Hitting the Jackpot as a Jacksonville Commercial Photographer.

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As a child, I was always fascinated with photoshop. At age 14 I asked my dad to purchase me a book about it. I believe it was adobe photoshop 7 if I remember correctly. I was creating composites by the age of 15 in high school art class. One of the very first composites I ever created was giving George W. Bush a massive beard from images I downloaded off the internet. (To this day I would give anything to find that image.)

I would go to see my favorite movie in the theater. As I walked in I would gaze upon the epic movie posters, and analyze them. I often wondered what kind of person creates such masterpieces. How did they get so lucky to create something this beautiful? Where did they acquire the skill set? How did they find the opportunity to be a part of something so vast?

Im the goofy kid on the left with a bald head and thumb up. 

Im the goofy kid on the left with a bald head and thumb up. 

In the midst of my nerdy child hood obsession with photoshop, I never thought to actually make composites out of images I had taken myself. Around the age of 19 I landed an extremely well paying job at Citi bank. I was the youngest in my department by far, and of course I was young and inexperienced with life. I thought I was set forever so I decided to make the irresponsible decision of purchasing the most expensive camera I could find just for the heck of it. I never had any specific project in mind, I just wanted to buy myself something cool for Christmas. After playing around with my camera and eventually using it for something other than silly house party beer pong photos, it naturally clicked "Wait a minute! I can actually create stuff out of images I take myself!"

My job at Citi bank was to take inbound calls and talk clients out of canceling their accounts by counter offering them with lower interest rates, balance transfers, and increases in credit lines. I quickly learned the importance of retaining clients and started to develop the gift of gab. People would call to close their account and before you knew it I had them paying off their car loans or remodeling their kitchen with that exact account. I, however, spent most of my time studying the fundamentals of photography through books, and online resources as well as advanced photoshop techniques. I still remember to this day my boss walking by my cubical and looking at all the notes and papers tacked to my cubical walls shaking his head at my obsession.

I went through several phases as a young person with a camera. In the very beginning, I was just like any other new photographer. You think you're only as good as your latest image. I started out photographing people who wanted to be swimsuit models, photoshopping their faces into oblivion and giving them the "plastic skin" look all while considering other photographers as "competition".

This is the first self portrait i've ever captured in my life. I was 19

This is the first self portrait i've ever captured in my life. I was 19

Years later, you get to a point to where you realize that other photographers and artists are not competition. Because no one can be you, or do you like you. You eventually develop a style, and if you keep at it, your personality will start to show through your images. People still to this day ask me why I'm so willing to "give my secrets" or help other artists so much. Well, It's because the more you help them the more you learn about yourself. And if they're doing nothing but copying you, they will always be a step behind. There's an unexplainable wonderful feeling helping someone find themselves as an artist. 

A self portrait I created when I was 24. I was starting to grasp the fundamentals of composites using images I captured myself. This is an escalator I captured from the avenues mall. 

A self portrait I created when I was 24. I was starting to grasp the fundamentals of composites using images I captured myself. This is an escalator I captured from the avenues mall. 

"Burn Cards" - A frame composite self-portrait created after years of experience. I understand the importance of light, colors, and artistic vision. Created at age 29.

"Burn Cards" - A frame composite self-portrait created after years of experience. I understand the importance of light, colors, and artistic vision. Created at age 29.

After 10 years of being in the photography industry, my daily life was just like any other entrepreneur. I would work a day or night job,(Currently with BestBet) investing every dime of the money I had into marketing, gear, and production tools, as well as traveling across the country to meet some of my most influential artists for the opportunity to learn all that I could from them. Even with all that going on I was still scheduling photo shoots during the day and doing all my post production on the weekends. When I wasn't doing client work I was pushing my skill set by creating self-portraits and learning new techniques every chance I got. Everyone around me followed my work regularly and I would often receive inquiries from the people I worked with to create images of them and their loved ones.

"The Suckout"

"The Suckout"

This was pretty much my standard lifestyle. Working two jobs, unable to pursue and invest in my passion full time because I was either too scared to make the jump, or investing too much of my time working for someone else. People would always question me at work like "What are you doing here? How are you not doing photography full time?". That dream always seemed slightly far-fetched. It affected my relationships, my health, and I sometimes even wondered if I should quit. I think the only reason I never quit was that I imagined myself as an old man on my death bed contemplating the life I lived. I knew I would regret not trying hard enough, not failing hard enough, and I didn't want to go out like that.

