Sunday, December 21, 2014

What Now?

2014, it is coming to an end. I just went through my blog I did January 1st of this year, and all I can do is smile. I have forgotten that my New Years resolution was to get more nature photographs...I think I can say this is the first resolution I kept (without knowing it) and successfully did it. Though, I did forget to buy that hunting blind.

As of this time, with only a few weeks left in 2014, I am still on schedule for where I wanted to be. At the start of this year, I didn't see myself in a gallery or purchasing a new camera. I think I may even be slightly ahead what I original thought I would be. I went back to school for a Bachelors degree in Business management, purchased a full frame camera (Sony A7 mirrorless), and half way through the year started to build an inventory! When I did my taxes this year, I noticed there was something with inventory and I laughed saying that wont happen for a few years. Surprise, it happened the same year. For the past few months, I have building inventory to sell at craft shows and to be able to fill a gallery when I am featured.

Starting this year out, I had no more than four prints in my hands. Yes, FOUR PRINTS! Guess how many I have now...go ahead....have the number? I have fifty-three...yes that is 53 prints on hand and ready to sell, with another 7ish at the Art Gallery on display (either on site or one of their local partner locations). Ranging from 23"x62" to as small as 4"x6", and I am pretty damn proud about that. Another thing, each of them are more than just a print. Majority of them are ready to hang, and at the very minimum ready to be framed (they are already matted and mounted). To get to this point, did require me to take a negative this year. Luckily, this was planned mid-year so I knew that just ordering a few prints here and there will make it easier than ordering all the prints towards the end of the year.

So what now? In 2015, I have hopes to get into the Kenosha Harbor Market the very least, it not more, to sell images out of my own booth. You know how weird that sounds to me? Selling photos out of my own seems to much like a dream I can't even picture myself doing it right now. I now have the inventory, and now it's time to figure out how to get a booth setup and display my images. I may even try to get into a judged contest with an image or two, we'll see about that. Also, in February, Epson releases their new 13" printer and I will be jumping on that. I will enter the "doing my own prints" area...well at least for prints that are 13" or less in width. Length...I can print up to 108"!!!!!!!! I can do my own panoramas in February. It is going to be a huge step for me to be able to take think of a photo I want to take, go out and take it, process the image, and then print it the way I want. Fully making the image my own from start to image.....excites me as much as selling my prints at a market!

horicon marsh art for sale

In case it hasn't come through in my words, I am beyond excited for what has happened and what is coming. I knew I would be just okay with doing my photography in a way to just pay for the equipment, but this is just beyond what I expected. As cheesy as this sounds, it is because of those who purchases my images am I able to do this.... Seriously, 100% of the money has been turned around and put right back into my photography. I haven't paid myself with any of that money, it all goes back into my photography to be able to bring you higher quality images and for me to be able to share what I see through my lens.

This will also be the first year that I have chosen an image in which a percentage of profits will be donated to a local VFW chapter. This seriously only came to me today, simply because of me seeing it on paper allowed me to realize how strong the image is. The image is of dog tags from a war memorial in Milwaukee, WI. (click the link to see it). Someone purchased that image and I realized that it was money I didn't feel comfortable receiving for it, as I didn't earn the right to use it that way. So I hope this turns out well in 2015 as well.  Just thinking about it, I may visit a few and see if they would like a print to hang up on their walls while I'm at it.

This late night rant went longer than I thought it was going to, and I apologies again for not posting any new images with it. I do have high hopes in 2015 for my photography...and can't wait to see how it turns out.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Investing More Into My Photography - Printing

One of my frustrations is not having 100% control of the final product with my photographs. I look at my photographs as a full process that I cannot complete, and the next step in my photography world is printing.

Currently, I need to send out for each and every print. I've tested many online sites spending money on proofs, different papers, and so on. One of the things that I dislike greatly is turn around time. For example, a new image is ready for printing. I don't like to make prints available prior to me seeing what they look like on at least at 13x19 inch print. So this means I must go online, submit my order, and wait about a week for an order. If it doesn't turn out right, I need to repeat it until it is correct.  My screen is calibrated, but not calibrated with the printers I send to (which is a different issue).

