Mask Off

Haven't posted in a while and I also haven't photoshopped like this in a while.

What do you guys think? Referencing Mask Off by Future. Did I take this too literally or too far?

Feel free to comment.

Mask Off

Mask Off

Bill Giovani

So last week I met Bill-Giovani who is an instagrammer that has a good following especially considering he only started February of this year. We met up and talked tips on how to improve my IG game and took some photos too.

Top tips:

1. Comment on photos that you genuinely like. 

2. Engage with followers and the people you follow.

3. Keep your feed consistent.

Among many things one can do to increase the presence on IG, these are the take aways I got from our conversation. Feel free to follow him at @billgiovani

Bill can be an HM model too

Portrait Manipulation

Not all of my portraits are natural. In fact I often enjoy the occasional fixer upper of a portrait. Besides a little bit of skin editing through the popular high frequency technique ,which I learned by watching youtube videos and Pratik Naik, I also manipulate backgrounds when needed. Although a portrait session can come with many useable photos, there are those that would've been perfect if only a few things were different. Below are examples of those portraits.

Obviously, the closer you get to the finished product in camera the better but sometimes photoshop can be really helpful. That being said, no finished image is truly filter free or had some kind of manipulation done to it, whether its just a slight tweak or a background check. 

Curtis Wilder

This is Curtis Wilder. We met through the Overlap App and on very short notice too. He posted on Wednesday afternoon and we scheduled for a Thursday morning shoot. We were both excited about it and I hadn't really planned a place to shoot so off the top of my head I told him to meet at Union Market D.C. which is a place Jahns Chavez showed me once before. I hadn't really scouted the area so I came in 30 minutes ahead of scheduled meet up to scout. I have to say, always scout the area before the shoot even if you think you know it. Scouting ahead of time made the shoot go by smoother than and calmed my nerves. We shot in different locations within walking distance of the Union Market but we started right in front of it, even using an old parking ticket booth and a stairwell in a parking lot.

Curtis is an up and coming model and I won't be surprised if he ends up in a magazine some time soon. He very photogenic and easy to talk to and direct. We had a fun time and took lots of photos. All shot in natural light and within two hours that had a dramatic difference temperature as well as weather. Without further ado, here they are.

First few shots of the day

First of many head shots

Ever so slightly out of focus face. Makes me wanna switch to Sony for the face detect feature.


Found a nice old blue car to pose with

Again, makes me want to switch to Sony. Canon 6D has a hard time focusing while moving.

The quiet portrait

This one could be an ad if you put type and branding on the top right.

Besides all the miss focused shots I'd say it went really well and I am really happy with the results. But if anyone wants to donate a Sony A7R II to me I would really appreciate it.

Portraits Around Baltimore

I recently went out with Bill and Felipe to Baltimore with Bill's niece Meg and his friend Cathleen to shoot some portraits. Meg and Cathleen are some cool people. Cathleen is the more bubblier and energetic person while Meg was the more youthful but disciplined one. 

Every time I've been out with Bill and friends has been a good learning experience. Apart from continuing to learn how to shoot naturally lit portraits, I've been learning how to interact with models and clients. Can't say I'm great at it yet but without further ado here are the resulting images. Criticism is welcome.

This is Meg

The most graceful face-plant ever or as some call it, the chin stand.

On the car ride there we tried doing a high five and I missed which made her laugh a lot and oddly very quietly too. Afterwards, I learned that if you look at the elbow during a high five you will never miss, unless you look at the wrong elbow.

This is Cathleen

She is a natural at modelling

Sun flares were real

It may not look like it but she asked to be photographed with this particular mural.

These two goof balls

This tall goof ball

And this niece goof ball

Baltimore isn't so bad if you know where to look and we ended up walking around more than we thought we would. But it was a fun day which ended with ice cream and street music and great photos!

