Back from the Can/Am Photo Expo

FocusNY was held in conjunction with the Canadian/American Photo Expo that was held in Buffalo, NY.  There were 3 days of training seminars and workshops. Friday I attended Cheryl Belczak’ “Lighting Techniques for Photographing Glass” and a Portrait/Fashion series by Dana Nordlund called “A Quest for Light“.

Rather than booking a room, I decided I would drive back to Rochester then come back in the morning; big mistake!  It made for a really short night and a really long day. I left Rochester at 6 am and arrived at the Adam’s Mark Hotel at little after 7:30 am. After a quick breakfast I attended Tony Corbell‘s “Let’s Talk Light for Weddings” seminar.  Immediately after Tony’s seminar, Will Cadena had a lecture and walkabout with models at Silo City; this lasted from 10 am to 5 pm.  Will conducted a “Lighting on the Run” workshop for the GRPP here in Rochester

It was heavily overcast (great for photography), cold (bad for the models), wet  and drizzly (Bad for all of us) but we all ventured out to Silo City in what turned out to be a great session. I’ve added a gallery of my photos below.

Can-Am Silo City Shoot

Saturday evening Tony Corbell was the Keynote Speaker for PPSNYS. There was a Fashion Shoot from 9pm to 11pm “Night on the Town” but I opted out since I didn’t get much sleep the night before so I headed out to my hotel room.

Sunday was the last day of the Photo Expo. I took Brian Matiash’s lecture on “The Visual Palette: Defining your Photographic Style”  which turned out to be more about Lightroom. Since there were no other lectures that interested me I decided to make one last sweep of the vendors. Depending on how you look at it it this was either a mistake or good fortune, I ended buying a new mottled grey backdrop.  Since this was a custom order I got to pick the color shades and style that I wanted. Hopefully when it arrives in 2-3 weeks it’ll be what I expected.



So I got this email from the following address:  I did report the email address to google.

This person claims that he was coordinating a family reunion and was looking to hire a photographer and wondered if I took credit card payments. Obviously the individual didn’t visit my website since it clearly states that I do.

Hello,I’m Steven Walters, How are you ? I’ll like to know your free available date in September for my family reunion (5 hours coverage). Also i want the family portraits done for the all the families coming together for the reunion and do you accept credit card payment? 


I provided my free dates and he selected a date

Thanks for getting to me ,i want to book  September 23rd. If you have a date open i want you to work on the estimate cost for the 5 hours photo coverage from 11am-4pm, and 6-16×20 prints family photo portraits because we have 6 families coming together for the reunion event. The event will be held locally here in the state about an hour drive from your location, i will cover the travel expenses. I got your information on the internet and i hope you can handle this event. I’ll be making the full  payment in advance with my credit card to book the date also i will forward you the event venue once the event planner book the hall. I will be looking forward to read from you with the estimate ASAP.


Notice the composition and use of English?  Also, he doesn’t know where I’m located since he says “… here in the state about an hour drive from your location”, OK I’ll play along.  So I asked him what city/state the event will take place.

ROCHESTER, NY so can i have the total estimated now ??reunion

Getting testy ain’t he?  Since I’m in the Rochester, NY area why would I need to drive an hour  to get to the event? O.K. I’ll continue to play along. I provided the cost of my services, cost of the 16×20 prints and even state & local taxes. I also stated that I needed a physical mailing address so that I could send the contract that will need to be signed and returned to me before I will accepts any payment.  Obviously the person doesn’t read very well, here’s the response. You’ll notice there’s a hardship story in it along with a slight problem that I may be able to fix.

I have my credit. card available for the payment . But first I want you to pay attention to this . I have just undergone surgery and regarding to this. I have been advised to take a long rest for an easy and fast recovery, hence the reason why I need your favor. I haven’t payed the sound band that we will be using on that day and he does not have credit card facility and i will like us to work something out on that end ??

So what then is a sound band?  I’ve heard people hiring musicians, a band, a DJ, etc., but never a sound band. Funny, he’s hiring me because I take credit cards but he hired a “sound band” who doesn’t?  So I responded.

“I’m sorry for your medical misfortunes. What do you propose?”

