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The Non-Photographer’s Guide to SmugMug

March 12, 2014 Leave a comment

SmugMug was born and bred by photography lovers, but this doesn’t mean that SmugMug can’t be great for everyone. SmugMug is an awesome place for people from all walks of life, and we feel strongly about photography being an essential part of your life — no matter what you do.

So what’s the benefit of a photo website for people who don’t “do” photography? Easy! A beautiful and safe place online to keep everything that’s important to you. Whether you’re a mom, a student, a lawyer, a small business owner or a chef, your photos (and videos) are how you get your message across to other people.

If you or someone you know didn’t think you were pro enough for SmugMug, here’s a list of reasons why we think we’d still be a perfect fit.

Spitfire Coffee in New Orleans, LA

1) You can show off big, beautiful photos.

From XS thumbnails to edge-to-edge huge, SmugMug is based on huge, gorgeous photos that show off every pixel of what you do. Even if you’re not a photographer, big pics have a place: as a background image on your homepage or in a sample gallery that shows off your cooking, your offices, your portfolio of what you do best. No matter what your profession or what you love to do, we’re pretty sure that it’ll look great in pictures.

2) Build completely custom pages for anything you want.

Custom web pages let you create anything you dream up on your new site: price sheets, About Me, directions to your storefront or anything else you want your visitors to know about you. Fun facts? Easy! Lists of your favorite vendors? It’s a snap. Here’s a little tutorial that shows you how to do this via our easy drag-and-drop design, so you can build any page you can imagine.

20×20 Studio‘s beautiful portfolio website

3) Automatically get easy-to-read URLs.

In addition to being able to grab your own custom domain, you can make sure any page on your website has an easy-to-read link. We call them NiceNames:  easy, readable, search-engine-friendly URLs that make it drop dead simple to tell someone where to find your website, even if  you’re not at your computer. Pssst: they look great on business cards!

  • Example: http://www.macaskillphotography.com/Newborn/Diego-4-Months/

Martin Sundstrom Design‘s beautifully branded website

4) Tie together every page with your brand.

Whether you’re the head of an internationally-reknowned restaurant or you just love the colors blue and green, your website should reflect your brand. SmugMug gives you dozens of one-click themes to match virtually any mood, and the ability to create your own if you don’t find what you love in the list. And if you’ve already got a logo designed for you, set it across all of your galleries and pages so your visitors know that you’ve got your act together.

Here’s a page that shows you how to do this, and you can take a look at some beautiful examples of uniquely branded sites right here.

5) Never have to worry again about site stability & bandwidth.

Once you’ve done all the work of building your new website, the last thing you need is for it to max out when too many people visit! Not at SmugMug – we’ve always offered unlimited bandwidth and traffic because we believe that photos are meant to be shared. We’re backed by Amazon and use the most cutting-edge technology to be sure that your pages load blazingly fast, no matter where you or your viewers are. Want proof? Our site status page is always open to you: http://status.smugmug.com

Example of a family genealogy site. Learn how to archive here!

6) Complete flexibility in how to structure your site.

You can create whatever kind of site you want, from simple to complex to deep. SmugMug’s flexible organization lets you nest folders inside folders up to 7 levels deep, meaning you can organize your photos, videos and pages in a million different ways. And you can create as many folders as you wish, with more folders or galleries inside each to make the nested hierarchy of your dreams. Perfect for perfectly organized family history, your children’s lifetime in photos or anything else you do. Best of all, you can easily manage them with a clean, beautiful drag-and-drop site-wide organizer.

So what do you think? If you’ve got a website for a non-photography lifestyle or business, we’d love to see it! And if you’re still not yet sold, check the sites above to get inspiration and see what you can build.

Happy customizing!

Link list:

SmugMug Films: Fantasy Storytelling by Ben Von Wong

January 13, 2014 10 comments

Today marks the release of our first installment of SmugMug Films with a spotlight on creative portrait photographer Benjamin Von Wong. Watch it now and subscribe to get first access to future episodes:

Two years ago, Montreal/Toronto-based photographer Benjamin Wong was a mining engineer who took pictures on the side. In 2012, he quit his engineering career and threw himself into photography full time. He’s now an award-winning photographer admired for his “epic, surreal, fantasy storytelling.” Today with the official launch of Ben’s spotlight in SmugMug Films, he’s shared more details about himself, his background, and exactly how he crafted those exquisite angel wings.

1. How did you get your start in photography?

I had a job at a mine in Nevada (USA) when my girlfriend at the time broke up with me. I figured if I didn’t find a hobby, I’d go crazy. The idea to take pictures of the stars came to me, so I went to Walmart and bought my first point-and-shoot camera. I didn’t do very well, so the next chance I had, I drove to the next city over and bought my first DSLR.

I brought that camera around to everything. But the first time I got paid to shoot an event was a very significant part of my mentality shift.

Another photographer asked whether I would be interested in shooting an event for pharmaceutical students. It was $250 for five hours of shooting. At the time, I wasn’t actually geared up for shooting events. I had an 18-200. I borrowed a flash from a friend. I basically had a flash, a slow zoom lens, and a model clause to make myself look more professional.

