Monday, April 30, 2007

Photo Expedition - Want to join the fun?


Several months ago, I sent out an email to some local photographers asking if they were interested in getting together to do a photo expedition somewhere and then go back to my office to work on the post production of the shots we had taken for the day.

A few photographers expressed great interest in this, but others did not.

So, I'll open up the option again, but rather for ANYONE to join me!

If you are an amateur, a pro, or just an average person with a point and shoot camera wanting to learn from the pros.... here's your chance!

I welcome your suggestions on where to go, when to go and what to do for a photo expedition!

Suggestions in the past included:

Brookfield Zoo
Cantigny Park
Chicago Botanic Gardens
Downtown
Museums
Beaches in Evanston

Let me know your ideas and when you are available. You can leave your suggestions in the comments section of this post or email me at photos@russlowe.com

Wedding season is upon us now, so perhaps Sundays are best to have an outing.

I look forward to hearing from all of you! Again, you don't have to be a pro to join us! If you only have a point and shoot digital camera, that's ok too.
____________________
Edit Note: 5-01-07 - Seems like this is going to be a popular outing! So far we have about 10 people who have expressed some interest in attending with 5 for sure! So far, the Zoo is mentioned the most along with my Schaumburg office as the place to go afterwards. But my Schaumburg office is about 25 miles away from the Zoo. My Oakbrook office is only 7 miles from the zoo. Perhaps we can go to my Oakbrook office after the zoo outing to review our photos and then head out for dinner in the Oakbrook area afterwards. Stay tuned for more information...

Saturday, April 28, 2007

White Balance Lesson




I thought I'd post the "Before and After" images of the gentleman with the hammer after being "white balance" corrected in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.

If you didn't look at the final corrected image, would you have known that the original image had a white balance problem? Even with the extremely accurate (well, compared to some other digital cameras) Auto White Balancing of the Fuji S5 Pro camera, UV light still plays a factor on the image. There was also a UV filter on the lens. Still, the image is plagued with incorrect color.

One click of the "eyedropper" corrector in Lightroom yielded the corrected image you see directly below the original. Just point it on something that's grey, white or black and voila! Instant color correction.

This was done on a JPG image as well. This is not a RAW file. For those who do not know, RAW is the type of digital photo file that allows all aspects of an image to be separated into it's component parts. You can make as many adjustments to the image, as many times as you like without damaging the file. And, you can revert back to the original shot if desired too.

You could not do that with a JPG file without degrading the quality of the image. That is until Adobe Photoshop Lightroom was developed! Now with Lightroom, JPG images compete with RAW on this degree of correction!

The JPG images from the Fuji S5 is SO GOOD that there doesn't seem to be a good reason to shoot the Fuji S5 in RAW anymore. Click on each image above and look close at the files. That's straight out of the camera without any adjustments (except for color balance on the bottom image.) All sharpening was done in-camera.

By the way, the Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 lens is phenomenal! It competes favorably with my Nikon 17-55mm f2.8 DX lens which costs over twice the amount!

Earth Day!








I was driving past a local park district building and noticed that today was "Earth Day," so I stopped and took some shots of the event.

Seems like the kids were having fun petting the animals in the Petting Zoo while others were enjoying the demonstrations by some of the exhibitors.

The weather was perfect for an outdoor event like this! What fun!


All images were taken with the Fuji S5 Pro camera in JPG with a Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 lens.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Belt System and Shoulder Harness





Just how do I carry all the gear for a wedding?

Well, I have a huge hardshell Pelican camera case with me which stores a lot of accessories, lenses, cameras, flashes and other things I need for the day. But I also carry a lot of the gear on my body as well.

I use a Lowepro Belt System which straps onto my waist and is supported by a shoulder harness. Yes, I look alot like someone on the SWAT team when you first see me! I'm usually dressed in a black shirt with black pants and black shoes. The only thing I'm missing is perhaps some black face paint for camouflage! Actually, I've had a lot of people comment on how impressive it is to see someone who takes his work so seriously. Really, to move quickly and have access to all the lenses necessary to get the best shots at weddings, you need to have them at hand at all times. This means you either have to have an assistant follow you with every step you take while carrying your gear, or you do what I do... carry it yourself.

