Monday, December 31, 2012

The Joyful Bonds: "Mommy 'n' Me"

Because this moment happens only once… 
Fill your heart and your home this Valentine’s Day with beautiful “Mommy and Me” portraits from Monroe Payne Photography

Valentine’s Day means something special for everyone. We hold memories from our childhood during which we gave our favorite valentine to our sweetheart, and we keep those memories alive by taking pictures for Valentine’s Day. 

Really, the sweetest thing a mother has is that special connection between you and your child. Remember it. Photos are not only the perfect Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day gift to your husband, but to your own mother and mother-in-law as well.

Your children will one day become adults and cherish the photos of themselves with their mother.  They won’t care that you may have looked a bit tired from staying up all night with a teething baby or that you waited just a little longer to lose those “last few pounds”. They will see how young and beautiful you look, and how much you loved them, and there is nothing more precious than that.

You’ll love our “Mommy and Me” images for the classic, rich black and white tones. We encourage moms to wear either all black or all white for the session, and we will feature the cute and cuddly side of your baby and document the special relationship you have built together. Dads often come to the session, but this is really designed as a quiet session between Mommy & baby.

This is the perfect time to have your little cupids photographed and have the portraits back in time to give to your “Valentine”.

Feel the love this year call Monroe Payne today to schedule your appointment before all the best time slots are full.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Why hire a Professional Photographer?

Ok, I'm prejudiced.

I'm a professional photographer who has been available for hire since 1996.

Over those years, I have seen people keenly disappointed by amateur photographers who would LOVE to shoot their weddings - then either forget their camera, or do such a lousy job that the couple has no good photos to remember their day.

I have seen business people try to take their own portrait for business cards or magazine ads. Those images look more like the photos taken at police stations.

Product photography done by an amateur can actually drive people away from your business....

When you hire (or take advantage of) an amateur, you get whatever you get. There is no recourse, no second chance, and no professional ethics to come back to. 

This is not to say that there are not many talented amateurs - there are, but can you be certain that the individual you are talking to is one of those talented ones??

I have a simple guaranty, which is that you will be delighted with your experience and your photography. (I don't do "satisfied".) In 14 years as a pro, I have had only one unhappy client, and I really went to the wall to correct that situation. Before we completed our relationship, she really WAS delighted.

Here is the bottom line. You can tell, almost at a glance, the difference between a professional and an amateur photograph. The pro image will be crafted. It will be an image that is cared for, selected, enhanced and formatted for its intended use. The amateur image will be shot and delivered. Usually for cash, under the table. If the pro image is not acceptable, there is usually a contract or agreement for the purchaser to fall back on. If the amateur image is unacceptable, you're SOL.

So here are a few things to look for.

How long has your photographer been in business? Usually, more than 3 years is good. The universe weeds out the poor ones, or they get better. New pro photographers are usually enthusiastic, and have some real talent, but be cautious. Look at a portfolio of their images before going with them.

Are they members of professional organizations? I am a member of the Professional Photographers of America (PPA), Professional Photographers Society of New York State (PPSNYS), National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP) and the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce.

A great benefit of your photographer being in a professional organization is the network of photographers that they are plugged in to. If (God forbid) I became ill and could not fulfill my obligation, I have a large network of pros that I TRUST who can take over for me. There is also a code of ethics that the members have to agree to as a condition of membership. More on that later.

Do they do charity work? Believe it or not, this is very important. I volunteer for Tompkins County 4-H, the Lansing CDC Auction, YMCA, (look it up), the Cancer Resource Center and a number of others. I find that the photographers I have the best relationship with (and the ones I want to photograph MY family) also do charity work. This is because they see a need, and it's what they can do. I can't donate lots of money, but I have a skill that these organizations can use, and I'm happy to help.

Do they have a studio, or do they work out of the back of their car? I know many, really good photographers who work out of their homes and carry their equipment with them in their cars, so don't make it a deal breaker, but it is a piece of the puzzle.

Are they bound by professional ethics? This is critical. As a member of the executive council of PPSNYS, we examine every reported instance of ethics violations regarding our members. In the 5 years I have been involved with this group, I am unaware of any ethics issues that have come up. We HAVE however, been made aware of a number of ethical issues outside of our organization, and have filed briefs as a professional organization regarding industry best practices.

