Category Archives: venue

Holiday Pictures, Santa Claus, Travels and More

Christmas means more than just family time, it is a time to get some really spectacular holiday pictures of the family on the road or with relatives. It’s also a time to see some places all decked out in their holiday best. Disneyland is a special place to my family and we actually stay at one of the hotels every few years as a “stay-cation” for the kids rather than traveling long distances. Trying to fly a family of five somewhere is very expensive and driving is not much cheaper so we just go the 30 minutes or so to Disneyland and leave our troubles behind for a few days.

One of the keys for nice pictures at any park, ship, theme park or even just in front of the Christmas tree is shallow depth of field. You blur out the distractions but leave them clear enough so people can sorta tell what they are and where you are. It makes for a nice background that adds to the story.  I typically keep my camera at an F stop between 2.8 and 5.6 with Aperture mode locked in place. When I’m at Disney with the kids, things move way too fast to be in full manual mode much of the time but I want that F stop locked to control the DOF.

Three sisters at Condor Flats at California Adventure, Disneylan

This particular image along with a relatively shallow DOF also uses the popup flash to throw some light on the faces. I had moved the kids from sun to shadow and I wanted the eyes to sparkle a bit. So up goes the popup flash and I dialed it down -2 so not to over power the nice light reflecting off the cement.

Night shots are the best in my opinion as you get all the color lights and such that people put up. In this case, full manual is almost mandatory as the camera will try to exposure the black sky and blow out the lights themselves. I use a bit more DOF so I’m shooting through the sharpest part of my lens and I crank up the ISO to compensate for this. The ability to shoot clean at a high ISO is one of the big benefits for shooting with either a very HQ small sensor camera or a full frame sensor like my Nikon D700.

Its a small world at Christmas

So get out your camera and shoot, shoot and shoot some more. Holidays are special days and it’s a great time to get some very memorable images of your loved ones. You never know what tomorrow will bring so enjoy today.

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Practice, Practice and more Practice

One of the things that any professional photographer will do is constantly practice their craft. Practicing may not be dragging out the strobes and the fancy background, it can be as simple as just bringing a camera on a family walk.  For myself, I always have a camera with me whether it be my iPhone or my  “professional” camera. I find that like anything else, constant practice with my chosen equipment helps me on the job when I’m shooting for you and being paid for it. I personally and ethically believe that when I’m shooting “for real”, it is not the time for me to be practicing while on your dime. Any true professional would agree with that statement and when you are shopping around for a photographer, it’s something to consider.

You might question the use of an iPhone for practice but when I have limited equipment, I find that I get much more creative to get the most out of the camera and myself for that matter.  It’s no longer having a two thousand dollar lens or a five hundred flash, it’s all about me and what I can do with what I have. This translates directly into better pictures when I do have my expensive equipment handy.

I also practice with my normal shooting equipment but I may limit myself to a single lens or a certain setting to better learn how my equipment works under a wide variety of conditions. This works to your advantage as I can be shooting rather then messing around with the camera and constantly looking at the view finder while missing key shots. This becomes critical for events like weddings where things can be moving at a quick pace under a wide variety of conditions.

Here are some practice images that I took while on walks with the family using my main camera and a single lens.  I also use these images to push my post processing skills and learn new techniques.

Sara Portrait in Oak Canyon Nature Center Anahiem

This was taken at the Oak Canyon Nature Center in Anaheim right at dusk. I also used a technique in my post processing to give a soft glow to the image while keeping the eyes sharp.

Three sisters at Oak Canyon Nature Center Anaheim

This image was also at the Oak Canyon Nature Center and originally was more cyan or blue than the the finished print shows now. The sisters were in a cool shadow at dusk which does not lend itself to warm tones.  So post processing turned it around into a warm summer’s night as it was and gave the nice warm tones. Again, a professional can adjust to conditions both by shooting differently or by making critical adjustments in the processing of the image.

The final practice image shows how I can take a blah scene and literally change seasons with some judicious post processing. the original image is on the right and the changed image is on the left. This was practicing some advanced post coloring techniques.

Oak Canyon Season Change comparision

As you can see,  as a professional, I practice constantly just like any other professional. This way when you hire me, I can be ready to produce very high quality art and results without dithering around trying to learn on your dime and missing the images you hired me to produce.