At the end of the day, what was special about this event was my realization that I could earn money doing what I love. And that’s when I really got into it. I bought a bunch of new equipment. Got business cards made right away.

Shooting events was fun, but it wasn’t a passion, so I quit the events business and launched myself into creative portraiture. My creative portraiture grew, and I started the Von Wong brand in 2010. The next biggest transition was when I quit my day job. I woke up one morning and said I know I’m not going to do engineering for the rest of my life. So in 2012, I quit. Having the financial support of my mining engineering career helped me make that leap.

2. How has your photography changed since you first started?

Shortly after I picked up my first camera, I started a 365 project and planned to take a picture a day for an entire year. But instead of doing self-portraits, I wanted to take portraits of other people. The motivation behind the project was to grow and learn, but I soon realized I didn’t have time. I was working 10 hours a day at my engineering job. Every day I’d get up, go to work, spend the day thinking about a concept, get home, set up my lights, eat, shoot the concept, edit it, and post it. I’d be up until 2 or 3 in the morning, then I’d have to go to work the next day. It was exhausting. I set a milestone for myself of 100 days, and when I hit it, I shifted gears toward doing larger productions. I started putting more emphasis into cool locations and people, and making each shoot really count.

3. How do you choose your locations and find help for these large productions?

I travel for people, not places. I stay on people’s sofas and do what they do, so I connect with the people.

And I pull together resources significantly from social media. As I’ve invested in meeting my fans and giving back to them, that’s grown into a powerhouse in the sense that I can go to any country in the world, say, “Hey guys, I’m in town, let’s hang out,” and most of the time someone replies.

I usually go to a place with a certain intention or starting point, and it grows. I have a spark of inspiration—location, a model, a cool studio, a performer — there’s always one single point around which everything ignites and from that point forward, everything else needs to be found. Someone knows some place who knows something. It’s about staying open to possibilities and opportunities.

The fallen angel shoot I did with you guys is a great example of this. I was actually looking for an opportunity to go on vacation, and Kelly Zak had reached out to me through Facebook for a critique — and we ended up chatting about shoot ideas. I said I’ve always wanted to create a fallen angel, and she said, “If you come to Florida, there’s fallen angels for you!” I figured I better get on a flight.

Right before Florida, I’d been traveling around a lot. Kelly was caught up with school work. So when I landed, we didn’t have much planned, so we went scouting right away. The first place she drove me to was this amazing, magical-looking forest. Which is funny because for the Floridians it’s probably the most common tree they have, a Spanish oak tree, I think. For me, it was so magical.

Given the beauty of the location, I thought, “Why don’t we increase the concept?” Have two fallen angels, and a bunch of mystical creatures. One thing led to another, and Kelly started enlisting classmates in the film school. We had costume designers, makeup artists. I started asking fans through social media if they’d like to be a part of it. And the whole thing took off from there.

We pulled this entire shoot together in about eight days. We had a good time, and we basically became a family for about a week.

4. How did you make those fantastic wings in so short a time?

The wings were made out of a type of plastic you use for packaging. We just cut it up and layered it. The broken wings were filed down using razor blades. Then we took charcoal and blackened the edges, each wing tip individually. The whole thing was put together using hot glue. Kelly did the research, looking up cosplay tutorials on how people would strap on wings. Since I wanted the angels to be topless, this meant they couldn’t wear a harness or anything. So they had to come up with a creative solution, which ended up being clear bra straps.

5. What are some of your best in-front-of-the-lens tips for special effects?

Birthday sparklers for light trails. Flour for snow. Smoke bombs for portable smoke. Cloth/Vaseline on the lens to create foreground texture in your image. Water guns for portable rain. That’s all I can think of off the top of my head!

6. You attribute a lot of your success to having a great social network and being able to find what you need within it. How were you able to build such a vast network?

Slowly but surely. That’s really what I did. There’s no big success trick other than continuously uploading content.

Before I was doing behind-the-scenes blog posts, I was posting a new photo every day while I had my day job. Day after day of putting out new content. And my shoots are extremely social in the sense that people like to hang out and be a part of them. So at the end of the day, I would always tag all the people who got involved, which helped disseminate information. Then add on the behind-the-scenes videos and that’s ongoing social-media exposure. After I quit my job and traveled for a couple months, I started building my international exposure, which allowed me to start feeding my blog. Every week I would put out a new blog post. Lots and lots of work. I started doing workshops and speaking engagements. Any time somebody asked to do an interview, I would do it. Really just nonstop trying to build this network.

There was no massive unannounced peak—no surprise where it felt like okay, I’ve made it, and it started snowballing. It’s always been very consistent growth. And the minute I stop posting, the minute I stop sharing, then everything stops.

7. What social channels have been the most successful for you?

Facebook, hands down. I use Twitter. YouTube is the best for videos. I’ve used Flickr. I’ve used all of those, but I don’t think anything’s really come out of those channels. It’s really been Facebook for me.

