Before and After


This is a photo of a beautiful woman. One of my mentors, Jay Maisel (, states  the components of a great photograph are light, color, and gesture. I would add DETAIL to the components. Jay would probably comment that detail goes without saying. I am certainly not going to argue with him but will make several points.

Do as much as you can in the camera, cropping, exposure, bokeh, etc. When photographing people, good hairstyling and makeup before the shoot make post-editing a lot easier. Unfortunately, the time for or availability of a hairstylist and makeup artist is not always there. That is where post-shoot editing comes into play. I use Lightroom® and Photoshop® but admit my skills with the latter are limited. The “automatic” software for editing portraits usually gives a Barbie Doll® look that is not my preference.

I have chosen to seek out someone with the knowledge and experience I do not have for editing. Peter Bergeron ( has the skills and talent to meet my needs for “serious” editing. Peter has a Master’s Degree from SCAD and has been editing and printing photos for many years. The following are BEFORE and AFTER closeups of the above photo, thanks to Peter.




Copyright Dan Biggerstaff Photography. All rights reserved © 2016










The majority of photographs taken today remain in the dark vaults of a hard drive, never to see the light of day. A relative few are posted in various places on the internet, most soon to be forgotten.  A privileged number end up on photographic paper, and even a lesser elite few are framed to be displayed on a wall or placed in a prominent place.  Such a waste!

My two jobs, medicine and photography, are distinct and separate but occasionally cross paths. Recently, I was chatting with a new gyn patient in my office, when all of a sudden she appeared to become upset. I asked what was wrong, and she stated that a photograph leaning against the wall in my office ready to be hung reminded her of her childhood in Jamaica. She wanted to know where I had taken the photo, and I responded in Viet Nam. She recounted that the primitive stove looked exactly like the one on which her mother cooked when my patient was a child. We both agreed that it was amazing that two distant and distinct cultures would use the same appliance. This teapot on a wood-burning stove caught my eye in a market in a remote part of Viet Nam.



Copyright Dan Biggerstaff Photography. All rights reserved © 2015


Occasionally, I see a potential photograph that I consider to be a gift – something where the elements of color, light and gesture all seem to come together, almost magically. I said a potential photograph because to turn it into reality you have to at least have a camera.

Recently, The Thirty Fifth Annual Telfair Ball was held here in Savannah. There was a light check the night before the ball to which I accompanied my wife; she was The Chair of the event. Even though she would prefer me not to, I must give especially her, all the other volunteers, and the staff at the museum kudos for all of the hard work she devoted to the ball, and the resulting success.  Equipped with with my camera (Nikon D800) and tripod and a 24-70mm, f2.8 lens, I was not sure what I would see at the light check. As we were walking towards the Jepson Center (where dinner would be served), this (potential) photo is what came into view. The ladder on the left was used to adjust the projection above the entrance to The Art Center. Life-sized styrofoam and plywood silhouettes of musicians were constructed to promote the theme of the event. The light, color, and gesture  were all enhanced by the street light outside the museum. The only thing missing at that moment was the music. The particulars include ISO 200, 24 mm, f5.0, and 1/8 sec. The self-timer on the camera was used to minimize shake.



Part 2: The morning after the ball, we were driving by the museums and saw that the silhouetted musicians had been moved near the entrance of the Jepson to be soon disassembled for storage. We drove home to get my camera and to the office to get the lighting equipment. By now it is 11 AM, with the museum opening at noon – short on time. There is plenty of natural light coming through the floor-to-ceiling windows of the Jepson, but I wanted to create a feeling of night time to go along with the theme. The single light source was a Profoto B1 monolight with a magnum reflector and medium-blue gel. The camera is handheld at ISO 200, 45mm, f10.0, and 1/320 sec.


After repositioning the silhouettes on the stairway leading to the second floor, this was the final shot using the same settings.



