Sing it RAY!

The number one Billboard Hit in 1970, was a happy, uplifting ditty by Ray Stevens, “Everything Is Beautiful”. I loved that song. It had all the right notes, hooks, and words. Ray threw in just the right mixture of production down home philosophy, rising to a big finish….talk about a great feel-good song! It was hard to miss the message that is universal, yet so overlooked. Everything IS Beautiful!
The song was picked up and used a a recruiting tool for every church around.
(here’s a campy re-make of the original….do your self a favor and listen, if it’s been a while. The video is so dated, it’s now an un-intended comedy, so avert your eyes, deary.)

Sing it one more time, RAY!!!

See, since that song was created, this world of ours invented the computer, Internet, MTV, cable TV, smart phones and a billion ways to see published media. If the general public had a self-image problem when Ray wrote that song in 1970, it’s an outright epidemic today.

You and your brain, your soul and your spirit are living in the most visually bombarded moment in the history of the world. Every media type out there is a huge image pump. Sucking in, pressurizing and forcing out a constant stream of photos and videos to cram through your peepers 24-7. I think that’s why so many people wear sunglasses now.

So, this huge world-wide media pump has to stay on top. An the universal thing that will catch everyone’s eye, is that moment’s version of “beauty”. With billions of sets of eyes, this is BIG BUSINESS! And just like oil companies, they will do anything to spin a story. We have become what I call “visually literate” (the ability to sort style and stuff at an amazing rate, and understand it), but most of us are downright blind to see that every sensational photo is a creation, NOT A SNAPSHOT.

Every day I hear women say to me their excuse for not getting a portrait made of themselves is, “I don’t look good enough”.
As compared to…….?

Is there something missing in the connection of the brain here?

Let’s set this straight…..YOU are not in competition with anyone. Of all the people in this world, one else looks like you, because they aren’t you. The photos and images you see of these perfectly styled creations, don’t look so hot when they get out of bed. If you think these “beautiful people” look like this in reality, then you must also think clowns wake up with their make-up already on.

Yes, these “beautiful people” (creations) are another version of the “clown”. It’s THAT made-up!

So if you have the mindset that you don’t measure up to some slovenly media editor’s (who are not so-good-looking, I gotta tell ‘ya) ideal, you are totally right!

You don’t stand a chance. It’s impossible. Flat-out cannot happen!

Why? It’s simple! What you see is a creation, a fabrication from the talents of many different people. The image you see printed of some stunning woman started with a casting call, sorting out sizes, hair, etc., clothing editors and clothing designers, hair and skin stylists, skin and hair products, art directors, photographers, assistants, (and another 40+ people behind the camera), editors, directors, post production crews (the photo-shopping), composition staff, etc….I could go on. Just realize the amount of work by possibly hundreds of people it took to fabricate that image. It’s no more real than a paper doll is an actual person.

I believe and know to my core, everyone is beautiful, in their own way. (sing it Ray!!)

But just like we can’t all perform a pole vault, we do not know how to present our selves. We either neglect it or ignore it. Most of us have a self image that does not seem to match what we see in a snapshot. He are horrified or depressed when we see a different angle of ourselves than we see in the bathroom mirror with a tooth brush in our mouths.

Just like the denial we have when we hear our voices played back, when we see a snap shot, we have a tough time being convinced that it’s “us”. Here’s the reason….we have from birth, watched ourselves in a mirror….a 180 degree opposite view from the rest of the world. Everyone else knows us by the “backwards” version. Here’s a cool thing to do…..stand shoulder-to-shoulder with someone you know, in front of a mirror. Look at yourself. Yup, it’s you. Now look at the reflection of the person next to you. You will hardly recognize them! That’s the trick your brain is playing on you. So how do you think you can compete with anyone, when you don’t even know yourself?

Images are fabrications. Portrait artists for royalty, for centuries, painted the ideal version of their posed subjects (or a nasty beheading or dungeon visit was probably in their future). What we have perfected is a modern version of the real-ideal-YOU. We take away any stress or anxiety, (REALLLLLY relax you) we get your hair and skin better than any salon will do (because they are fixing you up for the street, not the camera) and then with the best light, your eyes sparkle, your expressions are caught and you are forever, Beautiful YOU!