I've been looking into what I need to be able to do printing at home, professional grade, up to a 13" print. I have been mainly looking at the Epson and Canon line due to their history and quality of prints in the inkjet world. I first came across the Epson R2000 and R3000 series. After initial review, the R3000 series was the number one pick due to the higher quality black and white photos. Next, I compared prices of what I was doing for prints, what type of media can I print on, and ease of use.

I have found that the R3000 has created a huge buzz in the photography world.  Amazing prints in both color formats, the large amount of printing options (including canvas), and would allow me to save up to 82% on printing costs (costs just based off of ink costs)! This would overall reduce prices of my prints, turn around time, and I would then have 100% control of my prints that are 13x19" or less on just about all mediums. For example, an 8x10 shouldn't cost more than $1 to product, and it costs me double.

To determine if a printer was a good route to go, or to continue with what I am doing, I had to crunch some numbers and ask some questions. How many prints have I done in a year? How many more prints can I expect to do at a lower cost? Can I maintain the demand?

With what I have currently sold and I assume, I could increase sales by 33% with the lower prices, I would almost be able to pay off the printer in a three years time. However, I also thought of some of the projects I could do with local businesses and events now that I have this at home, and it may be possible to increase sales by just printing photos for people. So I put numbers together of what I would need to do in a year to make up the printer cost. Why a year? That is the warranty on the printer. I can 100% foresee no additional cost with the printer on repairs or maintenance during the warranty time, and therefore create a better model of paying off the printer. I also included extended warranty models as well.

Example Sale Requirements

If I was able to dish out about 1600 general prints (not my own) of 8x10 size in a year, I could pay for the printer. Looking at the 600 number may seem like a lot of prints, but that is only 133 prints a month, and that does not include selling my photographs on this printer. Also, another key is to see that 16x24 have even more profit. Here is one of the example tables I came up with, this is no way actual numbers that I sell images for at the current time.

So with this I would  need to sell seven 5x7, forty 8x10, three 11x14, and five 13x19 a month to pay this off in a year. I don't know about you, but those numbers seem very possible with just printing for people. These numbers do not include selling my photos, but only printing other folks prints for them. Once we include figures for my photos, it would be cut down that number even more. These numbers proved that I should purchase a printer for myself next year, with the additional feature of printing other people's prints. Even if I don't pay it off in a year, the rest of the cost of me being able to control a print from shutter release to drying the ink is worth it as well.

With the holiday season coming around, I thought it would be the perfect time to purchase one of these printers. I was right! $200 off of the price, which means I could print even less to pay for the printer. Half of the amount of 4x6s and only fifty 13x19's in a year!  However, I found out that Epson has announced a new printer that looks absolutely amazing, including my love for printing amazing panoramas and high-capacity ink cartridges. It is able to print on canvas and art boards!

I hope that helps you look into my world of what I can do to make my workflows more of my own, how to lower prices of my prints while maintaining quality, and showing you my next step in my journey of making my photography more than just a hobby!

If you have any questions or subjects you would like me to cover feel free to leave a comment or find me at one of the following sites:

  • Twitter - @SteveSFoto
  • Facebook -
  • New Online Gallery -

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

My Photograph Mistake - Photo Processing

Taking a photo is a challenging task; preparing your vision, finding your location, and being in the spot at the right time. One can have an eye of photography, but it the world of digital the way one processes an image can make or break your results.

I have been following many types of photographers to have a look into as many different subjects as possible. Many of the photographers do their own photo editing while there is a pretty good handful of those who don't. Honing into those who can't be where I found my errors. I was able to get the images I wanted, but I later found out that my edits were what people didn't like. One of my problems was the color in the images and that I was using black and white when it shouldn't be used.

Like many males in the world, I have a type of colorblindness that affects how I process my images. I have problems seeing similar colors. For example orange and red, blue and purple, green and blue, and so on. This feedback was hidden for some time as when I asked friends and family why they said they liked the images, but none of them would purchase one. Turns out they liked the idea of the photo, liked the composure, liked the lines, but didn't like how I processed the image.  I made a mistake. I put my nose up and told myself, "My art, my way."

