Saturday, January 31, 2009

Follow Your Passion

I was watching an Oprah Winfrey show recently where she interviewed some very successful and rather young entrepreneurs. Tony Hsieh, CEO of the very successful online shoe store valued at $100 million, and Gurbaksh Chahal, founder of BlueLithium, which Yahoo bought for $300 million. And of course the Olsen Twins. You can check out the slideshow here.

And it's not the money that drew me into the show, it was their stories and the passion they have for what they do that really grabbed my attention. While the money they earned was a bonus, it was not the primary driver. The pure enjoyment of doing what they do is what brought them to where they are now.

Success is defined so differently for so many people. Some define it with material possessions, some define it with personal fulfillment. I think the latter is what drives me, and is by far the more healthier way to go (mentally & spiritually). I love my business and my career because I am passionate about growing it, about photography, and about delivering the best service experience. Sure, if you own & operate a multi-million dollar business, that's great. But if you're not passionate about it, what's the point? Maybe you're passionate about money, lol =)

Here are some things to think hard about for those wanting to go the entrepreneural route:

  • Find your passion. Even if it's not a big money maker, you'll be happier and more fulfilled than any million dollar account could make you.
  • Think outside the box. Identify & market your unique selling proposition that makes you stand out in your chosen industry.
  • Network, network, network. As you've heard before, your network is your net worth. Surround yourself with a good team of associates, colleagues, businesses, and services that can help grow your business.
  • Deliver an experience, not just good service. Think of ways you can give your clients more than they expect. Ways that you can still reap the value of your worth and price point, but still able to deliver a strong customer service experience. This positive experience will spread through the viral market of word of mouth, resulting in brand trust & brand loyalty. Wouldn't you like your customers to evangelize for you? =) It's a powerful thing, especially in my industry.
  • Never rest on your laurels. Always strive to improve, enhance, and grow your business and yourself. The world changes, you must change with it or stay ahead of it. There's always more to learn so continue to challenge & educate yourself. Complacency could lead to failure. Reinvent, refresh =)
Those are just some of my thoughts on the matter and how I challenge myself to do business. If you have anything to add, please share in your comments below! Thanks for visiting =)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Wedding Album Layout Example

What better way to show you than video... check it out...

Some tips on album care:
  • Store it flat to protect the spine
  • Don't rest anything heavy on the book or the leather will dent
  • Don't get the pages wet. If you do, dry them quickly and let the book dry before closing it.
  • Extreme heat & humidity will affect the book (not so fun where we live!)
  • Store it in a dry, moderately cool place.
  • If you get something on the pages, you can try to get it off with Goo-Gone, just let it dry before closing the books.

Dancing President

We have a new President to have fun with so let's get busy. Let's start with Iman Crosson's fabulous impersonation of him and showing off some moves, LOL!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

From a Father to a Daughter...

"It's never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be. There's no time limit. Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people who have a different point of view. I hope you live a life you're proud of, and if you're not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again. - Eric Roth, from the Screenplay of "The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button"

Sunday, January 25, 2009

DC Regional/East Coast Photographer GetToGether Event '09

Organizer: Armin DeFiesta
Hosts: Armin DeFiesta & Julia MacInnis
Date: January 24, 2009
Location: Julia MacInnis' Crib, Alexandria, VA

The Mission:
To build & strengthen relationships by meeting & networking with other area photographers on the east coast/mid-atlantic area in an effort to open communication channels, expand referral sources, discuss marketing & branding strategies, and elevate the east coast as a photographic force of talent.

Mission Status: In progress!

50 of some of the best wedding & portrait photographers on the east coast from Richmond to Baltimore and Ashburn to Annapolis gathered in Alexandria, VA just outside D.C. to attend this organized event co-hosted by me & my good friend Julia MacInnis who we all thank from the bottom of our hearts for welcoming all of us into her home!

This large showing of photographers is unheard of. To be honest I didn't anticipate the guest list to grow this big, maybe 20-25 tops! Viral marketing play a major role here, and while I enjoyed the response and enthusiasm, GTGs this large will be rare in the future. I plan on holding smaller meets of maybe 10 or less. That said, I think another reason for this large showing is the time of the year. January is typically a slow season for wedding & portrait photographers, especially in our region.

I cannot begin to thank everyone enough for their support, participation, and all the delicious light fare we all brought to the table! Awesome job guys!

