Friday, November 02, 2018
By Studio Lumen - JMR
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When we first started out in commercial and corporate photography and videography, 'they' told us very strongly to keep our wedding photography experience a secret from all of our commercial clients. I'm not 100% sure why this is, but this was the message: have two separate websites, hide the fact that we do weddings as well as commercial and corporate work. One of the people telling me this was a wedding videographer, who had successfully transitioned to commercial work. I asked him how did he find all of his first commercial clients, and his answer: from his wedding clients! We've also had an agency hire us in part because of our wedding photography experience. 

In my mind, the things that we learned from photographing weddings are directly applicable to our commercial work, and actually make us better commercial photographers.  Here are the reasons why.

1. Experience photographing non-models

Working in weddings, you deal with people not used to being in front of the camera on every single job. To make great portraits, you need to know how to pose them, and work with them so that they feel like themselves, feel good about themselves, and are having a great time. That way their images will look great to them, and to you. Non-models are nervous in front of the camera, they don't know what to do with their hands, how to turn their heads, what light looks best on them, what their best angle is, etc., and when you photograph those people every weekend for enough years, you come to know what works and what doesn't!

Similarly, our subjects in commercial and corporate work are most often not models, and also don't get their photographs taken too often. They have all of the same issues as brides and grooms, which makes our experience photographing wedding clients invaluable.

2. Working Fast

Weddings are fast paced events. People are constantly moving, lighting conditions change by the second, locations are varied and complex, and the number of images we take is enormous. A good wedding photographer can manage all those things in the blink of an eye. We need to evaluate the light, place our subjects in a scene that works, pose them, and choose our composition, all extremely quickly, because there is a ceremony or a reception to get to in a very short amount of time. Within that we have to decide what the purpose of each shot is, so we know what camera settings to use, and how to set the camera up to achieve the effect we want without even having to think about it.

Then after the wedding is done, we have to sort through thousands of images, and know very quickly what shots to eliminate and what to keep, based on the story of the day, and what clients like or don't like. For more in-depth post-production, we know what to do to an image to make it amazing for a client, and how to do that quickly and efficiently.

All of those things are useful on a commercial shoot. Clients don't have hours to spend with us, sometimes as short as 5 minutes. The ability to improvise on the fly, evaluate the light, the scene, and the composition, and then move quickly once a decision is made, is highly appreciated, and adds a lot of value to our work. Commercial clients want to look great, and our experience in all aspects from the shoot to the post-production helps tremendously.

3. Interpersonal Skills

One of the great things about our job is that we get to spend our time hanging out with great people, and provide them with something valuable through our skills and experience as photographers and videographers. I am always thankful for this. But that comes with a lot of time spent with people we barely know, and that means we have to be able to make people feel comfortable around us, extremely quickly. Most of the time I have never met the mother of the bride before the wedding day, and if I can get her on my side within 20 minutes of the beginning of the shoot, that's amazing! Everything goes well, and people have a nice time, when their photographer is fun to be around, makes people feel calm and at ease, and inspires confidence - while at the same time not distracting from the event, or getting in the way.

All of these things I think can be appreciated by a CEO who is having his or her portrait taken, or employees nervous to have their photo taken for their company's website.

4. Consulting

As wedding and commercial photographers, we are basically consultants, and that means working with people who have no idea what it takes to do what we do. As such, we need to communicate things to people in a way that is diplomatic, friendly, and makes for a good experience. It is also a consultant's job to help clients feel good about themselves, as well as make them look good to others, which applies quite literally to photography and videography. Working with hundreds of wedding clients has helped us learn these things.

Consultants also need to be able to figure s**t out! Very often you run into situations that you've never been in, or which pop up unexpectedly from time to time on a shoot. We need to problem solve, fast, so that our clients don't have to, and on a wedding day that happens all the time.

Commercially the first points translate directly, with a few more twists from the educational point of view, and the second happens almost on every shoot, that is, figuring out and improvising things, preferably in a way that the client doesn't even know it's happening, so that the shoot turns out amazingly well!

