Spring Marketing Campaign | Portraits for COD

Spring Marketing Campaign | Portraits for COD

It has been way too long since I’ve had a chance to swing by the blog to do some updates.  Lucky me, I was asked by a client to do some traveling to various cities south and east of Chicago to shoot corporate lifestyle in the last months of 2016 so that kept me super busy though December (fill you in on those travels on a blurb to come). By the time I came up for a little air, I needed some time to binge on Netflix and check off some novels on my Good Reads list.  But now it’s time to get to it.

The last thing I shot prior to this travel assignment was for the College of DuPage, which is the largest community college in the state.  I’ve been working regularly with their marketing and communications team for the last 2 years or so and am always happy to get their call.  The assignments normally revolve around a series of environmental portraits of students who have made the most of their time at COD and then we catch them doing what they do.  We’ve worked in the computer labs, architecture classrooms, welding facilities, professional kitchens, hospitals and local fire departments.  Incorporating the students’ work space into the shots helps to tell their success stories more than a standard headshot and a few lines of text. 

It’s always a pleasure to meet with the students and talk to them about their plans, especially those who are returning to school in hopes of making a career change as I can relate.  After years of working at a staffing agency, I decided it was time to try to do my own thing and I thought photography would be a challenge and continually keep my interest.  I was enrolled at Columbia College in Chicago for a few studio lighting classes, learned as much as I could and started assisting around town.  Getting myself back into school was the first step in making the big change and kudos to anyone who takes those same chances.


Here we are working in the nursing lab at Elmhurst Memorial Hospital.  Every day, every location, every subject looks a little different than the one that came before it which definitely keeps us on our toes. This project took us from the COD campus in Glen Ellyn to Elmhurst Hospital, over to Old Orchard Mall where we were treated to a fantastic lunch at Roka Akor and back to the campus library.   Looking forward to more of these kind of assignments in 2017 for sure.

Closing 2015 on a High Note | Corporate Photography for Oak Street Health

Closing 2015 on a High Note | Corporate Photography for Oak Street Health

The last few weeks have been very busy tracking down those straggling invoices that are still out, prepping for the beginning of 2016 and wrapping up the final assignments for the year.  So, I was really happy to end the year on a high note when I headed over to the west side of Chicago to work with my client Oak Street Health.

Looking to create new photos to refresh their website and print collateral, we had scouted out the location the week prior and working with Amanda, were able to pull together a shot list of must-have photos including portraits and lifestyle images that we would be working on throughout the day along with a schedule that we would try to stick with.

Getting close to our shoot date, Oak Street was having a tough time pulling in all of the clients that we would need to participate in our shoot and were close to pushing for a reschedule but chose to just wing it at the last minute.  And it worked.  Normally, we would try to plan down to the minute but this fly by the seat of our pants situation we were in turned out to be incredibly productive and a ton of fun.

The staff at this facility were an absolute pleasure to work with and the clients that they serve were so accommodating with their time and willingness to help out.  A big shout out to Whitney, my trusted Assistant and to Amanda and Caroline for making the day a great end to 2015!

Event Photography Highlights from Spring 2015 In Chicago

Event Photography Highlights from Spring 2015 In Chicago

This spring was a busy one for hosting corporate events here in Chicago and I was lucky enough to be invited to photograph several of them. The last few months have been pretty incredible and super fun as I got to catch up with some returning clients like C-CAP and also work with a few new ones, including SalesForce and The National Restaurant Association.  So, as I am sitting here on a Sunday morning before Memorial Day looking forward to what this summer is going to bring, I thought I would share some of my event photo highlights from this past spring.


March started off with C-CAP (Careers Through Culinary Arts Program), a national client I have been working with for over 5 years.  This is an incredible program that offers underserved high-school students job training, internships and scholarships that have added up to over $43 million dollars in addition to the $3.8 million dollars worth of equipment they have supplied to public schools throughout the country since they were founded by Richard Grausman in 1990.   Each year, C-CAP hosts several events across the country including a cooking competition that would make Bobby Flay break a sweat.  The students pull out all the stops in preparing their dishes which are graded on taste and presentation by several local, top-notch chefs as well as the staff of C-CAP Chicago.

