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. ;-)

How to Remove Watermarks from Photos

posted on: July 3, 2014

Honoring Veterans Flag Raising-16

Why do photographers watermark photos?

The watermark over a photo is there to protect that photo from being used inappropriately by someone who does not have permission to use or distribute the image.  This is especially important when images appear in online galleries that can be accessed without passwords, most often with services like Facebook or Pinterest, which require that you give their company full permission to use a photo anywhere and for any purposes whenever you upload an image to their site.

Without that watermark, someone may find an image of you, your children, or your product online, think it's a free google image that can be used without permission (because there's no obvious watermark or copyright info on it), and then slap it on a website or poster advertising a disease or medical condition without your knowledge or permission.  Suddenly you become the poster child for a viral disease you've never heard of, or for an organization you'd be embarrassed to be associated with. While that example may seem extreme, it's not far from the truth of what I've experienced when finding images of my clients that they'd uploaded to Facebook without watermarks, on websites for companies they'd never heard of.  If they'd uploaded an image that had been watermarked, the company probably would't have used the image on their website.

Where can you find images without watermarks?

The best place to find images to use on business websites, concert posters, or for advertising promotions is on stock websites like iStockPhotoShutterStock, or Getty Images.  You can be super focused in your keywords for finding just the right image with these stock image banks, and because the images were MADE for commercial usage, they're always sharp, eye catching, and professionally photographed without the expense of hiring a photographer for a custom project or piece.  It's a small fee for each image, but a huge peace of mind to know that know one is going to accuse you of stealing, or worse yet, send you a much more expensive bill or court date for illegal usage.

If an image is being used to illustrate editorial content or a blog post, it may qualify under most Creative Commons uses.  The best place to find free images that have a creative commons license for editorial use is on Flickr's Commons Search.  You can search by relevance, interest, or recent imagery that fits a topic or theme, and you can even define if you'd like the license to be fully public, creative commons, or ones that allow commercial usage.

OK, but how do I get a watermark removed from an image?

The only person who has legal permission to remove a watermark from an image, is the person who put the watermark on the image to begin with.  Hopefully the watermark provides information about the photographer's name or website so that you can contact them directly to see if the image can be used or purchased without a watermark.  If the watermark is too elusive to identify the creator, see if the image has copyright or creator information stored in the extended EXIF data of the image.  Once you've identified the creator of the image, send them an email with the following information when making a request for watermark removal:
  1. Email the copyright creator with the subject: Request for Image Use
  2. Include a link to where you found the image online that provides a preview of the image
  3. State how you'd like to use the image and why it's important to use this particular one (this assumes that you've already searched the stock photo agencies and flickr commons mentioned above without luck of finding anything similar that was already available for usage)
  4. Provide a sample of how the image would be used as well as what website it would appear on
  5. Ask if the image is available for use without a watermark if credit is given or if usage is paid
  6. Provide a phone number and email so that the image creator can contact you to discuss more details about the image and its usage
  7. Follow up if you don't hear back within 7 business days
  8. Assume usage is illegal or unavailable if you don't hear back within 14 business days
If you find an image on Google that doesn't have a watermark or any EXIF info, it's better to assume that it's fully copyrighted and illegal to use than to assume it's freely available.  There's nothing worse than being served with a large bill or court case just for making a bad assumption.

If you have any other questions, please leave me a comment and I'll do my best to answer them!

July Travel Schedule

posted on: June 26, 2014

For the month of July, I'll be working remotely from a few different places around the world and I'd love to connect with you in person if you happen to be in one of these areas when I am:

June 28 - July 8: Southeast Michigan
July 11 - 13: Santiago, Chile
July 14 - 19: Curitiba, Brazil
July 20 - 25: Porto Alegre, Brazil
July 28... Home in New York City

Internet and phone connectivity are not always predictable during international travel, however, I always respond as soon as I can.  

I look forward to sharing all sorts of interesting sights from South America, so make sure you've added me on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook to get the personal updates from my travels!

Let the adventures begin!

