This week we’re debuting Joel Grimes as our next SmugMug Films subject. As commercial pro and Photoshop wizard, Joel has found great success following his creative dreams and leading workshops worldwide on how he plans, shoots, and polishes those incredible images. Watch the film now and don’t forget to subscribe to the channel to see each new episode as we post them.
When it comes to creating masterful illusions, Joel Grimes is happy to share what it takes to succeed in the art and photography world: hard work and passion. The bravery to be yourself at all times doesn’t hurt, either. Learn how he applied these truths to his own path into commercial photography.
Tell us a bit about how you got started with art and photography.
I’ve always had that side to me, even when I was a little kid. In grade school, we’d have art projects, and I would be in heaven. Then in seventh grade, I think it was, I had my first official art class. That was the ultimate. I was like, “Wow, every day I get to do art and actually receive a grade.”
When I got to high school, we had a program where you could do photography. I just thought, “This is really cool.” I ended up staying in the program my sophomore year, and then my junior and senior years. By the time I was a senior, I was the photo teacher’s assistant. But I still didn’t understand starting it as a career.
When I got out of high school, I ended up working for an outdoor store downtown. One day a man came in looking for a waterproof container. I asked what it was for, and he said it was for transporting film. I said, “I’m a photographer, too!” I had just spent every dime I had on this new black-body camera, which was the first: the Canon EF. At the time, I thought it was like buying a ferrari. It was just so amazing.
Turns out he was the head professor of photography at Pima Community College and asked if I’d thought about taking any photography classes. They had just started a new semester at the college, and he said if I really wanted to get in his class, he could pull some strings. I said yes!
What I didn’t know is he had a waiting list of 80 students for that class. His name was Lou Bernal, and he was the most inspiring educator I’ve ever been around. He really launched me into thinking about photography, not only as a possible career but as an art form. From that point on, photography really became an all-consuming passion.
But I still didn’t understand photography as a career. Like, do I do weddings? Do I do editorial? After college I ended up sharing a studio with a guy who was a natural at marketing. He really taught me a lot about selling myself. With his guidance, I ended up going after the commercial advertising arena. And I’ve been doing it ever since.
I look back and never thought I’d get to where I am. It’s just amazing. I feel very blessed.
What inspires you first when you go about creating an image? Do you see the full concept or does a background or subject inspire you first?
In songwriting, people ask, “What comes first: the melody or the lyrics?” It’s the same with photography. For some people the melody comes first. Some people get an idea and put it into lyrics. It’s really a mixture of both.
I think about an idea, but most of the time it’s kind of a discovery process—it’s found moments. Found ideas that aren’t too thought-out, meaning I don’t create a plan for what I want to end up with. I have an idea stylistically, but it’s not as scripted as people think.
I always tell people there’s two things I’m not and two things I believe I am. I’m not brilliant and I’m not a creative genius. I do have a passion for the creative process, and I work really hard at it. I put in the time.
You can be brilliant and a creative genius and produce nothing in your lifetime. But if you have a passion for the creative process and you work very hard, great things follow.
When we’re in school learning photography, many people think, “I’m not brilliant at it. I’m not as talented as my friend or my classmates.” That’s what I thought when I was in school. But in the end, having a passion for the creative process will out-trump or outwork and outperform the brilliant creative geniuses. Don’t worry about if you feel like you don’t quite get it. Just keep practicing. Keep working at it. Keep putting in the time. And then explore.
What gets you up at 4:30 in the morning to photograph the sunrise? Being brilliant? Being a creative genius? No. It’s passion. I can’t wait to see what this morning will bring. And those are the people who achieve great things.
Your process relies more on finding the right feel for the moment and less on the technical, but do you have go-to light setup—somewhere you start before tweaking?
You have to, especially when you do commercial shoots. You have to know the basics of achieving a soft light or a harsh light. How to light one person or ten people. It’s all about solving problems.
When you’re in a commercial scenario, you can’t just play and hope it will all come together. I’ve walked into a room with a client standing over me, and I’ll say we’re going to shoot from this angle with lights here and our subject here. Within 4 minutes I have it figured out. And they ask, “Are you sure? Can we try over here?” And I say that won’t work because there’s cross light and you have a big pipe in the background. That comes from just having walked into a room a thousand times. Time and practice.
I can teach everything I know about lighting in 30 minutes, but it takes 20 years of practice to understand how to apply that lighting. Unless you practice it over and over again, you’ll never be able to walk into a situation and build the shot.
