Archive for the ‘Society and Opinion’ Category


Why I Choose NOT to Use Digital Backgrounds for Photography.

July 15, 2016

Let me start off by clarifying “My images I create for fine arts and client photos are not completely free of alterations. In accompany with color and light adjustments, I will use {digital accents} to complete a photograph’s look, when appropriate.” In fact, I would say while never impossible, its rare when an image needs absolutely no post-production.

Then sometimes photographers get those “almost perfect shots.” The ones where just ONE thing is off or could be improved. Maybe it’s a dull grey sky in an otherwise colorful photo. Or a shot that could gain a whole lot of cuteness with a couple imaginary butterflies or bubbles. I mean really? It’s hard to avoid wanting perfection. These are instances where I find  “digital accents” acceptable vs dropping in a full digital background. (For those who’d like more clarification on what I’m referring to for a “full digital background” —> CLICK HERE, to see an example.)



“I see a clear difference in using digital aids to accent an image versus using digital resources to ‘BE’ the image.”

Fine Arts Composite Photography using Digital Accents. | © Noel Photography and Design | DO NOT COPY

Fine Arts Photography using my own “Digital Accents” and composite photography. | © Noel Photography and Design | DO NOT COPY

Instead, I want to focus specifically on the idea of using full digital backgrounds on other types of portrait photography such as: fine arts, weddings, engagements, family, children, seniors, and maternity. There is no doubt, when executed correctly, digital backgrounds can make some stunning pieces. It’s also hard to deny, however, they take away originality, realism, creativity, quality, and maybe even what an artist is being paid to do. Here is why I choose NOT to use full digital backgrounds for portraits:



I find two sides to this reason.

The first is most obvious. “The picture can plainly look fake.” Maybe it’s because you live in Kansas, but there’s majestic mountains in the background, with a perfect ray of sunshine on your face. Or you’re an expectant mother standing in a field of tulips in the middle of October. While they make for nice looking images, it will be obvious to you, your friends and family they are fake. Will those unrealistic photos be wanted on the wall or in your albums??

Secondly, with client-portrait photography I feel my goal is to help clients re-live a particular moment in life forever. To enjoy those snapshots where we are “in the moment.” When you’re all dressed up on your wedding day you’ll want to be photographed in the places where you and your other half have all your memories. The places that will take you back to the magical day you said “I do.”

You will want to not only remember how you felt, but the time of year you were carrying your child. And as your kiddos grow, a posed shot dropped on a beach background will never compare to re-living the way they giggled as their feet squished into the sand. All those realistic things that will be hard to achieve with digital backgrounds.



It was not long ago someone posted photos of their beautiful, new baby to Facebook and I of course had to take a peek. I had already planned to discuss this topic here, but it was ironic this image popped up as I was writing this piece. I scanned through the photographer’s album, but stopped quickly on one particular image. BAM! A digital background! It was so plainly obvious due to not only realism, but also the fact I’d seen this background for sale and even more so – the quality of the image! Lighting seemed peculiar and the background was pixelated, proving further that the only “real” thing in the photo was their adorable infant… It completely ruined the photo for me, but it got me to thinking back a few months to my own experience with quality issues.

When I first began using digital accents, I purchased a set of sky drops from a photographer I found online. Not only did it make me feel a little guilty to use someone else’s images, but the files I bought were much smaller than what my camera was producing for RAW\Original files. Making the two layers – theirs and mine – not really “compatible” for the production process. More often than not, purchased digital backgrounds (and accents such as skies,) are small files that can be downloaded directly from online. If something as small as a sky accent could ruin the quality of my images, I began to imagine what a full background could do!

