Treat Yourself This Halloween with More Smug Friends

October 29, 2014 Leave a comment

This is a favorite time of the year for lots of us who love to have fun with friends and family, dress up, and watch the leaves change on the trees. Remember pooling your trick-or-treating candy and swapping and sharing with friends? We hope that at SmugMug, you’ll still be able to do this in the spirit of the holiday.

No Tricks, Just Treats at SmugMug

20% credit is a sweet, sweet reward for every friend you bring over to join us. Remember that when you share the secret of beautiful online galleries with friends using your unique referral link, you earn a percentage of their account value back into yours. And they get a discount off their first year, too, just for knowing you.

Why would they join? Great memories start with friends, and everyone needs a safe place to put them. Whether they love to document the kids’ adorable costumes year after year or are famous for throwing wickedly delicious Halloween parties, there’s room for it all in SmugMug’s unlimited galleries.

SmugMug’s “Spooky” theme

Try our festive “Pumpkins” theme.

Let’s not forget that every account comes bundled with dozens of gorgeous one-click themes (like “Spooky” and “Pumpkins”), so your Halloween galleries will look appropriately festive… even if their personality’s sunny and warm.

And if the party gets a little too crazy, we’ve got powerful privacy features to boot.

So what are you waiting for? Your friends are waiting!

Kudos to September’s Winner: Chip Jones

Congrats to Chip Jones, our most recent winner of our monthly Refer-a-Friend contest! Chip takes gorgeous Fine Art, Landscape, and Architectural Photographs, and we’re pleased to be able to add a GoPro Hero 3+ Black Edition camera to his lineup of photo tools.

Chip Jones Photography

Time’s running out on our contest, so if you’re looking to win one of your own, don’t forget to check out the contest and prize details, and start sharing SmugMug with your circle of friends.

Have a safe and happy Halloween!

Links to love:

 

 

Benjamin Von Wong: How to Make Everyday People Look Badass

October 24, 2014 2 comments

When you combine the imagination of Benjamin Von Wong with the photographic enthusiasm of SmugMug and the MacGyver-esque ingenuity of SmugMug’s facilities genius, Daniel Petrosian, you end up with a lot of chaos and cool photos. Von Wong’s persistence to coax the best out of his everyday models resulted in portraits that awed the models. Many had no idea a “beast mode” existed within themselves.

Learn more about the magic behind creating athletes out of SmugMug employees with the right lighting, motivation, and a bit of rain.

Step 1. Lights, Location, and Rain Rig

How did the idea for this shoot come about?

Von Wong: SmugMug President and Co-Founder Chris MacAskill, aka “Baldy,” wanted to fill up the SmugMug gym with awesome photos, and I happened to be in town, so he commissioned me. He wanted simple black-and-white shots, but I had to put that special Von Wong spin on it.

The day began quite normally: setting up lights, backdrop, and rain. Things started getting exciting a good hour and a half later when—I don’t know what happened! I think word spread that the photos were turning out great, so Baldy ended up coming out himself to see the photos and start filming.

It started off really small, and it expanded from there into full-out awesome.

 

What made you think rain would be perfect for this shoot?

Von Wong: I think rain, in a sense, symbolizes hardship. We wanted to make people look like they’re working out and putting forth an effort, and everything’s harder when it rains outside. You don’t want to go out. It’s just crummy and grimy. From a metaphorical sense, the rain adds a really nice dimension.

Then, from a photography standpoint, it suddenly adds all these nice beads of water dripping down skin, which looks really nice.

It’s one thing to have this idea, and it’s quite another to control weather.

Von Wong: Yeah. In my mind it was pretty easy to make a rain rig, which is essentially a glorified sprinkler system distributed along a longer cross section. I talked to people who were smarter than me—Daniel and Brent—and explained what I was looking for. We basically had one day, and they just pulled it together with about $20.

Photo by Kerry Ellis

 

How did you go about making it rain?