8. You are very involved with all aspects of your shoots. How do you find time to do all the social outreach as well?

I think people overestimate the amount of time I spend on the computer editing. I think I spend on average only ten to twenty hours of editing a week. A bulk of the effort that’s allocated to a shoot really takes place in the preproduction, production and social aspects of it. The actual shoot and postproduction becomes just a single step on the way.I work so much through collaborations, and I came to the conclusion that if I wasn’t going to be making a video, if I wasn’t going to be making a blog post, then I wouldn’t be giving back what people were giving to me. If I wanted people to look at that work and broaden its reach, it was worth it to do big, elaborate projects but fewer of them as opposed to many small projects that wouldn’t have all that extra media support. A lot of effort goes into making an interesting blog post or following up with the creative content.

9. Has the social reach of your shoots ever surprised you?

Yes, a shoot that I did last year. In September, my agent, Suzy Johnston + Associates, received an e-mail from a woman who was terminally ill, asking if there was any possibility of getting a photoshoot and if I’d be able to photograph her in a way that made her feel beautiful and healthy.

I was leaving in a few weeks to go to Seattle for creativeLive, and she was on a time clock because with each passing week she was getting weaker and more frail. We had to make it work quickly. I gave her a call the next day, and in about 10 days we got makeup, hair, and location together. It was her first photoshoot ever.

Afterward, I wrote a blog post about it. I really wrote it more for her than for anybody else. I wanted to create a nice little memory for her. The Internet picked it up, and it became one of my more popular posts of the year, which was, for me, a very big surprise.

Through this experience, what really struck me was that I could not only inspire, and teach about the process, but on top of that, I could create images that matter, that can touch people. These images were created to bring my fan’s dreams to life, but I felt so alive, too. Doing something that matters makes all the difference. That’s something I would like to incorporate more in my work this year.

10. Have you ever been stumped for inspiration?

It happens to me just as much as it happens to anyone. You can’t always be inspired. You have to keep growing and putting things together even when not inspired, so make plans and follow through with them. Do I always feel inspired? No, but setting the wheels in motion and filling the time when nothing is happening, that’s important. Give yourself something to do.

11. What advice would you give to a photographer who was just getting started?

In the artistic and creative world, the biggest thing you have to fear is yourself. If you stop feeling inspired or you stop feeling motivated to do whatever it is you’ve decided to do, then you’re going to lose ground, you’re going to lose traction. No matter how great your business plan is, if you don’t want to do it anymore, everything will come crashing down.

My relative success has been a combination of the journey, the sharing, the inspiration, and the work, but not any one thing would have made it go as far as it has. You really have to make sure you love what you do. No one wants “mediocre.” They don’t want a Jack of all trades. They want “special.” They want the “best” at one single thing. And the only way you can be the best is to love what you do.

You only have one life. Make the most of it.

Find Ben online:

Categories: Art, photography, SmugMug, Users

How to make a beautiful photography book with Blurb

November 8, 2013 Leave a comment

With the holiday season right around the corner, you’re likely starting to make your gift giving lists. There are many great ways to create gifts from your photos, including making beautiful photo books with them; yearbooks, cookbooks, daily planners, portfolio books, history books: there’s a book for every story that you want to share.  Our friends at Blurb.com have shared their best tips for building books and we are delighted to feature them here. 

Here at Blurb, we truly believe in the joy of books—reading them, making them, sharing them, and selling them.

But making a book—particularly a photography book—can be daunting. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be. Here are a few things to think about when making a book of your photos. We think the best tool to use is our free program, BookSmart, but the tips below apply no matter what tool you use to make your book.

Before you start your book, there are four really important things to consider:

1) Start with a great body of content. There is no substitute for quality content, whether it’s photos, illustrations, text or whatever.

2) Editing is an art form. When it comes to editing, the old cliché holds true: “Less is more.”

3) Sequencing can decide whether your book sails or fails. Sequencing is simply determining the order of your content, start to finish, front to back. Start strong, end strong, and remember, your cover image can make it or break it.

4) Go look at books. If you want to create a great photography book you MUST look at great photography books. Think about fonts, sizes, colors—decide what feels right for you and for your project.

Part One: Be prepared

Get organized. Decide what images you are going to use in your book, name them so you can identify them easily, and do your editing before you make your book!

Color is important. Make no mistake: treat your images with respect, and prep them for print. Color management is important, and Blurb provides a wonderful tutorial section here.

If your book has text content—even if it’s just a collection of captions—create a single document with everything in it, sequenced in order of placement in your book.

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Part Two: Make your book

The cover can wait. Design the rest of the book before completing the cover. When you’re ready, design three or four different covers and live with them for a bit before making a final decision.

Take a deep breath. Let the beginning of the book (or “front matter”) breathe. Title pages, half title pages, dedications, essays—all of these things can all help ease a reader into the project.

Consistency is your friend. Be consistent with your templates. Try not to use more than two different templates for an entire book. BookSmart has lots of templates to choose from and you can always make your own.