It was settled. I didn’t want my images ruined because the original parts of the photo were printing clearly, while the accented parts poorly. I then decided if I was going to use digital accents, such as sky drops, I would be shooting as much of them as I could myself. Not only do I gain the quality that way, but also the creativity to make and call it my own. Leading to my last two reasons…

300 Proof Band Photo | © Noel Photography and Design | DO NOT COPY

300 Proof Band Photo | © Noel Photography and Design | DO NOT COPY



From the time an artist is born {metaphorically} we are ingrained to be different and stand out. Constantly looking for new adventure and creativity. While I have my professional reasons to not use digital backgrounds, I have a long standing promise to myself, as an artist, to be original. Even returning to the same outdoor location or using the same studio background can be made to look completely unique every time its used. Digital backgrounds prohibit perspective and lighting alterations, so expecting it to look different each time is next to impossible. There’s nothing more unoriginal than having the same photo reproduced hundreds of thousands of times. Not to mention, there will come a point that others will notice the lack of creative effort. For those who might have missed it above – The first red flag that the newborn photographer used a digital background was I’VE SEEN IT ADVERTISED 1,000 TIMES! Which means you can be sure it’s been seen by other photographers and clients at least 1,000 times.



Legally speaking, yes, 99% of photographers are purchasing a license to use digital backgrounds. It saddens me that as artists, people who by definition create and make their own visions, purchase someone else’s images. Images that take up a large percentage of a final product they then pass off as their own work. Instead of showing our creative abilities, digital backgrounds mostly show an artists ability to cheat nature and our imaginations with technical skills. I find that quite disheartening.

Well—- did I sway you? How do you feel about full digital backgrounds? Love them? Hate them? Leave your comments below, and as always, thanks for reading! Follow Noel Photography and Design here on WordPress by email or blog. Plus, for continuous updates, promotions and all things creative LIKE the {Noel P&D} Facebook page.

Happy Creating!




Photo Inspiration : Howard Schatz

March 29, 2016

In my need for boldness and contrast, Howard Schatz quickly caught my attention as inspiration. Schatz is a New York photographer well know for his various portraits of athletes, dancers, fashion and other models. With the help of his wife and editor, Beverly Ornstein, Schatz has more than 20 published books of his extremely detailed, powerful and creative photographs. [Read more on Howard Schatz from Gallery M.]

Kaillie Humphries, Gold Medal Olympic Bobsledder | Image © Schatz\Ornstein 2011

Kaillie Humphries, Gold Medal Olympic Bobsledder | Image © Schatz\Ornstein 2011



It’s quite obvious when browsing Schatz’s portfolio, he loves black and white. Can you blame him? Not only does black and white make beautiful contrast on any subject matter, but it allows the focus to be on the details rather than any color distractions.

NBN #559 | Image © Schatz\Ornstein 2007

NBN #559 | Image © Schatz\Ornstein 2007


Duomo di Siena, photographed in Siena, Italy, June 2002. | Image © Schatz\Ornstein 2013

Duomo di Siena, photographed in Siena, Italy, June 2002. | Image © Schatz\Ornstein 2013



While many of his works are in black and white, he doesn’t shy away from color. In fact, when his images are in color, they are bold, crisp and completely stunning! Which is exactly what color should be. {In my opinion.} 🙂

Powder Study #1025 | Image © Schatz\Ornstein 2007

Powder Study #1025 | Image © Schatz\Ornstein 2007

Beauty Study #1221, Zhanna, photographed in New York City, April 2011. | Image © Schatz\Ornstein 2013

Beauty Study #1221, Zhanna, photographed in New York City, April 2011. | Image © Schatz\Ornstein 2013


Photography is very much about composition and the “big picture.” While I never want to take away from images that focus on a bigger picture, what about the little things in life? Schatz has made an effort in various areas of his work, including a study titled “Folds,” to focus in on the interesting details of his subject. Doing so can be so refreshing and breathtaking.

Human Body Study 1130 Chrissie Wellington, 3-Time Iron Man Champion | Image © Schatz\Ornstein 2010

Human Body Study 1130 Chrissie Wellington, 3-Time Iron Man Champion | Image © Schatz\Ornstein 2010

Folds Study #1383 | Image © Schatz\Ornstein 2007

Folds Study #1383 | Image © Schatz\Ornstein 2007



Lastly, his work is not in any way “put in a box.” Schatz portfolio has a wide variety of styles, subject matter and ideas. I relate to this well, as I enjoy many types of photography. It’s mentally and visually stimulating to have such diversity in one’s portfolio. Even his portrait work is extremely different from series to series. What a breath of fresh air!

