Web Presence

For my final web presence project, I took everything we have learned from our readings and lectures and applied it to my final. I’m very happy with where my blog is at and believe it’s the best possible work I could have created.

I revised my posts keeping in mind to have smaller, less complex sections for my writing which keeps the viewer interested in reading. I also incorporated images into my posts. Some of these images are my own while others I found on the web. I made sure all were relevant and dded to each post.

I originally started out with a different look to the blog. My first version had an off-green almost white tone to it with a header image of some flowers I had shot. It looked nice and cohesive, but it didn’t really match my style of photography.

I learned in a photo class here at Columbia that videos are meant to be viewed against a black background, text is meant to be read on a white background, and photos are best seen when set against a dark gray background. So I went from having an almost white background to having what is considered the best viewing color to have with photography. I also made sure that the accent color was bright. I made it sea foam green so that links and the search bar would pop from the dark background and differ from the color of the rest of the text. I also changed the header image from flowers to an image of the night sky as I love doing night photography and even have a post including other images I have taken dedicated to teaching readers how to create images like them.

I’m very proud of where my blog is. I am confident that it successfully reflects the class goals and expectations. I learned a lot about how to write good blog posts and can’t wait to apply this knowledge to my future endeavors.

Travel Provides the Best Photo Opportunities

Traveling and seeing the world is something everyone should do. Expanding your horizons and learning a new culture can really open your eyes to see things in a completely new light. Especially for photographers, traveling can provide not only a new outlook on life, but ended opportunities to create new work. I myself was lucky enough to live in Belgium for a year, travel to 9 other countries, and see some of the most breathtaking cities across Europe. Even though it happened 5 years ago, I still haven’t had a greater photography experience since. Travel provides so much for us that to never leave your home country would be a real shame and a total loss.

Below, I’ll list a few of my favorite places that provided some amazing photo opportunities.

  1. Belgium 

I obviously have to talk about Belgium first because it was my home for 11 months. This tiny, often over-looked country packs so much culture (and chocolate) into it’s borders that one could spend a week alone here. Only about half the size of Wisconsin, Belgium is known for it’s beer, chocolate, and fries. They have many weird quirks, like a statue of a little boy peeing in the city of Brussels, that add to it’s quaint charm. Being a multi-lingual country, the southern french-speaking part reflects typical french style architecture while the northern dutch-speaking part looks as if it is a part of it’s neighbor, the Netherlands. Photo opportunities are plenty and provide a uniqueness because many people often forget about Belgium and head straight for Amsterdam or Paris.

  1. Italy

Italy being a pretty large country has many amazing photo opportunities. The big cities like Rome, Venice, and Florence are all obviously beautiful, but Italy’s true beauty lies in the lesser known areas. I was lucky enough to be on a 15 day bus trip where we toured the entire length of the country hitting a lot of locations along the way. Two of my favorites were the Amalfi Coast and the island of Capri. Both these places were surrounded by some of the most blue waters I’ve ever seen. My advice when visiting the country is the spend less time in the tourist-heavy locations and to visit the real Italy. This way you experience more of the culture and are forced out of your comfort zone.

  1. Czech Republic

I was not expecting to like this country as much as I did but I was very pleasantly surprised. We spent most of our time in Prague but eventually moved on to Bohemia. The architecture here is mainly gothic and differs heavily from the architecture in western Europe. The food, people, and culture also differ as well from it’s western neighbors. Photo opportunities here and also plentiful due to the amount of beautiful castles and churches that cover the country. Photographers who visit will not be disappointed with what they will find.

All photos were taken by me using a Canon T3i Rebel

How to Price Your Product

One of the biggest issues I have with my photography is what exactly to price it at. I’ve done many senior portrait sessions, graduation photos, and family portraits, and before I got my price set in stone, it caused me a lot of grief. Ultimately it comes down to two factors: what are other photographers in your area charging, and what value do you place on your work and time.

A professor I had at Columbia College Chicago once said something that has really stuck with me. He said, “Do not market yourself to those looking to spend as little money as possible. Market yourself to those who appreciate your work and are willing to pay the price without a fuss.” Booking fewer clients at a higher price as opposed to more at a lower price will not only allow you to spend more time on the work, but allows you to maintain a higher quality in your product.

I was talking to a photographer who did multiple 30 minute mini-sessions a day for a pretty low price. She told me how much work it was and how many photos she had to edit per day and it sounded completely exhausting. Two of her clients still did not add up to the price of one of mine. I also get to do less editing than she does and still have happy customers in the end. The value you think you deserve is accurate and if your product is worth it, you’ll be surprised at just how many people are willing to pay.

