3 Quarters Today

My Life, my photography, my passions


Am I a Professional Photographer?


I love photography and I always seem to have a camera with me. But what is a professional photographer and can I call myself a professional? The answer is no. Even though I did get paid for two photography jobs in May I can’t call myself a professional. Why? Keep reading and I’ll explain.

Harvest in Nebraska, Combines in the fields

Harvest in Nebraska

What is a Professional Photographer?

To me a a professional photographer is someone who earns their sole income by selling their photography services and prints. They pay taxes, they have insurance, and they rely on photography for their income. Just like any business there are marketing costs for advertising, business cards, and insurance.

There are fewer and fewer true professional photographers in the industry anymore. With the advent of easily accessible digital DSLR Cameras the profession has changed. I’m not here to discuss or debate whether this competition and change is a good or bad thing, just that it has happened.

Often professional photographers have gone to school to learn lighting techniques, studio photography and many cut their teeth during era of film. Even during the age of film photography, photographs were edited in the dark room with burning and dodging techniques. Post production work now is done in Lightroom and Photoshop to achieve the look and feel the photographer felt when viewing the scene in real life.

Professional Photographers edit in Lightroom or Photoshop for the best results

Chicago Night Skies (Before SOOC and After)

This above photo was taken over looking Lake Michigan at midnight. I didn’t have a tripod with me and set the camera on a park bench for a long exposure shot. The result was crooked and due to the cold I didn’t have time to get the proper white balance in camera. In Lightroom I was able to straighten the horizon and adjust the lighting to what my eye remembered. This was a case of “knowing” and planning my edit ahead of time. My goal was a 2:1 panoramic print, so I shot wide to allow myself editing space. I took only two shots like this that night.

Then Who is a Photographer?

Planning and execution is the difference between someone who is a photographer and a person who just takes pictures.

A photographer is anyone who takes their photography seriously and is always looking at ways to increase their camera skills and techniques. They read books, they read blogs, watch YouTube videos on post production in Lightroom and Photoshop to learn how to get the most out of their camera and their photographs.A professional graduation photo

If you are like me it’s hard to drive down the road without seeing a photographic opportunity. You’re spouse might just be tired of you saying “Stop, go back, I have to get a photo of that barn” (fence, sunset, cloud, cow, lamp post, etc…you get the picture)

A photographer thinks about their shot “before” they take it, taking into consideration composition, lighting, and cropping aspect ratio. A serious photographer takes their camera off Auto and learns to shoot in Aperture Priority or Manual.

If your goal is to improve your photography, if you find yourself reading every photographic technique article that comes across your Facebook news feed, and if you purposely seek out photographic opportunities to share them with a wide audience then you might be able to call yourself a photographer. It may be a just a serious hobby. But you are a budding photographer.

I Am a Semi-Pro Photographer

That would be where I fit in. I am a serious photographer who has a “normal” nine-to-five job and occasionally gets paid for photographic endeavors? Very occasionally. I don’t advertise, but I post my best photos on several sites and on Facebook. I also sell my photographs on FineArt America and recently on InstaProofs. To me, I’m a a hobbyist photographer.  http://3QuartersToday.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/IMG_7242-511.jpg

But, since many people see that I can take decent landscape photos they also assume I can also take portraits. I can’t, or let’s put it this way, I’m uncomfortable photographing people.

Yet in one month I did finally say yes to two people who asked me to photograph events. I shot my first graduation and my first wedding. So now I can officially call myself a semi-pro. Will I give up my day job? No. But I will shoot graduation again, maybe not another wedding, it took the Mother of the Bride two weeks to convince me to do this one.

More about my first job as a wedding photographer later, overall I enjoyed it. They were a fun couple who could NOT of taken a bad picture if they tried, and the camera loved them. I received many compliments and the images turned out better than I expected.  

Do You Take Pictures or are You a Photographer?

If you just love taking pictures of things that are dear to your heart sharing snapshots of time, creating images of friends and family during events and gatherings? Do you take more selfies and Instagram photos with just your phone to post on social media? If so you love to take pictures, and that’s okay. A picture is a snapshot in time that preserves a memory. We should all take pictures, it preserves our history and memories.