I usually do not use assistants at weddings because I find that they are often in my way and sometimes get in my shots! So I decided it was best to deal with carrying my gear by myself. I have covered very large weddings myself by carrying my own gear all day.

The belt system you see on the second photo shows my lens cases. I usually have the following gear on me at all times:

Fuji S5 Pro camera with Nikon MB-D200 grip and Newton Bracket
Nikon SB-800 flash with Lightsphere Cloud Diffuser
Nikon 17-55mm f 2.8 DX lens
Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VR lens
Nikon 12-24mm f4.0 DX lens
Nikon 10.5mm f 2.8 DX lens
20 GB of Compact Flash memory cards
Black Box battery pack
Water Bottle
Various accessories

All other lenses and cameras stay in the Pelican case until needed

The middle photo (borrowed from Lowepro's website) shows the shoulder harness on the belt. That's a very minimal belt setup compared to mine on the bottom image!

Since using the belt system about 1.5 years ago, I have been able to work a lot faster and more accurately. My ability to capture the right moments at a wedding has gotten faster. All this gear is very heavy. The belt system when fully loaded weighs 15 lbs. The camera / flash carried in my hand or strapped over my neck weighs just under 8 lbs. So in total, I am carrying 23 lbs of gear on me at all times, all day long.

Who said it was easy to be a wedding photographer?
By the way, the diffuser on the flash in the above image is a Demb Flash Diffuser Pro.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Exciting "Celebrity" Weddings for 2007!

Doyle & Haley Dykes in Concert

Good news!

I’ve been asked to photograph the weddings of Doyle Dyke’s two daughters this year!

Doyle’s daughter Holli, who upkeeps Doyle’s website will be getting married in June and his other daughter Haley will be getting married in November. You can visit their websites here: http://www.doyledykes.com/ and www.haleymusic.net

I am excited to have the opportunity to photograph these two weddings and am looking forward to spending time with Doyle’s family.I don’t think it’s been any secret here that Doyle and Haley have been good friends of mine for the past few years and that I have photographed many of their concerts whenever Doyle and Haley have come to the Chicago area. But it will be a lot of fun to go to their neck of the woods this time and to meet the rest of the family.

I spoke with Doyle’s wife Rita yesterday and she’s given me permission to let you all know about the weddings. I didn’t want to say anything until I had cleared it with the family and Rita was kind enough to give me full permission.I asked if she would have any problems with me sharing some of the photos from the wedding with you all on my blog and she said that it would be fine. I’m going to trust that Doyle and the two brides (and their fiances) will feel the same way.

To see some past photos I’ve taken of Doyle, please visit some of my archives on this blog. There's a link on my main website which will link you to see a slideshow of Doyle and Haley that I shot last year. Just look under the Galleries and Links tab.

I am really looking forward to these weddings and will let you all know when you can see some photos from the weddings on my blog!

Nikon D200 Vs. Fuji S5 - Overexposure Test

Control - Fuji S5 at 1/8 sec @ f 5.6

Nikon D200 (RAW) at 1/2 sec @ f 5.6 (2 EV overexposure)


Nikon D200 (RAW) at 1 sec @ f 5.6 (3 EV overexposure)



Nikon D200 (RAW) at 2 sec @ f 5.6 (4 EV overexposure)




Fuji S5 (JPG) at 1 sec @ f 5.6 (3 EV overexposure)



