Before and After

Those Pesky Limbs

I’m sure you have heard the cliche, “the devil is in the details.” That is certainly true in photography.  Those pesky limbs, or evil tree branches that pop up out of nowhere in our photos.  What can we do?  Often we resort to Photoshop, Lightroom or some other form of photo editing software to fix our mistake. As a novice photographer we might just leave the photo as shot, or not even see the offense at all.  As a pro, semi-pro or serious hobbiest, this mistake mortifies us because it shouldn’t have happened in the first place.

The fingers appear

click to enlarge

Take, for example, this photo.  The couple you see is one of two couples in the shot. I cropped out the other couple for illustration purposes. It looks nice enough until you see that alien hand creeping up around the woman’s neck.  Fingers coming out of nowhere.

It looks incredibly unnatural since his arm seems to be laying against his body in a downward positions, yet these fingers appear. CREEPY!!!

In this example, I edited out his fingers but in an actual shoot I would scan my scene for things like this; anything that might be growing out of the heads, like a tree limb, light pole, or. . . These sort of things are pretty easy to spot but, when shooting, you have to keep your eyes out for missing or hidden arms, hands or legs.

If you’re subject places one arm behind their back, in the photograph, it will look really strange.  Granted, most people will assume the other arm is there but it still doesn’t look right, nor professional.  It’s far easier to fix things like this before you shoot versus spending time in Photoshop trying to fix your mistake.

Be aware of your subjects, their surrounds and their pesky limbs.


For more information about private/group photography lessonsContact Joe Randeen

On mothers, cancer and zombie photographers

This morning I read a wonderful article by photographer Olivier Duong. Please take a read, it will inspire you.

Plato said “The unexamined life is not worth living” and it’s a quote that is pretty deep. It’s the reason that you do something, the “Why” of things that separate living people from zombies.

Your purpose in photography……What are you trying to do with your images?

If you don’t have a reason for your photography, you won’t fight for it, because deep down you probably don’t think it’s worth a damn. [read Inspired Eye]

Composition is King

Despite the fact that this article is about composition within film, there are lessons to be learned here about storytelling in still photography.  You’re photographs can go from good to excellent with dramatic composition.

The subtle, well-composed frames of Ida prove that composition is amongst the most powerful visual storytelling tools at our disposal.

In recent years, the Oscar category for Best Cinematography has been dominated largely by flashy VFX-heavy films. Many of these films are also heavy on camera movement and incredibly complex lighting schemes. This year, somewhat surprisingly if I’m being honest, the Academy’s cinematography nominations trended back towards traditionally shot films like The Grand Budapest Hotel and Mr. Turner (plus another nomination for Roger Deakins).

However, a fantastic Polish drama called Ida, shot in stunning high-contrast black and white in a 1.33 aspect ratio by Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski, is perhaps the most surprising choice of all, and it’s a choice from which we can learn a great deal about just how important composition can be to the image creation process. [read No Film School]

Lines of Cars and Lights

I photograph a bit of everything.  I just plain LOVE photography.  There are very few subjects that don’t interest me in some way or another.  Like cars. Recently I took some shots at an annual car show.  I love the lines of cars and when you mix that with the reflections of lights you get all kinds for interesting forms.  Here are three examples.


This Jaguar is just plain gorgeous. I was shooting with a 50mm so getting the entire car in the frame was tough and probably wouldn’t have been as interesting.  The car was roped off but one of the guys on floor was nice enough to let me into the inner sanctum so I wouldn’t have to deal with the 100′s of people surrounding her.


I liked the symmetry of the car with the asymmetrical reflection of the light hitting the window.  The headlights, for me, are like eyes to her soul. In this case, they were dark and mysterious.

Aston Martin

There is so much symmetry here, even with the light around her emblem. The bonnet is strong and makes a statement.

National Geographics Vintage Collection Archivist – Bill Bonner

If photography is important to you, then check out this mini documentary.

Bill Bonner presides over eight million images as the longtime keeper of National Geographic’s vintage collection. He’s a keeper not only of photographs, but memories—and he treats each like it’s the greatest treasure in the world.

Read more about Bill Bonner and his work:

The VALUE in photography

These are not my words as I’m re-posting this from Two Blooms Photography, but they are my stance, my beliefs if you will.  I don’t think it is the intention of Two Blooms Photography, nor mine, to point a figure at or chastise anyone.  Rather, as professional photographers we have done a poor job of educating out clients. So, here you go – appreciate the value of photography.

- Joe Randeen | 3 Penguins Photography


I can’t tell you how many times…

I have gotten a phone call, email, or Facebook message from someone saying how much they love my work and want to book a session with me. I then proceed to give them all of the information and pricing, and there’s a moment of silence.


