Join me on a nature shoot- January in Yosemite

For anyone interested, I’m planning to capture winter scenes in Yosemite National Park sometime in January- new images and research for my the book I’m currently writing.

Join me for a day of shooting, sunrise to sunset, for a small fee ($100/person – 10 person limit).

This isn’t a planned event or workshop with a specific agenda. I’ll simply share my thoughts on photographing nature while we shoot, talk about equipment tips, and so on. We’ll capture images together, you can watch how I work if you wish, see the gear I carry, I’ll sign your Exposure book (if you bought one of my books), and we’ll have a blast.

If you’re interested, contact me at:

Thank you and Happy Holidays!


46 seconds about my book, The BetterPhoto Guide to Exposure

Just a quick video message from about me and my exposure book – if you’re looking for a book to improve your photography, check it out!

To buy the book or get more info, go to: http://www.seanarbabi.com/book_exposure.html

Happy Holidays everyone!


Building my own career

I had a professional issue a few months back that took me back some. Sure it was upsetting but didn’t shake me – I know who I am and what my intentions are as a person and as a pro photographer. I don’t live in the past, as although you remind yourself not to take things personally, how can you not- especially when you have a passion in what you do, and work tirelessly to make it happen.

I use Facebook, enjoy connecting with friends, sharing images, posting various happenings. One day last year I posted a Sierra workshop in the events section. As a big fan of Galen Rowell’s work (great outdoor shooter and mountaineer who past away with his wife in a plane crash in ’02 – a young 62), I had joined a fan site of his on Facebook and decided to let others know of the workshop through a small message and link – Galen was big on the Sierras, spent many days and nights capturing images and climbing mountains there as I have – in fact John Muir’s book “The Yosemite” was re-printed using Galen’s images back in 2001. The fan site was not run by Galen’s company, yet by a fan, so I figured like-minded Sierra-lovin’ folk might be interested in a photo class.

I discovered Galen’s work when I was 17. We lived in the same Bay Area town and although I came to know him over the years, I couldn’t call him a friend. To me he was truly a kindred spirit (as he signed to me in one of his books). He was much like a mentor without the actual mentoring. I admired his work, attending a few of his lectures, but never inquired about how to run a photo business or get started in the industry. Out of respect, I felt that was my homework to do- my dues to pay.

My Facebook post went unnoticed – no one ever contacted me about our Sierra workshop through the site, until I received an email from someone who worked at Galen’s offices (who no longer works there). This person basically accused me of using Galen’s name, riding on his coattails to benefit my own career- truly laughable since nothing could be farther from the truth. Coming to know Galen’s staff over the years, I never once asked him for advice or for industry info, nor did I ever receive Galen’s help to get published, create a workshop, sell a gallery print, or make a stock sale. I know Galen admired me for this since so many did try to use his connections to benefit themselves. The ironic thing is when he passed, I was contacted by his office for advice on how to deal with a mutual client, which I gladly assisted with.

And of course to date I’ve been published around the world, shot hundreds of assignments, taught workshops for over 10 years, made thousands of stock sales, and sold numerous gallery prints. Although I’ve been lucky to have many wonderful people (clients, workshop students, editors) help make my dream of being a photographer come true, I didn’t get to the place I’m at by using others- I built my career through tons of hard work, late nights, sacrifice and perseverance. No one dragged my butt out of my tent to capture dawn, no one wrote my letters or emails to land jobs, no one did my research and planned my shoots but me.

So to get a message like this was not only insulting, but ridiculous. Nevertheless I followed up with a reply explaining my intentions, which were never to attach myself to Galen in any way. But what can you do. It doesn’t matter how you run your life or what your true intentions are, when someone opens their mouth without any forethought or research, you simply have to disregard their comments and move forward.

Although Galen’s presence was a source of great inspiration as I built a career in the industry, I rarely thought of him as I traveled the world on assignment. But when he past, he came to mind often. I remember in ’04 while on a job in St. Croix, overlooking the Caribbean sea while photographing at sunrise, I remember thinking “Aw Galen, you should be here to see this”. I wish he was.


My Hoodman gear

Just tweeted about some Hoodman gear I picked up last weeText Colork. One of the reasons for doing my tv show is to talk about a mix of photo gear, and one of the reasons for my blogs (and tweets) is to mention the products I use and believe in- I like finding great gear, and my simple test is if I use it for years then I know it’s good.

