Public Service Announcement

No idea who created this, but it gets the point across
No idea who created this, but it gets the point across

Found this on FB, and I cannot begin to tell you just how true this is, and how many times this needs to be said.

If I had a dollar for every time someone had asked me to shoot “for exposure”, I’d likely be able to retire. My answer is and always will be a resounding no. I shot for exposure when I first got my camera and when I first began experimenting with photography. That’s what happens when you’re a beginner. But I’m no longer a beginner, and I take this seriously, and by no means is what I do easy or free.

Now, you know that I do primarily (not exclusively) concert photography. I do it because more than one party benefits. Seriously, let’s look at it this way: these photos that I produce are not just for the artists. The artists benefit first, because it’s their show, and those photos are their faces, and their energy, and their promo. But the same goes for the venues hosting these concerts. How does it look for the venue that someone can turn out photos like that? How does the venue’s appeal change when people see some fabulous concert shots? They’d want to attend more shows there, right? There you have it. This is not just for the artists’ benefit, but the venue’s too.

Consider also this: concert photo is a very tricky thing to execute. You don’t know what lighting conditions you’re heading into. For all you know, you may take 400 frames, and not have a single worthwhile shot if the club’s lighting is odd. And believe me, that has happened to me more than once, where I’d go in, snap a good 300 and spend a week nose-deep in Photoshop to make them passable. But I love it, because it’s a challenge, and because shooting in weird lighting is the best way to learn about photography, lighting, shutter speed, and your camera sensors.

You’re thinking, “Well, if you’re good, you wouldn’t need 3-400 frames!” Bull. Thanks for demostrating that you don’t get it. You do require 300 frames with some concerts. Granted, that’s depending on your lighting and your gear, but if you’re shooting concert, you’re going to get a variety of poses and expressions, none of which are within the photographer’s control. Get it? You can’t ask a musician, while he’s mid-note, “Hey, turn this way, lift the sax a little more!” Nope. You control nothing in a concert shoot. The only thing you control is where you sit, and the settings on your rig. And yeah, you’re going to get 300 frames, most of which capture all different angles of the performer, and all the lighting changes, etc. It’s your job, as the photographer, to weed out the best ones and use them.

So those pictures up on my Facebook page, those pictures on SmugMug? They take work to execute. I didn’t become a good photographer overnight. It took me practice, more than one bad shoot, several conversations with other photographers, reconnoitering manuals, and then, repeatedly, practicing and applying what I learn. Retouching a photo should be the last resort for processing; then you become a graphic designer. Luckily, that’s what I do as well.

And if you want to use my images, then please purchase the rights of use. It’s not just courtesy, it’s business. You’re purchasing a product, a product that I have worked hard to execute, a product that I ensure meets a certain standard. You can also get the rights of use if you – just a suggestion! – contract me to execute the shoot in advance, for a set fee. Moreover, until you have the rights of use, you do not have any control over the images, legally, since you do not own them, one (the photographer owns the images unless they sell master rights), and you’ve not been permitted to use them. It’s simple truth: regardless of where you post them, or how you use them, legally, I’m the one in charge of them, unless you have a license agreement from me that delineates how long you have the rights of use and how they’re abridged, if at all. Don’t worry, I don’t bite. I don’t stiff on use rights. I don’t ever stiff on use rights. But if you’re using these images without my permission, I can, perfectly legally and within my rights as the creator and owner of the photograph, put out a cease-and-desist order to any medium that you send them to. So if you want a photo that I snapped to run in a magazine, then you will either 1. pay for the right to have it there, or 2. deal with the consequences of me bringing a cease-and-desist order straight to the publisher.

You can view them free. Always. You can view them. But if you want to use them, that’s when we get serious.

