Adam Marelli Photo Now Boarding Leica Air . . . Thu, 19 May 2016 13:24:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Your questions answered: Who should I study to improve my craft? Thu, 19 May 2016 12:53:28 +0000 adam [more...]]]> Your questions answered

Who should I study to improve my craft?

British photographer Dave Geffin asked:

Who (and why) are the most important artists photographers should or could look at for inspiration and understanding on how better to improve their own understanding of the craft?

Success comes in many forms.  For some it is an problem of economy.  They would like to make more money.  For others in a a philosophical problem, where they want to get at the root of why they take pictures.  Some want to make their mark on the world, while yet another would like to be “An artist’s artist” meaning that they appeal to a very small, but very informed audience.  How you define success is entirely up to you, but it is safe to say that when we want to improve our craft, we want to succeed in one way or another.  But while we can see there is a road to success, it often appears to be very long, with no end in sight.

Improving our craft is a collaboration with history.  If you want to improve your craft, don’t just study the artists you admire, study the artists that inspired them.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to “self taught photographers” rag on about how they invented something that has been in existence for hundreds of years.  Not knowing someone came before us, does not make us innovative it makes us ignorant (and who really aspires to be ignorant?!)  Not too long ago, I heard a photographer claiming he invented the use of the white background.  Meanwhile Edouard Manet used one regularly in the 1800′s for his portraits.

Edouard Manet's Portrait of the Model 1880 (using a white background)

Edouard Manet’s Portrait of the Model 1880 (using a white background)

From my own experience, I’ve looked to those people who have succeeded in the past and studied their approach.  When it comes to photography the easiest way to think about it is to study the artists that inspired the photographers you enjoy.  Let me give you an example.

A view of Mont Saint Victoire by Paul Cezanne

A view of Mont Saint Victoire by Paul Cezanne

Henri Cartier-Bresson is one of the more influential photographers of the last 100 years.  For many aspiring photographers they would love to find a signature style, work around the world, and bridge the gap between the photography and the art world like HCB did during his lifetime.  But why was he able to do this?

MEXICO. Puebla. 1963. © Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos

MEXICO. Puebla. 1963. © Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos

If you want to understand the photographers you like, don’t just look at their pictures on the internet.  Find out who they studied when they were younger.  It will reveal aspects of their work that you will not find online.  Cartier-Bresson had a few artists that he credited as being “the best.”  They were:

  • Paolo Uccello: 15th century Italian artist who was a pioneer in drawing and painting platonic solids.
  • Piero della Francesca:  15th century artist who is credited as one of the founders of Perspective and who wrote extensively on mathematics.
  • Paul Cezanne:  19th century French artist who learned perspective only to break it down piece by piece.  His post impressionist innovations because the foundation of Cubism and Futurism.

Have you heard of these artist before?  Or are they new?  If they are completely new, please look them up.  If you know the names, but cant see the connection from their work to HCB, I’d recommend the books below.  And if you know the artists and can see how their influence changed the course of HCB’s life…then share your knowledge with there photographers online.

Study of a hood in perspective by Paolo Uccello

Study of a hood in perspective by Paolo Uccello

To simplify these three artists even further, we could say that Uccello and della Francesca created a system of three dimensional form and Cezanne inherited that tradition, broke it apart and put it together again.

The Flagellation of Christ by Piero della Francesca

The Flagellation of Christ by Piero della Francesca

If you would like to improve your craft, my suggestion is to discover your artistic family roots.  Art history offers us a network of sisters and brothers in arms who share our interests.  They posses many of the same aspirations, doubts, and failures that we experience.  Their negatives, their sketchbooks and their biographies hold thousands of lessons learned that we can apply to our future work.  The experience brings us into a wonderful communion with artists that inspire us.  Through out the process we will find that most of the problems we face have already been solved before.  Why re-invent the wheel?  By learning from history, we can leap frog forward to the innovations that will fulfill our artistic path.  And then leave our lessons for the next generation.


Additional Reading

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Jaeger LeCoultre Master Class: Try your hand at the watchmaking tradition Fri, 22 Apr 2016 21:16:28 +0000 adam [more...]]]> Jaeger LeCoultre Master Class

Try your hand at the watchmaking tradition

C A L I B R E  9 8 6

Drawing detail from Dava Sobel

Drawing detail from John Harrison in Dava Sobel’s book “Longitude.”

Hands on Appreciation

One of the fastest ways to gain an appreciation for anything is to get your hands dirty.  Learn how to hem a pair of pants, sharpen a knife, or hang a wooden door.  Many of the objects we use everyday require someone to have devoted years to their craft before we can use their products.  Similar to our health, we tend not to think about them until either something breaks or we want to learn how to do it ourselves.

When we open ourselves to learning something new, our level of appreciation shoots through the roof.  In my own experience, learning a new craft always teaches me how little I really know.  It is a humbling path.  There are so many moments in life where the contributions of thousands, if not millions of hours of skill pass under my fingers and I hardly even notice them.

As an admirer and budding collector of watches, I want to increase my appreciation of what it takes to make a watch.  The steps are countless and very few watchmakers of any generation mastered them all.  My introduction to watchmaking came from John Harrison. For those of you who are also familiar with the Longitude Problem, you know who he is.  For those of you who have never heard of Harrison, I will try to sum up a lifetime of achievements in a few sentences.