Petrosian: We brainstormed a little bit, trying to think simple and low-tech. Things were happening so fast, we didn’t have time to rig up something sophisticated. Think simple, and things usually work out. And we thought PVC pipe and sprinkler heads might do the trick. So we went to Home Depot.

We bought different kinds of sprinkler heads to test them out and see what the flow was like, how fast the water would come out, and how we could control it. After some experimenting, we ended up using brass/copper old-school sprinkler heads.

We connected them together using PVC pipe and plumber’s glue, and then we just connected a hose to it and made it rain!

Photo by Kerry Ellis

 

So now that you had rain, how did you go about photographing it?

Von Wong: With water, just like smoke, you photograph its reflections by backlighting it. Water looks really good when it’s backlit. We needed two hard bare-bulb lights to light the droplets, and a black background so the drops would show up. For the foreground, I used two big parabolic umbrellas. Any large, directional light source would work to bring in our characters so they’re nicely lit without rough shadows.

It’s a basic four-light set up. With the subject in the middle, you have two lights coming in from the back and two bigger, softer lights coming in from the front.

 

How did you get rid of the ambient light?

Von Wong: We initially wanted to do this indoors because, ideally, if you want to freeze water droplets, you need a short flash duration. If you want a short flash duration, the flashes have to be at lower power. And that’s usually done in a darker environment.

We thought about shooting inside the gymnasium by putting down a big tarp and pumping out the water with a shop vac, then we kind of stared at each other and said that’s going to be way too much trouble. So we went with Plan B: a shaded area outside underneath a tree.

I ended up shooting at 1/1500th of a second at F/5.6 or F/4.

Step 2. Motivate Your Models

What was the biggest challenge during the shoot?

Von Wong: This wasn’t a professional athlete photoshoot. We were taking average people who hardly have any photoshoot experience and trying to make them into something more. To show them like they’ve never been shown before. The true magic of the shots comes from people doing something they had never imagined they would before.

And that wasn’t achieved just by taking a single shot. It was achieved with this very persistent pushing of people and getting them to try different things until they were comfortable in front of the camera. Pushing people to get the best out of them. That’s where most of the work happened. If you look at the video, you see me trying to encourage people, pushing them, making them feel good about themselves.

 

Tell me a little bit about trying to coax the best out of people.

Von Wong: You don’t always know what a person’s capable of doing. In my experience, the best way to find out what they can or can’t do is to simply ask them to do a variety of different things. It doesn’t matter what they actually do, whether it looks good or not, you just keep throwing ideas at them.

Along the way, as things are getting better, you say, “Wait, I really like that. It’s looking great over there. Put your arm a little higher. Let’s try another angle.”

Getting out from behind the desk to look fierce are (from left) Michael Shostack, head of online marketing; Katherine Cheng, head of community; and Pablo Ceron, product manager. Normally nice, approachable, and with sunny dispositions, these portraits reveal it’s probably better not to cross any of them, just in case. Photos by Alexandra Zielinski

It’s a continuous conversation to keep people busy. If you let them think too much about what they’re doing, sometimes it feels ridiculous. What looks good in camera might not feel natural in position. Not every pose I came up with worked. Actually, a lot of them failed. We took about 2,000 photos that day. But that process of working through things, people start to trust you.

A photoshoot is one thing, but the other aspect to it is the experience. All those who participated really felt like they pushed themselves and found a side of themselves they had never showcased before. That’s very important.

Photo by Michael Shostack

 

Step 3. Process and Print—BIG

Can we talk a bit about your post process?

Von Wong: It was relatively simple because all we wanted to do was convert the images from color to black and white. There’s a beautiful little button in Lightroom called “B&W” that does most of the work for you. That got the shots 90% done. Because we had taken the time to set up great lighting and good location, we got the photo right straight out of camera.

What did you do for the other 10%?

