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Tag Archives: San Luis Obispo Photography

Accessible Ways to Diminish Photography

• Pros and cons of online photo editors 
• Photographer Sara Tollefson discusses trends in photography
• Locals name their favorite photo editor

Is Instagram Ruining Photography?

Smart phones are changing the way we take, edit, view, and value photos. Apps like Instagram and Pixlr-o-matic are altering the way smart phone users perceive photographical value. Social media frequenters post images that they’ve filtered through Instagram (an iPhone App), Pixlr-o-matic, PicYou, Picplz, or a host of other online or mobile applications. While each have unique aspects, all are purposed to filter low-quality photos in an interesting way. Commonly, it makes the images look like polaroids circa 1970.

“The reason they do this is because of faux-nostalgia. People, and in particular brand marketers, have associated good times with the past, and “vintage” things — wine, clothes, cars — with higher quality…There’s also artificially altered expectations: it may be a terrible cellphone picture but it’s great for a polaroid.” – Laurie Voss, computer scientist and writer for

Pros & Cons of Free Photo Editors


• They are FREE

• They are usable anywhere (with internet connection)

• They are web compatible

• They are incredibly easy to use

• They make pictures look cool


• They take away from the photography industry

• They eliminate pixels- compromise quality

• Their effects are generally uniform

• They enable users to find less value in high quality photographs

Professional Viewpoint

Sara Tollefson, a recent Cal Poly graduate, works as a photographer  in San Luis Obispo. Sara studied photography while at Poly,

A photo of my brother and I altered with Pixlr-o-matic filters.

so she understands and appreciates the art it takes to make a quality photograph. Here’s what she had to say about the shift in photography:

Emily: What are your thoughts on the growing accessibility of cameras and photo editors?

Sara: I wish that photography was still film because I know my passion would be all the same and people wouldn’t be undermining it or saying how simple it is. You wouldn’t be going and doing two clicks and uploading a filter and having some neat-o effect and call yourself a photographer. Or you wouldn’t be buying a camera, an SLR camera and thinking that you were a photographer without having the knowledge or experience of working with lighting or with people. Or just the aesthetic compositions and things like that. And like a lot of art, there’s a misconception that you areborn with it or talented, which definitely is the case for a lot of people, but it is a skill that takes a lot of practice and knowledge. 

Emily: So are applications like Instagram and Pixlr-o-matic and other online or phone applications that put filters and borders on pictures undermining photography? Is that changing the industry at all?

Sara: It’s funny because it’s something I haven’t really thought about before. Because it feels so minimal and subtle. But, probably yes, because that sort of thing, like wanting to have a nice picture of yourself, when you can just download a free app and have something instantaneous does take away from the market of people who would go to a photographer. To have cute pictures of your friends nicely done, when you can just download some retro filter and be satisfied. Also, today’s consumer is more satisfied with lower quality images than they have been in the past. So it doesn’t help a competitive photographer in a day and age when people will compromise quality and be satisfied for something with a lower quality, so they’ll be paying less money and getting less, and be ok with it. 

The Buzz

What do amateurs think about these easy-to-use photo editors?

“I like Pixlr-o-matic. I think it’s a fun way to edit your pictures. It’s easy to use and you don’t have to know a lot about picture editing and software and all that stuff, which is good for me,” said Kelsey Markley, a local hair stylist.

A pixlr-o-maticized photo of Kelsey.

Meghan Pranger, a fourth year engineer said, “I like Pixlr-o-matic because it’s really simple, and I like how it has three steps and it’s not overwhelming. I’m not very good at Photoshop, so I wouldn’t be able to manipulate all the different tools and know which filters to use and what they’re called. I like how [on Pixlr]  you can honestly just scroll through and choose your favorite effect. I’ve also done it before on random, and it gives you random combinations, and if you go through it enough, sometimes you get lucky.”

Meghan's photo, filtered through Pixlr-o-matic.


Local Treasures: A Photographer’s Guide to San Luis Obispo


• Winner of last week’s photo contest is Arnes Klisura

• Photo shoot scavenger hunt with local photographer, Tina Loveridge

• Google map of our route around SLO

Smart Phone Photo Contest Winner

This winner caused a unique shift in my former contest parameters: not only did the winner take his photo on a brick (not smart) phone, but he did so from another continent!

Grade Moj

Name: Arnes Klisura

Camera: Nokia 7230

Location: Sarajevo, Bosnia

Photo Treasures of SLO

This week, my professional interview was more organic than my previous ones. Tina Loveridge, a local photographer and friend of mine, took me on an adventure around San Luis Obispo to take pictures of her favorite spots to take pictures ( I have put all 8 locales into a Google Map for you to see). Along the way, we took photos and discussed photography.

