Open House at the Actor’s Menu

I have been hooking up with some of the greatest people lately.  One such group is the Actor’s Menu.  Each time I have been there, I feel I am witnessing something special.  I have flashed back at times while there to a research project I did many years back on some of the more notable celebrities, in particular the life of Marilyn Monroe, and her years spent studying method acting under Lee Strasberg.  It was in those moments, what was passed down, that you learn who Marilyn really was: how different she was than the icon the world knew, and the dues she paid to get there.

When I observe and photograph the class, I often feel that I am part of something special.  Instead of just reading about the lives of those who have become stars on the “silver screen” (yeah, I know, we don’t have too many of those screens left), I get to be part of those lives.  To see them work, struggle, practice, and dig deep within themselves to unleash the creativity that entertains the rest of the world.

I’m going somewhere with this.  We live in an “instant” world.  Someone whips out their iPhone and snaps a crappy picture or a short video of something that is going on, presses a button and it’s on Facebook for the world to see.  That’s not creativity.  It’s an app, a machine.  The gadget is cheating us out of the substance that really matters.

Real creativity exists within us all.  But it has to be nurtured, developed, and the person has to work hard, and often to overcome the most unbelievable personal obstacles to bring it out… and get the nerve to then show it to the world.  And it doesn’t matter what it is the individual chooses to excel in, the dues get paid.

I consider it a great honor to have had the experience of being able to work with so many that have chosen to do just that during my career: to be able to document their success, to help them show it to the world, and to many times help their careers by doing so.

Guess I’m a pretty “lucky” guy.

Here are some photos of the open house.  The ones I have selected were chosen to give you a feel of the emotion, work, dedication and fun that goes into the making of an actor/actress.

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What’s a photo worth?

Anyone working as a professional photographer these days knows the assault the industry has been under.  Every subterfuge in the book has been used to devalue our work for the benefit of those who depend on it.  But in all unethical schemes where one seeks to profit at the expense of another, it eventually comes back on the perpetrator.

As this downward pressure has increased, I have seen many excellent pro photographers shut their doors, and many more turn to other sources of income to get by.

When content creators can no longer earn enough to fund their work and pay their bills, there will be no more content.  At least not any of a professional level.

The French newspaper Liberation decided to show us just what the world will be like when that day arrives.  In support of professional photographers and the value of what they contribute to the world, they published the current issue with NO photos.

Read about it on the British Photography Journal and get a taste of the world to come if we don’t begin to respect the rights of creators.

APA Colorado Holiday Mixer: Join Industry Pros for Fun and Networking

Join APA Colorado for our holiday party. Great fun! Great Networking!
Open to all, photographers, film makers, models, agencies, art directors, stylists, make up artists. This is a great opportunity to meet photography industry pros and solidify relationships while having fun.
Dec 4th at Breckenridge Brewery 471 Kalamath. Details at

Kudos to Harpers Magazine: Publisher Takes a Stand Against Giving Away Free Content

Photo District News just ran an interesting piece on how Harper’s publisher John R. MacArthur wrote a letter for the October issue of the magazine in which he took a strong stand against publishing free writing and photography on the web.

This is something dear to my heart and something I blogged about years back.  This “marketing wisdom” that the way to get people to buy your product or service is to give it to them free is nuts.  Obviously, if photographers are giving their work for free to any magazine with a blog that will get them “exposure”, then the subscribers to that magazine have no reason to pay for the magazine anymore…. and the magazine has no resources to pay the photographer.  And I hate to be the one to tell you this folks, but that flood of people coming to your door to see more of your free content are never going to open up their wallets and hand you some cash.

The arguments MacArthur makes as to how this hurts not only the publications (and all content creators) who do it, but also the consumer can’t be said better.

Please take a minute to read about this in PDN.  It will change the way you think about your own marketing and cause you to examine just how it is your own marketing efforts might very well be the reason so many magazines now feel they don’t have the money to pay you.

Then take a minute to show your support of Harper’s and the stand they have taken to protect the industry in which we work.  Go to the news stand and buy a copy so you can read MacArthur’s full letter.

Understanding Social Media TOS

The terms of service of most of the social media outlets has been a never ending source of controversy.  And for photographers, we are often left to wonder if social media is a wonderful marketing tool, or the last nail in the coffin in the battle to protect our copyright.

APA National has produced a white paper to help you navigate these waters and help you decide how to employ social media in your business.

Happy shooting!


Helping you be more Successful — Free Social Media White Paper.

APA has undertaken a review of the Terms of Services (ToS) / User Agreements of some of the most popular social media sites. We’ve tried to decipher what all that fine print means and what some of the potential consequences are for photographers. With the help of our attorney, we’ve summarized our findings in The APA Social Media White Paper, and made it available as a free download.

