The Workbook

I get asked quite often, where to find local resources. Be it talent agencies, prop makers, animal trainers or even clients (i.e. ad agencies, design firms etc.) there are several places to go. The one I will share today (and one I have used for decades) is The Workbook. Their “Phonebook” (formerly known as the “Directory”) is filled with thousands of resources and should you subscribe to a “Plus” account for $75 per year, you get even more info on potential clients! It used to be my bible back before I had a rep and was showing my own portfolios. This is such a great resource we are adding it to our link list!


We did a corporate group shot recently and although the parameters of the shoot changed while we were on the shoot, we got the client what they wanted… Although as it turns out not what they needed. We found out after the fact that one of the images needed to be used for a full-page cover shot for a magazine. The only problem is that we shot the job horizontal and not vertical. So when the magazine indicated that the shot was not useable in it’s current state, there was a bit of panic going on.

Thankfully at the time I was a bit insistent that we shoot the group of seven (originally to be a group of five) in two clusters. Who knows why we get these bugs up our butt sometimes but the client wanted to push everyone together into one cluster and I just really steered them away from doing it that way.

Well this really saved us when it came time to rectify the issue of not having a vertical shot. We were able to (quite simply) rearrange a few people in the computer and come up with a solution. But it was that “two cluster” grouping that really enabled us to fix the problem… The universe works in mysterious ways!!!

Original Group Shot Vertical Composite

Welcome! Welcome!

Just wanted to extend an official “Welcome” to Kierstin Cunnington who, although is officially part of Lighthouse Imaging Group, has come on board to support David Gibbons in representing and managing Dana Hursey Photography and Corporate Image Libraries. Currently working out of our offices here, she has just finished her first week and we are all thrilled to have her on board the DHP Rollercoaster!

Kierstin Cunnington

Welcome Kierstin!!!!

Photography Links

We added a new section to the blog today. Over on the side bar you’ll notice an area for “photo related links” Occasionally we’ll be adding some sites here that we think are worthwhile visiting that are not blogs, but still photo related. Our first entry is and was recommended by Dylan Borgman who frequently contributes his thoughts to this blog. Thanks Dylan!

Staying Inspired…

I don’t know about you, but I go on a regular rollercoaster ride as far as being interested in picking up my camera for reasons other than a job. Sometimes I am really into it but other times I just get burned out!

This happened to me a couple of years ago, and I knew I needed a kick in the butt to go out and shoot some work that was not job related.

I had been teaching at Art Center College of Design for over 15 years at that point and really had never taken advantage of the “free class” I get each term while teaching there. Well a good friend of mine, Wynne Wilson, was teaching a portraiture class that term and so I opted to take it.

Not so much to learn something (which, I’m sorry, but you can’t help but learn SOMETHING!) but more to give me assignments to shoot since I was just mentally fried at the time. It was a great experience. It gave me a structure and deadlines by which I had to produce something. It was also just nice to be in a creative environment with little or no stress.

I missed a few classes due to being on location for a couple of jobs but it revitalized me while I was there and I got a few shots that wound up in the portfolio! So overall it was more than worth it.

I even pulled out my 5×7 view camera and made a portrait of my favorite instructor from when I attended Art Center (who was still teaching there) during a class shoot that we had one week.

Archie Ferrante

I say all of this because I think at times we each need to hit the “Reset Button”. That is different for all of us and could even be different for each individual at different times of their life…

But if you think taking a class might just kick you in the butt…. DO IT!

(see also yesterdays entry!!)

Shoot What You Love

One of my assistants made a comment the other day that reminded me of how I used to struggle with imagery for my portfolio. It took me way too many years to figure out something that seems like it should be so amazingly obvious. But because we are more often than not way to close to our own work, I couldn’t see it.

Plain and Simple?


In the early half of my career I was obsessed with shooting what I thought people wanted to see in my portfolio, rather than what inspired me. I tried to be all things to all people and anticipate any and every possible scenario. AND… I didn’t get very far.

