• Recent work

    Recent work

    The summer and fall has really got away from me. The move to our new digs in Beverly made time more sparse and this blog has been just one of the casualties. So I thought I’d at least put up some recent work. I have been working. Really. One thing I think my recent work […]


Recent work

The summer and fall has really got away from me. The move to our new digs in Beverly made time more sparse and this blog has been just one of the casualties. So I thought I’d at least put up some recent work. I have been working. Really.

One thing I think my recent work has in common is the prominent role of color. Lots of deep, saturated, rich colors.

Special thanks to my new friends at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.






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We’ve moved

Mike Dean Photos has a new address:
181 Lothrop St., Beverly, MA 01915
Same phone number (978-914-3102)
Cool new letter slot and doorknob.

Door Knob

Our new door knob.

Our new letter slot.


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The 10-Minute Portrait

I recently had the opportunity to take 36 formal portraits for Northern Essex Community College. Great, right? It was. Just one catch: I had 10 minutes to shoot each. The subjects were all recipients of NECC’s Making a Difference Awards, which was part of the school’s 50th anniversary celebrations. Each were scheduled over 2.5 days, each 10 minutes apart.

A few things have to happen for something like this to work.
-Everybody needs to show up on time dressed in their Sunday best. They did. Everybody. Pretty amazing considering these are all busy people.
-The subjects need to be open and cooperative. They were great.
-Somebody needs to schedule all these busy people. NECC’s Ernie Greenslade and Charlene Woodard did an awesome job lining all these people up and, on the days of shooting, keeping it moving like clockwork.

Below is a video of the portraits. This was part of a presentation for the “Making a Difference” award winners at the 50th Gala.

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Mad Men

Here’s some photos from the Mad Men article in the Andovers Magazine (Spring 2012.) Cover page design by the talented Joe Myers. The models were great. Very patient. The liquor and cigarettes were real. No apple juice and and Photoshopped smoke here. These actors were method!

Mad Men (Andovers Magazine) – Images by Mike Dean

Follow the link below to see how some of these looked in the magazine.

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Being a Tourist

Being a Tourist from Mike Dean on Vimeo.

I bought my first SLR camera in 1993 in a pawn shop in Bangkok. That was where this journey really began: as a tourist.

It was a Russian-made “Zenit.” The light meter was broken but it was built like a tank and weighed almost as much. I was on the homestretch of two-year trip across Asia and it was the beautiful things and places I saw travelling that was the motivation for taking better photographs.

These days there aren’t many opportunities to be a tourist. Most of my time is split between my photography business and being a dad (really more with the latter.) So when a client asked me to travel to Washington, D.C. to shoot an assignment a couple weeks ago, I made sure to get a flight early in the morning the day before the shoot so I would have an afternoon to look around the Mall.

One of the smartest things I’ve done in a long time.

It was nice to have a chunk of time to shoot for the fun of it. It’s important to continue to shoot for yourself to stay creative. I’m not going to wait for another trip to do it again. There are plenty of places in Boston and other towns around me that would be fun to shoot. That’s one of my goals for this year. To do more self-assigned photography and videography.

Meanwhile I hope you enjoy the video I added to this post. It’s from the afternoon I spent having fun at the Mall.

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Mars Rover (NASA/JPL)

A little less Apollo, a little more Mars Rover. That was one of my business goals this year. To spend more wisely (or not at all.) In the nineties NASA began their Discovery Program using low-cost missions with robots with the motto “cheaper, faster and better.” In my first couple years freelancing I spent a lot on some pretty big “Apollo” items, thousands of dollars, some of it on items that I’ve only used on a couple jobs.

So this year I wanted to rein it in a bit. I’ve been pretty good about it, but like any addict, I have regressed a couple times. I bought another camera. Though in my defense, the camera has been very useful and was under $1000 (Canon 60D.)

I wanted to share some of my favorite purchases. Below are my three favorite purchases from 2011 (under $200), my three favorite all time purchases (under $200), and three great resources for free stuff. I think NASA would be proud.

Best of 2011:

Photoflex XS OCTODOME NXT KIT – $164.95
This has become one of my most-used photography tools. It’s small enough that I don’t even collapse it to store, but big enough to throw a nice soft light for a one-person portrait or even sometimes two people. But what makes this really useful is that it can also be used with video hot lights up to 500w. I haven’t tested it with my Lowell Omni-light (500w) but I have used it with my Lowell Pro Light (250w) and it handles the heat fine.



