516 593 9760 info@rabenko.com


Getting the best photography is a process.  Whether you are posing for a headshot or planning for a wedding, your satisfaction with your imagery will be shaped by countless variables that come into play before, during and after the photographic session – be it a few minutes or a few days!

I have been analyzing and perfecting the process for over 30 years.

And in the many articles and blog posts here, I try to help you understand as much as possible about all the things that can make your photography most meaningful or mostly mediocre!

Every client wants great photos. But the definitions of great can vary, AND IN MOST CASES your expectations at every step, can be based on assumptions and misunderstandings.

From a technician, you would not expect to get heart or art.

On the other hand, artsy photographers often by choice, lack strong technical understanding and skill.

So they are sure to disappoint you in many different ways.

Most pro photographers are either freelancer’s doing a job, or business persons working by formula.  Their work is stiff, predictable, and if trendy, usually gimmicky and repetitive.

I cover factors that can and will affect the photographic results you get from any photographer or videographer that you hire at any price.  New information is always added and current trends are analyzed.


A true artist must have a perspective and a ready opinion, otherwise the canvas will remain blank and the clay unformed.  For those interested in knowing me better I have included some personal musings which although not specifically about photography certainly says something about my sensitivities.



Eyes glaze over.  Faces sag.  Bodies slump. Confusion overcomes and normally confident persons whither at hearing the phrase: everything requires thought.  This is especially true of those that quickly want to become a photographer.   These want to assist, or intern, for a short while to learn everything there is to know and then they want to do what I do!  Yup that is the essence of the short interview.    Recently a young person found me in.  That’s not so easy, as when I am in I am in creative sessions, and when I am out, I am not in.  But here I was, listening to how her parents suggested the visit because she wants to be a photographer, even though they advised against it.  I got the distinct impression that she had some brilliant parents.

Photography can be a wonderful career for those who love technology and take pride in developing both artistic and technical skill.  Those insensitive to the human spirit, never feel the effects that an image has on its viewers the same way as those sensitive to artistic things can feel, and so put feeling into what they do.  But it does involve an interest in understanding technical things, being good with gear, and great with people. It involves an artistic spirit but requires a mind that is both artsy and strongly founded in science.       Doing something that is different is not doing something better.  On the other hand, those that don’t love technical considerations ultimately fail to adequately and competently control the technical, which is essential.    Automation does not suffice.    Images a machine can do on its own render you superfluous.    For those that want something special – you better be special!

This person tried to sell me on the idea that while she has a lot to learn and does not really know anything yet, that by being an intern with me, we will be helping each other.  Yes, she could be learning a lot and possibly be of help to me.   But if what she will be doing is not important then she would not be learning much and will soon quit, just after I started counting on her to have a modicum of ability in a task.  If I have low standards, she won’t learn what is important, and if I am strict, she will tell others I am difficult.  If a task is important then it involves caring, concern and accuracy.

When something is done well, all details are important and contribute to it being a success.  When something is not done with care and precision, it cannot be worth much to anyone, including the intern – who would not be learning from the task.   Some business owners either choose to take advantage of interns for cheap labor, or have little problem expecting little and delivering little both to the intern as well as to their clients.   Good teachers first have to know, then have to care and finally have to communicate.  Interestingly, few interns seem to value communication or excel at it.

Recently someone actually followed up on something that I said.  What a surprise!  Normally people say they want to learn but when given an assignment or a source to follow up, they show their true lack of interest. Last week someone actually sent me an email with a link to some items and ideas that I had mentioned earlier. It touched me.  It meant there actually was interest.   To most it is often only about the money, or the resume entry.  It is hard to fake real substance, but being an artist is a way of thinking and everything requires thought!


Bright & Dumb


Bright & Dumb – Of Photographer and Videographer – There has got to be one director.

He loved my photography twice before, but chose a friend to shoot this Bar Mitzvah’s  video.

Each moment’s ideal angle will tell the story best and render subjects pleasingly.  But on this shoot, I was hog tied with regimented personnel on both sides.   Their approach made a mockery of what video should be.  NYC’s top lighting and floral designers created a breathtaking venue.  Light beams dazzled.  Ultra large video screens had a cutting edge wow factor. Exquisite floral detail glowed under purposeful illumination.  But before guests could experience the miracles all about, the videographers ruined it!

The client promised me that the crew would work around me, and with me.  But they did not.  The moment it all comes together for the client is not a time to ask him to referee his vendors. The lot was cast. Into the melee was I thrust!   All night I would be competing with a large tripod on one side and two other ponderous cameramen on the other.  If I backed up to see more persons,  sought more flattering angles or searched for other family members,  I faced glaring lights that robbed me of vision and had me photographing only backsides while key players drawn to the lights the whole night would play to the videographers.   The majority of the guests experienced much of the same frustration: blinded, bumped, closed off from those they came to celebrate with.   All the magnificent ambience created by the other venders and coordinated by one of the most wonderful party planners I have had the pleasure of working with was over powered, overcome, buried by boorish brutish videographers who feel that they have to be on top of the subjects with 64 times the needed illumination – and lenses closed down to get ocean depth focus.   How magnificent their result could have been if they stayed back, on elegantly painted ladders, from the corners of the dance floor, letting the existing light tell the story.   How much better too if they had the hand held skill to walk about the crowd – alongside me, with wide open optics on cameras that allow rapid follow focus.

Using the existing light would have been beautiful.  Overpowering the existing light was wrong.   Shooting an event with the same approach one would use in a carefully choreographed and tightly directed studio sessions is not being more professional.  It is being uncaring, insensitive, and will always fail to capture the subtle beauty in both the human and the decorative.   Sustained persistent blinding up close coverage of participants affects those participants and their interaction with their guests.  The client will never know what could have been and could never understand how much harder good photography became because of boorish video.   Photography and video record the same people at the same time in the same place. Your event should not become a crew competition: don’t make it into a paparazzi event.  It is crazy not to have a technical and artistic director:  one person among the crew who is financially responsible for both the photography and video and who is technically competent and artistically sensitive to coordinate both related services.  Your band will have a conductor. Imagine if each instrument was deciding when, how and what to play!   Your image producers should be working together too, under a skilled and responsible conductor who coordinates lighting, angles and approach. Your happy occasion should not be a sad state of affairs.

This article originally appeared in The Jewish Star Newspaper

Bar Mitzvah Un-Bound

Imagine a bar mitzvah without a book?  In the seventies, eighties and nineties, those with a formal reception for family and friends had a photographer and then eagerly planned and anxiously anticipated the arrival of a Bar or Bat Mitzvah album, which would become a valuable heirloom to share with a future spouse and then kids!

For decades my clients felt that the product was absolutely essential.  Perfection and thoroughness in the design of their child’s album was tireless. For Bnai Mitzvahs, parents required that each child have his or her very own book with tweaks to personalize it with that child’s friends and portraits revolving around him or her.  What effort we went to in making those albums perfect!  I cannot imagine the outrage if for any reason the “pictures did not come out” or, if there was no album to be had.    Back then we shot a mere two hundred photos, which then seemed generous.  If one shot was missed it was a big deal.  Shoppers would ask “how many photos do you take?”.   They wanted more to choose from.

A few months after the client received the proofs we would meet to plan the album.   Then, book binders only bound the books.   We had to pull the negatives, write up instructions for each negative, which then got sent to a photo-lab.  Prints received from the lab would have to be quality checked and some needed reprinting.    Then they would be hand retouched, and finally the set of all album pages would go for binding.  All this took many months.   For those who printed our own images, the details involved where tenfold.   Today production can be much easier and faster.

Yet some parents never get around to choosing their child’s photos, or making the album.   Why?  They await the proofs; check that they looked good, and that they have pictures of all their friends.   But then many never choose their photos.   Invariably the old adage that the most important photo is always the one their photographer missed,  has led real pros to shoot very heavy to increase the likelihood of having what is later desired while  countless newbie pros simply shotgun their shoots – not knowing what is good or bad –“just to be sure”.

From the artist’s perspective this disinterest in albums raises questions:

Have phones made photos commonplace?   Is there that one photo still missed which negates having any album at all?  Does the quest for “best” image become such an obsession that it is never completed?  Are so many photos of interest that rejecting them in favor of the few to be bound is more painful than not having any book at all, and therefore ever having to make that decision?

Might every day be meaningful,  and a Bar Mitzvah celebration just one of those many days who’s photos are found in chronological order somewhere in our phone backups?   With all our daily selfies, has the bar/bat album lost its purpose?   My informal research leads me to find that everyone who has their recent album, values it much and enjoys both knowing that they have it and reviewing it regularly.   However, some feel that it has to be perfect which not a clear specification so hard to undertake.   Others feel there is no urgency. Having fewer shots to choose from does not speed things up, and having more does not always include that “most important” shot.  Many simply never get around to it.

This article originally appeared in  The Jewish Star Newspaper


Fears or Friends

Man’s best friend?   My parents taught me compassion.  If someone was ill or needed help I should not just stand by in apathy, but try to help… get involved…make it better. This was not just limited to people.  As a small child I heard from various relatives that my Grand Father’s Grand Father in old age was quite frail, thin, with a heart condition.  He would bend down and pass out.  His doctor warned him that bending down could be fatal.  On a cold January day, he saw a starving kitten, bent down to feed it and passed out permanently.

I read In Sunday’s NY Post, “The city’s weirdest museum will soon be closing…”  “Brooklyn Torah Animal World is flat broke and will shut its doors soon if no one helps.” it said.  I wonder what a visitor might get from the exhibit, which claims all the animals from Noah’s Arc except a pig.  It explains in owner Rabbi Deutsch’s own words “You know, a bakery sells not what the baker likes, but … you have to be sensitive to what people want to see or not want to see.”

I am not an “animal lover”.  I do not just pour my heart out over any animal that I see.  Some stop and fawn over this cute puppy or that baby possum.  But if an animal is in pain, is trapped or lost, then at least I question what might possibly be done to help it.  I do not just cross the street, look the other way, or ignore it.  Perhaps it is because I am sensitive.  Or maybe it is how I would want to be treated if I was cold and hungry.

Recently a religious man asked me why I was not afraid of getting bitten by a squirrel ( fear, no – caution yes).  He continued saying I could get rabies from squirrels.  He did not know they do not carry rabies. We got into a conversation on his upbringing and how Shoa survivors could easily have a fear of dogs.  That is powerful imagery. Yes, I can try to imagine that such terror has lasting effects.  But is that how it should be?  I do not particularly like dogs, and am allergic to them.  But each dog is different.  Some do wonderful things for people.  Sometimes we rely on them for their amazing talents as rescuers, detectives and guides.  Is it fair to them, or good ourselves to still carry such negative feelings for an innocent animal that we do not even know?   Is it fair to the pig that he should suffer more than any other Kosher or Non-Kosher animal because the museum does not even show him?  At least keep the stuffed animal in a separate room – isolated but available to those who may want to see him?

An artist’s job is to ask questions; to care; to raise consciousness and awareness. I think we are better people for thinking about things rather than ignoring them.  Certainly one could argue there are more important things to think about.  But so too one might say how nothing is beneath consideration.  Sometimes a sentence can be taken out of context.  So readers should not assume me to be siding with pigs, whatever that means.  I have never eaten any part of a pig.  And unlike some people who I read have them as pets, and boast of their personal grooming fastidiousness – I must admit I am prejudiced.  But does that make me a better person?

I do not think maintaining a fear of dogs, is better than learning to appreciate them or to understand them.  Some religious people have pets and love those pets.   Some don’t relate.  And some hate and loath animals.   Because I am a NY State licensed wildlife rehabber interested in helping injured and orphaned squirrels, I am often engaging visitors to my studio and website about their feelings towards and their knowledge of squirrels.  It’s the same three categories of fear, apathy and compassion that I hear.  The more people know, the more fascinated and respectful they are of these interesting creatures.  Yet hunters, for example, insist on defending the indefensible. They insist that it is fair and right to hunt for sport.  I do not understand how blasting a baby or mother squirrel high in the trees, who is either trying to survive in this terribly cold world or trying to enjoy a beautiful day without hunger, is any type of sport for anyone.

Maybe you would enjoy visiting Torah Animal World. Education could be good.  Will children leave knowing that animals have feelings too or only that some are cute, scary, different, and dumb, Kosher or Non Kosher?   Maybe just like people, there are good and bad individuals in the animals world?  Maybe they each are a product of their experiences in life? Maybe we could feel better at times knowing that we are helping rather than not knowing how we are causing pain.  Getting over one’s fear is usually suggested if one has a fear of the water, of heights or even of relationships.  Could a museum or program like this, possibly provide an immersive experience to get people over their fears of animals?

In speaking to people who visit my studio and ask questions about my squirrel photographs, there is always something in the person’s past to have triggered their fear of squirrels.  Discussion reveals a desire to recognize the cause and irrationality of continuing to live in that fear.  I used to fear bees.  Then I learned stinging is their last resort. It is suicide on their part. They die. Their stinging is usually only done when in fear.  So when others go crazy over a bee in in the yard, I stand still and calm.  No problem. A person with deep seated fear of dogs, might wish to get over it and feel better in the process by being a friend too.

This article appeared originally in The 5 Towns Jewish Times – http://5tjt.com/

Learn How to See

Prices vary from free, to hourly, group, or package rates.  If not listed please inquire.

Training is available in NYC and in Long Island.    Requirement:  Interest, an open mind, desire.


This is not taught in most photography classes.   You may know how to use your camera.  You may have gotten instruction on print making or even Photoshop editing.   You might even have gone on photo field trips or risen early, or stayed out late to watch nature.   That does not mean you know how to see!   In fact with all of today’s whiz bang technology, fewer pros ever consider what is most important!   

My one on one instruction – a two hour session involves learning how to see you will look at everything differently and see so much more.   It starts out inside and weather permitting goes outside.  You do not need a camera for this. But if you wish you may bring anything from a quality cell phone camera to something photographers use.

Learn why you see what you see and how to see more!

One on one training session with Gary Rabenko                 $450


The High Price of Cheap Photography

Good photographers have a big problem. The sheer ease of being able to do any photography coupled with the economy and job market, has created a glut of so called photographers.

Photography prices today are wild and extreme.   Misleading advertising that mentions price sets a bar that fails to account for clients’ needs and expectations.

Anyone can take photos.  There has always been a huge difference between skilled photographers and picture takers.   But technology makes recognition of the less important, so easy, that the vital is often missed.


Cost? How much will everything cost ?

Cost – how much will everything cost?

Today there are so many variables at every step that your budget is really the best way of gauging the approach.   After a thorough understanding of your feelings about the meaning and value of photography and of video, and a detailed discussion of the event you are planning and how you anticipate feeling about all the emotions of the day as well as the dynamics of family and friends, I can suggest recommendations that will include who would be physically at the event, for how long, what their goals would be, what products you would be coming away with, what level of collaboration will occur later, and how much post production time will be needed to make products that are uniquely complex and artistic or easier to produce but still meaningful.

Bad Reactions

A video can disappoint for many reasons.  You are planning a kids bar mitzvah party and hire a videographer to have a record of the few speakers.  You hire a budget videographer for that simple video.

The video doesn’t show much of the boy playing with his friends during the smorgasbord.   You worked hard on crafting the centerpieces.  The video shows the unfinished room before banners were hung.  Worse, the intricacies of all your hard work on the detailed centerpieces is invisible in wide shots.   Close ups have no texture. They are flat looking.

The dancing was spirited with grandparents, rarely seen cousins, even your husband forgetting about all the preparation finally was in the moment.  Your son’s expression of joy when lifted high – he truly was on top of the world right then.    But the video only zoomed into his face the one moment he is off balance and the dancing shows people not as you remember them with exciting eyes and joyous smiles but rather as crowds … distant people, shown from a distance that remind you of people that you think you know.

Details that make people individuals, and their personalities are absent in this record.  Sparkling eyes, determined expressions, tenacious hands and dizzying feet are not shot as close ups at just the right time and only show at seemingly arbitrary and lackluster moments.

