Parrot Bebop Drone Image Quality Review

posted on: March 23, 2015

As an architectural photographer, I occasionally get requests for aerial views of properties.  The only problem is that most of these requests are coming from individual property owners or small businesses who can't afford the highest quality imagery that comes from a helicopter or cherry picker option.  In some cases, even if they could afford it, certain tightly constructed urban areas make it very difficult to get a specific elevation with either of these methods.  Enter: drone photography.  Depending on the model, drone photography becomes a more affordable, albeit slightly lower quality option for aerial photography when in the hands of a skilled drone operator.  For the purposes of this post, my tests fall under recreational usage on family private property.

In order to see if drone photography would be a solid option in my service offerings, I decided to pick up the Parrot Bebop Drone while browsing the Apple Store.  The salesperson was actually pretty knowledgable in drone options, which helped me decide to give it a try at what I would consider to be a very inexpensive investment of $499 for this particular model, which is also a great price point if you're a tech geek and want to play with something until breaks, but not feel too bad about it.

Build:
The quadricopter craft is surprisingly lightweight, mostly made of light plastics and styrofoam, with the heaviest components being the battery and camera elements.  At first it feels a little flimsy, but after you've used it a few times, you realize how robust and durable it actually is.  The construction alone feels like an inexpensive build, but when you consider the materials science that must have gone into finding the right plastic, testing of different materials for durability, and various trials needed to achieve this design, it's worth so much more than that.




Battery:
Huge praise to Parrot for including 2 batteries in the box.  Each one has about 11 minutes of flight + image capture time.  They knew the limited scope of the battery life and didn't force you to buy a second battery after you've exhausted your first 11 minutes of learning how to fly.  They also created a battery charger that can do a fast charge of around 1 hour until full, with international adapters already included.  The lithium-ion batteries are very durable and powerful and should last at least 1-2 years with this fast-charge cycle.  The element for plugging in the battery to the craft is a little tricky and took about 10 minutes to line up properly, but once I gained more confidence with just pulling the plug out from the nose with a little embedded nylon string, it became much easier to switch out batteries.

Controls:
I started with just using the iPhone App for controls.  It provides a live view of what the camera sees during flight, with the option to move the image capture around quite a bit within the fisheye lens view.  The live view and controls are all done over a Wi-Fi network established by the Drone itself.  This also means that the range of controls is limited by the Wi-Fi range and any interference that your smart phone or iPad would pick up on.  Obviously, a wide open farm field or park is going to give you much more control than an urban area where any number of interferences can occur.  This interface is actually really robust and advance (not that I have much to compare to at this point), but I was impressed with the quality of controls.  I would probably prefer to use an iPad so that the accelerometer wouldn't be so sensitive, but thankfully, the app has built in controls that allow you to mitigate the speed of the lift, turns, and directional movements, which helps make it easier to control with something small like an iPhone.  The YouTube Parrot Bebop instructional videos were very informative on how the controls work for more info on what all these buttons mean.


Stabilization:
This is probably the most impressive feature of this craft.  It has AMAZING stability for its lightness and controls.  I shook that thing a lot and the video imagery refused to budge on the horizontal plane.  Where it suffers a little is the left to right stability which can more easily be affected by wind or changes with operator controls.  The stabilization differences are less noticeable when the craft is flying forward,  backward, or panning to the side, but much more noticeable when hovering the craft in one spot.  View one of my test videos posted on Instagram to see an example of this:


Image Quality:
My biggest concern as a photographer is image quality.  As a professional photographer, I have a VERY high image quality standard that is based on over a decade of looking at images in great detail and depth.  That being said, I allow for concessions regarding imagery depending on use- for example, I'm extremely satisfied with the quality of imagery from my iPhone cameras since the 4s model, considering how small, lightweight, and easy they are to use.  Unfortunately, what the Parrot Bepop gains in all other areas of drone technology, it still has a way to go in image quality considering the entire design is for image capture.

The lens is actually not that bad for a small fisheye lens, it's more that the sensor quality and depth is much more limited than mobile phone cameras- the quality is similar to what you'd see in a ten year old point and shoot camera.  To the untrained eye, this isn't that much of a problem, but to an imaging professional, I can see the image limitations.  The biggest limitation is the exposure depth.  The color quality is actually really decent, but the highlight to lowlight range shows a strong preference for detail in shadow, which is fine as most people don't care about detail in whites, but it is limiting if you're photographing a white home or white roof, which I did during my tests.  If I had reduced exposure to favor highlights, I would have lost most of my shadow detail, so it's most likely a restriction of the compression to JPEG or DNG from the original capture.