I try to create light that could be a real-life scenario. So I use cross-light, like Rembrandt did, which is a simulation of what could be a true environment. I can simulate sunlight with one big light source. I can do a three-light approach with two edge lights and one overhead light, like if I had two windows to each side of me and a little bit of fill in the middle. That’s a pretty rare scenario, but it’s true. It can happen. I actually like to do that three-light approach because it builds depth and it looks a bit gritty.
I use my light to create a certain feel. It is a representation of what could be real and true, but it’s really about creating the mood.
How do you coax your subject to deliver the shot you’re looking for?
Personality plays a role in how I approach my subjects. Some photographers are animated, coaxing their subject to crack up and smile and do all sorts of crazy things. Others will walk over and move the subject’s arm, their chin, their hand. My personality is to watch the subject as I ask them to try different things. Suddenly they’ll do something and I’ll say, “Oh! Can you do that again?”
I’ll give an example. There’s a shot I took of the rapper Mustafa. He’s got his shirt off underneath a leather coat, he’s in a tunnel, and he’s right in your face. The light’s perfect on his face and his hands and he’s coming right at you. He was actually a bit reserved when he came in. As we started to work, he was standing there, and it wasn’t really working. As I watched him, he started pulling on the jacket. I said, “That’s cool, what if you spun and held your jacket out like that?” He did, and that’s our shot. I had no idea that’s where we were going to end up. But because I saw him tugging on the jacket while I was moving lights, I thought it might be a cool shot.
That’s how the process works for me. I don’t overscript or overthink it. I let everything take its course.
Within this commercial realm, do you have a favorite type of shoot you like to do?
Sports figures make unbelievable subjects because they’re superheroes. They make great subjects. But I also like photographing real people. I love faces. I love personalities. I love characters.
For example, I met a guy named Steve Stevens in New Orleans. He’s got these really cool sunglasses on and he’s kind of looking off to the side with New Orleans in the background. He was my ride from the airport to the college where I was speaking. While he was driving, I was thinking, “This guy is perfect!” So I asked if I could bring him in to do a portrait during my demo. I end up getting this great shot and everyone thinks I cast this guy from hundreds of people. But it’s an everyday person. I just make them look larger than life.
Could you tell us a bit about a shoot that’s most memorable to you to date?
Before digital, I was doing commercial ad work and some corporate work and shooting with a large-format, 4×5 camera and sheet film. Very slow and very meticulous. A large power utilities company was doing an annual report and I was called in to the creative pow-wow meeting with the CEO, art director, and everybody. They wanted to do something different that year, so I pitched the idea of doing a series of portraits of the customers—the end users of electricity—in black-and-white large format. I knew I was really pushing it, but they let me put some samples together and come back. And they ended up going for it. I went to 24 countries with that 4×5 camera. China, Brazil, Argentina, Kazakhstan. It was just heaven.
We can really hear the joy and passion in your voice, and you obviously have a lot of fun doing this. Do you have any challenges?
Generally, as human beings, we tend to want to follow, not lead. If someone paves the way for us, we’ll follow that path. The hardest thing for me, and I think for most people, is that we get inspired by others’ work and we think we want to be someone else. We want to be that photographer, we want to follow their lead. The problem is if you follow others, you always blend with the masses. But if you follow your uniqueness and stick with what you do best, you’ll stand out.
It’s scary to hang your hat on something that’s just you. It opens the door to criticism, and nobody likes to be criticized. So we avoid criticism at all costs, and we follow others. The hardest thing for me is to stay true to who I am. Yes, we need to be inspired by others, but every day I have to wake up and be Joel Grimes, not somebody else. When I teach, I always tell people, “Be yourself.” You’re unique. One of a kind. There’s no one on the planet just like you. And when you work from your uniqueness, you’ll rock the world.
What do you love most about being an illusionist?
Taking something that is everyday and adding excitement. For the most part we tend to go to work, get a coffee, go to our desk, do our task, go home. We want to experience something that’s outside the everyday mundane. My job as a photographer—as an artist—is to create things that take people out of the everyday and submerge them in something that’s a bit of a fantasy.
Being an illusionist is really being an artist and honing that craft to a point where people believe it. They believe that girl is that beautiful. That guy is that strong. They look amazing. Larger than life. Lighting and Photoshop play into that formula. Some people say that’s not right, but every photograph is a manipulation because you choose the lens, you choose when to take the picture—when to create that moment. Everything’s a representation of reality. It’s my job as an artist to take that representation and make it even more fantastic. That’s fun. To me, that’s part of being an artist.
