Saturday, February 25, 2012

PPSOP Newsletter Featuring Yours Truly!

Late this week I received an email from Chris Hurtt, over at PPSOP (Perfect Picture School of Photography), saying that they wanted to include me as their featured photographer/student in their weekly mail out!  Super exciting, humbling, nerve wracking...

Anyone can sign up for PPSOP's weekly newsletter at their home page,, which includes photography tips and tricks from the varied and talented photogs teaching at PPSOP (if you like photography at all I would highly recommend this newsletter!).  Because I have a number of people in my life who are interested in me and my career but who aren't that into photography; I thought I would post what was included in the PPSOP email here... 

Open Quote:
"As we do every is time for a look at some student work and share some of their words about PPSOP.  This week we look at the work of Lori Maloney.  Lori started out as a workshop student and then stepped into PPSOP classes from there. To be honest, her energy level was hard to keep up with...but the great thing about it was that it was contagious in the classroom!  We have been thrilled to watch Lori grow her business ( ) and humbled that she counts PPSOP as part of her growth.   Lori's business is based in Calgary, Canada."

I have had a life long passion for photography, but it was in 2007 that I began to truly dedicate myself to understanding photography.  This was around the time that I purchased “Understanding Exposure” by Bryan Peterson.  This book taught me more than any other sole resource to that point (and I believe this still to be true if you don’t count being on a workshop with him!) and I was, as most people are, rather in awe of Mr. Peterson and his manner of making the technical seem easy!

In October of 2009 I decided to ‘hang a shingle’ and Bella Faccia Photography was born!  I love working with people and so I knew that providing portrait photography would be a perfect fit!  In the spring of 2010 I discovered that Bryan would be teaching a workshop in Edmonton, which is only a few hours drive away for me.  Due to an unforeseen set of circumstances Bryan was unable to teach the first two days of the workshop and so asked Chris Hurtt to attend in his place and then also extended the workshop by a day.  So, four days with two AMAZING and GIFTED instructors of photography…it was the best and most valuable workshop I’ve ever attended! 

Two of the things that I most appreciate, both in the workshops and in the PPSOP classes, are the camaraderie and learning you share with the other students.  It feels like a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience, only it needn’t be…I love attending Bryan’s workshops and the variety and depth of the PPSOP classes all contribute to strengthening the foundation I’ve put so much effort into building over the past 5 years.

Through Bella Faccia I have shot: engagements, weddings, maternity, newborns, babies, toddlers, families, a product shoot for a friend/entrepreneur, boudoir, fine art nude, and last month I was the chosen photographer for a charity calendar featuring fitness models and Harley Davidson motorcycles!  I have also sold my fine art pieces, landscape and abstract, for people to hang in their homes and offices (a huge compliment and thrill!). 

Flash forward to today when I am in the midst of building a studio in our home so that I may more easily pursue my love of portraiture AND studio lighting!  I feel so lucky to be where I am, and even more fortunate that my two young children are witnessing their mom not only pursue her dreams but also that they are privy to the effort and commitment it takes to build a business and provide, what I hope is, exemplary customer service.

I am continually challenged: to better my knowledge of my gear and the art of photography; of how to offer and package my services; and to better understand ‘where I fit’ in the world of professional photography.  I am also continually amazed at the inspiration and support from the PPSOP family; I read the PPSOP weekly tips as soon as they arrive in my in box and they provide an immeasurable amount of creative ideas coupled with technical skill.

I so appreciate and am humbled by the decision to feature my work here…I owe Bryan, Chris, and all the PPSOP instructors for being such gracious and talented teachers and artists!"

: End Quote

I tell ya' the last few years have been one helluva ride and it just keeps getting better!

Life is great!


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Having Fun Requires Trust

This post, to be the last installment in this series of “Going Beyond Code”, centres on something I’ve written about in earlier blog

It is my firm belief that trust forms not only one aspect of a professional being able to go ‘beyond meeting code’, it, in fact, may be the most important aspect.  As a photographer I have worked with brand new babies who are only days old, I have photographed conservative and modest women with nothing between their natural beauty and my lens, and I have been given the opportunity to document “I do’s”…none of these projects would have been possible without my clients’ trust in me:  trust that I could ‘deliver’ as a photographer, as a professional, and as a human being.  I take great pride in my client’s trust in me, and I also place a heavy weight on said trust – I promise to always do my best in my preparation for the shoot, in my gear choices, in my attitude toward my subjects, in my commitment to getting great images, in my delivery of the proof gallery and the retouching of subsequent prints, and in everything in between. 

