Category Archives: Professional Photographer Guest Post

Directing Video: A Photographer’s Perspective by Michael Grecco

Michael Grecco is not only an established commercial photographer, but has delved into the world of directing videos as well. Although photography and filmography are often separated with a solid line, he blurs the line between the two fields to bring his expertise in photography to make excellent films. We’re pleased to partner with Michael for this week’s guest blog post.


I first fell in love with photography as a kid in summer camp; the magic of watching a print develop totally captivated me. A few years later I started pouring over the Time Life Photography books from the local library, I actually snuck them out in a vain attempt to “own” a photograph. After spying the likes of Penn, Avedon and Bruce Davidson I became deeply committed to the art. All through school I stayed up many a night reading everything I could about great photographers and amazing photographs.

Thinking I knew it all, I went to film school. I would learn about moving images; this was a completely new experience and I was mesmerized by the classic films I studied of Ingmar Bergman, Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Michelangelo Antonioni. This is where I really derived my deep love of lighting and the use of shadow to create an emotion that helps convey a great story. Movies I had never imagined existed, inspired me to graduate with a degree in filmmaking.

professional photographer videos

So, as I have spent most of my career directing people for still shoots, I come to directing with a natural passion. This involves knowing how to coax a great performance or moment from someone when it is otherwise not quite there. It also means being able to deal with people while at the same time having a vision of what works and what doesn’t. But aside from the obvious film and still are completely different.

When DSLRs that shot high quality videos first came into existence, there were many that believed there was now an economy in shooting. That the act of “photography” was now going to merge and we would just roll the camera, have talent walk through a scene, create an exceptional video and “pull” a wonderful still from it at the same time. It’s a nice idea, but better in theory than in reality.

photographer directing video

To really understand you have to look at the process of making a compelling still photograph and separately a compelling piece of motion. A great still and video both tell stories, but in completely different ways. For a still image, it means thinking about all the information in the image and by using props, locations, lighting and expression to give clues and information to deliver the details. I create a visual story in my mind and then figure how to execute the idea. That said all those pieces have to fit into the frame, in a composed and created moment.  A simple example of this is out of my archive, it’s an environmental portrait of a furniture maker. The story is told with the props, pose and lighting; the shadow tells part of the story and all the elements exist in the same moment.

videography and photography

In a work of motion the story is told over time, usually unfolding bit by bit. Not only is the process different, the execution of the idea is also completely different.

When working on a still you nuance the scene, working the expression, tweaking the lighting, moving the camera and changing the pose slightly. In motion you do the same but each take has to play out over time so your subject is usually moving. You are now dealing with macro rather than micro moves, actions and not subtle changes in pose. Creating a great work of motion involves all takes and shots adding up to a singularly wonderful piece. This is also why the idea of pulling stills from a take is not always the most effective way, as all the elements are often not present in one particular shot.

becoming a video director

For a recent video for Panasonic called Forever Young, I did not want to create a series of pretty stills; I wanted to make a video that had a story which unfolded. We took the idea of a rich older man and a beautiful younger woman and played with just that. To expand the story timeline, individuals like the bicycle rider using a Panasonic A500 was added, this gave a POV shot using Panasonic gear. We also drove over a crash cam – the camera amazingly survived!

The gas station location was planned from the beginning, but I had no idea what I was going to do there. As our precision driver was a large muscular man with a shaved head, we used the scene to get the top down in a humorous way. The showcase for Panasonic was the agility of the 4K GH4 to be used handheld, in gimbals from car to car, and on a drone; the aerials were a very important part of the images we required. So, the break at the gas station is away to explain why the top comes down;enabling us to get a shot of the couple driving the car from above. The story is told through a series of actions, giving little bits of information at a time, as opposed to how I story tell in a still; having all the elements revealed at once in a single frame. The whole video was shot over two days, I created an approximately 3-minute version for Panasonic; incorporating some behind the scenes footage at the end. I also cut it down to 90 seconds, to resemble the fast paced story telling of a commercial spot. I hope you like it!

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Grooms Can Plan Too by Nathan Nowack Photography

Weddings and wedding planning seem to be very bride-centric, but these days more and more grooms are stepping up and participating in the planning process. We’re pleased to partner with Nathan Nowack for this week’s guest post on grooms and the wedding planning process.


We are an award-winning photography studio based in downtown Fullerton, California. With numerous publications online and an award last year from Junebug Weddings, Nathan has been capturing weddings since 2008 with fun as his main goal.  Creating long-lasting images with artistic style, vision, and emotional connection has been a true pleasure for Nathan while he also branches out into holding photography workshops, public speaking, and administration of some online photography forums.  Nathan is also the co-founder of a new wedding blog called www.wedding-bros.com.  This modern day wedding website is centered around grooms and groomsmen, helping with valuable information by listing local vendors, giving advice on attire, to-do’s and not to-do’s, and so much more.  Thank you for reading our story below, “Grooms Can Plan Too.”

