cell phone selfies, those type of images would be laughed at... and the 'photographer' (person behind the camera) would have two choices: IMPROVE or find a new profession.


However, it seems, these days, far too many are far too accepting of less than honestly great images... and too many 'feel' cell phone snap shots are readily acceptable. WHY? Personally, I think it's because facebook, twitter, and the other programs that specialize in 'instant gratification' and sharing have dummyied down the expectations of what is acceptable. Does anyone have any other thoughts or ideas on the topic??

How do I get through to the musicians, celebrities, and professionals that they should expect posed photography in controlled settings to BE PERFECT, or at least 99% perfect, and focused ON THE EYES if the image is a tight or medium shot??



Accept 'better then nothing' with LIVE SHOWS, LIVE videos, with SITUATIONS the photographer isn't in control of the lighting or angles... EXPECT PERFECTION otherwise! In fact, if you are paying for it, DEMAND IT!




( advice demand expectations eyes how to images iris photography portraits posed poses professional tips tricks Thu, 16 Jan 2014 04:25:43 GMT
Sensor Size - WHY it's important and what it means to your photos Sensor size -
©2013, Terry

Something MOST PEOPLE never think about, or even have awareness of, when making purchasing decisions.

Many long time 'photographers' don't even really understand all the ways sensor size can effect a photograph (positive or negative)... or fail to give it the necessary importance. On a computer screen, with little to no cropping, or other enlarging, the average person will be hard pressed to tell the difference between sensors when comparing photographs taken under optimum lighting conditions; UNLESS the same 'shot' is taken from the same tripod (direction, location, and subject) with the same mm of lens, and even then only when displayed side by side (or stacked on top of each other).

However, there are two other instances when an average person can tell: a) when photo is cropped a great deal, thus drastically enlarged from the original; and, b) when the ISO is set too high for a given camera's true ability to effectively capture an image using available light. These reasons are why a 10 megapixel Professional camera (either full frame sensor or slight crop frame) is usually better than a 10 megapixel consumer camera, which is most always better than a 10 megapixel camera phone.

The difference is the concentration of pixels. Opposite of common sense, smaller pixels on a smaller sensor does NOT create a finer photograph, because they have less space to capture the necessary information. In reality, bigger 'photosites' on a sensor gather more light, produce less-noisy images (i.e., less pixelation), capture a greater dynamic range of colors & light, and perform much better at high ISO settings.

HOWEVER, ultimately HOW YOU SAVE THE FILES is just as important, if not more so... because if you have a compressed sensor, then further compressing the file by saving to JPG rather than TIFF or RAW, you are experiencing compression upon compression... and loosing a whole lot of details and potentially vital information to a finished photograph. This is quickly evident when a photo is enlarged by cropping out 33% or more, or printing to sizes above 8x10.

Back to the sensors. First, there are TWO types:

CCD (charged-coupled device) which is currently the most common type of dSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) sensor, and some of the more expensive (pro level) high megapixel compact cameras (particularly the underwater & sports action models priced over about $600 MSRP).

CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor). Which is less expensive to produce. Initial implementations took advantage of CMOS' on-chip electronics to make less expensive sensors, better low light sensors, and ultimately a less expensive camera; however, they are a whole lot more noisy (pixelated) when enlarged.

Second, there is often much confusion on this topic because there are so many different size options, and so many trade-offs relating to image noise, diffraction, cost, size, weight, and even power consumption.

In general, professional level cameras are usually 'Full Frame,' which is considered equal to a 35mm film size (ie. 'the standard'). That sensor (and camera body) is, at this time, usually priced well above $2,000 (not counting the lens cost). Just about every other camera under that magic price point is a 'crop sensor.' This is important for the type and size of prints you'll need... and how much cropping (eliminating of the captured information to gain a finished photograph) you plan on doing, and the type of shooting you'll be doing.

There are MANY different 'sizes' of crop sensors, which can make this a very complex issue. In defense of the larger crop sensors the 'pro-sumer' (Nikon & Canon) have, one might initially think that throwing away image information is never ideal, however can have some advantages; especially in wildlife & sports action photography because you effectively gain 'zoom' range with less expensive (shorter) lens. Example: a 100mm full frame lens would be equal to a 150mm on a Nikon dSLR, 160mm on a Canon dSLR, 200mm on a 4:3, 300mm on the next step down, etc. etc. etc.

Nearly all lenses are sharpest at their centers, with quality degradation progressively happening toward to the edges of the frame. This means that, unless you can afford the 'best glass' (professional level, low f-stop, large to massive, expensive lens), and a body over the $2,000 average... you will be stuck with a 'crop sensor' camera that gives you an additional magnification factor. The question then becomes just how big of a sensor can you afford, and what do you need for your photographic goals?

The majority of the dSLR's on the market ARE CROP SENSOR CAMERAS. Hundreds of millions are sold every year, compared to just thousands of full frame cameras. Nikon's generally have a 1.5 crop, Canon's (which is what I shoot) have a 1.6 crop. Olympus, Fuji and Kodak all teamed up to create a 'standard' 4/3 system, which has a 2X crop factor compared to 35 mm film. Camera phones and other compact & micro-compact cameras use sensor sizes in the range of ~1/4" to 2/3".

Knowing your camera's crop factor is important for a variety of reasons. First, so you can compare 'apples to apples' when shooting with someone else. If the other person is using a full frame camera, shooting portraits 12 feet away from the model, with an 85mm lens; and you are using a Canon 1.6 APS (crop sensor body) then you'd be about 10 feet away with a 50mm lens to capture the same 'area' (50x1.6=80, and you gain (or lose) about 2.5 mm every foot closer (or further) from the subject). At low ISO, both cameras shooting in RAW, with proper post-processing, the average person won't be able to tell any difference up to at least a 16x20 print size. The higher the ISO, the worse the lighting, the larger the final print size, the more a person can tell a difference.

There is a marriage between megapixels and sensor size, they work synergistically with each other. The megapixels are effectively the number of dots of RGB (Red Green Blue) pixels being captured; whereas the sensor is the size and amount of room those megapixels are confined to. Many refer to this marriage as 'bucket size' - which is accurate, but I don't think demonstrative enough. Try this: consider having eight people in a semi-truck (full frame) vs moving truck (pro-sumer 15./1.6 crop sensor) vs cargo van (4:3 ratio) vs large car (8.8x6.6 high end compact ) vs economy car (7.18x5.27mm mid-range) vs ultra-compact clown car (5.27x3.96mm). Remember, 8 people are still 'in' the vehicle. You can quickly see that details will be lost the smaller you go, merely because of space.

All of PS (Point & Shoot) cameras have serious crop-sensors, meaning that what they can actually 'see' through the lens will be 'cropped' to what is actually captured. If you will never be printing above 8x10, or cropping the photo drastically after it's taken, and can work in optimum light... then a PS is much better than no camera at all (or an even smaller sensored phone camera).

Medium format and larger sensors exist, however these are far less common and currently prohibitively expensive. The Hasselblad H4D-200MS Digital Camera (Body and Digital back, not even counting any lens) costs a whopping $43,995! These will thus not be addressed here specifically, but the same principles still apply.

In summary, a cropped sensor is forced to use a wider angle lens to produce the same angle of view as a larger sensor; and, this can degrade quality. Smaller sensors also enlarge the center region of the lens more, so its resolution limit is likely to be more apparent with lower quality lenses. Larger sensors have larger pixels (although this is not always the case), which give them the potential to produce lower image noise and have a higher dynamic range (of colors & light); ie, more data is captured & saved (especially in RAW format). Dynamic range is essentially the number of tones which a sensor can capture, to define texture, edges, and sharpness... to make the subject discernible from background. Since larger pixels have a greater volume (ie. the bigger bucket or larger vehicle) they have a higher dynamic range. Further, larger pixels receive a greater flux of light & color photons during a given exposure time (at the same f-stop), so their light signal is much stronger (thus less noise).

Which brings us back to megapixels. The sensor with the higher pixel count will produce a cleaner looking final print. This is because the noise gets enlarged less for the higher pixel count sensor (for a given print size), therefore this noise has a higher frequency and thus appears finer grained. The resolution of a digital sensor is determined by the number of megapixels, not the overall size of the sensor. Squeezing 10 megapixels onto an 7.18x5.27mm sensor chip (a phone camera), does indeed provide 10-MP resolution, but the noise will be much higher than, for example, the Canon 300D (Rebel) a 6-MP DSLR with a 22.7x15.1 mm sensor. Noise in a digital image is manifested as speckles all over. This is particularly enhanced and worse at higher ISO settings, an understandable phenomenon when you consider that higher ISOs are achieved simply by increasing the amplification of the sensor light signals. It is the same as turning up the volume on a radio for a distant station that is already not clearly coming through as good as it should (or could).

I hope this helps... (and isn't too boring).


( & APC CCD CMOS P&S camera dlsr megapixel mp photo photography pixels pocket point sensor shoot size Sun, 14 Jul 2013 20:09:34 GMT
Talk about JPG vs RAW... for image capturing There is a lot of talk about JPG vs RAW... for image capturing, so I thought I'd spend a little time and do a bit of research... and hopefully come up with somethings that makes sense to people interested in the topic.


