Archive for May, 2013

Podcast: What Creative Directors Really Want From You

May 29, 2013 6 comments

Have you ever wondered how to get your photos picked up by ad agencies? How does a photographer get their foot in the door? These are questions many of us have thought about before, since photography (and ads) are everywhere we look.

You’re in luck. Our community angel, Rocky Bowles, sat down with pro photographer and Chief Creative Officer Alan Shapiro to talk a bit about what exactly goes on behind closed doors. A big deal, considering guys like him are the decision-makers and are technically responsible for every client in the agency.

If you want to impress the bigwigs, wouldn’t you want to know:

  • What types of photos Creative Officers are looking for?
  • How to get your photos in front of them?
  • Where photographers can go to hear about opportunities for their phots?
  • What’s customary, what’s expected, and what sort of things make you look like a n00b?
  • How much creative control the photographer gets?

Download and listen to the podcast now! It’s 30 minutes that may change the way you look at ads forever.

Photos by Alan Shapiro Photography

Release Notes, Bug Fixes and more

May 28, 2013 3 comments

We blog about the big stuff, but in the last year we’ve heard from some of our most dedicated fans that you miss hearing about the everyday fixes. And we agree that whether we’re working on things big or small, you should be up to speed on what we ship.

So, each month we’ll round up the short (or long, depending on how much coffee we’ve consumed) list of bug fixes, feature improvements and other miscellaneous changes that we’ve made. Keep an eye on the “Release Notes” tag and the “New Features” category if you’ve been keeping tabs on what we’re birthing into the Smuggiverse.

Hot Tip! Find those links in the sidebar at right.

Lately, We’ve Launched:

  • New Bay Photo SKUs

True, we did already formally announce this but just in case you missed it, Portfolio and Business account pros can offer more great prints than ever before. Previously available prints and products also reflect some sweet price changes (overall lower). So if you haven’t already checked your Bay Photo Pricelists, it may be time for a refresh.

  • Fresh SmugMug Marketing Pages

We refer to them as “marketing pages” in-house but most people know them as the place to read up on what SmugMug can do for you. So the next time your friends are shopping around for a place to keep their photos, link them here! You’ll can also get there from

  • IE10 slideshow button fix

We were hearing that the Slideshow button wasn’t showing up for people viewing sites in IE10. We fixed this, so it appear in all four of our supported viewing styles.

  • Faster search indexing

Image keywords should now be indexing quickly and become searchable much faster than before. Photos should be found in search results after a couple of hours – at the very most – after keywords and descriptions are applied. But you’ll probably find that it works much faster than that.

  • Get a Link in Journal style

Some of you had trouble using Get a Link in Journal style. This feature should now load properly, as expected in all four supported viewing styles.

  • ‘Like’ Button and Lightbox links

Similarly, the Facebook ‘Like’ button wasn’t sharing the lightbox link when clicked, which was super confusing especially if your gallery was set to Thumbnails view. Now your viewers will definitely know which of your photos was shared, so ‘Like’ away!

Stay tuned for more fixes and updates next month. As always, if you have any questions or feedback just talk to us! We may be pumping out other kinds of inspirational and educational posts on this blog, but we are (and always have been) listening to your ideas. :)

The Muse: Modeling in the Fashion World

May 27, 2013 2 comments

Next in our short series of posts from Dallas Nagata White’s amazing team is Katharine Schuette, a recent university graduate and model extraordinaire. Her perspective is the final corner of our fashion shoot trifecta. What’s it like to be a professional model in the industry? Is it everything we envision it to be? Here’s what she had to say!

What is your story? How did you get into the modeling industry?

Model Kate Schuette

Photo by Daeja Fallas

Modeling just happened to me, I didn’t seek it out. One weekend while walking to Waikiki beach, I picked up a local fashion magazine. The back page featured a raffle for a free haircut – and as a college student, I found this offer enticing. I won the raffle (I was probably the only person that responded), and when I picked up the gift certificate, the editor asked if I’d ever thought about modeling. Although I’d vaguely recognized my own bone structure in those of the models in advertisements, I never really gave it much thought. Especially since I live about five thousand miles away from New York, and am in the exact opposite time zone as Paris. I didn’t know at the time that Honolulu has a small but thriving fashion scene.

The editor set me up with a few test shoots with local photographers, and helped me shop around for agencies. My career unfolded from there, and in 2011 I had the opportunity to work with Wilhelmina LA, so I left Hawaii for awhile and tried my luck in the big leagues. I’m winding down now because I’m focusing on my “real” career, but I’ll still shoot if I get a booking, or if friends or skilled photographers want to work with me.

I love that with modeling comes travel, new faces, clients from all over the world. I’m saturated with wanderlust but tied to the second most isolated place on the planet, so when I spend the day with a group of Norwegians posing with Tahitian kids at Sandy Beach, I’m a happy girl. “Wow, how is this my life?” always hits me in the middle of shoots, or when I land in a new city. I’ll never forget standing in Shanghai and looking out at the Pudong skyline by night, trying to communicate with tuk tuk drivers in Thailand, or driving past thousands upon thousands of windmills on a road trip-themed shoot from Vegas to Palm Springs. I never would have had those experiences in my early 20s if not for this job.

It gives me a chance to get away from my typical daily life, wear clothes I’d never wear, and basically pretend to be someone else who is far more glamorous than I, with better hair, for a day. I’ll miss my job when it comes time to claim the inevitable title of “former model.”

Who takes creative lead on the shoot? Who contacts who?

It depends on the client. I wouldn’t be the person to ask about this, I just show up at call time. There’s might be an art director on larger shoots who handles a lot of that. My responsibility is to communicate with the client and photographer to understand their inspirations, vision for the finished product, and especially the emotion they want to convey.

Model Kate Schuette

Photo by Henrique Gendre

What’s the most important bargaining chip for models?

