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Let’s Connect at WPPI 2014 in Las Vegas

February 27, 2014 Leave a comment

If you’re a portrait or wedding photographer bound for WPPI next weekend in Las Vegas, please come see us! SmugMug will be hitting the expo floor from Monday, March 3rd through Wednesday, March 5th, so stop by, say hello and ask us your burning questions. Let’s connect!

We’ll have two great ways for you to win great stuff next week:

1) Photo Critique with David Beckstead 

Become a better photographer in minutes! Submit your best wedding photo now for an in-depth critique by one of the Top 10 Best Wedding Photographers in the World, David Beckstead. Details here.

2) Snap a Smuggy Selfie

Snap a fun self portrait with one of our SmugMug Booth Babes (or just with the SmugMug logo), tag it and share to win part of $2400+ worth of prizes. Winners announced each day of the WPPI expo. Details here.

We’ve lined up an impressive list of totally free seminars and SmugMug demos led by pro photographers (who also happen to be SmugMug friends) ready to impart their knowledge of marketing, business and the craft with you. You’ll also get the chance to talk with some of SmugMug’s Product Managers, Engineers and Design teams, so bring your feedback, suggestions and a winning smile.

Find a complete list of times, dates and topics right here on the handy reference page we’ve built for you here. Bookmark it, love it, keep it close at hand.

http://school.smugmug.com/WPPI

See you soon, wedding pros!

How To Avoid Leaking Sensitive Photos

February 7, 2014 19 comments

Stories are breaking on sites like Fstoppers and Brandsmash about private Boudoir photos that appeared on a creepy voyeur forum.  It’s hard to imagine a more humiliating nightmare for a photographer or their clients.

Photo Used With Permission From Je Revele Photography 

Photos came from several sites, including SmugMug, and we paid extreme attention over the last two days to how it happened.  We tried to take some comfort in observing that in every instance, it came down to passwords that were guessable in just a few tries.

The question for us was what could we do that we weren’t already?  Over the past year, we’ve done considerable work around this problem, but yesterday we decided to expose some of the alerts our systems generate to our customers.

When our systems see several password attempts on a gallery or folder, they now send an email to the owner of the SmugMug site.  It identifies the gallery, gives the first few digits of each password attempt with asterisks for the rest (bou***), and adds info like time of day and geographic location the request may be coming from.

Today our Support Heroes are receiving thank-yous from people whose family members couldn’t get in because they left the caps lock key on or forgot some aspect of the password “it’s a cap O (oh), not a 0 (zero)”.

And we read two help tickets from photographers who discovered that their boudoir galleries had password guessers.  Fortunately, they had long passwords that were too hard to guess, but they are still making changes like removing the word Boudoir from the title, and making the gallery Unlisted so only people who obtain the link can know of its existence.

One of the security upgrades that came with New SmugMug is we don’t store passwords in a form that could leak in any way, including a systems breach, a bug, or a disgruntled employee. We use an industrial grade, Cryptographic hash function.

The breaking stories are about Boudoir photos, but we host incredibly sensitive photos (all cloud services do) of unannounced products and even, we remember, photos of an upcoming TIME Person of the Year.

Best Practices:

1.  Set a good gallery password before uploading photos!

2.  Set galleries and folders to Unlisted.  Unlisted means means no one can see them unless they have somehow been given a link.  They cannot guess the link because it has a random string added to its URL.  The combination of strong password + Unlisted is extremely secure.

You can learn more about how to protect your SmugMug galleries here.

We hope this helps, and thanks for being part of the SmugMug family!

Chris & Don MacAskill

Founders

SmugMug Films: Air-to-Air Photography by Jessica Ambats

January 28, 2014 2 comments

Today we’re joyously announcing the second installment of SmugMug Films with a spotlight on heart-racing aviation photographer Jessica Ambats. Watch it now and subscribe to get first access to future episodes.

A love of flying led Jessica Ambats to an editorial job with an aviation magazine, Pilot Getaways. The publication required air-to-air shoots, and after tagging along a few times, she was hooked. Jessica learned how to direct her own air-to-air shoots and eventually became a pilot herself, sharing her love of the sky and everything that flies through it with fellow aviators and friends. She also works as editor of Plane & Pilot magazine.