Many times over the years, I've been reminded of Ansel Adams. Just a few years ago someone reminded me again to 'care more' about the published and shared photography I post... and how selective he was on what he showed others. The general public never saw his 'experiments,' only his amazing finished and polished works. Ansel Adams developed the 'Zone System,' which revolutionized photography forever... and distinguished him from all other photographers of that time. At its core, the Zone System is about the artist making completely subjective and educated decisions based on experience, personal choice, and AWARENESS of the subject, contrast, light quality, film structure, processing, and paper... from the moment the shutter is clicked, through development to print. Each step is a separate, but a vital series of choices that must sync for the most impressive finished product. Anyone that actually developed their own film (back in the pre-digital old days) remembers the time, thought, and effort put into each print (and how easy it was to screw up, or get inconsistencies because of chemical changes, temperature changes, and the slightest adjustment to the process). Most will also remember how it really was nearly impossible to print the EXACT SAME PRINT, especially on different days. My basic premiss is that post processing in digital world allows exactly the same things, and that you have more choices and flexibility by choosing RAW, and nearly exact replication of the finished work you SAVE when working with digital files, the same printer, paper, and inks (or dye-sublamation).


The reality is, image conversion, white balance tweaking, angle, photo manipulation, color correction, sharpening, or any alteration you make effects the pixels... in groups, zones, and individually are things that happened in the dark room... back in the old days. Digital only allows greater latitude, and flexibility, depending on what you have to begin with. The original image, the smoother the shifts in tones, the less noise, and better potential for a nice finished product. Think about it, using RAW images from your camera, you will have 1365 shades of black to white transitions occur in , verse just 85 in JPGs.


Again, the math is important. A JPEG is an 8bit file, which equals 256 colors (its entire tonal range) per color channel of RGB (Red, Green, Blue). This equals a grand total of 16.7 million possible colors per pixel (all the average computer screen could display, prior to LCD's and Plasma). Now, that seems like a lot, and it is (especially for just a computer screen or newspaper print). However, most RAW files are 12 or 14 bit files. And just a 12 bit RAW file can measure 4096 tonal values per color channel, which is a total of 68.7 Billion colors PER PIXEL. Wow! And yes, that's 'B'illion! 16.7Million vs 68.7Billion. HUGE Difference!


Now, the average human eye can only discern about 10 million different colors; so, the average person is incapable of even seeing the 16.7 Million... which seems to beg the question, “Why do I need that much information in my photos?” The easiest answer, “Because I can!” But where is the fun in the discussion if it's left at that? And, in some photographs, those color transitions stand out more than others.


As a photographer, you have choices. Ultimately, you need to remember that you ARE selling (or gifting) a product - your photograph, and if you are shooting in color (not just black & white or grey scale), the greater tonal range allows for a smoother, better color transitioned, and sharper final image. If you are serious about being a photographer, your goal goes past the snap shot, past even 'just a pretty picture,' with a consistently improving (and pickier goal) of creating a masterpiece! A goal of UNIQUENESS... something few could ever get (as well as you did)... or could recreate any better. That is what experience and practice gains you. And, with it, you'll learn to shoot RAW's the majority of the time.


However, as Steve Anderson, an experienced commercial photographer, once pointed out: "I’m a realist; I know there are a lot of industries shooting JPEG. Press photographers at the Olympic Games enjoy some of the coolest technology available, but getting photos out in “real time” puts a lot of pressure on them. So, shooting JPEG is part of that solution, and with it comes a new set of concerns. I enjoy seeing the photos and never think to care if it was a JPEG or RAW. The final word, because someone is going to ask, yes, I did shoot JPEG once. OK, well actually a few times, but at least once on a job. It was the end of a 3-day shoot in Hawaii for Aqua Lung; I was waist deep on a reef, a long ways from a download, shooting my last card on hand. I flipped it to JPEG to squeeze out another 50 frames or so before the sun set."


Summary: If photography was really easy, everyone would be doing it... and doing it well. While an amateur can get lucky, it takes thousands upon thousands of captures, prints, and evaluation... hours of practice & education, and a clear understanding of your equipment to become consistently good. The post processing can take the technically good, and help make them great. However, failure to understand your camera's settings, ability, and how to properly take a photo can't be fixed in post processing... whether in JPG or RAW. Enjoy... feel free to share this with your photographer friends if this helped you.



( advice camera canon jpeg nikon photography raw tips wisdom Sun, 14 Jul 2013 20:05:00 GMT
There are only three types of shots ©

I was thinking, in reality there are only three types of shots:

1) happenstance - you stumbled upon a scene or subject, and happened to have a camera there to snap the shot.

2) staged - you planned the shot, placed or posed the subject, and thought about how it would look before you pressed the shutter.

3) scouted (practiced) - sports action, event, and controlled chaos. These are the shots that you have SOME idea of where & how, but ultimately are subject to having NO CONTROL, other than your camera settings, your own position & placement, and HOPE that what you think will happen, will happen when, where, and how you think it should.

Can anyone think of any other type of 'shot'??

There is post-creative, but that can happen with any of the shots.

There is computer created, but that also has little to do with the shot, more to do with the graphic artist and software and ability.

All three types of 'shots' can be taken, with practice, thought, and prior planning... with just about any type of camera. IF the lighting it there, and IF you compensate for what ever the particular camera you are holding's limitations are.

There are some amazing shots taken with camera phones... there are some absolutely terrible shots taken with Hasselblad's. While glass helps, equipment for the purpose makes things better, easier, and faster... it's ultimately the photographers understanding of the equipment they have working with. The angles, lighting, and other things THEY CAN CONTROL in the shoot. Best of luck, practice brings skill, digital offers cheap clicks... and life is like photography, nothing unless developed correctly!

( advice lesson photography photos pose snapshots tips tricks type wisdom Sun, 14 Jul 2013 19:57:53 GMT
Exposure Control (Bracketing) Exposure Control (Bracketing)
© Terry

So, you have an important shot... big money and/or reputation rests on THE PRESS OF YOUR SHUTTER. You know what shutter speed you need, you have calculated the DoF you'll have to have (aperture), and you have the ISO set to the lowest you can. And your test shot looks great. HOWEVER, there are some extremes fixing to be added into the frame... either really bright whites (such as snow, flashy wedding bright white wedding dress, or shiny white car)... and/or some dark darks (night sky, dark room, black clothing, even a really dark skinned person next to a very pale person/object) setting the exact right exposure for the WHOLE IMAGE may seem impossible. Too light and the whites get blown out. Too dark and the blacks & shadows have no surface or details.

You have ONE CHANCE for that group to be together (teams, weddings, graduations, etc.) and it will never happen again. What do you do??

Try Bracketing - it uses something called 'EC" (Exposure Control/Compensation). The shutter speed remains the same, the ISO stays the same, and the Aperture isn't changed....

But is a very under utilized feature most all dSLR's have, related to the 'in camera' light meter. It's that little 'grid' at the bottom of your view finder with the hash marks, and the 'highlite' little square (or dot) that shows you where the camera thinks the exposure is, based on your settings (ISO, shutter, f/stop (aperture)). It's the 'forth dimension' - and something very few people ever pay attention to or use (including many professionals). However, it enhances creativity, reduces errors, and allows you to capture some otherwise almost impossible shots.

Each stop of EC provides either a doubling or halving of light compared to what the in camera metering mode would have done otherwise. A setting of zero means NO compensation will be applied (default).

Exposure of an image can be adjusted in post-processing, using good editing software. However, there are obvious and real limitations: lightening an under-exposed shot will exaggerate any noise, while 'blown out' (over-exposed areas) are impossible to recover.

In most dSLR's (and some of the higher end Point & Shoots that also capture in RAW) you can select something called 'bracketing' - which is necessary for HDR, but more importantly, helps insure you’ve got one that’s correctly exposed – especially if you choose to shoot RAW files.

What it does: It captures THREE FRAMES of the same image... you set the brackets, but they are usually -1 0 +1 for the exposure. Your high end cameras allow for .5 +/- to 2 +/-  (a few allow a 3 stop option). Many landscape photographers using bracketing use a +/- 2. Which means that one shot will be over exposed by 2 stops, one under exposed by 2 stops, and one where you (or the camera) has the exposure settings set at. The HDR photographers use these brackets to 'pull' the dynamic color range, and to get the sharpest, highest contrast areas of the greatest range of shades possible. They are multiplying the the color range by at least a power of 2 (if not 3). You have the 0 compensated 16.7 Million colors, and the +/- version of those 16.7M colors.

Think of it like walking into your living room in the afternoon... consider that 0. Turning on the lights, +2. Turning off the lights and putting on sun glasses, -2. That will help you understand the different shades of lights and colors you'll be able to see. The modern cameras are able to do that by using bracketing. Isn't it time that you stepped up to play with an often under utilized feature??

Next, is 'STACKING' - that is what the HDR photos do with the bracketed images. Literally stacking them on top of each other, allowing the sharpest and most dynamic colors (shades & shadows) to show through. But, one step at a time... start with bracketing, and see the difference. AND SHOOT IN RAW!


( EC Exposure and bracketing colors compensation control dark extreme group how to light metering photo photography teams wedding Tue, 09 Jul 2013 21:59:14 GMT
Lens Flares - How to deal with... © Terry

What ARE lens flares?? It usually shows up as yellow-orange-blue streaks or geometrically shaped spots, or could even be an overall haze in a portion of the photo that actually reduces contrast and saturation and masks details in the subject.

What causes flares?? Bright light reflecting inside the lens... either from lens surfaces or from internal components in the lens.

