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.





Budget and Time Issues? Don’t Sacrifice Quality


Let’s get something straight:

Having a limited budget or being short on time is not a good enough reason to sacrifice quality.

“Champagne taste on a beer budget” is a problem that requires a creative solution. One of the biggest mistakes made in marketing efforts is to exclude creative partners from the budget and time conversations.

You never know what a creative can do unless you ask.

We frequently have clients state, “Listen, we have this project, but we only have X amount of dollars to spend or X amount of time to complete it. What are our options?” Our creative juices start flowing, and we figure out a way to help them.

Why? To us, quality – and our clients – matter.

Have budget and time issues? Here are a few tips to get you started on a creative solution:

If you have a long shot list, but a small budget:

  1. Check your efficiency. Establish a movement plan that flows from location to location rather than chopping up locations. This helps keep setup time between shots to a minimum.
  2. Focus on your needs rather than your wants. You don’t want to end up with 600 images that you didn’t need. Come prepared with a shot list, and prioritize your needs.
  3. Know your purpose. Create a mock up brochure or web page to get positioning and composition right (orientation, scale, usage, tone).
  4. Be realistic about what you can accomplish.

If you are short on time:

  1. Break up your shoot. We had a client that only had a few hours each day to get a photographer in the machinist area. We made several visits in two to four hour increments to capture their shot list.
  2. Have a designated person from your staff to help organize people and stage the space. This will allow the photographer and the assistant to worry about creating the image rather than taking extra time to hunt people down or stage the area.
  3. Don’t be afraid of the strobes. More gear does not always mean more time. Professional lighting allows for more control. Remote flashes can take more time because they can be finicky.

If the client says, “Just shoot it. I don’t want to pay too much:”

  1. I suggest therapy.

Mary Lou likes to say, “I can pull my own tooth, but should I do it?” You are hiring a time honored professional – work with them and value them.

We have a steadfast rule at Coyle: Quality in, Quality out. That may make us perfectionists, but that doesn’t mean that we won’t work with our clients to fit their budget needs or time constraints. Want to know what we’re capable of? Just ask.

8 Architectural Photography Tips from the Experts (Hint: It’s not us)

web Final North Point UnderArmour Univ of MD Oct 2015 DSC_2276 Coyle Studios

Architectural photography is a diverse and intricate field. We can get technical and give insight from behind the lens, but we’re not going to do that in this post. Instead, we asked eight experts in different fields to give us their insight on architectural photography and their tips on succeeding with your next photography project.

(It’s a long one, but it’s so worth it).

Not all photographers are created equal.

When advertising an apartment community, we need to be able to connect with a prospective resident with our websites, brochures, and many times, in non-verbal ways. Today’s renters are making decisions on their mobile devices and for us, this means grabbing them with the best photos. In searching for an architectural photographer, we look for someone who is passionate to capture the details of our communities. We make it a point to focus on three separate categories when shooting an apartment community – exterior, common areas, and interiors. Finding a photographer that understands the correct time of day to get the perfect exterior shot but can also capture the spaciousness of a 1 bedroom apartment is difficult. Not all professional photographers are created equal when advertising your apartment. Getting the perfect shots of an apartment sized bathroom takes real talent, patience, and skill.

Steve Margerum, Cove Property Management

Find someone who has “seen the movie” and be clear with your needs.

In looking for a photographer, I look for someone experienced in my area of expertise, which happens to be commercial real estate. I want someone who has “seen the movie” and does not have to gain experience at my time or expense. In hiring a photographer, I want to know four things: experience in my industry, estimated time to do the job, estimated cost, and when the work can be completed. For me, those are the “big four” questions to ask.

Make sure you are clear as to what you are trying to accomplish, what are your needs. Sometimes photography is needed for a financing package. Sometimes it is needed for leasing and marketing. Sometimes it is needed as part of a presentation to attract investors. Make clear to the photographer the intended use of the images.