For months, I continued to edit the photos my way and continued to have the same results. What made it click that I was doing wasn't appealing to others? It was a discussion at work with colorblindness and how something looked horrible to me while just about everyone else in the room liked it...exception was a few of the males in the room. That night I looked at my demographics on Facebook and noticed that around 80% of those following me are females! Immediately, I knew I had to change how I process my images if I wanted to sell them, but at the same time create the images I wanted to share.

As a result, I was able to find a product online that helped me with color, and that has been my game changer. I found the ColorChecker Passport from x-rite photo. This is a pocket size solution that allows you to have consistent, accurate colors.

What this product allows you to do is simple. By holding this product up (or standing it on something), it exposes at large array of color squares. These colors are common and are found in many images; skin tones, water blues, sky blues, grass greens, leaf greens, and so on. Opening up Lightroom, you are able to export this image into the plugin that will build this image a color profile. The software knows what the colors should look like and is able to make a customs color profile that you can apply to the images you took at the current lighting situation.

Starting to use this product, even with my colorblindness, I finally started to get positive feedback on my images; "Fantastic colors", "Wow, those colors are amazing", "How did you get these colors when you are colorblind". At that point, I knew that this investment was one of the best ones for me. I started to sell the images and quickly paid off the $100.

kenosha wisconsin canvas prints

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Last Quarter of the Year Reflection

This blog will actually cover a number of things as I haven't posted since July when I joined the art gallery, and many things have changed.

So I'll start were I left off, the gallery. Since I have started in the gallery I have made many connections within the art world in Kenosha. I've learned so much of the art culture, that I couldn't believe how much of it was hidden in plain site! Just about every weekend is a gallery showing, local music, or a farmers market happening. It's amazing how communal this city is, but at the same time how it is hidden in plane view that you may not see it when you come here. I sure did. Also, I sold my first print last month in the gallery! It was such a great feeling receiving my first check and felt I reached another milestone in my photography.

At my day job, I have been constantly asked to work on my manager skills, organization skills, and over all more education. Another thing I found out myself, is that I lacked general business knowledge. I didn't really know how to record things, organize things, or even what options are out there to grow my business. I simply knew how to sell things and do a general decent job at marketing. So I reviewed my options and found a perfect opportunity with my work to go back to school and get a Bachelor of Science in Business Management with a concentration in Entrepreneurial Studies. This is a mutual gain for my day job and for my own business, and I have already started and just over halfway through my first set of classes.

Another new thing is I purchased the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X 116 Pro DX Autofocus Lens for Nikon DX-Format DSLRs. Why? I was missing my landscape pictures. I was missing being able to take a photograph and not having to take 4 images to capture the subject (even though the benefit was a very high res image for printing large prints). I reviewed many online videos and read many blogs about this lens, and decided this is what I wanted. I have to say that this lens is incredible for the price. Here is a sample image I took with it.

f/4 1/400sec ISO 100 16mm
So what new am I doing in the photography business subject? Building an inventory. I started this year with 5 products (5 different prints). These were to be used in the gallery and when sold, I take the profit and purchase more images. So I have been paying what I need to on the bills for the new purchases to where I draw no interest, and _all_....I repeat all of my extra money is going to buy prints. One of the things I need to have is product as next year, in August, I will be one of the featured artists that month and have a room dedicated to show my pieces. I wouldn't fill a wall with my current images, so to make sure I have a strong presentation I have started to build an inventory. This will also allow me to do flee markets, or similar things, next year if I choose to do that as well. So over the next months I will only be purchasing prints on sale days where I purchase my prints from. Just a last week I ordered 5 metal prints, each at 30% off!  I also have to renew all of my permits with the state this year as they are due every two years. This year, I plan on taking a loss on my business as this year I only make money on prints I sold and not on photo sessions and events like I did last year. To date, I have turned 9 weddings and over 20 portrait sessions. Those numbers, I may have to purchase my portrait lens.....but that would be another $1,300 purchase. I was actually thinking of starting to print all of the 13" width prints and less at home, which the printer is $1,000. It would pay for itself in 3 years at the current rate of sales. So I have some decisions to make with that; do I return back to portraits or continue doing what I love.