I have experienced a lot of sticker shock over the past year from many people and I completely understand why. At first glance, my pricing might seem a little alarming. I mean, you have a nice DSLR, right? Or know someone who has one that could do the same work for you for free? Yes, and a BIG. FAT. NO.


(can you tell the difference? Same kid….same photographer…both taken with a “nice camera”….2.5 years apart. There IS a difference between the relative with the camera and an experienced professional)

When you hire a professional photographer, you aren’t just getting pretty pictures.

You are receiving a customized session with professional (and dare I say EXPENSIVE) equipment and props. Professionals also have to invest in computers and editing software to make the photos look, well, professional. But my point today is NOT about how much the photographer has to invest in their business, but as the client who chooses to invest in custom photography.

Custom photography is not a necessity, it’s a LUXURY.

Just like that $5 latte you get before work every morning. Or that $900 flat screen TV you just got for Christmas. Or those $100 skinny jeans that you can’t imagine living without. I could go on all day about the luxuries we indulge ourselves in everyday.

But when it comes to a $350 photography session…GASP….you suddenly cannot breathe.

I don’t blame you; I honestly don’t. When everyone has an uncle Bob to take their picture for free (or right next to it) or a Walmart/Picture People/Portrait Innovations, then the $350 might seem a little steep.

But, if you truly admire good photography, then treat it as a luxury.

Luxuries are not an everyday occurrence. Luxuries may only come but once a year (or every 5 years, and that’s okay!). But if you treat it as a luxury, you will value it MORE.

If you are one that really values photography and wants so badly to have precious memories of your loved ones created, then I challenge you to make a fund.

Instead of that $5 latte, why not put that into a jar to invest towards your photography session? Maybe you can afford to skip that pedicure you had scheduled for this month and put that into the jar too. Just like saving and planning for any luxury, photography isn’t any different.

I know that custom photography isn’t for everyone and I respect that. But if you can see good photography for what it’s worth, then uncle Bob’s photos might not be enough for you.

I mean, the proof is in the pudding…
What can you sacrifice a little to put towards a photo session?

Timelapse video – From The 23rd

Screen shot 2013-11-15 at 11.53.59 AMHere is a timelapse video created by Photographer Joe Nafis, over the course of 2 years (that’s 24 months in baby time).  Shot from his Shanghai 23rd floor apartment it captures the city and it’s life.


If you’re interested in timelapse photography here are some tips from PictureCorrect.





How to Save Big Money by Not Hiring a Professional Wedding Photographer


What if I told that you could get wedding photos at a fraction of the cost that professionals will charge you, would you be interested in that? I bet you would because there are a heck of a lot of people out there that think wedding photographers are way too expensive, charging you thousands of dollars just for a few pictures.

Now, I’m not proposing that you have your guest snap shots with their iPhones. I’m also not going to propose that you wear a hat with a GoPro attached to it. With my plan, you will use the same equipment, the same software and the same techniques that the pros use to get you those super fancy wedding photos you see people posting on Facebook and Pinterest.

My plan will show you how to do everything the pros do so that you can save your precious money and spend it on something more valuable like his and her diamond-encrusted wedding cake toppers. [read]

How photographers charge for their services and prints

“How in the world can you charge $40+ for an 8×10 if it costs me less than $2 to print at “x” store?” Photographers hear this statement more often than you may think.

The digital revolution has brought about amazing flexibility and ability to control various factors during the image taking and making process. The ability to shot and delete and only keep the ‘best’ pictures is really nice. Plus, the auto settings on a lot of these digital cameras do a ‘pretty good’, not GREAT, job of setting the proper exposure. In addition, we all know that you can go to the local Walgreen’s and pay a $1.99 for a print – as a client you may wonder why you may pay upwards of $40, $70, $90, or more, for a custom photography print.

The truth is, much of the cost of a photograph comes down to the EXPERTISE (see below) of the photographer, their time, equipment costs, artistic vision, the HIGH quality of a professional lab (prints the photographs) and the usual costs of running a legitimate business.

The cost of TIME:

Here is an example of a time it takes for a typical session:
• Booking time: 30-60 minutes (client contact time + paperwork)
• Pre-session prep time (30-60 minutes, includes equipment checks + vehicle checks)
• 30 minutes to 2 hours travel time to session (L.A. traffic)
• 15-30 minutes prep time at location
• 90 minutes -2 hours with client photographing subject
• 30-120 minutes travel time from session
• 30-45 minutes uploading time from digital cards from camera to computer
• 30-45 minutes time spent backing up the original images
• 3 -15 hours editing time to present you with a diverse gallery of edited images
• 1 hour prep time getting ready for ordering
• 2-3 hours time with client for ordering images
• 1 hour sorting through and checking order
• 30-60 minutes prep time for delivery
• 30-60 minutes getting order shipped

The time range for a session can range from just under 13 hours to 20, 30 hours. When the photographer charges $150-$300 for the photo shoot (aka SESSION FEE) you are not just paying for the 90 minutes of session time, you are paying the photographer for TOTAL amount of hours complete time for YOUR session.

