I was hired to shoot footage and photos of a child’s birthday party, the fancy kind you don’t experience that often given the expense and planning involved. Needless to say it is for the superrich. It was a real blowout and I got the job from a friend. I usually do weddings but thought I would enjoy a change of pace. Kids pose different problems in that they don’t hold still for long, but I would solve this dilemma by sticking with candids. The event was in the enormous backyard of a local mansion, the kind that rivals Hugh Hefner’s place. He has a pool and grotto, zoo, walking trails, guest housing, expansive lawns and party facilities. This place was less hip but was a great venue for a celebration. There was a huge custom birthday cake, tons of cookies and cupcakes, magical dancers, a band, and more.

They brought in a pony and the kids took turns going up and down the street. At one side of the driveway was a llama. Why not a camel? A bouncy house was not present as it was considered too commonplace. I was a bit floored by the apparent snobbery, but as it turns out, I was wrong. It turns out that they have a large outdoor trampoline for their kids in a corner of the backyard, much like one of these: https://www.trampolinechoice.com/best-outdoor-trampolines-kids/. No wonder! I had jumped to conclusions, silly me. There was a lot going on and it seemed like the kids were tearing about like bees in a swarm. Some were in costumes and some had party masks. The food was underway but the draw of the trampoline was greater so I planted myself in front of it and clicked away. Sooner or later every guest in the place showed up to either jump or watch. It is not difficult to capture things in motion if you use a camera that features all the necessary settings. People who rely on cell phones don’t know what I mean, although these ubiquitous devices aren’t bad. Just set them to “video” mode and go.

Everyone, kids and adults alike, seemed to be having so much fun and I captured it with a battery of videos and photos. If they have an Instagram account, they can go wild. Meanwhile, I knew that I would be forwarding the best of my work to their mailing list by email. They would also be posted on Facebook. An extravaganza like this needs professional documentation. I knew just what to do. During the fun and festivities, I was on track to a new phase of my career. Kids are energetic and dynamic and they exhibit the most amazing facial expressions. It is the best fodder for the camera’s eye. I took many more photos than I had expected. They are not the kind that go in an album like a wedding, but they will bring back wonderful memories in years to come.

I usually don’t pay that much attention to people’s possession. When I am on a shoot, I focus on the subject at hand, usually a bride and groom. Sure, I notice what people wear, what they are saying, and how they are interacting; but beyond that it is all background. For some reason when I was taking photos at an engagement party in the home of the groom, my eyes zeroed in on the guy’s under counter beer fridge. I started fantasizing about my man cave, as modest as it is, and how this appliance would be ideal for myself or weekends with the guys while watching the big game or an old favorite movie. Wine fridges are classy and the beer version (like these: https://www.crackacoldone.net) is all man.

This particular model was typical enough but it was just the one I want. It has a stainless steel case and a transparent class swing door. You open it by hitting a foot pedal just above the floor. This is what made it unique. No bending over to pull a traditional handle. While I am nimble enough, I just would rather not execute an uncomfortable move. The beer cans contained within on six chairs were organized by brand and type and it was impressive how much this small unit held. I loved that the shelves were also made of glass. It gave the whole interior a clean, modern vibe. I imagined that I could see a trace of frostiness on the fridge’s sides. I was suddenly craving an ice cold brew and my thirst could not be quenched by my bottle of water.

I was in a kind of reverie and had to be reminded that everyone in the current photo was posed and waiting. That jolted me back to reality. After a batch of group photos and single shots of the bride and groom looking like the top of a wedding cake, the groom noticed that I was still staring at the beer fridge. “You can have one if you like,” he offered. “No, I’m working,” I signed. He then invited me to come over for game night in two weeks when he was back from his honeymoon and life returned to normal. For him that meant lots of friends eating snacks and drinking beer while playing poker or listening to music. I don’t usually socialize with clients, but it was very tempting. I wanted to see the appliance in action. I knew that would prompt me to indulge and get one just like it. I had a bonus from a happy client and it was begging to be spent on this practical item.