One day while having a conversation with a colleague, she mentioned how her book was all fashion and portrait and that she was getting all of this product work from agencies. At that moment the light bulb went on and I realized that much of the work I was getting was not representative of what was in my portfolios….

With that realization I thought why am I shooting all of this stuff that really doesn’t interest me, only to have people hire me for completely non-related projects? So I started shooting what I wanted to shoot and what I thought was interesting. And the jobs came. Slowly, but they came. And I came to realize that regardless of how hard you work or how much you try, your passion (or lack thereof) comes through in your imagery. And if people don’t see it, they are not going to hire you. And when you shoot what you are passionate about, folks will see it in your work and will be drawn to it and those of like mind (which are the ONLY people you want to work for ANYWAY) will hire you!

I have confirmed this over and over and have talked with so many others who experience the same. So the moral of the story is simple. Do what you love, and they will come!

Photo Workshops

There are all kinds of places to continue to learn and expand as a photographer. There are full on degree programs, photo expeditions, seminars of all types, but one I always suggest looking into (even though I have never been myself) is Santa Fe Workshops. They have a fair amount of credibility in my book because of the caliber of people they attract to teach as well as the varied programs they offer. You can take course in just the areas that you have interest. And spending a week in Santa Fe, NM ain’t bad either!

I get no kickbacks for the recommendation, but check them out anyway!

Love That Silk!

Was off shooting a quick corporate job today and again made use of one of my favorite lighting tools!

About 15 years ago I went to a surplus store on Santa Monica and Vine and purchased an old equipment parachute for $60.
It is pure white nylon and 12′ x 24′. I folded it in half so that it is twice as diffused and 12′ x 12′. I tied big knots where the two corners meet.

I take it with me to every shoot all scrunched up in a small nylon bag I got from a sporting goods store (used for sleeping bags I think). And more often than not I pull it out, hang it up between two c-stands and either diffuse sunlight or aim two stobe heads through it towards my subject(s). It’s wonderfully soft, flattering light. Very much like window light. I would venture to guess that I use this maybe 50% of the time when shooting people. You can actually see a video clip that shows me using it here.

I have learned from my assistants that these are harder and harder to find. But well worth the (certainly more expensive these days) investment should you find one!

Off on another road trip tomorrow so catch up with you on Monday!

It’s Still True For Me…

I wrote a little blurb for Samy’s Camera a while back, and was reminded of it today. So I went back to read it. You know how your views can shift and change over time? I fully expected to read the article and say “what was I thinking?!” But for the most part I think I would write the same blurb today….

Here it is:

If creating photographs is 10% of my time, I’m lucky. And I think we all go through the ups and downs of loving and hating different aspects of our field. But I learned early on that if I wanted to make it, I had to suck it up and become good at all of the other things that allow me to make images and be profitable, and at the same time hone my photographic skills.

It’s interesting how everyone seems to have a different formula to success. Even the definition of success changes depending on who you talk to and your own perspective on things. Is it the $ ? Is it the image? For our industry I think I heard most of the formulas; “It’s the Lighting”, “It’s the Composition”, “It’s the Concept”, “It’s Marketing Yourself”, “It’s Staying Current with Technology”, “It’s Being at Peace with Your Inner Child”. Okay, maybe not that one. But you know what I love about this profession? Being successful at it takes all of these things and so much more! Passion, business sense, the ability to collaborate, humility, self-assurance, creativity. The list goes on! Just knowing how to take a picture doesn’t cut it! I need to wear so many different hats, and I have to be good at wearing all of them! What does that mean? It means not just anyone can do it, despite the mentality that all you need is a camera and a business card to be a pro. It means that to be successful at it you need to be committed (either meaning is applicable).

