Silencing the Noise by Jennifer Tonetti-Spellman of JellyBean Pictures


I would love everyone who is reading this to just stop for a minute.




Shut your eyes and breathe in. Deeply.




For 7 seconds, you just silenced the noise.


But we cannot walk around with our eyes shut breathing deep all the time now, can we?


The noise in the photography industry has reached an all-time SCREECHING high.


Most of the noise is coming from the unparalleled access we have to each other’s work on a daily and minute by minute basis.


It’s the digital age not just for cameras, but for connection.


And it’s so very hard to hear our own creative voice when there is all that mumbling going on, rattling our confidence and our nerves:


‘Why did that image of hers get so many likes?’
‘Why can’t I shoot/edit like her when I pour my life into this craft?’
‘Why did my fan count drop—did I post too little? Too much?’
‘Someone HAS to comment on this image ‘ *refresh feed, refresh feed, refresh feed*


It’s maddening. After I wrote an article on this very topic a few months back, titled Get Out of Your Own Way, I spoke to the many killers of confidence that exist in the photography industry.


The roadblocks that pop up and paralyze you on your path.


Today, I’d like to make a few suggestions on how you can start the process to silence the noise just through social media alone:


1. Unlike the likes

OK so maybe not unlike them, but hide the feeds. So YOU can decide when you want to see them. The more ‘liked’ pages you have, the more inundated you get with other people’s vision and the comparison game starts. It’s great to find inspiration. But ask yourself: Am I finding inspiration, or am I finding more reasons to question my own eye?’ If you answer the latter,

It may be time to clean up your feed.


2. Filter the forums

Do you really need to be a part of every new forum that launches? Not ll forums are created equal. Find one that nurtures people’s souls, has some like-minded fellow professionals, and keep your time on them to a minimum.


3. Set the timer

I have an old fashioned glass sand timer. It’s a half hour long. When I jump on Facebook (be it professional or personal) I set the timer. In that time I can check my friends updates, load my business images/messages and hop off. But I tell you, if you ever truly time how long you are on Facebook you will be amazed.  That half hour FLIES by that I set for myself. There are so many more productive ways to ‘grow’.

In photography, and being on social media constantly is not going to get you there. Walk away from the computer and shoot. Read a photography magazine. Work on a project.


It’s not easy to silence the noise and it certainly doesn’t happen overnight but the more you are conscious of the things in life that contribute to it, the more you can pull back give your brain a break.


It’s time to FREE yourself.




*Does the topic of noise and insecurity hit home? Then be sure to follow Jennifer and JellyBean Pictures on Facebook ( for the announcement of her class on dealing with insecurities—coming January 2014.


Jennifer Tonetti-Spellman of JellyBean Pictures is a New York photographer who captures real, documentary moments of children. Because real is awesome. You can find her work at where she also offers mentoring, and her manual {don’t} say cheese which is filled with tips + tricks for the just starting out photographer.


SPU Template of the Week: Senior Adrenaline

The Adrenaline campaign gives student athletes graduating in 2015 something to get excited about for their senior portraits. Sports stadiums and arenas make wonderful locations for these portraits, though you can also get stunning results in a studio environment. Either way, these sporty senior portraits are sure to be a hit. Get the word out with a coordinating campaign including a postcard, eblast, blog post and Facebook announcement.

As a Sandy Puc’ University member you will receive templates and art products like this every month for only $24.95 (savings of over $200!). Or you can purchase this campaign today on for $20.00.

Senior Adrenaline Campaign


Digital Files – To Sell or Not to Sell? by Sandy Puc’

Sandy Puc'Hello everyone,


Throughout my career I have seen the continual adaptation to digital photography and digital files. There is often a misconception over how I handle the selling of digital files. It’s certainly a hot button issue within the industry, so I wanted to take a moment and discuss my stance. First let me say that my way is not the “right” way… it is just my way. It is an ever-evolving process for us at Sandy Puc’ Photography. However, we have great success with our methods and we hope to continue to improve and share our techniques.



A little history lesson:


Here is the Sandy Puc’ how-to-sell-your-files progression from a teaching perspective.


If you saw me speak:

15 years ago: NEVER sell your negatives. They are your copyright and you must keep them safe

10 years ago: Although the world is going digital I will NEVER sell my files. They are mine!

