Destination Portrait Session - Jessica - Ireland - Dark Hedges, Dunluce Castle & Giants Causeway

Destination sessions are quickly becoming the most popular type of session that we offer. We travel all over the world to create amazing memories for our clients, particularly for senior portraits. Over the summer we had the opportunity to travel to Ireland and meet with Jessica to do a portrait session. Ireland is an amazing location for your portraits. The weather is always hit or miss as we had some days full of rain and others without a drop. We just roll with it and make the best of the situation.

On this particular day, the weather cooperated until we finished the shoot and the skies opened up. But at least we were able to finish and get some amazing portraits for Jessica. We visited some of the most iconic locations in Ireland, including the Cliffs of Moher, the Dark Hedges, the Giants Causeway and Dunluce Castle.

For Jessica’s portraits, we decided on Northern Ireland and some of its most visited locations. It just so happens that many of them are filming locations for the Game of Thrones. Amazing images AND seeing some filming locations for one of the most popular TV Series… Double Bonus!

Enjoy the portraits of Jessica and let us know if you would like to join us on one of our destination portrait sessions. These are perfect for engagement session, senior portraits or even post/pre wedding couple portraits. Create memories that will last a lifetime AND get amazing portraits for your home!

Savage Multiflex - The light stand that tops all others

Finding the perfect light stand is a challenge for any photographer. There a a gazillion options out there which makes it all the more difficult to find THE light stand. I have tried many of them in the 15years that I have been a photographer. While many of them worked and did what they were supposed to do, none of them did it perfectly. Some were small and flimsy. They worked great during a calm day, but as soon as the wind picked up, over they went. Others were large and sturdy, but became bulky to carry around. None of them did well on uneven ground like hills and stairs.

As many who follow our photography know, we travel all over the world to photograph our clients. I need a light stand that will travel well and wont require a golf bag case to fly with it. I need a stand that will hold up in windy locations. I need a stand that can be placed on uneven terrain and not fall over. I dont have the space to carry sandbags. I dont use an assistant. I need something that works and is easy to use by myself.

I had the opportunity to try out the newest stands from Savage. They are the multiflex stands ( In short, these stands are AMAZING. They are the best light stands I have ever used and they are the last light stands I will ever need. These things simply work.

I took these stands to Greece and Ireland (as well as several sessions I did locally). I have both the 6’ stand and the 10’ stand. To be honest, the 10’ stand is a little too big to take when I travel. I need something that fits in a standard checked bag, so I dont need to pay oversize bag fees, as those get expensive when going overseas. I wanted the 10’ stand to work, but its just a tad bit too big. However, the 6’ stand fits perfectly and at 5.5lbs, its not the lightest stand, but its light enough to give me plenty of weight left over (most flights limit bags to 50lbs before additional bag fees are charged).

While I was disappointed that I would be left with a stand 4’ shorter than what I wanted, I found that the 6’ stand was tall enough for most applications that I used it for. Most of the time, I use the stand in an elevated position in relation to my subject. Even with the 6’ limitation, I was able to get the light above the subject most of the time. The only time it became an “issue” was when the subject was elevated (on a wall, on a hill, etc) and i couldnt get the stand above them. But that is certainly not a deal breaker. In reality, you can get them a little bit taller than 6’ when you adjust the legs, but they are listed at the 6’ height.

Perhaps the most important feature of Savage Multiflex stand is the individually adjustable legs. Each leg can be adjusted to be able to be used in uneven terrain. There is a single leg that can have the angle adjusted as well. This gives a lot of flexibility on where you can use it. Other stands I have used have difficulty when it comes to uneven terrain. You have to carefully place them to keep them upright. There are some places those stands are useless (like areas with large rocks), as you cant get them to sit just right.

The Savage Multiflex stand solves that problem. Since each leg can be adjusted individually, it can be placed anywhere you can imagine. In Greece, I placed it on steps and on large rocks. In Ireland, I placed it on hillsides in high wind, on castle ruins and other places a regular light stand would be challenged. On local sessions I have placed it on the side of sand dunes, on walls, on football stands and many other difficult areas. In every single instance, I was able to keep the center column of the stand perfectly upright, even in strong winds.. as task that other stands couldnt handle.

The last benefit to the stands I want to talk about is their wind resistance. I have never had a stand that handles the wind as well as these stands do, especially with larger modifiers. Since the legs can be adjusted individually, the stands can be placed in such a way as to counter the wind. If the wind is blowing from the left, I can “lean” the stand into the wind. But more importantly, they have the ability to have a wide footprint. This allows the stand to have a wide base to keep it sturdy in windy conditions. Since this is adjustable, you can make the footprint more narrow for use inside during a wedding reception, sports team pictures, etc where you dont need a wide base.