One day I would be able to free my regular refrigerator from its load of beer cans and bottles. I would house it all in my new beer fridge. It would be super convenient and allow for more normal food storage so I wouldn’t have to go to the supermarket quite so often. Frankly, I am going to get the fridge and I don’t need any justification. Got it?

There are too many choices in life: coffee or tea, chocolate or vanilla, Coke or Pepsi, and Shark versus Dyson. Of course there is paper versus plastic, hot versus cold, and jam versus jelly. I could go on and on but you get the point.   I recently had to face the big brand duality when considering what type of vacuum to buy. I asked around, searched online, and read the descriptions and reviews. I was pretty thorough, as I am about most things.  It was an important issue given the necessity of keeping my work storage room clean. Maybe you don’t know it, but dust is the enemy of camera equipment and I go to great pains to seal the area and never open the window. When it does get dirty, I clean it by hand which is not that effective. Now that I have a Shark (the winner in the would-be competition), I can simply put on various attachments and get every little nook and cranny. I don’t expect my camera to show a flake of dust. It means that I have let my standards lapse.

I chose the Shark for many reasons in case you were wondering and are facing the same appliance dilemma. It is a bit cheaper and has a great reputation that rivals the phenomenal Dyson. The Shark comes with all sorts of attachments whereas with the comparable Dyson, you get only the four basic tools. I needed more than that: the crevasse tool, the small brush, the wood floor attachment, and the automatic duster. I wanted bagless and it was a tossup between the two. Neither uses this old fashioned form of dust trap. Both are easy to wipe down and fold up.

I wish all life’s decisions were as easy as deciding Shark vs Dyson. Picking ice cream was harder. Ha! I am thrilled with my vacuum and appreciate its compact size. It is light weight for maneuverability and every so easy to store in a rather small closet which is all I had left. Other available space has been given over to photography equipment old and new. Both brands were entirely possible and it came down to a matter of color, material, and design. I have an eye for these things as I am trained to look at the work intently with a great deal of focus. Once I made my pros and cons list, it was a quick decision and I have no regrets. The Shark is a superior machine, well-engineered and reliable. I don’t expect any problems. I can clean to my heart’s content. My dust rags are getting a rest.

It is a nightmare to get dust in your valuable equipment. It is hard to remove given all the tiny parts involved. It can affect a camera long term if you let it sit for a long time. I now have a regular routine. I call it Shark time.

Cleanliness is next to godliness. Who made that up because it is so true in my case? It could be my personal motto. I am so fastidious about keeping my camera equipment clean, not to mention my house. People say that I have become a fanatic and I don’t mind. I will stay on my quest for perfection. As for the camera, I have special cloths and solutions for the lens so nothing is harmed while it gets the once-over. Every tiny nook and cranny is inspected by my keen eyes. My assistant can barely stand to be around when I am in this cleaning mode. Why on earth did I hire him? If you want clean, you have to do it yourself.

Nothing in my house is exempt. I have the tidiest rooms, floors you could eat off, and the most spotless kitchen and bathrooms on the planet. What is my secret? I use deionized water in my cleaning solutions. Yes, I make my own thanks to my new reverse osmosis water filtering system from https://www.homewaterhealth.com/best-reverse-osmosis-system-reviews/. It produces the purity I require. Sure, I could buy the water at the store, but that is ridiculous. (Please, no comments).

Since the system was not that expensive – a mere few hundred dollars – it pays for itself every week in terms of my savings on bottled water. It is so pure that I could drink it. Of, course I do. I put it in the fridge in special bottles that I take with me wherever I go. As for cleaning, it produces streak-free windows and smudge-proof appliances. It was easy to install with the help of a pro who came without charge from the filter company. He assured me that there is no maintenance required so I can spend all my time cleaning my house instead of tending to the filter. Besides, he comes back every six months on his own to replace the old one. I can go on wiping down the bathroom tile, scouring the sinks, and ridding the wood floors of dirt and dust. If I had a pet, you wouldn’t see one stray hair.