Copyright Dan Biggerstaff Photography. All rights reserved © 2015

Stained-Glass Photography

Barts Heart Centre is a brand-new, state-of-the-art health-care-facility at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London. Savannah-based stained-glass artist, Erica Rollings (, was asked to create a piece for the new hospital. Three months work resulted in an amazing stained-glass masterpiece of an anatomically-correct human heart, and it is almost 3 feet square. The piece is actually two stained-glass windows sandwiched together to show both an internal anatomy and that of the coronary arteries on the outside of the heart.

Prior to being packaged for shipment, Erica asked me to photograph the window. Most of us have taken photos of stained glass in cathedrals and other public locations “in-situ.” Photographing the art piece “in-the-raw” provides a unique opportunity to minimize distortion. The first consideration is to make sure the plane of the film or sensor (in the case of digital photography) is parallel to to window – and at the same time the center of the lens should be at the same height as the center of the of the window. If the format of the camera does not exactly match that of the window, in-camera cropping should allow enough space around the piece for post-production cropping. The final consideration is the lighting. Front lighting causes the window to lose texture and flattens the colors. The best choice is back lighting, either actual or artificial sunlight – at an angle that mimics the real thing. Side lighting can bring out the lead “came” or strips of lead used to join the pieces of glass. This photograph was taken in the artist’s backyard using backlit sunlight. The particulars include Nikon D800, ISO 100, Nikon 70-200 mm f2.8 lens at 160 mm, f11, 1/80th sec.



Copyright Dan Biggerstaff Photography. All rights reserved © 2015

Low Light Photography


Low light photography does not always require flash. This photo was taken as part of a series documenting Christmas decor at The Telfair Museum of Art here in Savannah. TAG (Telfair Academy Guild) supports the museum with fund-raising events along with other functions such as decorating for the holidays.

This photo depicts faux bread just after it was taken out of an old brick oven. The limited lighting in the room was provided by LED spots. I chose to use available light with my camera on a tripod and shot at ISO 200 at f7.1 at 1/2 sec. A flash with a CTO gel was used to give the appearance of  a fire in the oven.

All photos copyright Dan Biggerstaff Photography. All rights reserved © 2014



It is not that long ago that manual focus was standard on all cameras. Today’s cameras have an auto focus function that is usually more accurate than manual focus. Focusing either manually or with autofocus can get tricky when you are in low light situations – like I recently was Halloween night.

A couple of tips make focusing in low light easier and more precise. First, it may take the camera a little longer than normal to focus in low light situations. Looking through the viewfinder, you may see the subject go out of focus before it comes back in focus. With my Nikon D800, this takes less than a second. If you were to push the shutter before sharp focus occurs, a blurry photo is the result. Secondly, use the fastest lens you can. I was using a 24-70 mm zoom with an f-stop of 2.8. My 28-300 mm lens has a variable f-stop from 3.5 at 28 mm to 5.6 at 300 mm. This lens will not focus as well in low light conditions as the f 2.8 lens.

A Profoto B1 monolight with a beauty dish was my primary light source. Once it got dark, I had to rely on the autofocus in my camera – in many cases I could not see well enough to manually focus the lens. An alternative would have been to use a continuous video light to make focusing easier (even shining a flashlight on the subject would work).

These are a few of the photos taken Halloween. The photo at the beginning of this blog was the very dramatic and depicts the Halloween mood well.  The last photo in group 3 shows great expression – “it is time for a meltdown.” The best way to view the photos is to click on an icon and advance with the arrow key. The NexGen Gallery only holds 20 photos, so you have to back out and click on the next group.

Any Trick or Treaters who did not receive their photo by email should send an email to me at to remedy the situation. Enjoy!

All photos copyright Dan Biggerstaff Photography. All rights reserved © 2014

Projects and Events


To maintain and improve skills of any kind requires practice. In photography, this means taking lots of photographs on a regular basis. Being your own critic is of utmost importance as is having outside portfolio review; we all have certain attachments to photos which interfere with objectivity. Most pro photographers set up personal projects to improve skills. Not all of the photos in these projects will be portfolio quality, but a few may be.