8 years ago: Ok I will sell my files but I am going to charge $800 per image so that no one will buy them

5 years ago: I am getting punched in the gut by shoot and burn folks. I will now sell files for $400 per image

3 years ago: If I have to hear one more time that Joe down the road will shoot and sell all the images for $99 bucks I am going to explode.

2 years ago: Alright I will meet you 1/2 way. With a $1500 purchase I will give you 3 archival files, $2000= 8 archival files etc.




I have learned that most clients just want social media files. However, some want full res files for printing. I also understand that now is the time to really look at the future and embrace the thought that digital files are now a part of the business but they STILL do not need to be the only business we do.



At this point we have three ways you can get digital files


Legacy clients:

A legacy client is someone that has been coming to our studio for 5+ years. Once they hit 5 years they receive a lifetime Legacy title.

These clients get social media files and archival files of all gift print order poses. (Those are 5×7 to 70″ wall portraits.) They do not get files of album images, wall collage images etc. Only the files that they purchased at least one print 5×7 and up from. A $500 min purchase applies.

Legacy clients also receive many other perks like a free family session every 2 years, 50% off all other sessions, 10% off family orders, special bonus’s etc. We want to reward their loyalty.


Non-Legacy Clients:

If a client is new or has been using our services for less than 4 years they can BUY a Legacy membership for $150 per year and have the above options. If they do not join the Legacy program they have 2 options:


Spend $500+ and receive social media files (690×490 at 72 dpi) of the gift print and wall portrait images they ordered (does not include album images, wall collages etc.) So a typical order is 4-6 poses and we email them the social media versions. They have a large Sandy Puc Photography logo on them because they are free to the client and they are a marketing tool for us.


Spend $2000 and receive archival images (8×10 at 300 dpi) of the gift print and wall portrait images they ordered (does not include album images, wall collages etc.) Typically these clients are getting 6-10 poses. These images have my digital signature. It is placed in the right hand corner and it looks more like a signed print.



Digital-only clients:

Yes it is possible to just buy digital collections. We very rarely see that happen but we have to have it on the menu because they ask.


Up to 5 images-USB drive is only $899

Up to 12 images-USB drive is only $1999

Up to 22 images USB drive is only $2,800

Up to 40 images USB is only $4,999


With a digital collection prints are 50% off



All clients:

To be eligible to order any digital files, the order must be placed within 30 days of the session and the order completed on the first sales appointment. No exceptions. (This is how we close the sale and collect the payment)


All images WILL bear the studio watermark.


I feel that this approach to digital files has served our clients well and given our studio success at the same time. Overall, I believe that it is also helping preserve the integrity of the industry too.


Please share your insights in the comment section below!


Big hugs,


Sandy Puc’



The Success of Failure by Mimika Cooney

Failure is inevitable. We all attempt things and fail. But do you know that failure is a good thing? For many of us, we see failure as something we don’t want to talk about, nor do we want anyone to know about it. We put on a brave face and pretend everything’s a-okay,


After reading the book “Business Brilliant” by Lewis Schiff, my attitude towards failure now is that I embrace it! Bring it on baby!


In the book Lewis Schiff discusses a national survey he conducted that revealed the eye-opening findings between middle class workers and self-made millionaires. Through the research it reveals the truth about how the wealthy get rich. It also dispels some commonly believed myths and conventional wisdom about the definition of success.


Where I found it fascinating is that the difference between self-made millionaires and the average middle class worker, is that setbacks and failures taught them what they are good at. In the survey fewer than 2 out of 10 middle classers agreed.


What this tells me is that when we fall off the horse, the millionaires’ mindset is to get straight back on. For the general populace, the instinct is to nurse our wounds and walk away. Why is that?


All the people profiled in the book faced serious setbacks, but their experience of failure turned out to be a key ingredient in developing “business brilliance”.


[blockQuote position="center"]“Failure is not really about what happens to you. Its how you deal with it, and what you make of it”. ~David Neeleman (founder of JetBlue Airlines)[/blockQuote]


So how does this relate to us as photographers? I believe it means we need to embrace the “Failure Faith” mentality if we are to persist through our failures to get to our ultimate success. Failure faith is described as the “conviction that even though you try to stretch and achieve something special, failure yields unforeseen lessons and benefits.”