Newborn Study #1563 | Image © Schatz\Ornstein 2016

Newborn Study #1563 | Image © Schatz\Ornstein 2016

Underwater Study #3093, Amanda Cobb, photographed in Sherman, CT, August 2006. | Image © Schatz\Ornstein 2016

Underwater Study #3093, Amanda Cobb, photographed in Sherman, CT, August 2006. | Image © Schatz\Ornstein 2016


Golden Gate Bridge, photographed in San Francisco, January 2003. | Image © Schatz\Ornstein 2013

Golden Gate Bridge, photographed in San Francisco, January 2003. | Image © Schatz\Ornstein 2013


I could probably spend HOURS browsing his work, and finding things I love. It’s strongly encouraged for everyone to visit his portfolio website at, where the images here were found! Some viewer discretion may be advised, as many of his works contain nudity and sexual related content. For those with an open mind, I promise you won’t be disappointed with this photographer’s stunning works! Enjoy.

Once again, thank you all for reading! To get more updates from Noel Photography and Design, follow me here on WordPress by email or blog. Don’t forget to also hit that LIKE button on Facebook. 🙂

Happy Creating!



Are All the “Good Shots” Taken?

June 22, 2015

Several months ago, I came across this article in my photo magazine. Despite the age of the publication I decided to share it today anyway. I remember marking the page, because it brought up a topic that I often thought about myself:

Have all the good photography shots been exhausted?


Article content is property of Outdoor Photographer.


Typically when I travel, this subject comes up. Especially if I’m traveling in a very touristy area. There’s nothing worse than getting ready to take a picture, and some “ya-hoo” (for lack of a better word) stands right next to you, and takes the exact same shot. For me, inside, this gives me a small meltdown.

After reading the article for the first time I felt very discouraged as an artist, and thought, “I knew it! Everyone is officially taking the same stupid pictures….” But then I took a second glance.

Did you catch the epic quote they referenced in the bottom left corner?:

Schopenhauer Quote

Schopenhauer Quote


In the end, what I gathered from this article was a reminder of what it meant to be an artist. To have the ability to not only allow people to see the extraordinary, but to represent it in a way that shows how you, uniquely as an artist, sees it.


For more updates from Noel Photography and Design, follow me here on WordPress, and be sure to hit the LIKE button on Facebook!

Happy Creating!



Want To Do It For Free?

September 17, 2014

Yes, the title is as bad as it sounds! We sadly live in a society, who not only wants us to do our work for free, but they EXPECT it. Many clients see [art-based services] as just a hobby, merely because artists love passionately what they do! And clearly, you shouldn’t charge for doing what you love. *Insert hint of sarcasm*

Despite whether someone is in love with their job or not, I still have to ask those with this point-of-view, “Would YOU want to put hours of hard work in for someone else and get absolutely nothing out of it?” When you call a repair man, you not only pay for parts, but you pay for services, as well. Why should a product and service related to art be any different?


As I have been working hard the last few weeks on a freelance career, along with finding the right full time position, I have come across this issue personally, and several times recently in social media. So naturally…I figured I should write about it.

Society is definitely a part of the problem for “expecting” it, and we can point many fingers towards them for it. However, as artists, designers, and creators, we have to remember there are still three fingers pointing back. Unfortunately, whether it’s consciously or unconsciously, often times we add to the problem. We think nothing of a “free job here and there,” when in reality we are helping to make the “starving artist” persona.


“If you don’t respect your own creative skills, others won’t either.” – Stephen Silver


So today’s blog post isn’t about pointing the finger and b*tching about society (despite how annoying they can be.) It’s about educating how we can help ourselves and our fellow artists break the cycle. If we happen to educate society along the way, then two bird with one stone I say. However, until we all start respecting our creative skills, people will always have room to “expect.”