How to Photograph Concerts

Huey Lewis and the News

So Where Do you Fit?

Where do you and your camera fit? I’d like to hear your input on the topic and if your goal is to become a professional photographer, a semi-pro, or if you just want to enjoy the hobby for your own benefit. Leave a comment below.



6 Funny and Humorous Books For Photographers


Sometimes a photographer just has to laugh at themselves or the industry, or else they would go crazy. So what is a camera buff do when they don’t have a camera in their hands? Read about photography, and not just serious technical stuff either.

Here are my favorites, again, Christmas, Birthday, Mothers Day, anniversary, or just any time is perfect to give a gift to someone you love, or want to poke fun at  just a little.

1. What the Duck: I’ve been reading this comic online for quite sometime and it’s well worth having on the coffee table.

What the Duck

2. What the Duck, Rule of Nerds: If you haven’t gotten enough of the first book try adding another to the collection.

what the duck, rule of nerds

3. Awkward Family Photos: This series has gone viral and taken the industry by storm. What poses, props, and settings we once thought were cute have now become a bad joke. Really good for a laugh. There are now Awkward Family calenders, games, and even puzzles. But the puzzle might be stretching it a bit.

Awkward Family Photos4. Awkward Pet Photos: The partner to the Awkward Family Photos, just as funny and we wonder why our kids grow up weird and our pets look at us funny.

Awkward Pet Photos

5. PhotoJojo: Now it’s time to get off the couch and actually create some unique and funny photos. This book is full of DIY (do it yourself) photo projects that will keep anyone busy for the afternoon. Even the dog. Is that a camera cam on his head?

Photo Jojo great photo projects and DIY ideas6. I Can Has Cheeszeburger: Now it’s the cats turn. Why is it cats are so funny in posed photos? Maybe because they can be posed and propped with everything from beer cans to books and everything in between. Dogs won’t do that, that’s why they wear the video cam on their head (see above). If cats were to wear a video cam it would be VERY boring.

I can has Cheezburger LOL Cats

All of these books and more great photo stuff can be purchased directly on my 3 Quarters Today Amazon Store. If you’re going to buy it online, might as well click through a friends page so she can earn some extra $$$ for a new lens or two.


11 Gift Ideas for Photographers


Looking for some awesome gift ideas for that serious photographer in your family. Not just what we want, ok a few we want, but what we need.  Not giving anyone any hints, but some of these are on my Amazon Wish list. They are in no particular order, and I invite you to share this list with your friends and add to the bottom your most wanted photo gift for the Christmas season. Who knows, I may add it to the bottom.

1.Lens Strap Holder: This is a must have for me. I’m always misplacing, losing and forgetting where I put my lens caps. Often I find on in a coat pocket, in the glove box of my car, or even under the seat. Repeat after me, I will not lose my lens cap, I will not lose my lens cap.

Lens Cap Strap Holder

Lens Cap Strap Holder

2. Macro Extension Tube Adapter:  This baby will let me get really close up flower porn shots (just check it out) before you judge.

Camera Macro Adapter Ring

Camera Macro Adapter Ring

3.Bokeh lens: This is kinda a throw back to the film days when photographers would put colored filters and covers on their lenses to get special effects. Just a fun effect to play with when life gets boring HA!

Bohkah lens

Bohkah lens from Photojojo

4. White Balance Cap: Oh this sounds so dreamy. Ever been in a setting where the color just doesn’t turn out right. Yellow cast in a room, gymnasiums with that awful yellow wooden floor, or the grey days that make skin tones blue. Just shoot a photo with this cap and automatically set your cameras white balance. Perfect tones.

5. Super Spy Camera Lens: Where do they find this stuff? Perfect for street photography or camera shy people, I wonder who those might be, family members maybe?

Super Spy Camera Lens

Super Spy Camera Lens

6. Remote Shutter: Ideal for those long exposure night shots, a macro image,or even during the day to get the super crisp image. It’s amazing how much camera jitter you can get even during the day with a high shutter speed.

7. Camera Bag Insert: With as many times as I change purses why wouldn’t I want to change camera bags. This insert will fit into any large size pouch purse or fun shopping bag, all while keeping your camera and gear protected. Makes sense to me!