Here are a couple more examples I shared on Instagram of the image quality in both a still image and in video mode:

In this video I'm testing the Parrot Bebop metering response, auto white balance response, autofocus, indoor exposure, and video image detail. The drone isn't in flight-mode for this test- all of the movements are from me holding it in my hand- but again, you can see that it holds the up down movements very steady despite my manipulation of the craft. The first few seconds demonstrate how long it takes to transition exposure from outdoor sunlight to indoor lighting, and how much of the scene needs to be of similar exposure for the metering to catch on and make adjustments. At 50% of the scene, the camera held to the first exposure, and it only transitioned exposure when about 70% of the scene had changed exposure levels. The first few seconds also demonstrate that you have great detail and clarity in a sunlight exposure whether the subject is 3ft or 300ft away as observed by the detail in the lace curtain as well as the detail on the building outside. In the second half of this video, I'm looking for white balance adjustments between sunlight and tungsten light, as well as indoor lighting detail. You can see a very slight white balance adjustment as @alexruthmann's white shirt enters the frame. It seems to compensate a little too blue for my tastes, but the scene with wallpaper and wood is a heavy yellow tone rather than a neutral white tone, so it's doing fine for this test. I did prefer to set the white balance in advance when I had a specific still image in mind. In the white shirt you can see the white clipping happening- which is much more difficult to control in video than a still shot. Most people don't care that much about white detail if it needs to be sacrificed for a better overall scene detail, but it would probably appear slightly less obvious if there were a few more chromatic-abhorration corrections built into the image compression. At the very end of the video, you see me bring the camera very close to the stack of books to see how detailed the short focal range is indoors. There's definitely some focal detail sacrificed in lower-lighting conditions, however, the fisheye lens has great detail even inches away.
A video posted by Anne Ruthmann (@anneruthmann) on



An example of the highest resolution still image possible with the Parrot BeBop. Without distortion correction applied, the image is around 3000px, after the image is corrected for perspective, max image size is around 1800px. Because this camera is almost entirely automatic exposure, the best image quality is in daylight. The metering appears to be full frame metering, so it's easy to blow highlights and lose shadows depending on the image. There's minor exposure compensation controls, but because the output is either DNG or JPG, they are compressed and processed files straight out of this camera. I had to customize a lot of the default settings in order to take this image successfully, but I found them quick and easy to find and manipulate after watching the YouTube help video tutorials. It took at least 20minutes of practice navigation time to figure out how to get it at the height I wanted and positioned with the camera angle I wanted, while avoiding things like trees and power lines. Still not sure if I'm sold on this particular model, though I do think it's a really solid investment at its price point for everything it can offer. With enough experience, you'd be able to customize it's controls to suit your needs and help you get the imagery you need within the limited battery life and wifi control range. The images still wouldn't be much use beyond web-usage and I still need to view them much larger on my laptop for a true quality comparison. I do give high praise for the app development team who created a very robust control, capture, and documentation system with this particular drone. It would be great for anyone who needs to cover specific plots of land with documentation mapped out of that coverage. #anneruthmannphotography #testpilot #aerialphotography
A photo posted by Anne Ruthmann (@anneruthmann) on



*This review is completely independent and I have not received any compensation or product to provide this review... though, if you feel like sending me more drones to try in exchange for a review, I'm all for it since I'm still looking for the right model to use professionally.

Forleo B-School Review - Honest Detailed Non-Affiliate Review

posted on: February 23, 2015

If you're considering Marie Forleo's B-School or you've been flooded with marketing about how wonderful and amazing it is from those who are receiving affiliate commission, you'd probably like a more honest, unbiased review from someone who has gone through the program but has no affiliate link to sell.  From what I've heard, affiliates make 50% commission off of any confirmed sign-ups through the affiliate link they offer, and should you decide to sign-up for B-School after reading this review, I definitely suggest finding an affiliate offer that you think you'll also benefit from, since it will give you an even bigger value for your investment.  I have no link to offer you, just wisdom and experience to help you decide whether or not you should join.

This post is long, so here's how it's organized: I'll start with my reasons for signing up before going through the program, what I was expecting after reading the details of the program, what I got out of it while being actively involved, who the program is and isn't for, and how to prepare if you decide you'll be doing the program, or if you've already signed up.

Why I Signed Up for B-School:
I signed up in 2013, after coming off a year of traveling the world and having a lot of my future path  kicked up and spun around with regards to working as a photographer full time, especially if I was going to continue traveling so much with unknown destinations ahead of me.  I was considering a change in my business model and how I might incorporate an online product or service for an income revenue stream beyond my in-person service business.  I was considering something that would support me and allow me to help others even as I traveled and wasn't sure where I'd land next.  