A model needs to understand what emotion the photographer wants to portray at any given moment, and know her body and face well enough to make sure a large portion of those pictures come out well. She needs to be able to do ridiculous things like hang from unsteady tree branches or splash around in the ocean in December (in heels, probably) while appearing completely “relaxed” and “natural” (these two words usually come up when I’m in a particularly precarious situation).

It helps to be friendly, never complain, and be professional. I had a client who booked a model with this great sullen, bored look that would be perfect for selling clothes to teenagers. Unfortunately for them, this was actually her personality and she ended up storming off down the beach mid-shoot in their sample clothes, never to return.

What happens on the day of the shoot?

I show up at some ungodly hour even earlier than necessary because I am prideful about my punctuality. I find the coffee. I find the client. Now I am ready to sit in hair and makeup for up to three hours, usually two; then, the stylist gets me ready for the first look. By then the set of the first image is prepared and the photographer and I get to work. There are assistants around, and stylists maintaining the integrity of the look. But there is an unbroken line of communication between the photographer and the model – the photographer has a vision and an inspiration, the model understands that vision and does her best to create the image he or she wants.

We’ll work our way through however many looks the client needs, and by the “golden hour” are ready to shoot the final image. This one is always my favorite because the light is easy to work with – all angles look better! – and also, I’m about to go home. On the best shoots, the whole team will go out to dinner afterward to celebrate.

What contracts, insurance and other business details do you need to make sure get handled?

My agency handles the business end, which is why I give them a 20% cut. My agency in Hawaii is especially reliable and I’ve never had a problem getting paid on time, unless the client was delinquent, but they’ve never failed to claim payment eventually. The mainland was a little different because there were so many girls; if I didn’t keep track of every invoice I probably wouldn’t have been paid for several jobs.

I also have to take out all of my own taxes and keep track of business expenses, of which there are many. I’m lucky because I can include expenses such as bikini waxes and gym memberships on my expenses each year.

I signed a 2-year contract with my agency but it’s kind of a charade because they can drop you at any time if you gain weight or you lose a limb or something.

Model Kate Schuette

Photo by Jackie Meiring

What is your opinion on TFP (Time For Prints)?

It’s great if you’re just starting to model and the photographer is experienced. If you’re an inexperienced photographer, I can imagine it would be difficult to book a professional model, so you might have to find a new face to work with. By the time a model is established, she should be able to book enough editorials where she won’t have to do any TFP. I wouldn’t do it now unless it were with my close friends who are photographers.

Do you you ever initiate projects with photographers?

My agency vouches for me if a client is interested; I do not initiate jobs. By the time the model is booked, the shoot is probably completely organized, and then a couple of weeks (or even days) before, they’ll hire me.

What does the ultimate dream job look like for you?

Oh wow, this is great. Okay, I am in Tokyo, I’m thinking something involving a Frida Kahlo inspired look, on the streets of Ginza in the spring on Saturdays when the roads are blocked off from traffic.The photographer is my favorite in the world, Harold Julian (who is off in New York now!). Whenever I felt nervous on a shoot in LA, I would pretend Harold was actually the one behind the camera. He’s kind of a quiet guy, but when he starts shooting he gets really energetic. And while he’s shooting, he’s explaining what attitudes or emotions he’s envisioning for the shot; he lets me use that inspiration.

Some photographers will have a certain vision they want to fulfill and tell you exactly how they want you posed, down to your fingertips, and it can be really suffocating and drags a lot of life out of the image. Harold gives more vague ideas or asks me to try certain things, but it’s never strict, and he lets me work within that framework of what he has in mind. It’s such a positive, creative atmosphere.

Model Kate Schuette

Photo by Anna Wolf

If you had to pick 3 things that you wish photographers would consider when working with models, what would they be?

I can only really speak for myself because I’m not sure how all models feel, but I like when photographers act relaxed and friendly and take the time to get to know my personality before we start working. I also want photographers to be able to get the right rhythm between when I pose and they shoot. It’s difficult to hold a facial expression or pose for longer than a half a second without the expression falling flat or looking unnatural. I like to be able to move fluidly between poses. And third – play music! I love when the music matches the theme of the shoot, how it helps you get into that headspace of acting like someone completely new.

Is it generally expected that you’ll get copies of the photos to use for your own portfolio?

It doesn’t always happen and sometimes I have to go out and buy the magazines to use in my book, but really great clients are conscientious about sending me a few copies. If I’m shooting for fun or testing, it’s important that the photographer sends me the pictures because that’s the whole point of giving up a day, or morning, to work. If they take forever to return the finished images, that’s a sign that they’re unprofessional and it’s unlikely I would work with them again. How hard is it to use Dropbox?

Model Kate Schuette

Photo by Anna Wolf

Everyone has their “best angles” in photos. How do you find a balance between what works for you vs how the photographer wants to pose you?

If the photographer wants me to pose in a very specific way, I just have to work with what he or she is asking. They have the final say, but I try to angle my face or body in such a way that it will still look good. If the photographer is more lenient I can pose how I see fit and play around with different looks until I hit on something that inspires them. Then I’ll work within that more narrow range of poses and attitudes.

How would you suggest up-and-coming photographers get started with finding a model to work with?

Don’t find a model. Shoot people – friends, family, anyone. My friend Ja Tecson, in Los Angeles, is a great example of what can be done without using a “model.” His images are crisp and colorful and full of energy. And although many of the people he shoots are really attractive, they have a genuineness that makes the images interesting.

We hope that all of you budding photographers are as inspired as we are after seeing what happens behind-the-scenes of the great fashion industry. So tell us what you think. Have your experiences been any different? Are you inspired to try adding more fashion into your portrait shots?

