Rainy day photography!

So looking at the weather forecast for the next couple of days (rain, rain and more rain) should you put the camera away or head out for some rainy day photography?

For me it is keep the camera out and start shooting!

The rain may make your landscape pictures that are showing sky look a little boring but for other pictures it is a blessing that you should be taking advantage of.

Weddings & Family Pictures – Overcast conditions are great as you have less shadows to work with and you can face your subjects in any direction without worrying about the sun. Add to this that many parks and public places will be empty and you are able to do so much more. The rain can be a downer for some families / bride’s but others are all hyped up to get a little wet to get some great images. One of my most commented on wedding photos was taken at the Japanese Garden in Lethbridge.  The wedding was held outside, just as the wedding was ending a HUGE rainstorm moved into the area, by the time we got to the garden to shoot they were shutting it down for the afternoon.  We were let in then the doors were locked, it was perfect.  First no other people were in the garden so it was easy to shoot without worrying about people, and second the light was amazing. A little fill flash and wow did the images look amazing.

Wildlife – I love shooting wildlife when it is overcast as I do not have to worry about the direction of the sun and this saves me a lot of hassle.  If it is raining it can even be better as the rain creates deeper colors and everything looks richer.

Product shots – Many years ago I was traveling to do a shot at one of my clients in south east Saskatchewan.   Did the 8 hour drive only to find out that the VP was not interested in doing the shoot in the rain.  After some convincing by me and the head of the marketing department we went ahead and did the shoot.  When the VP saw a couple of the images of the first shoot of the day he was blown away.  Asked if we could do all the pictures in the rain.  About a month later we did another shoot of some more of their products and used one of the rain pictures for the cover of that product line catalog.

Nature / Scenery –  Many scenic shots look better with a blue sky or a few clouds, but there are a lot of shots that work great with heavy clouds and fog.  Int he tow from Cameron Lake in Waterton I used the clouds to add more focus to the foreground image.

 Last but not the least……

Storm Photos – Hard to do on sunny days 🙂 You do not want a flat boring sky but a storm that has some variable clouds looks amazing.

 Equipment – There is not a lot of specialized equipment for doing rainy day photography, the biggest thing is if it is raining make sure that you keep your equipment as dry as possible. A small garbage bag over your camera with a hole for the lens is a great addition (or if you want to buy a rain cover that works as well).  Take a cloth with you to wipe the lens and camera when you are done.


Who are we……….

Paterson Photography offers a variety of courses, workshops and adventures around Canada.  From our classes at our Lethbridge studio, our one on one classes, group classes, adventures and more you will love learning your camera. Visit our web site, E-mail or call for more information.

Paterson Photography is the only custom photo printer in Lethbridge and area.  We offer prints from wallets to 44″x100″ on a variety of media.  No cheap, poor color poster prints – all our printing is done on archival media at the highest resolutions. We print for individuals, companies and groups that want quality prints.

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.



The business of photography – part 1

I have been asked a lot of these questions over and over and teach many of these in my Business of Photography Class.  For the next few months I thought that I would put out a few posts to help with the business side of things.

The first post I want to touch on some things that you should know / have BEFORE you open for business.  Some items may seem harsh but to be honest if you are taking pictures for money you should not be doing it out of a whim.  One thing to note, when I talk about the business of photography there are two distinct areas – one is shooting events like weddings, grads, family, commercial, advertising, etc.  The second is shooting nature or wildlife and selling the prints, both have their own issues to be aware of and benefits.

First thing, if you think taking great pictures is easy (that is what full auto is for, right?) and photography is a way to make a lot of quick money stop reading now as you are already in trouble!  If you are serious and want to put in the time and money to become a great photographer read on!

Business license

If you are starting a business you need a business license, as a Lethbridge photographer or any place in Alberta, Canada or most places in the world. Don’t start advertising or marketing before you get a license.  At the same time make sure that the name that you have chosen for your business is legal and is not being used. You do not want to start up a business only to get in legal trouble.  If you are doing nature and wildlife pictures you may be classified as an artist but make sure you check this out so you don’t get a nasty surprise.


If you are taking pictures for money you are responsible for making sure that you have the equipment to do the job, this includes camera cards.  This does not mean just having a camera and a lens but having back up gear as well.  If you are in the middle of a shoot and your camera dies you are responsible to finish shooting and if you are shooting something like a wedding this means you do not have the time to leave and borrow equipment. You can rent equipment if you do not own it (if that is available in your area) but you need to have back ups.  My suggestion is to have a extra camera, lens and flash at the minimum.  As for camera cards you need to have enough storage on your cards (or have a way to download during the shoot) that you will not run out, things change during the day and a shoot that was only suppose to be a few images may become one for hundreds of images.  ALSO – you need to have enough battery power for your camera and accessories.  I have seen a number of photographers get into trouble when they ran out of batteries for their flash and could not continue.