I vetted Marie Forleo through her YouTube series and newsletters for probably a year before I made any decisions on signing up for her program.  I liked her style and I could tell by the engagement she had that she was attracting a progressive audience of mostly female and creative entrepreneurs who weren't afraid of making their own rules in the business marketplace.  One of her videos led me to actually track down someone who had written in and had their question read as part of "Q&A Tuesday", which led to confirmation that she was answering real questions, and that she was paying it forward with not just entertaining content, but in some cases very helpful and bold advice.  

Once I framed paying for the B-School program as a way to support her in continuing to produce content to inspire and encourage progressive feminine entrepreneurship, it didn't matter so much to me if the program was going to be good or not, which also helped to keep my expectations in check from the beginning.  I also knew that no matter what the program offered, the most valuable part, for me, would be "lifetime" access to a world-wide network of progressive female entrepreneurs who would potentially be able to support one another and connect with each other around the world.

What I Expected:
Based on all of the marketing materials, it seemed like the B-School program would attempt to create a plan for selling products or services online.  I knew that the program would last 8 weeks, but I didn't know how much of a time commitment it would take up front.  I think somewhere along the line, it was mentioned that I should budget a couple hours a week to go through the training material and participate in a live call each week (the reality was different).  I already had 8 years of small business experience, plus education and success in marketing and management, so I figured that there would be a lot of information I already knew, but perhaps there were still some key things about the online marketplace that I was missing.

What I Received:
There were several ways of engaging with the program:
  • Instructional Videos: done in more of a slideshow informational style than MarieTV style, which can also be downloaded as a series of slides, audio, and video transcript separately which is especially helpful for anyone who has impairments or needs to digest the information differently
  • Worksheets: very well-designed editable PDF worksheets that go along with each video segment to help you apply the info
  • Video Comments Section: under each video, viewers are expected to share their understanding or questions which occasionally receive feedback from Marie's team or other participants
  • Weekly Live Call: while this call is live and recorded, the questions or participants to be answered are generally chosen in advance and not everyone will have a chance to ask their questions in a live call, but all people can participate by listening in
  • Forums: Originally, B-School didn't really have forums outside of the Video Comments, but B-Schoolers took it upon themselves to create a space on Facebook for B-Schoolers to connect, share, discuss, and stay in touch with each other, off of the main B-School program website.  I believe the B-School team now has their own forum, which will hopefully remain active over the year and not just during the 8 week program.  For those who got into the Facebook groups early, it's still a great resource for connecting.
  • Membership Directory: This is the place to find and be found and to seek out other B-School entrepreneurs you may want to connect with offline.  While I've been traveling, it's been a great way to connect with people of different countries who share common goals and interests toward entrepreneurship and a lifestyle of financial freedom.
What I Got Out of It:
As I had anticipated, already having a background in business marketing and management and 8 years as a small business owner meant that many of the ideas and strategies discussed were review for me.  However, I decided I was going to set my experience aside as much as possible and focus on applying the methods and program to my business even though much of it felt like review of what I'd already done or known.  Like many things, you can know what the right approaches are and still not do them for whatever reason, so my goal was to be actionable on as many fronts as possible.

The first thing I discovered was that you can really only actively participate in this program effectively if you already have a business idea and some experience in your market.  I felt bad for the people who signed up and had no idea what they wanted to offer or sell.  They were stuck at step one during the entire program and couldn't participate as actively as they could have if they'd had some solidified business idea that they were going to be applying the information toward.  That being said, they could have moved forward and participated fully even without having a business idea by simply picking a random business idea out of thin air to pursue, but there really wasn't an outline or guidance about how to do that in a way that would be effective for them.  Luckily I already had an existing business I knew a lot about, and another one I was considering.

Within the first week I had to decide if I was going to apply the information to a future business idea or to an existing business, and it became immediately clear that it was far easier to apply the information to a business model I'd already had some experience with.  I decided I was going to get the most out of the program by applying the training program to my existing photography business, rather than any new venture or purely online business I might want to create.  I found that it was also better to focus as narrowly as possible on one customer segment- so I chose wedding photography specifically.  That helped me concentrate on applying the information as quickly as possible, rather than speculating about how it might be applied or what it might apply to.  Even so, many of the ideas for implementation could only be outlined in the training program, but would need many more months to actually implement.

A second discovery was that while the video material and live calls may only take 1 or 2 hours per week to view and listen to, actually applying the information toward your own business and completing the worksheets took more like 8-10 hours per week.  I think that's an important time investment that people should know about if they'd like to actively participate in the program and receive feedback as often as possible.  If you do not stay on top of the program as it's happening, you can still participate on your own timeline, but opportunities to receive any personalized responses or engagement with your particular struggles may slip away from you, as well as your own dedication to keeping up. While the access to the information is available throughout the year, the only periods in which the B-School team and Marie engage directly with students is during the active B-School program hours.