John Harrison H-1 Clock

John Harrison H-1 Clock

In the 1700′s the English Crown created an award for anyone who could solve the Longitude Problem.  The aim was to create something that kept time at sea without major deviation, so captains could accurately calculate their longitude.  Eventually Harrison, who was a woodworker by trade, made a series of clocks that won the prize.  The early solution, called the H-1, measured 3′ x 3′ x 3′.  It was small enough to take aboard a ship, but not exactly pocket size.  By the time he had arrived at his later H-3, H-4, and H-5 solutions he had created the pocket watch.  This was a monumental feat that won Harrison the backing of Sir Isaac Newton and the purse, which was equivalent to about £20,000,000.

Longitude by Dava Sobel

Longitude by Dava Sobel

“With his marine clocks, John Harrison tested the waters of space-time. He succeeded, against all odds, in using the fourth—temporal—dimension to link points on the three-dimensional globe. He wrested the world’s whereabouts from the stars, and locked the secret in a pocket watch.”

When I read Dava Sobel’s book “The Longitude Problem” I was hooked on watches.  And last week, I was fortunate enough to step out side of the realm of the spectator and into the world of the watchmaker.

John Harrison's H-4 Pocket Chronometer

John Harrison’s H-4 Pocket Chronometer

A number of watch brands allow clients to take apart and reassemble watch movements.  Now this is not watch making school by any means.  It is more like wading in the shallow end of the watchmaking-pool with swimmies and a private lifeguard.  But it is fascinating nonetheless.

Jaeger LeCoultre Duoface Reverso copy

Jaeger LeCoultre Duoface Reverso

Jaeger LeCoultre arranged for Laurent Camelin, one of their watchmakers, to come to New York from Switzerland. Normally he works on their Sphyrotourbillons, Gyrotourbillons, and perpetual calendars.  In laymen’s terms, these are watches that have hundreds of moving parts and retail north of $100,000, which is why it was a great honor to have someone so eminently capable holding our hands as we took apart a far simpler movement.  We were given a Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 986 Grande Reverso Duoface watch.  Originally designed for Polo players in India, the Reverso famously turns over so you can close the face of the watch for protection.  It might not be the most exotic movement in the JLC line up, but it has a great history and was plenty for a beginner like me.

Jaeger LeCoultre Master Class Adam Marelli

Jaeger LeCoultre Master Class and the calibre 986. ©  Adam Marelli

We were given a loupe (the monocle looking thing I’m wearing), tools, and a small work bench.  Watchmaker’s work benches are set very high, so they can work comfortably while sitting.  If they were bent over at a normal height desk, the watch industry would be filled with hunchbacks and no one wants that.

From there, we were introduced to the movement.  All of its parts were described by Laurent.  We went through their functions, not the geometry and gear ratios that make it work.  Remember, we were just getting started.  Step by step we powered down the main spring. This prevents the watch from literally exploding when you take off the bridge.  We removed the main spring, the drive train, and the escapement, placing them carefully on our work bench.  You have to keep them in order, otherwise putting it back together would be even harder.

The balance wheel and screws.

The balance wheel and screws of the calibre 986. © Adam Marelli

The tools we used were purpose-built and tiny.  The screws we removed were even tinier.  As a builder I could see the logic of the watch’s construction as it came apart, but I was amazed by how fragile the whole assembly really is.  One slip with the screw driver can gouge the bridge or the main plate.  Pulling too hard on the balance wheel can break the hairspring.  The overall margin for error in a movement that only measures 4mm thick is small.  Imagine building a snowball with a pair of tweezers one snowflake at a time.

After we successfully removed all the parts, Laurent warned us that if we put it back together and every part is not perfectly seated, the movement will not work.  We will have to take it all apart and start again.  This got me thinking.  What happens when Laurent assembles a Sphyrotourbillon that has 476 parts and it does not work?  I asked if they had a special sound proof room where watchmakers can go and scream?  He said, “No but it would be a good idea to install one.”

I asked if they had a special sound proof room where watch makers can go and scream?  ”He said, no but it would be a good idea to install one.”

The correctly assembled movement.

The correctly assembled 986 movement. © Adam Marelli

Then it came time for us to try and reconstruct the watch.  As you can probably imagine, taking it apart is much easier than putting it back together.  Feeling the “correct fit” is unusual.  I think just due to the size of components the positive lock of fitting a piece in place is not as firm as you might expect.  Until the bridge locks everything together pieces kind of float in place and are very easy to knock out of alignment.

An hour after we started, all the pieces were back in place.  Humpty Dumpty was whole again and with a flick on the balance wheel, the watch came back to life.  It was ticking and beating just as it should.  It was immensely gratifying.

Jaeger LeCoultre Master Class Adam Marelli-16

Trying to be serious…and not doing a great job.

Not being so serious.

Not being so serious with Watchmaker Laurent Camelin and Adam Marelli.

To commemorate our newbie status Laurent presented us with certificates.  I asked him to do his best Swiss impression aka no smile.  He was perfect.  Afterwards we cracked a smile and took a look around the boutique.  Revisiting the watches now, they took on a new life. The Reverso somehow looked more approachable.  I could flip them over and finally understand how all those little pieces work in harmony.  Each watch felt in some way more expressive.  The high complication watches went from being novelties of many moving parts to incomprehensible testaments to patience.

But how does this connect to photography?