Starting with air-to-air photography seems like a big leap to take.

I’ve always been fascinated by photography for as long as I can remember, but I never had any formal training. My first official introduction to aviation photography was through the International Society for Aviation Photography. They have a meeting every year, and I was able to attend one. I’d always been interested in photography and aviation, but it hadn’t really occurred to me to put the two together. Listening to speakers at the meeting was an eye-opener for me. I then worked at Pilot Getaways magazine, where I got to join their shoots and learn the ropes that way. I’ve also been fortunate to have a great mentor, photographer Russell Munson, who has encouraged me every step of the way.

Has your process changed much since then?

Over the years I’ve refined how I do things. I’ve learned how to be more directive, because you need to constantly give the pilots positioning instructions. And I’ve gotten a lot pickier about everything: the timing of the shoot, the background, and so on. Whereas in the very beginning, I was just excited to go up in an airplane and take pictures, and I didn’t focus on the small—but important—details.

Has your own training as a pilot helped improve your ability to direct in-flight composition?

Being a pilot and taking a formation-flying course helps because it gives me a firsthand understanding of the flight dynamics. This is useful when positioning my subject planes. Also, when planning the shoot, it gives greater understanding of the logistics, such as airspace restrictions, appropriate altitudes, and ATC [air-traffic control] coordination.

How do you position the subject planes?

I talk to them directly over the radio, or I relay my instructions through my pilot via the intercom. My positioning instructions are measured in feet, such as “ten feet higher” or “twenty feet back.” Sometimes I’ll also use hand signals, but in general I prefer to keep my hands steady on the camera.

You’re telling pilots to fly ten feet one way or another, which is probably very tough to do.

A movement of ten feet exactly is really hard to judge. So what I’ll do is give the first command: ten feet higher. And then I’ll watch what they do. Whatever they do, I make a mental note of what they are using as ten feet. Then I calibrate based on that.

The pilots I work with are highly experienced in formation flying, so they’re used to small adjustments. They can focus on a particular part of the photoship (the plane I shoot from) and then move their line of sight relative to that.

Air-to-air photography is a team effort and the pilots make all the difference in a safe and successful shoot.

How close do the planes fly?

Distances range from around 20 to 150 feet. I’ll move the subject planes farther out or closer in depending on the composition I’m trying to create.

You’ve got all this coordination between pilots, planes, and air-traffic control. Do you also have to coordinate with the Federal Aviation Administration?

No. And depending on the airspace, we may not even need to talk to ATC. There’s no special clearance required for a photo flight. You fly within the same regulations as a standard flight.

In congested areas with controlled airspace, like Las Vegas, we coordinate in advance with ATC. We’ll also give a head’s up to local helicopter companies as well as law enforcement. They’ve gotten calls saying, “Hey, two planes are chasing each other over the Strip.” We want to do as much advance coordination as possible before shooting in a high-visibility area.

Could you walk us through your typical shoot process?

I’ll first pick a location. For the SmugMug shoot in the SmugMug Film video, it was the Bay Area. Then, I’ll plan a flight route. In the Bay Area, you can make a nice loop over Alcatraz Island, the San Francisco skyline, and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Next is the hardest part of everything: scheduling a date that works for everyone. Coordinating multiple pilots, airplanes, and the weather is not easy!

Once a date is set, I’ll calculate the exact timing for everything. I’ll look up sunset times and work backward from there: What time do we want to be over the bridge? What time do we need to depart our airport to be there? What time do we need to arrive at the airport to brief and set up cameras?

As the shoot gets closer, I’ll start checking the weather forecast constantly. The day prior to the morning of, we’ll make a final go/no-go decision. If the weather looks iffy or bad, we’ll postpone it. If it looks good, that’s a go, and we’ll all meet for a pilot brief.

During the brief, we’ll cover the specifics of the flight, including takeoff/landing procedures, frequencies, altitudes, airspeeds, photo maneuvers, and emergency procedures. I’ll discuss the shots I’d like to get and review my positioning terminology.

On the ramp, we’ll configure the photoship. My pilot will remove the doors, and I’ll set up my gear. I’ll put my harness on, and we’ll launch.