Here is a list of the information brought up during my Keynote presentation:

Enjoy some captures from the event! Here's THE BIG PICTURE!


Here I'm talking about Kenny Kim's Thirst Relief T-Shirts for sale. A portion of the proceeds go to Thirst Relief. Visit Kenny's Facebook page for more info on how to purchase them!

A few more fun ones by Julia MacInnis. All photos used with permission of course, unless watermarked or showing photo credit.

Bill Black has quite the sense of humor =)

Kip Pierson & Sarah Hodzic had an intense Air Hockey battle complete with battle scars!

The area's newest young talent, Natalie Franke!

"Veteran" GTG girls, Kimberly Brooke & Shelby Leigh

Tiffani Sunshine, Marta Locklear, Tisha McCuiston and several other folks made the trek from Richmond to take part in this event. Here I am with Tiffani.

Yup, that's our hostess Julia rocking the wig! PHOTO BY INGRID KASLIK

And of course they made me do it too =)

Troy Woods, Jeff Wilson & Jennifer Hunter were among the guests

Nicole Wolf of SOTADzine. She'll soon be elevating her level of success up a notch ;)

Of course our lovely Julia!

There were so many pictures I just can't post anymore so I'll stop right here. Check out the fun slideshow I put together and the short video clip captured by Noah's Flip Mino videocamera.

Photos by Kristie Blake, Ingrid Kaslik, Noah Hayes, Bill Black, Moshe Zusman, & Julia MacInnis. Video was actually test footage, Noah just bought the Flip Mino HD and we were just messing around with it, hence the random footage. He even caught trying to play the piano! pretty cool gadget though!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Published in I DO FOR BRIDES

Last summer my friend Kristen Leigh asked me to second shoot with her at Hadiya & Akeel's wedding at Brookside Gardens in Maryland, just outside D.C.. A few months later Kate Parrott from I Do For Brides for the DC, Maryland & Virginia issue magazine contacted me about the photos after coming across them in my blog. This was weird because it was not my wedding as a primary shooter, but my blog gets a lot of traffic and Google ranks it well. Kate thought it would make a great featured wedding, so I put her in touch with Kristen to finalize the process. Kristen was so kind enough to allow Kate to give me photo credit as well. You rock girl! Be sure to visit Kristen's blog and mine to see more photos. What's interesting is Kristen & I have different shooting styles & post-processing methods. While we both specialize in a photojournalistic approach, our brands are quite different. This results in a unique combination of images I must say. We really enjoy working together and will continue to back each other up in a pinch! The wedding & our photos are on pages 74-75 of I Do For Brides MD/DC/VA Winter/Spring 2009 issue. Check out our featured wedding below...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

I Wonder If This Will Ever Happen Here in D.C.'s Union Station?

... turn it up y'all! ;)

Thanks T-Mobile =)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

White House Official Photographer, Pete Souza and Sen. Bennett's Quote About Wedding Photography =)

Whether you are a supporter or not of the new President, whether you agree or disagree with the policies & agendas, you can't help but appreciate the impact of today's historical Inauguration. Denise, Jordan & I were glued to CNN and enjoyed observing this morning's festivities down at the National Mall & US Capitol during the swearing in ceremony. It was simply amazing to watch the historic event today that was happening 20 minutes away from my house. The crowds stretched 2 miles from the Capitol building all the way to the Lincoln Memorial! If Jordan was older, she, Denise & I would've been up and on the Metrorail by 4am! The crowds were incredible, the energy level was contagious. And after hearing day after day about all the planning that went into this event, it was overwhelming seeing it all come together. As a photographer, it's my job to document historic moments in my client's family history - their wedding day. So I have an understanding of how important it must be for the chief White House photographer to be documenting historic moments in our nation's history.

Pete Souza was the White House photographer for Ronald Reagan's second term, so he's no stranger to the job. He now has the honor of taking on that role again for President Barack Obama. Pete shoots with two Canon 5D's and various Canon lenses. I love my 5D =)

Ann Curry interviews Pete in this MSNBC video clip with some never before seen photos of President Barack Obama from his days as a junior Senator to the present. Watch the video and let me know what you think.

And I'd like to close this post by something Senator Bennett of Utah said at the Inaugural luncheon. Just before presenting the Inaugural photos to President Obama Senator Bennett said, "as the father of 6, 4 of whom are girls, I've learned that the most memorable occasion, the wedding, is never solidified until the photos have been taken." He then presented the Inaugural photos to President Obama & Vice President Biden.