First choice, use multi-coated glass (higher quality lenses & filters) WILL help reduce flares, but no stock lenses (that I've seen yet) is completely immune to it (though a good filter and HOOD will positively help).

There are things a photographer can do to help control (and eliminate) 'lens flare' (whether still photos or video):

1) USE THE LENS HOOD... The WIDER the better... it help block the 'top or side light' which is a common cause of flares.

2) Use a CP (Circular Polarizer)... like sun glasses, the great ones can usually eliminate it with proper adjustment (turn the CP to enhance or detract from reflections & flares).

3) Use a 'flag' - which is nothing more than a cover, usually rectangular in shape, that is above and out of the edge of the visible area of the lens... that blocks the 'unwanted light' (usually top or side light). In the photography world, these 'flags' are often referred to as 'barn doors' - which can help direct light when on a strobe, but also helps reduce flares when used on a lens.

4) 'Close down' you aperture (raise to a larger number which makes a smaller opening, such as f16 or greater) and balance the exposure with either a slower shutter speed or higher ISO.

In many video cameras - including video through a still camera - aperture is often automatically set in video mode, and not user controlled. So there is nothing you can do IN CAMERA. It must be ON camera, OR you'll be forced to:

5) CHANGE the physical angle of the lens to the flare.

Often, just a slight change in the direction you are pointing the lens is all that is needed. Shooting with the SUN or bright lights IN THE FRAME is often a really tough and challenging shot (one I really like doing, because it's not an easy shot to capture).

Bellows hoods are common place on outdoor video cameras, they are usually much bigger, wider, and allow better blockage a super bright top or side light.

Quite often, when I'm outdoors shooting into or toward the sun you'll see my camera in my right hand, with my left hand totally off the camera, with my hand (or holding a note pad translucent reflector, car window shade, or a variety of other objects) a couple feet higher and to the left shading the lens from the flare.

Anyhow, hope that helps answer some questions about how to deal with lens flares. If not, let me know.

( advice avoid how to how-to learning lens flare photo photography spots tips tricks Wed, 27 Mar 2013 08:52:43 GMT
Wedding Tips #13 - Food Wedding Tip #13… FOOD & Drink…

© Terry Mercer

Food & Buffets… whether catered or serve yourself… PREPARE, PLAN, and PREVENT PUKE! Seriously, E. Coli, Salmonella, Food Poisoning, and those type of problems can be prevented.


There are safety issues, and cooling requirements, for certain foods and condiments. KNOW what they are, and accept that some things will need to be kept cold, and some items will need to be kept hot (above 120 degrees, some foods require a 140 degree minimum temperature), if they are sitting for more than about an hour (indoors or out).


Foods transported in vehicles have the clock often accelerated, depending on temperature, ventilation, and yes, bugs. No one wants to spend the night on the toilet, a bucket, or in the hospital. Ice chests can help keep things cold... and if you put heat packs or a container of hot water in an ice chest, it can also help retain the heat during transportation. (As well as help save your food in the event of a sudden stop or turn during the trip).


Also, CONSIDER ALLERGIES! Food allergies are more common than many of us would think. Ask your guests when they RSVP, are: Milk/egg products, nuts, strawberries, tomatoes, msg... or other things... something they are allergic to? This allows you plan around that, or at least clearly mark those things people should avoid. Know that guests with blood pressure issues try to avoid sodium, so have it on the side for those that can use it. Most professional caterers already know and think about these things. They have hot & cold serving trays... they know the dangers of leaving some foods out for too long.


Prior planning will most definitely make a happier & fonder remembered wedding.


Hydration... especially important in hot weather and under the sun. Different people have different tolerances. Make sure you have plenty of drink options for your guests. Bottles of water, tea (sweet & unsweetened), lemonade, maybe even soda. Stay clear of HOT drinks (like coffee) in crowds, no one wants to get bumped into and burnt.  The more heat, the more need for cool (not always ice cold) drinks; as ice cold actually promotes heat exhaustion. Watch the heat index, and consider shading your guests.


Save the alcohol until the reception, and AFTER the wedding ceremony. You really don’t want to deal with a drunk mouthing off or acting goofy during the vows, or when the preacher asks if anyone objects. Seriously, many weddings have become epic historical stories for decades, just because of a drunk relative, friend, or ex.


Have I said “PRIOR PLANNING”??? Enough... but really, most common issues & problems can be avoided.

I hope the accumulation of these tips will help you plan for a better day, and around the common problems that can make your special day less than perfect.

( Buffets E. Coli Food Food Poisoning PLAN PREPARE PREVENT PUKE Salmonella advice catered marriage planning reception serve yourself tips traps tricks wedding wisdom Wed, 27 Feb 2013 05:34:06 GMT
Wedding Tips #12 - OUTDOORS Wedding Tip #12… OUT DOORS (Wedding or Reception)

© Terry

Someone brought up OUTDOOR WEDDINGS…  if your wedding (and/or reception) is indoors, most of this won’t apply to you.  (Key word is ‘most’).


First, and for most, you have to consider the weather, not just THAT DAY… but the days previously. Most people worry about rain, but completely forget about temperature, sun, wind, and…. wait, wait for it… oh yes… SOFT GROUND! Sorta like that old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”


Rain is obvious, no one wants to stand out there all decked out in formal wear when it’s raining. But what if it rained a day or two before your special day?? Or, like the Happy Gilmore joke about meeting up on the 9th Green at nice o’clock… ask if SPRINKLERS were used on the ground the night before, and what their schedule is. The ground could become the dreaded ‘shoe eater’ – especially high heels. Carpet runners, and rug squares can solve that problem, but getting matching sets can be tough. Walmart has inexpensive rug throws… Home Depot & Lowes usually have runners. In some cities, ‘walk ways’ are rented. On real soggy ground, like a field that isn’t often walked on or packed down, I’ve seen people use sheets of plywood for the walk ways and staging areas. BUT BE AWARE, some plywood can be slicker than snot when it’s wet, and most guests won’t want to feel like they are walking on ice.


Wind can take out tents, covers, table clothes, plates of food, and will mess with virtually everything without weight and the surface area that isn’t tied down. Tying down the tent(s) and cover(s) are vital, even on still days. There are a few ways to effectively do that. If you aren’t sure what can work, feel free to ask… but the t-posts (used on farms) and ‘screw in’ (augers) tend to be the most common and best methods. Cinch straps (like truck tie downs) of bright colors usually eliminate or reduce the need for additional ‘ribbons’ to mark those straps people could trip over easily. Preparing an outdoor wedding for ‘worst case’ scenarios and the common elements will save you a great deal of headaches and heartaches IF something unexpected were to happen.


Interestingly, not only can the wind reek havoc on the covers, tables, chairs, and guests… but what about the veil? The dress?? Well, fishing weights, elastic straps, fishing line, or tiny zip ties, can help secure those things, or limit their movement. Two cautions: a) no one wants a fishing weight smacking them in the face, and b) make sure the material won’t rip or tear.


Earth, Wind, and Fire might have been a popular music ground in the 70's... but it's also something one MUST take into account at weddings. Still on the topic of wind… if you are planning to use candles, consider adding glass ‘hurricanes’ (covers) and weighted bases. If you are planning to use Tiki Torches, be sure to position them at least 50% further than their length from anything that could catch on fire if they are knocked down, or a gust of wind blows ashes or embers.


SUN is a commonly under planned culprit in outdoor weddings. Everyone thinks summer weddings in the sun will be pretty, and warm, easy, and happy… and they should be, with prior planning! Remember plopping (or gracefully sitting, for those that do that) down on your car seat after a couple hours at the mall? Yeah, and then either bailing out (not so gracefully), yelping (like a hurt puppy), or getting stuck to that nice burning hot leather or vinyl seat? Well, there is also the issue of seats being baked in the sun… throw towels or covers can help prevent  that. Don’t forget, as your guests don’t want a burned butt (or legs).


Oh, but what about… oh yeah, chairs on soggy ground? While your 80 yr old over weight cheek pinching, less than favorite, Great Aunt Margaret sinking into the ground and falling over might seem funny (now), the embarrassment and challenges of getting her back up and finding a seat that can be trusted should be a prior planning issue. Chair legs, like high heels, can and will SINK INTO SOFT GROUND. And, if they go unevenly, it can be a disaster. More sadly (or funny, depending on your sense of humor & desire for perfection), it can be like dominoes. Once one person starts to go, they could grab a chair next to them, and you could easily lose a whole row. I guess if you have relatives you don’t like, this could be planned, but honestly it’s a distraction and disruption… and the other guests won’t be sitting at easily for the rest of their stay. Using furniture coasters helps spread out the weight, and distributes it slightly better, and limit their sinkage. The key, KNOW YOUR GROUND! And think of your guests.


What about the sun? The angle & brightness aren’t just things that can heat up the chairs, but can cause everyone to either squint or wear dark glasses. For most portraits, people’s eyes and smiles are important, and slits don’t generally make for good photos. But hey, everyone will remember that glaring bright sun.  So, pay attention to the time of day, and the angles of not just the wedding precession, but of the guests too.  No one wants to be forced to stare into the sun… and moving things around at the last minute will be a stress. And dark glasses only look great on the Blues Brothers (or Men In Black) in photographs & videos, they aren’t cool for most people’s weddings… not even in Hawaii.


