Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Mmmmm... Food

In Denver, snow is coming (actually it's snowing this morning), temperatures are falling, and summer is starting to be a distant memory. No worries, Fall is a great time to move inside the studio. A few of my latest food productions...

I love black backgrounds on most everything, including back lit peas. Throw in a little steam and you have a smoking hot pile of veggies. 

Yogurt treats are always a hit. I usually don't execute many "fake" tricks for these, so it is still edible. Cool it in the fridge for a while and enjoy the treat later. In case anyone is wondering, it is:

1) Low fat vanilla yogurt
2) Blueberries
3) Rasberries

Add a bit of granola if you'd like and enjoy.

Just for fun, cheesecake is always yummy and always readily available. For these, you've got to work fast as it tends to melt and turn to mush. Have a few sets to choose from for your "hero" food and bring to the set when everything is set.

That's all for today. Now, go eat, shoot, or whatever Fall activities you do. 

Jon Becker

Friday, September 23, 2011

September Happenings

Sorry to have been dark on you for a bit. Check out a few things going on in September, thanks to new and current clients, and charities I support you may want to check out.

I'll be speaking on "Does Great Imagery Matter?" at Boost Denver Wednesday. This is free, so come check it out.

Welcome to Foxstone Financial. Chris Ravsten and team do a wonderful job and I can't thank them enough.

These days, people here plenty of bad news. Ignore it. Take this opportunity to do something positive. Support a charity (or 2 or 4). I'm supporting a few below...

Western Union Foundation (also a client): They do great work providing economic opportunity and disaster response around the world.

Bikes for Tykes: Providing bicycles to youth.

Susan G. Koeman: Breast cancer research and support. Come join me Oct 2 for the Denver Race for the Cure.

Also Help-Portrait is coming Dec 10, 2011. This great event brings pro photographers, stylists, printers, and generally just good people, in communities all over the world together to provide portraits for those in need.

That's all for today. Go out and make a difference in your world!


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Commercial Photography - Collaboration, Cooperation, and Collective Vision

Collaboration. It's not often a word used by photographers. For commercial shooting, it's a must. For, a recent shoot I put together, we needed 2 people for talent, our photographer for the day, 2 assistants, and an editor. 6 people for just a few images? Yep. Is this what corporate/commercial clients should expect? Yep. Nearly always. Here's why...

1 - Teams makes any shoot go faster saving money. Saving money by skimping on assistants doesn't make sense financially as a 2 hour shoot can easily turn into a 6 hour shoot without help.

2 - Having extra people to adjust lights, exposure settings, etc., allow the photographer to make the picture the best he can without running back and forth to adjust lighting. In short, a client gets better images.

3 - The talent waits less and can get into the flow of the shoot better as there's less dead time.

Better images created is the bottom line. If a client is already spending money for custom images, they obviously want to have great images that tell their story. I encourage my clients not to skimp, work within a budget, yes, but do have realistic expectations and goals. You should expect your photography company to be able to walk you through those.

Check out a few of my favorite images from this recent shoot...

All shots were the collaborative vision of a number of people. Without each vision and input, they wouldn't be what they are. Have a look at the behind the scenes images. This is what goes into every shoot (at least the good ones). Larger shoots may also include catering, art directors, additional assistants and shooters. The list goes on.

Bottom line. Expect more from your photography team. To get the best images possible, make sure your photography team understands and loves collaboration. Your images will be better for it. 

Special thanks to Rene Pirolt ( who is a very talented sports photographer (especially rock climbing and trail running) who captured the images. As I said, it takes a collaborative team.

Until next time... 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Telling stories through images

What are you selling?

Mmmmmm. More food. When I make an image, I always shoot multiple looks and takes on the same subject. Why? Sometimes the type of image needed isn't what is requested by the client. Uggg. That's a hard conversation to have when you've shown everything and nothing works in the ad layout, mood, styling, etc. Often, that ends up as a redo shoot which costs both my company and my client company money. Not good for anyone. Check out a few images from a shoot I did recently and see how they are different.

It's just a sandwich right? Right. The attention is clearly where it needs to be. Nothing else gets in the way. Everything surrounding the subject is only there for decoration.

Now check out the following image. This is a lifestyle type shot. The model is more prominent in the shot. The viewers eyes will naturally scan the image usually starting with the model's eyes. The red also is a strong color, so next may be the glass filled with refreshment. Then on to the sandwich. Lifestyle with a person enjoying a product is often portrayed in many styles of advertisements. We like to see people and often project ourselves into their situations. If they enjoy something, we should too.