Success Stories: Matthew Jordan Smith Photography

May 24, 2013 1 comment

The Model: Fashioning a Niche in Celebrity Portraiture and Beauty

Name: Matthew Jordan Smith
Position/Title: Owner
Company: Matthew Jordan Smith Photography
Location: Los Angeles
Market: Fashion/Celebrity Photographer
Bragworthy Factoid: Having a client list that reads like a People magazine table of contents (Oprah Winfrey much?)
SmugMugger Since: 2011

Career Highlights…

  • Publishing his first book, Sepia Dreams: A Celebration of African-American Achievement Through Words and Images
  • Appearing as a guest photographer and judge on the hit TV show, “America’s Next Top Model”
  • Teaching at Manhattan’s prestigious School of Visual Arts and the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops

Favorite Features…

Yin yang black white red profile by Matthew Jordan Smith
All photos by Matthew Jordan Smith Photography

A Beautiful Beginning

Scanning Matthew Jordan Smith’s subject roster, which includes such luminaries as Halle Berry, Jennifer Connelly, Michael Jordan, Vanessa Williams and Jamie Foxx, the last word you would ever apply to this explosive talent is humble. Nevertheless, the high-profile fashion and celebrity photographer traces his success to a simple yet formative beginning: an involved father and a basic camera. “My father taught me how to process film. It was a hobby until I read a book by [photographer] Gordon Parks,” he says. “That was the first time I saw a photographer making a living. From then on, I wanted to be a photographer.”

Purple glitter eyes by Matthew Jordan Smith

Want a Unique Look? Cultivate a Vision

Smith, whose specialties are magazine editorial and beauty advertising, attributes his success in part to knowing who he is and where he comes from—to cultivating his own vision. “Whoever we are, it has a big impact on our work,” he says. “What pulled me into fashion and beauty was that it was one of the few industries where I could tell my story. You see that in my images.” Smith says having a clear vision of what you want to communicate with your work is key to developing a unique style. “Everybody can become a photographer,” he insists. “It’s more important to work on your vision. You can take a great picture on an iPhone and have no idea how you did it—the camera does everything for you. But once your vision is clearly defined, people will come to you for that.”

Yellow butterfly eyes by Matthew Jordan Smith

How SmugMug Helps

Smith’s focus is laser-guided when it comes to getting the most out of SmugMug. “My site is very clean,” he says. “I can make changes easily. It loads fast, so clients can see what they want and jump off — I love that about it.” Smith says the compliments he gets on his site design “changed everything,” increasing interest in his work. His other favorites? Secure archiving, privacy and display options. “All hard drives eventually fail,” he cautions. “Backing up is every photographer’s nightmare. Storing my work on SmugMug is a big plus for me — I can’t express how important that is.” Finally, Smith enjoys the ease SmugMug’s gallery features have added to his routine. “Once the images are up, I send the client a link to SmugMug – it’s a vital part of interacting with the client and keeping everyone in the loop,” he says. Often, his client is an advertising agency that turns around and sends the link to their client. Maintaining privacy and controlling feedback and versioning is critical.

Aretha Franklin feathers by Matthew Jordan Smith

Getting Behind the Beauty

Smith is an expert on working with models . Before shooting a subject, whether celebrity or CEO, Smith researches her extensively—and not all the research takes place alone at a computer. “A lot of the digging happens in hair and makeup. Find out what books they’ve read, movies they’ve seen—ask about them as a person. Get to know them before they get in front of a camera so you can pull out that knowledge later,” he advises, pointing out that this type of casual data collection also makes models more comfortable with you once the lighting goes up.

Three models with dark eyeshadow by Matthew Jordan Smith

Don’t Just Talk; Get Visual

Smith is a big proponent of using visual aids to communicate a concept to models and clients alike. “Give them something they can hear, see, touch,” he advises. “Then they become part of that idea. They’re all looking for direction and it’s your job to give it.” Smith cites a shoot based on the film From Here to Eternity, in which he showed models sketches and storyboarding of movie scenes while describing the mood he sought (“romantic” and “musical”). The models in question hadn’t seen the film, but, with props, he was able to bring alive the iconic image of Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr kissing in the crashing waves. Another time, he guided actress-singer Vanessa Williams through a successful shoot by pulling her aside mid-shoot and showing her a tear sheet of the look he wanted, which she was then able to replicate. “It’s not enough to just tell someone your idea,” he says. “Always show some them something tangible.”

Want more inspiration? Check out our Success Stories and our Photography Perspectives series!

Making Magic: Stylists in the Fashion Photo Shoot

May 22, 2013 Leave a comment

We talked with fashion photographer Dallas Nagata White the other week and she primed the pump for a great month of behind-the-biz fashion secrets. Our next post is an interview with two of the key elements behind every one of their shoots: the wardobe and hair stylist.

Tyson Joines has been dressing the some of the industry’s biggest celebrities for the past 4.5 years, including Bruno Mars, Kimora Lee Simmons, Kat Graham, Debbie Matenopoulous and Holly Madison. Hawaii native Mel Mariano sculpts show-worthy hair from the salon to the runway, transforming models into muses. Both have taken the time to shed some light about what it’s like to work with photographers in the fashion business, and just why it’s best to let pros like them handle the heavy lifting when it matters most.

Photo by Dallas Nagata White. Makeup by Lorena Takushi. Hair by Mel Mariano.

With so many talented people working at once for the final image, who takes creative lead on the shoot?

Mel: I’ve noticed that the photographer is the “creative lead” in all the shoots I have done in the past. But what I truly appreciate is when they allow me (the hairstylist) and the makeup artist to use our own creative ideas to help bring their vision to life.

Tyson: If there’s a Creative Director involved on a shoot, then they would take the lead. From my experiences, on smaller projects that don’t have a Creative Director, it’s usually the photographer that takes the lead creatively.

What kinds of questions should the photographer consider for you before the shoot?

Tyson: Communication can be really natural and easy, or it can be like pulling teeth, depending on the team you’re working with. I have experienced both spectrums myself. Some questions I’d need to consider before the shoot are: What are the photos going to be used for? What is the concept? Is their pay involved or is it a trade shoot? If it is a trade shoot, how soon can I expect to see the photos? As a stylist, it’s also important that I know the models measurements, too.