My definition of success is three-fold. First and foremost is a happy client. Second and not far behind is a check that clears the bank. The third is the icing on the cake. creative expression, which I consider to be another term for problem solving. I found I got a lot better at this when I started to allow myself to “know what I’m doing” and impart upon my clients that they really need to let me do it, after all that’s why they hired me. I think? But because my first priority is taking care of my client and making sure that they get what they need, my clients tend to keep coming back.

These days I’m finding that clients want more and more productivity out of any given day of shooting. Short of giving my work away, I am more than happy to oblige. I am a fast shooter so cranking though multiple setups is not a problem. And when they see how much can be accomplished in a day, they have less of a problem paying a higher fee.

I love what I do. Trust me, there have been many times that I’ve wished I could walk away from this and go do a “real job”! But despite the chaos, and the “selling” and the financial roller coaster and the never-ending upgrading, there is something about this profession that won’t let go of me. So I just go back to the great people I get to work with and the good lunches we have while doing so and remind myself… “this ain’t half bad!”

Lightroom Links

Lightroom has become the workflow of choice for us here at DHP. And although we still occasionally use Capture One Pro from Phase One for tethered capture on some shoots we are relying more and more on Lightroom to take care of most of our needs.

So I thought I would pass on a couple of links for Lightroom tips and tutorials just in case you were not aware of them.

As I have said before my vote for the best software-learning site is But that costs $. (Not much, but some)

If you just want some quick free techniques here are two:

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Podcasts
-Besides tips and tutorials they also have interviews with professional photographers about their careers and shooting styles.

Adobe Lightroom Killer Tips
-These are just short straightforward “How-To’s”

Must have been a slow news day!

Black & White Photo of Violinist

A few months ago I was approached by the Pasadena Conservatory of Music to create a series of photographs for the upcoming Pasadena Arts & Ideas Festival. This year’s “theme” is ‘Skin’. The conservatory wanted to hire me to shoot a series of black & white images showing the interaction of skin and musical instruments.

I have been a recent contributor to the Conservatory, as a good friend of mine recently joined as the head of development there. It felt a bit weird to me to be writing them a check every year to contribute to their programs only to get is all back for a few photo shoots. So I offered to do the project pro-bono.

Well we finally started to do a few sessions last week and the Conservatory in an attempt to get some publicity for the event was able to have the local paper stop by to do a little article on what we were up to. So for all of about 10 or 15 minutes there was a staff writer and staff photographer at our first session. They asked a few questions, took a few shots while we were doing our thing and then they were gone.

I figured it would be a little blurb on page 453 in the bottom left corner…

Today our FedEx guy was dropping off a package and says “Hey, saw ya on the front page of the paper the other day!”
I was sure he was exaggerating about this little hidden article, but he stopped by later and handed me Friday’s Pasadena Star News and sure enough.. Big Picture and article right in the middle of the front page! It’s Great for the Festival, but like I said… must have been a slow news day!

Here is the article online (without photos)

California Sales Tax

So this posting will probably only be of interest to Photographers in California who make a living from their photography.

I am not a sales tax professional and you should read the State Board of Equalization’s Sales Tax Regulations and Contact the State Board of Equalization to determine how you should apply sales tax to your transactions.
I am simply sharing my findings and discoveries so that you may investigate as to whether they apply to you!
Do not rely on this information for your business without first verifying all information with the State Board of Equalization!

(You know… it’s really stupid that we have to do things like the above, because of those select few that never want to take personal responsibility for themselves or their actions!) I am now stepping down from my soapbox and returning to our previously scheduled discussion.

So I just recently found out information that I wanted to share so that if you were also “slightly out of the loop” you could benefit as well!

Whether or not you are aware of this.. You are required to charge sales tax on any photographic job you charge for.
The regulations are somewhat convoluted but to put it in basic terms you are required to charge sales tax on the bottom line of your invoice, all charges, including your fee and all expenses related to the job that you charge for.

Exceptions have historically been if the job is billed and delivered out of state, or if it is for resale and the client delivers a valid signed resale card to you.