Camera Bag insert

8. Photojojo! The Book- This book is full of DIY (do-it-yourself) photo ideas along with photography tips and tricks. It just looks fun and I always need a book on my wish list.

Photojojo! The Book9. Bounce Flash Adapter: Don’t know about you but I have a love hate relationship with my flash. A fill flash is wonderful, it allows you to use the flash without “flash burning” faces. I want this!

Warm Version Bounce Flash Device

10. Spyder 2 Express Calibration System: Ever wonder why the prints you get back are not the same color as what you saw on your screen, or what you saw on your friends screen?  It’s because monitors go out of calibration and mess with our heads. Extremely important if you’re adjusting skin tones and really need the magenta to be accurate. Lately I designed something that contained burgundy. But when it was printed the color was brown. I liked it still the same, but not what I expected. Hint, hint to any of my family who is thinking of something for Christmas.

Color Calibration System for your Moniter

Color Calibration System for your monitor

11. Luma Loop: Nope, couldn’t hold myself to 10, I have a love/hate relationship with my camera strap. It’s a pain to wear around your neck, but it’s a pain to carry the camera separately. This camera strap is ergonomically friendly and I think I would like it better than what I have now, in fact I might even write a review if I found it under my tree. Shoot I might do that with anything camera I find under the tree.

Over the shoulder camera sling strap

Now that I’ve gone over my limit, and can see what I consider essential camera gifts for the photographer, what else would you add? I, on purpose, did not add any iPhone accessories, since I don’t own an iPhone, but there are tons of very cool gadgets for iPhones for the casual and serious iPhonetographer. (is that a word?)

I have a 3 Quarter Camera Store on Amazon with all the cool stuff that you may not be able to find in your local “big box store”


5 Reasons I Shoot my Photos in the RAW


RAW doesn’t mean I don’t wear clothes, RAW is a type of image format a digital camera uses to capture and store photographs. Every camera “takes” a RAW image, but most point and shoot cameras then process that image into the popular JPG format.

Starting in 2012 I began to shoot RAW, I have my canon rebel set to RAW +jpg. I love getting a shot perfect SOOC, (straight out of camera) it saves time on the post processing side. But even in the film era professional photographers spent hours in the darkroom burning and dodging negatives to get the print quality they desired. Ansel Adams and other photography masters spent a lot of time retouching negatives to get the amazing images that have become iconic.

Even the best photo with the perfect exposure can benefit from a clean “pop” of contrast and sharpening.

Today the RAW image format gives professional and serious amateurs the same options in a virtual “digital darkroom”

1. Photographers excitement: Sometimes the excitement of an event will cause the photographer in you to forget all about settings and metering. I can easily over or underexpose a shot. This happens to me more often than not. THANK goodness for RAW!

Fixing underexposure in Lightroom

Fixing underexposure in Lightroom

2. Wider option of enlarging an image: I take a lot of scenery photos and my camera is only a 10 megapixel, so I need every pixel. The JPEG compression algorithm is lossy . That is, when an image is JPEG-compressed, data is discarded, and the image is permanently degraded. Apply enough JPEG compression and the degradation will become visible. If you want to enlarge your image a lot, JPEG artifacts could be a problem. Because raw files are not compressed, you never have to worry about this.

3. Control my white balance: Ever get that yellowish hue when you take photos inside at night? When shooting in RAW that yellow hue can be removed without the noisy pixelation.  The same with the blueish cast that sometime tints the skin on cloudy days.

4. Non destructive editing: Did you know that every time you open a JPG tiny parts of information are lost. When editing RAW files the program only records the edits and creates a new file. Your original is not lost.

Fixing overexposure and flash burn

Fixing overexposure and flash burn in Lightroom (click for larger image)

5. Higher level of photo quality: In the JPG compression artifacts occur which can throw tiny dots of obtrusive color into unwanted areas. (more on this later) Your camera probably captures 12 to 14 bits of data per pixel, but a JPEG file can only hold eight bits of data per pixel. This means that, when you shoot in JPEG mode, one of the first things your camera does is throw out a bunch of data that it captured. This can also lead to “banding” as evidenced in my previous example.

