Food Photographs, the old Aspect Ratio and Your Summertime Family Reunion Photographs

May 5th, 2014

I've been working on some food shots for one of my calendar clients. With the surging interest in all things food, the company recently added several food titles to their line of calendars. After checking out the food portfolio on my website, my editor at the company was very excited to see what I would cook up for them. (sorry, I just couldn't resist)

You may be wondering what that has to do with family photographs and aspect ratio, whatever that is right? Aspect ratio is the width of an image verses the height. Cameras, computer monitors, movies.. all have specific ratios. My Nikon, like film era 35mm cameras, has a 3:2 aspect ratio. What that means in the real world is that if I want to print something I shot as a 4" x 6", it will work beautifully — everything I included in my composition will be included in the print. If though I want to make a standard 8" x 10" print, a good slice of my image will get cropped off on the long edge. The only way I can get an 8" x "something close to 10" is to go "full frame", ie have an 8" x 12" print made or to plan ahead and shoot leaving extra room on the long side that I know will get cropped off. See where this leads for your family reunion shots? If you want to make 8" x 10" prints for all of your relatives that will work with an industry standard size frame, you better shoot leaving plenty of room on the sides or you'll be cropping off Uncle Fred who was standing on the end!

For my client, their calendar formats are square (even worse than the 8" x 10" scenario). As I set up my props and food that was a huge consideration. For these shoots, I was working tethered to my laptop with each image immediately opening into Adobe Lightroom's "Development" panel. With one click it allows me to see what my file will look like with a square 1:1 crop. If I'm not 100% pleased, then I can go back and tweak the composition until I know my client will be.

Below are a few of the photographs from the shoot. For the last image, I've included the "what you see is what you get" 3:2 aspect ratio and then the cropped 1:1 version my client needs. BIG difference. By the way, calendar companies work 1 to 2 years out. These images are for some of their 2016 titles.

Kitchen In The KitchenYummy cheesecake          


Herbs Kitchen In the KitchenMulling spices for holiday gifting.


Pasta1_053sxPenne pasta with tomatoes.



Kitchen In the KitchenOlives marinating in olive oil and spices. The square crop.


Kitchen In the KitchenThe same image as above before cropping square.



Tips on Photographing Fireworks

June 30th, 2013

July 4th fireworks over Marblehead Harbor in Marblehead, Ma.

Fireworks in the harbor in Marblehead, Ma.


My favorite locations for photographing and viewing fireworks have always been by the water, preferably with some town/cityscape as a backdrop. I love the colored reflection on the water's surface and the added interest of glow lightly illuminating nearby boats and buildings. If you are thinking about doing some fireworks photography this year, I have some suggestions for you. 

First, what to bring: camera, tripod, cable release, bug spray if that's an issue where you live, and a small flashlight. Trust me, while you're shooting and when you're packing up to leave, that little light can come in very handy.

Second, where and when to go: Scope it all out ahead of time. Nothing is worse than arriving at your destination on July 4th and finding out that this place lights them on July 3rd. (yes, this happened to me, but only once and I learned my lesson!) Arrive early and pick out your spot. If you are at a water location, find out where the pyro barge will be and decide what else you want in your compositions. Look for a spot in front of and away from other people as much as is possible.

Third, how to shoot: Attach your cable release to your camera and pop it on to your tripod.  For all who shoot in all auto mode, sorry but only manual mode works well for fireworks. Set your focus to infinity and keep the focus on manual.  If your lens has built in image stabilization, turn that feature off. You want a low ISO to cut down on noise. I recommend  ISO 100 and I definitely wouldn't go any higher than 200. Instead of selecting a shutter speed, set your camera to B for bulb. This keeps the shutter open until you decide to close it allowing you to "burn in" the firework trails and other wanted ambient light. You will be using your cable release to trigger the shutter, decreasing the likelihood of any unwanted movement to your camera. I start off with my aperture at F8 and keep the shutter open for around 4 seconds. I check out what I'm getting and make any adjustments that I want or need  to make either by keeping the shutter open longer or shorter or opening up or closing down my aperture. 

One last "trick": I also bring with me a small piece of black cardboard. Every fireworks show that I've been to starts off with relatively long pauses between bursts and builds up to the grand finale where lots of fireworks go off one right after the other. The finale is amazing, but at a certain point there can be too much smoke in the sky. To capture multiple bursts in one image at the beginning of the show, I lock my cable release on open, get my 4 or so seconds in when I hear that first whoosh as they light one off, then carefully, so I don't bump the camera, place my black card in front of the lens and wait until I hear the next whoosh and pull the card away. How many times do I do this? As many as I want.

Happy 4th everyone.






The three above taken in Boston, Ma.

