photographing thanksgiving

happy thanksgiving banner

Want to improve your holiday photographs this year? Seven tips to get you started!

Identify the subject. Before you take the shot, ask yourself this question: “What’s the subject of my photo?”
Is it the turkey, the spread, carving the turkey, grandma, the kids? If you have a clear idea of what subject you want to capture with each shot, you will be better able to focus on and capture the subject.

Frame your subject. Focus in on your subject. If there are any distractions in back of your subject, move them, reposition your subject, or reposition yourself to help minimize the distractions.

Change your point of view. A photo of the family at the table might be better shot a little higher than the eye-level of the tallest person in the scene. Photos of the children can benefit from crouching down to shoot at their level, rather than down at them. Experiment with different angles.

Posed and Candid Shots Pose family members for some shots. Take multiple photos of family members in small groups. The more people in your photos, the more photos you may have to take to compensate for problems like closed eyes, heads turned away from the camera, etc. For natural, candid photographs, take photos of family members talking, raising their glasses, having fun.

Get in Close Most people have a tendency to stand back when taking a photo. Take a couple of steps towards your subject. Get in close to capture a child’s face next to grandma and grandpa’s. The result will be more personal photos that draw the viewer into the scene and elicit a more emotional connection to the subject. Plan to take a photo of the turkey being carved? Get in close to the food too! Try a few shots focused on the knife slicing through the turkey or a close-up of a piece of apple pie.

Light up the Room You can always use flash indoors, but it can flatten out color or create harsh lighting situations. First try to use indoor or natural lighting. Turn on as many lights in the room as possible, or position subjects near a window to take advantage of natural lighting. (Remember to shoot away from the window for proper exposure.) If your camera allows, try increasing your ISO to avoid flash use. To obtain truer colors, use an appropriate white balance preset (for sunlight, incandescent light, flash, etc.) if your camera allows. If you use your flash, remain within the recommended flash range. Avoid shooting towards shiny objects or windows that will reflect the light back at the lens.

Get in the photo! It’s easy to get in the photo yourself. A tripod or level surface to keep your camera steady is a must. Set up your family leaving some space for you to jump in. Focus the camera, set the timer, step into your spot, and smile!

halloween for hope

The Crow - Halloween Photo

Halloween for Hope - The Ellie Fund.

I had a great time shooting pictures at the Ellie Fund's Halloween for Hope at King's in Dedham. There were some great costumes, free pizza, bowling, games, raffle prizes, prizes for best costume, and a ton of fun! Great group of people providing great services for breast cancer patients and their families! After the gig, I put together a short photo show - check it out.

al and cal realty group

identity material

Al & Cal Realty Group wanted a new, cohesive updated brand image.

The best place to start is by asking questions and creating a look that meets each clients' needs. We began by talking about their business and clientele, their approach, and their future plans. In this case, it was important to keep the Keller Williams logo visible and prominent. There were some guidelines to follow with KW, but Al and Cal also recognized the need to develop their own team identity. The color scheme was built on the Keller Williams red, and an accompanying blue was chosen.

After some discussion, the first step was to develop their logo using their Realty Group name - Al and Cal. A few different looks were developed incorporating different parts of a home. The final logo is a result of playing with the idea of using their names as a foundation and walls of a house. The "l" in "cal" was extended up through the roof to provide the look and feel of a chimney. Their website can be added below to give more height to the home, or the "house" can also function as an arrow, pointing up towards important information, or, down the road, a series of taglines. The logo was also designed with Facebook, Twitter, Linked In and other social media in mind.

Once the logo was developed, I played with a few different looks for letterhead, cards, and envelope. Their logo was placed on the right on both the letterhead and envelope to take advantage of the way we read - left to right - giving that a bit of a "final say." With the initial identity materials in the final stages, their image can now be incorporated in all their marketing material.

just for fun

film strip

Video—just for the fun of it.

There are many good reasons to consider posting videos on your website. This may not be one of them, but as I was fiddling around with uploading and embedding videos, I thought it would be nice to create a page just for fun and share a couple that can be found on Vimeo.

a multi-channel campaign

Multi Channel

Think you can do without print? Or do without marketing through electronic channels?

Think again.