©2011 JohnRobertWilliams


Have you ever tried to sell anything? I’m not talking about you career sales people, my heroes. I’m talking about a used car, garage sale stuff, the bike your kid out-grew, the chrome toaster you don’t use any more. That stuff. Now, think of when it was new. Take a car, as an easy example. We have all bought and sold a car at least one time in our life…or think of selling a house….we’ve all done that, too. Nerve wracking, wasn’t it? It never went the way you wanted it to…it took longer, the price dropped a few times, we had a few “interested” buyers that it turned out were just kicking the tires or the downspout. Or maybe the phone never rang………..

Or were there were the clods that just seemed to be out to give you a bad day…they got under you skin….they got your knickers in a twist over something & they did it good! GRRR!

Look, when that car was new, the manufacturer had something called a “marketing budget”. They knew they had to get the word out that they had this sexy, new model. It took years to develop and they needed to sell a bunch of them just to break even. They needed to create a “demand”. Now, just how the heck does a car company create a “want”, for a car that’s not even out yet, or in the local showroom? Simple! They take pitchers of it and plaster those pitchers where interested viewers just might see it.

They thought about it, hired some “car shooter” to take it out, along with a crew of assistants, and lo & behold, the company has a whole bunch of angles, picked by the “car shooter”, showing every shiny, smooth surface, sexy curves, slender, long lines, nice headlights, cute rear end, etc. The car company takes out ads, shows the glittering, shiny, clean car, in the perfect, dreamy setting and whaddayaknow! They have created more demand than supply! Soon, buyers are lining up at dealers, putting down cash deposits on a car they haven’t seen or driven…but they sure WANT ONE! Why? Have you ever heard or creating DESIRE?

OK, how did they do it? What’s the magic? How can they manipulate innocent viewers into a state of “gottahavit!!”?

Here’s the $64K ?, Answer…..they used the old premise of…… “You Never Get a Second Chance To Make a Great First Impression”. They ATTRACTED buyers, because they WANTED it. Once that car got out on the street, it looked like every other car. But First, They turned on the viewer. They put that squeaky-clean, all shined up, mirror-smooth car in the minds of a prospective buyer. They made that buyer imagine they HAD that car already, even though it was just a photo.

(here’s a professional secret….shhhhhh!) [he says, whispering] They made the photos of the car better and different than the real car. They picked the best angle and put the lighting where the belt-line would accentuate the 3D shape of the car. It made it look longer, better, more agile, attractive than the beater you have sitting in the driveway, now. Look behind the car in the photo….that’s NOT YOUR DRIVEWAY!!!

Have you ever tried to sell anything?

A close businesswoman/friend of mine, was telling me she had signed up for Match Dot COM, (’cause she’s single and full of life, but was without a spouse/soul mate) and was telling me about the unbelievable listings and photos of the guys that were coming to her in her email. She ROARED, laughing at the “bozos and lumberjacks” and the stupid, insipid outfits the guys were wearing. She actually opened up her email and showed me. O-M-G! I had NO IDEA! Then, she told me about her friend (woman) who had posted photos of herself on her MATCH Dot COM site…..and the radio silence that followed….not a single hit, other than morons who you would not get caught dead with. She said I had to see for my self. I resisted, see, because I’m not just married, I’m HAPPILY married to the love of my life! What the heck would I be doing on MATCH Dot COM? The LOML would be VERY disappointed in me….and frankly, a married guy has NO right to be on a dating site.

But I’m not goin’ dere.

Two or so, weeks went buy and I saw this businesswoman/friend again and she asked me if I’d signed up yet. I shook my head no. She laid into me. “What The Heck?…I’m trying to show you something and you won’t even look!” Shamed and (you know what), I went back to my confuser and logged on to the MATCH… know. I answered all the boiler plate questions and at step 11 of 12, I chickened out. BOK BOK BOK! BOK-BOK! I just could not do it…no WAY! So I left it alone, or signed out or something, but I just could not sign up saying… “Hi, I’m 5’11’, non-smoker, have kids, but they don’t live with me all the time…. UM, I’m here to see what you ladies look like”. It’s like, SO ICKY! (I even made up my own screen name, which I kinda like. I never posted any photos or clicked on “Sign up here, lurker”.