If you are looking for a professional photographer I encourage you to find someone who has a photographic eye that appeals to you; I hope you will meet with them to determine if you share a rapport (photo shoots are a lot of fun, you should be able to laugh and feel at ease while ‘under the lights’!); and find a professional whom you believe will deliver to you the experience you are looking for (hiring a great shooter who notoriously takes forever to return phone calls or provide your order may or may not fit the bill for you – hey, we all have our own pet peeves and expectations!)

I truly believe that every aspect I’ve written about over these past few weeks is important in the services I am offering; however, I think that trust is likely the pinnacle of what is required in exceeding expectations – in life and business.

© Bella Faccia 2011
So, make an investment in yourself and your family…document this special time in your life, and it is special as you will never be ‘here’ again; go outside your comfort zone and be rewarded with a truly liberating gift to yourself; and, above all else, HAVE FUN! 

Life is great!


Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Cost of Professional Pixels

When I wrote “Beyond ‘Meeting Code’” a few weeks back I mentioned hearing people lament the prices charged by professional photographers.  I think that, likely, the vast majority of people who think the rates are too high have simply: never been provided with the reasoning behind the pricing or, more likely, have never given it any thorough thought.

Over the course of just this past year I have, among other things: attended a few multiple-day workshops; completed an on-line photography course; spent many hours looking at on-line Photoshop tutorials; bought books on Photoshop, Lightroom, and lighting techniques; added studio equipment; paid annual membership dues; begun work on my new home studio; and more.  In short, I have put a considerable amount of money and time toward bettering my skills and set-up so that I may continually improve the product I am providing my clients.

In any business the push to exceed clients’ expectations has to come from the person/people running the business.  However, in order for business owners to continually improve their skill set, equipment, software and products available, so that they can exceed those expectations, they require more than good intentions, they require revenue AND profit.  

I was once chatting about my business with an acquaintance, who is actually a lovely person; she congratulated me for having such an easy job, that it was “easy money”…she expressed her feelings of apparent awe that I was making the full session price for just one hour of work.  She meant no harm, but she was terribly mistaken as, at that time, with business start up costs (which I am still trying to recover), I was actually paying to work!

It seems some people think, ‘well, she has a camera, she loves photography, and it’s only an hour or two of her time; what’s the big deal?’  However, those people neglect to think of, or value, photography as a business with inherent business costs (license, software, hardware, education, marketing, etc.), equipment costs, and the professional’s time spent working on the job. 

I have worked out my time on a couple of typical jobs to give you an idea of the time spent on any given project and you may be surprised to learn that, as an estimate, the client only sees about 15% of the working time that I will put into their final product (outside of the time spent shooting the session, I must: ready my gear, sometimes buy/rent props or equipment, prepare the studio, review and cull images, prepare the on-line gallery, and work on the final edits).  Therefore, if I spend 3 hours on a newborn shoot, the entire project will likely take in the range of 20 hours.  Also note that I haven’t included the time spent on everything else that goes into having a business; for instance, I recently implemented a new back up/storage system and, due to a glitch between the software and hardware, I invested nearly 40 hours trying to ensure my backups and storage were safe.  Now these times may be different for other photographers; for instance a more seasoned retoucher may spend much less time on edits, but I can only speak from my own experience.

Now, I will say that I don’t necessarily think that only a professional photog’s pictures are ‘worthy’ heirlooms; I am first and foremost a lover of images, regardless of who took them or how they were recorded (I recently became addicted to iPhoneography!).  What I am trying to communicate is that, if you choose to hire a professional photographer - who has invested in providing you with an experience and images of a professional quality, and you wish to have a more personal experience than you would in a huge studio - I’d like for you to consider that the pricing, for the session and prints, must cover the expenses and then, hopefully, there is also a profit.  You can love what you do, but you also have to eat!

I began this little series of posts based on the idea of going beyond meeting the requirement, and I passionately believe in doing that in business and in life.  I also believe in simple economics and so if you aren’t making a profit after the start-up years, then you aren’t in business, rather you just have a really expensive hobby.

