The Best-Ever CNA Textbook Photo Shoot

The Best-Ever CNA Textbook Photo Shoot

I know nothing about nursing.  Wait, not true.  My exposure to the medical field is limited to what I’ve learned from Grey’s Anatomy and my experience having surgery to remove some pieces and parts that weren’t doing what they were supposed to be doing.  So, really, its a mixed bag of melodrama and what is probably most accurate: practical care.  I had a few overnights at the hospital and surprisingly, it was a very relaxing stay which may have been in part due to the morphine drip I was enjoying but for sure, it was the wonderful nursing staff that made sure I was comfortable, fully hydrated and they threw in the bonus of keeping me entertained when dropping in for a blood draw.  How fun!

 What I had imagined would be a few nights of impatiently waiting to get the hell out of there turned out to be a relatively decent mini-vacay from the world.  It’s really the nursing staff including CNA’s that can make or break patient care.  So, that much I knew when I was asked to jump on board as the photographer shooting a textbook written for high school and community college students about being a CNA.  

Chicago-based publisher Goodheart-Wilcox had been searching for stock-based images for the book and simply could not find the shots that accurately illustrated the techniques they needed to demonstrate and in some cases the available imagery was simply too generic for their purposes so they chose to take on quite the project and go with brand new photography. Not an easy task considering that we needed to shoot at a location that was or at least looked like a long-term care facility, required access to all of the equipment that CNA’s would use on a daily basis, would need to recruit and schedule the talent and of course, you’ve got to feed people.  Although this was their first time shooting custom photograph locally, GW pulled together the project like absolute pros as no detail was left to chance.  This kind of planning allows us to focus on doing what we do best and in turn the shoot turned out to be incredibly productive and an absolute pleasure to work on.

 

 

We covered everything possible.  How to make the bed.  How to turn a patient.  How to brush a patient’s teeth, wash their face, help them dress, the list goes on and on.  Of course, after a few days hanging out with people, you get pretty comfortable, ease up on the formalities and then the funnies start coming.  I love me a good out-take and my library is filled with many a classic moment.  For me, there’s nothing quite like knocking out hundreds of styled shots while giggling along the way.  

 

 

Many thanks to the team at Goodheart-Wilcox including Bob and Serg who brought me in on the project, Diane who managed the whole show and made it run smooth like butter, Mallory and Sue who know their miter corners like nobody’s business and my assistant Josh who handles all the other photo-related stuff which allows me to focus on taking pretty pictures.  

The Website Redesign Shot List | 4 Must Have Images

The Website Redesign Shot List | 4 Must Have Images

The day is here and it’s finally time to redesign your website.  Your website is critical for your business and it’s typically the first impression a potential client will have of you.  You’ve got your custom web developer, written out all of the content and now it’s time to consider the imagery.  Images can be a powerful type of content that will enhance the user’s experience on your website.   At the highest level, images help your visitors connect and feel comfortable on your site. Since 65% of the population describes themselves as visual learners, you have to plan for people who want to look at pictures instead of reading words when you tackle a website design project.  So, the photos you choose to run with on your site should be custom and representative of your brand.  

 

 

With that in mind, here’s the list of the 4 kinds of images you’ll need when launching or redesigning a website.

1. HERO IMAGES

Chicago-Commercial-Photographer

The hero image is the featured photo on the home page of the website that is placed front and center.  These are also typically placed on the top of each primary page of the website as a banner.   Since this is the first visual the potential customer has of your services, the photo should present the most important information and is often accompanied by text and a call to action.  

 

2. PRODUCT PHOTOS

Chicago-Commercial-Photographer

When your product is a tangible item such as a burger, bike or a backpack, what you make needs to be featured on your website constantly and consistently.  Consumers expect to know how a product looks from multiple angles before choosing to make their purchase.  If you’re selling a service, this can apply as well.  For instance, a contractor who specializes in tile work, could show before and after images of a backspace installation.  The more appealing the photo of your service or product is, the more likely someone is to work with you or put that product in their shopping cart.                                  

 

3. PORTRAITS

Chicago-Commercial-Photographer

Whether you business is a service or it’s a product that your company provides, it’s the people behind the scenes that make it all possible.  We all like to know who we’re working with and who we are buying from which is why it’s essential to include head shots of the key members of your team.  In recent studies, it’s been found that website users spend 10% more time viewing portrait photos than actually reading the biographies even though the biographies consume much more space.  

Keeping the head shots current on the About US and Contact Page current helps to put a face to the name and humanize your company because potential customers are just as interested in who you are as what you do.

 

4. SERVICES PHOTOS

Chicago-Commercial-Photographer

When the business you’re in is a service and you’re product is an intangible one, you’ll need to find creative ways to show off what you do.  If you’re a lawyer or realtor, for example, you’re product is you and your professional expertise so you’ll the photos to feature you working with your clients and your team.  If there’s a process involved, break it down, and feature that process in photos so potential clients can see behind the scenes of your services.

 

Studies show that we process visuals much faster than text and not only do we process images more quickly but we also retain much more information when it’s transferred to us visually.  The most important factor to consider when pulling together a photography shot list for a new or redesigned website is that users pay attention to information-carrying images.  So, the more professional and compelling your site’s photography is, the more business you’ll conduct over time.  