I eventually came to the realization that sometimes failing is the best thing that can happen to you. So I continued, I pushed harder, and I never gave up. I talked about it every day. I shared my love for the field with everyone I knew. I was developing important connections across the country, and I was making more money than ever. However, I was just barely under what I needed to quit, and pursue it full time without the fear of sinking.

Then, one day out of the blue, I received a text from one of the most amazing people I know in the poker industry. Her name is Allie "McDeal". She was the one who actually taught me how to perform the day job I was currently working. She asked me to do some photography for her because BestBet Jacksonville was filming a commercial. She is a great friend, and one of the reasons I had my job in the first place. So without a doubt, I was going to create images for her.

As I was capturing images in between the video commercial takes, the marketing director casually approached me and asked me if I was doing the images just for that day, or if I wanted to be contracted for the website as well. When he said, that my heart sank with excitement. I knew that this was an important stepping stone. Composing myself the best I could, I just simply replied: "I'd love to be contracted for the website and promotional images." Then, I immediately regretted how under dressed I was. That's pretty much how I received my first big Jacksonville Commercial Photography Contract for the Multi Million dollar company BestBet.

 

This was one of the biggest Commercial Photography jobs I've ever been assigned. I was actually kind of nervous. Especially coming from an intense Fine Art Photography background that was heavily ingrained into my style for years. To give myself the right mindset, I would often remind myself that I knew the industry like the back of my hand. I know what relates to customers. I deal with them almost every day(no pun intended). I know what's important, and believe it or not, I may very well be the best person in Jacksonville for this Commercial Photography contract.

"A Jack of All Trades"

"A Jack of All Trades"

I learn something new about photography and about myself from every single photo shoot I do. One of the things I learned doing this specific Commercial Photography job, is I have it mentally engrained in me to try to create some of the most complex, and astonishing images. I'm the kind of photographer that's used to spending hours creating one image out of multiple images. Making sure it's perfect in every way before being gloriously printed with a premium finish, was the norm. Applying effects, lighting, layers, and paying special attention to colors and how they affect the viewer's mindset, was part of my standard work flow.

In Fine Art Photography, it's your job to meet the viewer half way and break into their imagination. For this specific Commercial job, I had to break free of the mindset that the more complex and harder the image is to create, the better it is. Also, one of my best teachers in the Fine Art world taught me the importance of having a consistent style, and not to sacrifice that for the sake of a client.

In the Commercial Photography world, things are completely different, almost the direct opposite. What's most important when doing Commercial Photography isn't the texture of an image, it isn't the layers, dust, or conveyed feeling from a muted color pallet. What's most important is capturing what matters, and how a typical person will view it for a split second. It needs to make the viewer want to be a part of that industry or activity. What's important is how it affects your clients brand and their brand representation. Making their brand feel "special" and not just another poker room, and capturing the over all vibe and feeling was extremely important. Finding the businesses overall feel and message to their client, and summing it up perfectly in one frame was the goal.

Pick up any magazine, and look at the images. The colors are bright, not muted like in fine art. The lighting is sharp yet soft, and more often than not you want to be that person, or be in their position. You want to know more about what ever it is they are holding, featuring, doing, or wearing. You want to feel the excitement of winning! (That's the goal anyway!)

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BestBet Jacksonville really is an amazing poker room. They offer almost all forms of poker, parimutuel gaming, and they're consistently looking out for the best interest of the players. Working there I would regularly hear players from other states and even from other countries talk about how well and professionally run the room is. Not only is the staff super friendly and respectful, they have some of the most knowledgeable people in the industry behind the scenes creating an atmosphere for all walks of life to enjoy.

Ultimate Texas hold'em. One of the most popular table games that is featured currently at BestBet.

Ultimate Texas hold'em. One of the most popular table games that is featured currently at BestBet.

The para-mutuals is state of the art at BestBet featuring huge multi screened televisions and personalized desk seating. 

The para-mutuals is state of the art at BestBet featuring huge multi screened televisions and personalized desk seating. 

They have had some of the best sushi in Jacksonville from the very beginning. It is rumored that BestBet acquired some of the best sushi during the early days when the owner first opened the poker room. He enjoyed sushi so much, he actually had a personal sushi chef make sushi for him at the room while working, and was kind enough to start making it for the players that asked. It was history from there, and the room was never the same without it.

