Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Client Frustration

 In the world of business, the first thing to be cut when there are budget cuts is always photography. Since COVID, budget cuts are now the norm and used as an excuse and a reason to cut photographers of all fields. Over the last few years, I have been courting a certain private university to do their athletics photography. This has become a mission of frustration. This particular university was using a photographer for a long time. When he became incapacitated, the sports info person reached out to me to pick up the slack. It became immediately clear that my work was much better than the other guy's work. While I don't want to be known as the guy that steals other photographers' clients, I am certainly not going to dumb it down when asked to fill in. When this photographer recovered in the spring, I relinquished my role as his substitute. In the following summer, I was asked to help out with this university's  athletics photography as an additional shooter. I declined because I didn't want the other guy to feel threatened. So I took the high road. Mistake. The sports info guy went ahead and hired another photographer anyway. Fast forward a couple of years. A new sports info guy was hired and he wanted me to do their photos. The problem here was a retired "mom" was providing photos to the school for free. The philosophy was free was was better than good. So, again I was out. Every time I thought I was getting involved in the school, something would happen to thwart it namely less talented and less experienced  amateurs. That is the problem with pro photography these days. Anyone with a credit card can buy good equipment and a laptop and call themselves professional. 

I live in an area where there are several large companies along a certain highway. These companies have over the years needed photographic services. In the '80's and '90's , there were several professional commercial photographers that lived of these companies. There was enough work for everyone. Then came the digital age. Companies figured out quickly that they could use an in house person who could use Photoshop to do their photos. All those professionals were out of work. Several left photography all together. So this is an ongoing problem with my chosen profession. 

The other day, the aforementioned university brought me in to do some "specialized" photos of about 300 student athletes. There was a steady stream of these athletes from 8:30 am  to about 4:30 pm. The new sports info person made a schedule so jammed up that there was literally no time for a break (lunch, coffee, pee etc.) Imagine standing on your feet for eight hours without having a break to recharge. Even the guys that cut the grass and change lightbulbs get some sort of break. I took this as a sign that this place under this situation was not for me. To treat a photographer with so little regard for his/her well being is inexcusable. While I was doing this, the "free mom" photographer sat at home enjoying her Sunday. After informing the school that I would never be involved in any of there photographic endeavors, I did receive a lengthy apology. However, sometimes, you can only battle a fish for so long until you have to cut it loose. As I get older, I realize that it is better to take care of people who have been loyal to to me versus people that only look at the bottom line. Fortunately, I have several people that are loyal despite shrinking budgets.     

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

THE Moment!


The moment, the moment that will never be the same ever again. To capture that moment on film or digital is the true art of photography. I like to give this example; say you are photographing a 3 hour football game. You take 500 photos in total (unedited). your shutter speed for the game is set at 1/500th second.(This is what most photographers think is the best minimum speed to shoot action) Question; how much actual time was recorded by you during the game. Easy math, 500 photos at 1/500th of a second equals 1 second of actual time. Think about that for minute. 3 hours invested in a football game but only recording 1 second of time. Those images taken are tiny slices of time that were captured by a photographer. Those images will never be exactly the same ever again. 

Another example; set up a camera outside somewhere on a tripod and leave it there for a year. (not recommended due to weather concerns) Set the camera to take a photo every day at the same time every day. Those photos will be different every day. Lighting will be different,(cloudy/sunny) items in the photos will be different,(leaves-spring and summer , bare trees in the winter) birds may be in one photo but not another etc...

So every time a photographer takes an image they are recording a tiny slice of life on this planet. that, my friends, is the true art of photography. In this world of digital imagery, there so many things that can be done to enhance or change the reality of a photograph. Reputable newspapers tell their photographers if they alter their images in any way, they can be fired. Altering an image does not include basic adjustments in brightness contrast or cropping. 

I am not advocating for the purity of photography by not using Photoshop. I am simply stating that this is the origin of the photographic arts and should always be remembered when we pick up the camera. I have certainly been guilty of photographic manipulation. Most of my sports photos are pure in their content. 

The above image was taken in November of 2005 late in the Rutgers football season. The image was created using the first generation Canon EOS 1D. Lens was a 300mm f2.8 with a 2x converted making the lens a 600mm f5.6 lens. Shutter was 1/800 second at f 11. I was positioned in the endzone along with several other photographers. Some got the photo at a different angle but I was the only one to get this image at this angle. 

To view more sports images that I have taken:

Monday, June 7, 2021

For those out there who think professional photography  is easy.