The digital photography school gives the best definition and explanation of RAW files

A Raw file is…

• not an image file per se (it will require special software to view, though this software is easy to get).
• typically a proprietary format (with the exception of Adobe’s DNG format that isn’t widely used yet).
• at least 8 bits per color – red, green, and blue (12-bits per X,Y location), though most DSLRs record 12-bit color (36-bits per location).
• uncompressed (an 8 megapixel camera will produce a 8 MB Raw file).
• the complete (lossless) data from the camera’s sensor.
• higher in dynamic range (ability to display highlights and shadows).
• lower in contrast (flatter, washed out looking).
• not as sharp.
• not suitable for printing directly from the camera or without post processing.
• read only (all changes are saved in an XMP “sidecar” file or to a JPEG or other image format).
• sometimes admissible in a court as evidence (as opposed to a changeable image format).
• waiting to be processed by your computer.

Read more: http://digital-photography-school.com/raw-vs-jpeg#ixzz2AYsqePeU

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Photo Friday: Lilly Pads in Lightroom


Lightroom 4  is my new friend and I’m pulling out old photos that needed some more work. I used to have a feature Photoshop Friday, but it’s now named Photo Friday. I don’t think I’ll ever run out of photos to “fix” or improve. I have thousands on my hard drive.

Pond Lilies in Summer

Pond Lilies in Summer

I love how the result and am even further excited about being able to decrease the jpg noise from my old Fuji Fine Pix S1500 camera. My old camera took good pictures, and I pushed the limit with it, but now I’m using a Canon Rebel shooting  RAW and I can see a huge difference.  This is one setting I’m putting into my presets.

Below is the straight out the camera photo. Look for yourself the difference.

Pond Lilies in Summer SOOC

Pond Lilies in Summer SOOC

Click on the image below to see the larger tutorial Lightroom4 screen.

Decreasing noise in Lightroom  4

Decreasing noise in Lightroom 4 (click on image for larger view)


Summertime Sports Photography


I am always trying to expand my photography skills and shoot different topics, events, and subjects.

It isn’t often I have full permission from my  daughter to take my camera (Canon Rebel  XS) to her softball game. So when I got the chance I took it, and did I ever experiment with night action sports photography. Not easy, but I finally did get the hang of it.  I set my camera on manual and just played until I got it right.

Summer Softball- photography lesson

The above picture was taken with at 1600 ISO, 5.6 F stop, and a 1/160 shutter speed, 75 mm zoom with a continuous burst with the camera file size at small for a faster response.  With the exception of the graininess at the high ISO I’m pretty happy with the results.

Pitcher concentration

Pitcher concentration

Again graininess with 1600 ISO, but right now I can’t see anyway around it, 800 was too dark with the needed shutter speed. The second photo was on large/RAW file size and was a little dark in the original image. With the lens resting on the fence I shot through the chain link at 300mm focal length, 1/160th of a second at a 5.6f

I increased the exposure in Lightroom, cropped the original horizontal shot to vertical, decreased the white and decreased the shadows. Don’t like how the grain distorts the background player, but couldn’t figure out a way to compensate.

Day of Softball and Summer

400 ISO,  1/125 sec, f10 focal 105mm  Aperture Priority

The last photo was obviously taken earlier in the night before the sun went down. All I did here was decrease the exposure, increase shadows, and warm the white balance. My camera tends to shoot cool (blue) and a the sun was glowing on all the players. I try really hard for realism in my editing and this is what my eye saw.

My daughter has played softball since T-ball in preschool starting at Elmwood-Murdock, then Lincoln Y-league, Eagle, and the past three years for Louisville. The Louisville team joined the Omaha league a few years ago and the first year they didn’t win a game. Competition was a little harder than their previous league and the girls had to try a little harder. The record the next year was about a 50:50 record.

A lot of the girls play on two teams, most of the teams are Select and have the intimidating matching travel bags, and “muscle” jerseys.  Most play school ball, but it doesn’t matter what they look like, can they play? My daughter loves the game, she only plays during the summer and she has a mean steal and isn’t afraid to use it and slide to where she wants to go.