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BestBet also has some of the sweetest, most down to earth, cocktail waitresses who are beautiful inside and out. They truly understand the importance of "the game" and don't disturb you while you're in the middle of an intense poker decision, yet they know how to check up on you regularly. The one on the very right, her name is Sunshine. She has a love for doing boudoir photography. Every cocktail waitress has something special and unique to bring to the table. 

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BestBet features multiple locations that offer a truly unique experience. BestBet Orange Park has live greyhound racing, and an all you can eat buffet that's perfect for any date night. 

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BestBet is one of the biggest poker rooms on the East Coast. It has tons of action on a regular basis. It is the home of massive circuit tournaments. This includes the world renowned WPT (World Poker Tour). People from all over the world travel to play in these tournaments, and have had several high profile poker players play in the room from Phil Helmuth, Jamie GoldDaniel Negreanu, and more. 

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I received one of the best gifts on my birthday. When I was driving home I saw a huge billboard on the side of Atlantic Blvd. It happened to be a billboard for BestBet, and it was featuring an image that I captured on it. I also occasionally see images that I created featured in poker player magazines. Yeah yeah, I know, big deal right? Well, for someone who grew up as a kid wondering how photographers got the opportunity to create such images, it feels kinda cool to be able to say that an image I captured is finally on a billboard. 

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In conclusion, I find it ironic that one of the easiest images I've ever captured ended up on a billboard. Considering the fact that I spent years studying advanced techniques, I grew up thinking that the more technically advanced an image is the better the chances of it being published. When in all reality, sometimes you just need a little bit of luck. Sometimes you just need to explore the world and be in the right place at the right time. Maybe that's why the game of poker hasn't changed for years, yet is still played by millions of people world wide. There's a famous quote that I occasionally hear poker players say from time to time. "I'd rather be lucky than good." 

O yeah, BestBet has some of the best humans in the world working for them. They are hands down, the best community of loving individuals I've ever experienced. I truly do consider them my work family. Here are some of the images I created along my life journey with them. 

Earth and Water - A Fine Art Maternity Session

Earth and Water - Saint Augestine Fine Art Maternity

Earth and Water - Saint Augestine Fine Art Maternity

Meet Deanna. She is someone who grew up around the same area as me but we never really met each other. I'm not sure how she exactly found me. But she has followed my work and progress as a conceptual photographer for years tho. And would often save my work and use my art and creations as her own background images, cover images, etc. We also share a few things in common. We both love Fine Art Photography, and we both are cancers. So naturally when she came back to Jacksonville it was the perfect chance for us to do a Fine Art Maternity Session for her and her spouse. 

 

A Cancers Earth Child - Saint Augestine Fine Art Maternity

A Cancers Earth Child - Saint Augestine Fine Art Maternity

Since Deanna has been following my work for a little while now she kinda knew I had a thing for long flowy dresses. She kinda already knew where my head was at before we even had the session. I usually merge a dress together in post for my clients. But she was ahead of the game and purchased this amazing beautiful blue dress. That not only flowed beautifully in the wind. The colors matched the feeling and vibe of the images perfectly and gave the images a beautiful color scheme. Like I said. Deanna is a of the Cancer birth sign and blue is always a good color of choice for us. 

Peaceful Waters - Jacksonville Conceptual Maternity

Peaceful Waters - Jacksonville Conceptual Maternity

A Lovers Kiss - Jacksonville Fine Art Maternity

A Lovers Kiss - Jacksonville Fine Art Maternity

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Why you can be anything you can imagine.

A gaze into the force

A gaze into the force

Have you ever imagined yourself doing a photo shoot in your head? You come up with a fresh new idea and the way you imagine it gives you goose bumps. You are amped as well as nervous over something not turning out or working the way you expected. (Light not working, props look cheesy, ect) Well my shoot last week went exactly as planned and I could not have been happier. The moment I took the first shot I knew that everything was going to be ok and we were going to get something not only epic but something that Star Wars fans alike could appreciate as well. 

Love and Light

Love and Light

Meet Jason and Lindsy! They are huge Star Wars fans just like countless other fans across the world! They are very much a kid at heart just like me, as well as Disney fanatics and are expecting a new baby boy. And I am very excited for them. I am obsessed with Star Wars and I have wanted to do something Star Wars related. And when I met them. I knew they would be the perfect couple.