In one sentence, what can we do? STOP GIVING IT AWAY FOR FREE! Know your worth and be willing to stand up for that. It’s ok to tell somebody no. If they’re not paying you, it’s not like you’re really missing out anyway. To further explain, “stop giving it away for free,” these are a few red flags to watch for:



Many companies and organizations will ask you to do them a “favor” by letting them use your [image, artwork or design.] In return they say they are helping to give you exposure, that might lead to more jobs. Sounds like a fair trade right? IT’S NOT. If you work out a service for service trade that you find satisfactory, fine, but “exposure” is not a fair trade. Most companies won’t even give proper credits after they take your work. So you’ve gained nothing and they’ve gained a free piece. In most scenarios, companies should be giving credit to the artist even if they’ve bought it! Don’t let them fool you into thinking they are doing you a favor. Let’s face it, with social media, websites, and making a strong, positive reputation, there are far better ways to gain exposure than doing work for free. Just rely on your skills!



Clients will sometimes bargain on price by giving hope they will contact you for future jobs.  This can be very enticing to an artist for many reasons. Including, more experience, more work, more money and gaining a long term client. When a client says, “If you will do it well for ‘this price’ instead of ‘your price,’ I may just have to use you for some of my upcoming projects!” It’s usually a red flag they are trying to just get you to your bottom dollar. However, unless physically contracted for future work, you are guaranteed nothing! They get an immediate price cut and you get hopes and dreams of more work. If you’re not careful with this tactic, you may find yourself cheated on pay. After getting the price cut, you realize later the time going into the project for what they expect, exceeds the amount of time you charged for. Just remember, unless contracted, they have no obligation to call you for “future work.”  It seems everyone now-a-days is looking to squeeze others down to their final dollar. But in this industry- YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR!



This is not to say we should never be flexible, but be HONEST with people. Don’t be afraid to nicely explain that in order to do what they need, ensure a quality and timely result, you will need to charge “X-amount.” Feel free to turn it around and encourage that if after the first project they continue to use your business regularly, perhaps you can find a way to help them out on cost as well. (i.e… package deals, X% off a project of $100+, etc.) Just be careful to under promise and over deliver!



Whether its a job that takes 30 minutes or one that lasts all week, time is money. If you’re putting full efforts in it, you should be getting full payment. Have you ever visited the doctor, and spent 5 minutes in the office, but you still have to pay a good sum for an “office visit,” plus your medication? Patients in a scenario like this, pay for product and service, and part of that service is experience and knowledge. Remind clients, the reason we can finish a quality project so quickly is because of our education, experience, and expertise on the subject. Like any other profession, you get paid for that!

One of my biggest pet peeves is how employers want years of experience, but want to pay you the absolute minimum. On the flip side, if you have little experience, again they feel it should be done for free. Notice in the previous paragraph I bolded ‘education.’ Just because you may not have 5+ years experience, doesn’t mean you don’t have the talent or necessary skills they need. EDUCATION IS EXPERIENCE! They’re just looking for a reason to get free work. So whether it’s $20 or $200, make sure you’re charging for your time and expertise. Be fair and be reasonable to both them and YOURSELF. Obviously if you are a new-bee, charging a professional rate is unethical, but being entry level doesn’t justify them not paying you.


(I came across this post recently of a company wanting to pay an experienced employee for entry level. The response is great!)

Craigslist Ad



One of the biggest red flags is if a client, or business won’t sign a creative service contract. Something that specifically ties both parties to: what was discussed, pricing agreements, and list of what services will be included. If they roll their eyes, say its not necessary, or tell you that you can trust them– you probably can’t. This is an easy way for businesses to get free work by coming back with the excuse, “that’s not what we agreed on at the start of the project.” Too quickly it can become “he said, she said,” and you’ll be once again fooled into working for free, or a fraction of the cost. If your client won’t sign any sort of agreement, it’s best to thank them for their time and walk out. Whether they believe it or not, most successful businesses that have integrity, were built on contracts. Not having a contract is shady!