Von Wong: There was a little tweaking of highlights, shadows, and clarity to make the image pop a bit more. The rest was cleaning up water droplets that were too dense in certain areas, like on the face, using healing and cloning to get rid of distractions. There was a little dodging and burning using curves to highlight different muscles and carve things out.

It was very simple—about 20 minutes per image for the post-production.

We love HUGE prints here at SmugMug. Were these tricky to print larger than life for a gym environment?

MacAskill: Our gym lives inside an old machine shop, and the available wall space—above the mirrors and equipment—curves. Even the ceiling is curved. So we needed a material we could print on that would, most importantly, look amazing, but also bend to fit the curved walls and stand up to the gym’s environment. And be large enough, of course.

We ended up printing each image with an Oce Lightjet at 68” tall on Kodak Endura semi-gloss bonded onto 1/4″ sintra, which is a lightweight PVC foamboard. We thought about adding a thin polycarbonate laminate over the prints to ruggedize them, but the prints ended up being hung so high we didn’t think they’d get exposed to sweat or medicine balls. So we didn’t laminate them. But it was a perfect option had we hung the photos any lower.

What did you love most about this shoot?

Von Wong: The greatest compliment was all those who didn’t participate were upset. I thought that was great. A lot of them felt like it wasn’t really their thing, but when they saw how the others’ photos turned out, they were amazed and sad they hadn’t done it themselves. That’s the best compliment you can get.


Check out an extra tip from Von Wong on how to achieve a similar look with a bucket of water and two speedlights!

Find Benjamin online:

SmugMug’s Completely Revamped App for iPhone and iPad

October 21, 2014 52 comments

Today we’re announcing the latest SmugMug for iOS App, the app that gives you easy photo uploading to your SmugMug galleries from your iPhone or iPad.  Finally, you (and your fans) have the power to view all your galleries and archive your mobile photos in a place you know they’ll be safe.

The app helps bridge the gap between the photo galleries on your camera and on your computer, so you have access to both when you’re away. Here’s how it works.

All Your Beautiful Photos in Your Pocket

The free, completely redesigned SmugMug for iOS app lets you take all your galleries with you, anywhere. You can:

  • Browse all your own SmugMug folders and galleries (including private and unlisted ones)
  • Upload photos to your SmugMug galleries
  • Save galleries for offline viewing
  • Mark galleries as favorites for easy, instant access
  • Save and share photos and videos via SMS, email, Twitter, and Facebook
  • Follow other SmugMug users and browse their public galleries, too

Grab it now for free from the App Store. You’ll find additional info on our help pages, here.

Perfect for Friends, Family, and Your Fans

With this app, everyone in your circle wins, too. Since you don’t need a SmugMug account to use it, the app is perfect for your mom, dad, in-laws, best friend, or even for your growing fan base.

Have them grab the app for free and add your SmugMug nickname. They can then browse and see what’s new in your galleries, and add their favorite galleries to the app’s home screen for one-tap viewing.

The SmugMug iOS App + You

Here are a few examples of how this app fits into your life:

  • Go ahead and snap all the photos you want at your sister’s wedding. Open the app, queue up the uploads, and send her the link before they’ve even cut the cake.
  • When you’re out taking pictures and the editor of a local travel magazine asks about your camera. You whip out your phone, show her your portfolio of iconic city landmarks and you walk away with a promise for publication.
  • You’re on a flight out of LA and just struck up a great conversation with the guy in the next seat. Oh, he’s never seen those Joshua trees you’re talking about? Enter: Offline galleries.
  • Use the Save feature to download your Leica photos to your phone, then post them to Instagram, Facebook, and all the places where you share. Your friends will think you’re a photographic wizard with that sweet, sweet bokeh. (Sorry, tiny mobile camera!)
  • Add your favorite SmugMug photographers to the app’s home screen, so you’ll always have fresh inspiration in the palm of your hand.