Upcoming blog, that I actually started last month and never finished, is about photo processing. I also have another blog subject in my head as well, so hopefully In October I can at least give 2 blog posts.

milwaukee skyline canvas prints

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Finding the First Gallery

Since I have moved to Kenosha, I haven't really been able to find much of the art scene. However, a single search and Kenosha changed all together. Kenosha actually has a huge art community that is not only greatly adverse, but really close and connected. Events all over are always being held and hundreds, if not thousands, are gathering to be part of them.

One of the galleries in Kenosha as been established for 15 years, and it also happens to be a non-profit. Yes, a non-profit art gallery! This really blew my mind, and this one caught my interests big time. So to take what I learned, I decided to adventure to this gallery and see what the gallery was like. I decided I was going to go in and purchase a low dollar piece of art to see how the sales went, knowledge of the person that works there, and just get an over all feel of the gallery.

My first impression as I drove up to it, I was slightly put off. The neighborhood doesn't seem to be the art style, and it seemed to be very small. As I looked for a place to park, there wasn't even a parking space. I then remembered that this was a non-profit and that it wont have a budget for aesthetics that a for profit is able to do. Finding a parking spot on a side road, I then stepped into the gallery.

My second impression; Wow. The inside was so different than the world inside. The lighting was great, everything was well spaced and displayed, and was almost right away greeted by lady. I tried to hold my excitement back and was able to peel away from her just so I could walk around. She caught me lingering near some art longer than I was before and before I knew it we were talking. She was very sincere about the artwork, knew the artists as if they were relatives, and was able to explain the piece in a way the price no longer really mattered. That last part was the key. This was a $400 dollar piece that I really wanted, and I actually only wanted to spend up to $50, and if she was able to make me want to by that piece for $400 I was sure she would have no problem to do that for my work. Luckily, I didn't have enough money to buy it at that time, though, I have a feeling I will end up buying it in the future if it remains there for to long.

After talking, I finally broke into that I was a photographer looking to break into the gallery world and have also just recently moved to Kenosha. She was more than happy to discuss what is happening in Kenosha, how the gallery works, and gave me the grand tour. There was so much more than what you can see from the outside, it was incredible. She explained what the dues covered, what was expected, and what being a member to the gallery means. Before she was even through, I was eager to get home and fill out the application to have my prints reviewed to see if I would fit their gallery.

I then continued to walk through the gallery and see what type of art was there. There were about five or six other photographers that displayed their work there, however, none of them were close to my style. I also had a unique medium used for my prints; metal and glass. None of the other photographers used those and felt this gallery could benefit from my prints as much as I would benefit with joining them

Today, I dropped off my application and prints and now sit until I receive an e-mail on the decision. I have a feeling it will be approved as one of the artists there was willing by purchase the metal panorama print on the spot (the director said, "Wait until he's a member before you buy" and than laughed). Also, she was able to point me to a local framer which I now have doing a custom frame for the Milwaukee Skyline panorama. We are also working on a unique frame for the metal prints that are normally not framed!

milwaukee skyline art

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Into the Gallery

This will be a short and sweet blog, as I have just started the next adventure in my photography; Getting into an art gallery!

I now have 5 pieces at home that I feel are strong images and are ready to be put up into a gallery. After a bit of internet searching the last few days, I have found pretty much nothing beyond of:
  • Visit the gallery before you offer your images to be displayed in it
  • Learn how much the staff knows about art
  • Talk to other local artists on their experience with the gallery
Most of the articles found are all about setting up your online gallery, setting prices, and getting the word out. Last year I reached out to one local (Milwaukee area) retail shop that also sold photographs, and ended up getting the cold shoulder after one e-mail of them expressing they would be happy to sell my images. So now my photography concentration will be finding out how to get into a gallery and getting it set-up (and the special image requests). . 

