The next episode in the SmugMug Films series focuses on sports photographer and photography education giant, Scott Kelby. Subscribe to the channel now to watch and see future installments as soon as we set them free.
Photographer, teacher, business owner, father: it’s impossible to define Scott Kelby as just one thing—or any combination of titles. His love for photography and bringing the best out of other photographers through teaching goes beyond labels. Between videos, tutorials, shooting, and spending valuable time with his family, he still found time for us to ask him how he does it, and where he started.
What did you do before you became a photographer?
I was a full-time graphic designer. My wife and I had a small design firm that specialized in creating ads and collateral material for ad agencies that were too small to have their own in-house art departments.
If you could give yourself advice when you were just starting out in photography, what would it be?
Don’t worry so much about the gear.
And what’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
To listen to the advice of people you trust.
What skills did photography teach you that you’ve successfully applied to other areas of your life?
Be flexible and go with the flow. On a shoot, no matter how precisely you’ve planned things out, things don’t always go as planned, and it’s the exact same thing in business. Being able to change gears and go with the flow to create a successful outcome is something I definitely learned from photography.
Any favorite tools and tricks of the trade?
This year I’ve switched from Nikon to Canon, and I’m really enjoying it an awful lot. I’m a sports shooter, and the Canon EOS 1Dx was just born for sports. I’m honestly surprised I made the switch, but it feels like Canon made that 1Dx just for me.
My favorite lenses are their 70-200mm f/2.8 and their 300mm and 400mm f/2.8. I love my ThinkTank Photo camera bags, and I can’t live without my 15″ MacBook Pro, and my iPad air.
Lightroom has made my post-processing life so much easier, and of course Photoshop is a miracle of modern technology that I can’t live without.
My love affair with lighting continues; most of my gear is Elincrhom, but I’ve been trying out some Profoto stuff that is really cool, and I’m kind of a gear hound so I’m always trying out something new. I know, I know, it’s not about the gear, but it sure is fun to play with.
What was the “aha!” moment that led to you building the Kelby Media education empire?
I think it was realizing that there was no one centralized place for learning about Photoshop all year long. There was a book here, or a website there, but there was no real recognized resource that had it all, and had it in one place. So we set out to do that. It took years of hard work and worry, but eventually things started to fall into place for that dream to become a reality.
What was your biggest challenge to turning the Kelby Media idea into reality?
It was definitely funding. We started with $750. Not $750,000. $750. We were living paycheck to paycheck pretty much.
How much are you still involved with the day-to-day running of the Kelby empire, since it is so large and you’re just one man?
I am 100%, all day, every day, involved in it. Luckily, I have a lot of help (including two full-time assistants), and I’m surrounded by a lot of really great, really motivated, and very talented people. My wife Kalebra handles the business side of things, so I can concentrate on the education side, which makes things a lot easier for me. I still have to get involved in everything from marketing to product development, but thankfully she takes care of everything from HR to accounting to customer service and all the stuff I am so incredibly bad at—and she’s great at—so it works really well.
With so many projects, what’s your key to prioritizing?
Sometimes it gets a bit overwhelming and my wife knows exactly that “look” I get when that happens, and she will literally sit me down with a piece of paper and say, “OK, list everything you have to do ….” And then she’ll tell me exactly which order to do what, and ya know what? She’s always right. She’s kind of my secret weapon. Heck, she’s our company’s secret weapon.
Walk us through a typical day for you.
It usually starts with either meetings or a video shoot. I wind up shooting a lot of videos—everything from reviews to features to business proposals via video to online classes, promos, you name it. Some days that’s all I do all day long. But more often than not, my days are filled with meetings, just like today was, but at 4:00 p.m. I leave because we’re taping an online class on location.
There are also days where we have shoots planned to support my live tour, or a book project, or for marketing, or for one of the 100 things they tell me they need images for. Last week I did location shoots, stills, and video, all day Monday and Tuesday, and then Wednesday I’m back in the office for meetings, and then we broadcast a live show every Wednesday. It’s really never the same routine every day, but two constants are meetings and videos—and hopefully a shoot thrown in there.
We’re astounded by all the things you’ve done and how upbeat and positive you always are. Where do you get all that energy?