Do they require a contract or agreement? This protects you as well as the photographer, and gives you recourse if the photographer does not perform as agreed. I hate misunderstandings, don't you? Contracts keep everyone understanding each other.

Here is the bottom BOTTOM line. Every image you use in every contact you have with the public says something about you. Does it say "I care about my image. I care about myself, and I will care about you if you become my client."...

...or do your images say "I'm cheap."? 

Your choice.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Open Letter to Potential Photo Contributors

It is 2008.

So I'm this guy, trying to make a buck. 
Frankly, hoping to create a retirement income.

Really, more than that. I am in love with images. Emotional, magnificent, charged, soothing, sad, raucous, precious images. It is the resonating frequency of my life. My reason for being.

So, with a deal of passion and a little understanding, I begin to form an idea of selling my images to, well, people who want to USE these images I'm so passionate about.

But I know I can't do it alone. And I think I have a great idea.

This all began when a graphic artist asked me if I had a photo of .. something, it doesn't matter, except she said she really wished that there was a stock agency for Ithaca.
Stock. Ithaca. Stock. Ithaca. IthacaStock!

That was 2008. I thought about all of the thousands of beautiful photos I had on my hard drive and how they haven't sold - probably because nobody ever saw them.

I also had tried to get in with iStock and Shutterstock, and the experience was less than wonderful. 

So here is, on the computer, my idea. A collection of regionally linked photographic artists, each with their personal vision and a style unlike anything else.

I give my contributors a place to market their images with no headaches. All they do is upload them. If they sell, great. If not, they still have a gallery of images that they can point their friends and potential clients to.

We have been on line since May 2010. Sales have been flat (like poor) until this past October. All that marketing and networking is beginning to pay off. Web designers have begun to contact me, interior decorators are calling and all because of persistence (with a local flavor), and personal customer service.

So today, we have 70 photographers, almost 5000 images, and clients calling. With continued persistence, it can only get better.

I have always tried to be open handed with our contributors. They get 60% of the proceeds of each digital sale, and 50% of the net from a hard copy sale. We sell a batch of 24 X 36 images on canvas, framed, and you have a fairly respectable paycheck. There is also no exclusivity - you can sell your image to any stock agency if you like. I don't mind.

Anyway, I would appreciate your feedback, and hope you and I can enjoy a long and profitable business relationship.

Contact me at for more information, or click here if you want to join the photographic artists who make up Ithaca Stock Photo. You will be in awesome company!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

It ain't cheap, but it IS worth it! Thoughts on Commercial Photography

"Hey, I ain't cheap, but I CAN be had..."

I loved Michael Douglas' performance in Romancing the Stone. 
But he had a point there.

As beautiful as Kathleen Turner was, Michael Douglas had to stop his life to help her, and got paid fairly for it.... but you can watch the movie yourself.

Commercial photography is demanding and expensive to purchase and to produce - if you want decent images, that is. Anybody can take a snapshot, but the problem is, it looks just like that, a snapshot. I am in the business of creating, not "taking", great images. They can be group photos for Cornell University, product photos for Lucienne's Gourmet Biscotti and Amazing Chocolates, advertising pieces for Wells College or catalog images for AirSoft weapons. 

Each session is different and challenging. Each requires a specific set of equipment and staff, each client has specific needs that we strive to meet and exceed. Our guaranty is simple. Our clients will be delighted - not just "satisfied". We will do whatever is necessary to keep our clients "delighted". It makes for good business relationships, which frequently turn into wonderful personal relationships.

Photography is only one piece of the final product for any commercial application. If the company is large, they may already have a design and print shop in house. Smaller companies will farm their work out to local independent graphic artists and designers to complete their projects.

I personally have several graphic artists and designers that I love to work with, whose styles meet and complement my own, and vice versa. Publications and advertising pieces we create together have a special feel BECAUSE of the relationships we share.

This whole thing about relationships and prices and contacts is not limited to commercial photography. Wedding clients in particular are hiring GWCs, or "Guys With Cameras" who think that because they have a cool camera, that they can do as well as a seasoned pro.

Well, you get what you pay for.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sunsets and Students

One of the most delightful jobs that I get to do have to do with students and water.

This month I was asked to photograph students at Wells College for a poster that highlighted their logo, "Education for an Extraordinary Life"

What I found was a group of exuberant, friendly and bright students who were willing to do whatever I asked them to. I am convinced that they would have jumped into the lake through the ice had I asked... But I really AM a nice guy...