In a single word…interest.  One of the areas where I see many new photographers struggle is in their ability to really understand what it is that captures their interest.  Photography, in and of itself, is hardly enough unless of course you want to take pictures of cameras.  But to step inside of your interests…to feel them, take them apart, and examine why you are attracted to them will lead you down a road of self discovery.  Whether you end up in a watchmaking class or flying co-pilot in a fighter jet, a hands-on experience offers many advantages that will benefit your photography.

For me, I was grateful Jaeger LeCoultre invited me to the class.  It shows their commitment to watchmaking and watch connoisseurship. Because if each subsequent generation cannot understand the value of tradition, it runs the risk of being lost over time.



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What’s the difference: Made-To-Measure, Custom, and Bespoke Wed, 13 Apr 2016 17:00:13 +0000 adam [more...]]]> What is handmade, really?!

Getting at the heart of craftsmanship

If the jacket does not look like this, it is not bespoke. Credit Mark Cho

If the jacket does not look like this, it is not bespoke. Credit Mark Cho

A large part of my time abroad is time spent getting at the heart of craftsmanship.  It is a mission of mine to decode the cryptic world of handmade objects.  Why?  Because they are amazing and when we understand what goes into these pieces, we move past the object worship and can really appreciate the hundreds, sometimes even thousands of years that go into a tradition.

Back home I transcribe the conversations I have with craftsmen into layman’s terms.  Left in their original form they might be confusing.  My aim with these transcriptions is to create an environment that opens the conversation, where no one is afraid to ask questions.  There is NOTHING wrong with not knowing how to do something.  But there is NO EXCUSE for not asking.  Seriously, go ahead and make a fool of yourself. I do it all the time.

Asking obvious or naive sounding questions of expert craftsmen can be a bladder-emptying experience.  Sure, none of us wants to look like an idiot.  That is totally understandable,  although if I can tempt you to come across the threshold of fear/embarrassment for a moment….when you ask someone about what they do, they are usually flattered.  They are happy to explain their life’s calling to a genuinely interested person. Which is why today, I would like to delve into a topic that gets molested by marketing and advertising all the time.  They do a huge disservice to craftsman and potential clients every day.

It is a discussion I have frequently with a friend of mine and a very respectable photographer in his own right, Mark Cho.  For those of you who don’t know Mark, he started the gentlemen’s shop The Armory (which has boutiques in Hong Kong and New York City) and is co-owner of Drakes London (who recently produced the collaboration pocket square and scarf I designed for The Explorer’s Club). Mark lives in a world of artisanal clothing.  Literally anything in your wardrobe can be furnished by the artisans that Mark works with daily.  He is my clothing counterpart when it comes to loving craftsmanship.

Over lunch in Tribeca, Mark and I discussed the confusion that many of his customers have and how we can dispel some of the myths and marketing junk that muddies the very best with some of the very worst products in the world.

Mark Cho of the Armory

Mark Cho of the Armory

Made to Measure, Custom, and Bespoke

These terms get thrown around a lot.  But all handmade things are not created equally and Made-to-Measure and Bespoke are worlds apart.  What do I mean?

For those of you who are not familiar with how craftsmen use these terms, here is quick summary.  This way, when you hear someone say “oh we offer a bespoke so and so…”  you can tell whether they are the read deal or just blowing smoke up your nether region.

Ring Jacket offers brilliant read to wear and bespoke garments.  Credit Mark Cho

Ring Jacket offers brilliant read to wear and bespoke garments. Credit Mark Cho


This term is for pre-templated items that are selectively adjusted along certain measurements.

Example: Shirts. Why shirts?  Because this is a very easy example to understand.  Cars and watches are much more complicated. 

What you get:  A made to measure shirt is based on an existing template.  The main cuts and proportions are predetermined, but they will adjust the neck, sleeves, cuffs and you can pick some details like buttons, pockets and plaquettes.

What you don’t get:  For example, if your shoulders do not fit the same template as the model, you are out of luck.  This would require rebuilding the whole template and Made to Measure does not do that.  Think of it like having an off the rack item altered in advance.

The Premium:  Made to Measure is typically 25%-50% over retail.  On average this translates into a $100 shirt costing anywhere from $125-$200.  Not a bad markup if you fit the their template, but if you don’t then Made to Measure can be a complete loss.

Pocket Square for The Explorer's Club by Drakes London designed by Adam Marelli

Pocket Square for The Explorer’s Club by Drakes London designed by Adam Marelli


This term is almost meaningless.  It can be used as a cover for Made to Measure or can be improperly applied to Bespoke.  In its best scenario this usually means choosing from a selection of pre-designed elements that are then woven together.  But all in all, it is a very misleading term.

What you get:  You never know, in terms of quality, but it is often marketed as more expensive than Made-To-Measure, even if it is actually the same thing.  It very much depends on the maker.  Some customized items can be great, but the term is too vague to know whether it will be really good or not.  You can have a hand-made, custom piece that is absolute garbage.  Research what you are buying because if they are selling “custom”, things can go really wrong really fast.

What you don’t get:  You don’t get unlimited options.  This is a big mistake I’ve seen frequently in custom architecture, cars, motorcycles, clothing, and shoes.  Clients think it means anything they want, but this is rarely the case.  If you want every little request met, you are actually asking for Bespoke.

The Premium:  Inspite of the fact that custom things might only be nominally different than Made-To-Measure, the premiums are the Wild West in terms of pricing.  Items can be anywhere from 2x to 10x as expensive as retail.  Be aware of what you are really getting.