I’m a really happy person in general, always have been. I’ve led a very blessed life with an amazing wife, two wonderful children, a job I absolutely love, and I’m surrounded by some of the coolest people I’ve ever met who are pretty positive people themselves, because we’re REALLY careful to hire only the very best—from talent to passion to character. When you’re surrounded by that every day, it’s hard not to be psyched and even harder to wipe the smile off your face.
What do you believe has been key to your successful marketing strategy?
I believe the most important thing we do is let our passion for what we do flow over onto our customers. We love teaching. Our customers can see it in us. They can feel it. They know we’re trying to do something really great for them. They know we’re creating the type of education we want ourselves, and I think they know we use it ourselves—we use our own product. They know we’re for real.
We never set out for that to be our marketing strategy, but it became it because we lived it, and it turned our customers into a giant force of evangelists. We feel very blessed indeed that it happened. I wish I could take credit for it somehow, but it just happened.
You’ve also taken an extremely social approach to your work. Have you gotten new ideas from all this interaction with the photographic community, or have there been any surprises as a result of this ongoing interaction?
I think one of the greatest things that social media has brought to me, besides being able to reach out to an audience, is hearing what they want next. Hearing directly, and unsolicited, exactly where they’re struggling: what they need help with, why they’re stuck, and so on helps me plan what we need to deliver next educationally. And not only what’s next, but how they want it delivered.
This goes beyond social media—it’s why I still teach 24 or so live seminars each year—you have to get there and talk to people one on one to find out where their pulse is really at, what is turning them on, and what they’ve either already conquered or which mountain they need to climb next. Standing in front of 500 photographers and seeing their facial expressions in real time as you teach live on stage is priceless. Nothing replaces that instant, genuine feedback.
If there were similar open collaboration between competitors in today’s photography industry, what cool products/services would you like to see come about that would be impossible without such collaboration between competitors?
I would love to see what a partnership between a big camera company and Apple would bring. I think you see what happens when someone outside photography “rethinks” building a camera. The first thing I think you’d see? The end of f-stops.
You still find time to shoot, too. How? And what’s your favorite thing to shoot when you do?
I really have to make time to shoot. Right now, my favorite thing to shoot is NFL football, and luckily that’s mostly on Sundays and only for around four months. I shoot for a sports news wire service and cover all the home games of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and when they’re on the road, I often wind up shooting with the Atlanta Falcons or Tennessee Titans if I can. I love shooting most sports, everything from motorsports to NBA to major league baseball to NHL hockey.
Kalebra also has a very busy career, so how do you balance having a family and both being so busy?
Luckily, it’s one of the biggest advantages of running your own business. Because of that, my wife and I are able to juggle our schedule to be at every one of the kid’s events at school, including their sporting events and parent–teacher conferences. I’m at every daddy-and-daughter dance, and I clear my schedule for anything that conflicts because our kids, and our time together, is so important to us. We drive and pick up the kids every day from schools; we plan lots of fun, family vacations all year long, and we have well-worn annual passes to Disney World (our favorite quick family getaway).
This all leads to a lot of tricky travel schedules and a lot of red-eye flights so I can be home with the family. If I’m shooting an NFL game on the road, it’s not unusual for me to take an early flight, shoot the 1:00 p.m. game, and then fly home right after the game so I’m home that night with the kids. It’s not exactly “relaxing,” but it’s worth it!
What other things do you do for fun?
I love to travel. The whole family loves it (we started the kids traveling early), so we love to see the world. We also have family travel traditions, like going to Maine each summer to the same little cottages, and our holiday weekend trips to Disney. Those mean a lot to us.
Are you reading anything interesting these days?
Just finishing up a great book on social media by Gary Vanderchuck called Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook. Really great stuff.
Who are your heroes?
My dad is definitely one. He was truly a prince of a man, and an amazing father with a twinkle in his eye like Santa. I have photography heroes like Joe McNally, and my wife would have to certainly be one of my heroes because of the amazing mother she is to our children, while juggling a bunch of plates in the air.
Could you describe a specific event or moment that stands out to you from your career?
I’ve been a football fan for as long as I can remember, and I will never forget walking out of the tunnel at Soldier Field in Chicago before kickoff the day I was shooting my first NFL game. It was a pretty overwhelming thing emotionally as it had been a dream of mine for many years.
