Every photo I take, every photo I edit I deem as my possible last. That may sound morbid but it is the actual truth. I treat it that way, I focus on perfection that way. I want my last photo to be my best if it is my next one or one 200,000 clicks away.
This blog is about my personal experiences with FRAUD as it relates to my photography business. You will find one common theme with my 3 case stories. If you are a photographer, a fashion designer, a studio owner, you may want to read on. This may save you THOUSANDS of dollars.
Request from out of town to photograph a wedding on the east coast of Florida. I cannot remember the proposed $ amount but it was an appropriate amount and in line with normal wedding photographic work. Warning signs:
- Client would only communicate via email and texts, and his English was awful. I even think he said he was deaf and could not speak on the phone.
- I could not confirm how the client vetted me as the photographer of choice
- Here is the big one: client proposed sending me a larger check than the negotiated amount and I would pay the difference to his florist or other vendors.
Request from out of town client to do a beach shoot. Warning signs:
- Wanted to pay me more than the negotiated amount and have me pay the difference to her taxi cab driver.
Proposal from a very large commercial photography company for me to photograph a 4 day shoot with 15 models and 3 photographers. The proposal was for their supposed client ADIDAS. All paperwork seemed incredibly professional and on the up and up. Warning signs:
- I could not determine how the client vetted me as the photographer of choice to do this shoot. I thought: of course I am qualified and worthy of this kind of a gig, and certainly my portfolio shows that qualification
- The client would not divulge the name of the models, the studio, nor the fashion designers even up to 1 day before the shoot. Said that the lawyers have not officially released that information
- Here we go again…. Client wanted to send me a check for MORE than my contracted amount. The balance to be paid to fashion designers and vendors for the shoot.
Is there a common theme here? YES. DO not engage in these SCAMS. As soon as the client proposes you do some “OUT” banking instead of just “IN” banking, you know it is a SCAM. There is no reason a client CANNOT pay for expenses like a florist, a taxi cab driver, a fashion designer or vendor directly.
What is the SCAM?
They send you a check, you deposit it in your bank. They then ask you to issue funds to an external third party. Within 3-10 business days the original check from the client is rejected from your bank as a bad check. You will be out the entire amount issued to 3rd parties and also have divulged information including banking information to the scammers to use against you and or sell to other scammers.
I confirmed this with my bank. They told me to NEVER issue checks to a 3rd party. You will always be giving good money for BAD money received.
I used NO checks or funds to any of these scammers. Good thing!
This blog is not about photography, but for those interested in me personally you may want to read on. You may sense how important it is for me to create something special before I go.
My doctor recommended I donate blood every month for 3 months to “help replace good new blood with older not as good blood…” On Saturday while it was pouring outside I decided to follow my doctors’ orders and donate blood. Got to love all those questions on the pre-screening. Good thing I have lived a clean life! I saw 2 people before me denied from giving blood, one because of her blood pressure and the other because of improper iron levels. I thought surely, I am going to fail, both my predecessors looked healthier than me.
The process went smoothly and quickly. They offered me a apple juice after the “
giant sucking” process and I drank it all gone. They then said, you can leave now. On the way out they offered me a MacDonald’s Hamburger. I thought, hum, that was nice, but no. Why would they offer me a hamburger?
I drove home, sent my wife off shopping and took a nap. When I woke up from the nap I made a groggy jaunt to the bathroom. I felt a little dizzy, but thought it was moderately normal because I often feel slightly dizzy when going vertical. On my way out of the bathroom my dizziness got worse. I soon realized I was in trouble. I passed out and fell to the floor. Not sure how long I was on the floor. When I woke up, I was profusely sweating and started to vomit. I was laying on the tile floor heaving like never before in my life. I then called loudly upstairs for my son Ryan... “Ryan, I am in trouble, please help!!!” I repeated this about 3 times with no response. I then thought I was alone in the house and surely, I was going to die right there on the floor. Finally, Ryan came downstairs and I tried to explain to him my problem. He didn’t understand. I told him, "please be ready to call 911, I may die right here on the floor." Again, I think he thought I was kidding. NOT.
Ryan got Tammy on the phone and she was a long way from home. I told Ryan to tell her to get home fast I was in trouble. Surely Tammy also didn’t believe I was in trouble. She thought I had a flu. About ½ hour later she arrived. I was still on the tile floor lying next to a terrible mess I had created. After drinking a bunch of fluids and eating a banana I started to feel slightly better.
