Seller Beware!


As a "newbie" to photo sales, I have a few words of caution to those of you attempting to sell your work. This is not a lesson in knowing your clientele, or how to market, rather a warning about pricing, producing and shipping your product.

1. Price your work competitively. In other words don't sell yourself short. If you've gotten to the point where people are willing to pay you for your prints, you are obviously talented enough to make a go of it. Research photo websites in your field or your area and price accordingly. One rule of thumb is to charge three times your cost. In other words if your costs are $50 for a 16X24 including shipping, charge $150. I charge a little less since I'm not a "known" photographer. My prints are also signed and numbered in a limited edition. I could charge an extra $50 for that premium, but since I'm new I don't.  

2. Check printing prices regularly. They change almost annually. And they never go down! Imagine that. Never use a discount service. Yeah, I've heard that some people are really happy with their Walgreen's or other discount "kiosk" printing service. If you are going to sell your work as art, treat it as such. I know someone personally who has worked in a discount store processing photography and she would gladly tell you that they are not experts in photography nor printing. They have had just enough training to enter data into a computer and look for obvious flaws. At a full service camera/print processing store they  not only know printing but also cameras, photo editing, and photo processing. I used to use a photo lab service in California, but have had to switch because they cannot give any advice about the editing/post-production process. This process is crucial to printing. Ratio aspect, paper grade and finish choices are all important, and a print service can only give limited advice in these areas. I am a huge fan of Mike's Camera with two outlets here in Denver and one in Boulder. Have your image saved on a flash drive at full-size, post produced and ready to upload. A jpg image is preferred. Don't take in a RAW or TIFF image as they cannot upload these. ALWAYS check your prints for correct finish and any damage from printing machines in front of the clerk who hands you your prints. I have had problems with both of these.

3. Shipping costs are also going up. I use either fedex or UPS. They are about the same price and have comparable service. I won't even mention USPS except to say emphatically "STAY AWAY" unless long lines and surly attitudes are to your liking. I recommend using a roll tube shipping container with a sheet of tissue around the rolled print and inserted into the tube. Make sure the length of the tube matches the rolled print size and use packing material to take up any room so that the print does not slide back and forth risking damage. Also make sure that the end caps are not just taped, but sealed around the cap. Forward the tracking number to your client if your website does not automatically do this. Mine does not, but it only takes a moment. Another method is to place the print flat between two tissues and layer two sheets of heavy duty cardboard on either side and tape it with shipping tape to seal it. I prefer the tube because I know from an engineering standpoint that these are the least susceptible to damage during shipping.

4. Know beforehand what charges you will incur during this process. Most places have prices posted online. At least Mike's Camera and fedex both do. And like I said earlier, keep checking prices. Don't assume that anything is going to cost what it did last month.

These are all hard learned lessons, and I hope I have saved someone a future headache. 

Photoshop part II

I have used Photoshop for editing images since I was first introduced to it about two years ago. There are other editing software programs but for the cost I think Photoshop is an excellent way to get started. I've about outgrown Photoshop Elements and will graduate to Lightroom soon. Lately I've been pushing the limits of Elements capability, but I am also still learning different features. As seen on the website I've really been enjoying putting together more commercial compositions involving everything from portrait to album or cd covers.

I hope I never get to the point of "knowing it all" because the learning is much more fun than being accomplished. The more popular saying is "It's not the destination but the journey" or some such b.s. And it's true. It's been that way in life with just about every aspect of the maturing process. From learning to drive, the birds and bees, and even my given craft.  From the first time I cracked open the Nikon owner's manual it's been five years of learning. And it never stops. I've been told that Lightroom has a lot of the features I've been looking for including ones that will enhance low lighting shots that I have so many challenges with.

I've been doing a lot of experimenting with backgrounds. There are an abundace of downloadable backgrounds, but I've had the most success with the ones I create myself. I usually use an image of something that compliments my subject colorwise and blur it, refine it, blur it, lighten it, darken it, until I have just the right color combination. It's very time consuming, but when it works it's magic.

I do have my share of critics when it comes to using photoshop to manipulate an image. I tell them what my father told me about art. "Use every color in your palette, and every brush at your disposal. And if it doesn't turn out the way you want it to, throw it away and do it again." Great advice Pop, that's what I'm doing. Thanks.