I have to agree with Bennett =)

Monday, January 19, 2009

HDR Fun =)

During my off-season from weddings I like to work on marketing plans, business plans, networking events, and do lunch with fellow wedding vendors, including photographers! Today I had the pleasure of meeting Natalie Franke, a young new talent entering the portrait photography industry. She's also exploring the idea of adding weddings to her new business. She's got a great eye and strong business sense. Be sure to visit her site & blog and leave some comments. We will watch her career with great interest!

One thing I enjoy on my off-season is exploring photography techniques. I finally got around to experimenting with HDR, or high dynamic range photography. It simply involves taking 3 exposures of the same composed shot and layering them together to bring out details in the image that would otherwise be lost.

I set my Canon 5D's AEB (automatic exposure bracketing) to +/- 2EV. I shot handheld and steady. I recommend a tripod though =)

Exposure #1

Exposure #2 - the camera underexposes

Exposure #3 - the camera overexposes

I took all three exposures into Adobe Photoshop and ran Totally Rad Action's "Combine Exposures" action. I tweaked the layers applied to suit my taste, then adjusted the color saturation levels and contrast and got this:

Pretty cool huh?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Video Blog Updates on Leather Covers, Upcoming Events, & Choosing a Wedding Photographer

A little update on KissWeddingBooks leather cover colors. Visit their KISS BOOKS page to get a closer look at the available colors. NOTE: I forgot to mention the new Virgin White leather covers are now available. And to RSVP to my Photographer GetToGether (GTG), visit my group e-vite on Facebook! I show 40 attendees in Facebook already so it's going to be big!

Now watch the video, don't mind the quality, I did this real quick!
I apologize for the email & iPhone text alerts in the background, lol.

Video Blog Update from Armin DeFiesta on Vimeo.

In Carson Kressley's video, experts from give some tips for brides on how to choose the right wedding photographer for them. Check out another video from Carson Kressley's "Look Good In Pictures" collection!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

We're Having a Baby!

... c'mon you had to know I was joking right? ;)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Tip on How to Look Good in Wedding Pictures

Carson Kressley and Susan Stripling talk about a simple tip on how to look good in wedding pictures. Now I think I do a pretty nice job with my brides capturing they're natural beauty. But sometimes working with a bride who has a sense of how to look their best in a photo puts us one step ahead and allows me to think of other things during their photo shoot. Check out Carson's video.

Monday, January 12, 2009

One Week Away! Here are some Guidelines for those visiting DC...

With the historic Presidential Inauguration of Barack Obama just one week away, we (DC area locals) brace ourselves for one of the largest onslaught of visitors to our region.

Here's just a small list of what to expect:

Either way, it's a big deal around here. The local news talks about the developing plans every night. The Presidential Inauguration will be televised live so if we're not driving south to Florida to avoid the chaos (DVR baby!), we'll be barricading ourselves at home watching the ceremony =)

On that note, last summer I posted a rather humorous set of guidelines for our visitors to the DC area. In light of the major event just a week away, I thought it deserves an encore presentation. These guidelines ensure survival in one of the most congested areas in the country. Okay, put on your sense-of-humor hats for this one! I think the locals and those who've lived in the DC region can REALLY appreciate this post!