To this moment, I still feel weak. Definitely strong enough to work, but impacted non the less by the donation of my vampire blood.
Crazy 2 things I thought when I was on the floor. One: “I hope my last photograph was my best ever” and two: “I never told Tammy I wanted Nanette Maxfield Garrett to sing at my funeral.”
Yes I have a crazy desire to create a legacy of beautiful photographs. Not sure why. I guess my hope is that some day someone will recognize I had a sprinkle of artistic talent and I actually gave something positive to the world.
The first question I ask myself, and asked the client…. Why did you choose me? The answer was clear and simple…. “I love your artistic photography which has a very unique edge to it.” Awesome, someone noticed I am artistic.
Just a brief note on my own golf history:
I played golf since I was 12 years old. I played on the golf team in Arvada Colorado. I never had a great swing… self taught. My swing was never good. I never knew this until I took golf lessons in my 30’s. I have have been fortunate to caddy for men and women golf professionals, and was an A rated caddy. We had a caddy shack just like the movie. My handicap was as low as 7 and averaged between 9-12 most of my adult life. I actually won a gaggle of local golf tournaments and club tournaments. I threw away a couple boxes of trophies because no one cared. My oldest son Eric was my golf prodigy. I mentored him and taught him to be a 2-3 handicap golfer. When I lost him first to paranoid schizophrenia at age 19 and then he died over 6 years ago, I gave up my passion to play. We donated proceeds from his funeral to a golf program called “The First Tee”.
Enough of me….. sorry for that. Some people want to know my history and are curious why I say I have a golf heritage in the first place.
So who did I have the honor of photographing yesterday? Her name is Jan Bel Jan ASGCA. Her golf resume is longer than the book of Genesis in the bible. Sports Illustrated Plus: "Top Ten Most Influential Women in the Game of Golf" twice; American Society of Golf Course Architects: "Design Excellence Award" twice. For a more complete bio visit her web site at:
There was urgency to get the pictures done because the magazine needed them right away. Rain or shine, we decided to chance it at her place of work, doing what she does. She is redesigning a course in Boca Raton Florida called Boca Lago CC. Many courses are designed with only the best courses in mind. Her objective is to create courses that are designed not only for the professional golfer (long hitter) but also for those with slower swing speeds. She has coined the word, “Scouring Tees” to encourage all golfers to be challenged by and to enjoy a "course within a course" So she is the architect, boss, head honcho, of the project happening at this course. When I arrived shapers on bulldozers and other earth movers were hard at work creating her new design.
We had a blast photographing her between two major rain storms on the John Deere tractor against the backdrop of storm cloudsand the newly plowed earth.
I already have some incredible pictures, but will only be able to release them when I am authorized.
PGA of America….. Here I come!
Thomas Schmuki Photography
As I progress through my career as a professional photographer, I find myself mentally creating beautiful pictures and compositions everywhere. Of course some are better than others. The vision of a photographer or cinematographer must SEE, create, compose, click or ROLL. I found it interesting during my last model shoot which was originally planned at Wynwood and then moved to FAT City in Fort Lauderdale because of the Cinco de Mayo party scheduled at the same time. I had models refuse to do the FAT city shoot because they LIKE Wynwood so much better. BIG mistake, ask any of the models who attended my FAT city shoot. It was amazing.
You don’t need 100’s of beautiful walls to create fantastic pictures and backdrops for model photography. What you do need is vision and clarity. I need to frame a shot that obeys or purposefully disobeys the laws of composition, color and balance. FAT City, there were shots everywhere.
Thank you to my wonderful models and parents for taking part in such a fun and fulfilling event. I would recommend these young models to anyone!
Melissa Lugo, Katherine Puertas, Leyda Mujica, Catherine Guiterrez, Jennifer Garcia and Laura Finley
What is YOUR opportunity cost, here is a stab at mine.
Why am I writing this article anyway? One of the first questions I get from a photo shoot potential participant is what is the cost, or is it FREE? These are the things that go through my mind every time that question is posed to me.
Here I go again writing a controversial article. My college degree was in finance with a dual minor in accounting and economics. My first economics class was a huge discussion on... "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch". This lesson should be learned early in life and not as a freshman in college. However, my discussion of free will relate only to photography shoots which are done with models on a TFP basis (Time for Print). Historically this term has evolved over the years and frankly has a different meaning to every photographer and model. I do a LOT of TFP work, as many as 2-3 per month. Let me digress to discuss the true costs of a photography shoot that I do, not to compare with any other photographer. My opportunity cost of time spent can only be compared with my other occupation as a software professional and developer with over 30 year's experience. Contracting rates range from $75-$225 per hour in my field. I will use $100 in my opportunity cost calculation.
