Thursday, June 26, 2008

Senior Portraits, Book Reviews and assorted photo ramblings

It's been awhile since posting. I've been pretty busy recently with an assignment from PNC and a number of senior portrait sessions. The phone has been ringing with students who are tired of the same old looks from traditional portrait and wedding studios and they are looking for customized and photos with a slight edge. I've really been enjoying working with the kids and the cool thing about it is that even the boys (who never want their photos done) get caught up in the session and actually enjoy themselves and my working style. My working style is loud music rocking the location, working quickly, getting Mom involved in the process by holding a flex fill reflector, and just trying to have as much fun as possible! The photos I'm getting have been great and if this trend continues, I can see myself opening a small boutique type studio for the retail business. I'm learning more about the retail business every day and it really differs from the commercial circles I'm used to running in.

Pittsburgh: A Photographic Portrait has just been reviewed by Pittsburgh Magazine, July 2008 issue in a glowing and positive manner. Here is an excerpt from the review by Hattie Fletcher wrote, "...You know, I actually have seen all these things, and some of them I wouldn't even call all that pretty. But gosh, Bolster makes them look terrific!"
As a professional photographer I have spent a career working hard to make the non pretty...pretty. So I am pleased with her assessment of my talents!

ASMP Pittsburgh chapter sponsored a talk by former Chicago photo rep, Carolyn Potts last night about the changing world of commercial photography and giving examples of why it is so much tougher these days to communicate with art buyers and to get assignments. Much of the well presented lecture was stuff I already knew, and it could have been useful to have examples of photographers who have adopted and are thriving (if they exist!) As a lecture and seminar junkie, I still always find at least one tidbit of info I can use down the line and that is why I spend time and money to attend those things. In fact, her energy inspired me to write this blog which I have neglected for a couple of weeks! You have to listen with a skeptical mind but yet be very open to new ideas of thinking. Since many of the programs are sponsored by vendors there is usually a soft sell of their products which I don't mind too much as long as it doesn't go overboard. After the seminar it was nice just getting together with fellow shooters at a Sanremos Bar pounding down pitchers of beer and discussing our businesses, our frustrations and our dreams. I, for one, intend to remain focused, positive and will continue to learn and explore all areas of photography. I remain confident that the next "BIG" idea is just around the corner!

These photos are from a recent shoot with high school senior Liz. They were made on an extremely hot and humid day, yet she and her mom hung in with me, worked hard, and we made some stunning photographs! Thanks Liz and Denise!

PHOTO QUOTE OF THE DAY: If you are out there shooting, things will happen for you. If you're not out there, you'll only hear about it.-Jay Maisel

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


If you can make it out Thursday night, June 12th try to stop by and say hello! I'll be doing a combination book signing for my book, Pittsburgh: A Photographic Portrait and giving a free photo workshop and presentation on ideas on how to improve your photography and take better vacation photos. I'm looking forward to sharing a wealth of information and am hoping for lots of questions from the audience, so make a list (or even bring some of your pictures for critique and review) and head on over to Barnes and Noble in Cranberry, PA. I'll be there around 6:30 and will be speaking about 7PM. I'll be looking forward to meeting you!

PHOTO QUOTE OF THE DAY: A good photograph is knowing where to stand-Ansel Adams

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Time for rockin the basement!

Just got my copy of Professional Photographer Magazine today. I was featured in an article about how I deal with the pressure of executive and upper management photos (quite well, actually :-) The article was very positive and the magazine goes out to over 20,000 professional photographers who belong to the PPoA (Professional Photographers of America) which is the largest photography trade organization in the United States. The article was written by Ellis Veener, an Atlanta based photographer whom I had the pleasure of meeting a few years ago. The article features photos I shot for PNC Financial, Mellon Bank, Computer World and the United States Chess Association. Thank you, PPoA and Ellis for highlighting my work, career, and philosophies!

Since I speaking of executive portraits, what a better time than this to show rock and roll pictures! These are photos of a garage band called, Fiction on Fire. FoF allowed me to hang out with them and I shot a couple of concerts, backstage going ons, and my favorite... practicing in mom and dad's basement! I just loved the shag carpet, low ceilings, beer posters and advertising on the walls and a velvet painting (not seen in these photos...maybe I'll post more later) Sadly, the band broke up not long after I photographed them but I was thankful for the time spent with them and I'm sure our paths will cross again.

PHOTO QUOTE OF THE DAY: I am always mentally photographing everything as practice-Minor White

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Time for another post

Well, this post is LONG overdue... I don't understand where the time goes to. First off...

I'll be doing a book signing and photo workshop at Barnes and Noble in Cranberry, PA Thursday, June 12th at 7PM. I'll be talking a little about the making of my book, Pittsburgh: A Photographic Portrait and then giving a presentation that will help
photographers take better vacation pictures, use their camera better, and get more keeper photos. It is especially geared to photographers who simply would like to take better pictures and who are having trouble understanding what all those funny little buttons are on their camera. Please come out and say hi. The event is free and will last a couple of hours. And...they have cold air conditioning!

The two photos I've posted for this blog were rejects that didn't make the book for whatever reason, but photos I like.
They were shot at the Pittsburgh Zoo PPG Aquarium and the Scaife Gallery at the Carnegie Museum.

I've been quite busy both personally and business wise the past couple of weeks. Business has started picking up again and my senior portrait side is preparing for what looks to be the busiest season yet. I've also been attending a number of conferences and seminars that deal with the retail side of photography and how successful portrait and wedding photographers run their businesses. It is a whole different world and approach than what I've spent nearly 18 years learning and practicing in the commercial world. That side of the business knows how to make money and from what I have gathered many seem more interested in making money than shooting pictures.
Nothing wrong with that, but really different from what I learned where you have to eat, breathe, sleep photography 24/7.
For many portrait studios, it is a 9-5 job and I can tell that many of the successful shooters don't spend a whole lot of time after hours worrying about how they are going to make their next great photograph. I guess actually having a life outside of photography works for some people, but honestly, I'm not sure I'd be one of them. I do have many interests that isn't photo related, but in the back of my mind, I'm always shooting, even if it is just my imagination. This is something that photographer Jay Maisel calls doing, "visual pushups". I started doing them as a photo student where I would walk around guessing what a camera exposure would be and then taking a light reading with a meter to see how close I was. I actually got pretty good doing this! I'm also the weird guy you see walking down the street looking through two hands held close to my face (as cropping L's) framing up shots. At some point, I just quit caring about how crazy I looked because of my passion for the visual.

Another wonderful thing happened in May...I finally recovered from a ruptured/herniated back disc injury that I have had since last July. I wouldn't wish that one on anyone. Being in constant pain effects your personal life, work, and emotions. I worked through the injury the best I could and am so thankful I cleared the last hurdle towards well being.

My kids got of school for the year on Friday. My oldest, Mike is looking forward to attending Carnegie Mellon University Design School for the Pre-College program this summer. My youngest, Tyler will be in his first fencing competition since taking up the sport earlier this spring. College tours, vacation, and bass fishing is all on the horizon for the summer along with a bunch of portrait sessions and maybe even a little weed pulling around the house if I get ambitious (doubtful)!

QUOTE OF THE DAY: The satisfaction comes from standing next to 500 photographers and coming away with something different.-David Burnett