So, I know I'm 150% biased here, but if someone ever tells you that your commercial photographer shouldn't be a wedding photographer, I would tell them the opposite: you would rather they had been or are one thank you very much!

Wednesday, October 31, 2018
By Studio Lumen - JMR
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Some of you may know that Studio Lumen participated in ATB's accelerator program, ATBx, just over a year ago.  It was such an amazing experience, primarily because of all the amazing people and business owners we met there. Our last client spotlight, Empowerment Inc, is now in that program, but for this month's spotlight, we wanted to highlight someone else we met there.

Ivana Novosel owns IMLocum, a platform that connects veterinary technicians with clinics looking for staff.  She is SO passionate about everything, but primarily about animals.  Her service helps all veterinary professionals including students, which means veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and support staff, and through them, thousands more animals in need.  When she's not working, Ivana is an intense cross-country skier and runner, and kicked my butt in a race we happened to be doing at the same time, without even knowing each other yet.  She applies that intensity to everything she does, and her business is something to keep an eye on.  Not only that but she is so warm, friendly, and always good to have a glass of wine with!

So without further ado, here is our Client Spotlight for this month, Ivana Novosel from IMLocum. You can also check out the full version of the teaser video above, at the bottom of the post.

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Ivana Novosel, and I am a founder and CEO of IMLocum. We connect busy veterinary clinics with dedicated veterinary staff on demand. By doing this our mission is to help the veterinary professionals stay in the industry longer and thrive.

Tell us more about your background, related to this business (where did your passion came from).

I am a Registered Veterinary Technologist.  I currently sit on the Alberta Veterinary Technologists Association (ABVTA), the Registered Veterinary Technologists/Technicians of Canada (RVTTC) Association, and the International Veterinary Nurses and Technicians Association as well (I don’t sleep much, lol). I am absolutely passionate about animal health and overall wellbeing and my overarching goal is to help animals in need. However, as I got more involved with this industry, I realized how passionate I am about the people in this profession. The people in this industry are honestly some of the hardest working, compassionate, selfless people I have even been around. The love and care they give back to those who cannot speak for themselves is absolutely amazing. And they do it for no other reason but pure love and devotion for the animals.

Explain when and why you started this business.

I started this business in January 2017. By creating a business that is “helping people who help animals”™, I can now assure that my efforts are resulting in more animals getting the care they deserve. This is my 10x rule…if I can help 10 veterinary professionals have a great and a productive day…they can help at least 10 animals in that day…that means I have helped 100 animals. Pretty awesome I would say.

Currently, the veterinary hospitals are struggling to find staff and our cloud-based platform is helping clinic managers connect, communicate, post and schedule shifts and jobs in a matter of minutes. Regular clinic staff is being “over used” due to working understaffed and they are burning out and ultimately leaving our industry.

How rewarding is it for you to be doing what you're doing?

What I am doing is absolutely one of the hardest things I have ever done. Disrupting the industry that is notorious for being slow to accept change is not easy. However, keeping in mind why I am doing what I am doing is keeping me going. For every match that happens on the platform…I think, that’s 1 awesome human and 10 animals I have just helped. This makes my work feel worth the effort and rewarding for sure.

Who are your main customers? Who are your best customers?

This is a 2-sided marketplace platform. We serve veterinary clinics and veterinary professionals (veterinarians, veterinary technologists, and support staff) as well as students. Our best customers are those professionals who are looking for new ways of building their career and those clinic managers who are struggling with staffing their clinics either with regular or locum, also known as temporary, staff.

What are you struggling with right now?

These types of marketplaces are notoriously difficult to start growing. Once they are established in the area, it is a bit smoother sailing, but that initial entry is slow and painful at times. I always say, Facebook with 2 users is useless, but with 2 billion is entirely different game.

How can people help you at this point in your work?

We are looking for people who are interested in helping us scale and grow this platform quickly and efficiently…people who recognize the problem or see the value in having veterinary clinics staffed well and with the best professionals that are out there…perhaps people who love their pets as much as we do.  We are looking for partners and investors, for advocates and champions. The health of our animals rests in the hands of veterinary professionals. Making sure the people who are helping animals are getting the best career choices, are not getting burned out working overtime, and are getting financially compensated for their efforts is the key in my opinion.