Now the fun begins. Here’s the response along with a bit more sob.

I am perfectly okay with the total cost does that include processing fee + tax cause i would need you to do me little favor cause i have a little issue with the payment of the sound band manager told me she didn’t have a credit card machine so i will need you to do me the favor to add her fee together with your fee she has to receive $1,750 for the booking of the sound band so i will like you to get back to me with the total cost so that i can make the payment today.  Below is the final break down of the total charges i will be authorizing you to charge on my credit card.

your service : $1000
sound band fee : $3,750
Tips & Gratitude : $150
CC &Transfer charges : $3%

 In view of this i want you to get back to me with the grand total and i will provide you with my credit card details to run through ASAP.

i would have been happy if we could meet,as i told you earlier my daughter said i should take a long rest and that is what i am doing because i am out  the state right now for my medication and i will be back 2days to the reunion that is why i want to book everything ahead and make the payment also with my credit card and that is why i told you to charge extra fee for the soud band, all he need is just the fees please reply un time so i can give you my credit card to charge for the grand total amount,i hope you understand the reason my friend

I suggested that because of my accounting software, it would be difficult for me to charge him then pay the “sound band”. I suggested that the manager of the sound band contact me and I would be happy to sub contract the band . Here’s my offer.

“Unfortunately,  because of my accounting software, I am unable to process the payment as you requested.  If you provide me with the contact information of your sound band manager (name, phone number, email), I can sub-contract them as a service. Once I get the signed contract from them I can bill you. Once I receive your CC payment and have it verified, I can then cut them a check for their services. I assume the band is local to the Rochester area so contacting them should not take too long and we can have the contract and payment issue resolved within a day or so. Once I have their signed contact I can add their cost to the estimate and invoice you for the full amount.”

While the previous responses came within a few hours this one took 2 days. Well, surprise surprise, the band is coming from New Jersey and apparently there’s really no way to contact them. I decided I didn’t want to play this game any more. I said that I needed a signed contract and contact information (phone# & address) before I would consider the job. It’s been 3 days now and there has been no response. I wonder how many photographers have jumped on this “opportunity” out of desperation.

Anyone else go one of these???

Outdoor Portraiture workshop

May 9, 2016

I’ve been conducting an outdoor portraiture workshop as part of a class I teach at the Genesee enter for the Arts & Education. This class is less about posing and more about lighting.

This first outdoor session was at Ellison Park and started around 11am. While there was some sporadic cloud cover, most of the time there was just bright harsh sun light and the worst possible time of day to take outdoor photos. The object of this workshop was to teach the proper use of a hot-shoe flash to mitigate the harsh lighting conditions that a noon-day sun presents.  Other than some slight cropping, there was absolutely no post-processing of any of the images.

I took the first few photos as examples and used an ambient light meter (not in camera) to measure the light. With the ISO set to 200 (lowest common denominator for the cameras being used) the exposure was 125 sec. @ f/16. I was not using a flash diffuser but did have a 1/4 CTO filter attached. White Balance (WB) was set to Full Daylight and the 1/4 CTO filter added just a tiny bit of warming.

During this session the cameras were set to manual and the flash was set to TTL. The primary in-camera metering mode was Spot and manual pre-flash was used.

The photo below was taken with the sun behind and to the right (my left) of the subject.  The advantage to shooting into the sun is that the subject is not squinting.  

The Photo on the Left – was taken with no flash. While the exposure on his right cheek is good, there is way too much shadow on the rest of the face. This s not a very good shot.

The Photo on the Right – was taken with the flash on and set to minus 1-stop. As you can see, it’s a much more pleasing photo. The main light is still on the left side of the face but the harsh shadow has been significantly reduced.

This next photos were shot with the sun in the face of the subject. The camera setting were exactly the same as the previous set of photos.

The Photo on the Left – was taken with no flash. While no in-camera metering was used, if it had been I’d spot-meter on the nose.  The overall exposure is good, but the shadows are a bit harsh and deep, especially under the nose and chin.

