Archive for June, 2013

How Gary Arndt Does Everything, Everywhere

June 28, 2013 1 comment

If you’re a longtime follower of our blog, the name Gary Arndt may ring a bell. We featured him in 2010 and  he inspired many of us to follow our dreams, explore the horizon and take more photos. Gary’s still traveling the world and taking photos from all corners of the planet. As you’re dreaming of faraway lands and maybe even planning your annual vacation, here are a few tips Gary shared about how to efficiently pack, travel and share all the photos you take when you’re not at home.

Photos by Everything, Everywhere

How did you get your start as a full-time travel blogger? 

I made the decision to travel around the world in October 2005 and began my blog one year later in October 2006. I sold my home in March 2007 and have been traveling around the world ever since.

My blog began as a way to document my trip for my friends and family and sort of just grew into something more over time. I made a decision in late 2007 to take it seriously and to see if I could turn it into a business, which I now have.

How many places do you visit in an average year?

The number of places I’ll visit in an average year can vary and it also depends on how you define a place. 2013 has been very busy for me. So far this year I’ve been to 17 countries and I’ll probably be in around 35 by the time the year is over. I’m currently at the beginning of a 3-month trip to visit all the countries and territories in the Lesser Antilles.

This is a dream most of us consider at some point in our lives, but you’ve found success. How did you do it?

I promote my site whatever way I can. I do many interviews online and off. I’ve had my work appear online on sites like, The Today Show and Mostly people discover me via social media channels like Twitter and Facebook.

Most people are fascinated by my lifestyle before they ever see one of my images or read one of my articles. Simply having traveled for so long and having been to so many places is the biggest hook for people.

As far as recognition, I’ve won many mainstream travel journalism awards for my photography and for blogging. I won a Lowell Thomas Award last year for Photo Illustration of Travel (placing behind the New York Times), a Northern Lights Award for Photography of Canada (placing behind National Geographic) as well as many North American Travel Journalist Association awards and recently a SMITTY Award for my use of social media by Travel + Leisure Magazine.

Tip time: What’s in the travel blogger’s survival kit?

The bare minimum for me is my SRL, laptop and an iPhone. The iPhone gives me the ability to post images while I’m out and about. The SLR and laptop should be pretty obvious.

I also have an iPad, Kindle Paperwhite, and 2 USB hard drives. Over the last 6 years it has actually gotten easier from a technical standpoint. Many of the devices I used to carry with me have all been condensed into my iPhone ( GPS, video camera, point and shoot camera, wifi detector, audio recorder, microphone, etc)

How do you manage files on the road? For example, what storage systems/archiving tools do you use ?

People often assume that I back everything up in the cloud. This isn’t true. I can easily shoot several gigabytes of images a day and uploading that much data from remote places around the world is next to impossible. It is difficult to do even when I’m in the US. I have almost 2TB of images now and I’m not in one place long enough to do that sort of upload.

I have 2, 2TB USB hard drives that I carry with me. I keep them in two separate bags in case one should get lost or stolen. I keep a copy of everything on each drive.

I also have several hard drives at my mothers house. When I visit her, which I do about 2-3 times per year, I copy everything to those drives as well so I have copies in at least 2 locations.

By the time I outgrow my 2TB drives, there should be portable 3, 4 or 5 TB drives available. I upload only my edited jpegs to SmugMug. Those I consider my finished product. I obviously worry about my original RAW images, but so long as my finished jpegs are there, the world won’t come to an end.

I don’t think my system is fool proof or the best possible, but it has worked for me so far. I hope the day isn’t too far away when global bandwidth is big enough and cloud storage is cheap enough that it would be viable for what I do.

Do you shoot at the full resolution of your camera or do you use one of the lower ones to save space? Do you take your photos with the intent to sell big prints?

I shoot everything in RAW. When I began traveling I shot in jpeg and it was a horrible decision. Storage has gotten so cheap that I can not see the point in shooting in anything less than full resolution. I don’t shoot with the intent of selling prints, but I do always have that option by shooting in RAW.

Have you lost any images over the years?

Amazingly enough, I don’t know of any images that I’ve lost. I’ve been very careful about my data storage. When I started traveling, I was backing up my photos to DVD and an old iPod that I had. It was a horrible solution. I remember spending 2 days in Melbourne burning dozens of DVD’s and having to send them back to the US in a big box. I am amazed I haven’t lost anything from my early travels.

How do you deal with needing internet access in remote locations?

I seldom have a problem finding internet. As I am writing this, I’m on one of the lesser populated outer islands in the Bahamas, and the bandwidth here is fine. I’ve spent thousands of nights in hotels now and I’ve become an expert in maximizing my connection. Where in the room I can get the best signal, when to go down to the lobby or when I have to head to Starbucks or McDonald’s. I also have a global Boingo account which lets me log on to wifi hotspots all around the world.

What are your essential photo editing tools? 

I currently have a 15″ MacBook Pro Retina and use Lightroom 5.0, and occasionally Photoshop CS6. I also sometimes use SilverFX Pro and Photomatix.

Since you’ve been on the road for 6 years, has your camera changed much?

I began with a Nikon D200 and a 18-200mm lens. Today I use the exact same lens and have upgraded the body to a Nikon D300s.

The Nikon 18-200mm VR lens is far and away the most versatile lens on the market. I can take it out for the day without knowing what I’ll be shooting and be reasonably covered for both wide angle and close-up shots. It isn’t the ‘best’ lens on the market, but it is usually the only thing I need when I leave my hotel room.

I’ve stuck with a crop sensor camera for reasons of weight. The crop sensor lenses are smaller and lighter than full frame lenses. Size and weight is very important to me as I have to carry all my equipment with me all the time.

In addition to the 18-200mm lens, I also carry a 12-24mm lens and a 50mm f/1.4. I probably use those lenses for less than 5% of my shots. I have also rented lenses on occasions. During my trip to South Georgia Island and Antarctica last year, I rented a 500mm lens which was a fantastic decision.

I also have a lightweight carbon fiber tripod from Oben and my camera bag is from Timbuk2. I also use a BlackRapid shoulder strap.

Does your safety (or safety of equipment) ever affect your workflow, what you bring, or how you work?

Not really. I have never had anything stolen and I don’t worry too much about theft. I take common sense precautions and usually never leave anything expensive in my room when I am not around. I keep a minimal amount of gear with me, so I’m not as worried as some people might be if they were on a big photo shoot. I have older camera bodies, lenses and laptops at my mother’s house should I ever need a backup.

So, tell us Can you outline your workflow, start to finish?

1) I take the image.
2) Copy images from the camera to my laptop.
3) Copy images from laptop to my 2 backup hard drives.
4) Edit the images on my laptop.
5) Upload the edited images to SmugMug.
6) Delete edited images on laptop.

