Coyle in the Community: The Auxiliary’s 11th Annual Bull & Oyster Roast

Giving back to the community is part of the core philosophy of Coyle Studios. From donating our photography services to fundraising for the Maryland Melanoma Center to supporting our colleagues in their philanthropic efforts, we try to do everything we can to support our community and the causes close to our hearts.

Last month, Mary Lou was chairperson of the MedStar Franklin Square Auxiliary’s 11th Annual Bull & Oyster Roast benefiting the Franklin Square NICU. With $115,000 shy of their $1 million dollar pledge, Mary Lou and her committee not only wanted to raise funds, but create a fun event for the hospital.

It was a huge challenge. In an environment where people are always giving, how can an event stand out from others to be fun and rewarding?

“Our committee’s goal was to put the ‘fun’ back in fundraising,” said Mary Lou. “We wanted to create a good time, not just continually pester people for money.’

This year, Richard Sher added his flair by being emcee for the evening. The theme was “Denim and Diamonds,” and Pandora donated a number of items for a jewelry raffle. The silent auction, department donated baskets, gambling tables, and booze cupcakes were all hits.


The most excitement came from the lip sync battle. Teams of MedStar employees battled for the top trophy (donated by Crown Trophy Baltimore) and bragging rights. Shawn Celio and family won first place with a dynamic musical medley.


The event had a special unveiling – the 2018 Men of the Square calendar. Coyle donated their services and photographed twelve employees that are committed to Franklin Square. Each man had a “GQ Style” shot, a fun month-themed outtake, and a quote about why they are dedicated to Franklin Square. The result was a sophisticated calendar – and hilarious outtake reel – that will have meaning all year.


Over 450 people attended this year’s Bull & Oyster Roast. The event netted over $26,000 for the NICU with donations still on their way. Corporate sponsorship was at an all-time high. Over $15,000 was donated by Rosedale Federal, Hord Coplan Macht, Vision Technologies, Genesis Healthcare, Naden Lean, Whiting Turner, Towne Parke, Mary Kraft, and Seasons Hopsice.

The event would not be a success without the support of the hospital and the dedication of the volunteers. “It’s rewarding to see all tiers of the hospital staff, grateful patients, and the community all come out together in support of a single cause,” said Mary Lou.

For those interested in supporting the Auxiliary, please contact Kim Meehan at or 443-777-7241. Calendars are available at Volunteer Office.


Employee Engagement: Terrible term, easy concept

Employee engagement.

It’s an awkward phrase like “ping him an email” or anything involving the word “moist.”

That expression is dehumanizing and sounds like an obligation. I picture someone in upper management checking off “engaged with an employee today” on their to-do list.

Creating a company culture that is inviting and engaging shouldn’t be a chore. According to Gallup, the easiest ways to engage are through “clarifying work expectations, getting people what they need to do their work, providing development and promoting positive coworker relationships.” (In simpler terms, “treating people like people.”) When employees feel engaged in a company culture, there is less employee turnover and increased productivity/profitability.

Even if the phrase is annoying, it is easy to see why companies are focused on “employee engagement.”

A creative – and often discounted – way to cultivate a relationship with employees and connect them to a brand is through imagery. How can you, as a company, incorporate this into your strategy?

Use Employees in Marketing Photos

When companies use stock imagery on a site, they disconnect the company from the employees. The company has beautiful photos, but the employees know it isn’t real. Eventually, your clients know it isn’t real. Initially, it’s a bit of a disappointment – like the tempting photo on the frozen dinner. Wouldn’t you rather be a box of mysterious chocolates?

If you have a gorgeous photo of an actual engineer or real employees working in an office featured on the website, then the employees will feel proud. They’ll feel that management is appreciative of their staff and wants to show them off to their clients. It not only humanizes your brand to the client, but to your employees. It also lets them know, they aren’t going to be replaced tomorrow.


Create a Portraiture Look They’ll Love

Many employees have never had a professional portrait taken outside of school or a wedding. You can see that for a fact on LinkedIn. Most of them hated the experience and think that they look awful in photos. Boost their self-esteem and hire a pro.