According to a 2008 study by InfoTrends, more than 200 marketers who were surveyed reported an improvement of 35% for multi-channel campaigns (print, e-mail, web landing page) over single channel print-only campaigns. Personalization further improved campaign performance: marketers reported an average improvement of close to 50% for personalized multi-channel campaigns over print-only campaigns.

It is interesting to note that using single-channel electronic media is not as effective as the multi-channel approach either. More channels elicit greater response than single channel marketing.

How can you create a multi-channel campaign? One example is to send a postcard that invites recipients to a URL, then send a follow-up thank you e-mail for visiting. Or invite people to your website where they can select various product or service options, and send a follow-up brochure or e-mail based on their interests. You can utilize the power of social media too — provide a discount or other incentive on Facebook with a link to a URL, ask the visitor to act (buy now, more information, etc.) then follow-up with an e-mail or mailing. The more consistency in your marketing message and the appearance of your print, web, and e-mail design, the better. Be sure to create as cohesive a look as you can.

For more than 60% of those surveyed, multi-channel campaigns improved response rate and customer acquisition, retention, and satisfaction. An increase in sales conversion was also noted. The bottom line improved with increases in overall revenue, profitability and sales. Another plus? Nearly half of those surveyed reported a reduction in the cost per lead.

rickard company website

Rickard Company Website

I've been working on a new identity for Rickard Company, a construction company focused on Commercial Renovation and Repair.

The job began with a new logo—something simple and straightforward that reflected the company's focus on commercial renovation. A bit of embossing was added to the logo letteringto give it a raised, metal feel. A business card was designed from the logo with a blueprint background, embossed lines, and pertinent information.
Rickard Business Card
The header for the website reflects the look of the business card. Red accents were added to contrast with the blue / gray theme and to allow certain information - like the contact phone number to stand out. On the back end, a site map, browser and description information, and keywords will help with Search Engine Optimization. In the future, we'll be adding photographs and more information to round out the site!

in the boneyard


I was on a mission to shoot a couple of other subjects in Provincetown, but because it was a gray, windy, foggy, cool, somewhat drizzly morning, I thought it would be an opportune time to spend an hour in the cemetery.

It also proved convenient that a friend was visiting a resident of the assisted living facility in town. The assisted living facility is located across the street (Alden) and beside the graveyards. (Yes, you read that correctly.) One car, two keys, and I had shelter from any sudden downpours.

I decided to play around with using a Canon digital SLR with an available pinhole body cap (actually for an old Pentax) held over the body in place of the lens. There were the inevitable goof ups and light links, possibly a stray finger, and movement aplenty, but the point was to just shoot down and dirty and quick and get a soft look with some ghosting effects. I decided not to worry about the many dust critters that were also revealed as I felt they added a little "je ne sais pas quoi".

This was definitely easier than carting around the homemade pinhole "one shot" cameras I made while taking a class at the FAWC (Fine Arts Work Center) some years back. I could more easily adjust the exposure time and determine if I had captured what I had meant to by checking out the LCD display on the back after I took the shot.

I shot them in color. For this blog, I decided to make only the following adjustments in Photoshop: a black and white adjustment layer for all three, and I brought back the color in the beads around Mabel's headstone. Other than that, I decided to just keep the pics "as shot" - no extra processing.

headstones in a line
cemetery path

quackin' up

duck race
The Neponset Valley Sunrise Rotary Club is getting ready for the annual Duck Race on the Charles. The Club will be selling ducks at local supermarkets over the next few weekends and you can adopt a duck by going to Many business sponsorships are also available. The event will support many local and international charities and it promises to be LOTS of family fun.

To produce this flyer, I chose a template that I've used for other Rotary events, but I wanted to inject a bit of fun into it. I reversed the template by moving the gradient to the bottom (rather than the top) and left the top open and white. The blue gradient on the bottom also helped create the feeling of the ducks floating on water. I got my hands on a rubber duck, shot a quick picture in my office, spiffed the duck up in Photoshop, added a drop shadow and pulled it into the In Design layout.

One duck looked a little lonely so I added a couple of others to make it look more like a race. I played around with object effects until I got a look I liked. Red and yellow text was used to draw more attention to the flyer. I added an outline to some of the text to help it stand out more, and added a few effects to some of the text as well. For another marketing tool, I created a a Facebook Duck Race on the Charles page and used a piece of the layout (the Duck Race on the Charles text and the duck heads) for the profile photo.