I also found the following recommendation about the artwork when you submit it to be entered into a gallery:
  • Have the image framed or displayed the way they would be sold to the customer
  • Have your information and sale price already on the piece
    • Remember the gallery gets a cut out of the sale, so adjust the price to make sure the profit you desire is there
      • Don't sell a piece for $100 if the cost to make it is $80 (paper, time, frame, ect..) and the gallery's cut is 20%.  It only covers the cost to make it, leaving you with $0 for yourself and unable to move forward with additional product.
I will be keeping my blog updated as soon as I have learned something new, or have successfully put my photographs into a gallery.

Photograph taken on vacation while in South Carolina in early July 2014.

kenosha wisconsin art

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD

Photo Examples:

Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD

Today I received the ever elusive lens; Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD for Nikon. I have watched video after video, and read review after review and found that there is a lack of photo examples using this lens. I have created a photo album on my Flickr page dedicated to pictures taken with this lens and will be updated as images are posted. Here is the link: Link to Tamron 150-600mm Album on Flickr

First off, I want to mention that I used this on a Nikon D7000 and a cheap shoulder strap that I purchased from Best Buy (I can't find my Black Rapid strap). I decided to not go out with a tripod this time around and later will go through how that went. So on this trial run I had the following equipment:
  • Nikon D7000
  • Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD
  • Generic Shoulder Strap
Jumping right into the's pretty big. My previous lens was a 70-300mm lens and was easily a handheld lens, and jumping to this lens was a challenge on the field. To date this will be my biggest lens weighing in at 4.3 lbs (68.8 oz) with the tripod mount attached. It is 10.1 inches long and about 14 inches fully zoomed in at 600mm. What does this all mean? It's still be shot being just hand held and is a 4x zoom lens. 

With Lens Hood
This image shows you the scale of the lens with the lens hood on, next to a double AA battery. It extends about another 4 inches when you zoom out to 600mm, so the lens hood is a great thing to always use so you don't hit the glass when you zoom in. 
Lens Hood and Ring Mount Off

Due to the size I will be purchasing a bag for it to be stored in since it did not come with one. 

The other image shows the lens hood, and ring mount, removed. 

To prep for shooting wildlife, I set my camera to manual and set to auto ISO with a max setting of 800. This allows the camera to adjust the ISO without me needing to change the shutter or f stop on the fly, helping me to not miss the photograph. My default shutter speed was set to 1/1000 due to the crop sensor making the 600mm actually act as 900mm. I didn't want to play with the VC right away, so I disabled that on the lens right away. 

Right away, I could only feel a slight increase of weight on the shoulder with this lens, but not as bad as I thought I would. Again, it's only 4.3 lbs so it's not as heavy as the large 600mm f/4 lenses. Within seconds I was able to snap a shot. 

1/1000 sec at f / 6.3, ISO 800 @ 600mm cropped
 As you might be able to see, it is a bit soft but it still was able to get great detail. Look at the foot, you can see the water coming off of his foot. I had numerous other shots of song birds as I walked out to a stationary blind, but nothing to interesting. A few minutes in the blind an opportunity came.

1/1000 sec at f / 6.3, ISO 320 @ 600mm cropped

1/1000 sec at f / 6.3, ISO 200 @ 600mm cropped
There wasn't to much action near the small lake, it was also a heavy overcast, so I decided to call it the day. As I drove out of the park I looked at one of their ponds and noticed a lot of dead cattails with a few birds on them. So I hopped out and was able to get close enough for some great images. The first image came out of the camera very close to the way it is shown here, I only added some slight reverse vignette and of course color saturation (since I shoot in RAW).
1/1000 sec at f / 6.3, ISO 800 @ 600mm No cropping done

1/1000 sec at f / 6.3, ISO 800 @ 600mm No cropping done

 Summary, I really enjoyed this lens. The images were a bit soft all around but it was an overcast day and wasn't able to shoot at a great ISO, so after the slight cropping and noise reduction the images got even softer. The bottom two images are the only non-cropped images and as you can see they are pretty sharp on the bird. Also, my arm never got tired and there was a few times that I held up the lens for 1-2 minutes. There was also some times that I felt I could have gotten better images if I had VC and/or a tripod. So please continue to return to my blog or check out my Flickr page to see updates.

I also did get one image out of the day that I posted on my web gallery for sale. Check it out!