The holidays are a perfect time to practice your portrait-taking skills. Bring out the best in your subjects and take memorable family portraits with some expert instruction! Because we at SmugMug are big fans of photo education, we’ve asked author and professional photographer Kirk Tuck to reveal his top five tips for successful family photo sessions. Learn the essential skills for capturing beautiful family portraits in Kirk Tuck’s FREE online class, Professional Family Portraits, over on Craftsy.com.
1. Bring Out the Best in Mature Subjects
Try adding fill light with flash, or even a cheap piece of foam core. Use off-camera flash as your main light and use umbrellas (cheap and easy) to modify the light. Or situate your couple in their living room for stunning environmental portraits.
2. Capture Toddlers
Toddlers are particularly hard to pose and it’s typically difficult to maintain their attention; make the best of the small window you have with them by limiting their distractions. Get down on their level, and use simple items like a lit match to capture their attention (and get that wonderment-look).
3. Set Up a Studio in Any Home
In a few simple steps you can transform any garage into a studio. When you lift the garage door you have great ambient light that comes in! If the house or garage is cluttered, bring a gray seamless backdrop. Be sure to consider the color of the walls and ceilings when bouncing flash, too, because colored walls can tint your images.
4. Success with Posing Larger Groups
Take the time to thoughtfully choose your location, for example look for hills, walls and contours. You want to shoot in the shade so you can have even light. When it comes to arranging and posing groups, odd numbers are best, form triangles and have the family members slightly face each other to show a connection.
5. Get the Best Results with Your Digital Editing
No photo is complete until it has been taken into the digital darkroom: Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. Use the healing tool to remove scars and soften wrinkles in Photoshop. And, use the sliders in your layers to make believable changes in skin blemishes, like wrinkles.
In the FREE online Craftsy class, Professional Family Portraits, Kirk will cover:
- Advanced strategies of family portraiture as Kirk shares his best techniques for lighting, posing and composition.
- Fail-proof ways to take adorable shots of even the most impatient little ones.
- Using foam core, umbrellas and bounce flash to create ideal lighting in any setting, and explore broad and short lighting for warm, engaging portraits.
- Quick, effective strategies for transforming any room into an uncluttered studio – even a garage!
- How to select a location and direct poses for a large group photo.
- Step-by-step post-processing strategies to remove blemishes, soften wrinkles and adjust color cast to ensure your portraits have professional polish.
- All the benefits of an in-person seminar from the convenience of your home.
Kirk will critique your photos and answer any questions you have, and since you’ll own your class forever, you can learn at your own pace and revisit techniques before your next shoot.
Sign up for Professional Family Portraits for free now, and take natural, high-quality photos that preserve precious moments in time.
What are some of your own favorite tips and tricks for photographing your families? Share your ideas in the comments below!
Commercial photographer Kirk Tuck has photographed many extraordinary people, from President Bill Clinton to Academy Award winner Renée Zellweger. He’s also authored several books including Photographic Lighting Equipment: A Comprehensive Guide for Digital Photographers, Minimalist Lighting: Professional Techniques for Location Photography, and Commercial Photography Handbook: Business Techniques for Professional Digital Photographers.
Can’t quite capture Fido’s charisma? Keep snapping the backside of Senior Pussyboots? Yeah, we know. As puppy-loving photographers ourselves, we understand the unique challenges that come with photogging furry friends. When your subject shakes at the first sign of a squirrel, chases it’s own tail, and can’t smile worth a darn, you might wanna declare animal photography an art for the dogs. But there are definite secrets to snapping pet pictures so good, they’ll make you drool.
SmugMug pro Kira Stackhouse, throws us a bone and let us in on her top tips for taking animal photos. Because, after all, dogs can’t learn new tricks…but photographers sure can.
About Kira Stackhouse: An award-winning, San Francisco-based animal and pet photographer, Kira’s modern, colorful images of animals have been featured in books, magazines and websites nationwide. She has photographed more than a thousand rescue dogs and cats, helping them find homes in the San Francisco Bay Area. Kira is the creator and author of Project DOG, an online movement to promote responsible pet ownership. In her free time, Kira hangs out with her dogs and cats, and competes in triathlons and half marathons. She loves egg sandwiches, french fries, a good cappuccino and pizza that does not flop.
Kira shared her best business tips and let us know which SmugMug tools she loves most.
Read the full interview with Kira, and plan to include your pet in your holiday portraits this year.
