What you Don’t Know About that “Cheap Photographer” that CAN Hurt You!

Let’s start out with a profound statement you might find surprising!

“I LOVE competition as a photographer!”

Now many are probably thinking “are you crazy or what? Isn’t the competition what you are fighting to stay in business?”

The short answer is “no”, but the more complicated one is the reason I say “what you don’t know about that “cheap photographer” that CAN hurt you!”. It’s NOT meant to “drive away” the competition, but to actually make me become something much better that will give you complete and total satisfaction in what I deliver!

I don’t hide the fact I have been behind a camera lens for a long time. I have seen so many changes in the photography industry, I probably forgot more than I remember. Compared to today, we went from the Model T to the Space Shuttle in a few short years. Cameras are “smart” today compared to even 15 years ago. And even smarter ones are coming out every few months. So what does that mean for you? Continue reading “What you Don’t Know About that “Cheap Photographer” that CAN Hurt You!”


Planning a Millennial’s Wedding: Avoiding the Mistakes Many Are Making

Wedding Photography Jacksonville, Fl
Wedding Photography Jacksonville, Fl

I have to admit, I love this Millennial Generation!

They are some of the most tech savvy of all and they use it constantly in most activities in their life.

But it can also be one of the most dangerous things when it comes to making solid and lasting decisions when planning a wedding, and expecting results they can love rather than just “like”. I see this in almost every single couple I meet with in discussing their photography needs and thankfully, a few have listened and didn’t regret their decisions. Others haven’t and I also hear about those too- long after the wedding is over.

Some of the things I do hear, and usually about the time for that first Family Portrait- “I wish we had better wedding photographs”. Often I get the “can you look at our wedding photos and see if you can fix them and make them any better?” Sadly, I have to be honest and tell them truthfully that I can’t. It’s really sad to see some of the things people are calling “Wedding pictures” because they aren’t much better than Iphone pictures.

The REALLY sad part is, they paid someone for what they do have.

I often ask, “how much was your photographer” and invariably, the answer is “well, he/she was cheap, so we tried to save money by hiring them”. I also have found several things they did that could have avoided these disastrous results too. Hopefully you will take these into account as you plan your wedding day and avoid that “nasty surprise” a few weeks after your wedding.

“We Hired our Photographer based on the Lowest Bid”

There is a general rule of thumb that more than applies to photographers. The more experienced and the more qualified your photographer, the more it will cost you. “Cheap” Photography comes with a price- they are more likely than not, learning to be a photographer and not really well versed in the demands of a wedding and capturing the moments in images you will love. Because they own the latest, hottest DSLR camera and a couple of lenses doesn’t make them a “professional photographer”! The camera doesn’t take the photograph, the person behind the lens does and if they aren’t well schooled in composition, lighting, and exposure then your results may vary- as in maybe you get lucky and maybe you don’t.

You will find way too many “photographers” out there advertising that $495 wedding package and you get wedding photographs that aren’t worth $95. This mistake CAN be avoided and the next section tells you exactly how!

“We never met the person who photographed our wedding until that day”

Oh how I wish I could tell this Millennial Generation to use your phones for more than text messages! I see far too many couples who want to “text it in” and hire their photographer that way. Their entire communication process from start to finish is “text me” your prices or “send me a sample” or some other use of technology you have in your possession at all times. I see them scouring the internet with their phones, looking at websites and making a choice of photographers that way.

Here is the BEST advise I can give you- CALL your prospective photographers, go MEET THEM FACE TO FACE and discuss your wedding plans. See what they offer in terms of packages, products, and qualifications. To be honest with you, I refuse to book a wedding for a couple I have NOT met face to face. If all they want is to “text it in”, then there is no possible way I can do their wedding photographs justice. One of the major factors in capturing the images you are going to want is for ME to get to know YOU in a personal way so that I CAN capture your love for one another in those moments you might find are missed otherwise.

Can you imagine “texting” in your wedding dress? So why do you think for one moment you should try that for anything else in planning your wedding? It is important that you have a good feeling about your photographer as any thing you do since they are going to be spending the entire day WITH YOU and not only taking photographs, but helping you as your day progresses. If you never met them, texted it in, and they show up on your wedding day, you’re going to be sorely disappointed in the results. Don’t get me wrong, a text message for a quick question is fine, but NOT to use to hire your photographer! Same goes for emails! Go see your prospective photographers. I promise, it will be worth the time.

