One + One + One = Final Image

I was recently asked by long-time client University of Tampa to photograph a dark blue spherical crystal globe award that sits atop a clear crystal base, and which sits atop a blue velvet box. I took one look at this thing and actually thought the task was quite literally impossible. At least impossible to shoot in one single shot.

Lighting is always at the heart of any assignment, but this one was a doozie! Knowing quite quickly that one shot wasn’t gonna cover this one, I went to work setting up and lighting 3 separate shots. One of the dark globe, which actually glows a beautiful deep blue when you hit it with the right light. The challenge here is that when you’re lighting a crystal sphere, everything in the room, and even somewhat behind the sphere is reflected on the surface. Pretty tricky to choose where to put a light when you know it’s going to be reflected in the globe. I lit with a single light source that left a hot spot, which I corrected after the fact.

Second, I created a second shot where I lit for the clear crystal base, paying close attention to the legibility of the etched graphics. The only way to get these to show up was to light against a dark background so that the etched detail would reveal itself.

Lastly, I lit a simple gray background shot that would tie everything together. Here are the separate shots that contributed to the final, and of course, the final image, which I put together in photoshop while doing a little reflection management and cleanup.

Quite simply put, this was the most complex process I’ve ever used to come away with what could be misconstrued as a ‘simple product shot.’

The moral of the story is that sometimes, we have to let go of impossible and find a solution, no matter what. Enjoy!

The Quality of Expression Counts When Photographing Live Speakers

I’m not sure why, but when I see photos of speakers speaking, I often find that little attention is given by both pros and amateurs alike to the quality of the facial expression. Fact is, when people speak, many make some pretty unappealing faces, some worse than others. I myself make some serious ‘ugly face’ when I speak, and yet there are some speakers that make life easy for us photographers. The accompanying photos were shot during Raymond James’ Summer Development Conference held at the Marriott Marquis, in Washington, D.C. last month.

So, why does it matter? If we take the perspective that every photo says something, and if we analyze this from a tad deeper cut, then a couple of things come into focus (photo metaphors intentional!) If a speaker’s mouth is tangled into a shape one can’t define or describe, doesn’t that look a little like struggle? And secondly, isn’t that distracting you from the power and conviction available in a photo of a powerful speaker in some way? When your corporate image is being broadcast across your channels of social media and the media in general, don’t you want the most effective and powerful looking photograph of your leaders at the front of the room? Maybe it matters more than you think. Every photo leaves an impression, and instantly. What impression do you want to make when it matters most? (For the record, these images used in this article were shot, tweaked, and posted onto Raymond James’ social media within 10 minutes of being taken, with the objective of posting the speaker images while each speaker was still on stage.)

Having said all of that, here are three techniques I use when I encounter a challenging speaker that may help you at your next conference or meeting.

Try to shoot when vowels are being spoken. The mouth tends to set itself in some mostly unoffensive postures when most any vowel is used. Think about it. The mouth is slightly open with an a, an e, and an i opens the mouth a bit more, but no issue there. Typically, consonants are the culprit. Imagine what your lips do when trying to form the sounds that don’t have breath in them.
Shoot when speaker is smiling or reacting to humor. Usually, a speaker will begin with humor or some light-hearted content, so be ready when he or she first begins. And, for the record, I am a photographer who believes it’s okay to shoot when the speaker is actually smiling between words – not all agree, but hey, that’s better than someone forming a sideways letter b with their lips, no?
Lastly, and this surely applies anywhere and everywhere in photography, simply shoot a bunch of images to get a good one. The more you shoot, the better the odds!

Because we all keenly know what bad speaker photos look like, let’s stick with examples of expressions that simply work well.


Commercial Photography Event Image Raymond James

Raymond James CEO Paul Reilly gestures to accentuate his point.


BeeTee’s Vacation Photos – Leamington, Ontario Edition

In the spirit of my family’s all-time favorite holiday movie (sorry Jimmy Stewart!), Elf!, I’d like to start a new category for my blog, simply BobTee’s Vacation Photos. What does that have to do with Elf!? (punctuation’s tricky when the movie title ends in an !) Because taking vacation photos could quite possible be my favorite! People ask me fairly often, “What’s your favorite kind of photography?” I always pause, because, at my core, any photography is still my favorite, but when the rubber hits the road, I’m happiest discovering the world with camera in hand. I’m in fact, quite proud of my vacation photos, as I get to put to use the chops I’ve spent my whole life developing in to play. And that’s fun – more fun than I’ve ever had as a shooter.