I’ve discussed bugs a bit in the previous tips… please refer to that, rather than bore you with too much repetition; but I felt it is worth reminding you. BUGS ARE ANNOYING! And the wrong type of bugs have ruined weddings.


Have a Backup Plan… just in case the weather turns on you. KNOW what the last minute options are if it starts raining, or a storm blows in.


Remember: Prior planning Prevents Poor Prenuptial Performances.

( advice ground marriage outdoor planning rain reception tips traps tricks weather wedding wind wisdom Wed, 27 Feb 2013 05:24:21 GMT
Selecting a Photographer Selecting a Photographer

© Terry Mercer


These days virtually anyone can pick up a camera, you probably have more than one yourself. Some people will get lucky, and have some good captures, and unique photos once in a while. However, few will have re-creatable skills, and some will have a passion that burns through to the viewers of their finished work. Within a few moments of scanning their portfolio, seeing what they believe is their best work, you'll quickly get a feel for their style, ability, consistency, and whether it fits with your expectations.


Photography, like paintings, is often a subjective choice of the viewer. While the artists style is usually consistent, as a client you want quality, beauty, and finished work you are proud to show off, hang on your wall, and have others see. ESPECIALLY when you are part of that photograph!


Most people don't want a photo with a level background that looks like it's on an angle, climbing up or down a grassy flat hill... or falling out of the frame, when it's obvious that camera was just tilted or the photographer angled the finished work in some nonsensical way. There is a time and place for creativity, and for reality. Playing with shadows, colors, and improving the look of the subject, or the perspective, should be the photographers job; making it look like the subject is going to slide out or fall off of the photo (when they obviously aren't) is something that novices attempt when they otherwise lack creativity, and honest ability behind the lens. Do you want a 'snapographer' or a 'photographer'?


There are certain undeniable components of good to great photography:


1) The PHOTOGRAPHER - above all, like any manufacturer, builder, or creator this person's vision and ability is key to the finished product.


2) The ANGLES & BACKGROUNDS (Composition) - necessary to distinguish the difference between 'photographs' and 'snapshots.'  The depth, lines, movement, motion, perspective, angles, leading edges, focal points, distractions, etc.  There's more to a photograph than just snapping a picture that is in focus.


3) The LIGHTING (and shadows) - creates mood, separates the subject from or encases them within the background. They can also be distracting, and make or break a photo.


4) POST PROCESSING (Technical Aspects) - every real photographer spends time tweaking the images they shoot after the fact, same as the old school film photographer's work was in the darkroom, the modern photographer finalizes their magic in post processing on their computer.


5) SUBJECTIVITY vs objectivity - the professional photographer focuses on the subject, the event, the story... and leads the viewers, not there, through the moments & memories they captured in such a way as to create heirlooms that can last and be enjoyed for generations to come.


6) PLANNING - the best photographers ask questions, create check lists, scout the scene, and come prepared. They know their limitations, plan around the time of the day, and work to meet & exceed your goals, as both their client and their future representative. Happy clients brag to others, unhappy clients cost business.


7) EQUIPMENT - while some incredible music can be played on a garbage can & milk jug, most people can't accomplish that. In photography, the make and model of the body matters much less than the above factors, but the photographers intimate knowledge of THE SETTINGS, ABILITY, and LIMITATIONS of their equipment is vital to quality finished work. It should show, and their work should be improving over time, regardless how good to great it might have been a year or two, or ten, ago... the best photographers are constantly learning, improving, enhancing both their equipment and skills with said equipment. Those that stagnant, well, tend to stink.


8) STORYTELLING - In addition to the obvious (exposure & composure), the best photographs capture emotion, tell stories, and say something about the life of the subject.


9) HUMBLE BEGINNINGS - Any person that claims they are 'the only game' in town, or even the best, is ultimately ignorant, arrogant, & egotistical. There will always be the personal appeal of completely emotional viewers and subtle differences in the styles and quality of work; most always other options, competition, interpretations, eyes, and ability. Ego tends to get in the way for most creative types. Much like the differences between Leonardo da Vinci and Edgar Degas, or Pablo Picasso vs Norman Rockwell, Ansel Adams vs Georgia O’Keeffe artists and photographers are different. Their skills, equipment, style, and eye are different. Look through their portfolio, get a feel for their ability... and how it matches what you want, need, and expect. Ask questions... ask to see things along the lines of the type of shoot you want done.


Truly great photographs are mostly taken by people that have a lot of good photographs, and are ready for the rare great image, and knows what it looks like before the shutter is pressed. They know it before the image hits their computer, and before they enhance the quality in post processing. True professionals capture moments, and create magic! Let's face it, photography isn't really that technically complicated... in automatic mode or with basic settings, and prime conditions, anyone can get lucky and take a good photo once in a while. It's the ratio of good to bad photos that matters. It's the ability to not miss key moments, and to position oneself at the right angles to get the best images. That's something that takes practice, experience, and thousands of clicks.


Ego aside, I could teach virtually anyone, with the desire and dedication, how to use a camera and improve their pictures; even the more advanced techniques. However, you can't teach a person to visualize the finished shot before they push the shutter. You can't give them 'the eye' for details, angles, or magic. Sadly, anyone can snap pictures, but it takes time & experience to create photographs. Ultimately, it comes down to RESPECT... for the art, the equipment, the client, and most of all the viewer. The Professional Photographer is driven to find and create good to great photographs, to continue learning and improving; doing so consistently they build their reputation, and increase their following of admirers of their work.


I leave you with this thought: It only takes seconds to snap a photo, but usually hours to create a high quality, emotion sparking, story telling photograph... after tens of thousands of clicks for practice and experience before that person with a camera ever pointed a camera in your direction and CONSISTENTLY CAPTURE & CREATE PHOTOGRAPHS.




Terry Mercer

( canon emotion experience fine art fuji improving learning nikon olympus photography photos planning practice selecting a photographer snapography snapshots sony sparking thinking tricks Sun, 24 Feb 2013 23:37:46 GMT
Wedding TIP #11 - FLOWERS Wedding TIP #11 - FLOWERS
© Terry

Prior planning promotes pretty pedals.


Here are some of "The Most Common Wedding Flower Mistakes, that are easily Avoidable." I'm sure there are more suggestions, but these are a pretty solid start.

1) The BIG PICTURE... as difficult as it seems, try to visualize everything, WITH THE GUESTS THERE. If you have a scenic location with a view you love, try to avoid a massive centerpiece that obstructs the view, or requires your guests to be more careful than usual. At the same point, no view... COVER IT UP, but don't allow it to cover you (or your significant other) up!

2) RE-CYCLE, re-cycle, re-cycle... if you & your floral persons plans it right, those aisle flowers can be reshaped into centerpieces, while you are getting ready for the reception, and/or moved to the buffet table. The average ceremony only lasts about an hour or so, and it's a shame to waste all those ceremony flowers, and spending even more money on flowers for the reception.

3) Budgeting... figure out who your vendors are, what you want & need, and what things cost. You might have family members (or friends) that are willing to help with ribbons, placements, and planning... but a florist can save you time, stress, and potential arguments with those you love. So, select wisely.

4) SEASONALITY... remember some flowers are more common and less expensive during certain times of the year. In some areas, having flowers shipped in are your only option.

5) Types & colors... knowing what you like is important, knowing what you don't like AND what people might be allergic to is also vital.

6) Color Co-ordination is NOT matching colors, but CONTRASTING & complimenting them. You will want your flowers to show up in photos, not be lost in the dresses or clothing. So be aware of what colors will compliment and show up with the bride, groom, bridesmaids, and groomsmen standing near them. Remember, YOU ARE IN CONTROL... it's your day, so these tips help your planning.

7) Allergies, scents, and complimenting smells. Remember, the more guests you have, the more likelihood you'll have people with allergies, and people that smell things differently. Having flowers with strong & over-whelming smells isn't advised.

8) DIY (Do It Yourself) - DO NOT DO IT! Seriously, unless you are an insomniac control freak, either hire it done or delegate it to someone you can trust. You have enough going on without the additional stress of tying ribbons, cutting stems, plucking peddals, and caring for the flowers.

9) FAKE FLOWERS - there are some amazing looking silk, cloth, and fake flowers these days. Some a person has to touch to maybe tell, and they are savable, reusable, and potentially about the same price range. This eliminates all allergy issues, and 'scent' can be added, and some real flowers even mixed in. So, if you don't live in Hawaii, but love a Bird of Paradise or the fragile Orchid, going fake for some of those might save you piles of money, stress, and give you (and your family & friends) something to enjoy, use, and appreciate after the fact.

10) Size of bouquet... consider that you'll be holding it, getting pictures with it, and throwing it. You don't want too big, or too heavy... unless you are hiding, or want to hurt the persons you'll be throwing the bouquet to. So THINK ABOUT IT before that special day!


If you can think of anything else that we should include in this section in the future, research or answer... PLEASE LET US KNOW!
( Tips Wedding advice floral florist flowers help marriage planning tips traps tricks weddings wisdom Sat, 23 Feb 2013 10:01:49 GMT
Wedding Planning Tips #1 through 10

Wedding Tips #1 through 10

© Terry


These tips are FREE...  

Use them, modify them to suit your more specific needs, or just ignore those that don't apply to you or your circumstances. Our ongoing list of Wedding Tips are things most couples (and mom's & mother-in-law's-to-be) need to know, or at least be aware of.  