Fuji S5 (JPG) at 2 sec @ f 5.6 (4 EV overexposure)
Be sure to click on each image for a closer look. Sorry about the lack of paragraphs... the blog software won't cooperate today!
The original image is to the left and the "corrected" image is to the right. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom was used to correct the images.
These images compare the Nikon D200 and the Fuji S5 Pro camera's ability (or inability) to handle overexposure. Each camera was set at ISO 200 and exposures were taken manually except for the control image which was set for Aperture Priority. The Fuji camera was set for 400% dynamic range. Only ambient light from a nearby window illuminated the scene. The background is a "Studio Gray" background paper.
Both cameras recorded images in RAW + JPG Fine mode and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom was used for post processing. I processed all images, RAW and JPG and set the software's adjustment to come as close to the control image as possible. The best results are shown here.
I concluded that the JPG images from Fuji was very close to Fuji's RAW images in terms of quality and decided to show the JPG versions here. The Nikon RAW images gave more ability to fix the overexposures than the JPG versions so I included those here.
I found that the control image was taken at 1/8 second at f 5.6 at ISO 200 with the aperture priority setting of the S5. I then took shots in 1 EV increments until I reached 5 EV overexposure.
The images included here clearly show that the D200 RAW images could not bring back details after an overexposure of 2 EV. However, even with an overexposure of 4 EV, the JPG images of the S5 still show details.
Look closely at the face of the cat and you will see loss of detail on the D200 shots but detail is still visible on the S5 shots.
Even with an overexposure of 4 EV, the Fuji S5's images look better than the overexposure at 2 EV on the Nikon D200.
I conclude that the Fuji S5 is dramatically better than the Nikon D200 in working with overexposed images.

Monday, April 23, 2007

More Fuji S5 Tests To Come!

A LOT of photographers have been checking out my blog in the past couple of days and requests have been made for me to do some more side by side test shots with the Nikon D200 and the Fuji S5 Pro cameras.

So, today, I'll be taking some more test shots and will post my results here either later today or by tomorrow at the latest.

A suggestion has been made to test both the D200 and S5 cameras shot in both RAW and JPG formats... overexpose the shots by at least 2 EV and then post process the files in Lightroom and perhaps Photoshop CS2. I'll try to do shots in one EV increments until the image is fully blown out so we can all see what can be salvaged by each camera. I find the RAW shots of the S5 seem to convert better with Lightroom, so I'm just going to process these files in Lightroom. Should anyone want to take my test images and play with them in Photoshop, feel free to right click on the enlarged images to download them and play all you want with the files. You don't need my permission to do so. After all, they are just test shots and nothing that has a commercial value to it! :)

Stay Tuned!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Fuji's Overexposure Ability


The Fujifilm S5 Pro camera has been getting a lot of favorable reviews for its ability to handle overexposed images.

What does this mean to the average person?

Well take a look at the two images above. Be sure to click on the image to get a closer look. The one on the left is the original image taken with the S5 on manual exposure mode. The lens was a Nikon 17-55mm f2.8 DX set at f 5.6. The shutter speed was set at 1/125 sec. The ISO setting was ISO 200. The sun was shining bright, so this setting created an image that was way overexposed. This was purposely done to use as a test image. The correct exposure should have been 1/750 sec at f 5.6 according to my exposure meter. The camera was set to 400% (W2)Wide Dynamic Range (the largest setting.)

I imported the overexposed image into Adobe Photoshop Lightroom (Adobe's latest workflow software) and corrected the image to yield the image to the right. Not perfect, but not bad.

Most photographers know that if you blow out the highlights of most images, you can't get back any useful information. But as you can see by the image on the right, you can get back information on the Fuji image! These were shot in JPG too... not in RAW format.

With the Fuji S5, it's possible to fix overexposure mistakes if necessary. The image above was approximately 2.5 EV (exposure value) off. With a little help in software manipulation, it is not a real problem.

Because of this ability and the amazing low-light (high-ISO) capabilities of the S5, I've sold off my Nikon cameras and I'm now shooting exclusively with Fuji S5 cameras for this wedding season. Last year, I was using a combination of the Nikon D200's with a Fuji S3 Pro camera. The Fuji S5 is essentially a Nikon D200 camera with the Fuji image sensor built-in. Because of it's Nikon heritage, it accepts all Nikon lenses. That's good for me, since I have a bunch of Nikon lenses!