Here’s my first entry, although I will retrospectively include some other galleries here as entries – because I’m proud of those too, and even more importantly, I want you to see the beauty that I see when I wander the world with girl by my side, and camera in hand. (Okay, girl by my side often turns into girl 40 steps ahead of me because of my never-ending stops and turns to catch the shot. Enjoy these images of Leamington, a town just up the road from Windsor, which is just over the Detroit  River from, well, Detroit. In fact, Leamington, Ontario, and yes, Canada, is south of Detroit, making Point Pelee, Leamington,  the southernmost point in Canada. A cool subtext to having visited Key West many times, the southernmost point in the U.S. The last thing I’ll say is that I shot these photos with a small Nikon point and shoot, nothing amazing, but about a $285 little image-making machine. I say that so that you don’t think you have to have a multi-thousand dollar SLR to make solid photos.

The Joys of Finding the Perfect Pro Bono Client


During my (many!) years of running a photography business, I have always made a point to support a charity that’s close to my heart by providing my services pro bono. Typically, I have an organization that I’m working with at any given time, and when it’s right, for many years. Like many who share this view, I feel it provides balance in my life, and I walk the world knowing my talents are contributing toward the fulfillment of a chosen organization’s mission. Or, maybe it’s more selfish than that – maybe it just makes me feel great inside.

A significant part of my business is with attorneys and law firms, and as a result, I’m closely tied to the Hillsborough County Bar Association, serving as their photography benefit provider for the last bunch of years. I got a call from Corrie Benfield, Marketing Director at the HCBA one day last year telling me they’d referred me to Bay Area Legal Services, who’d called them to get a referral for a photographer. Alexandra Crews emailed me as well and we talked the same day about what BALS does. As Alex says it, “The rest is history.”

We quickly set up our first photo shoot, which produced enough solid imagery for them to populate their updated website (not yet published as of this writing) and flagship brochure, blast out through all social media outlets, produce posters for public events, as well as a series of prints that they just hung up in their uber cool office spaces in Ybor City. It was maybe 3-4 weeks later I arrived at BALS’ main office in Ybor to shoot a video of one of their clients providing his testimonial of how BALS rescued him and his family from a life of debt, foreclosure and even divorce. During my 200 foot walk through the offices, I kept hearing this whisper: “This is the photographer who did those pictures!” I noticed. Then there’s Rose Brempong, the queen of sincere praise and acknowledgement, who came into the room and hugged me and thanked me no less than 6 times for the work I did and its impact on their ability to say who they are and what they do. Then Dick Woltmann, the CEO of BALS, stopped by to shake my hand and thank me, thank me, thank me.

It was truly during the live video shoot of the BALS client that I got hit right in the heart by this lovely man who was laying his heart and life on the line with his story. I was tearing up during the actual shoot (I wasn’t the only one!) and it was then I was hooked. I am now an advocate, loudspeaker, and proponent for this amazing group of professionals who help good people who have hit some tough circumstances get through the most challenging times of their lives, and most importantly, in a way that preserves their dignity and restores their personal power. I’ve seen it several times now. I’m all in.

Not to kick a dead horse here, but then I received a persistent and loving invitation to BALS’ annual Holiday Party at the Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City. Almost suspiciously, Rose and Alex made darn sure for weeks that my wife Kim and I (my son was also invited but couldn’t attend) were going to attend. We were seated at a table up front and were happy to just be there in such a lovely setting. When the event began, my jaw hit the floor when I realized that the opening remarks, which lasted for 5-10 minutes were a presentation of the video we did for them, followed by more praise and recognition than I think I’ve ever received for anything I’ve ever done, complete with a presentation of a gorgeous trophy! Shocked doesn’t even come close to describing how that felt. But ‘full of love and appreciation’ does.

So what’s the point here? If you’re working pro bono for a client, and you don’t know in your heart of hearts that what you’re doing is a difference maker for that organization, it may be time to find another outlet for your generosity. But mostly I think the point is that pro bono work should make you feel great, and make the organization you’re serving feel even better. Right Alex, right Rose? THAT’s what pro bono is all about, at least through this photographer’s lens.

Marketing Photography Case Study #7 – Raymond James Corporate Shoot

I’ve been doing work for Raymond James, a global financial services company headquartered in St. Petersburg, for well over a dozen years. I’ve produced everything from head shots to annual reports to event work, usually working directly with their Marketing Department. Chris Bennett, Creative Director, and Grace Powers, Senior Account Executive, called me in to scout a project for imagery to populate a new website focusing on career opportunities within Raymond James.