To help me stay accountable, I reached out to other people in my area and told them I wanted a partner who was dedicated to keeping up with the program and making an investment to meet regularly in person.  I immediately found someone in my local area that I could be an accountability partner with, and we made weekly or bi-weekly dates to get together and share our worksheets.  Even if we fell off the wagon one week and didn't have something written down, we met, and worked on it together.  Having an accountability partner to meet with in person made a huge difference, and now I'd consider us lifelong friends who support each other pursuing our dreams and living healthy, happy lives.  I do have B-School to thank for that, and many other wonderful friendships with amazing and creative entrepreneurs.

The program and information leans heavily toward people who are working in coaching and counseling fields and those who want to have an online educational component that can be packaged and sold.  While you can apply the ideas to an in-person service or product based business, not all of the material will be as useful for you or as easy to apply and implement.  For creatives and small business online entrepreneurs, this program is a much better investment than an MBA program designed for middle-management moving toward executive leadership.  If you're a tech start-up, you'd be better off with an incubator or start-up program that puts you in front of investors and tech mentors.  B-School is a program with a spiritual life-balance and karma focus- while these aren't overtly stated with any dogma attached, the whole program starts from a foundation of creating or growing a business for the purpose of making a difference beyond your own self-interest.  If your business focus is money alone, you're going to think a lot of the intuition-based guidance Marie suggests makes absolutely no sense.  There are good reasons why this program is targeted strongly toward women, or feeling-based decision makers.

For me, one of the biggest strengths of the program is the community and the opportunity to gather with other creative entrepreneurs offline in a city near me or while I'm traveling.  Because the community has grown so large now, it's possible to find people in almost all major cities of the world.  When I lived in Boston, I had several meet-ups with other B-Schoolers who shared what they were working on and got feedback and support from other entrepreneurs.  When I traveled, it was a way to connect with other B-Schoolers around the world.  When I moved to New York, it became a way to have instant community with other entrepreneurs beyond a typical business networking group with a forced referral structure.  It was always about connecting personally, if not more than it was about finding a business network.

One of the drawbacks of the community, or advantages depending on how you see it, is that the program can be very incestuous, and many previous alumni want to tap newcomers to take their programs as well.  They've found that the B-School community is a haven of people who want to buy and consume online content, and so there can be quite a few people pushing their programs and selling to the community without contributing much other than opportunities to buy their programs.  The advantage to this is that you can see exactly what their opt-in offers are if you don't mind a mailbox full of things you'll need to unsubscribe to later.  You can see what marketing tactics they're using and what methods appear to be successful for them as they share their wins along the way, and you can view their websites and how they've laid out their offers to see if they are attractive to you.  If you are a jealous or insecure person, this may get to you after a while and shut you down because you'll fall into the comparison trap, but if you are confident in what you're offering and you consume from an objective place of infinite possibilities for all, it just becomes another place to share what you're doing among other people who are doing similar things.

If you ask a question in the program or the community, don't expect too much engagement, despite the size of the community.   Many more people are posting than reading.  You're on your own for most of this program with very little feedback, which may feel isolating among such a large community, unless you create a mini-group of people to connect with for accountability and feedback meetings.  It doesn't happen naturally though, you need to seek it out or create it for yourself, but you should be able to find at least 4-5 other people to share ideas with online, if not in person.  It may help if they are local to your state or city and in different industries so you don't feel like you're competing with one another.  B-School helped me connect to a master-mind group in NYC of wise, intelligent, and passionate women who want to make a difference, and our support for each other is enhanced because we get together regularly for business and personal reasons.

I continue to join-in the program each year as its rolled out with subtle changes to the structure and information.  It's informative to see what brilliant ideas are coming out of the woodwork, what new solutions are being created for creative entrepreneurs, what struggles are still being tackled as a creative community, and it becomes a chance to revisit my own tactics and approaches each year.  Even though I've found it's much more difficult to implement the ideas for a primarily in-person service-based business, every spring I get the itch to create an online product or program to help others, and it's good to stay in touch with people who are innovating in that space and bringing knowledge to larger audiences.

Who The Program Is and Is Not For:
This program can work for you if you have a business that you'd like to take online, market better online, or streamline in the online space to be more effective.  There are many great tools and techniques being shared in the community each day that can help you solve problems around the online space of your business.  This program is not for you if you resist operating in an online space, or if you don't have a business idea to work on.  This program is also not for you if you don't really have time to work on your business.  You could pay to join the community and just see what other people are up to, but you're not going to connect with them as easily or meaningfully if you aren't also working on a business.  The strongest people in the community are ones who are actively engaged in working on moving their online business forward.