You wait for the speeches to be better than the dancing.  You recall with pride your husband’s speech, and how the audience followed his every word.   Faces of close friends stands out in your mind but none of their reactions are in the video.  Why?!?

Either speeches are shot theatrically like stage work, or they are shot as a press conference.  Theatrical camera work involves the cameraman opinion at every moment on what is important, and how to enhance that.

News involves pointing a camera toward the podium: done!   More, involves camera handling skill and decision making beyond a budget mindset.    Straight forward basics get the least complaints.   Drama requires altering angle, zoom, and composition to make a statement about the person speaking in real time as the dynamics of the speaker evolve.  It is not for the faint of heart, or a client who expects to see the obvious, rather than insisting on the interesting.  Additional cameras boost the expense, distract, and still may not get the right audience faces at the right time.   An awareness of the important vs the unimportant is required.  The client must accept not seeing equal footage of every similarly important guest.   The viewer hears the speaker even when he is not seen on camera.   Sometimes this can work really well and makes for a beautiful video. But that means finding faces reacting to the speaker’s words and delivery.  A great speech helps.  An entertaining speaker helps.  A responsive audience helps.  Even with all that, some clients expect to see the speaker most of the time and actually think wide shots show everything in a dance set, while zooms cut everything out. Factors like podium placement, having room to move but not great distance to span, and a crowd who welcome cameras rather than being irritated by one in their midst, all go to shape the approach which is chosen to make a shoot easy.  Not having interesting reactions and detail actually is an industry wide reaction by many videographers to dumb down their approach and follow the path of least resistance and effort, every step of the way. Everything hardly shows anything at all.  But they are afraid of missing something and budget guys are trained not to take chances, and to keep editing easy.


On a Positive Note

I may seem negative, critical or too serious about photography and the condition of photographers these days.  But in many ways, photographers never had it so good.  Many are not happy. Others do not understand a variety of subtleties that lay below the surface, or they gloss over blatant issues they cannot control.  But for now let us acknowledge the positives.

Unlike when I bit the bullet and went totally digital back in early 2001, today there is a huge infrastructure of software and services to solve every problem and assist the photographer from the first step to the last of project completion.   The internet and Google are always at the ready to solve our problems and point us in the right direction.

Photographers have virtual meetings with clients across town or across the globe.  We can work remotely and still be at our desk computer.   Great imagery can look even more incredible on large high definition screens.  New TV’s and monitors are coming out that double and soon will triple the high definition resolution we are just starting to get used to in sizes as large as nine feet.  That is 110 inches!    High definition video, is known as 2K, for the nearly 2000 pixel width of the image compared with standard definition’s resolution of a mere 720pixels.  Emerging higher resolution 4K is already right around the corner and 6K is close at hand.

Camera are smaller, lighter, better, faster, sharper, and shoot motion – the new term for video, as well as still photos.  Remote technology has made control of unmanned cameras very easy and practical.   Lighting gear is more sophisticated, light weight and less power hungry than ever before.    Portable lighting which was an extremely unwieldy and bulky hassle,  has in the last few years become a pleasure due to large lithium ion batteries and an abundance of high tech reliable flash circuitry from more manufacturers than ever.

LED lighting has expanded into so many worlds including both practical and creative photographic uses.   These life-time lasting, nearly indestructible bulbs draw such little power, that they can run on small battery systems which were impossible with traditional tungsten or halogen light bulbs.

Rechargeable batteries in common flash light sizes have nearly doubled in capacity with some having great performance even when not used for a long time.   Rapid battery chargers are available that can charge some batteries in fifteen or twenty minutes if you want to do so right at a photo shoot.

I often talk about lighting which should be the heart and soul of every image.   Photographers today can better control their lights, and have them exactly where, when and how they want, due to amazing technology that pairs space age science involving radio signals, light sensors and even magnetic pulses.

For small products, photographers can buy light weight light box solutions instead of having to build heavier ones from scratch.  And today’s developments include user friendly camera cases, straps and pods like never before!

Digital technology has exceeded film in image quality and detail.   Images can be recorded in such low light that the eye might loses color perception, but with the right settings today’s cameras can produce a rich vibrant fully saturated brilliant color photograph or video.

Traditional photographic paper was only rated for 25 years, and that when stored in dark dry conditions.  Today’s inkjet pigment printers can produce vibrant razor sharp images right in your den with an archival quality rated up to two hundred years!

The arduous work photographers needed to go through in print making, film processing and film duplication is gone.   Files can be duplicated in unlimited quantities, with identical image quality and beamed around the world instantaneously.

Cataloguing and keeping track of one’s image bank has never been easier with reliable software, and storage solutions that are stable and cost effective.   Instead of lugging a collection of expensive 20 inch prints around, one can tailor a presentation from thousands of images on a tiny micro SD card!

Gear has gotten smaller, lighter, cheaper, more reliable and a lot more capable.

For new photographers, information is as far or as near as their internet connection.

Smart phone apps can guide and instruct on everything from posing to lighting.

Websites give start up photographers the wisdom, insights and advice comparable to the business and marketing savvy of old timers but tailored to our times.

Photography and video is more fun, and so much easier than ever before.   A few advanced amateurs always produced more interesting and meaningful imagery than some routinely programmed professionals and now their creativity can even express itself with the ubiquitous smart phone whether on vacation to a remote land, or just marveling over the everyday life on your end table.

Digital technology in addition informs us immediately that at the very minimum we have an image.  From that high tech display we can also learn in what direction to adjust things to make that image better.   This instantaneous feedback is akin to a proof that at best used to take hours and cost much.   Perhaps nothing has more emboldened new camera holders to try their hand than the instantaneous feedback they now get from the camera’s screen.

It is an exciting, amazing science fiction type world of technology that has old prose marveling anew each month at the latest developments, while new comers take it for granted – expecting exponential advancements regularly.

Cloud storage allows world wide access to our images.  Fast computers.  Beautiful and lightweight portfolio presentation tools, a variety of backup storage options.  Easy online learning.  The fun of sharing images.  Instant feedback.   Wow!  And on top of that there is so much infrastructure to support “photographers” now, that anyone can claim the title and with no employees or studio, produce work to please their clients.

So what could be bad?   I will end this one article on a positive note.


This article appeared originally in The 5 Towns Jewish Times – http://5tjt.com/

A Better Photographer?

PHOTO PROSE – A Better Photographer?

A better photographer?!?  Verizon’s full page magazine ads touting the iPhone5s, lead off with the words: “A better photographer built in.” and continues with the words: “instead of teaching people to take better photos, why not teach the camera?”!

Just today I got a call from someone critical of “all these faux photographers “ and wanting serious photography instruction

Do you know that for at least fifteen years, there has been a button on traditional 35 mm cameras, labeled with a P.  Some photographers right here, right now, actually believe that button is for the “professional”!    As if pushing it will give you pro shots, or that pros are meant to use that mode.  The P button which lately can have many sub-menu settings in fact means program.

In program, the camera makes more decisions for you than in other modes like S or A, which stand for shutter and aperture respectively. In S or A mode, you choose that parameter, and the camera adjusts the other based on your selection. In P mode the camera takes over and does both.  All the photographer has to do is compose the shot- decide what he wants to make a photograph of. Cameras that have controllable lenses often have a zoom. And that is a huge bit of additional responsibility for the photographer. Having a zoom lens, the photographer must decide how tight to crop the scene before him. But most find it actually makes it much easier. Saves a heck of a lot of shoe leather! With a phone, zooming is usually a digital crop action, so there is no benefit to zooming for the shot, when you can crop it later. At least zooming with a physical lens that rotates or push pulls, means that you get the same large file size when shooting less of a scene.  Unlike digital cropping which the computer can do later.

Many today wish they could shoot the world while comfortably leaning against their door post!   The fact is that shooting from where you are, rather than moving to where you should be, does not alter perspective. Perspective is totally based on your location in relation to the scene. If you are making a photograph of your friend fifteen paces away, and the long tired boughs of an old maple tree are hanging down five feet from you on the right, then you could shoot through those boughs, or frame the shot with branches from the tree. Your friend could be shown though those branches. But if you were only ten feet from your friend, and zoomed all the way wide, you would never feel the effect of the tree… unless it fell!

The Verizon ad got me laughing, because it was not geared towards professional photographers, yet most professional photographers really do rely on automation. And I know many who would think this was technological progress for photographers, while seriously skilled pros, would scoff. But the real issue here is the public reading the ads. See everything has an effect on how people feel towards photographers and how decision on selecting a photographer is made. A large part of the public are happy to no longer consider photography to require any skill.  And happy not paying for any!  So many photographers seem to have embraced that notion and merrily take shot after shot, often in automation until the gig ends or their time is up. Automation involves more than just camera settings.  Automation represents the mindset, approach and attitude of most working pros. I have always looked at a project as unique: a new project on a new day. I have never done this project before: what is right for this family, this moment, this shot?  But watching photographers it is obvious that so many work by habit.  And this is now reflected in the client’s thinking.

Ads like Verizon’s further enforce the notion that imagery is all up to the technology.  Years ago, I would joke that automatic cameras would decide on what photos to take.  So a photographer need only bring them to an event and once unleashed they – the cameras would go into action.   Of course back then we were looking for new technology and dreaming for the day when we could have more sensitive films, lenses that transmitted more of the light, and zooms with a greater optical range.  Some of us who understood the theory and were pushing the envelope, just hoped for broadening our physical abilities a bit and easing cold hard technical limits such as overcoming minimum film base density in shadow detail. Which means being able to get usable results in low light.

Can you comprehend that cameras need one sixtieth the amount of light today than they needed twenty years ago!  The photographer who thinks P is the professional mode is perfectly in sync with the consumer who thinks the camera is taking the photo.  Neither that consumer nor those photographers believe in a photographer who really is doing what he must first and foremost be doing and which I have been speaking about for decades.   An artist sculpts life with light. The word photography in fact means drawing with light.  So any photographer calling himself an artist ( and today so many do ) first and foremost must understand, see, feel, control, and use light in a purposeful way.

Suppose you peered into a dark room, and there stood a small child.  You flip the switch turning on a bright light.  Are you now sculpting life with light?  Not unless you placed the light specifically in consideration of his features, form, personality and facial expression and  did many other things, and adjusted many settings to get the specific result you envisioned.  You would then be an artist, and your camera would be an artist’s tool.

The cellphone ad and many faux photographers have happily reversed the roles leaving the art up to the machine!   With the machine being the artist the “artist” has become a machine.


This article appeared originally in The 5 Towns Jewish Times – http://5tjt.com/

A Question of Photography and Retouching

I was recently asked: “Are you opposed to photographs of human emotion getting touched up so blatantly, rather than capturing a better natural shot? Does touching it up make the photo lose some value?

We retouch all our images, but retouching is meant to look natural. Years ago, a Broadway theater would display its stars in a very glamorous photograph. You knew they were manipulated, but they were beautiful. People wear make up, for example. Women wear lipstick. I guess that lipstick could extend beyond the lips, or be very extreme in color, like green. But when applied naturally it is an effective enhancement not a distraction.

There are many steps to image enhancement.  Some are time consuming and some can be done easily and quickly.  Some can be batch processed and affects many images at a time.  Some involve local adjustments, and others involve global image adjustment. Some are more a matter of personal taste, while others may be more universal.  Some can be and should be done to the image that is presented as a proof. Some can only be done after the client orders a specific image because the work is just too time consuming. Ultimately any  image can be improved after it has already been manipulated. The only limitation is time, and that usually should relate to investment and significance.

What are your thoughts on this question? Leave a comment below.

Rabenko Standards of Photography

Anyone shopping for a photographer must be informed and aware of the lack of quality control that most photographers and studios apply to the projects they sell.   For so many years, I have been hearing from labs, printers, photographers, assistants, and staff, both mine and other’s that I am a perfectionist, or that others do not care like I do.

To me, there is only one way to do something, and that is the best that it can be!  Photography is a science and an art.  Many details must be based on feeling.  So this is the artistic side of me.  But that feeling cannot just be arbitrary, it must be based on sound reasoning, available only to one with great experience.  In addition to there are technical aspects that extend far beyond lighting and angles and camera settings, but also aspects of facial topography and body language and positioning, that so few now days are sensitive to.   Here, repeatedly at every step, from the advice given to clients even before the gig is booked, the concern over the practical planning and scheduling, the allotment of time, the availability of a venue’s areas to work in, the client’s personal tastes, and preferences through to the attention to detail in a myriad of ways during the portrait session, the purposeful use of light, the creative use of backgrounds, the skilled use of lenses and optics, that far exceed merely zooming an all purpose lens, but using specific focal lenses for a reason, and the sensitivity to and awareness of posture, body language, expression, eye movement and limb position everything makes a difference.

Repeatedly I see photographers work that just looks misinformed:  faces that are not flattering. Expressions that are bad. Body language that is awkward.  How can that be acceptable?    Yet as technology allows anyone to get sharp photos, it also blurs the line and lowers the standards.  There are two totally different approaches one can take to producing a collection of wedding photographs and possibly albums.  One is very easy.  The other is very difficult. One is fast and cheap.  The other is very time consuming.  The better way is better because of one major factor.   You might think it involves better gear, and it usually does, or that it involves having more experience, and surely that plays a huge role.  Or you must figure it involves fancier album bindings, or some special materials?    Perhaps you guess that it involves more photographic skill, more skilled use of light, more knowledge of how to record people at their best?   And those are all very valid factors. Yes,   But the biggest difference between the best and the rest, is that from the shoot to the binding, there is thought at every step.  Every action, routine, step, decision, is not made by habit, or because others do this, or because this is what was done last week.    Everything from the choice of gear, the way the lights are set up, the photo composition, the crew staffing, and all the way through to album design and page layout and image retouching can involve wide ranging levels of skill.  But skill without thought, is skill not implemented.

Skills applied routinely without specific thought, yield mechanical, lifeless and unfeeling imagery.

Thought makes all the difference between what you will be hard pressed to find anywhere else and that which anyone can do.   Thought takes time.  Repeatedly, every single photographer that I speak with , emphasized the importance of reducing the time involved at every step and cutting out whole stages of the workflow due to cost.   Without thought, everything is the same, cheap, and worthless.   With thought comes customization, individuality and meaning.   Today, anyone can take pictures.   But that was being said fifty years ago about a group of pros that learned rules of thumb, while the tiny minority of skilled photographers, understood there is no quick fix to the personalized craft that photography can be.

Here at Rabenko Photography and Video Arts, my first goal and approach is to do everything the right way for each particular situation.   If you love imagery, you will most certainly feel the difference between my work and others.  That does not mean that any one shot here will blow away any one shot elsewhere.  But looking at a whole set of images, the value, meaning and excellence in mine, will be far greater than elsewhere.   For those who insist that budget is their core value, for those who are shopping on a budget, my skills and experience will still produce more meaningful photos and represent a far greater value in the long run even if I am not personally at your event, or doing the photography myself,  because my oversight, my studio’s handling of your project, means that from the simple to the complex – factors are approached with more thought, more experience and better judgment than the competition.

True Love: A Mural

Charley and Abby Squirrel Mural

There is something very special in saving a squirrel’s life and then getting the opportunity to appreciate first hand, its gentleness, intellect and attachment.  Leonardo Da Vinci had said “Great love springs from great knowledge of the beloved object, and if you know it but little you will be able to love it only a little or not at all.”

People who know nothing of squirrels ask if I am afraid of Rabies?  But squirrels do not carry Rabies!   They ask if I am afraid of the sharp nails and teeth?  Should not the one  pound vegetarian be afraid of the  200 pound meat eater?

People ask why I love squirrels, and I ask if history has not taught them that one always fears what one does not understand, and hates those that one wrongs!

Are People in New York different from those in Florida?  We must be.  Because squirrels are the same.   And in Florida, unlike most of the United States, squirrels are legal pets.    Their teeth are no shorter in Florida, their nails are just as sharp.   They can bite right through bone and can scratch you deep.