Work with your photographer to create a look that will showcase your corporate culture and staff at their best. Consider hiring a makeup artist to put the final touches on your employees (makeup, stray hairs, shiny foreheads, etc) before their portrait.  If your staff has a portrait that makes them look good, they’ll not only feel connected to the brand but love you forever. They will remember that you cared and how you made them feel.



Celebrate People

We have a client that hosts an annual sales competition between their multiple locations. Each site sends representatives to compete over their sales tactics and customer service. We photographed the event, and marketing made a photo book that was distributed to each location. It was a hit and gave participants a tangible memory of an event full of employee camaraderie.

Other clients have employee appreciation events where they pose with a mascot or dress up as superheroes. Events encourage team-building, and the photos provide a long lasting positive memory of those relationships.


There are some companies out there that give employees $7,500 to go on vacation to show their appreciation and engage. For those of us that don’t have that kind of budget, photography can be an easy way to incorporate employees into the company culture. If you need help coming up with a plan, let us know.

Massive Metal Prints: An Alternative Framing Solution

Massive Metal Prints: An Alternative Framing Solution

We wrapped up the coolest project earlier this year. We created three 7’ x 3’, one 3’ x 8’ and one 2’ x 3’ metal panel prints of John’s fine art.

Massive metal prints. Seriously, how cool is that?

The lobby of the Queen Anne Belvedere in Baltimore went under renovation last year. There is a new leasing office space, a lounge area in the lobby, new fixtures, and so much more. The owners wanted to install artwork that matched the new modern space.

QAB Lobby 2

Their designer had an original concept of hanging 6’ x 4’ glass panels. We ended up moving away from glass because of price and the many, many rules/laws about hanging gigantic pieces of glass in public spaces. Forget glass. We went with metal instead.

Metal prints are a modern alternative framing solution. It’s a smart choice for big art displays because the prints are lightweight and long-lasting. Canvas wraps are a dated medium and have a short life span. They are susceptible to the elements (humidity, dirt, etc.). We looked at acrylic prints, but acrylic can be easily destroyed by housekeeping if they use the wrong cleaner.


Our client opted for metal and chose a finish that allowed the metal to show through the print. Each print has a float mount hanging system to give the piece dimension and leave the artwork intact. The result is sleek and a little funky.

QAB Lobby 3

The art theme is “Baltimore.” We worked with our client to both pull from John’s portfolio and generate new art that matched their vision. The triptych (three panels creating one overall image) is of the newly restored Washington Monument in North Baltimore. The panel over the couch is a panoramic of the Baltimore Inner Harbor, and the smaller panel above the chair is of Penn Station at night during Artscape.

There is no other way to say it – we love this project. Our clients always push us to do something bigger and bolder than before, and we have become something of an expert on alternative framing displays because of it.

If you’re interested in seeing more of John’s fine art or learning more about custom framing solutions, drop us a line. We’d love to hear from you.

Coyle in the Community: April 2017

“Traditional” is not a word that is associated with Coyle’s culture, especially when we’re in giving mode. We don’t write checks and disappear. You probably won’t see us handing out drinks during a 5k or planting trees. It’s not our style.


We have “a particular set of skills. Skills [we] have acquired over a very long career.”

Photography skills, people. Not our spy skills. 

Most non-profits want to have stellar images for marketing, event recaps, and thank you gifts for participants, but budget constraints can limit their capabilities. We get it. When we donate, we give freely. Non-profits can use our images without watermarks or concern. Participants can receive free, unlimited downloads and share socially.

When we donate, we’re donating a service – not just a commodity. It’s personal.

Donating our services and resources is a team decision because it impacts the entire studio and our families, not just the photographer with the special set of skills. Planning a shoot takes a fair amount of admin on the back end (scheduling, coordinating, post-production, and delivery). Events often take place in the evenings or on weekends, so we make sure we believe in what we are doing.

This April, we donated our services to three organizations: The Education Foundation of Baltimore County Schools, Runners for Others, and The Foundation for Baltimore County Public Library.

State of the Schools

state of schools 2017

Runners for Others: An Ignatian 5K

runners for others 2017

Taste of the Town

taste of town 2017

We would love to support everyone, but we have a limited budget for event photography donations. If we’ve met our budget, don’t despair. We’d be happy to donate a piece of photographic fine art or a gift certificate to your silent auction.