Take another deep breath. Let the end of the book (or “back matter”) breathe. Your book is a journey, so make sure you give the reader a chance to ease out of the project. Elements like an index, dedications, or a closing essay let you provide critical information and end the book definitively.

Justify your choices. When your book is “done,” preview the book page-by-page. Does every element belong? Does it add to the story or is it a distraction?

Part Three: Publish. Celebrate. Repeat.

Check your spelling. Run spell check. We’ll repeat that: Run spell check.

Order up. When the book is complete, edited, sequenced and ready to go, sign in to Blurb and upload your book.

Share it, sell it. After the book has finished uploading, you can add information such as tags, titles,  and a brief description. Blurb gives you a Personal Storefront that you can share on your social networks. If you want to sell your book in the Blurb Bookstore, it’s easy to do so. And you get to keep 100% of the markup.

Have fun. Above all else, making a book should be an enjoyable experience. So enjoy it. And get started on another book soon. Like anything, you’ll get better with practice.

SmugMug account owners can build beautiful Blurb photo books from the Add to Cart menu in each gallery on their site. (more info)

Categories: Art, Gifts

Is That a Smartphone in Your Pocket?

July 17, 2013 6 comments

The best camera is the one you always have with you… but that doesn’t mean you should just point, shoot, and hope for the best.

In our next webinar, we’ll talk about the explosion of this little thing called mobile photography and how to leverage that more-powerful-than-you-think camera phone. More than just a convenient device in your pocket, your smartphone is a valuable marketing tool that most pros simply overlook.

New Webinar! Mobile Photography with Angie Garbot

This month, we’re talking with full-time Chicago photographer and instructor Angela Garbot, whose professional work spans a variety of subjects from beautiful brides to culinary delights. She was recently featured on CNN.com for being one of the few wedding photographers who work with the ubiquitous camera phone, rather than against it. Because of her insights, we’ve asked her to show us why the versatility and portability of your camera phone is the best thing to happen to the photography industry, how to shoot winning camera phone pics, and how you can harness the power of mobile photography to boost your business.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013
8:00 PM ET, 7:00 PM CT, 6:00 PM MT and 5:00 PM PT
Register for this event!

We’ve all got smartphones in our pockets, using them to snap and share on the go. But are you happy with what you’re getting? Do you actually think before sharing those with your friends and fans? If you’re like most of us, you probably answered “No.” But mobile photography is no excuse to take a bad photo! And if you’re a pro, you could be missing out on a vital piece of your business’ marketing plan.

In this webinar we’ll show you how to maximize your built-in camera app functions, introduce you to some powerful editing apps and then discuss how to use social media and your smartphone images to enhance your business. We’ll talk about some do’s and don’t’s in sharing, the importance of hash tagging, ways to engage your clients using your smartphone images, and tips for live-tweeting with images.


See you there!

All photos by Angela Garbot Photography

What Sells? Taking Your Photos with the Customer in Mind

June 3, 2013 Leave a comment

Have you gone out shooting on a great photo-adventure and wondered what else you could be doing to get more sales? In the same vein as our other amazingly astute guest post, our friend Varina Patel has offered us more great info about how to mix business and landscape photography. Here’s what she says about keeping the customer at the forefront of your mind the next time you’re outdoors capturing something beautiful.

Photos by Jay Patel and Varina Patel

You never know what a buyer will want – and each buyer is different. But, over the past several years, we’ve learned a few things about maximizing the potential of our portfolios. Here are a few tips for making sales.

1. Horizontal and Vertical Shots

Horizontal landscape photo by Varina Patel

When we are in the field, we usually find that a composition works best in either horizontal or vertical orientation. But in most cases, after capturing the most visually appealing image, we will work to find another shot that works with the camera turned 90 degrees. Why? Because sometimes the buyer needs an image that works in a particular orientation. Is he looking for a collection of calendar images? He’s probably going to need horizontal images. Is she looking for photos for a magazine? She’ll need a vertical shot to grace the cover.

Vertical lines landscape photo by Varina Patel

Since you never know who might want to purchase your images in the future, you can’t know which orientation will work best for their needs. Shoot in both orientations, and you’ll be ready no matter what they ask for.

2. Local images

Moss waterfall by Jay Patel

Not too long ago, Jay sold this shot of Cedar Falls (titled The Looking Glass) as part of a collection of fine art images. He has many shots of waterfalls, and this is not one of his favorites. The image lacks the vibrant colors or grand vistas that you typically find in Jay’s more popular landscape photographs. When the client asked about waterfalls, his first instinct was to send them samples of the most popular waterfall images in his portfolio. One of the first shots he sent was Arizona Dreaming… this brilliantly colorful “icon shot” from Havasu Falls in Arizona.

Havasu Falls red and blue by Jay Patel

But, the client passed on all those brilliant color and famous locations. Instead, she chose the quieter image… one that he had never sold before. He was curious about her choice, and he asked her about it. The answer was simple – she wanted images of local places… no matter how ordinary they looked in comparison with those famous iconic locations.

When you approach a potential buyer, make sure you have plenty of local images. Colorful photographs capture the eye of the viewer – but familiar places capture their hearts.

