An Interesting Negotiating Tactic


… and it is true.

Names have been changed a bit to keep client/photographer privacy.

I had lunch with a photographer today. We had met to go over plans for a big project and chose “The Vig” for delicious sandwiches and salads. What has that to do with the story? Nothing, I just wanted to tell you where I ate so it is kind of an instagram moment.

He recounted this story from earlier in the year:

A prospective client had been in touch with him 5 times in the past two years about shooting his proprerty, a twenty-six unit hotel in North Carolina.

Each time my friend sent him the same bid: $6000 for 16 finished images and a usage of two years.

Recently the hotel owner called and was totally dismayed. “Why so much?” I hired a guy last year and he only charged $800.”

“How did they turn out,” my friend asked? “Since you are calling me today, I am guessing they didn’t do the job.”

The hotel owner was nearly apoplectic. “They were horrible, terrible pictures and didn’t do anything for my business. But you are ten times more expensive.”

“Actually, my images won’t cost you a thing. They will even make you money.”

The hotelier was now very curious… “What do you mean they won’t cost me anything”?

Most of the hotelier’s business came from website bookings. Internal and external research shows that the most important thing a consumer looks at are the photographs of the hotel… even before price in many instances. Having better photographs means getting more bookings.

My bud explained that in detail and then asked: “What is your profit per room, per night”.

The answer was something like $55.

“Well, my photographs are going to cost you .50 a piece per day. $8 a day for 16 images that will help you book a room for $55. A net gain of $47. Even at one booking per week, your costs will be paid. If the images bring in one more booking per day, your costs will be paid in a few months, and then it is pure profit after that.”

$16 per day / $2920 per year / $5840 for 2 years.

“If the images bring in 2 additional bookings per week, that is $110 per week or $11,440 – nearly double what the images cost,” the photographer explained. “How many more bookings would you expect with really great photos”?

The hotelier explained that his chain estimated that great images could add an additional 5-10 bookings per week.

An hour later, my bud received the go-ahead. The shoot was booked three weeks out, shot in a day, and delivered in three days.

The hotelier was so pleased he has shown the photographs to his chain representative who was also fascinated by the breakdown of ROI that my friend had presented.

“It just came to me,” he said over lunch. “I was sitting there and looked at the calculator and thought… oh what the hell.”

Are there ways you can use out of the box thinking to explain cost/benefit to YOUR clients?

I bet there is… and there is a calculator built in to your phone.

Make the case for better by showing them how much more better can produce.

BTW, the hotelier reports much higher bookings as a direct result of the images my friend did.


One Umbrella on Location



I am a Photoshop guy who is finding a lot of love in Lightroom. I would say that about 80% of my work goes from LR (or CR) into Photoshop for finishing. But the other 20% is done totally in Lightroom.

Briana and I did this shoot last year for some new portfolio pieces. She had this cool, crazy outfit and I wanted an urban setting for the shot.

I used a single softlighter at 1.5 stops brighter than ambient for a pool of light effect.


I chose three that I liked:


I chose the middle one to do the Lightroom work on. I may come back and do the third one in black and white at some point.

Below is the Lightroom work I did. Simple and easy, and somewhat subtle… but then subtle may be all you need.


A Simple Tool for Shooting to Layout


Sometimes we have to shoot to specific layouts or dimensions. Here is a very simple tool for working with layouts that may not be typical.

I use cardboard stock for making these little screens. And as I note on the video, I always give the shot a little breathing room.

BTW… you can also print the layout on acetate at the same size of your screen. Then cut it out and put it over the top of your LCD to see how type and headlines work.


Go Beyond Full Frame Without Selling The Farm: Shane Ernest

Going Beyond Full Frame Without Selling The Farm.


In this tutorial, I’ll share my reasoning for going beyond full-frame, a few reasons why you shouldn’t, and some simple steps I use to create images that match your vision.

While there are huge differences between a Digital Medium Format system and this panoramic technique, you shouldn’t let that stop you from creating. If you see an image in your head that you can’t create with a 35mm system, well then, you better get crafty.

It’s not the size that counts, it’s what you do with it.

I started shooting with this technique because I was craving the field of view, and spatial relations that I get shooting medium format, but without having to always shoot film or plunk down a house-worth of cash for a digital back.

The detail and resolution of medium format is incredible and beyond stunning when printed larger than 24×36. The depth in the image is scrumptious and gives portraits a very romantic feeling when combined with DMF’s incredible color.

You’re basically viewing a Flemish Renaissance painting as the oil paints are still drying.

(Think van Eyck’s Arnolfini portrait. Or anything Titian.)