“We Only Want Digital Images. We aren’t interested in anything else”

This is the middle of May, 2015. This year I have had 2 requests from past clients who “only wanted digital images” for their wedding photographs. One of them has “lost their disc” and the other one “had the disc get left in the car and it won’t work anymore”. Both are from weddings I photographed a few years back.

Over the many years, I have also made a LOT of wedding albums for couples too- more albums than “digital only” wedding photographs. In these years, I have only had to re-make one album and that was due to a fire while the couple was out of town. I also have had brides from years ago bring me their albums to show me how perfect they still are and to brag about how wonderful their images still are to this day.

Now I can tell you this that digital images are one of the greatest ways to capture and edit images. They are perhaps the worst way to “archive” them. So much so, I have totally stopped offering “digital images on a disc only” wedding packages. And it has NOTHING to do with the fact I “make more money” either, but has everything to do with the fact that I know that wedding albums are NOT going to be lost, damaged in the heat, and will last a lifetime and more. Unless I am providing you a product that is lasting and dear to your heart and providing images that you cry when you see them- no matter how often- then YOU wasted a lot of money.

So you hired that “cheap” photographer and you get your images “on a disc”. Now what will you do when in a few years when your disc is damaged, or the technology changes (as it has CONSTANTLY) and you can’t find your photographer to replace it? Or you perhaps DID save your files to your computer and it crashes and burns? Or you replace your computer and didn’t transfer your files? I rarely have EVER seen (or heard of) a couple misplace or lose their wedding album.

“We didn’t check to see if he/she was a legitimate business”

Did you know that a large percentage of “professional photographers”- or those who claim to be one- are NOT properly licensed to operate a business? They don’t have a business license, haven’t registered their business in the State, and do not collect or remit sales taxes as the law provides they must. Add to it, many only “photograph weddings” as a part-time thing.

So if you have an issue with your end results, and there is no legal business with which you have issue, how are you going to be affected if something goes wrong? Any photographer who is a genuine professional, has a legal business and operates 100% as such. There is no harm in finding out BEFORE you commit to hiring them and you should! Otherwise, you could be victim to many of those who will “take your money” and never provide a final product. And if they are “flying under the radar” so to speak, how will you find them?

Do they belong to any of the Professional Photographers Associations or their Local Photographers Guild? Membership in most of these require that you produce proper certification that you are a legitimate business, so you should ALWAYS ask if they belong to one of these and also VERIFY that they do. Even if they are part-time, membership in one of these tells you they are committed to excellence in their work.

If you do hire a “part time” photographer, make sure they are a legitimate business. Also find out if they offer products like albums and prints. “Digital only” photographers are generally only there for the “fast buck” and don’t want to spend the time needed to produce a quality final product. You are wanting excellence since there is really only ONE CHANCE to get these photographs “right” the first time. Being a legitimate business doesn’t totally guarantee it, but it sure does mean that the person you hire IS COMMITTED to their craft- even part time! And it also means you don’t have to chase down someone if things DO happen- they are going to stand behind what they do.


So there you have it- the 4 things I see the Millennial Generation doing that often leads to a far less “happy” outcome and how you can avoid making these mistakes. These are things I have discovered by talking to other Millennials and what you as one can learn from their mistakes. I do hope you take this to heart and consider your options as you plan your wedding day.


As a long time wedding photographer in Jacksonville, Fl, should you want to learn more about the various options I offer, feel free to drop me a note or call me! I would love to spend a few minutes over your favorite beverage and discuss the ways your wedding photographs can be not just good, but the spectacular images you dream about having!

I Met “Digital Dan”, Professional Photographer, the Other Day

I bet you know “Digital Dan” Professional Photographer (or perhaps it’s Danielle), too!

They are constantly found on Facebook, Craigslist, Groupon to name a few, and they are always looking for “new clients”. You can spot their advertising quite easily!

“Family (or Wedding, or Newborn, or Maternity) photos CHEAP! Session fee and 25 digital images for $65. Call today to reserve your spot”.

Now don’t misunderstand me when I say this- I really love the “Digital Dans” of the world. I really do.

They make me appreciate the fact that I take the time to help people and I get to be a part of a small slice of their life and offer them images that they not only love when they see them, but cherish them as heirlooms for their family. I love watching them see their wall art for the first time and helping them display them on their walls and watching their reaction when they see their new baby’s album for the very first time. I love the tears new wives (and husbands too) shed when that ONE photograph is seen in their heirloom masterpiece I created for them. I love watching the memories of that day be relived over and over.

