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Sunday, March 7, 2010

"Mr. In-Between" (Part II) ~ Jay Stafford

Alright then! Where were we? Oh yeah..."Frugal" people asking an amateur photographer for his or her services. Do you, the good amateur, charge for those services or not? Please bear in mind that this is a opinion. This has mostly worked for me, but as the commercials say, your results may vary! Let's consider your time and costs. How much is your time worth? $20/hour? $50/hour? $100/hour? Your call on that. How about your costs and expenses? Gas ain't cheap and you'll have to travel. You'll need enough film or memory cards for several hundred photos. Plus you'll need new batteries for your cameras, flash or lights. Notice I said cameras, plural. ALWAYS carry a spare camera -even a point-and-shoot is better than nothing if your primary camera breaks down. You can't re-shoot a wedding! Do you do your own post-processing? Got chemicals and paper for your darkroom or paper and ink for your printer? Don't skimp on ink or paper - use only high quality. Believe me, it shows! Or, do you send your film or digital stuff to an outside lab for developing/processing/printing? If you do, you know that costs a bundle!
After you determine the value of your time, how much time will you spend shooting the gig (travel time not included)?
First: Weddings. I'm talkin' the full shebang here. Pre-wedding photos, days or weeks in advance of the ceremony. The bride and groom at a lovely site: beach, park, grassy field, mountain stream, etc. Estimate two hours for that. Before ceremony photos with the bride, groom and wedding party dressing (guys, you'll need a female assistant for this and gals, you'll need a guy), getting out of the limo, etc. Figure at least two hours for that. The ceremony itself. Some are long and some are short. Give yourself two hours. Post-ceremony where the bride, groom, wedding party and families pose for group shots. One hour for that. Then the reception: Four to six hours normally. That's a total of up to twelve hours (weddings are a LOT of work if they're done right!) Figure an equal amount of time, minimum, if you do your own post-processing.
Next: Parties, Birthdays, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, etc. Like a wedding reception, figure six hours. This is actually conservative. Some parties last all day and night...check with your "client" on how long the event is expected to last. Oh, and cool it on the booze - you're workin' here, not one of the partiers! Post-processing should take about the same amount of time.
Finally: Portraits-groups, individuals and/or pets. Here I'm going to assume you don't have your own studio and will shoot outdoors, in one location. Two hours minimum. You and your subjects will have to be flexible and patient. I've had to delay outdoor portrait sessions for up to two weeks. Mother Nature isn't always cooperative. In cases like that, and if time is pushing you, you might consider the portraits be done in the clients home among comfortable, familiar surroundings (no sunlight, so think about your lighting). Again, give post-production and equal amount of time, or maybe more if Grandma wants her wrinkles smoothed out or Junior has a big zit which needs touchup. Remember, these are portraits which may hang over the mantle in a beautiful frame. It's YOUR job to make the subject look as good as possible!
Lots of other events requiring photographers come to mind such as speeches, store openings, ribbon-cutting ceremonies, book signings (hear that, Tina?), etc. I think you get the idea of time and cost estimating and don't forget post-processing.
Now, the BIGGIE: Who do I charge and who gets a "gift"? Let's begin with total strangers, people you've never met who may have been referred to you by someone you know. CHARGE 'EM! The full boat - your time, expenses and per-print. Draw up a contract showing who, when, where and what you're going to provide. Get signatures and at least half the estimated money up-front! Since you don't have the total overhead of a pro, it'll be less than the price a pro would charge, but don't forget the customer will expect the same professional results!
How about mere acquaintances? Not a stranger, but not your best buddy either. Co-workers and neighbors-down-the-block types. CHARGE 'EM!! You may want to reduce your hourly value a tad, but maybe not. A total stranger may see your work and question why Fred got the same thing cheaper. Again, do the contract and up-front money thing.
Next, good friends and tight-knit neighbors. This is where it begins to get tricky. Contracts, up-front money and full charges may strain the relationship. Remember, these close friends and neighbors are NOW customers, and where money is involved you may find yourself losing a friend and getting the cold shoulder in the neighborhood (neighbors talk!). I suggest not charging full boat, but get your costs reimbursed and give 'em a break on the per-print prices. You may want to try BARTERING. You provide your skills, time and services and they provide something of equal value back to you build a deck, fix the plumbing, paint the that. It works and may even tighten the relationship!
Finally, there's the dreaded F-A-M-I-L-Y!!! We can choose our friends, but we can't choose our family! DON'T CHARGE!!! Not a penny! Believe me, you don't want the money-induced, strained family relationships. Not worth it! Besides, good luck getting money out of your brother-in-law! Know what I mean? Instead, wedding photos make a great and generous wedding gift! They'll love you for it! Portraits make a super Christmas, birthday and anniversary gifts. Bartering also works well with family members. Just as long as there's no money involved!
All that being said, you still have one more choice which will allow you to avoid all that work, hassle, strained relationships, non-payments and such..."Awww, gee Charlie, my camera's in the shop for repairs and won't be back 'til (whenever the event is)!" Your call...they approached you!
To wrap up, I want to thank Cy and Patty, Jessica, Dylan and Tony whose photos I took and which grace these two posts. And, I especially want to thank Tina for asking and allowing me to sit in for these past three blogs. I hope I haven't driven away any followers from ya! Now, get out there and make "Letters From Alcatraz" a best seller! Love ya girl!
Respectfully submitted,
Jay Stafford
Photos copyright 2010