Could you talk about how you refine the illusion in post-process?
It’s part of the creative process. You take the picture and then you have to finish creating it. Some people think Photoshop is cheating. But as an artist, it doesn’t matter how much I create in camera or in Photoshop. In the end, when I present that image, does it work? Is it a reflection of my artistic vision? That’s what’s most important.
So I blend the two together. I solve some problems in Photoshop that I couldn’t do in camera, using blending modes, working on multiple layers, masking, all that. When I’m teaching, some people say, you know, if you lift your left leg and put your finger on the Alt key, there’s a shortcut. And I say, okay, but right now that’s not important. What’s important is I’m getting to where I need to to be.
Over time I’ll learn that working with smart objects is a better way to work than not. And adjustment layers are less destructive. I learn all those little things as I go. There are people who can run circles around me in Photoshop, but in the end, people really like the end result I achieve.
Any favorite tools in Photoshop?
One of the things I teach a lot is to work from a RAW image, bring it into the RAW converter, manipulate it there, and then open it as a smart object in Photoshop. This way, when the image comes over, it’s still tied to RAW. That gives me very little destruction.
The problem most people face when they start in Photoshop is they destroy their image. There’s a thousand ways to destroy your image, lose bit depth, lose pixels, lose tones, detail, all that. The number-one rule: minimize destruction. Smart objects and adjustment layers are the single two most important things to have in your workflow to minimize destruction.
Any advice for those looking to get into creative photography?
To be an artist, you have to put your neck on a chopping block. It’s impossible to survive as an artist in this industry if you can’t overcome rejection. The biggest thing that keeps us from moving forward is fear of rejection. You may get lots of praises, but you’re not always going to get a good critique. And a negative critique is like a knife stabbing you in the back, with an added twist. It hits right in your heart.
As human beings, we don’t like to be criticized. It hurts. And it keeps us from moving forward and taking risks. But you can’t let one person steal your dream. That person may not have any authority whatsoever in truly understanding what you’re doing, but it still derails you as an artist.
It’s like country western versus rap. If you’re a country western singer and you present your demo to a rap record-label company, they’re going to wonder what the heck you’re doing there. They’re going to boot you out the back door as quickly as they can, right? And you feel rejected.
But were you really rejected? No, because you gave them something they don’t have any interest in. As artists, we present our work to people who sometimes have no interest in what we’re doing. And when they say they aren’t interested, we take it personally. It’s like selling country western to a rap label.
Criticism will come. It’s guaranteed! Don’t take it personally.
Anything we didn’t ask that you’d like us to know?
Hard work will outperform talent any day of the week. Put in more hours than the person you’re competing against. Practice, practice, practice, and great things will follow.
Find Joel online:
In your busy life, the camera you usually have is the one in your pocket: Your phone! The photos you take with it are the easiest and most “real,” but they’re also the most difficult to get safely archived and online.
Don’t let your best memories die in a digital graveyard! It’s simple to get them out of your phone and safely up into SmugMug where you can cherish them for years… no matter how many times you drop, dunk, or destroy your device.
Today, we’re reminding you to do this often, so you’ll never be left grieving over the loss of your priceless mobile memories.
On iPhones and Android
If you have an iPhone or Android phone, it’s a no-brainer: use our Camera Awesome app. It’s a camera, editing suite, social hub, and backup service all in one, so you’ll never need to exit the app (unless you want to)!
How to do it: Download the Camera Awesome app. Tap the little gear icon at top left to open the settings and connect to your SmugMug account. You can then use the app to take all the photos and videos you want, edit them, and, when you’re ready, upload them to your account.
- You can also upload photos taken via other apps as well as your phone’s default camera through Camera Awesome, since we’re all about equal-opportunity backups.
- If you choose, you can set ALL photos and videos that you shoot with Camera Awesome to automatically back up to your gallery as you shoot. Or opt to send them only when you’re connected via WiFi.
- Alternatively, you can choose to save photos from Camera Awesome to your phone’s photo library and manually upload them to your computer’s hard drive (and to your SmugMug account!)
Hot tip: If you’ve taken a photo and for some reason can’t find it in your photo library, our Support Heroes use apps like iExplorer to find and access every file on your device.
Backing up on other phones or apps
If you aren’t using Camera Awesome, your phone should still allow you to access your images manually, so you can upload them to your SmugMug website for safekeeping.