Now “Digital Dan”, well, his approach is probably a bit different. He isn’t that much “into it” when it comes to helping you select your images or helping you find a perfect location for your disc to hang on your wall. Nor is he much into helping you select a proper frame for that disc either. Now, he honestly isn’t going to be much help either when you decide you want a print and probably doesn’t care much if your prints are off in color or printed on some cheap printer that you can get down at “Puter’s-r-Us” and that you really don’t have any photo paper in a size you really want to print it on.

And “Digital Dan” doesn’t use any “Pro Lab” that he can offer you prints either! After all, he doesn’t want to “rip you off” with high quality, professionally printed, archival quality images that require him to properly prepare his files for outstanding quality you are HOPING you get from your “1 hour” lab! I mean, why offer that to clients since they can get those $.27 prints and as many as they want! Who really cares if they fade and discolor in a couple of years. Nor do you really care if that 8×10 has the top Dad’s head cropped off or Sally’s arm too.

And when “Digital Dan” is finished, he just doesn’t seem to spend that much time before handing you that disc since his editing skills aren’t really THAT great, but “good enough” for what little he charges. Does having the best editing REALLY make that much difference since all you are getting is a disc? But  “Digital Dan” is pretty cheap and he IS calling himself a “professional photographer”!

And those harsh shadows on your face? Well, “Digital Dan” is one of those “natural light” photographers and “those things happen” when you photograph someone at noon outdoors. And “Digital Dan” really doesn’t like to use “artificial light” to fill in those shadows. To him, “that’s not what I do”. (in other words, he either doesn’t own any or doesn’t know HOW to use it…yet!). And he also does “studio work” with “all natural light” too.

Now if you are getting married soon and want “wedding pictures”, “Digital Dan” is THE MAN! He will photograph your wedding and put your images on a disc for you to “cherish for a lifetime” and promise you get them in a week! What a great DEAL for $400! It really doesn’t matter THAT much that your Reception and Cake Cutting images seem, well, DARK since it was a bit dark inside your reception hall. Nor does it matter much that your outdoor beach wedding was at 3pm and they also have those really HARSH shadows across the brides face! You DID get a “few” really good shots you can show to people.

And since “Digital Dan” isn’t that much into album design, you can find one of those “Online, design your own album” companies and get them DIRT CHEAP! You get to do all the work from selecting your images, to figuring out your layout and them uploading the images and HOPEFULLY “Digital Dan’s” images print a bit better than they look on the screen. Think of ALL that money you saved! And when you get that album back, you can honestly say, “we cried” when we saw it! But chances are, those are going to be tears of disappointment, not tears of joy. But hey, “Digital Dan” was cheap and we “had to cut back someplace”, right?

You see, “Digital Dan” just really isn’t into being involved in what being a Professional Photographer is supposed to be. He really doesn’t like to “meddle” in your decisions or help you in any way when it comes to what products you want to order. He isn’t much into designing your album either because if he had to do that, he would probably have to charge you a LOT more. “Digital Dan” is probably going to do a little as possible too when it comes to getting to know you, finding out what you like and dislike, what you feel is your best feature and also what you consider your worst feature too. And he probably isn’t going to be much assistance in clothing selections or suggestions for makeup or hair either since these might effect your images in a really positive way. He is just going to show up, take your picture, hand you a disc for you to view the best way you can, and take your money! Now that he’s done with you, he has to move on to the next person and also offer that same level of service he just gave you.

But he was cheap.

Why Handing You a “Disk of Images” is the REAL Rip-off

A friend of mine used to be a Manager at McDonalds. He was part of a layoff and took a job there basically because it was all he could find and moved into Management pretty fast. As one of the managers, he was privy to a lot of “inside information” that few had access to.

One of the things he showed me was the “cost sheet” that every store manager used to place their daily order from their Distribution Centers. Now I don’t eat there often (WAY too many calories for this growing body), but occasionally I do love a Big Mac Value Meal. Lately, that has been around a $7 meal here locally- and higher in other parts of the country.

Now the cost of the ingredients needed to make that Big Mac is around $.74. Yes, $.74 cents. And they sell a LOT of them everyday. And add the fries and a drink, and it’s still under a buck cost to the store. So tell me, have you stood in line and argued with them that their $7 meal is a “rip-off”? And why is it that they are “marking up” their prices so much? Continue reading “Why Handing You a “Disk of Images” is the REAL Rip-off”

Why Printing from Your Photographers Digital Images Can Result in Disappointment

Walk into one of your local photographers studios and look around. See the marvelous works of art they have displayed. Even take a tour of a local gallery where various photographers have displays. Visit your local photography guilds or associations when they are having print competitions.