Overall, these are the most diverse light stands that I have ever used and the last light stands that I will ever need. Below are some images/video of the stands as I put them through their paces.

Deanna and Stephen - Tampa Bay area wedding photography

What can we say about this couple.. They are both amazing people and we had a blast photographing their wedding. Once you get past Stephen’s sarcastic-ness (which added to the fun of the day), its smooth sailing. :)

Deanna and Stephen got at St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church in Spring Hill Florida. They had their reception at Black Diamond Ranch in Lecanto. Having photographed at Black Diamond several times, the challenge is to create wedding portraits that are unique to each client, while photographing areas that they want. Black Diamond has many gorgeous locations, but the most popular one is around the Quarry. Its a beautiful location.

We hope you enjoy their portraits as much as they did!!

Engagement Session Tips

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First of all, congratulations on your engagement! Its an exciting, and often stressful (planning), time leading up to your wedding day. This post is meant to help you check off one thing from your planning list… The Engagement Session.

Should we do an engagement session?

Yes… Absolutely. But why?

Engagement portraits are one of the things that are most neglected when it comes to planning for the wedding. Many people have busy schedules and trying to fit an engagement session into the chaos doesnt sound too exciting. Many people feel that they have plenty of portraits together and dont really need new ones taken. Many dont even know what to do with the portraits after they are taken, so dont really have a desire to do them. Some just do them out of “obligation” to do them. If you skip the engagement session, you are doing yourself a disservice. This is a very short period of your time together, take advantage of it and make the most of it.

The engagement session gives you a chance to work with your photographer before the wedding. That is a key to getting great wedding images. This will give you a chance to see how the photographer works, how they give direction, how they do posing, etc. Its important to get all the camera awkwardness out before the wedding day. Consider this a dry run. If there are angles or things you dont like, you can let the photographer know during this session, rather than letting them photograph the wedding and then telling them you dont like something. Its too late by then.

The session also gives you images to display throughout your home that will be different than wedding portraits. Its great to have diversity of the images displayed in your home. Its also a great way to document that part of your life for years down the road. Without the engagement session and with wedding portraits only, your family wont get a complete picture of who you are. Generally engagement portraits are more personality portraits in the sense it shows off things you like. For example, if you love the beach, your engagement portraits will likely be on the beach.

If you decide not to do these portraits, you are missing out on that experience. When was the last time you had portraits taken by a professional photographer? Most people havent had them done since high school.. and even fewer have had them with their now fiance. The engagement session gives you a chance to have an experience. These sessions consist of more than just showing up, snapping a few pictures, and going about your day. Most photographer provide a complete experience that you would be missing out on.

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Picking a Photographer

The first thing you want to do is find a photographer you love. Make sure you view the images on their websites and on social media. Dont be afraid to ask them to show you full sessions so you can see how they photograph an entire session. Almost all photographers can take 1 amazing portrait during a session, which is the image you see on the website, but can they be consistent throughout the entire session? Keep in mind that the person you hire for your engagement portraits is likely the same person that you will hire for your wedding, so be sure to look at their wedding images as well. Many photographers include engagement portraits with their wedding collections.

Picking a Location

The location is perhaps the most important part of the engagement session. There are so many location options out there, it often gets overwhelming to come up with one on your own. Talk with your photographer. Many times, they can help guide you to the perfection location.

But what makes a perfect location? Is it a beach? A city? Forests? Fields?.. Start with things you and your fiance like to do. Are you beach people? If not, then doing an engagement session on the beach makes little sense. Do you enjoy the outdoors? If so, then maybe a state park would be the ideal location. Do you like the water? Maybe a location with a lake or on a boat would be perfect. Do you like to travel? Think about going to another city/state/country for your portraits. Choose a location that helps tell your story of who you are as a couple.

One suggestion!! Avoid the wedding location. Why? Because you will have plenty of portraits from there on your wedding day. Try to find a location that is different than the wedding venue as it will give you images that are diverse to display throughout your home.

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Choosing Outfits

This is where its important to talk with your photographer. Tell them the vision you have in and they can offer outfit suggestions. Are you doing a single outfit or multiple outfits? Multiple outfits will provide you with different looks throughout the session and is a great idea if you are using the images in something like a guest book. Also, be mindful of the location. Choose outfits that make sense for the location(s) you choose.

Think About What You Want to Order

Most couples have no clue what they want from their engagement session, but think about it before you determine your location and outfit. This will help give the photographer and idea on your thoughts. If you want save the date cards/magnets/etc, then there are certain images that are photographed for that… If you are wanting a guest book, there would be at least 10-20 portraits that the photographer would put in there. Those are 10-20 different poses.. in different locations.. with different lighting.. that will need to be photographed. This helps the photographer plan the session. If you want a large portrait for the wall, the photographer needs to shoot for that. Generally speaking, a close up portrait doesnt look good as a 30x40 on a wall, whereas, they look great as an 8x10. So the photographer would need to photograph for that 30x40. Thats not to say they wont do that anyway, but giving the photographer an idea on what you are wanting to get out of the session, will help them plan your session accordingly.