Customers looking for a good deal are usually those who are ornery and unpleasant to work with. Customers who enjoy your style and are willing to pay the price you set forward are, for the most part, more pleasant to work with. So pick and choose your battles. Price your product at what you think you deserve, but don’t be excessive. Doing research on other nearby photographers will help you gather a ballpark number. People will always be willing to pay for a quality product.

Liquid Emulsion Printing Process

I recently did I photo project titled Self Identity where I was tasked to apply a liquid emulsion process to the images I created. This particular process is tedious, finicky, and takes practice in order to master it. The multitude of steps makes it easy for mistakes to be made, but the end result looks like something from the past.

The liquid emulsion I use is the one pictured above. In order for it to be ready to apply to the paper, it must be heated to a temperature of 115 degrees fahrenheit and stay at that temperature for around 20 minutes. The easiest way to do that is to use a hotplate and a pot with water. Having a thermometer in the water is a big help as well.

Once it’s sat for 20 minutes, the next step is to bring it into a darkroom. The emulsion will start exposing as soon as light hits it so it’s important that it remains shut until it’s safely in the darkroom. Then it’s time for painting it onto the paper. Having gloves on is a good idea because the oils from your hands can cause the emulsion to set differently. It then must be dried all while remaining in the dark.

Film Photo Enlarger

Once it’s fully dry, it can head over to the enlarger where you can expose your chosen negative onto the emulsion-coated side. Then it gets treated with a mix of water, a photo chemical liquid, then in a final bath.

Even though I’ve been using paper as my surface, you can actually use any type of surface from wood to metal to egg shells. As long as you are careful when handling the prints while in the water treatment as to not peel off the emulsion, the final result will end up looking beautiful.

The following are the images from my Self Identity project printed using this process onto Arches hotpress watercolor paper.

What Camera Do You Recommend?

I am often asked about my recommendations on cameras. I previously made a post comparing Canon and Nikon, however in this post I’ll be talking about the exact camera that I have been recommending to all who ask.

The Canon Rebel is the smallest camera body that the company sells to the public. It’s light weight, small in size, and usually comes with an option for two kit lenses to be included. The Rebel T3i was my first ever Canon and I took it everywhere with me while abroad. It has full frame capabilities with high quality images and yet is small enough to fit easily in a bag or purse.

Since I bought that camera, Canon came out with the T5i and T6i that are more advanced and upgraded. I’m assuming they will continue with these upgrades but I’ve found that you cant go wrong with sticking with the T6i. If that is a bit too high in price for you, then the T5i will work just fine, but I wouldn’t go lower than that.

The T6i ranges in price from around $540 – $750 while the T5i ranges from around $440 – $600. If you’re looking for a good camera to start out with, going lower in price will only sacrifice quality. When looking to order, I recommend looking everywhere and not just at Best Buy or Amazon. There’s many other carriers such as B&H Photo and Sears that offer lower prices.

I’ve sold at least ten people on both the T5i and T6i and have heard no complaints whatsoever. These people were looking to use it for everything from documenting their artwork to taking it with them on their backpacking trip across Africa. If you’re looking for a lightweight camera with full frame capabilities that wont break the bank, then the Canon Rebel T6i is the camera for you!

Below are some photos I took with my first Canon camera

Photos taken with Canon Rebel T3i 

Applying Knowledge To A Tiny Portfolio

In this post I discuss how I applied knowledge from the class to my Tiny portfolio. You can view them both here and here.


Small paragraphs

In our previous required readings, we learned that having small paragraphs as opposed to large chunks of words taking up the page is the best way to go to keep the reader around. Most people don’t want to sit down and read long articles or blogposts about something. They usually scan to see if they would find whatever it is they’re reading useful. By having smaller paragraphs, it’s easier for the reader to want to read what is written than if they saw a big paragraph. Especially with the first few sentences in any post, the fist paragraph should be the shortest.

Capturing the readers interest

The first paragraph should also grab the attention of the reader. I tried making them as interesting as I could while still relating to my projects. It’s hard to write about photo projects because when looking at them, people usually skip over the words entirely to look at the images. I set it up so the information about the reasoning behind my projects comes before the viewer can see the images. Then I included a sort of behind the scenes look after the images were presented. This allows for all the important information to get in before the viewers get to what they want most. Then they can leave and skip the endnotes if they prefer as they aren’t as important as what came before them. With that being said I still think they’re important. They’re just not mandatory.