My Evolution As A Professional Photographer

posted on: June 17, 2014

I decided to record an audio version of this post so you can just sit back and listen for 13 minutes over coffee, lunch, or some photo editing.  However, if you're a speed reader, it will probably only take you 5 minutes to read the text version below the audio file.  What you can't read are my tone and inflection, which lets you know exactly how I feel about different parts of my journey as a professional photographer.

If you're viewing this over email, you may need to visit the page online to hear the audio by clicking play on the Sound Cloud embedded file (my advance apologies for the mistakes in the recording, it's my first real attempt at a podcast style recording)...

Dear Blog Reader,

If you've followed me since I started my blog, you've seen me overcome a lot of moves and changes in my business.  Unlike other bloggers who've erased their past on their blog, or uprooted to a completely different blog, I've stuck with this blog all along and my archive remains open and accessible so all can see the parts of my journey that I've been able to share here.  I have some cringe-worthy material in these archives, but wouldn't trade a single post for all the experience and wisdom I've gained.

When I decided that I would pursue photography professionally 10 years ago while living in Michigan, the only vision I had for myself was as a portrait & wedding photographer.  It all started by helping friends with their modeling portfolios and headshots, as well as documenting choir concert tours and gifting wedding photos that I'd taken as a guest at friend's weddings.  Those portraits ended up on recital posters and the headshots got people paid gigs as models, the concert tours became designed and bound albums with recordings on CD or DVD slideshows, and the wedding pics ended up in albums and large wall collage frames.  It all started so simply to me, just doing what I love and giving it to people I loved while occasionally asking for their help with the cost of film, developing, and printing.

When I decided to get professional about it, I learned how to apply my previous business knowledge and experience in order to create a business that was profitable from the very beginning and has remained that way.  Once I decided to go full time with my business while moving to Indiana for my husband's first career move, I went from 11 weddings in one year to 30 weddings in a year.  In my third year of business I shot 47 events & portraits, keeping me more than busy every single week of the year.  I hardly had to try, and I felt like the universe made it very clear to me that there would be no problems making a living doing what I loved.

We knew Indiana wasn't going to be a permanent thing, so I marketed myself heavily online, blogged a lot, won some contests, got published a lot, and really worked on gaining a national reputation in anticipation of whatever move would happen next.  All that effort paid off so that when my husband found a job he really liked in Massachusetts, there were already people in the industry who knew me and allowed me to step into leadership positions and trusted me to speak in front of crowds of photographers, just 4 years into my career as a professional photographer.

I quickly saw the good and bad side of photography "rockstar" fame and it put everything I loved about photography into question for me.  I no longer wanted to rise to the top if all that fame stuff had to come with it.  I could feel my ego ballooning out of control while the quality of my work started suffering because I had to spend more time managing my online reputation than I could spend actually serving my clients.

Those "rockstar" years sucked for me, but also taught me a lot of really great lessons about what was most important to me, and it wasn't fame.  Helping people through things like PhotoLovecat and Smarter Business Workshop?  Yes, always.  But winning contests, being featured in blogs, and getting published for visibility?  Not so much.  I much preferred focusing on giving my clients the best I could offer, rather than being an idol to other photographers.  I'm much more comfortable as a one-on-one mentor, a teacher, and a guide than I am as an industry "rockstar".  I know how to deal with the fame bullsh*t now, but back then it really took a toll on my soul.

Massachusetts gave me the opportunity to try on owning a studio space and doing more controlled studio lighting and backgrounds as well as the opportunity to be an editorial photographer for UMass Lowell's public relations, which provided a steady contract that allowed me to do more work on weekdays, giving up fewer weekends to weddings.  I also second shot a lot more because the Massachusetts market was a harder one to dive into due to everyone having such tightly established networks.  I came to encounter many more clients who wanted heavy privacy controls on their event and family images- so I became very sensitive to how personal images were being used online, which dramatically reduced my blogging, contest submissions, and publication efforts.

Before moving to NYC, I knew I was approaching the 10 year mark in my business.  When I decided I'd become a professional photographer, I felt like it might only be a 10 year career for me.  I don't know why I had decided it at that time, but it seemed like I saw a lot of my colleagues drop out of photography after their mid-thirties and the ones who seemed to remain felt old, bitter, and stale.  Maybe I just wasn't meeting the right people, because that's certainly not the case for all 40+ photographers.  I think maybe we'd just gone through so many upheavals and shifts in our industry from film to digital to prosumer cameras and affordability for all, that the more established people were exhausted from having to make all the changes to their established way of doing things.