For those who plan to visit our area, here are a few rules to follow...
  1. First, you must learn to call it by its rightful name. It is DC or 'the District' - only tourists call it Washington.
  2. Next, if your road map of Montgomery County is more than a few weeks old, throw it out and buy a new one. It's obsolete. If you are in Loudon or Fairfax County and your map is one day old, it's already obsolete.
  3. There is no such thing as a dangerous high speed chase in D.C. It's just another chase, usually on the BW Parkway (although lately the Beltway has taken the title)
  4. All directions start with 'The Beltway'... which has no beginning and no end, just one continuous loop that locals believe is somehow clarified by an 'inner' and 'outer' loop designation. This makes no sense to ANYONE outside the area.
  5. The morning rush hour is from 5 to 11 AM. The evening rush hour is from 1 to 8 PM. Friday's rush hour starts Thursday morning, especially during the summer on Route 50 eastbound. Avoid the Chesapeake Bay Bridge unless you pack a lunch (possibly dinner too).
  6. If you actually stop at a yellow light, you will be rear-ended and shot at. If you run the red light, be sure to smile for the $100 'picture' you will receive courtesy of DMV. (However, if you don't go as soon as the light turns green, you will get cussed out in 382 languages.)
  7. Rain causes an immediate 50 point drop of IQ in drivers. Snow causes an immediate 100 point drop in IQ and a rush to the nearest Giant or Safeway for toilet paper, bread, and milk.
  8. Construction on I-270 is a way of life and a permanent source of scorn and cynical entertainment. It's ironic that it's called an 'Interstate', but runs only from Bethesda to Frederick. (Unless you consider Montgomery County another state, which some do). Opened in the 1960's, it has been torn up and under reconstruction ever since. Also, it has a 'Spur' section which is even more confusing.
  9. All unexplained sights are explained by the phrase, 'Oh, we must be in Takoma Park or Silver Spring'.
  10. If someone actually has their turn signal on, they are by definition, a tourist. Car horns are actually 'Road Rage' indicators. Please heed the warning.
  11. All old ladies in Buicks have the right of way in the area of Leisure World & Ryderwood.
  12. Many roads mysteriously change their names as you cross intersections. Don't ask why, no one knows. And despite what MapQuest or Expedia or Google Maps tell you, there are no roads actually named 'Local Road'.
  13. If asking directions in Arlington, Langley Park, Wheaton or Adams Morgan, Spanish helps. If in Annandale, Cambodian or Vietnamese will come in handy. If in DuPont Circle, Capital Hill or U Street Corridor areas, tolerance for same sex helps. If you stop to ask directions in South East... well, just don't.
  14. Traveling south out of DC on Interstate 395/95 is the most dangerous, scariest thing you will ever do. This traverses a stretch of roadway locally referred to as The Mixing Bowl. But once you get past it, you can sit & relax...literally... because of the bumper-to-bumper traffic that seems to never go away just south of Springfield.
  15. There is nothing more comforting than seven lanes of traffic cruising along at 85 mph, BUMPER TO BUMPER!!! (Truer words have never been written!)
  16. The minimum acceptable speed on the Beltway is 85. Anything less is considered down right sissy. If police are present, then 55 are acceptable, but as soon as the police are out of view, the speed goes back to 85.
  17. The open lane for passing on all Maryland interstates is the far right lane because no self-respecting Marylander would ever be caught driving in the 'slow' lane. Unofficially, both shoulders are fair game also.
  18. The far left lanes on all Maryland and VA interstates are official 'chat' lanes reserved for drivers who wish to talk on their cell phones. Note: All SUVs have priority clearance to use the far left lanes at whatever speed the driver feels most comfortable multi-tasking in.
  19. The Beltway is our daily version of a NASCAR reality show. Strap up and collect points as you go. Baltimore's Beltway is a kiddie ride compared to ours.

There you have it! Hope you got a laugh!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

What's an E-MAXX?

... This is an E-MAXX by Traxxas.Com!

I've actually had this RC truck for a while, haven't touched it in years until now. We were cleaning out the closet this weekend and decided to let Nate give it a spin. I've broken many parts back in the day just bashing this thing. And I did some light custom work to the suspension making it ride slightly lower for better handling. So we charged up the batteries and took it outside hoping it'd still run. Nate's already a great driver so I figured this would be easy for him... and it was. With a top speed of up to 20 mph with a pair of 6 cell Ballistic batteries. He loves this thing. The clutch sounds like it needs some work and the chassis could use a good cleaning. But overall it's operational for some more driving. I guess we're keeping it a little longer. Not to mention it's fun practicing my panning & tracking shots!

Nate's legs, not mine =)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Grace Chou Designs Coming Soon! Meet her at WPPI!

Fellow photographers, are you bogged down by album design? Looking to outsource that important task to a custom album designer? I am with you, and my search for the perfect person for my album business is over - Grace Chou Designs!

Meet Grace at
WPPI in Las Vegas in February! Grace & I will be hanging out and meeting all the album vendors and shooting some behind-the-scenes footage & interviews. Ask her anything you want about album design and her process.

She'll be launching her website very soon, In the meantime, visit her new blog You've seen Grace's work before on my blog. No two custom designs are alike, each layout is a one-off. She offers both standard (template) & custom layouts. Contact her for more info & pricing.

Grace's creative & professional service ensures dependable results that your clients will love! I trust her work to deliver the best and meet my high standards.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Goodbye 08! Hello 09, I don't wanna be a rock star!