Yamamoto-san of CAID Tailors. Credit Mark Cho

Yamamoto-san of CAID Tailors. Credit Mark Cho


When this term first started gaining popular traction in everything from tailoring to travel, it was liberally applied.  But it is a whole different ball game than Made-To-Measure. Real bespoke means it is made for you from beginning to end.  To stick with the “shirt” example, they are not working off of a template, they are making you your very own.  This is where One of a Kind comes from.

What you get:  Whatever you want or can afford.  As my building mentor used to say, “You want a bathtub on the ceiling?!  Sure, as long as you pay for it.”  Bespoke means they will more or less do anything you want or whatever they will tolerate.  Some makers will turn away business that is not inline with how they like to do things.  It is up to them.

What you don’t get:  There is an old axiom in construction…Clients want Quality, Speed, and a Low Price.  In reality you can only ever get 2 of the 3.  In Bespoke you can only get 1, Quality.  True Bespoke items are NEVER fast and NEVER cheap.  But how expensive, might you ask?

The Premium:  While I’ve heard many times, If you have to ask, you can’t afford it,” that is not exactly true.  There are plenty of ways to research costs up front so your jaw does not hit the floor when they tell you the bottom line.  BUT, the safest way to figure the cost for Bespoke is to add a zero.  Yup it can be THAT expensive.  Shoes from Allan Edmonds maybe $400, shoes from JG Cleverly try $4000.  God forbid you stumble into John Lobb, there you are looking at closer to $10,000.

Say you want to buy a watch, and maybe you fancy a Rolex…you might be able to walk away for $7,000.  If you have Roger Smith, Kari Voutilainen, or Fp Journe make you one, it could be $100,000-$650,000, and if your watchmaker is only making severely limited quantities like Philippe DuFour, you could be bidding against other collectors for over $1,000,000.

If you find yourself in the world of shirts, you might get a decent dress shirt for around $100 at a shop.  But head over to Leonard Logsdail and you will find a 3 shirt minimum at $500 per shirt.  If that doesn’t get you to where you want to be, try Luigi Borrelli for $800 per shirt.

The point is, when a high end craftsman starts from scratch for a client, it can come at an enormous premium.  It is clearly not for everyone.  But the amount of work that goes into making a template for a single client is fantastically time consuming.

Koji Suzuki's bespoke loafers, which are designed to age beautifully. Credit Mark Cho

Koji Suzuki’s bespoke loafers, which are designed to age beautifully. Credit Mark Cho

The Artisans mentioned above

If you would like to look further at any of the artisans above, I wanted to include the links.  And in full disclosure, I don’t get any money from these guys, I just think they make great things.


Enjoy the treasures you discover!



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How to take criticism: Part 2, learn how to give it properly Tue, 12 Apr 2016 12:34:16 +0000 adam [more...]]]> How to Take Criticism

Part 2, learn how to give it properly

 Taeko Kawaguchi Adam Marelli-2

As a follow up to How to Take Criticism: Part 1, I’d like to delve further into the ideas that roll around in my head when I look at someone else’s pictures.  One of the best ways to learn how to take criticism is to learn how to give it.

Being on the giving end changes the game of critiquing for a lot of people.  Now, I’m not talking about the criticism you see on Facebook or YouTube, where constructive criticism is confused with personal attack.  If someone says they think you are a “D*ck-bag mother-f*cker and I hope your unborn children all rot in H*ll…” (actual quote from something I saw on YouTube) do not fret.  That is not criticism, that is a plea for help delivered in the form of a personal attack.  We won’t be exploring the psychotic realms of keyboard warriors today.  Instead, let’s look at a clear and simple way that you can offer reviews to friends that will actually help them understand how well they are communicating their ideas in pictures.

Think for a moment how frequently we feel misunderstood when we speak, now imagine that confusion gets compounded by 100 when we take pictures.  Given the opportunity to fully express the ideas and emotions that we have, we don’t often get it right. Arguments with friends, family, and partners are a testament that communication is actually very difficult to do regularly.  If we take the same range of ideas and emotions and remove ALL of the WORDS, you can see how things get a lot trickier.  The range of interpretation just went from moderate to Biblical.

This is why, when I review pictures for someone, I think it is only fair to let them know what I am looking for, so that even if I misunderstand their intentions they at least have a sense of how the pictures appeared and what I was looking for in them.

Taeko Kawaguchi © Adam Marelli-3

How do I review a photograph?

There are three main things that I look for in every picture.  This is no matter what type of photography, be it documentary, street, portrait, landscape, still life, fine art, conceptual, whatever…I am looking for three things.

The three things are:

  • Formal elements
  • Content
  • Point of View

 Taeko Kawaguchi  Adam Marelli-4


Because the combination of these three elements can be rearranged in near endless variety, and if they perfectly overlap with something else, then the picture lacks the unique stamp of the photographer…which means, they need to keep working.

It is the criterion that I put on every picture, project, and series I make.  I do not always pass my own test, which is why my hard drives have hundreds of thousands of shots and I have only a few hundred published pictures.

And what do I mean by Formal Elements, Content and Point of View?  Let me explain in the simplest language possible, because the art and photo world have enough fancy-nonsensical language to put even a lawyer to sleep.

Formal Elements

Formal Elements are the building blocks of a picture.  They start with light and geometry.  They are the whites and blacks, the shapes and colors of every photo.  Every picture has a combination of lights and darks.  If it didn’t it would just be a sheet of white or black paper.  The way a photographer chooses the light, shapes, directions, and the intensity of each of these makes up the Formal Elements.

