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Best Purchases Worst Purchases of 2016

February 10, 2017 | By | No Comments

For the last 12 years I have been a full-time professional photographer, supporting my family of six entirely with my photography.

Here’s my family a couple years ago. My wife does nice work, right?fogarty-family-first-visit-to-el-cap


I do Las Vegas Wedding Photography & Las Vegas Elopement Photography, Las Vegas Event / Exhibit / Trade Show Photography, Las Vegas Headshots, Las Vegas Food Photography, and Las Vegas Photobooth photography.

You could say that I’m pretty into photography.

So I am always investing in my business, purchasing the things that I hope will improve my biz and make me a better photographer. Sometimes the things I buy are a big win, sometimes kind of ‘meh’, and sometimes a flop waste of money.

As we roll into the new year 2017 here is a fairly random list of some things I purchased for STEVEN JOSEPH PHOTOGRAPHY in 2016 and my thoughts on their value as products and to my business.


thumbs-upthumbs-upthumbs-upMicrosoft Surface Pro 4: This computer has not only paid for itself many times over and been very profitable for my company, it has changed the way I shoot by making me a better shooter, a better communicator, by expanding the kinds of photography I offer, and by encouraging me to involve my clients more in the photography process.

As a touchscreen this laptop is perfect for self-driven photobooths like my Las Vegas Photobooth. Touchscreens like this PC combined with one of the several photobooth software applications out there are what’s behind most photobooths you see.

The portability and power of this laptop makes it easy to shoot tethered on commercial jobs, like Las Vegas Food Photography jobs, and Las Vegas Headshot jobs, so that I can show the client their photos as they are being shot. I encourage clients to select their favorite right on the spot so that I know which photos to edit and re-touch when I get back to my office. In the past I’ve relied upon people selecting their favorites afterwards on their online gallery, and that can be a slow back & forth process that takes weeks. Now I know everybody’s favorite before the job is over.

Because I never bring just one of anything to a professional photo job (the Navy Seals have a saying: “two is one and one is none”) I bought two of these Surface Pros, so that I always have a backup.

thumbs-upthumbs-upthumbs-upNeewer Mini Magic ArmNeewer-magic-arm: I’m always trying different ways to attach my Speedlites to things in discreet ways. When I do Event Photography and Wedding Photography in hotels, while there’s not always a smooth surface to attach a suction cup to, there’s always a lighting sconce up high and out of the way. It’s good to get our lights up and out of the way because we’re not there to be pests and to cause obstacles for staff and guests to navigate. We’re there to discreetly document what’s going on.

This little baby is PERFECT for getting my speedlites up and out of the way, yet incredibly adjustable so that I can get my Speedlites in exactly the position and pitch I need. LOVE ♥

delkin-fat-geckothumbs-downSpeaking of suction cups, I am very disappointed in this Delkin Fat Gecko suction cup I recently bought locally. While it does a good job of staying attached to any non-porous smooth surface you connect it to, positioning your attached Speedlite is very cumbersome and frustrating. I basically don’t use thing unless in a pinch. While it is much less expensive than my favorite Speedlite suction cup, the Novoflex, it isn’t even worth what I paid for it because I don’t use it.

novoflex-suction-cupthumbs-upthumbs-upthumbs-up The Novoflex Suction Cup Kit is hands down the best suction cup for Speedlites I have ever tried, and I’ve tried LOTS of them. It’s expensive – like $60-$90. But it’s very well constructed, mostly of metal, built like a tank, and it is very flexible and adjustable. It also has a very small footprint so it can be adhered to narrow surfaces like the plastic viewing window of a fire extinguisher case. I’ve had the first one I bought for 6 or 7 years. Other than treating it with some lithium lubricant once in a while it has held up incredibly well.

thumbs-upCamRanger Wi-Fi Dongle Wireless Camera Remote Controller
: I love the idea of this WiFi wireless tethering solution. But the execution has not worked well for me.

Ideally, it would work directly with Lightroom tethering, directly as a substitute for a wired tether. But alas to get full functionality you have to use the controller software that comes with the CamRanger, and the CamRanger software is less than elegant.