Love Hoodman. I first picked up their loupe a few years back for my Nikon D200 and on every workshop I did, my students realized they were missing out – to review your LCD screen without any outdoor light was just fantastic- and besides that, the product is well made, tough, durable, and sharp.

I also use their UDMA RAW memory cards (fast speed memory cards), Right-angle viewfinder (great for macro work), eye cups (great to shoot with, to block out side light when you’re looking through your viewfinder, and LCD Safe Cleaners.

I recently picked up their new loupe (the Hoodman 3.0 Glare Free LCD Viewing Loupe – Model H-LPP3) last week – used it on assignment and I dig it! Covers the whole 3″ LCD screen, sharp as can be blocking out 99% of the light, allowing me to review my images fast without the influence of the ambient light. I also grabbed a MacBook Laptop hood (I should be using on photo shoots, with and without clients, on my MacBook Pro, allowing us both the ability to see the screen better in bright light), and a few LCD screen cleaners.

Anyway, that’s my gear of the week- and no, they don’t pay me to say this (at least not yet!). Check ’em out- solidly-made gear, quality, at a decent price, made by good people: http://hoodmanusa.com/


My upcoming ABC television segment

Thursday, December 3rd, I’ll be on The View From The Bay (my third time this year) doing a Photoguru segment on cool fun affordable gifts for your photo enthusiasts- perfect timing for the holiday season.

Come to the taping and watch it live, check it out on your boob tube, DVR it, Tivo it, VCR it (if you live in the 80s), or look for it on their website after Dec 3rd (if you don’t live in the area).

To check out the other two segments I did this year, go to:


IF YOU WANT FREE TICKETS to the taping, go on their site or review the info below:

The View From The Bay | ABC KGO-TV, Channel 7
900 Front Street, San Francisco
Thursday, December 3rd, 2009, 3-4pm


Here’s the info from ABC KGO-TV:

I would like to extend a special invitation to Sean Arbabi’s friends, family and colleagues to be in our studio audience the day that he will be appearing on “The View From The Bay” Thursday Dec. 3rd, 2009.

Meet Spencer Christian and Janelle Wang and get a chance to see the behind the scenes of a live television broadcast. Tickets for the show must be reserved in advance. Audience doors open at 2:15pm with a cut-off time of 2:30pm, the show is live from 3-4pm.

To reserve your seats please call the ticket request line at (415)954-7733 or visit www.viewfromthebay.com and click on “be in our audience” and fill out a ticket request form. Or click on the link below to go to our online ticket request form. Simply fill out your information and press submit.


Please be sure to note under “comments” if you are requesting a specific date to support someone scheduled to be on the show. We strongly encourage you to post this invitation and its contents on any blog or webpage that you host or participate in. Please pass this email on to any friends, family or colleagues who may be interested in being in our studio audience. You can also post an announcement on your webpage!

*Please note that all seats must be reserved in advance. Tickets that have been requested will be sent via an email confirmation with detailed instruction on where and when to arrive at the ABC studio. Also note that audience members come in a separate entrance and time than guests appearing on the show. If you are a guest on the show and you will be bringing your guests with you they will need to check in with me (Rachel Wyatt) by 2:30pm to be seated in the audience.

Rachel Wyatt/ Audience Coordinator: Rachel.Wyatt@abc.com

Hope to see you all there- thanks!


A long ride with a small camera

Last week I went for a long ride, from my home in Danville, CA to my brother’s home in Pittsburg, CA – it’s about 25 miles as the crow flies, but I took the undulating route on the back streets, roads and trails, over a number of hills – a tough long ride.

I had my GoPro Helmet Hero Wide with me- a great little 5 megapixel point-of-view camera with an ultra-wide lens and a mix of attachments – to attach to your helmet, around your chest (their chest mount harness), a suction cup mount for moving vehicles or boats- all kinds of ways to attach it to anything you wish. It’s small (probably half the size of a regular point-and-shoot) takes an SDHC memory card, runs on batteries, and fits into a waterproof housing – all with an affordable price tag of $189.

I rode for about an hour in the late afternoon, up a big hill into open space on the flanks of Mount Diablo, entered the trails and turned my camera on (in the auto mode to take a still photo every two seconds). Over the next hour of so, my camera captured approximately 1400 images as I headed off the trails, onto the roads of Walnut Creek, through the city of Concord, before the memory card filled up cutting off the camera at dusk as I approached Pittsburg. I had another 45 minutes left to ride (over the last grueling hill in the dark), but I figured my GoPro captured enough images to check out later that evening.