That last step is sort of controversial. Basically, images on my laptop are my to do list. As I finish images, I remove them to clear up space. I don’t have a permanent catalog for Lightroom like some people do. This system I developed years ago when my laptop hard drive space was scarce. I also don’t want to have to bring my USB hard drive out every single time I edit photos, as I often do it when I can find time in cafes or on airplanes.

Again, I’m not saying this is the best system, but it is the one that I use.

We hope that all of you – everywhere, anywhere – find a little inspiration to capture and share the moments of your life. Safe travels, and don’t forget to check out the rest of our Photography Perspectives series!

Podcast: How to Get Paid What You’re Really Worth

June 27, 2013 3 comments

One of the most popular (and constant) debates between photographers is how to properly price your work and know that you’re not over- or under-charging for what you do. We’ve covered this topic before, but like fingerprints, no two photographers are the same. How do you know that someone else’s magic number is right for you?

Pricing Podcast with Dane Sanders

Tune in to our latest podcast with the inimitable Dane Sanders: photographer, entrepreneur, educator and author of countless business strategies for photographers like you. He’s no stranger to helping passionate people find their stride, get their businesses off the ground and turn their love into a lucrative way of life.

In this podcast, you’ll hear answers to some of the most important pro questions, such as:

  • Are you a freelance or a signature photographer, and why does it matter?
  • How do you get past the “newbie mindset” and stop sabotaging your success?
  • Are there any benefits to being new, and how can you leverage the opportunity?
  • Can you afford to accept that next photo gig?
  • How do you charge a fair price without scaring the client away?
  • Why should you trust your print lab?

Dive in to iTunes right now and start listening! Podcasts are the perfect way to give yourself a competitive edge while you’re processing last night’s photos, or while you’re stuck on your morning commute.

Bride and groom in veil by Dane Sanders

Photo by Dane Sanders

We REALLY Want You To Succeed! Listen and Win More Ways to Learn

If you’re hungry for even more photo knowledge, we’ve got a Full Scholarship* to give away for Skip Cohen University’s Summer Session in Chicago, August 11-14, 2013. One lucky winner will get a chance to fine-tune their photo and business skills, meet other photographers and recharge their creative batteries. Read more about the program here.

* Airfare and accommodations not included

Here’s how to enter:

  1. Listen to our most recent podcast with Dane Sanders.
  2. Tweet your most memorable “A-ha!” moment at us and use the hash tag #ahasmugmug

We’ll pick one lucky random winner on July 3rd, 2013.

So keep listening, keep learning and start getting more light bulb moments when it comes to your business!

UPDATE: Congratulations to our winner, Joy Michelle Photography (@joymphotography)! We’ll be in touch with you ASAP with all the info for SCU’s exciting summer session.

July Release Notes and Fixes

June 24, 2013 3 comments

We’ve been working our fingertips raw here at SmugMug HQ, feverishly building new things and sharpening the tools you use every day. Here’s what we released:

  • The Big News this month was the launch of the best Android browsing app that you already knew: SmugFolio. It got a new name, new look, and the first of many new improvements. Thanks to everyone who left feedback about this app already, and we’ll continue to keep our ears perked for what you love (and what you don’t!)
  • We also fixed a few important bits behind-the-scenes. You probably haven’t noticed anything amiss, which we love ‘cuz it means we did it right. As a result, SmugMug should be faster and even more stable than ever before.

That’s it from us this month. As always, thanks to all of our hard-working, passionate fans who tell us every single day how much we mean to them… and how we can be better.

‘Til next time,
The SmugMug Family

PS. Remember, you can always see the latest product updates from the Hot Topics link at right.

Photography Perspectives: Underwater Wildlife with Scubazoo

June 21, 2013 3 comments

We’re halfway through this orbit around the sun and to those of us in the northern hemisphere, that  means it’s time to grab your towel and hit the beach. In the spirit of the ocean, we browsed through Scubazoo‘s incredible collection of underwater photos and videos and were taken aback by the magical beauty of life beneath the waves. How does Scubazoo do it, and what kind of gear does it take? What’s the market for underwater photography? Scubazoo photographer Jason Isley graciously shared a look at how they get that incredible footage. 

All photos by Scubazoo

So, who and what exactly is Scubazoo?

Scubazoo is a video production, location management and publication company based in Borneo. Over the past 15 years Scubazoo has managed locations for more than 125 hours of programming within SE Asia for international broadcast. Scubazoo’s cameramen have filmed on upwards of 150 programs from natural history blockbusters such as BBC’s LIFE and Human Planet to hit reality shows like Survivor & The Amazing Race. The Publication department has a number of world class photographers working on various assignments throughout the year and a great editorial team in the office. Scubazoo have provided images to hundreds of magazines and books and have also published several high-quality coffee table books, selling over 200,000 copies internationally.

School of red fish in a blue sea by Scubazoo

As a serious photographer as well as a serious diver, what’s in your kit bag? What does a professional setup for underwater photography look like?

It’s not advisable to try and change lenses underwater so, in order to handle macro and wide angle subjects I might encounter, I usually take two setups down with me. For the macro setup I use a Nikon D700 with an AF-Micro Nikkor 60mm f2.8 or an AF Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8D. The wide angle kit consists of a Nikon D800 DSLR with a Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8 and a Nikon AF 16mm f/2.8 D Fisheye. Both cameras are housed in Nauticam underwater housings. These give me access to every control on the camera and are rated to 100m. Each housing will have two strobes connected by a fibre optic cable and attached with ultralight arms. I use the Inon Z-240′s as they are light and extremely portable and I also usually carry lots of other gadgets like snoots, flourescent filters, wet diopters etc. If I can, I’ll employ a local dive guide to help spot critters and carry the extra setup.

All the usual scuba gear is used – a tank, weight belt, buoyancy compensation device (BCD) and regulator and also wetsuits to extend my bottom time. Even in tropical waters it can get a little chilly!

Underwater diving photographer and gear

What has been your most frightening underwater encounter?

During my filming days I filmed the sardine run in South Africa which is basically a massive feeding frenzy including dolphins, sharks, seals etc and that was a certainly a little hairy. However, the most frightening encounter must be the one with a 4.5m salt water crocodile that literally walked all over me underwater.

Underwater shark photos by Scubazoo

Which came first, diving or photography?

I didn’t start diving until I was 25 so the photography certainly came first. When I was 15 I use to play with my father’s camera kit and tried to photograph birds in the garden.

Blue fish face lips by Scubazoo

Are there any other underwater projects you’ve worked on?

I have worked on many assignments shooting amazing creatures in different exotic locations, however the project that seems to have gained the largest following must be the miniature people series I started back in 2011. The project is based on a futuristic scenario where the planet is completely underwater and the people are living and breathing underwater, I use miniature people to create scenes with the marine life.