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In closing, the engagement session should be a priority and not something left on the back burner while you plan your wedding. Enjoy that time that you have together before your wedding because it will fly by. And who doesnt love to dress up a bit? Take advantage of that and go out to dinner afterwards :D

April and Matt - Innisbrook Resort - Tampa Wedding Photographer

April and Matt got married in an outdoor ceremony at Innisbrook resort in Palm Harbor, Florida. This is the second wedding we had the opportunity to photograph at Innisbrook. It did not disappoint. There are tons of locations in the Tampa area that are great for wedding photographers, but Innisbrook provides a mix that isnt available at many locations. The golf course is beautiful and the banquet hall is huge.

April did an amazing job planning the decor. Her dress was stunning.. Matt cleaned up pretty nicely as well :) It was a pleasure and an honor to join them on their wedding day and photograph their wedding. Here are some of the images. Enjoy!

Senior Portrait Destination Session - Costa Rica

A few weeks ago, we headed to the jungles of Costa Rica for a week long adventure with some of our seniors to create some amazing senior portraits for them. If you have seen our work, you know that we love to offer these destination sessions for our high school senior clients. Its a great way to create an amazing experience for the seniors as well as create some amazing images for them. These trips are an experience of a lifetime. 

We landed in San Jose and drove to the west coast of Costa Rica and stayed around Playa Ocotal. We stayed there a few nights and photographed on the beach in the area. We then headed back towards San Jose and stayed at the base of the Arenal volcano for the remaining nights. Overall, it was an amazing trip and we created some great memories for our clients. 

This trip also gave us an opportunity to show how we use the Spider Holster when we travel. This belt is simply amazing. It allows us to carry our camera without a strap getting in the way. It also allows to free up our hands to move lights, fluff dresses and just interact with our clients, without a camera being in the way. We use the Spider Holster on every shoot and it makes our jobs 100x easier. Thank you Spider Holster for creating an amazing product for us to use.  You can check them out here! :)

You can check out some of our images from the trip and some of the behind the scenes images below. Enjoy!! 

To Sony or Not to Sony...

Over the past year or so, I have heard of several of my photographer friends talk about the Sony mirrorless camera offerings and how they were so much better than the major brands... Canon and Nikon. If you want my answer without reading further.. Yes, they are right. Sony knocked it out of the park and their offerings are phenomenal. If thats all you wanted to hear, no need to read further.. If you want the background, take a few moments to read below :)

For the majority of my career as a photographer, I have always gone by the saying that its not the gear that makes you a better photographer, its the person operating the camera. I have always strived to get better with each and every session. I still have a long way to go to get to where I want to be, but its always good to want to be better. And that saying has been true for the most part.

About 2 years ago, Nikon came out with the d750. I was shooting Canon at the time and had been happy with the products they produced... until I started seeing real world examples of what the d750 could do. The struggle with the type of photography that I do is the capabilities of the camera. Without getting too technical, I need to get as much information from a sensor as possible to create the images I want to create. This information is  in the highlights and shadows.. called dynamic range. The greater the dynamic range, the more detail you can get from the highlights AND shadows. 

At the time, Canon cameras didnt have as much dynamic range as the d750. I rented one to test it out and was amazed at what I was able to do with the images in post processing. It was mind boggling. I could bring up the shadows 3 stops or so before I started to see noise in them.. Canon files struggled with this and resulted in banding under the same conditions. It was eye opening how much more detail I could get out of the Nikon camera... so I decided to make a switch and sold all my Canon gear and bought all Nikon gear and never looked back. 

Now here we are with the Sony cameras.. It seems like Deja vu. Am I really going to make another switch? I needed to test out to see what all the talk was about. 

Rather than rent a body, I decided to buy one. I decided on Sony's newest.. the a7iii.  I figured if I didnt like it, I could resell it for close to what I paid for it since they were hard to find. Renting would set me back a couple of hundred dollars which I thought was pointless to waste on a test. I found a deal on Samyang lenses and bought those for the same reason as I bought the camera. 

So armed with the Sony a7iii and 3 Samyang prime lenses (14, 35 and 50). I set out to give it a test. I shot a few frames of a senior session with the Sony and was impressed with what I saw.. It was a bit clunky at first but I expected that as it was a new system. When I got the files into the computer, I was amazed at what I saw.. Every single image was in focus. I used the Eye Autofocus mode that Sony has and its freaking amazing. I have never had every image in focus with any camera body I have shot with until now.. Every single image.. Crazy. 

