Spring Birds

Some of the spring birds I saw from a drive this past weekend.  East of Coaldale.

With all the fields flooding the returning birds are finding lots of open water to land in.  A REAL change from last year as last year even the lakes were drying up.

American Wigeon southeast of Coaldale
American Wigeon southeast of Coaldale
American Robyn, first one of the year
American Robyn, first one of the year
California Gull out for a morning walk
California Gull out for a morning walk

Sign your prints?????

Another question that I get a lot is “Should I sign my prints”? and “How should I sign my prints with a real signature or printed digitally”?

First let me say I DO NOT HAND SIGN MY PRINTS!!!!!!  Why? My signature is horrible!  I see so many artists with amazing signatures then there is my signature that looks like a bird flew over the print and dumped on it!  So for me a digital signature is the only choice.

Continue reading “Sign your prints?????”

The differences in printing companies

“What are the differences in printing companies and what should I look for when selecting one”?

This is a question that I hear a lot from people. It seems that anyone that has the money can get a printer (and many people and companies do) thinking that they can start offering printing services. So what are the differences you should look for.

1) Make sure that the printer that you use is knowledgeable towards colors and density. If I hear one more time that the color is “yucky” I am going to loose it!! There is a reason that a color is off, and a good printer will know the difference between cyan and blue and magenta and red. There is NO adjustment when printing to remove “yucky”, it is a color and / or density issue.

Continue reading “The differences in printing companies”

A gift for a photographer…..


Do you need to buy a gift for a photographer? Here is my yearly list of gift ideas……

Before buying anyone a gift make sure that you know what type of camera that they have.  It is no good to buy a lens that fits a Nikon when they shoot Canon.  If you are unsure get them a gift certificate.

Lenses/camera – unless someone really needs a new camera it is more important to get better lenses than to get another camera body.  A GOOD lens will do far more to improve a photo than a camera body will.  Don’t upgrade a camera just to get a new camera, save the money and get some pro lenses it will amaze you the difference.  If you are unsure of the type of lens that they want / need then give them a gift card or better yet give them an IOU so they can go any place to get the lens.

Flash – Before buying someone a flash make sure that they want/need it.  I know many people that have flashes and never use them.  It does not good buying a nature photographer a flash.  Also, again make sure you know the camera make and model as some flashes will not work on some cameras.  Honestly unless they have asked for a flash specifically I would stay away from this.

Tripod – If you are getting a tripod for someone, get a good quality one.  A cheap one will break or move too much, there is a reason that some tripods are $19.00 and some are $200.

Monopod – A cool gift for someone that likes hiking is a walking stick with a tripod head built in.  Also, if you have someone that wants a little more stability when shooting a monopod gives that without the weight and size of a tripod. The older I get the more I appreciate a monopod for hiking and taking pictures.

External Hard drive – most people never have enough storage space for pictures.  An external hard drive can fix this problem. 2TB’s is a great size for most photographers.

Blank DVD’s – This is one product that most photographers can always use.  Again like in other areas get the good ones Sony, TDK,  Maxell, Fuji.  I would not suggest CD’s any longer as they just do not hold enough.
Hand Warmers – (okay I am a wimp and I admit it) My daughter bought me a set of reusable hand warmers a few years ago, WOW are they nice.  Last about 20 minutes and will take the cold off when shooting, or keep with in case of emergency. I also like the one use hand warmers as they get a lot hotter and last longer than the reusable ones.

Warm clothes – (see wimp comment above) – Standing and shooting is different than doing other things outside.  If you have someone that likes to shoot outside in cold weather this is great!  Warm boots are nice as well.  Met up with a photographer in Waterton in September with a heated jacket, another great idea for a gift.

Camera bag/ backpack – Most people have a camera bag that they have outgrown.  A new camera bag that holds all the equipment is a great idea.

Photo Course/Adventure/Expedition – (I had to put this in :-) ) One of the top presents that we sell at Christmas are our courses.  A location course, studio course or adventure is a great gift. It is a gift that keeps on giving as the knowledge that they get from the course will be with them for a long time.

Frames – Many photographers that I know have lots of pictures but few frames.  Some good quality frames are a great gift as they can get pictures printed and have some place to display them.