Different take on a lifestyle shot. Our model is clearly enjoying the sandwich. Definitely, the sandwich is more front and center. The models eyes are down toward the sandwich, not closed, but averted from the camera. This type of a shot more directly focuses on the sandwich. Also, note that the sandwich is in sharp focus while the model is slightly soft. This also helps focus attention on the sandwich.

I'm glad to capture many different types of shots, so I don't have to either not meet my client's vision or redo the shoot. All are nice shots with each having a different purpose. I'd love to hear which shot you prefer?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Great image or mistake?

Photography is often very subjective. Is it better to take a technically perfect image or to introduce “flaws” into a photo? And... What is a “flaw” anyway?

Check the image below. It has quite a bit of lens flare. The orange and green circles flying across the image are tell-tale signs. Also, lens flare as seen in this image causes a washed out look. Was this a mistake? No. I purposely removed my lens hood which increased the amount of light coming in from the sides of the lens. I positioned my model so I was shooting back into the sun. I checked the amount of lens flare through my viewfinder. I subtly lit from the front so she would not be a silhouette. The result is this slightly washed out image. To me, this is not a mistake as it was my vision of the image that I executed upon. You can simulate this look with photoshop although it is more fun to do and looks more natural if it is done in camera.

Check out various fashion magazines and this look is everywhere right now.

Check out the next image. Beautiful model, beautiful scene. It was approaching mid morning and the light was getting very harsh. My vision... a more sophisticated nighttime version in the middle of the day. I shoot digital, so I adjusted my white balance to something a little more blue and purple. I gelled a strobe orange to warm up my subject a bit and captured the image. I like the image and it does match my vision even though it is not true to what was in the scene at the time.

Next is a nice image. In the harsh light, the bricks are washed out and honestly, shadows would not be kind to my model. My vision is a warmer colored shot with flash off camera to get some directional light. I gelled orange again to warm the scene while underexposing the ambient light to get the look you see. I shot with one light camera left as you can see with the shadows from the model and trash can. The shadows to me add to the image instead of typical harsh shadows which are nearly black from many flash images. Again... This matches my vision, so I like it. It is not true to the color and brightness of the scene though.

Are any of these mistakes? It was my intent to record light as you see in each of the images, so they are “made” images and not mistakes. I don’t want it to sound like I don’t  make mistakes. I have my share of whoppers on images that could not be salvaged which are now in the electronic recycle bin. I have also often made “happy accidents” that have turn into some of my favorite images. These mistakes, leaning from those, and then crafting new images true to my vision using the learned techniques in my "accidents" is why I love my craft.

Also, special thanks to Ashley, my model for these shots. She was wonderful to work with and a natural at her craft.

Until next time...

Friday, July 1, 2011

Happy July 4th Weekend

To all my readers in the U.S., happy July 4th weekend. I hope you take time to enjoy the holiday with family and friends. While you're at it, eat well.

More food today... I had another opportunity to work with Chef Trusan of Trusan Cuisines ( to make this wonderful fruit themed gazpacho. This is a fun summer themed dish to enjoy.

There are a few tips and techniques for shooting food in either a studio or location setting I often start out with. These are really guidelines and not hard and fast rules. Camera and lens also play key roles... mostly the lens. I shot with a Canon 5D mark ii and a 100mm 2.8L prime macro lens. No zoom on this shoot to get the best image quality possible. Back to guidelines...

Number 1: Backlighting will often get you in the ballpark immediately. All shots had 1 strobe behind and camera left to put dimension on the dish and especially the blueberries. I did at a bit of front fill with another strobe to knock out a few shadows. Most food can be shot with only one light though. 

Number 2: Get close. Zoom in to show detail of your subject. I usually shoot both wide and close to decide what is best later. You never know what type of an image will fit into the art directors vision and layout, so I shoot both.

This shot shows the light and dimensions especially on the blueberries. Next time you look at a food magazine, look for clues to the lighting setup, direction of light, intensity, and light modifiers. You'll be amazed at how much you can learn.  

That's all for today. More to come next week. I hope everyone has a great holiday weekend. Happy July 4th.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Announcing Denver Commercial Photographers Group

To all Denver based photographers (or travelers through Denver) ... 

