Saturday, December 29, 2007

We'll see...

What do you get when you have a green wagon that was hit in the rear at 40 mph, and a new gold wagon with a perfect body but trashed transmission? Well, like the title says, we'll just have to wait and see. If this thing works out well, I'll give the repair place all the credit. They were the only ones who were willing to do this. The gold wagon has already limped over there. I'm driving the green one still (the one that was considered totaled). I'll give them the green one in the new year. I have high hopes as I need a working wagon for the studio. We'll see....

Monday, December 24, 2007

An Article from Studio Photography Magazine

The studio Bill Truran rented for this pizza
packaging shoot was in Fairfield, NJ. All the
equipment for the shoot arrived in his Taurus.
Thanks to the gurney and some strong straps, he
was able to bring it all into the studio in one trip.

Bill Truran, of Bill Truran Productions LLC (, owns a commercial photography studio in the New York City area. To keep overhead costs down, he closed his full-time studio and began to rent for each shoot. Only problem is, this caused logistics problems.

As Truran explains, "Adjusting to different studios is no problem, as long as we have our own gear. Problems begin when we have 10-16 cases of equipment on the sidewalk, a car to park, and no way for our assistant to get the equipment off the street and into the studio while I go park the car.

"Our solution was to retrofit a medical gurney like the ambulances use, replacing the tilting bed with a desk surface. Now we pack most of our cases onto the gurney, and strap them on. We push the gurney into the back of our company's Taurus station wagon, and the wheels collapse up and under it. Any additional cases get packed around the gurney.

"Once we arrive at the rental studio, we pull the gurney out and the wheels drop down and lock. We strap the additional cases on top of the others, and my assistant puts all the equipment on one rolling table ready to roll into the freight elevator. All I have to do is drive away, park the car, and walk back to the studio, entering through the front door. One photographer and one assistant is all it takes!"

Alice B. Miller Studio Photography Editorial Director

Ah, a week off...

Well, the last three weeks were spent shooting fashion & stills for a catalog.
That might sound fun or glamorous, but at my age, the constant running seems to wear me out. I never like time off from shooting, but I soooo look forward to having the last week of the year to recuperate. The great part of this kind of photography is that I get to play with some great people. Bouchelle is wonderful (she does hair & makeup). Sally, Astrid & Barbara took different days styling the clothes, and Dawn (one of my favorite directors) told me what to shoot. While the work may be hard, the whole time is fun because of good models and the great team. I think that by the first of the year, I'll be raring to go once again.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

it's new to me...

This is a picture of my "alas" beloved green Taurus wagon. That's just what happens sometimes when you stop for a red light on a 40 mph road and the guy in the big pick-up behind you does not.
Anyway, I have a new (to me), 1996 Taurus wagon. This one is gold! It will fit my gurney perfectly (see 11/18/07) and is fancier than my beloved green one, but as is true with so many over 60K Taurus, the transmission is slipping.
I'm going to pick up a bottle of Lucas' Transmission Fix tomorrow and see if that can fix it. If it does, I'll shout out loud! If not, I'll whimper quietly. If it does not fix it, I have a guy (and his whole shop) who will trade the transmission from the green car to the gold car. As you can see, it was hit in the back. The front is fine. We'll see what happens. By the way, I'm teaching the man who owns auto repair place Photoshop®, so it won't cost me much to have it fixed anyway. Ain't life strange sometimes? When this car is finally up to snuff, I'll put up a picture of it on this blog. Then you'll know we're all set for more location work.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007



I have a friend who was ritualistically abused since birth.
It caused me to realize this:

People use witchcraft to control other people with programing and curses.

However, people become politicians because they want to control other people with laws and rules.

And that is why I think politicians are evil. All of them.

Therefore, we need to realize that voting will always be a matter of picking the least of two evils...

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Ebay wait...

I'm sitting near my computer.
We are drawing near to the end of a bid on a 1996 Taurus Wagon.
Why you wonder? Well, I see automobiles as 2 things:
1.) A way for me to earn money photographing them and
2.) An instantly/continually depreciating means for me to move my studio from place to place (read this article to see why).

The Taurus wagon is the only car made that can fit my studio gurney. That gurney is part of what makes my studio so successful. I can shoot anywhere I can drive and can have all of my special comfy personal equipment with me. It cuts down on surprises considerably.

I had a great green Taurus wagon until last August. That day at 7:02 PM, I was sitting at a red light and driven through at 40 mph by an overly large pick-up with a big wooden bumper.

The good news is that I am totally fine. The wagon soaked up all of the impact and I am healthy as a horse (what ever that means). The bad news is that my beloved Taurus wagon (which got 24 mpg), is toast.

It is the perfect car for my business, but now it's gone.