2008 was such an incredible and challenging year. From the sad economy to the historic Obama event, life outside wedding photography was dynamic to say the least. A HUGE thanks goes out to my 2008 wedding clients who helped make 08 a memorable one!! As for 2009, I got some incredible weddings coming up that I cannot wait to shoot!

Something interesting has happened over the last few years in the wedding industry. Wedding photography is now "cool". Yep, the days of boring & cranky wedding photographers are coming to an end. A new breed and new world of thinking is on the horizon consisting of eager shooters, magnetic personalities, and savvy business minds. The "Rockstar" Mentality of the wedding photography industry has really made an impact on my business, good & bad.

  1. Wedding photography is now "cool" these days and taken much more seriously, especially on the east coast (our west coast friends have been on this track a while longer). It focuses more on the couple's love story, lifestyle and the big day the way it truly unfolds.
  2. The value of wedding photography is steadily increasing as brides become more educated about the difference between a paid picture taker and a high-end service experience with the right photographer that fits the big picture of their dream wedding (haha, pun). Expectations of great service, product, and a branded experience are rising.
  3. The "rock stars" of our industry have educated & inspired so many new photographers to pursue their dreams through workshops, tradeshows, and online forums & social media. This has resulted in a revolution where more guards are being dropped and more doors are being opened. Knowledge sharing and helping one another succeed as wedding photographers is becoming common behavior & practice, not to mention fun!

The BAD:
  1. The dream of charging $20,000 to $50,000 a wedding like Mike Colon or Denis Reggie is now every new wedding photographer's goal. No it's not quite that simple folks! And if your ONLY goal is to earn big bucks shooting weddings, just remember to keep your head on straight and give yourself a reality check.
  2. Wedding photography (photography in general) is way more cool now that anyone with a good eye can purchase a SLR and a couple lenses these days and say, "hey I'm a photographer and I'll shoot your wedding, that'll be $3000 please" .... thanks Ashton Kutcher, thank you very much.
  3. The "rock star wedding photog" mentality is a joke. It's amazing how sponsors are hyping up these folks to a level of celebrity & stardom.

Let me elaborate more on #3. Last year a little trade show presented a recognition piece for over a dozen up & coming wedding & portrait photographers with the full rock concert treatment. Fancy lighting, Jon Bon Jovi music, and a smoke machine.... yes a smoke machine! A little over-the-top I must say. Don't get me wrong, the trade show was fun and educational and very social, I had a blast! And with all due respect, these photographers deserve all the recogition in the world. They've paid their dues, done their time, and earned some accolades. But the rock star treatment? Is this the perception they really want to create? Was this the photographers' idea or the sponsors'? Back to reality folks. As a good friend of mine once said, "It's just wedding photography for crying outloud." =) Don't get me wrong, there IS some amazing wedding art work out there that deserves to be recognized for sure.

So for all my aspiring photographers out there, here are two pieces of advice:

1. Click on THIS LINK & carefully read the Post article about DC Wedding Photojournalist, Matt Mendolsohn.

2. Do it not because you want to be the next celebrity wedding photographer, do it because you love shooting. Let your passion for life, history, and photography come together to motivate you to share your god given talent with the world & find a way to make a living doing it. And if you are a savvy business person and market yourself to the high-end client, by all means go for it. Just don't lose sight with why you're there to begin with. Greed & envy only leads to emptiness & regret. Besides, if you want to earn big bucks and rise to celebrity status, there might easier ways to do that, lol =)

Let me leave you with this song by Nickelback, "Rockstar"

Friday, January 2, 2009

FACEMODE for Brides! A Grace Ormonde Vendor Spotlight

As you noticed I've been taking some time doing what I can to help my brides this year bring some peace of mind to their wedding by recommended wedding planners, venues, and makeup artists. Introducing DC Makeup Artist Kelley Epps-Woods, owner of Facemode for Brides!

My friend Kelley IS Facemode! This super talented young lady is not only the lovely wife of another good photographer friend of mine, Troy Woods, but she is also a platinum listed vendor in Grace Ormonde's Wedding Style Magazine where brides can find some of the most elite in our industry. Check out her listing and visit her blog!

Kelley in action!

And one of the images of a gorgeous bride, Megan, that I was given permission to publish by my photographer friend Kerry Gastley =)
Photo by Kerry Gastley