Another was when the back door of the small transport plane I was in opened after landing on the deck of a U.S. naval carrier and an FA-18 Hornet taxied right past us just a few feet away. When I stepped onto that deck, it was overwhelming in an entirely different way, but it was a very powerful moment.
Another moment just happened when my son was competing in a nationwide crew-rowing event. For the first time ever he was rowing a single (his own one-man sculling boat rather than an 8-man or 4-man boat), and I was up on a large bridge over the river, not far from the end of the race course. I was shooting with a 400mm lens, and I spotted him and started firing. I was trying to track him as he rowed, and at one point he was just in front of the bridge and I was cheering him on, yelling encouragement down to him, with tears literally streaming down my face, just like they are right now as I write this.
I shot a lot of pro sports but nothing ever hit me like that did. I was literally bursting with pride. Those shots—those really mattered.
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
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.
See you soon, wedding pros!
Hey there, Portfolio and Business photographers: We’ve heard that a lot of you didn’t know that you could make money selling digital files on SmugMug. And maybe there are those of you who did know, but still weren’t sure about how to get going.
Your photo clients may not always be looking for just traditional paper prints. So we’re here to show you that with just a few extra clicks, you can start selling digital photos and videos in addition to your usual physical print items.
Our latest pro article spotlights this commercial conundrum. We discuss why digital sales are essential to most any photographers’ businesses… and how you can get set up so that you’re not leaving money on the table.
This is part 1 of a series of tutorials on how to light reflective subjects and surfaces from BorrowLenses.com. Alex Huff is a staff photographer and copy writer for BorrowLenses and has photographed for Sotheby’s, Google, X-Games, and more. In this post, she gives us three major ways to avoid getting glare and reflections when taking portraits of subjects wearing eyeglasses. SmugMug’s own Katherine Cheng and Michael Bonocore served as her bespectacled models.
All example images were lit and shot using the following:
- Broncolor 1200Ws Two Litos Monolight 22 Kit with Senso Power Pack
- Broncolor 2.5′ Octabox
- Nikon D800 Digital SLR Camera
- Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G
Photographers who are new to lighting will sometimes panic when faced with photographing someone in glasses. Sometimes even seasoned photographers will make more adjustments than necessary to avoid a dreaded reflection. Here are a couple of lighting laws that are easy to remember and will increase your confidence when taking portraits of people wearing eyeglasses.
Angle of Incidence = Angle of Reflection
Light is fairly predictable. A quick review of angles will allow you to capture glare-free specs. In any shoot, there are 3 positions that can be adjusted:
- The position/angle of your light.
- The position/angle of your model.
- Your shooting position.
Often, you only need to move 1 of these to improve eyeglasses portraits. First, let’s get a brief science review out of the way:
Angle of Incidence = Angle of Reflection
Your source of light produces a beam that travels in a straight line. The angle at which a light beam hits an object will reflect light out at that same angle. There are other factors to consider, such as the shape of the surface that is being hit and the size of your light source, but for your purpose you can depend on this rule to get you out of the line of fire when trying to shoot a bespectacled subject.
In the case of eyeglasses, make sure that the angle of the light hitting your subject is different from the angle you are shooting them at. When the light comes bouncing off those eyeglasses, you want it to miss you entirely.
Broad Lighting and Short Lighting
Short lighting is when your light is most illuminating the angle of the face that is further from the camera. Broad lighting is when your light is most illuminating the angle of the face that is closer to the camera. Short lighting is harder to use on subjects wearing glasses than broad lighting.
Why? When you place your light on the far side of a face, glasses are more bluntly facing the light, as illustrated on the left in the diagram above. When the light hits the glass, it bounces off at the same angle that it was hit at and right into your lens. When you place your light on the near side of a face, you hit the glasses at an angle that is more oblique by virtue of them facing slightly away from the light. The angle the light hits them at is now not as likely to bounce back into your camera.
In Figure 1, Katherine’s left side is closest to the camera – even if only slightly. The light is on her right side – the side slightly farther from the camera. This produces short lighting, which often causes reflections in glasses. You can see the green glare just in the corner of her glasses. I can either move the light to her left side or I can ask her to switch sides in her chair.
I decide to have her switch sides in her chair. She is more mobile than my light. In Figure 2, the light is still on her right side but now her right side is also closest to the camera. This is broad lighting and it solves my glare problem.