This means that even though you don’t get the job, win the client or fail at landing a big opportunity, consider it a practice run for the next attempt. You’ve already learned something new you can apply to the next attempt.



“Rejection is a zero-cost failure. And since the risk of rejection only offers upside, you might as well go out and risk as much rejection as you can.”

~Lewis Schiff


Many successful companies are not very keen to let the public know of their failures, the habit has been to cover things up and put on a brave face. However, we now live in the age of transparency as the amount of information available to the layman is readily available. If there is a problem it will be uncovered so it’s in our best interests to embrace it and learn from it.


In the book Lewis talks about the four broad areas of daily activity that successful self-made entrepreneurs do consistently. He calls it LEAP…



Millionaires spend more time and effort discovering what they do best and pursue opportunities related to their best attributes.



They take on projects that maximize the dollar potential while limiting their downside risks.



They actively cultivate networks so they can get help and advice beyond their own capabilities.



They take an authentic interest in their failures and see them as necessary aspects of their eventual success.


So here are my Tips for Overcoming Failure…


See rejection as a benefit. When you don’t get the wedding job or session with a client, look at it as one step closer to your next success.

Cultivate the “Failure Faith” mentality and embrace failure as a necessary step in adjusting your path. Now you know to stop wasting your efforts on the wrong things.

Use your failure to course correct toward moving yourself in the right direction.

Learn what you do best and do more of it.

Pursue opportunities to use what you do best by following the money. Just because you love to shoot a particular genre doesn’t mean you should become the best at it if there is no money in it.

Ask for assistance, learning from others, cultivate a network.

Be persistent and never give up!




So believe in yourself, you are worth it. Don’t doubt your dreams. You can do what you love and be paid for living it!


{Big hugs}






What is your opinion about failure? Share your comments below…



Grab a free download of Mimika’s book here

husband thinks I27m crazy (1)

My husband thinks I’m crazy… by Lisa Francescon

Lisa FrancescanWhen I told him I was thinking about getting half naked in front of a camera. “Why would you want to do that?” he asked. And he’s right. I don’t care to have my picture taken. I tend to tense up when the girls get out their little point and shoot cameras.


Last June, I took a Noir Portraiture Class. I then returned home to photograph a couple of sessions.  After working with the models who were at the class, and then my clients, I found that this was something I wanted to do for myself too.


When I signed up for the class, I assumed that the focus would be working with women to capture the beauty of their bodies through light. It was. However, there was another element that was addressed that day. My instructor is a true believer in telling a story every time you pick up a camera. He has pounded this into my head often. Not only am I photographing women; but I am telling a story as they reveal their wonderful personalities and their inner beauty. What a marvelous thing to capture.




By the way, both models in the class were in their 40′s. I photographed the two women under the instruction and guidance of Michael Barton. As the day progressed and we continued to photograph them, their confidence was astounding and not once did either of them whisper, “You can Photoshop that, right?”


Not only did I learn to light; but I walked away with the tools and understanding that I needed to tell a story.


But as a photographer, I believe that although the goal is to tell the stories of our clients, shouldn’t our own stories be told? Shouldn’t we experience what we want our clients to? A year ago, we had our family portraits made. I spent the time putting together the outfits, stressing over my hair and crossing my fingers that my girls would behave for our photographer.




Now it is time to take another journey as a photographer. My Noir session has been scheduled. And I’m beginning the process of deciding what I am going do with my hair, makeup, and clothing (or lack of) that I will take to my session next month. Am I nervous? Absolutely!  However, I’m kind of excited and intrigued with the story that will be told of me.


How will you tell your story?


[blockQuote position="center"]

“As if you were on fire within. The moon lives in the lining of your skin.”

~Pablo Neruda



Until next time,

lisa signature jpg






follow your heart

Follow Your Heart by Lisa Francescon

Lisa FrancescanI’m going to start this blog saying that I truly believe in competition. I’ve been competing with the PPA for four years now, and the lessons I’ve learned have been incredible and have truly contributed to my growth as a photographer.