3. Collections

Green mossy waterfall collection by Varina Patel

When you present your images for sale, consider using gallery features that allow you to group your images into categories based upon similarities. For example, I have a gallery that is dedicated only to black and white images, and another that is just for mountains. You can set up a gallery for images with a dominant blue color theme, or for photographs from a specific location. Your options are wide open.

SmugMug’s Smart Galleries feature lets you use keywords to create collections, so that potential buyers view images with shared characteristics. When a buyer wants more than one image, they often have a theme in mind. One buyer asked me for 30 detail shots that she could sell as a wallpaper collection. Another wanted several waterfall photographs for decorating a newly opened hospital. In Cleveland, a buyer wanted images of local parks and iconic locations for the walls in an office building.

As you build your portfolio, keep an eye out for images that work well together, and be sure to present them as potential groupings.

4. Big Prints

Beach sunset by Varina Patel

Would you be surprised if I told you that giclée canvas prints are some of our biggest sellers? There’s just nothing like a really BIG print that makes a statement or ties a room together. In most cases, I don’t get to see a print after it’s hung, so it was a real treat to be able to see this one in its place of honor over the fireplace. This canvas print is hanging in a beautifully decorated home near Atlanta, GA. The colors in the room were actually chosen to match the print – the entire room is coordinated to match the colors in the photograph. I wish I could give you a tour of the whole house – which is a work of art itself.

Large canvas prints

Canvas prints are more expensive – especially really big ones… but most people hang them without a frame, since they stand alone so well. They avoid the expense of matting and framing, making the price much easier to swallow.

Offer your prints for sale on canvas at the largest size available. A photo printed at that size packs a whole lot of punch!

Learn More about Photography from Jay and Varina Patel

If you’re looking for more inspiration, photography tips, education and webinar workshops, visit Jay and Varina’s blog over at Photography by Varina. And use this exclusive discount code to get 10% off any eBook order over $20: SMUGMUG314

With this, we hope that you summertime explorers are inspired to take different shots with a new perspective. Stay safe, and stay tuned for more great tips from our pro friends!

Categories: Art, business

Success Stories: Matthew Jordan Smith Photography

May 24, 2013 1 comment

The Model: Fashioning a Niche in Celebrity Portraiture and Beauty

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

Career Highlights…

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

Favorite Features…

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

A Beautiful Beginning

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

Purple glitter eyes by Matthew Jordan Smith

Want a Unique Look? Cultivate a Vision

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

Yellow butterfly eyes by Matthew Jordan Smith

How SmugMug Helps

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

Aretha Franklin feathers by Matthew Jordan Smith

Getting Behind the Beauty

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

Three models with dark eyeshadow by Matthew Jordan Smith

Don’t Just Talk; Get Visual

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

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

Categories: Art, business, Customization

Stephan Bollinger Speaks on Why Models Are Made

May 20, 2013 7 comments

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

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

Black and white model fine art photo by Stephan Bollinger

Photos by Stephan Bollinger Photography

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

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

Dark profile photo with negative space by Stephan Bollinger

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

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

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

Nude model  dance fashion photo by Stephan Bollinger

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

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

Ballet garden by Stephan Bollinger

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay creative, stay inspired and stay strong!

Categories: Art, business, Current Events

Photography Perspectives: Tilt-Shift Photography with Richard Silver

April 5, 2013 11 comments

We’ve tapped tilt-shift photographer Richard Silver on the shoulder because we’ve long been inspired by his ability to miniaturize pretty much any beautiful location on Earth. We asked him a few questions about what it’s like to be a pro in this genre of landscape photography, and how he turns the mundane into something totally unexpected. Here’s what he said.

All photos by Richard Silver Photo

Do you have a past life in other careers, or have you always been behind the camera?

I have a varied professional background from owning a beer distributor, stock broker and a real estate agent. In real estate I would photograph the apartments that I had for sale so photography played a role in that area. I have always traveled and photographed all of my trips which my friends would make me take all of the pictures for them too. In early 2011 I got the itch to leave real estate and pursue my photography career full time.

Why miniaturization?

A few years back I was fascinated by this photographer Olivio Barbieri, who became my inspiration to do Tilt Shift in the first place. He would travel the world and do this effect using an actual Tilt Shift lens. I figured out how to do the effect using Photoshop only in post production. To me it is such a fun way to see the world, it gives a different perspective to seeing in a way that plays tricks on you. In the big picture we are just a small blip of what the world truly is.

What are your tools of the trade?

I have always been a Nikon guy. Currently I have a Nikon D800 a full frame camera, Nikon 24-70mm 2.8 lens and a Sigma 70-200mm 2.8 lens which I use mostly for my Tilt Shift shots. I have 2 different tripods, one for travel which is carbon fiber and one that is heavy duty, my Manfrotto 055XPROB. Daylight is extremely important in my shots as shadows add so much to the final image.

Do you ever create or enhance the miniaturization in post?