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Mr. In-Between (Part I)

Howdy Folks!
Yep, it's me again...sitting in for the Blogger-In-Chief, Tina, who's nursing a bad case of writer's cramp from all the "Letters From Alcatraz" book signings. Ahhh...such sweet agony!
How many out there reading this are good amateur photographers? Not professionals, but just as talented? Ever been asked to photograph a wedding, party, portrait, etc. by a friend, neighbor or family member? Did you do it? More importantly, did you CHARGE for it?? During my 40+ years as an amateur shutterbug, that's a subject often debated by many other good, talented amateurs I've met. Some say "Yes! Always charge!" Others say "No! An amateur shouldn't charge!" Still others are caught somewhere in between. That's me...Mr. In-Between. I say it depends on who's asking for my services and the type of gig to be photographed. More on that later.
First off, why are they asking you, an amateur, rather than going to an established professional? We'd like to think it's because we're close friends, neighbors, coworkers or family and they trust us to do a good job because we're damn fine photographers. We'd like to think that, but we'd be...WRONG! They ask us because they're frugal (a politically correct term for CHEAP!) They've checked out the pro's, saw how expensive they are and, "Hey! You're a buddy! Right?" What they don't see or understand is WHY the pro's are expensive.
Let's compare an established, professional photographer with, say, a doctor. Doctors are expensive. Everybody knows that and expects it. They go to school for many years, serve more years as interns, have hugely expensive equipment and, unless they're working for an HMO, have medical assistants and office staff and the expense of buying, renting or leasing a suite of offices. A good thing for most patients is that medical insurance helps lower the out-of-pocket expense. You need a doctor? You go to a doctor. You don't go to Uncle Charlie who's only medical experience is puttin' on a Band-Aid and pickin' up his meds at Walgreens!
So why are pro photographers so expensive? Well, the last time I checked, Blue Cross and Medicare don't cover photography (x-rays, yes, but not weddings!). And, to a lesser extent, the pro photographer has studied, practiced and honed his/her skills for many years. Most have been assistants or interns, if you will, to established pro's. They also have hugely expensive equipment, an office/studio and pay a staff of assistants and outside processors to get the job done. Today, set up and maintenance of a web site is mandatory. Like the doctor, the pro photographer has to constantly keep up with the latest in equipment, techniques and trends. Both the doctor and the pro photographer are MAKING A LIVING at their careers and the cost of doing business ain't cheap!
Now that we understand just a little about why pro's are expensive we can understand why our "Buddies" and family turn to us. They know we have some camera equipment, have probably seen some of our work and, "Hey! Uncle Charlie (or Aunt Betty) will do it for little money...or FREE! He doesn't have all the expenses the pro's do!" What they don't say is that they've seen the work of the professionals and will expect the same quality from you!
Now, back to the original question: Do you, as a good, talented amateur photographer, charge your friends, neighbors, coworkers and family for your services? Well, I've done weddings, parties, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, family portraits, individual portraits...all that stuff (some are shown here). I've done it for family, close friends, mere acquaintances, neighbors, complete strangers. Do I charge? Well, it's only my opinion and practice, depends. What opinion??? Depends on what??? Tune in for part II and I'll tell ya!
Respectfully submitted,
Jay Stafford
Photo's copyright 2010