Stop 1: Johnson Ranch

Tina likes to take families and couples out here for portrait and engagement shots. I can see why. The ranch is gorgeous, secluded, and vibrant with color. “It’s even better in late spring and early summer, because the hills are green instead of brown,” Tina said. “But the contrast between the hills and the blue sky is still awesome.”

Photo Credit: Tina Loveridge

Stop 2: Cerro San Luis (Madonna Mountain)

We took a short jaunt up Lemon Grove Loop, stopping to take pictures of Tina’s favorite landmarks. One was a very mature-looking tree. “I like it because it has good shade- not speckled, but complete shade. And it’s kind of gangly and gnarly; it gives good depth perception when I’m shooting portraits.” Tina said. We walked a bit further up the trail to a small cactus garden. “It makes for a quirky shoot.”

Valerie Mulholland, a local hiker, said that Madonna Mountain is a perfect place for a photo shoot because it’s “such a great backdrop; very scenic.”

Photo Credit: Tina Loveridge

Photo Credit: Tina Loveridge

Photo Credit: Tina Loveridge

Stop 3: Bishop Peak

The small wood at the base of the peak is wonderful for shooting. We walked up to the near edge of the wood to one particular tree. It reminded me of something out of Lord of The Rings, because it was serenely, almost surreally, beautiful. And with the late afternoon sun sending glowing rays through its branches, I was compelled to think of when I next needed my photos taken…. maybe graudation?

Photo Credit: Tina Loveridge

“When a photo subject looks to boring or common, shoot high and shoot low. The unique angles will make the photo more interesting.” -Tina Loveridge

On our way back though the wood, Tina stopped to take photos. “When a photo subject looks to boring or common, shoot high and shoot low,” Tina said. “The unique angles will make the photo more interesting.” She stooped, letting her camera graze the leafy ground to get a low angle shot of the path before us.

Photo Credit: Tina Loveridge

Stop 4: Brick Wall on the Corner of Chorro & Palm

Who knew a realty building would be a great photo backdrop? Anderson’s Commercial Real Estate surely is. The faded brick walls, festooned with crisp ivy makes for a textured backdrop. “I’m all about textures,” Tina remarked. “Different textures make a photo more appealing.”

Photo Credit: Tina Loveridge

Photo Credit: Tina Loveridge

Stop 5: de Tolosa Mission Garden

By this time, it was near evening and the sun was setting, casting that magical, bronzed layer of light over everything. What a perfect time to be in a luscious, Mediterranean garden. “There are a lot of pockets of scenery that you can use as a backdrop. There’s some uniform-looking trees and a grassy area, and the big trellis that you could use to do something nice with lines and depth of field.”

Photo Credit: Tina Loveridge

Stop 6: San Luis Obispo’s Creek

Everyone from SLO is familiar with the creek between Higuera and Monterrey Street. But whoever thought of it as a great place for portraits? Other than Tina, that is. We rushed through the mission courtyard and over the bridge to make it to the creek while there was enough light. Not only was it bursting with that same Lord of the Rings-esque etherial beauty, but the sound of the bubbling water made it even more enjoyable. Blanca Torres, a local, said, “This would be a great place for a photo shoot because it’s so beautiful… and peaceful.”

Photo Credit: Tina Loveridge

Stop 7: Linnaea’s Cafe

I’m certain that most college students in San Luis Obispo have been in Linnaea’s before. I’m also fairly certain that very few customers have ever considered Linnaea’s to be a great place to take portraits. The great thing about Linnaea’s is that it has a large window at the front of the shop, furnished by a coffee bar. On warm days, the window is usually open and customers can sit, enjoy their coffee, and soak up SLO’s amazing weather. Tina and I ordered Italian sodas and took a couple pictures of the photo-worthy window.

Photo Credit: Tina Loveridge

Stop 8: Meze Wine Cafe & Market

Meze is a relatively new cafe off of Santa Barbara Street. It resides in a renovated brick building that it shares with Yoga Centre and Cygnet Software. “I love that it juxtaposes the old antique-y brick walls with the modern, clean lines of the metal framework,” Tina said. “I usually take my younger, more adventurous subjects here.”