Impressed with the results, I did something that I wouldnt suggest most people do while testing.. I shot paying clients. I took a quick trip to the Atlanta area for a few senior sessions and a family session.. I shot only with the Sony. I did bring the Nikon gear in case I needed it, but it stayed in the bag the whole weekend. On the way up, I swung into a Best Buy to get a Sony 85 1.8 lens because I typically shoot seniors with a longer lens than a 50.

So here I was.. shooting a few senior sessions with the a7iii and the Sony 85 along with the Samyang prime lenses. I shot about 1000 frames that weekend and the Sony had zero issues. Focus was accurate and fast.. Dynamic range is slightly better than what I had with the Nikon cameras.. Lenses were sharp.. I was impressed. 

So impressed in fact that I took only sony gear with me to the ultimate test... a week in Costa Rica!! I picked up a 70-200 f4 to take with me (again from Best Buy) because I wasnt sure if I needed something longer than 85. Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it, right? I shot in Costa Rica for a week.. In high humidity.. in rain.. by waterfalls.. all over and the Sony hung in there and did what I expected it to do... and on a single battery charge. Impressive to say the least.

Since most of these reviews have some sort of Pro/Con list, here you go if you want to see what I think. 

1) Autofocus.. This thing is amazing. I have never used a camera that got as many images in focus than the Sonys. Their AF simply works.. every single time... and Eye AF is amazing. I never knew what I was missing. Now the camera will find the subjects eye in the frame and lock focus on it.. automatically.. no more moving focus points around the screen.. FREAKING AWESOME.. best of all, I notice I shoot less because I dont need "backup" images to ensure critical focus like I did with other systems.

2) What you see if what you get.. Its simple.. what you see on the screen or in the view finder is what the image will look like. Its nice to have a system that allows me to see what I am getting. It doesnt work as well with flash since the flash illuminates the subject, but its super helpful when setting ambient light settings when using flash. Now I can expose my skies how I want them and then add flash to light the subject.. Sony makes it super easy to see exactly what I will get

3) Size.. This thing is small.. Lenses are about the same size but the body is significantly smaller. I travel a lot so less weight and size is always welcomed. 

4) Custom button programming.. Other cameras had this to an extent, but Sony blows them away. Almost every button can be programmed for something you want it programmed for. If you have favorite settings, you can program a button to bring them up. Things like Autofocus modes, Eye AF, color styles, etc can be programmed. Pretty cool to be able to customize it how you want to work with how you shoot. 

5) Video.. Sony simply blows the other cameras away with their video shooting. Nikon did ok.. Canon was pretty good and the leader... but with Sony its a different beast. AF works flawlessly and tracks the subjects.. TONS of settings and shooting modes. I shoot wedding videos and can definitely see Sony making it easier for me. 

6) Electronic view finder - In bright light it makes reviewing images and previewing your shot A LOT easier.. The viewfinder shows the same thing that is on the LCD and makes it easy to see when in bright light. 


1) Menu System.. What the heck was Sony thinking? Everything is buried in menus.. It makes ZERO sense.. The menu system sucks.. Maybe its just me, but CAnon and Nikon had a pretty good menu system.. Sony's is like 80 pages long.. crazy. 

2) Size.. There is a saying that size matters... well that is true for photography as well. People respond to larger gear differently than they do to smaller gear. If I pull out a huge lens and camera.. I look like a photographer.. If I hold up a Sony camera and use the back LCD, I look like a noob and just another person with a camera. 

3) Weather sealing.. While in Costa Rica I was a bit concerned when it was raining. I took extra precautions to ensure that the camera was kept out of the rain because it isnt as weather sealed as other cameras I have used. 

4) No mirror.. This may seem odd to see this here because the mirror adds size and I mentioned size as a PRO above... but without the mirror, the sensor is the only thing you see when you change lenses. This means that dust can fall onto the senor much easier than traditional DSLRs where you see the mirror when you change lenses and the sensor is protected. I have to remind myself to be mindful of that when changing lenses. 

5) Price.. Holy Hell.. this stuff is crazy expensive. I typically buy my gear used to avoid the initial depreciation.. but its almost impossible to find a good deal on Sony gear.. Its all so expensive and 3rd party options aside from Sigma are not really available. Some lenses can utilize the adapter but may lose some functionality. 

Neither Pro nor Con

1) Shooting with the LCD.. Its weird.. I will admit that. Holding the camera in front of you and looking at the LCD while shooting takes getting use to. There is a viewfinder if you want to use that.  but its certainly different when you have shot with a traditional camera for 13 years. 

2) Image quality... I didnt really notice too much difference in the Sony files over the Nikon files, aside from focus and sharpness.. My images will still look similar in terms of color and all of that.. but man that autofocus. :)

So thats it.. I think its safe to say that I will be switching over to Sony in the near future.. The camera system simply works. Its easy to travel with and produces images that are on par or slightly better than what I was getting before. But that autofocus is what stands out to me. Its amazing and will make my workflow so much easier to manage. 