A Mother Guided By the Force

A Mother Guided By the Force

One of my biggest fears of the photo session was to have the images turn out cheesy. I wanted a dark conceptual feel to it. In the Star Wars Universe you hardly ever just see.... Grass, lol. Or... Random Pine trees. I needed to find a place that almost felt like a new planet. Luckily for me I knew just the right spot if you take it at the right angle. I went to the beaches of Washington Oaks Park in Saint Augustine. The moment she turned on the lightsaber I took a test shot and looked at the back of my camera. I was instantly filled with excitement as I knew that everything was going to go perfectly. The less natural light I had the more epic the images were turning up to a certain point. And this is because of the light from the lightsaber. I would have her stand still and keep my shutter open to absorb the light from the lightsaber and give it that nice dramatic feel.

A Tremor in the Force

A Tremor in the Force

Lindsey is about 7 months pregnant. I wanted to give her something beautiful to hang in her nursery. So I created this image to symbolize her and her babies common connection and love for Star Wars. I want her son (Whos name is Mark Anikin!!!! Jealous!) to look at this huge epic image in the nursery growing up thinking that his mother is a true Jedi. I want it to spark his imagination giving him courage and bravery. Not only bravery to be a Jedi, but bravery and courage to be anything he wants or imagines even in his adult life. I believe the human imagination is the most powerful tool any human can have. And I hope his flourishes... May the force be with Mark...

Mother of the Stormcaller

Mother of the Stormcaller

Many children grow up stifled by negativity. Whether it be through step parents, or bullies at school. People who grow up with negativity tend to settle on things throughout their life. They grow up with the wrong impression. Tolerating painful relationships and situations when in fact they can be brave and go out and find their own happiness. I am not an expert on this but this is just what I have learned from personal experience. I think this is one reason why I love conceptual fine art photography so much. I can be whatever I can imagine. It is a release and escape from the negativity that I endured as a child. And through my work I have found bravery. Not only for myself but for my friends around me. I am finding the happiness that fills my life once more. I am alive and happy... And you too can be anything you can imagine....

Here is the process at which I use when it comes to making my images. I used cotton for clouds. A black sheet to create the dress. And my own lighting stock images that I took myself. (Taking photos of lighting is always fun!) ...Anyways Enjoy. And thank you for reading :)


 

The Secret Gardens of Washington Oaks Park.

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As a Fine Art Photographer of Jacksonville. This was one of the first times I've ever encountered Washington Oaks Park. It was amazing! It was beauty overload the entire day! I was inspired almost every corner I turned. The way the light reflected on the waters. The sound of the water streams. I even purchased flowers before I came to this conceptual portrait session only to find out that there were flowers more beautiful than I could have imagined in abundance all around the gardens. Just laying on the ground in the most beautiful peaceful way waiting for the taking. 

"Red Runs Deep"

"Red Runs Deep"

This was seriously one of the most exhilarating conceptual portrait sessions I've done in a long time. My imagination ran wild with the colors. I remember looking at this image straight out of the camera. The contrast of the red and the green was so beautiful to me. Nadine, my client, who has never really actually done a photoshoot before really know what to expect. I also did not want to direct her too much because I wanted her to be relaxed and natural in her images. In my head. I remember telling myself. Ok, my job today is to find the most beautiful aspects of her and exploit them and build a compelling conceptual imaginative story driven image. Little did I know everything this day was going to go perfectly.

"Roots Strong as Love"

"Roots Strong as Love"

Nadine has a love for trees, chocolate, and her daughters. Not to mention she is a nurse. I think thats why every time I visualized a concept for her images I could not get the color red out of my head. Luckly for us we found this... rose tree? No idea. But it has beautiful flowers growing in abundance none the less. They were also on the ground. Which made for great props for some of the previous photos on this post. I think the color red fits her passion and persionality well. 

"Love is Rare"

"Love is Rare"

Speaking of a fun shoot. We were on the verge of getting kicked out because we were staying a little too late. As the park keeper was riding by to make sure everyone was out. We immediately laid down in the grass and ducked for cover. It was one of those moments where you do not know if your going to get in trouble or kicked out for staying too late. Regardless. It was fun hiding from the guys riding around in golf carts.

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The Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens - A Hidden Gem for Photographers.

"Natures Gift"

"Natures Gift"

I have lived in Jacksonville Florida almost all of my life. Florida is not known for having beautiful mountains and waterfalls. In fact Florida can be pretty flat and boring. That being said, we do have beautiful forest, riverbeds, and streams. Let me also mention serene, secret forest parks. Among these places is the hidden gem called the Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens. This has been one of my favorite spots for the past two years and it is continuously improving and growing. The Arboretum used to be a landfill and dump, It's amazing how nature reclaimed the land. 

