Sunday, December 19, 2010

2011 Help Portrait

This year I participated in the nationwide event called the Help Portrait Project. For years I had heard about the annual event where photographers give back to people in need. For a day, volunteer photographers set up studios at charities and churches that help the poor, the sick and the homeless. Here is the promo video below.

We spent time with the families, take their portrait and give them each a framed 8x10 photo before Christmas. It may not sound like much to give someone a portrait of themselves, but many of the participating families do not have any pictures of themselves. I am told that some of the people never had photos taken before and it can have a powerful effect.

One the surface, this might sound like a lot of sad people showed up to get their photo taken, but that is not what I experienced. The people that I met were warm and friendly... even fun. Some of the children were the cutest hams and had us all laughing.

I will not be showing any of the photos we took that day since there are confidentiality promises in place, and the event was not about any particular photographer getting a great portrait for his portfolio. It was about connecting with everyday people and giving them a simple gift of compassion.

As a side note, Chik-Fila was kind enough to supply the Atlanta area locations with lunch. Here is a photo of me in front of a mountain of chicken sandwiches before they were distributed. I am glad they did not fall on me... I would have had to eat my way to the surface. Darn!

Moving Away from Internet Flash

Flash sites don't work on mobile devices
image from 
We tell our clients, a lot can happen in a couple of years on the internet. Standards change, new browsers are released, new trends appear. All of these elements can date a web site quickly.

One of the biggest trends going right now is the movement away from Adobe Flash to create web sites. In the past, our clients requested Flash-based animated splash screens or whole web sites created using this technology. The big problem is that Flash sites are not easily indexed by search engines... I call them "stealth sites" because they can often fly under the radar of most search engines.

Some of the Flash sites required more bandwidth and faster processors to play smoothly. This was not usually a problem on desktop computers, but now more consumers are becoming dependent on smart phones to browse the internet. Flash is not currently supported on some popular devices such as iPhones, iPads and a number of other mobile device platforms. When one realizes the millions of mobile devices, the Flash problem is hard to ignore.

What happens when these web sites appear on these non-Flash enabled smart phones depends on how the site is built. In some cases, the user is redirected to an alternate non-flash site that has been optimized for smart phone use. In other cases where the issue has not been addressed, the user sees blank holes in the web site design or nothing at all.

Web designers are embracing non-Flash technology such as HTML5 which plays internet video natively without additional plugins. We are also using clever custom code to restore animation and graphic effects back to web sites. The upside of this is that these technologies will also work on smart phone browsers.

I personally believe that market share wars are being fought on the internet with many competing companies vying for control of our computing devices. Control equals dollars at the end of the day. Just look how far Google has embedded itself into our daily lives. Can you imagine the web without them? Didn't think so.

Apple has famously drawn the line by not supporting Flash on their iPhones and iPads. Steve Jobs claims that this is because Flash web sites can require extreme band width and processing power which can put a strain on networks and drain phone batteries quickly. These are valid points, but really, it all might come down to control of market share and user experience.

Apple has its own platform for applications that it sells on its "App" Store, iTunes. If a competing technology such as Flash was allowed to run on Apple devices, Apple would lose the money it makes through the sale of Apps because consumers would have an alternate source for Apps. Hundreds of Flash App stores would pop up... guaranteed. Just as important to Apple, they might lose control over the user experience. For example, Apple does not allow pornography or obscene products to be sold in their store. They would not be able to control that with Flash Apps. Also, buggy or unsafe software  could cause stability issues.

While I have complained in the past about the lack of Flash support on iPhones, I applaud Apple for following their own path to give their consumers the best possible experience possible on their devices. Web designers and consumers can find creative alternative and life after Flash.

For non-Flash web site design, contact me at

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Racing Video Project Using the Canon 5D Mark 2

A few months ago took some raw video footage for my friend David Struve and his Pro Cup Karting League at Andretti Speed Lab in Alpharetta, Georgia. (See my previous story about Racing by Candlelight). The race track is kinda dark and it was tough to shoot video, but I was able to get some usable footage. David wanted to make a movie trailer-style web ad for the Karting League, and he was able to mix my footage with some of his on-board helmet cam clips. Below is the result. Pretty cool I think!

David is a talented graphic designer and my coworker at my 9-5 job at Graphic Works. Check out his freelance design web site at

Head Shot Portraits for an Atlanta Law Firm

This week at Graphic Works I had the opportunity to take head shot portraits of 12 lawyers of a local Atlanta law firm. They are going to use the photos for their web site profiles and for publications when needed.

I love making these kind of photos because it gives me a chance to connect with people one-on-one. I also like delivering photos that the subject will be happy to use... even ones who inform me that they "hate to have their picture taken". My goal is to win those people over and make them change their mind about having a portrait made... or at least to make the process seem painless.

The mood during my portrait sessions is laid back and fun. I will adjust my shooting style based on the particular person sitting in front of me, but I always want my subjects to feel at ease because that makes the best portraits.

My typical workflow for corporate portraits involves setup on in the client's office or in our studio. Then I schedule about 15 minutes per person to shoot, review and pick the final image. I shoot with my camera tethered to a computer so that we can make an "on-the-spot" review and choose the final photo. We discuss any retouching requests at that time too. Clients love seeing the photo that they will get and it saves me from their second guessing later. Everyone is happy this way.

Check out my business photography portfolio at

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Graphic Works Atlanta Launches a New Portfolio Web Site

They say that a cobbler's children have no shoes. In the case of our web site at Graphic Works, we just had "old shoes". After months of collecting new samples of our recent graphic design projects, web site designs and photography we were finally ready to unleash our promotional web site.

We designed this web site to be Flash-free and to work natively on Apple iPhones, iPads and other mobile devices that do not support Adobe Flash.

View the new Graphic Works web site at