Tag Archives: ideas


Manhattanhenge, as seen from across the East River. Click to see the larger version in a slide show.

A term coined by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, Manhattanhenge is a twice-yearly event when a sunset lines up with the Manhattan street grid, around 8PM on May 29/30 and July 12/13.

The idea to put Manhattanhenge in the broader space-time context (as a part of the sweeping Midtown skyline, and sandwiched between the before and after shots of same) was born out of my desire to differentiate from the common portrayal of this phenomenon, which is a closeup view of the setting sun’s disc, flanked by a pair (or more) of Manhattan buildings silhouetted by the sun’s overpowering rays.

I used a 12-24mm lens set to 12mm f/10 on a full-frame dslr. To get the building detail together with the sunset, I took a series of six bracketed exposures two f-stops apart from each other, at varying shutter speeds. These were HDR-processed into the final image.

A diagonal dash light spot directly above the Empire State Building is planet Venus. From my vantage point, Venus was in that position at 9PM. The length of the dash is the amount of the Earth’s rotation during my 30-second exposure.

You can now buy a variety of things with this image, ranging from a sleek acrylic print to a classic framed one, or even a duvet cover! In doing so, you will be supporting my photographic work.

When you hand a big camera to a little kid

What happens when you give a seven-year-old girl a full-frame camera that weighs a kilogram?

As the wedding I was shooting was wrapping up, a restless flower girl seven years of age (we’ll call her Jess) and her friend were increasingly pestering me with questions about how I take pictures and how my cameras worked. Rather than ignoring them or asking the parents to rein them in (hopeless endeavors both, what with all the guests, lights, music, and desserts), I handed Jess my backup camera and with a straight face tasked her with taking additional pictures of everybody, together with her friend.

The camera I handed Jess (a SONY A900 full frame DSLR) was insured, but it would have been impossible to find a brand new replacement lens, a magnificent Minolta 28mm f/2.0. Still, the girls were curious and excited about this, as was I, and since neither of them has handled a DSLR before, these are the five things I’ve told them:

  1. Don’t walk when looking through the camera’s lens. Watch your step.
  2. Get close. When you think you are close enough, get a little closer still.
  3. Talk to everyone. Tell them you will take a photo of them that’s different and special.
  4. Don’t put the faces in the middle.
  5. Hold the camera steady, like this, and press the shutter button slowly.

It was quite dark, with intense colors and spotlights, so I set the camera to ISO5000, f/2.0 aperture priority, wide AF area, and wished the girls good luck. Here are a few of Jess’s photos.

7 year old girl photographs the happy couple at a wedding with a full-frame DSLR Sony A900

7 year old girl photographs her friend at a wedding with a full-frame DSLR Sony A900

Seven-year-old girl uses a full frame DSLR to capture a wedding guest eating

7 y.o. girl captures a wedding guest on a SONY DSLR-A900 full-frame DSLR

7 year old girl photographs a guest at a wedding with a full-frame DSLR Sony A900

7 year old girl photographs a guest at a wedding with a full-frame DSLR Sony A900

7 year old girl photographs a guest at a wedding with a full-frame DSLR Sony A900

7 year old girl takes a self-portrait at a wedding with a full-frame DSLR Sony A900

Following the girls around would have affected people’s reactions, likely stifling the entire thing – not to mention that the whole point initially was to get them to leave me to my work. But I’ve taken a couple of shots of Jess in action just to capture the experiment and to show her parents.

7 year old girl photographs the happy couple at a wedding with a full-frame DSLR Sony A900

7 year old girl photographs a guest at a wedding with a full-frame DSLR Sony A900

Needless to say, I love her pix. There are a few lessons in them that we can all heed:

  • Be simple
  • Be approachable
  • Be unexpected
  • Get your subjects to do something different, outside of their comfort zone
  • Get close

And last but not least: we are born creative, but over the courses of our lives, a lot of that creativity may slip away if we’re not defending it.

P.S. If you can afford to give your kid a good camera, do it! When I was this girl’s age, my father did give me a simple but good quality camera, although it didn’t fare very well.

Gimme! When a Client Wants a Discount…

DiscountAs a photographer, but really as any business person selling a custom product, I’ve had a lot of people asking me to do the work for less money. I was pretty bad dealing with it at first (being brittle about your pricing and taking any assaults on it personally is about as bad as it gets), but I got better over time. You can benefit from my years of anguish by taking a look at these five simple ideas:

1. Don’t take it personally

This first point is the most important. For artists in particular, who pour their heart and soul into their work, its very recipient’s attempt to discount it can feel like a betrayal, or at the very least like a personal or professional insult. But it couldn’t be further from the truth from your (prospective) client’s perspective. They wouldn’t be there talking to you if they didn’t already like your work. They aren’t questioning you or the work – their target is the price alone.