It's 'essential wisdom' gained from experience of multiple weddings and research; from paying attention, with the hope that any one reading these messages think, "I'm glad someone told me that!" We hope you will have the happiest day, the least stress, and the best wedding & marriage possible. We believe that prior planning promotes positive performance.  


Our goal is to tackle 1 or 2 new Tips (Tricks and/or Traps) that most couples experience in planning their wedding. There is no specific order, we address these tips as we think of them, have brides (or grooms, or their family & friends) experience them, and as clients ask us for advice and suggestions. Not only have we experienced many of these issues in our own wedding (which included nearly 300 guests, and a bit of chaos and stress), so we have firsthand experience. But, it's better than that, because we've sat through (and photographed) many more weddings... a variety of types & styles... and sizes. Like any good sponge, we tried to absorb as much information as possible, while helping when possible.


Feel free to email or call us if you have any questions or suggestions.  


We hope you both enjoy, and invite your friends thinking of a wedding in the future to join our monthly newsletter.    


NOTE: we are restating some of our past tips, both as a reminder, and with some edits & additions. Again, please skip those that don't apply to you... and share with your friends & family that you think might appreciate these Tips.




Think about the type of wedding you want--formal or informal, big or small--and the time of year you want it to take place. BEFORE your get fixed on any specifics, consider the planning - the weather, the guests travel needs, and the date.


Some dates are going to be more challenging, and require more prior planning than others. And few people want to drive through snow storms from out of state, hotels can get booked by other events happening at the same time, venues and professionals (bakers, caterers, planners, seamstress's, DJ's, and photographers) all get booked often months to years in advance.


We've already had to turn away people for dates that have been previously booked, and have a few bookings clear out into 2015 & 2016 already. So, PLANNING IS VITAL to making your wedding day the best it can be!



Tip #2 -Investigate Blackout Dates

Know ahead of time if your wedding date falls on the same day as a trade conference, charity walk, national holiday, or some local event that could affect traffic and hotel room availability. This is particularly important for 'prime times' - and weekend dates.


Not only do assorted services, such as caterers, musicians (DJ's), venues, and Photographers get booked months and sometimes years in advance, but so do hotels. You can make a few calls, and pre-book rooms in hotels near your venue for family & friends usually without any money down... just a credit card to hold the room. Double check the cancellation rules for each hotel, in case you over book rooms or change the date, or have some unforeseen circumstance. Most hotels have a ZERO CHARGE cancellation if you let them know 48hrs to 7 days before the date. Some will require a deposit, which may or may not be refundable, if you are booking 5 or more rooms. ASK, PLAN, and THINK ahead... KEEP A WRITTEN LIST OF YOUR COMMITMENTS... it will help make your special day the least stressful and happiest.


Note: Busy wedding photographers & venues are booked 1, 2 & 3 years ahead during PRIME TIMES (May through October in most US areas). So locking down YOUR DATE for all necessary people as soon as you are sure of it is important.


Next, understand that nearly 75% of the weddings involving guests are scheduled on a SATURDAY... and there are only 52 of those a year. In most communities, there is an average of 1 wedding for every 20 people in population, per year. So, a city of 400,000 will have  are an average of 20,000 marriages PER YEAR, of which about 10 to 15,000 weddings are likely to happen ON A SATURDAY (or Sunday). But there is also SEASONALITY to take into account, because in your common storm & snow areas, there are about 500+ weddings on any given Saturday from Mid-April through Mid October (prime time). So, while knowing the schedule of your most important guests is important, knowing what all else is happening on your special day... and the days directly before & after, are vital!


Personally Significant Days


Check your own calendar for college reunions, family weddings, anniversaries or other events, like big conventions or festivals in your city (call your local chamber of commerce), and any annual occasions that involve your family or close friends. It's also probably pretty important to try to avoid getting married on the anniversary of an important family members death. (Food for thought).

If you are interested in knowing the common 'Black-out Dates' Click Here...  


Your special date should be easily memorable, special to you (and your prospective mate), and not conflict with some bad memory or occurrence; as as a death or divorce of someone close, or debilitating accident.



Tip #3 - Really, Guests NEEDS MUST Come First

While this is YOUR SPECIAL DAY, it's vital that you bother to think of others. You'll really need to get a grip on the approximate number of guests you'll invite and that will expect to be attending - both the ceremony and the reception. The more people, the tougher the challenge for catering, hotels, reception, and yes... the photographer will also need to know, so they can plan accordingly.


Knowing the number of guests, availability of services, and expense up front will help you have the best day (and most important guests in attendance). While it is your special day, juggling everyone's schedule requires notice... and the more, the better; with polite reminders just in case. Prior planning prevents poor participation!


A general rule is to allow for about 20 to 30 square feet per guest. That may seem like a lot, but really it isn't... if you are counting space you needed for tables, servers, entertainment, and a dance floor. Knowing the number of guests that will probably attend will effect the space, food, wait-staff, and photographers. We figure 1 cameraman (person) for 1 to 20 guests, 2 camera's minimum is what we suggest up to 50 guests, with an additional camera-person for each 50 guests after that. You don't want to miss your special moments, nor those of the people you've invited to attend your wedding.


We have multiple trained and ready camera-people, ready, willing, and able to help capture your special moments, your family, friends, and guests. Our check list of shot priorities, and pre-wedding venue research, helps insure your wedding photographs will be the quality and heirloom memories you expect and will want to share for generations to come.




Tip #4 - INVITATIONS... (Edited & Expanded)

Consider YOUR GOALS... are you wanting guests, gifts, acceptance, acknowledgement, or something different?


Consider your budget... because guests WILL COST MONEY!


Consider the space available... outdoors obviously has more room, but still requires chairs, and some type of after-wedding reception. The church, or other ceremony options, may have limited seating. Knowing the boundaries will help you target your notice (invitations & acknowledgements) more effectively.


Remember, though it's YOUR SPECIAL DAY... inviting others, especially from out of the area, requires prior notice and planning on their part for stress free participation (and often a nicer gift).  


CONSIDER - if you have a great 'engagement' photo, it IS POSSIBLE to have YOUR PHOTO PRINTED ON THE STAMPS YOU USE TO SEND OUT YOUR INVITATIONS. They work just like regular stamps, but they have YOU PHOTO on them, which can usually gain you some additional attention and talk among your family & friends.  


Suggested Time Line (for the least amount of stress and best planning)

9-12 months

Start looking now... not only do you need to know HOW MANY, but you'll need to consider the audience. There are a variety of options, from generic to custom. From funny, to traditional. From expensive to inexpensive. Knowing how many is vital... agreeing upon a style is important. You'll need to know your date, roughly who & how many you want to invite, your budget, and also list who you want to invite that might not attend... BUT MIGHT BE WILLING TO SEND A GIFT.  


Once you've selected the above answers, TELL YOUR STORY! Not everyone will know it. Some will find it interesting, some stories spark the emotions, and people naturally want to help their family & friends off on the right foot (or at least in a positive way).  


Consider creating a wedding website... that allows you to share more information, with updates of plans and ideas... and allows you to engage your long lost relatives, high school & college friends, and distant family friends. It's really not terribly complicated. It can be your own domain, a blog spot, or even a facebook fan page. But the more you get your personal story out, and engage your potential guests, the more you'll know what to expect... and the more will be willing to participate in some form or fashion... even if only a gift or well wishes.


6-9 months

Save-the-date cards...  have them designed, printed, and ready... send them to your those guests you want attending.


4-6 months

Order your invitations; don't forget the RSVP cards and/or rehearsal dinner invites, to insert where necessary. Give yourself time, just in case there is a typo or some problem missed in the proofing. Besides, who likes rushing through filling out 150 to 500 invitations a day or two before you have to send them out? Avery Labels have programs that allow PRINTING envelopes & labels, and if you use a nice SCRIPT and 'BLUE' (maybe black) ink, they can appear to be 'hand written' - which will save your fingers a lot of stress and some callouses. Remember, you can avoid the stress with prior planning.  


2-4 months

This is when you want to send out the invitations. If lots of guests are booking flights or will need hotel rooms, you'll need to give them suggestions, and plan on giving them at least 8 weeks notice. This will also help you have a more exact count for your seating & catering needs list.


2-4 weeks

All RSVP cards should be back by now. Plan for about 10%+/- actually showing up... and notify those that need more exacting numbers to setup for and deal with things accordingly. Really, there is no sense in laying out the time & expense for tables, chairs, and preparing food for 150 people if only 50 show up... and accordingly, you don't want to be that bride that planned for 100 and had nearly 350 show - without seats, food, or preparedness.

Now, clearly, the above time line is for those weddings that are a year out. Many proposals to wedding dates are a matter of weeks to just a few months, so apply the above formula to your specific needs. And you might need to TALK WITH many (to most) of your most important guests. Always remember,




TIP #5 - TOP Wedding Cake Q+As


What is a 'cake-cutting fee'?

Say What? Yep, many establishments charge an additional fee to cut and serve slices of your cake. This is more common in venues weddings are commonly hosted at, and particularly when your cake designer is not affiliated with their venue. It's usually nothing more than an incentive for you to use their in-house baker which avoids the 'cut and serve' fee, but might well be more expensive or different on the cake costs. If you decide to have your cake made elsewhere, factor in another $1.50 or more per person... or at least KNOW TO ASK THE QUESTION, and negotiate the fees.


