Photographing an In-Home Arcade

Most of the luxury homes I photograph have at least one room dedicated to entertainment. Maybe it’s a pool table in the garage, or an in-home movie theater. Then there’s the in-home bowling alley. But a recent shoot took the cake for the number of arcade games in one room.

In-Home Arcade

It’s one thing to add six arcade machines in what used to be a garage; but the homeowner went the extra step of knocking out a bedroom and bathroom to add another machine…

In-Home Arcade

..and did I mention the 80-inch LCD TV?

In-Home Arcade

Who needs bedrooms and bathrooms in a house when you’ve got an arcade? Actually, that red sofa does have a pull out bed.

Here are a couple more looks at the room:

In-Home Arcade

In-Home Arcade

All this just leaves one question: Can I borrow some tokens?


Photographing a Private Bowling Alley

bowling alley

This was probably my most unique assignment to date. I got a request not too long ago asking me how much I would charge to photograph one room. I thought, “Just one room? That’s odd.” I asked for more information and found out this was a bowling alley inside someone’s house! The lanes were installed by Fusion Bowling and they install private bowling alleys. Talk about a niche market!

I showed up for the job in a very exclusive community and found out the home belongs to a professional major league baseball player. The bowling alley is actually on the second floor.

The shoot was pretty straight forward. The lanes create natural leading lines that make composition a no-brainer. The client asked if I shot HDR. I told him I don’t because I generally don’t like the look of HDR; it just doesn’t look realistic. I have seen some interior photographers use HDR in a style I like, but I haven’t figured out the technique. Every HDR I’ve tried always has that “HDR look”. I prefer a natural look so I take multiple exposures and blend them using masks. I did take several exposures in this case specifically for HDR and I might post an update so you can see the comparison. I’m currently reading RC Concepcion’s “The HDR Book” to see if I can learn something new.

You can see more images from the shoot in the gallery; and don’t forget you can like, comment on, rate and share individual images on my site. Give it a try!

Photographing a Rainbow in Orlando

What is it about rainbows? This guy went nuts over one:

I’ve blogged about it before.  Maybe it’s the challenge of actually capturing the vibrant colors AND creating an image that will move people. If you clicked the previous link, you saw my attempt. The story behind that is here. I only ever seem to see a rainbow when I’m in a car and that time I just happened to have a camera with me.  Usually,  you have to stop what you’re doing and race to get your camera before the fleeting moment disappears.

That’s what happened last week to Reg Garner when an awesome rainbow appeared over downtown Orlando.

Rainbow over Downtown Orlando

Reg Garner

I was at my desk in downtown Orlando when the receptionist called and said “you must to come up front right now”. When I asked why, she said, “you HAVE to see this rainbow and take a picture”. Well, I’ve seen a lot of rainbows and truthfully was not all that interested but to appease her decided to she what all the fuss was about.

To my amazement, there was an incredible rainbow that seemed to span the whole city with both ends in full view. I scurried to get my camera gear as a cloud moved in and it to totally disappeared in front of my eyes.

Disappointedly, I went back to my windowless office and about 10 minutes later another employee, that knows I take a lot of pictures, came to tell me that it was BACK! This time I had my camera ready and quickly had him drive me a few blocks away to get a better vantage point.

I walked up and down Anderson Street in the rain trying to keep the rain drops off the lens. I knew from the first “click” that I had an amazing photo. I almost always have my camera with me and convinced that 80% of getting a good photo is just being there (with a camera). 

Like they say, always have a camera with you! Anyone traveling on I-4 at the time saw it and more than a few people took pictures from wherever they were. The Orlando Sentinel asked for submissions. Reg, a recent president of the Orlando Camera Club, posted his pictures of the rainbow on Facebook. I saw them and let him know the Sentinel was looking for submissions. I felt his images were far superior, not only because of the contrast and saturation…but it was the composition.

Rainbow over downtown Orlando

Reg Garner

If you look at the other images on the Sentinel gallery, most of them lack that “wow” factor. Sure they captured the rainbow, but it doesn’t leave a mark. It doesn’t tell a story. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, Scott Kelby’s advice to getting a really good rainbow  is to shoot it in relation to something. In other words, compose it so that it’s not just about the rainbow, but the context of the surroundings. Reg could’ve taken the shot from the office window as someone else did, but instead, he hopped in a car to chase it down and frame it..compose it…you know, really make a picture.

Rainbow over Downtown Orlando

Reg Garner

In case you think Reg is just lucky, one of his rainbow images is hanging in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C.

Rainbow over windfarm

Reg Garner

Now that’s golden!

On a different note, if you’d like to add a little color to your photography, check out the limited edition Pentax-Kr.

Pentax K-r

Pentax K-r

Pentax is making 100 of the cameras and selling them with a 35mm f/2.4 for about $1200 beginning December 24th.

It won’t help you take better rainbow pictures, but it might add a little color to your photography!

Tale of Two Meteorologists Part II

Just a quick update on my “Tale of Two Meteorologist in Baldwin Park” post. 

The issue came out last week and I wanted to let you have a look at the finished product. 