Come join Jon Becker Photography as we explore the ins and outs of commercial photography including products, industrial, location, and events. This is a great opportunity to feel what a real produced shot is like and develop your skills. Join us at Denver-Commercial-Photographers.

To all Denver based small businesses (or US based small businesses looking for affordable photography) ...

Jon Becker Photography announces an innovation to bring affordable yet high quality commercial photography to your business. Do you have a product or lifestyle shot to be produced? We can get that done for you with a group environment. Contact me with your product or idea for feasibility. Not all projects will be suitable, but I invite you into the discussion of what you might like and would work for you.

This is a perfect opportunity for small companies to show their uniqueness with great images. I can't want to see the images and see companies grow with fresh, innovative imagery.

Jon Becker

Thursday, June 23, 2011

In Celebration of Summer!!!

I've had a great honor of collaborating with a local chef to create images of food and beverage. Summer is one of my favorite times to shoot because I get to be outdoors. While this is great, sometimes the harsh sun and shadows make it complicated to get what I'd like. This day totally cooperated. It was quite cloudy and even had a few sprinkles to cool everyone off. Clouds are great to shoot under as the lighting softens considerably. Just a few mirrors to throw some light back on the lemons to brighten them up was all that was needed. I really like it when nature does most of the work. It sure beats carrying around diffusers, softboxes, etc.

Here are a few shots from my last collaboration.

Who doesn't love lemonade?

I love action in my "still" shots...

Now, I hope everyone else has a bit of summer fever with great food and drinks in their future. I'm thirsty.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Shooting with the Colorado AMA - Peak Awards Event

Sorry for the brief hiatus. I have been traveling and shooting in some of the most beautiful places in the world... Kauai and Maui in Hawaii. Not a bad place to be. I can’t wait to share some of the images from that trip; however, pretty much right after my return, I had the opportunity to shoot with the Colorado American Marketing Association and their Peak Awards celebration. First, I want to thank Toast & Jam for inviting me in for the evening. Second, I want to thank all the teams, organizers, and participants for having a great time and making it easy for me to make great pictures.

Event shooting is one of the most fun things for me to do. I’ve run into dark rooms, location problems, challenging lighting, people who enjoy being photographed, and some who don’t. To me, it’s really shooting without a net as the organizers always expect great images, but I never really have the complete picture (pun intended) of the environment before I arrive. I try to arrange pre-event walkthroughs, although the lighting, ambiance, is never quite the same. I had a great time with the group, met some fabulous people and hopefully, produced images that are unique to the AMA, the teams, and sponsors. Check out of few below.

I love to try and capture something a little different with the ambiance.

This was in a VERY dark room. The ability to shoot high-ISO without much noise is a huge step forward for capturing these shots.

Group shots are always a bit tricky. Fun to make though...

More ambience in the dark. Fun shooting!

Marketers are always a bit more fun than the average group. Creative personalities really shine through.

Event shooting is about being able to capture the ambiance, people, and timeline to help tell the story of the event. Being able to think fast on your feet and problem solve doesn’t hurt either. Thanks again to all who made this event happen, and I hope you've enjoyed the images. I appreciate the invitation.

That’s all for now. Now if only I can get the Hawaii pictures done, I’ll share those soon. Ciao all!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

When should you use stock images?

First, let me just start by saying that stock imagery and proliferation of technically great photographs has changed the photography industry. Some say for better, some say for worse. I’m a big of a pragmatist. It is here, and we all need to learn make the most effective use for it. There are large stock imagery houses like Getty (higher end) and micro-stock distributors like iStock Photo and Dreamstime (lower end). Getty now owns iStock which should give you a sense of where the larger stock houses believe the market is moving. Regardless, they all basically do the same thing. They take images that are already produced and resell them which varying rights packages. The can be sold for as little as $1 dollar at the low end and several hundred to $1000+ at the higher end depending on rights purchased for the image.
As you can see, the costs to acquire an image can be very inexpensive when compared to a custom shoot. 
You might ask... “Why shouldn’t all our images come from stock houses?”
There are a few reasons...
  • Stock images are resold to many sometimes, hundreds, sometimes thousands of people to use. The most popular images are all over advertisements, marketing material, folder covers, etc.
  • There is a “stock look” photographers shoot for. This gives the images a “sameness” in similar shots.
  • Stock images don’t convey the uniqueness of your company. 
So, is there any time that stock can and should be used to keep costs under control? Absolutely! Graphic designers should use them when creating materials that are not unique to your company and blend both stock and custom work together to make a new look and feel for your company.
  • Backgrounds and textures from images have a more organic feel than vector or computer graphics. Use stock for sand, metals, water, or other interesting backgrounds
  • Objects such as food, sporting equipment, crowds, iconic buildings, etc. can often be found in stock.
  • Components to create a unique feel for an ad piece.
One caveat to the above though. If you are selling a product, shoot your own product. Your milk should be your milk. Your basketball should be your basketball. Your wiz-bang widget should be your widget. You get the idea.
In short, stock is a valuable addition to a designers toolkit, but it shouldn’t be the only thing. Use stock where generic images can ad to the piece. Don’t use exclusively to represent your ad or business or you will look exactly like the other hundreds of businesses using similar images trying to create similar ads and brands. 
Your business is unique and you should show it by smart blending of stock and custom imagery.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