How can people best reach you?

I am always “plugged in” one way of another. Visit me on our website www.imlocum.com and all the contact information is there or simply email me at info@imlocum.com.

Any other interesting stories about you and your business? Fun anecdotes, interesting facts, anything else you would like to share.

Our new tag line for students and new grads is “date before you marry”…meaning, try out a few different clinics with no commitment and then choose your forever home. One thing that is very important in the veterinary profession is the seamless and perfect fitting on-the-floor team. This is why it is important to know where you belong before committing, and thus preventing a pre-mature burn-out (something that is currently affecting our profession more then ever).

Wednesday, October 31, 2018
By Studio Lumen - JMR
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Most often when you see a guy and a girl in a photography business together, it is assumed that they are a couple.  We are married, but not to each other!  This fact then leads most people to ask, how did we start this business together?

It is a story that begins about 12 years ago, in October of 2006.  I (Jean-Marc) was a hobby photographer, working on a Masters in aerospace engineering.  Gillian was already shooting for a high end wedding photography company in Toronto.  One fine fall day I was a groomsman in a wedding at which Gillian and the owner of that company were the photographers.  My friend Jay was chatting to them (I think he kind of liked Gillian or the other digital assistant that was there), and found out they were in need of assistants.  He knew that I was really into photography and suggested I apply, which I did, and ended up working there alongside Gillian for the next 10 years.

Fast forward to 2015, both Gillian and I were lead shooters for that company, managing our own team of shooters at up to 34 weddings per year.  I had quit my life in engineering to pursue photography, and was dabbling in corporate and commercial assisting and learning all I could from my mentors in Toronto, alongside my wedding photography work. Gillian and her husband were ready for a change, and wanted to move to Alberta where her husband’s family were, as well as for a quieter lifestyle in the country.  Then by chance my wife was scheduled for a residency in Calgary, so we were moving out here, and when Gillian found out it was the kick in the pants she and her husband needed to make the move!

We decided to start a company together, and the planning began.  First we needed a name! There were many brainstorming sessions with our spouses and lots of wine and beer, and we were almost there with Lumen Studio, but it didn’t sound quite right.  My mother-in-law, who worked in media for many years, flipped it around to Studio Lumen, and it was just the switch it needed to make it stick! For those that don’t know (don't feel bad if you don't, it is weird knowledge), a lumen is a unit of luminous flux, or more simply, the amount of light from a light source passing through a space.  We think it sounds cool, it’s appropriate for our business, and is a nod to the work I had done in light pollution in my past life as an engineer.

The type of work we were going to do also changed. Weddings are a very seasonal business, and we wanted to stabilize that somehow.  I had learned a whole lot from my corporate photography mentor in Toronto, Matthew Plexman, and knew that that was what I wanted to do.  At first Gillian was a bit skeptical of the work we might be doing, but once we realized that you can build great relationships with commercial clients (in some ways better than wedding photography clients), and that the type of jobs is more varied and interesting than we’d at first thought, we were both excited to jump in.  By chance, and after much humming and haw-ing (film is Gillian's hobby and passion, and was a bit worried it might lose its appeal), we made a documentary style commercial video for one of our first and favourite clients, a process which we both ended up really loving, and which actually suited Gillian's passion for film-making, and that was added to our service offerings.

So that, in a nutshell is how we got to where we are now!  There are so many more steps and things along the way – for example, our time at ATBx, how wedding photography is so adaptable to corporate and commercial work – but I will leave those for another post.

Thank you for reading!

Thursday, October 04, 2018
By Studio Lumen - JMR
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We first met Shelley and Lynn, the founders of Empowerment Inc, through our friend Mel McKay at Camp Hooha, and we were really intrigued by their self-defense and assertiveness training, which comes with a unique twist.  They're combining the physical as well as mental side of things in a way we think is very unique, and so powerful.  Not only that but they bring in a padded attacker for their simulations!  I wouldn't want to be the person in the suit, for a tonne of different reasons.