Editorial Photographers -$50
Ok, this one is a bit of a cheat since this is not the first year I was a member of this professional organization but technically I did “buy” it when I decided to renew. And it paid off this year in a big way. It was the main reason I landed the most lucrative job this year that involved a trip to shoot in Jamaica and Canada. The client found my listing on the EP web site, which thanks to alphabetical order, had me near the top of the list of Boston photographers. In fact, every pro organization that I have ever been a member of has helped new clients find me and paid for themselves and then some. Not to mention the networking events and occasional discounts on stuff when they partner with photo or video companies.


Bower Lens Adapter – FD (Manual Focus) System to Canon EOS -$39.99
This is one of my latest purchases so the jury is still out but I used it on a video shoot this week and it worked great. What this bad boy does is allow me to use old Canon FD lenses on my Canon EOS 60D and since my wife used to shoot with a Canon AE1, I have added three new prime lenses to my video camera bag. So for $40 I now have a 100mm 2.0, 50mm 1.8 and a 24mm 2.8 that have been sitting in a bag in the attic for the last decade. Winning!

Best all time:

Adobe Lightroom -$199
I think, bang-for-your buck wise, this was probably my best purchase of all time. I use it for every photo job I do. I can’t imagine not having it, especially when editing weddings with 2000-2500 images, all RAW. It saves tons of time by allowing you to apply batch actions to many photos. So if you have 30 photos in a row that are all a little yellow from tungsten lights, you can color correct one and then apply it to all the affected photos. I hardly even use Photoshop anymore, and when I do it’s usually just to work with layers when designing stuff with images and text. I do all my cropping, color-correcting, sharpening, etc., in Lightroom and then use it to export large batches of JPEGS. If you work for Adobe please do not read: I would probably pay three times the current cost for this program.


Nikon SB 25 flash -$57
Hmmm, maybe I was a little hasty claiming Lightroom as my all time best purchase. I have used this old flash on most of my shoots as a second flash (off camera) and it is a workhorse. These are the old Nikon flashes for their film cameras so never attach it directly to your camera’s hotshoe because it could not only fry the flash but damage your camera. These are only for using with remotes, such as Pocket Wizards. I can shoot pretty much all day on one set of rechargeable AA batteries. I have dropped it onto cement from about five feet and it just keeps working. Best of all, you can get these on cheap from ebay. Actually that’s pretty much the only place you’re going to find one of these (or Craigslist) since they don’t make them anymore. Their prices have gone up from around $30 to $50-80 with the emergence of the web site Strobist (http://www.strobist.blogspot.com/) but they’re still very cheap. They have a slightly blue hue to them but I kinda like that for a back light / rim light, which is pretty much all I ever use it for. It looks like natural light coming in from a window. Other film flashes will work as well, as long as it has a sync which you’ll need to operate it with a remote.  http://tiny.cc/tk57w

Final Cut Express $199 / Photoshop Elements $80
I think a lot of professionals look down their noses at the basic versions of software but sometimes they do do all you need to do so why pay 5-10 times the price for something you don’t need? I have owned both the full version of Photoshop and Elements and everything I have ever needed I can do in Elements including working with layers. Same with Final Cut. I now use Final Cut Pro 7 but really, there’s not much that Pro does that Express could not. Apple has since dropped Express but you can still buy express on Amazon or Ebay.
Final Cut Express 4:
Photoshop Elements 10:

Free stuff:

I’ve used YouTube to teach myself quite a bit, from software to shooting techniques. I learned a 3D graphics program, Blender, from a 12 year old kid on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/user/super3boy) and Blender is not exactly user-friendly, intuitive.  I also use YouTube to research products before I buy them. Sometimes it’s useful just to see products on YouTube just to get an idea of the scale since marketing photos often don’t show how big or small something is which is kind of important for things like soft boxes. The videos are usually pretty low quality and no where near as good as Lynda.com but, hey, it’s free.


Open Source Mac
This is a great resource for free software for your mac. I’ve used several programs from this site and a couple programs I use almost on a daily basis. Neo Office is a great free version of Office which I use often for spreadsheets and is also useful when clients send PowerPoint files. I’ve also downloaded Audacity, Gimp, and Blender and have used them all on jobs. OpenOffice.org is another very good free version of Office.


Photoshelter business resources
Photoshelter is an excellent resource for photographers and offers great free ebooks and webinars on the business of photography.



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Warning: Diabetics proceed with caution and only if you have sufficient insulin.

As a wedding photographer, one of my favorite parts of the day is shooting the cake. I love it. I really do.

Part of it has to do with the timing. It’s almost always immediately after shooting the formals, which can be fun, but it’s also probably the busiest and most stressful part of the day for most photographers. There’s a lot to get done with the formals and usually not enough time to do it. It’s often in challenging conditions, whether it’s a steamy hot day making everybody sweaty and agitated, or the wind is blowing veils and hair and dresses wildly. Then you’ve got the four-year-old ring-bearer and flower girl running off in opposite directions. Uh, oh, little Timmy has dropped his pants around his ankles and is relieving himself on the par four, eighteenth hole (yup, that happened.)