Friday, June 4, 2021

The Foundation

 Every great building has a great foundation. Similarly, every sport, profession or way of life has a great foundation. Photography has a great foundation. Unfortunately, all those iPhone photographers have no idea and have no regard for the history of the photographic arts while they are taking selfies. Cameras go back hundreds of years. There used to be something called a camera obscura. This was a series of lenses and mirrors that sat on top of someone's house and projected an aerial view of the surrounding city into a darkened room on top of this building. This , of course, led to development of some sort of way to capture an image onto a light sensitive piece of material. Before we were using digital sensors, “film” was a metal or a glass plate placed into the back end of a large view camera. Nowadays, it is not unusual for a newspaper photographer to cover an event then go to his car to process and transfer those digital images via a personal hotspot. The great Civil War photographer, Matthew Brady, would document the ravages of war with his view camera and glass plate film. He would then process those images in his horse drawn carriage which was his portable darkroom. Obviously there is so much more to the history of photography than I could write about here. I feel it is important to understand the history of anything we wind up doing professionally. If you are a baseball player, you need to know the great players that came before. If you are a young photographer trying to find your way, what better place to start than researching the great photographers that laid the groundwork. Names like Ansel Adams, Neil Leifer, Alfred Stiegiltz, George Kalinsky, Richard Avedon,  Jerry Uelsmann etc. The list goes on. Somewhere around 20 million sits my name. I get asked a lot of times how I got my start. Since I am a sports photographer, one of my first influences was the photography of the aforementioned George Kalinsky. He was the New York Knicks photographer. I used to go to the games all the time when I was in high school. (the early 70’s) I would marvel at the photographs in the program taken by Mr. Kalinsky. Now, here I am doing sports photography full time. I have even taken photos on the floor of Madison Square Garden sitting only feet away from the man I idolized. I could never get up the courage to speak to him, but his influence on my life has been long standing. 

So, to conclude, if you are looking for some form of influence as a young photographer, or you are an older photographer looking for a somewhat new direction to take your art, look to the past. You will be amazed by the images you see that were taken on film without the use of Photoshop. These people were the pioneers of photography. The image which heads this piece is my humble homage to Ansel Adams. 

Friday, May 28, 2021


Imagine you are a famous cardiac surgeon, You were the tops in your high school class, maintained a 4.0 GPA through college. Attended med school, did your interning and residencies and in the process spent thousands of dollars on your education. Finally you are an established MD in your late 30’s/early 40’s. One day you are sitting down to breakfast, listening to the morning news when you hear the newscaster announce a medical breakthrough that will make surgeons obsolete. Kind of an auto-doc that diagnoses and treats any ailment you may have for a fraction of what you pay for medical insurance. I can only imagine the protest and rallies to make this technology illegal. While this scenario will never happen in my lifetime, it is a real possibility 100 years from now.

While not in the same category, the photographic arts has gone through something similar to this. 150 years ago, when photography was just beginning to become a mainstream art form, photographers were using huge 8×10 view cameras with light sensitive glass plates to record an image. George Eastman, in the early 1900’s figured out a way to put this same emulsion on acetate. Thus was born roll film. Even after this, serious photography was limited to the professional. In fact it wan’t until the 1980’s that we had a film that was faster than 400 ISO. Before that you had to do a technique called film pushing which was an exposure/processing procedure that enabled you to take a 400 ISO film and make it a 1600 ISO film. It required underexposing your film and over processing it for a certain length of time. It also involved some rather advanced printing techniques in the darkroom later. In short, you had to know what you were doing to be a pro photographer.

When I was a high school kid and made the decision to do this for a living, there were not many choices in regards to formal education. There was Brooks Institute in California, Rochester Institute in New York and Middlesex County College in Edison N.J. I went to MCC. The technical knowledge I received there and in my subsequent jobs showed me that photography was a lot more than just taking pictures. As a pro, you had to know things like film sensitivity, shutter speeds and apertures. You had know characteristics of certain films to best suit the thing you were shooting. You had to know the physics of light and refraction. Somehow you had to utilize all this information to take a decent photograph.

Fast forward to to the year 2000. Digital photography begins the next evolution of photography. The automated stage had been set years before with the certain camera advances. Auto exposure, auto focus and built in motor drives set the stage for the final hurdle; eliminate film all together. Eliminate film and you eliminate the wet process. With computers starting to take over every home, this was an opportunity to bring advanced photographic techniques to the masses.Free Lance commercial photographers that were thriving in the 80’s and 90’s were now being replaced by in house people using a digital camera and a laptop with Photoshop installed. Veteran wedding photographers were competing against individuals that got into the business only months before. The field became and still is saturated by individuals not qualified to be called pro’s. When I quote a price for a job, the discussion inevitably turns to a certain person that the client knows that would do the same job for X amount of dollars less than my quote. We were always taught to never undersell yourself. That was in the salad days of photography. Now you have to match or beat a low price just to pay the bills.It’s not getting any better. Cell phone cameras are now approaching the image quality of high end cameras. Soon every middle school student with an IPhone will call themselves a pro.