Next it was on to the The University of Chicago’s Court Theatre 60th Anniversary Gala where attendees participated in silent auctions, were treated to an array of performances from the Court’s most popular shows and enjoyed a 3-course, exquisite dinner at the beautiful Ritz Carlton in downtown Chicago.  The elegant, black-tie affair raised more than $330,00 to support the Court’s artistic, education and outreach initiatives.

I was really excited when Kim at the OPUS Agency asked me to cover the Salesforce World Tour that would be coming into Chicago’s McCormick Place for a full day of training and demonstrations including a keynote by the Chairman and CEO, Marc Benioff.  Benioff, has grown SalesForce into one of the top 10 software companies in the world and the company put on an an incredible show, engaging their audiences and executed the whole day flawlessly.  And a side note, I broke my walking record that day….one kazillion steps which came out to over 11.8 miles!

Ulta Beauty, based in OakBrook, Illinois was holding it’s national General Managers’ Meeting at the Donald Stephens Convention Center and we were there to cover it.  With a crew that I have worked with before including my pals Fritz, Miles, Whitney and Joe, we pulled together step and repeat group photos working in tandem to arrange, engage, shoot and get the next group in as quickly as possible.  We also set up two additional large group photos featuring Gwyneth Paltrow front and center as well as covering the awards ceremony and dinner with Paul Mitchell.

The National Restaurant Association hosts a multi-day conference in Chicago and if you are in the business, it’s a must attend industry event.  With over 44,000 attendees, hundreds of exhibitors, celebrity chef demos and so much sampling Costco would be amazed,  this conference is really a restauranteur’s dream.  My assignment was to follow along with the video team and shoot stills as they interviewed attendees about their favorite highlights from the show.  Following this, I spent the rest of the afternoon photographing the NRA’s Keynote speaker and special guest, Arianna Huffington.  Huffington is the co-founder and editor of the Huffington Post who also consistently makes her way into Forbes’ list of most influential women in the media.

Last but not least!  Four full, very long and entertaining days with the awesome people of the American Association of Orthopaedic Executives for their annual conference over at the Hilton on South Michigan Avenue in Chicago.   The conference was filled with training seminars packed with information about everything from best practices for hiring staff to implementing white-hat SEO for websites.  There was plenty of opportunity for some peer-to-peer networking as well as a Keynote and after hours party with one of my favorite actors, Jeffrey Tambor.  Tambor was a truly engaging speaker as he delivered a keynote speech that had the audience laughing one minute and choking back tears the next.

I have yet to tally the total the mileage I logged covering these conventions but I have since bought myself a Fitbit since I obsessively check my walking app so why not treat myself to an upgrade?  Memorial Day has passed and spring is behind us so I can’t wait to see what awesome photo assignments summer brings with it and how many more miles I can cover!


Funk It Up: Playing with Lighting for Environmental Portraits

Funk It Up: Playing with Lighting for Environmental Portraits

I love it when I have the chance to do a shoot where we have creative control.  We were able to make this happen on  a recent portrait photography assignment when we headed over to the Gatorade Corporate Offices in Chicago for a photo session with the former NFL wide-receiver, Martin Nance. The University of Michigans’ Ross School of Business was looking for final images that were a little more gritty and high-contrast. In order to achieve this, we departed from the cross lighting that I often use in my corporate lifestyle and portrait photography and played with side and key lighting, emphasizing harder shadows in-camera and high-grain achieved through post-production.

We started with full body shots of Martin and modified the lighting as we pulled in closer for 3/4 and tighter head shots. Using 2 soft boxes with grids (to prevent spill) on each side, we created a frame of light around the edges of his face with a strong shadow featured in the center. To illuminate the paneled wall behind him, we had two reflectors with 20-degree grids and barn doors powered down by about 3 stops on camera left and 1.5 stops on the camera right. Finally, on a floor stand to camera right and behind our subject was a reflector with a 30-degree grid and barn doors, powered down by one-stop, illuminating both the floor and the right side of Martins’ jeans.

I’m a big fan of lighting diagrams and you can make your own here.


Chicago Commercial Photographer


The modification we made here was to move the backlight that was being used as a skim to the front of the set and to the right of the camera in order to illuminate the Gatorade cooler while also lowering the backlights on their stands.  This is the shot that was approved as the Hero image for The University of Michigan.

And coming in closer, these were my personal favorites.  We toned down the back lighting by both powering down the strobes to the lowest settings and moving to a higher speed on the camera.   And yes, that’s a SuperBowl ring, Steeler’s 2009!