It's going to be a fun wedding season this year using these new cameras!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Crime Scene Photography and Wedding Photography

Public Domain Image borrowed from Wikipedia.com


When I first started out as a "professional" photographer, I didn't start out photographing weddings. I photographed crime scenes.

Everyone I meet always asks me, "How does someone who used to shoot crime scenes end up shooting weddings?" Well, I posted about this back on January 7, 2006, so check the archived posts on this blog. No need to retype all that here.

But what I'd like to discuss today is what we do at crime scenes and how I use the training I received for weddings.

First, everything needs to be photographed at a crime scene. Even if you don't think something is important, you photograph it. The reason is that you might not know that it is important now, but it could end up as the most crucial piece of evidence later!

Crime Scene photography is often the first thing that's done at the scene. Yes, we get to go into the scene before anyone else! If too many people have already trampled through the crime scene, evidence gets disturbed. But by taking some photos first, evidence gets preserved... at least photographically. Later, after items of evidence have been located and marked with an evidence number (you've seen these little yellow number markers on the TV show "CSI") then other photos are taken. By the way, Evidence Technicians "Locate, Collect & Preserve" physical evidence at crime scenes. (My instructors would be proud that I remembered that, although that might not necessarily be the actual words used...)

Everything I learned in school about crime scene photography directly related to my job later. Not many people can say that about their school training in their field. A lot of it is "book knowledge" and not related to the real world. But that was not the case for me. In fact, I still have all the lecture cassettes I made of those classes! I was so into my photography classes that I taped every lecture that the instructor gave!

I was one of two lucky students who were asked to join the internship program at The San Diego Police Department and so I got to use my skills learned in class immediately on the job. Later, while we were making "mock" crime scenes in our class to learn from, I approached the photography exactly as I learned it while actually on the job with SDPD.

My instructor for my Evidence Technology class was the lab supervisor for The San Diego Sheriff's Department's Crime Lab. And, my instructor for my Criminalistics class was one of the lead criminalists for The San Diego Police Department. I was glad to hear them both comment to the other students that they were impressed with how confident I was when I approached the mock crime scenes and knew exactly what kinds of photos to take. I can thank my internship for that.

Today, I still use what I learned from the years of work with forensic photography on my work in wedding photography. I document everything! That's why I'll usually take well over 1000 or more images from just one wedding. I shoot first and ask questions later... just like I did with crime scene photography.

A few years after I had graduated with a degree in Evidence Technology and a degree in Pre-Law/Court Management, I was asked to teach crime scene photography at my old school . My former photography instructor recommended me to be his replacement so he could retire. But after I went through the process of getting the school to accept me as the new instructor, my former teacher decided not to retire after all and he stayed on to teach a little while longer. Eventually, I left San Diego to move back to the Chicago area and so I never got to teach the class.

Still to this day, I have fond memories of those early years in my photography career because it is truly what has shaped me into the photographer I am today. I approach things with the same enthusiasm as I did back when I worked in law enforcement and I hope it shows on every assignment I get.

Monday, April 16, 2007

People Skills Not Needed for Photojournalistic Coverage?

Did you know that "true" photojournalistic coverage means that the photographer is not involved with your wedding at all?

To truly cover an event photojournalistically, the photographer should not be interacting with his subjects... he should just documenting what he sees with his camera. Because of this, people skills really isn't necessary because the photographer should not be positioning people or setting up his shot.

Now we all know that this is impossible at weddings. There are times where you do need to interact with people to get a good shot. And if nothing is happening at a wedding, a good photographer knows that he needs to set up situations where people need to respond and then he can take some good photos of what's happening.

So in a sense, is this true photojournalistic coverage?

It's very possible that there really is no such thing as true photojournalistic wedding coverage. To some extent, interaction must be done to move things along and to get the kinds of shots that client today now expect to see. So really, people skills are still needed even if a photographer claims to be a "photojournalist."

All too often, photographers today tend to hide behind their cameras and avoid their subjects. Perhaps this hides the inability to use proper "people skills." Who knows. But regardless, a good wedding photographer should know how to work both sides of the fence. The photographer should pose people when necessary to get good "formal" photos and then know enough to step back to let things happen to get good photojournalistic shots as well.

