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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Stay creative, stay inspired and stay strong!
We know that every day is Mother’s Day, but around this time of year we all really want to tell all the moms in our lives just how important they are to us. As a company built on the importance of family, we believe that moms are the shiz.
Adorable pic by Nick W Photo
SmugMug started with just family, but we’ve grown into so much more. Amongst our team of amazing employees we have moms, moms-to-be, grandmoms, adoptive moms, found moms, mom-in-laws, dog moms, horse moms and supermoms. And everyone in-between.
Thanks, Mom, for supporting us through thick and thin, changing our diapers, and nurturing our health, happiness and all of our crazy whims. Whether you’re right next door or live only in our memories, whether you’re near, far, or even if we’re unrelated by blood, the message is the same: You’re our hero!
Are you stuck on ideas on what to do on Mother’s Day? You’re in luck, because we’ve got a few ideas to share.
5 Ways to Sweep Mom Off Her Feet
1. Give her her very own queen-worthy portrait session.
If your mom is like ours – and many gorgeous women we know – she may think portraits are great for other people. But if you’re an experienced photographer, this is a great time to stop what you’re doing and turn your skills to her. Proper lighting, posing, an understanding of angles and your priceless experience may be the only thing she needs to truly see that she’s beautiful in photos, too.
(We admit that we were inspired by our friends at Je Revele Fine Art Photography, who shared with us how they bring out the beauty in every client)
2. Do a photo shoot for her favorite dog/cat/grandkid.
If mom’s still camera shy, offer to take her favorite little one to the park and snap some frame-worthy photos. Even if you’re not a portrait photographer by trade, taking your purloined subject outside into a fresh new environment can bring big smiles to their faces and make for energetic, beautiful photos.
And that’s what’s really important to her.
3. Hire (or bribe) her assistant to cover the studio for a day.
This one’s for all the photography dads out there. We can’t even begin to count the number of passionate moms who have turned taking photos of the kids into a thriving business, but it’s a tough to balance family, life and the studio. Free up the weekend by asking her assistant to work a little overtime, or hire someone to manage the busywork while you whisk her away.
4. Give her a 1-on-1 lesson on how to use her camera.
When you love photography, you automatically get hired for part-time work… troubleshooting for mom. But instead of answering the phone distracted and busy, why not spend the day dedicated to making mom a total pro with her camera. She gets time with you, the power of great photos is bestowed upon her, and you can talk about something more important the next time she calls. Win/win/win.
(Tip: Pair it up with her very own SmugMug account and she’s good to go!)
5. Take her with you on your next photo trip… and leave the camera at home.
This one’s our favorite because it’s really sneaky. Anyone who knows a photographer is used to waiting around forever. And ever. And ever. This time, take mom out to someplace gorgeous and – SURPRISE! – enjoy the view together.
We hope that everyone out there has a great weekend with the ones you love!
Wedding shooters: How exhausting is it to stay on top of your marketing plan? You always have to stay a step ahead and hunt for new clients while making your current ones happy. With thousands of photos to edit, you don’t have a lot of time to curate your photos, organize them in sets and send them out to magazine and blog editors.
And let’s not even talk about figuring out the best ways to harness the most powerful tool of them all: Facebook.
So why don’t you join us while we talk about it?
Same Day Edits: A Wedding Workflow Webinar with Vanessa Joy and Rob Adams
Pro wedding photographer Vanessa Joy and wedding videographer Rob Adams will share what they know (and answer your questions) about achieving the holy grail of all pro photographers: To take the right pictures, effectively market your work, and deliver the photos to your clients in record-breaking time. Win/win/win.
Here are the deets:
March 26, 2013 – 8:00 PM ET
Duration: 1.5 hours
Register HERE at GoToMeeting
Vanessa will show you how to use SmugMug, SnapKnot and other tools get your SEO maximized blog post, online gallery preview, photo slideshow, 2nd photographer photos, Facebook marketing and blog/magazine publication submissions all done on the night of the wedding, and all while wowing your clients and their guests with a same-day-slideshow and same-day-album.
You won’t want to miss this 1.5-hour webinar that will drastically improve your workflow, marketing, social media and client satisfaction.