How big of cake is needed?    

Clearly that depends on the number of guests, size of slices, and whether it's served (controlled) or free-range (serve themselves).


Will the baker supply the topper?  

Most bakeries will have their 'stock toppers' available, and can order customs; however, unless wedding cakes are their specialty, they will likely either be reselling from a catalog or have a very limited selection. If you don't like what you see, it's perfectly fine to find & supply your own (which may or may not save you any money). Craft shops, florists, and baking stores usually have them, or can make suggestions for other options.


Are real flowers on the cake safe?

Any well established florist will be able to tell you which flowers are potentially dangerous, they really do exist; and which are perfectly safe for use. This is particularly important if kids MIGHT be around your cake. Since some pretties are edible, and some people might not know which things are just decoration and which are to taste, this is something more that you should be aware of. If you are have real flowers as part of the decor around your cake (and food). What might be obvious to you, won't be for everyone.




The Farmer's Almanac is a reasonable start, is another good resource. There are seasonal trends, think about them... plan around what is known, normal, and predictable. Guests tend to skip out on outdoor events that are too hot or too cold. They don't want to be in rain, ice, or snow... or melting humidity. Bugs can be a problem during certain times, so adding the expense of pest control can help everyone have a better time.


If you are planning a sunset (or rise) wedding (though the later isn't suggested for most guests), be sure to double check the exact time of the sun being where you want it... at that location, that date, and what the likelihood of clouds or clear sky will be. ( can help you with this).




Tip #7 = Meal Plan

Knowing the number of guests, and budgeting for that is common... and usual. However, another expense that needs planned for: feeding the wedding day crew.  


They will expect to eat, especially if they are 'on-site' for more than 3 hours. It is important to plan for how you will deal with feeding them. Before you sign the contracts make sure you aren't required to serve the same meal to the vendors that the guests will be served (or that you are ok with and can afford that). If you aren't serving caviar, lobster, tiger shrimp, fillet mignon, or some other high-end expensive foods then it might not matter... but if you are, then 15 to 40 staff/vendor's will ultimately be real happy, and you will be spending an extra $30 to 100+ on those people. So, this is an option to talk with your caterer about, and decide on with your mate (and/or who ever if footing the bill), before your wedding day. You'll want to do this at least a week before the cater starts buying and planning on the numbers to feed.

Be sure to know & plan for exactly who you'll be expected to feed. How many vendors will be eating? Don't forget, especially with the longer receptions, you'll have wedding planner/assistants, ushers, photographer's and potentially their assistants, catering staff & servers, and even a DJ or band members). You need to also think about WHAT and WHERE you want them to served.




Tip #8 - Smart Friends (and Vendors) PAY IT FORWARD...

This is probably your first wedding. Your parents were married decades ago. But your vendors - the Photographer, Caterer, Gown designer, etc. can probably make some suggestions for who & what else you should consider. Like this list of Tips (Tricks & Traps), these vendors have a few (to potentially hundreds) of weddings they've directly & in-directly experienced. Don't be afraid to ask, most will try to help... or tell you they don't know. Worst they can do is say 'No.'




Tip #9 - Organize & Focus

Get a note pad to pack in your purse, for when you think of something away from your computer. Like this List... USE YOUR COMPUTER... organize, and jot your notes down. Have your guest list ON COMPUTER. Not only can it help you with gathering and keeping all their names & addresses for the invitations, but with the seating charts, and assorted other needs without having to duplicate writing or typing their names multiple times (copy & paste will save you time, highlighting adds useful color coding to who is the bride's family, who are part of the groom's family... and who is each parties friends. Example: Medium Blue for the Grooms family, Light Blue for the Grooms friends. Medium Red & light Pink for the Brides. Use Yellow for those in question, Green for those you'd really like there. Color coding can help you with future planning.  


Get a 3-ring binder or enclosed folder, to compile all correspondences, receipts, and contracts with vendors. The folder, with dividers, also allows you to sort photos, magazine pages you've torn out for ideas, notes, etc. that you might want to show vendors. Having everything in the fewest places possible (the notepad, folder, binder, and computer) really helps.  


Also, set up a special email address (yahoo or gmail, or such)... so that the majority of your wedding emails COME TO ONE PLACE. This is particularly important for post wedding interaction. You aren't going to want to keep getting most emails (potentially not even these Tips & Tricks, unless you have friends or other family members that will be planning a wedding in the future). So, having an email that you can cut off, or only check once in a while - when you have extra time in the future, you'll thank us in the future.  


It should go without saying, but store your vendors PERSONAL & business numbers in your cell phone; AND BACK UP YOUR CELL, just in case it's lost or stolen.  


Understand that many of the vendors won't be able to 'just answer' when you call, so leave a message; and make sure you leave your phone number and the best time to call you back in your message, if they don't answer.  





Black-out dates were discussed in Tip #2 (above), but we've noticed that some couples haven't yet settled on a specific date for one reason or another. Many have a specific date in mind or even set. If you do, then skip this tip. If, however, you don't... then you'll soon LOVE US! 


Because, IF your wedding doesn't have to be on a Saturday, life could be a little easier... depending on your guests and prior planning, and a whole lot less expensive!  

Sometimes, it's possible, that last minute plans can work in your favor. With less busy vendors, the closer you are to a date they still have open, the more bargaining power you *MIGHT* have.  This is common place in key destinations, venues, and times of the year. More true in the off-season, and off-Saturday. Most people book their wedding venues & vendors, at least six to twenty-four months ahead of time. So, key spots (and vendors) will be booked, but cancellations do happen. You could ask to be on a waiting list, and cross your fingers. You could try to hold out with flexible dates, and try to see if something might open up; doing this *could* either be a let down (they are booked), or gain you a pleasant discount for a cash (paid in full) commitment. Remember, MOST deposits are NON-REFUNDABLE past a certain point. THIS is vital, because that business likely turned away clients because YOU BOOKED THEM. So, make sure you have your proverbial ducks in a row.


The challenge is to get all your needed vendors to have an open date ON YOUR DATE!  


In general, with most vendors, the Saturday wedding is a PRIME DAY... only 52 per year max, and those days are usually 20 to 50% higher priced. So, you could very probably negotiate a hefty discount on a non-Saturday, and at least a 10 to 20% discount (or extended show special) for any weekday.



( advice black out block out booked brides budget finances free grooms help important planning prior planning scheduling tips traps tricks wedding wedding advice wedding tips Tue, 19 Feb 2013 04:19:28 GMT
Common Wedding BLACK OUT DATES © 2012, Terry Mercer

Know ahead of time if your wedding date falls on the same day as a trade conference, charity walk, national holiday, or some local event that could affect traffic and hotel room availability. This is particularly important for 'prime times' - and weekend dates.

Personally Significant Days

Check your own calendar for college reunions, family weddings, anniversaries or other events, like big conventions or festivals in your city (call your local chamber of commerce), and any annual occasions that involve your family or close friends. It's also probably pretty important to try to avoid getting married on the anniversary of an important family members death. (Food for thought).

Holiday Weekends

Holiday weekend weddings have pros and cons. You've got an extra day for the festivities (and recovery!); plus, a Sunday wedding is often less expensive than a Saturday one would be. And, if not in a church, more likely to get an open venue. However, costs of travel and hotels may be higher, especially on Friday & Saturday nights. Also consider the impact of a holiday weekend on your guest list: Some families have standing plans or traditions that they'd prefer not to miss; and some holidays have incredibly busy highways and airports.

NEW YEAR's - Reception sites often charge a higher fee for a New Year's Eve wedding. And some venues have pre-scheduled parties & events. Double check before you commit to a particular date.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day (always a Monday)

     Weekend of January 18-20, 2014
     Weekend of January 17-19, 2015

February 14th - If you're looking to marry around Valentine's Day, be wary of your floral bill, especially if you've got your heart set on red roses -- they'll likely be more expensive than at any other time of the year. Also, restaurants are likely to be busier...

Presidents' Day (always a Monday)

     Weekend of February 15-17, 2014
     Weekend of February 14-16, 2015

February 29th - Leap Years - (any year the sum of the digits is evenly divided by 4, 2016 & 2020 are the next ones). The Greeks and Romans thought that starting any new life event -- from getting married to baptizing a child -- in a leap year would bring bad luck. Some people only want to celebrate their anniversary really big every 4 years. It's all perspective.

APRIL 1st - (aka 'April Fools Day') seriously, unless you are both jokers... and want your guests joking, this is usually a date to avoid.

Mother's Day (always a Sunday) - Make sure your moms are okay sharing this weekend with your wedding. And ask yourself, do you really want your anniversary to fall the same weekend as Mother's Day when you become a mom?

     Weekend of May 11-12, 2013
     Weekend of May 10-11, 2014
     Weekend of May 9-10, 2015

Memorial Day (always a Monday) - rural & tourist areas are more likely to be slammed busy. Be aware, and plan accordingly.

     Weekend of May 25-27, 2013
     Weekend of May 24-26, 2014
     Weekend of May 23-25, 2015

Father's Day (always a Sunday) - Like you would with your moms, check with your dads about doubling up on this day. And grooms, make sure you're okay with celebrating your anniversary the same weekend as Father's Day if you decide to have kids.