Next in our holiday print lab series are our neighbors just over the hill: Bay Photo. As the first pro-only lab that we introduced at SmugMug, Bay Photo has earned the trust of pro SmugMug photographers since January 2009. Remember that anyone with a Portfolio and Business account can set your own prices and sell all kinds of print products direct from your SmugMug galleries. At Bay Photo, your clients can order Photo Extras like mats, frames and more. Perfect for making a little extra money this holiday season!
Today we’re getting the inside scoop about ThinWraps, one of Bay Photo’s most lightweight mounting options. If you’ve never seen or ordered one for yourself, this is your chance to see just how these special prints are made.
Where does Bay Photo find its inspiration?
We listen to our customers! Our customers are professional photographers and creative artists and we get amazing ideas from them. We do what we can but some ideas are just too unique to add to the line up. We also listen to our employees. Our team members have a ton of experience in their specific area of production. They come up with awesome ideas for how to modify an existing product or for completely new ones. Again we wish we could implement more of the ideas that come from our team members.
What do Bay Photo employees think?
They take pride in producing a product that is of a higher quality than what can be found elsewhere. We make products for professionals and we don’t skimp, often doing by hand what other production facilities may use machines to do. We have true artisans in the lab who refuse to put out an inferior product under the Bay Photo name. Plus, it’s fun!!
How did ThinWraps get their start?
ThinWraps actually have a very interesting beginning. The idea came about one night, late at night, when Larry, the owner, and Polo, one of our production department leaders, were making sample books for our trade show booth. We wanted to show all the different materials we could offer on our books, but didn’t want to use regular swatches and didn’t have the space to have a book of every type of material, so we decided to make the front covers only and mount them on the wall of the booth. When they were prepping the different materials they wrapped one of our photowrap covers, added a block to the back and a light bulb went off! Why not wrap prints on board add a mount block and hang that on the wall? It makes a unique, beautiful finished product ready to hang right out of the box and very contemporary looking.
Once we put it into our ordering system we knew ThinWraps were really a great idea because soon customers were asking for more options and sizes and competitors were starting to offer them too. Our original ThinWraps were the same as what you can order now, but we have added more options; Glossy and Satin laminate over lustre or metallic photopaper or canvas all wrapped around a board and finished with a nice back and your option of a mount block or an easel. You can also choose the original ThinWrap or a padded SoftTop ThinWrap!
Why would you recommend pro photographers give ThinWraps a try?
It is a clean looking product and is very easy for the end customer. It’s ready to hang on the wall right out of the shipping box. No framing or additional service needed. It’s contemporary looking piece and that is playful enough for a kids room or professional enough for an office.
How would you recommend keeping ThinWraps looking great?
The ThinWrap is very versatile and is well finished to last a long time. Like any photographic product it should not be put in direct sunlight, but it is also a product that can put up with a little bit more abuse; if the kids have sticky fingers, the laminate protects the image and can be cleaned off! Our favorite ThinWrap option combo is the metallic paper with satin laminate. It has the awesome metallic sheen without the glossiness which adds depth and a touch of something special to just about any image!
Thanks again to Bay Photo for this detailed look at an innovative product we love! Once again, if you’ve never before turned your images into beautiful prints at SmugMug, you’re missing out. You can easily turn your favorite photos into prints and gifts by opening any gallery and clicking the Add to Cart button. If you’ve disabled printing to visitors, the button will read “Owner Buy.” See how to print at SmugMug.
If you’ve ever considered opening your own photo studio for your clients, this month’s SmugMug podcast is just for you.
Studio photography offers a ton of convenience in a compact space. You’re in total control, leaving nothing to the weather, light, temperature, or anything else that could complicate your interaction with your clients. But renting a commercial space can be expensive. Why not use the extra space you’ve already have?
We talked with family and senior photographer Steve Harrington about how his booming business began right in his basement. He answered questions that you may have wondered about having a home studio, like:
- How did your family react to this decision?
- Do you need special insurance?
- How do you handle marketing of your address on social media?
- Have you ever had a customer just arrive at your door?
- Did anyone pass on your services because you were working out of your home?
Photo by Steve Harrington Photography
Listen to the podcast now on our new podcast site! And we hope that those you considering the move to studio photography learns a bit more about the options available to you.
PS. If you’re hungry for more, don’t forget to visit SmugMug’s education site for more podcasts, video tutorials, our live events calendar and tons of articles about photography, running a business, and how to get the most out of your SmugMug site. See you there!
Autumn is kicking off to a great start. Here are the top features that we’ve added to SmugMug since our last update.