Bargaining is deeply ingrained in many cultures, and even in the Western world, we’re conditioned “never accept the first offer”, “it never hurts to ask”, “reach for the sky”, “don’t be a sucker”, and so on. Also, let’s face it, artisan prices are somewhat arbitrary and everyone knows it. (If yours aren’t, i.e. are based on costs, I would suggest taking a harder look at the work and to whom and how you market it.) So, asking for a discount may simply be a client’s way to assure themselves that the price is real and they aren’t getting a worse deal than the “next guy”.

2. Create choices

This is a tricky one, because if you advertise more than a handful of standard choices, you’ll confuse and drive away many customers. However, creating choices and options can be a powerful tool during the negotiations to bridge the gap between what the customer wants to spend and what you are prepared to deliver, while at the same time giving them a genuine impression that you respect their needs and are prepared to go beyond your standard offerings to satisfy them.

3. Provide elastic delivery

After everything above is said and done, there are situations when you still have a 5-10% gap left to close for the same exact service. You can close that gap simply by internalizing some of the specifics of “the same exact service”. After all, you are the one delivering it, so you hold all the cards. It can either be a surprise “free gift” that the recipients of this last discount do not get, or any other extra (so long as that doesn’t compromise the quality of your core offering). Whatever field of endeavor you pursue, you should be able to sit down and come up with 5-10% of elasticity, then keep it to yourself for just this purpose.

4. Walk away nicely

If none of the above could close the price gap, then the person may be a great customer, just not the customer for you. Perhaps you can do business in different circumstances in the future. The way I look at it is very simply:

A happy customer is better than a happy non-customer who is better than a non-happy non-customer who is better than a non-happy customer.
A happy customer is better than a happy non-customer who is better than an unhappy non-customer who is better than an unhappy customer.

If you are getting too many people outside of your price range, rethink how your business is presenting itself across all media, and how your services are positioned and advertised.

Bonus. Position your work as a luxury / status symbol

This is a strategy, not a tactic, to alleviate the price pressure. People want to pay money for luxury, because that’s what makes it luxury or, more precisely, a Veblen good. In your positioning, instead of emphasizing how much the customer gets for his or her money (which encourages bargaining), focus on the uniqueness or exclusivity of the work, including any objective and subjective differentiating factors that support its top-tier placement.

How to reach the right people and give them the right assurance, is a topic of a whole other post – that yours truly is yet to write. Seek large, thriving businesses and successful people in tight social groups.

Three Simple Ideas For Great Winter Holiday Pix

Christmas cards were like the Facebook of years past. But even now – in fact, perhaps now more than ever – people appreciate great photos. Here are three ideas for holiday pictures that are fun and go beyond the ordinary.

1. Little boys, big toys

Baby with Christmas OrnamentsWho’s cuter than cute little babies? Littler cute babies. Extra-large Christmas tree ornaments are really fun and festive and make your baby look even more precious. I got these ornaments at the Home Depot. Safety first: do not use fragile glass ornaments or those that shed glitter or have sharp edges or removable parts that aren’t secured. Clean and sanitize them before the shoot. Ornaments generally aren’t designed to be baby-safe, so, never leave the baby unattended with these ornaments, and take them away when done shooting.

2. Frolic in white

Family on a white backgroundWant all eyes to be on you? Eliminate all competing distractions. One fun way to do it is dress in white and pose on a white background. Hey, snow works great – just keep warm! White clothing will conspire to merge with your background, but there are three ways you can keep them apart:

  1. Shadows. Cast onto the plain background, shadows also lend a 3D feel to the image. That’s the approach I used for the shot above. Or you can try the shadowless look by blowing the background out to 100% pure white.
  2. Texture. Make sure the clothing and the background have different patterns to them.
  3. Color. You can make your background a subtly different shade of white from the main subject, and the eye will readily distinguish them. It’s not an urban legend that Eskimos have over 50 names for white. A very precise way to do it is by lighting the background with a different color temperature from the main subject.

3. Play with Christmas lights

Who says Christmas lights only go on a Christmas tree? A big blanket of lights can be used as both a prop and a light for some creative effects. I haven’t shot photos of my own illustrating this point; however, my colleagues Jennifer HardtJulie C Jacob (susiejulie), and Murilo Cardoso were very kind to allow me to feature their work here as great examples of this.

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Just make sure the lights and the wiring are not damaged, are safe to handle, and pets or small kids do not get tangled in them.

Happy Holidays!