When color works, It works well


In previsous photography misadventure I talked about my tendency to edit in black and white in certain situations. The main factor in deciding between black and white and color is what is working better for the individual photo.AJA_0154

Not too long after shooting our cafe shoot Sam Arellano hit me up for an impromptu  shoot that we did after I got out of my political science class at the University of New Mexico.AJA_0143

I love shooting on the fly because it allows me to just play around with different ideas in terms of what I want to do at a photoshoot. In the case of this shoot I wanted to see what I can find around the campus. AJA_0096
Now what made the photos so good for color. Well the main thing was the light. It was a late afternoon with slight overcast providing us with nice soft lighting that also came out incredibly warm.

With having everything shot in broad daylight all the images were shot between 100-400 ISO providing optimal color detail so making it a lot easier to work with on post.
Now I did edit some black and whites from this shoot but those cam down to that feel that I previously mentioned. The place I normally look at to see if a color process is working or not is in the skin tones. If skin tones aren’t behaving in the way I want a switch to black and white ends up solving the issue.
Photography continues to come down to preferences and styles. What works for me doesn’t always work for everyone and some times I can be indecisive. But my main goal when editing images is to make them look the way I want them to.

My Love Affair With Black and White Images. feat: Samantha Arellano


I don’t always edit my images in black and white… but some times I just can’t help myself. I never go into a shoot automatically knowing what I’m going to do in post processing. But once I’m sitting down playing around in Lightroom, the decision comes down to feel. This is most defiantly the case of my most recent Cafe shoot with Samantha Arellano.


When I make the decision to edit the images in black and white itnormally comes down to one question: is it working better than the color version? I have a particular style that involves having very detailed images with high levels of contrast. Some times this will results in vibrant colors but often they can also become very muddy. If I don’t feel like the image has good color I’ll switch it to black and white and a lot of the problems I was having will go away.


Another reason I will switch to black and white is if I had to shoot at a high ISO. This wan’t so much the case in this photo shoot but often when I have to shoot in conditions where I need to be at something like 3200-6400 I’ll opt into black and white 99.99% percent of the time. This is mostly because when you shoot at the higher ISOs you start to introduce noise and the color detail begins to fall apart. When you’re in black and white that color detail is irrelevant and the noise begins to look more like film grain than it does digital artifacts.


Another thing going to black and white helps with is removing distractions from the background. With on location shoots gaining control over a background is practically impossible. Busy color schemes, bright highlights and distracting elements all become less of an issue with black and white images, so it’s not hard for me to opt into a black and white photo.AJA_0066

Now black and white is clearly a style that is as old as photography itself and clearly can’t be considered original. A common thing I’ll hear from models after handing in images is that they’ll say “I love this photo, can get it in color.” It’s taken a while for me not to get offended by those kinds of statements but It’s a common thing for artist to hear people to ask for changes especially when they don’t understand reasoning behind your decisions.


Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to have both a color and black and white version everyone is allowed to have different taste when it comes to photos. If the job requires me to stay in color and forsake black and white images I will do so, and make the color work as best I can. However, if I get the option I’m going to go with the one I think works best. Black and white just worked better on this rounds of photos.

Joy as Spider Gwen


When you spend some time specializing in a certain field of photography people start to come to you specifically for certain types of images. In this case Joy approached me about doing a photoshoot involving her new Spider Gwen suit.


When it comes to shooting any costume based set the first thing I always think of is “what location does this costume work in”. In the case of an urban super hero I wanted to keep it as urban as possible. Downtown Albuquerque provided plenty for the aesthetic that I was looking for. We shot at and around the civic plaza and found plenty of things to work with and even found a few hidden gems in the process.


The best part of shooting with Joy was how much of a trooper she was. I asked her to climb up to different ledges and railings while balance herself without any compliant and it added so much more to the shots.


The big thing I’m trying to be better at as a photographer is collaboration. Receiving input and ideas from different sources and putting it into use. In this case my part time assistant and full time girlfriend Emilie was much more involved in location scouting and posing and I gave her free reign to give suggestions to try out. This system works especially well because even if an idea doesn’t work you can easily say hey we tried and move on. But all of Emilie’s ideas worked perfectly so there was no need to worry.


During post processing the main challenge I faced was balancing out exposure and color. The white portions of the suit caused some major highlights and when getting them balanced out brought in a blue coloring which could be changed in white balance. Post is always a game of feeling out the image and experimenting with what works and what doesn’t.


The images came out extremely well and we got some very unique looks throughout the shoot. It’s always great to get to work with new talent . Joy lives up to her name by being a fun new model to shoot with and I look forward to more work in the future.


Get Your Geekon: Pinball, Beer and Charity


If I recall correctly I believe I was alive at the tail end of the arcade generation. A time where you would exchange all of your allowance into quarters and play games while your parent were out doing whatever at the mall. I remember dumping a lot of those quarters into the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game and Time  Crisis when I was a kid. While today arcades have become very obsolete with modern gaming platforms being the way they are there’s still something satisfying about setting up at a cabinet dumping all your quarters into it. That’s what made Get Your Geekon such a great event and you didn’t have to get a role of quarters.