Being well rounded by offering both styles gives clients the best of both worlds.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

"We"re Using Disposable Cameras"




I recently spoke with the the mother of a groom who told me that she intends on giving "disposable" cameras to the guests of her son's wedding to save money on photography.

I had been given her name by someone and was asked to follow up to see if she might need my services. So after talking to her on the phone, she told me that many of her guests had digital cameras and that those who didn't could use disposable cameras to document her son's wedding.

I listened to her reason that photography cost way too much and that anyone with a camera could do just as good a job as a professional because cameras had gotten so good over the years.

I couldn't help but chuckle to myself because she just did not understand that a good photo doesn't come from the camera but rather from the photographer. In the hands of a pro, even a "disposable" camera can take some incredible photos. But in the hands of someone who knows nothing about composition, timing, steadiness, exposure, among other things... that same camera can produce some awful images!

There was no convincing her that she was putting her son's wedding photography in jeopardy by doing what she intended on doing. But a dollar saved is a dollar saved, right?

After I hung up the phone, I couldn't help but feel a little sorry for her son and future daugther-in-law. All too often, in the attempt to save a few dollars, something gets sacrificed. In this case, it will be the loss of good photos from her son's wedding.

Besides the individual photos from the wedding, a nice album design really makes the presentation so much better. Take the photo above from one of my recent client's wedding. In their album, this image is 10"x 20" in size. You can't do that with photos unless you've got good photos, a nice album and the design ability to produce panorama images like this.

It's too bad her son is going to be missing out...

Thursday, April 12, 2007

People Skills

"You have to be a "people person" to be a wedding photographer!"

Plain and simple, if a wedding photographer cannot relate to the people he is photographing, he has no place being a wedding photographer. I don't care how much he knows about photography... there is no place for a grumpy wedding photographer.

Too often while attending weddings as a guest, I've seen some really poor examples of how NOT to deal with people by some wedding photographers. At my photography workshops, I am constantly emphasizing to attendees that it is really important to work on people skills. The success of the event depends on it.

Many of my photography friends have asked me how I have lasted so long photographing weddings. We all know of photographers who have started out in wedding photography only to move on to other areas of work simply because they have burnt out. My answer to them is simply that I LIKE photographing weddings. I enjoy the people I work with.

Now if I could not stand working with people or if the work I do simply became a "job" to me, I think that would be the time I would have to seriously consider going into another profession. But right now, I don't see that happening.

I've had plenty of years of working with people to know what to say, what not to say, what to do, and what not to do. To be good at photographing people you need to be able to get your subjects to loosen up. How you approach people makes all the difference in the world when you want someone to do something.

It's really a pity that many photographers do not understand this simple principle. I've seen photographers who simply bark instructions at people and expect them to respond with a good expression on their face for the photograph. If someone barked at me, I'd probably give them a very strange look... not quite what they wanted.

On the other hand, I have attended some weddings where I was thoroughly impressed with the photographer. There are some who really know how to work with people. Whenever I see that, I try to go up to the photographer to introduce myself and to compliment him or her on how well I think they are doing. That always seems to make their day and they always do even better for the rest of the shoot.

So, people skills are really a big part of wedding photography. If you are a bride or groom looking for a photographer, don't sign with any photographer you don't feel totally comfortable with. A good deal is not always a good deal if you aren't totally comfortable with your photographer. If you are a photographer, be sure to heed my advice and work on your people skills! Not only will your business thrive, but you'll get better looking photographs too!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Photoshop Training Workshop - April 29, 2007

The next training workshop that I will be teaching at my Schaumburg office will be on Sunday, April 29, 2007 from 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM.

This time, I'll be covering the basics of using Photoshop CS2 for digital photography shot in the RAW format.

Class size will be limited to up to 4 photographers. As has always been my policy on training workshops, I limit my training to only four people for more personalized attention. Additional classes may be added if there are more than 4 people interested.