Mel: If there are any changes to be made then communication on that part must be good and clear. I listen and adapt well to different ideas while still following the concept we discussed. So if there are any styles they want me to create, I usually am good in thinking on the spot if its a sudden change or a “spark” of a new idea happens!

How much time is needed to plan and execute a photo shoot? How much input do you have in crafting the mode’s look?

Mel: The makeup artist and I have a little system: I usually start and set up the hair, depending on the look, while she sets up her makeup. Once I have completely set up the model’s hair she then starts on the make up. Then once the make up is complete, I come back in and finish the hair style and mold it to desired look.

Tyson: The time span when planning a shoot really depends on the urgency of the shoot, and your connections when putting a team together. The stylist has a fair amount of say in the shoot; the clothes after all, are the first thing you notice when you look at a photo.

What are the tools of your trade?

Mel: I keep things simple, I don’t like complicated things. Using the right product for any job is key, as well as the technique in hand. Always want to “work smarter, not harder”. A simple setting of the hair can lead to various hairstyles I can create in the end.

Tyson: My tools as a stylist are really simple and accessible. A wardrobe stylist needs a steamer, garment racks, pins (clothes, safety), double stick tape, masking tape to tape the soles of shoes, garment bags, hangers, a sewing kit, and a retagging gun for merchandise tags.

Photo by Orlando Benedicto. Makeup by Lorena Takushi. Hair by Mel Mariano.

How do you manage outdoor photo shoots and the dramatic Hawaiian weather?

Mel: Sometime we play things by ear, keep updated with weather reports especially if its an outdoor shoot. Or if worst comes to worst we change location. Not a difficult task since most of us are from the island we always have a “Plan B” location in mind already, or a default location/studio if available.

Tyson: Outdoor shoots are really tricky to execute. You obviously can’t control the weather, so you need to work with what you’re given. For instance with regard to wind, hopefully the models hair would be pulled back out of her face or in a similar style that works well with movement so she doesn’t have to fuss with it.

What happens on the day of the shoot? Walk us through a typical day on the job.

Tyson: Hopefully when the day of the shoot comes around, the stylist has already done a fitting with the model, and the photographer has scouted the location. On the day of the shoot, the make up artist and model usually arrives first to start hair and make up. The stylist typically arrives next, sets up their garment racks, and starts steaming clothes and picking looks to wear from his or her options. The photographer arrives last and shortly after shooting should begin. Once every look is finished being shot, the stylist will change the model into their next outfit, and the make up artist will do touch ups as needed.

Tyson on the job. Photo by Orlando Benedicto.

Mel: We arrive on location for call time with the hairstylist, makeup artist, and model. Then we introduce ourselves if its a first time working with the model and typically we always compliment the model right away. A “good vibe” from the start is the best impression and helps keep the mood that way during the shoot.  The model can produce great pictures if she feels good the whole time! Then I would get started on her hair, setting it with the curling iron and prong clips. Once that is done, the makeup artist can start on the makeup process. Then towards the end of makeup being done I start taking down the set I created and mold and style the hair to the desired look. If they will be photographing multiple looks, I can easily build those on as the look changes. And while the photographer is shooting, I step in when needed in-between shots to touch up the hair. Our goal is to make her look perfect in every shot!

What contracts, insurance and other business details need to be looked after?

Tyson: Typically more established stylists have some sort of business insurance. That tends to cover lost or damaged clothing which sometimes happens on shoots. The photographer may have a release form for the model to sign stating the stipulations of photo usage.

Mel: I am not too aware of contracts on my part, but if their is a model release form required by the photographer then that gets taken care of between them.

What is your opinion on Trade For Prints (TFP)?

Mel: TFP is basically working so that everyone involved will share the final images to use in their own portfolios. I have done a few for the purpose on building my portfolio, and I don’t mind doing it at all.

Tyson: I think TFP shoots are great in certain situations. If you’re just starting off, a stylist TFP is a great way to hone your skills and work with people who are at a similar talent level. I do think there is a time when TFP shoots need to be stopped. When you have a solid amount of work under your belt and after you have established yourself as a respected worker, it’s time to set monetary rates and launch your business!

Photo by Orlando Benedicto. Makeup by Lorena Takushi. Hair by Mel Mariano.

What does the ultimate dream job look like for you?

Mel: Ultimately, I want to work on big jobs and big time shoots. Locations of the shoots would probably be all over the nation and even international private and popular spots or studios. Everyone would be so professional that I would only take 5 hours, tops, for multiple looks and shooting time.

Tyson: The ultimate dream job for me would be a really intricate high fashion shoot with a supermodel, and a world renowned photographer. I can just imagine the couture dresses that would be on set, and the amazing locations we would shoot at.

Is it generally expected that you’ll get copies of the photos to use for your own portfolio?

Mel: I always would expect to use the photos because it is always my work in the photo. I wouldn’t sell them for any reason but simply use them for my portfolio work. I always ask permission from the photographer first.

Tyson: If it is a TFP shoot, yes, it is expected (and pretty common knowledge) that photos will be provided to the entire team. If there is no monetary compensation, then photos would be my payment.

Tyson in the studio. Photo by Orlando Benedicto

If you had to pick 3 things that you wish photographers would consider when working with stylists, what would they be?

Mel: Every photographer is different in how they direct, so it varies with most. If they aren’t thinking about any aspects of the shot except lighting and angle, then as a versatile hairstylist I look out for the overall look and appearance of the model. For example, if the hair needs to be fixed or out of the model’s face, if the makeup got smudged and needs to be blended out, or if the clothes are a bit off or look awkward then I would help out with adjusting that, too. The best part of working with a team is having that extra help, even if its not your job. I don’t mind at all.

How would you suggest up-and-coming photographers get started with finding a stylist to work with?

Mel: Work of mouth is the best way, and networking at the same time. For every shoot I do I make sure I pass out my business cards to everyone. You never know who may need my hair expertise for future work, and I’ll always be up to get more experience and meet more artists!