But unlike a domesticated animal, that gets everything provided for it by its owners, in the wild, squirrels have to find and fend for themselves.  They have to stay as warm as you in the coldest of nights, and have to feed their babies, when they themselves cannot find food.   Every day they must flee hungry predators, speeding cars, and men mad enough to have convinced themselves that it is sport to kill someone who could never kill them.       Like you, they feel pain, need food and shelter and crave affection from someone they trust!    And like you they will miss a brother or mommy, who fails to return home at night.

After studying them for nearing a decade, I continue to marvel at how much we can learn about ourselves, about others, and about the world we live in by studying these industrious, talented, creative, and amusing creatures.   Humans use irresistible force and high tech deception, to kill and maim innocents who in the face of traps, weapons and chemicals, do the best they can, and still continue to hope for another day.

Yes squirrels nibble your flowers, devour your bird seed, and find the weak entry spot in your attic.    But are they any less entitled to life than birds?  Is a flower really more beautiful than a fully functioning small mammal?  Perhaps we understand neither.

As for the attic that should have been properly maintained?  They cannot be expected to know it’s your home.   But those that cut down trees every day for frivolous reasons, don’t care about the nest that a mother and its helpless babies call home.   And then feeding it into the wood chipper, quite well summaries our “humanitarian” nature.

If there is any hope at treating world problems, and domestic ills, it will come from people like Abby, who had the courage and concern to see what an injured squirrel could become, and the patience and love to demonstrate to the small mammal, that we do not have to be wild!

Annoying Photographers

Annoying Photographers

PHOTO PROSE: Annoying Photographers

By Gary Rabenko

Years ago, a few photographers were using a unique, hard to find old magnesium ladder made by the White Metal and Stamping Company.  It was super lightweight, and very strong.  More importantly, the steps and top were at the perfect height, and the ladder had no back or rail.    34 years ago, I was introduced to that gem of an unavailable ladder. They never needed replacing, so the company folded!     I was assured they were unavailable, so I redoubled my efforts and ended up with a collection.

Gradually it seems all the photographers who have heard about using a posing ladder now use a boxy, clunky, cumbersome eyesore, and trip hazard that is neither practical nor pleasurable.   That is an annoyance I never would consider if it was the only ladder on the planet.  It’s annoying.

Once, two photographers were at an event on the North Shore.   An excellent photographer had only a black suit.  The invitation specified black tie.  The client had a fit during the smorgasbord and banished the photographer to places unseen.   Later poor chap had to borrow an ill fitting waiter’s jacket for the party!    Today, photographers wear short sleeves, striped shirts, sneakers, T shirts.  It seems that people like a paparazzi look.  How it aids in the decor by the chupah.    I will let readers decide.

Whenever I see event photographers at work, it seems they are saying “one more photo”.  It’s always one more.  It would be so refreshing to hear: “folks, we will need to do a bunch of these!”  There are many reasons for creating more than just one.  But, for those who participate in a three hour photo-shoot, hearing “just one more”, even one more time can be nerve wracking.

How many event photographers really look like they are enjoying their work?  I ask this, not to make the point that most either look spaced, distracted, or disinterested, even though they do.  That is a whole other issue.  Here, I would like to know why anyone would want, expect, require, or accept crew members in their shots.  Yet even in published work, and advertisements, it has become fashionable for crew members to be in the shots.   This bugs me.  Maybe it is unavoidable and that is why it is tolerated. But the reason it is unavoidable is that there is no discipline, no training, no teamwork, and no caring.   Each person on a shoot cares only about getting his or her shot, and not interested in the whole situation and all the production issues involved.  With the crazy low packages that desperate photographers are selling now, certainly there can be no attention to this type of detail.   It means the public is getting used to it.  As crews get larger and larger with more doing less,  they are also getting more obtrusive with faces in your albums and video.  That is especially annoying when those faces do not look like they are in the moment, or even aware of a moment! Its annoying.

How do you feel when you get that perfect shot?  Don’t you feel great and want to look at it right away to be sure?   And then it is either a good feeling or a disappointment – right?  Well, I would think that photographers should be more disciplined.   On the job is not the time to enjoy the shot they just made.  That is the time to be working towards the next shot, right?   So why is it that most photographers miss important shots, just after they get a great  shot?  You guessed it!

Of course that is not as annoying to me as the daydreamers.   Most photographers somewhere during the job will … space out.  It usually is when they are on top of everything and there is nothing to do.  So that is the moment I keep telling myself, something important is just about to occur. That is what I sometimes find myself reminding my crew… just to be sure.   And invariably something great always does happen… if not immediately, immediately afterwards!

Light is everything to a photographer.   Years ago, I could count on the fingers of one hand, photographers who set up large room lights at events.  We had to modify garage door openers into remote flash controls, and run hundreds of feet of extension cord back then.  Each decade saw more sophisticated radio remotes, and more portable flash units.  Today most photographers set up additional lighting.    But the funny thing is that once it is set up, they do not use it with any skill, do not notice when it is malfunctioning, and often block their own lights as well as other photographer’s lights.  This is annoying.

Light is everything and the angle, direction and intensity of the light are critical.  None of that is important to the videographers who cannot benefit from the electronic flashes.   But it would be a good idea if they were trained, and disciplined not to block the photographer’s lights.  After all the photographer went to the trouble of buying them, bringing them and setting them up, ostensibly to do something.   And then, they get blocked!    This is really annoying.

I spoke about ladders, before.   I am sure every caterer and venue owner hates photographers who come in with our ladders, only to immediately lean them up against the wall, not the photographer’s wall, the owner’s wall.   Certainly that is annoying and they just keep doing it.

I am always early.  That is the only way to be on time.

An assistant begged for more work and was eventually hired.  Punctuality was discussed, and assured.  Two days before the gig:  “9:00 AM seems so early.” OK, come half an hour later.”  Soon It’s 9:30, and no assistant.   At 9:45 he calls and is lost. He arrives at 10 AM.  Guess 9:00AM was the right time to meet.

Planning to arrive only on time, not early is really annoying.

Thinking Like a Photographer

Thinking Like a Photographer


By Gary Rabenko

Many want to improve their photography.   With everyone being a photographer in their own way, interest in how pro photographers think is on the rise.    Do pros see differently and think differently about the picture taking process than normal picture takers?  We do.

At a recent simcha, a lady was annoyed by a photographer that kept photographing her while she was eating.  Reading those words triggered this article.   I am extremely sensitive to how people think they look and what they are doing.  I realize that sometimes the best of intentions could be unobvious to subjects and bystanders.

There are many picture taking pros at the budget end who never had “sensitivity training”. Many freelance photographers don’t get the chance to review their photos with an experienced pro, and given the chance, many would not bother. They show up, shoot, go home, get paid. A handful of photographers are the exception. Yet sometimes their good intentions get misinterpreted.

For example, I am known for getting a lot of unobtrusive shots and a lot of shots that are done so quickly they go unnoticed.  One of my techniques is to seem to be doing shots in an opposite or different direction, while waiting for the action to peak with my intended subjects.  So as I approach a subject seven paces ahead on my right, and just before they might notice me, I turn to the left and fire off a shot or two even while continuing to advance in my travels. Maybe those persons on the left were stuffing there face. That is OK.  They are not real shots. They will be deleted. I did not focus or compose or frame the shot. Might those left handed subjects be irritated, I guess so.  But my reputation is based on the right hand shot I take next!

A similar example might involve a combination of camera/light settings that I plan on using at the next table, where children are playing.   That shot I will be doing from a distance of four feet. I know the look and composition I desire.   I may test the camera settings on an unawares subject first. That person is stunned and looks up, but I am long gone.   What kind of photographer is this, he thinks?  Now I am a photographer focused to four feet!  My zoom lens might be getting a distant shot, but the person a mere eight feet away thinks I am photographing her.

I can move through a crowd and get lots of great candid shots.   It is swift and stealthy work.  Making no eye contact I am off to the next image. That’s doing my job telling the story of the day. Those photos convey a moment in time. The people are in the moment. Those photos say “so glad to see you; what a beautiful dress; it’s awesome; I am so excited; come here… etc! Those photos are the ones alleged to speak a thousand words!  I can go through the smorgasbord and do hundreds of those.  Each will be priceless later.

But not if every few feet I am stopped by persons  who do not realize that I am doing true candid shots and think that I skipped them and that they must stop and pose for a photo. So “Hey photographer!” and “Take a picture here!” follow me.   I try to ignore it and keep moving.  Until someone catches up with me, puts his hand on my shoulder, and says …he has misunderstood my doing exactly what I should be doing, and instead thinks me impudent or rude. He wants me to take those requested photos. Let me be clear, those photos do not involve the event’s principles, the subjects themselves will most likely never ever see the photos. And the client has already told me to ignore them and do what I was hired to do.   But guests keep asking for photos.  They are doing it in the excitement of the moment. Yet those photos will never tell the story, they are only attendance shots. They tell about the interruption of the story to pose for and acknowledge the camera. The expressions do not show joy, they show public relation smiles.   And from experience those photos rarely make it into the album.

Also, candid shots, when done by skilled photographers involve different camera settings than looking to the camera snapshots.  Changing settings from one type of shot to another wastes time.  It is not practical to be doing both. That leads to errors and affects one’s rhythm.  Doing one group photo leads to everyone wanting group shots.    So how can the photographer be doing the candid shots you will want later? Some photographers think it is good to set up fake candid shots.  Others get cute moments of unimportant persons. But are they valuable shots?  People must look good, and we all agree chewing does not look good.   So a good photographer has something else in mind, while a bad photographer just may not know better.    But sometimes the food is good, the crowd is hungry and the time is short.  In such situations, I downgrade to doing “look at me” candids where people know to stop chewing.

You can show off the photo you just took on your camera’s back.  I cannot unless I want to miss my next shot.  You can see my screen but not how I intend to crop or adjust the photo later.  If you like that small view, it does not mean you really understand it fully. If you do not like what you think you are seeing, where does that leave us?   Do I show you the second shot too?  Where will this end?  Will each guest want to see his shot, too?  Is this what the client is paying for? Pros should think differently because we are being paid to get better and different results.


Gary Rabenko can be reached at gary@rabenko.com. Rabenko Photography & Video Artists is located in Manhattan at 1370 Broadway, 5th Floor; and in Woodmere, NY at 1001 Broadway.

Digital Distractions

Digital Distractions

Photo Prose

By Gary Rabenko

iPhones, iPads, iPods –ay yay yay

Is there a “me” in all this?  Where have we all gone?

It gets worse daily.

Digital devices have become walls and barriers to social interaction with our closest family and friends, while boosting social interaction with those we never would have known.  We have become parties of one and communities of all.  When I am photographing a family, need I include their digital device in the shots, is that how one shows affection now days?   I thought so, as the  Grandparent beamed and smiled with pride brandishing her custom cased iPad as a shield while being photographed!

Does excitement mean tweeting about it.  Are the steps to affection; framing, focusing, capturing, and friending?

Grandma used to kvell.  Now she tweets.

Its seems we spend so much time and effort planning the big day that even as we are celebrating it we still must be checking and reporting and updating – all distracting us from the actual big day, making the big day, just like any other day… a day that can feel like we are working toward the big day still.

One of my main specialties has been documenting the family at certain milestone moments.  Weddings involve two families, but bar and bat mitzvahs are ALL one family.   Regardless of whether the simcha centers on the first, last, or middle child, it is always special.   Reflecting on what the event means; celebrating with family and friends; sharing and communicating:  that’s what it is all about.    Our friends and family possess a world of emotion expression and feeling.   And that is what makes our interactions special.  With family members all carrying their own hand held digital devices, they now can be very distant, even while standing right – here.  Infinite information and immeasurable interests now lie in the hands of those we love, making it so easy to distance their hearts and minds from what is beautiful and meaningful right here and now.

I find fathers searching, and scrolling through iPad images of a child, when that very child is right here being photographed and the father could be excited and personally involved in the moment.  He could be reacting with visible pride to see his little girl growing up, rather than using this particular moment to dig up photos that are similar different or interesting.   Why not enjoy the now!

Strangers enjoy watching me, because I am really into it.   But when I go on a trip, or visit a friend, I rarely bring a camera.  I am a different person with a camera, than without it.  And so is everyone.

Without the digital distractions, I see people responding to the amusing, entertaining and beautiful all around.  With the digital devises they are buried in their own selfish world.

Some people are more responsive.  Some are less sentimental and sensitive.    Before there is any hope that the shy or aloof person might actually be getting involved in the current emotional moment, there he goes,  researching this or texting about that.  It used to be we used remotes, now we have become remote.    We are not here.  We are deep and distant in the digital device.

Another issue is that all too often the device presents a challenge or an unexpected hiccup to overcome.  That really can amplify the compulsion to focus intently on solving the riddle, and getting it to work.  That problem solving can consume the last morsels of our free time and fill potentially relaxing moments with frustrating jobs.

I wanted to write about this after constantly finding families who arrive at the big day following months and even years of planning and preparation, only to bury their heads and hearts in the digital distractions.   There is always one more text to send, one more question to Google, one more thought to save.

At first it was a novelty. Sometimes it still is with a new app and new models, sizes or shapes of a digital device.   I am a pretty high tech guy and of course I have loads of cameras.  But when I visit a friends’ events it’s with no gear.   I do not want to document it, I want to enjoy it.     Some photos are nice to have.  Some are very special and meaningful.  But having countless images after a while just gets to be more data to deal with, and more research to review each time.    At some simchas 97% of people are viewing the event through a camera.  At other events, not a single guest takes photos!  And everyone is so active!

I try to find the spiritual in each chupah that I photograph.   I look for images of people relating to each other. Parents, sibling, and of course the couple can be very expressive.  But there are also moments when we acknowledge a greater power, and those images are special.    At a recent wedding ceremony, one set of parents and siblings were misty eyed.   Faces reacted to the couple, as each of the wedding rites occurred, the sheva brachot, the wine, the ketubah, oh and of course the ring.  Many photos tell those stories, and how much we wish for our temple to be rebuilt!

But other parents and siblings emotionally absent.  I tried so hard to photograph them, but on that side of the chupah,  mother, grandmother and sisters, were hard at work – armed with digital devices they framed, composed, focused and looked more at their phones then heavenwards, or even Chosen-Kollah-wards.   Armed for battle, shields raised,  some faces blocked but others obviously concerned that their image was askew, out of focus or dark. You could tell from their questioning faces – of little use in the photo album later.


Gary Rabenko can be reached at gary@rabenko.com. Rabenko Photography & Video Artists is located at 1001 Broadway in Woodmere.

Three Circles, One Photographer

Photo Prose

By Gary Rabenko

Sometimes everything is going right—but no one knows it!

Here I am in the center of the women’s dancing, covering all three circles. The bride’s friends are bringing all kinds of shtick, and each of the mothers is dancing with a friend, switching off every 10 or 15 seconds. Every other dance partner stops for a posed picture—which can take longer to get than a good shot of them in action. Everything is going well; I am in a rhythm which has me covering all three circles and returning to the first circle just in time to find the bride’s mother stopping to pose with another friend. Picture made, and I am off once again to focus on the bride with her energetic classmate, when someone yells up at me from below my ladder.

Maybe it was her voice, her frantic rapping on the ladder, or her wild gestures. But she got my attention.

Now, reader, I have been describing how I am covering all three circles, from within their midst, on a ladder. It is not some shrimpy-wimpy ladder most photographers use, but a higher ladder that has its risks. You read about the seconds involved and the timing. Perhaps I need to further explain that each circle is at a different relationship to my remote lights and could easily require different camera settings, as I pivot about to get the various circles. As team leader, I am also coordinating the video and noting what formation the men’s side is in and how the crew is doing. Batteries die, remote controls stop controlling, power supplies fail, cords get disconnected, and light stands get bumped, moved, rolled, turned, and sometimes toppled. Assistants meant to watch some of those situations need watching themselves!

So this lady has now decided to do something noble, selfless, and important—get the photographer’s attention to point out something vital that just cannot wait.