Prepare To Get The Most Out of B-School:
  1. Go into the program knowing what business idea you'll be applying the program to and make sure you're wanting to work on the online aspect of that business.
  2. Make sure that you can dedicate 8-10 hours for each week of the program to watching the videos online, filling out the worksheets, and participating in discussions and live calls.  This could happen in 2 hour segments each day, or in a full day chunk, but it's definitely at least 8-10 hours if you actually want to apply or implement the information and get feedback from Marie's team and the community.
  3. Research affiliate offerings.  Affiliate offers are like a 2 for 1 offer where you pay the same price for Marie's program, but get someone else's content for free on top of it all.  A lot of reviews of B-School actually lead to an affiliate link of some kind.  As of this posting, I am not an affiliate and I have no offer for you (but for the unlimited time offer of FREE, you can get plenty of my business advice over on PhotoLovecat)
  4. Set up your member profile and view the other people who are in your local area or in your same industry.  Connect with them online through social media to stay in touch- be sure to say hi and let them know you're joining B-School for the first time.  Your member profile on B-School becomes another business card that people may potentially use to reach out to you.
  5. Value the input of the community even MORE than you value Marie's very limited amount of individualized feedback.  The community is FULL of entrepreneurs who may have already solved your problems and who are willing to help you.  SEARCH for answers first by looking for any previously posted comments related to your problem before posting a new thread that may potentially not be seen by anyone.  Engaging in other conversations around the same topic will provide more insight and clarity than expecting everyone to engage directly with you.
  6. If you find yourself feeling like you're slacking, at the very minimum, watch every video and leave your comment below each video.  You can always go back later.  You can always do the worksheets later.  If you do nothing else, this will essentially be keeping up with the program and give you an opportunity to get any clarity around the ideas by hopping on a live call or at least listening to recordings of live calls.
  7. You will have limited engagement with Marie.  Know that this is not a private or one-on-one coaching program.  She has assembled a fabulous support team, but an even greater community of entrepreneurs.  If you go into the program hoping to get personal attention from Marie, you will be disappointed.  If you go in with the mentality that you are using a training program to do the hard work yourself with occasional help or solutions from other people who are working on the same things, you will find it to be a far more rewarding and valuable experience.
  8. Find an accountability partner you can meet with weekly and schedule time into your weeks from the beginning to work on things together.  Hold each other accountable to one another's desires and dreams and encourage each other to keep moving forward.
I hope that I've helped you make an easier decision or if you've already made a decision, helped you learn how to best prepare yourself to get the most out of the experience and program.  If you found this review to be extremely helpful for yourself or someone else, please share it, like it, pin it, or whatever it.  If you have any questions for me, please comment and check back in two days for a response.

Deutsches Haus | 8th St. & University Place, Greenwich Village, NYC

posted on: February 12, 2015

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It's not often I feel compelled to do a photo study on a building I haven't been hired to photograph, but after walking by the Deutsches Haus several times, it compelled me to return with my camera in hand, specifically for the direct morning light on its East facades.  NYU has recently invested in deep cleaning many of the building exteriors around Washington Square and this building is one which can easily attract the black grit of the city into its many different textures, so I felt especially lucky to capture it in such pristine condition.

It's such a unique design among the other buildings in the neighborhood, which also means that it gets plenty of attention on its own, but I wanted to document some of the specific details that make it a truly hand-crafted work of love.  In order to highlight the dimension and detail on the arts & crafts style tile work, I knew I needed direct lighting at such an angle that the depth of details could be highlighted without too many shadows or reflective obstructions.  It took about 40 minutes after my arrival for the sun to move into a position that allowed the tile color and dimension to really stand out beautifully against the stucco walls.

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I especially loved this dream-catcher style motif surrounding this door as it makes me wonder if the resident or former tenant had a special connection to Native American culture.
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As you can see in tile detail, due to the deep relief and age of the glazes, some of the tiles are coming apart and would be very difficult to replicate with the same glazes originally used.  I'm just happy that I'm able to document it as it is right now, before further damage can occur.
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I love that each entrance maintains a separate design that still flows with the entire building design.
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I found it especially interesting how the ironwork contrasted to the other elements of the building.
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The architect and designer created just enough unique elements between different sections of the building so as to delineate each vertical section of windows as a unique set from the adjacent columns of windows, emphasizing a row-house arrangement on the interior while retaining a sense of grand cohesion on the exterior.  I especially like how the rooftops are different shapes and create an outline for each column of windows intending to represent which windows belong to the same or different units.
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Even here, where there is structural symmetry, the exterior design clearly defines that these are to be regarded as uniquely separate spaces.
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This particular skylight section almost suggests that there should be a bell tower here, as if it were a Spanish mission.
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At the far end, it feels almost Italian with the crest relief and faux balconies under windows.
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If you're interested in learning more about this building's past and its current occupants, I found a great lecture on the history as well as a link to public events sponsored by the NYU Deutsches Haus:

Video Lecture on the History of Deutsches Haus:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NS5MTahTknk&feature=youtu.be

Public Events at the Deutsches Haus:
http://deutscheshaus.as.nyu.edu/page/events

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Historical Note: these images were taken on August 1, 2014 and are not altered beyond exposure and white balance adjustment in order to preserve historic archival integrity.  If you would like to use or license copies of these images, please contact Anne Ruthmann Photography directly for more information.

2014 Review: What A Wonderful World

posted on: January 28, 2015

A great designer is more than worth their weight in gold and chandeliers. Love what you've done Philippe Starck! #nyc #wallst #manhattan #design #architecture #interiordesign

I love keeping stats on my photography business as a way to track progress and changes from year to year.  It's pretty amazing to see the dramatic change that New York City has had on my business over the last year (all photos in this blog post are from my personal instagram feed)...

Business 2014 in New York City:
300+ Properties Photographed with a 95% 24hr turn-around
6 Headshots & Family Portraits
5 Photography Consulting Clients
3 Weddings as Second Photographer
2 General Events Photographed
1 Six Month Intern Mentoring
1 Podcast Interview

Compared to what my business looked like in 2013 between Lowell, MA & NYC:
84 Headshots & Family Portraits
20 General Events Photographed
3 Weddings as Primary Photographer
5 Weddings as Second Photographer
5 Properties Photographed
3 Photography Consulting Clients
1 Professional Photography Presentation

Philippe Starck is making it rain... in crystals and candles. #design #interiordesign #architecture #chandelier #luxury #nyc #wallst #manhattan

When I started this year, I had no idea I'd spend the majority of my year shooting Interiors & Architecture almost exclusively.  In fact, even into May,  I was still planning for additional marketing toward weddings & events.  It became more clear as I was mentoring this year's intern that all of my wedding & portrait experience from the last 10 years was going to be more useful to him than it was going to be for me.  It was only when I took full stock of what was actually happening the first half of the year when I shared my Evolution as a Professional Photographer, that I really decided to fully embrace Interiors & Architecture as a serious market to dedicate my time and attention to, even though I'd already been filling my shooting time with interior work since mid-January.

An amazing collection library of antique books #nyc #midtown

Interiors & Architecture gave me a renewed passion and desire for learning more in my craft.  I was putting in so much study during my free-time toward things like lighting small and large spaces, composing space, and other interior techniques that I even found myself photographing interiors in my dreams!  Once I made the mental switch to fully embrace interiors and architecture as my direction in NYC, things started happening that I never could have imagined- like getting to work with major companies on large architectural projects and working with fabulous interior designers who create luxury homes.  The best part was that I could actually walk or take public transportation to almost all of the shoots, so I also got the side benefit of getting in as much exercise as if I'd spent an hour at the gym every day!  I nailed down a solid 24hr turn-around workflow and found a price point that allowed me to serve quickly with great quality.  There was a little part of me that craved people work after shooting so many interiors, so I'm glad I still had some portraits and weddings to get me back to thinking on my toes with pure emotion from time to time.

What's even more amazing is that almost all of the interior & architecture work I did this year came without having a dedicated website portfolio of my work.  I made a bold move in May to completely eliminate my website portfolio and put up a one page site asking to be contacted to view more work.  I'd been in desperate need of a website update and rather than live with an outdated site any longer, I simply removed it until I could dedicate time to an update.  That means I ran my business almost entirely by word of mouth, without a website portfolio, for a completely different market and niche than I'd served before, in what I'd consider to be the most competitive photography market in the world... in one year of living here.  *drops the mic*



Hell yes, I'm proud of myself and what I've been able to accomplish.  As the saying goes, "If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere."  But the truth is, I've already made it everywhere else. :-)  That may sound bold, but if you've been following my journey, you know how much I've been through and how many times I've had to change gears mid-cruise.  Eventually I'll get my new portfolio online, but as you can see, I haven't had much incentive since things have been pretty good without it.  Not having too much SEO and website presence also helps keep down the random inquiries and allows me to focus more fully on pre-qualified clients who already know they want to work with me.  It's allowed me to spend a lot more time shooting and serving clients who need me and a lot less time behind the computer writing proposals for clients who aren't sure.  There's definitely a chance I've been I've been sacrificing big complex projects in favor of more small and easy ones, but I just want to create great work that helps people be seen in their best light, and that's what I've been able to focus on this year more than any other.