Try the app now and let us know in the comments how you (and your friends) are using it, and what you think.

PS. Last year we announced the SmugMug for Android App, which also lets you browse, upload, and share your SmugMug photos. So if you’re a part of the Android clan, be sure to check it out.

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Link roundup:

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark: Tips for Taking Pictures in Low Light

October 15, 2014 2 comments

As we roll into the season of longer nights, we don’t think the extra darkness this should cut down on the amount of time you spend with your camera.

Low-light photography can be intimidating if you’re new to photography, but it’s easier than you think…. and you can take some amazing photos that take much more patience to capture when the days are bright and long.

Here are a few simple tips to keep in mind to keep you shooting (and sharing) photos through the darkest time of the year.

Know Your Gear

Photography is all about physics, but even if you weren’t a science major you can take a few minutes to learn the only tip you ever need to learn.

Photography is about capturing light, so low-light shooting means maximizing the amount of light hitting your sensor. There are three ways to do that:

  1. Allow more light through the lens
  2. Keep the shutter open longer
  3. Boost the sensitivity of your sensor

How? Widen the aperture of your lens, slow down your shutter speed, or raise your ISO, respectively. If you’ve never done any of this before, dig up your camera’s manual (or Google for the PDF version) and get to know these three things now. Shooting in your camera’s Manual mode is the most tricky – but most surefire – way to learn these principles, but you can also try Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority modes to fix one of the settings and let your camera automatically calculate the rest.

Knowing which buttons to push and which dials to turn is a priceless skill to have, and you should commit it to muscle memory now so you don’t end up panicking in the dark.

Additionally, your camera and lenses often have specific limitations. If you have an older camera, for example, you may not want to push the ISO above 1600. And some lenses simply don’t open up wider than f/5.6. If you’ve been thinking about trying new equipment but aren’t sure it’s the right gear for you, check out our own, in-house gear reviews to get an idea of what’s out there before you drop thousands of dollars.

Embrace Your Grain

Even if your images come out a bit grainy from pushing your ISO, that’s OK. Think about all the film photos you’ve probably seen from 30 to 50 years ago and you’ll notice the grain adds a lot of character to the image. It makes sense to embrace it and get to know it a little better.

Grain itself can contain quite a bit of color that may not be found otherwise in your scene. To minimize it, try third-party noise-reduction software, or experiment with the noise-reduction feature in programs that you’re already using, like Lightroom and Photoshop. Don’t be afraid to experiment!

Alternatively, try converting your image to black and white and playing around with the contrast. Photos that look weird at first look rock ‘n’ roll once the color’s stripped out. To do this, give it a quick conversion using SmugMug’s Image Editor, PicMonkey, or (our favorite) Lightroom.

Make More Light with Lightroom

Modern digital cameras give you quite a bit of leeway with the exposure, so if your image came out a bit dark (which happens because your camera’s LCD often gives a brighter impression of your image than you actually took), it’s OK to bump the exposure in post.

For most, pushing the “Exposure” slider is sufficient, but some pixel peepers may suggest using the more specific sliders you can find below that: highlights, whites, and shadows. These boost only the pixels you need without harming the rest. Experiment with what works best for you to get the look you want.

Once that’s done, don’t forget to publish your goodies to SmugMug and show the world what you’re capturing after the sun goes down.

Seek the Moment, Not Perfection

Above all, don’t stress about getting the perfect shot every time. Blurred motion, being too dark (or too bright) are all details that take your photo beyond basic shape and color. So be sure to capture the action, the intensity, and the joy of what you and your friends are doing. Even if it’s not textbook perfect, we guarantee that as soon as you share your photos, they won’t be thinking of anything except how much fun they had.

We’ll be sharing a few more low-light tips in the weeks coming, so stay tuned for more creative ideas to keep shooting in the dark!