Duck Race 1 PDF

return of the puzzle

program cover
Last month I used AV Bros Puzzle Pro once again for a program/ad booklet. The booklet was made for the Neponset Valley Sunrise Rotary Club's first annual Service Above Self Award. The Award was presented to the Challenger Program at a dinner to boost awareness of and to benefit the program and other Rotary charities. The Challenger Program in Norwood provides sports programs for intellectually and physically challenged youth. Eighteen years ago they began with Little League Baseball and have grown to include football, soccer, and basketball programs for Norwood and surrounding Neponset Valley towns. Steve Grogan, Patriot's Hall of Famer, was the keynote speaker, and the athletes that attended were delighted that he signed their programs.

In putting the booklet together, I began by reviewing digital photos that were provided by the Challenger Program. I knew I would need at least six (for a six piece puzzle, two columns, three rows) and that I wanted to represent every activity the program supported—including skating activities. I also chose a few extra photos so that I had alternates at hand. I knew the cover area would be 8.5 x 5 and created a document in Photoshop that would fit approximately within the parameters of the final layout (there is actually a quarter inch white space around the picture to the right).

Color choices of blue and yellow fit well with the Rotary logo and Challenger uniform colors. I filled the background layer with blue and added a layer with a yellow star pattern. After several adjustments to both layers the stars were faintly visible in between the photos and the background framed the collage. Since I knew I would use the puzzle splitter, I placed the photos carefully in a grid to retain a more or less complete photo within each puzzle piece. I managed to fit seven pictures in, combining a football player with football teammates in the second row, column 2.

When the collage was split with the Puzzle Pro filter, adjustments were made to the tabs for a better overall look. I pulled the pieces out into five files, created clipping paths, converted to eps and placed them in the (Quark) layout. Text was then added and the text and images were arranged for this final look.

happy cinco de mayo

To celebrate Cinco de Mayo, I thought it would be fun to take a look at fonts designed by typeface designers in Mexico. The 2010 Type Directors Club award winners includes Cristobal Henestrosa of Mexico City. Cristobal's revival typeface, Espinosa Nova, is based on types used by Antonio de Espinosa, a Mexican printer of the 16th century. The typeface is number six on the TDC list. (Another winner, Deliscript, was recently showcased by For a list of Mexican (or Mexican inspired) typeface designers and a few typeface samples, you can visit the Mexico Font Scene.

If you’d like to see some modern Mexican graphic design, check out this sampling on Blog of Francesco Mugnai. The blog features Mexican design that they deem the "world's best."

lorem ipsum whatum?

When creating design mock-ups of websites, newsletters, brochures, ads and just about any other material that includes text, designers often use a filler text—Lorem Ipsum. Lorem is a dummy text used by printers and typesetters since the 16th century; the current standard form was most likely developed in the 1960’s. The text makes a great content placeholder because it has good letter distribution, looks like readable text, and pulls a client’s focus to the overall design and away from the meaning of the text.

The currently used standard Lorem Ipsum text reads:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

There are many variations of “lorem ipsum” text, some humorous. There are also lorem text generators online where you can obtain generated text that should be free of meaning and embarrassing word choices/combinations. Many text generators can produce text in multiple paragraphs, bulleted lists, etc.

Lorem Ipsum text is said to have stemmed from a passage by Cicero, written in 45 BC, which makes its origins more than 2,000 years old. Richard McClintock, a Latin professor at Hampden-Sidney College in Virginia traced the words back to a text from 1.10.32-33 of Cicero’s de Finibus Bolorum et Malorum (roughly translates to On the Ends of Good and Evil), a treatise on the theory of ethics popular during the Renaissance. Lorem Ipsum text is not meant to have meaning and is not pure Latin text; words and letters from the Cicero passages have been omitted in the Lorem Ipsum text. To see the entire passage and the words and letters of Lorem Ipsum text that were pulled from it, you can visit ( also features a text generator.)

