Facebook Celebrates “Humans of New York”

If anyone has been feeling down lately; be it a slump in clients or feeling like you’ve hit a creative dead-end, I recommend watching this short video.

I was first directed to Brandon Stanton’s Facebook page in 2012 by my friend Jacqui while I was waiting for another friend at a bar. At this point in my life, I had already been a “Human of New York” myself.  I had recently relocated to Philadelphia from New York City, but I hadn’t heard of Stanton or what he had set out to accomplish. Scrolling through my iPhone that evening, I realized how many individuals I waltzed on the streets of New York, uninterested in the fact that each of these passersby had stories to tell.

Brandon Stanton is a photographer with a clear vision.  The genuine connection he establishes with his subjects is inspiring to me.  I recently purchased the Humans Of New York book, published by St. Martin Press.  Just like on Facebook, I am reminded of my home with each turn of the page.  “Oh!  I’ve totally seen that guy in Times Square,” “I definitely know what that woman means!” etc.  Anyone is game to stand in front of his camera: Stanton has photographed toddlers, the elderly, the homeless, and the wealthy.  His efforts have given the world a true cross-section of what it’s like to live in New York.

Stanton moved to New York City in 2010 with no money and no job, but he had his camera; and he had the streets of New York. On a daily basis he would approach someone in New York and connect with them. Not only was he taking their picture, but he genuinely cares about who they are, where they came from, and what they are feeling. Initially, Mr. Stanton intended on creating a “photographic census” of the City that never sleeps.  His vision was to attach each photograph to a map of New York City, an interactive experience which would allow users to really “see” into their own neighborhoods.  Frustrated with the lack of exposure, Stanton turned to Facebook Pages (which was in its infancy at this point).  The Facebook platform allowed a direct link to the socially-connected world.  As of today, the “Humans of New York” Facebook page has over 2.9 million likes.

I urge everyone to take a look at Humans of New York––especially if you have spent time in the city.  It will undoubtedly inspire you.

Humans of New York is available on Amazon.com for as low as $15.88 (if you’re a Prime member).



NoHo or Bust

January turned out to be a little bit sluggish for me in the shooting department.  Lots of business preparation, and then a lot of other things that had nothing to do with photography (check the other blog if you’re super curious).  Anyway, I decided to climb out of my month-long hole of nearly zero creative expression by shooting my friend Kristina outside of one of North Hollywood’s creepiest landmarks––Circus Liquor.  Circus Liquor (located on Burbank & Vineland) has a huge neon clown sign beckoning the San Fernando Valley to buy some whiskey.  It was famously featured in the 1995 film Clueless, specifically the scene in which Cher is robbed at gunpoint returning from a “Val Party.”  I also shot Kristina in Studio City, behind the old Bookstar (now owned by Barnes & Noble).

The shoot: I’ve really been into the whole street punk look.  Reminiscent of the 1980s; think Debbie Harry of Blondie.  I think Kristina really captures it effortlessly.  All images were shot on the 7D, lit with a 430EX II Speedlite mounted with a soft box connected to an ETTL cord.

P.S. – I would like to take a moment just to appreciate the detail she put into her eyeliner.

Continue reading NoHo or Bust

How To Shoot Great Concert Photos Using a Point-and-Shoot

I love shooting live music.  I really really love it, and I was doing it for years before deciding to make it my living.

My first ever rock concert was No Doubt at the Roseland Ballroom in New York City.  I walked into the club with one disposable camera and used it up within the first three songs (one of those photos can be seen here).  Capturing that memory forever is something I still look back on, and it sparked my initial interest in live music photography.  For most, seeing a favorite artist live is an event they want to capture themselves––it adds a personal touch to the concert going experience.  But this is a practice that has been botched way too many times by those who have no freaking clue what they are doing.  I urge you: If you’re going to take pictures at a concert, do it the right way.  Say goodbye to zooming all the way on your iPhone to get a fuzzy outline of your favorite performers.  You will now be an ace at photographing concerts on your compact camera (remember that thing?  Before your iPhone?).

I’m going to break this down into three major portions: 1) Selecting a camera for the concert, 2) Shooting the photos, and finally 3) Post-processing.  

Continue reading How To Shoot Great Concert Photos Using a Point-and-Shoot

TAG YO SHIZ – Why LensTag may be a Godsend

I am going to start this post with a disclaimer: I am not being compensated by LensTag in any way, shape or form.

