How I Got the Shot(s): Pets Over the Years


When I was a student at the Hallmark Institute of Photography one of our assignments was to photograph a pet portrait. Prior to this I had very little experience photographing pets after this I ended up loving photographing pets. This image of Feona the golden retriever was shot for my final portfolio at Hallmark. When my clients arrived Feona was super rambunctious. The skies that day looked stormy but thankfully the rains held off. My clients brought two of their dogs with them but didn’t think they would get any photos of Feona because of how wound she was. I set up a Profoto strobe with a white reflective umbrella. I had my clients direct Feona to a picnic table where I had Feona sit briefly. I was down on the ground and shot up towards Feona getting the dramatic sky in the background. I only got a few shots off before Feona lost her patience and jumped off the picnic table. This image ended up being my favorite from the session and remains one of my favorite pet images that I have shot. Later in post I retouched the sky to make it more dramatic and blue. The contrasting colors between the blue clouds and Feona (who is yellow of course) is one of the things which made this image work.

Shot using a Canon 5d Mark III with a Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 Lens. Lit with a Profoto strobe and a white reflective umbrella triggered with Pocket Wizards. The aforementioned gear was provided by the Hallmark Institute of Photography. The gear mentioned after the later images in this post is the gear I actually own and use now. ISO 100 64mm f/10 1/125 of a second shutter speed.


After I moved back to Michigan in 2013 I decided that I wanted to put together a pet portfolio. A former client (who had a plethora of pets) offered to have me photograph them. This shoot resulted in some of my favorite pet images to this day. My favorite image from this shoot was a profile image of one of my client’s dogs. I lit the image in the same way I would lit a profile image of a person. The dog sat on the deck while his owners kept him from running off. My Alienbee B1600 strobe was placed to camera right on the lawn in front of the deck and facing the dog. When shooting pes you need to be very patient. Luckily this dog was pretty chill. He allowed me to get several frames with him in this spot before getting sick of modeling.

Shot using a Nikon D600 with a Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 Lens on a Feisol Carbon Fiber CT-3371 Tripod with a Kirk B3 Ball Head with a Kirk L Bracket. Lit with an Alienbee B1600 with a white shoot thru umbrella triggered with Radio Poppers and powered with a Vagabond Mini. As I’ve stated in past posts I quit using Radio Poppers in 2016 and now use cheaper but more reliable Yongnuo triggers.  


In early 2014 I shot some images of my friend and fellow Hallmark alumni’s cat Sadie in Weidman, Michigan. I used one of her backgrounds, lights, and softboxes for this image which was shot in a fairly tight space. This image remains one of my favorite cat images.

Shot using a Nikon D600 with a Nikon 50mm f/1.8 Lens. Lit using a Calumet Strobe with a Cowboy Studio softbox (this softbox and strobe belonged to a friend of mine; the Cowboy Studio equipment I have used is consistently horrible and I would not recommend it).

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How I Got the Shot: Ian the Welder


The title of this blog post sounds like it could be a Primus song.

When I studied at the Hallmark Institute of Photography our professors Gregory Heisler and David Turner would take us once a week to different locations to teach us location lighting. We got to go to a variety of locations such as a paper mill, and abandoned industrial building, and an airport to do shoots. The lighting techniques I learned during these classes are things I use almost every shoot.

Shortly after graduating from the Hallmark Institute of Photography with the highest academic honor I was commissioned by the 515 Gallery in downtown Clare, Michigan to shoot images for their “Junk it” opening. Ian, who is a junk artist and high school art teacher, was commissioned to create a sculpture from various scrap metal and other “junk” brought in by the community. I was commissioned to photograph the people who brought in “junk” with the “junk” they brought in; as well as, photographing the still lives of the “junk” itself and Ian creating his sculpture.

I drove to Harrison, Michigan (where Ian lived) fairly late at night (around 10pm) for the shoot at his home. I looked around his work area (a large barn) to figure out where to get the shot. He had his welding equipment set up. I set up my tripod and an Alienbee B1600 Strobe with a standard reflector attached. I set the strobe (another name for flash) to camera right and behind Ian to separate him from the black background. Without adding the additional light Ian would have blended into the background so I wanted a light to give a clear outline to his body. I wanted Ian to be entirely lit by the flash and the welding equipment so the background would go black making the smoke stand out. Because I knew Ian’s face (mask?) would be lit entirely by the welding equipment I had to guess on what the exposure would be for this. I figured trying to meter that with a handheld meter was a bad a idea. I got the exposure right for the strobe and guessed on the face exposure. I set my camera up on my Feisol Carbon Fiber tripod, then focused on Ian. Then I looked away (to avoid eye damage from the welding equipment) and had Ian start welding as I snapped images without looking at him. I nailed the exposure on the first image. It was actually the first image from the shoot which I ended up retouching and putting in the show (the image which is featured in this post). We shot several other images but none were as good as the first. In post I cleaned up the image further (adjusting the smoke a bit) and did some dodging and burning (lighting and darkening specific parts of the image) as well as giving it the black and white treatment. I later printed the image on metal for the show (at that time using Miller’s Professional Imaging). This remains one of my favorite portrait images to this day.