I hope that this post has effectively communicated two things: that I love what I do (otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it!), and that it costs money to do what I do.  I will continue to strive to exceed both my clients and my own expectations.

Life is great!


Friday, February 3, 2012

Retouching...yes, please!

This is the second post in this series; see "Beyond 'Meeting Code'' to read the 'introduction'....not obligatory, obviously :), but does set the stage for this, as intros do!

Sometimes it seems as though people consider ‘retouching’ a bad word, that it is somehow dishonest.  Other times, it seems as though people believe it is an expected, required, included, and easy aspect to portraiture.  The truth likely lies somewhere in the middle (except for the ‘easy’ part!), and will depend heavily on you, the client, and on the photographer you choose (that is IF you choose a professional photographer)!

So, is it ‘bad’?  I sure don’t think so and, in fact, I believe it is one of the aspects (read: values) that separates a professional portrait from one that isn’t.  I love that we, as professionals, can make YOU look more like YOU.  I know that when I remember my kids as wee ones, I don’t remember the drool on their chins or the porridge on their t’s; I remember my son’s big brown eyes and how my daughter’s smile reminds me of my pop’s.  So, when I am given the privilege of photographing someone – young, old, clothed or not, I want their final image to look just like them, on their very best day, as their loved ones see them.  I saw Scott Kelby (a Photoshop god) speak last spring and he said something akin to, “when you look at your betrothed on your wedding day you don’t see the pimple on their nose, so why should the photos remind you, and future generations, it was there?”…and I totally agree!

Sometimes people speak of retouching as though it is always robust in nature, but the truth is that only slight adjustments are typically necessary and it’s usually simple enhancements.  Sometimes, when I’m shooting on a dark backdrop, I will darken it further in Photoshop to render an even more compelling image of the subject.  Sometimes the light happens to hit my subject’s face in such a way as to cause some sheen…the photo is beautiful, they look terrific, but that darned shine in distracting – so, I just get rid of it.  In that moment I am not altering who they are or how they look, I’m providing an image that hopefully speaks to the ‘there and then’ for them, without distractions.  Other times I might have a little guy who is happy, newly sitting on his own, and loving the attention he’s getting in the studio…we capture amazing shots but he’s teething and the drool just won’t stop.  His parents don’t want snapshots – they can do that at home and they will be adorable and loved images – they come to me, or another, because they want images to hang on their walls.  In these instances there might be a little extra editing to make sure his personality is what attracts the viewer, not the shiny chin or wet shirt!  Then there are other times that I am photographing a maternity portrait or a fine art nude and for these I believe in spending extra time on the image as I know how it feels to be at your most vulnerable in front of the camera.  I know that when I posed for my session I absolutely wanted a little retouching!  My goal, as the photographer, is always to do the least amount possible while retouching those bothersome areas that we all have, and that are different for all of us.  I want for my clients to see their final image and only see how beautiful, handsome, young, vibrant, incredible they are!

Below you’ll see an image x2 of me taken by Bryan F. Peterson last year…thank you, Bryan, for allowing me to post this image unedited (probably harder for me, but still!).  I had worked really hard, through diet and exercise, prior to the shoot and I actually look at the unedited image and feel pretty darned good :)!  That said, this particular image was not a favourite of mine because of my expression…I chose it for this blog for three reasons: it shows my whole body (vs. the head shot in a later example); it is not too revealing; and because I don’t love that it looks as though I’m frowning.  So, what did I do…well, this isn’t a tutorial in Photoshop but, in short, I darkened the background, removed some pimples and some moles/freckles (many a constellation can be found on me!  While I waste not one second worrying about removing every last pimple, I chose to leave +/- half the beauty marks as they are a part of who I am and it would be funny to see me without any!), I lightened under my eyes, brightened my eyes and smile, did a little nip ‘n tuck on my love handles and thighs (shhhh!), minimized my belly button a little (moms, you understand!), lessened the veins in my hands and feet, got rid of my appendectomy scar, lessened the wrinkles/creases around my mouth, made it seem like less of a frown and more of a smile, and, finally, converted the image to B&W and toned it.  (Some of the listed touch ups will not be as obvious here, but on my screen and on a final print, they are.)  I think that the changes are very subtle and that, if I showed him, my husband would think it was untouched…and THAT is what we want!  This retouch took me a little over 1.5 hours.