Last night at around 11pm, I was indulging in a bad habit outside of my apartment complex.  I noticed a few of my neighbors congregating around the side entry to my building’s parking garage.  They seemed upset, so I asked what the situation was.  It turns out someone had entered our private garage (situated underneath our building like most apartments in LA) and had broken into two vehicles.  Almost everything had been stolen: a tricked out iPad, expensive jewelry, leather jackets… even a toy that was meant to be donated to charity.  The general consensus was that the robber intended to hit each car in the garage, but must have been spooked by an opening gate.

One of victims was a family whom had just returned from Michigan after (like many of us, myself included) spending hours in and out of the airport due to Winter Storm Hercules.  Weary from travel, they decided to rest upon arrival and unpack the car the following day.  They followed logic which in theory makes total sense: you park in a locked structure, your shit should be okay for the night.  Unfortunately, all it takes is a side door that doesn’t lock fully to turn your world upside down.


So what’s the deal? As photographers, we occasionally store our gear in our vehicles… I tend to hide mine under a jacket or something.  Usually only for a few minutes… but that’s really all it takes (see Gone In 60 Seconds).  During my Christmas vacation I read an article on fStoppers about LensTag.  Previously solely web-based, the company developed an iPhone app for the purpose of tagging serial numbers to your equipment.  The owner enters the serial number into the app, and the gear is only verified once an approved photo of the actual serial number is attached to the entry.  In the unfortunate case something is lost or stolen, you can report the gear as stolen using the unique serial number assigned by the manufacturer.  Not only does LensTag allow you to tag cameras and lenses, but also computer equipment, hard drives, etc… anything expensive that, if lost, can be detrimental to your business.  Additionally, if and when you sell or transfer your gear, there is an option to do so within the app.

Unfortunately, LensTag does not double as a Private Investigator and the probability you will see your gear again is low.  But it definitely helps–LensTag keeps a running list (located here) of the serial numbers of gear reported stolen.  That way, if it pops up on eBay (et. al.), you have documentation that you are the rightful owner.

Right after I started writing this post, a horror story popped up on Reddit from Evgeny Tchebotarev (co-founder of revered 500px) who had $10,000 worth of gear stolen the day after Christmas.  It’s real, guys.  Theft is real.

The “Dos” and “Don’ts” of Photo Editing at Starbucks

Everyone needs a change of scenery now-and-then to keep their sanity intact––especially when your office doubles as your living space.  A majority of the work we do as photographers is done in the home office, so t’s only natural to want to venture into the outside world.  I have completed tons of edits, e-mails, website updates, etc., at my local Starbucks.  Or better yet, when I was still working for Starbucks at my own store.  It’s a wonderful place to hole up for a few hours; free WiFi, steady supply of caffeine, and good people watching.  But take it from a former Starbucks employee––you can overstay your welcome.

  • DO order a drink
    • WiFi access, while complimentary at company-operated Starbucks locations, is for customers only.  If you sit in the café with your laptop and various electronic devices out and have yet to order anything, you will be asked to leave.
  • DO be aware of the store’s hours.
    • And in that same vein, be ready to pack it up before closing time.  The staff has tons of stuff to do that they cannot begin until everyone has left the store.  10:00pm is not when you pack up your gear… it’s when you leave!
  • DO keep an eye on your gear at all times.
    • Bring a jacket or something to put on your seat while you use the restroom so you don’t lose the comfy chair near the outlet.  Just make sure you bring anything and everything expensive with you to the restroom.  I generally only have my laptop and a card reader and some notebooks, which I will pack up every time I have to relieve myself.  You would be surprised how quickly things get stolen at Starbucks, especially in Los Angeles.
    • In that same vein, the staff and management is not liable when things are stolen.  And while there are security cameras, they’re mostly for the use of law enforcement in the event of a serious crime.
  • DO NOT bring an entire studio setup to a coffee shop.
    • This probably sounds ridiculous, but on four separate occasions while working at the Starbucks on Melrose I witnessed customers set up their desktop iMac or Mac Pro.  Not only are you putting your everything at risk, you’re being a douchebag!  No one wants to see a gigantic computer while their trying to relax.  And keep the sound to the headphones.  If you’re editing video and need something louder, Starbucks is not the place to be.
  • DO be courteous to the staff
    • This is particularly weird coming from me because I notoriously keep to myself.  If you’re at a Starbucks (or any coffee shop… Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf) that you frequent, introducing yourself to the baristas may open up possibilities you never knew existed.  I was once behind that counter (not that that’s saying much but, hey).
  • DO find a seat that is closest to the back room.
    • This has to do with WiFi connectivity.  Starbucks locations have their WiFi routers housed in or near the back room, so the strongest signal will be as close to that area as possible!

Those are the basics off of the top of my head.  Bottom line: be nice and you will have a wonderful brief vacation from your desk space.