If you are shooting nature and wild life then selling the prints your equipment needs are a little more flexible.  If you only have one camera and it dies when shooting you just head home with no images.  On the other hand nature and wildlife photographers may find that they need a lot more lenses to get the images that sell.


This is a BIG issue with many photographers.  Let me start by saying that you do not need to know all the intricacies of photography like what year was film developed or the technology behind a CMOS sensor, but if you are taking a photography assignment you do need to know enough to get your client excellent pictures in all situations that may come up.  This means that you need to be able to take pictures in with all types of lighting (knowing your ISO and what shutter speed and aperture you will need) , during all situations (what to do if a set of parents at a wedding are divorced or how to take a picture with a screaming 2 year old) and with a skill that will deliver a excellent product (your client wants to see a professional photographer that can take control to get the image, not a photographer that is as frustrated mess).  If you are not comfortable with shooting in a variety of situations then do not start offering your services!  Shooting on a auto mode is a quick way to get in deep trouble!!  Auto will not work in all situations and in many situations will deliver a substandard product.  One situation that I tell many students is the photographer that came to me several years ago for some printing.  As I was loading her images I asked her how long she had been a professional photographer (that is how she introduced herself).  I was told for three days, she had bought the camera 5 days before and shot her sisters wedding three days ago.  So many people commented on how much they loved the pictures, pictures that they had only seen on the cameras viewfinder, that she decided to become a professional.  All the pictures were shot on full auto in the “wedding mode”, actually it is portrait mode but this person thought it was called the wedding mode.  I printed her pictures that were very good as the lighting was easy for the camera to work with and away she went.  Two weeks later she was back and crying her eyes out.  She had just done her first wedding for money and according to her the camera broke.  What had happened was she had used the same mode as the first wedding, but the lighting was very difficult (back lite with large windows behind the wedding party) and everything was underexposed beyond fixing.  She did not know how to compensate for this and just kept shooting in the full auto mode.  I strongly recommend that if you want to do pictures for a business that you should shoot at least a dozen different events using different modes on your camera such as program, TV, SV, AV and M (so a dozen weddings, a dozen grads, a dozen family sessions) before you even think of charging or being the sole photographer (actually I would recommend a lot more, but I know most people will not listen to that).

Also for nature and wildlife photographers as well as other photographers do not believe it when friends and family say they like your pictures,  this is a sure way to get sucked in.  Many people will say they like or love pictures but it is not until people put their money out that you should believe them.  I had a person come in for my opinion on a picture, this picture was out of focus, under exposed and poorly composed – they were thinking of entering it into a contest and wanted to know what I thought.  EVERYONE in the family said that they loved it!!  I had to tell them that is was horrible, they went to another photographer and were told the same thing as I told them.  They entered it anyway as the family kept pushing them.  After a $50.00 entry fee they were told that it would not even be judge as it was not near high enough quality, and like the photographer said to me he thought it was bad but the family kept saying how good it was.  (Funny thing about this story is that the photographer had many great images and one of the images that the family did not like was a finalist in the contest).  It is easy for someone to say they love a picture and not mean it, take it for what it is worth, thank them and move on.  If you truly want to know if you are taking good pictures find a professional photographer and ask them, be prepared for praise or criticism and learn from that.

Well I hope this first part did not discourage anyone too much.  Always use what you learn to get better, be that to drive you to get more knowledge or to get more equipment.

Part 2 – Marketing your business

Bucket List

I was out for a drive this past weekend with my teenage son and we got talking about bucket lists, that got me to thinking about what photos I would have on my bucket list. So I sat down and did up a list, and it wasn’t easy.  As you will see below all the pictures that made my list are of either animals or places.  I also found that there are some things that I would like to get at least one picture of (or some that I have pictures of but would like a digital image as the ones that I have are on negatives or slides and they either are not good enough quality or the negative or slide is damaged) , I guess that is my true bucket list as even one would be nice,  things like a cougar or a wolf, or a barn owl. Then there are a number of things that I would like to get more pictures of – or better pictures.  I guess this would not be a true bucket list as I already have pictures of these, I would just like more or different ones and that would include things like the Northern Lights, bears or elk. So I divided the list into the top and the secondary – funny thing is that I have removed a couple from the top list even this year as I got pictures that I always wanted. Then there are MANY pictures that I want to get more of but it really is a day to day thing that I will never have enough or know that I wanted it until I see it, so for these things I have left off the list (things like sunsets, and storms)

So what pictures would you have on your bucket list?