Bonus Workshop in Los Angeles
Want to learn a full day’s worth of info about this topic? Check out their upcoming workshop, “Beyond the Same Day Edit,” on April 14th, 2013. Get the details about it on creativeLIVE and enroll for free.
Here’s to kicking off the most successful wedding season, yet!
UPDATE! In case you missed it, we’ve saved the webinar so you can watch it any time on SmugMug’s YouTube channel.
All photos by Vanessa Joy Photography
Since we’re big on meeting our customers, we love going to WPPI each year and seeing a slice of the wedding and portrait world. Viva la Vegas!
If you’re going, too, say hi! We’re here to hear what you think, share what we can and shed some light on any of your burning questions. So swing by, shake our hands, bend our ears, grab some swag and take part in the fun.
Meet Us in Booth #1529
Apart from our shining faces, you’ll see:
- A giveaway for current Smuggers. Win a total website makeover by one of our amazing Certified Customizers: FastLine designs. It’s your chance to get the beautifully branded, professional website you’ve always dreamed of. ($665 value)
- A giveaway for everyone: Enter to win a mind-bending prize package from SmugMug + friends, including one year of SmugMug Business ($300 value), print credit from Bay Photo Labs ($300 value), a gallery wrap print from WHCC ($300 value), two-year membership at PhotoTraining4U ($390 value,) Perfect Photo Suite 7 Premium from OnOne Software ($299 value), “Design, Print & Bind” Album from Zookie Pro ($300 value), and $150 credit from Blurb books. Whew!
- A fun, free photo booth so you can seal the experience with a(n infamous) Smilebooth pic! We’ll have creative props for you to use and an online photo gallery to share all the fun. We don’t always believe in all that “What happens in Vegas…” stuff.
And we’ll have some big-name photographers like Jeremy and Zabrina from JeZa Photography hanging out with us to answer questions about the photo biz and share tips on how SmugMug fits into the successful pro’s workflow.
Make Time for Awesome People We Like
If you’re seeking words of wisdom from your favorite pros, here’s when you can catch them over the course of the week. Check the WPPI directory to find exact locations:
Photographic Essays: From Ordinary to Extraordinary
3/10/2013 9 AM – 10:30 AM
Retouching Power with Photoshop CS6
3/13/2013 8:30 AM- 10:00 AM
In the Box, Through the Box, & Out of the Box with a Videolight!
3/11/2013 11:30 AM – 1:30 PM
3/7/2013 9 AM – 5 PM
Content Marketing and Social Media: The Secrets to More Bookings and Online Engagement
3/11/2013 4 PM- 5:30 PM
“Between Light and Shadow”- An Educational Conversation About the Craft of Photography
3/13/2013 3 PM- 4:30 PM
Bob and Dawn Davis
Llevando un Pequeño Negocio Local al Éxito
3/12/2013 9 AM- 10:30 AM
3/11/2013 8:30 AM- 10 AM
Second Shooting: Learn the Wedding Business FAST
3/11/2013 3:30 PM- 5:50 PM
Wireless Flash and Strobes Tips and Tricks – Both Manual and TTL
3/11/2013 6:30 PM- 8 PM
Zach and Jody Gray
How to Avoid What Small Businesses Do: Fail
3/10/2013 3 PM- 4:30 PM
Vanessa Joy and Rob Adams
How to Start Your Photography Career Step-by-Step
3/10/2013 11 AM- 1 PM
Pimp Your Speedlight! Location Lighting Tips and Techniques
3/10/2013 9 AM- 10:30 AM
Scott Robert Lim
Crazy, Stupid, Light: Amazing Off Camera Lighting Techniques
3/10/2013 3 PM- 4:30 PM
Beyond Cliche: A Case for Authenticity in Wedding Imagery
3/13/2013 3 PM- 4:30 PM
Going to Market: Maxmizing Portrait and Wedding Profits
3/10/2013 9 AM- 10:30 AM
Matthew Jordan Smith
10 Secrets to Building a Powerful Photography Career
3/11/2013 4 PM- 5:30 PM
Lighting and Posing Today’s High School Seniors
3/11/2013 8:30 AM- 10 AM
Shedding Light on the Wedding Venue
3/11/2013 3:30 PM- 5:30 PM
Are you ready for the most amazing year in the wedding and portrait industry yet? We can’t wait to meet you!