How did I get this way? Did my mother beat me into submission if I refused to do chores? Of course, not. It is about hygiene and healthy habits. I abhor the idea of getting sick. This may be the true cause of my mania. I hate it when I have to use a phone that someone has spoken into. It must be loaded with germs. I will not use another person’s comb or brush. There is not even the smallest possibility of sharing a glass or toothbrush. So, let’s hear it for cleanliness. Who wants to live in a pigsty? I recommend a water filter for each and every one of you who wants to drink the best smelling and tasting water around. It can rival Evian, Fiji, and Sparklett’s any time.

As a photographer, I get plenty of work even though everyone has a mobile phone, mp3 player, laptop, and tablet. They are all cameras of sorts, but I won’t let them out me out of business. If people try to capture the great moments of life on their own, I tell them, “but are they good?” I know they aren’t. There will always be a place for the true artist with a trained eye. When it comes to her wedding, in particularly, the bride will never skimp. It is a once-in-a-lifetime milestone and she doesn’t want it ruined. The guests can take all the candid pix they want and post them on Facebook. No matter. I do the final wedding album for posterity. I know the traditional poses of the couple alone, during the ceremony, and with the cake, and of course the entire wedding party. Then there are all the shots of the reception with people dining, dancing, and rejoicing.

I have many stories about these wedding, mostly good. Occasionally something goes wrong but my photographs never show it—only happy smiling faces. That’s all people will remember twenty years from now. I greet old friends at the weddings in my area of Albany and I make new ones. We often know the same people. It is a wonderful opportunity to socialize. Recently, I ran into a florist I have known for some time and it was fun to catch up after my work was done and in the can, so to speak. She was making sure that I had captured her beautiful decorations when I noticed her cool backpack. It’s something I’ve been looking at getting for myself, so I instantly recognized the style from https://www.businessbagreview.com/. It was a business tote given that she was at work. I have a leather zippered camera bag and another all-purpose tote for accessories and odds and ends. While I was admiring her choice, we started talking about how important it is to have relationships with other wedding vendors for cross-referrals. Thus, she always brings a stack of business cards.

“It is part of marketing yourself,” she said. “Self-promotion doesn’t have to be offensive or obvious.” I can see that. People often come up to you and ask for the card before you even approach them. I always have a few on hand. “Bridesmaids are your target market,” she added. “Introduce yourself and talk about their future plans. Every woman dreams of the perfect wedding. But don’t pull out your sample book as it would be tacky. Give your website out for sure.” We agreed that exchanging phone numbers is acceptable but not if it takes too much time. After all, this is the bride and groom’s event.

Weddings are good business now and they always will be. No matter how the world turns and how modern life becomes, couples consider their marriage day to be a major event. Whether you design the flowers, cater the food, take the photos, or provide the entertainment, it is a day for you to shine.

I had a good time at my wedding. We hired a really good photographer, too. I wanted someone who wouldn’t just line everyone up and take a bunch of boring portraits. Instead, he and his partner followed us around the whole day. That probably sounds excessive and irritating, but after about a half hour everyone forgot they were even there. The result was some really great pictures.

This is going to sound self-centered but my favorite picture was taken of me. One of the photographers caught the expression on my face as I was watching my bride come down the aisle. It captured everything that day was about for me: so much happiness that I would be sharing my life with this amazing person. Every time she gets mad at me, I point at that picture up on our wall. I ask her, “how can you be mad at this guy? Look how much he loves you.” It even works sometimes.

