Category Archives: Kids

Photoshop’s Slippery Slope

Taking Back the Art of Real Photography…

When my bambinos let me, i.e., when they’re not tugging at me to get on with the business of being their mom, I enjoy playing in Photoshop. It’s amazing! It can take out entire buildings, blur backgrounds, correct white balance issues and fix color saturations. It can even make you look 20 years younger and 50 pounds lighter. That’s cool, isn’t it? Or is it?

I think a great number of photographers take Photoshop and postproduction too far. My mom is my mom; I have no desire to look at a fake, wrinkle-free version of her with smooth skin, perky, fat lips and no rolls around her belly—unless it was from 30 years ago. She earned those wrinkles and rolls, and as a photographer, it’s my job to let her to keep them. Most importantly, it’s my job to help my clients see how beautiful they are, just as they are…not photoshopped (fake verb) to hell and back.

I have a process for my RAW images and here it is: I fix what people do not see when they’re having a conversation with you. And, I remove what isn’t ordinarily there. Fever blisters? Gone. Blemishes? Gone. Moles and freckles? Stay. Necklines? Slightly smoothed, but not completely gone. Why? Because people generally don’t see wrinkles on your neck when they ‘re looking at you. Skin? Only slightly smoothed, and I do mean ever so slightly. Why? Because digital photography (when shooting in RAW) is crisp, sharp, and it can be harsh. It can capture every pore on a person’s face. No one’s eyes are that critical, so there’s no reason to cement that harshness in a photograph that will be around FOR.EVER.

I started in this business having lots of fun in postproduction: I removed buildings; I removed pieces of paper that I found distracting; I even removed toys that were the wrong color in certain images. Like so many, I went down the slippery slope of Photoshop addiction and pushed boundaries to see how far I could go. I changed images into total fakeness—some call it art, I call it bull. I am a recovering Photoshop addict and I have changed. Seriously, I saw a painful future for my kids as they look through old photographs from their childhood. In 20 years, they will want to see their bedrooms as they are today. They’ll want to see our backyard as it is, strewn with plastic toys from one end to the other. They’ll smile when they see our messy kitchen as they recall hectic dinners, brotherly squabbles, lots of laughter… even a certain wooden dish will bring back memories. Wet towels and bath toys on the bathroom floor will transport them back to their nightly splash parties. Our vehicles and hairstyles will tell them the year the photo was taken. And all of that information will bring them back to this time…these amazing moments of imperfection when life is so busy that there’s no way to dot every i’ or cross every “t.” There is no way to make this life perfect, and because of the imperfections, they’re having what we hope is a damn good childhood. They will need to see us, their parents, as real people. They won’t want to see perfect, wrinkle-free, plastic people that they don’t even recognize.

In lifestyle photos, I won’t even remove sweat from brows anymore. That sweat brings us one step closer to the actual moment and makes it almost tangible. Our kids deserve to see real moments when all they have left of us are photos. In portrait and family sessions, where people are the subjects (as opposed to bath time, play time, etc.), I manipulate backgrounds for an artistic flare, but I strive to maintain authenticity in people. In general, if I spend more than 15 minutes on a photo, I’ve spent too much. Beyond that amount of time and I’m back to the slippery slope of too much adding and subtracting from what’s real. When it comes to taking pictures or playing in Photoshop, I choose to take pictures. I am in this to be the best photographer I can be, not the best Photoshop artist. And I choose to keep it real for clients. Our kids deserve to hold real memories of real moments, in real photos.

Portrait with cleaned face–nose (you know how kids are), mouth, etc. Toned to black and white and manipulated background to bring attention to just my subject.
Real “lifestyle” moment between brothers. Cropped image and toned to black and white. No further edits for “perfection.” I got it right in the camera.
Real messes,  real little people…

The 30-Day Summer Adventure Challenge!


We started this adventure to get out, come rain or shine, and see Central New York. The weather can be brutal here; there are entire weeks of rain and continuous cloud cover. Living to the fullest when the weather is exceptional is more important than I ever fathomed.