Underwater miniatures with snake eel by Scubazoo

Underwater miniatures with cuttlefish eggs by Scubazoo

Out of all the places you’ve been, what wins the prize as your most exotic locale?

I’m based in SE Asia which is about as exotic as it gets, however I have certainly been based in some extremely remote locations for long periods of time which can definitely effect your sanity. Myself and one of my colleagues lived in a remote village in Indonesia and spent everyday sat opposite each other under the beating sun in a tiny dug-out canoe for three weeks tracking leatherback turtles.

The coldest location was Newfoundland and Hudson Bay in Canada looking for Beluga whales, that trip really confirmed I am not a big fan of cold water diving!

High five with whale by Scubazoo

There’s a ton of life under the seas. What is your favorite subject?

Sharks are definitely high up on the list, however you certainly get more of an encounter with dolphins and whales as they appear to be interested in you sometimes. I don’t have a specific favourite subject as I like diversity and think it improves your photography to change subjects and try different styles.

Sea turtle underwater photo by Scubazoo

Who are Scubazoo’s customers?

Scubazoo have two large online libraries, one for video and one for photography and we also have regular agents that we provide our images to. I also write articles for dive, adventure and travel magazines but we are really trying to expand our publications department and publish a couple of books each year. One of the books currently in production is for a large resort company and we are shooting all the wildlife and landscapes around their resorts throughout South East Asia.

Pink coral with yellow and blue fish by Scubazoo

What kind of equipment, training, workshops, locations, etc., would you recommend to people looking to test the waters, so to speak, in underwater photography?

I would strongly suggest a course with one of the leading underwater photographers that operate locally wherever you’re based. It will rapidly improve your technique. Underwater photography equipment can be quite expensive because you need all the extras to house the camera and underwater strobes, etc. You may want to consider looking for a 2nd hand set-up to start with. There are some great underwater photography sites with plenty of people giving advice and also selling old kits that you can use to get started.

Floating underwater octopus by Scubazoo


With that, we hope that all of you get your opportunity to take great photos wherever you end up on holiday. Stay safe in the waves, and check out our Photography Perspectives series if you’re looking for some light beach reading! :)

Are You Prepared to Photograph Same-Sex Couples?

June 19, 2013 115 comments

**UPDATE** For those of you who missed this webinar the first time around, you’re in luck. We’re trying a new day and time, rebroadcasting with Kathryn and Thea once more so you can hear their tips and ask your questions. Join us on Friday!

Friday, July 19, 2013
3:00 PM ET, 2:00 PM CT, 1:00 PM MT and Noon PT.

A few months ago we spoke with two amazing authors in a SmugMug podcast, Kathryn Hamm and Thea Dodds. Their book, Capturing Love: The Art of Lesbian & Gay Wedding Photography, was in the final stages of publication and we were thrilled that someone was finally addressing the issue of photographing same-sex couples.

Since then, their book has found astounding success. They’ve gotten so much feedback about the book that we knew that there was still much more to be discussed about this important topic and how it affects you, the photographer.

Lesbian and Gay Wedding Photography, the Online Edition

Writing Capturing Love

Kathryn and Thea hard at work. Photo by Authentic Eye Photography.

We’re welcoming Kathryn and Thea back to our educational program in this month’s SmugMug webinar! Join us on Thursday, June 27th, 2013, to hear more about the very real challenges you’ll face when photographing same-sex engagements and weddings, what you need to know to be taking on same-sex couples as clients, and how the field is rapidly changing every day.

Thursday, June 27, 2013
8:00 PM ET
Duration: 1.5 hours
Register now!

The Art of Same-Sex Engagement and Wedding Photography

Despite the growing number of same-sex weddings in the US, portrait photography remains largely limited to working with heterosexual couples. The time has come for photographers to understand that not all engagement and wedding photos are made the same.

Now that marriage equality is recognized in twelve states and the District of Columbia, professional photographers should be asking: What does it take to be a successful pro in the same-sex market, and are you prepared to pose a same-sex couple in a way that properly communicates a message of love and intimacy? What more do you need to know to communicate that preparedness to prospective clients who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LBGT)?

Join the authors of the groundbreaking new book, Capturing Love: The Art of Lesbian & Gay Wedding Photography (which was recently featured in the June issue of Rangefinder Magazine), for this essential skill-based webinar about best practices for photographing same-sex couples in a rapidly shifting legal landscape. Though an advance purchase and review of Capturing Love is not required for this seminar, it is recommended to support the discussion. Buy the book here.

Love at sunset

Photo by Tammy Watson Photography.

Win Free Stuff, Too

As an added bonus, our fabulous print labs will be donating great prizes to three lucky people who join this webinar! Here’s what we’ll be giving away:

  • One 11X14 ThinWrap from Bay Photo
  • One 20×30 Metal Print from WHCC
  • 50% off any one item from EZ Prints
  • $50 subscription credit from SmugMug

We’re heading full-tilt into wedding season and we hope that whether you’re a bride, groom, family, friend, event planner or the photographer, that your summer will be full of joy.

See you online!

Photo by Maggie Winters Photography.

The “Why Haven’t I Made Any Sales?” Checklist

June 18, 2013 35 comments

You’re a photographer who’s oh-so-ready to make money. We hear ya. But if you’ve gotten every hair in place and you’ve still not seen that “Cha-Ching!” email, here are a few possible reasons why you’ve not been getting bites.

1. No Buy Button

Missing Buy button on a pro website

Is it there? This is possibly one of the most dire but easiest flubs to fix. Maybe you disabled this or applied a Quick Setting that hid the Buy button from your galleries, but if you don’t switch it back on you’ll never sell a single print. So be sure to check your galleries and if it’s missing, enable printing in your Gallery Settings. Easy peasy!

Enable SmugMug's shopping cart

2. No Pricing

Set your SmugMug pricing

We hate asking this, but… you DID set up your pro pricing, right? With Pricelists it’s really easy to set a pro markup on just the products you want, then apply that pricing to any or all galleries across your site. But if you forget to do this, you won’t make a dime.

Tip: If you don’t want to think about this ever again, check the “Make this my default pricelist” at the top right and we’ll automagically apply this pricelist to all current and new galleries on your site.

Also, are you charging enough? It may seem counter-intuitive, but we can’t stress enough the importance of keeping your prices high and charging what you’re worth. In short: Don’t be cheap.

3. Nasty RCP Message

Great example of an effective RCP message.

We’re all about protecting your photos and making sure that you have peace of mind when putting your best work on the web. But there are ways to use them, and then there are better ways to use them. We’re here to show you the latter.