Mixed Lighting Portraits

Had the opportunity to photograph Howard Kohn and Adrian Baez with the help of my friend Aron Coste who I met at a soccer/futsal meet up a year ago. They are the leaders of a kids soccer camp in Takoma Park that has been around for more than 20 years. I wish I had a soccer camp to go to growing up but I am glad these gentlemen are providing this opportunity for the kids in their community.

For lighting I brought in an Orlit RT-610 I bought from Adorama with a portable 40" beauty dish I got from B and H. It was a semi cloudy morning around 9 AM and the sun was around 30-40 degrees from the horizon already. I had the sun behind them and the light at a 45 degree angle downwards and from the side. I left the strobe on TTL to test out its capabilities as this was my first time trying the feature out. I also had it on high sync to cut down the ambient light.

Howard Kohn on the left and Adrian Baez

Posing more than one person is still a challenge for me especially when I try to make it as quick as possible as to not waste their time. In hindsight I could've taken a little more time posing Mr. Baez. Maybe have him cross his arms and twist to the side a little. Comment below on how you'd pose them. Critique is welcome here.

During the shoot I found out that Mr. Kohn worked for the Rolling Stones Magazine and has been in a group photo shoot directed by the legendary Annie Leibovitz whom I admire so much. He had a great story about her jumping into a pool just to get that everybody looking in that one group shot and it worked out fantastically. In a sense I photographed the same person that she did and that connection, though very far removed, makes me happy.

Aron Coste

It was a quick 10 minute portrait session as they had to start the drills soon but I think it worked out well especially considering I was also testing out new equipment. Thanks to Aron who asked me to do this. Did not expect an opportunity like this to come from a person I met a year ago at a soccer meet up. This just goes to show that you'll never know where chances come from and it pays to know a good amount of people. 

Window Lighting Headshots

So the past week for me has been a struggle with the sleep cycle and trying to be healthy and so it affected my creative drive. Nevertheless I will be faithful about my weekly post. I was at a Conference event called the YA Summit by the Columbia Union Conference and during the event my editor Michelle Bernard asked me to do some headshots for some of the interviews she did. So without further ado, here they are.



The conference rooms were horrible in regards to lighting so I found a big window in a small nook in one of the hallways. The space was small but was perfect for a single headshot. These were taken an hour apart but the lighting was consistent because the light wasn't shining directly into the window. When I finally get to run my own studio I'll make sure there's a big window. I know some people will notice they are wearing their lanyards still and I admit I missed that when I was taking their photo. Also, I was tired cause I was running around capturing the events and had bad sleep so I think I can't be too picky about that.

Visitor Magazine

Visitor Magazine is a magazine based in Columbia, Maryland that writes articles for the Columbia Union Conference and the Adventist Church. They cover events and stories within the Adventist community especially within its conference. I was given the opportunity to shoot the cover for their April Issue. The story for the cover is about an after school Jiu Jitsu class hosted by some people from the church. Find the Visitor Magazine for the full story. Also, the person on the cover is Kayla Dehm, a classmate from college. Small world.

This is the cover photo for the April Issue of Visitor Magazine.

Here it is on my desk.

This would be my first magazine cover outside of college and I am pretty proud of it. This would not have been possible were it not for a friend in Philadelphia who used to shoot for the Visitor but got too busy, Krystal Irrgang. She was offered a job before this one with the Visitor but wasn't able to do it because of other important things she needed to do and referred them to me. I was glad she did cause it gave me an opportunity and a start to a great relationship with the Visitor.

A lot of opportunities comes from the people you know. It's a line I hear over and over again but it's true. Sometimes you never know who it'll come from but you'll be glad to have met that person so much more when it does.

Collaborate and Learn

Jahns invited me to go on a shoot with him and I accepted with confidence. On the day of the shoot we went around D.C. with two fashion bloggers; Sydney and Alexandra. They also happen to be friends and take the same classes. They were fun people and I learned a lot from everybody in the group. We had a good time and took good photos. More than anything I learned that social interaction is a skill too. Jahns is particularly good at it especially since he has been doing this for a while too. Also, natural light portraits is way different than studio sessions. It requires a lot more wit socially and much more engagement physically and mentally. It was definitely an experience I needed and am planning to do more.