Our little family spent 30 days exploring our community. We targeted fun, inexpensive family friendly places. We mapped the days and stayed within budget (under $40 a day). Team Turtle often took hours just to get out the door. I am certain many people thought I had lost my mind. Maybe I did; it was a lofty goal with two little guys under 5-years old—all their stuff, all my photography stuff, and just getting us all dressed was sometimes monumental, so I skipped a few showers. I edited the photos (developed in film terms) at night and wrote about the day. I took it all on with a new blog and without any knowledge of Word Press. I’m tired now, and I want to enjoy my kids and hubs for the rest of our summer without these crazy, self-imposed deadlines.

And so, after all the fun, all the bribery with popsicles, snow cones, and candy, all the meltdowns, the belly laughs, the hugs, and more love than I can ever express, the 30-Day Summer Adventure Challenge is a wrap!

Watch the video: It’s a Wrap!

For more local and family photography, check out, and “like” Lightning Bugs Photography on Facebook for photography tips, tricks, and updates!

Day 20: The 30-Day Summer Adventure Challenge!

Today’s poor in the United States have cell phones, Internet service and medical insurance. Food stamps are a line away. Many public housing units have air-conditioning and heating assistance. During my childhood, poor meant that sometimes school was the only place we could get a square meal. We didn’t have medical or dental insurances, which taught me that I had to work hard to change the trajectory of my life. Rewind to my mother’s generation. Poor meant potatoes for every meal. Dental visits were for pulling rotten teeth. She and her siblings had one pair of stretched, saggy socks. And their saddle shoes were often scuffed, hand-me-downs with worn soles. Each generation seems to have more, and want for less. Basic needs in our country are met, or can be met, with public assistance.

I know my mother didn’t want us to suffer or do without. She wanted us to have everything our hearts desired. But doing without gave me a grit and determination that cannot be bought. I am just as thankful for everything I didn’t have as I am for what I did have.

This is not a guilt thing for the “haves.” No way! The “haves” have worked hard and don’t owe apologies for seeking and living prosperous lives. But striking a balance so that children don’t think that life is as easy as asking for what you want is a challenge in our times. It’s not easy explaining that many of today’s “poor” have cars, satellite dishes, computers and cell phones. I want my kids to understand that life is not always fair, but challenges and hard work usually have just rewards.

I want my kids to understand that many things, like college, are privileges, not rights. I preached it to my 4.5 year old today: “It takes hard work, discipline and a lot of money to attain the college dream… College is higher education, and no one owes it to you.” My face was scowled and my voice was firm. He looked at me like there were forks growing from my head. He stomped his foot and declared he did not want to go to college because he did not want to grow up. Okay, so it’s a mature topic, but we had to start somewhere. So I carted his tail and all of his piggy bank change to our credit union and we opened a savings account… for college! It was probably the most rewarding adventure to date, for me. My 4-year old didn’t think it was all that cool, but I’m pretty certain he will remember it, especially when he writes his own check for his first semester of college. Fingers, toes and eyes crossed.

My children have much different lives than I did. I didn’t get choices between sports or music lessons—if it wasn’t a free activity, it wasn’t even up for discussion. We sold donuts to pay for dues, and a local woman, Mrs. Kline (God bless her), sewed my cheerleading uniforms. My mother worked in restaurants and lounges to raise four kids as a single mom. I tip my hat to her for all that she did. And being a mom has taught me to give grace for all that she didn’t or couldn’t do. I was out of the house in record time paying my own way through college, and fighting like mad to get medical insurance and to earn my basic needs. I am grateful beyond any trite words for all of it, especially for what I didn’t have. I hope my kids will be grateful for their blessings. Lord willing, we will supplement and help them through college, but I want them to understand the value of sacrifices, and that nothing is gained from handouts or free rides.

For more local and family photography, check out, and “like” Lightning Bugs Photography on Facebook for photography tips, tricks, and updates!

Day 19: The 30-Day Summer Adventure Challenge

“If you build it, they will come.”