“Grooms Can Plan Too”

As a male wedding photographer surrounded by Badgley Mischkas, Alfred Angelos, and pretty pastel florals, it’s nice to see a new trend in the way wedding photography is booked these days.  No, I’m not talking about your “Uncle Bob” bringing his new Costco camera, I’m talking about the groom planning at least 50% of the wedding now. Yes, the groom has now taken a more involved role in planning his wedding and choosing the vendors than ever before.

groom planning a wedding

A groom is doing what? Well he’s not necessarily choosing the flowers or whether they should have gold or silver chargers. From what I’ve seen, today’s weddings have a more casual feeling than the more traditional ones 10-20 years ago. Couples are recognizing that the true focus of their wedding should be on their celebratory union and their two families coming together as one.  More couples these days are also helping to finance their wedding, not just the bride’s parents. Because of this, brides and grooms have more freedom to do what they want, which includes the vendors and venues. This makes the wedding much more involved now, so having two people help out with research just makes sense.

Grooms and Wedding Photography

I’ve been a wedding photographer for many years and have captured hundreds of weddings. During my consultations, the groom was present at least 90% of the time, and was actively asking questions. Approximately 25% of those times, the groom was the one who actually contacted me before the bride. During the meeting, I always ask questions to both the bride and groom, as I feel more confident this way in getting to know them both.  It is refreshing to see the groom’s excitement and involvement as it shows me he really cares about this wedding. This is after all HIS special day too, not just the bride’s.

groom influence in weddings

For wedding photography, there are many styles of photography to choose from. Grooms and brides styles on photography do not always match up.  His preference in style is typically with more vibrant color, contrast, and dramatic lighting, while the brides preference is traditionally a more soft light, filtered images, or even photos captured on film.  This of course isn’t always the case, but knowing what styles are out there is a very beneficial conversation to have first. Hopefully, the groom and bride have discussed what they want before the meetings begins, as it will definitely save time on planning.

Engagement sessions are also a newer trend, as back in the day, early couple’s photos were used for an announcement in a newspaper.  Today, they are full sessions of 2-5 hours that include multiple locations, outfits, and sometimes props. These engagement sessions can include fun romantic picnics in the park or maybe private tours in a professional sports stadium. I’ll let you guess which one the groom chose. In addition to the photography, videography is typically another task the groom is given to research.  Not all photographers do videography, and vice versa.

grooms and wedding planning

Grooms and Wedding Planning

Now photography isn’t the only thing grooms have started to help out with. I think guys have always loved the food and cake tasting, so that is not necessarily new. However, I think that food itself has changed with the addition of gourmet food trucks, specialty desserts, In-N-Out semi-trucks, and custom alcohol menus that have rushed into the wedding market for cocktail hour specials and late night snacks. To my delight, my wife even allowed me to select mini-burger sliders as one of our appetizers 4 years ago.  I also had the pleasure of capturing a wedding recently with a huge selection of craft beers and custom pilsner glasses for every guest.  Yep, all the influence of the groom.

men planning weddings

As the wedding reception marches into it’s final hour, a happy groom leans back with his new wife and enjoys the celebration that they have planned together. The last of the photographic documentation winds down as a few friends and family grab a couple more photobooth memories with superhero props. The mojito bar comes to it’s last call, as the bourbon cherry groom’s cake gets passed out. This groom has helped the bride plan their most memorable day together, and it’s all because he wanted to make their day special, too.

To learn more about Nathan Nowack Photography, visit his websites, www.nathannowack.com and www.wedding-bros.com.

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The Wedding Album: Selling It and Loving It by Mhari Scott Photography

Mhari Scott is a professional photographer based in the Pacific Northwest, specializing in wedding photography and photojournalism. She has been shooting since 2001, making the decision to focus on weddings in 2007. Her years of experience have made her realize the importance of wedding albums for her clients. We’re pleased to partner with Mhari for this guest blog post on how to love to sell wedding albums to your clients.


When I started out my wedding photography business, I was not a very albums-focused operation. I made the assumption that my clients would be more interested in taking their DVD of images to a photo lab themselves, now that the magical age of digital photography was upon us and allowed for that sort of thing.

Although I did offer albums as an option on my pricing list, I didn’t promote them in any way, and only one couple out of 90 in those first three years ordered one. At the time, I thought I was saving people money – that I was giving them the gift of DIY-ing to their heart’s desire.