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Guest Blogger ~ Jay Stafford

I am so happy to have Jay Stafford contributing to the Eastcreek Photography Blog! Jay is an incredibly talented photographer and someone that I not only consider one of my best friends, but he's someone that I truly admire! He's always there to support me in everything that I do (or attempt to do) and he knows when to just give me a swift kick in the butt!
Many Thanks Jay!
I love ya!

Howdy Folks!
Tina asked me to help her out with her blog while she's busy doing cartwheels over the initial success of her recently published, first book "Letters From Alcatraz". Glad to do it Tina...YOU GO GIRL!!!
First off, I'm a shutterbug with 40+ years' passion for photography. In fact, that's how I got to know Tina. We met on websites like Classmates and Facebook, started discussing photography and oooh'ing and aah'ing each other's photo's. Although I've done some paying gigs like weddings, events and portraits and had some stuff in a couple of books and newspapers, I'm not a professional...just a guy with a camera having a lotta fun!
"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." I'm sure you've all heard that and, if you look up the definition of "Subjective", you will see it's an adjective meaning an opinion, not impartial or literal, but personal. Those two things really hit home with me at a recent meeting of my photo club. At each meeting several of the members submit slides or digital photos to be critiqued by professional photographers, gallery owners and managers and college-level photography professors. Those folks really know their stuff and can teach amateurs a great deal about what makes a great photograph and the techniques required to take it. The thing is, no two critiquers agree! One meeting we'll have someone who loves to crop the shot in real tight on the subject. The next meeting we'll have a guy who wants lots of "breathing space" around a subject. I'd love to get them all together in one room and watch the fur fly!
At our last meeting the theme was "Sunsets." Great! I just happened to have some sunset photos I'm really proud of and which got lots of oooh's and aah's from close friends, Facebook friends and fellow club members. I'm including three of them here. Okay, here I am in the meeting ready for the applause which, I was convinced, my masterpieces would receive. Well, apparently the critiquer didn't agree. He hated the shot of the Monterey Peninsula/Highway 1 at dusk. He said it was "too busy" and was actually three shots: the peninsula, the highway and the pond in the foreground. Okaaaay, well he'll love the next one of the seagull flying in front of the sunset! Uhhh...NOPE! He said the seagull looked like a stuffed bird hanging on a fishing line. The sunset's okay, but the surf and shore are ugly! Oh wow, I thought as I picked myself up off the floor and climbed back into my seat. Yep...climbed...'cuz by that time I was only one-inch tall! Fearful of how he was gonna trash my next offering, I peeked out between my fingers at the dog/sunset photo on the screen. "Well..." he says... "'s not something I would photograph, but...I like it!!!" I must have passed out for a brief moment 'cuz when I came to he was throwing another body jab with a comment that the dog looks like she's being electrocuted!
Bottom line...I really have learned a lot from critiquers ad I think my photography has improved greatly as a result. What I need to work on is not to take their harsh criticism of my "babies" personally. For you shutterbugs out happy and thankful for those who like your work and be gracious and learn from those who don't...even if ya wanna strangle the sumbitches! Know what I mean?
Respectfully submitted,
Jay Stafford
Photo's copyright 2010

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Photo Contests -

Check it out Shutterbugs! Another contest to enter! Your photo may win $$$ or even get published!

Monday, February 15, 2010

"Letters" Winner Announced!