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The Great Gatsby Photog Shootout at the Tangled Vine

Our SoCal Photog Shootout group had an amazing time in San Juan Capistrano at the Tangled Vine Florist for a Great Gatsby themed shootout. Why a florist? Because The Tangled Vine has a way cool shop which used to be an old home. The Tangled Vine is on a quiet street behind the train station and has all kinds of fun areas to shoot in. They had some of their wares on display to use as props for the models and to be used to help decorate the sets.

tangled Vine Flower Arrangements

I was asked to be a leader for the first time,  so I decided to cover image composition and using things around you as “frames” for the subject. Also, I went over some fun things like using alternative crops, using negative space and more.

We had pretty models and gorgeous vintage clothing plus jewelry to really set things off. And as it happened, we had a classic car of the correct vintage crash our party and the owner let us use it briefly as a prop. How cool is that?

The models had some amazing hair and makeup done by some of our favorite make up artists. And they pulled out the stops for this shoot. Everybody really got into the theme and had alot of fun with it.

This would be an amazing idea for an different kind of wedding session and would be relatively easy to pull together.   Themed weddings are so much fun for both the bride and groom plus the guests. They make for awesome memories that are very unique and everybody likes to see even years later.



Hope Stanley


Amanda McDaniel
Joyce Luck


Diego Ortega

Assisted by:

Heather Renee
Jenny Sims
Brissa Watson


The Tangled Vine


Matthew Saville
Kaylee Sizemore
Brett Hickman
Michael Sweeney
Brian Hamilton

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Mad Men Themed Photography Shootout

I’m a member of a local of photographers that gather every couple of months for a “shootout” where we have a themed photography event. This month, the event was a Mad Men themed “shoot out” where the group brought in  models, make up artists, photographers and rented a venue for a shoot that was a bit different than the normal “bridal” shoot. This Med Man shootout was held at “The Casino San Clemente” and offered a very different look and feel for the event.

Why are these events important? Because they offer a chance for local photographers to network with each other, to meet fresh faces for models, work with  talented and local make up artists plus to work in a venue that we might otherwise be unaware of. I had never heard of this Casino venue in San Clemente but now I know about it and what it can bring to my own clients looking for something unique.

Our shootouts would be considerably lacking if it were not for our stylists and make up artists. Here is who put together the awesome styling and make up for Mad Men

Heather Skelton

Kaylee Sizemore


Diego Ortega – Lead Hair Stylist  Assistant: Tricia Marie


Jennette Pulecio – Lead MUA and Casting   Assistant: Amanda McDaniel

We had the perfect venue for this type of shoot and I highly recommend the venue for any affair that you want space and a cool vintage feel to the style of the venue.

The Casino San Clemente


Here are some of my images that I made at the Mad Men shootout. When shooting this event, I tried to keep storytelling in mind and I tried visualize how they may have looked in the time frame that the series Mad Men is depicting.

A "film still" from Mad Men Shootout[pinit]

Blond bombshell admired by male admirer[pinit]

Don Draper Character from Mad Men photoshootout[pinit]

casino san clemente ball room[pinit]


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Our New Studio in Brea

We have a new (to us) studio to shoot at for clients of Michael Sweeney Photography. I have partnered with a Co-op in Brea that leverages the power of having several photographers splitting the costs of running a full service studio. What do I mean by full service? I mean, we have a front desk, a frame shop, waiting area, a private viewing room, make up area, three shooting sets and plenty of safe parking. And there is as killer cafe a few doors down from us 🙂

You can find the our new co-op studio at OC Photography Center in Brea, California. This location is very close to the Brea Mall off the 57 Freeway and Imperial.

590 West Central Ave.

Suite A

Brea, CA 92821



Also posted in photography, portraits, studio, training, wedding photography

Cynthia and Annasel Wedding at Mission Inn, Riverside

I did a favor for a wedding shooter friend of mine, Angela Stanton and worked as a last minute second shooter for a same sex civil union (wedding) in Riverside at the First Congregational Church. Cynthia and Annasel were married at the church and then the reception was held at the Mission Inn which is  just down the street from the church. As a second shoot, I take my lead from the primary shooter but I was still able to get some nice shots.  I put together a short slide show of the wedding and the reception using just my shots. The couple obviously cared deeply for each other and the family was very supportive and happy for the couple. It was nice change of pace to be involved in this wedding and meet everyone involved. I hope you enjoy the slide show and congratulations to Cynthia and Annasel, I wish wish you the very best in the coming years.

The music is is “Crazy” from Stars Go Dim (SGD) and is licensed from

The Mission Inn is an awesome venue to shoot at with great architecture and spectacular lighting in the evening. It was wonderful grounds to shoot at, passageways, arches, stonework and more.