The SmugMug Family
It’s a question that probably wasn’t often asked in the past. But lately, we found that there were quite a few wedding photographers wondering if it’s finally time to address the creative conundrum of photographing same-sex weddings.
So we sat down with two of the experts in this field to talk about their experiences, where they think it’s going, and what traditional wedding photographers need to consider before taking on same-sex couples as clients.
The Pioneer and the Veteran Pro
Kathryn Hamm founded the web’s leading online boutique and same-sex wedding resource, GayWeddings.com. Thea Dodd has been photographing gay and lesbian couples since 2005. Together they’ve pooled their knowledge and published a brand new book, Capturing Love: The Art of Lesbian & Gay Wedding Photography, to fill the void and provide guidance to the many photographers who have been — or want to begin — taking on same-sex weddings.
The Art of Photographing Same-Sex Couples
In our featured podcast, SmugMug’s community director Rocky Bowles asks Kathryn and Thea why the traditional approach doesn’t always work for same-sex couples. They talk about why it’s important to not just be gay-friendly, but good at what you do to succeed in this market. Which includes serious issues to consider, such as:
- Why you can’t use traditional wedding and engagement poses
- Why you should be mindful of what your photos are communicating
- What you shouldn’t assume, or take for granted about your clients
- Navigating the potential difficulties of family relationships
- Privacy needs and why it’s particularly important for same-sex couples
Podcast on iTunes
The book is also a wonderful resource for couples, looking to find the right wedding photographer. So pick it up , be inspired, and be better at what you do!
Giveaway! Win a Signed Copy of “Capturing Love”
As we’re ramping up to the festival of love (A.K.A. WPPI 2013), we’re giving away one signed copy of Capturing Love to a lucky person who wants to learn more about this genre of wedding photography. To enter: 1. ‘Like’ SmugMug’s Facebook page HERE. 2. ‘Like’ Capturing Love’s Facebook page HERE. 3. Then, post a comment below answering this question:
What is your one favorite thing about photographing same-sex couples?
Get your entries in by March 8th, 2013 and we’ll pick one random winner and announce it in this space.
UPDATE March 8, 2013: We spun the wheel of destiny and our random winner is… Amy Wurdock! Congrats Amy and we’ll be in touch with you via email so you can collect your prize.
Special Edition, Special Discount
The ladies of Capturing Love are celebrating their first week of national release by offering SmugMuggers a exclusive discount on their special-edition hardcover books purchased through their website.
- Go here to place your order, and use the code SMUG313 to get free ground shipping.*
Books will ship starting March 10th, so be sure you reserve your copy soon.
Good luck, and we hope that you all capture a little love this year!
* Offer valid through March 31,2013 and cannot be combined with any other offer.
Do you know Lee Morris, pro photographer, video producer and wicked-good educator? You should. He’s an incredible, seasoned commercial, advertising, fashion and wedding photographer, plus he’s co-founder of the refreshingly useful website Fstoppers.com. He’s also a friend of ours who took a moment to reflect on the wedding business, why it’s so hard, how it’s changing and how pros like you can make the most of it by staying true to your heart.
by Lee Morris
Weddings, From Film to Digital
It’s hard to imagine now, but just a few years ago wedding photographers burned every image into a single piece of film. If they didn’t expose or focus the image correctly, the frame was ruined. If the film was processed incorrectly, scratched, or lost, the picture was gone forever. A single piece of film with a quality image on it was a very valuable thing and wedding photographers charged accordingly. It was common for wedding photographers to charge a single flat rate to show up to the wedding but then an additional fee for the number of images taken and processed. At the time it was very common for couples to pay their wedding photographers a few hundred dollars to take the pictures, but they would then spend thousands paying for prints and albums to be made after the event. Just a few years ago, a digital copy of a photograph, one that you could view on a computer was worthless to couples getting married. They wanted classic prints that they could hold in their hands, hang on the wall, and share with their friends, and they were willing to pay a premium for them. Times have changed.