In trying to become more proficient in competition, I’ve taken two classes that focus on the 12 elements and what the judges look for in a print. When I worked with clients, I made sure that I was not only shooting for them, but was always on the lookout for a competition print.


I gave myself self-assignments in hope that I would receive the coveted merits from the PPA.


However, as I was constantly shooting for competition, I was losing something. My vision of what my work should look like and feel like. Although I thought I was telling a story, it wasn’t the story that I wanted to tell in my heart. It was becoming the story that I thought the judges wanted to hear.

0013 rose

Because of this, my competition work was not receiving the high marks I wanted. It was not reflecting how I felt and viewed my world.


So I reassessed my goals and took a break. I started over with a clean slate.


I have a love for the artists that were painting during the Impressionist period and knew in my heart that’s where I wanted my inspiration to stem from as I told stories through my camera.


In order to do that, I went back to the basics—lighting patterns. Rembrandt, loop lighting, modified loop lighting, sidelighting, backlighting, and even horror lighting became my focus. I went out and purchased a styrofoam mannequin head. It sits on the corner of my desk and I have been known to use the flashlight on my phone to practice the lighting patterns.


As I was working with clients, I slowed down and watched the true stories unfold, capturing them as I placed my finger on the shutter.


In making this decision to change how I was doing things, something incredible happened to my business. My work was setting itself apart from the sea of photographers and clients, both old and new were starting to take notice. As I watch many photographers in my area shut down their studios and go out of business, I continue to thrive.


And although that is the first thing I must focus on as a business owner, I’m ready to return to competition.  For the first time, I’m not scrambling to find images that might work and I’m enjoying working through the process.


Next month, the Professional Photographers Association of Northern Illinois will have print competition following the meeting. This is my first competition since I’ve changed my focus. Not sure what the judges will think of the images when they swing around. However, no matter what the score, the lessons I’ve learned in the last few months will carry me forward.


Until next time,

lisa signature jpg





DSC_6760 2



Article banner

Adobe’s Cloud by Cliff Lawson

Cliff LawsonBy now everyone knows about Adobe’s new direction of having most of its products available only through their subscription service—hereafter known as the Cloud, or more properly, Creative Cloud (CC). Photoshop CS6 is the last version of Photoshop to be available as a boxed version.


Initially, the plan allowed you to subscribe to ONLY Photoshop (or any single application) for $9.99/month. To qualify for Photoshop, you needed a legal license for Photoshop CS3 or later—otherwise the price was $19.99/month. If you did not have a legal license, the Creative Cloud would set you back $49.99/month, but that includes EVERYTHING in the Adobe arsenal of software.


Lightroom and Photoshop Elements are not included in the Cloud and can still be purchased as stand-alone applications.


Well…talk ‘bout causing a firestorm! I have never heard (read?) such whining and vilifying of an organization! The various photography forums exploded with people furious with Adobe and vowing to never “rent” their software. Like it or not, that is the way the industry is headed. Whining will not change this. One big advantage to the subscription model is that improvements are added as they are developed so we do not have to wait for the next 18-month upgrade.


Adobe did listen to the masses—at least to a degree and are now offering the Photoshop Photography Program for $9.99/month. That gets you Photoshop CC, Lightroom, and Bridge CC. You still need to have a license for Photoshop CS3 or later to qualify. (The CC stands for Creative Cloud.) If you upgraded Photoshop and Lightroom with each version, this is a good deal. If you have not upgraded to at least CS3—or never owned Photoshop at all, you are SOL. This offer ends December 31, 2013. (SOL is an old photography term for Sorry, Out of Luck.) Really.


I am not going to go over all the pricing options. If you want to see what works for you, just go to:


Why would you want to do this? Now this is just my opinion: because Photoshop is central to a professional photographer’s business and while there is software out there that can duplicate many of the Photoshop functions, there are none that can do everything that Photoshop can do. Lightroom too, has become indispensable to many and the combination is just hard to beat with any other application or mix of applications.