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Serra Plaza Wedding Wedding Venue

I just finished up a wedding shootout at Serra Plaza in San Juan Capistrano CA yesterday with over 30 photographers and several models. We had details to shoot in the form of sweets tables by Pegy Rizzuto and French buckets by Sussanna Davidson, vintage wedding dresses, tuxedos on the guys and a beautiful venue with awesome light to work with. The women had professional make up by Jeanette Pulecio and Lisa O’Conner with hairstyling by Diego Ortega which just look amazing. Our stylist who did a super job of mixing and matching all the various pieces with a cool cinematic feel was Hope Stanley.

Here is a collage of some of the wedding sweets and treats that we had available at Serra Plaza. And yes, they tasted as good as they looked !!  Any wedding party would be pleased to have these goodies on the tables available for their munching.

Collage of wedding treats at Serra Plaza

For this shootout, we had several leaders covering such diverse topics as shooting in bad light (read as direct sun), shooting in shadows, making use of architecture as visual elements, posing and tricks to have the subject showing emotion.

It was a small group, about thirty or so and we spent the entire day at Serra Plaza upstairs, downstairs and in the courtyard making use of the wedding benches and the fountain.

The plaza has a very interesting organic Spanish feel to it with lots of passageways, arches, courtyard and earth tone colors. Even in the middle of the day, there is shade around and by the afternoon, the sunlight really turns to a warm yellow glow from bouncing off the earth toned walls and tile walkways.

There are other businesses in the plaza but they are down in the hallways and not part of the wedding area. There is plenty of parking around Serra Plaza and the entry points are controlled so to avoid crowds wandering through your wedding in the courtyard.

If you use Serra Plaza for your wedding, make sure your photographer knows about the overhead walkway in the afternoon. The sun comes through the openings and gives the passage way some of the best light for taking timeless images of a bride in a very warm and organic setting.

Serra Plaza Bride in Late afternoon in overhead walkway


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Photoshopworld 2010

So I survived Vegas with it’s 30 dollar lunches, 25 dollar shots of Scotch and my cheap room at Mandalay bay. I guess it all balances in the end since I did not give a nickel to the slots. The keynote was awesome, the Tweet up was alot of fun, the Expo was crazy good fun and I did sneak out early because of the holiday and trying to fly home on Friday.

I split my time with several class this time. I noticed that in 2007 which was the last time I was there at PSW, I saw 95% software based classes. This time, the tracks were split between real photography classes and software like Painter, Photoshop and such. I ended wishing I could attend them all but settled on a mix of classes

My preconference class was “The Art of the Digital Canvas” with Faye Sirkis and I had high hopes for the class since I really wanted to see how to make CS5 work with the new bristle brushes. But, the class fell short of my expectations between a lack of real meat in the class and technical issues with CS5. The good news is that was the only class that fell short in my opinion. The two classes I took with Joe McNally were awesome to be in and Joe has a very good sense of presentation with humor and solid information.  I took a Fashion Portrait class with David Cuerdon who I found relatively recently on Kelby’s training site and have decided that I really, really like his style and teaching methods.. The fashion class was a wealth of info on how to shoot and more importantly, retouch the shots effectively.

Zack Arias did a couple of classes but the one I went to was “Stuff you need to know to be a photographer” and as always, Zack did a bang up job of getting down to the nuts and bolts of being successful as a photographer and to figure out what is really important to you and and your craft. A hint, passion only gets you so far as a photographer.

I did the concert and event photographer on something of a lark and it was very interesting to hear how it works behind the scenes as it were. Also the choice of gear, how to get the pass and what to expect as a photographer at a concert. Alan Hess did a very good job at showing the class the real world of Concert photography and proving that yes, you can have fun while working for a living 🙂

Here are some random shots from the trip. I split my shooting between my Canon G11 and my D300. Both worked well but the Canon struggled with the low light in the classes. The D300 would work but only but shooting at 2.8 with ISO 3200 or 6400. I was really wishing for a FX camera and ISO 25,000 🙂 The NAPP Keynote was completely shot using the G11 and it did very well considering I had the zoom maxed out and the lighting was so bad. The class shots of Joe McNally were taken with the D300 at ISO 6400.