When I returned home, I loaded the images into my MacBook Pro using iMovie, found the right timing per slide to make it flow well, added some copyright free classical music, and created this fun little movie.

So here’s my ride October 22nd, 2009 – an hour portion of a 2.5 hour ride from Danville to Pittsburg, California – 1462 still images, broken down into a 3:38 minute segment, edited in iMovie (part of Apple’s iLife ’09). Enjoy- I hope to do more- maybe an all-trail version, or attaching it to a boat, kayak, or vehicle.

My segment on The View From the Bay (ABC KGO-TV 7, San Francisco) featuring the GoPro camera: http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=view_from_the_bay/consumer_finance&id=6914730


Discounts on photo gear, free shipping, and more

When you follow my blog, take a workshop, buy my book and write a positive review on Amazon, you get perks- that’s right, I throw DOWN for my students and fans! 🙂


Ordering a Hoodman loupe and want free shipping? Go to Hunt’s Photo and Video and when you add the loupe to your cart, at checkout type in “SArbabi” to the coupon field – that equals free shipping!



Go to Think Tank Photo and use this link below:


When you do, if you buy a camera bag/case over $50, you get a choice of one free item valued around $20-30 (three to choose from). Great cases- I have four of them and love ’em- best camera bags made out there.


I teach online workshops with BetterPhoto.com – the past three years to students in 30 counties and 43 US States – come and take a course online, on exposure (my course) or many others including photoshop, composition, lighting, and more- tell ’em I sent you and you’ll get $20 off of your next course: http://www.betterphoto.com/courseOverview.asp?cspID=144


If you read about them here, and I recommended them, tell ’em I sent you (Sean Arbabi – The Photoguru) and you just might get free shipping or a discount. More discounts to come in the near future!


Photographs aren’t free

I recently received an email from someone claiming to be a writer for a how-to website. This person stated they wrote articles for the search site and wanted to use one of my images for their article (originally used from one of my Via magazine assignments).

This is normal in the photography industry, and a big reason why I own all of my images (and do not do “Work for Hire” jobs which transfer all image rights to your clients). I grant first-time publishing rights, and once my photos are used by my client, they are part of my image collection, available to license through my company or my stock agency. Some clients think licensing our images is ‘extra money’ but it’s not- it’s simply part of our income as freelance photographers – photographers with no guaranteed source of income, no benefits, no 401K or pension plans.

Getting back to the request, after doing a little research on my own, I come to find out this person was not a writer for the website, nor employee as a writer anywhere else. Instead the site relies on people for their content – it’s like saying you’re a writer for Wikipedia. And not to bash this person since most people aren’t aware of copyright laws, or the licensing fees for a photograph, or the proper way to go about obtaining images – shoot, I’ve had some editors and clients in the past who didn’t necessarily follow the proper way being in the business of licensing images – but pleading ignorance doesn’t necessarily get you off scot-free either.

Then as I researched the how-to site a bit more I learned that my image was ALREADY on the site – with the credit listed as the magazine I originally shot it for! They basically took the image from Via’s website and pasted it into their article.

At this point I had a few options – I could:

1) Contact my copyright lawyer and sue (which is the last thing I would do since mistakes do occur, and I’m not one to stick it to people that way)

2) Send them a bill for licensing, charging them a penalty for illegally using my image (this is more in line with the norm, and completely appropriate since the image was up for at least a week or two).

3) Notify the “writer” and the website were infringing on my copyright with the unauthorized use of my image and to remove it immediately or face a possible lawsuit and licensing fees (which is what I did).

The site removed the image that day, and at first the “writer” was a bit rude but after explaining the law, she relented and apologized. If they made me an offer to pay for the use, I would have looked up the licensing fee in my price guides, and charged them appropriately including the time they had already used it for. If she didn’t apologize, she would have been dealing with my lawyer. The site also tried to claim that they didn’t have control of what members uploaded- wrong- if it’s their site, they SHOULD have control – or they might get sued.