Fearsome Beasts and Where to Find Them: Getting Value out of a Pro (Part 1)



There is a scene in Kierra Knightly’s movie version of Pride and Prejudice that is subtle but powerful. Mr. Darcy and Caroline Bingley are listing the qualities that make a woman accomplished. A woman has to play the piano, embroider cushions, have extensive knowledge of the arts, be a linguist, etc., etc. Elizabeth Bennett says:

“I never saw such a woman. Surely she would be a fearsome thing to behold.”

Oh, the wit. I usually end up giggling with Mr. Bingley after that statement.

I thought of this scene after a few recent networking events. I had a number of conversations with professionals in different industries, and they all had the same issue. Clients – and in some cases employers – were expecting them to be the answer to everything. They hired Joe, but they want Superman.

This isn’t a new issue, but I usually only hear about it out in the open from creatives. Instead, I was hearing it from financial advisors, PR pros, BD specialists, architects, and IT people. A financial advisor is expected to take his own headshot with a cell phone. The PR pro is asked to create brochures and postcards for clients. I know a medical librarian that is supposed to build websites and landing pages.

It sounds like madness, but this is what companies expect. In business, it is too easy to assume that a person can do something because you see another person trying to do everything.

Business is evolving at neck-breaking speeds, and companies are asking for the sun, moon, and stars in the name of “value.” For those with small budgets or internal teams like marketing, we know that getting value out of a vendor or subcontractor is an essential part of doing business. That’s why you ask your PR person to be your graphic designer. It’s for value – efficiency and saving money.

This puts the vendor in a sticky situation. A professional becomes a professional by investing in education and honing their craft to become proficient and exceptional in their trade. They may have additional skills, but that doesn’t always mean they are fully equip to handle a task. If a person says they cannot complete a project, there is a chance of losing a client or being replaced. If they say they can do it, they run the risk of taking on work they cannot deliver and/or running themselves into the ground. See the problem?

If you’re looking get value out of a vendor or subcontractor, here are a few items to keep in mind:

  • Be honest about your budget. Talk to your pro and give them your wants and needs. See what they can deliver within your budget. When the client talks to us about their budget issues, we can almost always come up with a good solution that works for both of us.
  • Ask if your vendor will act as an advocate on your behalf when searching for another service. We’ve seen PR consultants and web designers act as liaisons for their clients when looking for a photographer. On the shoot, they will art direct and take the pressure off of their client. These are tasks that seem small, but it can take a huge amount of anxiety off of you.
  • Weigh the stress vs. the savings. The absence of stress can be invaluable. Expecting an employee, friend, or yourself to photograph someone, write a press release, or design a brochure can add too much to their to-do list. Is the cost savings worth the added pressure?
  • If you think you cannot afford a specific service, don’t immediately turn to DIY. Talk to your community to see what other options are out there. There may be a recommendation to a professional that you didn’t know about or a service you can use to hold you over until you can get what you need (or just plain want).

It is important to remember that you are hiring real people – not the accomplished woman out of Jane Austen’s books or Superman. Value is important, but so is quality. It isn’t a safe business practice to sacrifice quality in the name of saving a dollar. Instead, communicate with your pros and use them as a resource.

You might be surprised by what they say.

Tell Me Sweet Little Lies: The Art of Getting a Good Portrait

Tell Me Sweet Little Lies: The Art of Getting a Good Portrait

When John Coyle shoots a portrait, he yells sweet nothings like:

“You’ve got the look.”

“Oh yeah. I wish you were here earlier. You could’ve shown (Insert name here) a thing or two.”

“Best. Smile. Ever!”

“Keep that smile big. Keep that smile bright. There you go! You’re doing great!”

“You look amazing!”

John and I were on a shoot last week where a gentleman overheard John coaching one of his co-workers. This guy said, “Oh, man. What kind of bullshit is this guy going to throw at me when I get up there?”


So much “bullshit.”

Embrace the bullshit. Why? Because most people are uncomfortable when it is time to get their portraits taken. It is awkward and hard to stand in front of a camera alone and know that this photo will end up on the internet. People are going to look at this photo and your resume or website to see if you are worthy of their time. It’s intimidating. It’s awkward. It makes you feel like you need a beer.

Why do people get like this? I don’t know. I work with artists, not therapists. If you want to know why, the folks at Wistia pulled some science together for their blog.

