Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

Thanks to all of the friends and clients of Brian Downer Photography for making 2008 such a great year. As I reflect back on the year, I am amazed at how much changed during the past 12 months, and I still have plans for many more changes for 2009. Some of those changes include:

  • Implementation of fine art portrait collections instead of packages. These collections will be based around the size of the wall print chosen, with various smaller print sizes included (these smaller prints are client selectable).
  • Elimination of packages in favor of A' La' Carte pricing. This will allow for clients to purchase only those products they want, without having to bundle them with additional items they may have no use for.
  • Adding digital media to the A' La' Carte menu. Great for digital photo frames and Facebook/Myspace accounts.
  • Online proof galleries will now be available for 30 days if requested by our clients.
  • Implementation of our Platinum club for our top clients.
  • Complimentary sessions for repeat customers.

Happy New year. We are very excited to see what 2009 brings, and hope your 2009 is the best year yet, filled with family, friends, and joy.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Family Christmas


Just a quick teaser image from my family shoot this (cold) morning. This family was just great, and despite the below freezing temps at sunrise we came away with some wonderful shots.

The couple in in the image above have been married for 42 years. That is just wonderful, and thinking about two people with such a strong bond and commitment to each other makes me smile. For this Christmas, all their children and grandchildren came to town, and this presented a great opportunity for new family portraits.

I had such a great time with everyone. The little kids were just so cute, and everyone was so good natured despite the freezing temps and the early hour. I'm blessed, and honored, to put these images together for them. Time passes too fast, kids grow faster than we realize, and taking time for family cherishing the moments we have with each other is so important.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

I'd like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year. I'll be spending tonight trying to enjoy Christmas through my children. For adults, the holidays can be stressful, with all the shopping, baking, errands, family gatherings and such. I want to step back from all of that and just think of the Christmas that kids see. All they know is the joy of Christmas.

So, this year we are going all out. We are going to stay home, watch the Peanuts specials, and the claymation specials, play some games, and drink hot chocolate. I really want to make Christmas special for my kids this year. Pretty soon my son is going to be too old for Santa, and I don't want to think about how Christmas will be when it will become just about the presents for him. Right now, both my kids just light up when they talk about Santa, and for me their excitement and wonder is really what makes Christmas special.

2009 is going to have some more changes for the studio. Updates for the website, pricing, and other items are coming soon. Lots of updates in the making, so be sure to stop by the website:

Lastly, to all our friends, thanks for making 2008 such a great year. We have had such a blast, and I'm excited to see what 2009 brings.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Mill Avenue

I spent some time last night out on Mill Avenue with a few other photographers. We went out to try and challenge ourselves with things we don't normally do, and in this case we tried low light street photography. Challenging is an understatement. Shooting at f/1.8 at 1/80th of a second at ISO 1250 just to try and get an exposure is very tough. Lighting is a mixture of tungten from the Christmas tree lights, florescent shop lighting spilling into the street, and the headlights of passing cars. Makes white balancing a tough job for sure!




Mill avenue is kinda of a interesting place. It is right next to Arizona State University, and is in the heart of one of the more "progressive" cities. The people it attracts are extremely diverse. You have the college age crowds heading to the bars/clubs, upscale shoppers, general partiers, people visiting Tempe Town lake, and a fairly large homeless/street performers/panhandler contingent as well. It can be a great time, but one needs to be careful as it can get very dangerous. Mill Avenue is pretty well known for some of the violence that takes place there.





Saturday, December 13, 2008

Black and White Christmas


What a way to end the Christmas season. For my last sitting, I was able to do a series of black and white fine art portraits. These kids are really gorgeous, and the images are going to be stunning.


Siblings are always fun to shoot. It can be quite challenging to try and show the bonds between brothers and sisters. Of course, at certain ages, it can be just challenging to get them to get next to each other for pictures. I'm glad these two could work together and get some really amazing shots.


Friday, December 5, 2008

....and another Christmas season comes to a close


It's been a great 2008! I've booked my last Holiday session for the 12th. That barely gives me enough time to do some basic editing, hold a proof session, edit the final images, order them, and deliver them by the week of Christmas. Next year, I'm going to do a better job informing my clients of timeframes. Ideally, studio Holiday portraits need to be scheduled for November to guarantee availability by Christmas. Outdoor Holiday portraits are at the mercy of the weather. December tends to be a wet month, but most locations aren't putting up their holiday decorations until after Thanksgiving. That only gives me a couple weeks for outdoor location shots.