Tyson: If you’re just starting out as a photographer, you can find stylists on websites like, etc. Be sure to check with the other creatives involved in the shoot, (hair, make up), as they will probably have several references for you.

Photo by Dallas Nagata White. Makeup by Lorena Takushi. Hair by Mel Mariano.

What are the benefits of hiring pro stylists for individual client portrait sessions?

Mel: Hair and makeup stylists know the vision and how to execute the desired look effortlessly. And when you fully trust in their knowledge and skill, it makes everything go smoothly!

Tyson: Hiring a stylist will really benefit everyone involved in the shoot from the client to the photographer. The client gets a shape flattering, (hopefully) stunning outfit, and the photographer gets his or her photo’s enhanced to the fullest visually. The outfit the client is wearing is one of the first things that will pop out at you when someone is reviewing your photos.

If there is anything else that you want to comment on about the the fashion world, working with models and photographers, or anything you’d want to suggest to up-and-coming portrait photographers?

Mel: Fashion is everywhere we go, everyone has a different eye for art and creativity. The one thing that connects us all together when working as one is that “creative eye.” All artists (hair stylist, makeup, photographer, stylist) need have an “open mind.” Once you close your mind to other artist’s ideas, you lose all possibilities of the work being even better than what one could imagine. Always have a good personality and keep it professional while having fun! I’m sure we all LOVE what we do, and thats what makes everything worth it!

Stephan Bollinger Speaks on Why Models Are Made

May 20, 2013 7 comments

Think the models in those fashion spreads are gorgeous? Of course you do, but it’s no secret that the standard of beauty has done much to change the way we talk about self-image. As photographers, we walk the line between capturing life’s moments and creating something beyond reality. Successful photos grab the eye, usually because we see something that we think is physically impossible. But with actual people as the subject, that line becomes harder to see and we get fooled into thinking we all need to look that good right out of the box. 

Australian photographer Stephan Bollinger’s “Models Are Made” video pulled at our heartstrings, and we loved that he took such an important matter into his own hands. As a master portrait photographer and a father of two little girls, we knew that he had great perspective and the power to shed some light on both sides of the matter. How exactly are models made? We asked, and here’s what he said. Scroll down to watch the video that inspired us all.

Black and white model fine art photo by Stephan Bollinger

Photos by Stephan Bollinger Photography

At several points in my life, I was confronted with people suffering from depression, eating disorders, and suicide. In late teenage years, I became close friends with a young woman, who was bulimic. She was an expert in hiding her problems, and for over 6 month, I was under the impression she was one of the happiest people alive. Another friend of mine was under the exact same impression, until his girlfriend committed suicide, and his “perfect world” fell apart overnight. She was a young, beautiful and energetic young woman, with a dark secret: depression.

We love to forget about such issues, because they are hard to understand, and we feel helpless. Not talking about it doesn’t make them go away, unfortunately. Of course – most of them are not related to photography or advertising, but some are.

Dark profile photo with negative space by Stephan Bollinger

While shooting a fashion series in Singapore, one of the models looked so thin and unhealthy, I was afraid she would faint any minute. As a result, I refused to work with her. About a week later back at my studio in Australia, I talked about the incident with a group of young models, and one of them told us about her friend, who nearly died from eating disorders and required intensive hospital care.

Without a doubt, advertising and fashion stories have had their influence for a long time in creating a false and negative body image for some women, resulting in eating disorders and depression. As a photographer producing such images, I am guilty as charged.

At the same time, I love creating such images, I love the fashion industry, I love highly styled editorials and advertising campaigns.

Nude model  dance fashion photo by Stephan Bollinger

I often feel as if I wear three pairs of shoes at once, those of a producer (who works with clients, to produce flawless images for their advertising campaign or magazine editorials), those of a photographer (who works closely with models of all ages), and those of a father (who wants to protect, teach and inform his own two young daughters).

The question I ask myself: Is the problem the polished images many young women compare themselves with, or is the problem that many don’t understand how these images were produced. If they would see the models in real life, would they still feel the same way? The term “photoshopped” has turned into a bad term for “creating fakes”, but there is so much more to high-end glossy pictures.

Ballet garden by Stephan Bollinger

There are initiatives for “positive body image” out there, mostly done by activist groups. The problem with such initiatives is that they blame Photoshop and retouching for everything, and demand change in newspapers and magazines. I don’t believe that such “negative” approach and the demand for change reaches those who need to be informed and educated: the young women. If effective and believable, this should be done by those “guilty,” those actively working in the industry, those with a positive outlook, those who want to educate, not complain.” That means us, photographers.

“Models are made” as a concept is the summary of all the above.

In a perfect world, I would have loved to take a few months off of work and hold presentations at high-schools around the country. But as much as I tried, I could not find any organisation or company who was a) interested in the subject or b) helping with funding such an endeavour.

I produced the short 4 minutes instead, illustrating what really goes into the production of a high-gloss beauty or fashion image. It’s not just retouching, it’s a combination of many factors, from naturally beautiful people to a group of creatives who produce the final product.

My goal is to educate, not change, and to deliver a positive message.

You can see more of Stephan Bollinger’s work on his website,, and follow him on Google+ to see previews, news and his beautiful photo updates.

Stay creative, stay inspired and stay strong!

Watch Us Maximize Your Event Marketing on SmugMug

May 16, 2013 2 comments

Hungry to learn more? Lucky for you Smuggers, we’ve got two more great webinars on our schedule geared towards one of our most powerful Business account features: Events.

Backlit window bride with glow by Brandon Busa
Photo by Photography by Busa

1) SmugMug Feature Spotlight: Event Marketing

May 21, 2013
5:00 – 6:30 PM Pacific Time
Register for this event!

In our monthly pro webinar, we’ll deep dive into Events, Favorites and all the great things it can do for your. You’ll be guided through every nook and cranny by our very own Sean Rogan, so bring your questions and get ready to unleash the power you probably never knew you had.