First, CamRanger’s software is not just one app. It’s four different apps. Which I find a little confusing, and cumbersome. There’s the “CamRanger Application”. Then the “CamRanger-Share for Windows”. Then the “Adjust CamRanger Settings”. And finally the “CamRanger Launcher”. And that’s just for the Windows platform. IOS and Android each have two more apps. Kindle has another app. And Mac also has yet 4 more apps.

Using it in the real world I found it to be buggy and unreliable, often failing to give me menus and functionality that the user manual said I should expect.CamRanger
Plus, using it while continuing to have Internet access requires a geeky tweak of the unit itself, setting up an internal bridge to a known Internet-connected WiFi. I was able to do it at home carefully reading the instructions. But I don’t want to do it for every on-location shoot I have, which is most of my shoots.

In the end, I now use a traditional USB cable tethered directly into Lightroom. Except for the risk of tripping over the cable and smashing my PC or camera to the ground, I love how well a cable tether works in Lightroom. I’m also looking forward to upgrading to Canon 5D Mark IVs that have fast USB 3.0, instead of the sluggish USB 2.0 native to my 2 Canon 5D Mark IIIs.

So, I really like the IDEA of wireless tethering. My experience of it has been underwhelming such that I really don’t use my CamRanger. You wanna buy mine? 🙂


thumbs-upthumbs-upThe Neewer Wireless Remote Shutter Release Trigger is a good little purchase. Very inexpensive ($18), it does what it does, remotely wirelessly trigger my camera. I use it mostly during Event Photography when I need an overhead bird’s-eye-view shot looking directly down or from a very high perspective. I attach my camera to a monopod, hike it way up there, and trigger the camera with this little doo-hickey. I’ve also used it recently for a light painting I did at a bride’s request and it worked like a champ. While not as well-built or robust as a PocketWizard, it’s eighteen bucks, and it does the trick. Very good purchase that has added value to my business.



thumbs-upthumbs-upWestern Digital My Cloud EX2 UltraI’m kind of a backup hardass, priding myself on the fact that – in 12 years of professional photography – I have never failed to deliver a client’s images to them.

WD-MyCloud-NASMy workflow starts with a professional camera body that writes my images to 2 different media simultaneously (a CF card and an SD card). Then when I return home I ingest those images using PhotoMechanic, renaming and embedding the images with relevant Keywords to appease the Google search bot gods, and backing them up to 2 additional places – a local SSD working drive, and a local NAS. My off-site backup service CrashPlan then immediately begins backing up both of those local locations to the cloud. So, before I go to bed most days my clients’ images live on 4 different physical drives and are being backed up to a superior cloud service.

One of the local NAS systems I’ve used with great success is the Western Digital My Cloud EX2 Ultra. I had some big hard drives lying around, so I bought the diskless version. It set up easily, and is easy to manage. I’ve used el-cheapo NAS cases before and seen them crash inexplicably. So, when it comes to drives and backup solutions, I prefer name-brand stuff to el-cheapo.

thumbs-upNeewer 3-Way Triple Hotshoe Mount Tilt Flash Bracket: Kind of a ‘meh’. Good idea. Made of metal, this is of a much higher build quality than the garbage plastic triple speedlite mount from Westcott I discuss below. But still not quite there. The heads always swivel loose, unintentionally, requiring an odd torque wrench to set right and tighten, causing your lights to point in weird directions. And the hotshoe tightening screws are just too small, making it difficult to tighten and loosen them.

Neewer-3-way-speedlite-mountAlso the swivel ball head is a good idea, but just not up to the task when using any kind of a modifier with your three speedlites, like an umbrella or an Octabox. The whole mechanism is just too small and flimsy for the task.

If the the coldshoes were welded on rather than screwed on, if the tightening knobs were bigger or more of the wing-head type for easier gripping, and if the ball head was significantly larger and more robust, this would be 2-3 thumbs up.

As it is, I rarely use them because I know they will partially fail during the shoot.