By all appearances, 2009 is going to be a rocking year. I'm almost booked for January, which is often a very slow period and is great for catching up on business related items. Well, it doesn't look like that will happen, so I'll be burning the midnight oil to try and catch up on the website updates, and other such tasks.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Here is a shot from this little cutie that I was able to get into the studio yesterday. What can I say, but he is such a cutie, and full of energy. He was such a ball to shoot, and when he gave out one of his belly laughs, it was so heartwarming.

His mom is going to LOVE his pictures. I've only got a handful edited so far, but they are turning out great. Hopefully, I'll have them all ready fore viewing shortly after Thanksgiving, but I've only been able to cull the keeper shots down to 57. That is a lot of editing left to do.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Studio Expansion!

I'm am EXTREMELY happy to announce that my wife and I are expecting our third child. Our little angel should be arriving in late June. We are so very pleased, and excited.

Thankfully, we have had a great year here at the studio, and we are already booking into several dates into 2009. If everything goes as planned, we can move to a larger home, which will grant us much needed room for this growing family. It would also afford us the opportunity to add more variety for location shots beyond what we are using already.

If anyone has any name suggestions (don't know the sex of the baby), we are all ears.
It's going to be a GREAT Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Back in the studio

The last few days have been a whole lot of fun. I've been out in Texas helping the largest retailer of motorcycle apparel set up their photoroom so they can do their own product shots. It turned out to be quite a fun challenge as I got to stretch my creativity a bit and think about more than just fine art portraiture. I also got to get back into the teaching mode, as I had to train their staff on basic camera functions, lighting, and even post processing. The most fun, though was the people. I was treated like family from the very beginning.

Even with as much fun as I had, I'm really glad to be home. I miss my family when I travel, and it's always good to come home to their little angelic faces (ok, so I admit that I often have my "daddy goggles" on).

I've got another announcement regarding an addition to the studio. I'll add that to the next blog for It's pretty much the biggest thing that has happened in the last 2 years. With any luck, I'll be able to announce it this Friday.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Busy, Busy, Busy

Man, October has just been one hectic month. I've been working hard on finishing up the studio space, and office space. Most of the artwork is up, new lighting is in place, and the office cabnetry is nearly done (just need some trim work). I've got a few more touch-ups on some things, and maybe some repainting will be done too, but for the most part everything is good to go!

November looks like it will be just as busy as October. Besides the normal holiday feasts, and related Black Friday, I've got several family events and birthdays. Requests for Christmas/Holiday portraits and cards are filling out most of the calendar at this time, but I'm still holding out some days for some nice outdoor portraits. I just love shooting this time of year, as it is a great time to be outside.

Later in the month, I'll be heading out to Texas. I've been working with the largest retailer of motorcycle apparel in the U.S., and they want to set up their own dedicated camera room. I've ordered a bunch of stuff for them, and I'll fly out there for a couple days to get everything all set up. It's going to be a great time!

I've got one other fun announcement, but I'll save that for later in the month. :)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Thank Heaven.....for Little Girls

Norman Rockwell, eat your heart out.

This little angel is the sister of the boy in the post below. She is just a sweetheart. She turns 2 next month, and her mom wanted some pictures taken. When she came into the studio, she was so proud of her pig tails, and so very excited to have her picture taken. That made the session so much fun. I'm going to take some of the pictures of each of them and put them into a 16x20 collage. It's going to be fantastic!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

I didn't mean to make her cry

I do so love this picture. The blown highlights, and the extreme high key make him look like an Angel, which is the mood I was trying to achieve.

So, it turns out his mom teared up when she saw the pics. Thankfully, they were tears of joy, as his mom could see in the pictures the sweetness of his spirit. It's one of those cases where I'm proud to say, I can make a woman cry.

Hard to believe he is only 6 years old.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Little Kayla

Yesterday, I had one of the most fun, and sweetest sessions in a long time. The image above is of little Kayla, and she was just too cute.

The shot below is a good reminder to me why I got into portraiture in the first place. I absolutely enjoy the feeling of love, and the bond between mother and daughter in this shot.

One more (I'm a sucker for those little toes).