One great picture of the two of us was taken during the ceremony. The only thing in the photo is our hands. They were intertwined and it was right after we did the ring exchange. I don’t know if they were close to us or if it was just a good lens. I didn’t see the photo being taken. Another one of my favorite pictures happened right after the ceremony. We’d never actually rehearsed what we were supposed to do after we walked down the aisle together at the end. We ended up just standing outside together by ourselves. My wife was holding my hand and laughing at me. I remember what she said: “We did it. We’re married.” I was smiling. We had no idea the photographer had even come outside. We thought we were alone. I think that’s the sign of a good wedding photographer—somebody who is there at the right time and doesn’t interfere with spontaneous moments.

We didn’t do a lot of those typical pictures. We have pictures of us with the whole bridal party, but only a few of them are posed portraits. The only real portrait type photos that were taken were of us with our parents and then one of everyone who attended the wedding – that picture was sent out as part of our thank you card. There was no smashing-each-other-with-the-cake type things. I don’t even know why anybody does those. I don’t know of anyone who has a picture like that blown up and hung over the mantle. To each his own, I guess.

I try to keep my favorite shots in mind when I take pictures at other people’ weddings. I try to find those same kinds of special moments for other couples on their special day. Sometimes I feel like I have to be paying attention to every single thing that is going on so that I don’t miss anything. Maybe one day I will be good enough that I can hire an assistant and won’t have to worry so much about that.

Welcome to my blog. It is about photography. If you are getting married in the Albany area, I am your guy. This blog, however, is not about self-promotion and getting new jobs. I want readers from all over the world with whom I can share funny or colorful stories. It helps me focus on what’s important in life. For me it is the eye of the camera. You all take hundreds of photos for Instagram and Facebook to share with “friends,” but for me it is a profession. I know how to get the best from the “sitter” or in most cases, the married couple. I am hopeful that the world still needs my services.

I go to all kinds of venues from a ski chalet and lavish resort to a campground or theme park. Some of them are quite unique and create photo opportunities galore. Imagine taking pix of the couple riding a roller coaster or stretching their legs on a ski lift. Most of the time it is the usual wedding venue and they can be run of the mill, but recently I enjoyed taking pictures at a small backyard ceremony in a suburban neighborhood. It was a lovely little event, in its own way as nice as any lush public garden. It had been transformed in a modest but delightful way.

I tried to make the reception shots look festive with plenty of greenery in the background. The dominant feature of the yard, however, was the modest kidney-shaped pool. It was sparkling clean and held vast numbers of gorgeous multi-hued flowers as an alternative to lily pads. Around the edges were more flowers in baskets with leaves trailing into the water. They didn’t have a DJ and interestingly enough, they used a floating Bluetooth pool speaker also in the same inground pool. They had an MP3 playlist of which I heartily approved. I see that you don’t need a pro after all. This is a case of “do it yourself.” You can apply the savings to flowers as they are visually stimulating and create the perfect ambiance.

And it was ideal. The photos were well composed and inclusive and I successfully avoided getting the speakers in the shots. The constant music was a nice gesture and there was no dancing. This was a real difference from other weddings I have attended. People enjoyed talking while holding glasses of champagne, and now and then they made a beeline for the catered food. There was plenty of room for a long cloth-covered buffet table which held vases of flowers at each end. The food was artfully displayed and as elegant as I have seen in the most luxurious hotels. Someone had hired a professional planner to be sure and the person knows the wedding business. You can work with any location and make it as innovative or traditional as you want. It works on any budget I am happy to say.

There are a lot of people who love the filters and things that they can do with Instagram. I think people who enjoy that kind of thing would really like some of the great computer-based photo editors as well.

Adobe’s Photoshop is so common, people often talk about pictures and how they’ve been “photoshopped”. It is an incredibly powerful (and expensive) program that can allow you to do all kinds of amazing things with your pictures. If the price tag or all those features intimidate you, there’s also Adobe Photoshop Elements. This program is cheaper and less overwhelming. It is geared more toward the casual photographer. It has more automated features and guides. It also does a great job organizing your photos for you.