From an artistic point of view, digital photography has opened up a new level of creativity for amateurs and pro’s alike. If you can imagine it then you can facilitate it with Photoshop of any other image editing program. But again, the field is too saturated. Hence it makes it harder for truly talented individuals to make a name for themselves.Plus there is the notion that using Photoshop makes things as easy as snapping your fingers. I was asked recently to insert a person into a photograph. Despite the fact that the perspectives were different. It took some doing but it was done. It also didn’t take 5 minutes like a lot of people seem to think. It can be done in 5 minutes but to do it correctly takes a bit more time. This is something the average IPhone photographer doesn’t understand.

As an art form, photography has never gotten the type of respect it deserves. We as photographers are tasked with making images of things that will never happen again. We record unique moments in time.  For instance, you can set up a camera in your backyard on a tripod and set it to photograph the same scene every day at the same time. You will never get the same exact photo. Light changes slightly, a leave may fall from a tree, a bird may me in one photo but not the next one etc. The photos may look similar but not exact. This is the true art form of photography. Yet we never get the kind of respect we deserve. But take any photo, and have a painter/illustrator copy that photo line for line, shadow for shadow and that artist will be hailed as  a talented individual. This has happened to me. Back in 1999, a local minor league baseball team opened their new stadium. I was part of the team of photographers recording the event. One of my tasks was to photograph the outside of the stadium as people were filing in. After doing that, I was asked to provide the negative of that image, for a fee, so this organization can make some lithographs.  I guess it was about a year later that I opened my newspaper to see a story about the guy that copied my photo as an illustration. This individual is a local artist that does this all the time. He will take a sports photo and copy it as an illustration and he never credits the photographer that took the original image. Nor does he have to according to copyright laws. But a photographer was the person that captured that unique image that gave him the material to work with. By the way, he makes a lot of money doing this. Somehow it doesn’t seem quite right to me. Now if I took a photograph of a famous painting and did some Photoshop things to it, I would be criticized for soiling a piece of art.

The bottom line is that the field of professional photography has become way too crowded with people looking to make an easy buck. While I will admit that technology has opened the door for a lot of individuals to become outstanding photographers/artists, the field is loaded with bottom feeders. One word: paparazzi. Photography is evolving. Unfortunately I don’t see it evolving in a positive direction. Digital tech is only getting better. More unqualified people will get involved, less true professionals will get work and eventually the whole field will be amateur slug-fest.  Hopefully when that happens, I will be long gone from the profession working at Home Depot

Who Am I?


So, there it is. Your eye sees something that your mind recognizes as a potential subject. Thus starts the mechanical process of you mind giving commands to your hands, index finger and for that matter the rest of your body. This is how an image is born through the combined efforts of random events and the complete coordination of the mind, eye and body. The camera is just an instrument by which we can record these images. This is what I do for a living. This is my passion. This is why I get up in the morning. I have been involved with photography since 1969 when it became one of my hobbies. I have been a pro since 1977 so I have seen a lot of changes to my chosen profession. In 1977, you actually had to know something in order to be a pro photographer. Nowadays, all you need is a decent camera, a laptop and a few business cards. It troubles me to see individuals pretending to be pro photographers getting access to events formerly reserved for the pro. It troubles me that most people will pay big bucks for photos taken by amateurs and not care about the quality. The true professional photographer will care about the quality of his or her images. The amateur just wants to get it done and get his check. Despite all that, I continue take thousands of photos every year at numerous sporting and public relations events. This what I do and this is what I am good at. 

While I never refer to myself as a creative person, I feel that I am an excellent problem solver. If a customer presents me with an opportunity, I approach the problem like a photographic engineer. I also try to approach each job as if it was paying me $1000 per hour. 

A wise man once said that if you do something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. I won’t go that far. There are plenty of days when I just don’t feel like shooting another game. There are days, mostly Mondays, where I am looking at 2 or 3 thousand images to be edited. There stretches in which I will work 7 day 14 hour day weeks. Then there are the lean days. Usually June and July when there are no college/high school sports to shoot. Finding projects to keep you busy can get old fast. This is the life I have chosen. I can’t imagine doing anything else. 

I understand my place in the photographic landscape. I am one of about a million guys out there that shoot sports. I understand that it almost doesn’t matter how talented or creative you are. Professional photography is a political environment. I worked for Rutgers University Athletics for 15 years. I was full time for the last 5 of those years. It was during this time period that Rutgers decided to become more corporate which meant being more political. There were individuals there that were able to say and do whatever they wanted because they had the ear of certain important people. Despite my talents and numerous connections, my position at Rutgers could not be saved when certain individuals felt threatened by my talents. My situation now could not be better. The people I have had the pleasure to work with, know the value of talent. They also know how to say “please and thank you”. Now I am a member of several teams throughout the state of New Jersey. There is always room for more.

Client Frustration

 In the world of business, the first thing to be cut when there are budget cuts is always photography. Since COVID, budget cuts are now the ...