As digital started to take over, wedding photographers were very slow to give away or even sell the files to their clients and rightfully so; for their entire careers, they made most of their money selling prints, not actually shooting. Many photographers that were unwilling to adapt their businesses actually went under because they thought they couldn’t compete with the new “cheap” digital market. What many of these photographers failed to realize was that the money was still there, in fact, as wedding photography progressed, couples were actually willing to spend more; many of them simply weren’t interested in paying for expensive prints in a digital world.
The Role of Sentimentality in Business
When it comes to managing a business as intimate as wedding photography it’s easy to let your emotions take over. I try my best to approach my photography business as I would any other business. I need to manage my time, keep my current clients happy, consistently book new clients, and make money. So many photographers fail to meet at least one of these goals. Maybe you are really good at making your current clients happy but you work too much and you don’t enjoy your job or have time to enjoy your life. Maybe you book a ton of work but you don’t charge enough and you are constantly struggling financially. During the digital revolution many photographers that didn’t change their pricing structure were incapable of making their current clients happy. Maybe their pictures were great but as digital started to take over, couples felt like they were getting nickeled and dimed after the event. If you can’t make your current clients happy, you are going to struggle to find new clients.
When I started my business years ago I learned very early on that I hated making prints and albums. I could shoot a wedding in a few hours and make a few thousand dollars but it would take me a full day to retouch a few pictures, print them myself or take the files to a lab, package them up, take them to the post office and I would only make a few dollars profit. In many cases my clients would have to wait weeks to actually get their prints because I was out of the state shooting another job. I decided that I was going to start giving away the digital files with each of my weddings. Maybe I would lose a few dollars on the back end but I was also gaining a ton of free time and my clients were happier because they could print their pictures, how they wanted, when they wanted.
As a single guy in my twenties, money was important to me but free time was far more valuable. Once I had booked my 20 or 30 weddings for the year I knew I had plenty of income to support myself and I now had the security to start working on other things. With the extra time I had gained, I created the photography website Fstoppers.com. If I had focused on custom prints and albums like other photographers do I have no doubt I would have made a bit more money but Fstoppers has been far more rewarding. Creating videos for our website like Bon Jovi’s photographer behind the scenes, or Peter Hurley’s: The Art Behind The Headshot, or our newest video: How To Become A Wedding Photographer, has been the most exciting experiences of my life.
My point is that you may love your photography career (I sure do) but if you can give yourself some extra time, who knows what you will be able to create.
SmugMug = Time = Money
When I found SmugMug I realized that it filled 3 major needs in my business:
1. High resolution backups are included with the subscription.
2. It allowed me to promote my photography by giving guests and family members a place to go to see my work.
3. Bay Photo integration means I give my clients high quality prints without actually having to do any work.
By simplifying my business I was meeting all 4 goals above; I had more free time, my clients were happier, I was marketing to new potential clients, and I was making money from print sales each month.
It’s easy to think that we know what’s best for our clients. We may know that if they don’t book an album now, they will probably never get one made. But the sad truth is that many of our clients would rather put their pictures on Facebook than deal with an album. It’s important to remember that we are hired by these couples to do a service for them; if they don’t want prints, we should figure out what they do want and charge them accordingly for that. If you’ve ever bought a car before you know how obnoxious it can be when the salesman tries to sell you on something you don’t want. There are so many other ways to make money with wedding photography that may not involve incredibly expensive prints. I make far more money than I ever did selling prints selling engagment and bridal sessions, setting up a photobooth at receptions, selling video slideshows of the event, and offering a video service. Many photographers also don’t know that SmugMug makes it incredibly easy to sell digital copies of files. If you don’t want to give away your files like I do, you are able to set the size and price for each individual picture.
I want to make it clear that I love high quality prints and that many wedding photographers make a lot of money selling prints, even today. I love seeing my work printed huge, professionally framed, and hanging on a wall. My point is simply that times are changing and the current generation of brides probably do not want the same things that their mothers wanted. To stay ahead of the pack you need to deliver exactly what your clients are looking for, not what you think they will appreciate one day.