Westcott-3-way-speedlite-hotshoethumbs-downthumbs-downthumbs-downWestcott 2223 Triple Threat Shoe Mount Adapter: This is a piece of garbage. I bought two. Both failed catastrophically upon first use in the same way. The brass 1/4-20 screw tore out of the flimsy plastic body, rendering it useless. Not a good look with paying clients are present. Fortunately I always bring backup of everything and my client never even noticed the fail.

But the product manager at Westcott who green-lit this piece of junk is in the wrong business. Why go to all that trouble to produce something they know will break and be returned for credit? Ironically, while still cheap, it was about twice as expensive as the all-metal Neewer triple hotshoe mount above. Boo Westcott on this turd.

Portable-HDD-ruggedthumbs-upthumbs-upthumbs-upSilicon Power 1TB Rugged Armor A30 Shockproof Standard 2.5-Inch USB 3.0 Military Grade Portable External Hard Drive: This is a big win. These babies make me money. They increase the reliability and professionalism of my commercial shoots. They make moving work from on-location to my office very easy. They are rugged as described, very portable, and they fit right into my Surface Pro 4 carrying case. Like everything, I always bring two, because Two Is One and One Is None.

5x7-Impact-collapsible-backdrop-black-whitethumbs-upthumbs-upthumbs-upImpact Collapsible Background – 5′ x 7′ (Black / White): Another big win. This make me money all the time. Super portable pure white or pure black backdrop for headshots. It’s quite large at 5 feet wide by 7 feet tall, yet folds up into an easy carrying case. I’ve got two. Love these. ♥

YN-E3-RTthumbs-upthumbs-upYongnuo YN-E3-RT Flash Speedlite Transmitter for Canon 600EX-RT (clone of the Canon ST-E3-RT): Another big win. As far as I can tell this is actually better than the Canon ST-E3-RT that it is a shameless ripoff of. With all the functionality of the genuine Canon trigger, it adds infrared focus assist! SO USEFUL in a dark hotel reception hall.

I actually don’t use these too much because I prefer having a light on my camera for fill that also acts as master to my wireless slave Speedlites. But when I don’t need an on-camera speedlite and I want to put more slaves into play around a shoot, this thing is excellent. No complaints at all.


thumbs-upthumbs-upSnowboard Wall Rack Mount: My wife did a little YouTube research on how to organize my home studio and she came up with this clever use of snowboard racks as a place to put all of my c-stands and booms and other long clumsy things that were always in the way.

Instead of storing snowboards on these, I store all of my poles and c-stands and umbrellas and such, horizontally. Discreetly out of the way, yet easy to access. Love ’em. ♥

thumbs-upthumbs-upthumbs-downthumbs-downNeewer TT850 Li-ion Battery Flash Speedlite for Canon: Really excellent when they work. A fire hazard when they don’t.

Neewer-Dumb-FlashThese are dumb flashes that do not communicate with my two wireless systems (Canon 600EX-RT, and Profoto Air Remote TTL-C) other than through dumb optical triggering. IOW, I have zero control over the power setting of these flashes from my camera, other than to trigger them by popping my flash.

Their downsides include:

  • Anybody else with a pop-up flash triggers my flashes, too.
  • I must walk over to them to adjust their power up, down, or off.
  • They have a reputation for dangerously overheating their li-ion battery to the point of deforming and ballooning the battery, rendering the flash useless and risking burning your house down 🙁

Their upsides include:

  • Re-chargeable lithium ion battery that lasts for many all day long photo shoots.
  • Very powerful, they put out a lot of light.
  • They take all of the modifiers I use on my Canon Speedlites, like MagMod Grids and gels.
  • Very inexpensive.

So because of all of their upsides, I like these and own them and plan to buy more.

And because of their downsides I keep a careful eye on them when they are new and I am charging them for the first time. If I notice any deformation in the battery at all I immediately stop charging and I return them to Amazon. Neewer gives me a full refund.

Las Vegas Wedding at The Revere Golf Club – Melissa and Tony

February 3, 2017 | By | No Comments

Two of the greatest people brought their families together in this ideal location in the hills overlooking Las Vegas, the premiere golf resort of Revere in Henderson. This was one of the most spiritual weddings I have ever had the privilege to document, with two of the finest people I’ve met. Congratulations to Melissa and Tony!