While it’s important to stand your ground,  yes, there is a place and time to offer free work. They key is to choose wisely. Maybe you have a charity or cause you strongly support- help them out! I firmly believe it’s important to help others when we can. Just be sure to set boundaries and stick to them (because takers never do.) For example, perhaps you limit yourself to help with an annual event for a cause you support. In a nutshell, be wise in choosing people who NEED help, and not those who are just taking advantage. Once you have found someone in need, make sure your limitations are clear. After that, it’s simple.


As a closing note, society will continue to walk all over artists, designers and creators, IF we let them. Know your skills, know your worth, and don’t be afraid to stand by your work. It’s OK to say no!

“Someone, somewhere will love what you do, (AND PAY FOR IT). Find them.”– Unknown

We don’t have to make society believe artists are “a dime a dozen,” when really we’re one-of-a-kind!

Thanks for reading & be sure to ‘LIKE’ Noel Photography & Design on Facebook. Get blog updates by following me here on WordPress, or sign up for email subscriptions!

Happy Creating 🙂



Look Up!

December 6, 2012

Another exciting day here in Iowa. Today I have some random-ness, but hopefully you find it as inspiring as I have. I was walking to class today and suddenly I realize how much I look at the ground when I walk.

I could use the excuse that I don’t want to trip on uneven ground, but even that isn’t why I’m looking down. At least, not the major reason why. Looking around at other people I notice everyone is starring at the ground, too. We’re just avoiding eye contact. How lame!

All I can think is, “Why the hell is everyone looking at the ground?” We are all exciting, new people we could meet and the day is beautiful. Are we really so closed minded and shut off from the world that we have no where better to look or direct our attention to, except the ground!?

For instance, usually when I go grocery shopping, I talk to random people who help me or are looking at the same thing I am. It sounds creepy or odd, but I have met some really great people, with cool ideas and lives. So do me a favor this week, or make it a habit to LOOK UP!

After your past childhood, its ok to talk to strangers. Engage in other peoples’ activities. You never know what you will find or what connections you might make. Your phone and the ground will be there later, but the next awesome person you might meet won’t be. So LOOK UP, talk to a stranger and enjoy the world around you. Who knows, maybe you will be the stranger to make someone’s day just a little better and their outlook a little broader.



UPDATE!- In Loving Memory

September 5, 2012

After attending the funeral of my friend this morning, my heart feels slightly lifted and I am slowly coming to peace with what terrible thing has happened. It became very apparent that some nasty roomers were floating around and it was so nice that someone during the funeral stood up and agreed they knew the media was being inaccurate. So this post is just to clear up those untruths about his accident.The original report was that he was riding a wheelie down 4th street and clipped a truck, that caused him to slide with the bike into the curb and become air borne.

A few of the rumors going around included the wheelie, driving recklessly and even drunk driving. NONE OF THESE ARE TRUE. Danny was a responsible driver and the accident was caused due to a MOTORCYCLE MALFUNCTION. His bike had a frayed clutch cable that likely snapped about the time he was letting the clutch out, to ease forward to the stop sign on 4th street. When it snapped, it made the motorcycle take off and he began to lose control of the bike. He held on tighter to the grips, causing it to get more throttle and go faster. When a clutch cable snaps, an experienced rider, like Danny, knows to get the bike into neutral, however, for those who know bike gears (1, N, 2, 3, 4, etc), it is most probable that he bumped it into 2nd gear instead of neutral. With the simultaneous action of giving it more throttle and missing neutral for 2nd, it gave the bike even more power and even less control. This would give the appearance of reckless driving and even doing a wheelie. Unfortunately, there was a truck that he clipped the back of, because he could not avoid it during all this confusion. Hitting the trucked made the bike and him slide into the curb forcing him to be air borne followed by hitting his head on one of the sculptures; which ultimately is what made his helmet come off.

There have been several eye witnesses coming forward to shed light on what really happened and for that The Norby’s, Nicole, Marissa and Danny’s close friends are very thankful. If you hear someone telling incorrect information about this accident, in honor of Danny, please correct them so that his memory will live on untarnished.



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