Actual Hours Calculation
- Shoot preparation, planning and preparation: 2 hours
- Pack up appropriate gear for shoot: 1 hour
- Drive time 2 and from shoot: 2 hours
- Actual shoot time: 3 hours
- Break down and put away equipment: 1 hour
- Culling, Editing and posting images: 12 hours
- Communication with participants before and after shoot: emails, IM's shot sheets, etc: 2 hours
Total Hours: 23 hours @ $100/hour = $2,300
That is the number I think of when I decide on doing a shoot TFP. It is a real commitment, and when I am committed, I do all I can do to execute EVERY time. There is no question my opportunity cost in high school, college and at the beginning of my career is was much less than it is today.
So let's make more sense out of that $2,300 commitment to a TFP collaboration shoot.
What is MY return on Investment (ROI)
- Marketing of REAL paid business in the future. Value unknown but is REAL
- I become a better photographer, better at my craft, better at everything
- Participants return to me with PAID business
- Participants refer PAID business … wedding and event photography, head shots, model and fashion shoots, etc.
- And most importantly, the FUN factor. What is my opportunity cost of the real FUN and satisfaction I get out of these shoots.
- The real internal value of a JOB well done, the value of a pat on the back or an accolade from a respected peer.
If the intrinsic or real value I receive from items 1-6 does not come close to $2,300, my opportunity cost, then I need to re-evaluate the whole concept of TFP.
Not included in this COST calculation is sunk costs like thousands of dollars of photography equipment brought to a shoot and put at risk. A lifetime of study, preparation and a gift from GOD to visualize, see, create and execute my craft.
This gets to my REAL point of TFP. I would like to get rid of the term TFP. I would rather use the term collaboration. A true collaboration means disparate parties get together to create something they could NEVER have created alone, no matter how great their individual talents and skills are. A true collaboration means each participant will receive compensation or benefits commensurate with their contribution.
Models and Fashion Participants, I ask YOU to calculate your own true opportunity cost of doing a TFP shoot.
So, next time I am asked if the shoot is FREE, you know what is going through my mind.
I have been working with and photographing models, fashion shows, runways now for a number of years. I truly love it. Now I am going to give my 2 cents on a very controversial subject. I have read and understand many different opinions on this.
I am pleased to announce my first of hopefully a series of shoots at Wynwood Walls went fantastic. Not without a hitch however. We did have 1 model out of 6 who could never find us. I had over a dozen models male and female asking me to participate in the shoot. I had originally planned on shooting 1-3 models feeling each model deserves all the attention I can muster up. I guess I couldn’t say no to the final models asking to get in on it. I knew it would be very difficult to coordinate 5-6 models with 3 different themes: PUNK, SWIMSUIT and GLAMOUR. Parents and siblings attended the shoot and I think there may have been a dozen or more people hovering around each and every move. Pressure!!! I loved it. I tried my hardest to give each model ample photography opportunity and also took group photos for each theme. At the end of the day I took about 80+ photographs of each model and at least 50 or so group or combination shots.
Lessons learned? It is HOT at 4:00 pm at Wynwood. Find shade fast. Look for contrasting colors and shadows. Keep hydrated…. I couldn’t get enough water down. I also learned that most venues, restaurants, bars etc. are very photographer and model friendly. Every one I asked said, sure you can shoot here. I found a perfect place to shoot the models in their swimsuit. It was inside a bar/restaurant. The even said yes, then he asked are they all over 18? Woops…. I am going back there with 18+ models. It will be fantastic.
If you are interested in participating in one of my future model shoots at Wynwood or other venues, please DM me. I am sure all participants will give a resounding positive recommendation. They all had FUN, FUN, FUN, and so did I.
Thank you DAMA for recommending me to these fantastic, fun models!
- Study new photography techniques at least 5 hours a week?
- Teach photography classes?
- Scout out a venue before the event to determine best time of day to shoot, locations and lighting?
- Invest in the finest photography equipment available and then spend the required time to optimize that gear to the best results?
- Shoot over 20,000 pictures a year?
- Come to location shoots with professional strobes and light modifiers?
- Have photographic timing and composition skills?
- Give you an incredible photographic session experience: fun, challenging, exciting?
- Even ask you what your best side is?
- In the post processing editing process, does your photographer:
- Make sure white balance and colors are on point?
- Do face sculpting including double chin lessening?