I appreciate quality. Gone are the days when I reached for cute little shoes with a cute little price tag. I’m too moody and fussy now, and hopefully too wise, to suffer in shoes that hurt my feet. So instead of buying two or three pairs of cute, “affordable” shoes, I buy one comfortable pair. I guess I’m in the no-nonsense season of life.

Since foreign markets gobbled up American manufacturing, quality has become hard to find, even in the coveted name brands of years past. Those jeans I once loved, the tailored suits that fit so well and felt so nice—gone. I hunt for quality, not just for big-ticket items, but for food, too. I find myself triple checking labels to ensure my kids aren’t drinking apple juice from China or Guatemala. (New York is second only to the state of Washington in apple production, yet most of our apple juice comes from foreign countries. I am not making this up. Check the labels.)

When I find quality goods and hard working folks, I drive the extra miles and spend a little more. I want quality-driven, local businesses to succeed. North Star Orchard is way out of my way, but it’s a local gem worthy of the loyalty. I’ve been a customer since we landed in Central New York eight years ago. They have built a solid business and they’re willing to spend time with their customers. I like that. But their products have to rock too, and they do.

North Star Orchard is an “old fashion” market. I love the smells wafting from the bakery any time I visit. They make their own iced blueberry cookies, as assortment of muffins, breads, pies, buttermilk biscuits, and on, and on. They have New York cheeses in large bricks–blue, aged cheddar, horseradish. They grow their own tomatoes, cucumbers, and corn. Right now they have a long tent with rows and rows of drying garlic, hopefully to be braided (I can never find braided garlic). Their blueberry fields are LOADED this year. Team Turtle did what we could yesterday in the hot sun, but Little Man wanted to eat more than I could pick (Shhh! Don’t tell. He’s only 2!). The 4-year old wanted to talk, a lot, while Mommy chased Little Man, took photos and picked berries. Sigh!

In spring, I go to North Star for their annuals. They are a little pricey, but the plants always grow well and I have blooms from purchase time through the first frost; I know I’m getting quality. With perennials, the store is particular about selling only plants that are zoned for our climate. Unlike big chains, they don’t sell lemon trees in Zone 4.

The store is open from April through December. Spring and summer are bustling with berries, plants and produce. In fall, they rev it up again with a corn maze, apple cider, donuts, kettle corn and hay rides. In November, customers put in their pie orders well in advance for Thanksgiving deserts. During the Christmas season, they make beautiful, handmade wreaths and garlands. I am always a little sad when we near the closing date. They shut down around Christmas and don’t open again until April. I hate to see North Star Orchard all buttoned up for four months. I almost want to celebrate when they reopen in April–their reopening means we can finally come out of our dens.

What I’d like to see: I almost don’t want to say it because I want the store to maintain its homegrown, old fashion wholesomeness, but here is goes. I’d love to see a café at the store, with a few menu items (centered around the fresh food from the gardens), along with a few nice wines. It would be a big endeavor—serving food is never easy–but from the looks of it, nothing they’ve done so far has been easy. I bet they could pull it off, and with class. If they do, I’ll revisit and maybe I’ll blog about it again–what a great excuse to keep going back.

For more local and family photography, check out, and “like” Lightning Bugs Photography on Facebook for photography tips, tricks, and updates!

Day 18: 30-Day Summer Adventure Challenge!

It’s really about Team Utica…

Utica’s 15K Boilermaker takes place in my backyard—not literally, but close. Yet, this was the first year I dragged myself out to watch it. The stories, the characters, the international pack that led the race to the winner’s tape, the slow pokes, the wheelchairs, the young, the old, the serious, the fun crowd, the rock-hard abs, the softies pushing themselves to finish…. It was all there. But there was one story that struck my heart more than any other today: Utica’s community spirit is gripping and has its own heartbeat.