Two days later, I got an email from MATCH Dot COM…I thought it was some form-email saying, ” Hey you stupid moron, you forgot step 12…we have matches WAITING for you!!!”

Nope, it wasn’t that. I had 12 “MATCHES” in my in-box! WHAT???? EWWW!

I wan’t prepared. I ducked under the desktop! SHOOT, I thought. What Happened??? Oh NOOO! I’ma gonna get kilt!

Then I read all the fine print above the photos and the site was apologizing, for not finding any “exact matches, because I failed to do step 12, but here are the best we can come up with, from the profile I submitted….please fill out the rest of your form and hit the submit button below.”

OH Jumpin’ Gehosephat! I was invisible to others, but I was getting 12 fresh “possible matches” every day. I was lurking and being absolutely gutless about it! How did THAT happen?

So I started looking at the daily dozen fresh maidens, picked by some remote confuser, just for my lip smacking enjoyment! Fresh meat every day! I sorta liked this zoo I was caged in. ‘Cept the meat was…….SPOIL’T! (sound of spitting inserted here)

The sound of my incredulity was deafening! Day after day, week after week, month after month, I keep getting the most gawd-awful, fuzzy, dark, wacko angled, weirdly cropped out -ex, goofy eyes, ugly clothes, mostly captured by the light of the laptop screen and uploaded via the “webcam”.

It makes me want to cry! Here, all of these women coming into my email, pouring their hearts out, their desires, their wishes, their dreams (and why the hell do they all want to go for long walks on the beach?), yet the ONE THING, the DEAL BREAKER, the YOU NEVER GET A SECOND CHANCE TO MAKE A GOOD FIRST IMPRESSION, is the one thing Guar-Ron-TEED thing that is REPELLING, not ATTRACTING a “match”? Their PHOTO!


Is this all the more these women value them selves? (I ask myself?) No wonder they don’t get any hits. They keep showing up, randomly in my in-box, months on end.

Haven’t you ever sold anything before? If I were selling my car, it would be clean, inside and out, all the dents and rust fixed, it would smell nice. Even though it has miles on it. WHY? Because YOU NEVER GET A SECOND CHANCE TO MAKE A GOOD FIRST IMPRESSION!

If I want to get what I’m asking, for the car, I make it LOOK as good as possible…that’s how it was sold as new. Dealerships go out of their way to keep the cars on the lot, clean and shiny. Why? YNGASCTMAGFI!

So, If Y-O-U are the PRODUCT you are trying to SELL, do your homework, put on the clothes your “match” wants to see you wearing and spend some time and money for a real photographer who will create desire in the buyers eye.

If you don’t, expect the worst and you ‘ll never be disappointed.

Respect yourself!

Put yourself in the best possible position.

Collect more leads in one day than you have in months!

What ever you are trying to sell, make it better than the other 11 on the page.

Show the world…….Beautiful YOU!


©2011 JohnRobertWilliams

Everything happens for a reason….