Do I need a wedding album

Then I read an article saying that 95% of couples hadn’t done anything with their DVD of wedding images when interviewed five years after their wedding. It was still sitting in a drawer somewhere, just another stressor on their ever-lengthening to-do list. The thought that there could be drawers all over the country that hold thousands and thousands of dollars worth of wedding images in them, hidden away, seemed like an unfortunate misappropriation of funds (to put it mildly). This is not even to mention all the memories that could be lost when these couples find out their DVD has started to degrade over time.

So I set out to re-evaluate my business model and to come to terms with the idea of having to “sell” something to my clients. I realize that, theoretically, I’d been doing this for years: after all, I’d been selling them my wedding photography services. I hadn’t, however, been selling them something they hadn’t already come to me in search of. This was a huge stumbling block for me, as I can spot a salesman from a mile away and loathe those interactions.

how to sell wedding albums

I mean… wedding albums – the really high quality ones – can be a bit of a hard sell. They’re beautiful, but they’re a hefty addition to what already amounts to a serious investment in a luxury service. When you’ve budgeted $3000 for wedding photography and you find out that an album will add another thousand dollars, it’s very easy to say ‘no thanks’ in the interests of maximizing your current wedding budget. And, as a business already vying for such a big percentage of their wedding investment, it’s easy to apologize away the price tag and immediately agree with the first conjecture that it’s probably not something they’re interested in.

That said, EVERY married couple that I’ve shown my high-end albums to have stated how much they wished they’d invested in something like it when they had the chance. Even those to whom a thousand dollars is a huge amount of money.

professional wedding albums

I can only speculate as to why, but my guess is that we grow more sentimental as we travel through our lives. The more challenges we face with each other and the more the romance and passion give way to stability and routine, the more we want to look back and remember how we felt when we looked at the future with bright eyes together.

It’s not that we can’t do this with our dvd or flash drive of images, but it’s that most often, we don’t. After all, 700 or 800 images take a long time to peruse. Even if you only spent five seconds looking at each image, it would take you over an hour just to briefly look at them all! This makes it an endeavor that, with a busy life and the commitments of a growing family, you have to consciously schedule time for.

wedding photography sales

On the other hand, when your favorite 75 images are printed in a book that is a pleasure to hold, takes only seconds to pull off the shelf, and requires almost no time investment to re-live your favorite moments and replenish your appreciation of each other, it is enjoyed again and again for a lifetime – repaying its initial investment in spades.

So, to all the wedding photographers out there that hate promoting your albums, I encourage you to come to terms with your fear of selling. Make your albums something you’re excited about and share that enthusiasm with your clients. It doesn’t matter if they’re not interested in one at the get-go. Most couples nowadays aren’t thinking about the long-game when they’re planning their wedding. They’re thinking about place settings and bridesmaids’ dresses and DJ’s and honeymoon plans. Give them the chance to see their future selves in your enthusiasm about these beautiful books.

Even with the most glorious albums and all the enthusiasm in the world, some people will still say ‘no, thanks.’ And some might regret it while others might DIY their hearts out. But by being confident and enthusiastic about the value and the quality of your product, you will help more clients walk away with something that makes their photography investment really valuable for the long-haul. Because, after all, that’s what marriage is all about.

selling wedding albums

Mhari Scott is a wedding photographer based out of Portland, OR. To see more of her work, please visit www.mhariscott.com, or visit her blog featuring highlights of recent sessions.

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The Best Way To Name Your Files by Michael Grecco Photography

A few months ago we featured Michael Grecco Photography in a guest blog post on how to efficiently archive and store your valuable images. We’re pleased to partner with Michael, an award-winning commercial photographer, again in this guest post on how to name your files in a effective and practical manner.


As a photographer you have to worry about many things, from consultations before the shoot and what happens afterwards. Consider this hypothetical scenario that could happen to any professional photographer:

You were a rock star on the shoot and the client is very happy. The images look amazing and not only is the client happy, but their client is even happier. If you’re a wedding photographer, the whole family loves you!

naming commercial photography files

Now they’re calling you so that they can do additional licensing or maybe they need to make a huge print. They’re willing to make sure you are compensated well for the additional use or the print, which is great news for you. But, when you go to look for the image, you can’t find it. You don’t remember what you named it or you simply didn’t store it properly. The image is buried in a pile of unorganized hard drives named as one of the generic camera defaults.

commercial photography

Just like that, you go from being absolutely thrilled about making easy money to spending days looking for the correct file. The worst case scenario is that you lost the file because it was not archived correctly. How do you make sure this never happens again?