Text size

I decided to add an important quote before the images. I made this quote purposely larger because I feel as if it sums up the project in a concise way. For the Self Identity project I said, “Nature is I and I am nature.” If I never even had introductory paragraphs, the viewer could gather what it is that the project is about. It represents a human’s direct line to nature. Having these texts draws the viewer’s eyes to them. By putting them right before the images, I capture the attention of those who are scanning and maybe didn’t read all of what I had written.

Impatient Kids and Rude Adults

One of the biggest problems when shooting portraits is getting the model to look into the camera and pose the way you envisioned as a photographer. Whether you’re working with children, families, animals, or professional models, one rule is important to remember: don’t go into a shoot expecting to capture exactly what you pictured in your mind.

It’s important to go into a shoot prepared and have ideas of what it is you want to accomplish. However, unless you’re shooting product, it’s best to go into the shoot with an open mind. Anything can go wrong working with other live people and animals so try and keep yourself as flexible as possible.

I shoot family portraits at a resort that I work at over the summer months. I’ve had to deal with everything from smaller groups with well behaved kids, to large family reunions featuring 4 generations. I always plan out how I would like the images to turn out, but remember to assess the situation and the individual personalities of the people I’m shooting.

When working with children who just wont cooperate or are a bit shy, I find it useful to have an icebreaker/distraction so they feel more comfortable, or are more willing to stay focused longer. I discovered that both bubbles and candy work well. The bubbles also provide for some fun photo opportunities, however with the candy, the parents must be ok with it otherwise you could have a set of frustrated adults on your hands and thats almost always worse than the obnoxious kids.

There’s nothing more awkward that dealing with rude adults before having to shoot them. I find when I connect with someone, or feel like they’re at ease around me, that the images I produce are better. This past summer I was late to a shoot by 20 minutes. In my defense I had contacted the front office the day before to tell them I was going to have to move the appointment to a half hour later. I was told that they were notified but that was not the case. I arrived frantic and apologized over and over again. The mother of the two children was more understanding than the father. He was without a doubt the rudest mad I’ve had to deal with. He didn’t shake my hand, barely looked me in the eyes before turning around and saying how his kids weren’t going to be good anymore due to all the waiting around.

I remained as polite as possible even through his rude comments about his own family to their faces. The kids ended up in fact being not well behaved so the entire shoot was a nightmare. Even though it was not my fault for the delay, I let all of his rude comments slide off my back, gave them a large discount, and moved on my way.

The point is you never know what is going to happen at a shoot and the more prepared you come and the more flexible you’re willing to be, the more successful the shoot will be.

Canon or Nikon

One of the biggest arguments between photographers is if they prefer Canon or Nikon cameras. Ultimately it comes down to which is your personal preference and which you find to be most convenient to use. For myself, I prefer to use the Canon cameras. I’ve previously used various Nikon cameras and each time I felt as if my work wasn’t as good as it could have been. Even though it is completely up to each person, here are some of the reasons why I believe Canon surpasses Nikon.

  1. Autofocus

Canon came out with a brand new EOS autofocus system in 1987 that way surpassed Nikon’s capabilities. This is still true to this day as Canon is more popular for fast-paced shooting for sports and journalism.

2. Innovation

Canon is continuing to one-up itself by releasing the 5D, 6D, and now 7D Mark models. These camera’s are the best of the best with top quality and full-frame capabilities. Even compared to Nikon’s best, the quality of images and the range of capabilities that these cameras have way surpass them.

3. Lenses

Canon’s lenses are made of both plastic and metal. The Nikon lenses are coming out with more and more cheap plastic with less metal while the Canon exceed with their durable lenses. They came out with a new 100-400mm zoom lens that is so fast that it can’t be compared to any of the Nikon brand ones. Because of the quality of their makeup, Nikon lenses don’t have to same capabilities as Canon lenses.

If you don’t believe me, Ken Rockwell is a sought after photographer who reviews popular camera equipment while showcasing his work. Here he discusses why he believes Canon is superior to Nikon.

Talking With a Photographer

Adam Biba is an up and coming photographer from the Chicago area. I first met him when I was 16 through an exchange program that we both partook in. After that, we reconnected at Columbia College Chicago where we both attended for a degree in photography. He is a few years older than me and has been out of school for 3 years now. An interview with him can provide insight on what to expect after graduation.

-What do you do? Where do you work?

I’m a wedding photographer, and freelance commercial photo and production assistant. I work wherever the jobs are! Last week I was in a furniture studio in Cicero, and this week I’m at Trump Tower. I’m also a photographer at Tuan B & Co we have a studio here in Chicago.

-How did you get to where you are right now?