What I do know is that there are a few things you can do to to help make yourself comfortable and possibly enjoy the process. 

  • Know that your photographer is there to make you look good, not embarrass you. Photographers may ask you do things that feel weird, but they are trying to get you look natural and at your best. When John asks you to turn your shoulders, put your arm behind your back, and tilt your head, you may feel like a human pretzel. Roll with it. Through the lens, you look fantastic.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate. Make sure your photographer knows about any “off-limits” items in advance. Worried about double chins, scars, hair lines (or lack thereof), or that pimple that popped up last night? Tell us. If we can’t minimize it with lighting, we’ll make it disappear in post-production.
  • Ask to see what’s going on. Feel free to ask to look at the back of your photographer’s camera or pull the images up on the computer (if time allows for it). You’ll be able to get a glimpse of what they are seeing and offer feedback on it. Speak up if something doesn’t look right or if you have a question. It’s easier to address something in the middle of the shoot rather than a week later.
  • Bring a trusted advisor. Have a friend, co-worker, stylist, or whoever else you trust come with you to your shoot. They can either sit in the corner and offer emotional support, or they can stand next to the photographer to help art direct the shoot.
  • Relax. You will leave feeling like a pro (and with a new appreciation for those folks on the magazines). The only people who hate their portraits are the people who are determined to hate it. As long as you communicate with your photographer and relax, you will walk away with a portrait you love.

Personal Branding – More Important Than Ever


We live in a world where everyone has an opinion, and everyone has a forum in which to share it. You cannot access any part of social media without being smothered by someone’s opinion or advice. The world is saturated with “experts” that are reacting to the environment around them and contribute to the “noise” online.

I’m sure that you can think of at least five people that you follow who fit in that category.

Would you appear on someone else’s list? Are you generating noise, or are you creating something new, unique, or useful?

If you’re the latter, then you are building a personal brand.

Personal branding is about storytelling. It is about showing your audience (friends, coworkers, employer, etc.) what type of person you are and what you can bring to your relationship to make it thrive. Companies develop brands through visuals, content, and design. Individuals can build their brands through similar methods – physical appearance, resumes, and social media.

Building a personal brand can be tricky. There are some people that shamelessly promote themselves using personal branding as their vehicle. Others are masters at the craft and have cultivated their brand while establishing themselves as true experts.

If your livelihood depends on how you are perceived, personal branding is more important than ever. On September 22nd, Mary Lou Coyle of Coyle Studios, Jeff Davis of J. Davis Public Relations, and MaryBeth Hyland of SparkVision will be speaking at an AMA Baltimore panel on “Building Your Personal Brand.” In preparation for the event, we asked Mary Lou to give a few of her thoughts about personal branding.

Understand that people judge with their eyes first, brains second.

It’s very shallow, but it is true. If you show up to an interview in yoga pants and dirty hair, it is safe to say that you will not be hired. It will be hard for people to take you seriously if your LinkedIn photo is a selfie, a photo of you at a wedding, or a cropped photo from a party. You may think you look amazing (in fact, you probably do), but it doesn’t look professional. Think about how you want to be perceived and find a professional to capture it.

Photos should tell the end of the story.

Forget potential. You want people to see you as you are – not what you could be. Show your audience who you are and what you can do through your images. Post photos of your volunteer work, a recent trip you took, or that really nerdy thing that you love. Getting personal gives people insight into your character.

Develop your own personal brand guidelines.

If you’re in marketing, then you’re familiar with the concept of brand guidelines. Companies use guidelines to keep their marketing consistent. Individuals already do this on an innate level. Think about your closet and what you wear to work. Most people have a signature style. Take this a step further and evaluate your social media output. Create a loose guideline about what you think is appropriate to post and how it aligns with your brand.

Create a strategy.

Once you evaluate your social media output, create a strategy. Professionals in technical fields aren’t the only ones that need to worry about “publish or perish.” Publishing – blog posts, social media posts, freelance articles – are essential to displaying your knowledge.

When in doubt, follow the proper rules of engagement.

There are people who have lost job opportunities because they do not meet the code of ethics or align with company brand guidelines. We’ve all heard about the big brand marketing professionals who have been fired for posting inappropriate comments on personal Twitter accounts. Employees are an extension of the company and CEO. Employers want to make sure they have someone that will improve the business and give a good impression. If you have any doubt over whether something is appropriate to post, don’t share it.