Zack Arias

Zack Arias

Mac Classic and Photoshop V1

Mac Classic and Photoshop V1

Metal prints were the hot item

Metal prints were the hot item

Scott giving away his Flying V to Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen

Scott giving away his Flying V to Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen

JohnnyL Adobe GM Digital Media

JohnnyL Adobe GM Digital Media

Photoshop Keynote

Photoshop Keynote

Scott Kelby and NAPP (KISS cover ala Spinal tap)

Scott Kelby and NAPP (KISS cover ala Spinal tap)

Scott Kelby and NAPP (KISS cover ala Spinal tap)

Scott Kelby and NAPP (KISS cover ala Spinal tap)

Scott Kelby and NAPP (KISS cover ala Spinal tap)

Scott Kelby and NAPP (KISS cover ala Spinal tap)

Home Base

Home Base

Mandalay Bay Lobby Entrance

Mandalay Bay Lobby Entrance

Photoshop TV LIVE

Photoshop TV LIVE

Joe McNally

Joe McNally

Small Flash Class by Joe McNally

Small Flash Class by Joe McNally

Joe McNally in action

Joe McNally in action

My view while blogging at Mandalay Bay

My view while blogging at Mandalay Bay

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Photoshop World 2010 Las Vegas Dispatch Weds

So here at Photoshopworld at the vendor Expo, Westcott did something very cool. They brought in four models (five counting the still life) and had them rotating between live demos to posing sets. Anyone with a camera could walk up and shoot the set/model from any angle you could get to. You could not change the lighting but you could have the model pose differently for you.

Here is the RAW shot from one of the posing stations. Straight from my D300 and zero adjustments.

Catwoman in Gotham City RAW

Catwoman in Gotham City RAW

Here is the same shot after my quick and dirty postprocessing. I will write up a complete “how to” post on how I got to the final product in a few days.

Catwoman in Gotham FINAL

Catwoman in Gotham FINAL

Why did Westcott do this? because they are having a contest going on that if your shot is picked from the Flickr feed, your shot will grace the 2011 Westcott catalog cover. Pretty cool idea and I saw quite a few taking advantage of the arrangement.

This is a short entry since I’m still in Las Vegas for the show and I’m trying to get this done before breakfast and another busy day.

Just a few words from the past few days.  The show is excellent as always but I think that the crowds are definitely smaller than what I remember a few years back. But everyone is very enthusiastic about the training, the show, Photopshop and everything that goes with it.

Scott Kelby and company did a righteous cover of the band KISS and a glam rock show complete with 9″ heels and pyrotechnics/steam/radio station sponsor and EVERYTHING was built on Photoshop/Adobe riffs.

Scott Kelby as KISS at PSW 2010 Vegas

Scott Kelby as KISS at PSW 2010 Vegas

JohnnyL from Adobe did a magic show and showed the crowd the magic of CS5. There was a poke in the eye at Apple for Flash and apps being rejected by the App store but accepted by Android. The irony there was ALL the computers used in the show were Apples as the iPad for the ePub demo.

Zack Arias did an awesome class on “Thing you need to know” as a photographer getting ready to make the switch from part time to full time.

I’ll write more in depth in the coming days along with more pictures of course. Back to the salt mines 🙂

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One of the groups I belong to is the SoCal Photog Shootout which provides myself a way to network, visit, shoot and practice all at the same time. It’s a pretty cool way to stay in touch with other photographers in the area and learn something in the process.

We just had a “shoot out” in Fullerton, CA and not too far from my studio in Orange, CA. Not too far in California speak means within an hour’s drive 🙂 The location was a 10,000 square foot house that is a private residence called “Monica’s Castle” but it used at times for events. It’s really an amazing venue to shoot in and we were very fortunate that we were allowed to use it.

We had five models in various dress that can be described as “Lady Gaga meets Desperate Housewives“. We covered natural light, bad light, using flash to overpower the sun, using colored light and more. A good time was had by all both the models and the photographers. Then we had dinner afterwards for a chat and networking after a hard day’s work.

Here is one set of pictures from the day.

SoCal Photog Shootout

SoCal Photog Shootout

Each room was themed and each had a specific task to shoot. For example,  our Desperate Housewife was ambient light with a keyword given to the photographer that the model had to express. Think “hot, cold, shy” and so on. All the photographers in the group could shoot for a few minutes then the primary photographer had the model and was the only one allowed to shoot for three minutes. Does not sound like a lot of time till you are behind the camera telling a model what to do.

Here is a another sample from the day.

SoCal Photog Shootout 2

SoCal Photog Shootout 2

As a photographer, I can say it was a lot of fun to shoot this type of shoot with so many models one right after another.  It was learning experience with just working in the type of light we had to watching how other photographers worked and interacted with the models.

All in all, it was a very successful day of shooting and networking with my fellow photographers in Orange County and from the surrounding areas.

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