Moral of the story- your photos are exactly that- yours. If you are a professional photographer with your own business, they are not just sitting in your files or computer, they are part of your inventory. I can’t just go and take something off of the shelf at Target, walk out with it, and claim “it was just sitting on your shelf”. A lot of money, time, effort, experience, knowledge, and equipment goes into all of the images I produce- as with any business that has a product to sell. Control your photos – do your homework – purchase pricing guides and/or software like
Fotoquote or Jim Pickerell’s stock guide, and prepare yourself for the day when a client wants to buy one of your images- or one uses an image without asking for permission. And if someone tried to abuse your copyright, find a lawyer.

Irregardless of royalty free photos, royalty free art, royalty free graphics, and all the accessible work on the internet, my photos aren’t free.


9/11 plus 8

Today, on the eighth anniversary of 9/11, many channels ran specials, some of which I DVR’ed. After watching one tonight, taped in 2002, interviewing photographers who captured images that day, watching unbelievable images documented that day, I felt compelled to write something – if not to honor the people who suffered and died on that day (and in the subsequent years in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan),but at least to share what it’s reminded me of.

As so many of us were, the attacks, chaos, and destruction that ensued from that day impacted my life profoundly. Although I was back in the Bay Area from a recent trip, I found myself depressed for weeks and months by all the events that occurred- it was weird since I’d never experienced that- to be moved and affected by something that happened 3000 miles away.

I look at America eight years later and wonder if we’ve changed for the better. Politically in many ways we have, but in other ways with the infighting, greed, the lack of finding common ground, the pursuit of arguing to win instead of fighting for what’s wrong or right, and the push to merge church and state by some shows me that we haven’t. And although massive greed almost killed the economic machine that allows us to live so freely and comfortably as compared to other countries, even that didn’t stop business-as-usual for the ones who feel their place in this world is based on their bank balance instead of their character. Even Plato understood this when he wrote “All the gold which under or upon the Earth is not enough to give in exchange for virtue”, and he lived almost 2500 years ago.

To top it off, we still seem to care about crazy reality couples who’ve become famous by having too many children, and buy the ridiculous magazines to read the gossip and support this behavior, instead of finding medical care for so many underprivileged children in this Nation. In this still rich Nation.

So these were the things I was reminded of today as a photographer who has traveled the world. September 11th, 2009 gave me the chance again to honor the fallen Americans, but also reminded me that this Nation was formed, compiled, created by people of all nations – and that all nationalities were changed, were moved, were killed.

On September 7th, 2001, I took the NY Subway to the World Trade Center and walked through the lobby for the first time; an Iranian-American with my Italian-Beliguim journalist friend ending our week of work in NYC. Four days later the world changed for so many lives. Eight years later it continues to affect Americans – Americans who came together from every corner of the world.


Time flies & love blooms when you haven’t blogged

Seconds turned into days turned into weeks- I haven’t blogged for almost a month- crazy.

The past month I shot a few assignments (built an on-location studio for a company in the North Bay of the San Francisco Bay Area, capturing 40 food & wine displays), taught an exposure course with a book signing at Book Passage in Corte Madera (a great bookstore in the Marin/ Mill Valley area), licensed some images to a few magazines and clients (a nice double-page spread of a Half Dome image which you’ll see in a few months), worked on two new books which I’m very excited about (out in 2010-2011), and sold five 30×50 prints to recruiting company. All while my girls started school- a busy August.

But what I wanted to write about was something I found out while lecturing at Book Passage. Two past workshop students came to take the class, told me they met at my weekend workshop two years earlier at Pt Reyes, and ended up falling in love- now married- they said, I could add ‘match-maker’ to my list of accomplishments. I was tickled pink (when was the last time you heard that term?!). Actually, it really was a cool thing to hear. As we all go through our daily grinds, move through our busy lives, setting up events, meetings, goals, we rarely consider how it might affect other lives.

When I plan my workshop presentations, I think of all the experience and knowledge I’ve gained through my 19-year career, and how I can add specific images and information into my lectures and field notes to help photographic enthusiasts improve their skills – to help them learn how to communicate with their cameras better. But I don’t think I ever imagined two people meeting at one of my events and deciding to spend the rest of their lives together. It doesn’t seem far fetched, but I just never thought of it.

So here’s to photography bringing more love to the world – in the day and age of glorifying ridiculous rude behavior on tv, where wars continue to tear lives apart, where corporate greed runs rampant, and where a wealthy country like the US can’t find a way to take care of its own, I seems like we could use a bit more love.

eHarmony, eat your heart out.