Formal elements, on their own, have ZERO meaning.  A triangle doesn’t mean more than a square.  The Rule of Thirds is not more pleasing than the 1.5 grid.  These constructs simply EXIST, but they become connected to content, which is where they get their meaning.


Simply put, Content is the meaning that we give to a picture.  It is a belief.  In many cases it is a shared belief, which is why people react similarly to the same picture, but always remember it is a belief and not a fact.  The fact is that it is a photograph, what it means is forever flexible.

This is where most of the world gets stuck, because something like “colors” means different things in different cultures.  Color has no inherent meaning.  We give it meaning and then we agree on it.

Content is a slippery slope because the meaning can and will change with its surroundings.  But that does not stop us from debating it until we are blue in the face.  Which is why I look at content in relationship to the person who made it.  This gets me to the last building block.

Point of View

When I look at a picture, I ask myself “Why should I be looking at this?” Does this photographer have anything insightful to say about the world they are photographing?  It does not matter if they are a photo journalist or constructing dioramas in their basement, there is something in front of a lens and they chose to push the shutter…WHY?

The major problem with this is that many photographers have no idea.  They chalk it up to intuition.  And while every other professional field in the world has a level of intuition, from making a business deal to playing the violin or dodging a punch in a boxing ring…if we do not separate what we do as photographers from what surveillance cameras do, then we are nothing more than expensive recording devices.

What the history of culture, call it high culture if you like, of literature, art, music have shown us over the course of 50,000 years of history is that humans enjoy the perspectives, insights, and points of view of people who have a compelling presence.

The only photography that has ever held my attention is one where I can feel the presence of a photographer who has a point of view about the thing they are photographing.

 Taeko Kawaguchi  Adam Marelli-5

Sum It All Up

If the form, content, and point of view do not reveal enough interesting material about the things that are inside the picture…it is a pass.

But…if that mixture leads to a curious insight about a moment frozen in time forever, then we are on to something and should have a closer look.


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Your questions answered: How do I email pictures for a review? Fri, 25 Mar 2016 21:27:19 +0000 adam [more...]]]> Your questions answered  

How do I email pictures for a review?

Your questions answered Adam Marelli

A question that I get at least once a week, is “How should I send my pictures?”

While this might seem obvious to a lot of people, there are many photographers who don’t know the best way to email pictures.  There is nothing wrong with not knowing and it’s always better to ask someone who knows how to properly email pictures so it is easier on the receiving end.

Why does it matter?  Because sending your pictures the right way can mean the difference between getting a gig or not…or even having your pictures looked at.

It is the number 1 mistake that most photographers make and they don’t even know they are making it.  It can be a lesson learned the hard way or by reading the list below, which will save you all the trouble.

How do i email pictures for a review-2

Why email pictures?

Part of the problem that most photographers have is they misunderstand the purpose of emailing photos.  The point is to get someone on the receiving end to look at them as easily as possible.  Anything that makes the pictures harder to look at is going to cost you. Personally I don’t mind if Workshop or One on One students make these mistakes, but if anyone is trying to get a review, job, gig, exhibition, or is pitching their work, it is critical to not make any of these common mistakes.  It can literally cost you thousands of dollars a year.

 How do i email pictures for a review-1

First let’s look at the mistakes, so you know

What NOT to do:

Do NOT send Zip Folders.  It is one extra step someone must take to unzip them, and most likely there are too many pictures in the set or the files are too big.  How many is too many pictures?  Depending on the type of email, usually 10-20 max is fine.  Try sending someone 50 pictures and they may never respond.

Do NOT send High Res pictures (printing size.)  No one needs to see every detail in the picture.  In all likelihood, most galleries, clients, collectors, and editors will only skim the pics anyway.  They might not even look at them on a computer.  28MB files are not going to help you.

How do i email pictures for a review-4

Do NOT use Dropbox, Google Drive or any other file share.  Why?  They are an infernal pain in the ass.  If I have to go somewhere other than the email to look at the pictures, it is a fuss.  Then if I need to go back to them I have to remember, was that an email, or GDrive or Dropbox.  I want them all in one easy place…like my inbox.  Remember, the aim is to the make life easier for the receiver.  If they have to do additional steps like open other windows, preview, download or anything other that just look at the pictures, you are working against yourself.

Do NOT send links.  Think of your email as a neatly wrapped, curated package that puts you in the best possible light for consideration.  Emailing a link, aside from requiring more effort on the receiver’s part, shows that you have not put something together for them.  Only send links if they ask.  And if they do ask, put the link in the email, NOT in the signature.  And don’t send links to private galleries on hosting sites like Smugmug, etc.

Do NOT cover the picture with watermarks.  Sending pictures for review with a watermark is like telling the person you think they might steal your pictures.  Not the idea you want to put forward.  The only time I will ever send something with a watermark is a proof for editorial.  And the watermark is small and in the corner.

Do NOT label the pictures with the receivers name.  I can’t tell you how many people send me folders and files called “Adam Marelli.”  I am Adam Marelli, not the pictures.  And when I want to look up your pics, I should be searching for your name, not mine.

Do NOT send emails asking “Hey can you plz check out my pics?”  If someone can’t be bothered to put together a full sentence about their own work, no one will take them seriously.  That is a guaranteed way to never get work reviewed.