Between 2010 - 2013, I saw a lot of the colleagues I started in photography with leave to do other things.  It was that 7-year itch.  If they weren't doing as well as they thought they'd be, they got out and moved on to other things.  It started to make me nervous- as if I was next but just couldn't see the writing on the wall yet.

I started looking for other careers I might want to do... counseling, teaching again (but in a different subject or at the college level), career advising, college admissions... all things that felt "safe" and would partner well with my husband's schedule, since that had always been a point of tension when my heavy wedding season overlapped his vacation season and vice versa.

I thought taking a long sabbatical and adventure year in 2012 would help me sort it all out, but it just put even more ideas and options in my mind, and none of them felt like I would be running TOWARD them, only running AWAY from photography.  I decided I need to make photography work for my life and my desired workflow in ways that supported me being able to do everything I really love while still serving others with my unique talents and gifts.  That one shift changed everything and started to give me fuel for at least another 10 years in this crazy industry and career.

When I first got to New York City, I was lucky enough to already have a wedding booked in Brooklyn, and a handful of headshots around the city from a random networking opportunity I'd had with a website design company in Michigan.  Again, I didn't really have to try, it all just happened, and I felt so supported by the universe in my new move to New York City.  In January, I decided I wanted to shoot and explore the city a lot more than I had been, so I turned on my ability to accept Airbnb assignments in NYC, something that had only been random and infrequent opportunities in Massachusetts and Australia.

Since NYC was getting ready for the Superbowl, the requests to photograph apartments here were pouring in and I could have booked 3-4 assignments every single day of the week if I'd wanted to.  Instead, I decided to just dedicate 2-3 days a week to Airbnb assignments, so that I could still have the rest of the week for other clients and opportunities.  I also decided I wasn't going to take Airbnb clients more than one week in advance, both for the hosts ability to have a guest book last minute, and for my ability to have a different type of client book one week in advance.  Fast forward to today, and I've photographed over 150 New York City apartments in three boroughs.  It's certainly given me a new appreciation for living in this city and making it a home that I never would have had otherwise.

At this point, you could say that 95% of my photography work over the last 6 months has been residential interiors and architecture.  I freaking love it.  I love the fast turn around that comes with getting a job produced the same day it's photographed.  I learned how much I loved short production times after working with UMass Lowell on same-day deadlines for things like media opportunities with politicians and celebrities.  It's a huge difference from the long perfectionistic work I do with weddings.  Yes, I could do weddings differently, but I want them done the way I'd want my own wedding images done.. as beautifully as possible, no matter how much time it takes.  With PR work and Real Estate work, the need for perfection is there as well, but there's only a need for 20 images rather than 200 or 2,000; so it's much easier to turn around on a same-day deadline.

I love nailing it, or getting so close in camera that there's hardly a thing to do in post-production.  I don't mind shooting JPG if that gets it to the wires quicker.  While I've never had the opportunity to work as a photojournalist for a news outlet, I can see why it would be addicting to have to get the shot, and an amazing shot that was cover worthy, and then have it published the same day.  My heart starts to jump just thinking about it.

Interiors and Architecture are more zen for me.  Much less ADD than event photography where I function as an omnipresent eye with a 360ยบ attention span.  With interiors and architecture, I get to take my time in person, feeling a space, seeing what makes it awesome, figuring out the mathematical equation of putting pieces and parts together in a frame to make a pleasing image, while highlighting what I love most, and occasionally surprising people with something delightful and unexpected.  I loooooove seeing how people decorate spaces- especially in New York City when they turn these tiny little clostrophobic boxes of apartments into an inviting retreat and personal paradise.  I geek out about custom ironwork, hard carved woodwork, crazy and unique furnishings, and sleek modern design.  I love it all and get so much joy out of photographing it and sharing it with the world.