We did some great portraits of them, as well as the video above, and they were a pleasure to work with. Shelley very kindly and eloquently filled out our questionnaire, so in their own words read on to learn more about this exciting company.

Who are you and what do you do?

We are Shelley Hayes and Lynn MacDonald co-founders of Empowerment Inc., an assertiveness and self-defence coaching and training company.  We provide unique, fun and relatable empowerment programs for companies, schools and groups.

Tell us more about your background, related to this business (where did your passion came from).

Shelley believes in being a Women's Empowerment Warrior.  She partners with women and teen girls to expand their choice, strengthen their voice, and embody their power. Her areas of expertise are leadership, assertive communication, power dynamics, healthy boundaries, and confidence-building. Prior to Empowerment Inc., Shelley gained 17 years of experience in Executive Coaching and Organizational & Leadership Development in not-for-profit, healthcare and corporate sectors.

Lynn has consistently been a protector and advocate for people, women, underdogs and fur babies. She started her career in the military, then was an Emergency Medical Technician. Lynn has now been an inspiration to women as an outstanding member of the Calgary Police Service for over 22 years. In addition to her policing career, she has been teaching Personal Safety & Self-Defense to people from small children, to survivors of abuse, groups of differently-abled kids and to the elderly for 12 years.

Explain when and why you started this business.

In 2016, we started this business because we KNOW that when women and girls feel EMPOWERED and FREE to choose, speak up, and be powerful, their success skyrockets.  We are dedicated to empowering women and girls to feel safe, so they can build their confidence, and then embody their power in every area of their life.
Also, Shelley is a survivor of abuse and trauma, and her journey to empowerment through assertiveness and self-defence was incredibly healing.  As Shelley says, "I didn't know how afraid I was until I wasn't afraid anymore."  She lives to offer the same hope, healing, and empowerment to women and girls everywhere.

How rewarding is it for you to be doing what you're doing?

We feel tremendously honored to witness the impact and hear the feedback from our community of Empowered Warriors.  This is soul fulfilling work that drives us every day to do what we can to share this information in a down-to-earth, fun and relatable way.

Who are your main customers? Who are your best customers?

Our main customers are corporations, companies, schools and other groups.  Our best customers are those who are ready to invest in confidence-building, leadership skills and empowerment of women and girls.

What are you struggling with right now?

We are working hard to help women and girls access the education they deserve toward their full empowerment.  We are looking for connections to decision makers within companies and schools who are interested in our programs and speakers.

How can people help you at this point in your work?

Introduce us, recommend us or book us for an empowerment talk or workshop for your company, school or group!

How can people best reach you?

You can reach Shelley by calling 403-801-2488 or by email at shelley@empowermentinc.ca

Any other interesting stories about you and your business? Fun anecdotes, interesting facts, anything else you would like to share.

Did you know…

86% of women remember being taught to be nice to others growing up, but only 44% remember being taught to be a good leader and only 34% were taught to share their point of view.

or did you know that . . .

. . . half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16. 

And, that…

When girls start school, it's true they are more likely than boys to do well in reading, writing, and forming friendships. Yet as girls approach adolescence, their early advantage is overshadowed by: 1) high rates of sexual assault and other violence, 2) a sharp decline in mental health and confidence, and 3) negative stereotyping and sexualization.

THIS HAS TO CHANGE. We can help.

Monday, September 24, 2018
By Studio Lumen - JMR
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In part 1 of our Product Photography TIPs, we went into detail about what equipment we use. Part 2 is less about gear, and more about how to use it! It's great to have a tonne of softboxes, strobes, booms, backdrops, etc., but if we don't know how to use them, it is useless. So let's dive in!


We use a lot of lights for our shoots. The lights need a known white balance, good adjustability, and of course be bright. White balance is measured in Kelvin, which is a temperature that each frequency of light has - in other words, the blue-ness or yellow-ness of a light is described by that temperature, and as long as we know what that is we can make sure it looks good in post. It is important that the lights we use have the same or very close white balances. Once we have the light sources, we modify those with softboxes, umbrellas, beauty dishes, reflectors, and a light tent.  I'll go through each setup's lighting now.