- Paint face with highlights, mid-tones and shadows to create the best you possible?
- Selective adjust width of one or more eye to balance them out?
- Selectively sharpen specific items that are important to you like: jewelry, shoes, lipstick, hair, clothing?
- Spend time on each edited photo to make it “magazine worthy?”
- Crop the photo to maximize composition?
- Do portrait retouching including:Full Makeup (lipstick in a full range of colors and textures, false eyelashes, eyeshadow, blusher, mascara, eyeliner, rouge)? Skin smoothing and blemishing removal? Eye clarity, whitening and sharpening? Teeth whitening and sharpening?
- Create beautiful artistic effects that can make your picture look interesting, dramatic, different, like a painting?
- Does your photographer consider all shades of black and white when considering black and white?
- Optimize exported JPEG for intended purpose including social networking sites and printing/enlargements?
- Backup your photos to 3 separate sources including cloud storage and off-site backups?
Get up at 4:30 am because he/she is so excited to do another sunrise photo shoot at the beach?
If you have found a photographer that does these things, you have found a true GEM.
Ride for Meadow Pollack and 16 others who lost their lives on Valentine’s Day in Parkland Florida.
I decided to participate in this ride because my 18 year old daughter Allison brought it to my attention. I thought I would bring along my camera just in case there were some special photography opportunities there.
The event was organized to meet at the Palm Beach Harley Davidson, have breakfast and ride (motorcycle) to the Pollack’s house in Coral Springs for “a cold one”. I am not sure how many people attended, but it seemed like 600+ attendees maybe 100 or so of them were Motorcycle Policeman supporting the event and helping the riders during their 50 mile trek from the dealership to the Pollack’s house.
When I pulled my camera out at the dealership, people seemed to naturally gravitate towards me and want their picture taken. I keep mentioning that many feel very comfortable asking me to take their picture. I love that sooooo much! There were of course other photographers there, news crews there, newspapers and magazine coverage, you name it. I had a blast and would like to thank the dealership for not kicking me out with my camera in hand and especially all those who supported this fantastic cause.
I am sure there were many famous people there not including the world famous photographer Thomas Schmuki …. Some of those notables included Paul Teutul, Sr, star of the cable TV show “Orange County Choppers”, and former Miami Dolphins running back Terry Kirby and chef Ralph Pagano.
Unfortunately while riding my Harley to the Pollack's house in Coral Spring my Harley Davidson had a flat tire. Thank goodness I did NOT loose control of my bike. Happend right as I was getting off the Sawgrass expressway (freeway). I therefore missed the goings on at the Pollacks house.
Included in this BLOG are a few of my photos from the event. If you were there and your photo is not here, please reach out to me, I will attempt to get you your photo.
Tom Schmuki, photographer, motorcycle lover for 40+ years, father and husband.
Wynwood Walls, photos and commentary from multiple shoots with models and family.
Stoneman Douglas Mass Murder - pictures and feelings of the day
My heart is so sad. This short blog may give you a better insight as to why...
My heart and tears go out to all impacted from this tragic event. Yes, my own family is impacted. Tears were rolling last night. My daughter Allison knew 5 kids who were killed. Her best friend who was over at our house twice in the last week was in the closet while the shooter was right outside.
Isn't it time you know what side of your face is the BEST side to shoot?
I was extremely passionate about most of the above items. Is photography next on the list? I hope not. Why do I bring that up? In the last few months I have met 3 photographers who seemed as passionate as me that one day just stopped taking pictures, sold all their camera gear and never looked back. Please Lord, let that NOT be me. I love it toooooooooo much!
Every once in a while I reach out for a photo shoot. I guess my camera just gets lonely. I don’t take enough pictures ... over 25,000 photos taken in 2017.
Wynwood Walls/Arts District is always such an exciting place to go. First of all they are always camera/model friendly. Police officers and grounds crews don’t come up to us and ask us for our “permit” and if we don’t have it, we are asked to leave or even worse yet escorted off.
Every time I go to Wynwood, which seems to be 2-3 times per year, there are new paintings that were painted on top of previously painted walls. Ever changing. That’s exciting, except when your favorite wall/painting is no longer there.
My models family drove all the way down from Orlando (4 hour drive) just to shoot with me at Wynwood. What an honor. Samantha is one of KK Swimwear’s premier swimsuit model The President/Owner/Creator of KK Natalia Garcia responded to my search for a shoot on Sunday. She had planned on shooting Samantha herself.... a very good photographer in her own right. She asked me to fill in for her because of personal issues that came up.