Prints – Get a image printed and framed for the person on your list (either one of their images or one of your images). There is nothing like opening a gift to find one of your images professionally printed and framed.  Or if you are the photographer give some of your images as gifts, it is a lot more personal than a tie, socks or a box of chocolate.

National Park Pass – Have someone that likes to go to Waterton or Banff?  Get them a park pass.  It will be a gift that they will use all year.

Gas Gift Card – As above it will be something that will help them get out and take some pictures, even if they usually shoot around Lethbridge they will like the fact that they have a tank of gas that they can use to drive around.

Food – I love having something to snack on when shooting so I do not have to take a break and stop at a restaurant. There are so many ideas that you could do such as a bag of trail mix, a box of cookies (home made or store bought), granola bars and more.  One photographer that I know got a “road kit” as a present, in the box was snacks, a couple bottles of water, hand wipes and even a gift card for a popular fast food restaurant that they could use if very hungry and it was all done up with a note saying what it was and wishing them happy shooting.

SPOT – For those that like to get away when shooting a SPOT is an emergency locating device that can be used even when there is no cell service. It does require a yearly fee but gives you an idea for future years.

AMA – This is a great gift for ANYONE but even more so for a photographer.  The roadside service for running out of gas, needing help to change a tire or even to get a vehicle unlocked.

First Aid / Emergency  Kit – Many photographers are out in secluded sites taking pictures and a first aid/ emergency kit is something that you hope they will never need but sure will be appreciated if they need it.  I actually make them myself and toss in granola bars, matches, fire starter and a emergency reflective blanket. You could put together a few different items (hand warmers, ready to eat meals, etc) to suit the person that you are giving it to and it could be more than just for emergencies.

Take a photographer out for a day of shooting –  I know many of us photographers are antisocial – just joking.  Set aside a day, pack a lunch and head out with someone, it could be taking pictures in Lethbridge, going to Waterton or Kananaskis or any place.  I had one lady come to one of my courses that said she would love it if her husband would go out with her when she was shooting.  Another person came in and bought a day class for their spouse so they would have someone to go out with them and take pictures (the person that bought the class was not able to go out with the photographer) and wanted them to have someone to go to Waterton with them.

Babysit for a day – If you know a photographer that has a little one or two offer to look after the kid(s) for a couple hours or a day so they can get away and take pictures.

Tablet –  There are many uses for a tablet when shooting and a good tablet will help the photographer on your list to stay in touch, use apps for tracking the planets, finding out about sunrise and sunsets, and even using the tablet as a viewing tool or remote shutter (if their camera allows that) and much more.

Buying a gift for a photographer on your Christmas list does not have to be expensive, it can actually cost very little with a little thought.  I hope the ideas above help you in getting a thoughtful gift for the photographer on your list.


JPEG or RAW, what is the answer?

One of the questions that always comes up when I am teaching is “Do I use JPEG or RAW for shooting images in”? There is sooooo much information out there and most of it is either slightly off or very misleading.

Here is a quick rundown of the differences, If you have any additional questions feel free to ask!

So to start what is the difference between JPEG & RAW?

There are two big differences between shooting JPEG or RAW images, the first is that when you shoot your image and save it in JPEG it slightly compresses the image and you loose some of the data.  Is it a lot?  NO!  If you are only doing prints up to say 24×36 today’s cameras are so high in MP (megapixels) that it is not needed to shoot RAW for this reason unless you are going very large or you are really cropping the image.  I have many pictures on the wall at the Lethbridge studio that I can show you that were shot in JPEG and they look amazing.  The second difference (the biggest one that effects pictures today) is that when you shoot JPEG the camera applies an algorithm to the image before saving (contrast, saturation, white balance, sharpness, etc), where as with RAW it does not do this.  If you are not able to get your image correctly exposed or properly in focus shooting in RAW may help you save that image when processed on your computer. If the image is saved in JPEG you are able to correct the image but not as much as if it was saved in RAW. The biggest drawback is that with RAW you need to correct your images to make them look their best and this can be a lot of work if you have a lot of images to correct. One final difference between JPEG or RAW is that RAW takes up a lot more space when stored, but with today’s relatively inexpensive high capacity storage mediums this should not be a huge issue.

