Thomas E. Schmuki Photography

Phone: (954)439-1999 Email:


Five things you probably don't know about me

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A number of people have told me their favorite blog was my “10 Things you don’t know about me”. Well, here are 5 more

  1. I was asked to try out for the Donny and Marie Osmond show as a backup singer. I was not interested in being anything but the LEAD singer with mike in my hand and a whole band around me.

  2. My generation is the first generation in the USA without a mandatory draft to fight in a world war or major war. I missed the draft of the tail end of the Vietnam war by the skin of my chinny chin chin. My father fought in World War II in the Navy on a destroyer. He observed fellow ships go down and watched dozens if not hundreds of sailors get eaten up by sharks in a feeding frenzy as their destroyer went down to the bottom of the ocean. His ship was hit by multiple Kamikaze planes and my dad to this day rides with his Purple Heart license plate from his Kamikaze war wounds - shrapnel right in his derriere. He can’t talk about his experiences in the war, too painful much like I cannot talk about the loss of my son Eric. His ship was very similar to the picture posted in this blog. My grandfather Augustine Schmuki fought in World War I. 

  3. For the real techies out there I started programming in Oracle version 3 with a release date of 1981. To install Oracle Development version I had 70-100 CD’s to install, one by one, only to find out # 48 of 70 is bad, have to order it and start all over when it arrives. My how times have changed.

  4. I grew up using a rotary dial telephone. My first cell phone was a Motorola Brick. Motorola’s first cell phone cost 4-5 thousand dollars and had about 30 minutes of talk time. For the record that first phone was NOT the Motorola Brick, but was more like the Motorola Elephant! I just purchased Apples new iPhones 10s max that has more processing power than many main frame computers I grew up staring down in the raised floor data centers. Motorola dominated the cellular phone market for years, and my kids have never even seen one.

  5. I played tennis with Bjorn Borg once during the inaugural year of the Tennis Champions tour. I enjoyed surprising him with my play.   Ok I know he was just toying with me. For those who don’t know who Bjorn Borg is…. He is a Swedish former world No 1 tennis player widely considered to be one of the greatest tennis player of all time. He won 11 Grand Slam singles including six French Opens, and five consecutive Wimbledon Championships.

There you have it. Hope you enjoyed it.


My Birthday Wish

Tom Schmuki2 Comments
Photo taken by my son Ryan when the light hit me just perfect

Photo taken by my son Ryan when the light hit me just perfect

September 12, 1955… the day I was born. 

To give a little perspective. 

In the 50’s houses cost on average $15,000, a brand new Chrysler New Yorker cost $4,500, and gasoline was about 25 cents a gallon.  Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Patti Page and Tony Bennett were amongst the most popular musicians.  Sit down in front of your black and white TV and watch Bonanza, Gunsmoke and the Twilight Zone.  There were no computers, no internet, no NASA, no iPhone, and no Xbox 360’s.

So what do I want for my birthday, what is my real birthday wish?  Here is a short list:

  • American government, FIX it.  Come on, it has been broken for years.  Can’t we come up with 2 presidential candidates we can all be proud of and not have to always vote for the best of two really bad choices?

  • In addition to WORLD peace, I want inner peace.  Have not had it for years.  My soul left when my son Eric was diagnosed Paranoid Schizophrenic when he was 19 and then died in his sleep over 6 years ago.

  • I want to feel like I made a real contribution to the world even in my own small way.  What kind of legacy will I really leave?

  • I want my photography to be so unique, interesting and beautiful that I will be unable to keep up with the work.

  • I want my photography to be valued by more than a passing “like” or a single comment on social networks. 

  • I want to feel young again.  I am stiff, sore and inflexible created by a lifetime of sports and orthopedic surgeries. I won the battle of multiple club championships in golf and tennis but lost the war of flexibility. While I am wishing, how about single vision instead of double vision created by my health incident a few months back?

  • I want to hear one person whisper to another…… “hey, isn’t that Thomas Schmuki, the world famous photographer?”

  • Two months from now I want to look back and say, “MAN I SHOULD HAVE RETIRED YEARS AGO, now I can do what I really love 24/7 – Photography”

  • How about a real friend?

I know most of my wishes are unrealistic, but I do frequently think about these things.

That’s all I want….. But hey, there is always Christmas.


I hope to see clearly again

Tom Schmuki2 Comments

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.

Is it FREE, or What's the cost?

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Self Portrait taken in Gatlinburg Tennessee

Self Portrait taken in Gatlinburg Tennessee

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)

  1.  Marketing of REAL paid business in the future. Value unknown but is REAL
  2.  I become a better photographer, better at my craft, better at everything
  3.  Participants return to me with PAID business
  4. Participants refer PAID business … wedding and event photography, head shots, model and fashion shoots, etc. 
  5. And most importantly, the FUN factor.  What is my opportunity cost of the real FUN and satisfaction I get out of these shoots. 
  6. 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. 




Does your photographer?

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  • 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. 

Instagram - Fake users or am I just confused

Social MediaTom SchmukiComment

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.


Why I shoot in RAW

Tutorials and Best PractiTom SchmukiComment

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
  • Sharpness
  • Hue/Saturation
  • Sharpness
  • Etc.

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.


Paparazzi – Now I understand

Event ExperiencesTom SchmukiComment

This is my first real attempt to start a BLOG.  My blog will definately be focused on my experiences in around photography.  I will discuss events, best practices, experiences, tutorials and of course point my peers to other postings I find interesting and useful.


After photographing the Pegasus World Cup Invitational in Miami Florida I understand more clearly the world of Paparazzi.  I have always said I don’t want to be one of those …. Chasing after the famous, interrupting their world, getting their attention, begging for their photograph and of course fighting the other photographers who are all looking for the same.

Shame on you my fellow photographers for treating your peers with such disrespect.  I observed arguments, mostly about allowing other photographers in the back row to get the shot.  I was asked by a fellow photographer to move because he had his name on the floor.  Guess I was not one of the named privileged few.  He was not only rude, but he seemed 2 miles wide, taking up the space of 2 photographers with his girth.

No wonder celebrities avoid paparazzi like the plague.  I don’t blame them.  While photographing the celebrities on the blue carpet with the paparazzi all around me, I heard a constant barrage of pleas from the photographers … “Hey, look my way”, “Up here”, “Take our hat off”, “take your glasses of”, “put your hand on your hip”, “blow me a kiss”, “how about a wink”, “do you remember me at the …. Party?”, “can you come back, I never got the shot”, “loved you in … name the movie/event”.  Lenny Kravitz, now I know why you made a v-line move right through the paparazzi not allowing any pictures to be taken.

I always said I am a people photographer, and what I really mean is I totally enjoy taking photographs of people who want me to take their photograph.  When I got away from the crowd of the paparazzi I finally started to feel like myself again.  Almost everyone graciously respected me and anxiously wanted me to take their photo.  They were kind, courteous and respectful.  I could tell how excited they were to be there and to possibly get a fantastic photo to represent their day.  I got out of my comfort zone and approached people asking them if I could take their picture.  Not a soul said no.  After showing them my photo in the back of the camera, I got what I almost always get…. “that may be the best picture I have ever seen of me …. How do I get it?”