Happy 11th Blogiversary!!!

posted on: February 8, 2016

Wow!  Eleven Years!!  On the SAME blog!!  I've never even lived in the same city for 11 years, and yet my blog has stayed in the same internet home on blogspot all along- big kudos to Google for keeping up a massive archive.  I started this blog on Chinese New Year in 2005, so it's only fitting that I celebrate this Chinese New Year.  (Never mind that I completely glossed over the 10 year anniversary!)

The people I've met and photographed over this last decade has been amazing.  It's mind-blowing how this work has expanded my world and brought wonderful people into my life.  Many of the older posts in my archives reveal how technology has changed over time- which slideshows disappeared from my blog when Apple closed down their dot mac server and which images remained because they were loaded directly into blogger or Flickr.  Reviewing archives also revealed how much my blogging changed once Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram came onto the market as a place to share personal stories or short posts, and how client image privacy changed dramatically over time.  More than anything, these blog archives remind me of the amazing people, moments, and places that I've had the good fortune to photograph.

I tried to pick one image and blog post for each year- but it wasn't easy, and they were all chosen for different reasons. This is just a tiny sample of what I've shared at the intersection of my business and personal life over these 11 years....

2015: Transitions Are Tricky

2014: My Evolution As A Professional Photographer

2013: Fransisco Family Adventure
Family Photos at the Library

2012: One Minute Vacation: Great Ocean Road

2011: Union Studio Yoga

2010: Honoring Our Veterans

2009: Weddings Sneak Peek

2008: Mary & Matt's Detroit Public Library Wedding

2007: I'm an Artistic Guild Winner Too!

2006: Sally & Rodney's Wedding

2005: Artwork of Franklin Jonas

Some people switch blogs over time or hide their blog archives or history, but nope, mine are right in my sidebar for all to browse.  There's some really revealing and slightly embarrassing stuff in those archives- wooooweee- but looking back also allows me to measure how far I've come.  If you're ever feeling like you're working really hard and not getting far- just look back at my early annual reports and I think you'll feel better!  Onward!

2015 Review: Less is More

posted on: February 1, 2016

Even though I had quite a few professional and personal accomplishments this year, for me it felt more like a year characterized by being present for distant family during loss and love.  Many of the  moments that mattered this year will only live in my memory and my heart rather than in a camera.  Continuing to choose self-employment each year has so often been influenced by the ability to be present for family when it matters.  This year I was able to honor that commitment by spending 60 days with out-of-state family members- which is probably more time than we spent together living in the same state.

(all photos are phone snaps from my instagram feed)
Every minute is a gift.

Professionally, I fully embraced my niche focus of architecture & interiors in New York almost to the exclusion of all other work and finally created a portfolio to represent this.  My workload gradually shifted from hundreds of small fast jobs to dozens of large projects that required multiple days of coordination, shooting, and post-production.  I'm grateful that many of the clients I started working with last year hired me for additional projects this year and referred several new clients as well.  Returning and referred clients mean so much to me because it confirms that I'm meeting and exceeding image expectations, providing service that earns continued trust, but even more than that- getting a chance to grow with clients while supporting them in their professional journeys.

My clients work on some amazing homes!!! A quick phone grab of a beautiful deck build by @houseplayrenovations - check out their profile on Houzz for many of their fabulous renovations.    #anneruthmannphotography #onthejob #nj #newjersey #architecture #r

Since the world of architecture & interior photography encompasses several different types of projects, I decided to get a little more specific in my number breakdown this year so that I could more closely measure the changes in types of projects from year to year:

Photography Stats:
88 Residential Rental Properties Photographed
9 Commercial Architecture Properties Photographed
9 Residential Interior Design Properties Photographed
5 Creative Business Consulting Clients
5 Photo Licensing Only Clients (83 images)
4 Residential Renovation Properties Photographed
4 Residential Real Estate Properties Photographed
3 Portraits Photographed
2 Commercial Real Estate Properties Photographed
2 Historic Properties Photographed
2 Commercial Editorial Assignments Photographed
1 Shark Tank Photographed