Like your Right-Click Protection message: It’s there to foil right-clickers looking for an easy download, but most photographers just put a boilerplate copyright message, or a threat. Instead of slapping your customers, try to guide them to your Buy button for a profit-making purchase. You’ll look competent AND helpful all at the same time. Fix it under the “Photos” line in your Easy Customizer.

4. Originals On

Disable free originals downloading in your gallery settings

So many SmugMug users use their galleries to share photos with friends and family. But as a Pro, being that generous may not be so good for business. Originals (and full-res downloads) are on by default, but it’s a quick fix to change this. Just remember to do it!

Open up your gallery settings and look for the Security & Privacy option. Set the radio button to anything smaller than Originals (like XLarge), and to check, log out and take a breeze through your galleries. You’ll always see a Save Photo option when you’re logged in as the owner, but you shouldn’t see it when you’re viewing your site as a guest.

5. Zero Marketing

Ah, the feeling of sweet success on the morning you unveil your website! But wait… did you share the link?

Share that gorgeous sunset!

Like relationships, you’ve got to put a little effort in to get something back. So be sure to enter in your keywords, captions, meta description and meta keywords to be sure you get picked up in search engines. Also share the link to your site with friends, Facebook and anywhere else you go online. After all, you can’t make sales if nobody knows you exist.

6. Password Foibles

Share your gallery password

Many clients want their event galleries locked down with a viewing password, and, yeah, we understand privacy. But our Support Heroes hear from more people than we’d expect that get hit with this one. We hear from confused clients, curious pros who expected instant sales, but the culprit is usually that the password never got shared! So if you’ve just put the finishing touches on your latest wedding gallery and your inbox is a ghost town, think back to whether or not you’ve completed this vital step.

The lesson? Don’t forget to share your viewing passwords with the people that matter most. Since passwords are cAsE sEnSiTiVe we recommend copying and pasting what you type in your gallery settings right into your emails.

7. You Launched Yesterday

Fill in your SEO settings to maximize your search engine results

It’s possible to find overnight success on the web, but patience is still a virtue. You can plug in every keyword and meta description properly, shared with your Facebook fans and distributed your business cards to shops across town, but you’ll still have to wait to see the effect. It takes time for Google to do its work, and for tongues to wag.

So instead of stressing out, grab your camera, keep on shooting and work on honing your craft. Your soon-to-be clients will only love you more.

Link roundup:

New Android App: Upload, Browse and Share on SmugMug

June 17, 2013 158 comments

SmugMug for Android for photo sharing

For last few years, SmugFolio was the best Android app on the market for SmugMug users to upload, manage and browse SmugMug on the go. People loved it. And so did we.

In fact, that app was so great we just had to buy it. So we did.

Wait, What? Can You Do That?

After talking with the app’s developer, we knew that we’d hit a gold mine of Androidical genius – Brian did such a great job designing, building and maintaining this app we knew he bleeds green just like us. And he’s been a long-time SmugMug customer, to boot. So we asked if he’d come join the cadre as one of our official Android engineers. We couldn’t be happier to have him on our team!

The New (Free!) SmugMug for Android App

Today the SmugFolio App gets a new name (SmugMug for Android) and a snazzy new icon that you’ll know and recognize in the Google Play store. It’s also free. But more than just a simple rebrand, we (and Brian) have made a few improvements to make your experience even better than before.

Grab it now from the Google Play store


What’s New?

  • You can now browse other SmugMug user accounts without needing to log into the app. This is a great way to give friends and family a way to browse your public galleries on their phones and tablets.
  • The app has been made more secure by switching to OAuth for the login. You’ll need to login once you’ve updated to the new app. After you log in, your photos will still be available in the app. No need to re-download them all.
  • To make the app more secure and to prepare for some exciting future enhancements, the updated app now requires you to be on Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) or above. If you’re using Android 2.x or earlier, you can can still use SmugFolio, but you won’t be updated to the new app. This wasn’t an easy decision, but it is necessary to move the app forward.

And in case you’re new to the app, here’s a complete list of features:

  • Upload unlimited photos and videos into unlimited gorgeous galleries.
  • Quick and easy access to your photos – even when you’re offline.
  • Upload photos and videos on-the-go, or automatically upload as you shoot.
  • Browse and search through galleries on SmugMug (ideal for friends, fans and family)
  • Full screen slideshows across all galleries or within a single gallery
  • Browse photos from favorite users without needing a SmugMug account
  • Multi select to move, collect, delete, and share multiple photos at a time
  • Auto download galleries when you’re on wifi
  • Auto upload photos and videos from any location to any album
  • Bulk upload multiple photos and videos at a time
  • Upload with GPS location
  • Display photo geolocation on Google map
  • View detailed photo information
  • View comments on photos and albums
  • Delete photos and galleries
  • Filter photos by keywords
  • Assign photo ratings and filter by photo rating
  • Create new galleries, edit gallery title and public setting
  • Set photos as wallpaper
  • Play videos
  • Share URLs or photos with other Android applications
  • Automatic short URL generation using SmugMug
  • View photo or gallery on SmugMug
  • Export photos and galleries to local device gallery
  • Choice of browsing by category or by gallery
  • Change download location to external SD card (or any folder you choose)
  • Read only mode can prevent destructive actions like delete

Got questions? Our amazing Support Heroes have put together a quick FAQ on using the original SmugFolio app, and we’ll keep it updated.

Since the original creator is a driving force on our team, we’ll continue to improve SmugMug for Android even more in the coming months. So let us know what you think and what features you’d like the most.


Are You Fit Enough to Be a Photographer?

June 14, 2013 17 comments

It’s summer. Are you ready to hit the road with your tripod, lenses, and all your bags in tow? Sadly, many photographers don’t realize how physically demanding photography can be, or only realize it when they get left behind at the trailhead. 

The truth is that everyone from sports photographers to momtographers can benefit from better balance, muscle toning and proper breathing. We talked with our good friend, fitness expert, clinical exercise physiologist and professional trainer Jeffrey Kazmucha about why being fit is so important for everyone… especially photographers!

At SmugMug, we care a great deal about health and we think you should, too. This is just a small sample of what Jeff suggests; you’ll find the complete article (including step-by-step fitness plans) right here in our Resource Center

Baldy and his big lens

SmugMug’s president, co-founder and veteran triathlete, Baldy.

Photographers = Athletes?

Photography is a physical activity. The act of taking photos requires a photographer to be calm and cool, cautiously breathe, correctly kneel, sit or stand to eliminate fatigue and postural intolerance, and hold a camera of a certain weight in different angles and heights while focusing or zooming in on moving or steady targets – ALL to get epic results.

Then a photographer is asked to not only do these skills and traits quickly but to do them rapidly in changing climates and crazy terrains (e.g. shooting the Mavericks) and with a camera plus accessories and bags that weigh as much as 50+ pounds for more than a few hours of time. Wow!

