Last words on photography, for now

It has been fun posting my thoughts and experiences about photography here for the past few years. After 16 years, I’ve finished my time at Seton Hall, and have moved on to a new position at Iona College.

It has been a great experience working with so many talented photographers during my time here. I hope to continue many of the working relationships with all of the talented people I’ve gotten to know.

I was thinking this morning about how the quiet dedication and hard work of all these photographers can go completely unrecognized.

When we hire hire a photographer to cover a shoot for an hour or two, we seldom consider how much prep time they put in to getting ready, everything from hiring an assistant to renting equipment to scouting the locations.  Afterwards, the review of files, color correcting, cropping and retouching take more time than the shoot itself. Then they have to deliver the files to us in some way.

I have so much respect for all of you. You always make me look good, and you make my job much more fun and rewarding. I am grateful.



Courtesy to professional photographers – don’t give them your phones!

I’ve been seeing a strange, new phenomenon in the past year.

I work with a number of professional photographers. I’ve noticed a trend of regular people seeing a photographer setting up a shot, especially portraits or group shots at events. People see the photographer working, and they hand them their phones and ask them to take phone photos too. At first I thought, okay, it’s just a one-off. But now it is really interfering with the workflow, as more and more people are asking.

Our photographers are gracious and very people-oriented. But after a while, the requests get in the way of the work we are doing, and the assignments they have. They probably have the best vantage point for the photos, but wait until they are done, and then come around behind them and take your photo.

Please don’t jump in front of them! I’ve been running interference on that also. We are paying these people to do great work, and it seems very distracting to the workflow to have lots of people making these requests.



New approach to campus photography

Lester_050415_1190smIn the spring of 2015, we decided to take a new approach to our campus photos. We wanted to try a more candid and spontaneous feel to our photos.

We hired Matt Lester to spend two days here in May, asking him to capture the essence of student life at the end of the semester, along with the beauty of our campus.

Lester_050415_1037smThe result: We have a new gallery with more than 1,800 photos that truly convey the feel of campus life. There were challenges along the way. Unexpected events, like fire drills in a dorm, always seem to happen when you have a different plan.

Planning a new photoshoot seems to always work out to 85% planned activity and 15% serendipity, give or take a few percentage points.



fall campus482Each fall and spring, we like to capture the beauty and color of our campus through new photography. We think that these two seasons really showcase our students against a wonderful blast of colors and textures.

The first image here is the color-corrected, uncropped photo by our photographer, Milan Stanic. While I appreciate my student Kyle’s willingness to be in the photo (at left), I felt that this image would be more dynamic if it was cropped.

Here you see the cropped version (sorry Kyle). We have removed the extraneous information from the shot in order to focus on the two female students. The revised photo, just slightly altered with some quick, basic cropping in Photoshop, conveys the candid, spontaneous feeling of campus life that we like to use in our publications. fall campus482crop

Finding the best photos for your project

Taseen Peterson, CEO, (Aaron Houston NJBIZ)We are committed to using the best possible photos in all of our publications, especially in our alumni magazine. We often arrange for and plan custom photoshoots either on or off campus, but we also search for existing high-quality photos using Google Images or another search engine, or stock photography sites.

When we find great images, such as the one here of one of our alums, Taseen Peterson, we then have to find the original source of the images. This usually takes us to the photographer, the news service or to the publication.

Once we have made the right contact, we begin the process of negotiation to reuse those images.

Before negotiating, make sure that you have all of your information:

1. How you plan to use the image (as a cover, a full page, 1/4 page, on the web, etc.)

2. What the circulation of your publication is (how many copies you print or how many viewers you get on average)

3. Let them know whether you are a non-profit organization, so you can get a better rate.

4. Know what your budget is for a reuse fee

This process may sound daunting and time-consuming, but building relationships with media outlets, news services and photographers pays off in the long run. I often return to the same contacts over and over, which makes the process easier with each new project.

(This photo was one of a series taken by Aaron Houston for NJBiz.)

Spring comes along with thousands of new photos

This has been a very busy spring for photography on campus. We have thousands of new photos of students, alumni and classrooms, showcasing our dynamic faculty interacting with students.

MSP.42814vg.007smWe also have had so many events this spring that we created a new Zenfolio site just to store the images and make it easier for people to access the images from these events. Check out that site at

Using photos for other purposes?

We had a photography assignment, which my colleagues had planned out very well, and with lots of advanced notice. Included in the plan, in great detail, were very good examples of the types of photos they needed for their project. Because they had a clear idea of what they wanted, it made the assignment much easier to organize.

It still took weeks to coordinate the photographer and the 20+ subjects for the shoot, including their availability during certain timeslots, organizing certain combinations of people, and their wardrobes.

We then scouted locations and selected the venues and got the required permissions to use those spaces. Once this was done, we did the usual paperwork, permission forms, notifications to security, etc.

On the day of the shoot, we arrived early to set up the different venues, including tables, chairs, props, lighting and test shots.

The photographer did a fantastic job, and processed the images very quickly. Once completed, the project was met with great enthusiasm and gratitude. It was exactly what they were looking for, even more than they were looking for.

The success may have backfired, however. People started noticing the great photos and wanted to use them for other projects. The photos are now being used in ways other than their original intention, and in different contexts. These photos had a very specific purpose and goal when they were originally taken.

If you look through existing photo resources and do not see a photo that works for your project, perhaps it is time to plan a new photoshoot. You can build upon the foundation of the existing photos. You could gather your favorites up as examples, which is always a good idea. This way, if you need specific types of photos and you have a budget, you have the freedom to organize and plan a shoot customized for your exact specs and needs.

Shooting in Montreal

We spent the day scouting for our shoot in Montreal. So many wonderful old buildings on cobblestone streets. But this one caught our eye, and it was our first choice for a backdrop. The plaque on the building lists it as the home of the Marquis Michel Chartier de Lotbiniere, 1723-1799, Ingenieur du Roi.


We scouted the office building as our second venue, and from the 44th floor we had a spectacular view of the city. Our plan was coming together. We just had to return the next day and photograph our subject.


But when we returned the next day, the view had changed to a thick foggy mess. No one would know there was a city there at all. But by the time we set up the lights, worked with the hair and makeup expert, and got ready to shoot, the fog lifted and we once again saw the beautiful city out the windows.



The third stage of the plan was a studio setup, in case the weather was bad or the office building didn’t work out. The studio was unique, old stone walls on either side of a clean white seamless backdrop. After grabbing a bite to eat, we set up and began shooting here.



We stopped every so often to review images and make adjustments.


After an hour and a half, a few wardrobe changes and lighting adjustments, we reviewed the work again.


It was a wrap! All the planning, traveling, scheduling and hard work had paid off, as the pieces fell into place. It was a great collaboration with smart and talented people, a beautiful city and some help from Mother Nature.

Showcasing our campus

This photo was taken by Milan Stanic, SHU graduate, class of 2011. Milan had been wandering the campus during the early hours and late in the day, looking for new and different ways to capture the beauty of the place. Most people are surprised when they see this shot, because the buildings are not strikingly beautiful during the day.

But when the sun is just right, you may see something like this, just for a brief moment.

Thanks for capturing this for us, Milan.