Friday, September 5, 2008

Special Offers

One of the main goals this summer was a complete makeover for the company. This included a complete revamp of the website, as well as the studio spaces. Well, the studio space is done, but the website portion is still not complete. In order to complete the makeover, I really want to use as many new and fresh images in the portfolio galleries as possible. To make that a reality, I've decided to offer some discounts on certain items.

First the disclaimer information:

  • Participants in this discount program understand that their images will be used for promotional items of Brian Downer Photography. This includes the website, and additional promotional materials.
  • These discounts apply to current product offerings available from Brian Downer Photography.
  • All sessions need to be completed by 10/31/08.

Not too bad, or hard to accept I would hope. So, now here is what we are offering.

  • No session fee for any Children's portraits, Senior portraits, Maternity portraits, Engagement portraits.
  • If you wish to purchase directly from the A' La Carte menu, rather than a package, you still receive a waived session fee, and a 10% discount on A' La Carte items.
  • If you purchase a package, the package price will be reduced by $125, and you will receive a 30% discount if you wish to purchase additional items from the A' La Carte menu beyond what is included in the package.

Depending on the packages purchased, additional items will be added to the package:

Pearl Package- Free 8x10 print.

Emerald Package- Free 8x10 print, or free 11x14 print.

Diamond Package- Free 16x20 collage, or free 11x14 print.

Milano Package- Free 11x14 print and 6 free 4x6 prints.

Venezia Package- 10 free 4x6 prints and 2 free 5x7 prints.

Firenze Package- Free 16x20 collage, and 10 free 4x6 prints.

For example, if you wanted to purchase the Emerald Package, which is normally $670, you would only pay $545, plus receive either a free 8x10 or 11x14. If you purchased any additional items from the A' La Carte menu, they would receive an automatic 30% discount on those items.

This special goes into effect immediately. Feel free to give us a call at (480)247-0885 or email at to book your session. Hurry and book your session today.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Great Pics! What camera do you use?

As a photographer, that is one comment I hear pretty much every time I display my pictures. Lately, it seems that question is getting asked about 4 or more times a day. So, for those curious, I'll list the gear I use.

Main camera body:
Canon 5D. Yup, that is right. I'm using an older digital body. The main reason that I continue to use this camera is because it gives me everything I need. I could go out an buy the newer Canon 1D series, or switch to Nikon, but I've given up chasing megapixels or the latest body release. I find that good technique far outweighs having the latest camera.

Backup camera body:
Canon 20D. I bought this body back in 2005, and it served as my main camera for a couple years. It has done an exceptional job, and in fact some of my gallery images were taken with this camera. It has since been surpassed with the 30D, 40D, and the new 50D from Canon, but I don't intend to upgrade.

Canon 24-70 2.8L
Canon 85 1.2L
Canon 70-200 F4L

Lenses are where you will see a great return on your investment. I have chosen to go with only the L lenses because they are the best. Differences between camera bodies isn't normally that significant, but differences between good and great lenses are huge!

Studio strobes:
Hensel Integra Pro Plus. I love Hensel strobes. They give off such a beautiful light. They are not cheap by any stretch of the imagination, but are well worth every penny. They are extremely consistent with power output, and color temperature. I also think they give a beautiful enhancement to most skin colors. Had I not gone with Hensel, I probably would have chosen Elinchrom, or Profoto, and been just as happy.

Light modifiers:
I primarily use softboxes instead of umbrellas. I like having the ability to control the light better, and I think the light is more flattering for portraits as well. I use both Hensel and Photoflex softboxes. I plan on picking up some octoboxes as well, and maybe I'll try out the Chimera.

When I'm not using softboxes, I will use a standard 7" or 5" reflector with grids, various snoots, and such, but it is strictly dependent upon the look I want.

Studio Muslin:
Silverlake. I've got probably 8 or 9 Silverlake muslin backdrops. I love these drops for fine art portraits. One day, I'll break down and get a Maheu to add to the inventory.

Well, there you have it. That is a list of the main gear I use. I'm not going to bother to list out everything, as there is just too much stuff (light stands, white balance cards, etc).