     Weekend of June 15-16, 2013
     Weekend of June 14-15, 2014
     Weekend of June 20-21, 2015

Independence Day - LET THERE BE FIREWORKS... and consider all that happens on that day where you are planning to get married. Will any of your guests care?

     Thursday, July 4, 2013
     Friday, July 4, 2014
     Saturday, July 4, 2015

Labor Day (always a Monday) - rural & tourist areas are more likely to be slammed busy. Be aware, and plan accordingly.

     Weekend of August 31-September 2, 2013
     Weekend of August 30-September 1, 2014
     Weekend of September 5-7, 2015

Numerically Quirky Dates (can be 'cool' and fun... and more easy to remember)

     11/12/13 falls on a Tuesday
     4/10/2014 (a palindrome) falls on a Thursday
     12/13/14 falls on a Saturday
     5/5/15 falls on a Tuesday
     5/10/15 falls on a Sunday
     5/15/15 falls on a Friday

Columbus Day (always a Monday)

     Weekend of October 12-14, 2013
     Weekend of October 11-13, 2014
     Weekend of October 10-12, 2015

Halloween - Avoid it if you're terrified that someone might actually show up in costume (and embrace it if you want them to!).

     Thursday, October 31, 2013
     Friday, October 31, 2014
     Saturday, October 31, 2015

Thanksgiving (always a Thursday) - HOW will this effect your future romance? Future family get together's? And the busier roads, airports, and such?? Don't forget, weather could be a problem.

     November 28, 2013
     November 27, 2014
     November 26, 2015

New Year's Eve

     Tuesday, December 31, 2013
     Wednesday, December 31, 2014
     Thursday, December 31, 2015

Religious and Cultural Holidays

Be mindful of religious and cultural holidays (your own and those of your guests) when planning your wedding. There may even be restrictions at your house of worship as to whether you're allowed to marry at these times.

Palm Sunday

     March 24, 2013
     April 13, 2014
     March 29, 2015

Easter Sunday

     March 31, 2013
     April 20, 2014
     April 5, 2015

Passover (begins at sunset the night before)

     Tuesday, March 26, 2013
     Tuesday, April 15, 2014
     Saturday, April 4, 2015

Tisha B'Av (begins at sunset the night before)

     Tuesday, July 16, 2013
     Tuesday, August 5, 2014
     Sunday, July 26, 2015

Rosh Hashanah (begins at sunset the night before)

     Thursday, September 5, 2013, until nightfall on Friday, September 6, 2013
     Thursday, September 25, 2014, until nightfall on Friday, September 26, 2014
     Monday, September 14, 2015, until nightfall on Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Yom Kippur (begins at sunset the night before)

     Saturday, September 14, 2013
     Saturday, October 4, 2014
     Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Hanukkah (begins at sunset)

     Thursday, November 28, 2013, until nightfall on Thursday, December 5, 2013
     Wednesday, December 17, 2014, until nightfall on Wednesday, December 24, 2014
     Monday, December 7, 2015, until nightfall on Monday, December 14, 2015


      Wednesday, December 25, 2013
     Thursday, December 25, 2014
     Friday, December 25, 2015

Days of Remembrance

We're talking about historically significant days (like the anniversary of September 11) that may be off-limits if you come from a big military family. Or, that could make them all the more meaningful -- it's up to you to decide.

Patriot Day

     Wednesday, September 11, 2013
     Thursday, September 11, 2014
     Friday, September 11, 2015

National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

     Saturday, December 7, 2013
     Sunday, December 7, 2014
     Monday, December 7, 2015


Major Sporting Events

If you're die-hard sports fans -- or if you're worried your guests might have a hard time choosing between your wedding and the big game -- avoid getting married during popular sporting events. And if a lot of your guests come from the same alma mater, watch out for homecoming weekends and bowl games that might conflict.

Super Bowl Sunday

     February 2, 2014, in East Rutherford, NJ
     February 1, 2015, in Glendale, AZ

Final Four and March Madness

     Saturday, April 6, 2013, and Monday, April 8, 2013, in Atlanta
     Saturday, April 5, 2014, and Monday, April 7, 2014, in Arlington, TX
     Saturday, April 4, 2015, and Monday, April 6, 2015, in Indianapolis


Unlucky Dates

If you're superstitious, you might want to watch out for these historically inauspicious dates from across several cultures.

The Ides of March

For ancient Romans, an "ides" was simply a date that marked the middle of the month -- until Julius Caesar was assassinated on March 15 in 44 B.C. Since then, "Beware the Ides of March" has become the mantra of this superstitiously unlucky date.

     Friday, March 15, 2013
     Saturday, March 15, 2014
     Sunday, March 15, 2015

Friday the 13th

The unluckiest date of the year has questionable origins. Some historians say it comes from the 13 diners who were present at the last supper, but the famous Code of Hammurabi doesn't include a 13th law, which suggests this superstition is as many as 3 millennia old. And it wasn't until a successful novel titled Friday the Thirteenth was published in the early 1900s that Friday became part of the unlucky equation.

     September 13, 2013
     December 13, 2013
     June 13, 2014
     February 13, 2015
      March 13, 2015
     November 13, 2015


If there are any vital or important dates that I've missed or forgotten for the United States of America... PLEASE LET ME KNOW.




Terry Mercer


PS.  The preceding information is edited and amended from - but the dates & layout are from Justine Lorelle Blanchard, in her article written for for "The KNOT" -


( 2013 2014 2015 2016 bad black out block out booked busy challenging date dates marriage think unlucky wedding. Tue, 19 Feb 2013 03:04:57 GMT
When choosing a camera... © 2010, updated 2016, by Terry Mercer
The Rule of P's fits well in the world of photography. Whether you are trying to get the right angle or position, or setting... or you are looking to buy your first or fiftieth camera.


If you put some thought into it first, I promise you'll save yourself a whole lot of headaches, heartaches, and money. Most professional photographers have at least 2 dSLR cameras... plus usually at least 1 point & shoot. Here are some tips you might want to consider when purchasing your camera.

Batteries: The problem with many cameras is that they don't use 'regular' (AA or AAA) batteries, therefore are somewhat impractical for occasional use or traveling without power charging handy, or having massive extra batteries). If the batteries are proprietary, always plan on buying 1, 2, 3, or more extra batteries (usually off eBay, where they are less expensive... and usually include an extra charger... be aware, you often 'get what you pay for' especially with the off-brand and knock-offs). Nothing is worse than traveling, not having power, having an awesome camera, a great opportunity for a unique shot, but no damn battery! And no way to get any within a timely manner.

I highly suggest having at least one camera that takes STANDARD BATTERIES if you do much traveling, even if it's a point & shoot. Personally, when I'm traveling I take about a dozen pre-charged batteries, AND my vertical grip on my big cameras - which allows me to use AA's in my dSLR, plus I take my point & shoot (usually with the underwater housing, because there's almost always something under, around, or in the water that is worth capturing), just in case. A small solar charger, external battery backup/charger, can also help when traveling away from standard power outlets being readily available (fore sure).

Next, memory card - try to stick with NORMAL - CF (Compact Flash) or SD (Secure Digital)... they are common, inexpensive, powerful, and work well. Most computers have SD readers built in, and high speed USB readers are common place. Try to pay attention to the 'class' (the higher the number, the faster the card's ability to read & write (i.e., save & copy files, your photos from the camera to the card, and the card to the computer). Class 4 is slow & cheap, and will bottle neck many modern cameras. Class 8 is the minimum recommendation for most cameras, class 10 if you plan to shoot much video or plan to use burst mode shooting much. If money is no object, the 1,000x (150mb/s) class 12 is the fastest and hottest card on the market today, but over kill for the majority of cameras on the market because they aren't capable of writing as fast as the card allows. However, the time to upload to your computer, from a faster card, is definitely noticed if you have a bunch of images or much HD video.

The basics - megapixels... and sensor size inside camera. The larger the sensor, the better, but more expensive. If you plan to print stuff above 8x10, then senor size becomes a lot more important. ASK what the crop factor is - or the capture ratio. IT MATTERS to images you print above 8.5x11, or plan to crop by 50% or more. In general, the Canon Ti & D series bodies uses a 1.6 crop factor sensor, and Nikon's crop sensor dSLR's are 1.5. Point & shoots, cell phones, and other brands use different sensor sizes, different crop factors (usually much smaller, more subject to noise in low light, less detail in the shades and shadows, and range of colors. Basic rule: Try to stay away from the tiny sensors if you can.

ISO - the higher potential the better, for low light (indoor) without flash or distance shooting. 3200 to 6400 is pretty much a standard for low light indoor & evening photography. Some cameras have much higher, but then sensor size and processor determines the amount of noise (pixelation) within the finished print. Some makes & models are clearly better than others at the higher ISO's. PAY ATTENTION, if you'll be doing much low light photography; try to see if you can see samples of the TYPE OF SHOTS you are most likely going to be shooting... from the camera you're looking at, using the lens you'll most likely be able to afford. There is a pretty drastic difference between what you'll get out of a 70-200 f/4, and the 70-200 f/2.8... and even the 70-200 f/2.8is. The three different lenses will allow three different ISO settings, with the same lighting, and shutter speed. Remember the 'Exposure Triangle' - ISO is one of the key points in that triangle (aperture & shutter speed are the other two). The lower the ISO, generally, the less noise; but not all cameras are created equal. Some are extraordinarily clean at ISO's higher than 6400, and in 2016 they announced one that is capable of shooting at 512,000 ISO (in nearly 0 Lux, i.e., pitch black - no lighting at all).