Anyway, I know you want to see the photos so here are the ones I took. There are some BTS photos too. If you want to check out Jahns' photos go to his IG at @jahnschavez.

Sydney is the taller one.

That wind though.

Here are some BTS photos of Jahns doing his thing. You can really learn by observing and tagging along with this guy. He's a great photographer and a good person. He allows you to do your own thing and learn rather than telling you to do things a certain way.


If there was a fashionable camera bag that I would actually want to own it would be a Langly. They're simple but also functional and can carry more than just a few lenses. The Simple Bag  with the insert is a perfect bag for my dream travel kit. The Pro would be best for everything I want in my kit with the added tripod strap. If you want to check out their products go here.

Anyway, here are some pictures with Jahns Chavez and his Simple Bag from Langly. Check out his work here.

This took a few tries. 

The bag carries more than it looks.

I think I want to incorporate more movement in my work. I realized this when I was talking to Heidi, my beautiful girlfriend, about her homework for her art history class. The way she explained that Baroque Art always involved movement made me realize that it was what I am missing and what made a lot of pictures unique.

Local Author

Decided to learn more about my own town so I went around Laurel looking for the only coffee shop that isn't Starbucks. I found it 30 minutes before it closed and didn't expect to find anyone there but the owners. To my surprise there was an author exhibiting her new book. I actually didn't notice them first. They noticed my intimidating camera and asked me if I was a professional photographer and I said yes. I decided to join them at their table to chat as I waited for my coffee. Turns out they needed my services. I decided to ask her for her portrait for my blog and continued discussing our business. Penny J. Little. She's an engineer turned author that recently wrote about overcoming pain and how to think about it differently.

Penny J. Little, Author

Penny J. Little, Author

I got lucky that day. She decided she wanted me to do her headshot and other things for her website. I went around for coffee and ended up with a business opportunity.

One thing I learned about being lucky though is that you have to at least try to put yourself in a position that makes it easier for you to get lucky. I know it is easier said than done but it's kind of like trying to get hit by lighting; you have to at least be in a thunderstorm to have a chance.

Overlapp App

So I use this app called Overlap and it's for creative collaboration with the people around you. It's a new app and involves meeting new people which I eventually did after a few weeks of being on the app.

Almost looks like we were somewhere else

Alex Mangionne

Stephanie Smith

Met up with Stephanie and Alex on Thursday, had coffee, and then went about to shoot portraits. The portraits I took were in the botanical garden in DC. Alex and Stephanie are some cool people. Alex is a coffee barista and a photographer. Stephanie is a graphic designer. We hung out a bit and after a few hours we went our ways.

If you want to check out their work go here for Alex and here for Stephanie.

More Street Portraits

Old Town Alexandria is a perfect place for beginning street portraits. People are friendly so you barely get rejected, the town is picturesque so its hard to get a bad photo here, and it's full of places to relax afterwards. 

Guy G. Jones, Pen and Ink Artist.

Felipe and I wondered around the old Torpedo Factory turned artist hub and found lots of interesting pieces and people. Had a good conversation with Guy in his studio and decided to take a quick portrait of him. He apparently is used to people asking for his photo and it didn't really bother him. Something about being in the same creative art boat makes it easier for both parties. 

Guy creates images using the Ink and Pen as his primary tools. It takes patience and skill for this type of art and it really is amazing how much detail goes into just one of these pieces. Check out his work here.

I found a photo student. That's Felipe in the background.

The lighting that day was easy to work with.

Right outside the factory there's a dock area. Wondered around and found a photo student who was taking photos for an assignment. Don't blame her for using Nikon, it was her school's camera choice. 