Now that I've listed the gear I use, I'll tell you the most important thing: Use the right equipment to support your vision. The image isn't made by the camera, it is made by the photographer. The camera can't pose the subject, direct the lights, and take the picture. The photographer has to do that. The camera only captures the image that the photographer has already created within the scene. Stunning pictures aren't because of the equipment, and that is the reason why I giving a passing yawn to announcement of new cameras being released. I could use Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fuji, or nearly any other manufacturer, and get pretty much the same results. The key is being able to understand how your camera sees the scene you have created, and use the controls on the camera so that it can take the picture you already see in your mind. It is similar to giving credit to the shoes an Olympic runner wears when setting a world record, and not understanding that it is the skill and effort on the runners part to achieve their goal. The equipment just supports them.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

New Slideshow

One thing I really wish I could change about my website is the viewing size, and the ability to run some of the galleries as a slide show. Since I've already started updating the website using the new templates, I'll go with what I have (for now). To solve the slideshow problem, I'll post links to an external hosting site, that you can use to view the slideshows.

The first one can be found here (there is a little suprise for you at the end):

Monday, September 1, 2008

Back in the Saddle again

Literally, and figuratively. Ok, it's a bad pun, but it sums up my feelings after re-opening the studio, and it also coincides with the first shoot I've done since the construction began in earnest. It also sparked me to take on more work than just portraiture. I'm now going to add motorsports, and commercial efforts to my product offerings.

Here are some samples (click for full size, and choose "all sizes"):








Enjoy the pics, buddy. I had a great time.

Up and running

Well, it has been a long time coming, but I'm extremely happy to announce that we are back to accepting clients again. It has been a rough several weeks with the upgrades happening to the studio and office spaces, and it has taken far longer than I could have imaged. In the end, I trust all the hardship will prove worthwhile. The upgraded mahogany flooring is awesome to see, and if just opens the studio space up with a warm feeling. The office flooring is done, but there is yet some cabinetry and furniture work to complete, but we can at least use the space for post production work.

To show my enthusiasm for the new changes and to the re-opening of the studio, I will be announcing some specials. These will run for a limited time, but will be a great way for anyone to get some fantastic photography. I will make the official announcements by the end of the week.

Thank you all for your patience. I look forward to seeing all my old clients again, and welcome new ones to the family.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Studio re-opening delayed

Well, I was fully expecting to re-open the studio this week, but unfortunately that isn't going to happen. After a great deal of problems with the new flooring, we are left with a workspace that is simply not useable. Sadly, it seems that I am not really getting any attention from Empire Today, who was contracted to perform the install, and I'm going to have to file a complaint with the Registrar of Contractors. A huge section of the floor is bare concrete as Empire did not have all of the wood on hand (nor did they tell me before they began demolition). The part they did install, used inferior glue so the planks are not staying in place. The office space itself is packed with materials and other items so that I cannot set up any editing equipment for any shoots not performed at the studio.

I sincerely apologize to all for this. I hope to get this remedied in the near future, and appreciate your patience and understanding.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Almost finished

Well, I've almost got all the website updates completed. It is with mixed emotions that I published the new price list. I know that the prices have gone up, and on some items they have gone up significantly. Unfortunately, it couldn't be helped. As a small business, we can't afford to absorb all the cost increases from our suppliers, and some of it has to be passed on. I've done my best to make sure we are staying competitive in the marketplace, and I'm sure that my customers know the value of the items coming from this studio.

Please come visit the new website, and tell me what you think:

To compliment the website, I'm upgrading the studio facilities as well. In a couple weeks, I expect to have some gorgeous hardwood floors installed, and shortly thereafter I'm going to upgrade the office furnishings as well. I think the office could use some sprucing up with some new flooring, some built-in's and new furniture. I haven't decided if I'm going to install a flat panel in the office for viewing, or if I should stick to online viewing, or printed proofs. Oh well, I've got time.

While the studio upgrades are going into place, I won't be taking any in studio clients. I'll still be available for some on site work. When the studio reopens, I think it will be a great time for me to launch some promotions. First thing I want to do is to get the portfolio updated. I'm thinking of some special offers for clients who are interested lending me their images for advertising. I'm also going to be launching a referral program, as well as a few other items. Stay tuned....

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Upgrades complete

Well, after a little bit of effort, I finally have all the upgrade pieces in place. I figured it was a good enough time to clean out the system and start fresh, so I made double sure I had all my files and images backed up and then I went the extra step of re-installing Windows XP and put SP3 on the machine. After restoring all my files, it looks like all is well. I did make one mistake and when I backed up my music files, I backed up their licenses as well thinking I could restore them. Unfortunately, I upgraded to Windows Media Player 11, which will not allow you to restore a license. Looking through all the whitepapers, and even from the download providers, it appears that the only backup solution for WMV, MP3 and other files protected with DRM is that you have to burn them to CD which completely removes the DRM protection entirely. Seems a bit odd, but I only lost a few files that I hadn't already burned to CD anyway. Not a huge loss.