Las Vegas Wedding of Jennifer and Andrew at Wedgewood Stallion Mt

January 27, 2017 | By | No Comments

Jennifer and Andrew came in from Seattle – seemingly bringing much of Amazon’s staff with them – to pledge their forever commitment to each other and to join their soulful supportive families together. Wedgewood is surprisingly green for the Mojave Desert, near great western mountains, and it’s very accustomed to hosting beautiful weddings. If you’re looking to bring everyone to Vegas for the convenience, and you want a place that’s off The Strip and not as zany as The Strip, a place that’s green and cool and calm, then Wedgewood is an excellent choice.

Indoor Environmental Portable Headshots at a convention on the Las Vegas Strip

January 14, 2017 | By | No Comments

Environmental headshots are all the rage, even for very large corporations. They look so fresh and contemporary. However they can come with a lot of hassle.

One of the largest companies in the world came to Las Vegas this week and their executives wanted environmental headshots, without the hassle, discomfort and risk of wind and dust and rain and heat and perspiration and a long walk. No problem. So I created “outdoor” environmental headshots right in the comfort of a hotel conference room.

Is your company converging on Las Vegas in the near future, and you recognize it’s an opportunity to create coherent, gorgeous headshots for all of your executives, employees, or guests? In addition to indoor environmental headshots, we also provide gorgeous traditional high-key and low-key corporate headshots. High Quality. High Volume. Fair Prices.

We even let you see and then select your favorite photo from an iPad/tablet (for later re-touching) in real time as they are being created. That’s pretty neat!

#IndoorEnvironmentalPortableHeadshots #LasVegasHeadshots #EnvironmentalHeadshots #IndoorEnvironmentalHeadshots #VegasCorporateEventHeadshots

Some Las Vegas Food Photography – Restaurant Menu Food Photography

January 13, 2017 | By | No Comments

Some random Las Vegas Food Photography photos I’ve made for Restaurant Menu Food Photography of delicious gorgeous food over the years.

Ramen Sora in China Town needed a couple of new dishes photographed for their menu.

Bonito Michoacan Mexican Restaurant wanted all the food photography on their whole menu re-photographed. All the good ones on their new menu are mine. The bad ones are somebody else’s.

Jean Philippe Patisserie in the Aria Hotel wanted some beautiful photos of their signature world-famous pastries – one of which ended up as their banner image on the Aria Hotel web site.

Do we love doing las vegas food photography for las vegas restaurant menus? Oh yea.

Before and After – How We Love Your Images – Let Me Count The Ways

December 29, 2016 | By | No Comments

To see many Before & After images, keep scrolling.

LIGHT EDITING: Neon Museum - Las Vegas Gay Wedding - toning, bump exposure
LIGHT EDITING: Commercial Portrait: The Big Gun II Reality TV Show: Brightened exposure, opened shadows, vignette
DEEP EDITING: Commercial Portrait: The Big Gun II Reality TV Show: remove lighting structures, toning, exposure, vignette.
DEEP EDITING RETOUCHING: Headshot: fixed suit coat, brightened eyes and teeth, softened wisdom lines, softened hot spots, removed blemishes
DEEP EDITING RETOUCHING: Headshot: brightened eyes + teeth, tooth gap, hair flyaways, softened wisdom lines, removed blemishes, removed lighting reflectors
DEEP EDITING RETOUCHING: Headshot of Bob Nardelli: brightened eyes + teeth, softened wisdom lines, removed blemishes, removed lighting reflectors
DEEP EDITING: Aussie Elopement on Dry Lake Bed / Playa - nailed exposure, remove assistant and distracting rocks and dirt smudges, toning
LIGHT EDITING: Groomsmen at Rhodes Ranch Wedding - toning, bring up exposure, bring down highlights, bring up blacks, bump vibrance, vignette
DEEP EDITING: Commercial Portrait - The Big Gun II Reality TV Show at Pro Gun Club Las Vegas. removed lighting structures, toning, vignette
LIGHT EDITING: Floyd Lamb Park Elopement - dampen highlights, bring back sky, toning

I have a confession to make.