To read a 1914 translation of Cicero’s passages by H. Rackham, you can visit Wikipedia. It shows the major source of Lorem Ipsum highlighted in that translation to be read as follows:

“Nor again is there anyone who loves or pursues or desires to obtain pain of itself, because it is pain, but occasionally circumstances occur in which toil and pain can procure him some great pleasure. To take a trivial example, which of us ever undertakes laborious physical exercise, except to obtain some advantage from it? But who has any right to find fault with a man who chooses to enjoy a pleasure that has no annoying consequences, or one who avoids a pain that produces no resultant pleasure?”


comments function

Yesterday I uploaded my new site and transferred it to its new official home at After that was done, I added the JS-Kit for commenting. The Echo commenting has a lot of rich features, which I may take advantage of down the line. For now, however, I only enabled simple commenting. To test it out, I copied over the few comments from the old system. Seems to be working just fine.

Scrivo! website update

Well, my site sure has changed a bit from February. The site was built in RapidWeaver. I love the extra content areas provided by the template (seyDesign), and with the addition of the Stacks plug-in by YourHead software, I felt like I gained a lot more flexibility on the fly and the look of the pages really changed. I built in more news bits and an events section, and hope to keep up with my own site and change that content regularly.

While I do have to beef up the photography and design portfolios (particularly the design portfolio) and bring in some other samples there, I thought I would give this another review today and post as is for now. Sometimes a little distance and a break can help you refocus!

new Scrivo! site

scrivo web
Ahhh, another website design. Here I am at 8:00 pm reviewing old blog content and transitioning it over to my new blog.

I am extremely excited to be launching a new website. Over the last year I began to build websites with RapidWeaver and also began to learn Dreamweaver.

Website design marks the first time I will have used templates for design, but since I am more familiar with designing than coding, I thought I should take small steps. RapidWeaver, and the templates built for RapidWeaver, seemed like a good first step. New themes for RapidWeaver that are produced by seyDesign really have me excited since they have a lot of built-in customization, and I have begun building sample sites in Dreamweaver.

The template I am using for the new Scrivo! site is GiD3OUS, a theme by seyDesign. I wanted a natural, light, water / beach feel for the site without drifting too far away from my color scheme of blue/gray. Since I am redesigning all my material now, I'm sure there will be a lot of interplay before I settle on a look, and I plan to try different colors with my business card and letterhead.

I am indeed giddy to be producing a new website (and other identity materials) for Scrivo! — but I will be even more "GiD3OUS" when it is completed.

safehome custom construction website

Scrivo! created a logo and website for SafeHome Custom Construction. The website was launched mid-January and updates have been taking place all month. The client requested green and orange for a color scheme, so green was used as the primary color and orange as the accent. The colors are reminiscent of the colors of the Irish flag, keeping with the owner's Irish heritage.

SafeHome Custom Construction tackles a wide range of projects. A few of my favorites are the killer kitchens and bathrooms, some of which are featured on the website. In putting together the site, we wanted to showcase Gerry's amazing custom designs and woodworking skills, but also wanted to showcase his range – everything from residential to commercial to industrial. "Ain't no mountain high enough" to keep him from successful completion of a specialty project.

On the website, I used a variety of photos supplied by SafeHome. Many were installed as a flash photo display, but since flash is not SEO friendly and does not display on some browsers and smart phones, separate albums were created for kitchen and bath displays.

On the front page the smaller photos are linked to take viewers further into the site. Larger photos can be viewed within the photo albums.



The truth is rarely pure and never simple. - Oscar Wilde

Annual Report FrontAnnual Report back
I recently wrapped up an Annual Report for Ursuline. I had the chance to create a look with puzzle pieces, something I’ve always wanted to do. I used puzzle shapes in Photoshop CS4 (customizing them to suit each picture) and Puzzle Pro by AV Brothers to make the theme a fun reality. (front and back covers shown here).

Photoshop comes equipped with plenty of shapes and there are a few puzzle shapes included. First, I processed and formatted each photograph in Photoshop, leaving enough room around the subject to accommodate puzzle tabs and indents. Next, I selected the shape I thought would best fit the photo. That created a shape mask layer above the photo layer. I moved the photo layer up above the shape layer, changed the setting from normal to overlay, and voila, the picture appears in the shape. I customized shapes as necessary — rotating, scaling, or using the pen tool to add and delete anchor points and the selection tool to pull the indents and tabs where I wanted them. I also used the pen tool to create side and corner pieces for variety. Clipping paths were created and adjusted. A copy of the layered psd file was saved as an eps, ready to import.