A mix of hard work, luck, and help from friends. Making friends and connections in the industry is SO important. At least a third of the calls and emails I receive about potential jobs come from references from others.

-What are your plans for the upcoming years with your business?

My career strategy over the past several years has been not to pigeonhole myself. However, I’ve moved in a profitable direction with wedding photography over the past year, so I might try to narrow my focus more on that and less on commercial assisting. It’s hard to turn down work though when it comes knocking, even if it means you sleep less.

-Did you know you wanted to be a freelancer when you were in school?

I think the idea of having any type of work post-graduation, while still in school, was the goal. It didn’t matter whether or not it was freelance or not. I can say that I’ve been asked to take full time photo assisting positions at a few locations in the past six months, which I’ve turned down. I like the variety and flexibility of being a freelancer.

-Are there any classes you recommend taking before graduating from columbia? Any that were particularly helpful?

The self-management class was really awesome. As far as photo specific courses, I highly recommend the strobe lighting class (it was called “Lighting Two” once upon a time, and “Advanced Lighting” when I took it in 2013). Even if you prefer using natural light, it’s so incredibly important to know how to use strobes. I’d also consider taking Advanced Retouching, Commercial Photography, and Fashion Photography. Advanced 19th century darkroom classes like “Ex-Tech” are super fun too!

-What would be some advice for someone going into the freelancing world?

Start networking now, whatever that means to you. Go to industry mixers, even if you have to go alone. Go to birthday parties. Make lots of pictures to figure out what you’re excited about shooting. Don’t turn down a job because it sounds boring, but do turn down a job if you don’t think you’re capable of performing the task. There will be more jobs. Send handwritten thank you notes. Follow up with old acquaintances. Keep in touch with new ones. Work hard. Be friendly.

-What do you feel you offer that makes you stand out from the competition?

Most anyone who makes it in the photography industry (or any creative industry for that matter), does all of the things I mentioned in the aforementioned question, and probably more if they’re killing it.  When I get hired back by the same commercial team, or get a referral to a wedding, I like to think it’s because of extreme attention to detail, and likeability. No one will hire you for anything creative if they don’t like you, even if you’re mega talented.

-What piece(s) of equipment are a must have in your possession?

Aside from the obvious (camera bodies and lenses), my flashes have become an essential part of my gear. I love using off camera flash, even in daylight, to blend with ambient light. Flash can give images a punch that natural light by itself always can’t. Some more fun pieces of gear I bring with me are more random – I bring a couple LED work lights I bought cheap off of Amazon to light paint with occasionally. I’ll also shoot through random things on location, like tree leaves, and water glasses for something different!

-Favorite experience shooting so far?

Oh man. Well, some of my favorite pictures I’ve made were from India last winter. Those were mostly personal street photography. My favorite paid job I’ve been on was being a production assistant for a Levi’s NFL campaign about a year ago. My job was to drive the crew of about 8 guys in a passenger van from Chicago to Milwaukee, manage things like lunches, keep the sets organized, and just to be attentive to whatever needed to be done. Bringing a small bag or kit of things when on job like that is a good idea. Mine usually includes things like a multi-tool, gaff tape, pens, markers, paper clips, stamps, allen wrenches, Advil, the list goes on.


Who I Want to be When I Grow Up – Blog Revision

Remember being asked as a kid what you wanted to be when you got older? The answers would range from firemen to the next president. Now try applying that same question to yourself today only substitute the “what” for “who”. Even if you’re already situated in a field of study, it’s always important to try and better yourself and strive to make the best work possible.

Especially as a photographer, It’s good to keep yourself up to date with other current photographers who are creating work that speaks to you. By reading about these people and looking at their work, it provides you with a basis of how to achieve your photographic goals. This helps up-and-coming photographers, like myself, to see what it takes to have this career.

Photo classes at colleges and universities tend to focus very heavily on past photographers and don’t put enough importance on artists currently creating work. Studying past works is very important, however knowing what is being created in today’s society is crucial if there’s any hope in finding a voice.

Instagram, tumblr, and snapchat have allowed for more current photographic work to be easily presented to the public. Researching younger, more modern artists led me to find that I’m interested in lifestyle, travel, and adventure photography. Below I’ll link the websites of some of my favorites and I highly encourage anyone, photographer or not, to look at their work.

Chris Burkard

Zoe Rain

Adrienne Pitts

Alex Strohl

Paul Nicklen

Teachers used to always ask me to write about someone who inspires me from the past, but what about current artists that inspire me today? They are the people living my dream and can prove that it’s possible for me to make a career out of my passion. I want to grow in my field to become like all of these great people. Always strive to create the best work possible.