Why fitness?

It is proven that a more fit and in-shape person is able to perform at a higher level of greatness and success. They also perform fewer errors and are less likely to have debilitating or restricting bodily injuries, such as back pain, joint sprains or muscle strains.

I challenge you to stand in the ocean with the water at the height of the thigh or waist and take a non-blurry, steady picture. If being fit is beneficial to our bodies and our work, how do you feel about your fitness level? And do you know what exercises or which exercise programs are best for you to do to be in shape?

Be Fit. Be Ready! Train for that Time.

The exercise science and fitness industry is evolving and revolutionizing the way we see and treat our bodies as machines and moving temples, BUT I feel photographers and photography professionals are given less than essential and optimal instructions and suggestions on desk and field ergonomics, postural positioning, dietary planning, exercise programming, fitness participation and work-related rehabilitation, restoration and stress management methods and techniques.

Breathing Method: Abdominal Breathing

Breathe using the diaphragm to help your body be calm and to easily regulate your body’s reactions and thinking. It’s called Abdominal or Diaphragmatic Breathing.

  • Place a hand on the chest and the other hand on the stomach. Take a deep breath so air travels in through the nose. Please be sure the abdominal or diaphragm versus the chest inflates with air to cause the lungs to expand and stretch.
  • Then HOLD for a few or more seconds and SLOWLY exhale ALL the air through the nose. Practice 6 to 10 deep, slow breaths per minute for a few or more minutes.

Try to do this daily for six to eight weeks and you will notice more balance, calmness, coordination and self-control. You can do this at any time of the day, especially while doing photography, and at night.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

With Abdominal Breathing and in consideration of the body and camera positions, it is important to improve neck stabilization for increased head and neck control and postural stability. During inhalation (Breath In), place and push the tongue up into the roof of the mouth which activates and strengthens the jaw, head and neck muscles, especially the stabilizers. While exhaling (Breath Out), let the tongue lower to the floor of the mouth.

It’s important to not neglect the tongue. The tongue is a large and powerful muscle that when it’s used properly it can dramatically assist the diaphragm in helping to move significant amount of air in and out of the lungs and muscles.

Body Positioning: The Athletic Stance

An athletic stance is a standing position that allows you to maximize your balance, power, speed and strength while decreasing risk of injury. The athletic stance can vary depending on the activity or sport and the respected defensive or offensive reason.

  • Keep the eyes and head up and look forward. Align about 60% to 80% of the middle of the head’s sides with the shoulders. Also align the back of the head with the back of the each foot’s heel. This enables or provides the recommended 60:40 ratio of body weight distribution on the balls of the feet that gives slight abdominal tension and helps maintain some lumbar and thoracic back tension as well.
  • Lift the chest up. Tuck the chin down toward the sternum.
  • Lower the shoulders and pull them back toward the spine.
  • Put the back in a considerably slightly arched, straight position.
  • Bend the knees approximately 90 degrees.
  • Place feet approximately one to two inches wider than shoulders.
  • Place feet parallel and put a little more body weight onto the balls of the feet, or try to evenly distribute the weight as much as possible.

The athletic stance of a photographer follows the same guidelines or principles as athletes of other sports, such as archery, basketball, golf and weight lifting. In all, the athletes in the aforementioned physical activities or sports have a common stance that allows balance and equal distribution of body weight to happen during functional or static movements that provides optimal levels of balance, endurance, power, range of motion, speed, stability, strength and quickness. This applies to ALL photographers, too!

Body Positioning: The Athletic Staggered Stance

The athletic staggered stance is performed just as the athletic stance with a slight variation.

  • Simply stand in an athletic stance and place one foot slightly behind and the other foot slightly forward, respectively. The center of the body’s hips and trunk will be directly between the feet underneath. And the feet may also be placed slightly wider.

The athletic staggered stance is the PREFERRED and primary athletic stance (in my favorable and professional opinion) because it:

1) allows for a proper and quicker shift of body weight with activity-related movements

2) causes the core, hips and thighs to share the body weight stresses and workloads

3) more easily forms and maintains a neutral spine

4) reduces back and shoulder stress and biomechanical “wear and tear,” and

5) significantly improves balance and stability

The athletic and staggered stance’s advantages and biomechanical or ergonomical solutions are summed up in totality as giving MORE assistance plus ENERGY that yields REDUCED shear stresses and total work.

Body Positioning: Kneeling Stance

The kneeling stance is secondary to the athletic staggered stance. It is performed slightly differently but provides the same benefits or preferred reasons for it to be used as one of the primary stances. The kneeling stance is divided into two position: the initial position is the Tall Kneeling Position that progresses to the Kneeling Split Stance.

The Tall Kneeling Position:

  • Kneel down.
  • Draw in the abdominal muscles and squeeze the gluteals, hips and thighs.
  • Keep the chest lifted and pull the shoulders back and down toward the spine.
  • Gently bend the knees and position the hips above the ankles of the feet.

The Kneeling Split Stance: 

  • Continue the Tall Kneeling position, above.
  • Lift a leg and, with the hip flexed 90 degrees and knee flexed 90 degrees, place the respected foot flat on the floor in front.
  • Maintain the body’s posture throughout the movement.

Body Positioning: The squat

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

The squat is the single most important body position and exercise that can and should be performed regularly. When properly executed the squat can primarily condition the gluteals, hamstrings, hips and quadriceps muscles and similarly develop the core, costal ribs, lower legs, such as the calves, lower and upper back, shoulders and trapezius muscles. Moreover, it strengthens the bones, ligaments and tendons throughout the core, lower and upper body.

When proper form is used it is an essential exercise for developing and maintaining muscle mass, power, stability and strength, and lessening the amount of shear stress on cartilage, fascia and joints such as the knees and spine. What is more, it is a vital position for life and photography.

  • Stand in an athletic stance with feet shoulder width apart. The toes can be turned slightly outward or may be parallel.
  • The arms and hands can be at the side, behind the head (Prisoner’s Stance) or placed out in front in a straight line.
  • Flex the hips and lower the body backwards sitting into them. The knees will flex next. Lower the body towards the floor until thighs are parallel to the floor.
  • Keep the chest and head up, feet flat on the floor and the knees in align with the toes.
  • Pause. Return upward to START by driving the body straight up engaging the core, having the eyes and head up, keeping the upper body relatively straight and thrusting the hips forward and underneath. It’s a controlled, powerful movement.

The squat’s depth can depend on joint range of motion, muscle flexibility, pains and strength levels. All squats, such as the quarter-, half- and full-depths squats and deep squats have their advantages and disadvantages, but it is important to exercise in the proper range and progressively increase range over time.