Uticans faithfully show up on a Sunday morning in July every year. The race starts at 7:30, and being in place earlier is sound advice; there are police roadblocks, and the logistics of walking to an optimal spectator spot takes planning and time. I watched this morning’s race from Valley View Golf Course, at about the 3.5-mile mark. Within minutes, the first wheelchairs whizzed past. Then the pack-leading international runners arrived and they didn’t quit until they crossed the finish line. You might think it’s a sacrifice to get up that early and watch a race, but the Boilermaker is an event. It’s a weeklong celebration that binds this community: Locals fly Boilermaker flags; there are pre-Boilermaker breakfasts and parties; there’s a run for kids and a walk for adults; and there’s one big party after the race.

If you live here, you either run the race, you know several people who do, or you show up to support runners that you’ll likely never meet. The cheering, hootin’ and ringing of cowbells didn’t stop today until the last runner brought up the rear. It gave me goose bumps to think of the loyalty in that. It also made me vow to never again miss it as long as Central New York is my home. Watching the race made me want to be part of it. It’s a big deal and it’s full of community spirit.

About 17,000 runners ran this year. Registration opens yearly in spring for just one week. I’ve heard rumors that it usually fills up in 15 minutes. I wonder…could I possibly have it in me? I have some time to think it over. It did look a bit painful for some. Either way, I’ll be there next year as a spectator, and if I get real gutsy, maybe I’ll try to run it. It I do, I know I’ll have quite a few Uticans along the route to cheer me on and keep me going.

To my friend who kept after me to experience it, thanks for pushing me Margaret! I have a much better understanding and appreciation of why this race is such a big deal, and of the spirit that drives this community.

For more local and family photography, check out, and “like” Lightning Bugs Photography on Facebook for photography tips, tricks, and updates!

Day 17: The 30-Day Summer Adventure Challenge!

I panic when graced with a warm, sunny day in Central New York. I feel like I have to fill the day with outdoor activities until sundown. I know I’m not alone—don’t you want to get wild when a CNY day greets you with sunshine? Yesterday, we met the challenge. We found another local gem that I had no idea existed until a friend said, “Let’s go!”

The Wild Animal Park in Chittenango is a big petting zoo (except for the black bears, lions and gators—I wouldn’t pet them). But we did pet and feed a camel, giraffe, goats, llamas… To Team Molasses, we had a great time! Tammy, Zach and Abby, thanks for getting wild with Team Turtle yesterday.

Here’s the skinny on the park: It’s a 45-minute drive from Utica. We took Rt. 5, which is more scenic than the Thruway and has more stopping opportunities for the little people. Zoo parking was easy. It cost under $30 for our team of three, which included the entrance fee and food for the critters. The buildings are fairly new and have an Adirondack flavor—honey-stained wood galore, carved benches and bears, stone accents… There’s a new building under construction that looks like it will be the entrance area, store, and (according to their Facebook page) it will house more exhibits.

What I liked: The Adirondack theme is a real treat. The animals are kept in sizable enclosures, and many have shade or covered areas for weather relief. The park is strict in not allowing food or drinks “to keep the animals safe.” They sell hot food and cold drinks in the food pavilion, which is about halfway around the park. A covered picnic area next to the lake makes for a breezy break. The park’s size is perfect for a family outing; there are enough animals to keep it interesting, yet it’s not so big that it’s exhausting. Although Teams Turtle and Molasses took longer than most (my 23-month old had his own timeline), it was an easy stroll.

Room for improvement: It has been wet, and the day’s heat made for a smelly, steamy entrance area. The stretch of park from the entrance to the food shack needs shade trees or pergolas. The entrance clerk took my water bottle, so I was parched by the time we got to the food shack. While I have zero doubt that proper restrooms are coming in the new building, they presently have port-a-potties.

I love that The Wild is improving and growing. It’s good family fun that is educational and won’t bend the wallet. It’s worth the trip and we will go back. Thanks again Team Molasses for sharing this Central New York gem!

For more local and family photography, check out, and “like” Lightning Bugs Photography on Facebook for photography tips, tricks, and updates!

Day 15: The 30-Day Summer Adventure Challenge!

Team Turtle is All In…

When my husband tells stories of his childhood, I could swear I’m watching Sandlot. He has our 4-year old begging to visit Dad’s hometown so we can see a “real” sand lot baseball field. Dad even had a community swimming pool—he’s killing me.