Wedding dip with palm trees by Brandon Busa
Photo by Photography by Busa

2) Increasing Your Bottom Line with Brandon Busa

May 28, 2013
5:00 – 6:30 PM Pacific Time
Register for this event!

Join San Francisco Bay Area photographer Brandon Busa of Photography By Busa and SmugMug’s own Rocky Bowles to learn how to maximize your potential and get more clients. This free webinar will teach you essential techniques designed to get the most out of your wedding and portrait events. Brandon will share his own polished workflow and show the best ways to use the marketing and event features built in to every SmugMug Business account.

We’ll cover:

  • How to get clients, families and guests of events to interact on YOUR website
  • Getting print sales from all guests from a wedding or even a portrait shoot
  • The importance of offering outstanding service

This webinar is perfect for portrait and wedding photographers, as well as anyone who wants to learn new ways to make money through photography.

UPDATE 6/17/2013: Miss the webinar? We’ve uploaded the recording (in two parts) to our video channel so you can tune in at any time. Watch Part 1. Watch Part 2.

Register and learn

It’s our mission to make you an expert in all things Smug… and to be sure that you’re making the happiest clients in the biz. Keep your bookmarks on our Events Calendar for all the great new podcasts and webinars we’re adding all the the time.

See you soon!

The Encyclopedia of the Watermark

May 13, 2013 19 comments

Alright, photographers. Since SmugMug started offering a non-destructive watermarking feature it’s been a favorite of lots of you, and it certainly has been one of ours. But our Support Heroes get questions about the nitty-gritty details all the time, so let’s dig deep and show those of you who haven’t tried it yet how much it rocks.

Watermarked wrinkly dog with glasses

What’s a Watermark?

Watermarks are custom graphics or text that SmugMug Pros can apply to their photos. They appear on all the photos that appear in your SmugMug galleries. Your original uploaded files won’t contain them, which means that all downloads, print or gift items that clients purchased from your galleries will remain clean and pristine.

Who Can Use Watermarks?

At SmugMug, Portfolio and Business account holders can use Watermarks. If you have a Basic or a Power User account you can use programs (like Lightroom) to apply watermarks to your photos before uploading to SmugMug, but if you do this just remember that this means your original photo file will be marked and anything purchased from your site will contain them.

Why Use Watermarks?

Watermarks are awesome for keeping your name and brand associated with the photos you take. Especially if you sell your photos for profit, using this feature ensures that people pay you for your images.

Watermarks and image protection gallery settings

Plus, once you set them up in your Gallery Settings (shown above), we’ll automatically apply them to new photos as you upload, so you don’t even have to think about it.

Tip: When you Watermark, why not consider letting your fans use your display copies for free? They get to share the low-res files with their friends, which means free advertising for you.

You can add watermarks to your images prior to uploading to SmugMug (through Lightroom or other image editors) but that watermark becomes a part of the original file that we print from. If you do this we, recommend that you disable printing in your galleries. By using the SmugMug Watermark tool, the custom watermark is applied to your display copies only after upload, leaving your originals in pristine condition.

Finally, you can have as many different Watermarks as you wish on file in your SmugMug account. We just recommend that you don’t keep too many, or the list can start to get confusing.

Where to Find Your Watermarks

Your SmugMug Account Settings

Look in your Account Settings > Business tab. The first section there, Branding, will contain several important pro features, including Watermarks. This is your home base where you can manage, edit or delete any Watermarks you’ve uploaded to your site.

Tip: To change or remove the watermarks on your photos, you’ll go to your gallery’s Tools button. We’ll cover this in a minute.

How to Create and Apply Your Custom Watermark

Create transparent png file in Photoshop

First, you’ll create a special file using your favorite image editing program, like Photoshop. We suggest starting with a transparent file about 1000 x 2000 pixels in size (you can always crop it down or change this later), adding in any text that you wish and/or using your logo. When in doubt, start with a large canvas so that your finished watermark looks good on our full range of display sizes.

Tip: Given that your Watermark will be sitting over colorful images, you may want to keep the font color a simple opaque white, but it’s up to you.

Save your file as a transparent PNG file and upload it to an unlisted gallery on your site. Then click the gallery Tools button > This Photo > Make into Watermark. We’ll then let you set up the opacity, placement and other settings for that Watermark. Don’t forget to give it a unique name!

Tip: If you plan on using several watermarks, or if you’re experimenting with different ones, you may want to be specific and call out placement and the font, like “Center Helvetica for portraits” or “Bottom right logo 2013.” Being tidy is just a good idea, anyway.

We have a comprehensive step-by-step tutorial showing you how to make a sample Watermark file on our help pages. And we have a fabulous video tutorial, too, where you can see watermarks in action.

How to Change or Remove Your Watermarks

First, create and upload your new Watermark to your site, then set it up as aWatermark with a new, unique name. Once that’s done, you can go to any gallery on your site and open the Tools button > Many Photos > Watermarking.

Change or remove watermarks

You’ll see a new screen with thumbnails of every image in that gallery. Click to select one, a few, or all of them so that they’re highlighted in red, pick the new Watermark name from the menu bar at the top and click “Watermark.”

If you want to remove watermarks from your photos completely, it’s the same deal. Only choose the “Remove” radio button at the top. Again, click the “Watermark” button to save your changes.

Note that it can take a few minutes before you see the changes on your photos, so it’s a great time to put the kettle on or stretch your legs.

How to Fit Both Landscape and Portrait Images

We get this question from time to time, but it’s a bit tricky. After all, your camera’s sensor and how you crop your images can drastically affect the aspect ratio of your final image, which changes the placement of your Watermark.

If you want your Watermark to look good on both portrait and landscape-oriented images, here’s a suggestion: Go square! This doesn’t mean that the visible Watermark has to be square, only the image file that you’re using. So try creating a square transparent PNG, center your watermark text and make sure you keep it centered when you set it up in SmugMug.

Another alternative is to make a corner edge Watermark. Simply align your Watermark’s text along the bottom and one side of your image file and when setting it up in SmugMug, choose one of the Bottom left or Bottom right placement options.