And since no post is complete without images.. Here are some I have recently shot with the Sony.. Enjoy!! 

Shannon | Charlotte Senior Pictures | Destination Portrait Session

Senior pictures are all about the experience. We strive to provide an amazing experience for each and every one of our senior clients. Part of that experience is providing the opportunity to travel for destination senior portrait sessions. 

We recently took Shannon to Charlotte for senior portrait destination session. Being located in Central Florida, we obviously dont have any mountains to photograph in. For her destination portrait session, Shannon wanted mountains in her background. We found a cheap flight to Charlotte, so we decided to do her senior pictures there as part of her destination portrait session. Let me just say that Charlotte is a beautiful city. We are definitely going back in the future. Shannon is a blast to photograph, so the combination of the two allowed us to produce great senior portraits for her.

Traveling for your senior portraits is a great way to get an unique session. We arent limited by the local area and we are able to create some amazing senior pictures for our clients. Not only does it allow for great portraits, it also provides our clients with an experience of a lifetime. Many have never traveled much, so this gives them the opportunity to do something they rarely get to do... and did I mention it allows from some AMAZING pictures. Below are some of the pictures from Shannon's senior portrait session in Charlotte. 

We are putting more emphasis on travel sessions for 2018. Contact us if you would like information on how you can join use for a portrait session experience of a lifetime.

Aubrey and Lindsey | Iceland Senior Portraits | Destination Session

Aubrey and Lindsey joined us on a recent trip to Iceland for their senior pictures. Destination portrait sessions are becoming a big thing in the photography industry. We began offering them about two years ago. They provide an amazing portrait experience that you cannot get with local sessions. Imagine the whirlwind of excitement of getting on a plane, landing in a place you have never been and traveling throughout the country having your portraits taken. It is certainly a blast and an unique experience.

Iceland provides an amazing portrait opportunity. Everywhere you turn is another great location. You can see why Iceland has become one of our favorite countries to visit with our clients. I am pretty sure its impossible to take a bad picture there. We will definitely be doing more trips to Iceland for portraits.

Enjoy some of our images from the trip

Let us know if you are interested in a destination session of your own.

Samantha and Brian | Wedding Pictures in Hawaii | Hawaii Wedding Photographer

We recently traveled to the Big Island in Hawaii to photograph Samantha and Brian's wedding around the Kona area. How can you say "no" to a wedding in Hawaii, especially one that involves a helicopter? This was a wedding photographer's dream come true.

We travel A LOT for our business. We have photographed destination sessions in Paris, Iceland, Stockholm, Aruba, Barbados, Italy, etc, but there is something about photographing a wedding in Hawaii that rises above the rest.

We have known Samantha since middle school. So we were excited when she asked use to be her photographers. As wedding photographers, we have the opportunity to photograph amazing clients each and every year, but we rarely get the opportunity to photograph a wedding for someone that we know very well on a personal level. It makes the entire process much easier. Wedding photography is so much easier when you know the clients personally, which is why we strive to build a relationship with each of our clients. 

Photographing a wedding in Hawaii is pretty easy to be honest. There are so many different spots to photograph that its a wedding photographer's dream. It is not very difficult to get an amazing portrait.. Add a helicopter (Blue Hawaiian) to the mix and you know the photographs will be AMAZING!! This is the kind of wedding that makes other photographers jealous :)

The day following their wedding at a private waterfall, we took a trip to Volcanoes National Park on the south side of the Island of Hawaii to photograph Samantha and Brian some more. We wanted to take advantage of the erupting volcano (Kīlauea), so we headed out to the lava fields to create some amazing portraits for Samantha and Brian. 

Check out our Hawaii wedding photography below :D

Taylor | Stockholm and Paris Senior Portraits | Destination Session

Destination senior portrait sessions are becoming our most popular senior portrait session options. These sessions provide an amazing opportunity to travel the world and do your senior portraits in a location that very few get to photograph in. They are truly unique senior sessions. How many people do you know that were photographed at the Eiffel Tower?

Taylor was part of the group that went us to Stockholm and Paris during Spring Break. We photographed in Old Town in Stockholm, then flew over to Paris for a few days to photograph in a few locations there. The trip was AMAZING. We are definitely going to plan another trip over there as part of our destination senior portrait options. 

Enjoy a few of the photos from Taylor's Stockholm and Paris senior portrait session! 

Aly | Barbados Senior Portraits | Destination Session

We love to provide our clients with an amazing experience. One of the ways that we have found to be best is with a destination senior portrait session. With these sessions, we are able to travel to locations we typically wouldnt photography, including locations out of the country, as is the case here.