As you can see in Figures 3 and 4, allowing the light to hit the outer edge of the glasses produces no glare versus when they are hit more bluntly. The slightest change in your model’s position can make a big difference.
Shooting Eyeglasses Straight On
In the example above, I kept my camera and my light stationary and asked my model to move. A good rule to follow for any kind of lighting problem is to only ever change one variable at a time.
It is possible to shoot people in glasses straight on without reflections if you remember your angles. In Figure 5, I am lighting Katherine from a slight angle and even with the eye – the catchlight is almost in the middle of her eye. Shooting this low will always produce glare. Remember, your angle of incidence is equal to the angle of reflection and here the angle going in is almost parallel with the camera.
There are a couple of ways to deal with this problem. One is to tilt the glasses downward on the face of the model or have her tilt her head downward. Sometimes this looks unnatural but it is a good solution for people using the built-in flash on their cameras because there is no other way to move that light.
However, here I choose to move my light. I simply move the light upward and point it downward a little more. In the diagram below, you can see how this allows the light a better chance at reflecting toward the ground and away from the lens.
In Example 6, I have moved the light ever so slightly up. You can still catch a sliver of reflection in her glasses, which can be solved by moving the light up further still. However, there is an upper limit to this method – you don’t want to give your model raccoon eyes or deep eyeglass frame shadows.
Dodging Angles: Shooting from a Different Position
If you like where your light is and you like where your model is and you are getting glare off of something then your last refuge is to change yourself.
In Example 7, I have a situation that can result in a large hot spot against my window. If you observe the angle at which your light is hitting a window, you can predict where it is going to bounce out at, too. Don’t shoot from that angle!
As you can see in Example 8, and in the resulting portraits below, my position as a photographer made a very big difference in lighting and the presence of glare on the window without me changing the position of the light one bit!
This is also good knowledge to have on tap when photographing aquariums, cars, and other reflective surfaces.
The Power of a Face: Directing Your Subject
Sometimes we don’t have a lot of time with our subjects. Michael, in Figure 9, is a very important man who doesn’t have time for me to move my light around. The reflections in his glasses are gasp-worthy. Don’t panic! As you can see, the slightest head tilt solves the problem and allows the light to bounce a little more off of his forehead rather than off of his eyeglasses.
- The angle that light hits a subject is going to bounce off at the same angle.
- Lighting on the far side of the face (short lighting) is often more problematic for glasses wearers than lighting on the near side of the face (broad lighting).
- Make small changes in isolation: change your position, your model’s position/head angle, or your light’s position/angle.
Photographing people in glasses is intimidating. You are forced to consider more than just “what looks good” on your subject in that situation. You have to consider what looks good and what is practical for a crystal clear image unmarred by reflections of umbrellas or green glare. However, if you remember even just one of these tips, it can save your nerves and your shoot.
Thanks so much to our friends over at BorrowLenses for helping us sharpen our skills both in and out of the studio! Check out the other posts they’ve written for our blog, like How to Safely Buy a Used Lens and their review of mirrorless cameras. Stay tuned and watch this space for the next part in this series and be sure to practice, take better pictures and have fun.
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.
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.
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
Today marks the release of our first installment of SmugMug Films with a spotlight on creative portrait photographer Benjamin Von Wong. Watch it now and subscribe to get first access to future episodes:
Two years ago, Montreal/Toronto-based photographer Benjamin Wong was a mining engineer who took pictures on the side. In 2012, he quit his engineering career and threw himself into photography full time. He’s now an award-winning photographer admired for his “epic, surreal, fantasy storytelling.” Today with the official launch of Ben’s spotlight in SmugMug Films, he’s shared more details about himself, his background, and exactly how he crafted those exquisite angel wings.
1. How did you get your start in photography?
I had a job at a mine in Nevada (USA) when my girlfriend at the time broke up with me. I figured if I didn’t find a hobby, I’d go crazy. The idea to take pictures of the stars came to me, so I went to Walmart and bought my first point-and-shoot camera. I didn’t do very well, so the next chance I had, I drove to the next city over and bought my first DSLR.
I brought that camera around to everything. But the first time I got paid to shoot an event was a very significant part of my mentality shift.
Another photographer asked whether I would be interested in shooting an event for pharmaceutical students. It was $250 for five hours of shooting. At the time, I wasn’t actually geared up for shooting events. I had an 18-200. I borrowed a flash from a friend. I basically had a flash, a slow zoom lens, and a model clause to make myself look more professional.