Well if it could wait, how long would the wait be? From the opening paragraphs, it seems it would be a five-to-ten-second situation. Getting my attention is no guarantee I can get the shot. She is now a fourth scene in my midst (not counting my crew) that needs my eye. She might well have a valid news alert. Seventy-five degrees to my right I am monitoring a potentially important shot—maybe very important. But her getting my attention is only the first step to redirect my attention to what she is pointing at, or will start pointing at, once I am on the way to looking, until which time she is rattling my cage—er, all the more dangerous, she is rattling my ladder!

That is a very unsafe action in any case, but as it turns out she has just done that to get my attention regarding a special friend dancing with the mother. Had she been watching me continuously in recent moments, she would have seen me getting the shot when it first began—two shots, in fact, before moving on to my current focus. Now she pulled me away from circle one to redirect me to circle three, as I note I am missing circle one’s anticipated key moment and about to miss circle two’s important developing action. What should I do?

Taking the shot she urgently implores requires dwelling a few seconds on what she obviously thinks is the only important thing currently, but which will only be fully visible in three seconds, leaving me likely to miss both other circles’ activities. Taking a rapid-fire shot and going back to my work smacks of impudence and seeming irritation, just to humor her. I have done that at times, only to feel more intense ladder-rattling or frantic waving by others who think I do not realize the great import of the shot and was not really serious in the first shot.

Taking the few seconds to actually get a good shot at best gives me a duplicate of what I already have—likely not as good—and surely leaves me missing at least one, if not both, of the other circles. Ignoring her leads to greater persistence and desperation on her part as she further tries to get my attention in a dangerous way, or just adds me to her list of “Do Not Call” studios, when I am trying to get more meaningful shots per minute than anyone else would.

My nod or OK gesture to her does little good, as she can’t know I got the shot before, and will think ill of me or intensify her efforts to get my attention. Most importantly, my attempt to communicate with her, either in the affirmative OK, or with some other attempted assurance, will just frustrate her, as she thinks I missed what she was trying to say.

Maybe I had not gotten the shot and her alert could be a good thing. But does she know what my other potential shots were? Does she know what I am missing that others will want—perhaps even the ba’al simcha, who will later complain that a shot was missed due to this interruption. Then what?

The most important shot is always the one the photographer missed. You can have incredible photos, but it is human nature to complain about the missing. Fewer shots are missed by the better photographers when they are allowed to follow a rhythm and maintain concentration without the additional interruptions (done with the best of intentions, no doubt). On the other hand, sometimes a photographer may already be covering the action, unsure if more shots are needed or if the interruption is important. Your focused enthusiasm then could make a difference in the amount of coverage—the time the photographer stays on that scene. Unless at just the peak moment, a well-meaning distracter from another circle interrupts!

This article appeared originally in The 5 Towns Jewish Times    http://5tjt.com/

Having it your way: Food for Thoughts

Photo Prose

by Gary Rabenko


I must admit, I am not happy with the title of this article.  But the issue is not the title.  The issue is food.  My food. The food I put in my body.   Is it my right to expect that when I order matzah ball soup, in a place with exquisitely delectable matzah balls and delicious broth, that both the broth and the ball be hot.   That is how it was.   Recently, the balls are cold.  Or tepid.  Certainly not hot.  I like them hot!  I ask for them to be hot. I point out to the one of several waitresses that they are always cold.  Make sure they are hot, like they used to be.

They arrive cold!

Bagels, bialys, buns, and rolls.  They are perfect –waiting and ready for my sandwich.  First thing I explain – most important: Do NOT cut the sandwich.   You got that?  Sure, what you want on it?  It doesn’t matter – tuna fish, salmon spread, lox, egg and cheese.  Whatever is freshest.   Just don’t cut the sandwich.  OK. No problem.    So I pay, take my lunch over to a table, start reading the paper, and next thing I know, half the sandwich has fallen from my grasp, severed as it had been by the clowns behind the counter.   What part of do not cut did they not understand???

I was visiting my friend on her birthday.  The beautiful warm weather had us stop for lunch on the avenue.  We go back a long way, and she knows my tastes to a T.   So she went inside to order.  I alone occupied a sole solitary table outside and an equal number of customers she reported were inside.   Three burly twenty-somethings, arrived shortly.   They sat at the table to my left, having probably just come from a three-hour gym workout.   Someone took their order and soon they were eating.   Laura and I waited.   Finally someone came out to find out which was our order.   Which was our order?!?   They only had three customers!   Yes, we were the ones who wanted the burger made on the flatbed, not the grill, and wanted it on an unheated bun.  Well that is how I wanted it.   They advertised, custom burgers, and that is how I wanted mine.   Is that so bad?  Do I have a right to expect what I ask for?

The bun was scorched!  More significantly, so was the burger.   It had lines like from a grill.   A young pleasant enough but clueless chap came out to determine the problem.  Oh, I am sorry, he said, that is how we make the burgers; on the grill.  But we asked, and were told specifically that it would be no problem.   Well that was wrong information.  The owner does not allow it.   So what am I supposed to do now?  We’d been waiting half an hour.  The bun was toasted and the burger charred.

I am writing this, because one of the three guys to my left, hearing me ask incredulously why I would want to eat, or be expected to eat burnt food, chimed in, with the strongest of attitudes.  He said I was rude.   Rude?  Are you kidding me?  The place had no customers.  I had been waiting for half an hour.   They lost my order.  Then filled it wrong.  Most importantly, they managed to miss or ignore, the prime directive.   Look, it is very simple.   I have a right to control what I put in my body.  I also should be able to expect simple agreements to be adhered to.   Laura specifically asked if they can make the burgers on the flat bed… you know the one that eggs are made on…one continuous panel.   Not the bars that singe and scorch.   Yes, I understand that some people like the fat to drip down.  Some people like that just so perfect burned, barbequed, or fired flavor.  But not me.  To me, those lines, are bitter. They taste bitter.  I do not eat bitter, except on Pesach.   I like the burger stewed on the grill, until it is nicely golden brown inside and out.   Should I be ridiculed for my taste?   I cannot be wrong.  It is my body.  And I am the customer.

I asked, they said OK, and then only after keeping me waiting with anticipation and baited breath, and delivering foul-flavored foods, did I find out that while they do have a grill, the owner has specific instructions, not to use the grill.   So Laura went in to get a refund, and my friendly neighbors, said I disgusted them – was I a food critic they asked?    Well, yes. I know what I like, and what I want to eat.

It turns out the custom burger place can use the flat bed.  But the owner wants to discourage just how custom the various products are and so he has “strict” orders, not to use it for burgers.  He uses it for steaks!

An artist has to have opinions.  Hopefully they are opinions based on good judgment. Everyone has judgment, but only some have good judgment.  My better judgment keeps me from smoking, or drinking.  It also leads me away from molecules of burnt meat coinciding with the black lines from the grill.

Is it more rude to complain and bristle with impatience over a ruined lunch, than it is to deceive me into believing that my food would be prepared as agreed and then fail?  Perhaps the article should be titled Chutzpah: False Foods.


Video as Special as your Event.


Special video for special clients!

I am excited about being able to offer video memories and experiences, unavailable elsewhere.   Great event video should be about your people, their personalities, expressions, and emotions.   My video will be a film that takes you back to those special moments and have you feeling as you felt then.

These words may sound similar to other videographer’s claims and they might use words like cinema, filmic, film, or cinematography.    We probably agree that technology has made amazing advancements and your video should benefit from that.

But your video must be more than cameras that seem to float as smooth as butter, or image clarity that redefines crystal.   Your video must convey the passion, the guts, the substance, the character and the personalities of your family and friends.   And that requires totally different skill sets and thinking than is available elsewhere.

I hate saying that because it sounds crazy to boast that I am doing what no one else does.   Sadly, the more you learn, the more you will agree.

Facts you need to know:

Constantly changing situations of a once in a lifetime event cannot be shot on a tripod. Period.    The camera must be able to move in all three dimensions simultaneously and instinctively.

Few camera persons practice to perfect camera handling skills.

Most cameramen never even think about the more advanced techniques.

Video associations and schools do not teach these techniques.

Most videographers do not invest in cameras that can be used with the skills I refer to.

Most videographers use cameras that are held in front of them.

Only old timers have experience with a shoulder mounted camera.  New guys use it awkwardly and quickly wish to put it down on a tripod.

Only shoulder mounted cameras have the ergonomics to allow skillful shooting.

When today’s cameramen buy shoulder mounted cameras, they rarely know about advanced camera handling techniques.  So they do not know why certain specs are so important and they buy cheaper cameras that cannot be used in my way.

The handful of people who have invested in the rare camera that is both sensitive, and shoulder mounted, do mostly commercial video where they are directed on every shot, and do not have to use any of the skills I refer to.

In my 40 years as a photographer and my 30 years in video, I have known only a handful of cameramen who can do what most cannot.   None of them are still doing it!  

There are a few dozen professional videographers who work in theatre, and broadcast that have the exact skill I refer to. But they are used to being part of a well directed team of multiple videographers,  each doing a small part of the job and they are shooting for an audience of strangers, not the loved ones who will value different things in their memories.

Creating meaningful video footage requires a photographer’s eye, and understanding of what people are self-conscious about in their appearance,  a story tellers sequencing, an editor’s sense of timing and of course, a director of photography’s use of light.

Only the latest videographers have had photographic experience.   But it is a very superficial un mentored, technical experience, not skilled artistry.   Photographers do not become videographers.. . there is more money in photography.  People buy books and albums and wall prints.   Video is limited.

If you read articles on Video: Short or short changed :




you will learn about the limitations of today’s popular camera formats, which cannot be used in the way that true shoulder mounted cameras can be used.

Today’s videographers do not know about those limitations because they do not have experience with the older type format, have no desire to hold a 25 pound camera on their shoulder and do not have anyone to teach them.


Watch today’s videos and you will see a wide range of image quality.

The best will feature sweet camera movements and crystal clear imagery.

But the content will not be worth watching.  Angles on people will not be the best   Moments will not be the most powerful and meaningful.    Action captured will be the stereotypical expected moments, not the unexpected magic.

If you are having a small intimate event or a larger major event, you will find that my video has more of what you and your loved ones will value so much later.   My work is not corny, or contrived.  It is an honest reporting from a flattering perspective, of the subtleties of life that make reliving the experience so valuable and magical.

This is a very special offer.

When I am booked as photographer, I do photography and have my crew do video.    Some very successful videographers have been with me for years, and will admit that they cannot do what I want in video.   So I only can sell my style to a select client when I personally am available.

Other videographers will give you long, boring wide shots, too tight, meaningless, off timed long shots, and emphasize the unimportant, or expected moments.

Even videographers, with award winning edits, display extremely weak shooting.

The most prolific shooters, do not have any interest or knowledge in what is needed by the editor.   Editors do not want to shoot, they want to sit back and edit in comfort.

Videographers are not concerned,  skilled or sensitive.  So how can your video of your loved ones be special?

I am the opposite.

To make an appointment to see my work…. Or to book me at a limited time for an amazing price…

Contact Us



Do they have substance or are they superficial.

Does the best image quality always seem to be of the least important moments?

Does the camera show what is important, or even who is most important?

Does it seem that the cameraman is on the pulse of the action and feeling the moment, or that he is just a camera holder doing a surveillance job?


FAQ Draft

Philosophy and Experience

Why should I choose you to photograph my wedding?

Do just want pictures, or do you want meaningful pictures?

Compare my photos to most other photographers and you will find more emotion, more expression and more feeling – here!

I started young, and have always believed the only thing constant is change.

While most photographers today are either old or not so fluent in the digital world, or they are young with only a few years of experience, I am very experienced, but having gone 100% digital in 2001, have comfort, fluency and skill with the medium very hard to match.   So it is the best of both worlds.

My theatrical background, and parents in both artistic and technical fields, both feeling the image, and creating it are natural to me.

For twenty years I worked for the most demanding, particular and high end wedding photographers in NYC and the metro area.   Unlike so many freelance and independent photographers, who assist a few months and then think they are experts, I actually had my own studio in my early twenties.   But I realized there was much more to know and that being a photographer was much more than just taking pictures.   I closed my studio and worked for others, who were experts in their niche, with generations of experience and strong technical skills.

Back then, photographers worked for one studio, due to conflict of interest.  But my work, passion and reliability, led to my working for the top three studios simultaneously as clients requested me, or the studios needed me.   Ultimately I became known as a photographic artist.  My clients would use those and other endearing terms.   Each project was different.  I approached it in a unique way.   While studios very often want to sell a specific type of shots or shot sequences, I would fine tune my approach based on the feel I got from the client, the subject, the event.   Often persons cannot know what they will want or like in advance of an event.   And then they are not in any mind set to discuss, or decide.  And there is no time.  So much must be done by feel.  My artistic and technical goals were to make each project special.  To do justice to the event, its participants and the craft of photography.

My work was extremely photojournalistic, for before that word was used.   It also could be very classical, flattering and “perfect”.  Romantic fantasy and glamor were other looks I brought to events that were simply not familiar to the studio staffs responsible for completing albums and prints from my shoots.  Studios often would follow through in a mechanical and automatic way.  Thus I left to offer clients the artist’s vision from start to end.

And Here I am for you.  For those who want something special, flattering and meaningful.

My portraits involve verbal direction as I pose you to look your best, or a natural conversational style that combines the best qualities of posed shots with the best of a candid style, so you look great and feel great too.

My lighting changes and is appropriate for each shot.

Candid photography candid, truly photojournalistic… called advanced photojournalism due to it’s skillful use of light while documenting the unexpected and momentary. This very unique approach elevates candid shots from the common snapshots so many professionals do, to the look of great photographs.

Always on the cutting edge of technology but with a vast skill set from years of experience, the photo shoot can be lightning fast and efficient, and my coverage of the event is unobtrusive and easy.

Photography and video both involve light, timing, the same people, and occurs together in one place.   It makes sense to have one technical and artistic person in charge of both the photography and video.  It makes sense to avoid a paparazzi situation, and have a harmonious crew, rather than a competing and fragmented crew.   Rabenko Photography and Video Arts offers the best in both still photography and Videography ( today called cinematography, film, or motion).   I have many articles here to help you understand the situation and make the right decision.
What qualities do you feel distinguish you from most wedding photographers?
Are there certain areas where you particularly shine?
Do you have a philosophy that informs your approach?
How many wedding albums have you done?
Can I preview any of your albums online? I noticed they are under lock and key.
Can you provide references and testimonials?

What does your wedding service include?

Today there are so many variables at every step that your budget is really the best way of gauging the approach.   After a thorough understanding of your feelings about the meaning and value of photography and of video, and a detailed discussion of the event you are planning and how you anticipate feeling about all the emotions of the day as well as the dynamics of family and friends, I can suggest recommendations that will include who would be physically at the event, for how long, what their goals would be, what products you would be coming away with, what level of collaboration will occur later, and how much post production time will be needed to make products that are uniquely complex and artistic or easier to produce but still meaningful.
Do you offer different packages or products?
If so, do you have a list of what is included in each package or product?
Is the price all-inclusive or will there be extra charges that could come later?
Is there an extra charge if the event lasts longer than expected?
Do you require a contract?

Technique and Process
Which camera and other equipment do you use?
Do you employ what is known as “advanced flash” techniques?
If so, could you describe this technique?

How many assistants do you have and what are their specific jobs?
Do you and your team wear certain colors or dress in a way so as to be distinguishable from guests?
Will you be doing all the photography yourself or will members of the team be doing some of it?
Do you shoot both still photography and videography of the wedding?
If so, is the videography done by you or someone else on your team?
Do you have a substitute photographer/videographer in case you get sick on the Big Day?

What is the process? Do you shoot hundreds of proofs from which the bride gets to pick and choose?
Or do you choose from them yourself?
Do you shoot black and white as well as color?
Do you do photo-correction to all pictures or only certain ones?
Do you color correct images?
Is photo-correction an extra charge or part of a package?

What is your policy in terms of original rights to reprints?
How soon will I be able to see the proofs?
Will there be previews of the album available online?
How soon after the event will the physical album be completed?

Religious, Ethnic and Cultural Aspects 
I noticed that you use the word BneiMitzvah on your web site.
Are BneiMitzvahs the same as Barmitzvahs and batmizvahs?