"Waiting for Ayden" pt2

"Waiting for Ayden" pt2

What makes the Arboretum and Gardens so special is its miles of beautiful trail and clear riverbed (yes I have went swimming in them before and have photographed several clients and models in them). The moment I start exploring I can see gaps in the tree line that project and filter light in the most whimsical ways. My dog Jack and I know this park like the back of his paw. I get to photograph amazing fine art maternity sessions here, making this place even more special. 

"Waiting for Ayden" pt3

"Waiting for Ayden" pt3

Speaking of maternity sessions. I had the pleasure of working for Micaela. Her and her partner are amazing people. Props to her partner for wanting to be part of the photoshoot and going all out and dressing sharp. He was very enthusiastic and fun to be around. He had a great attitude and was very encouraging and supportive, he is a great example of how fathers can be included in maternity sessions. As for Micaela I could tell she was having fun with the shoot. She really started getting into the shoot towards the end, with my help and her partner. She even sat on top of this beautiful tree being reclaimed by nature.  Micaela is someone who accepts nothing but the best. She is also very down to earth and real and I love her for it. In a way I feel like I learned a few things from her as a person. And I am honored to be her fine art conceptual photographer. 

"Waiting for Ayden" pt4

"Waiting for Ayden" pt4

As for beautiful places to photograph your clients in Jacksonville, Florida. I consider the Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens to be one of the best hidden gems in the city. Not just for a photography, but for just about any kind of outdoor adventure you can think of. There is always beautiful wildlife that  I encounter,  some of which have included a wild fox and a wild owl.  We actually heard the owl during our photoshoot! This owl is huge, bold, and not scared, he will stare at you and not even care. I assure you if you go to this park you will eventually meet him. I may even give him a name...

I captured the photo of this fox during a morning jog. I was extremely lucky to capture this photo. Because I rarely have my camera on me when I jog. 

I have plenty of photos of this guy... I see him all the time. Im trying to think of a cool name... How about McFeathersofdoom

Fine Art Maternity

5 Reasons To Do A Fine Art Maternity Session

1. Your children will believe you are part of an amazing story or fantasy. 

Children have the most amazing imagination. They believe in Santa Clause and his magical gift showering abilities. They believe the tooth fairy searches the globe for the missing teeth of children. They will believe that their mother is the light house for a fleet of antique ships voyaging through a mystical forest. I personally believe the imagination is one of the most powerful tools any human being can have. It’s never a bad idea to give it something to feed on.

Voyage Of The Unborn

Voyage Of The Unborn

2. Your images will be truly unique and mind blowing. 

Go head. Give it a try. Google "maternity photos.” You will be scrolling for a very long time until you find something similar to a fine art maternity image. Fine art photographers focus on quality over quantity, which in turns mean you may not get as many images as a typical standard shoot. However the images you do receive will most certainly be epic and have a spark of uniqueness and style to them.

A Light For The Unborn (pt2)

A Light For The Unborn (pt2)

3. Your prints will be have an astonishing amount of detail. 

Fine art photographers not only focus on creating amazing conceptual images, but we focus heavily on creating gallery edition prints. After all, selling prints is usually the base for a fine art photographer’s income. I enjoy giving my clients large quality prints with as much detail as possible. When you see the physical product, it really is astonishing. Here’s a little fact: computers and the web only show images at 72 pixels per inch, which diminishes some of the detail in the photos. Prints show detail at 300 pixels per inch, which means it shows the details that the web usually deletes, which means seeing the finish product as a print is always awesome.

A Light For The Unborn

A Light For The Unborn

4. Your photoshoot will be a blast!

Fine art photographers know where the most beautiful locations are! It’s part of our job! That includes magical forest, river beds, beach jetties, abandoned buildings, and just about any kind of cool location you can think of! Also, most fine art conceptual photographers refuse to pick up our camera unless we are inspired. Therefore, when we do end up doing a shoot, we are often emotionally invested and are extremely excited and happy to be bringing our imagination to life.

5. You will get to wear the coolest outfits and dresses.

Wearing a beautiful dress or outfit is generally pretty fun (unless you’re a guy, or maybe you’re into that kind of thing. haha). The cool thing about fine art photographers is that we are constantly on the hunt for vintage dresses and props/antiques that match our style. If we don't have something you like, at least it’ll give you an excuse to go shopping and find something you do like, which will also boost of confidence! If you still don't find one you like. I will make you one out of flowers, light bulbs, or book pages in photoshop. :)