One great thing about today’s cameras is that you can select either JPEG or RAW or RAW & JPEG, so you can cover all your basis if you need to when shooting to allow you to select later which image to use. The only problem with shooting in JPEG & RAW is that it will use up a lot of storage space so make sure you have big enough cards or multiple cards with you.

So with the above information what should you be shooting in JPEG or RAW?

If you are shooting everyday family images and don’t want to spend a lot of time processing your images then stay with JPEG, will save you storage space and processing time, yes some images may be beyond saving but you will save time.

If you have a chance to take a once in a lifetime picture then I suggest that you either shoot it in JPEG & RAW or just RAW, sure you will need to edit it more but if there is no chance to reshoot it may be worth it.

**Remember that you can change the format you are shooting in from picture to picture if you want so you do not have to shoot in only one setting.

Crocus #2 2017
Crocus #2 2017


For more information on Paterson Photography


Updated 2017

So you want quality…..

You can get quality in Lethbridge, it is not that hard!

I had a chance the other day to talk to a friend that I keep running into around Lethbridge and southern Alberta and we got talking about buying quality parts and items.  Some how our conversation turned to customers and on-line or discount retailers.  He was mentioning that he had reached his boiling point when it came to customers that ordered items on-line or went to a discount retailer and when they had problems would come to him for a solution.  His solution was that he now charges $75.00 for information.  If a person bought the item from him the information is no charge, but from any place else it is automatically $75.00.  He was saying the other day that a customer came in with a problem from a new part they had ordered on-line, asked if he could help and he said it was $75.00.  The customer hit the roof and stormed out.  Three days later in came the customer and paid the $75.00 as it was going to cost a lot more to ship the part back and get another one.  Problem was simple the part bought on-line was generic and needed an adapter to make it work, the parts that he sold were wired of a higher quality and correctly in the first place. Funny thing was that when all was said and done the customer (without taking into account the $75.00) only saved $10.00 on the part, with the $75.00 they actually paid $65.00 more than shopping local.

I was thinking this when a customer came in this past week with a canvas print.  They had mentioned in a course a month ago when I was talking about print quality that they had ordered a canvas print from a company on-line and were so happy that it was $20.00 cheaper than mine, actually mentioned it several times to me and all the students.  Well last week in they came with the canvas to ask me what was wrong.  They got the canvas from the on-line company, had it stretched locally and hung it on the wall.  Now the ink was running, actually looked like a lady with mascara running down her face.  Add to that the fact the surface of the canvas was separating from the backing and she had a big problem. I was so tempted to tell her that there was a $75.00 charge to tell her what was wrong but instead I told her without charge.  To say she was not happy was an understatement.  She then went back to the gallery that stretched it and complained to them and then called the printing company.    The galley told her that it was the printing that was at fault (which it was) and the printing company said that if it was stretched then it was no longer their problem.  All this to save $20.00!

The other thing that that I did not have a heart to tell her was that the color was so far off that it was not even close to being funny.  Her green grass was purple/blue, her water was purple/red and the rest was just a plain mess, and that was before the ink ran in those areas.

Once more (as I have said so many times) if you are looking for a quality print you get what you pay for.  Don’t try to cut corners, it usually does not work!

For more information on printing click here.




Printing digital Images

I am often asked what is the best media to select when printing digital images and I have to say that there is no easy answer for this.  It all depends on the image you are printing.  Some images look better on a matte or semi matte paper and others look amazing on a high gloss metallic.  One thing I always caution is that canvas is not suitable for all images so be careful when ordering a canvas print (or selling to your client).  Canvas should have some contrast in the image to make it pop when printed, and if your image has a lot of fine detail a canvas print may do more harm to the image than using another media.

Some media selections include: matte, semi matte, luster, gloss, metallic, canvas, presentation matte and watercolor.  Each media works better with certain images and can enhance the images being printed.

If you are a photographer in Lethbridge or southern Alberta feel free to come into the studio with your image and I will help to select the best media for your images. If you are not able to make it to my office in Lethbridge then feel free to E-mail your image and I can help you with it by E-mail.

Turn around time for printing digital images: most prints can be done the same day, for canvas please allow at least one week if you would like your print to be laminated. Lamination allows your canvas print to be dusted and even washed if you need to.