Are you familiar with Jewish law and wedding customs?
Do you understand the spiritual significance of the Jewish marriage?

Do you have an understanding of the Jewish mindset?
To you view Judaism primarily as a religion or as a culture?

Do you believing that the Torah is of Divine origin?

How many Orthodox weddings have you shot?

Are you experienced with Reform and Conservative wedding ceremonies?

Are you familiar with the high points and differences in the the Ashkenazi and the Sefardic wedding traditions? Do you know which rituals in each tradition are a “must” to be photographed?

Do you photograph secular and interfaith marriages?

Kabbalat Panim
Prior to the wedding ceremony, the chatan and kallah greet guests separately.
Do you use a team to photograph them separately?

When the bride and groom are in separate rooms (for instance the tish, the signing of the ketubah) how do you photograph both simultaneously?

Are you familiar with the customs of breaking the plate and smashing the glass and what each one symbolizes?

Since dancing is an important element of the wedding ceremony, will you be filming the dancing?

I have heard that the time on the wedding invitation is often much earlier than the start of the ceremony. How does this affect you if the chupa does not take place on schedule?

Do you take specific photos on request?
It’s very important to us to have album photographs of all the important people in our families – both sets of parents of course, but also the grandparents, aunts uncles, cousins and close friends. Can you guarantee this or is it more or less a hit-or-miss process?

How important is the couple’s style in determining the kind of shoot you will do?

Do you have a primary style such as photo-journalistic pictures or posed photos?

Do you offer different styles?

Which of the following wedding styles if any, do you employ?

1. Wedding photojournalism (story telling via candid shots)
Do you or any member of your team have experience or training in the field of photojournalism?
It seems as though every wedding photographer today claims to be a wedding photojournalist. Why is that? Well, because photographers are afraid of losing clients if they do not use the marketing term “photojournalist” somewhere in their material. However, despite the prevalent usage of that word, there are many photographers out there who have no experience in wedding photojournalism, or photojournalism in general. In fact, their portfolio often does not even exhibit photo-journalistic style shots.

2. Fine Art Style using artistic angles, creative lighting, unique compositions and advanced post production techniques. In post production, these images are transformed into fine art using textures, filters, masks, and other advanced Photoshop techniques to create a visually stunning, emotional image.

3.Traditional Wedding Photography The wedding photographer is seen almost as a type of coordinator, and thus assists in guiding and directing the wedding.

4. Fashion Wedding Photography
These techniques include the usage of unique off-camera lighting, fashionesque poses and expressions, along with dramatic backgrounds.

5. “Trash the Dress” Wedding Photography
“Trash the dress, fearless bridal, and rock the frock” are all terms used to refer to the style of photography that contrasts elegant bridal clothing with an environment that is completely out of place.

6. Modern Wedding

Bridal Shoot
What are the most important factors to be considered when doing the bridal shoot?

Engagement Shoot
Do you photograph the engagement party (vort)?
Do you offer an engagement photography style that is unique to the individual?
Can you do either or a combination of traditional posed and photo-journalistic candid shots?
Can you help us figure out which would be best to reflect our own style and personalities?
Do you do location shoots?
If so, can you help us select or set up scenes for location shoots?

Sheva Brachot
In some traditions, during the week following the wedding, it is customary for friends and relatives to host festive meals in honor of the chatan and kallah. This is called the week of Sheva Brachot, in reference to the blessings said at the conclusion of each of these festive meals. Are you experienced in shooting these events?

Are any of the above shoots part of the wedding shoot or are they priced separately?

Philosophy and Experience

Why should I choose you to photograph my wedding?


Do you just want pictures, or do you want meaningful pictures?

Compare my photos to most other photographers and you will find more emotion, more expression and more feeling – here!

I started young, and have always believed the only thing constant is change.

While most photographers today are either old or not so fluent in the digital world, or they are young with only a few years of experience, I am very experienced, but having gone 100% digital in 2001, have comfort, fluency and skill with the medium very hard to match.   So it is the best of both worlds.

My theatrical background, and parents in both artistic and technical fields, both feeling the image, and creating it are natural to me.

For twenty years I worked for the most demanding, particular and high end wedding photographers in NYC and the metro area.   Unlike so many freelance and independent photographers, who assist a few months and then think they are experts, I actually had my own studio in my early twenties.   But I realized there was much more to know and that being a photographer was much more than just taking pictures.   I closed my studio and worked for others, who were experts in their niche, with generations of experience and strong technical skills.

Back then, photographers worked for one studio, due to conflict of interest.  But my work, passion and reliability, led to my working for the top three studios simultaneously as clients requested me, or the studios needed me.   Ultimately I became known as a photographic artist.  My clients would use those and other endearing terms.   Each project was different.  I approached it in a unique way.   While studios very often want to sell a specific type of shots or shot sequences, I would fine tune my approach based on the feel I got from the client, the subject, the event.   Often persons cannot know what they will want or like in advance of an event.   And then they are not in any mind set to discuss, or decide.  And there is no time.  So much must be done by feel.  My artistic and technical goals were to make each project special.  To do justice to the event, its participants and the craft of photography.

My work was extremely photojournalistic, for before that word was used.   It also could be very classical, flattering and “perfect”.  Romantic fantasy and glamor were other looks I brought to events that were simply not familiar to the studio staffs responsible for completing albums and prints from my shoots.  Studios often would follow through in a mechanical and automatic way.  Thus I left to offer clients the artist’s vision from start to end.

And Here I am for you.  For those who want something special, flattering and meaningful.

My portraits involve verbal direction as I pose you to look your best, or a natural conversational style that combines the best qualities of posed shots with the best of a candid style, so you look great and feel great too.

My lighting changes and is appropriate for each shot.

Candid photography candid, truly photojournalistic… called advanced photojournalism due to it’s skillful use of light while documenting the unexpected and momentary. This very unique approach elevates candid shots from the common snapshots so many professionals do, to the look of great photographs.

Always on the cutting edge of technology but with a vast skill set from years of experience, the photo shoot can be lightning fast and efficient, and my coverage of the event is unobtrusive and easy.

Photography and video both involve light, timing, the same people, and occurs together in one place.   It makes sense to have one technical and artistic person in charge of both the photography and video.  It makes sense to avoid a paparazzi situation, and have a harmonious crew, rather than a competing and fragmented crew.   Rabenko Photography and Video Arts offers the best in both still photography and Videography ( today called cinematography, film, or motion).   I have many articles here to help you understand the situation and make the right decision.


Gary Rabenko may be reached at gary@rabenko.com. Rabenko Photography & Video Artists is located at 1001 Broadway in Woodmere.

Photo Album Design Part Three

Photo Prose
Gary Rabenko

Album design – Part 3 Feeling the Image.

Artists must work by feel. More photographers refer to themselves as artists. Less work by feel. Most work by habit. Feeling is essential. A sculptor feels how much to press here or add there. A musician feels how fast, or slow, hard or gentle.

Some event photographers have no patience to read, they have flat out told me. That impatience extends to images as well. It takes time to read an image. A photographer must recognize the potential. See that moment of greatness. Be sensitive to an expression that is building.
For album design, I have to feel the images letting them transport me somewhere. Designing any collection of images is much like crafting poetry. But what does the word design mean? What thoughts have gone into page presentation that elevates the viewer’s experience beyond that which a single powerful image might have already conveyed? I have watched persons design albums using software that boasts speed and gimmicks, but offers nothing in the way of feel. Instead of poetry, with a sound and feel, such albums are interrupted prose – a popular form of poetry of this last century requiring no meter or cadence of sound but rather words juxtaposed sans grammar! Such design has your meaningful imagery interrupted by garish graphics, meaningless motifs and foolish frames that could not possibly amplify the moods of the subject.

Each image has the potential to communicate some feeling. Most look for what they see in an images. Some can actually get a feeling from the image. That feeling is created by a whole host of things beyond the average viewer’s awareness. There is the look in the eye, the expression, body language, color or lack thereof, the direction of light, the quality of light, the contrast in light and dark, the color balance of the light, the composition and placement of elements in the photo and more. Adding additional graphics, and design elements to and between images, must be done with a sensitivity and feel for the images themselves. The better way I mentioned in my previous article goes beyond just getting the job done. It involves feeling each step of the way, and reasons for everything. It began years ago, long before digital. Left with a few must shots to use and many others to consider, I would do albums of hundreds of images. My process back then, in ancient photographic times, is no less valid today.

First I would spread the several hundred paper proofs out on tables so all were visible. Then donning headphones and locking all distractions out, I would get to work while listening to some favored classical music. The next step would be the most important, and the hardest. I would spend time with the photos – doing nothing! That is right. I would look at them. But not think at all about them. I would let my mind go blank. And look at them some more. I was not looking at all the photos. Many would come later. I needed to have an idea. I needed to have a start to the book. I needed to feel where I was going. Usually there would be ten to twenty options as a way of starting. Each choice like in a chess game added some options and reduced others. For several hours I would just pace back and forth… I might have been studying the images, but no, I was doing the opposite, I was giving them a chance to speak to me, and that can only happen if I can move mentally to a space where I am not thinking of the image but just coming upon the image as I might come upon a person as we cross the street from opposite sides. There is a feeling you get that is just… I like to say …honest from the gut feeling. Going beyond the visible to what I could hear in the images, to how each spoke to me. Eventually the feelings from each image would clarify, and after a few hours I would have the first ten or so images that just felt so right. Over the next two hours things would accelerate and the feeling would get stronger and like a building tornado have me picking up one image faster than the last as the book took on a voice of itself.

Books have chapters. Each section of the event would be its own little sub creation with a lead in and a lead out that too felt just right. I was combining images on a page. But some pages were panoramic prints spanning both left and right page. Rubber bands and paper clips were used to keep the many images intended to be on the same page, together. And proofs folded in half designated panoramic treatment, where a sole solitary image actually spanned both pages! What a mess! The great thing was that every client got feeling from the arrangement. Every client approved the design because it really was a design where the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. It was alive. It spoke to the viewer. That kind of design was valuable. And in that, the word design certainly meant something. Removing one image would affect earlier and later pages.

Today’s album designing software are digital tools that speed and simplifies album design. Having tried the best and the cheapest, I can say, that none are a substitute for heart, mind and thought. All can easily distant one from any feel. Advertisers claim photographers can design an album in fifteen minutes and most albums are made that way today. But if it is worth viewing it needs thought and thought takes time. Personalized album design, the way it could be, takes two to three days’ time – to do it with feeling. That is design worth reading and investing in.


Gary Rabenko may be reached at gary@rabenko.com. Rabenko Photography & Video Artists is located at 1001 Broadway in Woodmere.

Photo Album Design Part Two

Photo Prose
Gary Rabenko

Easier Album Design: Part 2.

If you do not see a difference between two photos, pick either. Let the photographer choose best amongst small differences. He cannot choose different poses because that is a subjective opinion. Perhaps many should be used? If you have an opinion go with that. If your opinion is that you value the artist’s judgment then he should be happy to suggest what you will enjoy. And you will take that suggestion.

Know what the album is to be. Don’t make elaborate lists and notes, only to use 60 out of 3000 images! Just pick the loudest ones, the strongest ones, some nice moments – great shots and call it a day. Or pick the large groups, add the memorable quirky shots and the key moments. Or let your photographer do it. Today, albums can have 200 -300 images. But images alone won’t make a great album if there is no thought to their use. True design takes heart, time and thought. Maybe there needn’t be much thought. Shots can speak for themselves. That is fine. That is a book to hold your favorite images. It is not a design.

Ten percent of a heavy shoot or 20 percent of a smaller shoot is a good average for book use representing unique, different, meaningful, and must get moments, emotional expressions, formals and décor. I can pick five to six hundred images that I propose to use in the album design. Clients can nix any, add more and indicate essentials to use. I then design the book of 200-300 images that included all their musts and others that work best. Clients have gotten back to me in a few hours easily approving, adding and nixing images online! Or, specify the few shots you hate, and the few shots that mean so much you insist they are used, leaving others up to the photographer. Again, with 200-300 images, this works because it represent the full spectrum of the day’s actions and emotions –something a pro can choose.

Starting albums with 50, 60 or even 100 images, often means leaving out the most interesting shots, or leaving out the traditional shots. And this is where we get into the adding of images that bogs things down. A photographer cannot conscientiously leave family members, and great moments or emotions out.

The ground breaking moment for me came years ago, when you would get a box of 200 -500 proofs, then meet to arrange the proofs in album order. Some cared how the story was told. Making a great album was much more than merely choosing favorites, but choosing those that worked together! We would be shuffling hundreds of paper proofs. Each album page turn, would raise more questions and lead to more time consuming research into “what goes best with this?” Or “can you find something where we face the other way”, and of course “what do you think?”.

6pm to 1 AM I shuffled, searched and sequenced paper proofs following the clients concerns with my creativity, till we both were beat. Next day that successful business man called. “This is the third of our children’s weddings you have done for us, and G-D willing, you will do the next one, but we came right after work, and it took till 1 AM – I do not know what the answer is – but there has got to be a better way!”

Finding a better way, meant not designing the book with the client and defining what it means to be an artist? People are different. Some want hand holding. They don’t want a mind or an eye attached to that hand. They do not want a better vision. They have their own. They do not know about composition or storytelling. They just want their favorite photos in some order. And they want to feel they are making the right decision. Their contract had no relation to how many emotions and moments were recorded, or how much they would love the photos. At contract time, they said, “let’s see how the photos come out, we can always add more”. So they took a small contract. Later after all the other event venders are paid and their jobs long finished, the photographer’s work in some ways is only beginning.

For some, the original starter contract defines everything. Others know it is only the start. And for those who knew they would want a masterpiece at the outset, the contract can be all you need with everything included. Adding any image, even if it is as important as the grandparents, or the groom full length, or a dramatic bridal shot that should be in the studio window, can be interpreted as irritating cost and often is not appreciated.

The better way realizes that there are two kinds of albums. One pays attention to all the subtleties, and the other just collects pictures. One has the basics, another values the icing, toppings and accents. One is predictable – a binding of photos, the other is passionate. One is simple and the other can be a work of art, or it can just be a bigger binding. All clients deserves customer service. A studio member should review their album for glaring errors, answer questions and try to help place their photos to make the book as nice as possible within contracted amounts. On the other hand, a true design involves time, thought and feeling. It has a value in itself. The word design, like the words create, write, and sculpt, can involve much, or little. The hardest part about choosing your images is either finding images you like from a bad photographer, or eliminating images you like from a good one. But assuming you liked your photos, either decide to have the photographer use an abundance of images, or pick the essentials and do not sweat the details. You will enjoy the album, the photography and the whole experience much more.


Gary Rabenko may be reached at gary@rabenko.com. Rabenko Photography & Video Artists is located at 1001 Broadway in Woodmere.

Photo Album Design Part One

Photo Prose
Gary Rabenko

Many try to design an album after the event by selecting their favorites. Those then are given to the studio, with the words: “OK, here is my selection, make the album!” That is like asking a speechwriter to write a speech, with the instructions, here are my favorite words, use only them!

If you selected the right photographer you should have the fun task of starting to tell the story. It should be fun. It should also be fast. But as many find, it can become a horrific nightmare if not approached properly. Then it can be a non ending chore in which nearly all interest in the project is lost, and the photographer is reduced to being a clerk and production manager, trying to manage a production without production values! It is unfortunate that most projects are not completed in a few months. Your album is the studio’s best advertisement. The year of your event, is when the album should be completed for you to enjoy.

Depending on the studio’s quality level, and purpose in life, your project may be just another job, or it could have been an important investment in time and talent, and the image proofing was just the beginning of masterpiece creation that now needs your approval to complete.

A better studio can have more options. And may not be able to proceed until they are sure how to proceed with you; after some consultation.

In the basic approach, many important concepts are never considered. The advanced approach is all concept. Here are some of the important ones to consider. I am dwelling on the advanced approach first, because while some do book a photographer saying that photography is not really important, and that they only want basics, if you are reading this, you may care more and want the album to reflect the depth and breadth of the event, its participants, and the craft of photography today.