Geekon, the company hosting the event at Sister Bar in Down Town Albuquerque, specializes in restoring, repairing and selling these old arcade cabinets and pinball machines. The endevor started as a simple pet project of restoring an old Ms. Pacman machine and it turned into a business that they are able to operate from their own home. It could almost be described as inspiring.


The event it’s self was put on to benefit Project Pinball which is a Charity group that raises money to put pinball machines in children’s hospitals. Proceeds from the event’s pinball and street fighter tournament went to Project Pinball as well as vendors that were selling prints and raffling off prizes.


The best thing about Get you Geekon without a doubt was the people. Not just the patrons who came out for a drink and a round of pinball but everyone who came out to contribute; Jon Sakura of Gamers Anonymous came out with his usual classic and fun loving flair and the Girls of Geek also came to sell prints and mingle with the crowd. It was easy to feel in place when you have people who you’ve gotten to know over the years be present at these sorts of events and want to just help out with a good cause and friends.


Daniel Reinhard. COO of Geekon LLC.

Gotham Girls in Downtown Albuquerque.


Concepts are not my strong suite, I primarily focus on shooting. My mind is always focused on what my setting are, is my compositions clean where are my highlights and what do I need to change in a given moment. That’s what I like about photography, that feeling of being in the moment and being able to adapt in any situation to get exactly what you want out of a given situation. Lucky enough for me  I get to work with different people who can come up with concepts for me.AJA_0068

While scrolling through my various social interwebs areas I came across a post by Jenna Lay (scene here as Catwoman) asking if anyone would be interested in shooting a Catwoman and Poison Ivy themed shoot with fellow model Taylor Hayes (Poison Ivy). This being particularly up my alley in terms of things I like to shoot I volunteered. Summer was drawing to a close and I’m never one to turn down and opportunity to shoot.


I offered up a location in Downtown Albuquerque that I had previously shot with Tara (See those Photos here) that gave the perfect mix of urban concrete and green plant life which was perfect for the characters we would be representing. It allowed us to be relatively in the same space while at the same time we could get a variety of different looks without going too far which for costume based photo shoots in public areas is a good thing. The over all shoot took less than an hour and didn’t require much gear. Really it was just my standard body and lens set up and me just keeping and eye on my exposure the whole time.


The more and more I shoot the more I can see some of my personal style points becoming drastically prevalent. Especially when I shoot models I want my subject to fill the frame. Props and backdrops should be exactly that back drops. Having the subjects as a the main focus makes it easier for the audience know what they’re supposed to be seeing and not getting distracted by something that draws the eye away. Visually I’m trying to get the sharp areas sharp and the areas that don’t matter soft and bokeh-ee. It’s primarily the reason why I’ve gotten away from using the skin softening brush, I’ve fallen in love with getting a rich level of detail in people’s faces and all that the skin softening tool really does is dull out yours images and make them look like those terrifying dolls your sister had as a kid.


In editing (where the photos come together) I have also come up with a certain style. If anything it amounts to fine tuning of images in lightroom. Adding contrast, pulling shadows, dropping highlights getting exposure balanced out and doing very little to almost no changes to the physical image. I come from a photojournalist background and I refuse to mess with the physical elements of an image. For portraiture I will make some compromises like healing out obvious blemishes and making some changes on request to color especially when wardrobe doesn’t match. But other than that I try to keep the physical space untouched but that’s just me. Some people may not share my same sentiment when it comes to editing and think that’s okay but that’s not what I want to do to my images and I think they are better off that way.


Desert Darlings Belly Dancing Performs at Burts Tiki Lounge.



Almost any craft should be approached with some level of confidence. For many people confidence comes from years of training and repetition , other lucky individuals just spew confidence naturally. But the confidence that is necessary to perform in front of a crowd is possibly the rarest and most admirable forms to witness.



The Desert Dalings Belly Dancing group had this confidence on full display on Saturday night when they performed in front of the crowd at Burt’s Tiki Lounge in downtown Albuquerque. Their unique blend of traditional belly dancing mixed with modern sensibilities provided lasting entertainment for friends of the performers and unsuspecting patrons alike.



Burt’s is a very familiar venue. It bares the attributes for what you’d expect from any other dive bar; Almost non existent lighting, colorful cast of Patrons scattered throughout the place, a sound check and PA systems woefully out of date and a grittiness that only creatures of the night can really appreciate. The main hook that Burt’s offers as a venue is their communal charm that the bar brings. I’ve never seen them have a cover charge for an event and everyone there seems to be having a good time when there is a performance.



When I’m in photo mode I’m always looking for one thing out of my subjects, and that thing is personality, and there was no shortage of that on display with each performance. Each dancer had a different quality that they brought with them when on stage. Some were more more reserved and methodical with their movements and others had attitude and improvisation flowing through them giving the show a sense of verity.



The key thing to look for in performance photography is moment, which can be difficult especially with the fast paced motion that you get from a performance art like belly dancing. Their entire body is always in play when they dance and it’s easy to miss something incredible and capture something that is unflattering. If you can just nail down timing and framing of your images you can get incredible results but you also have to account for a bit of luck when shooting.