I took advantage of the $19.99/moth offer for holders of the current license to get the whole Adobe Suite. I got the price by agreeing to a one year subscription. So I am going to try out Illustrator, InDesign, and Premiere for starters. Things I wanted to try in the past but did not want to shell out the huge sum it would have required. I also included Lightroom. I am not a fan of Lightroom as I found it slowed me down, but now that I can have it for not one extra penny, maybe I will give a longer trial to see what everyone else sees in it. I am obviously missing something. So far, I am not impressed—too limited in its capabilities. But I am open to change my mind…maybe. And please don’t give me the whole “But it’s non-destructive,” line. ACR is non-destructive.


What does Photoshop CC offer that would make this worthwhile? Let me just go over a few things I have found that I think are worthwhile and a few I have discovered but not yet implemented.


Conditional Actions

Now this is cool! You can now insert “conditions” into your actions. This can be a HUGE time-saver. For example, I have a script embedded in an action to place the file name across an image that I send out for a headshot client to proof—it is usually 10-20 images and whether the image is in portrait or landscape orientation dictated which script to run for proper text placement. I used to have to run the Image Processor twice—once for each orientation. Now, I can use the conditional action to automatically decide which script to run.


1-Conditional Action 231

 2- Conditional Actions 232

Improved Smart Sharpen

The Smart Sharpen function is dramatically improved. When you open it the dialog box is bigger than in the past and if that is not big enough, you can grab one of the corners and make it as big as your screen allows.


Since the sharpening can exacerbate noise, there is a Reduce Noise control. Also in the CC version is better access to the Highlights and Shadow control. It was in CS6, but you had to go find it. In CC, it is right there in the dialog box for you.


The Liquify filter is now a Smart Filter

I would suppose that most of the people reading this are portrait photographers and once in great while need to do a bit of nip and tuck for the client. In the past, once you did that and closed the Liquify dialog, you were stuck with the adjustment you made. Now, that can be applied as a Smart Filter. As long as you do not flatten the layer, you can go back and tweak the filter or just cancel it altogether. Sweet!


Camera Shake

OK—you are in Aperture Priority and as the afternoon gets slowly darker that shutter speed is slowly getting longer and longer. Before you know it you are shooting a 1/60 or 1/30! You open those images in Lightroom or Photoshop and the slight blurring from camera shake is definitely visible. Arrrgggh. Well now you just may be able to salvage at least some of those images. It is not magic and it cannot salvage everything, but I think you will be amazed at what it CAN do. It is NOT for fixing out-of-focus images—just those that are afflicted with some camera movement.

 3-Shake Reduction

Camera Raw is now a Filter

Who’d a thunk it? Adobe Camera Raw is now really a filter/plug-in to Photoshop. So we now have all those cool tools that reside in ACR available even after we leave Camera Raw.

 4-ACR filter


Until next time,








Senior Sessions in the Studio and Outdoors (Same Day) by Peg Buckner

pegbuckner_headshotOur session with 2014 senior model Cherish, was spectacular! We used the studio and the outdoor light.  We always begin in the studio and spend an hour and then head outdoors to the location of their choice. For the outdoor portion, Cherish had three agendas; her dad’s Navy shirt, her motorcycle and her prom dress!

For the studio portraits we also offer makeup services. It’s great for us, as my daughter is a makeup artist in Hollywood to some celebrities, and she has taught me how to apply makeup. So for Cherish, you can see how I applied a basic, yet soft and blended look. We purchase our makeup supplies at MAC and also receive discounts as photographers. Look into their programs!

Here’s one of Cherish’s favorite portraits. Her parents purchased a framed 20×30 of this image. By the way, Cherish is the second sibling to be a senior model for our studio and she has a younger sister coming up! We have photographed their family in the past and are so happy to have them for our clients. In our Model Program, they receive a FREE family session. This October, they are planning on taking advantage of this extra reward!




She also loved this one:




Using two Nikon speedlights we set out with plenty of time on our side to accomplish all of her clothing changes. We even bring a pop-up changing tent for our clients. It’s so useful and can be found online if you just Google them!

In the beginning we start with the harsher light of the high sun and ask our clients to use the outfit that would best be suitable for sunglasses, to shield their eyes. It’s so bright in Nevada before the sun gets to the low horizon, and in the desert there is not much shade!




I used an overlay to add to the drama and toughness of this image of the military outfit and the sagebrush. It added a scratchy effect and was perfect to create more depth for this image. Just any shot of a textured surface will do the trick to make a great overlay. To the second military image I used a sheer overlay and the lens flare filter, in Photoshop.