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.

Chicago-Portrait-Photographer

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.

Corporate Lifestyle Photography for Convergint Technologies

Corporate Lifestyle Photography for Convergint Technologies

We had several shoots over the past week and my favorite was a corporate lifestyle assignment for SSI Magazine featuring Convergint Technologies, a Chicago-based security firm that designs, installs and services life safety systems for commercial properties.  The plan was to do a cover photo for the magazines’ upcoming issue of the three top executives as well as several interior shots that featured day-in-the life portraits and lifestyle images featuring the employees doing what they do best.

I love assignments like this because every scenario is very different, our timeline for this assignment required us to move quickly and every scenario we were working in, from the outdoor shot to the warehouse, required us to play around with the lighting quite a bit which for me with the time constraint is a fun challenge.

There was an opportunity to use just about every light in our arsenal along with each modifier and a variety of lenses, including the 70-200mm which I love for the compression effect and the 85mm prime which when shooting wide open produces a beautifully soft background.

Even better, the executives and staff at Convergint were a pleasure to work with.  Gotta love people with a great sense of humor who decorate their office with silkscreens of the characters from Caddy Shack and whose corporate mascot is Bill Murrays’ nemesis in the movie.  As an added bonus maybe as much for me as for them, they asked us to incorporate their life-size stuffed gopher in the shots which we did happily.

It’s a beautiful thing when everything goes smoothly and we have the chance to work with incredibly fun people who are also fantastic collaborators.  A big shout out to Marie and Tony who wrangled staff members, brought us lunch even though we were prepared to work right through and kept us smiling with plenty of humor and a few quotable moments.

And of course, hats off to this guy whose homework assignment is to watch Caddy Shack as he’s never seen it before. Something is missing from life when you haven’t had the chance to appreciate Rodney Dangerfield and Bill Murray in the same sitting.

Why I Don’t Share RAW Image Files

Why I Don’t Share RAW Image Files

Ask any established, professional photographer what is at the top of their of things that make them cringe and I would bet it is when our clients request our RAW files.  In short, my answer is always no and I must admit, it makes me cringe a little bit.  Of course, I sprinkle my “no” with a dash of diplomacy but I am firm in my response.

All high-end professional camera systems like Canons’ 5D Mark III produce images that are the equivalent of unprocessed film.   The information that the camera records for that particular image is embedded in the RAW file.  This gives us photographers the highest quality of images with the most information that we can then play around with in post-production.  This is kind of like having all of the ingredients for making a cake and you can modify whatever you want to your tastes.  Coconut sugar or regular sugar? Vanilla extract or almond?  Wheat or white flour?  Not only that but you can play around with how much of a certain ingredient.  The possibilities are endless.

The opposite of this is shooting in JPG mode.  What happens here is that the camera does it’s own adjustments and processing to the image while also losing a great deal of information.  Now, this is like having that cake already baked and the only way to change the taste is to add something on top like ice-cream or chocolate sauce but you cannot change the flavor of the cake itself without sacrificing quality.

As fantastic as the professional cameras are these days and I say this humbly, they are not as smart as me and not even close to being as smart as my image editing program.  Rather than having the camera make the final decisions about exposure, contrast, saturation and all of those other bells and whistles that happens when you shoot in JPEG mode, shooting in RAW allows us to process the image to our liking without breaking down the technical value inherent in that image.

Here’s the Breakdown:

1.) The processing of the RAW images is a part of my style and vision.  As a commercial photographer, everything I shoot is a representation of my brand.  When letting go of the RAW files to clients there is always the possibility that the images will be edited and reproduced in a way that is contrary to what I would do.  Keeping control of my brand is a must.

2.) I’ve worked super hard to develop relationships with my clients that are built on trust.  I’ve been hired because I’m able to figure out what’s a great shot, what’s not and always deliver what my clients are looking for.  So, when I go through all of the images and cull down the shoot to the best selections, trust me….I picked the best ones.  I’m not holding out.

3.) The Raw files are not the finished product.  Shooting an assignment is only one part of the job.  The other part is when I’m at the computer, essentially my digital dark room.  There are so many variations and adjustments that can be made and each modification caters to that particular image and that specific personality that is featured in the photograph.  Once I have had my time playing with the image, it gets my seal of approval and off it goes to my client as I only release the product once it is complete.

Just to give an idea of some of the tools available for image processing, here’s a partial list from Adobe Photoshop CC 2015.5: temperature, tint, exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, whites, blacks, clarity, vibrance, saturation, tone curves, sharpening, noise reduction, hue, saturation, luminance, split toning, lens, corrections, dehire, post-crop vignetting, camera calibrations, crop.  Keep in mind, a majority of the tools listed above also have drop-down menus where you can tweak the images even more.  So, it’s quite a bit to work with and much of this can also be tailored to the camera system that was used to create the photograph.

Hope this helps to understand why some of us commercial photographers experience peaks in blood-pressure when asked to share our RAW files.  We put a lot of time, effort and love into each image we produce, from start to finish so with kindness and a little bit of “trust me on this”, I must decline when asked.