13 photoshoots in 4 days

Just wrapped on one of the busiest weeks of my 23 years of life. 13 photoshoots, 4 days, 70 hours of work on top of going to school. How did I accomplish this? A strict diet of frozen pizzas and energy drinks. Six months ago today, I would have been sitting on the couch probably playing Xbox and still eating frozen pizzas. The way my life has changed in such a short amount of time is certainly mind boggling, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. Working in the editorial industry is no joke. I'm sure many outsiders imagine my job as simply taking pictures and then having copious amounts of free time to play Xbox and eat frozen pizzas. In reality, that scenario couldn't be farther from the truth.

Starting on Monday, I had 3 shoots and had to try to squeeze in class in between one of the shoots. Fortunately, I'm graduating in 15 short days. I'm well ahead of all of my school work so class has definitely been on the back burner this week (actually for the past couple weeks, sorry dad). The end of the day came with a solid 8 hours of shooting and traveling all over Pittsburgh. The joke was on me because when I got home I heated up a frozen pizza and started editing through the hundreds of photos I took previously in the day. I made the selects and began my post-processing. Let me also add that last Friday I shot a 7 page men's fashion feature that will also be featured this month of Whirl. With a mixture of editing Monday's shoots and dabbling in the men's feature, I found myself looking up and finding it to be 2am. Total amount of work for the day? 15 hours, and it was only Monday.

To save you from boredom, I'll skip ahead to Thursday; which I had the most memorable shoot of my career to date. Like Monday, Thursday was another day of balancing multiple shoots and school. My first shoot, the one that I'll cherish forever, was shooting the CEO of a multi-BILLION dollar pharmaceutical company. No amount of Monster Energy could prepare me for that shoot. Forewarning, I'm gonna get real preachy here so you may want to skip ahead.

The call time was 11am. I arrived at work at 10am and met with the art director who would be driving us to the shoot. The previous night I did my research on the company to see just how big they were. To put it into perspective, they are in the top 100 of the Fortune 500. Nothing like psyching yourself out the day before the biggest shoot of your career. We arrived at the headquarters exactly at 11 and met with our contact. This company is so serious that we had to get personalized guest passes with our pictures on them. Another perfect was to make me even more nervous for the shoot. The contact told us that we would have roughly 5-10 minutes with the CEO before she had to be whisked away to probably make some stock-altering decision. I had about 5 minutes to scout a location and set up my gear. Luckily for me, I've become a machine at setting up my gear. To add to the luck, the building we were in was nothing short of an architectural feat. Marble staircases, hundred foot windows, sprawling glass enclosed offices. Awe-inspiring.

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I chose to shoot her (yes she was the most intimidating woman I've ever met) on top of the third floor staircase. This is where knowing your gear inside and out and inside again is such an important aspect of your work. On high-pressure shoots like these, you have NO time to fiddle around with settings and where to place your lights. I knew that shooting at f/2.8, 1/100th, 1/2 power on my strobe through my octabox, while at the minimum mark of my ND filter would yield me a correct exposure. I was right on the mark.

Raw image of Andrea, a senior Editor at Whir who is writing the story.

Raw image of Andrea, a senior Editor at Whir who is writing the story.

I got to shoot maybe 5 test shots before the CEO came in. Luckily she was very comfortable in front of the camera, and I fired off close to 100 shots before we had to call it quits. Unfortunately I can't share the finished results as the article isn't published yet, but hopefully this post will make you want to go pick up a copy of the April issue of Whirl Magazine (shameless plug). The rest of the day went as planned. A couple more small shoots, about an hour of class, and then home to edit the day's lot of images.

Overall I've shot more in 4 days than most photographers shoot in a couple months. I shot dishes served by some of the most exclusive restaurants in Pittsburgh, wallet-demolishing cocktails, yoga instructors, a holistic dentist, an insanely powerful CEO, and about eight other things I can't remember at the time. Just think, this is my first month on the job.






Does Gear Really Matter?

Yes...well..not really...maybe sometimes. This question has plagued the photo industry for years. Many photographers, myself included, suffer from GAS syndrome..and no, Gas-X is not the cure. GAS stands for Gear Acquisition Syndrome. In other words, this is a "symptom" where photographers feel like they need the absolute best gear on the market today to do their job. I consider myself an acute GAS sufferer, as I just recently upgraded from a Canon T2i to 5dmk3


Now to the question. Does gear really have that big of an impact on the final image? Yes and no. I've created awesome images from my iPhone 4s as well as awesome images from my $3500 camera body. It all relies on the work the photographer is creating and his or her needs. For example, the photographers you see gracing the sidelines of every NFL game are using sub $10,000 camera bodies. This may seem absolutely insane to the average user, however, what these photographers need is not more megapixels or flip out screens. They need a camera that can fire off 100 pictures in less than 8 seconds with perfect focus on 90 of those 100 pictures. Do I need a camera that can do this? Absolutely not, but I can still dream.