Well there is a new exception in town! And it is called Electronic Transfer of Artwork. What this means is that if you deliver your images to a client via FTP / Over the Internet, you may not have to charge sales tax. Again you need to do your due diligence and investigate and verify this on your own, but here is how it went down for me.

As long as I do not deliver ANYTHING tangible, I do not have to charge sales tax. Now that means ANYTHING at ANYTIME! If I deliver all the images from a shoot over the web and then a month later the client wants a print, I have to charge sales tax on the ENTIRE JOB. If I deliver everything over the web and the client wants a physical proof sheet, (not a .pdf) then I have to charge sales tax on the ENTIRE JOB. But if they take delivery of EVERYTHING over the web including .pdf proof sheets, etc. then I do not have to charge sales tax.

Now in the scheme of things it is not like it is any money out of my pocket as the client pays for it all anyway, but by offering this option to clients I can offer them the job for 8.25% less. And on big jobs this can really add up! It also makes me look good for trying to find my clients ways to save money! And I am all about trying to help my clients in any way I can, that way they hopefully keep coming back. We are after all a service industry.

Now I did a lot of letter writing and phone calling to the SBE to verify all of this and they like to cover their own ass and say that the “guidelines” they give offer you no protection in an audit (weasels! – I mean come on! They can’t even commit to their own regulations but force us to be accountable for them!!). But I was just audited and on multiple instances this indeed held up. I am in fact getting a REFUND of sales tax for a job that was deemed to be not a sale of tangible property. (The $ actually belongs to the client who then used it for more photography – with me!)

The regulation that addresses this is Regulation 1540 – check it out.

I also just filed my quarterly tax return this week….. WITH ZERO DUE!

Leica M8 (part 3)


So it dawned on me that I better put up a color photograph from the M8 lest someone think it not capable of taking color images!

To kind of finish off my reasoning about spending an exorbitant amount of money on a virtually completely manual camera… My goal with this was to shoot what would be mostly B/W images. And although I did not realize it at the time I got the camera, it has a wonderful feature of allowing you to preview the images (I have recently found out this practice is called “chimping“) in B/W while shooting and still retaining a full .dng or RAW file to use in color or B/W as you wish. LOVE THIS FEATURE!!

I purchased only one lens, for several reasons;

  1. Less stuff to carry around.
  2. Changing lenses only adds to sensor dust.
  3. As I have repeatedly said I wanted to go back to basics, and having one fixed focal length lens gives me the challenge of figuring out how to make the image work.

I purchased the 35mm 1.4 because I wanted a fast lens. I wanted to be able to shoot in low light situations without having to use a flash. I really wanted lightweight, simple, and versatile! I chose the 35mm because with the magnification factor of the sensor, the 35mm is more like a normal lens. Again… back to basics. Leica made a 28-35-50 lens which is not so much of a zoom as 3 fixed lenses in one, but the f4 aperture was a deal breaker for me. I really needed this to be a fast lens.

I am getting the flash unit just to round out the system, but my goal is to travel light and stealthy. I am fairly convinced that this will be my camera of choice when not shooting a job, and who knows, I may use it for the occasional job here and there as well!

One last shot…

Hearst Castle

Leica M8 (cont.)

Central California Coast - July 7, 2007

So here is the kit I put together for the M8:

Everything fits in this tiny little bag (10x10x8!!) with room to spare, in case I should want to add a lens or maybe the Epson P3000 for image storage on longer trips. (or even both!!)

The New Camera

Okay, so here’s the thing… In the past I created photographs for a living.. it’s my job, and I love it! But the last thing I wanted to do was pick up a camera while I was NOT working. Be it vacations, family functions, or anything for that matter. I just did not want to haul around a camera. And these days with the EOS 1Ds Mk II, with a 35mm-350mm lens attached, that is exactly what one is doing… hauling.