Thanks to all of you

I love the photographic community here in Denver. At first I was a little embarrassed to ask questions. I know that doesn't sound like me, but it's true. I figured that any information I needed I could get from the training manual, the photo store, or the internet. The best information comes out face-to-face. I meet photographers through websites, but the most common meeting place is an art festival, gallery, or some other function that is camera-worthy here in the city. I half expected the same snooty, holier-than-thou crowd I've met in the past in the fine arts community. Things are changing. You no longer need to "know somebody" to find an audience. Two of the photographers I met today were more than happy to share ideas, techniques, and contacts. Neither of these folks had any formal training, but much like myself are self taught. That is to say they had to ask the questions just like I am.

There are a couple of ways to learn photography. The preferred method is formal schooling, and I'm all for that, but it takes a pretty good chunk of change to afford a reputable school. Another method is apprenticeship. You start out as a photographer's helper and gradually learn the trade from your mentor. Then there's the most common way. A mixture of classes, ask a lot of questions, and take a hell of a lot of photos. It's one of those crafts where experience is still the best teacher. Especially if you are chronically broke!


Tom, where the hell have you been?

Man, I haven't posted in so long I almost forgot how. Things are still happening on the photo front. Things on the job hunting front are not. I've applied to over two hundred positions in the past eight months, and had six, count 'em six interviews. I had a terrific interview today, but I'm probably too expensive for them. I've dropped my asking salary thirteen thousand a year, and I'm still over priced. Mom 'n Pop didn't raise no quitters though, so onward.

I've gotten published in the Greenways Foundation monthly, and I am forever grateful for that. I have the privelege of meeting the founder's son and current President of the foundation on the seventeenth and I'm really looking forward to that. I got some really good shots of Lou Gramm, the former lead singer-songwriter for Foreigner at the Taste of Colorado. I have also been retained by the band "The Last Thoughts of Ezra Pound" to do their photography. I've shot three of their live events. That's probably the most fun I've had with all my clothes on in some time.

I've gotten a lot more adventurous with photoshop lately working on techniques I see other photographers using and having monetary success with. I also want to get some prints done on canvas and aluminum. The aluminum process is fairly new, and is very dynamic in it's appearance. It gives it a look like the old porcelain signs, but with your images on them. Very cool.

Well, that's about it for now. It won't be nearly as long until the next one.




Half the fun of photography is experimentation. Whether it's camera settings, lighting, locations, or editing, part of the creative process is the experimenting. I use quite a few programs to edit not the least of which is photoshop, ms paint, and photostitch. With those three programs I can do the bulk of my editing. I had someone ask me once "why can't you just go with the image as it is. If you are good enough, the image shouldn't need any editing."   I agree that you do need to be good enough to hit your mark at a large percentage, but if you can improve on an image .....why not edit?

Editing can be as simple as cropping to remove uneeded background or balance a composition. This has been done as long as photography has existed. So has experimenting with lighting and contrast. In film it is achieved through chemistry and lens adjustment. At the turn of the century colorizing was experimented with through chromolithography. It was a way of turning black and white negatives into color prints. I own a couple of these chromolithos and there is nothing quite like them.

So manipulation of the image is one that goes back a long way. Hell, cave dwellers did it. Today with digital photography and editing almost anything can be done with an image. I mentioned in an earlier blog that I think the difference between an amateur and a pro is that the pro knows what he (she) wants the final image to look like before they even take the shot. An amateur just takes a lot of shots and sorts through them to see if any look good. I still believe that, but even an amateur can make a lousy image look good with the right editing. You just need a good image to begin with.

Which brings me to my next point. I have folks needing image editing, but don't have a good image to begin with. Usually it's a blurry image or a low resolution image from a small format camera such as found on a cell phone. As much as I would love to help out, I can't. I would have to deconstruct and reconstruct the image a few pixels at a time, and the end result wouldn't look acceptable even then. Scanned photos sent through e-mails won't work either. There is software that will improve the overall clarity of such an image, but not to the point of being able to display it.

So editing software is handy and almost necessary to good photography. I use it to do the simple tasks like cropping, color adjustment, and lighting. I also use it to remove something from an image like phone lines, people, just about anything that detracts from an otherwise perfect photo. I use it to smooth areas, cover blemishes and  accentuate a highlight. I have used it to produce a water effect, or other "artful" appearances. The bottom line is that if producing an excellent image is your goal, become familiar with editing software.


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