Option 3: You can always tile your Watermark so that your design is repeated uniformly across the image. (See below for example)

And finally, if you’re really picky about perfect Watermarks on all your images, you may want to create and set up two versions of your design: one for landscape photos and one for portraits. Note that you can only set your Gallery Settings to automatically apply one Watermark, but you can manually apply the second one to only the photos you want to switch.

Watermarks vs Printmarks: What’s the Diff?

These two features are cousins. The thing to remember is that Watermarks are applied to the photos displayed on your website. Printmarks are like watermarks for your prints, and only appear on products that you and your customers buy.

Set Printmarks up just like you set up your Watermarks! The only thing to keep in mind is that Printmarks, unlike Watermarks, are limited in the size and area of the photo so they stay unobtrusive. Check the preview if you’re unsure.

Tip: Great ideas for Printmarks include the event date, your handwritten signature, team name, graduation year. What else can you dream up?

When They Work Great and When They Won’t

Watermarks go a long way towards preventing image theft by right-clickers and screen-grabbers, plus they’re great for spreading the word about you… but not everyone loves them. Some people find anything extra on the image distracting, and large Watermarks can sometimes cover up vital parts of the photo.

Unobtrusive Watermarks close to the edge or in corners can be cropped out, and of course there’s always the chance (however slight) that someone with lots of time and Photoshop experience can remove it.

Finally, Watermarks can be applied to photos only, so they won’t work on your video files. For security on your videos, and for better image protection all-around, we recommend using Right-Click Protection as well.

Great Watermarks We’ve Known

For your inspiration, here’s a few examples of various watermarks we’ve found along the way. You may want to try these  yourself!


Photo by Schmootography

Center logo:

Photo by Brian Rice Photography

Photo by Creative Focus Portrait Photography

Banner style:

Photo by Barnet Photography

Photo by Barn Door Studio

Photo by Meghan MacAskill Photography


Photo by Trick The Light Studio


Photo by MJR Photography

Let’s Get You Started!

Are you ready to dive in? We’ve already pre-loaded a generic “PROOF” watermark into your website that you can use right away, but here’s a few basic watermarks you can snag to change it up.

Grab PNG files for square, portrait, landscape and banner watermarks

We hope that these questions hit all the points you may have been wondering about this powerful feature. If we missed one and you still need help, give our Heroes a shout!

We Love You, Mom! Here’s 5 Ways We’ll Prove It

May 10, 2013 2 comments

We know that every day is Mother’s Day, but around this time of year we all really want to tell all the moms in our lives just how important they are to us. As a company built on the importance of family, we believe that moms are the shiz.

Baby bottom tattoo for mom

Adorable pic by Nick W Photo

SmugMug started with just family, but we’ve grown into so much more. Amongst our team of amazing employees we have moms, moms-to-be, grandmoms, adoptive moms, found moms, mom-in-laws, dog moms, horse moms and supermoms. And everyone in-between.

Thanks, Mom, for supporting us through thick and thin, changing our diapers, and nurturing our health, happiness and all of our crazy whims. Whether you’re right next door or live only in our memories, whether you’re near, far, or even if we’re unrelated by blood, the message is the same: You’re our hero!

Are you stuck on ideas on what to do on Mother’s Day? You’re in luck, because we’ve got a few ideas to share.

5 Ways to Sweep Mom Off Her Feet

1. Give her her very own queen-worthy portrait session.

If your mom is like ours – and many gorgeous women we know – she may think portraits are great for other people. But if you’re an experienced photographer, this is a great time to stop what you’re doing and turn your skills to her. Proper lighting, posing, an understanding of angles and your priceless experience may be the only thing she needs to truly see that she’s beautiful in photos, too.

(We admit that we were  inspired by our friends at Je Revele Fine Art Photography, who shared with us how they bring out the beauty in every client)

2. Do a photo shoot for her favorite dog/cat/grandkid.

If mom’s still camera shy, offer to take her favorite little one to the park and snap some frame-worthy photos. Even if you’re not a portrait photographer by trade, taking your purloined subject outside into a fresh new environment can bring big smiles to their faces and make for energetic, beautiful photos.

And that’s what’s really important to her.

3. Hire (or bribe) her assistant to cover the studio for a day.

This one’s for all the photography dads out there. We can’t even begin to count the number of passionate moms who have turned taking photos of the kids into a thriving business, but it’s a tough to balance family, life and the studio. Free up the weekend by asking her assistant to work a little overtime, or hire someone to manage the busywork while you whisk her away.

4. Give her a 1-on-1 lesson on how to use her camera.

When you love photography, you automatically get hired for part-time work… troubleshooting for mom. But instead of answering the phone distracted and busy, why not spend the day dedicated to making mom a total pro with her camera. She gets time with you, the power of great photos is bestowed upon her, and you can talk about something more important the next time she calls. Win/win/win.

(Tip: Pair it up with her very own SmugMug account and she’s good to go!)

5. Take her with you on your next photo trip… and leave the camera at home.

This one’s our favorite because it’s really sneaky. Anyone who knows a photographer is used to waiting around forever. And ever. And ever. This time, take mom out to someplace gorgeous and – SURPRISE! – enjoy the view together.

SmugMug has the best moms

SmugMug moms at their best

SmugMug's fabulous moms

Great SmugMug Moms and Grandmoms

Our fabulous Smugmoms

We hope that everyone out there has a great weekend with the ones you love!

Photo credits: Nick W Photo, Baldy, Doc, Ivan Makarov Photography, Denise G., Winsor Photography, Duc L., Sam S., Craig M. and Andrew Shieh.

5 Social Media Myths (and What You Should Do About Them)

May 8, 2013 4 comments

Being close and personal with our customers has always been #1 for us at SmugMug. We’ve been engaging with friends, family and our fans for over 10 years, initially through our Support Heroes and online forums, then through Twitter, Facebook and Google+. We love getting to know you! But despite the growth (and explosion) of social media, not all photographers and creatives have embraced the idea of putting themselves on the internet.