Local events can provide a rich source of subjects for photographs. Several I recently photographed in Savannah include The Telfair Art Museum’s “Rooms with a View”, Isle of Hope’s “Art and Music Festival,” and SCAD’s “Film Festival” – all within a 3-day period of time.

Telfair’s “Rooms with a View” evolved from a previous annual event called The Artful Table. This is one of many events to raise money to support the museum. Eight foot by eight foot walled venues were constructed in The Jepson Center for the Arts and decorated and furnished by local designers, with the exception of the speakers for the event. The guest speakers at this event were Phoebe and Jim Howard, nationally recognized designers from Jacksonville, Florida. The opening preview party offered attendees a first-look at the venues, in addition to delicious food and drink furnished by local restaurants. A good time was had by all, including me, the photographer. These photographs are of the venues, along with their designers, and of the set-up and the party.


Isle of Hope’s “Art and Music Festival” has become an annual event that attracts hundreds of locals to see and purchase local art, eat good food, and hear good music. It starts at 10 AM of Saturday and runs until 10 PM that night. We were fortunate to have great weather in a beautiful local setting. The photos highlight the event with a few views of the location, the visitors, and some of the artists.


The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) Film Festival is “filled with cinematic creativity from both award-winning professionals and emerging student filmmakers. Each year more than 40,000 people attend the eight day Savannah Film Festival. The festival is host to a wide variety of competition film screenings, special screenings, workshops, panels, and lectures.” These photographs are from the 2014 Opening Night in front of The Trustees Theater on Broughton Street.

All photos copyright  Dan Biggerstaff Photography. All rights reserved © 2014

Photographic Styling

A photograph may be composed in an instant, as in street photography or at a child’s birthday party, or after the fact during the editing process. A photograph may also be styled, often taking hours of planning and staging before the final photo is actually composed. This photograph is an example of the latter process involving not only the photographer but also a stylist, lighting assistant and a graphic designer at the shoot. The first photo was the original shot and the one following the marketing piece from the photo.



artful poster











Rather than random shoots, specific photography projects are a good way to improve photographic skills. The projects may be self-designed or ones that are requested by clients. Two of my recent projects included shoots for an advertising piece and a bridal show.


This is one of the photos used for the advertising piece for The Artful Table, an annual fund-raising event by the Telfair Academy Guild to benefit the Telfair Museums.  The table setting was put together by a stylist and a graphics designer. The main light source for the shoot was a skylight; the reflection can be seen in the jars on the table but was felt not to be objectionable in the final piece. An off-camera flash with a snoot was used to highlight the plates in the center of the photo. The table in the photo was about 4 feet high, so the photo had to be taken from a ladder at a height of about 8 feet.  The reflection of the photographer and ladder in the jars were removed in post-processing.









This is the poster used in the ad campaign. The photograph was also used for individual invitations, a banner displayed outside the museum, and a newspaper ad.  The Artful Table is an annual fund-raising event by the Telfair Academy Guild to benefit the Telfair Museums. The event includes nationally-known speakers, a luncheon, a preview party with foods from outstanding local restaurants and caterers, a silent auction, and table vignettes. Each year the themed vignettes are created by local individuals and businesses with this year’s theme being Celebrations.

The second project was a bridal show called Behind the Veil. Monica McMasters and B Street Salon were responsible for the models’ hair at the show.  Monica asked if I would photograph the annual bridal show that is held at the Jepson Art Museum. Bleu Belle Bridal provided the models and gowns, and Savannah Magazine is a co-sponsor. Most of the photos were taken “on the fly.” They were all shot using available light with some off-camera fill flash. This provides challenges including poses, background and lighting. When photographing this or a similar event in the future, I will bring additional equipment. A backdrop and studio lighting will provide greater diversity in the photos I can shoot. You can see additional photos from this shoot under EVENTS.