There are only a few things in life that I know FOR SURE….One, is that Guinness Extra Stout is the Nectar of the Gods and that Every Thing Happens For A Reason….everything else, even this writers’ existence is in doubt….How Do I know for sure about sure thing #2? (I void, therefore, I am) OOPS… Wrong #2…. WAAAY too many times, something seemingly unrelated, other than the space/time continuum, happens, then the next thing you know, this happens…’s what I mean….and this is why I LOVE what I do.
What do I do? I make the world and the people in it a happier and more beautiful place, one person at a time.
See this woman, (name withheld), called and made an appointment for a “business portrait” for herself, at the studio a few weeks ago. We put her on the calendar and we were all ready for her arrival. Now, rarely are people on time for their appointments…or, they come skidding in just in the nick of time, stressed out over their day. JUST the prescription for me to catch them at their most serene and omnipotence…a-hem…but this fine woman arrives early…not just a bit early, but like a half hour before her time. She carried in a few different changes of “TOPS”, (guy speak-shirts), which is always a good sign to me….it shows someone actually put forth the effort to prepare for their likeness to be created by moi….kind of like really washing your feet (with soap) and putting on fresh socks, to keep the toe jam at a minimum, the day you visit the podiatrist. (now THERE’S a job/profession I could NEVER do!) And she goes to the powder room, the changing room and it’s forever before she comes out…um, like, is she texting back there? So way after when we are supposed to start, she’s in the portrait studio. (I have multiple studios for different kinds of photo needs). She introduces herself and outright states she’s VERY nervous…(and It showed) I caught the vibe. Poor thing. She had no idea what was about to happen….and neither did I!……..

(We’ll be right back, after a word from our sponsor)

(You’re supposed to be looking at the ads now)

OK, we are back. Thanks for not switching blogs.

Back in the studio, with the door closed, I love to meet and get to know the person I’m working with/for. I look at their expressions, eyes, hair, smile, body language, all while I’m chatting, getting them relaxed to a non-standard room (studio). My studio is functionally different from home or office rooms. I want it that way. You KNOW you are not in Kansas anymore. It’s all business. Its, well, studio-like. Someday, I’ll tell you why my favorite word in the English language is “studio”. Later. So, I learn about Wendy (oops!), what she does and the fact that she’s out-right scared of this process we call a portrait. Maybe you medical-types can understand….to you blood is your, well, life-blood. But if I have to go someplace like a Doctor’s Office and get a “blood draw”…I’D rather be in Kansas. Cause soon, I’m gonna be spinning my way past Mrs. Gootch and falling down on Dorothy Gale’s porch…I frickin’ HATE to get stabbed and lacerated into my manly, pulsing veins. Watching 14 gallons of black-red blood flowing into the catch-can the pit crew is holding next to me. Y-U-C-K! So I get it, when someone says they are scared. See, fear is a nutty protector. We grow up with our parents telling us “NOT to put our hands down in the garbage disposal”, (which never dawned on me until they mentioned it…..then it was kind of fun hearing the different, cool noises when finding out what sounded the best and worst down in there….(It’s a draw between shooter marbles and a silver tea spoon) When you’ve really scored, is when you jam it, and it just hums/growls, ’til the breaker pops…then you run. Where was this going?
So Wendy (oops) was afraid of the un-known. It’s funny how our self-confidence crumbles when a camera appears. Remember being in school and a TV or still camera guy walked into a room, unannounced? Suddenly, it’s like some death-ray is coming out of the lens and it’s spraying you this “visable gook” all over you, so that you can appear into the camera’s guts. Why are they here? What did we do wrong? Why US? Or, its that wonderful, high-speed playback video our brains can fabricate from a lifetime of experiences….reliving the shock of seeing what we “really” look like in Uncle George’s snap shots. HORRORS! We cringe! We go into denial. That’s NOT ME! (It’s kind od like hearing your voice played back…you cringe thinking that’s how others’ hear you talk!!)

So Wendy (oops) was in pre-cringe, before we started making test shots. I do everything I can to describe what’s going to happen, what the rules are, how I “coach” people into positions, not “pose” people. And a whole bunch of other stuff.
Well, she, Wendy, (oops) didn’t pass-out, she listened and saw the feedback from the different frames, as we worked together. One of the miracles of digital photography is feedback. The system and workflow I use, has my camera tethered to the portrait computer. As I trip the shutter, the camera sends the images through the cable to the monitor, so we see life-sized (or larger) images of the subject AS I WORK. It’s like hearing the notes come out of the piano, as the keys are pressed. No more waiting six weeks for the proofs to come back (remember fil-um?) No, it’s not even six seconds any more.
we know when we are hitting sweet notes or sour ones. Soon, Wendy (darn-it, oops) was relieved. She listened as I showed her different frames and we would go back and make more frames of her….we found which angle was best, what side was best, etc….

