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What’s in a name?

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I’m often asked – how did you pick the name for your business? What does Ars Nova Images mean? I’m afraid I don’t have a terribly good answer to that question. In 2008 when I started this business I had no idea if this business would take off and how laser focused I would become on headshots. My background before photography was(and still is!) classical music and ‘Ars Nova’ refers to a style of music that flourished in the 14th century. In latin it means ‘New Art’ or ‘New Technique’. It’s a term I was familiar with that seemed appropriate for a photography business- plus it sounded cool! I wasn’t completely sure what I wanted to do with photography so ‘New Art’ seemed open ended enough that I would cover anything I might want to do.

Time for a change

As the business has grown I’ve realized the importance of focus. Headshots are all I do and not only that-  a specific style of headshots with a specific workflow and delivery. So I’ve tried to show this in the clearest way possible with my portfolio and how my site is organized. I only offer a few products and services. Detailed and concise information about what my clients are looking for is never more than a click away. I make a pointed effort NOT to be all things to all people in the hopes of only attracting clients who want exactly what I’m offering. It’s time that the business name also reflects this focused approach. So I’m changing from simply ‘Ars Nova Images’ to ‘Ars Nova Images Headshot Studio’.


Not a terribly huge change but I think one that reinforces exactly what this business is about.

3 Ways the Lytro Illum Could Change Photography

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Lytro recently announced the Illum. This camera features a 30-250mm zoom lens, 4 inch touch screen and a stunning design. It offers much more functionality than Lytro’s first generation camera which in many ways now seems like a proof of concept design.


Lytro First Generation


The New Lytro Illum

Rethinking Camera Sensors

The Lytro cameras are unique. In addition to collection light and color information they are able to capture the direction of the light- or ‘lightfield’ as they have termed it. This allows the user to refocus the image after they have taken it. The effect is really quite stunning and Lytro highlights this with a proprietary image player that allows viewers to explore the image by refocusing the image as they wish.

This technology is exciting and I think could seriously change the way photographers work. Here are three techniques based on this technology that I think might become commonplace.

1.) Image masking by distance

Traditional image masking(or green screening) is done by painstakingly selecting a color area to remove from the final image. This becomes even more difficult(sometimes impossible) when dealing with flyaway hairs or a shallow depth of focus where part of the subject is blurred- blending in even more with what is behind it. If the lightfield can detect the light direction and focus selectively based on that- it may be possible for editing software to use that information to create a mask based on distance. For example it would be incredibly useful for me when retouching headshots as I often tweak the backdrops to some degree. In theory masking would be as easy as setting a distance to mask out(ei: anything beyond 5 feet).

2.)Focus stacking a single image

Focus stacking is a wonderful technique used to great effect in macro photography. In a nutshell, the photographer takes many images at very slight distance intervals moving the plane of focus each time. Then via software these images are put together using only the parts that are in razor focus- creating a shot that would otherwise be impossible. The effect is also often used in product photography. This effect is nearly impossible to achieve with moving subjects(like headshots!) because the subject moves slightly between each shot. This could also allow a greater depth of field when a small aperture is not possible(low light photography for example).

3.) Pulling focus in post

Lytro does not offer any video modes- but they have said that in theory this is possible and it is just a matter of time before computing power will allow them to capture videos will enough lightfield information to change focus in post. This has huge implications and could make shooting video much cheaper. Manual focus pulling systems are wildly expensive and also require a huge amount of skill to operate correctly. If pulling focus could be moved entirely to post work via a software solution- that would have huge implications in film making an also might allow camera and focus moves that simply are not possible via manual focus pulling.


The original Lytro camera did not see mass appeal and I’m not sure this camera will either(though this is a HUGE step in the right direction). But it seems clear that this technology is incredible powerful and as it improves it will become just another tool that photographers rely on to create even better images.

2013 Snapshot – 386 Headshots!

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Ars Nova Images began in 2008. What started off as an interesting side project has become a very robust business. Every year since I have doubled my work volume. 2013 was the most productive by far but I never actually took the time to count exactly how many people I shot- until now. Ars Nova Images averaged more than one per day- 386 headshots.

Screen Shot 2013-04-10 at 5.49.44 PM

66 headshots shot over two days in 2013 for UDC.

What’s next?

There simply isn’t enough time in the year for me to double my work volume yet again but I have some ideas on where I’d like Ars Nova to go in 2014…stay tuned.

Photographic Business Cards

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Many of my headshot clients need an image to use in their marketing materials. This often includes business cards. About a year ago I decided to collaborate with wonderful brand identity Alex Kirhenstein – designer at Draward to create some really high end photographic business cards. I couldn’t be happier with the final results and I’m happy I’m able to offer this service to my clients. We have 6 templates to choose from which I customize for each client. The final product is printed via moo.com on high end thick stock gloss paper.

Backing Up Data- Part 2

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Backing up Data on Location

This post is more of a best practices of how to deal with data safety when shooting on location. CF or SD card corruption is rare- but when it happens it’s a very scary thing. It’s only happened to me once and luckily I was able to retrieve the data using recovery software. It’s not worth the stress! And it can be avoided- here’s my method.

Create 3 backups instantly

Might sound fancy but it’s really not. Shoot with a camera that has dual card slots. Shoot RAW to both- easy. While you are doing this tether capture everything to a laptop. Three backups with no extra effort! When shooting headshots tethering is already a best practice and helps improve the quality and flow of the session.

Dropbox is Your Friend

One of the first things I do when setting up on location is get onto the guest wifi network. It’s not really reasonable to upload everything from the session to dropbox but I usually am able to do a quick DNG export of all my final ‘keeper’ images to a folder in dropbox. This way if I anything happens to my gear on the way back to the office I’m covered.

Backing up data – Best Practices

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Backing up data is a huge priority for me. At any given moment I have 5 backups of every headshot I’ve ever taken. I’ve never actually had a serious loss of data but I don’t consider this approach overkill. With my backup system I’m trying accomplish a few goals:

  • Quick restore of my entire computer- On site backup
  • Cloud restore options
  • Additional offsite Backup

For onsite backup I use Time Machine. It’s simple and easy. I’ve restored from Time Machine when upgrading computers- no complaints. For cloud backup I use Crash Plan. It backs up everything to the cloud automatically and I can access my file system anywhere- even on my iphone. My additional offsite backup is a simple copy of all my photography work backed up every few months and stored in a safe location away from my office. If I ever lost my data my first choice would be to restore from the cloud but an actual hard disc could come in handy to get back up and running fairly quickly. Lastly I have all final retouched images stored on SmugMug. I use SmugMug for digital file delivery but I also take advantage of the unlimited storage to serve as yet one more backup.

Stayed tuned for another post dealing with safe data storage when shooting off site.