The COSTS of Maintaining a Custom Photography Business:

Regarding equipment costs, a good quality professional camera with a selection of high quality lenses, digital storage mediums and computer set up can run from $10,000-$30,000 costs dependent on the photographer. Even though you can purchase a really good quality DSLR for about $2100 there are still other costs related to photography. A good lens for portrait photography can run from $900 to $2500. A dependable computer system with software loaded for business and creative usage can run $2500 to $8000 dependent on the photographer.

Then lab costs for specialty products are significant. A good photographer knows their professional lab is an integral part of their success. These labs often cost more and offer a range of products that allows the photographer to continually offer new, innovative products and high quality products for the discerning client.

Discussion on other costs of running a photography business could take awhile so we’ll skip many of the intricate details. An overview: the costs of running the business, taxes, studio rental/mortgage if the photographer has ownership of a dedicated studio, vehicle costs, and the costs of advertising/marketing.


Often times clients will mention to their photographer that X studio in the mall/department store only charges $19.99 for an 8×10 “sheet” or they may mention other things related to discount photography chains. The fact is those discount chains make their money on volume, not on customized 1:1 service.

In February 2007 a company who has leased photography retail space in a rather well known discount retailer closed down 500 of their portrait studios across the nation. The reason it happened is simple, you cannot make money on 99¢ “professional” prints if you do not sell enough of them. It’s interesting to note – those same studios that offer the “loss leader” packages often charge much, much more for their a la carte pricing vs. many custom photographers (as high as $40-50 for an 8×10).

The whole reason the big department stores began offering portrait services in the first place was to get you, the savvy consumer, in through their door so that you could spend more money with them in other departments. Your “PORTRAITS” are considered the “loss leader”. Your portraits that are meant to symbolize a once-in-a-lifetime stage in your family or child’s life are part of what a store considers a way to get you in their door to spend more money on goods that you might not really want or need.

Finally, keep in mind that when you go to a chain studio, as a consumer, you don’t have the benefit of 1:1 attention from a professional photographer who is able to capture those special, candid moments in a park, at your home, where you, your family, your child are allowed to explore, play and be. Nor do you get the experience that many custom photographers is known for, as well – the lovely captures of natural expressions. Instead, you simply get bare bones, “SAY CHEESE” experience.


There is an old story about a ship that cost the company millions of dollars to build. One day, something went wrong in the engine room and the ship was sent to dry-dock. They called various “experts” who spent weeks trying to fix the issue to no avail and at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars. Finally an older gentleman was called in who brought in his small tool bag and a hammer. He set about pinging on various parts of the vast engine with his hammer, finally settling on one area. He spent a few minutes pinging in that area took out a few tools and fixed whatever what was wrong. After a few moments the man straightened up, looked at the captain and instructed him to “start her up.” The captain disbelievingly went to get the engines started while the man sat in the engine room listening as the engine roared to life. The man tipped his hat to the staff, who sat dumbfounded because they had seen all the experts come on board and been able to fix the problem. This man did it in a few minutes, with a few pings of his hammer!

A few days passed and the man sent the shipping company a bill for $10,000. The accounting department contacted him immediately. Rumor had it that it took this man only “a few minutes” to fix the ship. When questioned about why his bill was $10,000 – if he accidentally added an extra zero on the bill, the man confidently responded: “In fact the time was worth the $1,000. The other $9,000 was for the years of experience and the ability to discern the issue as quickly as possible for the company.”

So it is with professional, experienced photographers. A photographer’s expertise comes at a cost. The years invested in education, photographing and the artistic ability to capture the ‘right’ moment is a real factor that comes into play when considering price.

A great number of photographers go a very long time from the time that they purchase their first good camera to making money. Many photographers, when first starting out, rush in thinking that the business will be profitable in no time. These photographers often undervalue what they. They have the realization that they do not have experience or expertise, that it’s much more than pushing the shutter button. Many times these casual “professionals” neglect to factor in the cost of business, the cost of equipment, software, back ups, etc.

When you hire a photographer of sound reputation, you are hiring an expert, one that knows that they must always reinvest in their business to create the reputation of being top notch.

I hope this lengthy article helps shed some light on WHY a professional photographer is a better choice for your family’s memories. The photographs that are produced as a result of the professionalism and dedication that the photographer has to their craft will be cherished for a lifetime and beyond. Great thought and consideration should be placed into hiring who is right for your family’s most precious investment.


This article was inspired, copied from Professional Child Photographer via Caught On Film Photography.