Another well-known program is Paint Shop Pro. Many people who work with .raw files feel that Paintshop is actually better to work with. The pricepoint is often better, too. I have worked with both and think that it is also a little more user-friendly as well. If you’re going to create an image from scratch, this is a better program.

If you like the features of Photoshop and PaintshopPro but don’t have the money to spend, try gimp.org’s open sourceware, GNU Image Manipulation Program (otherwise known as GIMP). It is completely free. You can do many of the same things that other programs charge lots of money for. And there are scripts and plug-ins added all the time. It’s available for both OS and Windows, and you can download it off the internet.

If you’ve just got to have an app on your phone or tablet, there are a few options for you. Snapseed has gotten very popular and even allows you to edit .raw files. One that I like a lot is Aviary, which was made by Adobe. There is an extensive list of filters and other ways to edit your photos. Enlight is another reasonably priced app that lets you create artistic looking photos with relative ease. If you just want something basic that can remove unwanted elements or even people from your photos, TouchRetouch does a nice job.

You can use photo editing software to give your photos a unique look. You can also turn a decent photo into a good one, and a great photo into a work of art. I recommend taking advantage of the free trials many software developers offer as a download to see what you like best. If you can’t find a free trial of the program you are interested in, try watching youtube tutorials. You’ll get a good feel for what other people are doing with these programs and how easily you will be able to do the things you want to with them. Keep in mind that many of these are expensive, so be sure to get something you’re going to be able to use!

I love living here in Albany. Most people don’t realize that New York is anything other than a huge city. But Albany is a great place. And it is the state capitol, too. It is beautiful almost any time of year but it can be especially nice in the fall and spring, with all the leaves changing colors or flowers blooming. Here are some of my favorite places and subjects for photos here in Albany:

If you are interested in buildings, then we certainly have a treat for you. The New York State Capitol building is amazing. This five-story building celebrates three different architectural styles. It is also lit up beautifully at night. The grounds around it are very well manicured and there are some lovely flowers and trees out front depending on the season.

If you are looking for a more urban setting, keep walking around Empire State Plaza. There are modern art sculptures, a pedestrian bridge, and some war memorials. You’ll feel as if you were in a lovely and bustling city.

On the other hand, we have lots of parks and green spaces. Washington Park is a great place to take pictures. It is 84 acres of well-maintained parkland. There are an incredible number of tree species to give you just the right look for your pictures. There is also a Tulip Festival every spring, which is another great setting for photos. There are a bunch of statues and monuments as you walk around. A good one is the King Memorial Fountain. Many of the houses lining the park were designed by famous architects, and several governors have lived there. The lake house is also a beautiful place in the park itself.

If you are looking for more pristine and undisturbed surroundings, I recommend John Boyd Thacher State Park in nearby Voorheesville. It is especially nice in the fall. There are lots of trails – including the famous Indian Ladder Trail. This park alsofeatures several underground streams and some falls, which make lovely backdrops for pictures.

Another beautiful place to visit is Historic Cherry Hill. This museum is a great way to learn about the history of New York through the lives of the Van Rensselaer family, who owned the home from the time it was built in 1787 through the last member of the family’s death in 1963. The grounds there are also pretty nice if you want outdoor pictures. Plus the yellow color of the building creates a great backdrop.

These are just a few of the great places you can use for landscapes and portrait backgrounds around the area. I hope that you come to visit and take a look at these locations. If you live around here and you think I’ve missed somewhere, let me know in the comments and maybe I’ll add it in a future post!

Do you have one of those big, professional looking DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) cameras? Do you have any idea how to use the settings on it?

If you are like most people, you answer yes to the first question and no to the second.

I’m going to briefly go over three different terms for you: aperture, ISO and shutter speed. These can all be adjusted in the manual settings on a DSLR camera to take better pictures. Look through the instructions for your camera in order to learn where these settings are displayed and how to adjust them, since every camera is different. Knowing what these terms mean and how they affect your photos can take your picture from good to great.