We took Aly to Barbados for her senior destination session. Barbados is am amazing place to visit for senior portraits. There are a ton of beaches, some old city buildings and some mountainous areas that make for an amazing background. We flew into Bridgetown and rented a car to drive around the country. This allows us to stop at places we find that are interesting and away from the touristy areas. 

This destination shoot lasted about a day. We found several different beaches to photograph at. Each of the beaches offered a different look for Aly's portraits. Some were rocky, some were sandy, but each was unique. 

Here are some of the images from Aly's senior portrait destination shoot in Barbados. If you are interested in having an unique senior experience, contact us for information on our destination sessions. 

Numbers arent what they seem

I just got back from speaking at a photography conference in St Louis called Shutterfest. It is perhaps the best conference available for photographers as it includes a wide variety of topics, shooting opportunities, networking opportunities, trade show, etc. It is unique in that everything is included in one price. There is something for everyone. If you want to shoot, there are TONS of shooting opportunities. If you want to learn and take classes, there are tons of speakers and classes available. IF you want to network with others, opportunities to do so abound. Take a moment to check it out as they are starting to sell their 2018 tickets ( 

Now, something I have learned over the years in this business is that new photographers want to be successful, as do we all. They jump at opportunities to learn from industry leaders and photographers that they look up to. However, one thing I began to notice is that they are focused on numbers... just not the right numbers.

Let's make a comparison (remember this for later). There are three photographers. One averages $3000 per session while another averages $2000 and the third averages $1000. Who do you assume is the most successful?

The first thing most speakers do is get up there and tell the class what they average for sessions or how much they make in photography. I get why they do it. They want to show their class that they are successful at what they do. There is certainly nothing wrong with that. Afterall, as someone investing in a conference, you want to be taking classes put on by photographers that are successful. You dont want to hear from someone who is failing.

However, here is where the problem lies. Most photographers attending these events are relatively new. I dont remember the exact numbers, but I believe at Shutterfest it was in the neighborhood of 80% of the photographers there have been in business less than 5 years. That is A LOT of new photographers that are in the beginning stages of their careers. It just so happens that these first 5 years are the most important. Its the make or break years of their business. Most small businesses fail within 5 years, so its important that they stay on the path towards success, which brings them to these conferences. Education is certainly important and helps keep everyone focused towards their goals.

Sometimes, though, it can be harmful. For example, lets say a photographer is teaching a class and they say that they make $100k a year in profit (random number that is simple to use). That is certainly a lofty goal for many in that class and something that they are striving to make. They hear that number and feel a mix of emotions. 

On one hand, they are excited about the possibilities. Hearing someone else talk about their success makes them dream of the day where they have that success. They are hopeful and most importantly, motivated to hit those numbers. 

On the other hand, they are discouraged as they are no where near those numbers. They feel the weight of the pressure to succeed and hit those numbers, but they are not sure its possible or realistic. They know where they are in their business and its not where they want to be... But how far off are they in reality? That is purpose of this post.

You see, what that photographer may not realize is that they are closer than they think. Lets say they made $50k last year (again, a random number). So on the surface they are $50k off the mark. Thats a pretty big number on the surface, but lets dive into a bit and see.

What most speakers do not talk about is that there are a lot of things that go into being "successful". Goals, target sales numbers, what they consider to be doing "well" and so on all factor into business decisions. All of those things are different for every single person. Not only do we have those differences, but the biggest difference of all is the market that they are located in the the purchasing power of each dollar they make. Rarely are those things mentioned in any class, so we will mention them here.

Below are a few charts I gathered from They are basically demographics charts that are available via the census breau. The reason I used is that I can quickly search for cities by zipcode rather than overall searches of areas. This allows the numbers to be a bit more accurate. 

For example, I am located in Inverness Florida. Most data sites do not have this city as it is relatively small. Instead, they have Gainesville, Tampa and Orlando, all of which are within an hour and a half, but they are much larger than where I am, so the numbers will not be accurate. So by searching by zipcode, I am able to gather accurate numbers for my comparison. 

The charts below include comparisons of income and housing costs between my city and various other cities throughout the USA. The focus of this post is to look at the Average Household Incomes and the Average Home Sale Price. These are our two important indicators we will discuss below.

Now, looking at income, you will see Inverness Florida has an average income of $47,358. Culver City (Los Angeles) has an average income of $79,161. They make roughly $30k more in Culver City than they do in my hometown of Inverness, Florida. But that doesnt tell the whole story either. Lets look at housing. The average home price in Inverness is $68,000. The average home price in Culver City is $422,500. That is a HUGE difference.

Now lets look at the rest. You can see the differences between where I am located and some of the other cities around the US. Some are big, some are small. It will give you a mix of different areas so you can see some of the differences.