And that is why I am sitting by my computer, seeing if my bid holds on a replacement 1996 Taurus wagon.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

It's nice having a history in this business

I moved to NYC in 1975
Although I had a BS degree in Photography from RIT, I knew that I really didn't know anything about NYC commercial photography. Therefore I was a freelance assistant for many great photographers to learn the "business". The Mark who graduated with me and dragged me (thank you) to NYC (He got me my first assistant job), is still my friend today. We've had our ups and downs over the last 35 years, but we're pretty even now, and getting along well. That's cool!

One of the 10 photographers I assisted regularly back in the mid 70's was Mike Harris. He shot lots of food and drinks for big advertisers. I built sets, loaded film, moved lights, all the things assistants do for photographers. He was always a nice guy, and a good boss.

We kept in touch with each other after I started my own business, and have even shot together occasionally. My expertise in digital has brought us together as peers but still as friends. It's nice.

That's what I mean about having history. I have a number of colleagues, some peers some previous employers, who continue to be good friends after all these years. We share information and knowledge back and forth, share our lives as they are today, and just relate on all levels.

And that's why it's nice having a history in this business.

New photographers remember, be nice. You're developing relationships that can benefit you for the rest of your life.

Monday, November 12, 2007

It's crazy out there.

I have a saying:

"Photographers are crazy when they are not busy because they realize they may never work again. Still, the overhead goes on and on. They are also crazy when they are busy because clients can be demanding and the schedules can be grueling". Therefore it seems, commercial photographers are just crazy!

I got up this morning looking forward to a fairly easy day. I knew I would meet with my master's degree independent study student at 2 PM, and teach 62 miles away at 6 PM, but that until 2:00 I could just relax.

Then my beloved (yes) client called. All of a sudden I needed to retouch 13 images to match marketing's desires, and then print them. That would be easy except that I am not a match printer. I'm a sort of close-to accurate printer. Still, I had to skip my meeting with my master's student (sorry Mark), work like a crazy retoucher, make the files ready for the printer, and then just make it to Fed-Ex and finally to college. Whew!

In only one day I went from crazy slow to crazy busy.

My client, unless she happens to read this, will never know. I guess that's why people don't necessarily think of commercial photographers as crazy. Our families know but our clients, if we do it right, never will. Still, I would never trade this life for anything.

(Does anyone reading this realize that the yellow things in the shot are 8X10 film boxes?)

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


I am teaching at two colleges this semester. One is Introduction to Digital Photography, and the other is a Studio Lighting course. It's fun to take students who have been taught nothing but fine art photography and lead them in the paradigm shift of the studio where you are the creator from start to finish. Some get it, some never do, but they all get to see and experience part of the world that is commercial digital photography. You never know what sharing the things you love will result in... maybe inspiring my toughest competitor?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Bread & Butter

Bread and butter is a term we use for jobs that don't require too much special lighting and focus ability but help to contribute to the overall profit of a commercial studio. Sometimes it might be packaging for a test, catalog, or coupon. Sometimes it might be a full group of watches or maybe some tools. As I think about it, I guess bread & butter shots are anything that can be set up once, and then multiple products cycled through the set utilizing the same lighting and focus. The per shot price is usually low, but as you shoot through all of the product, the low prices add up to real money. Sometimes bread and butter jobs reward us with a higher day rate than we get from our normal shoot days.

I can remember assisting a photographer in the '70's on a watch job. He set the whole thing up, lighting, set and focus, then I cycled the watches through and exposed the 4X5" film. Aside from the responsibility of the set up, I did all of the work and the photographer made all of the money (except for my small day rate).

I was involved in a similar watch job recently. It reminded me how much things have changed since I began. There was no assistant (just 2 photographers), the shots were stripped out (by me), and the per watch price was less than 30 years ago! Still, we made a terrific day rate, the client was happy, it was easy. and a good friend and I got to play together for a few days.

So there you go: Bread and Butter shots. Commercial photographers would starve without them and they're just a good thing.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

I love it whan a plan comes together!

I'm not sure if all photographers have a favorite shot, but I do.
This is it.
The food stylist was Alyssa Alia. She is, I think, my favorite food stylist. The client was... Alyssa Alia.

It was sometime in late summer, and Alyssa and I had just finished a full day of shooting beautiful recipes. We had agreed to work on a holiday card for her after that job was done. Alyssa made the mousse, brought the cranberries and the ivy. I provided the glass and the red velvet cloth. That was all we needed.

I always have a clear picture of the day's shot in my mind before I shoot a job. Sometimes it takes a while to make the shot on a set look like the shot in my head. This time it all just fell quickly into place. In less than an hour, the food was prepared, the cranberries were sugared
and everything was arranged. I tilted the camera, composed, lit and carefully focused the shot. The shot you see is the shot we saved. You might notice, that the light and focus are working together in this shot to lead your eyes to the mousse itself. That's the product. Well, sort of. I guess Alyssa's awesome talent was the real product for this shot.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Rich & Famous

Yes, It's still all about light & focus, but sometimes, there are many things trying to draw your attention away from that. Shame, shame...