So, it looks like I'm back in form to continue the Website upgrades. First on the list is to upgrade the price lists and contact information. I think this weekend should be a good time to tackle those items.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Time to upgrade the hardware too....

Well, after starting the website upgrade, I noticed that my main editing PC was running far slower than normal. I did a quick baseline check to test the benchmarks, and it looks like it is time for some upgrades. So, for the time being, I'm focusing on the PC upgrade and will continue with the website upgrade once that is complete.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Well, the website redesign is underway and things are moving along. The first thing I decided to tackle was the HTML splash page. As my website is Flash based, I need some form of HTML presence in order for my site to be viewable by search engines such as Google, Yahoo, Ask, and others. It's also a double edged sword. The HTML splash page needs to be inviting, and create a desire for viewers to actually want to enter the flash based portion of the website.

So here is the challenge: How do you create an inviting HTML splash page for a photography website? The answer, of course, is pictures. You need some sort of showcase of what you, as a photographer, are capable of creating. You use that to create the desire in the viewer to enter the website to see more images, and to find out more about you as an artist and what you provide.

After deciding on some pictures to put on the splash page, I next turned my attention to the graphics. How would the website name appear? How about a logo? Should I use text, or utilize brushes to simulate text? Oh, the pain of the creative. In the end, I decided to go with something that gives a visual representation of the style of photography in which I specialize. I wanted to convey elements of heirloom quality, aesthetic appeal, and elegance. To accomplish that, I drew from the wisdom and experience of those that have been doing this type of thing for a long time.....jewelers. I sampled hundreds of images looking for something to strike a creative spark in my brain. That is where I would find what I needed: Elegance, style, and quality all combined. It hit me like a ton of bricks when I saw it in a pair of monogrammed cuff links. Simple, but effective, with a base of Onyx offset by my initials in platinum and surrounded in a gold border. Perfect! Now I had to recreate it.

As a photographer, I've found so many uses for Photoshop. I know that Adobe charges an arm and a leg for this program, but it is definitely worth it. With this one program, I can design my logo and name, create the pictures to put on the splash page, but it will also format it into an HTML page for me! What more could I ask for? So after a few attempts, I found the combination of text fonts, embossing, and color to give me something that I was happy with. A couple quick clicks, and I had my HTML splash page. Groovy, baby! A few more clicks, and I had my favicon (the little logo that shows up on the address bar next the the website URL) done as well. I would have liked to have the favicon match the logo design, but no matter what I tried I could get the gold/platinum look to be legible on white. If I put it on a black background all I could see in the 16x16 pixel box was a black square. So, in the end I was left with just putting my initials in black on a white background. Oh well, it will do for now.

Next on the to do list is the website content. I think I'll save the gallery updates for last. I've got a lot of good pictures to choose from, but one thing is for certain is that over the years my photographic style has evolved. I need to make sure that what I put in the gallery is cohesive and presents a unified theme. So, for now, I'll start with the updates to the price list and about us pages.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Time for some Housekeeping

I've been meaning to update the website for quite some time, and the long Memorial weekend seemed the perfect time to do it. Of course, once I got started I quickly realized that I wasn't looking at just a simple layout change, but an entire overhaul. I never really paid attention to all the little things that bugged me about the website to begin with, but this seemed the perfect opportunity to address them all at once.

My current website is Flash based, and built on a predefined template. That didn't give me a lot of room to customize the website to my own style. To do that, I'd need to be able to code in HTML and Java. Although I have a very strong technical background, those two programming languages as about as native to me as Russian, French, and Arabic. Oh well, nothing like being put in a "sink or swim" environment. Even if I don't get my website to look perfect, at least it will be much better than what it has been for some time. I think I'll take it slow and work on something individually:

  • Redesign of the site logo
  • Add favicons
  • Redesign of the HTML splash page
  • Update of Galleries
  • Update of all price lists
  • Update contact lists and links to the new blog site!

The new website is going to be up at: Feel free to stop on by and I'd love to hear any comments/critiques on the website.