Other than the athletic staggered stance and the kneeling split stance the squat is the most important exercise for daily physical activities, life and recreation or sports. Most physical activities are performed squatting. How many times do we sit and stand? How often do we pick up a camera or camera gear, etc. off the floor surface? How often in a photography shoot do we sit to take the shot and wait? These actions or movements are squats.

The more a photographer is conditioned and prepared to squat via squatting the longer he/she will be able to endure a squat to hold a camera and take photos with less risk of injury or strain to joints, muscles ligaments and tendons.

How long can you hold a squat? Tick…Tick…Tick…

Photo of Ivan the Smugger by Jim Patterson

In Conclusion

The athletic stances will be easier to do after much exercise, training and practice over time. The goal of any physically active person is to make athletic or physically active related skills and traits an unconscious habit. Therefore, a photographer who is unconsciously competent does not have to change their position or camera angles and think about the body’s ergonomical position or stance, body weight distribution, posture or stabilization while taking photos.

Whether kneeling, lying, sitting or standing the photographer who is physically conditioned and trained does not have to risk an injury or sacrifice giving up something (injury or passed time) for a paramount picture. You train not only for fitness and health, but for the moment to be camera-ready and shoot for an extended period of time for the sake of one or more perfect pictures. You cannot afford to be or to have weaknesses.

This is just the tip of the iceberg for fitness for photographers! Hop over to our Resource Center to see the full article, where we’ve included detailed stances and positions for more stable shooting, as well as a complete training plan for aerobic conditioning.

Stay fit, stay calm and make sure that you get the shot!  :)

9 Must-Haves for a Successful Photography Website

June 11, 2013 22 comments

These days, everyone has a website and we think they’re great. But how do you know exactly what your friends, family and fans are really thinking when they see it? And if you’re a pro making money from your craft: Are you sure that your site is doing everything it can to get you clients and seal the deal? How much business are you losing from silly mistakes?

After browsing tons of sites and hearing the advice from our marvelous team of Support Heroes, we’ve compiled a list of tips to help you get the best, most effective and appealing website you  possibly can.


1) Your Contact Information

Hot tute tip! Hook up SmugMug’s contact form to your navbar.

Omitting or hiding ways for people to reach you is a grave mistake, one that you may not even know you’re making. Think it through: If someone finds your site and wants to talk with you, how would they do it? If you forget to include your contact information (or hide it several clicks deep), would you expect them to spend more than 5 minutes hunting for it before they give up? Chances are you don’t even have that long before they move on.

It’s true that putting your email address or phone number out in public can be risky. But there are plenty of great ways to let your fans reach out to you without throwing the door open to everyone that walks by.

What you should do: First and foremost, have a way to contact you either at the top, bottom, or in the navigation bar of your website. With SmugMug it’s easy to add a link using the Easy Customizer, plus we highly recommend that SmugMug Portfolio and Business users fill out the Customer Email info in their Account Settings. This way, anyone clicking the “Contact” link in your footer will get a safe, handy pop-up box where they can send you a direct message. You can even customize the text and place that link in your navbar.

2) Personality

Ivan Makarov‘s About page is a candid look at what drives his passion.

The great thing is that everyone has a website these days, including you. But the downside is… everyone has a website these days. How will you stand out? The answer is: Be yourself! You have a personality and it’s completely unique. Use your witty language, goofy selfies or whatever it takes to show the world that you’re way more than just another link on the web. Talk about what drives you and why you’re so passionate about your work. They’ll absolutely love meeting  you in your studio or your next gallery show.

What you should do: It’s hard to talk about yourself and it’s even harder to weed out what strangers want to hear (vs what’s TMI), but don’t be afraid to browse through some of your favorite websites and see what sticks in your mind about their bios. And what doesn’t.

3) Punctuality, Punctuation, Competence

Don’t do this!

Nothing looks more sloppy than a super-slow website with broken images and dead links. Even if you aren’t looking to make money through your website, you still want to look poised, polished, and perfect as any pro. Right? So do a regular audit of your site, click those links and update them regularly to make sure they work the first time, every time. When you’re logged out of your site and viewing like a guest, what do you see?

What you should do: On SmugMug, we already give you warp-speed page loads and unlimited traffic and sharing. So become as famous as you want. We can take it. Our Share button will generate handy share and embed links for all your photos, so you can be sure those images look beautiful every single time.

4) Simplicity

Ivan Makarov‘s beautifully simple (and organized) portfolio.

Your gorgeous photos may speak for themselves, but if your site’s a mess the message will still get lost. K.I.S.S. When you have house guests you clean up, so extend the same courtesy to your online space. No one needs to see (or trip and fall into) the photographic equivalent of your laundry pile.

What you should do: Curate a few examples of your very best work and make it easy to find via a slideshow, featured gallery at the top of your homepage, or a straightofrward link in your navigation bar. Similarly, create a clearly-labeled About page and a way for them to contact you. Love to archive? That’s OK. Just keep the rest of your photos neatly organized, too, so leisurely browsers can find their way around.

5) Your Brand

JeZa Photography‘s simple font and color choices are the hallmarks of their brand.

Panic not, weekend warriors. Even if you’re not a working professional, it’s important – but easy! – to give your viewers a unified look and feel that translates to a cohesive experience. Yes it sounds markety, but simply using the same colors and font size from page to page can keep your fans feeling grounded and sure that you’ve got your stuff together. And you do, right?

If you’re a pro, having your company’s name, logo and a simple set of colors can be all you need to say, “Yeah, I got it.”

What you should do: Customization on the new SmugMug is as easy as drag-and-drop. You can add your own logo to the top of your site, pick your own colors and even create your own Themes that match your brand. It’s easiest to just try it, but you can get an idea of how it’s done by browsing the articles on our help pages.

What you should do (for Legacy SmugMug): The Easy Customizer makes it easy for Power Users, Portfolio and Business SmugMuggers to add a custom logo graphic to the top of every page. Choose matching colors using the tools under the Background, Text, Boxes and Photos bars and you’re all set to go. Read more about our customization options here, and, pros, don’t forget about Order Branding, too.

6) Your Services

Be clear about what services you offer, like Alastair Jolly does here.

The key to making great sales is to do the thinking for potential customers so they don’t have to. The most basic way to do this is to be crystal-spanking-clear about what your specialities are and which services you offer. Whether you shoot BMX, babies or brides, making it obvious in your brand and portfolio is the best (and most efficient) way to make sure that the right customers are finding you. After all, if you’re a commercial fashion photographer, do you want to be fielding questions from the local high school sports team?

What you should do: Create a specific page on your site that lists out what services that you do offer, and give your fans a phone number, email address or other way to get in touch with you. If you just want a guestbook for comments, we recommend uploading at least one photo and turning on comments so folks can say hi. Check out FAQ 29 and 30 to see how to do this if you’re using Legacy SmugMug. Here’s a tutorial that shows you how to create a custom page in the all-new SmugMug.