This image was shot using a Nikon D600 with a Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8 lens on a Feisol Carbon Fiber CT-3371 Tripod with Kirk B3 Ball Head and Kirk L bracket. Lighting wise I used an Alienbee B1600 Strobe with a standard reflector powered by Paul C Buff Vagabond Mini Lithium Battery Pack. The lights were triggered using Radio Poppers (which I highly advise against using, especially with Alienbee). I am now using Yongnuo 506N-II Flash Triggers which are way cheaper and way more reliable than Radio Poppers. ISO 100 44mm f/4 1/125 of a second shutter speed.

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The Photo Retouching and Workflow Workshop Rescheduled for Thursday, August 16th 6pm-9pm at Energize Workspace


The Photo Retouching and Workflow Workshop focuses on the basics of organizing and editing photos using Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop. 

Ryan Watkins from Ryan Watkins Photography and graduate of the Hallmark Instute of Photography will teach participants how to easily organize and edit photos using Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop. Specific topics covered will include importing, organization, retouching, and exporting. 

Who Should Attend? Those new to photography who wish to gain a better understanding of how to organize and edit their photos.

This is a special Community Workshop, hosted by members of the Energize Community. Tickets can be purchased through Eventbrite or at the door.

Thursday, August 16th 6pm-9pm

Energize Workspace

2016 West Wackerly Street, Midland, Michigan 48640


Please RSVP here. 

Destiny Senior Portraits in Clare, Midland, and Trout Lake

I had a great time photographing Destiny’s senior portraits last week. For Destiny’s session we went to a variety of locations including Pettit Park and the Dam in Clare, Dow Gardens in Midland, and Trout Lake. Destiny was great to work with! Also a huge thanks to her and Aunt Karra (who regularly models for me) and helped hold lights and bounce cards during Destiny’s senior portrait session.



Mike and Sheri Engagement Session in Mt Pleasant, Michigan

I had a great time photographing Mike and Sheri’s engagement session last week in Mt Pleasant, Michigan. Mike and Sheri had me photograph their engagement session while they were on a small vacation before heading back to their hometown of Detroit. All the photos were taken in Nelson and Island Park in Mt Pleasant, Mi. 



How I Got the Shot(s): Invasions via iPhone

I was a late adapter to the smartphone thing. I got my first iPhone in late 2013 after my burner pay as you go phone quit receiving calls and messages for an unknown reason. One thing I loved about the old burner phones is their longevity and durability. If you dropped one of those old phones the sidewalk would crack but the phone would be fine. I got that first iPhone 5s to last (almost exactly) four years and now use an iPhone 8 (I miss the headphone jack). I know use my iPhone all the time for mostly business related tasks and have even put together a series of nothing but iPhoneography shot using my (older) iPhone 5s (currently there aren’t any photos in the gallery shot with the newer iPhone 8).

Back in 2015 I found an app called Matter which allowed you to add all kinds of unique 3d shapes and graphics to your images. I decided to mess around with adding these shapes to my (mostly) iPhone images and a few shots taken with my Nikon. These shots have (weirdly I think) been really popular and many people haven’t been able to figure out how I got the image. I usually take a fairly drab original shot (a road, path, fence, sky) and add the unique shape to it later in post.

Shot using an iPhone 5s. ISO 32 4.15mm f/2.2 1/200 of a second shutter speed.

Shot using an iPhone 5s. ISO 32 4.15mm f/2.2 1/125 of a second shutter speed.

Shot using an iPhone 5s. ISO 32 4.15mm f/2.2 1/1900 of a second shutter speed.

Shot using an iPhone 5s. ISO 32 4.15mm f/2.2 1/4600 of a second shutter speed.

Shot using a Nikon D600 with a Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 Lens. ISO 50 80mm f/4 1/500 of a second shutter speed.

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2018 Fireworks in Mt Pleasant, Michigan

Every year I try to photograph fireworks near the Fourth of July and this year was no exception. Here are some photos of the fireworks display at the Soaring Eagle Casino in Mt Pleasant photographed on July 4th 2018. 


New Personal Work with Sam in Clare, Michigan

I had a great time photographing Sam last week on my parent’s property outside of Clare, Michigan. For this shoot with Sam I played around with light painting. I used a long ten second exposure and moved various continuous work lights from Menard’s around behind Sam. I used real sync flash so my flash would go off at the end of the exposure making Sam remain sharp despite the long exposure. Huge thanks to Sam and her friend Amanda for driving all the way over to Clare and being patient while I use messed around with this new technique.