When does custom imagery matter?

Imagery goes with marketing, branding, communications, and PR like toast and jam. It tells your customers, employees, and other stakeholders a lot about your company. Are you: Multicultural? Client focused? Have a diverse customer base? Are you fun? Do you have a sense of humor? The list goes on and on.
Have a look at these images...

There’s really nothing wrong with them, but do they represent your company? They are all stock images and are used over and over in campaigns, advertisements, reports, and the like. And you’ve probably noticed, they have a “stock” look. I did not shoot them although I own them as part of my stock library I've accumulated over the years.
Custom imagery counts when you look to differentiate yourself from your competitors. Will images like these do that?
Instead of the general sameness of many images seen in many annual reports, campaigns, and PR, dare to be different. That’s how we all succeed in business and why custom imagery matters.
Stay tuned over the next few weeks as we explore when to use stock images versus when custom images rule the day. Till next time.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Shooting with the Denver Roller Dolls and “How to heard 100 cats”

If you haven’t seen Roller Derby or checked out it’s surging popularity, you’re missing out. I’ve shot derby for the last few years and have been blessed to have developed a relationship with the Denver Roller Dolls ( While action has been a blast to shoot, tricky lighting, action, tattoos, great characters in the crowd, I also get to make pictures with the teams and even the league photo of 100+ people. Do I have advise for pulling this off in about 15 minutes? My strategies for this go something like this...

  1. Have an assistant (or several)
  2. Know who the influencers are and enlist them to help
  3. Plan for shots you may be requested for, but your client hasn’t considered yet
  4. Plan for uneven lighting on big crowds
  5. Have a sense of humor (really important)

This picture required 1 assistant and 4 helpers to make a reality. Not too shabby for the amount of time to work with. Whenever you have time constraints, there are compromises, but overall, I’m satisfied with the result.

The refs got into the act too...

And of course, I’ve got to include a few favorite team shots from the year. The Shotgun Betties were a blast to work with, adventuresome, and oh so much fun. Check out a few  “for fun” pics...

Hay bales provided great elevation and stacking options. Hay isn’t the most comfortable thing to lay or sit on, so kudos to the ladies for putting up with me on this one.

I love the ax, I made a deeper shadow across her face for drama, and photoshopped a bit of red across the ax. Don’t worry, it wasn’t used for anything sinister.

Hanging from the rafters, literally.

Be nice to her...

That’s all for today. I know... A bit random, but I love shooting some subjects, and I couldn’t help sharing. These are some of the coolest ladies you’ll ever meet, and it is a “kick in the pants” good time working with them.

Until next blog...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

How is your business unique?

Short blog post today friends...

USP or Unique Selling Propositions mean different things to different people and companies. I have had opportunities to see first hand how businesses try to differentiate themselves. Nordstrom is know for customer service, Southwest as a fun airline, Walmart for low prices, Starbuck’s for creating a third place and sense of community.

Now, what does this have to do with photography? Well, each of them carefully craft their images lots of different ways: training, employee investments, technology, procurement policies, etc. They also present themselves consistently through imagery, the atmosphere they create in their stores, locations, advertisements, etc.