Our son wants a pool, too, but even if it were miraculously in our family budget, with our short and unpredictable summers, we can’t justify all the work and mucho $$$ for such a luxury. (There’s a valid reason that most pool supply businesses double as fireplace shops in the northeast.) But we do have sweltering, sticky days (two or three), and on those days we pant for relief and wish we had a pool.

When a mom from our son’s T-ball team told us about a community swimming pool, we had to check it out. You mean we can join a community pool and let someone else do the hard work while we play with our kids and socialize? And there are lifeguards on duty? And there’s a play area for the kiddos during break time? You have showers and restrooms? Yep, yep, yep… The place even has grills so we can bring our own food and BBQ. No wet feet scampering through my house, no crazy expensive maintenance fees, other folks clean it and fix broken parts, lifeguards, grills… No brainer. We actually joined a pool! We feel so smart and sassy right now it’s not even funny. Not to push my luck, but as we left the pool on the first sunny day in forever, I thought, All that’s missing from this Americana moment is a nighttime baseball game on the 4th of July, and the lifeguard scene. Maybe we’ll have a baseball game tonight. As for the lifeguard scene, I hope we’re at least a decade away from that story. 😉

Woodberry Hills Swim Club. What I like:

  • It’s super clean.
  • Lifeguards are on duty for the little people–very important.
  • The grills are a great bonus.
  • It’s not stuffy–I LOVE that.
  • A fantastic Italian restaurant, Georgio’s, brings their truck by Wednesday evenings.
  • On Thursday evenings, there’s a truck with wood-fired pizzas (can’t wait to try one!).
  • There’s a play area for the kiddos when they’re not in the pool.

My wish list: I’d love to see reclinable chairs and umbrellas, until then, we’ll bring our own. Team Turtle is all in!

For more local and family photography, check out, and “like” Lightning Bugs Photography on Facebook for photography tips, tricks, and updates!

Day 13: The 30-Day Summer Adventure Challenge!

Perfectly Imperfect!

I have a confession. I am a “fussy britches.” Translation: everything in its place and a place for everything. When things start to look amuck, my brain sees chaos and short circuits. ADD? ADHD? Or, my preference, no labels: my mind needs order. Well, remember that thing about kids saving us from ourselves? My kids save me every day.

For starters, they slow me down and teach me to see the beauty in imperfection. Getting out the door takes triple the effort now. I dress three people, feed three people, tend to the bathroom needs of three people… Life with kids can move at a snail’s pace. Going from full throttle to a trickle wasn’t easy, but I have reached a pinnacle and I am okay as the leader of Team Turtle. In fact, many days I enjoy just rolling with it. Yesterday was one of those days.

The weather was crappy—rained all morning. You know how you want to skip wet birthday parties when it’s raining? But we couldn’t. A little boy was turning 5 and like a lot of things in life, showing up is important. I’m glad we did. The Splash Pad at Chadwick’s Park is open! And can you believe, the rain stopped for a full hour and a half?  Long enough for us to feel some rays and get soaked by the sprinklers.

The Splash Pad is $2 for the day, or they offer seasonal passes. I don’t know that we’d go often enough to justify a pass, but we’ll definitely go again. I think for the rest of the summer I’m adding swimsuits, towels and sunscreen to the spare Kid Kit in my vehicle. When we’re driving around looking for an adventure and we come up empty, the Splash Pad is a homerun.

I thoroughly enjoyed the simplicity of the party. The child’s mom was able to relax and take in the moment without a lot of stress. I like that. No, I LOVE that! She had the ice cream come in an ice cream truck and she treated. We got to the last kid and it poured. Perfectly imperfect! Great timing and a stellar idea.

Kids do not need fancy, fussy or perfection–in fact, kids are highly allergic to that combination. Splash Pad, ice cream truck, and minimal fuss—Noted, and a must-do for our next birthday party.

For more local and family photography, check out, and “like” Lightning Bugs Photography on Facebook for photography tips, tricks, and updates!