All of my work is done in post production. Photoshop and Lightroom are my go to programs. Using digital gives me the freedom to make any changes needed to achieve the Tilt Shift effect. When I take the original photograph I already have in my mind what the image will look like. I do not do anything other than the few steps needed in Photoshop to create the effect.

With the new PS6 there is a single filter that I can apply but in the older versions it took me about 5 moves to achieve my effect. I go back and forth between using the new single filter and the older way, it all depends on the image that I use.

What makes the ideal tilt shift miniaturization?

At first I would only shoot iconic places such as the Eiffel Tower, Great Wall of China, Acropolis in Greece but then I started to shoot more nature locations. Now I try and mix the locations up depending on where I travel to. I need to be in a location that is higher than what I am shooting. Mountains and tall buildings work great for me. I also need people in my photo for me to get the perception part to work. For the best results I need a good sunny day, people lined up in rows, me to be on top of a skyscraper shooting down to the streets or shooting from a helicopter which I find exhilarating.

What other types of photography do you shoot?

There are two new types of output I am working with now. One is called “Sliced” where I take photographs of buildings at sunset for about an hour and sliced them together creating an effect of day to night in one image, each image consists of about 30 individual photos. I have shot so far almost 40 buildings in New York and plan on doing that all over the world. I also perfected a new way to shoot churches. I do a 180 degree panorama from pew to exit of the church shooting the ceilings in the photos. I received so much play on the web from so many photography websites it was an amazing feeling to be recognized.

You’ve achieved great commercial success, although your images aren’t the traditional client-photographer sort. How did you build your business and brand?

I am honored to be represented by Yellowkorner Gallery, a photographic company with locations all over the globe. They represent 9 of my images, we recently did a book together called Portfolio 9 of my Tilt Shift images. In New York I have representation by two local galleries also. One with my Tilt Shift and one with my New York Sliced images. I am not the type of photographer hired; I aim to sell my photographs of my travels through my SmugMug sites or through some of my physical galleries.

What SM features get you through the day?

Since I travel so much I am constantly updating my Galleries at my SmugMug sites. I love how simple it is to upload, arrange my photos and make any other changes so easily to my site. Having 2 separate sites with Smugmug, both being slightly different in look but both having the ease of use to work with. I work with the guys over at Fastline Media, they helped me design my sites exactly to my specs. I get so many compliments on my images and layout of the site.

Love being inspired? Check out our other Success Stories and stay tuned for more perspectives from great SmugMug photographers!

Categories: Art, business, Users

The Business of Love: Getting Intimate with Je Revele Fine Art Photography

January 15, 2013 2 comments

We’re so excited to debut this guest post from the two lovely and incredibly talented ladies over at Je Revele Fine Art Photography, who we featured as a Success Story last summer. Love is in the air as Valentine’s Day approaches, pros fill their wedding calendars and winter engagements blossom into summer nuptials. So with the “Business of Love,” we’ll feature insights and tips related to planning, shooting and selling those beautiful photos you’ll take in the coming weeks. Enjoy this behind-the-scenes look into what goes into crafting the stunning images you see at New Jersey boudoir photographers Je Revele!

Insights from Natalie Licini and Cate Scaglione

When Cate and I joined forces, it was based on a love and a shared vision for Intimate Portraiture. From the beginning, we had a common passion about the kind of work and client experience we wanted to create for our clients, which we believe has been the foundation of our success.

Our business is a fusion between photography, a luxury spa, and an art gallery. We make more than beautiful portraits. Our clients cherish the wall art we make for them… but beyond that, they remember the experience of the day, how they connected with Cate or I and how our stylists made them feel. Ultimately, their memory is about feeling beautiful and special. That translates very powerfully into the portraits we create for them.

Cate and I have different personalities and approaches when it comes to working with clients. We sometimes find that one of us may be more compatible with a certain type of shoot or client, but the one constant is the final product our clients receive. Our end-to-end client experience is something we both take part in, regardless of which of us photographed the client. Cate often handles pre-consultations whereas I often execute the sale. We both handle editing and post-production. Our common ground is in our aesthetics, editing style and a mutually unwavering commitment to the quality of our product and studio experience.

The Value of the Pre-Consultation

Our process always starts with a pre-consultation, which is a critical component to the shoot and its subsequent sale. We believe this first step is a major component to our success. Our clients are surprisingly open during our pre-consultations, which enables us to know them on a highly emotional level, upfront. We like to hear what the client is envisioning and learn who they are to plan the session of their dreams. The pre-consultation serves a two-way purpose; we get to know them intimately beforehand to effectively plan a shoot and they get excited about it. Both of these factors lead to higher sales.

As a result of our pre-consultations, we’ve found ourselves planning era-inspired sessions of the 1920s, 30s, 40s, or 1980s. Some sessions are based on specific milestones, like one client’s 50th birthday where we planned a “past present and future” theme incorporating various themes of her life. Other clients find art as a healing mechanism, to recover from the death of a loved one, a double mastectomy or to regain confidence after a divorce or breakup. And yet other times, our sessions are to mark a celebration, such as remission from breast cancer, bachelorette parties or a special anniversary. On one occasion, we even held a Ladies Day of Glamour, a fashion-inspired day where we served lunch, champagne and a private chef who prepared a special dinner on the terrace of the castle in between their individual photo shoots and styling sessions.