Robert Manekin, JLL

Look for a photographer that is creative and understands that it’s all about the lighting!

Some of the qualities that I look for in a photographer are the ability to think outside the box and of course, creativity. When photographing a building or structure, there are so many dynamics that come into play such as orientation of the subject in relation to the position of the sun, the time of day the subject is photographed, and the time of year. It’s all about the lighting!

A few questions you can ask: 1. Ask to see some recent examples of their body of work. 2. Do they engage in any other type of digital media? 3. What’s their favorite thing to photograph? 4. Are they flexible as to what days and times they can be available to photograph?

Ronnie Brouillard, Kinsley Construction

Get technical with your photographer.

When discussing our particular job requirements for a commercial or residential photography session, we usually outline what we are looking for in more than a list of questions. We discuss angles, subject matter, time of day, obstacles, final use of the photography, and the overall marketing strategy.

It is important to know your subject matter in order to work successfully with a photographer. You must understand your property’s positive attributes as well as its challenges in order to produce the best results. We have developed checklists for our residential teams to prepare for a photographer visit, and we ensure communication with our property managers on commercial sites to ensure the center and its tenants are ready for the shoot.

Belinda Torres, Continental Realty Corporation


You are your best advocate. Get hands on.

Go to the photo shoot. You know your firm’s brand, your audience, how you will use the photos, and the story you’ll want to the pictures to tell. You’ll also be there as another set of eyes to make sure some obscure item, such as an untidy bookshelf or uneven window shade, is not the focal point. (You want to direct the viewer’s eye to the best part of the building or space first.) When there, be sure to look at the view through the camera lens, too, to double check all of the above. If your photographer doesn’t like you to tag along, find someone who does. There are lots of them that do. Taking good photography is just like a successful design project. It comes from knowing what you want to achieve, a vigilant attention to details, and working with a photographer who enjoys collaborating with you, the client.

Diane Stahl, Rubeling & Associates

Capturing the craftsmanship of a building is important (but so is photograph usage).

Look for a photographer who will create an image that portrays the project in a positive and beautiful manner to enhance the true design and craftsmanship of the building or constructed feature. Easy access to photographs and unencumbered use of the work is very important to the client. Find out who owns the photographs and ask the photographer if they have been published.

Ken Wingate, North Point Builders

Photos of your work are your best sales tool.

For Interior Designers, photos of our work are our best sales tool. I think a common goal amongst design firms is to have our work published. It’s so important to work with the photographer and develop a shot that is magazine/website worthy. It’s a good idea to study publications and see the composition of why you are drawn to a particular photo, then discuss it with your photographer to you both understand what you are trying to achieve.

Jackie Bayer, Emerald Hill Interiors

It pays to have good quality photographs of your work.

Project photography is the only method of conveying your firm’s capability to potential clients without making a site visit. It pays to have good quality photographs of your work. Look for a photographer who understands how to translate the built environment to a two dimensional image using the right perspectives and lighting in the images. We also look for someone who is capable of post-production work to bring out the best in each photograph.

Elle Ellis, Ammon Heisler Sachs architects, PC

Colorful Living Room

Want to see more tips from experts? Learn a few photography tips from marketing directors and gain insight from graphic designers.

Getting Down and Dirty: Thoughts from “The Assistant”

2016 marks my four year anniversary at Coyle Studios. Below, you’ll see a photo taken on my first day of work and a more recent photo from a shoot in March.

2012 2016

I look so happy in 2012. Why do I look so disenfranchised in 2016? Because of crap like this:


Being part of the photography process is hardly ever glamorous and sexy. There are long days, and we’re usually moving on a mission. Coming into this role was a baptism by fire, so I want to share a few observations I’ve had about assisting with you.

You need to be willing to get down and dirty.

See that above picture? Assisting with John means lying on floors and hiding in corners stabilizing three light stands. It means holding flashes for minutes that drag on for hours. You have to keep one eye on the shot that’s happening and one eye on the next shot. So if we’re on a shoot and I looked slightly harassed, it’s because I am.