You think, “But people share your Facebook pictures!” True, but that’s what they’re there for, and by no means are they all my shots. Facebook only sees a small percentage of my work; SmugMug has the rest, and Smug, unlike FB, doesn’t appropriate usage rights without permission. Facebook is open country for photos; if I post it, it can be reposted, and reused as need be. This is why I’ve taken to curtailing what I put up there. This is also why SmugMug, which I am paying for out of my own hard-earned cash, is my primary photo repository. Not only it offers beautiful prints – which are my product, by the by – but it, above all, it has no impact on usage rights. I can share them, and other people can share them, but I remain as the owner and distributor. And, like everyone else in the creative world, I would very much like to be paid for the work that I do. A musician doesn’t get on stage for free, either.

I make money, as a photographer, in three ways: advance contracts for shoots, sale of usage rights, or sale of prints.

So really, if you have a photographer at a show, and they turn out some great images, and you want to use them, pay the photographer. Chances are it’s not a hobby for them, it’s what they do. They, like you, have to keep the lights on. It’s not just snapping pictures; considering some of us travel, we’re also paying serious expenses in order to execute those shots. If I have to travel to photograph you, then please at least make an effort to defray my travel costs. And considering that I’m a bargain maven, then trust me, it won’t cost that much.

The only exposure I care about is the Photoshop setting when I touch up my shots. To ask someone to “shoot for exposure” is ridiculous. You don’t expect your dentist to work on your teeth for practice, would you?

Don’t expect the same of your photographer.


As I said time and again, few things carry a greater feeling with them than being in the air, en route to as far away from your everyday normal as possible.

Yep, I’m on a plane again. :) In part, I’m writing to stave off the soporific effects of being in the air; apparently, I have that little quirk that makes me go zonk regardless of how much coffee I drink beforehand. In another part, I am finally int he great position where I can think about something other than paying my bills, politics, what I’m seeing in the news, etc.

Which is….music!!!

In a twist of…I don’t even know what…I’m seated next to someone who was, at one point, working at the Boston smooth jazz station before it went country. In the ensuing conversation, I started contemplating as to exactly how much things have done a 180 in the past almost 6 years that I’ve been attending shows (the graphic design/photo stuff followed later, but the shows began in college). It’s not a new contemplation. I think on this pretty much on every trip. But the more time passes, the more it dawns on me that I’m probably the luckiest person on the face of the earth to be surrounded by the people that I have gotten to know.

It’s interesting. I may be an atheist, but I don’t believe in coincidences.

It also got me thinking that, now that I’m working somewhere other than the CPA firm (which doesn’t quite eliminate the fact that I will be doing taxes in tax season anyway as a freelancer – taking the RTRP exam this winter, I hope, and then getting enrolled in school), the possibilities for my travel suddenly have opened up. I still remember Berks 2010 with a degree of fondness; it was not my first grand event (having gone to the All Star Cruise 2009 and Jammin’ in Jamaica before), but it was a one-of-a-kind trip. Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to go back since then…until, hopefully, sometime soon.

It’s odd. Not that being an accounting admin had ever stopped me from traveling as I saw fit, but I’ve held off on going to certain events out of sheer courtesy for my employers. Now that the employment has changed, suddenly, there’s more possibilities. More destinations. And who knows where I’m going to end up on my next adventure?

As I’m in the air, I’m also wondering where the genre is heading as a whole. Smooth jazz has always been a niche genre, and now that the radio stations had clutched their pearls and flipped, it’s become even more so. But I notice that the fan base and the listenership base are steady, and not only that, it’s starting to expand as the new artists – younger, fresher, different – are entering the genre. It’s probably always going to be a niche because the focus is on the talent as opposed to showtime special effects, but it is encouraging, to say the least, to see that it’s not going anywhere, and apart from that, there is new growth potential with new artists.

I will confess myself to being a little bit of a stalwart when it comes to some things. Not that I won’t go with the flow, but when it comes to my music, I like seeing certain constants. Certain artists, whom I had grown up with, and whom I enjoyed from my first forays into jazz, I almost require hearing in any station/music medium that I choose. Spyro Gyra, Special EFX, Boney James, Down to the Bone – they are all staples in my collection, and in my Pandora station. Much as I like the fact that the new blood is bringing in a young, fresher crowd – hell, even people my age as they figure out that hey, sometimes relaxing music is a really great thing, and sometimes it’s really not what it seems like – it makes me ask how long it would be before they discover the music that others had grown up on, and music well before their time, and wonder why they didn’t hear it before. And it also makes me wonder, is there an advertiser willing to take that idea and engineer a workable plan out of it?