Shark Tank Selfie  #onthejob #anneruthmannphotography #sharktank #selfie #nyc

Client Stats:
25 New Clients
9 Returning Clients

Professional Development Stats:
14 Networking Events Attended
6 Architecture & Design Talks/Events
1 Architecture Photography Workshop Attended

Professional Giving Stats:
48 Hours of Photography & Image Production Donated to Non-Profits (284 images)
11 Business Articles Contributed to PhotoLovecat (48 hrs)
1 Marketing Webinar Organized & Hosted (6 hrs)

Bonus Stats:
- Social Media Travel Sponsorship (#carsharenyc)*
(*I've often talked about how cool it would be if someone would just pay me to take instagram pics, and that's exactly what happened with this sponsorship!)
TEDx Talk

Emu Selfie Bomb!  This is why they suggest only keeping your window two inches open at the Promised Land Drive-Thru Zoo.  Hahaha!!! #emu #selfie #photobomb

A few years ago I started measuring how many days off I took advantage of during weeks when business was slow and how many vacations I took during the year as a way to help me measure success beyond the financial numbers alone.  The whole reason we strive for business goals is so that we can have the ability to enjoy more of the life stuff when we aren't working, right?  By measuring the life experiences that make me happy in between the work experiences, I've been able to track how both the personal and business sides of my life have impacted my overall happiness and ability to feel balanced and fulfilled from year to year.  If you're a freelancer or small business owner, I highly recommend keeping some personal stats along with the business stats in order to easily measure how your business is contributing to the rest of your life.  I keep track of mine simply by putting all of my appointments, dinners, production, vacation, etc. right into my calendar.  It's the easiest way to add it up at the end of the year.

Personal Stats:
- 93 Days of Vacation (60 days with out-of-town family)
- 23 New Cities Visited:
Arkansas- Eureka Springs, Marshall;
California- Thousand Oaks, Paso Robles, San Louis Obispo, Napa, Santa Barbara, PCH;
Missouri- Branson;
New Jersey- Asbury Park, Ocean Grove, Sandy Hook, Vernon Twp;
New York- Ithaca, Sag Harbor, Shelter Island, Montauk, West Hampton, Long Beach, Warwick, Amity, Poughkeepsie, Cold Spring, Ulster Park, Finger Lakes.
- 4 New Islands Visited: St. Thomas, St. John, St. Maarten, St. Barths
(2 return visits to Nassau, Bahamas)
- Started Singing with the Chameleonic Choir
- Completed Reiki 1 & 2 

After 10 years of searching, I'm so grateful to have found a choir that I love to sing with.  Chameleonic shares my love of supporting contemporary composers as well as learning and performing challenging music.  I'd love to share this newly commissioned work by Bill Heigen with you from a recording of our concert in December:

Reviews from Architecture & Interior Design Photography Clients

posted on: January 4, 2016

Testimonials from clients on Thumbtack.com and Houzz.com:

  Reviews for Anne Ruthmann Photography

5/5 stars Architectural Photography Verified Review

  • Anne did an outstanding job. The photos looked fantastic. She was very professional and took the extra time needed to capture the best light for the photos (not an easy task since it was mostly of highrise buildings). I would highly recommend her for your architecture photography needs.
  • 5/5 stars Architectural Photography Verified Review
    Anne is a real pro. She was prompt, professional and had all the right equipment for the job. She understands light and color and produced a100 plus magazine quality photos in 4 days. I highly recommend her and will be using her again.
  • 5/5 stars Architectural Photography Verified Review
    Living so far away, it was important to me to find a photographer I could communicate well with and trust. Anne was the right choice! She worked hard and diligently to make this project work. I was extremely pleased that the church was able to be photographed, especially the windows belonging to my relative. Her fee was very reasonable and she made it very easy to send her payment electronically. I highly recommend Anne for any of your architectural photography needs. She is a professional from beginning to end!
  • 5/5 stars Architectural Photography Verified Review
    Very professional and friendly. Highly recommended.
  • 5/5 stars Real Estate Photography Verified Review
  • 5/5 stars Architectural Photography Verified Review
    We are very pleased with Anne's work! She captured perfectly Duo-Gard's translucent interior wall systems installed at a prominent Wall Street ad agency's new headquarters. She accommodated our tight time frame and produced excellent photos that will be great assets in our marketing of this product line. Her fees and terms were reasonable and worked within our budget for economical excellence. We look forward to collaborating again with Anne. Best regards from Linda Byam, Marketing Consultant, Duo-Gard Industries Inc.
  • 5/5 stars Architectural Photography Verified Review
    Anne did an amazing job photographing interiors for my portfolio and website! She was meticulous in her shooting and really produced fantastic photos. She is professional and super friendly. It was wonderful working with her. Freda
  • 5/5 stars
    Anne took wonderful pictures of my apartment. Besides being very professional she's a very nice person. I recommend Anne to everyone! Thanks!!
  • 5/5 stars
    Anne came to my house to take pictures of it. She's was very professional and had a great energy. The pictures look great!
  • 5/5 stars
    Anne was wonderful to work with. From the second we were connected she was extremely friendly, responsive and accommodating. She showed up on time, with great energy and took wonderful pictures of my apartment-- I absolutely loved how they came out!!
  • 5/5 stars
    Anne was an absolute pleasure to work with. She showed up to both of our appointment right on time and was extremely respectful of my apartment. The photos came out better than I could have imagined. She did a great job capturing the best attributes of the unit and making the space look as large as possible. I highly recommend Anne!
  • 5/5 stars

Living in Manhattan - My Second Year

posted on: December 19, 2015

At the end of 2014, I was still settling into this big little urban island and wrote about a lot of the things that impacted me after living in NYC for a year.  However, after a second year of living here and getting used to all of the not-so-awesome parts, I've started to appreciate the benefits and bonuses that make this a really desirable place to stay beyond a short visit.  Here are a few of the ways that New York City, but particularly Manhattan, has spoiled me as a resident:

1. 24 Hour Delivery For Just About Anything
3am craving for ice cream and don't want to get out of your PJs?  Seamless Delivery.  Staying home sick and need someone to go grocery and toilet paper shopping for you?  Instacart Delivery.  Found a couch on craigslist but don't have a car?  Uship Delivery.  Don't feel like waking up early and standing in line for a cronut or SNL tickets?  TaskRabbit.  NYC is a city full of people who don't have cars and whose kitchens rarely do more than chill wine and leftovers- so delivery services are abundant for just about anything you need.

2. Top Chefs in Every Food Category
This city is a foodie's paradise.  From awesomely cheap street food to five star over-the-top meals, there's no shortage of amazing chefs and restaurants in this city.  People don't consider service jobs to be a career choice in other parts of the country or world, but here, you may get poached and recruited to be a star bartender or barista if you make a point of going above and beyond in your service.  I know bartenders whose salaries make people wish they'd never taken out a student loan.

3. Everyone Comes to NYC
If there's a major art exhibit, concert series, musical act, film, or international figure, they will find their way to NYC at some point.  When the Pope came to visit the United States, he came to NYC.  If there's an international traveling act and they only plan one show in the United States, it's probably happening in NYC.  It sounds a bit over-zealous to say EVERYONE comes here, but it's rare that an act will stop somewhere else and not come to NYC. All the entertainment you could want is just a subway or taxi ride away.

4. Independent Film & Music
One of the things that was hard to find in other cities I've lived in was a movie theatre that would host something other than a major film with a large financial backing and broad commercial appeal.  I used to drive an hour out of town to get to the closest movie house that would host a documentary that was traveling the festival circuit.  Now I have several movie theaters within a few blocks walk that host not only independent film and music, but also have really awesome director Q&A nights.  I've been able to speak with Ethan Hawke, Mike Meyers, and Kristin Wiig about their latest films simply because they were actually attending their own screening down the street from me.

5. Free Art & Culture Events
Free Summer Concert Series, Free Movies on the Piers, Free Festivals in the Park, Free Public Swimming Pools, Free Ferry Rides, Free Promotional Food Giveaways, Free Samples, Free Tickets to TV Shows, Free Museum Talks & Demonstrations... and the list goes on.  With so many free events that happen every day in this city, it's not a question of what's happening, it's a question of which happening to choose, and it kind of makes up for how expensive it can be to live here.