7) Your Best Work

Scott Jarvie shows off the best of his best.

People are looking to see just what you’re made of, so this is your chance to sum it up and show it off. Curate a gallery that contains the best examples of what you do and keep it updated with fresh new photos as you take them. Choose images that really show that you love what you do, and show the full breadth of your abilities: Lighting, posing, serendipity, emotion… this is what people love to see! As an added bonus, you’re choosing the clients and fans who resonate the most with what you do.

What you should do: Take a swing through the photos that you remember best and that you think represent yourself. It can be hard, but you can always use Collect Photo to add a virtual copy to one gallery, then easily remove the ones that you don’t think make the cut.

8) Your Location

Downriver Photography gets smart about their services.

The web is a wonderful thing and brings people near and far to your doorstep, but this can be a setback, too. For example, it’s obvious to you that your town of Springfield is in New Jersey, but potential Googlers in Massachusetts, Illinois, Oregon and Missouri may not be so sympathetic. Be specific about the areas that you serve so that you’ll score top search results by clients looking to hire locals like you.

What you should do: If you talk about your location in your homepage or About page, be specific about the state or country where you’re willing to work. You can also add those terms and keywords in your Account Settings > Discovery > Search section so that Google and other search engines pick you up ASAP.

9) Good Grammar

Need we say anything about this, really? Your website is a representation of you, right down to the words you’ll use. Please be sure you make sense, you’ve put in the effort to have it proofread by someone else, and that everything looks as clean and polished as you are.

What you should do: Write, edit, then get a second (or third, or fourth) opinion. Read the copy on your site out loud. Check your spelling. Sleep on it, then read it again. All the usual tricks of the trade will help you step back and get as much perspective as possible. The best part is that any- and everything is easily changed on your SmugMug site at any moment… so edit as much as you like!

We hope that these 9 tips come in handy the next time you’re spring cleaning your website. Got more great ideas for getting fans finding you? Please share!

Link roundup:

Quit Your Job and Run For the Hills: Ron Coscorrosa Speaks Out

June 7, 2013 7 comments

The open road, sweet mountain air, and being alone in nature. As photographers, don’t we all dream about living the nomad’s life? If you’re like us, the thought probably pops up every now and then but most of us don’t actually take the leap and do it. One of our long time friends and Digital Grin veterans, Ron Coscorrosa, has been a subject of extensive envy for the past 2 years. He traded his tech job and high-rise apartment to live a life of sunlight, pixels, and sleeping in his car. So we asked him to give us the skinny on what it’s really like to put life aside and put photography first.

Botany Bay sunrise blue clouds by Ron Coscorrosa

Photos by Ron Coscorrosa

I was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, but despite being near some of the most spectacular scenery in the American West didn’t pick up a dSLR until 2005, when I was tired of crappy image quality of my point and shoot digital camera (I don’t remember, but I’m pretty sure it had a floppy drive and a resolution of 6×4 pixels). It turned out that buying a better camera only made the bad photos larger, not better. Deterred by this sad realization, the camera and some expensive lenses sat unused in my closet until finally overwhelming guilt forced me to start using them more (this process took years). Eventually photography and traveling to beautiful places became a passion, to the point where I quit my software development job in the summer of 2011 in order to travel and photograph full time for approximately two years, without any distractions and without trying to generate an income. During my travels I met my girlfriend and gifted nature photographer Sarah Marino and moved from Seattle to Denver to be with her, and since then we have spent the last eighteen months traveling and photographing together extensively.

You’ve done something extraordinarily brave, something many of us wish we had the gumption to do: Quitting your day job to spend two years doing photography. Was that a hard decision to make? Did you agonize for a long time, or was it spontaneous and immediate? 

It wasn’t a hard decision to make, nor particularly brave (at least to me). The hard part was in coming to the realization that there was actually a decision to make, that I didn’t have to live the normal life of working nearly fifty years straight until retirement when at last I would be liberated from the shackles of employment and free to enjoy life fully (assuming I was still alive and still healthy). After thinking about it for a few days, it no longer made any sense for me to continue the path I was on, and I was fortunate to have the financial flexibility to quit my job and be on the road within a few weeks of making the decision to leave.

By that point in my life I was heavily into photography yet not particularly good. I wanted to be able to dedicate myself to photography and pursue it absolutely free of distractions to see where I would end up. So having an alternative to work (in my case travel and photography) was definitely crucial to making the decision. I also didn’t want to be distracted by earning an income or trying to generate money via photography, I just wanted to do it for the sake of doing it itself.

What gear do you need to get the shots that you take? Do you pack differently if you’re traveling domestically vs internationally?

My preferred subjects are natural landscapes, both large and small (including macro and abstract subjects). I used to photograph wildlife, cityscapes, and some other subjects as well but felt I needed to narrow my focus to try and be good at something rather than mediocre at everything.

Currently I’m using a Canon 6D as my primary camera, with a series of rotating lenses (all Canon) including a 14 prime, 17-40, 24-70, 70-200 f/4, 100 macro, and 100-400, all subject to change pending future insurance claims.

I don’t distinguish between foreign and domestic travel as much as traveling by car or traveling by plane. If by car (my preferred choice, though it doesn’t work so well over oceans or apparently on I-5 over the Skagit river in Washington state) then everything will come. If traveling by plane, I typically won’t bring things like backpacking packs, extra food (unless it’s Iceland, where $3 gas station hot dogs get old after a few weeks when nothing else is open in winter), extra boots, etc. For both types of travel I will bring backup camera bodies and tripods, as inevitably something will fail on a trip and securing a replacement is a hassle that has potential to interrupt photography.

Selfoss Iceland black white and blue by Ron Coscorrosa

How has your gear held up to your adventure?  Is it true that you buy tripods in bulk?

My gear hasn’t held up at all, which is typical for landscape photographers who are in the elements (salt water, sand of various types, fresh water, waterfall spray, rain, and extreme temperature variances). I’ve had more experiences with Canon’s repair department than I care to recount. I’m on my third camera in two years. I have three tripods and none of them are fully functional (though I haven’t bought any in three years, it’s now getting to the point of ridiculousness and I may have to buy one soon). The only pieces of gear I can actually recommend are my RRS plates and ballheads.

Most of my gear failures are from gradual wear and tear in the elements rather than single dramatic incidents. One exception would be one of my aforementioned tripods which had a leg severed by an incoming iceberg on a beach in Iceland. Fortunately my own legs are of higher quality than my tripod’s legs and I remained unscathed.