So about 9 months ago I bought a slim little digital point-and-shoot (a Samsung NV3). I thought, “okay, something so small that I can fit it in my pocket and go” True! And even though it has a generous 7.2 megapixel sensor, it is after all, a point-and-shoot. It did fine on a couple of vacations and actually had me taking photos where I probably would not have otherwise… but they were vacation snaps.. nothing more. It’s not like I was making art with it! And I certainly was not going to be putting any of those images in a portfolio!

Then a few weeks ago I went to see Annie Leibovitz speak. And as I was looking at some of her images I was reminded why I started to take photographs in the first place. And to be honest it was not about making images for a portfolio (I often get caught up in the erroneous mindset that every image must be a portfolio worthy creation).

After walking out of her presentation, the research started. I wanted to find a camera that would bring me back to the basics. I wanted something that was small enough that I would actually pick it up and take it with me. It needed to be digital. It needed to be a camera with which I could “make pictures” (as my favorite instructor always called the process). So, to me that meant going back to a manual style of camera. One where I would have to actually think about what I was doing rather than just push a button. But at the same time it had to be of high enough quality that should I get something worthwhile, I could still put it in a portfolio or in a book.

I think I found what I was looking for. But of course.. it wasn’t cheap! (You know it never is!) So, last week I bought a Leica M8. I have never owned a Leica before and actually never owned a rangefinder camera before. I do think this is about as basic as one can get with a digital camera.

  • Manual Focus
  • Manual Exposure (it does have aperture priority)
  • Fixed Focal Length Lens (no zoom)

It’s a 10.3 megapixel camera in a photojournalistic package. It’s discrete, quiet, and relative to SLR’s wonderfully light and small. Oh.. did I mention it is NOT CHEAP! I do believe it will solve the issue of me taking it with me! My 1Ds Mk II with it’s lens, and battery and charger and case could be amazingly bulky and very heavy. The M8 on the other hand with EVERYTHING (chargers, filters, tripod, batteries, cards, readers, case – everything!) weighs less than just the 1Ds camera and ALL of the M8 equipment is about the same bulk as just the 1Ds camera! I can carry just the camera with me and put an extra card and battery in my pocket and barely realize that I am even carrying it!

And on the topic of being discrete… the telltale factor was my dogs. Usually the sight of a camera makes them run for cover. But with the M8, one frowned, and the other could care less!

I’ll tell you about the kit I put together tomorrow but for now I’ll end with another sample.

Black and White Portrait made on a Leica M8

We’re Baaaaack!

Golden Gate Bridge on a foggy day.

So the quick road trip is over, and it’s back to reality! I needed to get out of town for a couple of days and wanted to try out some new equipment. Nothing scientific. Nothing extensive! Just a few clicks of the shutter to see if the new stuff is working and if it will actually accomplish what I bought it for. This is a pic from the trip. I will put a couple more up over the next few days and tell you about the new hardware and my reasoning for getting it. I am really hoping that I spent wisely!

On The Road

We are taking a little road trip. Going to try out some new equipment that I’ll tell you about next week, and maybe have some samples to share. All part of that bug I got up my butt after seeing Annie Leibovitz last week. Hope your Fourth was safe and enjoyable! Catch up with you next week!

Happy 4th!

Well tomorrow is going to be a bit crazy as we throw a big Barbeque every year on the 4th (Margaritas thrown in for good measure!) So enjoy your holiday and take pleasure in friends, family and loved ones, whoever and wherever they are!


I Couldn’t Resist!!

This will be short and sweet. I couldn’t resist. While I did not stand in line for hours in the blazing Southern California Summer Sun, I did succumb to weakness for new gadgets and bought an iPhone. 9:00 pm – Friday evening – Pasadena, I was in and out of the store in under 3 mins. with my new plaything in-hand, admittedly pleased as punch! Silly I know, but alas we all have our weakness.. and some of us have more than one, and new toys are definitely one of mine!!