Now let’s not tip toe around the subject, performance lighting generally speaking is terrible. I have yet to shoot a performance where the lighting was perfect and I could do what ever I wanted. Live performance lighting is designed to give things atmosphere and provide a certain tone to patrons, but it’s less kind to the sensors in cameras. If you’re shooting stills at a live performance you’re stuck with high ISO grain, shallow depth of field apertures and motion bluing shutter speeds. None of these things are bad qualities in any ways shape or form (except maybe the grainy ISOs) but it’s unfortunate that you’re stuck with such  limiting conditions.



If anything can be said about the Desert Darlings’ Performance it’s that there was no lack of confidence that night. Those ladies got on that stage and owned it and that is something to be admired. It takes a lot to take something you work hard on put it out there for people to see and it takes a significant amount of courage to do so.AJA_0359

Girls of Geek: A Grounded, Modern Twist on Disney


I’m not great at coming up with creative concepts. A lot of the times I have models show up at certain time at a certain place in what ever outfit they pulled out of their closet having done their hair and make up in whatever fashion they felt suited them. Maybe it’s just my style, deciding to work with whatever I’m given and try to create something out of nothing. But lucky for me working with Girls of Geek comes with built in concepts for me to work with. This weekend we teamed up to do a Disney Princess shoot in that had a more grounded twist to it that you’ve probably never seen before.


Like the million of other shoots I have done in the past I went into this one relatively blind. The location, the outfitting and many other things were completely out of my hands. What I was given was an excellent location that I instantly fell in love with and outfits that looked (and pretty much were) pulled straight out of closets that gave the images a very realistic look to them. A lot of times when shooting cosplay one of the common struggles I have is that the outfit looks like a costume and doesn’t make sense, but the practicality of these outfits made everything make sense in the context of the images.


You could be forgiven for looking at the images and not realizing the Disney influence in the images right away, especially at first glance but I find that subtlety to adds a level of interest to the photos and brings out the individual personalities of the girls which is what I’m looking for when I’m taking portraits. If you did a sort of blind view test I’m curious as to when you would have the A-HA moment of realization of the theme.


Like any shoot their was challenges and in photography the #1 challenge is always going to be lighting. My love of shooting on location and not in a studio has the added baggage of giving me set lighting conditions that I have to find a way to work with. In this case, we got a bright mid day sun with harsh shadows. On the bright side (pun intended) the high amount of light let me keep the ISO all the way down at 100 which have the best possible results in terms of image quality. The main way I solved any shooting problems was by shooting strictly in shaded areas which were few and far between but easy enough to find and exploit.


An added gift at the location was a silo that offered one of the most interesting settings I’ve ever worked with on top of having some of the best lighting I’ve ever experienced. I got all of the controllable elements of an indoor location with the lighting comparable to an overcast afternoon, which is my ideal shooting condition.  My mind started racing with different Ideas that I could possibly do with the location. Not all of them could be accomplished in the time that I had, but it never hurts to keep a few ideas in your back pocket.


Every shoot I try to do something a little bit different and see what kind or results I can get. In the case of this shoot I played around with the aperture. I always stop my lens down at least a stop to get the proper sharpness. F2.8 has always been my go to on my primes but with all the added light I took the opportunity stop down a bit more to f3.5 and I was blown away by the results. The in focus bits were as sharp as sharp can be and I still got the nice bokeh in the background.


My favorite part of working with Girls of Geek is the personalities that are mixed into the group. Each of them has a certain quality about themselves that makes them unique but they all mixed together so well to where it almost doesn’t feel like it’s a shoot. It felt like a group of friends hanging out on a Saturday.


Another thing I enjoy about this group is the ease that comes with photographing them. The value of excellent models often goes under appreciated. Shoots require a high level of collaboration and the better rapport the better the results you’ll get out of the images.


Editing wise there was very little that I had to do. The main thing I was looking at was the focus. For portraits you need to make sure the eyes are in perfect focus and then work from there. Normally it’s just a few color adjustments and added contrast. I’ll adjust exposure settings until it’s right but nothing ever too fancy.


All in all this was probably on of the better shoots I’ve had the opportunity to participate in for a while. The results speak for themselves when looking at the images. I couldn’t be happier with this shoot or getting more opportunities to work with the Girls of Geek.


You can find Girls of Geek all over social media and I’ll leave link bellow. They have also started a new subscription service when where every month they’ll send you a box of goodies. For more info just go to girlsofgeek.com

Social Media Accounts

Twitter: @GirlsOfGeek

Instagram: @Girls Of Geek

Facebook: Girls of Geek

Delina (Cinderella):

Facebook: D3lina

Batmanda (Snow White):

Instagram: @Batmanda13

Facebook: Batmanda

Jacqui Daniels (Ariel):

Instagram: @jacquidaniels
Facebook: Jacqui Daniel

Amy Downing (Belle):

Instagram: @teamamy147

Jennifer Heart (Jasmine):

Instagram: @jennifer_heart_