Join the AMA Baltimore and Betamore on September 22nd to learn more about personal branding. Get tickets and info here:

All-inclusive vs. Itemized Rates: What Am I Really Getting?

All-inclusive vs. Itemized Rates: What Am I Really Getting?

In my “life before Coyle,” I sold insurance. My least favorite part of the job was when a client would demand to know why we were so expensive when compared to quote from a competitor with a lower rate. (I still hate you, Geico). I’d have the delightful task of comparing the quote to their current policy and explaining the difference to clients.

90% of the time, the reasons looked like this:

“They’ve quoted you with higher collision and comprehensive deductibles. Right now, you’re at a $100 deductible. Their quote is at $1,000.”

“Your liability limits are 3x higher on your current policy than this quote. This quote has you at the State minimum limits.”

“They’ve quoted you with a discount for having a homeowner’s insurance policy. You DO NOT own a home.”

In order to get a true price comparison, the quote would have to have the same information as the client’s current policy. However, the client didn’t know enough about insurance to ask the questions needed to get that apples-to-apples quote.

This is a situation that happens in the photography world all of the time.

Just like insurance companies, not all photographers rate their services the same.

There are two types of quotes you’ll receive – one that is all inclusive and one that is itemized. An itemized quote will have a list that looks like this:

  • Shooting fee $__
  • Equipment fee $__
  • Travel fee $__
  • Post-production fee $__
  • Photo usage fee $__
  • Miscellaneous expenses $__

Itemized quotes are used for huge, expensive photo shoots – like a cover shot of Vogue. Smaller photographers use itemized quotes to give off the illusion of value. However, tally that up, and you may have a price that is the same or more than an all-inclusive rate.

Educate yourself.

Ask yourself, “What am I really getting?” Are you hiring a photographer with a full studio support or someone working in their basement? Are you hiring someone that has commercial insurance, project managers, and speedy turnaround time, or are you hiring a hobbyist?

When gathering quotes, ask these questions:

  • How do you shoot (JPEG vs RAW)?
  • What type of files do you deliver (JPEG, TIFF, etc.)?
  • Who is my point of contact and what are your hours of operation?
  • What is your turnaround time?
  • How much creative control do I have on the shoot?
  • Do you charge for scouting?
  • Do you charge for retouching?
  • Are there any unexpected costs that I need to be aware of?

For our part, we usually offer all-inclusive rates, and we work to educate our clients when we’re quoting a job. All-inclusive rates eliminate nonsensical emails and the paranoia behind an unpredictable invoice. It allows us to get down to what we do best – capturing the best photographs you’ve ever seen.

Unless you’re Vogue. We’ll itemize anything you want, just give us a call.

“Sorry for Flashing You” (and other photography jargon)

“Sorry for Flashing You” (and other photography jargon)

Read this:

“We’re shooting Grandma today. Our concern is that she may be too hot due to her white hair and skin tones. Close the barn doors and throw a grid on that. An over-exposed grandma will force us to burn her down later. Whoops – sorry grandma – didn’t mean to flash you yet. Alright, put three slaves behind the setup. She needs to be sharp, but the subjects in the back will be soft. This is likely to be cool, so you need to throw a warming gel on her. I know you said to use a fisheye, but this needs a super wide.”

It’s a bunch of nonsense, right?

Most people have no idea what is going on here. I’m sure you’re wondering who is going to kill and/or expose themselves to Grandma. No need to call the police. We’re talking about photographing Grandma.

Photography jargon is a little freaky and sometimes sounds predatory. John is always apologizing for flashing someone. He quickly learned that you don’t use the word “shoot” when photographing Air Force One and President Obama. The correct term is “click.”

To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of photography terms to help you get through your next shoot.

Depth of Field: The amount of focus from the focus point to the foreground and background. Shallow depth of field is the term used for “fuzzy backgrounds.” The farther away the subject is from the background, the softer the background.

Rule of Thirds: A rule meant to be broken. Composition can be created in multiple ways, but the rule of thirds is designed to quickly create adequate composition. When composing an image, you can balance it in thirds – a landscape image could show two thirds of a sky with one third of land.