Photo Credit: Tina Loveridge

Photo Credit: Tina Loveridge


Photos by Emily Morelli, Oct 17, 2011

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Smartphones, Architecture and Vanishing Points

Blog Highlights:

• Photo contest winner is Rich Graziano

• Trevor Povah talks Architecture Photography

• Local answers candid question on what he likes about photography

Photo Contest Results

To show how easy and accessible photography is in this age, I sent out an open invitation for people to send their smartphone or brick phone photos my way. I got a great response, and last week’s blog highlighted five photos taken on cell phones from all over SLO county. The winner is:

The winning photo

Name: Rich Graziano

Camera: iPhone

Location: Cal Poly Campus

Quote: “What a fun idea.”

Trevor Povah

This week, I had the opportunity to chat with local photo guru, Trevor Povah.

Emily:  How long have you been practicing photography?

Trevor:  I graduated from Cal Poly in ‘04 with a degree in Video Production; in ‘08-09 I transitioned to photography.

Emily:  When did you start practicing photography in San Luis Obispo?

Trevor:  Over the past three years—starting in 2009. I stayed in SLO after graduating and opened up my own production company. I released my first movie in 2008, and from there transitioned to digital photography.

Emily: What is your favorite form of photography?

Trevor:  Sports photography is what I really enjoy to shoot, although Architecture Photography has found me, and that is what primarily pays the bills. As far as income goes, commercial Architecture Photography and high-end residential homes are the greatest contributors.

“I like the idea of being able to use perspective and different angles to put a creative spin on a setting.” -David Moore

Emily:  What makes being a photographer in SLO so appealing?

Near SLO's train station

Trevor:  For me, I was lucky that Architecture Photography found me—there’s definitely a niche for that in that area, and I have a background of shooting that. My client base is expanding, and I’m looking to expanding to Santa Barbara and Monterey. 

Emily:  Is it easy to be a photographer in San Luis?

Trevor:  Being a photographer in SLO, there are quite a few athletes who train and it’s a beautiful area, so there are plenty of things to shoot. There’s a wide variety but there’s not too much opportunity. There are a couple companies who sponsor niche photographers, so through those companies there are good opportunities. 

Emily:  Do you have any techniques for amateur photographers?

Trevor:  The business side of photography is definitely undervalued. People think that if you can produce a good image you’ll be successful. I tell students shooting is only 20% of the business. You need to know how to run a business and be confident in writing contracts.

The Buzz

I asked SLO resident (and recent Cal Poly Graduate) David Moore what he likes about photography…

“I like the idea of being able to use perspective and different angles to put a creative spin on a setting. So like putting your camera on the opposite side of a bridge and looking down the bridge and looking at the perspective and the vanishing point—just a different angle. Being able to add filters or color scales to pictures after just to be creative or artsy. It’s fun.”

Community Interaction

Posted on

Photo Contest

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One Two Three Four Five


San Luis Obispo is a beautiful city, full of beautiful people. Photo opportunities are so incredibly prevalent, it would almost be a sin to not take advantage of the amazing scenery around us. We all have the tools to take photos. Whether it’s a camera, a computer, a smartphone or a brick phone- anyone can be a photographer to some extent.

“When you find a place you like, you should make sure there aren’t one hundred photographers that do the same thing in that area.” – Tom Meinhold

To prove how easy it is to be an amateur photographer in SLO, I am asking people to send me photos they have taken in the area on their smartphone or old-school cell (I call them bricks). This is a contest, and I will continue receiving photos from anyone interested in entering.  Here are some options to get involved:

1. Vote for your favorite photo above!

2. Send your favorite smartphone or brick photos to, including when are where in SLO County they were taken.

3. Check back to see who won the contest each week!

Tom Meinhold

This week, I spoke with a very popular local photographer, Tom Meinhold. He has been a photographer in SLO for twenty years, and specializes in family and senior portraits, events and commercial photography. He has so much expertise in the field, and I was very excited to discuss his work with him. Here are a few things we talked about:

Emily:  “When did you start practicing photography and where?”

Tom:  “I graduated from Brooks Institute in ’87, and assisted in LA for a few years. I moved back to SLO in ’94 because I was born and raised here. I started my photography business once I cam back to SLO.”

Emily: “What drew you to open your photography business in San Luis?”

Tom: “I was living in LA and working in LA, and it wasn’t my bag. Didn’t like the traffic or the people. I got homesick. I also got hurt on the job and came back to SLO to get treatment. It all came together from there.”

Emily: “What is your favorite aspect of being a photographer in SLO?”

Tom: “I really like working with families; it’s probably my favorite thing to do. Usually because it’s a lot less stressful of a pace, especially  compared to weddings. I get to spend a lot more time with my clients, and see what they are looking for in their portraits.”

Emily: “Of the types of photography that you specialize in, which is your favorite?”