After the military portion, we moved on to her motorcycle images. Pointing the camera to the south and asking Cherish to look towards the west (or at the camera), was good lighting for her and the bike. We placed a speedlight with a small softbox on it, on camera left, to fill in some shadows.



081DSC_8942 copy


Cherish slipped into her gown (in our provided changing tent), soon after the motorcycle portion and we did the majority of her portraits in it. There was a lone Cottonwood tree in the desert where we stopped and we used it, to frame her. She posed in a pretty way that accented her gown and figure. Again our extra speedlight was on the camera left. First speedlight is on the camera. Sun is directly behind the camera.




You may have seen an interesting image in a previous blog post from me, of a senior girl on a couch outdoors with a chandelier in the portrait. It has a ghost town look, to it, as we were in the desert with a ruined building. Some of the seniors are asking us now, to use the chandelier for their portraits! This is a great thing! We are tickled to find out where our clients will take it next, and expect some fun ideas.  Cherish wanted to use it too. Here is a before and after. She posed, twirled and walked in between the sagebrush. The sun was just at the low horizon point and sharing a golden glow of light!

Here is a before with our chandelier on a background stand…




And here is the one I chose to artwork and ready for the slideshow presentation for their order.




As the sun was setting we were lucky to have a colorful sky, but not lucky to have a fire that was 60 miles to the west of us, creating smoke. The pink and peach colored sky was beautiful in the pictures and we were glad that we could capture the gorgeous color with the desert! I asked Cherish to face the west and get the last light of the setting sun on her face…









She even brought her teddy bear! It is her most treasured childhood memento. I think we will start asking all seniors to bring a treasure from their childhood! It’s adorable and a great heartwarming prop!

I have a teaser image that I want to share. It is of Cherish again, when she was modeling for the model session of the 2014 Model Program. Our program is very detailed and elaborate. I want to try and post some blogs about it soon! It would have to be in several parts to keep from being so long. So here is an image of Cherish on a plane at our Navy base. Our models are so fun, they dressed up for the era!




Yes we were lucky enough to get permission to photograph on the base and have our wonderful models get an experience of a lifetime too!!!

Until next time,

Stay Picture Perfect,



Peg Signature












Be the Product

Be the Product by Lisa Francescon

Lisa FrancescanIt’s the magic of words from a client that makes that light bulb go off. Where you finally understand, after years of hard work, marketing and trying to make yourself stand out from the sea of photographers. It’s the words that make your heart soar and carry you through the day.


“My daughter and I were looking at your website and we want to hire you because of your work. We love the lighting. I want photographs like this to show the beautiful woman my daughter has become.”


Pretty cool huh? Guess what? We didn’t even talk about pricing until they came in for their consultation.


For years, I thought “product” meant the albums, collages, prints and photoboxes that I was offering to my clients. I worked too hard to design unique albums and collages for my clients. However, over the last few months, I have become the product and the albums and other items that I’m producing for my clients are the secondary products.




How did I become the product that is to be marketed? Instead of focusing on the “stuff”, I began to focus on myself. All of sudden, things began to change dramatically.


If you have been following my blogs, you will see that I have been on a journey over the last six months.  Frustrated with how things were in the industry, I chose to stop looking at what others were doing and started focusing on what I needed to do. I have:

·         Attended a variety of lighting classes

·         Studied art outside of photography

·         Visited a number of art galleries

·         Shot 3-4 times a week outside of client work. Whether it was practicing a lighting pattern or a certain subject, I was shooting.


DSC_3694 crop


All of a sudden, my work started to change, and my vision began to emerge. I started hearing from my clients that my work was starting to look like works of art. They loved the unique sources of light that I was using.


To be honest with you, I didn’t even realize all of this was happening until the phone call from the new client the other day. Afterwards, I sat down to reflect on the conversation and realized that I truly was becoming the product of the studio.




I still have a long ways to go. In fact, I believe that the learning and growth will never stop. So my friends, take a few minutes to reflect on what you can do to become the product. Then, go out and start making it happen.


Until next time,


lisa signature jpg







What’s one thing you can do tomorrow to start becoming the product?


DSC_6660 1