Challenges: The main challenges here weren’t that unusual for us: we used employee models, so no professional modeling talent was used. This requires making them appear professional and comfortable even though none of the models had any prior photo shoot experience. Over a two day period, we were to shoot over 40 people at 6 different locations around RJ’s expansive campus, and in addition to the imagery for the website, we also produced environmental portraits of all employee models who participated in the shoot, so the number of images to produce meant we had to move fairly quickly, something else that isn’t very unusual!

Client: “Bob did a fantastic job handling six separate photo shoots over a period of two days. Working with people who are not professional models, he was great at making them feel comfortable and getting them to come to life – so much so that most of them looked like professional models by the end of it! We started this project with the intention of using the photos on one website, but because the quality and diversity of the photos were so great, we’ve used them on a number of other projects throughout the company.”

Grace Powers, Senior Account Executive

For this Marketing Photography Case Study, my assistant Stephen Zane, doubled as videographer, putting on display his array of serious talents while assisting in all aspects of the multi-location shoot. Here is the product of his creative efforts, and for the record, he shot, edited, put the music in – the whole enchilada.

Marketing Photography Case Study #6 – Air Animal Pet Movers

Every once in awhile a project comes along with way more facets than ordinary photo projects. This is one such project!

Client:  Air Animal Pet Movers is a company that specializes in the arrangement of domestic and international travel for pets, to include at least dogs and cats. Their family-owned business was founded by Dr. Walter Woolf, a licensed veterinarian in 1977. I was brought in to this project by friend and client Karen Frashier of AdvocateMarketingPR, who had been hard at work helping Air Animal with their brand presence and marketing message. After several conversations it was determined (and driven by magazine articles Karen had pre-arranged in both Lufthansa Cargo and British Travel Magazine) that we needed to shoot 3 key images to get the magazine articles to snap: one at Tampa International Airport that showing an Air Animal Van entering the Airport, a pet examination shot for a dog that was actually traveling to Brussells in real life, and a shot of a ‘stand-in’ dog (looked the same!) being checked in at an counter inside the airport. We also produced studio portraits of all staff posing with their personal pets – a clever way of playfully shooting what would typically be head shots to give their website more personality.

Challenges:  At the top of this list was the fact that all shots but one featured live animals, which automatically increased the ‘trickiness’ factor exponentially! We needed the assistance of the TIA marketing and security departments to help manage incoming airport traffic as we shot our images at sunrise at the main junction entrance of the airport, one of the busiest times for the airport. We had our newly wrapped Air Animal van drive very slowly in a pre-scouted lane during morning rush hour at the entrance to the airport for four or five laps.

Client Comments:  “The planets aligned and offered Air Animal not one, but two international magazine features. Thompson Brand Images got the shots we needed in two very focused shoots inside and outside one of the world’s busiest airports. Bob talked with me about the brand and the article, and we built the shoot around Lufthansa’s story.

We ignored the old showbiz warnings and worked with two weimaraners, three people, a van, an airplane, airport traffic and airport police during Florida’s unpredictable rainy season. Then, we did it again two weeks later with studio shots of Air Animal staff with their pets. The pets and the people look great in every shot and mesh with the brand—not an easy task. But that’s what Bob does! Another successful project by Thompson Brand Images…”

Marketing Photgraphy Case Study #5 – Stetson University College of Law – Gulfport

Davina Gould, Marketing Director for Stetson University College of Law, reached out to Thompson Brand Images recently in need of a new library of marketing images to use for websites, brochures and advertisements. Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport is Florida’s oldest law school, founded in 1900, and the campus occupies an historic hotel from the 1920’s. Because it had been some time since they’d done any photography, a 3-day shoot was scheduled, but this one had a bit of a different flavor to it.

Challenges: Almost all photography was accomplished during live classes, with the exception of a few sessions where we were able to place student models for set shots. This meant that we could use very little or no lighting at all in some cases. Given the live classroom environments, I had to blend in and be as unobtrusive as possible, and do what I could do not distract the students, and more importantly, disrupt the professors.

Solution: We went with extremely simple and battery operated lighting, often using a single light source bounced off of walls/ceilings to provide some pop and contrast, but which didn’t require any setup or leave cables on floors. Emphasis was also placed on getting in and out of the classrooms as quickly and quietly as possible.

Bob’s Comments: This was a fun shoot – Davina gave me a schedule of where to be and when, which accounted for about two thirds of the images – the rest were shot organically while roaming the campus between assignments. Free flowing, but with a gameplan – my favorite kind of shooting day! Some of my favorite images were the live classroom shots which captured the personality and delivery style of the professors in action, as well as the scenics of the campus with students sprinkled throughout to give those potentially static shots some life.