In the footage you had a spare camera in your lap. You don’t try to change lenses once you’re up in the air, right?

No, that would be a bad idea. You don’t want anything loose. I would not want to drop a lens for sure! And there’s so much airflow that it can’t be good for the camera sensor. I’ll take two cameras, with two different lenses.

On photo flights, do you use any cameras besides your Canon DSLRs?

In addition to my beloved GoPros (which I mount in various spots on each airplane), I’ve been wearing Google Glass while on photo flights. I record video and take photos with Glass, but I would like to find a way to do live hangouts during photo flights so others can join in on the experience!

Do you have any tips or tricks for how you maintain your focus in such a chaotic, loud environment?

My mental focus, or the camera focus?

Both!

Mental focus comes instinctively. It’s a very intense environment. Everything happens quickly, so there’s a lot going on. You’re sitting in an open door, which can be pretty uncomfortable, cold, noisy, and bumpy.

For example, I did a shoot over the Hollywood sign with three jets that was very challenging. We flew orbits in front of the sign, and I only had a small amount of time during each orbit to get the shot. In that time I had to position three airplanes relative to each other, and then line them up with the sign, too. I have to be entirely focused on what I’m doing during the flight or I will miss the shot.

With the camera itself, I try to be really, really steady holding it. I stay out of the airstream and focus on the subject. I also use image-stabilized lenses, like Canon’s 24-105 and 70-200.

The flights are pretty intense. I’m usually completely exhausted afterward. Mentally and physically exhausted.

Are there any flights that are particularly memorable for you?

One that comes to mind was over New York City, where I’m from. It was a complicated shoot of four privately owned Citation jets and a P-51 Mustang warbird from WWII. So we had six airplanes, including the photoship I was in, flying down the Hudson, circling over the Statue of Liberty and other landmarks. As a kid growing up in Manhattan, I always looked up at airplanes as they were flying and never imagined that I’d be in one taking photos.

You mentioned that you prefer sunset flights to sunrise. Any reason why?

I’m not a morning person! And sunrise shoots in general are harder on everyone. I want to be shooting over the location at the very first light, so that means getting up way before sunrise to meet, brief, get the airplanes ready, set up my gear, take off, and fly to the location. And then the sun comes up. It can be a little brutal when I have a sunrise photo flight the morning after a sunset shoot.

But the main reason I like sunset better is that, as I usually launch an hour before sunset, the light just keeps getting better and better. You’re working into the good light. Everything gets more tuned. But at sunrise, the very start of the shoot is the best light, and it just gets worse from there. I always feel like I run out of good light really quickly in the mornings.

That said, the air is usually so calm in the mornings, and you have a great feeling that you’ve got the whole sky to yourself. It’s always worth the effort.

Do you have a favorite aircraft to shoot?

I like them all! I do. It was a real treat when I shot the Blue Angels from one of their F-18 fighter jets, but I love shooting everything from a little Piper Cub, which is a two-seat light aircraft, to a larger business jet. They all have different challenges.

For example?

On one of my Blue Angels shoots, I was in their two-seat F-18 for formation aerobatics. Their routines are intense with strong, sustained G-forces. It can be physically hard to hold the camera up while pulling Gs. I learned pretty quickly to position my camera before each maneuver started. It’s also challenging to shoot through a canopy, which may have scratches, reflections, and glare.

Any advice for those who might want to pursue a similar path?

Safety, safety, safety. Make sure you’re with experienced formation pilots; otherwise, don’t do it. It’s not the kind of shooting I would encourage anyone to just wake up one day and go do. Spend time in aviation environments first. A good place to start is at an airshow where you’ll have lots of great ground-to-air photo ops and you’ll meet other aviation photographers.

What do you love most about what you do?

I love to be in the air! There’s a great saying: “To most people, the sky is the limit. To those that love aviation, the sky is home.”

Find Jessica online:


Photo credit: David Farr

Categories: Current Events, SmugMug, Users

SmugMug Suggests: Get to Know Your Gmail Inbox

September 16, 2013 1 comment

If you use the Gmail to check your email, you may have noticed the new tabs at the top of your inbox. If you’re still not sure how this impacts the way you work (or which messages you see), here’s a few tips from us.