Model Setup

Models must be lit with a light that is large enough not to create harsh shadows (the smaller the light source the harsher it is), but small enough to create good definition, showing the details of the garment. We use a softbox from above, off to one side, and high. We fill in strong shadows with a reflector in front, define the edge with a strong umbrella kicker, and light the backdrop with two parabolically reflected strobes. Here is a shot showing both the model setup, on the right, and a version of the flatlay overhead setup on the left.

Model shot

Small Object Setup

This is when we use our light tent. The reason to use a light tent is to control reflections coming off of shiny surfaces. It is not professional to be able to see the photographer, the room, or anything else, reflected in a client's product! The light tent, as shown below, makes sure that the only thing you see is a nice white reflection. The strobe lights sit on the outside of the tent. If we're going for a very evenly lit flat look, we place our lights farther from the tent so that the whole side of the tent is the apparent light source for the subject. A bit more definition results from the lights being placed very close to the light tent, so that they appear as smaller light sources to the subject. 

Light Tent Photo

Flatlay Setup

This is the simplest setup. We use a small and large umbrella for this, above and to either side of the subject. The small light is the main one, providing definition and most of the illumination, while the large one fills in any dark shadows.  The overlay setup is shown in the first image, note the camera on a long boom overhead.

Attention to Detail

Once we have good light, then we have to actually take the photos. There are so many details to look for, and it varies with every single subject, but a few are:

  • Dust and fluff: it might not be obvious during the shoot, but our cameras are so sharp that any bit of dust shows up, and needs to be removed in post-production. Better off getting rid of it before we shoot!
  • Fingerprints: Same as dust, this is an easy fix before we shoot.
  • Wrinkles in clothing: while some clothing will inevitably have folds, and often those are needed to show the shape of the clothes, or are part of the design, wrinkles that are not supposed to be there should be removed.
  • Consistency: for proper e-commerce photography, consistency between shots is important, such as model pose, object straightness, composition, angle, so that buyers can properly compare products.
  • Controlling reflections: The light tent helps a lot with this, but sometimes the reflection of the light itself becomes problematic if it is covering a key message on the packaging, so we make sure that all reflections are controlled.
  • Variety of angles: A product has various features that need to be highlighted, so it's important to make sure to show all of them, while still being consistent in how it is shot. Things like tags, labels, operating features, etc.
  • Tethered shooting: We shoot from our cameras straight to computers, so we can see shots as they come in. The screens on the back of the camera are good for a composition overview, but to see details it isn't good enough. The ability to see the images full size is crucial in making sure that the images are looking how we want them to.

Model Selection

While every brand will differ, it is a good idea for them to think about what kind of models they need. Local Laundry, our first Product Photography Day clients, specifically need size small women, and size large men, while other manufacturers might need size medium of either male or female or both. It is all about what will help clients pick the size they need while browsing online.

Shoot Preparation

It is important to be prepared before we start a shoot. In particular with garments, which are very prone to wrinkling during transport. We are never sure what is the best way to smooth a garment, and we're rather expensive iron-ers! So we always recommend that our clients prepare their clothes the way they know best - steaming, ironing, or whatever that may be - before they even drop off the clothes to our studio.

Another important aspect of preparation is knowing exactly which pieces you need photographed. It isn't a good use of your time with us to be deciding which item you'd like shot and then preparing it, so be sure to plan it out ahead of time.


Our post-production process has been fine-tuned over the years. Some key things to look for are:

  • Colour accuracy our monitors are carefully calibrated, as are our eyeballs from years of looking at images. We want to make sure that the colours of products are displayed true to life.
  • Background separation: when shooting on simple backgrounds, it's important that it be uniformly the same colour. A shot taken on white, when actually put on a white screen, often turns out to be on a light shade of gray. In post production, we ensure that the product is on a truly white, black, or whatever colour background, as required by the client.
  • Working on highest quality files as possible (RAW): we only shoot and post-produce in the native raw data format that the cameras produce, so that we retain as much information as possible to do our work. That way we get the sharpest, most colour-accurate images possible.