No matter what type of session, their day with us is about comfort, convenience and luxury. We furnish them with everything they need to relish in their beauty, which includes in-house stylists, delicious hors deurves, chocolates, champagne, an in-house wardrobe to peruse, or our concierge-approach to designer gown rentals. We often find that the more we do to create a great experience, the more engaged they become with their images.

The pre-consultation is truly step one of putting clients at ease for the shoot. They feel they have a pre-established connection with us and they know what to expect. In addition, we put ourselves at ease through a consistent routine of scheduling, either as a 10AM or 1PM session appointment daily. We don’t waiver much and clients are OK with that.

Fluidity and Confidence During the Shoot

On the day of the shoot, women can initially feel nervous, shy or self-conscious… or all of the above. Cate often jokes that there is a “nine minute factor” in which clients find the joy and liberation of the session, a point at which the nervous excitement goes away. After those first nine minutes, we feel them come to life. We always give them authentic feedback and compliments early in the session. We do our best to make them comfortable, happy and show them a sneak peak of an early photo to build confidence in themselves. We don’t always show them the images, but sometimes we find that it enables clients to let go and embrace the experience. This approach can often be reassuring.

We hear a lot of consistent comments from women, regardless of her age, body type or overall appearance. One of the most common phrases is: “I’m not not photogenic at all”, almost as a warning. We often say: “Have you ever had your photo professionally taken? {often the answer is no} Many of your photos may be taken by friends and family under challenging lighting conditions so you may think you’re not photogenic. But beautiful light and proper direction by a professional photographer can definitely make you look your very best. If you’re photographed in darker light some clients feel they look wider or older. Let me show you a posing example”.

At this point, it’s a great example to show them how I’d look straight on flat-footed. I’d look wider, static… almost bored. With some adjustments, bending my knee, pushing my weight on my back hip in beautiful light and suddenly, I look thinner and prettier. The clients instantly feel more confident!

The pre-consultation is always a guide to how we pose our clients. The direction will vary depending on the styling and theme of the session. Our intimate portrait work may include high fashion photos, fine art nudes, boudoir or all of the 3 in one session. I feel the best approach is to pose my clients from the feet up, posing them standing, seated, leaning or laying and guide them so they look and feel beautiful, slim and elegant. The wrong pose can instantly add 10 pounds to any client. We do our best to ensure the opposite is true with every photo. The last step is to ensure they look relaxed and their hands are relaxed. Little adjustments with hands and encouragement can make your client shine brightly from the inside and you see that in their eyes.

For our intimate portrait work, we shoot both indoor and outdoor at our studio. Our studio has over seven acres of picturesque grounds at the castle, with brick and stone, old classic architecture, thick woods, beautiful gardens and trees, etc. We shoot indoors using both natural light and strobes. We love variety, but we photograph our clients truly in accordance with the pre-consultation we planned. At all times, both Cate and I each shoot with our own two cameras. Cate uses her two Canon 5D IIs using a 85mm and a 24-70 or a 70-200, depending on the session. Cate likes fluidity and tries to incorporate with a single new idea each shoot. I always photograph my clients with my Canon 5D Mark III with my 85mm 1.2 on the right of my rapid double strap and my Canon 24-70 II on my left. We love both perspectives for intimacy and storytelling. The dual-camera approach is important to the flow of the session because changing lenses causes delays, which breaks your clients’ enthusiasm. It’s important to keep a rhythm and energy going… for all parties involved in the shoot!

Exquisite Marketing

One thing we noticed was that clients booked us because they are attracted to our fine art work and they wanted to hang a piece of art in their home. We’re always excited to do what we love, but from a business perspective it was limiting. Cate always tended to shoot intimate close-ups for her fine art. I liked to shoot wide for maximum storytelling. So we made adjustments on both our parts and begun offering a variety of posed beauty portraits, creating the variety and “bigger picture” story for our clients. This enabled us to sell both wall art and albums or image boxes with each sales session, doubling our revenue instantly. It changed and reshaped our business.

This past summer, we created a marketing plan which cross-promoted with venues, stylists and clients. We offered gift vouchers enclosed in a gorgeous black box with thick white satin ribbon. Targeting our class-A clients and vendors was a great way to attract our ideal clients for intimate portrait sessions.

Pricing is an important part of the brand. Our brand is about a premium experience and making woman feel special and important. We are priced accordingly and our brand look and feel helps us communicate that idea. One can never underestimate the importance of being well branded and well priced for your target audience. You attract what you put out there in the market.

Working Together as a Team

There are two of us in our studio and naturally, we work a little differently than one another. However we maintain a very structured workflow for the consistency of the client deliverable and final product.

First, we download our images from our cameras and with Photo Mechanic do a “sort by capture time” and rename the RAW files. Then, there is a culling process in Photo Mechanic which we reduce the gallery selections to 75-100 images. We then import everything into Lightroom 4.