Sunset silhouettes are almost always striking, but we had only two minutes to capture this image. The sun hit the horizon, and the light left. It was that fast.

Did I mention that the air temperature was 6 degrees?

So how can you take beautiful images like this?

First, it requires a bit of planning. This was my third trip to Wells, and I have a fairly exact idea of where I wanted to take the photo.

Second, if you want to take images that no other photographer can take, you have to DO what other photographers are unwilling to DO. In this case, be out in the bitter cold, on your knees in a snowbank directing the 15 students who complete the scene.

And last - this photo was underexposed by about 1-1/3 stops from what the Program Automatic function would have set it at. Try that this summer when the wind doesn't bite so hard.

For more "Winter at Wells" images, visit the gallery page. We use a service called "SmugMug", which we believe is the best gallery site out there.

Also, please visit our web site at for thousands of photos by central New York (and beyond) artists!

Have a wonderful week!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A New Year's Wish and Commitment.

To all of my awesome friends, the most sincere "Happy New Year" wishes ever.

2011 is going to be a breakout year. 

I have never, EVER been so positive about the coming 12 months as I am now.
The stars are aligning, the foundation has been laid, the big storm (the financial one) has begun to clear, and the sun is beginning to peek out at us all.

At the same time, I think we are all aware that we need to work together to break out. 
Working on our futures alone will get us the same results we have always had in the past.

So let's try something better and different..

I personally commit to helping at least one of you in some way, every week during this coming year. 

This could be something like pointing you in the direction of a contractor you can trust - or an accountant, or a B&B...
Or it could have something to do with photography, (who would have thought....)
Or maybe I could pick you up a gallon of milk on my way home.
Or maybe, I could keep my ears open if you need a job, or write you a testimonial or letter of recommendation.

I'll do this alone if I have to, but it will be so much more fun if I have company on this trip!

Who wants to join me?

Just commit to being open to the opportunity to help each other.
It is the GIVING that makes us feel great.
And forward this to YOUR friends too. Let's make this a BIG party!

So if you have a need, sing out! (this is the cool part) If you have a need, you are not imposing on me, you are giving me an opportunity to do something that will make me feel wonderful.

I know, it sounds almost perverse in its reverse logic, but by you asking for help, you are doing me a favor.

But again, this is not nearly as much fun if I do this alone, and nobody is going to track your good deeds. The benefit is for you and you alone.
Reply to this post if you will commit - or even if you think it's a cool idea.
If we get a great number of people interested, maybe I'll start a Facebook page of people helping each other, where people can post needs and connect with those who can help.

So again, Happy New Year. Have a magnificent 2011!
May your blessings flow and gently touch every one you meet!


Since I emailed this a few days ago, I have gotten a mountain of responses, and the blessings have begun to flow. I have found a good friend from a previous life who was laid off, and wrote him a letter of recommendation, done a testimonial for another business, and a bunch of other stuff. 

But the people who have been moved to think about others while they, themselves are in need has been stunning.

We, together, will make this a better world.

Please let me know your thoughts. Visit the site,, send me an email,, or just follow us. 

2011 is going to be a wonderful ride!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Christmas Idea

Hamish, resting up before the evening's carnage...

Some things never change.

The cats find every ornament to be a new and exotic toy, especially those that are just out of reach. Especially the glass ones.
The kitchen smells wonderful with cookies, baking breads and the holiday turkey.

In our home, my wife goes all out in making Christmas a time of bright lights, cinnamon and pine smells, fancy swags with ornaments, frosted cookies and snowflakes. Ok, I help, but the project is hers.

Oh yes, the other thing that never changes is that we are never quite ready when Christmas eve arrives. This year is no exception.

With all of this going on, lets take a few moments to remember our blessings.
First, we are alive. That's a good start.
Second, we have a roof, a warm place to sleep, and food - usually at this time of year, too much food.

We have our friends who love us, and our family who puts up with us...

The list can go on and on. My advice to you is to think of each blessing in turn, and say a quiet "Thank You". Nobody needs to hear, as long as your soul hears. Thanks is the greatest gift you can give to others, but it is also the greatest gift you can give yourself.

So try this under the tree on Saturday. When you hand out each present, say thank you. 

Some will know. And the rest - well, share your gift of thanks.