In addition to training on Photoshop CS2, a basic introduction will be given on Photoshop Lightroom 1.0 as well. We'll cover how to deal with working with JPG images within the Lightroom program.

If you are a professional photographer or an advanced amateur photographer in need of learning how to use Photoshop as it pertains to photography, I highly encourage you to attend this workshop.

Cost for the 3 hour workshop is $150 per person. Please call me at 847-840-4082 for more details.

Although I will be using a projector system for training, feel free to bring your own laptop computer with Photoshop CS2 preloaded on it if you want to follow along on it.

Update as of 4-13-07: Time will be moved to 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Getting Ready for Wedding Season

Another question I'm often asked (especially by other photographers) is, "What do you do to get ready for the wedding season?"

When I was photographing weddings in San Diego, this wasn't even something to consider. Weddings happened throughout the entire year. But here in the Chicago area, we definitely have a "Wedding Season" because very few people get married in the winter months. Besides, I often take the winter "off" to recoupe from the hard work of the rest of the year's photography assignments.

Because of this, I can go months without really doing a whole lot physically. Sure, I take some photography assignments to keep myself busy, but in no way are these assignments quite as rigorous as photographing a wedding all day long!

During the winter months, I often gain some weight due to the lack of activity. So I'll go on a diet several months before the first wedding to drop the added weight. I also start exercising to get myself ready to carry the added weight of all my cameras and lenses.

I usually wear a belt and shoulder harness system all day while working a wedding. In this, I literally carry all the photography gear I need to shoot a wedding for the entire day. Everything from lenses, batteries, memory cards and other accessories are on that belt system... including a water bottle to keep myself hydrated throughout the day! In addition to the belt system, I'll hand carry at least one camera and flash and sometimes will have a second camera and lens hanging from my shoulder. All of this added up makes for a very heavy rig. I recently weighed the belt with all the lenses in there and it was 15 lbs. The camera and flash weighed in at 7 lbs. So I actually carry on my body at least 22 lbs of equipment all day long!

Consider that I stand on my feet for anywhere from 8 to 12 hours per day, only getting to sit down while traveling from the ceremony site to the reception hall and also during dinner hour, you can imagine what kind of physical shape you need to be in to do this kind of work.

At the end of the day, I'm often very tired, but with the right physical preparation, I am often surprised at how much I can take. As the season goes on, I'm able to keep going... even for weekends where I have a Friday wedding and a Saturday wedding the next day. I try not to book two weddings in a row in the early months of the wedding season because that would be way too much to deal with physically. But as the season moves on, I can easily do two in a row. Sure, by the third day (Sunday) I'm usually very tired out. But I have the rest of the week to get the rest needed to prepare for the next weekend's work.

Anyone getting into this business will find out quickly that weddings aren't that easy to do. It takes preparation not only in your photography skills, but also in your physical conditioning too. And let's not forget people skills! That is equally as important as your photography skills! But that's another topic perhaps best left for another entry on another day!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Woodpecker


I spotted this little guy doing what he does best this morning and decided to take a shot at him.

Ok, it was with my camera, not a gun.

The image was taken with a Fuji S5 Pro camera set at ISO 100 with a Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VR lens mounted on it. The lens was set at 200mm at f 2.8.If you look at the tree, you can see that he's made some damage already. Wonder if he gets a headache from all that pecking!

Be sure to click on the image to see a larger version.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

"How Much Do You Charge for a Wedding?"



It seems that this is one of the most commonly asked questions whenever I get an inquiry from a bride.

It's understandable. Weddings cost a lot of money. Budgets have to be considered. And, who wouldn't want a "good deal" if they can get one?

On the other hand, leading with a question like, "How much do you charge" can give you a false sense of value. Some new photographers charge very little for their services. Does that mean this is a good deal? Other more experienced photographers can charge exhorbitant fees for their services. Are they overpriced?

I think everyone has a different perception of what is considered a good deal. For some, a good deal is simply a low price. It doesn't really matter what kind of service it is or what products are received for the price. A low price, is a low price and that's a good deal. But for others, getting lots of services and lots of products like prints and albums are more important.