As it turns out, the second cover idea  never came to fruition so there was only one cover for this issue. 

Baldwin Park Living Magazine

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As you can see the image I talked about made it on the inside feature and not the cover; which is good because now you can see the lightning in the corner. 

Baldwin Park Living Magazine

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Brenda’s Maternity Photoshoot in Baldwin Park, FL

I met Brenda and Kendal at a party last month. I was photographing the event and when she found out that I am a professional photographer she mentioned wanting to have some maternity images done. 

She contacted me shortly afterwards about photographing her baby shower and then came up with the idea of having a printed book of maternity pictures to pass around at the shower. So we met in Baldwin Park for the shoot with her and Kendal. 

Brenda and Kendal

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I love to shoot wide! Yeah I know, most photographers love those long telephoto lenses; but I love environmental portraits, showing the subject in the background and how they relate to each other.  The shot above was taken with a full frame camera at 17mm using a single Alien Bee with a medium softbox camera left. 

Brenda and Kendal

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For the next shot I decided to mix in a second light. Up until now, I’ve been a one-light shooter. Getting the flash off-camera was a priority early in my photography career, so now I’m trying to venture out into using 2 or 3 lights but still make the light “logical” so it doesn’t call attention to itself. The photo above uses the same lighting set-up as before but I added a bare 580 EXII with the wide panel to spread the light. You can see the affect it adds as a hair and rim light on Brenda’s right side (camera left). 

Brenda and Kendal

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Brenda and Kendal were great to work with and I’m looking forward to the baby shower in a couple of weeks. Check out the their gallery for more images from the shoot.

Photograph a Cheer and Dance Competition? Bring It!

So  I tried something new last weekend. I’ve never shot a sporting event nor have I ever shot a concert. Now I know what both feel like! 

My girlfriend’s cousin, Jordan, was competing in the Cheerleaders of America (COA) “Ultimate National Championship” at the Gaylord Palms Resort in Kissimmee, FL. If you’ve ever caught a glimpse of a cheer competition on TV, let me tell you, you have no idea what it’s like to actually be there. 

Cheerleading Competition

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The hotel grounds were teeming with teams of tweens…sorry, couldn’t help myself! But seriously, how else would you describe hundreds (maybe thousands) of pre-teen girls wearing WAY too much make-up and cheerleading uniforms? I’m guessing the heavy make-up is meant for the judges to see from where they’re sitting…if they happen to be sitting on the planet Mars. 

Cheerleading Competition

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But let me cut to the chase. Jordan’s team, Top Gun, was on; so I enter the competition room. It was dark and loud. Let me emphasize the word LOUD. If you like dark rooms with loud techno/dance music blaring, you would feel right at home…glow sticks optional. When I got in, the team before Top Gun was wrapping up. So I took this time to figure out my exposure. But it wasn’t long before I had to head to the front when Jordan’s team came in. 

I was shooting with my 70-200 f/2.8 lens. I like to shoot in manual mode, so I dialed in f/2.8, at 250th of a second and ISO about 800. I don’t like shooting at high ISO, but even with the stage lights, I needed it. I also didn’t want to shoot at f/2.8 because I knew I could run into a depth of field problem if I wanted more than one part of the image in focus; but I needed the large aperture to let in more light. 

Things moved so fast…and I don’t just mean the cheerleaders. I mentioned concert photography earlier because it’s similar in a couple respects: you have stage lights, but you only have about 3 minutes to get the shot. I didn’t have a whole lot of time to look at my LCD and evaluate the shot. I was shooting on burst mode; 6.5 frames per second and focusing mostly on Jordan. At one point I switched to shutter priority and was around 350th of a second. I was really trying to capture the flipping sequences. 

Cheerleading Competition

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Cheerleading Competition

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Looking at some of the frames, they’re still not tack sharp. If I get to do it again, I’d shoot at a minimum of 350th, boost the ISO to maybe 1600 and a narrower f-stop. 

About 3 minutes later it was all over. The Top Gun teams (there are different classes) took the All Stars Level, 2,3 and 5 Grand Champion titles. See this link for the full results, if you’re interested. We took the rest of the afternoon to walk around the hotel and enjoy the pool. If you’ve never been to Gaylord Palms, I recommend going just to see the inside. It is massive. They have a tropical atrium complete with alligators and turtles. Click the link above to see a picture on their home page. 

All in all, I’m glad I got to try something new; it was definitely a learning experience that tested me while pushing me outside my comfort level.

Ironclad Protection For Your Images At Rock Bottom Prices!

The Copyright

The moment you take a picture, it’s yours. You created it. You own the copyright. Copyright means just that: you have the right to copy it. So how do you protect your rights?

You can watermark your images (more on that later). You can post a disclaimer on your Facebook page. You can have a verbal agreement (this is about as good as a nod and a wink). But if someone really wants to use a picture you took, in a manner or for a purpose that you did not consent to, there’s not much stopping them.

The only way to protect your images in a court of law is to register the copyright.