Lastly, be aware that if you are asking someone to look at your pictures, make sure they offer reviews.  Like many professionals, I offer paid reviews.  Why?  Because it makes for a mutual exchange.  When someone asks me to review their pictures, I do so at the best of my ability.  My One on One students can attest that I go through every image, make formal and conceptual recommendations based on their questions, and send follow up resources and links.  Reviewing is part of the work for me and many other photography professionals.  As a photographer, you don’t want people asking you to do free work…so why would you ask someone else to do it?

What TO do

Ok, now that we have the boo-boo’s out of the way, let’s talk about how you can send pictures so that people will actually look at them.

Do size your pictures for email.  1500px across the long edge at 200-300 dpi jpeg will do just fine.

Name your files with your or the project name.  eg.  ”In the field. Katie Garrison-1″  or even more basic “Iceland-1 Doug Meyers”

Paste your pictures right into the email.  This way, when the email opens in most browsers, the pictures open automatically.

Put your text at the top.  You never know if they get to the bottom of the email so say your hellos and goodbyes at the top.

Tell them what the email is for, even if they are expecting it.  You never know how busy someone might be.  It is a good refresher for their memory.  It could look like this:  ”Hi Catherine, Here is a small collection of the images from Patagonia that I took last June.  I look forward to reviewing them together in our session.”  That’s it…no need to go into all the details, that can be handled later.  Things like client or editorial pitches might have a few extra lines, but be quick and to the point.

And if all else fails and you are not sure what to do, ask someone who does.  There are enough photographers online that there is certainly someone you can turn to for help.  In fact I might know someone…



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Sneak Peek: A\MARELLI x Chapman Camera Bag Mon, 21 Mar 2016 22:37:24 +0000 adam [more...]]]> S N E A K  P E E K

A\MARELLI x Chapman Camera Bag

Made in the England

Camera bags…the most loved and hated accessory a photographer can own.  Camera bags always feel like the victims of “design by committee.”  They are the best-average solution.  In making my own camera bags, my aim was to bring a singular vision back to everything I use, one object at a time.  I started with camera bags and next it will be camera straps.  What I did not expect was that so many people would enjoy the uniqueness of my designs.

A\MARELLI Camera Bag No 1 © Alvaro Lucena 3 MARELLI Camera Bag No 1 © Alvaro Lucena MARELLI Camera Bag No 1 © Alvaro Lucena 1 MARELLI Camera Bag No 1 © Alvaro Lucena 2 MARELLI Camera Bag No 1 © Alvaro Lucena 6 MARELLI Camera Bag No 1 © Alvaro Lucena 5

The first round of bags I made with Slow Tools was only ever intended to be a short run.  The logistics of their operation in Japan and my very small production numbers meant that only a few people would ever get the bags.  Each one was individually numbered and included a hand written card.  But week after week, requests for the bags continued.  Based on your enthusiasm, I decided to do another round.  But this time with English manufacturer Chapman Bags.

Outfitters of hunting and game bags, Chapman is top notch.  Their parachute webbing and heavy duty fabrics (18-24oz.), meant that I could have a new set of options for another bag.  And most importantly, their bags fit the natural aesthetic we all love.  The bags feel at home in the field and can easily hang over the shoulder of a blazer or sweater and not feel like a piece of camping gear.  My friends who have to photograph watch events like SIHH and Basel will be excited.

Chapman’s factory is set in Cumbria in the heart of pastoral northern England.  Almost everything they produce is made in house. They still use paper templates for each of their designs.  Chapman are the type of craftsmen that we visit during a workshop and I photograph professionally…by which I mean real artisans.

Here is a video preview of their work and a taste of what you can expect from the new A/MARELLI x Chapman Camera bag.  If you are interested in being added to the “Please Notify” list, drop us an email here and we will keep you updated.






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How to take criticism: Part 1 Thu, 17 Mar 2016 23:13:11 +0000 adam [more...]]]> How to take criticism

Taking criticism is an artform.  It terrifies many people, but should not.  We crave feedback, but criticism comes with baggage.  It takes years to learn how to cut through the b/s and get a good review versus some of the horror stories I have heard over the years.

You might not know your reviewer, where their head is at that day, or if they had an argument with their partner this morning.  The day they are having can totally affect your review.  I’ve seen people give consecutive reviews that were on par with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  By that I mean they were absolutely mental one day and perfectly level the next.  If you take their bad day to heart, it might do you some damage.  So here are a few survival tips.  And instead of jumping over the moon at every compliment or selling all of your gear if they don’t like your stuff, here is a look at how I take criticism through two reviews of my work by the folks at LensCulture.  This is part 1.

My submission

My submission

My submission

My submission

What to expect from a review

Critiques are nothing new to me.  I’ve had my drawing, photography, sculpture and paintings reviewed nonstop since I was in my early teens.  The feedback has been everything from “oh my god that is amazing” to “are you sure you really want to be an artist?”  Keep in mind this is all done to test your willpower.  Good, bad, or indifferent, the best thing to do with criticism is learn to tease out the useful stuff and disregard the opinion, conjecture, and outright junk.  All reviewers are different, but photo-people tend to say the same things in reviews.  I’m telling you this so you know what to expect and how to skip through it.  As you read Lens Culture’s review of my work, see if you can spot them.

“I want to see more.”  Always, always, always…unless you have laid down a flawless set of 200+ images, reviewers want to see more.