For more information on printing digital images check out our web site http://www.firstchoicephoto.ca/paterson/printing/

The business of photography – Part 2 – Marketing: Prints, Web Sites and Email

Well now that you have gotten through part 1 of the business of photography and my less than encouraging comments lets move on to something a little more encouraging, Marketing.

This is a overlooked area when starting a business.  People think that if they take some okay pictures that word will quickly spread and clients will come beating down the door.  Well in some industries that is what would happen if you have a good product, but in photography it does not happen.   Why? Just look on advertising web sites at the number of people that are doing the same thing as you are.  So what should you do?

1 – Display Prints: First you need to set yourself apart from the crowd.  If you want people to call get some amazing prints and start showing them around.  Put them on web sites, find display space, show them to every potential customer.  Now when I say AMAZING prints I am talking about the best of your best.  Don’t show okay prints.  Don’t have any amazing prints?  Get some.  Start shooting pictures that take time to set up, use great lighting and great subjects.  For the nature people that means get out first thing in the morning or late at night to get the exceptional light.  Everybody else is showing prints shot at 1 in the afternoon with flat light, go for the amazing!

Southern alberta windmills with a full moon
Full moon rising

For the wedding and portrait photographer find poses that will blow the clients away, work on lighting and shoot, shoot, shoot. As for the size of your display prints?  A good saying to go by is “You only sell the sizes that you show”.  I have proven it time and again to people that if you only show 8×10 prints that is the maximum that you will sell, show bigger sell bigger.  People do not want to buy a large print if they do not know you can print that size.

2 – Get a web site and a real E-mailI am not talking about a Facebook page, but a real web site that you can design and modify as you like.  Facebook is not a real web site and limits a lot of what you should be doing.  Nothing wrong with having a Facebook page and your web site but you need to show clients that you are serious and not just a fly by night operation that did not even bother to spend on a real web site.  (Whoops sorry about the honesty again 🙂 )  In addition to a web site get a real E-mail address, not mike99684a54545@yahoo.ca but one that advertises your web site and shows people that once again you are a real business, one like mike@firstchoicephoto.ca shows people that you have a web site and you have taken some time to set up a business.  Whenever I get an E-mail from a company trying to sell me something the first thing I look for is do they have a real E-mail address, if it is Yahoo, Gmail or Hotmail (now Outlook) I am VERY cautious about the company.

Question – Should you spend money at this point to market you web site?  I have to say at this point no.  There is a lot more to do before you should be spending money on SEO and other marketing for your web site.  I would make sure that ANY thing you send out about your business has your web site address on it and you are letting people know about the web site but wait on the marketing of it.



Preparing images for print – a few hints

I have a lot of people come in and ask for suggestions for getting images ready to print, so I thought I would address this. If you are going to print images you may was well get the best quality.

The first thing to remember is that unless you balanced your monitor more than likely the image on your monitor will not match the final output.   If you are having me print your images I will correct them for you at no charge so they look the best when printed.  If you adjust the color or density do so using a layer so that when I get the image any changes that you made are not permanent, this saves blowing out highlights that cannot be recovered or correcting the color so it is beyond fixing.  If you like I can also provide you with a target to check by eye how close your monitor is.  If you want to make sure that your monitor is 100% correct the best thing to do is to buy a calibration tool and use that.

Cropping – Make sure that when you crop you do not crop too close to a subject. Remember you are more than likely going to frame the print and having the head at the edge of the print is going to be a problem when framed.

Adding signatures – Like above if you are going to frame the print make sure that you leave space around your signature.  You should have your signature at least 1 inch from the bottom or the sides.  1.5″ is better.

Black & White prints & color signatures – if you are having a print done in black & white make your signature black & white.  It looks horrible when you have a print completely B&W and this color signature in the bottom.

Density – even if you have a balanced monitor your prints will generally be displayed in a dark room, so make sure that you do not have your prints so dark that when hung on the wall they are all black.  Making your prints a little lighter than you like them on your monitor will get you a good print to hang.

Media – it makes a HUGE difference what you print your images on.  Some pictures just do not look good on gloss when other look great on gloss.  Some images should not be printed on canvas, other images pop on canvas.

Image size – size is not everything but it does play a huge part in getting a good print.  You should be cropping your images to print size @ 300DPI.  If your image is sized to a 1″x2″ at 72 DPI you will not be able to get a 20×24 from that.