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Link roundup:

New Video Tutorials to Help You Get the Most Out of SmugMug

October 9, 2014 2 comments

Did you know SmugMug has a huge library of totally free tutorial videos available 24/7, 365 days of the year? It’s true. We’ve stashed all our webinar archives, tutorial videos, and great playlists on YouTube, the most popular video community on the web, so you can sit back and become a Master SmugMugger in no time.

Even better – we’re always adding new tutorials based on your requests. Today we feature eight brand-new videos, each of them under four minutes so you can get informed and get back to taking great pictures.

And because we’re rolling into the season of giving, remember that we’ve recently released a  “How to Buy Prints and Downloads” video ( a short version and a full-length version), perfect for any SmugMuggers looking to help their friends, their mom, or their clients place orders without a hitch.

You can view the complete list of videos on our up-to-the-minute help page, or from our YouTube main page.

If you don’t see a video that you can’t live without, just tell us via email or in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

Take Your Smiles Further on World Smile Day

October 3, 2014 Leave a comment

Why Print in a Digital Age?

October 1, 2014 4 comments

Don’t let your photos die in the digital graveyard! Even though we live in the iPhone age and highly recommend that pro photographers offer digital downloads as part of their business models, we think that a trusty, traditional, physical print still has a place in every home.

Here are four reasons why.

1) Prints Bring Photos to Life

Prints have presence. There’s never any doubt about that, as any framed photo or tangible image in your home draws the eye every single time. It’s easy to dismiss the importance of a physical print when you’re not actually faced with one, but once you unwrap your print, feel the weight of it in your hands and see the light shining from its surface, you’ll see what we mean.

Particularly if you opt for metallic paper finish, or one of SmugMug’s modern print options like MetalPrints and Box Frame Prints. Guaranteed to stop every guest in their tracks.

2) Not Everyone is Online

Facebook may hold its fair share of friends with whom you share photos, but we’re willing to bet that your social group isn’t 100% online. For all the people you care about who aren’t on the web, prints are the medium of choice.

Whether this includes your mom, your grandpa, or your pen pal from 3rd grade abstaining from the internet, we’re pretty sure they’ll be delighted to receive a print, album or even a photo book in the mail.

3) Rare Means Care

Since we’re all guilty of taking digital photos for granted, prints are rare and (by basic laws of economics) will command more attention because of their relative scarcity. You know you’ll already captivate your online audience with your unlimited SmugMug galleries, but we’re pretty sure one meaningful print in your hallway will grab their attention, too.

For those of you looking for the most bang for your buck, prints are perfect for you. And who wouldn’t want something special hanging on their wall?

4) Your Memories Exist Even If Your Computer Explodes

Imagine you’re rummaging around your desk and find a priceless snapshot from 1992 that you took on one of those disposable cardboard cameras. Wow!

It’s definitely easier to drag and drop your files around folders on your hard drive (or in your SmugMug Organizer), but real photos are a joy to unearth. While not completely immune to discoloration, fire or fading, so many threads of history have been woven into a larger tale because of photos, crisp and bent with handwritten notes scrawled along the back.

Wouldn’t you want physical proof that you lived, even after the ‘Off’ button was pressed?

Let Your Photos Grow Up on SmugMug

We have four great print labs for you to choose from at SmugMug. EZ Prints is available for Basic subscribers, and Bay Photo, WHCC, and Loxley Colour are additional options (with additional print and mounting choices) for Portfolio and Business accounts.

To see the complete list of all print sizes and products available on your account, simply log in and view your Account Settings >  Business tab to view your Pricelists by lab. Basic and Power Users can  just click the Buy Photos button in any gallery to open the available items in the shopping cart.

Print your photos. No matter if you’re just snapping moments on your iPhone or documenting in RAW with a top-of-the-line DSLR, whether you just snap photos of your friends or if you’re a full-time pro, it’s up to you to make the most out of your life. So buy a print, hang it on the wall and keep those memories close at hand.

You won’t regret it.

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