We gathered up five of the most commonly-heard myths about social media and chatted with our majorly tech savvy photo-friend, Colby Brown, as well as a round table of our seasoned in-house pro photographers. We didn’t necessarily debunk these myths because we know that everyone’s got different values and goals, but we did lay all the cards on the table. Read on and decide for yourself. 

Myth #1: All the social media services are the same.

Various social media logos

Matt’s on Facebook, Laurie’s on Twitter, Andrew loves Google+. I should be there, too, right?

Maybe. Social media is a fantastic (and free!) way to advertise your business and share your personality with past, current and future clients, but this doesn’t mean you should be there just to be there.

It’s a great environment to publicize your work and to demonstrate that you have personality. This is especially important for small businesses, where personality is key. And it’s great for you, too, so that the type of clients that you’d actually enjoy working with find and contact you. Similarly, posting examples of what you can do boosts the confidence of your past clients… leading them to refer their friends to you.

What you should do: Ask the question, “What do I want out of social media?” What you’re looking to get out of the experience will dictate what types of services you should target and use, because each platform has different demographics and feature sets. Find which works best for you.

Myth #2: People will steal your work.

This is true, in the sense that any photo you upload and post on the internet has a chance of being downloaded or used by someone else, without you knowing. The real question you have to ask is: When should you care?

There are as many opinions about watermarking as their are watermarks in the web. There are obstructive watermarks and subtle watermarks, big ones and small ones and pretty ones and ugly ones. They are all designed to ensure that the artist’s name stays with the image, and we’ve always said that use of watermarked images means free advertising for you. And let’s not forget the fact that some social networks strip your files’ metatdata on upload, so a watermark may be your only recourse to establishing copyright.

But many folks still believe that no matter what the size, they’re distracting. And even if you do watermark, there are sneaky ways to crop around them or even remove them via a photo editor.

Consider the different types of theft: If Joe Whoever saves your image for their personal collection of inspiring photos, do you get an ulcer? What about a mega-corporate chain using your image on their homepage, without your permission? In which situation would you actually send a bill?

What you should do: Think about whether or not the kind of unauthorized use of your images is something that keeps you up at night, and formulate a plan. Note that if an image is not registered with the US Copyright Office, it will be difficult to prove infringement when your images are used in a for-profit manner. If you choose to watermark, SmugMug’s watermarking feature is completely non-destructive, which means that they’re applied to your display copies only, and any legally purchased prints will print clean. Our Publish to Facebook feature will also allow you to export watermarked display copies to Facebook, saving you time.

Myth #3: Don’t show your unfinished or unprocessed shots.

Pro travel photographer Elia Locardi shows us examples of great post-processing.

Trade secrets, ahh! In the creative world there are plenty of good reasons to worry about protecting what makes your style unique, and with photography a good chunk of that is in the way your process your images. Plus, do your clients really care how bland the in-camera image was, as long as you delivered a beautiful, perfectly-balanced photo? Will they start to worry that they’re paying you for smoke and mirrors?

Unprocessed photos aren’t always the scary, client-repelling skeletons in the closet you think they are. Depending on your niche and who you’re catering to, before/after comparisons can be what drives them out the door… or what drives people in. In the landscape and fine art genre, teaching and photo education has become a huge market that inspires and endears fans all over the globe. A great photographer who shows – and shares – what he or she did to get the shot becomes that much more valuable to the people who follow them on social media. They hang on to you, hungry for more. This can help your followers relate to you in a personal way because you’re willing to let down your guard and show that, just like everyone else, your images aren’t magically amazing on their own.

What you should do: Consider the type of photography you do, or what you aspire to do. Are you an event or wedding photographer who shoots and delivers one-shot deals? Or do you want to create a fan base who keeps coming back for more? You’ve got to decide if delivering a perfect image –and only a perfect image – is what your clients care about, or if you’re looking to build great relationships with aspiring photographers over time.

Myth #4: Never share your shoot or location information.

Where did Colby Brown take those photos in Iceland?

Like the above, it’s understandable to keep a gorgeous and dramatic place under wraps, otherwise people will copy what you do. And in the case of a protected or pristine location, you may want to keep the name particularly secret in order to keep it clean as long as possible.

But in the age of the internet (and GPS coordinates in your camera), chances are that if you don’t tell people where the image was shot, someone else will. Go ahead and raise the bar for great photos in a famous location. Show the world how you skillfully brought a fresh perspective on a well-known place! Doing so speaks volumes for your abilities, and inspires a whole new generation of photographers. Plus, public venues will love you for making their space look great.

What you should do: Decide if inspiring photographers and standard views is a challenge that you’re willing and eager to take. Plus, are you ready to say no to your fans and risk the backlash of withholding tasty information?

Myth #5: Social network companies will sell your photos.

Google Plus and Facebook for photographers

Beautiful and effective social media pages for Smug Pro photographers Ivan Makarov and Michael Bonocore

This one is hot stuff in the media lately, and with good reason. Is there really a dark side to all the great things free social network companies do for you?

The truth of the matter is, once you put something on the internet, it’s out there. There’s no 100% guarantee that it won’t or can’t get taken and used by someone else, even though there are measures you can take to be sure that your name stays associated with the work. In fact, the only way to assure that nothing ever gets stolen is to never post anything on the web.

Even though you should take time to read the Terms of Service on the different sites you use, remember that these companies (SmugMug included!) are required to have these terms so that they can display the images you upload to different users, often at different sizes and resolutions. And that’s the whole point of you using those services, right? Plus, big companies have a lot on the line, which means they’re not likely to risk selling your images without your consent.

What you should do: Only share what you’re willing to have taken, and read the fine print on any services you use. When it comes to SmugMug, you can always watermark your images as described above before sharing, to be sure you get credit.

We hope these discussions helped ease any concerns that you may have had about sharing your photos online. Do you have any other scary monsters lurking in the back of your head? Let us know!


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