Welcome to my photography blog

December 22nd, 2011

Welcome to the launch of my redesigned and expanded website, which now includes my brand new blog. Thank you to my colleagues and friends for all their valuable comments, many of which are reflected in the new design, and to my web designer, who steered me through the process.


And now, down to business—your business. No matter what business you are in, a website that shows your product off in the very best light is critical to your marketing. More than likely your website is your potential client's first stop when he or she is choosing an architect, a builder, an interior designer, vacation accommodations, a restaurant…. Great photography on your website can clinch that sale, poor photography can make a good product look bad. There's too much competition out there to have mediocre, unprofessional photography in any of your marketing, be it electronic or print.


Let's take the hospitality industry as an example. Here's the scenario: your potential customers are planning a February vacation at a ski resort. They've picked out the location and now they are looking for a place to stay. They google "inns, b & b's, resorts, Jackson Hole, WY, Stowe, VT," or wherever, and click on a link for a website that features accommodations in that locale. A list pops up with small photographs, a brief description of each place, and a link to their individual websites. Out of the places that pop up on page one, only a few have a photograph showing that inn or resort in the winter—the others all have pictures shot in the summer. Your potential clients make a mental note of those welcoming "winter" places first, picking out a small group that all look good and are in their price range.


They go to one of your competitor's websites first, probably the one with that inviting winter shot. Wow! The first thing they see is the opening montage of gorgeous photographs. There is a large, close-up shot looking across a beautiful comforter on a sleigh bed to a window seat with a view of snow covered mountains, an evening shot of the inn taken from the entry gates, which are decorated with garlands wrapped with strings of holiday lights and then a tight shot of an elegantly set table in a dining room that is softly lit.


Next, these future guests click on the individual room pages and like what they see there as well. There are pictures of cozy, smaller rooms, uncluttered and inviting and larger beautifully appointed suites. They glimpse a soaking tub surrounded by glowing candles in the adjoining bath. Clicking on the Dining button, they see a photograph of two places set for a breakfast of waffles with fresh fruit, orange juice, and coffee. It looks yummy. There are even photographs of guests cross country skiing and others with guests enjoying the inn in other seasons. This place is really looking good for their winter holiday and maybe a summer one too. After this impressive photo tour, your potential clients are considering springing for one of the more expensive rooms at this inn.


Now they go to your website for a comparison. You have been in your competitor's inn and you know that you two offer the same amenities, your rooms and prices are comparable, you have a great chef (maybe it's you!), and you have better views from many of your rooms. You hired a company this past year to revamp your website, but you skimped on the photography. On your home page, your potential clients find one small opening shot that shows your place in the summer. They click on the Rooms page and see all wide-angle photos with distorted perspectives and a peculiar yellow color to them. In a few, the view through the windows is visible, but the rooms look very dark, and your potential guests can't make out much of the furniture. In others photos, no view is visible through the windows and the windows and all of the lamps look glaringly bright, but the room details are visible…all of them: including the electrical cords, outlets, trash cans, the old style television, the a.c. in the window, the alarm clock, the telephone. Those things remind your potential guests of deadlines and the mundane, instead of a relaxing vacation. In place of a roaring fire in the dining room fireplace, the potential guests see just a flicker and the breakfast in your one closeup shot doesn't look at all appetizing. The wonderful ambience and intimacy of your place is totally lacking in the photography. No matter how great your website features are, it’s the photographs that will draw in your guests and yours are not. Your inn looks ho-hum at best and not worth the money. You do not get the booking. So what is wrong and how can your marketing photographs get your potential clients to actually sign your guest register?


Great photography is about composition, lighting, styling, equipment, digital post production and most importantly a photographer who knows how to use all of them for the subject at hand. Architectural and food photography is very specialized and not all photographers are trained. Want those close up, magazine style shots of the cookies you serve at afternoon tea? I'll shoot those with my Nikon 105 macro lens so I can get close to my subject and have them almost fill the frame. I'll style the scene checking the placement of plate, cookies, napkin, glass… so it looks perfect for the camera's eye and the resulting photograph. I'll adjust my depth of field to bring the cookies into sharp focus, but pleasantly blur the background. My final photograph may look like it was illuminated with just soft, natural light, but I've actually set up in your dining room, a strobe light fitted with a grid set low and on one side and bounced in a bit of fill from a small reflector on the other. That low directional lighting will illuminate and bring out all of the delicious detail, texture and depth in the cookies and the plating. In each room, I'll find the most intriguing angles, remove the extraneous, supplement and enhance the natural light with my lighting, style and prop. I'll use a variety of camera lenses for varied and appealing effect. And if you want to check in during the shoot, you can see it all on my 17" Mac laptop as I go.


In coming posts, I'll talk more about my techniques and walk you through some new and recent projects. Please be in touch…..





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