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 OutsideOnline.com, The Today Show and FourHourWorkWeek.com. 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!
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.
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:
- Listen to our most recent podcast with Dane Sanders.
- 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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! :)
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
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!
2. No 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
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
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?
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
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
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.
- How to create and apply Quick Settings
- Gallery Settings: Your key to almost everything
- What’s Visitor View and why do I care?
- Stop slapping your customers with a good Right-Click Protection message
- How easy is the Easy Customizer?
- Save Photos for site owners
- The Great Pricing Hoax
- The art of getting a link to share
- Warning! Sharing photos will make you lots of money
- SEO and SmugMug
- A privacy cheat sheet
- Publish to Facebook from your SmugMug galleries
- SEO made easy on SmugMug
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.
- 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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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!
- Account Settings and what they do
- SmugMug’s four fabulous account types
- Get a Link to share (with one click)
- How to feature slideshows and galleries on your homepage
- Get organized with Categories
- How to start branding with the Easy Customizer
- What are my customization options?
- Order Branding: The SmugMug pro’s secret weapon
- Leverage SmugMug to make the most money
- Copy-and-paste customization FAQ
- Collecting photos for easy portfolios
- SEO made easy on SmugMug
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.