Hey wait, come back! Yeah, I know; it’s not sexy. It’s not even fun. I mean I get it. As photographers we want to spend our time…uh…taking pictures! Who wants to edit? Learn about taxes and limited liability corporations? Booooring.

What’s really at stake here is money. You took the picture. If someone wants to use it for advertising or promotion, they should pay you for it. This is called “licensing” (more on that later too).

To quote the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP): “You do not have to register your work with the Copyright Office to acquire your copyright. However, the legal protections available to you are limited if the photographs are not registered. Those limitations can translate into lost income.”

Worth More Than A Thousand Words

Let me cut to the chase and then I’ll circle around again. It costs $35.

Hey wait, come back!

I know, I know. We’re saving every penny for that fast super-zoom lens! But first, you should know it’s not $35 per image. It’s $35 for a batch. As many as you can register during a one-hour session. Now think about it; how many pieces of photographic gear do you own that costs less than $35? I can think of two and one does nothing but blow air.

Now those 35-dollars can mean hundreds, thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars for you if someone infringes on your copyright. And it’s good for 70 years after you die!

So let’s say you copyright an image today. You die at age 100. Sixty-nine years later your great-great-great grandson discovers a picture you took being used in a Nike ad. Because you left your estate to your heirs…CHA CHING! Your great-great-great-great grandson can now go to college!

This scenario may seemed a little far-fetched. But only a little….

I first opened my eyes to the process of copyrighting through I highly recommend the subscription, but you can watch the first three lessons of each course for free. Over there, Jack Reznicki and Ed Greenberg have a course on the topic and they walk you through the process of registering your work online. They tell the story of the late Stuart Gross who, in 1987, took a routine picture of 6-year old Lisa Steinberg . The little girl died 9 days later at the hands of her mother’s boyfriend. The story made national headlines. The picture became evidence in court and was licensed to specific media outlets under specific conditions.

Greenberg says 22 years later the picture is still being infringed and he’s brought more than a dozen claims against some of the top media outlets  in the country, including CBS News.

The photographer is dead. The picture lives on. And so does his copyright.

Go watch the course (at least the first 3 lessons) HERE.

gavel on top of laptop


No, not the eco-system. The eCO system. That’s the electronic copyright office. I’m going to cop-out here because I really cannot walk you through the process better than Carolyn Wright over at the Photo Attorney blog.

The entire article with step-by-step instructions is here:

If you prefer the video tutorial see the link above.


Chances are if someone is using your image, it isn’t malicious. They probably didn’t “steal” it. They’re probably just a little ignorant. If you find someone who infringed your copyright, don’t go calling the attorney just yet.  In fact, a lawsuit is probably the last step. There are ways to deal with it. But try walking into an attorney’s office with your story and the first thing he or she will ask you is “Did you copyright it?”.  If you didn’t, they probably won’t even take your case.

The first thing you should do is have a contract. Always. If you put someone in front of your lens, hand them a contract before you press the shutter. Shooting your best friend’s wedding? Shooting your neighbors newborn baby?  Get a contract! What if that picture ended up in a bridal magazine ad or the cutest baby in the world billboard with NO compensation or credit to you? Get a contract and specify the use and terms. When Stuart Gross took that picture of the little girl, he never imagined it would become such a huge story, or that the image would be used 22 years later, even after his death.

Next, add your contact and copyright info to your metadata. If it’s in the metadata, someone can’t later say that they had no way of contacting you.

Disable “right-click” on your website so no one can right-click and “save” the image.

None of these options is fail-safe. Like I said if someone really wants your image, they’re gonna get it. But a combination of these methods will help protect you.


Let’s clear something up here. When someone pays you for a picture you are not selling the picture. You are not selling your copyright. You are selling a license for that person to use your picture in a specific way.  Unless, it’s specified in a contract, or you are a work-for-hire photographer (that’s another blog for another day), you retain the copyright.  Now a photographer can sell their copyright; but that will net him much more money than a license.


I use watermarks sparingly. I think they distract from the image. But something David Hobby wrote in 2007 has always stuck with me:

“The first thing I would do would be to lose the arty signatures embedded within the photos. Very “Buck’s County Arts and Crafts Show,” IMO. You want to be aiming higher than that. If you feel you must stick your name into the image area, make it very small, in a bottom corner, with a “©” symbol (created with an option “g”).”

Actually, the copyright symbol doesn’t even have to appear on your image to be protected. (source: ASMP Copyright Primer; link below)

‘Nuff said.

I know this has been a long blog post. But it’s important. I’m not an attorney, so take this advice as a starting point only. And please check out the helpful links below. Those links have links within them that you should follow.

Look, you spent thousands of dollars on gear and all your free time taking and editing pictures. Why not protect them?



The eCO System

ASMP Copyright Primer

Pro Imaging


The Copyright Zone (Reznicki and Greenberg)

Photo Attorney (Carolyn Wright)


Help, I’ve Been Infringed!

I’m Gonna Sue!

The Blue in the Face List Pt.1

The Blue in the Face List Pt.2

Life After Death


Business and Legal Forms for Photographers

Best Business Practices for Photographers