As an advertising and editorial photographer, I'm shooting in controlled studio environments or on-location somewhere remotely exotic and beautiful. I don't need the ability to fire off 14 frames a second. Instead, I need a camera that has an impressive dynamic range (the range between shadows and highlights) and performs well in low-light. Hell, my T2i still did the job pretty well. Can you tell which camera was used in these two images?


I'm going to assume you can't. I wouldn't be able to either. Don't worry though, I'm not going to tell you which camera shot which. As you can see, both of these images look like they were created with the same camera. The only difference? A price of $2700. As I so often like to point out though, both of these images went through extensive, and I mean gigabyte per file extensive, retouching. My strength lies in all the work that goes into the picture after the shutter is pressed. Retouching aside, both camera's produced very similar results. This can be expected coming from a studio environment. Now one thing that my 5D does better is it's ability to shoot extremely clean images in dark environments. For example, you know when you're at a concert and snap a selfie and the picture looks spotty and downright uninstagram worthy? Well those weird spotty colors filling your screen is called noise, and most consumer grade DSLRs are just as bad as your iPhone when it comes to shooting in very dark environments. This is where gear matters, and I hate to even use the word "matter" because it's possible to take great low-light photos as well with cheap gear. Certain environments and situations sometimes call for a higher end grade of equipment.


I get a lot of questions about which lens I used for a certain shot and so forth. Many amateur photographers think that the lens and camera are everything. Just like the example I used earlier about professional sports photographer's cameras, lenses are equally as subjective. Before I go any further, quality lenses do make a world of difference. I've always put my money towards good glass before anything else, and I feel every photographer should do the same. Those gigantic lenses you see on the sidelines? Easily $12,000 and above. What I'm trying to stress through this post is that it's not about having the absolute best gear money can buy. Instead, it's about tailoring your photographic setup to the work you do.

One of my favorite images of mine was shot with a T2i and $100 50mm lens.

One of my favorite images of mine was shot with a T2i and $100 50mm lens.

So get out there and start shooting away. Only have an iPhone? Download an app called Snapseed. A powerful little photo editor for your phone. You'll be amazed what you can create with the camera that's sitting in your pocket. When you feel, and I mean truly feel, that your camera body is hindering your work, then it may be time for an upgrade. Don't feel bad about not having the latest and greatest camera and lens. The camera is only one pixel of the bigger picture.


Boy that was cheesy.



The Beginning

At the age of 23, still in school, I have been extremely lucky for the opportunity to land a job at an editorial magazine here in Pittsburgh, Since I go to school for Photography, I found that Whirl was looking for interns for school credit. Up until I saw that posting, my photo "career" was almost nonexistent. I knew that to survive in this industry, I needed this position. An overwhelming sense of determination swept over me, and I began the application process. A complete overhaul to my resume and a few meetings later, I was sitting at Whirl as their new photo intern.


On the second day of my internship, I was given a responsibility that I thought at the time was a big deal; cut products out of a white background and edit them. Not to brag, but I strongly pride myself on my retouching abilities ( work shown on I flew through the process and soon found myself looking for more work to do. I began browsing the work server, just looking for something else I could edit. I stumbled upon a fitness photo story the staff photographer at the time shot. I saw that there were some mistakes in the editing, so I took all of the photos, made copies, and re-edited them from scratch. I showed my finish edits to the art director. Needless to say, I was put in charge of retouching every photo from there on out.


Months down the road, the staff photographer Cayla ( told me that there was a chance that she would be moving to New York to freelance. My brain went haywire. This was my chance to be the staff photographer. I knew that I was more than capable of delivering, as earlier in my internship, I shot two large features that the staff was very impressed with.

I shot Cayla for a feature on short hair on women. Seen at

I shot Cayla for a feature on short hair on women. Seen at

A feature on the best bars in Pittsburgh. Seen at

A feature on the best bars in Pittsburgh. Seen at

February 1st came and Cayla packed up her bags. I was left in charge, of everything. At first it was one of the most daunting experiences of my life. I was solely responsible for the content of four magazines as Whirl has three other sister publications on top of the main magazine. 17 days have passed. I've shot more than 4000 frames, almost 10 features, and need to recharge my gripped 5Dmk3 daily. I couldn't be a happier person.