I used Puzzle Pro to "cut" other photos and collages to create the look of several pieces fitted together. The cover was a collage created with Photoshop then processed with the Puzzle Pro filter and saved as a layered psd file so that I could pull the pieces apart. It was necessary to adjust the tabs and indents so that faces were not cut in half and to introduce more variety in the "cut" of each piece. I ended up importing those in separate files, then scrambled them across the page. The back cover is a reduced collage / puzzle intact, with a few "contact" pieces along the side.

I added similar bevels and depth to all the puzzle pieces within Photoshop and the Puzzle Pro filter, and added a drop shadow once they were imported into Quark to make them pop a bit on the page. I would now recommend adding a drop shadow in Photoshop for a smoother, worry free workflow.
Two page spread

Almost every page spread features a one column back photo (two page spread, right) - ice for the hockey player, grass for the field hockey player, pool water for the swimmer, a cello for the musician, etc... Any subhead on the left page picks up the color of the backing photo on the right side. Rules were in a gold tone, listings were set four-column on the left and two-column on the right page.

bashful baker website

bashful website
The Bashful Baker was overdue for a website change. Check out their new website, The website was designed with RapidWeaver, a great little program. I began with a template and customized it to suit the bakery.

I had a lot of fun putting the new Bashful website together on their new domain. In addition to their quality desserts and goodies being handcrafted using the finest ingredients, their desserts are fresh, so we decided to play around with that and the fact that they may not be all that “bashful.”

Writing copy for the bakery is always fun; while they are serious about their cakes and pastries, they have a wry sense of humor. While I don’t consider myself that much of a computer geek, the commentary on the contact page sprang from a spirited conversation about computers.

I shot the mini-pastries which debuted on the front page when I uploaded it this month. (Yeah, taking pictures of delicious pastries is a tough assignment, I know, but someone had to do it.) I also shot several other photos featured in the main content areas or sidebars of other pages; one of my favorites was the cocoa dusting on the tiramisu on the contact page. Many of the wedding cake photos were contributed by other wedding and event photographers.

In addition to the site, I created design pages using a custom background and photos that the bakers had on hand. We printed some up for their photo album and also downloaded many of the designs into a digital photo album they can use as a sales tool.


direct mail: reports of my death are greatly exaggerated

With the many marketing channels available, you may be overlooking, or underutilizing, one of your best advertising channels – direct mail.

There has been much talk about the death of direct mail. Yes, it is crucial to utilize less costly methods of advertising, such as a website, online social media, email marketing, etc., and to market to clients according to their preferences. However, most businesses can also benefit by using all the tools in their tool belts – including direct mail.

How can you use direct mail as part of your marketing mix and why should you?

Use direct mail to build awareness about your business. Direct mail can help drive people to your storefront and your website, where you can use other marketing channels to help “make the sale” and build lasting and profitable customer relationships.

Use direct mail for a marketing blitz. If you want to build awareness, and you have the budget, consider sending direct mail weekly or even twice a week for a month or more. If you emailed with that frequency, customers might be more apt to “unsubscribe” — but they will be less likely to make an effort to stop mailings. In the meantime, your target customer base will have become more aware of your business or brand.

Zig while others zag. While fewer companies are using direct mail, or using it less frequently, this makes it more likely that your marketing pitch will get through to your audience. Fewer pieces in the mailbox make your pitch more noticeable. Worried about your printed materials hitting the trash? Remember that emails are easily deleted too. And you can print on recycled paper to show some “green.”

Personalize your direct mail. Think direct mail is not personal enough? Think again. Variable-data printing allows companies to use purchase history databases to personalize everything from postcards and letters to catalogs.

Use direct mail to sustain current customer relationships. Offer discounts or special services in your direct mail as a call to action. Or include a bookmark, refrigerator magnet or some other item that keeps your name in front of customers. You can’t do that with email!

Direct Mail is not dead, but single channel communication IS. You should not rely on one single marketing channel to get through to everyone you target. When you take a look at your entire marketing mix, consider how direct mail can factor in and use it to your advantage.

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