There is no such thing as the best image… it all depends on where it is used, and how? A great image should have some personality and emotion. A complete story needs little and big words, and your album needs main and secondary images. The album design involves combining images, of varying shapes to fit the page shape. It involves contrasting emotions, and complementary supportive emotions. True album design involves artistry at many levels.

Sensitivity is needed in feeling the image, not just seeing it. Many industry professionals have a big problem with that concept. They are so intent on looking at an image, they have lost any openness to feeling it!

Image emotion is created by shape, color, contrast, density, expression, and position. Combining images create emotions that are different from their parts, and should be more interesting but if not done with care, will be corny, foolish and random.

Proofs either in paper or digital form, are not finished images. They are not retouched or manipulated to reflect the photographer’s intentions, nor are they adjusted yet for use with other images. Today, some studios manipulate certain images to suggest what can be. Other images, or those proofed with a different manipulation might in fact work better on a particular album page.

Proofs are the raw gems. Proofs are the rough natural ingredients from which the finished gourmet meal can be made. How images are tweaked, depends on how they are used. How they are used depends on where and with what they are used, and what else in total is going to be used. So you see that everything is based on everything else, and as you sit and stare at the images, you cannot possibly imagine how it may or may not be needed in the design.

You know who your friends are, and which outfit you liked best. You know what relatives are not on speaking terms any more, and what part of the simcha was most meaningful to you. But actually, you may not know what years later will be most appreciated, or what your photographer could really do with an image that you are about to discard?

You say you know what you like. But until you see the result, you won’t know how you like it. The photographer has serious questions as well. Suppose a week is spent designing and determining images, and you do not like it. How does the studio get compensated for its time?

Over the years, I have seen many albums where the client invested heavily in lots of images, but the album had no style, contained much duplication, had images poorly retouched, corny digital effects, and color that was all over the place, or just plain dull! That client had no idea of what could have been. Sadly the studio was ignorant as well.

Some studios will sit with the client while discussing each and every image. The client feels that this hand holding will lead to a great result. It won’t. To feel the images requires silence, solitude, concentration, focus, and time. Much time.

Even a straightforward album, with one image on a page, should be approached in an emotional way. Instead of choosing your favorites, start thinking about how the album should begin. What mood should the first images produce? What unexpected surprise could the viewer find on page two. How does page three continue the story?

If you want the studio to help you arrange your album, consider what you really want them to do. Do you want someone to tell you what you like? Hmmm? On the other hand, if you feel you can really trust the photographer to give you heartfelt advice, and that he knows his craft, then perhaps you could just pick your favorites and let him pick the rest. Anyone can sequence the images you’ve chosen, but that does not mean they will work well, unless you planned your selection. On the other hand, if he has style and substance, you might do best to let him add whatever he believes you need to do the kind of album you will love later at any cost.

Next week: Easier image selection.


Gary Rabenko may be reached at gary@rabenko.com. Rabenko Photography & Video Artists is located at 1001 Broadway in Woodmere.

Shidduchim: Too Many Options?

Artists are expected to see things differently. Sometimes we might see the same thing from a different place.

I see the shidduch world from the perspective of a photographer. Men and women of all ages come here who want something special. It is obvious that often, they can have so much difficulty in deciding what they like in themselves, that I wonder how they will ever be able to recognize what they want or make a decision on someone else!

Shira* knew what she wanted, what she needed, and why she had come to me.

An awkward stiffness that cloaked or dampened her true personality in professional portraits or her friends snapshots”. This is what she said in her first visit to my studio. But I wanted to see for myself. So before I agreed to photograph her, I asked that she return with her latest photos. I have learnt that sometimes, a person may just not like a great shot, because they are looking for something else. And if I were to give them more great shots, they still could be looking for that something else!


Not Black Or White, But Mostly Gray

The 5TJT has many interesting columns about a variety of things.

I frequently have enjoyed Hannah Reich Berman’s column, “That’s The Way It Is.” With a knack for speaking from the heart and on point, she usually makes interesting and valuable observations. Sometimes we disagree. Five years ago, two articles involved an odd subject for this paper.

I had the pleasure of photographing her daughter’s family of cute, sensitive, and affectionate children, who really loved my stuffed dog and were fascinated by my squirrel photos. Later, reading Hannah’s articles on squirrels, I understood why they had said I should speak to her.


The List of Shots You Do Not Want To Give Your Photographer

The List of Shots You Do Not Want To Give Your Photographer

The list usually includes obvious basic combinations which any halfway experienced, remotely decent photographer certainly shouldn’t need. And the idea that an inspired artist could possibly work off a list casts doubt on whether the person writing the article really knows anything about what a photographic artist’s real job is. My advice: I can do the best, most thorough job when the client conveys in concept form what she is really looking for, and lets me know what she values in imagery by how she interprets what she sees that I’ve already done. Does the client want sweet, soft, flattering imagery, or would she rather have harsh, bold, dramatic imagery?

That is the kind of info that is helpful to doing great photography.

Instead, those preparing the list spend hours putting together lists of hundreds of combinations that include the most basic – like Bride and her Mom – as well as very odd combinations that are then never used.

But in every case that a list like this is provided, glaring omissions exist. Often numerous combinations are left out, that upon questioning, the client admits that surely they are musts! But they are not on the list.

There is a finite time to the portrait session, which is never long enough and always abbreviated by people not being present, or more important things to do, like conferring with the musical director, the caterer, the clergy, the party planner, the florist.

The last thing you want is for the photographer to take his eyes and mind off his subjects to peruse a list. No, the idea of an assistant is not much of a solution. The assistant cannot be a technical assistant if he is checking every shot being done against the multipage list. Nor can he always know that a shot taken was sufficient. The best photographers will loosen up stiff subjects by returning to them later, but he cannot do that, nor can he follow his creativity where it will lead, or work most efficiently by sequencing his shots based on lighting needs and other practicalities, if he is following a list in order.


Gary Rabenko may be reached at gary@rabenko.com. Rabenko Photography & Video Artists is located at 1001 Broadway in Woodmere.

Bad Advice

I’ve never seen advice articles that give good advice at the truly sophisticated level. Either they stress real basics, or they make recommendations which do not apply to a truly skilled artist doing great photography, and which would prevent an upcoming one from succeeding. Editorials and advice articles are contributed by editors and writers who do not have first hand experience doing great photography. Worse, they often consider themselves to be photographers, because rather than contract great photographers, they are able to “take pictures” to satisfy their photo-journalistic needs, and so … feel that they are photographers, when all they are producing are snapshots.

How do these writers research the topic? In the obvious way. They contact and interview a bunch of photographers, usually those most readily found, and then rely on the consensus to be the best advice. So for example, if seven out of eight photographers recommend giving the photographer a shot list of the portrait combinations desired, and one strongly opposes that idea, the writer will come to the conclusion that the right advice is to give the photographer the list.


Gary Rabenko may be reached at gary@rabenko.com. Rabenko Photography & Video Artists is located at 1001 Broadway in Woodmere.

Priorities, Part 2

Last time, I asked about your photographic priorities. Here are some additional aspects to think about.

Some studios give loose photos—prints—like an 11” × 14” and wallets. The exact sizes can vary. But some include that in all packages. Others do not because it raises the price somehow and should not be the deciding criterion. If you do not absolutely love the photography, then a few more photos won’t make a difference. What do you think? How important is this to you in making a decision?

Some studios give more proofs. Are 1,000 proofs not worth as much as 1,500? Are paper proofs better than files on a CD? If you get the files on a CD and can print the paper proofs yourself, getting just the ones you want, does the studio need to make those proofs for you? Is there a value to doing so? Maybe fewer proofs are worth more? Would you rather have 1,000 better photos, or 2,000 that include second-rate shots you need to edit out? Suppose instead of the 1,000 better photos, you had 2,000 photos all just as good—does that mean you will be happy having so many more great images in your album? Will you use more images in your album if you get 2,000 good shots instead of 1,000? Or will it mean that much more effort to cut down the number of proofs, to the same small number that will be in your album?



Photo Prose: Your Opinion Please


What are your photographic priorities?

How important is proper decorum and unobtrusiveness during the chuppah? Some studios not only have a half-dozen crewmembers in the aisle, but they act as if they are the show! A few place the guests’ view of the chuppah above all things . . . but does that mean you will accept lesser coverage of the chuppah while the crew was being more considerate?

There was a while when you wanted a photographer to be unobtrusive. I only know a handful of photographers skilled enough to make a lot of meaningful candid shots, and they are not ironically the ones claiming to be photojournalists. But then while one was being unobtrusive and covering the event in a photojournalistic way, people would interrupt with requests for photos. Since great candid shots require different camera settings than requested snapshots, it is inefficient use of the time to switch back and forth. Do you value candid shots of those unaware and not playing to the camera, or posed shots facing the camera?

A related question is that if the photos are meant to tell the story of the day, is the real story told when most of the supposedly candid shots merely show people smiling to the camera? Does that show the event or are those types of shots evidence that the photographer interrupted the event by taking the photos?


Your Opinion Please, Continued

Sometimes all the best intentions and advice do not work. We can learn from other people’s experiences. But watching how a situation tends to develop and continues to unfold for others allows us an opportunity to draw some nuggets of wisdom that can be extrapolated to our situation or applied in the future. Sometimes it helps us appreciate where we are coming from and the decisions we make. Sometimes it leads us to be happier with those decisions.

Photographers can often be misunderstood. Those that truly care and want to do good can be resisted and prevented from doing what they could do, due to this lack of understanding, to the point that they are not able to produce the superior results that they strive for. On the other hand, lesser photographers with minimal skills and substance can often be considered the defining standard of a professional photographer because they have always been helpful and are around the community always volunteering or being there when photos are needed. I have known people to lessen their interest in photographers because of the low-level results that they experienced from the pro they already knew.

Sometimes a better vendor is limited from providing the stellar results he is known for by situations beyond his control. That is sad, when it could have been avoided. The question is how. And is it something we can learn from?


Your Opinion Please, Part 3

Last week I wrote about a party planner. This week someone mentioned an orthopedist. It reminded me of an early headshaking experience. Susan (not her real name), whose husband was a renowned doctor, was planning his 40th-birthday party. She booked me last minute. I wondered why. When people book a photographer last minute, it often means something. And trust me, it is good to know what that reason might be. Susan and I knew each other from other events she had planned. So being in the business, I assumed she just had many photographers to choose from and did not make it a priority to book one far in advance.

Back then, we would do table photos. Experienced photographers know not to refer to them as such to the guests. Guests hate standing up. Referring to table photos, or that you are there to photograph the table, can result in jokes that you only photograph the table and not the guests! What we actually need to do is to photograph the people at the table! Today so many activities occur at bar and bat mitzvahs that aside from the few minutes one is actually eating, seats are rarely all filled and table photos have gone the way of VCR tapes. Religious weddings have such lebedik action from start to end that here, too, many table photos are not possible. Videographers often pan across the guests at each table to show in fleeting form those present. So tables are not essential.

Susan was having a luncheon. Table photos should have been easy. They could have been easy. But as we shall see, they were not.


Your Opinion Please, Part 2

Planning a party? Some party planners can help. They organize the unorganized, keep track of all the details, and deal with all the vendors—or whichever vendors you do not want to have to deal with on a daily basis leading up to the big day of the party itself. Photography is a personal thing, and the photographer is the only vendor whose job continues long after the music stops. So many photographers feel it is best to deal directly with the client.

Recently I worked with a terrific party planner. She cared about all the details, was a constant comfort and consolation to the client, and her friendly staff got involved to solve problems. They were not just intermediate message takers. Unlike most planners, she actually cared about the photography. She did not book me. The client did. But unlike some planners who take little interest in vendors booked directly, she understood how the photography was all you have later, and she wanted the best for the client and to help the photographer do his best, so the photos would be great and everyone would look good and remember how they felt.

Some party planners definitely do not plan for the photographer, even those they recommend. Others act as if it is all about them. Which brings to mind a particular moment at a particular wedding, but which unfortunately happens all too often.


Observations From The Artist: Your Opinion Please

I have been recording events for 40 years. I started very young. Problem-solving and good advice have always been my goals. Things happen. I have read many advice articles and written some over the years. Advice articles are often written by editorial persons who poll a variety of experts and then attempt to distill the advice based on the majority of opinion, or on common sense. Neither approach sounds too good. Should not the real expert be in the minority, and not share everyone’s less informed view? And even assuming common sense was common, real experience and expertise in something trumps the often un-“common” sense.

No doubt you have keen insights and opinions developed from firsthand planning and making simchas. That is why your opinion counts and I would like to hear from you about what I should have done in these situations.

Here in a series of articles, I will share a variety of situations that have come up, and ask readers to e-mail me what they think I should have done in that situation. So without further introductions—Your Opinion, Please.


More Cameras, More Problems

Today’s Video, Part 4

Equipment is good. Experience is great. Talent is terrific. Skill makes it meaningful.

Last month I wrote how amazing new cameras are ironically leading to a reduction in the meaningful content that loved ones will enjoy in the future.

These cameras require accessories: brackets, stabilizers, and focusing aids because ergonomically these cameras are awful. Software and seminars are another expense. New products are announced daily, claiming to improve or solve videographer’s problems in shooting, editing, and output. Yet with all the money and time videographers are forced to invest, few ever think about investing in themselves!

My uncle was a pianist. He practiced ten hours a day. My mother a ballerina; ten hours a day. Practice makes one’s skills stronger. Gadgets are often a crutch that lead to atrophy and mediocrity!

How much more exciting and meaningful the video could be if the emphasis were on technique rather than technology. Skill will lead to substance. Over the years I have been a member of various professional videographers’ associations. They have monthly programs, speakers, and technical presentations. But no one talks about skills. Everyone is expected to have skill. Most are confident that they do! Some actually would love to develop more skills. But everyone is focused on technology—new gear and software.


Short Or Short-Changed? Today’s Video, Part 3

A short video can have the key emotional moments and be more effective in touching the heart, than one with long stretches between exciting, dramatic, and tearful moments. But videos frequently miss key moments, which often are unpredictable even when part of an expected series of actions, because they are made from short clips that are weak to begin with. Long videos are not any better, having longer weak scenes.

My previous columns explained that today’s video cameras do not have the ergonomics of older cameras, and are not easily able to track unpredictable action while maintaining tight, well composed, in-focus content. Now, 20 years since these small, lightweight economical cameras came out, many old time videographers have taken the easy lightweight approach in their senior years. Newer cameramen who do not mind carrying a 20 plus pound machine on their shoulder rather than a 3 pounder on the crutch of a pod, and who might actually want to do better, have serious obstacles facing them. Firstly, who can teach them? Secondly, budget greatly limits camera image quality, so their camera is probably not the best. Thirdly, their style is molded by studios who care most about the bottom line.

Only a few years ago, few considered short videos a desirable thing. They would want to see everything. Today, with imagery so prevalent and time so scarce, the amazingly crystal clear quality of new style cameras, coupled with the rapid high energy edits that music videos made popular, can make this product glamorous. If the studio also offers you a longer version with “all the footage,” it seems like a no brainer. But just rewind for a moment.


Short Or Short-Changed? Today’s Video, Part 2

Your cell phone may have great video image quality. But try following action from a distance with varying zoom and manual control over the exposure, and you realize it is impossible to shoot sustained coverage of an indoor event.

Specs, like resolution and zoom ratio, are usually considered when purchasing a camera. But ergonomics is not, and that can be critical in allowing or limiting what you can do with the camera. How the camera handles can make all the difference in the world, both to a skilled cameraman forced to accept limitations due to budget constraints and an amateur who might never think of that criterion before making a purchase.

The digital revolution saw drastic changes to photography from 2000 to 2005. Since then, many improvements have occurred. Mainstream video lagged behind photographic technology, with the biggest changes occurring in the last six years. I expect to see video refined similarly in the coming years.

Video Cameras Differences and Practical Comparisions

Short or Short Changed  – Today’s Video – Part One

Heard the story of one who saved everything – even pieces of string too short to be of any use? That person we can be sure was never an editor!  Editors must cut stuff out.  Sometimes excising large trivialities and at other times desperately seeking just the right sliver to insert; a true editor must value content.   You got to have the right footage first!   Useful footage.