Photography Tips

  • Anticipate your shots, know when the pitcher is going to throw.
  • Push your ISO as high as you need to get a 1/200 speed exposure
  • Use a lower aperture, backgrounds will blur, but you will accent your subject.
  • Use a tripod, monopod, or rest your camera on a steady surface. Fence gaps work well
  • Get the “personality” shots, the concentration of the pitcher, or first base.
  • Shoot in RAW for “still” shot, JPG continuous for action
  • Use your longest zoom for outfield shots, even 2nd base is a long ways off

I’m a big proponent of shooting in RAW, but there are many instances that a regular JPG photo will work just fine, especially if you taking the photos for yourself and just going to post to Facebook and share with friends. If you’re goal is to enlarge the photos, post them for sale, or use them commercially, then a camera with a wider range of options is necessary.


A Day at Work, With a Very Large Camera

8x10 Large Format Film Camera

8×10 Large Format Transparency Camera

Here is something you don’t see very often, a large format, 8×10 E6 Film View Camera. At Hamilton Color Lab, located in Omaha Nebraska,  this isn’t used very often. But for high quality art reproductions which will be reproduced in a  40 x 40 foot canvas in this case, you need a camera format large enough to capture the detail and information.

After we develop the film (yes we still develop E6 slide transparencies)  it is then scanned on an Scitex Eversmart and digitized for outsource printing. The file size just for this one image is over one gigabyte and took over an hour to scan.

Most art reproductions we do at work are digital captures with a Canon 5D and a special lens made especially for photographing artwork, or flat images which eliminates lens distortion.

Below is the front of the camera, I know were curious and just itching to see more, so here is some camera eye candy for those film fans.

8x10 Film View Camera

8×10 Film View Camera

Dave Hamilton, owner of Hamilton Color Lab shoots with a Canon 5D on most days in the studio, but keeps his old Hasellblad camera, 4×5 Film Camera and this baby in storage for those unique moments. Not too many 8×10 View cameras in use anymore, and this one got quite a bit attention when it was brought out.

I know this post was a shameless plug for where I work, but I love working there and until I can get our company blog up and running I can’t resist sharing here.


Week 1: Happy New Year 2012


I’m going to try my 365 project again, but this year make it realistic and try the 52 Week project. I’ll still try and add extra postings in between as I learn more about my camera, have a recipe to post, or food pictures. But I’m setting myself up to succeed, with less stress.

Last year was my first 365 project and I made it to day 312 posting everyday, but then life got in the way. I still consider it a success.  I made some new friends, learned more about my camera and ultimately achieved my goal. I received a new camera. More on that later.

For today this week, it’s a simple Happy New Year 2012

Happy New Year 2012

Happy New Year 2012


Day 281-284: Life in the Lab, Hamilton Color


Sso many interesting projects come through the door at Hamilton Color Lab I keep my Olympus camera on the counter at work.  (Sometimes it’s the only place I get my photo of the day)  I work the front desk, handle the customer service, the marketing, and the social media accounts which, at the present time includes a Facebook page, Twitter account and lately the Flickr account.

But, since my personal blog centers around photography I thought I would post a series here every now and then. Especially since some of my photos of the day are taken at work.

Graflex camera

Graflex camera a customer brought in to show and tell

Film is not dead, barely hanging on though. Hamilton Color Lab only processes E-6 slide film, our C41 machine literally caught fired a few years ago and it wasn’t worth the money to rebuild. But the film that is very much alive and cool again is vintage formats. We still receive large format film for processing including E-6 110, 120, 4×5 and occasionally 8×10 size slide transparencies.

Vintage check project

Vintage check project

We scanned the vintage small check  (lower left in pink) at a high resolution, created a vintage look in brown tones, printed it on cotton etching paper on an inkjet printer, matted and framed the piece. It will eventually go into the Woodbine Saving Bank newly remodeled bank.

Mid 1800's: Photo and art restoration and reproduction

Mid 1800's: Photo and art restoration and reproduction

The date on the back of this picture was 1841 and the genealogy of the family listed a son named “Benjamin Franklin ____” Isn’t that cool!  Benjamin Franklin was a celebrity of his day, and obviously admired enough to name their child after the man.

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