This year I also decided not to offer any workshops or webinars and only help consulting clients one-on-one who came by referral.  So far, it looks like everyone I got to work with has done pretty awesomely over this last year.  It's amazing what a little bit of business organization and mentoring can do toward creating confidence for a creative to go bigger and bolder in their business.  It's something I always wished I'd had when I was starting out, but I had to learn most of it the hard way.  I guess that's what helps me make it easier for other people.

Saw some of the largest and most unique #Amethyst geodes yesterday in #Gramado #Brazil  http://aminadegramado.com.br

Beyond the business, life is only good if I'm also able to have the time and space to enjoy family, friends, and travel.  This year didn't disappoint in that realm either as I was able to take plenty of time off, including most of my weekends.  I enjoyed spending a lot of extended time with family and friends, whether it was away or here in NYC.  Some of the travel listed below was combined with work, but was done in such a way that it could be well-balanced between time dedicated to working and time just spent relaxing.  This truly was a wonderful year in so many realms of my life, and I have to be grateful and acknowledge when life feels so abundant and joyful.  It's not always this amazing, but when it is, it's awesome.

Personal Stats 2014:
10 Weeks Off for Vacations
11 New Cities Visited: Santiago, Chile; Curitiba, Brazil; Porto Allegre, Brazil; Fire Island, NY; Hamptons, NY; Ocean City, NJ; Atlantic City, NJ; New Hope, PA; Philadelphia, PA; Shackleford Banks, NC; Siesta Key, FL;
11 Family Members came to visit NYC

Loved our sunset cruise with @ClassicHarbor tonight! #Manhattan tour is highly recommended! #nyc #cruise #tour #nycadventure #nyctour

Each year of working in my best flow makes it more and more difficult to set goals for the year ahead.  When I'm in a place of so much joy and gratitude for how everything already is, it's hard to want anything more or less than what I already have!  I look back at my flickr feed from 2014 and everything seems so surreal, but it all really happened: Horseback riding in the Andes, VIP dining at the James Beard Awards, Photographing wild Horses on Islands of North Carolina, Looking at the water from Pablo Neruda's home, Chatting with Mike Myers about his new film... and that doesn't even scratch the surface.  The best things that happened to me this year were all in collaboration with, or a direct result of other people and their generosity of spirit or time and I'm endlessly grateful to them and their efforts in making so many great things happen.  I seriously do not know how I got so lucky this year.  I only hope I can pay it forward. :-)

Likewise, if you would have told me in January that I'd photograph 300 interiors by the end of the year, while still taking over two months off and doing everything I've done this year, I would have laughed at you and said it was humanly impossible.  So, I may just keep leaving this goal-setting stuff up to the universe, because I obviously have no idea what I'm actually capable of.  If I could leave you with one parting thought, it would be to anchor yourself in the possibilities of abundance beyond financial gain or material acquisition, because there are so many more riches to be experienced in this world...

What would you like more of other than money? #quote #question

Living in Manhattan - My First Year in NYC

posted on: September 7, 2014

We did it.  We survived our first year in Manhattan and learned a lot along the way.  In many ways it feels like one year of living and working in Manhattan is like a lifetime in other cities.  So many things can happen in just one day, plus the city is in a constant state of change, so there are new experiences to be had even if you walk the same streets every day.  It's hard to know where to start with what I've experienced over the last year of living in this city, so I'll just go with what comes to mind after meeting over 200 residents living and working with me in this little overpopulated island of people... (all photos are from my personal instagram feed)
How many times have people said, "Meet me at the clock in Grand Central"? #nyc #grandcentral

1. Manhattan Can Make A Millionaire Feel Broke
Overheard at a party, "... they aren't hedge fund rich, they're just lawyers and doctors."  Professions that would likely score you a mansion with a nice plot of land in the rest of the country can score you a cozy 500sq.ft. studio apartment in your favorite neighborhood of Manhattan.  I've met CEOs and CFOs of major companies looking to rent out their space in Manhattan while they travel because they'd like someone else to pay the rent so they can enjoy a little more vacation cash.  In a way, it's also a bit leveling in the playing field.  What neighborhood you found an apartment in and if you got a deal on rent is often a topic of discussion as you get to know people here.  It's not as taboo as other parts of the country because it can occasionally take people 6 months to a year just to find an affordable place to live.  The people who get shy to share are the ones who are paying under market rate for their place because they know jealousy will ensue.  To emphasize his rent-control deal without revealing numbers, one guy said, "if I told you what I was paying in rent, you'd punch me in the face."  I bring this up because EVERYONE feels like it's very expensive to live here because they KNOW they can get more for their money elsewhere, no matter what end of the income spectrum they happen to fall on, but they continue to stay, pay, and make sacrifices because they love this place and wouldn't want to live anywhere else.
Makin' it rain  #nyc #soho #windowdisplay #fashion #design #omflyer