[Uncropped Frame from IQ180 showing outline of crop in image below]


[100% View from above image]


While digital backs are delicious, they cost more than a home in the rural Midwest and few people probably have a need for that kind of gear! Getting a used digital back is a semi-affordable option, along with renting one.

Even so, we’re still talking thousands of dollars.

What other options do we have to create images that fit our vision?

We’d certainly not let a bit of gear or software hold us back from creating, would we?!


The Technique

Seeing Your Final Image

The most important part of this technique is being able to ‘see photographically,’ knowing what the final image looks like and how you’ll create it.  This takes moving beyond what you see in your viewfinder and instead envisioning the final image as you’d like to create it.

Keep Your Settings the Same

This one seems obvious but it’s easy to miss. For this technique to work smoothly it really helps to keep your camera settings consistent through your image making. Set your ISO, WB, aperture, and lock your focus on the subject.


Create Frames to Build Final Composition

You can build your composition by creating rows of portrait oriented images the same way you’d create a standard panorama, and then merging and blending accordingly. Another way is to make the images in a spiral starting from your subject and working outwards in a simple pattern.

Take a frame, move right. Take another frame, move down. Take another frame. Move left. Etc.

Each subject/composition/camera/person is unique, so experiment and create your frames while being aware of how your sensor is collecting the light.

Be mindful of your plane of focus while making these frames. Any movement you introduce into your camera/sensor will change the plane of focus. That is just physics. You’ll want to be aware of this as you create your image.

Using a solid tripod with a panoramic head that lets you adjust the nodal point will help minimize changes to your focal plane and parallax, but you’re still bound by the Laws of Physics.

Unless you tilt-shift, but that’s for another day.

Review Your Images

Ensuring that you have the images you’d like is essential before moving on, as this method is more complex than shooting a single 35mm or MF frame.

Check, check, double check before moving on from your scene.

There isn’t much worse than realizing you missed a frame in your “grand vision.”


Combining Your Frames

After making global adjustments, you can open these images using Photoshop’s spectacular Photomerge, or use an open source alternative like Hugin. The settings you choose in photomerge will depend on the lens/camera you choose and number of frames. I’ve noticed the best results using “cylindrical” as the mode and turning off ‘blend images’ and ‘fix geometric distortion.

Even with all that automation, you’ll have to watch out for misalignment issues, out of focus areas, and anything else that may detract from your final image.

If you’re system is having trouble creating a large composite, you can merge your frames in ‘batches’ which will help a bit, though you’ll still have some trouble making the final composite.

At least you have plenty of resolution to play with!

Check + Print

This is just a final review of the image to ensure it meets your standards before printing. Check for bad blending, color shifts, or mis. Out of focus areas on the periphery of your frame can be common with low apertures and isn’t always noticeable when you’re in the field.

Quick Recap

  • Know what you’re creating in terms of composition before you begin to setup.
  • Use your Photo Yoga/Tai-Chi skills to play with the composition before you shoot.
  • Keep your camera settings the same and lock your focus, otherwise you’ll have all sorts of trouble when putting these frames together in your final image.
  • Have plenty of overlap in your frames, but reduce changes in your focal plane as best you can. Any movement will change your plane of focus, which is especially noticeable at lower apertures.
  • Watch for parallax in your frames and be mindful of any complex geometry like tree branches, fences, etc. Using a solid panoramic tripod will help minimize this, but you’re still blending images which raises the potential for problems.
  • Look for any distortion, misalignments, bad blending Photoshop introduces during your alignment. This is a personal preference, though you may differ and enjoy these aberrations in your image.


A Couple of Caveats

There are also client considerations to bear in mind when deciding whether or not to use this technique. Some clients and publishers will not allow for digitally manipulated images to be used. Nada. Zilch. Zero.

That means REAL graduated ND filters, and no modifications outside of what you could do on film or in the darkroom.

Other times the client will need a higher resolution, color accuracy, and image quality for the final output that could require a medium format image versus this stitched 35mm technique.

Either way, when using this technique the risk of failure is much higher than simple using medium format.

Even when PhaseOne is acting up!

(Takes the battery out. Puts the battery back in.)


Don’t let Resistance get the best of you.

Get out there and make something you love.


Shane Ernest

*In my research of this technique I discovered that fellow photographer Brenizer has used this extensively to create some intense panoramas! Prior to Brenizer, the technique was also referred to as “thinking outside the box” in the earlier days of 10mp DSLRs!

There are also ways to do this technique without depending on Photoshop. If you enjoy Open Source tools, I’m happy to give more information on processing. Just send me an email.