If you consider your car gear, and I do, it’s held up fairly well despite 80,000 miles in two years and continual driving on roads that it is ill suited for, including numerous drives to the Racetrack in Death Valley, sliding down wet clay roads in the San Juan mountains in Colorado after a thunderstorm, going high speed over a rock disguised as sagebrush at Toroweap in the Grand Canyon and impaling the gas tank, driving twenty miles in slick mud near Escalante, Utah after an afternoon snow melt, navigating down steep rock shelves at Marlboro Point in the Canyonlands, and, the most expensive, getting stuck in deep mud on a remote desert playa two and a half hours from the nearest towing company.

You’ve spent the last two years doing crazy things like living out of your car so you can be in the right place for a sunrise shoot. What’s the best thing to come of it? What’s the worst aspect of it? Would you keep doing so if you could afford to, indefinitely?

For some reason, sleeping in a car brings much more scrutiny than sleeping in a tent (a more societally accepted form of cheap lodging), but to me, car sleeping is clearly superior in every way (save for backpacking, where sleeping in the car is not an option for obvious reasons).

It is more comfortable (especially with a twin foam mattress in the back), takes less time to set up and disassemble (in that it doesn’t take any time), can be used in noisy and windy environments, and comes with a full heating and cooling system. It is also more flexible, given there are always more roads than there are camping areas and none of them require a reservation in advance. It also allows me to be nearer to where I want to photograph for sunrise, letting me sleep longer.

There are some downsides, including questionable legality in certain places (though it rarely is an issue if you’re in after sunset and out before sunrise), occasional lack of public restrooms, and lack of showers. If the choice is between showers and photography, photography always wins. If it’s between showers and sleep, sleep usually wins. Apologies to any member of the general public that we may have came across while in the midst of a long photography trip…

If I had infinite resources I would still travel and sleep in the car because the main motivating factor is convenience and not to save money, though I’m sure the car would be a lot better!

Ibex dunes rainbow and sunset by Ron Coscorrosa

You don’t sell your work. In fact, you don’t take measures to protect it – it’s out there for all to see, enjoy and use. What’s your philosophy about that? What is your philosophy about taking photos in general and sharing them on the web?

Actually that’s not entirely true, all my work is copyrighted and can only be legally used with my permission. It is true that I do not watermark images and would never consider doing so. There are so many elements that go into making a compelling photograph that ruining it with an excessive or distracting watermark seems to undo the entire point of taking the photo to begin with. Measures such as right-click protecting images will only deter the lazy, as those with even limited technical savvy can download any image that is displayed in a web browser.

I do not sell my images or prints not because I’m against doing so in principle, but because I would currently rather spend my time on photography and travel. Sarah and I are writing a few location guide e-books that should be out by mid summer, but other than that I don’t have any immediate plans to sell my work or make money from my photography.

As for sharing images online, I do it all the time, mainly to tell stories of the places I’ve been and show people what I’m photographing. I’m not a big fan of the quid-pro-quo culture of many online photo-sharing or social media sites where the goal seems to be to solicit praise or get attention rather than engage in any meaningful dialog (some of which may be critical of the image being shared). I have met a lot of photographers online who have since become friends in real life, and that wouldn’t have been possible before, though I do wish there was less ego-stroking and more thoughtful discussion in general.

If you could sustain your lifestyle through photography sales and keep doing what you’re doing, would that change your perspective on image protection/pricing?

I don’t actually believe I can sustain my lifestyle through photography sales, as my lifestyle currently doesn’t involve spending any time marketing or selling photos. There may come a time when I believe that spending a little time on marketing and selling, or conducting photo workshops, would be worth the larger payoff of being able to do photography full time (which would be a different but possibly acceptable lifestyle), but right now I’m enjoying the flexibility and freedom of being able to photograph whatever I want, whenever I want.

Roaring Fork cataract green forest by Ron Coscorrosa

After completely submerging yourself in photography, are you ‘photo-ed out’ or are you still passionate? Are you planning on going back to work?

I am definitely still passionate but my priorities have shifted since I began. I no longer feel any pressure to come away from an outing or a trip with something to show for it or feel like I’m missing out on photo or travel opportunities. I am more able to take risks and be comfortable if they don’t pan out because I still have a gigantic and overwhelming backlog of photos I’ve barely even looked at. I’m much more interested in coming away with a unique or personal take than nailing an icon shot at peak conditions (though I still photograph icons occasionally because they’re iconic for a reason – they’re inspiring beautiful places). While I am not where I want to be as a photographer (and probably never will be, and this is good!) I believe I am finally on the right path and have a vision about what I want to accomplish with my photography.

I will be going back to work before the end of the year, and plan to use that time away from extensive traveling to process more photos and possibly dust the cobwebs off of my blog or at the very least create some new cobwebs.

How far in advance do you plan your travels? Do you plan for major meteorological or astronomical events?

For domestic trips, we usually plan a few weeks in advance (though a trip to the Colorado Plateau can just as easily become a trip to Death Valley if the conditions aren’t good). For international trips usually a month or more in advance. The only trip we planned for meteorological events was a March trip to Iceland in order to see the aurora (which we were able to witness several times and it is an amazing spectacle that deserves to be seen in person) Once we are on a trip, we go wherever we feel like going. There are so many random variables that one cannot plan for (weather, clouds, foliage, general conditions) so I feel it is better to be flexible and react to what’s there rather than follow a strict itinerary.

Mono Lake pink and blue sunrise by Ron Coscorrosa

You’ve got a dedicated group of friends in your social circles, but what’s your philosophy about shooting or traveling in groups?

I am lucky that I found a partner in Sarah who is equally passionate about photography and likes to photograph the same subject matter as I do. Photographing together enhances our individual experiences and there is almost zero conflict or friction (and though we are often at the same location our photos are always quite a bit different). Once you start photographing with more than three people I personally believe that you are compromising on photography in favor of being social (which is fine, if that’s what you are trying to do). Some areas and locations are just not conducive to small groups let alone large ones (and large photo workshops in these areas are annoying and in my opinion irresponsible). The idea of a “photo walk” is absurd to me. It’s a social outing; it has nothing to do with photography. So I prefer to photograph with Sarah and occasionally with one or two more people, but beyond that it’s too crowded. Photography to me is personal, not social.

What countries/areas are next on your hit list?

For foreign locations, Norway, Scotland, New Zealand, and Patagonia are near the top, but I’m just as happy in re-visiting old locations with a new eye or with different conditions or seasons. One could spend their entire lifetime in, say, Death Valley, and still only scratch the surface of what’s there. I’m not really in favor of hitting the landscape photography destination circuit like I was a few years ago. There’s plenty to photograph almost everywhere.

If you’ve enjoyed this guest post, don’t forget about the other posts in our Photography Perspectives series! We love hearing from photographers from all walks of life, and hope you do, too.


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