SmugMug sends out periodic newsletters and Gmail conveniently files these, along with similar types of emails, into their new Promotions tab. You’ll see a “New” flag in the tab at the top whenever you receive a new filtered message.

While this may seem like it’s “hidden” from you (because your inbox defaults to your Primary inbox), filing it away may actually be more convenient in the long run. Tabs let you read your email on your own time, enabling you to catch up with your favorite brands when you’re ready, without them getting lost in the shuffle.

Still, we understand that some people love the one-bucket approach, so here’s how you can manage your messages.

If you want to hear from us instantly:

Simply drag our newsletter out from your Promotions tab and drop it into your Primary tab. Future messages from us will be received right there, up front and center.

Alternatively, you can disable tabs entirely by going to your Gmail settings, clicking on the Inbox tab and unchecking all the “Categories” boxes. More help is available on Google’s help pages.

If you’d rather take your time:

You don’t have to do a thing. Just remember to keep your eyes peeled for that little badge letting you know that we’ve sent you something new.

That’s it from us. See you next time… in whichever tab you prefer!

Hot tip: Don’t yet receive our newsletter? We now archive them all with quick reference to the topics covered each month. They’re full to the brim with valuable tips, tricks and updates on how to take better photos and get the most out of SmugMug. Check them out!

Categories: Current Events, SmugMug

How to Find Your Next Photography Adventure

July 22, 2013 2 comments

Candles at Petra Jordan by Michael Bonocore

Photos by Michael Bonocore Photography

As we approach the high point of the summer season, we hope that all of you out there are making the most of the long hours and the beautiful light!

But the idea of “traveling with camera” falls somewhere between throwing a point-and-shoot into your suitcase and being hired to cover the Four Seasons’ grand opening. So how do you pack without going overboard, or avoid leaving critical stuff at home?

Travel Podcast with Michael Bonocore

Since so many of us live to take photos, we thought it’d be a good time to sit down and talk with one of our most exuberant and well-journeyed friends, Michael Bonocore, about the art of travel. You’ve probably already seen him on Google+, our forums or at a live event, but he also spends his time around the world guiding others to better photos and better giving through The Giving Lens.

In our podcast, he tells us more about his travels and how to balance being on the road with having the gear you need. Learn about:

  • What specific things should photographers think about when planning their next adventure?
  • Do you really need insurance?
  • Is it terrible to put your camera in checked baggage?
  • Besides the camera, what is the most important thing you should take?
  • What are the best ways to keep photos organized while you’re not at home?

Have a listen now on iTunes and start preparing for your next adventure. Safe travels, and don’t forget to capture and share your summer memories!

Children by temple by Michael Bonofore

Is That a Smartphone in Your Pocket?

July 17, 2013 4 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

Are You Prepared to Photograph Same-Sex Couples?

June 19, 2013 115 comments

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

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

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

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

Lesbian and Gay Wedding Photography, the Online Edition

Writing Capturing Love

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

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

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

The Art of Same-Sex Engagement and Wedding Photography

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

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

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

Love at sunset

Photo by Tammy Watson Photography.

Win Free Stuff, Too

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

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

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

See you online!

Photo by Maggie Winters Photography.

Categories: business, Current Events

New Android App: Upload, Browse and Share on SmugMug

June 17, 2013 158 comments

SmugMug for Android for photo sharing

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

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

Wait, What? Can You Do That?

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

The New (Free!) SmugMug for Android App

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

Grab it now from the Google Play store

 

What’s New?

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy!

Are You Fit Enough to Be a Photographer?

June 14, 2013 17 comments

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

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

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

Baldy and his big lens

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

Photographers = Athletes?

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

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

Why fitness?

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

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

Be Fit. Be Ready! Train for that Time.

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

Breathing Method: Abdominal Breathing

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

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

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

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

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

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

Body Positioning: The Athletic Stance

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

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

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

Body Positioning: The Athletic Staggered Stance

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

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

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

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

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

3) more easily forms and maintains a neutral spine

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

5) significantly improves balance and stability

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

Body Positioning: Kneeling Stance

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

The Tall Kneeling Position:

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

The Kneeling Split Stance: 

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

Body Positioning: The squat

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo of Ivan the Smugger by Jim Patterson

In Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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