Preventing this sort of situation from occurring is very simple. All you have to do is dedicate a little bit of discipline and effort when processing the images so you never have to worry about it again. Taking these preventative measures at the beginning of the shoot, or as soon as the images come off your memory card, means that every file that gets passed around for people to see or edit will have the same name. If you send out files before handling this process, you are sending out orphan images that you will then have to manually match up to the parent file.

portrait photography file names

The file name of an image serves one very important purpose purpose: to identify the file and keep all files organized. A good file naming system for photos is essential.

The 4-step file naming system

  1. Put the date the image was taken at the beginning of the file name to keep all files in a hierarchical order. Your images will fall in order because the number at the beginning is incremental. I like to reverse the date, using the year, then month, then day. For example, “20140101” stands for January 1st, 2014. This is then separated from the next section of information with an underscore – the universal file name separator. Remember not to use odd characters like “/” or “:” because these are file path directions in some computer systems.

how to name photography files

  1. Put the subject name. As a portrait photographer I use the last name then first name. For example: “Scorsese_Martin”. If you shoot weddings you may want to use the last name of the bride and groom. If you shoot cars, use the car model and year. You can use any name you’d like, but know that the name is the backup if you can’t find out the date the image was taken.
  1. Use an acronym for your company. Mine is MGP – Michael Grecco Photography. I often send my clients files from which to edit, so this helps me be able to identify my work from everyone else’s images.
  1. Since we do not shoot just one frame, each frame of the day need individual identifiers to differentiate them. I use a 4 digit sequence because I have never shot more than 3000 images in a day so going past 9999 is very unlikely.

storing photography files

I set up Lightroom to name the files as they come in and set the file number to 0001 because I try to capture tethered as much as possible. If you shoot to a Sandisk card, do the same thing when you bring the images into the computer for the first time, or you can use the camera number for the frame number.

I use a software called A Better Finder Rename. It enables me to format thousands of file names in mass quantities so that I can do things like keep the original camera number on the file if I want. Please keep in mind that if you are doing a two camera shoot, the file numbers might overlap (two files with the same number) so sequencing the numbers from 0001 and sequencing them by creation date is a good solution.

Here are some sample file names:

20140101_Scorsese_Martin_MGP_0456.dng
20130814_Smith_Jones_Wedding_MGP_3211.dng
20101210_Radiohead_MGP_0725.dng

These files are stored in a folder named:

20140101_Scorsese_Martin_MGP on one of my archive drives with a second copy as a backup. In this folder are three more folders:

  • 20140101_Scorsese_Martin_MGP_Jpg
  • 20140101_Scorsese_Martin_MGP_DNG
  • 20140101_Scorsese_Martin_MGP_Selects

The folder 20140101_Scorsese_Martin_MGP_Jpg contains the 1200 width images we sent the client to edit from. We also used these images to make 450 width images for the copyright office for copyright registration.

The 20140101_Scorsese_Martin_MGP_DNG has the raw files in it all converted to DNG. Personally I don’t like to archive in camera raw formats because I fear that I might not be able to open them someday (The Adobe DNG format is the format that Adobe is designating as its long term Archival/Universal raw format).

Lastly, once we retouch the images we put them on our server/Raid on the office network. I also keep a copy of the retouched images in the shoot folder on the archive drives. Since I have a set of archive drives in the office and one out of the office, it gives me offsite safety of my images.

archiving photography files

Avoid disasters wherever you can. A little thought goes a long way to saving valuable work, time and clients!

Also check out http://howtoarchive.com and http://getprostorage.com for products to make your life that much easier!

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In Wedding Photography, Communication is Key by Brandon + Katrina

Brandon and Katrina Wong are an award-winning husband and wife photography team who approach each wedding with an infectious joy that shines through in each moment and every beautiful photograph. Their work has been recognized by renowned associations such as the Wedding Photojournalist Association, Fearless Photographers and the International Society of Professional Wedding Photographers, and we are more than pleased to partner with Brandon and Katrina in their guest blog post on how to communicate effectively with clients to create excellent relationships.


Many budding wedding photographers believe that the key to a great photo is having the right lighting, pose, focus, and other little camera details. While these are all important, of course, there is one tool that is practically essential in the field of wedding photography. Even better, it’s free, and you probably already have it.

What is it? Communication.

This may seem like an incredibly simple thing, but it’s something that’s absolutely required whenever you’re shooting for anyone else besides yourself. Talking to your couple and figuring out exactly what they want will make the process smoother for everyone and also immensely improve the quality of your shots.

So, we’re not going to go over camera or lighting tips in this article. Instead, here’s some tips on how to use communication to become the wedding photographer everyone’s talking about!

communicating with photography clients
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