Day 11: The 30-Day Summer Adventure Challenge!

Go see some animals. Not at the zoo, at your local animal shelter.

This weather needs to stop it! Our summer is turning into the summer that never was. Chilly, wet, dark… We haven’t seen the sun’s rays since Friday. Argh! Okay, pass the mayo. Let’s turn this chicken [—-] into salad.

To give generously, thoughtfully, and with purpose feeds the soul. It’s hard to restrain from spoiling our kids, isn’t it? My kids’ excitement about a new toy brings me joy. But in Walmart today, I told our 4-year old that we weren’t there to feed his ridiculously overstuffed toy box. Much to his shock and disbelief, I was serious. Can you imagine the meltdown when he realized that the only thing in our shopping cart was a large bag of dog food?

“But the spirit of giving…” I preached. Oh, mercy, mercy me… Reasoning with a 4-year old is like telling a turnip green to turn purple. He cried all the way to our next stop. There are times when I want to pull my car over, put the flashers on and run into the woods where no one will hear me scream: “STOP THIS MADNESS!”

Anyhoo… We lost our schnauzer in December. Her personality was much like our youngest child’s—sweet, loving, sensitive…but when his ‘tude flares, something demonic invades Little Man. In her younger years, our schnauzer would pin you in a corner if you neared her peeps. Little Man loved that dog, and strangely, she tolerated his nonsense. She didn’t like kids, but Little Man was akin to a little dog whisperer with her.

I will always remember Tassle, and when the local humane society asked for bedding donations, the timing was right. We took her bedding and a large bag of dog food (the one that nearly caused me to pull over and scream to a compassionate tree) to Stevens-Swan Humane Society. The donation cost less than $40. But life lessons we instill in our children have no monetary value. We want our boys to grow up with tender hearts in our big, bad society. It starts, in my ever-so-humble opinion, with our little people seeing kindness, compassion and generosity.

The boys loved the shelter, especially Little Man. My mini dog whisperer went bonkers. Most of the dogs at Stevens-Swan are pit bulls. Intimidating, right? But Little Man faced off with every one of them, not literally, but he wasn’t afraid in the least. [Work in progress: We are teaching him “safe” distances with all animals. To be continued…]

What I love: Stevens-Swan is a NO KILL shelter. Can I say that again? It’s a NO KILL shelter. I breathed a sigh of relief when I learned that. The dog pens are filled with pit bulls—a misunderstood, mistreated, and thrown away breed, but they have a chance at our shelter. That’s big. Also, the shelter is clean. No yucky smells and the cages are sprayed down regularly. Several dogs had treats in their Kongs, which touched me; to see shelter animals treated kindly was refreshing. I wish we didn’t have to have shelters, but I am proud of the work our shelter is doing.

They have a wish list, so if you’re inclined to make an adventure with your kids, or as an animal lover, here it is:

  • Canned cat food: Friskies, 9-Lives…
  • KMR kitten milk
  • Nursing bottles (for kittens)
  • Cat litter and pan deodorizer
  • Large dog toys and treats: rawhides, chew toys, black Kongs, Nylabones, Jolly Balls
  • Oatmeal pet shampoo
  • Cat collars
  • Cat and dog beds
  • Small paper/Styrofoam bowls
  • Paper towels
  • Liquid hand soap
  • Laundry soap, bleach
  • Bleach wipes
  • Wet and dry Swiffer pads
  • Heavy duty trash bags
  • Febreeze
  • Postage stamps

Someone once told me: “You’ll never regret what you do to help, but you may very well regret what you don’t do.”

It doesn’t cost much to drop something off at your local shelter, and spending a little time with a few animals is, well, FREE.

For more local and family photography, check out, and “like” Lightning Bugs Photography on Facebook for photography tips, tricks, and updates!

Why Hire a Professional Photographer?

Photographers show up, snap some photos and they’re wrapped up in an hour. And they charge WHAT?

Our kids cost a lot of money. I’m not talking about the expenses of raising kids. The money we spent on treatments and adoption could have bought a nice, waterfront home, or at least a sizable down payment. We saved, pinched and sacrificed. But we don’t miss that money, or the waterfront home. The greatest blessings cannot be measured.