ADVICE:  Nod, smile, and tell them you are still working.  The funny thing is, you might only be able to submit a limited number of pictures, so they might be reviewing a selection because that’s all there is at that time.  Asking for more is a knee jerk reaction from most people.  Try not to fault them for it.

“I wish there was more explanation or context” or “I wish more was left up to the imagination”

ADVICE:  Some people like to learn, while others like to fill in the blanks.  You will get one or the other in a reviewer. Figure out who you are dealing with and ask them to elaborate…what more would they like to see that would make it better for them, or what should be left out.  If they don’t tell you what they want to see and why, the critique is worthless.  Reviewers need to substantiate everything they are saying…why?  Because that is the purpose of the review.

“Do you know the work of so and so?”

ADVICE:  Reviewers are usually academics first.  If they are into photography and not a photographer themselves, they usually went to school for it.  Which means, when they look at pictures, they think about research.  It’s a tendency that was hammered into them. For you, as the photographer, it is good to know about other people doing similar things, even if the connection is loose.  You want to know your market.  Take notes and if the connections aren’t clear, ask where they see a similarity.

“Can you develop this part more”

ADVICE:  Be careful here…take input, but don’t make work to please them.  Unless they are funding your project, they are only one person.  I’ve seen people give reviews and ask photographer to develop the most absurd niches of a project that are barely relevant because the reviewer has a personal interest in that area.  On the flip side, I’ve seen reviewers point out some connections the photographer missed and it ended up coming together beautifully.

To put all of this into context, here is Lens Culture’s review of my new project “Zen in the Art of Archery (after Herrigel)”  See what you can spot and let me know if this was helpful in the comments below.

Lens Culture Reviewer Feedback


You have quite a compelling and engaging project here. Thanks for sharing your series looking inside the world of Kyudo with us at LensCulture. Of the many photography documentary series I have looked through, you have hit, (no pun intended), on a unique story to tell. And it’s connection to “Zen in the Art of Archery” adds extra interest. I strongly encourage you to continue and put in the work necessary to take it to the next level.

Overall – I want to see more! While you have some strong photographs here, it feels a bit like a first visit to the space. Are you able to go back? Repeated visits are truly the way to uncover unexpected moments and gain a more complete picture of the practice of Kyudo. You almost want to go so much that you get bored with the space and the practice – that is often when the more nuanced and evocative photographs begin to surface. You have a strong natural feel for portraiture, with image 1 being a standout example. The woman’s gaze and gesture are compelling here, but it is the light that really makes this image. Wow, the light in the space is fantastic – what a photographic gift! And you are using the light quite well in all of your photographs. Keep considering how it shapes and transforms the space as you continue photographing. On a compositional note, though, I think more space around the woman would make the photograph even stronger. The crop on her sleeve and the bow feels just a bit awkward. Push yourself to vary your framing and composition a bit more and see what evolves.

Image 2 is quite a strong photograph as well, while I see where you were thinking with including the full 1-2-3 sequence, there may be other ways to show the full arc of the shot, without being quite so specific. Of the three, I would keep photograph 2 for sure with her expression and the framing it is set apart from the rest. You have quite a good eye for detail and your instinct to include moments such as 7, 8 and 10 is spot on. Keep looking to incorporate details as you continue photographing. I like where you are headed with image 5 as well – good idea to use the mirrors as a compositional element. More than that though, it gives the viewer a new look at the Kyudo practice and process. Look for more moments like this when you go back.

Also, I’d suggest revisiting your statement a bit here. At the moment it is descriptive of your personal interest in the project and connection to photography and Cartier Bresson, but it doesn’t give much of a framework about Kyudo. Or what might have struck Cartier Bresson in particular as he read “Zen in the Art of Archery”. A quote from the book itself could be interesting to incorporate. Above all – do keep going with this! I see a lot of potential here and certainly hope to see more!

Additional Recommendations

Recommended Books

Other Photo Competitions to Consider

Portfolio Reviews to Consider


Getting a portfolio review can be nerve-racking the first time, but let me know if you found this helpful so I can share more of my experiences of the critique process.  In the end, I hope to make it more successful for you.





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Adam Marelli Photo Brigade: My thoughts on Workshops, Travel, and the Art of Photography Sun, 13 Mar 2016 15:22:04 +0000 adam [more...]]]> Adam Marelli on the Photo Brigade

My thoughts on Workshops, Travel, and the Art of Photography

Robert Caplin, founder of the Photo Brigade, was kind enough to invite me to a session at Adorama here in New York City.  We recorded our time together and it went up on YouTube a while back.  Today they are hosting their 100th podcast and Robert pointed out that my session is one of their highest viewed talks yet.  I’m really humbled that photographers enjoyed the piece and responded so positively.

Hopefully it answers a number of your questions about workshops, photography, and the business of becoming a professional.  Please enjoy the video and let me know your thoughts in the comment section below.

Looking forward to the next time.


Adam Marelli 3 © Robert Caplin

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Your Questions Answered: What do you think about when you take a picture? Mon, 07 Mar 2016 17:13:42 +0000 adam [more...]]]> Maiko Tomitae in Kyoto © Adam Marelli

Maiko Tomitae in Kyoto © Adam Marelli

Dear Adam, 

Hmm… As I’ve told you before, your Bridging the Gap video lesson really reset my ways of searching for scenes-can’t stop recommending it to others! Your introduction of the visual language helped me starting to discover its different elements when studying photographs of others. It’s so much easier now to decide whether a photograph “works” or not.