If I could sum up this article into a single point it would be this: Listen to your clients, and give them what they want. A happy bride will tell her friends how wonderful you are you will never have to worry about a shortage of work. In some cases, especially this one, it can make your life a whole lot simpler and you might even make more money.
All photos by RL Morris Weddings
Get a Boost in the Business of Love
In the spirit of wedding season and WPPI, we’re going to pick one extremely lucky winner who will sharpen their wedding photography skills and fistbump the biggest stars of the wedding biz in Las Vegas.
Here’s what we’re giving away:
- 1 copy of Lee Morris’ How to Become a Commercial Wedding Photographer DVD ($299.99 value)
- 1 all-access pass to WPPI 2013 in Las Vegas, NV ($399 value)
Here’s how to enter:
- LIKE SmugMug’s Facebook page
- LIKE Fstoppers’ Facebook page
- POST A COMMENT BELOW answering the question:
What (to you) is the hardest part of being a wedding photographer?
Get your entries in and we’ll randomly pick one winner on February 13, 2013. So keep your eyes peeled and don’t forget to check back for when we announce it here.
Edited to add: The giveaway is over but you can still learn! We highly recommend that you check out Lee’s video, available now on the Fstopper’s site. It’s a comprehensive, 14-hour, 2-years-in-the-making tutorial covering everything you’ll ever need to do know to become a successful wedding photographer. Check out the trailer to get more details about what you’ll learn and why wedding photography will change your life.
UPDATE: We’ve spun the wheel of destiny and it picked… Dennis Schroader! Congrats Dennis and we’ll be in touch with you to deliver your prizes. Thanks to everyone who shared their thoughts with all of us in the wedding industry!
Have you been to one of our SMUGs? Whether or not you have (or are planning to), the only thing you need to know is that FisheyeConnect is your key to finding out where and when the next event meets.
In fact, it’s the only way to be 100% sure that you know what’s going on and where all those great photos came from last weekend.
Don’t be left in the dark!
How does FisheyeConnect Work?
It’s easy: FisheyeConnect is a website devoted just to photographers and photography workshops, so you can be sure to find something that fires your strobe.
1) Visit their Advanced Search page.
2) Type “SMUG” into the Instructor or Company box. You can also plug in your zip code if you wish.
3) Browse the results and click to open details for the SMUG nearest you.
You can sign up for the specific workshops listed there, but these change each month as they plan great new stuff. Your best bet? Hit the orange “Subscribe” button to get all updates about future events they’re offering.
Will I get spammed?
But I’m already on Facebook!
We know that every SMUG has its own Facebook page, too, but while Facebook is a great place to spark discussions we think FisheyeConnect’s strengths lie in their ability to manage registration and head counts for SMUG events. Please use both!
FisheyeConnect is giving away a pile of photog-friendly goodies to one lucky winner in the USA who signs up to a FisheyeConnect SMUG group from January 21st to February 21st, 2013.
Here’s the complete list of prizes:
- A SmugMug Business account for 1 year
- 250 dotcredits at ShootDotEdit
- Rogue Flash Gel Color Correction Kit from ExpoImaging, Inc.
- Digital Photographer’s Complete Kit from PhotoshopCAFE
- $250 gift card from Adorama
- Browse the list of SMUGs on FisheyeConnect.
- Subscribe to your local SMUG so you can be notified of future events.
- That’s it!
No SMUG near you? Just sign up for our virtual SMUGs mailing list and you’ll get entered into the pool, too.
We’ll pick one lucky random winner on February 22nd, 2013 so keep your eyes peeled here, on our SMUGs blog and on your SMUG’s Facebook page.
Good luck and stay sharp, stay focused!
The Austin SMUG welcomed John Langford, a successful commercial, advertising, and editorial photographer, to their SMUG. Two years ago he decided he wanted to travel the world with a camera. He sold everything he owned and embarked on a journey around the globe that he dubbed "The Rompin' Stompin' Circus of Love Extended World Tour." His travels have taken through over 20 countries, and the Austin SMUG was lucky enough to have him speak during a brief layover in Austin before he heads out for another year of world travel.