Get it here:

Some Shots from the APA/Sony Photo Assistant Basic Training in Denver

I volunteer a lot of my time to APA and it is events like the APA/Sony Photo Assistant Basic Training that make me feel that I am actually quite lucky to be doing what I do.  Not only did I find I learned some new tricks despite having been shooting for more than a year or two, it is always an honor to have the chance to work with people like Sony Artisan of Imagery Brian Smith, or APA NY Chapter Co Chair, Tony Gale… as well as the opportunity to meet the reps from Sony, Broncolor, Datacolor, Adobe, Mike’s Camera, and more.

I was thoroughly impressed with the level of professionalism and expertise of the panel and instructors.  And from what the students told me, they were too.  And most of all, we all had a lot of fun.

Here are some shots of the event I liked.  Head on over to APA/Sony Photo Assistant Basic Training or APA Colorado to see more.  Also be sure to check out the Sony Artisans of Imagery page.

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Links to Sponsors of the APA/Sony Photo Assistant Basic Training Event

Many asked for the links to the Facebook pages of our sponsors at the APA/Sony Photo Assistant Basic Training event hosted by APA Colorado this past weekend.  To make this simple, I have collected these all into this post here.  Please do take a minute to hook up with our sponsors, like their pages and keep up to date with what they are doing.

My personal thanks to everyone who worked so hard to make this fantastic event possible!

APA/Sony Photo Assistant Basic Training

Sony Artisans of Imagery!/pages/Sony-Artisans-of-Imagery/165420706865154


Mike’s Camera



Brian Smith

Tony Gale





George Jardine – Adobe Rep

Sony Rep for Colorado, Marc Morris!/setaside2?fref=ts

Photo District News Emerging Photographer


Some of the Sony Team, Courtney Hamm, Kayla Lindquist, and Marc Morris

Graduating Photographers at the Art Institute

Today was a real treat.  Melissa English, the Director of Career Services at the Art Institute invited to to come out and view the portfolios of their graduating class.  I must say, I was impressed.  One thing that was quite apparent in each portfolio was a completely unique and fresh way of seeing their subjects.  It’s refreshing to see that the school encourages this so heavily.

My eyes were opened a bit wider by the experience.  It wasn’t just the photographers whose work was on display.  There were also fashion designers, those who trained in merchandising, culinary arts, web design and graphic animation programs such as MAYA.  This is where I see the future of our industry.  Combine the beauty of photography with the sheer magic created by the talented users of such programs and creativity is no longer constrained by “what is possible.”  It all is.

I learned something quite interesting today.  That is that after more than two decades of professional photography and dedication to learning all I can about my work… I still have a lot to learn.

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Photography is a communication

A lot is said about art, and photography is an art form.  However, it seems what is most often overlooked in the discussions is that art is a communication.  A much higher level communication than the written or spoken word as it uses aesthetics.  In commerce, it is the communication that drives sales.

If that isn’t quite clear, consider for a moment how many pairs of jeans Guess would sell if they simply took out ads with text telling you how the denim was top quality.  Probably none.  It’s the aesthetic in their ads and the values communicated by that aesthetic that make the consumer decide it is worth a couple extra bucks to buy that brand.

This isn’t a matter of being technically proficient, it is the work of an artist.  Or a team of artists.  It is how all of the elements – the models, the styling, the setting, the light, the composition – come together to create desire by sending a message the consumer wants to identify with.

Yet when the campaigns that drive the sales are mentioned, the photography is rarely part of the discussion.  I found this article on “M&S & Tesco: How Photography Drives Their Advertising Campaigns” a great read on this subject.

Perhaps it is time we began to give more credit to the role photography plays in a successful marketing campaign.

Fast track to a successful photography business

Today, many feel all they need to get going in a photography business is a camera. This almost always ends in heartbreak.  The photography industry is at best chaotic and learning the ropes on your own is the hard way to do it.   In speaking with a number of successful photographers, I find they all have one thing in common.  Whether or not they went to a photography school, when they entered the business, they chose to first assist a successful photographer for a couple of years.

Doing so has a lot of advantages.  There are the additional technical skills you will learn.  But more so, you learn who the players are in the industry, what the standards are from everything from writing estimates to what to charge, and what expectations you must meet when you get your chance to do a shoot for one of the big clients.  I’ve yet to find a book or website that can impart this information to you.

This September 21 and 22, APA Colorado, APA National, Sony, Mikes Camera, PDN, Broncolor, Lowepro, Photoshelter, Emerging, Adobe and Blink Bid are bringing Photo Assistant Basic Training to Denver.   This 2 day event is a must attend.  Whether you are planning to be an assistant or not, the industry pros that will be at this event will give you a large arsenal of tips and tricks to take home.

For more info, go to