The first term is aperture. What it means: the size of the hole in the lens which allows light in. Also represented as: f-stop. The smaller the f-stop, the larger the aperture. What it does: adjusts the depth-of-field. A large f-stop number brings more objects in both the foreground and background into focus. A small f-stop will create a sharper foreground and the background will be more blurry. For something like a portrait, a small f-stop will allow you to create more attention on the subject of your photo. A large f-stop is good for landscapes, where you want the whole picture to be in focus.

The next term is ISO. What it stands for: International Standards Organization. What it means: how sensitive your camera is to light. What it does: lets you know what kind of light conditions you can use. The lower the ISO, the less “noise” will be in the picture in low-light conditions. Many cameras now have a low ISO of 100. Use the lowest settings possible in lower light conditions. A faster ISO will make your sensor more sensitive, which allows it to take pictures faster. If you are at a concert or somewhere else where flash would be ineffective, up your ISO to get a better picture.

That brings us to our last term, shutter speed. What it means: the length of time the camera’s shutter is open. The faster the shutter speed, the faster the shutter opens and closes. How it is represented: in fractions of a second. Usually you will see it listed as a number and “ where “ means a second. You want a faster shutter speed when taking pictures of movement when you want to freeze the action. You use a longer shutter speed to create things like motion blur. The longer your shutter speed, the more important it is to either securely hold the camera or have it on a tripod. If your camera doesn’t have a long enough shutter speed for what you want to do, you should be able to find a remote trigger that will extend it for you.

Knowing how to use these settings can help you take better photos with your digital camera. I recommend testing out all three of these settings on simple subjects around your house before you attempt to use them on something that will really matter to you.

When we are taking a picture of loved ones, whether it is one person or a large group, we usually have no problem composing the photo. Center the person (or people) in the frame and take the photo. Often they are standing in front of something interesting, like a famous landmark or other piece of scenery. However, those kinds of pictures are all we know how to do. If we want to make the picture more visually interesting, or when we take a picture of just scenery, we feel lost.

First, let’s talk about what composition is: it is all of the things that make up the photo. The subject, the color, the lighting. All of these things are part of the composition of any photograph. If these things are portrayed in a pleasing way, you’ll have an attractive photograph. You have probably taken a picture that was off-centered or at an odd angle. Most of the time, once you see what you have done, you are disappointed with the results.

So how can you compose a photo that is interesting and looks good? Here are some ideas for you:

Think about what you want the main focus to be. That’s where you are going to aim your camera. Sure you may be standing in front of a forest full of gorgeous trees but you still want to choose one of them to be the focal point. Our brains naturally filter out all the things that we aren’t interested in when we’re looking at something, but you don’t have that ability with a picture (until the editing process at least) so get close to the subject. Remove as much empty space as you can from the picture so that your subject is clear. If you know anything about lenses and selective focus, this is the time to use them. There is a reason you want to capture a specific view or moment in time. Make it the star of the photo.

If you find yourself always putting the subject dead center of the frame, your pictures will start to look repetitive and boring. Use a professional technique called The Rule of Thirds. You mentally divide the picture into three equal sized parts and then try to balance out the three sections. This takes a little practice.

Use lines to your advantage. Whether it is intentional or not, our eyes follow any visual lines we see. It could be a wall, a road, the side of a building. You get the idea. Use the natural lines around you to draw attention to your subject. See where your eye naturally travels and why, and use that to help you compose your picture.

Move around. Sometimes simply changing an angle can make the picture much better. For example, if you often take pictures of your kids, take some pictures from the ground. Or get down to their eye level. You would be surprised at how often this makes for a better shot.

Take more than one picture of something. Especially now that pictures are digital and you can simply erase the ones that don’t look good, there is nothing to stop you from trying different things with your pictures. Have fun with it and your pictures will be more interesting to look at.