The Photo on the Right – was taken with the flash on and set to minus 1-stop. As you can see, it’s a much more pleasing photo since the harsh shadows have been reduced. I could have further reduced the shadows by reducing the flash to 1/3 or 2/3 stops as opposed to a full stop. It’s all just personal preference.

The rule of thumb is to always shoot into the light since that’s something you have very little control over. You can control your flash but controlling the sun is another matter and waiting for clouds may not be an option.

This next 3-frame series was taken in the shade with the initial exposure determined by the background. The initial exposure was 125 sec/, f/11 and the flash was set to zero (0) compensation since I wanted to match and control the background light.

In order to control the background exposure, I closed my aperture by a whole stop between the three shots, this made the sky look darker that it really was. I could of just as easily changed my initial aperture to f/8 to make the background brighter.

  125 sec. f/11                         125 sec. f/16                            125 sec.  f/22

In all cases my camera’s metering system was set to spot and I used it, along with my camera and flashes FEL (Canon) FVL (Nikon) pre-flash function, to control the output of the flash system.

The next outdoor session will be more of an evening event taking advantage of much compressed dynamic range and a setting sun.

“Lighting on the Run” a Will Cadena Imagery workshop

This past Sunday GRPP sponsored a “Lighting on the Run” workshop presented by Will Cadena.Will is the owner of Will Cadena Imagery and is New York City’s best up-and-coming wedding photographers.  We spent the day learning the various lighting techniques that Will uses to make his images pop. There were about 20 of us at the workstation and as crowded as it was, especially in a small hotel room, we managed not to step all over each other; things were a bit more roomy when we moved outdoors.

Here’s a gallery of some of the photos I took at the workshop.

Lighting on the run

Macro Rails & associated head.

I decided to do some macro work and as you know the depth of field is measures in fractions of an inch and auto focus is nearly useless. Earlier this year I built a custom panoramic tripod head that still needs a few parts that need to be manufactured at a machine shop. When it’s done I’ll post more information. I equipped my tripod with a 3-point leveler Macro Head_1902that has proven to be a blessing when using the pano-head because in order to make stitching more accurate a true horizontal level is vital and adjusting the tripod legs to achieve a level is a true pain.

I also don’t like the time it takes to combine all the separate components so I’ve incorporated a Stroboframe Quick-connect system that allows me to quickly connect or disconnect the various components including the camera.

Right now I have a Manfrotto ball head screwed onto the 3-point leveler. The working end of the ball head is equipped with a Stroboframe clamp while the 2-axis rail system has a corresponding Stroboframe Plate. Finally, on top of the rail system there is another Stroboframe clamp that is used to hold the camera. The 2-axis rail system holds the camera and allows me to fine tune the focus without using the lens’ focus ring.

Once it was all together I decided to give it a test drive by photographing a drinking glass from the 1960’s; it contains the caricatures of the WBBF AM95 radio station.

WBBF-Glass  More macro’s to follow.

Fauxto Booth vs. Photo Booth

So what’s the difference?

Photo Booth – In a standard photo booth you actually have a booth that’s typically 6 feet tall, 2 feet wide and 6 feet deep. It’s usually build into a number of shipping enclosures that are snapped together to form the booth. It is a self contained, stand-alone unit containing a seat, backdrop, camera and printer. People go into the booth and there’s some mechanism that triggers the photo.

Once the photo is taken a 4×6 print emerges from the printer. The photo is typically cut in half lengthwise providing the well known 2×6 inch photo strip with up to 4 poses on it for each of the two participants that can fit into the 2 foot wide booth. In some cases a 2nd 4×6 print is printed so that it can be glued into scrapbook and the participants can write a short note to the Bride & Groom or host of the party.

In most cases the participants end up with a 2×6 strip of 4 photos that will eventually get lost or tossed.

Fauxto Booth – This is a portable studio with a standalone backdrop, studio lights and a high-end DSLR camera manned by a real photographer. While the typical background is 5 feet wide allowing larger groups of people to have their photos done at the same time, space permitting, 10 foot backdrops are also available. More often than not a printer is not part of the setup. While not having a printer may seem to defeat the purpose there are significant advantages, cost being one of them and access to the actual photo being the other.