At the end of the day, what was special about this event was my realization that I could earn money doing what I love. And that’s when I really got into it. I bought a bunch of new equipment. Got business cards made right away.
Shooting events was fun, but it wasn’t a passion, so I quit the events business and launched myself into creative portraiture. My creative portraiture grew, and I started the Von Wong brand in 2010. The next biggest transition was when I quit my day job. I woke up one morning and said I know I’m not going to do engineering for the rest of my life. So in 2012, I quit. Having the financial support of my mining engineering career helped me make that leap.
2. How has your photography changed since you first started?
Shortly after I picked up my first camera, I started a 365 project and planned to take a picture a day for an entire year. But instead of doing self-portraits, I wanted to take portraits of other people. The motivation behind the project was to grow and learn, but I soon realized I didn’t have time. I was working 10 hours a day at my engineering job. Every day I’d get up, go to work, spend the day thinking about a concept, get home, set up my lights, eat, shoot the concept, edit it, and post it. I’d be up until 2 or 3 in the morning, then I’d have to go to work the next day. It was exhausting. I set a milestone for myself of 100 days, and when I hit it, I shifted gears toward doing larger productions. I started putting more emphasis into cool locations and people, and making each shoot really count.
3. How do you choose your locations and find help for these large productions?
I travel for people, not places. I stay on people’s sofas and do what they do, so I connect with the people.
And I pull together resources significantly from social media. As I’ve invested in meeting my fans and giving back to them, that’s grown into a powerhouse in the sense that I can go to any country in the world, say, “Hey guys, I’m in town, let’s hang out,” and most of the time someone replies.
I usually go to a place with a certain intention or starting point, and it grows. I have a spark of inspiration—location, a model, a cool studio, a performer — there’s always one single point around which everything ignites and from that point forward, everything else needs to be found. Someone knows some place who knows something. It’s about staying open to possibilities and opportunities.
The fallen angel shoot I did with you guys is a great example of this. I was actually looking for an opportunity to go on vacation, and Kelly Zak had reached out to me through Facebook for a critique — and we ended up chatting about shoot ideas. I said I’ve always wanted to create a fallen angel, and she said, “If you come to Florida, there’s fallen angels for you!” I figured I better get on a flight.
Right before Florida, I’d been traveling around a lot. Kelly was caught up with school work. So when I landed, we didn’t have much planned, so we went scouting right away. The first place she drove me to was this amazing, magical-looking forest. Which is funny because for the Floridians it’s probably the most common tree they have, a Spanish oak tree, I think. For me, it was so magical.
Given the beauty of the location, I thought, “Why don’t we increase the concept?” Have two fallen angels, and a bunch of mystical creatures. One thing led to another, and Kelly started enlisting classmates in the film school. We had costume designers, makeup artists. I started asking fans through social media if they’d like to be a part of it. And the whole thing took off from there.
We pulled this entire shoot together in about eight days. We had a good time, and we basically became a family for about a week.
4. How did you make those fantastic wings in so short a time?
The wings were made out of a type of plastic you use for packaging. We just cut it up and layered it. The broken wings were filed down using razor blades. Then we took charcoal and blackened the edges, each wing tip individually. The whole thing was put together using hot glue. Kelly did the research, looking up cosplay tutorials on how people would strap on wings. Since I wanted the angels to be topless, this meant they couldn’t wear a harness or anything. So they had to come up with a creative solution, which ended up being clear bra straps.
5. What are some of your best in-front-of-the-lens tips for special effects?
Birthday sparklers for light trails. Flour for snow. Smoke bombs for portable smoke. Cloth/Vaseline on the lens to create foreground texture in your image. Water guns for portable rain. That’s all I can think of off the top of my head!
6. You attribute a lot of your success to having a great social network and being able to find what you need within it. How were you able to build such a vast network?
Slowly but surely. That’s really what I did. There’s no big success trick other than continuously uploading content.