The same can be said for professional photography. When you’re looking at your family through old photos, or when one of those family members passes away, I promise you will not miss the money you invested in a skilled, professional photographer.

Good photography is a fine art. Images that isolate a subject against a blurred background, with perfect illumination and a catch light that makes their eyes come to life… those images are not captured by luck. It takes years of training, education, talent, and expensive equipment (yes, equipment DOES matter) to capture those beautiful images.

Entry-level DSLRs are affordable for average consumers, but having a digital camera does not make me, or anyone, a photographer. I am certain I can learn to change my own oil, but that doesn’t make me a mechanic. The cost, time and education that it takes to become a skilled mechanic wouldn’t be worth the benefit, which is why we pull into a service area and let experts fix our vehicles. With the time and money spent to become a respectable photographer, you’d be far better off hiring a professional at least once a year to capture your family memories.

How much should you spend on a yearly family portrait session? Photographers show up, snap some photos and they’re wrapped up in an hour. And they charge WHAT? Hold on! Here’s the reality:

  • We make it look easy because we’re skilled and we have years of experience. You won’t see the two to four hours of prep time that goes into your session; there are lighting considerations, we scout the site, we analyze and prepare our equipment to make sure we have everything we need and it’s all in excellent working order and ready to capture your beautiful images. And you won’t see the hours we spend in post production preparing those images for high quality prints.
  • The cost of doing business. Serious, professional photographers often have THOUSANDS of dollars invested in lighting, cameras, lenses, computers, editing software, etc. There’s also significant time invested daily in marketing, Internet maintenance and web hosting. It’s a business, so there are accounts to maintain, taxes to file, and time sensitive business paperwork that needs attention. Any cost for most small businesses applies to your photographer’s business.
  • There are years and mucho dollars spent on education. Photographers have to understand light—we live and breathe that knowledge to become exceptional. We have to stay abreast of equipment and lighting trends. And there are added skills that many of us bring to the table. For some, it’s a terrific flare and trained eye for art and creativity. For others, it’s years of telling stories through professional journalism. Perhaps one in a million photographers just “shows up” and is immediately amazing. For the other 999,999 of us, we work hard to earn and maintain respect. And the bottom line, most of us LOVE what we do, but we still have to make a living.

There’s a formula that photographers use for pricing, so I’ll be frank: Most highly skilled, professional photographers who aren’t charging at least $650 for a one-hour portrait session (with printing rights) are working for free or very close to it. If they’re really good and you’ve hired them for less, they love you. KISS THEM! Or, they’re beefing up their portfolio and changing direction in their business. Either way, it’s a steal!

Fine art is special. Would you turn a 72-megapixel JPEG into a 20×30 piece of wall art? Just please say NO here! Would you enlarge your family’s professional portrait—a tack sharp, high quality, 270-megapixel image that captures your family in beautiful light? You should! Blow that baby up and display it proudly.

It took becoming a professional photographer to understand this: JPEG images, like the ones on phones (or any camera not set to RAW mode) will not last. Take a look at photos you took a mere 7-10 years ago. Look closely and you will notice the loss of quality. Every time you open a JPEG, you lose information in that photo. JPEGs are “losey,” which is why professionals shoot only in RAW–RAW maintains all of the data in the image. We back up, back up and back up again, and then we save our files in multiple formats. But photographers also understand this very critical piece: you have to print and use high quality paper. Why? Because technology is rapidly changing and files aren’t meant to last. One computer engineer recently told me that the most we can expect from our photo files is THREE years (they may last longer, but there’s zero guarantee). If you want your photos to be around for generations, PRINT, and print on quality, acid free photo paper from a professional lab. I cannot stress this enough.

Snap away and take lots of candids of your family, but budget for your fine art photography. It’s so important! Find a photographer that you love, trust and feel terrific around, and have your family portraits taken at least once a year. The only family portraits you will ever regret will be the ones you never took, and that’s a promise.

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