Tom: “One season of photography rolls into the next and I like all of the stuff that I do. If I don’t like a kind of photography, I don’t do it.”

Emily: “Can you give any tips to aspiring photographers?”

Tom“If you want your own studio and you want to be successful in your area, you should do your demographics homework. When you find a place you like, you should make sure there aren’t one hundred photographers that do the same thing in that area.”

The Buzz

The photography apprentices.

While I was walking to Kennedy Library, two girls with a camera caught my attention. I went over and asked them what they were doing. The girls, Katie and Marisa, architecture students, were taking photos for their photo manipulation course- ART 182. While we were on the subject, I asked them what they like about photography. “I like that you are able to change an image through the use of different lenses,” Marisa answered. Katie’s favorite aspect is that “you can see an image or situation in an entirely different way.” 

I asked a fellow journalism student, Lauren Scott, how she feels photography will affect her future career. She had some interesting things to say: “If I choose to work for a newspaper, I need to understand the importance of photography, as every story has a visual element. I also hope to work in video production, and photography is a huge part of video production that I need to learn-it’s definitely important.” 

All this talk about photography is inspiring me to get out and take some photos myself!

What’s the big deal?

It’s hard to go very long in San Luis Obispo before noticing the prevalence of photographers in town. In my four years here, I have seen the work of so many amazing, local photographers. Being one who knows very little about the art and practice of photography, I want to create a space for amateur photographers and people who admire photography to learn more about their local photographers and photo resources. 

 To get some context for this project, I worked to actually grasp how prevalent photography is in San Luis Obispo. I started by searching Yelp for camera shops in town. My search on Yelp alone yielded twelve results. Twelve?! In little San Luis- yes, there are at least twelve viable camera and supply stores. Apparently, if you want to make a hobby or profession of taking photos, this is the place to do it.

I also want to see what some of my not-so-photo-savvy peers admire about photography. I spoke with a Cal Poly Electrical Engineering student, Dylan, who knows very little about photography, much like myself. “What I like about photography is that it has the capacity to capture a common moment and create from that a piece of art, “ Dylan replied to my query. Very well put, I must say. It seems to me that those of us who admire photography from a distance are somewhat mystified by the finesse it requires.

Dylan discusses photography with me

Along with speaking to my peers, I want to pick the brains of amature and professional local photographers whose works we see on a daily basis. I started by interviewing Paul Cha, a videographer for Level Studios, a local production company. Paul also dabbles in photography, and is very knowledgeable in the field of video production and photo shoots, along with the technology that drives them. Here are a few of the highlights from my interview with Paul: 

Emily : “When did you start becoming interested in photography and videography?”

Paul: “I actually got into sound—audio—first, my sophomore year of college. While studying audio I took a few film courses as part of my curriculum. By my senior year, I was fully interested in film and videography. In essence, it’s nothing different than audio—it’s sounds you can see. Through my love of videography, I came to love photography.”

Emily“What is your favorite thing about shooting in San Luis Obispo?”

Paul: “There are a lot of unique places that are very close by. Some places, like big cities, you have to go far away to find a location to shoot. But in SLO, there’s nature, there’s suburbs, there are buildings that are all very close by. Especially if you want to do nature shots. You can hike up a mountain and finish your shots in half a day, rather than plan out three days to visit some far off place to shoot. As a photographer/videographer, you want to take advantage of the places close by, and SLO is perfect for that.”

Emily: “What is your favorite piece of equipment to use when shooting?”

Paul: “Digital SLRs for both photography and videography. I have a Cannon T3i right now, which is very popular for both video and photography. I really enjoy using it.”

Paul enjoys a glass of wine while we chat

 Emily: “Can you give a couple tips for aspiring photographers?”

Paul: “Get a good lens, because the lens is the most important thing.In terms of shooting, planning ahead is the key. A lot of people forget to create a storyboard before the shoot, and arrive on the set unprepared. They waste hundreds and hundreds of dollars worth of time. Make sure to plan ahead—go to the site the day before to find good angles and become accustomed with the area. “

Remember those twelve camera shop I mentioned earlier? Well, I had the privilege to talk to Jim Weise of Really Right Stuff, a camera and gear store on Higuera Street. Intrigued as to how so many camera shops are able to stay open in SLO, I asked Jim how competitive professional photography is in San Luis, and why so many photographers are based here. Jim, who is also a professional photographer, explained that the location makes SLO a prime location to set up shop as a photographer. We have Pismo Beach, Montana de Oro, and even Big Sur right at our fingertips. Our location is enviably picturesque, which makes SLO such a desirable place to live as a photographer.