What does all this mean? Well its simple. Different areas make different amounts of money. Thats pretty much common sense, but what many dont think about is that each area also has a different cost of living. Sure, we know that on the surface, but how often do we think about it? We dont. We get caught up in numbers people are telling us and we dont think about the cost of living in the location that they service. We hear they are making $100k profit which is higher than the $50k profit they are making.. Then they get discouraged that there arent there yet.

But what if I told you the person making $100k profit is in Culver City and the person making $50k profit is in a city similar to Inverness, Florida? The person in a city like Inverness only needs and average of $68k to buy a house. The person in Culver City needs $422,500. Suddenly, that person making $50k isnt doing so bad now are they? Even if that speaker was making $200k per year in profit, the person making $50k isnt doing so bad. 

On the surface we hear that big number and are shocked. We are impressed that they are making that much. We get blinded by their "success". The reality is we may be closer to them then we think. We may not need to make $200k a year in the area we are in to have the same amount of "success" as they do.

Now, housing isnt the only cost we need to look at. We also have food, utilities, transportation, etc. These things make up the cost of living expenses. Cost of living differences can be huge. Lets take a look at a few more charts from


These charts show you what I would need to make in another city if I was making $100k in Inverness Florida (again, just a random number for simplicity). These charts show the cost of living differences between cities. If I were to move to Los Angeles, I would need to make $192,361 to live an equivalent life as I do in Inverness. In Houston, Texas its a bit closer at $118,403.

Remember that comparison I gave in the beginning with the 3 photographers averaging $3000, $2000 and $1000 respectively? What if I told you that photog 1 who averaged $3000 lived in NYC. Photog 2 lived in LA and Photog 3 lived in Inverness? On the surface, photog 1 is making $2000 more per session than photog 3 (3x more). Photog 2 is double photog 3. Yes, photog 1 is still making more than photog 3 once you factor in cost of living, but its no longer 3x more. Photog 2 is about equal to photog 3. On the surface, what looked like a HUGE difference, is no longer that big of a difference, if there is a difference at all.

What is the point in all of this? The point is to not focus on the "success" of one photographer and get discouraged that you are no where near their numbers. They live in a different market and have a variety of different factors to consider. Average income for their market, cost of living expenses, etc all factor into the prices that photographers need to charge. Not every photographer will be the same, but that doesnt mean you cant be as successful, even if your numbers are less. Focus on your business and creating the numbers that YOU need to hit in order to reach your success. Dont worry about the numbers others are hitting that may seem significantly higher than yours. Your numbers may not be as far off as you may think :D

Alicia | Las Vegas Senior Portraits | Destination Photographer

I recently had the opportunity to play the part of Las Vegas senior photographers with Alicia as we traveled to Las Vegas to do her senior portrait session. One thing I LOVE to do with our seniors is a destination portrait session. These sessions allow me to travel with our clients to a destination of their choice for their senior portraits. Senior photography is always changing. As a senior portrait photographer, I have to stay ahead of the trends to keep providing our senior portrait clients with images that are unique and different. Destination sessions allow us to do that.

We flew out from Orlando, Florida to Las Vegas for the day. We travel around the city stopping at various places to take some of her senior portraits. We ended the day at Nelson's Ghost Town. That is always my favorite place to photograph seniors when we go to Las Vegas. We dont get any locations that look like that here in Florida, so its nice to be able to take advantage of them when we travel. How many seniors can say they traveled and had their senior portrait session in Las Vegas. It also provided Alicia with an amazing senior portrait experience that she will remember forever. 

Here are a few of her senior portrait images from in and around Las Vegas. Contact us if you are interested in doing something different for your senior portraits and going on a destination trip with us. 

Jenna | Aruba Senior Portraits | Destination Senior Photographer

Throughout the year, we offer several opportunities for our seniors to travel the world for their senior portraits. We love being senior portrait photographers in Florida, but sometimes we want to provide the opportunity to get away and have an unique senior portrait experience. 

This year we created destination sessions for our studio where we fly to another location and do a portrait session there. These destination sessions provide our clients with amazing senior experiences, far better than what we can offer locally. These trips are something they will remember for a lifetime.

For Jenna's senior destination shoot, we went to Aruba. We stayed for 3 days and explored the island and what Aruba had to offer. As you can see below, her Aruba senior session was amazing. Not only did she get some amazing images, but she had an amazing experience as well. From shooting on the beach at Eagle Beach to going into the Quadirikiri Cave, Aruba had a ton of locations for amazing senior portraits. This is one destination we will surely visit again.

Check our Jenna's senior portraits from Aruba below!!

Sherry Senior Portrait Session - Puerto Rico and St Augustine

We met Sherry in San Juan, Puerto Rico to do her senior portraits over the summer. Puerto Rico is an amazing location for senior portraits. There are plenty of beautiful beaches as lots of color in the downtown areas. Destination sessions are one way to make sure that you get unique portraits. Sherry did her second part of her senior session in America's oldest city... St Augustine. Being located in Central Florida allows us access to several airports including Orlando, Tampa and Miami for easy travel to places across the world. Destination sessions allow you to have an amazing senior portrait experience. You are only a senior once!! 