Mistakes can also prove to be valuable.  As I was playing with the dials on my camera, I accidentally set the speed to 1/300th of a second which is the point where the mirror on the camera no longer syncs with the strobes but in this case it created a cool vignette.  I caught Martin while he wasn’t posing and it proved to be my favorite image from the entire photo shoot.

In post-processing, I pulled my favorite RAW selects from the session and enhanced the vibrance and clarity along with contrast in Photoshop.  Following this, I used the Topaz Labs Adjust 5.0 plug-in which has a variety of pre-set filters ranging from classic, stylized and HDR modifications which allowed me to make local and global adjustments to the images.  For this, I went with a lighter detailing filter which enhances the shadows and highlights, creating more contrast while giving a bit of a boost to the details…i.e. grain.

It’s always a pleasure to have the assignments that come through with so much creative control and a subject who is incredibly generous with their time.  Thanks to The University of Michigan and of course, Martin Nance.  Stay hydrated!


Shoot on, Old Sport | Event Photography for Undertone

Shoot on, Old Sport | Event Photography for Undertone

Last week I went downtown to photograph an event for Undertone which is a Chicago-based digital-ad agency that specializes in enabling advertisers to engage consumers across mobile and desktop environments.  As a thanks to their clients, they put on quite the shindig on the rooftop of EPIC over in the Loop with a Great Gatsby theme that was incredibly executed.

They dolled up the party with vintage 1920’s table-top settings, a DJ mixed jazz from the times and a magician was there putting putting on some card tricks that could have had a member of MENSA baffled.  All that laughing was pretty contagious and admittedly it’s tough to keep the camera still when I’m giggling but I managed.

And Chicago at dusk makes for an incredible backdrop.  If you ever have a chance to make your way downtown to grab dinner or cocktails on one of the rooftops looking out into the skyline, I would highly recommend it as it’s a sight to see.  A great night…and an even better party! Kudos, Sport!


To The Irreplaceable Photo Assistant

To The Irreplaceable Photo Assistant

When I was about 28 years old and struggling in a career where the most exciting part of my day was what was for lunch, I decided to distract myself with a few photography classes at Columbia College in Chicago. Soon after I was just getting into school, I lost my job.  Actually, I was fired and I do wear this like a badge of honor because it was a life changer.  After just a few days of footie pajamas and uninterrupted daytime TV, I made the executive and totally uninformed decision to become a Commercial Photographer. It seemed do-able and going in somewhat blindly but with plenty of optimism to keep me going, I started assisting.

I remember that first day like it was yesterday. Brian Hall.  Architectural shoot.  Longest day ever especially considering I was used to an 8 hour day, ergo-dynamic chairs and an hour lunch. This was definitely an eye-opener and I knew that to be able to do this, I was going to have to work fast, work hard and work smart.

One of my first Assisting Promos…the tagline read, “I know how to support my Photographers!”

I stuck with assisting for a few years before I started moving into my own commercial photo jobs and it was the best experience I could have asked for. Granted, the days were always long, the physical demands were intense and having a degree in Psychology could have been a bonus but what I learned from working with some of Chicago’s best shooters was indispensable, their mentoring gracious and their continued friendship so appreciated.

So, with this, I say thank you to my most irreplaceable Photography Assistants. Without them, I could not do what I do.

The Irreplaceable Are:

1. Skillful luggers of equipment and heroes of traversing small hallways and freight elevators.

2. Guardians of exposure and protectors of memory cards.

3. Professional smilers and astute providers of calm when technology won’t play nice.

4. Exceptional mind readers as they know what their Photographer needs even before they need it.

5. Fabulous magicians that can make anything work with just a bit of Gaffers tape and a clamp.

6. Consistently in tune with the lighting, the camera, the subjects and the boss.

7. Discerning Psychologists and excellent readers of personalities.

8. Incredible navigators as sometimes getting to that loading dock on Lower Wacker Drive can cause panic in some Photographers.

9. Astute keepers of time, shrewd defenders of the Cliff Bars.

10. Fabulous companions, crack ’em-up comedians and really awesome friends.

My buddy and Assistant Whitney Hsieh.  He really should run for President but he’s too busy being the Photo guy.

Again, to all those emerging Photo Assistants out there: be on your game, keep hydrated, learn as much as you can and stay focused because your Photographer is only half as good without you!