2. Manhattan is Designed for Short Skinny People
As a tall and large-framed female, I am very aware of how much larger I am compared to the intended comfortable consumer of this crowded city.  I would estimate that you might feel quite comfortable with only 2sq.ft. of personal space around you if you were a 5'5" 130lb person.  At my height and size, that leaves me with little more than 3-4" of space on any side of me, which becomes a blessing in a crowded commuter train where everyone is just attempting not to sweat on each other.  However when you're having dinner, those few inches of space are crucial to being able to move your arms for things like cutting your food or grabbing a glass of wine on your table without elbowing a diner sitting at the table next to you.  I'm quite certain the maximum occupancy and fire codes for Manhattan buildings are based on a completely different standard than the rest of the country.  While there are certainly exceptional places that provide a comfortable sense of personal space for even an NFL player, there are enough places that are not designed with this in mind to remind me every day that that the average New Yorker is more petite than the Midwestern types.
I'm in love with this outdoor patio in the #EastVillage #NYC - totally reminds me of the eclectic taste at Life Alive in Lowell.


3. A Couch in Manhattan Is Free Hotel Room for Friends & Family
When the alternative is paying $300 - $400 a night for a hotel room, the couch in your living room is suddenly an amazing option for anyone interested in visiting you.  I knew people would want to visit, and we certainly did our share of encouraging people to visit, but we almost needed to create a separate visitor calendar for our couches just to make sure we could accommodate our visitors.  Once you move here, you become a destination trip for friends and family who want to visit for a long weekend or more.  Hosting guests in Manhattan teaches you exactly how to sleep 6 people comfortably in a one bedroom apartment with two couches, and it gives you reason to do all the touristy things you rarely make time for otherwise.
I love my job. #architecture #skyline #rooftop #realestate #nyc #manhattan #anneruthmannphotography

4. Manhattan was Made for Walking
Before moving to Manhattan, a mile seemed like a long walk.  I now think nothing of walking 15-20 minutes or 20 "short blocks" to my destination.  I probably walk 3-4 miles a day when I'm on assignment shooting different properties around me.  Depending on your destination, walking may even be faster than taking a taxi, bus, or the subway.  When friends and family visit, we usually take them on a tour of the neighborhood which can easily turn into four hours of walking around outside and stopping various places.  Then, like clockwork, they end up crashing in a 45-90minute nap in the middle of the day.  If they stay overnight, their hips usually hurt the second day from all the walking the first day.  While there is accessibility for those who are handicap, it's rare to see anyone in a wheelchair on the subway, but I frequently see 90+ year seniors almost doubled over in half walking around without a cane.  These lifelong New Yorkers are inspiring with their elderly mobility.  This city is best experienced on foot any day of the year and you can easily miss a lot of the random cool things around you when you're flying by on a bike, in a taxi, or underground.
World Trade Center West Concourse from Port Authority

5. Manhattan Is The Loudest City On Earth
Aside from the public health issue of not having enough oxygen-producing plants to compensate for the 8 million people living here, there's also the public health issue of protecting your hearing.  That blasting fire truck siren may be an annoyance in your apartment building at night, but when it approaches and whizzes by you on the street merely 5 feet away, the decibels of that siren are at the threshold of auditory pain.  The trains pulling in and out of the subway as they squeal and rattle by can also be seriously ear-drum piercing.  Talking to someone in a crowded NYC restaurant or bar is easily the same loudness required by an opera singer projecting to a crowded ampitheatre.  If you think New Yorkers are stubborn and loud, it's more likely that they are just deaf and used to louder environments.  (Caveat: I haven't been to Mumbai or Beijing - but I imagine they'd be equally as loud.)
We're all just a bunch of yawkers. #nyc #les

There are many more things I've learned since living in Manhattan, but those are the ones you should definitely know if you plan to move here too.  New Yorkers learn to tolerate a lot of things that might bother people who aren't from the city, either out of necessity or because life is simply less stressful when you aren't bothered by everything.  I've learned which people sitting and begging on the street are neighborhood regulars and perfectly sane people versus the ones who may need to be avoided.  Also, for the amount of people and the diversity we have in this city, it's actually quite safe, and I've gone an entire year without being a witness to a single crime, theft, or assault (knock on wood.)  That doesn't mean I completely let my guard down or stay out really late, but I'm more relaxed walking around than I was when I first moved here.  Of course there are a lot of bonuses to living here that I haven't shared, but I'll save those for another post. ;-)

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