Shutter Speed is pretty meaningless unless you are shooting MOTION & MOVEMENT - like birds in flight, 'sports action' or other high speed stuff, or wanting to do really long shutter speeds (like 30 seconds or hours - for night sky & IR (infra red) stuff). The average rule of thumb for 'freehand' photography is the slowest shutter speed equals 'one over the focal length' before blur sets in. So, if you are at 150mm, then 1/160th of a second is the slowest recommended shutter speed (the aperture or ISO changes to add or subtract the needed lighting for the exposure). Few people can freehand shoot below 1/60th of a second without IS, and I don't know but a couple people that can shoot slower than half a second consistently without a tripod; and very few that can (without a tripod) shoot at 1 second or slower. 99% of the 'automatic' point and shoot cameras try to keep the shutter speed between 1/80th and 1/2000th of a second (the higher the number, the faster).

Shutter lag (response time) is also important. How long does it take for the shutter to respond to your push of the button? The cheaper the camera, the slower the reaction time (the cameras, not necessarily yours). And, as I found out back in 2001, a slow reaction time meant that I had to 'time' my action shots by ANTICIPATING the action, and clicking 1/2 to 1 second BEFORE IT REALLY HAPPENED. Clearly not a good choice for sports action, and a higher 'bad shot' ratio than I usually have with a camera that clicks instantly (thousandths of milliseconds). The faster, the better. Few things suck worse than saying smile, and having a delay for the photo of what seems like an eternity before the click happens. I can not say it enough, but this really matters to any type of motion & action photography. Note: automatic face focusing & 'smile awareness' focusing sounds cool, but often delays the shutter reaction time... and in low light, can delay it to the point an opportunity for an image is lost (or has to be repeated, when that's even possible).

Aperture - the lower the number the better (less light is required), and the better the DoF (Depth of Field) or purposeful blur of the background, and background control.

Next would be mm of focal length. Ideally, you'd want from 10mm to about 200mm to cover most normal family and vacation type snap shots & photos. The smaller this number, the wider the angle it can capture. The higher, the more it zooms. When dealing with point & shoots, and fixed lens cameras, this is the ultimate limitation; and often masked with a x-times zoom factor. 10x is meaningless unless you know WHERE IT STARTS. If the majority of your shots will be within 30 feet of less (unless a landscape), then you'll want about 35mm (or less) to about 100mm equivalency. Many of the less expensive cameras don't have 'exact' mm listings, they have 'zoom factors' - in which case you need to determine what numbers are OPTICAL by figuring out the STARTING mm, and then there is often a DIGITAL zoom factor on top of the optical (note: optical zoom uses the glass, and is better, cleaner, faster... digital zoom uses software within the camera to enlarge the image (often causing some pixelation or data loss) to 'create' the digital zoom factor. Most P&S (Point & Shoots) have a 'digital' zoom, dSLR's don't. The 'digital zoom' looks great on the little screen, and in 4x6's, but tends to show a lot of noise in print sizes larger than 8x10 usually. Optical zoom is generally better, less noise, more sharp, higher quality, but usually carries a higher cost. Know that MANY P&S cameras today allow the user to screw on EXTERNAL LENS adapters (barrels, other lenses, and even filters), which is honestly a pretty great feature if your budget is low but have a high desire for the best quality that camera is capable of.

IS - Image Stabilization, for less blurred photos. Usually only available on those cameras starting at the $300+ price tag. Depending on how the camera does it, determines if it's going to lag (delay) the shutter reaction time. So, BE AWARE. Make sure the feature can be turned on & off... and that you can deal with the lag it might create. (Nikon uses VR, vibration reduction, other brands use different terms). Canon's technology is IN THE LENS. Sony tends to be IN THE CAMERA (not the lens). The end goal and results are the same, but the differences in 'glass' price and weight are huge. Personally, I prefer the 'in the lens' stabilization... but that's what I've been using, and have, for nearly 15 years.

Type of file the picture matters... jpg is most common, easiest, and best for 99% of the snap shots... but RAW is a great option as your photography skills improve and the shot matters more to you (but RAW DOES require larger memory card, as well as post processing in another software program on your computer, more hard drive space for the files, and actually a 'conversion' (to jpg) so other people can see & use the files. Shooting jpg doesn't require any post processing, are smaller files, but contain less information within the image... fewer colors, fewer shadows, and have limited editing capability. Most people don't want to mess with RAW images... but that type will always allow for the absolute best image potential.

Another point is ability to use EXTERNAL FLASH - if you think you'll want or need one, make sure there is a hot shoe or cable connector possible. These are important for fill flashes, and more controlled shoots. Flashes do more than just 'add light' - especially 'off-camera flashes.' They are useful. allowing bounce & fill, more shadow control; and more creativity. However, some venues (sports, concerts, live events, even museums) often ban the use of flashes (built in or external). Which means photographers have to work within the limitations of the environment, and in low light settings... with no lighting control, there are ONLY two options: a) high ISO (in camera - film speed or sensor sensitivity, which effectively allows a photo to be brighter BUT adds 'noise' and graininess usually), and b) 'fast glass' (low f/stop) is important; the lower the number (f/stop) the more light is allowed through the wider opening. However, fast glass isn't cheap (with the exception of the 'Nifty Fifty' - the 50mm f1:1.8 - which is usually available for around $100 for most camera brands).

View Finder vs JUST a view screen - I know that more of the point & shoot cameras are shipping without any view finder, and if you only plan on taking a few snap shots, that is fine about 90% of the time. However, the view screen won't allow you to focus as precisely, won't work easily in bright sun light, and eats batteries. When ever possible, try to have a view finder... particularly one that demonstrates what you'll see through the lens, so you can focus better, see in all types of lighting, and won't waste battery life powering a large LCD or LED screen. PLUS, many view finders allow 'fine tuning' to YOUR EYE SIGHT, with a 'diopter' that allows for better focusing without glasses on.

REMOTE SHUTTER option - this is particularly important for low light (night, cave, fire works) type shots, and helpful for self-portraits (beats shooting in the bath room mirror). Most camera's have self-timers, which help... but aren't functional for 'lightening' and other types of necessary photography.

WiFi is another option on some of the cameras... BE AWARE, and make sure HOW this works, and determine if you will really use it. Because it can be a costly & challenging add-on (today). PLUS it has the potential to open your photos up to those that can 'capture' your signal.

GPS is available on some... and if you are a world traveler, is sweet, because it logs the longitude & latitude of your shot in the meta data of the photo. Down side, if you post immediately to your social networking, it tells people where you are, and that you are away from home. (OR where you were, which you might not want others knowing your 'special' shoot spots). So use it carefully and knowingly.

Ultimately, you need to determine the type of shooting (all of) that you'll want to do, and how often you'll do it, and what your budget is. Quality photos can be taken on $100 cameras, if one pays attention... to $2000 cameras... to $50,000 cameras (yes, they really exist - the 200Megapixel Medium Format Hasselblad with a couple fast lens used in high end fashion & portraits can easily top that cost). Some of my best, most widely distributed & published photographs were taken with point & shoots that cost under $400. So remember, it's not the word processing software or computer that creates the best selling novel... it's the creator! But having the right tools does make it easier.

Filters: In general, there are only two 'should have' filters - a UV (Ultraviolet) which helps protect the actual lens from dust, dirt, pollen, scratches, bumps, etc. And the CP (Circular Polarizer) which is like awesome fishing glasses, allowing you to reduce (or add) reflections (seeing through glare, or creating a 'mirror'). The next most useful, for outdoors would be the NDG (Neutral Density Gradient). Plastic filters require more caution in the cleaning, as they scratch easier. Glass is good, multi-coated glass is much better. All of my expensive lens have a UV on them 99.999% of the time.

Buy intelligently, buy with a plan, and buy what you really need to shoot what you are needing to shoot and that allows you to add to your equipment list, not constantly having to replace it. Same thing if you are buying a gift... get something that WILL GET USED, not just shelved out of frustration in a few days or weeks.

Need some help, suggestions, constructive criticism, and honest feed back on your photography? You can look up my blog posts, Terry Mercer Photography. And, consider investing in a website that is specific to photographer's of all levels: like Flickr which costs $25 per year, for unlimited uploads. Millions of photos are uploaded every day, from total novice to OMG blow your socks off creations to long time traditional photographers. The benefit are the groups and feed back (constructive criticism) available PER PHOTO... it can really help you think & see your photography a bit differently (different perspectives & eye & skills). It's kinda sorta like 'facebook for photographers' generally focused on photography... not religion, politics, or such.

I can't think of anything more at this point... any questions, suggestions, additions, or corrections... please feel free to comment or message me.


Terry Mercer,  A Camera Guy

If you want to actually sell your images, try Zenfolio for free, they have a 30-day Free Trial... you can use the  Referral Code: GX4-8PM-5SC for a discount. If you think you will ever (really) want to 'sell' photos on the internet they are one of the absolute best (and most cost-effective) options I've found (and I've tried the top dozen from winter 2012/ spring 2013, when smugmug doubled their yearly membership fee on all existing members).

( POS Point and Shoot buying a camera buying tips camera buying tips canon choosing a camera dSLR dslr kodak nikon olympus pentax selecting the right camera sony what camera Mon, 18 Feb 2013 21:55:53 GMT