Call it cinema, film, a movie, or the name derived from the technology used: video has changed a lot, and will continue to change in the next few years.  Let us understand the forces at play and how technology, cost, and convenience, all are affecting the scenes you will see in your event video.

There have been a lot of interesting and exciting things happening in this video revolution of the last few years.   Going from VHS to DVD it turns out was not such a big deal. It did not have much effect on the image or more importantly the content.   The story was still the story.   It was told in the same way.

But today the story as we will remember it, could be missing much of the rest of the story…and this may not be what you might wish for later.   This is the first of several articles on how video is changing along with how what we might expect it be is different today as well.      The points I will be making are not so obvious.  This is definitely not a situation of more merely being more.  Rather I am questioning the specifics of content that is collected.


Sound Thinking

As a photographer of 40 professional years, I am all about light. Except now I am thinking about sound. For 15 years I did not know to wear earplugs or hearing protectors at events. Then for a while I wore the unsightly ear protectors one uses in a gun range. Maybe they were not so ugly, but they were big.

What did clients think at the time? Most assumed I was monitoring sound. You know, back then video was not such a nice compact and neat sport as it seems to be today with small cameras, smartphones, and iPads.

Back then, video involved a sound person whose responsibility was monitoring and maintaining proper recording levels. This meant lugging around the second major piece of the video puzzle, the video recording deck, and making sure that the long, thick, bulky cable tethering that hefty deck to the equally valuable camera not only remained tethered but did not get kinked, caught, yanked, or tripped on.

So with others wearing headphones to hear sound, my using them to not hear the same sound seemed acceptable. For some projects, I used real aviation headphones to block out environmental sound and communicate to my crew. I even harnessed a video receiver to my electronic flash’s power pack along with a miniature—but those days too bulky—video monitor. This allowed me to see the videographer’s picture—the same one he himself was viewing in his eyepiece—so I could direct him as he was shooting and get the exact shots I wanted.

Today some guests press palms to their ears and try to use rolled-up paper fragments as earplugs. Men and women shout urgently to persons not a foot away. I use earplugs—high-density ones rated at 33 decibels of attenuation—and always carry extra earplugs to help others. Often it is the grandparents, but sometimes it’s a quiet child who looks uncomfortable, or it can be anyone who begs me for a set of plugs while complimenting me on my thinking to use them.

Sometimes even a musician will lean over from his bandstand then gesture to his ears to convey that maybe I might have some extra earplugs for him!


True Tails

True Tails


Observations from the artist


It was cold today. 9:37 a.m. I had the window closed and was headed into the shower. But the Vizio 47-inch monitor in my newly arranged room told me Sweetie was approaching. I rushed to the window and hurriedly rotated the blinds so she would see me. It did not scare her, and she responded with a flick of her bushy tail. She looked up as I reached for the window’s latches. She knows that means she will soon have access to some good food. Watching her stretch to see my hands better, as if trying to figure it out, I simultaneously rotated the two latches counterclockwise to free the lower sash from the upper one. Yes, it only took a moment, but for a creature as fast as a squirrel, that is a long time. Truth be told, I did it slowly. Yet she stayed with it all the while, watching with riveting enthusiasm and body language.

Then I raised the blinds. “Oh, this is getting exciting,” she said in her own counterclockwise spin that she does to buy time and consider things. Then I raised the lower sash. Too high for this cold morning, but I felt like being generous to a friend, making her entrance easier. No insulated baffle with one or two holes for her today, at least not right now. Moving away, I removed from the soft recliner the silver insulated baffle that I normally keep in the window on wintery days. When I am home, it allows Sweetie and her “people” access, but shields the un-furred human (me) from the cold as much as possible. But today she caught me early. I had not yet opened for business this morning. She came and got my attention. She “knocked on the door.” She deserved special treatment.




Rabenko Photography and Video Arts is always interested in talented persons. But especially so at this time where technology has led so many that can do so little with so much! The more one knows, the more one recognizes! We are looking for special people who can do better … who want to learn and continue to grow.

Must be reliable, creative, talented – Did I say reliable.(see “about reliability” below ). After reviewing the categories below, please contact me to discuss how you can be an asset in producing photography and video that mean more.

Below are some categories of help wanted with better explanation of what is involved. If you are interested in working for someone who truly appreciates talent, knowledge, skill, and dedication, or if you are at a point in your life where you can make a commitment, then please contact me for an interview. Because each event I do is a once in a lifetime event that cannot be done over, and because my clients come to me for something better, please understand that my criteria is high, and my interviewing, qualifying and training is involved.

Photography Assistants Wanted (see below)
Photographers Wanted (see below)
Videographers Wanted (also called Cinematographers, Motion, Film Makers) (see below)
Video Editors Wanted (see below)
Album Design Assistance (see below)

Assistant Wanted
Full Time Assistant and Part Time Photographer’s Assistant. An assistant to a photographer is NOT a shooting role. It IS everything BUT shooting most of the time. Used to be assistants were responsible for so many technical and practical details. Now photography can be much easier. But good photography requires serious lighting. And that is the chief role of an assistant. Events and weddings and other live action involves a changing scene which requires changing lighting from the portable, mobile, constantly aware assistant. Digital technology has led to much post production and computer work from uploading, backup and distribution, to actual image manipulation. If you work in the studio… some mechanical skill and communication skill is very useful. Most importantly your job is to make mine easier. So your reliability is expected.

Photographers Wanted
Photographers of all levels. Lead photographers, support photographers, purely candid photographers, portraiture experienced photographers, and newer photographers who might be fashion or glamour oriented.

Important that you can follow directions are detailed oriented and while bringing an artistic sensitivity can also be work well in a team environment where each person has a role to play in making the whole a success.

Video Editors Wanted
Always seeking skilled and artistically sensitive editors. Very few and far between are those who understand the difference between being creative and simply being different. Different is not always better. There has to be a reason for things. Just doing something because it is different, may not be doing something that is in fact better. We are Adobe Premiere based and use the Creative Cloud. Having worked with so many various systems, that is where we are today. Looking for video editors skilled and experienced in both long form and short form editing.

Assistant Editor Wanted
For project preparation and rough cutting. This is all about details.

Album Design Assistant Wanted
Everything requires thought. If you can feel the image, then you can help me design albums that most can’t.

About Reliability and other important qualities.
Some people are reliable. Very reliable. Others don’t know the meaning of the word. Dealing with those people is frustrating to say the least. Reliable persons, will very rarely be tardy and when not early, will truly be remorseful about it. They never plan to only be on time. Being early is their goal, so as to make sure unforeseen developments do not have an adverse role on their day and on their life. The number one reason people are late, is that they only planned to be on time, not early!

Memory. We remember what is important us. Those needing reminders are evidently not focused, not concerned, not involved and ultimately, not an asset but a liability.

Details. They say beauty is in the details. And that if you take care of the details the rest will take care of itself. All work here involves detail: Technical details, artistic detail, order details. Being detailed involves knowing how to listen. Repeatedly I have seen people nod and even repeat instructions, but neglecting one word, thought or phrase can make all the difference! Please be detail-oriented.

Transportation: It goes without saying that doing photography or video on location for events, executive portraits, and commercial work, involves getting to the event, and bringing gear to that event. It also involves safely getting back to the studio with the gear and the imagery. Both arrival and departure involves all hours of the day and days of the week/year. If you do not have your own reliable transportation, it is simply not possible for you to be reliable. Period.

Tech Talk

Feeling light is something that must be learned.

Watch a violinist . . . he feels the tones he is about to produce and feels the effect the sound will have before actually hearing it. I say we must feel the light! It is sad to meet so many “photographers”, who look at me in bewilderment: What does it mean to “feel the light?!?”.

Fact is that viewers do subconsciously get a feel from light and definitely glean information about and develop opinions on the subject, from the lighting. But the viewer does not have a trained eye, and does not realize that these feelings are in fact due to the light.

Bright, and light are not the same thing. Light involves direction, contrast, angle, quality and color as well as intensity. Intensity is the least significant factor.  That is brightness.  First it has to be able to do what the artist wants. And most do not feel the light, so they cannot know what it is really doing. Most important is the direction of light and how that light relates to other light. This involves lighting ratios and fill/main contrast issues. Looking up such terms will no doubt lead to a text book understanding of related techniques at best. But to be an artist, to do great photography, requires such things being second nature. And must involve a sensitivity to the fine nuances that are far more delicate and involved than one gets from a textbook understanding.

Your eyes do not produce light! Since the beginning of time, Man has seen a three dimensional world illuminated by an external light source. So what is this business of using the light on your camera?!?

This tech talk is for you – reader. I can go in far greater depth on this topic. But first please tell me that you would like to hear more. Please contact me with any questions. I welcome the dialogue we might have.


Selecting Your Photographer & Videographer

I’ve been hearing horror stories about the many who made wrong decisions in selecting photographers or videographers. Some have shopped endlessly and tirelessly, others went with their first visit. But all have been more or less unhappy, and most with good reason.

The advice below is of two kinds, positive, and negative. What to do, and what not to do. Both are equally important. Some will find it makes great sense. Others may not agree, or even understand it. This is the very nature of life itself and is at the core of human nature, people’s response characteristics, the way we think, and how we see things. I am writing this because I believe it is important. Only through understanding can there be appreciation. Your comments are welcome, your opinions will be reviewed.

At The Wedding Part III

Photo Prose:  At the Wedding Part III

Unobtrusive?   Everyone wants a photographer to be unobtrusive.  I love when people say, “I did not even realize you were there!”   That is part of a photographer’s talent.   There are different methods of unobtrusiveness.   Some photographers, work far back at a distance.  While it might seem to be the perfect approach, it is not.

You cannot see into a manhole,  to see the crew working in the street, until you get close.

Likewise, a photographer who stays very far back will not get the right angle on faces.   Other considerations are involved.

But, there is another way of being unobtrusive.  That is conducting oneself, in a way, and having a manner, which does not call attention to oneself.   So you are aware of the photographer, but you just ignore it.   There are many things that a trained photographer can do, and I am not sure I am ready to give away such valuable secrets on this subject.

However, one of those things definitely does not involve waving to the crowd, trying to get their attention, and having the Bride and her Mom, look up at the camera during the dancing!   Nope.  That is not how it is done.


At The Wedding Part II

Photo Prose:   At the Wedding Part II


To a photographer, there are many illogical assumptions at a wedding.   A family will ask in the middle:  “We haven’t had a portrait in a long time, could you just take a quick picture?”  Later they will care how they look.   “That is what the professional did?!?” 


Some photographers strive to do the best that can be done.   Most instead of analyzing, just do what they always have been doing, what they were taught by other who always did what they were doing, or what they were told they should do.


So you have a lot of photographers doing the same thing, and a lot of people planning very special, and unique events, who later will feel that the photography is nothing special.  Worse, you have a few photographers who are concerned, creative, and caring, instead of being appreciated, they are being criticized, and misunderstood.


Should the photographer be unobtrusive, or control the wedding?   Most readers, will say, NOT to control the wedding, and that they hate pushy photographers who try to control the wedding.   I agree.   So the photographer is to do the best that can be done at each stage of the way?   Right?  Or did I misunderstand?


The Perfect Wedding

Photo Prose

Gary Rabenko


The perfect wedding! I had planned to discuss some common “disconnects” between photographer and client in this article today. But since my whole style involves a certain impromptu, go with the flow, and make the most of every moment approach, I have decided to discuss some positive things that actually occasionally do occur, and which can make your photographer’s job worth doing and the results worth viewing.

Why this sudden shift to the positive? Guess it all has to do with one of the most recent weddings I just had the pleasure of photographing!


Understanding Ladders

Photo Prose – Understanding Ladders.

Good photographers use ladders.   You see them.  You cannot help but see them.  You wish you did not see them on or near your beautifully decorated dance floor.    Occasionally someone asks, is there no other way?I have given thought to all kinds of high tech approaches.  But actually there really is no other way.

For a photographer, understanding ladder placement is vital to be able to get the shots you will want later.Generally, the better the photographer, the more consideration is given to the ladder.  Not just the size, but theweight, construction, shape, appearance, material, and the ease of operation.  Some photographers simply put the ladder there and start shooting.   Bad photographer, may use unsafe, too high, low, or awkward ladders.  Awful photographers may stand on a chair.   That says a lot about the lack of respect they have for their craft, the facility, others who will be sitting on the chair, and the event itself.



Photo Prose:   Taking time to understand timing.


Most people who talk about photography will agree that timing is everything.

Being in just the right place.  Watching for that special moment.  Having the camera set just right. All those things involve timing.  Yet “Photographer!  Take our picture!”  is a phrase heard often at simchas.  Could it be then,  that doing that shot when requested, is always the right time to do it? While some make an attempt at being polite, and ask if I would, I could, would I please, etc, others often at the biggest and best events, come up and practically demand that I take their picture RIGHT NOW!   Of course we want to do it, that is why we are there.  But timing IS everything, and being able to do it a few minutes later would make a huge difference in the client’s project.   Certainly I understand that sometimes maybe one of them wants to show off, get attention, or really feels this is a special moment.   It might be, and the client might really value the shot later.  But this column is about getting the most from your photographer, increasing the likelihood of your satisfaction later.  Understanding what and why things happen at an event, can make a huge difference in the result.  Understanding why a good photographer is not always the one who stops and immediately “takes” the shot, but rather the better photographer might have  the discipline to delay it, even if it will not lead to the best result for the client.


Why Many Photographers Seem Similar ?

Why Many Photographers Seem Similar ?

Most photographers have one of three backgrounds:

1] They became interested in taking pictures as a hobby and it became a money making venture for them. Their background is the background of a typical consumer, a person who is a picture taker. Therefore the way he speaks is not much different from you. You might relate to it, but should recognize that perhaps there might be more to being a photographer than just the professionalism that is implied by charging a fee.

Using Digital … For Good, Bad And Ugly

It can be most flexible and versatile. We can change backgrounds, blend images, swap open eyes for closed eyes. In general, we have total creative power over the image from start to end. This is good.

There are many good things about digital, and I do not regret going digital earlier than most.. some 11 years ago, prior to 911.  Cameras need a fraction of the light they used to and are getting more sensitive each year.   Generally, I can shoot today, with 1/32nd the amount of light needed a dozen years ago.  It is mind boggling and makes possible things that were unthinkable then.


Photojournalism or Good Photography?

Expression emotion and feeling are ultimately what is needed in imagery. It is the responsibility of a photographer to be more than just a button pusher, to use the science and art of photography in a way that strengthens an image’s impact and makes it much more effective than if taken by a surveillance camera, or a snap shooter who just happened to be at the right place at the right time.

The photo-journalistic style of photography in my opinion has become popular for the wrong reason. It is easy to say that I use a photojournalistic style. At first glance it might seem so, and it is always used as a complement so that is ok. But most photojournalists know little photography. They do not try to do imagery that is flattering, or even to use light in an artistic way. They behave like hunters to grab a record and make an imprint of a moment in time. That is photojournalism.


 I LOVE what I DO. Every day is exciting, meaningful and different. You are different from anyone else that I have or will photograph and in order for any photographer or videographer to be able to produce the best imagery possible, we have to all be on the same page. We should know the goal, the criteria, the priorities, the passions, and understand the process so we can all make the most of every moment.


Religion has played a major role in world history.   It will play a role in each of our lives, either because of us, or because of others.    There are many sites that claim to be a portal for planning a Bar, Bat , or Bnai Mitzvah.  But they will turn off those to whom the mitzvah is more important than the bar!   I love passion.  And Jewish history is certainly something to be passionate about.   But it is not something that most 12 and 13 year old’s can be passionate about.    That is why most bar and bat mizvah albums show cliched, or superficial photographs.   For decades, my work has been featured on the cover of various tri state bar and bar mitzvah guides.  Regardless of your affiliation, if you want images that speak to the viewer… if you want images that will make the Grand Parents proud.  If you want imagery that can be shown to future generations of Jewish children with meaning, when it is time for them to become a Bat or Ben Torah, then you want imagery that is inspired.  This has been a specialty of mine and I hope you will give me the opportunity to be inspired by your family and to create an heirloom of a Mitzvah album that does justice to the event, its participants and the craft of photography.