When it comes to my personal photographing I feel that I have quite a few more roads to walk to improve my framings, but when I’m out I aim to capture at least two visual elements. My question is; When trying to work a scene, what runs through Adam Marelli’s mind? Or maybe in other words; How and what do you look for when “fishing the spot”?

–Erlend Klevjer Aas

Hi Erlend,

If I could, I’ll break your question into two parts.

  1. How do I look for a spot to take pictures?
  2. What do I look for when I take a picture?

The complete answer to this is long enough that prior to your question, I was already working on a book addressing this topic.  The inner workings of every photographer are different.  The evidence is the photograph.  I don’t intend to speak for all photographers, but this is my approach.

Question 1:  How do I look for a spot to take pictures?

This one is easy…I shoot things that interest me, things I don’t fully understand, or things that I want to experience in greater depth. Most of my interests reveal themselves with a little research and thinking.  For example, if I’m interested in Japanese craftsmen, I go to Japan.  I can’t shoot that subject matter in NYC.  The hardest part is boiling down your interests.

Many people have their interests trained out of them.  People are unaware of what their interests are because they don’t have the time to really think about them. Being embarrassed by them, many people feel the need to find something “cooler.”  Or they have an interest but it is too big of a leap from where they are. Like wanting to photograph big mountains, but only having a weekend to travel from the Great Plains.

It usually takes me a long time after shooting something to fully understand why I was drawn to that place.  The inner workings of my own desires are not always clear.  Sometimes I get an urge and I just see where it takes me.  Instinct has never led me astray.

What I DON’T shoot are other people’s interests, such as:

Trends: When you’re a student of art history, one thing becomes immediately clear.  Trends change frequently, even within an artist’s lifetime.  Every major artist in history experienced periods of unpopularity or complete irrelevance.  Chasing trends is like trying to grab smoke.  Grasping it is an illusion.

Genres:  I have no interest in, for example, “Landscape photography.”  There are landscape shots that I find interesting, but the entire genre does not speak to me.  When you start to examine why you take pictures, genres fade away pretty quickly.

Sensationalism:  The camera allows many photographers to take pictures that will make headlines.  And for some, it is a way of life. For me, there is not a single “headline” photograph that held my interest over time.  Sensationalism dies off pretty quickly.  Cezanne painted apples, Morandi painted bottles, and Michelangelo painted muscles.  Nothing new there…the artistry is not in the subject matter, but in how they saw it.

For “Likes”:  No amount of writing will ever eliminate this trend.  But I see photographers breaking their backs in the quest for more “likes.” Some know they are doing it, others deny it, but it is a vicious cycle. Imagine someone said this to you:

We are going to give you a platform for your photography, here’s what it looks like:

  • Every picture will be displayed at the size of 4 postage stamps.
  • Your audience will only ever spend a few seconds looking at it.
  • It will appear next to ads for shopping and political campaigns.
  • And in 100 years there will be almost no trace that it ever existed.

This is social media, the best and worst thing to happen to photography since the invention of 35mm film.  Use it, but don’t let it use you.

Take pictures you feel passionate about, make actual photographs so other people can enjoy your work, and buy prints from photographers you admire.  Everything else is online photo masturbation.  If you think I’m making this up, just see how many of the higher ups at social media companies follow the viewing trends of online pornography.  Ask around, you might be amazed.

QUESTION 2:  What do I look for when I take a picture?

As I mentioned above, I have a book’s worth of ideas on the topic.  There are formal, conceptual and historical parts of my process, but right now I’d like to focus just on the moment that I push the shutter.

Once I find something that holds my attention, I watch and listen.  Everything reveals itself over time.  It is a matter of being patient enough and sensitive enough to know it is happening before you.

We see our interests…cultivate those and the world becomes a different place.  Or to put it in your words, I fish where I think there will be fish. That could be outside of your front door or 4,000 miles away.  Go to where your fish are waiting for you.

Best of luck Erlend,


If you would like to submit a question to “Your questions answered,” please leave it in the comment thread below or email us at


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A preview of the Florence Photography Workshop with Adam Marelli and Leica Store Miami Thu, 03 Mar 2016 17:23:57 +0000 adam [more...]]]> A preview of the Florence Photography Workshop with Adam Marelli and Leica Store Miami

A R T  H I S T O R Y ,  C R A F T S M E N ,  &  P H O T O G R A P H Y

Adam Marelli was featured in The Rake online, pictured here in Florence, Italy last Fall. © Stacy Berman

Adam Marelli was featured in The Rake online, pictured here in Florence, Italy last Fall. © Stacy Berman

Please enjoy this preview and get an inside look at what makes these workshops unique and why photographers keep coming back year after year. Look forward to seeing you in Florence!

Location:  FLORENCE / ITALY  
3 day workshop:  2,450 USD One spaces left
Dates:  Friday, May 6–Sunday, May 8, 2016

Sign up:

Adam Marelli Florence Photography Workshops

Adam Marelli Florence Photography Workshops

Adam Marelli Florence Photography Workshops

Adam Marelli Florence Photography Workshops

Adam Marelli Florence Photography Workshops

Adam Marelli Florence Photography Workshops

Adam Marelli Florence Photography Workshops

Adam Marelli Florence Photography Workshops

Adam Marelli Florence Photography Workshops

Adam Marelli Florence Photography Workshops

Adam Marelli Florence Photography Workshops


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