Cate and I process images a little differently, but generally maintain the same aesthetic with our custom-created presets and actions Cate made from our most inspired looks. I label about 40% of the images in LR using the star rating, which I make black and white. I use the same style black and white throughout for consistent styling and branding. I take the remaining 60% and edit them with a desaturated vintage color. I don’t cherry-pick which images are black and white, I randomly choose. Cate really enjoys the editing process and tends to like to look at each image individually and decide with each image what should be presented in color or black and white. Our editing aesthetic can vary a little from session to session depending based on the styling and theme (example: 1930s era), but in general there is about a 40/60 rule for bw/color (unless we know from our pre-consultation a client has a penchant for a style). No matter what, we always try to ensure that our post-processing maintains that signature Je Revele look.

We typically decide before the sales session which portraits would have the best potential as a fine art wall portrait. Rarely do we edit any fine art work before the viewing appointment. Instead, we show several beautiful fine art portrait samples to clients during the viewing appointment. This explains what their portraits could potentially look like and it usually illustrates the idea quite well.

From the beginning of our Je Revele adventure, we decided that our Intimate Portraits were about creating intimacy with the client and helping them see their beauty. It was never about the wardrobe like lingerie or boudoir-style setting to define our genre. In this sense, our Intimate Portraits are very much the same vertical as our other portrait work. With this philosophy in mind, we price our Intimate Portraits the same as our other portrait sessions including families and high school seniors. Our newborn photography structure and weddings have a different pricing structure, however to accommodate the very specific needs of those life stages.

At the end of it all, we simply want our clients to look and feel their most beautiful self. That’s incredibly important to us… we feel it’s what differentiates us. We listen to their needs and understand why they are doing the session… and we deliver according to that. That’s intimacy.

All photos by Je Revele Fine Art Photography

Categories: Art, business, Site design, Users

Blurb’s Top Tips For Building a Photo Book Masterpiece

November 26, 2012 3 comments

Whether you’ve traveled the globe seeking fine art photos, survived the safari of a lifetime or just had a new addition to your family, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better photo gift this holiday season than a personalized photo book.

Building a book can be as basic as clicking a button, but our friends at Blurb suggest a few tried-and-true tips for creating the perfect project each and every time. So when you’re ready to turn your SmugMug photos into your next book, keep these five tips in mind.

And as an extra bonus, keep reading for an exclusive Blurb discount for Smuggers.

1) Use only your best photos.

There’s more to choosing photos than just grabbing a bunch of interesting images. “Less is more” when it comes to a well-designed photo book, so eliminate any photos that you don’t have an emotional reaction to or are technically distracting (i.e., too dark, blurry, contain busy backgrounds, etc). You’ll end up with a more focused, powerful image selection.

And once you have them, don’t be afraid to edit your photos. Being tough on your own work is a surefire way to ensure that your book shows your best examples.

2) Keep it really, really simple.

Unless you’re going for a scrapbook look, keep the basic design clean and simple. Don’t go crazy by using too many different fonts, font sizes and a complicated page layout. Pick a simple & legible font that will print well! It’s easier on the eyes, and lets the beauty of your images shine through.

3) Keep headers and footers consistent.

One of the most easily-missed issues is the stuff on the edges: making sure all your headers and footers stay consistent throughout your book. In fact, you may want to do this part at the very end, after all other parts of your book are finished, since adding or reorganizing pages can override your header/footer settings. Be sure that whatever text you choose reads the same across left and right pages, and that you use a consistent font.

4) Don’t fall off the edge!

Just like with photo prints, you should keep an eye on the edges of your book and make sure you don’t put important parts of your images too close to the margins where there’s a bleed/trim area. This is especially important on covers, which usually contain graphics or words.

How close is too close? It depends on the cover option you choose but a good rule of thumb is to not put any critical content within an inch of your book’s edges.

5) Inspire with your cover design.

While we’re on the topic of covers: A great-looking cover is really important in getting people inspired and interested enough to open up your book and look more closely at your work. Our top tip is to keep it simple – don’t have too many fonts or photographs on the front and don’t always go for the obvious shot! It’s fun to be a little mysterious.

Blurb’s Very Smug Holiday Discount

If you’ve never made a photo book before through Blurb, now’s your chance to find out how easy it is! And if you have, then it’s the perfect opportunity to make another. They’ve got a huge variety of sizes, covers and papers so you can build the book that you want, at the price that you want.

Try any of their easy bookmaking tools to create your next masterpiece, and use the code SMUGCHEER to get 25 % off at checkout.*

And of course, don’t forget to take a look at their holiday shipping deadlines, to be sure that you’ve got something to give on the big day.

Happy page-turning holidays!

* Offer good for 25% off your print product total on books created by you up to a maximum discount of $200 USD, CAD & AUD, 120 Euros. Offer expires on Dec 10th at 11.59pm and can only be used by each person once. This offer may not be used towards gift cards, volume discounts or retroactively applied towards a previous order.

Categories: Art, Gifts, photography
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