Interview with ASPP – New England Chapter

1) Where did you go to school? Did you study photography? Did you set out to be a retoucher extraordinaire, or did that evolve?

I studied at Rochester Institute of Technology where I earned a Bachelor of Science in Photography. I began my career as a commercial photographer for Hallmark Cards. At Hallmark, I was afforded the extraordinary opportunity to shoot everything from still life and product photography to photo illustration, annual reports, travel, and even dance photography.

The move into digital imaging came almost a decade later in the early 1990’s when Photoshop began to transform the way image manipulation and prepress production was done. With my background in photography, the progression was a natural one for me. I love magazines–one of the reasons I was drawn to photography–and always envisioned working at a magazine at some point in my career. Photoshop was my entrée into publishing.

Everything I know about lighting, color reproduction, photo design, and photography comes into play when doing retouching, image manipulation, and prepress work.

2) You have had some interesting jobs in your career: staff photographer for Hallmark Cards, Digital Imaging Specialist at The New Yorker magazine, Color Specialist for Houghton Mifflin and Imaging/Production Director for Wedding Style magazine. How did one job lead to another?

My career evolved as technology evolved. I made the transition into magazine publishing when I landed a 6-month project position at People magazine doing Photoshop work and prepress production for the magazine’s 20th anniversary issue. The prepress experience I acquired at People combined, with credentials as a Hallmark photographer, was the combination The New Yorker magazine sought for implementation of digital photography its newly formed in-house imaging department.

When I returned to New England from New York, opportunities at Cahners, Houghton Mifflin, and Wedding Style magazine presented themselves. Technology was transforming the production and design process resulting in new positions at these companies that required a new blend of skills. I had the right mix–strong technical skills in prepress and printing along with a background in design, visual communication, and digital and silver-based photography.

3) Portrait retouching and color casting to craft tonal ranges in a photograph all looks like magic. What is your most frequently used Photoshop tool? What changes in Photoshop and Adobe Creative Suite do you see the most value in?

By far, the curves tool is what I use most often. Most images benefit from a tonal or color adjustment–even if it’s only a slight tweak. Curves, applied with an adjustment layer, is the tool of choice to accomplish that task. I’d be hard pressed to single out specific changes as the most valuable. With each new release of the Creative Suite software–and Photoshop in particular–there are always improvements that make me wonder how I ever managed without them.

4) How do you manage to keep up with technical developments?

Constant education is the key. I have subscriptions to the online training sites and I attend live and virtual seminars and read everything I can get my hands on. Everyday, I make it a point to discover something new in the software. Whether it’s taking a few minutes to read a quick tip about doing a routine task more efficiently, or taking 20 minutes to watch an online tutorial about a new feature, there is always something new to learn.

And, this spring I had the pleasure of attending Photoshop World as a guest of Layers Magazine. Anyone wanting to learn Photoshop should consider attending a Photoshop World conference along with a membership to NAPP (National Association of Photoshop Professional).

5) What do you most enjoy about your work? What advice would you give someone who wants to enter your field?

What I enjoy most is that I’m completely engaged in what I do. Whether improving color for a product catalog, working images to make a magazine layout sing, creating graphics for a website, or restoring a client’s treasured family photo of a departed loved one, I truly enjoy going to work everyday.

I would give this advice – be dedicated to your craft; find a mentor; be inquisitive, and never stop learning. High school students exploring careers in photography, printing, and new media should absolutely consider studying at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT).

6) Tells us about winning the grand prize in Adobe / Layers Magazine Photoshop contest.

It was terrific to have my efforts recognized–and there were some really great prizes too!

The premise of the contest was how Photoshop “Saved The Day”. In magazine production Photoshop saves the day almost everyday.

For this particular image, we were on a very tight deadline when the art director selected a grossly under-exposed photo as his first pick for the cover of the magazine. Through extensive tonal correction and the usual retouching that is done to a portrait, I transformed the under-exposed color photograph into a beautiful four-color B&W image that did become the cover for the Fall/Winter 2009 issue of Wedding Style Magazine.

Here’s the link to the Before & After of the winning photograph:

7) Now that you are running your own business how do you solicit clients?

A large percentage of my work comes from relationships that I’ve development over the years, along with client referrals, internet marketing, networking at industry events and through organizations like ASPP.

I’m in the process of revamping my website …stay-tuned. The new and improved site will have an extensive portfolio section highlighting the best of the best of my image manipulation and color correction work. There will be a section–probably most relevant to the ASPP membership–where I show the magic that can be done to make stock photography shine. ( Update 8/2012- You are reading this interview on the new and improved site.)

Another improvement that may be of interest, is a “one-click” interface–that will be available from the homepage–to quickly and easily upload files to receive a quote or no-cost image evaluation.

8) What has been your most satisfying or memorable project?

The most satisfying work is when there is synergy between myself and the art director on a given project. Nothing is better than when a team of creative professional collaborate to produce a beautifully executed piece–be it a magazine or book layout, website graphics, or a marketing brochure.

I also have to say I get pretty jazzed when I can take a photo that looks like a lost cause, and turn it into something that saves the day.

9) What would be your dream assignment?

Becoming Liza Minnelli’s personal photographer.

Short of Liza calling, I have two personal photography projects I am very excited about. The first is a series of photographs, a color study of artist pastels which are available for licensing and as limited edition art prints. The portfolio of the still life images can be viewed in the CQ Photography Collection  section of the site.

The second is a ballet photography book titled A Dream To Dance which I co-created with dancer & choreographer Susan Manchak. The story, geared towards young readers and ballet lovers, takes the reader on a visual journey with a prima ballerina from the rehearsal studio to the footlights of opening night. My dream is to get the book published.

A selection of the dance photographs from the project can be viewed in the CQ Photography Collection section of the site.

10) Who or what inspires you?

Either behind the camera or behind the mouse, my passion is lighting, color, and design. I’m inspired by great photography, great art, and outstanding graphic design.

11) You just recently joined ASPP New England. How did you hear about our organization? How do you hope ASPP can serve you, ideally, as a professional?

If I remember correctly, I became aware of the New England chapter through the national ASPP group on LinkedIn. In just the few months that I’ve been a member, I’ve already made some new friends and professional contacts. Meeting other professionals in the industry is probably the most valuable benefit to me. Outings, like the recent tour to Powder House Studios, are a great benefit too.


American Society of Picture Professionals

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