Image by Bryan F. Peterson, shown here with permission; editing by me!
For comparison, below is, from L to R: unedited, edited in colour, edited in B&W with toning (I'm a big fan of both colour and B&W (and variations of B&W) and so I thought I'd show both here).

Image by Bryan F. Peterson, shown here with permission; edits by me!
PS Man, I wish my shoes were more obvious...they're AWESOME!
In the below example, we decided (well, I decided and the family just went along with it!), to do a Christmas card with a whole bunch of individual photos of the four of us, and our two furry kids.  The headshots were quite tight, therefore you can see every little imperfection – this is not what I want hanging on my friends’ fridges!  And so, on these, I spent a little extra time – so that I felt that I looked as good as I thought I had looked that day :)!  I brightened and widened my eyes (I have a big smile and my eyes have to shrink to make room for it!), I softened my complexion, I brightened the whites a little, and a few other little things that I feel bring the image to print-worthy.  This retouch took me just over an hour.

In both examples I hope I have demonstrated that with a little skill, the right tools, and the care and time to learn and practice, an image can go from being just fine to something beautiful.  My hope has always been, and continues to be, to learn and grow as a photographer (bettering my equipment, knowledge, skills, and ideas) so that I can exceed my client’s hopes.  My sincere hope is that, if you hire me or another, you feel you were rewarded with a portrait experience that went ‘beyond meeting code’!

Bryan F. Peterson is an acclaimed photographer, best selling author, and founder of The Perfect Picture School of Photography (, and I thank him for providing me a really wonderful experience during the shoot, for images that I love, and for being a mentor to me and countless others.

Stay tuned as there is at least one more post on this topic!

Life is great!


PS As stated in my last post…I chose to use images of myself so that no client of mine would be left feeling uncomfortable.  I always take a solid ‘gulp’ as I hit ‘post’, but I’d much rather me feel that discomfort than someone who has put their trust in me!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Beyond 'Meeting Code'

I recently started the process of renovating our basement into a home studio (very exciting!) and, like many reno projects, it has had its challenges.  One of the things that thoroughly irritated me (and still irritates but I’m choosing to deep breathe my way through it :) ) is when people with skill and knowledge CHOOSE to not do their best, to cut corners. 

The example that has me thinking about this in broader terms happened during the framing stage of the one wall for the studio.  It is widely accepted/expected, in Canada, to frame walls on 16” centres; however, the city’s inspection codes have apparently been changed to now accept 24” on centre (which I didn’t know).  While reviewing the progress one evening, the studs seemed too far apart and so I got out my tape and, sure enough, they were 24” from the centre of one 2x4 to the other!?  I won’t get into the melee that ensued; sufficed to say that I find it sad that people ‘in the know’ choose to only do what’s absolutely required as opposed to what would easily be considered ‘best practice’, and it got me thinking…
My studio (pre-reno!) with a very special piece of furniture
I have often heard of, and been party to, conversations wherein people are lamenting the prices charged for professional photography.  They find it upsetting that a print costs more than they paid at their local lab for their own photo.  However, I wonder if they have considered the time, effort, education, and money that goes into a professional photographer’s final print? 

This post, and the coming posts on this topic, aren’t going to be a full-on defense of what and why we charge what we do…rather I’d like to simply say that there is a love, a passion, a drive that compels all honest photographers (and there are many) to do our very best.  Sometimes our work will speak to you, and sometimes it might not, regardless, from me to you, I can say that, if you choose me as your photographer, I will always do my very best for you: in consultation, during the shoot, and in post-production (‘retouching’), because I don’t want to only ‘meet code’, I want you to be thrilled and emotional and feeling like you’ve wisely invested in capturing a moment in time.

In the next few days, weeks, I will post a few thoughts on this subject…the first will be “Retouching…yes, please!” in which I will show a photo taken of me (I didn't want to put a client 'on the spot' and so I figured I’d use a shot of myself!), by famed photog and my mentor, Bryan F. Peterson.  I'll include both the unedited and edited shots.  My hope is that these posts might provide a little insight into what goes into the making of an image that meets a professional standard.

I hope you’ll join me in the coming weeks as we talk a little about the value you will find in professional work, some of which is immediately apparent, like the print quality, and other value that may not be as obvious, for instance the software used to library and edit your images.

Meet ya’ back here soon, and life IS great!