Can you see images in printed forms that literally jump off the paper at you? Continue reading “Why Printing from Your Photographers Digital Images Can Result in Disappointment”

The 3 Myths of Wedding Photography

Wedding Day in Jacksonville, FlI love photographing weddings. I always have.

What could be more touching and inspiring than to be a part of a couples most special day where they make the commitment of love to one another and share that with their friends and family.

Wedding photography isn’t for everyone. There is one or two things that happen to photographers- they photography one and fall in love with it or they absolutely can’t wait to never do another one. Photographers starting out often times get the idea that wedding photography is fast and easy money and you just go around and take a few pictures, hand the couple a DVD and that’s about all there is too it.

Unfortunately, that’s what a lot of couples think too. Which leads me to the 3 things many couples believe that simply aren’t true and put your day at risk along with having nothing but really bad wedding photographs. Continue reading “The 3 Myths of Wedding Photography”

Professional Photography- Do you want to buy my Cow or my Butter?

Family Photography Jacksonville, Fl
Family Photography Jacksonville, Fl

I was with a friend the other day and his wife called him, and the conversation went like this-

“Honey, can you stop by the store and get a gallon of milk? We also need some butter and a pack of cheese for the kids lunches. I would like to make that cream cheese pound cake you love, so get a pack of that too while your there.”

Okay, Mike, NOW I know you have gone completely off the deep end here. What in the WORLD does that have to do with “professional photography”? Continue reading “Professional Photography- Do you want to buy my Cow or my Butter?”

A Brides Dilemma- Cheap Disc Only Photos or that Professional Album?

Wedding Photos that RockAs you ponder your wedding plans, I am almost certain you are planning on your photography as well. So what are your choices and why one might be better suited for you than the other.

Far too many couples today are seeking a “cheap” photographer who will give them a disc of images with “rights” to print as many as they want. Sound really good, right?

I mean, you get all the images you want, and you cut your expenses, you get to do with your images as you please, and is well!

Could that be a HUGE mistake? Well, from a consumer standpoint, you are probably thinking NO, it’s not. However, I offer an alternative answer- it probably is. Continue reading “A Brides Dilemma- Cheap Disc Only Photos or that Professional Album?”

Senior Portraits? 4 Tips to Help You Find Your Photographer and Save Money

Jacksonville Senior PortraitsSenior Portrait season is right on us here in Jacksonville Florida!

Many of the Juniors this year, who graduate in 2016, are soon looking to have those portraits made to celebrate a grand milestone in their life. Nothing could be better than realizing you have gone through 12 years of school and are nearing the end of one journey and off to another one!

Our weather will soon be warming, the flowers will be blooming, and the sounds of baseball, softball, and other sports will be heard around our area. Basketball tournaments will be in full swing soon, and champions will be crowned. Continue reading “Senior Portraits? 4 Tips to Help You Find Your Photographer and Save Money”

Who is Damien Symonds and Why His Photoshop Classes Rock

For many of us photographers, making Photoshop (PS from now on) work FOR us instead of the hard and difficult process it can be, is a task we seem to never be able to accomplish. PS is constantly changing and much is for the best. We only seek to bring out images to life, make edits that make sense for the composition, and output them for our printed images for clients.

Many, like me have gone online, watched hundreds of videos, taken courses, and worked at creating what the instructor created and not really understood the HOW or WHY he or she did things as they did. “Just do it this way” and it should work for you. It usually doesn’t quite come out as we expected. Sure, that instructors work is fabulous, but what about MY work? It doesn’t look so fabulous.

So who is this Damien Symonds guy and why should you care?

He is perhaps one of THE best PS masters of all time. And he offers a few PS courses that honestly, will turn your hate or fear of PS into a LOVE of PS in ways that will astound you. His teaching methods are simply the easiest to comprehend, the simplest to master, and don’t require a learning curve that is unobtainable. And he is not a photographer, but a retoucher and restoration expert from Australia.

His first and most recommended course from me is his RAW Class. Shooting in RAW format is often misunderstood and the reasons WHY you should be taking photographs is RAW is explained in depth in his course. But once you have a RAW image, processing it, setting white balance, properly adjusting exposure and all the other settings requires a foundational few steps to start your masterpiece. I know that in my wedding photography, I sometimes have hundreds of images to sort, cull, and process. I KNEW there had to be a better way to quickly accomplish that task and honestly, dreaded it. Not any longer! Damien’s RAW class turned my entire workflow upside down, inside out, and sped things up so much I love doing RAW processing now. And I have images that are ready to do the magic touch in PS using Damien’s NEXT CLASS, his Levels and Curves class.