Map This in the New SmugMug
We love taking cues from your feedback, and this was one of the big ones you missed when going from legacy to the new SmugMug.
If your photos are geotagged, we’ll automatically display a little globe icon underneath it in your gallery or lightbox. Click it and you’ll see that pin highlighted on a map that displays pins for all other geotagged photos in that gallery. We’ll group the ones close together until you zoom in enough.
Gone are the old 150-pin limits – If every photo in your gallery is geotagged, we’ll pin every single one of them on your map. Special galleries like your Popular Photos, Keywords and Date are capped at 1000 pins.
One last thing: Map This now works for unlisted and passworded galleries, so anyone you share those with can enjoy browsing by location, too. Catch up on all the mappy goodness on SmugMug.
New: Google Calendar for Your Site
Busy photographers, this one’s for you. We added a new content block for Google Calendar, so you can show your fans (or clients) when you’re busy and when you’re not.
Simply drag in the content block to any page on your site, then copy your Google Calendar ID and paste it in. Voila! There’s plenty of ways to tweak the settings so that it’s exactly what you want.
You’ll also notice that we’ve created a brand-new customization section called “Services” where you’ll find the new Google Calendar content block as well as the Wufoo form block that we recently debuted.
Look to our help pages for explanation on everything you need to know about embedding your calendar, and you can find more help about Google Calendars on their site.
A Fresher Shopping Cart
Since we rolled out a new look for SmugMug, we’ve got some catching up to do on some other parts of the experience. We started with the shopping cart:
In addition to giving it a beautiful, smooth new skin to match the rest of your website, we also added more options to the sidebar to make choosing a print product a heckuva lot easier.
In fact, we’ve gotten so much feedback from you (and your customers!) to display print sizes that didn’t need cropping, so now you can just uncheck that box to see all options that don’t require any trimming.
Happy buying and selling!
New Education Site
Last but not least, we’re proud to point out the fact that this news blog may have gotten a bit quieter in the last few weeks. We’ve officially taken the extra tips, tricks, and guest posts and will be publishing them on our brand new Education Site:
The new School.smugmug.com site will be the place to go if you’re looking for photography advice, how to get the most out of your SmugMug account, money-making business tips and inspirational posts by successful SmugMug photographers. We’ll also include a complete newsletter archive, featured SmugMug photos and dates when you can talk to us next.
You should continue to watch this space for announcements about product-related stuff like release notes, bug fixes, contests and other Smuggy goodness. And, as always, our help pages are the place to go if you need help with your website.
Let us know what you think and what you’d like to see in the coming weeks both on School.smugmug.com as well as in your galleries. Cheers!
Making the Leap from Mom to Pro
As the new school year creeps closer, it’s time for many of us to transition back from full-time parent to full-time pro.
This month’s SmugMug podcast features Clickin Moms’ teacher and mom extraordinaire, Alicia Gould, of Alicia Gould Photography. Like many professional photographers, she started out by taking photos of her family, then watched her hobby blossom into a successful pro business. We sat down and asked her about all the fun and hard work that many women experience when making the leap, and what issues you might face when you start your own new business.
You’ll hear answers to questions like:
- Do you need previous experience or an artistic background?
- How and why you should balance your time with your family?
- How do you judge success as a momtographer?
- What’s the most important decision you can make when starting your business?
- What are some unexpected mistakes you may end up making?
- What kind of equipment is in a successful family photographer’s kit?
Photo by Alicia Gould Photography
Download the podcast right here and have a listen while you put the finishing touches on your latest summer photos. We think you’ll be inspired to take your shooting to a whole new level!
Composing Images in a Natural World
If you prefer photographing trees to toddlers, join our upcoming webinar, featuring world-reknown nature photographer Steve Gettle.
We’ll focus on the many elements that make up the composition of a beautiful nature image, using hundreds of examples and practical, real world situations. You’ll learn the “rules” of composition as well as when and why to break them. You’ll find out how to see the picture, and how to work a subject to maximize the potential of every situation.
In addition, we will cover how to control such things as lighting, backgrounds, depth of field and perspective to enhance your composition.
Composing Images in a Natural World
Thursday, August 29th, 2013
8:00 PM ET, 7:00 CT, 6:00 MT, 5:00 PT and 1:00 AM BST
Photo by Steve Gettle
***UPDATE!*** You can watch the recorded webinar on our YouTube channel.
We hope that everyone out there has been having a great summer full of wonderful experiences… and the pictures to prove them!
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
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.
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