They almost look like a Father Daughter Combo

Found a friendly fire station and had another good chat with them and took portraits as well. They were good people and pointed us to a coffee shop afterwards. I couldn't find it and it was getting dark quick so I just settled for Starbucks.

Old Town Alexandria is a great place for street portraits and I definitely need to go back and do more here. Maybe next time I'll try to do some posed portraits of some of the artists and maybe even some street folks.

I think I'm getting comfortable with street portraits which is good. I am also getting a little more picky with who I ask to photograph because let's be honest, not everyone walking around is ready for a portrait.

Jahns and Amanda

This week I decided to go shoot some portraits in DC but did not know a good spot so I used the Overlap App to ask the creatives in the area where to go for a shoot. My friend Jahns suggested the Botanical Gardens right beside the Capitol. I invited him to come and he said he'd bring his model friend along. I went ahead and practiced some street portraits before they arrived. There were lots of people that day and lots of tourists too. Which means I got a lot of tourist shots of people smiling and such so I decided not to post those. Anyway, once they arrived I was introduced to Amanda. We quickly went around and started shooting in the different rooms of the garden. Each room had its own lighting and created a different mood.

The cactus room reminds me of a desert scene somewhere in Arizona

The orchid room looks like a forest setting

One of my favorite portrait backgrounds is water

I love how different the shots can be even if they were all done within 2 hours and in a relatively small area. The last shot was done right before we left as we were heading to the parking lot. There is a pool of water in front of the Capitol building. One of my favorite shots for portraits is having the water for a background by stand over the model and shooting down into the water. It's the same thing I did for Rafael's portrait a couple of weeks ago. 

Overall it was refreshing to work with another young photographer and a model that can move on her own. Thanks Jahn and Amanda for the fun afternoon!

If you want to check out Jahns Chavez's work click here:

His IG is:

Here are some BTS.

Street Portraits with Bill

So Bill (William Petruzzo) was itching to go out and do some street portraits one day and invited me to come along. It's been a while since I last did street portraits so I was glad for the invite. We went to the Yards in D.C. for some street portrait practice.

Fancy footwork helps build rapport between photographer and subject.

Bill looks like a giant here.

The further you lean, the better the shot.

The last time I did street portraits in downtown D.C. was in the summer. It was a slightly different experience since it was tourists all over the mall and I had a sign that said "Free Portraits" with me at all times. The sign made me seem credible for some reason and made it easier for strangers to approach me and ask about it. This time Bill and I only had our friendly personalities to work with and a bit of luck.

I was nervous. It's been a while since I asked a stranger for a portrait. I tried to calm down before but it didn't go away until the first interaction which went nicely. I met Patrick first a friendly guy who lives and works around the area.

We held a decent conversation, I gave him my card, and thanked him for his time. Now I was confident enough for the rest of the time to go by easier. It was good being uncomfortable. It forces me to learn to adapt and change a bit. Conquering discomfort is proof of progress for me.

The rest of the time went by better but the place wasn't as full of people as we expected. It was one of those sunny warm days in the middle of winter season so people weren't out so much. But we went on our mission for the day.

Street portrait of a Korean couple

Modern Fashion

This is one of my favorite shots from the afternoon.

I loved the shadows and patterns here.

It was great shooting street portraits after a long time. Definitely great practice technically and socially. Really improves conversational skills and overall approachability.

As usual talking to Bill gave me thoughts to ponder upon and encouraging words too. I asked him about marketing and branding and he had good words for me. My personality can be a marketing tool and is much more important than branding. Paraphrased of course but it wasn't something I realized. I always thought my logo was really important and it can be but at this point it isn't.

I learned a few things from that afternoon. The first thing is that my personality can be a lot more important than I think. Second is that being uncomfortable is necessary for progress. And lastly is that I tend to compose shots with too much headroom but thanks to Lightroom and the 20MP on my camera it isn't noticeable.

I challenge you to put yourselves in uncomfortable situations and see what you can do.