In this part of my blog I hope to share meaningful stories, suggestions, and advice for getting photography and video that means most to you of your simcha; the Bar Mitzvah, Bat Mitzvah or B’nai Mitzvah that you are planning.

Editing and Design

Great imagery is the goal.  Once we have it.  What can we do it?  How can we make the most of it?   How can we enhance it to make even more powerful?  How can we combine images that best work together?   How can we edit the video to make it more powerful in less time.   What different album treatments, styles and approaches will work best for your Bar Mitzvah or Wedding Photographs.  How can your family portrait session be best presented in an album or on the wall?    In this section of my blog we will discuss how to approach choosing your photos after the event.  What kind of interaction with your photographer might work best for you, and what might undermine a great set of images or great video footage.   Editing video is similar to editing an album.   This section will dissect today’s attitudes and approaches in both album design and the editing of videos that today may be called cinema, motion, film, and movie making.


Face it, most of the people you will be coming across as you shop for a photographer will be more sales trained than photographically trained.   Its a crazy competitive field today.

Huge numbers of persons are embracing photography from all walks of life.  Some have failed at everything else.  Some have never tried anything else.  Some are old pros who do the same thing every day.  Booooring!  Some just like taking photos and shooting video.  Its FUN!  But that does not mean they are qualified, skilled, or talented at producing meaningful images.  They might very well be expert at selling themselves, having done sales in their former profession, or having taken the many sales training workshops, and business building workshops that professional photography groups offer.

Remember that as a shopper, not only are you making a decision on who will be doing your photography but you are also having to evaluate all the latest trends, fads and gimmicks that are being offered to impress you and distract you from what is far and away the most significant factor, the photographic skill, talent and personality of your photographer.    You will be seeing all kinds of album styles and fabrications.   Wildly manipulated images.  Fancy new fabrics and materials like steel plate and acrylic, and all kinds of cute album sizes.   But that’s just packaging.  Today’s video can be so impressive technically and so disappointing when it comes to having the right content.  Editing can be very dramatic, while at the same time, footage may be very weak.   There is so much to cover as well as crew interaction; editing styles, and the all important ramifications of gear choices.  That is what this section is all about.  Trends and features will be covered in this section.


You want to love your wedding photography because your face, your body, your arms your fingers,  your gown, and your waist line look good.     You want to feel good because your wedding photographs capture the look in your eyes, a variety of your expressions, and because the feelings in your heart are so beautifully portrayed in your wedding album.   You will find many other articles of interest in the various categories on my site.  But this section is specifically for the Bride.  Its your day!   I have tips and techniques that you won’t find on other sites.  I cannot put them all up right away. So keep coming back.


Hey, you know it’s all about the Bride.  You want her to be happy.   But depending on your past experience with photographers, you either love or hate being photographed.   There is a good chance you hate it.   Firstly there is a good chance your opinion of photographers is low to begin with.  And if you read enough of my articles here, you will find a whole lot to laugh at and I am sure agree with.  Most wedding photographers are not really photographers!   There I said it.   And most Groom’s photos that I see, even in studio and photographer’s sample albums, are not flattering.   They can be attention getting, or have pretty backgrounds.  They could even have a romantic feeling, because of the way the Bride and Groom are interacting.   But look closely.   Do the clothes look properly adjusted?  Look at the Groom’s expression?  Is it on point, or in between something ?   Check his body language, his limbs, are they awkward?   Most likely.   Fact is that most guys freeze up in front of the camera, or get cranky, impatient, and irritable.   That is understandable.   They know they are going be fussed with, and still will look different from the image they have of themselves.    It is not easy, but a real photographer will make the photos much more fun, much faster and definitely much better.     That is why you will want to keep these tips in mind.    And keep checking back here.


You care about photography. You want to look great in your photos.    You want photos that mean something.   More than just a reminder of something that you should remember, for which a snapshot might suffice, you want to feel good when you view the photos.   If you are hiring a photographer for an event, then you want to feel good because the many small as well as large moments are documented.   Because without calling attention – in an unobtrusive way the photographer has captured things that you did not even notice were happening all around you.   Things that involved your loved ones, your family, friends and even yourself, the little things you do,  your mannerisms.

If you need photos for a website, for work, for your wall, you do not want photos that any photographer could take.   You want images that will always be a joy to view and to share.   You want family photos and photos of yourself and your children that show their personalities and characteristics.   You know a cheese smile is not the goal.  Rather you want expressions that come from the heart and are projected through the eyes!

If you are planning a child’s religious celebration, then you know that in the years to come, those images will be judged for substance.   You want true passion, and emotion in those photos.  You do not want fake plastic expressions and awkward poses.   Those are not worth anything.  You want images that future generations will be inspired by!

This blog and site are to help you find what you seek, and to walk you through all the steps needed to successfully and comfortably acquire the finished products.   This site is a work in progress with constant updates and additions in both imagery and text.

I care as much as you.  This is not just a job.  This is my life’s work and passion.

Being a photographer is as much a way of thinking, analyzing and interpreting as it is a way of seeing.   In addition to articles on technical and practical issues related to photography and video, you will find some of my thoughts on other things that over time has meant something to me.  Some might involve history. Some involve human nature.  And some certainly will involve squirrels!    Because an artist has to have opinions – right?   Interesting conversation leads to interesting reactions, expressions and ultimately more meaningful imagery.  That is why I am always interested in your feelings, ideas and opinions, and how and why you may feel that way so I may learn how many different expressions you may have!

Technology has made photographers’ dreams so very possible.   But technology is only a tool.  Some articles will help you understand how those tools can be useful as well as how they can be ineffective, overused, or counterproductive to your goals of good imagery.

Often, talent is the uncanny knack of selecting the appropriate tool at the right time.  Today few have that talent. Because few have the experience using all the tools, nor do they have enough experience with the many situations … to  begin to make the right decision.  Very often, the best a photographer can do is what is right for the moment based on all the circumstances at the time.   So often the client’s needs change moment to moment.  You want a photographer who can feel this.  Who understands that what is most important now, might not have been what was planned for earlier, but which has now become possible!   That is why we are here.  Not to photograph what is happening, but to photograph what is about to happen!

Learning to See

Prices vary from free, to hourly, group, or package rates.  If not listed please inquire.  Training is available in NYC and in Long Island.    Requirement:  Interest, an open mind, desire.


This is not taught in most photography classes.   You may know how to use your camera.  You may have gotten instruction on print making or even Photoshop editing.   You might even have gone on photo field trips or risen early, or stayed out late to watch nature.   That does not mean you know how to see!   In fact with all of today’s whiz bang technology, fewer pros ever consider what is most important!   

My one on one instruction – a two hour session involves learning how to see you will look at everything differently and see so much more.   It starts out inside and weather permitting goes outside.  You do not need a camera for this. But if you wish you may bring anything from a quality cell phone camera to something photographers use.

Learn why you see what you see and how to see more!

One on one training session with Gary Rabenko                 $450



Event Photography and Videography:  Behavior, attitude, personality, powers of observation, prioritization, conduct, technical awareness, environmental awareness, being prepared and anticipating things, interpreting what you are told, planning, crew interaction, best gear choices for each situation, talking out the job,  what is important.

Sign up if you are interested in learning from a long time pro, who also just happens to be one of the very first 100% digital photographers in the wedding industry ( since 2001 ! ).  Digital is just a tool set.  Photographer today rarely have strong skills from prior decades of perfection, nor serious skill in an age where little is required to just produce an image.   Most significantly, many are unaware of basic concepts and values.

This is for existing and recent photographers who figure there is more to learn, but don’t know where to get this training.



Meaningful videography involves constant multitasking.   It requires continued awareness to multiple persons, places, things and conditions that are constantly changing.   I notice that very event videographers actually attempt to deal with much that really is essential.  It has been said that photography is a way of seeing.  Video is many images per second with sound.    There are ways to shoot video to enhance the viewing experience.   Today most video is either very bland, very extreme, or ultimately quite meaningless.   Video can be so much better and it all starts with the videographer.

Video associations always emphasize the latest gear. They give workshops and have meetings to discuss gear.  Trends and gimmicks are also hot topics.  That is why everyone tends to do the same thing.  Video can be more interesting for everyone. It can be more challenging to videographers who may find their work boring, or are stuck in a rut of doing the same thing as everyone else.

I love what video can be.  I love video that is watchable, not for its special effects, or today’s rapid fire short scenes, but for the insight into character and personality that video can offer.  This takes persons who can think outside the box.  This takes persons who are either new, or experienced who can step back from old, easy, common, and typical practices to think about things differently.

I am interested in training select videographers who are interested in embracing a different approach.



What does the word edit mean to you?   What various kinds of editing are there?  Technology makes everything easy.  Now is the time to make it good!   Standards in editing.  Editing for substance.   I am available for one on one sessions that can elevate and improve your editing.   A three hour session, involves analysis of one or more sections of an event that you have edited and my direction in making it better. This training might require developing more advanced shooting skill.  Knowing what we are shooting for, and how to edit that footage for a great viewing experience is putting it all together.

As a photographer, videographer and video editor, my perspective will bring powerful insight to how to make your product better.

I recommend a five session class that first evaluates a recent shoot and existing edit of yours.   Then discusses ways of change.   Involves planning a better shoot.   Reviews that shoot to plan the edit, and finally reviews your new edit.

Five three hour sessions $1500      A properly equipped computer is required for editing related sessions – my systems could be available, but it makes sense to have your project and all media loaded and ready so bringing your high speed notebook or laptop works best.

Photo Prose: First Column

Photo Prose

Gary Gershon Rabenko

Most columns about photography have pictures.   This new column for the most part will emphasize words. I often noticed that my best work occurred when I could follow the little voice in the back of my head.    But words are everywhere!  Most do not realize how important words are to making photography as powerful as it can be.   Words are ideas and ideas lead to more ideas.


When you view a photograph, you might first notice the actual content.   But then you knowingly or subconsciously start to interpret things that you see in it, or the feel you get from it.   What leads to that feeling?   What did the photographer do to help you get that feeling?  Was it purposeful and intended, or was it accidental, and unrelated to the photographer.


Often people who visit our studio, ask if I would give classes.  Frequently photo students apply for assisting jobs thinking that in a few months they could become photographers.  Only years later can they understand how that which is most important is not taught in classrooms, and only rarely is considered by most professionals in this industry.  The fact is that while everyone wants to know how to take better pictures, very few really understand what that involves.  It involves words!   Words we hope to share here.


Of course, good gear is important.   Today we have the best gear, and the most technically advanced approach to image production ever in the history of photography.  But is the photography we see all around, better?  No.     Cameras need less light than ever before.  But is photography better?  No.    Lenses cover wide ranges that the most advanced  pros could not dare hope for.   But are they used with skill, or mostly for convenience?   Film is a thing of the past.  Today we can shoot thousands of images without running out, or having to re-load.  But how well do we pay attention to the little moments between the big ones.  Will the photos of our simcha be more meaningful, more flattering, more exciting?  Is photography better today?


It could be if and only if the client and photographer are on the same page.  That means they use the same words, and think about how the photography and video can mean most.    It could be better, if instead of the photographer using ordinary words and thinking like an amateur, the photographer used the right words in thinking about his work.


Everywhere we look we see imagery.   If we are planning a simcha, we look at albums, websites, and visit studios to decide who to entrust with that all important role of “creating our memories” and “capturing the moments”.   We look at a photograph and we may like it or not like it.  But do we understand, really understand what we should be looking for?   What questions should we be asking.  What criteria should we be applying in our selection of a photographer or videographer?   When we see a photo that we like, is it possible that under those particular circumstances the shot was easy and not an indication of serious skills.    Perhaps a photograph of the infirm person who now appears with strength and dignity, required much more skill and caring to produce, than the beautiful Kollah holding colorful flowers!


What is the photographer’s job?  How should he be approaching your project?  After we have selected our photographer, how can we help him to do the best for us.

What does the photographer need from us, and what do we need from him?

Are there questions and comments that will help the photographer do more?


Have you been at an event where the photographer disappointed you either while you were  a guest or as the Bal Simcha?  Why did that happen?  Was it the photographer, his training and approach, the environmental conditions, timing, circumstances?  No doubt you and the photographer had different expectations. Words used in advance might have prevented that disappointment!


The caterer, the florist, the decorators, each has a job to do. They are very important in making the event what it will be. But if you will care about the photography later, how could those vendors’ interaction with the photographer be of help.    What kind of coordination might exist between those vendors and your photographer.   Events today often rival a Hollywood production….   With tremendous planning and design.   But for the photographer, it is expected to be done in one take, with no room for error, no time for changes, and many expectations later.   Perhaps by consulting with the photographer before, many disappointments could be avoided?   That is what this column will be about.   Things that should be considered.  Words that should be heard.  Questions that should be asked.


A commercial shoot of a product can take days.  Much time is spent setting up a shot, and very importantly, lighting it for just the right effect.   Now consider the B’edeken.   Consider a beautiful and unique structure that has been erected, under which the Kollah will be sitting, and through whose entrance, the Chosen will appear.   Everyone is in awe of the artistic design and composition of this unique and different setting created especially just for this wedding.   But how is the photographer to shoot the actual scene when the moment comes for the Groom to meet the Bride.   How is the photographer to show what is inside and outside, under and above, lit with bright sunlight, and shaded from even his flash by the cave like structure, all the while making sure to show both mothers equally, the reactions of young and old, and the brachot of BOTH fathers, including the one who turned his back to better get around the step that separated him from his daughter?!?   Words.  They are the only solution to achieving the best results.   Results where both the client and the photographer understand what can, should, and best be done.   Perhaps if the step was wider?  Perhaps if the entrance was higher?  Perhaps if the caterer guided the crowd through the opposite door?


Sometimes,  things happen to make the best of intentions lead to less than the most ideal results.   Often, a better understanding of the client’s concerns, or the photographer’s needs, would make all the difference. In this column, I hope to answer the hard questions, and ask meaningful ones.


They say a photo is worth a thousand words.

Is that still true today?

Where have the words gone?  Where should they come from?

We think in the terms we speak.  Do photographers think the same or differently from regular folks.   What is a photographer?  Does he think before during or after the “shot”

What is he thinking about?   Does all this make any difference?  You bet!


Just as the best photographers use light in a purposeful way to highlight and enhance, as well as to strengthen and define, my intention here is to light the way to a better understanding of what photography can be, what photographers can and should do, and how you can help make the whole experience better, nicer and sweeter.


2006  Gary Rabenko


This was the first column published in Photo Prose by Gary Rabenko in 2006   in 5 Towns Jewish Times http://5tjt.com/


Poem on the Occasion of Viewing an Average Album

I think of my parents
Mom’s joy, her concern
Dad’s pride, his spirit, and humor
I’m trying to feel the fun we all had
laughing and living together!

Now opening albums
to see many prints
and looking at faces
that do not convince
From poses plain silly
to expressions quite dumb
most of the pictures don’t speak,
they are mum!

No warmth, no expression,
no feeling, no form,
there is little meaning
and much less rapport.

Is this what was meant by creative, or good?
Why bother with pictures that are lifeless dead wood!

Photography’s more than standing and sitting
or smiling and saying old: “cheese”
It’s the form and the feeling,
the style and the seeing
which makes a great photograph please.

Not an album of snapshots or posing like statues
or prints that are corny, a trick
but emotion and feeling, expression and meaning,
for then they are more than some shtick

So you need an artist
who cares and has talent,
a master of many techniques,
for that ensures meaning
expression and feeling,
forget pricing… or size…. or effects.

When your party is ancient
and your loved ones grown old,
you’ll cherish the comfort
in your photos tenfold.

In laughter and tears, they will move and inspire
a pleasure to share not only a reminder
but to feel and experience anew
each time you go to view
what the original Rabenko could do.

Rabenko Photography and Video

1993 – All rights reserved. – Gary Rabenko