So coming into the reception hall after the craziness of the formals is always a bit of a respite. It’s calm. It’s cool. It’s quiet. It’s just you, a room full of chairs,  tables, and center pieces. And the cake. The always beautiful cake.

It’s also nice to shoot a stationary object for a few minutes. You can be as creative as you want. The cake isn’t going anywhere. You can set up lights at different angles to get different effects. You can play around with the composition, using funky angles. I sometimes get a little carried away with the wedding cake photos and have to remind myself to move on. There’s still lots to be done.

But mostly I think I like shooting the cake because they’re just so damn pretty. It’s really amazing the work that goes into these things. So I thought I’d share a slideshow of some of my favorite wedding cake photos. Bon appétit.


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Going Analog – My Little Black Book

My parents still write me letters. They’re about the only ones. And by letter I mean actual, real letters. Written on paper with ink and everything. It’s nice.

It’s a different experience, reading a real letter. Part of it is it just feels more personal. Nobody is CC’d in most of mom’s letters. It wasn’t cut and pasted from another letter. It was just for me.

But also, there are fewer distractions reading a letter. No pop-ups warning you about your lack of security, no temptation to toggle over to an internet browser to check on your fantasy baseball team. With a real letter, you’re more likely to stay focused on what you’re reading.

The same goes for writing. If I use a pen and paper it can help me to stay more focused on what I’m writing.

I’m not just talking about complex or creative writing. For the past few years I’ve been using Mac’s basic text program, TextEdit, to write little notes to myself. There are short text docs scattered across my hard drive like virtual sticky notes. In some ways it is more efficient. For one, I don’t have to retype it into the computer like I do for a pen and paper note. I also don’t have to decipher my own handwriting, which even to me more closely resembles a cross between Urdu and Hieroglyphics. And I can easily add sentences in between other sentences without having to draw arrows to where this new thought should go.

But it can be too efficient. Too easy to jump to another paragraph, another thought, before I’ve flushed out the first idea. I find I jump around from thought to thought, note to note and program to program way too easily on a computer. I’m finding it harder and harder to stay focused on one thought for longer than a matter of seconds. Yup, not hours or minutes. Seconds.

I start out writing something as simple as a to-do list and by the third to-do into the list I remember I was supposed to email a client about a shoot and so I toggle to my email where I see a new email from a group on LinkedIn which leads me to that online forum which has a link to a New York Times photo slideshow which has a sidebar about Facebook which lures me to my own Facebook page where I see a colleague has posted a link to a Youtube video “Squirreling away for your retirement” and before I know it I’m eating a giant bowl of ice cream and watching videos of squirrels water skiing.

Recently my sister gave me little ring-binder notebook. It’s a little bigger than a passport, has lined paper and on the cover is a photo of an old Brownie camera and the title “Picture This.” My first thought was “That was sweet” followed quickly by “Probably never use it though.” After all, I have drawers in the house full of little notebooks that have gone unused. But I have been using this little notebook (I’m using it to write this blog post.) I use it to jot down ideas. It’s mostly just a collection of lists, really, but if there’s a good enough idea I’m trying to explore it a little more with the pen and paper. I’m hoping it will help to calm the brain down a little. Help me focus a little better.

While it’s not the most efficient method of writing and there’s lots of stuff crossed out and arrows pointing to sentences scrawled vertically up the side of the page, I’m going to try to stick with it. And if that doesn’t work, there’s always Ritalin.

Now if I can just resist those damn squirrel videos long enough to write a letter to Mom and Dad.


I asked a couple creative friends from Photography blog what they do to unplug. Below are their responses.

Rebecca Burke Joyner, freelance writer
I write for a living, usually on a computer and too often while doing several other things. I am distracted about 95 percent of the time, I would say. In that other 5 percent, I find the fuel to make the rest work (more or less). Offline, I eavesdrop on my children as they sing made-up songs about talking trees and monsters who like orange juice. I color. I reluctantly consent to tickle wars. When I feel myself sinking too far into my laptop screen, I step away and play some more. It helps.

Ross Nielsen, blues musician
I think about the interference all the time from fb and twitter. Its a double edge sword for me. A necessary evil I guess… I have a bunch of things from, closing my electronics down, drinking a LOT of coffee then scouring my note pad or listening to music is a great way to be inspired. One of the best for me has been what I call ‘ zen’ chores. You know, chores where you can shut yer mind off and zone out, ie: piling wood, doing dishes, mowing the lawn… Regardless of all these ‘tricks’ peeps have to bolster creativity though, I find there is no substitute for simply sitting down and doing it. It really is a craft so the more you work on it the better you become.


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