Just one thing to think about today... I know each of your businesses are unique in some way. How are you communicating that through images, press, PR, marketing, branding, etc.? Share your thoughts. I’d love to hear them.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Shooting Products - Food and why you shouldn’t eat the props

Food is one of my favorite product subjects to shoot at the present time. It requires not only skill behind the camera, but also skills to work with a team effectively. For full-on production shots, your team can include a photographer, assistant(s), food stylist, chef, location manager, etc. Depending on the budget available, you don’t need a complete production team though. Check out a shot made with a terrific local chef and teacher, Chef Trusan of

This chicken salad was on set for more than 2 hours. How did we keep it fresh? A little oil brushed over the chicken goes a long way to extend the life of your prop. 

Strobe modeling lights are hot, so how do keep stuff that’s not cold looking cool? Sometimes, ice is not what it seems. Acrylic ice is often required to make sure ice doesn’t melt. A little glycerin and water can make a refreshing cola which is very much at room temperature for the shoot.

Is this whisky or a bit of gatorade which looks like it? Actually, this is what it is. Depending on the purpose of your image, your tools on hand, and your patience, various props are definitely helpful.

Sometimes food on a photographer’s set is not really all it seems to be. This is always a bit frustrating for me as I don’t get to eat the props, but we all have to sacrifice for our craft. Now, I’m hungry. Time for lunch...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

How do you use imagery in your business?

The answer is different for every company. I’ve seen many different uses of images I’ve produced or in a companies image library. Some of what I’ve experienced are:

  • Event coverage from annual kick-off event used for internal and external PR
  • Sponsor “thank-you” images from charity events
  • Internal award celebrations and recognition images used for team promotion
  • Branding and advertising campaign images
  • Public relations coverage from events or community involvement
  • Images produced for training classes and manuals
  • Celebrity images with executives, teams, etc., used for promotion and media
  • Team images used for internal branding and communication
  • This list goes on and on...

Money is something in short supply for pretty much everyone these days and events, printed materials, charity, etc., all cost money to produce. Smart companies are leveraging anything they do as much as they can. So... What does this have to do with images? All you need to do to radically expand your image library is capture images from things you already do. The next step is to strategize how best to use them and reap the rewards. Easier said than done, but innovative companies are doing just that.

What other ways do you use images to expand you brand, bring stakeholders together, or engage with your customers?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

What is a unique image anyway?

Let me start this highly subjective topic with... “it depends”. Images have been created and recreated. Popular locations shot in every conceivable way. Models with talent agencies are shot repeatedly for different advertisements and promotions. Studio lighting techniques are similar. And what is even more interesting is that cell phone cameras allow anyone to snap a picture and have it on the web in 30 seconds.

How to make a unique image might be the wrong question. I think a different way to think about imagery is...

Where activities are uniquely yours and not available to the general public?

  • A few ideas for you...
  • Company sales, strategy, and other large meetings
  • Employee & community activities
  • Newsworthy events
  • What else?

How can you most effectively communicate your brand uniqueness?

  • A few more ideas for you...
  • Custom annual report images
  • Advertorial imagery destined for print (yes, I said print)
  • PR images destined for news outlets
  • What else?

How can you show value to your stakeholders?

  • Even more ideas for you...
  • Charity & community involvement
  • Team building activities
  • Award celebrations
  • What else?

What images communicate your brand, vision, and values? Something produced for you and your unique vision will always be more unique and communicate more of your company and brand. Of course, stock imagery is everywhere and readily and cheaply available, so where should you use that? But that’s another topic for another day.

In short, unique images start with you, your activities, and your brand. Create images for these and you’ll have unique images.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Welcome - Jon Becker Photography Blog Launch

History is being made! Another blog is launched.I don’t know about making history with so many blogs and voices out on the internet, especially photographers blogs. Is this one different? Reader feedback will tell. But first, this is not a photography blog. I won’t explain all the technical wizardry, visionary approaches, nor will I have definitive answers to every photographic problem.

This blog is about using imagery to grow your business and leverage things you may already be doing more successfully. In short, I hope to start a conversation about different ways businesses can use photography in their business to make more money.

In upcoming editions, we’ll explore:
  • What makes a good image 
  • Working with photographers to make images 
  • Image licensing and usage rights 
  • When to use stock images and when to use custom images 
  • And more... 
Each week I intend to post a business related topic, followed by a creative topic. The photography industry is changing rapidly, yet our world is becoming more and more visual. I can’t wait to discover new ways businesses use imagery, creative ways to make it, and a shared appreciation for compelling images.

Let’s enjoy the journey together.