I am guessing the Manning brothers are rich. I know they are famous. If I had attempted to work magic on light & focus on the day of the shoot, I would have been side-lined by overseeing the 30 clients, managers, and crew that were milling around.
Each one has a question or opinion. What's for breakfast, or lunch? Where should I set up for hair and makeup? Where's the bathroom (they somehow always ask the photographer). Where's the product? Where is the studio? Between the phone and the people on site, there is little time to set up lights. On top of all of that, when you are shooting (photographing) people, famous or otherwise, you need to give them your attention and direct them. Ideally, the creative director speaks to you, and you direct the "stars" as you have been told.

Therefore, even though this was a very expensive studio in NYC, my wise client (Fred Weber from Edge-Design) insisted that we go in the night before (additional rental) to get all set up. We used a lighting I teach at a University class. I blew the background out evenly 1 1/2 stops brighter than the huge Elinchrom Octa-light that we used on the Mannings. Some of the shots had both brothers and the dad, so the Octa-light did a great job giving them all a soft Rembrandt light. The perfectly lit background allowed the clients to put in their own backgrounds easily.

All three Mannings were delightful. I can't remember any rich and famous person that we have photographed that hasn't been great. I guess they're just human after all. Just remember that those around them expect you to give them all of your attention, so take care of the important stuff before they show up. And that is the light & focus.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Pretty Picture

In case I've forgotten to mention it. It's all about controlling light and focus.

This shot was for a catalog client, and is sort of an homage to Jimmy Moore, a fashion photographer who died this year. Some thoughts about this shot:
It's a great idea for young photographers to assist established pros who's work they admire. Most commercial photographers aren't great teachers, but as you clean and carry equipment, you see how the business is done, and how different photographers control light and focus. This shot was set up with a huge shoot-through umbrella, a white table, and lots of fill cards, just like Jimmy did when I assisted him years ago.
Another thought;
I just started shooting catalogs this year. It seems to nicely fill in the spaces between my regular clients. With catalogs, you have to shoot quickly to get through all of the shots, but no one cares how you light as long as the product looks great. I run through all sorts of lighting. Super soft beauty like this, super hard spot lights, all sorts. It helps to keep me on my toes, and it's fun! By the way, this shot was supposed to be inside the catalog, but the clients all loved it so much, that they made it the cover.
So far we've looked at pizza, a rock band, and now a beautiful model. Trust me, the basics are all the same: we control light and focus to make the "product" shine through.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Light & Focus

Remember, in this place, it's all about controlling light and focus.

Last time we showed one of our favorite pizza shots that we did for A&P Pizza packaging.
Look at our web site. We are asked to shoot so many different things, why, even rock bands.
Pizza / rock bands? Remember, we believe with our whole hearts, that commercial photography is all about light, and focus. No matter what you put in front of us to shoot; we simply look at it, peek at the layout, talk to the art director, and control light and focus to make it the center of attention.
Shots like rock band photographs (which are amazingly similar to fashion shots), seem to require more physical work than the pizza shot. For this shot, we had to drag heavy strobes and cameras up to a 3 story roof in Nyack NY. Once we recovered from that, we had to constantly adjust the camera exposure throughout the shoot as the sky grew darker, however, the strobe exposures stayed pretty much the same, and we were able to concentrate on keeping the band jazzed (or calming them down). On the pizza shoot day, we only did 4 different kinds of pizza, and ended up with 4 final pizza images. On the rock band shoot day, we gave the client almost 300 files. There were a ton of great ones, and the client was very happy.
Still, what makes this shot fun and effective, is the hard light on the "boys", and the cool sky behind. Yes, we paid attention to the band, but it's the light and focus that makes the shot.

Good Recipe

Alright, here's a question:
What is the recipe that guarantees a commercial photograph for a business will result in increased visual traffic and thereby, sales?

I think there are three ingredients which, when added together, always result in a photograph that helps to increase sales (that's a good thing).
1.) First you need an experienced photographer who appreciates each client, seeks to understand their needs, and works to oversee a peaceful, creative day of photography.
2.) Second comes the need for a photographer to have an appreciation of lighting. Creative use of light and shadow controls a consumer's eyes to a specific place in a photograph where your product rests.
3.) Lastly is the effective use of focus. A consumer will always look at something in focus rather than something that is blurry. By having your product in a photograph sharper than the balance of the shot we can, once again, direct a consumers eyes to the product being advertised.
When these three ingredients are used together, the result is a great day of photography in which you and your product are the star.