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.


Wild Day in the Hood


I've said it before, I'll say it again. Always have the camera ready. Apparently two guys were spotted breaking into cars around 4 a.m. and when the police arrived they ran into a house in the 700 block of Stout. When I went out to have a cup of coffee at around 9:00 a.m. there were cops everywhere. Along with the cops were a ton of support vehicles. You know me. I grabbed the Nikon and headed out to get a better shot (so to speak) of the operation. Our street (28th) and the cross street (Stout)were blocked off for a two block perimeter. Since we didn't really know what the particulars were, I was surprised that the cops, especially SWAT let us walk from block to block to visit with the neighbors and get better views of what was happening. Especially when they launched tear gas into the house. All we heard was a loud POP. Could have been gunfire for all we knew. The two guys surrendered about two minutes later around 10:20. The photos are pretty grainy, but I didn't really have time to adjust the settings too much. I e-mailed them to 9 news thinking they may use them tonight. As of seven o'clock there was just a stock video of a police car parked at some anonymous intersection. The story had to compete with a two fatality pedestrian/car accident, a road rage shooting fatality, a wildfire, and some other stories that took precedent over a measly standoff involving SWAT. The news desk person I talked to had no idea that there was even a situation as of 10 a.m.


Cherry Creek

I headed down the Cherry Creek trail today to photo the blossoms along the creek. The trees along Cherry Creek have thinned out quite a bit, and the city is making no moves to replace the ones that die. Most of the blossoming trees are not cherry trees. They are flowering crabapple. All of the trees that blossom around trees are ornamentals. They are not indigenous to our climate, although if the warming trend continues they will most likely thrive here.

There are also pear trees around the city, but they don't tend to do well here either. They do very well on the western slope where a lot of fruit is grown and harvested here in Colorado. None of this really matters, I buy my fruit in a store and don't plan on harvesting it from city trees anytime soon. What I would love to see is the city invest in some more of the ornamental flowering trees along Cherry Creek. Especially along the Speer Boulevard stretch.  Whether they are cherry, crabapple, pear or some other species I think it is the perfect place for them. There's already a good start, but the areas that have them are spaced too far apart for a really good effect.

I did the best I could with whats there. I see a lot of the flowering trees planted recently around city government buildings especially the new ones like the Justice Center and Denver Health. These are all young trees and won't make an appreciable difference for another ten years. Then I think it will have a stunning effect around downtown and the adjoining neighborhoods. I'll just have to wait.


An Interesting Point

Someone asked me the other day "How'd you get into photography" I felt good that I had a heartfelt answer. I said "I've always been an artist in some fashion. Whether it's water color, pen and paper, acrylics, I've always had a need to create." I was a little shocked at the next statement/question. "But photography isn't really an art is it? I mean almost anyone of means can go out and buy a digital camera and produce beautiful photographs."

Now I was a bit offended. I replied "No, that's not true. Yes, anyone of means can go out and buy a digital camera, it better be a good one that they're willing to spend a few thousand dollars on. And then a few thousand more on everything else related to it. With a little training and a little luck they may be able to produce a decent image of whatever they find beautiful in this world, but it takes an artist's eye to  compose that image, and edit it into a photograph. By editing I mean cropping, increasing or decreasing lighting, color, texture etc. But it all starts with composition. A camera is a machine much as the paper and pen are. Whether it is transfering the image onto film or a microprocessor they do it mechanically or electromechanically.  They are inanimate objects that don't see and certainly don't create. The camera merely records an image. The photographer picks the image and decides how to use the machine to record that image to fit his (or hers) idea of what they want the end product to look like. I will admit to having to depend on luck and training when I first got started. I bugged every one involved in digital photography that I knew from the camera store salesman, to websites, to other photographers with every dumbass question in the book. I got a lot of good advice from people with a hell of a lot more patience than I have, but like everything else in this world practice, practice, practice, is what it takes to get good. And an artist's eye. If you take a photo and then decide what you want from it you are not a photographer. If you know what you want and then create it, you are."

I'm not sure if I got the point I wanted to get across or not, but I guarantee that person will look at photography a bit differently in the future.

As always feel free to disagree. As Pop would always say "I may not agree with what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it."


My Take On It

At some point I knew I'd have to do this so I might as well say this now while this thing is still fun for me. Incidentally, if photography ever gets to be a grind or is no longer fun I'll quit. No ifs, ands, or buts.

Anyway I've described photography many ways over the past few years. A job, an art, a way to express yourself. And I still believe that. What you find on my website defines me. The images, the music, the blog. All of it is a part of me somehow. 