Soon, we picked a final frame, then I did my usual tweak in post-processing, right in front of her, following her suggestions and surprising her with other subtle tweaks. She packed up, we shook hands, exchanged pleasantries and she left the studio. I re-sized the files for her needs and emailed the pix to her.

Four days later, in the USPS Pony Express, came a hand addressed letter to moi. I opened it, not recognizing the return address. In beautiful hand writing was this…..
“Dear John, I just wanted to thank you again for your help with my photo last week. You really made it easy and painless as possible. I also find that you gave memuch more than just a professional photo. for those who want to listen, observe and learn, you really help coach people in some of the finer / more subtle points of how to best present oneself visually – energy from the eyes, which smile / expression looks most appealing, etc……These were valuable “take-aways” from the seemingly simple 1-hour photo session. (editor’s note….this usually takes me 20 minutes…this is HOW nervous she was) I also loved and appreciated the the follow-up email and especially the the subject heading you used: “Beautiful YOU!” … an increasingly visual world & in a competitive job market & in an “up-north” community where it’s easy to sort of “let yourself go” in baggy clothes and baseball caps….Beautiful YOU! helps you make a great impression. I can see it especially targeted to the 40+ crowd – especially those trying to navigate a tough job market. (then she rambled on with ideas to and for me) She ends with “Thank you again for a wonderful experience! I am SO glad we’ve met & I hope our paths cross again soon. All the very BEST! Wendy” (oops)

So, I sat back, gobsmacked. Wow, I made a difference! Someone took the time to write me and thank me for a wake up call on her appearance. That note made my day!

Here’s the deal….see, I KNOW I’ve built the ‘better mousetrap”. After years of working and studying people, their feelings and reactions, I have captured lightning in a bottle. Everyone walking out of the studio after their session, is walking-on-air! It’s mental and physical health all in one.
And they have the photo to prove and remember it!


©2011 JohnRobertWilliams

“Give Me LOOOOVE, Baby!”

It’s 2011 and I’m NOT the guy to the left.  Anyone should know I don’t have that much hair.  Last week, as I drove through a Toll Booth on the Florida’s Turnpike, the loveliest booth operator I’d ever met thought I was, for sure, “Why, look at chew! Yer that guy on TV…sure you are….um, (snap the thumb and fingers three times)  Yer, you know…..oh, c’mon, tell me your name!!”  I glanced over at my son in the passenger seat, looking for his reaction to his dad being a famous, nameless TV guy….he never looked up, he was too busy playing Ken and Barbie, or some goofy game on his iPhone.  As she was making change, I answered as a guess…”McGuyver?”  “NOOOOO!”  “Jack Benny?”  “No, I’ll think of it!”  She handed me my change and smiled big at me.  I drove away, my 15 seconds of fame, stumped as to who she thought I was.  Just a few seconds later, it dawned on me, she thought I was Larry David.  HA!  What was she doing watching a show like his?

A couple of summer’s ago at a benefit Traverse City Film Festival party, I had a guy look over my way and say, “Hey Larry…how do you like Traverse City and this festival?  Do your kids go to Interlochen?”  I looked over my shoulder for Larry David, then I realized in a instant, what this guy thought, was that he was hitting on a celebrity at a TCFF party…..Of COURSE Larry David would be there!  “Oh”, I said, “this is a wonderful place…how do you like it?”  He started gushing on and on about how he just moved up here and paid all this money and paid for blah, blah & blah….EWWW!  Fame is a curse…and it’s worse when someone thinks you are someone you are not.  Privacy is invaded.  Suddenly, people can take all kinds of liberties with a stranger, who they are sure is “______”.  I was at least comforted at the thought that I wasn’t mistaken for Suzanne Somers.

I’m no movie star, TV star, stage idol, music super star…..I’m just little ol’ me.  A legend in my own shower.  Hanging my hat on this shiny pate for over 30 years as a “photographer”.  (Photographer, short for “Oh, I bet you take the best pitchers of butterflies out there in the field”)

Most people, including my parents (Hi mom and dad!), are clueless what a “Photo-graphic-er” is or does.  I imagine since some photographer, (person with camera in-hand) in most people’s past found some way to traumatize said victim, photographers are to be avoided like root canals.