A big advantage to this type of Fauxto Booth is that participants can download the photos to their own devices, be they smart phones, laptops or home computer. This gives each participant the ability to have as many prints made as they want and/or email the photos to friends and family. Want to leave a message for the Bride & Groom or Host? Write your message on a white-board and include it in the photo. Like the traditional photo booth, goofy props are usually provided to enhance the experience. Another advantage is that the photos are of high quality and can be altered after-the-fact if necessary. In the samples below two photos taken at a 585Wedding event were modified to suit the subjects of the photos.


Traditional Photo Booth – will set you back about $800 or more for a 3-4 hour session which usually starts after the diner of the wedding or event.

The Fauxto Booth – will cost you about $350 for the same 3-4 hour time period. In fact, if you add a $600 Fauxto Booth as an option for your wedding, you get a 2nd photographer for 8 hours. That means better overall coverage of the wedding and it’s still less expensive than a traditional photo booth.

Short Sample Gallery:

Do your photos seem too soft or out of focus?

... well it could actually be your lens. For a couple of years now, during some of my studio lighting classes, I’ve had some students complain about their inability to get a sharp focus. Since all manufacturing processes have some degree of variability, the chances of getting a lens/body combination that don’t quite match is a real possibility.

In many cases the lens will either Front Focus or Back Focus and unless you have a camera that provides micro adjust capabilities the only solution is to send both the camera and lens to an authorized repair facility to correct the issue. However, if you have a higher end camera body that allows you to make Micro Focusing Adjustments then you can do this adjustment yourself. Not all DSLR manufacturers provide this adjustment capability and for those that do, they don’t provide it on all their cameras. Check your users manual to see if your camera has this adjustment capability.

  • Canon calls it: “AF micro adjustment”
  • Nikon calls it” “AF fine tuning”
  • Pentax calls it: “Front/Back focus corr”
  • Sony calls it: “AF  Micro Adjustment”

There is a product by Datacolor called the Spyder LENSCAL that you can purchase to see if your lens is front or back focusing. For those of you interested in buying an off-the-shelf product here’s the link:

However, rather than purchasing a product of this kind I demonstrate to my studio class a method of achieving the same results using a tripod and a ruler. The technique is effective and works quite well although I have to admit that sometimes getting the autofocus to lock in can be a chore and unless you are using the center single-point-of-focus, it’s quite unlikely you get get my method to work.

Recently I found an article on a PPA group site that shows you how to make a DIY Focus Calibration Target; it even provides a PDF template you can print out. After reading the post, the DIY template looks strangely similar in form and function to the Spyder LENSCAL device whose link I provided earlier in this post. So if you’re interested and want to save about $70 , I encourage you to check out the link below.  Enjoy.!


Color Calibrated Workflow

During my Studio Lighting and Photoshop classes we often discuss the benefits of having a color managed workflow. I use the X-rite ColorChecker Passport to create custom camera profiles. Since I can potentially use 3 bodies during an event shoot, such as a wedding, I want to make sure that the color rendition from all my cameras match.

As for my display and printer I’ve upgraded from the Spyder2 Pro Studio to the Spyder4 Pro Studio. Trust me, the only reason I upgraded to the Spyder4 was that I upgraded my operating systems to Windows 7 and the Spyder2 Pro was no longer supported.

So what good is a color calibrated workflow if the photo processing lab’s colors don’t match what you see on your screen?  The way I do it is to send the photo processor a Target Image that has been specially designed with known color and B&W values. I’ve been using my Fuji Target for about 10 years now but decided to create a new one (work in progress). I had these targets printed by a wide assortment of labs (Mpix, Millers, Collages, etc.) as well as local establishments such as Walmart, Walgreens, CVS, etc., so I can  visually compare the final products and choose the best lab to process my photos. I have, on more than on occasion, changed labs so as to provide my customers the best possible product.

The main thing to look for is color cast in the white areas. Also the R-G-B  and  C-M-Y-K tend to vary quite a bit between processors. If my whites are white and my color swatches are correct, I’ve found my processing lab.

If you want to download the Test Targets I use, you can find them in the sidebar under Downloads on the Home Page of this blog. There are two of them, the Fuji Target and the NixImages Target.