Congratulations to Crystal McVey! Crystal is the winner of a signed copy of "Letters From Alcatraz" set to be released within the next 7-10 days! Thanks to everyone that entered their email address into the drawing!

Sunday, February 14, 2010


This is the image of the children that FB removed from my photo album, because they felt it was inappropriate. The second image is what I see on my FB home page on a daily basis, and what has been posted on my wall more than 15 times. The second image is posted by FB members and they get these images through a FB app.
Is it just me or does anyone else find this confusing?

Facebook WARNING

"I haven't uploaded anything that could even be remotely considered to be offensive. Nor have I uploaded anything that involves nudity or attacks a group or individual.
However, I find it interesting that my home page is covered with people posting pics of nude women on a daily basis, and that's okay. I also find it interesting that groups are all over FB that have the 'F' word in their title.
I don't see how that corresponds with your policy. What about the children that use FB? They see this foul language on a constant basis, not to mention the nude photo's that people post from the app's that FB allows on their site.
I also find it interesting that I received this email just hours after I reported an individual that has been sending me explicit, disgusting messages. Yet, I see that he is still a member!
I enjoy your site and I would never post anything that might offend others. If I have, I apologize, and I would like to know (or see) what it is that I posted.
Thank you,
Tina Westbrook

From: Facebook
Sent: Sun, February 14, 2010 2:22:12 AM
Subject: Facebook Warning


You uploaded a photo that violates our Terms of Use, and this photo has been removed. Facebook does not allow photos that attack an individual or group, or that contain nudity, drug use, violence, or other violations of the Terms of Use. These policies are designed to ensure Facebook remains a safe, secure and trusted environment for all users, including the many children who use the site.

If you have any questions or concerns, you can visit our FAQ page at

The Facebook Team"

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Dinner's Ready ~

Every year, just a few weeks before Christmas, I attend an Arts & Crafts festival that's held way out in the country at Homestead Hollow. One of the highlights is the food! For those of you that know me, you know I like food! There's just something about a cool, crisp day, and the smell of a fire burning that makes me hungry! And, Homestead never fails to serve up a variety of homestyle dishes! Cooked outside over a fire, you will find huge pots filled with corn on the cob, butterbeans, pinto beans, and turnip greens. And, just a short stroll from this country feast is a place where you can get a fried pie! The chocolate are my favorite and if the truth be known, I actually make the two hour drive every year with the vision of those fried pies dancing in my head! Mmmm...Country living! Does it get any better?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Gerry Daniel ~

As the release date for Letters From Alcatraz draws closer I find myself excited and nervous all at the same time. On one hand time seems to be moving slowly and on the other hand it seems to be flying by! When I think that it was only a little more than a month ago that I signed with Trafford Publishing, yet the book is scheduled to be released in a few short weeks, I'm dumbfounded. I'm anxious to get the book out there, but then I realize that I'm putting a piece of myself out there!
This week I was able to move to the next stage of this process and visit the location where the release party will be held! We have chosen Wildflower Wax & Boutique as our party location! Although not the "traditional" place one would normally think to have a book release party, I feel this is the perfect location! Wildflower is a quaint, relaxing and warm environment that exudes charm. The shop is owned by Dave & Jennifer Rankin and they have the ability to do what very few business owners seem to have the capability of doing these days; they treat all that enter their shop as friends.
Gerry Daniel photographed the shop and it is his photo's that I am posting today. Gerry has signed on as my photographer for all events related to Letters From Alcatraz. He is an extremely talented photographer and has the ability to take a normally mundane object and turn it into something phenomenal! I would encourage all photography fans to check his work out! He has a new web site and you can find him at:

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Win A Signed Copy!

The excitement is in the air and I feel the need to share! I received an email today from my PSA (which included the revised book covers) and discovered that "Letters From Alcatraz" may be released earlier than anticipated! So, to celebrate this awesome news I'm going to give away a signed copy of the book! If you would like to enter the giveaway just leave your name and email address in the comment area under this post. The contest will run through February 14th. A name will randomly be drawn and I will email you for more information!