World Trade Inspired | Behind The Image

posted on: November 24, 2015

It's hard to think of interiors and architecture as having "moments", but this was one of those moments when several things aligned and made me geek out about an otherwise very plain image of office furniture.  

World Trade Inspired Office Furnishing Interior Photography

I knew I wanted a detail of the carpet, stools, filing cabinets, and desk, to highlight some of the designer's choices, but there were several of these to choose from throughout the office, so I kept looking until something inspired me. Then I noticed a set with the One World Trade building right outside the window- and that's when the "moment" of inspiration struck. Not only were the stools shaped like One World Trade as the edges angled upward toward a flat rounded top, but the carpet's hexagon design was a close relative of the octagon formed in the middle of the One World Trade building as its isosceles triangle facades aligned at even widths. Finally, my creative vision for making stools, carpet, and filing cabinets look more interesting.

The only problem was you couldn't tell exactly what building was out the window from the standing height normally appropriate for this desk. In a straight-on-view mid-height, the mirrored facade of OWT reflected the mid-height clouds in the sky and distorted some of the building shape.  So I squatted lower, and lower, and then even lower, until basically laying on the ground for a window perspective looking upward that allowed the crowning shape of OWT to be compared to the detail of the stools and carpet.  To give you a broader image of this scene, there were people working in this open layout office while I was there, just going about their regular office routines until spotting me essentially laying on the ground in the middle of their office to take a photo of some stools. It's probably good that I'm not embarrassed easily. When a "moment" of inspiration strikes, I'll do whatever it takes to make it work.

However, the work never stops at the capture of the image. This image wasn't actually possible in the camera itself, so if you'd like to know a little more about the technical process of creating it, read on...

First it required two different RAW exposures on site in order to get a proper exposure of the interior and a proper exposure of the exterior. From the settings below you can see these exposures are 3 stops apart (the only difference was changing the shutter speed from 1/10th of a second to 1/80th of a second). While RAW files can be pushed and pulled about 1 stop of light in over or under exposure without too many artifacts or distortions, anything beyond a full stop difference really needs to be a separate exposure.

Next was color correcting the interior image color to more accurately reflect the material and design colors without too much of the florescent orange light color cast and without too much natural blue light color cast. This is one of the most subjective parts of editing because it relies on the color sensitivity of our eyes both on site when photographing as well as our color memory when we're behind the computer.  The window exposure was already perfectly daylight balanced. If I tried to color correct after combining images, the window view would become an unnatural neon blue.

While many people think a grey card can solve the problem, it isn't very reliable under mixed lighting conditions and is highly likely that you'll still end up tweaking it in post-production to find something that balances better over the entire scene. Grey cards are great when you have consistent color across scenes as you do with studio lighting, but interiors are a messy blend of natural and artificial light, sometimes up to five different color tones of light across one space. If you're color blind, yes, use a grey card to get colors somewhere close to where they need to be. If you have great color sensitivity, you'll likely be doing the same amount of adjustments with or without a grey card.

Once my interior colors were as close as I could get to what I saw when I was on location when adjusting for various color reflections, the next step was to bring the window exposure detail into the interior exposure image using layers and masks in Photoshop. Sometimes it's possible to combine exposures with HDR software, but I've found that you end up losing a lot of latitude in highlights and colors when a software tries to average different images together.  

To demonstrate this, below is an example of the best possible detail after using HDR software on the left, versus masking in the window exposure manually on the right. The HDR software failed to pull in any of the blue sky outside, and yet decided to fill in a highlight on the filing cabinet with a blue color cast. You can also see how the HDR version reduces the amount of detail in the ceiling. Occasionally, when exposures are close enough, HDR software can be effective, but when the difference is this dramatic and selective, masking provides more control. I was also very careful not to allow the window scene to be bolder than the interior, because that would also be unnatural to the eye, and take the focus off of the interior design choices.

I believe that when an image is crafted well, you don't actually see all of the work that went into it. If it looks as natural on screen as it would to our eye in person, than I feel like I've done my job well to convey the design as clearly as the air that surrounds it.

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