“Assistant” is often synonymous with “amateur model.”

In four years, I’ve been a breathalyzer tester, dental patient, legal client, and a hospital patient for multiple doctors. My hands have appeared in a number of photos. I’m a professional “lighting tester.” If you need an extra body in front of a camera quick, pull the photography assistant.


Hone your people skills, and hone them quick.

We photographed a law firm last year and one of the shots was taken in the lobby of the building our client was renting. Right after setup, the property manager came out and told us we had to shut it down. John said to me, “I need you to handle this.” I apologized to the manager, said that I had no idea we were violating policy, and could we please have 5 minutes to get the shot as this was a big client for BOTH of us. He walked away for 5 minutes, and we were gone when he came back. Being diplomatic and having a strict “ask for forgiveness” policy goes a long way in photography.


Car rides with John are some of the best times I’ve had on the job.

John spots some of the funniest signs on trucks and gas station boards. He’ll talk about Big Foot while driving through two states, and he’s always up for a post-shoot beer. I get to simultaneously live out my dream of having a chauffeur and hanging out with my friend.

john brynn

If the opportunity strikes, get a funny photo.

We like to tease people. I sent this to my mom with a caption that said, “So this is how my day went.” She was mildly amused after I told her I was fine.


Being a professional lighting tester requires a certain amount of creative genius.


This guy doesn’t get it…


J.M. Barrie said, “Nothing is really work unless you would rather be doing something else.” While I would rather do anything than lie on a foyer floor of an apartment complex, I truly enjoy working on these shoots.

Easier Said Than Done: Building a Brand Through Photos


When I was younger, my mother told me that the most valuable thing I’d ever own is my reputation. I lived in a town where everyone knew everything about everyone, and gossip was king. Did I want to be remembered for being honest, kind, and trustworthy, or did I want to be remembered for being a “Queen Bee” nasty girl?

In business, reputation is called branding – big league storytelling.

Marketers and communicators build brands by telling stories through visuals, content, and design. They highlight the qualities that make companies attractive and unique to their audience. Our job is to focus on the imagery. With every photo shoot, we are helping a company build the most valuable thing they own – their brand.

This is easier said than done. Successful brands implement a strategy to their imagery. How can you do that?

Create a guideline.

Every brand needs a style guide to maintain consistency. It is easy to pick out an Under Armour or GAP image because they have a unique, easily recognizable look. Pick out the keywords from your story and figure out how that works visually. Is your company bright, colorful, dramatic or monochromatic? Should your images reveal actual clients or should you use a model for a polished look? Do you have to have that branded coffee cup (pen, shirt, whatever) in every shot? A clear guideline alleviates the stress of image creation and keeps everyone focused on the same story.

Think. Think really hard.

Images for websites and marketing collateral have to be grand slams. These photos need to be strong and impactful in order to drive home the key points of a brand. Social media and blog photos are quick sells as they are in someone’s feed for a second. These images are the supporting acts for the website meant to humanize a brand. Ask yourself: Where is the image going? What is its purpose? What part of the story am I telling?

The epic battle: Stock vs. Custom

We will always, always tell you to go custom. We recently heard from a large institution’s marketing vice president. He used a stock photograph on the cover of every quarterly magazine. He held his breath every time the publication came out, waiting for one of his competitors to use the identical image on their quarterly covers. Stock photography has its good points (relatively low cost, noninvasive), but you take a risk of being on the “Who Wore it Better?” list. Are you trying to be bold at the Gala, or are you trying to fit in with the crowd? Custom photography will allow you to tell your unique story and set the trend.

We’ve all heard the cliché that “A picture is worth 1,000 words.” Using an image that doesn’t fit your brand is a wasted opportunity. If your brand is the most valuable thing you own, can you afford to waste that impact? What kind of picture is your company painting?