Here is what I have come up with so far (will update as I think of more)

Top (My true bucket list)

North America



Polar Bear





Owls – there are many species that I still have not got a picture of

The World




Victory Falls




Secondary (pictures that I would like more of or different/ better ones of)

Northern Lights

Grizzly Bear

Black Bear


Mountain Sheep

Deer (almost off the list as I have so many)

Mountain Goat

Bald Eagle

Golden Eagle

Coastal BC pictures


Snowy Owls


Camera Advice – Beware

I am sure that I have written this camera advice before but I guess it is time again.

I have had a couple people come in with camera issues in the past two months.  One person actually sent his camera and lens back to Canon (3 times) as they were not working correctly and Canon could not fix it and another person was just plain frustrated and ready to give up.

What had happened?

Both people either took a course or listened on-line to a “Expert” tell them how they should be shooting. They then made changes to their cameras following this advice and did not understand why they did it or how to undo the changes.

One person was told that “on the lens you should NEVER use the AF setting”, unfortunately they never explained that if you use the MF setting you need to manually focus the lens.  He was getting all out of focus pictures (okay a couple were in focus just by the fact that if your lens is set to 20′ sometime your subject will be at 20′). This was an easy fix (put lens back on AF) but I had to argue with him for 20 minutes that it would make his pictures better.  Once done he was so happy but confused how a “professional” would mislead him, I had to tell him that it was one person’s preference on how to shoot a specific situation and he only got a part of the information.

The second person was told that he should change a number of his custom settings, SO he did!  I understand why the teacher said to do that (again it was for a specific shooting situation and was not to be used for ALL photography), but with a novice photographer all he did was to confuse him, the changes were made and he could not get the camera back to the correct settings.  After changing the custom settings he was not able to get his camera to correctly focus or to get an exposure close to what it should be.  He sent his lens and camera back to Canon 3 times and each time was told it was fine (it was as long as you knew that it was no longer focusing using the shutter button, that the mirror lock up was on and a number of other changes were made).  In his case I reset of all the camera settings and he was back to having a great camera and lens.

PLEASE – before you make any changes to your camera, lens, or menus make a note of the changes (what and how) and if it doesn’t make it better set it back.  If someone tells you to make changes make sure that you understand why before you do so.

Buying used – a photographers guide

Buying used can save you some money, if you are careful! Well it is that time of year again when people are looking at either buying a gift for themselves or for someone else. Many people look at used.

This can be a great way to find some good deals but a few things to be careful of:

1- Before you do anything make sure that it is what you want or need. No point in spending $600.00 on a great wide angle lens when you need a telephoto or a portrait lens to do graduations.  Also no point in buying a Nikon body if you shoot Pentax, even with it being a fantastic price.

2 – Make sure what you are buying fits the equipment that you already have and will not cause any harm.  Had a lady bring in a lens last week that was amazing. Unfortunately it was for manual focus Canon cameras (before digital) and would not work with her cameras.  Many lenses will not fit today’s cameras and if they do fit some will not work correctly or at all.  Some equipment like old studio lights will ruin your camera.  I have one set at the studio that I can use as a slave (not hooked up to a camera but triggered remotely).  If I hook it up to the camera it will fry the camera in seconds. Other things like flashes will fit the camera but they do not work correctly. I have one flash that will fire when on the camera so you think it is working. But actually it fires after the shutter has opened and closed and does no good. Had a wedding photographer bring in a beautiful flash that they were told would “fit” their camera and it did fit it. It just did not work.

Check the prices.

3 –  I see a lot of  equipment advertised as “Like new”. Problem is it is priced like it is new as well.  If the equipment has been used, has no warranty,  shows any wear or tear – it should be less than new price. It should not be the same or more. Of course if it is a unusual piece or a collectors item that is different). I just saw a package deal of camera and a couple lenses for $1100 Like new. New price today is $850.00 plus GST – something is wrong with this when you can by new cheaper than used.  Also a lot of photography equipment is listed as “collector piece” and all it is good for is as a paper weight. It is not a collector piece and you can probably buy the same thing at a second hand store for a couple dollars, not the $200 that they are asking.

4 – Try it out with your equipment and take pictures with it.  Then look at the digital files (or negatives) before buying. It may look like it works but only by closer examination will you find a problem.  I remember a client bringing in a camera package that they were going to buy. I checked it out and everything looked great.  He shot a roll of film, had it developed and found that the camera had a MAJOR light leak.

5 – Don’t rush into it. “Limited time offers” or “I have another person that wants this” is more than likely a lie. Usually is done to pressure you and many times people are trying to hide something.

If you are concerned that something is not right walk away. If it feels wrong or to good to be true it usually is.