We ALL want to make our images have that special, one of a kind POP to them. Levels and Curves can do just that once you understand how to use them, how to make them work FOR you, and how selective editing can be your best friend. To learn Damien’s technique is so darn simple that once you go through his course, apply his methods to your own images, you’re going to wonder yourself, WHY did you spend all that PS Course money?

Now for the caveats. First, you MUST have a color calibrated monitor that you edit on. Don’t even think about taking either course until you do. Without that, you aren’t serious enough about your photographic work to even consider the investment in these courses. You can’t trust what you’re seeing on your screen and what your final prints are going to look like without calibrated monitor(s). So before you do anything, invest in that and get your screen calibrated to your prints.

Second, you will need Lightroom and/or Photoshop. You can get by with just Photoshop and Bridge (it comes with Photoshop) so you can do RAW edits. Adobe Camera RAW comes with PS, and it is a powerful RAW editor as Lightroom is. They are actually almost identical. BUT, again, a calibrated monitor is necessary for proper RAW processing!

Your first course should be the RAW Class. A good, well exposed, properly White Balanced photograph starts you down the path to creative excellence. I often struggled before this class to get a photo looking its best and worked hard in PS to make it better. Now, I have an EASY way to take an image and process the RAW file into something that makes the PS edits a walk in the park. You’re going to learn exactly the proper steps to take, in what order to take them, and the end result will amaze you. I took a couple of photos in Lightroom, made Virtual images out of them, reset them, re-edited so I could compare, and the difference is huge. The edit took all of 2 minutes and the comparison was astounding. Colors correct, skin tones nearly as perfect as I could ever have wanted, contrast and lighting is perfect and well, images I can work with in PS with ease as the result. Add to it, the amount of PS work is reduced dramatically as well.

There is another course you should follow with and that is the Layers and Masks Class. IF you have a good solid understanding of how to use Layers and Masks, have no difficulty in adding them, editing on them, and know how to create them, you could skip this. If you are confused or feel you need to refresh yourself, by all means take this one. Masking is a fundamental skill many do not fully understand, but after this class you will. If there is any question in your mind that perhaps you could be better, take this class next.

Now comes the best part! The Levels and Curves class. I’m going to tell you right up front, you are going to complete the RAW class and see a huge difference in your photographs. But the best comes next. When you take that properly processed RAW file into PS and apply the methods Damien teaches in this class, your entire world is going to change on how you approach PS editing. You will probably never reach for a Magic Wand, or a couple of other tools ever again (well, there are times you do need them!). You will discover how the slightest enhancements will turn your photos into masterpieces in a few short minutes. Your entire view of your images will change as will the way you edit them. You will even discover that a few of your “not so hot” images can be turned into some beautiful work with a few simple levels and curves adjustments as well as using other layer types to make them really come to life.

Here is what I promise you- YOU can learn how to use Lightroom and/or Adobe Camera RAW and PS in ways you never believed you could. Damien’s easy to follow, easy to learn methods are something that I honestly believe anyone can learn to do. If you can open PS, can make a few basic adjustments, can fumble around a bit and understand where your tools pallet is, your layers panel is, and can open an image inside of PS, you can do this. Even Adobe has some nice, free video tutorials that you can learn these basic tasks from.

So if you want your editing skills to take a light year leap in a few short hours, I can’t recommend this enough. Go visit Damien’s Website, click on his Photoshop Training class links if this doesn’t open right to them. But let me warn you in advance- by his own words, he describes himself as this;

Hi, I’m Damien. I’m short-tempered, ill-mannered, narrow-minded, and have questionable personal hygiene. But I know a lot of stuff about post-processing, monitor calibration and colour-management.

So if you’ve ever wished there was somebody sitting beside you while you tried a new editing technique, or grappled with a Photoshop error, or fumbled through your first monitor calibration, or whatever … I try to be that somebody.

And if you need somebody to slap you upside the head and drag you screaming by the hair into a better workflow and better images … I’m that somebody too.

Spades shall be referred to bluntly as spades, and smoke shall be blown up nobody’s ass, ever. But we have a lot of fun, so I hope you’ll join in.

But don’t let that fool you! He KNOWS PS and teaches in a way you will love and come to understand that he really is a nice guy. He just doesn’t have time for those who won’t listen.

Take his classes if you want to really become good with Photoshop and RAW file processing. Tell him Mike sent you and buy him a couple of beers too. They are worth every cent you will invest.