Jamie and Dayne | Plantation Inn | Crystal River Photographer

Jamie and Dayne got married a few weeks ago at the Plantation Inn in Crystal River. We were blessed that they chose us to photograph their wedding. We had a blast! We had some nice weather and were able to capture some amazing images at sunset. Enjoy the images!!

Not all awards are created equal

Do you know an award winning photographer? Chances are you do. A LOT of photographers win awards and are quick to show them off on their websites and facebook pages. Winning an award is an amazing marketing opportunity for photographers. It shows that they know what they are doing. Afterall, if you are looking for a photographer and find one that is award winning, that stands out to you. You may think they are better than another photographer simply because they won an award.

But not so fast. What kind of award did they win? Who gave them the award? What are the merits of the judges? Is it really a legitimate photography award or one that they simply paid for?

An important aspect to consider when you see a photographer is "award winning" is where they award they won came from. Did it come from an industry recognized competition that is created based on certain standards of the photographic community? Was the award given by judges that are respected members of the photographic community that are trained in certain aspects of judging? Or was the award given by some website the photographer signed up for?

There are a million places that photographers can submit images, many of those places give out awards. These "awards" are generally based on the number of views an image gets or simply because someone on the "board" liked the image. Sites like viewbug and pixoto are sites that photographers can submit images to and get "judged". Many of these sites are free to signup and submit images to. The judging comes from other users. The majority of the images posted to the site win some type of award. Does that mean its a great image? No..

You also have photographers that win awards at the local fair. There may or may not be a fee to enter at the local fair, but chances are the judges that are viewing the images dont know what to look for. Not to mention that its a very small sample size of the community that enters images into the fair. Our local fair had one photographer enter for portraits and they subsequently won an award for the category. 

Then you have the sites that you have to pay to submit images to. Sites like WedAwards and Weddison are examples. Its about $40 to enter images into the competition. Supposedly, only a small percentage of the images are selected each month as award winners. Keep in mind that these sites operate to make money. If photographers paid $40 each month and never won anything, would they continue to pay $40 to enter subsequent contests? Now if a photographer pays, enters the contests and is selected as a "winner", guess what? They will enter again next month and more than likely, win another award. 

Lets take a look at two images as an example. Both of these won awards at Wedisson. I entered two contests, paid $40 for each contest, and magically won an award in both contests. Amazing right?

Now, both of those images are pretty good. The clients LOVED them, however, that doesnt mean they are worthy of an award. In fact, I entered the sunset image into a legitimate and respected photography competition and it scored a 76. A score between 70 and 79 is considered an average image. Scores of 80+ are worthy of a merit.

So how can an image that was judged by well known and respected photographers using the industry standard scoring, win an award in a contest when it was scored as "average" in the legitimate, respected competition? Easy, its not a legitimate award. It was given to me to keep me spending $40 per month. To test that theory, I entered the image on the right into a competition a few months later, and SURPRISE.. I won again.

Want to see what a legitimate award looks like? 

This image won first place in the fashion category at the photography conference I attended. It was judged by some of the top photographers in the country using the industry standard scoring method. 

So when you are browsing through websites or facebook pages and you see that they are an "award winning photographer", talk to them about the images and ask them what competition it was entered into. Some of the biggest legitimate photography competitions are WPPI, PPA, Shutterfest, World Photographic Cup and Society of Photographers (England).

Winning "awards" at the other sites are like being named the person with the best personality in your high school yearbook? Its a deceptive marketing tactic used to make you feel that they are making the right decision in hiring that photographer.

Most Photographers see a puddle, I see an opportunity

This image was created on a recent trip to New York City for one of our client's engagement sessions. We were walking through Central Park and came to an area that is popular with other photographers as it gives a skyline of the city in the background. This location has been photographed hundreds of times before. 

My goal as a wedding photographer is to create something unique for your wedding. It doesnt matter if you have a popular wedding venue where hundreds of people have gotten married or if you are in your backyard... I want to create something unique for you. 

Most photographers would have simply walked past the puddle and not think twice about it. I saw it as an opportunity to create an amazing image, one that is unique to them. Yes, its the spot that many others have photographed, but I challenge you to find another image like the one I took utilizing the puddle.

The truth is that any number of wedding photographers can provide you with good images... Images that will make you happy... Images that you will certainly love. However, my goal is to provide you with images that are different. Images that no one else has and the vision that I have allows me to do this.  I am able to take "ordinary" things like a puddle on a rock and make it into an image you will fall in love with. 

So who will you trust to tell your story?