I would like to personally thank Samantha, her parents and especially Natalia for the invite. Samanthas father was so helpful lugging around my heavy equipment and holding my lights! I could not have done this without you.
You will see some fantastic photos in the near future. Here are just a few of my first edits.
A few photo tips when shooting Wynwood Walls:
If you are shooting a model, people, THEY are the subject, NOT the walls. If you want to include detail of the WALL painting and the model, make sure your F-STOP is approprate based on your lens choice, your distance from the model and the models distance from the wall. I frequently shoot multiple F-Stops so I can choose later the best choice. Last tip; there are lots of lines, use them (leading lines). Always make sure the lines draw attention to your subject, the model.
Thomas Schmuki 954-439-1999, www.tesphoto.co
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Instagram: thomas_e_photography
Read this BLOG if you want to take measures into your own hand to prevent your phone, computer or other connected devices from being hacked.
A fantastic sunset photo shoot experience with my daughter Allison
I have in the past been a very casual user of Instagram focusing most of my social network posts on Facebook. I have decided to give Instagram a more focused trial. So far, I am very confused.
Confusion #1: as soon as I post a picture, dozens of followers “like” the picture. There is no way they even had a chance to pull the picture up and see it in that amount of time. I have been a software developer for decades and have focused most of my programming in the last 5 years on SPIDER BOTS. Whats is that you say? Well - automated routines to touch web sites and do things. GOOGLE does this so they know where all the content exists. Clearly there are dozens if not thousands of Instagram BOTS out there. Not real people, just fake account acting like they have looked at your photo and liked it. I am also sure they also can and do automate actual written comments like - “beautiful, nice, great shot, I love your site….”
Confusion #2: How is it when that dozens of people add me as a “follow”. I see it happening on line. While they are adding my follower count is going down. How can 15 new people follow me in 10 minutes and 30 people stop following me in the same period of time. ---- FAKE stuff happening out there.
Beware: Be careful if you are lured into buying Instagram followers.
Most photographs taken and posted today on social networks are not taken in RAW but taken in standard JPEG format. Most of these photos are taken by your mobile phone, mine being an Iphone.
What do you mean my phone is taking JPEG’s not RAW?
I primarily shoot Nikon cameras, including D850, D810 and D500. My D850 captures and saves 45.7 megapixels of data when I shoot RAW When I use that same D850 in JPEG (High Density/Fine) mode, my file sizes are approximately the files range from 18MB-25MB in size. In either case these numbers are INSANE. So what is the difference? When I shoot in JPEG mode instead of RAW, my camera makes the following choices for me:
- Contrast – (What to capture in highlights, mid-tones, and shadows). Probably the most important thing to me
The number one reason I shoot in RAW
I want ALL the DATA
Once these decisions have been made when shot in JPEG – recovering DATA which the camera decided NOT to capture is NON-RECOVERABLE. You cannot recover details from the darkest shadows, nor from the blown out highlights. In other words, once the camera has made the decision what to capture, ALL the other DATA is thrown away and gone forever.
The number two reason I shoot in RAW
Non Destructive Editing
Every time you edit a JPEG the quality is diminished. Edit the same photos 10 times and compare the quality with the original. Shooting in RAW allows you to edit NON-DISTRUCTIVELY. My original RAW file remains in-tact and never changes. All my edits and edit history are back traceable right to the original RAW file.
If you are buying a new camera, buy one that can shoot in RAW even if you don’t know how. You will thank me later. You can always shoot in JPEG while you learn how to process RAW
What are the downsides to in shooting in RAW?
1. File Size – your memory card on your camera fills up faster, and your permanent storage requirements on your computer or in the cloud becomes much greater
2. Slower- Your camera will BURST slower when saving RAW versus JPEG, it takes longer to save those big files. Your camera’s BUFFER may even fill up faster while you are continuous shooting.
3. Immediate results . JPEG’s are ready to go, as bad or as good as they may be. You can share them on social networks and give them to friends right away
4. Learning curve of editing and processing RAW images. I believe you can learn within 1 hour of time a process that will allow you to edit your files in RAW and have better results than your JPEG’s out of the camera
5. I am sure there are more downsides, but WHO cares, I shoot in RAW. I often shoot in RAW and JPEG at the same time, and frankly NEVER use the JPEG images.
I welcome comments, conversation and rebuttals. Hey, I don’t know everything. As a matter of fact I know very little, but at least I am trying to learn and grow and get better each day.