Because it’s not as though people won’t go for smooth jazz if it were presented by a mass-medium in a positive way. When Boney James’s Contact soared to the top of the Billboard charts, Z-100 made a note of it. And Z-100 is about as far away from contemporary jazz as it can get. I would bet you good money that a chunk of the listeners of Z-100 thought, “Hey, I think I can check this out” and ended up buying the album. And that’s exactly it: a mass medium, in this case a top-40 station, had a positive representation of a niche.

So what’s to say that this can’t be done more? Not enough to take another station away from the format, but enough to shine a spotlight?

Let’s think about that, ladies and gents.


Some Retrospect on Book 4

Over the weekend, the proof files got approved and I bumped up the release date a little.

In other words, please welcome my baby: the wrap-up of the first arc, and the fourth book in The Index Series: Revival.

Press Release

Hard Copy


I released four books since 2009. And now that I’m back to the usual daily grind of promo, day job, studying, photo-retouching, and all those other things I do, I’m starting to slowly realize that I released four books, and I’m somewhere between surprised and having a conniption about what I’m going to do next.

This series, this story of non-human people in outer space dealing with very human problems on their scale and in their lives, has been something that I wanted to write since I was a kid. The fact that the story is written and published is more than a little surreal. In fact, I feel like I should pinch myself, just to make sure that it’s happening. Even though the hard copies of the books are all within my line of sight, it’s still difficult to believe that yes, I’ve actually stopped just dreaming and started doing all of this.

But there we go, and here we are. So now what do I do?

Well, first things first…PARTY! It’s the first complete arc. Instead of one volume, I have four to offer, and two more waiting in the wings to get released. This has been a labor of love, and a whole mess of work for more than just myself. My editor, Gayle F. Moffet, has labored over every installment since the second, and I have half a mind of having her overhaul the first, if only to have it up to par. This series, right now, is as much hers as it is my own, because if not for her eyes and red-pen feature on Acrobat, I shudder to think of what would’ve happened to my books otherwise.

And second things second, I have to think of the next arc. It will be three books; I have to start on rewriting the fifth one sooner rather than later (because holy plot holes, batman), and of course…artwork!

And speaking of the artwork…

You may have noticed that Jenna Bacci was billed as the original artist for the cover of Revival. That did not turn out to be the case, and instead, the back cover of Revival features the artwork of Tiffany Chaney, from Winston-Salem, North Carolina. This is due to circumstances beyond my control; Jenna is getting ready for college, and working on all of that has been her priority. I’m cheering her on, whichever school she will attend. Tiffany Chaney has been hired to work on the character art for The Index Series, and she will work on the second arc as well. The front covers of Lineage and Revival have both been created by Marion Meadows (yes, the same Marion Meadows who’s on stage with the sax), and hopefully, he will stay aboard as the cover artist for the upcoming arc.

There’s a lot more research to be done for the second arc as well. I will not give away what I’ll be researching just yet, but let’s just say that if you think that this is the last you’ve seen of Morrhia, you’re wrong. And if you’re gleefully thinking that she’ll be back…well, I can’t really tell you what she’s up to, can I? :)

The most important retrospect, though, is how self-publishing has grown since 2009, when I released my first book. Think about it: 2009 wasn’t that long ago, only three years. And if only a year earlier I would’ve said that I’d be going self-pub, I would’ve heard, “That’s great if you want to have your books gathering dust in your closet.” Heck, I actually heard that from a published author as I was tossing the option around. But if I were to be a first-time self-pub right now, the amount of information about self-publishing is astounding. When the Kindle got cheap, it’s like someone poured Miracle-Gro on self-publishing, and suddenly, its view has shifted into a very viable, very lucrative, and very freeing way to get your stuff into print.

It’s been a hectic, madcap, exciting, and completely exhilarating three years in the publishing world, and know what I say? Full. Speed. Ahead.