Before I was doing behind-the-scenes blog posts, I was posting a new photo every day while I had my day job. Day after day of putting out new content. And my shoots are extremely social in the sense that people like to hang out and be a part of them. So at the end of the day, I would always tag all the people who got involved, which helped disseminate information. Then add on the behind-the-scenes videos and that’s ongoing social-media exposure. After I quit my job and traveled for a couple months, I started building my international exposure, which allowed me to start feeding my blog. Every week I would put out a new blog post. Lots and lots of work. I started doing workshops and speaking engagements. Any time somebody asked to do an interview, I would do it. Really just nonstop trying to build this network.
There was no massive unannounced peak—no surprise where it felt like okay, I’ve made it, and it started snowballing. It’s always been very consistent growth. And the minute I stop posting, the minute I stop sharing, then everything stops.
7. What social channels have been the most successful for you?
Facebook, hands down. I use Twitter. YouTube is the best for videos. I’ve used Flickr. I’ve used all of those, but I don’t think anything’s really come out of those channels. It’s really been Facebook for me.
8. You are very involved with all aspects of your shoots. How do you find time to do all the social outreach as well?
I think people overestimate the amount of time I spend on the computer editing. I think I spend on average only ten to twenty hours of editing a week. A bulk of the effort that’s allocated to a shoot really takes place in the preproduction, production and social aspects of it. The actual shoot and postproduction becomes just a single step on the way.I work so much through collaborations, and I came to the conclusion that if I wasn’t going to be making a video, if I wasn’t going to be making a blog post, then I wouldn’t be giving back what people were giving to me. If I wanted people to look at that work and broaden its reach, it was worth it to do big, elaborate projects but fewer of them as opposed to many small projects that wouldn’t have all that extra media support. A lot of effort goes into making an interesting blog post or following up with the creative content.
9. Has the social reach of your shoots ever surprised you?
Yes, a shoot that I did last year. In September, my agent, Suzy Johnston + Associates, received an e-mail from a woman who was terminally ill, asking if there was any possibility of getting a photoshoot and if I’d be able to photograph her in a way that made her feel beautiful and healthy.
I was leaving in a few weeks to go to Seattle for creativeLive, and she was on a time clock because with each passing week she was getting weaker and more frail. We had to make it work quickly. I gave her a call the next day, and in about 10 days we got makeup, hair, and location together. It was her first photoshoot ever.
Afterward, I wrote a blog post about it. I really wrote it more for her than for anybody else. I wanted to create a nice little memory for her. The Internet picked it up, and it became one of my more popular posts of the year, which was, for me, a very big surprise.
Through this experience, what really struck me was that I could not only inspire, and teach about the process, but on top of that, I could create images that matter, that can touch people. These images were created to bring my fan’s dreams to life, but I felt so alive, too. Doing something that matters makes all the difference. That’s something I would like to incorporate more in my work this year.
10. Have you ever been stumped for inspiration?
It happens to me just as much as it happens to anyone. You can’t always be inspired. You have to keep growing and putting things together even when not inspired, so make plans and follow through with them. Do I always feel inspired? No, but setting the wheels in motion and filling the time when nothing is happening, that’s important. Give yourself something to do.
11. What advice would you give to a photographer who was just getting started?
In the artistic and creative world, the biggest thing you have to fear is yourself. If you stop feeling inspired or you stop feeling motivated to do whatever it is you’ve decided to do, then you’re going to lose ground, you’re going to lose traction. No matter how great your business plan is, if you don’t want to do it anymore, everything will come crashing down.
My relative success has been a combination of the journey, the sharing, the inspiration, and the work, but not any one thing would have made it go as far as it has. You really have to make sure you love what you do. No one wants “mediocre.” They don’t want a Jack of all trades. They want “special.” They want the “best” at one single thing. And the only way you can be the best is to love what you do.
You only have one life. Make the most of it.
Find Ben online:
In the last year we’ve put out a lot of posts on this blog: product announcements, tutorials on taking better photos, tips to make more moolah and articles on how to get the most out of SmugMug.