I love your images. Possibly too much.

Even though I’m known for professionally lit, clean, poppy, magazine style images with no Photoshop Sauce™ I still spend a lot of time making them perfect. Probably too much time. Which means sometimes my clients don’t get their images as fast as they’d like. Here’s how much I love your images.

To see many Before & After images, keep scrolling.


I deliver your photos to you only after each one has been carefully, lovingly hand-tweaked by the photographer or by a skilled digital artist to look their very best. Like a mom who won’t let the little ones leave the house with shirt un-tucked and a dirty face, I do not release my (your) photos until I’ve given them LIGHT EDITING in Adobe Lightroom. Each photo is hand adjusted in some or all of the following settings before I gently hand my babies over to you:

  • Color Temperature
  • Exposure
  • Contrast
  • Highlights
  • Shadows
  • Whites
  • Blacks
  • Clarity
  • Vibrance
  • Tone Curve
  • Luminance
  • Noise Reduction
  • Vignetting
  • Spot Removal

Sometimes, I even take your images into Photoshop for DEEP EDITING, like removing lighting structures and distractions.

Another confession: I don’t always make perfect images right in camera. Usually I get very close. Sometimes complexions etc require intervention. Sometimes I intentionally shoot with stuff in the frame that I plan to remove later. And sometimes, I kind of blow it and a great image is over- or under-exposed, hidden in my mediocrity and needs to be resurrected in post. But that’s seriously uncommon.

In the examples below I show editing differences that are quite small (the ones I pretty much nailed in-camera), all the way to ones intentionally cluttered or even oddly exposed with the vision of the end-photo in mind. I’m even including images from some of the outstanding Associate Photographers who shoot for STEVEN JOSEPH PHOTOGRAPHY, who also shoot deliberately and with intention, and give each of your babies the TLC they deserve (Toning, Lightroom, and Cropping).  🙂

To see many Before & After images, keep scrolling.


LIGHT EDITING: Bride & Groom at Rhodes Ranch Wedding - remove distractions in the grass, bump exposure, toning, bring down highlights, bring up blacks, bump vibrance
LIGHT EDITING: Bride at Rhodes Ranch Wedding - remove distractions in the grass, toning, bump exposure, bring down highlights, bring up blacks, bump vibrance
LIGHT EDITING: Bride at Rhodes Ranch Wedding - underexposed, toning, bring up shadows
DEEP EDITING: Commercial Portraits Big Guns Reality Show at Pro Gun Club Las Vegas: remove objects (sign, light & light stand), toning
LIGHT EDITING: Neon Museum - Las Vegas Gay Wedding - graduated filter, toning
DEEP EDITING: DTLV Graffiti Las Vegas Elopement - bump exposure, paint out sky
LIGHT EDITING: DTLV Neon Las Vegas Elopement - bump exposure, bring up shadows
LIGHT EDITING: Bride at Neon Museum Smokin' a Cig - straigthen, crop, bump exposure, vignette
LIGHT EDITING: Headshot on-location - Simple Editing, Blemishes, Hair
LIGHT EDITING: Green Valley Ranch GVR Wedding - level, toning, vignette
DEEP EDITING: Elopement DTLV Graffiti - paint over sky with building artwork graffiti, toning
LIGHT EDITING: Elopement DTLV - nailed it - simple vignette
LIGHT EDITING: Bride at Rhodes Ranch - black & white, exposure, highlights
LIGHT EDITING: Associate Photographer Wedding at Rhodes Ranch - notice how Associate exposed for the sky, and by bringing up exposure and cropping he transformed this epic shot, all with intention
LIGHT EDITING: Aussies Nelson Ghost Town - bumped up exposure, vignette
LIGHT EDITING: DTLV Elopement East Fremont Neon - nailed it - exposure tweak and vignette
LIGHT EDITING: Elopement DTLV - nailed it - bumped exposure,
LIGHT EDITING: GVR Green Valley Ranch Wedding - color corrected, too warm, lens distortion correction, vignette
DEEP EDITING: Elopement Welcome to Las Vegas Sign - removed background distractions