How do you judge value?

When I priced my services, I had to make some decisions on what to offer my clients. As one of the more experienced wedding photographers in my market area (this is my 17th year photographing weddings) I could easily charge a lot of money for my services and not offer a lot of services or products. There are some people who would simply pay me for that experience. On the other hand, I could offer better services and better products like "top of the line" albums. Or I could charge very little for my services and then book every potential client who inquires for my services.

I always feel a little funny answering email inquiries or phone inquiries that start off with, "How much do you charge for a wedding." If I give a low price, will that guarantee a booking? Or, if I give a higher price, will that scare someone away?

Often, brides who lead off with this question never decide to meet with me to see what I offer for the price I give to them. Sad, but true. I'm not sure why this is, but I can only guess. Now I will tell you that I am not the cheapest photographer out there. I do charge a little more than the guy who is just starting out photographing weddings. Experience does count for a higher fee... I think everyone knows this. And, I offer some of the best albums on the market today. That costs money, so it raises my prices.

But I think it's necessary for me to offer better quality products and a higher level of service than someone who is just starting out in this profession. It makes no sense to me to be one of the most experienced wedding photographers in a market area and offer a poor quality in both service and products. Sure, I could lower my prices and simply minimize my time with clients and give them albums that are cheaper to guarantee a booking. But I believe those who seek out my services prefer to get a higher quality all across the board.

When I was looking for new albums to offer my clients, I had to weigh the factor of high quality and higher costs versus average quality and lower cost. In the end, I felt it would not do my clients any justice to offer low priced, low quality albums. After all, they pay for quality when they hire me. How could I offer inferior albums? So I decided that my clients will only get the best of everything. Sure, it adds to the overall cost of hiring me. But that's just something my clients have to accept. Matching an experienced photographer with cheap products makes no sense. And the reverse is true too. Gettting a quality album with poorly shot images in it looks really bad and makes no sense either.

So when weighing value in wedding photography, you need to ask yourself, "What is most important to me?" If the answer is, "I have a low budget and need to get a low price regardless of what is offered in terms of serice and products," then I'm probably not going to be the best choice to photograph your wedding. But if you answer, "I want an experienced photographer and I want a nice album to go with that," then I might be your right choice.

Many of my past clients have told me that initially, they thought my prices were a little higher than the competition. But after they reviewed the cost of everything they needed and wanted before and after the wedding, I actually came out slightly less expensive than many of the other photographers! Since I am very "upfront" with my clients regarding pricing and do not charge a lot of money on things like reprints and other things you might want later, in the end, I'm very competitively priced. But you need to look at everything being offered to judge the value of what I offer.

Am I expensive? I don't think so. Do I charge more than the average photographer? Probably. Do I give more services and products than many photographers? Most likely. Am I more experienced than the average wedding photographer? Probably.

How do you value quality?

Monday, April 02, 2007

Kevin So - Musician Extraordinaire

Kevin So is a unique talent. Originally from the Boston area, Kevin is a Chinese-American musician whose music is just incredible.

For years, Kevin has been playing at various clubs throughout the US and I think his time has come to make it really big in the music industry. His music just gets better every year and his latest CD release, "A Brighter Day" is going to be the right ticket to make everyone take notice.

PLEASE go to his website at www.kevinso.com and turn up the volume on your computer's sound system to take a listen to this incredible musician! Kevin has many of his songs streaming on the site. And, don't miss Kevin's music videos! You can find some on www.YouTube.com if you do a search for Kevin So.

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to play my guitar with Kevin at The House of Blues in Chicago. We were introduced through his brother Keith, who resides here in Chicago. Well, Kevin sent me a bunch of his CD's so that I could learn his original material and invited me to sit in on one of his gigs at The House of Blues. I played lead guitar that evening with Kevin and his band. I had a great time and became a Kevin So fan right there and then.

Today, Kevin's music has matured and you can hear the quality on his new CD. Kevin is going places and could very easily be the first Asian-American artist to make the big time in music! Check out his music today!