While I still love weddings, events, and portraits, my life in NYC has introduced me to more architects, interior designers, real estate agents, home stagers, and furniture makers than I've ever met in one place before.  Behind the scenes right now I'm working on a completely new commercial portfolio of work that will center around interiors and architecture,  and I wanted you to be the first to know, since it will affect what I'm blogging about.

As someone who reads my blog regularly, I value you and the time you spend with my words and my work.  Even if we've never met in person (though I hope we do get to meet if we haven't yet) you've been a big part of my journey and support system in helping me do what I love and allowing me to serve others with my passions.  Thank you for always being there for me, and I hope you'll continue to stay with me through this next phase of my business and career as well.  


Discreet Photography for Private Events - Manhattan, New York City

posted on: May 27, 2014

In the last 3-4 years I've seen a steep increase in my everyday clients requesting additional privacy of their images for things like celebrations and family portraits.  Sometimes it's because of their political stature, occasionally for the sensitivity of celebrity guests, and most often with regular families just because they really prefer to protect their image from being shared in any way that isn't approved by them first.  I've encountered more speakeasy-style events with an intimate audience in which guests are asked to leave their phones and cameras at the door, as well as home events or private gatherings away from traditional public access to keep the atmosphere secluded.  Many people want to focus on having fun, but still want some great photos to remember the event by, so they hire a photographer who helps put their guests at ease and provides private access to images, but rarely do they consider all the ways in which we can protect their privacy.  Read on to learn about the many ways you can protect your image privacy online.


As much as I appear to share openly on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, I fully appreciate the differences between a very public life and the privacy desired in a personal life, especially when everything else about a person's life can be so public regarding their career.  People come to feel like they know me well over social media, but in reality, they're only getting the story that's curated for public consumption.  So, when clients ask to keep their images of family photos, weddings, or other personal celebrations private, I completely understand.

Hiring a professional photographer for an event can ensure greater image privacy and quality curation than working with an amateur who has no formal privacy agreement or business reputation to maintain.  Before you work with a professional, it's important to define what level of privacy is desired in advance.  If all expectations are clear and well-defined before any work begins, it will prevent any surprises or slip-ups later on.  Whether you're working with me, or another photographer, here's a check-list of questions regarding privacy protection that you might want to consider:

Online Proofing Gallery:

  • Does the photographer offer a password-protected online gallery?
  • Is the gallery publicly searchable?
  • Does the gallery require email log-in so that invited visitors can be tracked?
  • Can the proofing gallery be made available only to the client and to no one else?
  • Is it possible to make select images private while still allowing guests to see most of them?
  • Are images watermarked to provide an added layer of protection in case of a screen capture?
  • How easy does the online gallery make it to share images on social media without registration or approval?
  • Is there an option to proof in person instead of using an online gallery?


  • Is it important that a blog post or portfolio of images be made available to the client first before sharing in a public format? 
  • If the photographer has permission to blog some of the images, which images are OK to blog, and which are not?  For example, a private event may approve public sharing of images related to the venue, catering, decor, and flowers, as long as no images of people or faces are to be made publicly available.  This solution helps the photographer and other vendors promote their creative work, while still protecting privacy for the client.
  • If approval is given by the client to allow certain faces or moments to be shared publicly for the photographer's use and public portfolio, can any names be used with the images?  If so, first names only, last names only, or initials only?  (This is often taken into consideration most when a family has children that they are concerned about sharing publicly.)

Social Media:

  • What sites are approved for sharing the images on, and what ones are not?  This comes into play because many social media sites and image banking/sharing sites retain permissions and controls over the images once they are uploaded to that site.
  • Will images be watermarked when shared online to provide an extra layer of client and photographer protection if they go viral?  What kind of watermarking or other image protection is important and appropriate for the images that are made publicly available?
  • If an image appears to be featured on an unapproved website or format, whose responsibility is it to pursue the removal and privacy infringement of that image placement?

Image Ownership:

  • In the event of client or photographer death, who retains permission and control over the images and honoring the privacy agreement?
  • Does the client have the ability to purchase full rights to the images, sacrificing all privacy protection and control that can be offered by the photographer?

Do you see any privacy considerations missing from this list?  Let me know by leaving a comment here so others can see what you feel is important to know as well.  If you'd like me to be your discreet photographer, please visit to get in touch.

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