  My recently departed father was a terrific writer. He wrote children's stories, cop stories, and articles for newspapers. His writing defined him. He meant every word he wrote. My three brothers were able to inherit the writing gene from Pop.

Pop was also a pretty fair photographer. His was black and white and shot with a 35 mm Graflex. He had an eye for the dramatic. Usually it was landscape. Pop also painted with oils, sculpted with clay into bronze. He carved wood and painted signs.  But I digress. I usually do when it comes to Pop. The loss is still fresh.

My point is that his writing was documenting. Whether it was real life incidents, opinions, or flights of fancy it was all documentation. That's what photography is to me. Documenting events. I have documented conventions to nominate and elect presidential candidates, birthdays, events big and small. I have documented birds in flight, fish in water and humans in all of their strengths and frailties.

I view all of this as a privilege. A gift. Sometimes it's a blast. A gas. Sometimes it's somber and sad. Sometimes its sexy, sometimes funny, sometimes absurd. I will document damn near anything that won't get me in trouble. I even push that as my family and friends will gladly tell you. I have found that the U.S. Air Force frowns on me photographing their warplanes on manuevers, and the Feds on missions don't care to have their faces photo'ed. Part of me wants to shout First Amendment, but the sensible part of me says there is a very good reason people don't want things (including themselves) photographed and I need to respect that, although I think I'm missing some damn fine documentation!

So that's my take on photography. Feel free to comment and for Gawds sake keep visiting this site. It changes daily. Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot.


Moving Forward

I said I'd keep this website fresh, and I've not done a very good job. Well, it's only a few days old, and it's my first one so maybe there is some sense to be made of that. Still, a promise is a promise.

A friend of mine sent me an e-mail with a bunch of attachments today. The attachments were shots taken around the world of some fairly stunning sights. This e-mail was no doubt put together by someone who has a lot of time on their hands and not a lot to do. Hmmmm sounds familiar. I was impressed with the quality of the shots and the breath-taking beauty of the sights. Then I got to thinking. If I had an unlimited budget and a lot of time where would I go and what would I shoot? Maybe north to the arctic, or south to New Zealand? Both places have some pretty wild terrain full of potential visual majesty. Maybe France, or the Austria for some calming countryside shots.

Then it occurred to me. There is no better place than here in the U.S. for diversity of landscape and quality of natural visual art. There's the Grand Canyon south, and the badlands of South Dakota directly north of here. There's the Gulf Coast with thousands of miles of beauty, and the great forests of the northwest. The cities themselves are usually fairly photogenic if you look in the right places. The beaches of California, Hollywood, Beverly Hills and the desert. Same for Miami. Except replace the desert with the keys and the Everglades. Then combine that with the art deco architecture and hot bodies of South Beach.

O.K. so I have the time, now all I need is the budget. Oh wait, I need to find a steady job first. Photography just isn't paying the bills. In the mean time I will continue to do shoots in and around Denver and western Colorado with an occasional foray out to the plains by Sterling.

I usually display these occasions on my shutterfly page, but folks just aren't visiting there. Too hard to remember a log-in and password. So I will start a project page on this site to display the latest and greatest. Those familiar with photography will know that not every shot is a keeper. And of those keepers not every one is something someone will be interested in. So I will only display something that is visually appealing or of historic significance.

Please keep visiting and do let me know what you think. I value all of your opinions.


what are you doing?

So as you see, I finally have my own website.  I always used the excuse that I didn't have enough time. Well, guess what?  I find myself with much more time than I like so I'll do this for now.  I'm still not sure of the intent other than to get my photography seen by folks other than family and friends.

I would like to consider myself more of an "artsy" photography, but I'm not all that fond of black and white, and in today's art world .... well it's what everyone wants on their wall. I may experiment with it more although it's an entirely different beast than color photography.

The site is in it's beginning stages, and with any luck the look of it will change somewhat to more suit my intent. I've tried over the years to catagorize my photography, but I just don't fit into any niche. I photograph what I like, unless I'm working on a project like the City Park signs or Uncle Dan's book. The management team at Parkplace finally published the "Resident's Brochure" with my photography, so that's another project under my belt. I really do enjoy the process of putting a project together. Working with a designer, architect, or other professionals gives each project a uniqueness and team oriented feel that you just can't get anywhere else.

I really do enjoy the peacefulness of wildlife photography, but other than the avain type I find here in the city my subjects are limited. I'm going to get up to the mountains and out to Sterling more this summer depending on my schedule. There is quite a bit of wildlife out there, I just can't get to it on my bicycle.

I'll try to keep the website fresh and blog here from time to time, but since the site is dedicated to photography it may get a bit boring. We'll just have to see.


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