So in case you weren’t glued to every moment we typed here, we’re sharing one last chance to catch your top 5 favorite articles that you may not have seen:
1) 5 Lies Your Camera Likes to Tell
2) How to Make a Photo Blog
3) The Save Photo Reminder
4) 5 Killer Locations for Your Portrait Sessions
5) Guide Your Guests to the Gold
Why confuse your site visitors? We picked some of the best examples of beautiful, easy-to-navigate sites on SmugMug and show you just why they work so well. Read more >>
And since we’re talking about recaps, it only makes sense to share the “top” five of the more subtle articles that deserve a second round in the spotlight! Here they are:
1) How to Succeed in the Business of Love
2) Why Events Are Best for Your Business
If you’re a pro with a Business account, Events are our #1 favorite tool that you probably don’t know about. Here’s why they work, what your customer will see, and some tried-and-true suggestions for integrating them into your portrait and wedding workflow. Read more >>
3) 5 Things Your Client Needs to Hear
Are your subjects happy? Confused? Confident in your ability to get the shot? Here are our pros’ top tips on what to tell your models so that you have a successful photo shoot… and they have a great time, too. Read more >>
4) How to Make your Visitors Feel at Home
Having a great website is more than just throwing some photos up on the web. Here are our suggestions for creating a helpful, pleasant experience for the people who browse your site. Clients, too! Read more >>
5) How to Organize a Photo Walk
Our photo-fiend-friend Scott Jarvie is known for his ability to rally local photographers to get up and get out shooting! If you’d like to take action and inspire your photo-neighbors to go snapping with you, here’s a few planning tips to get you on your way. Read more >>
We hope you have a safe, warm, happy and thoroughly joyous holiday!
Next in our showcase series of SmugMug pro print labs is WHCC. We joined forces with them two Februaries ago, after you told us just how fantastically they serve the wedding and portrait photography industry. Today we got a behind-the-scenes look at their Standout prints, a wonderful, lightweight option for pros like you looking to buy (or sell!) alternatives to the traditional mat and frame. They’re available on all Portfolio and Business account Pricelists in sizes up to 30×40 and in Lustre, Glossy and Metallic paper finishes.
How do all of you at WHCC stay on top of all the changes and trends in the print market?
We receive a lot of excellent suggestions from our clients! They provide us with great feedback on new products they want or simple ways we can improve or expand our current products to include more variety and selection.
We also stay on top of the trends by staying active and involved in the photographic community and industry. What are today’s photographers looking for? What types of products are popular with their clients? How are they using these products to increase sales? Seeing the many different types of photographers out there and how they use or display different products helps trigger ideas that we can put a creative spin on.
How do your employees stay in the loop?
Photography is such a trendy and ever-changing industry, and our staff stays involved in the community on a frequent basis to keep track of what’s new and popular. They love being able to share input and ideas on current and future products and to be able to get the inside scoop on exciting new products in the works. Since many of our staff members are also working photographers they realize the importance of a well-crafted product. They take pride in offering only top quality products with supreme attention to detail and craftsmanship. That’s why “Often First, Always Best” is our belief for developing new products and services. We constantly strive to be the first to bring great new products and services to our clients. The only thing we want more than being first is giving you the best. Not just our best, the industry’s best.
What’s the history of your Standout prints? Was there a lengthly list of prototypes before today’s version hit the market?
We did not produce our original Black edged Standout mounting substrates ourselves when this product first launched back in 2005. However as Standout gained in popularity as a Wall Display product, we knew we could do more with this product and so we brought the production in-house. This allowed us to keep tighter controls on the quality and inventory levels as well as expand the product. We now offer a total of five edge options including Black, White, Light Wood, Stainless Steel and Bamboo.
What are some of the best features of Standout prints?
Standout has a lot of great features, including its affordability and that it arrives ready to hang. With its light weight and pre-drilled holes, anyone can easily hang these in their home or office.
Standouts are also very versatile, not only with their popular sizes to create large images to sleek collages, but they come in a variety of depths and edging options that will fit anyone’s style.
How would you recommend photographers show off Standouts best?
Metallic Photographic Prints really pop when paired with Stainless Steel edging. Or pair it with a black and white image to create a well-polished, modern looking display. The Light Wood and Bamboo edging is very complementary to outdoor images, while White makes a great use for kids and newborns. Stick with the classic Black for a simple and sleek look or as an easy go-to option for any Senior or wedding image.
Thanks again to the folks at WHCC for sharing their thoughts about what it takes to bring a great print product to market! Remember that everyone at SmugMug can easily turn their favorite photos into prints and gifts by opening any gallery and clicking the Add to Cart button, and SmugMug Portfolio and Business levels can price, sell and fulfill print orders from four print labs. If you’ve disabled printing to visitors, the button will read “Owner Buy.” See how to print at SmugMug.