With the advent of the electronic camera,  taking pitchers is in everyone’s hand,  just like George Eastman had envisioned a hundirt thurdy years ago…

“What the heck?  Who needs a photographer?  I got a camera!”  Thank goodness!  You…of all people, have gone out a bought a camera!  Y-O-U are a photographer now! Congratulations.  We’ve got a Baldwin piano at home, so I must be a pianist!

Many, many people like to buy photographic equipment…it’s some of the finest, most precise inventions in mankind.  Oh, and “My, what a BIG lens…..!” Every goofy ring-tone phone comes with a camera now.  (One of my boyhood friends’ phone plays the theme from the “Exorcist”, when his wife calls him……suh-weet!)  To me, cameras are a tool, a means to an end.  I don’t worship or collect them any more than a plumber collects wrenches.  Yeah, I use the best stuff out there…it’s gotta hold up to unbelievable use, travel and makeup powder.

My marketing statement for years has been…..”I don’t take pictures….I make them”.  Think about it…you don’t take a painting, you make one.  You don’t take an ashtray (in pottery class) you make one.  Everybody with a camera takes pitchers.  They don’t need me.  They already do it.  They snap their kids first poop, blowing out birthday candles, picking their friends’ nose, their first bike, first car, first drunk, they shoot everything…it’s ALL recorded.  That’s dandy.  But for all the Amateur Ansels’ out there, 99.875% of it is just noise.  Yeah, sure it’s fun.  Go get’em cowboy.  Shoot your brains out.  Shoot all day!  But making a good image from a camera, one that makes everyone go “WOW”, regardless of quality of the camera, is kinda like performing a solo, on stage, with everyone watching and listening and judging and analyzing and comparing and appreciating the ease, smoothness and collaboration with the other performers. You just don’t get up and do it.  And it’s not target practice….I don’t shoot anything.  I’m not stalking prey.  I’m not bulls-eying anything. (that’s poor composition).  Yes. I aim my lens at the subject, just like you aim your car down your lane of the road.  You’re not trying to hit anything.  You are trying to get there.

So, for almost 32 years, I keep perfecting my craft.  What do I do?  I capture light.  I don’t hunt it, it’s my primary tool.  The guy who invented the term PHOTOGRAPH, must have taken a class or two from the ancients…see it’s Greek roots are PHOTO (light) & GRAPH (write).  Write with light.  Give a chimp a camera and sooner or later, he’ll take a pitcher.  I RECORD what I light, with a camera.  Light has to caress the subject, like soft bunny fur under your chin.  I don’t take the miners-helmet-light approach of all the “shooters” with the flash perched atop their prized NiCanOlyLeiPanSonJi.  It takes a church van to move my equipment to a location.  The last case in is the camera bag.  It’s all lights, backgrounds, tools, power everything, massive this and thats, heavy as all HECK.  It’s not the camera, it’s the light. The concept, the vision.  That’s what I do. A still version of a movie set.

Why?  Because I like to create the best possible image.  Why? Because I can’t stand Mediocre.  Why? Because I can.  Because there is a market for making people, places and products look great.  Why do beauty salons exist, when we can wash our hair at home?  Why are there barber shops when we all have  a pair of scissors in our drawer?  Why do we have car washes when we have our own hose? Why do we have hospitals? Why do we have movie theatres?  Why do we have hotels, restaurants, offices?  Because of the specialized, accurate, professional care and treatment these places and people provide.

You may like to type all day, or sell things, or serve things or save things or order things….I like to make people and things look great! Unmistakably great. Wow, great.  I love to make people FEEL great.  To put a great face with their name.  To preserve and record the best possible part and look of a face, to be remembered for future generations to view at our good looks.  In future pages, you’ll see how we do it and why you should have it done.  I have heard all the excuses.  Your time is up.  Come down out of your room right now, young lady!

There’s something you need to know.



©2011 JohnRobertWilliams