Low light: This can mean one of two environments:

  1. A dark environment like a theater or inside a building
  2. The outdoors near dusk or dawn

Ambient light: Light that is not being generated by the photographer (daylight, lamps, fluorescent, etc). It’s often synonymous with natural light (ambient light or purely daylight created by the sun).

Back lit: The main source of light comes from behind the subject casting the subject in a silhouette.

Blown out: There is so much light on the subject that you cannot see detail (i.e – too hot).

Focal Length: The millimeters of a lens.

Focal Point: Point of focus.

Strobe: Another word for flash. It is a term used for a larger flash unit.

Aperture/F-stop: Aperture is a mechanism that controls the volume of light that comes through the lens and hits the film surface. F-stop is a number that describes the size of the aperture.

Shutter speed: The length of time of which the shutter is open to expose the film surface to light.

ISO/ASA: Determines the light sensitivity of the film surface (i.e. – 100 ASA, 400 ISO).

White Balance: How the camera reads color temperature. It is measured in degrees of Kelvin. Tungsten is 3000K – 3800K. Daylight is 5000K – 6500K. Low light daylight is 7000K – 1000K.

RAW/JPEG/TIFF:  A digital term for how an image is saved. JPEG is the lowest quality for universal usage often used for internet usage and presentation. TIFF is the highest quality for universal usage and can save tons of content that is unseen. RAW is the actual information captured at the time the image was taken. It can be easily manipulated in post-production and is the most valuable format. If you find a photographer that doesn’t use RAW, don’t hire them. If you find a photographer that doesn’t understand RAW, run away from them.

Medium format: This describes the size of the sensor or film for the camera for image capture. It allows a photographer to capture an image size of 32-90 megapixels as opposed to 35mm cameras that only capture up to 36 megapixels.

Large format: A camera sensor that can capture an image size of up to 1000 megapixels. We use it for copying art and restoration images. It is the most superior format for digital resolution.

Macrophotography/Microphotography: Same term based on the lens manufacturer. It is a term used for close up photography.

Overexposure/Underexposure: The exposure is not perfect. Overexposure means there is too much light. Underexposure means there is not enough light.

See something not on the list? Want more information? Let us know. We’ll help you navigate through the crazy terminology photographers use daily.

Fine Art Inspiration: Water

Fine Art Inspiration: Water

In the summer, everyone has water on the brain in one form or another – oceans, lakes, pools, a hose (we aren’t picky). We long to cool off and relax. In fact, we wish that our office was here:

Star Bright

“Star Bright” by John J Coyle Jr.

Since we can’t be in the Bahamas, we decided to get our water fix by sharing a few fine art pieces and John’s thoughts about photographing water. Enjoy:

“Water presents itself in many different ways. It is always changing and always unique. The reactions it has with the environment and time of day makes water different, unique, and beautiful.”

"Platinum Sine" by John J Coyle Jr

“Platinum Sine” by John J Coyle Jr

“It is too easy to photograph what everyone else sees, but it is difficult to capture what no one sees. We can look at water over a lapse of time and see movement. Long exposures show rotations. You can see ebbs and flows. You see motions. You can see soft flows of direction. Freezing time can make movement elusive. Slowing it down makes for timeless beauty.”

"The Yang - Swallow Falls" by John J Coyle Jr.

“The Yang – Swallow Falls” by John J Coyle Jr.

“When it comes to photography, you can’t set a challenge such as, ‘I’m going to photograph something exceptional today.’ You’ll always be disappointed. ‘Exceptional’ happens when you put experience, knowledge, and skill at work with perfect time, place, etc. My father used to say, ‘Success is preparation meeting opportunity. Luck has nothing to do with it.’ You never know how the opportunity will present itself. Always be prepared.”

"Free Flight" by John J Coyle Jr.

“Free Flight” by John J Coyle Jr.

“Water is elusive. We don’t live in it. We don’t live on it. We don’t usually live next to it. People are drawn to it. Water is dynamic and beautiful. We don’t see it at every turn. We see rocks, trees, and grass, but not water. It has an erotic turn to it; it makes us feel good, but it has a mysterious quality.”

"Clarity" by John J Coyle Jr.

“Clarity” by John J Coyle Jr.