We won’t go into specific steps for how to do this, since you’re probably already familiar with the process of plugging in your phone to your computer. You may even already use manufacturer’s software to download your photos to your computer and they may even offer to put a copy of your photos into existing free services that you use, like Dropbox or Facebook. This is a convenient option, but we recommend taking two more seconds to also drag your files into SmugMug, too.
Why? SmugMug’s the only service that’s completely unlimited to use, and we won’t squish or resize your images. Storage is already included in your subscription fee, and you can retrieve everything using the built-in backup feature.
We’ve got several really great ways for getting your files into SmugMug; use the one that works best for you. We like using the default browser drag-and-drop window, with the option to automatically skip or allow duplicate files.
If you walk away remembering nothing else….
… be sure it’s this: Please download and back up your photos on a regular basis so if your phone should ever get lost, stolen, or go on the fritz, you won’t miss a single memory that you’ve recorded. We’ve all had this happen to us, and with SmugMug you can retrieve thousands of lost memories with a single click.
Happy snapping. And don’t forget to back up!
If you haven’t already heard, we recently released some new options to the way you apply watermarks to your images, but we’ve gone ahead and taken it one step further.
In the New SmugMug, you can now create, choose, edit and apply your custom watermarks all from a single location. Gone are the days of choosing your logo image from within a gallery, then tweaking it in your Account Settings.
Your New Home Base for Watermarks
You’ll still open your Account Settings to see your watermarks alongside your other pro branding tools. But now you’ll find a gorgeous, brand-new, edge-to-edge interface with a large sample photo in center, and all your watermarks in a column down the right-hand side:
Click any of your watermark previews to try it on for size. Or click the “+ Create” button at top to select a new graphic (that you’ve already designed and uploaded) for use as a fresh new watermark.
There’s even a handy button at the bottom to change the sample image to something brighter, darker, or vertical. This is a great way to get an idea of how the orientation or brightness of a photo will affect how your watermark looks.
And as always, you can hit the universal wrench or trash icons under each of your existing watermarks to edit and delete them, respectively.
Check out our updated help pages to get the complete details about watermarks and how they work. You’ll also notice that we’ve changed the way you edit Printmarks in exactly the same way, since Watermarks and Printmarks are very similar features.
Watermarks, in a nutshell
New to Watermarks? Here are a few important things to know:
- New custom watermarks default to size Large and up. You can specify a different minimum size in the settings.
- Watermarks are nondestructive, so your prints won’t include them.
- Watermarks will need to be re-applied to your photos to display any changes you make.
- You can have as many different watermarks on your site as you wish.
- Watermarks are available on Portfolio and Business accounts only.
About SmugMug’s Printmarks
And if you’ve never used our Printmarks feature and are intrigued to try it, here’s a quick rundown of what they are:
- Printmarks are like watermarks for the physical prints you sell.
- Although we recommend you use large graphics to ensure your Printmarks print well, they are limited to covering a small fixed percentage of the print area.
- Printmarks are great for applying your artist signature, a team logo, or a wedding date to your prints.
- If you change your mind, Printmarks can be removed during Proof Delay.
- The Printmarks feature is also available on Portfolio and Business accounts only.
So if you were looking for an excuse to freshen up your Watermarks and Printmarks, now’s the time! We hope that these changes make it more enjoyable and easier to manage the nuts and bolts of your photography business.
Let us know what you think! And, as always, stay tuned because there’s always more good stuff coming down the pipes from Smuggy HQ.
Links to great pro business tips we’ve shared:
- Encylopedia of the (SmugMug) Watermark
- How to Avoid Crippling Photo Theft
- 8 Smug Tools That Earn Your More Money
- 5 Simple Steps to Build Your Brand
Water photographer Sarah Lee (recently featured in a behind-the-scenes artist profile for our SmugMug Film series) grew up in Hawaii, surfing and swimming competitively. One day, while at a swimming competition, she was handed a camera and hasn’t looked back since. She finds inspiration in the unpredictability of nature, creates art that captures the interplay of people, water, and light, and uses photography to find beauty in the chaos. If you want to take the plunge into underwater photography, check out Sarah Lee’s essential underwater photography tips below, plus get a close look at her underwater photography gear kit.
Underwater Photo Tip #1: Ask your models to channel their inner ballerina or yogi and trust them. Open body posture is key. This photograph was taken of adventure model and soul surfer, Alison Teal, somewhere in the warm waters of Fiji.
Underwater Photo Tip #2: I find it ideal to photograph people underwater in the late morning between 8-11am because you’re going to need a lot of natural light being underwater. Though, on occasion it’s fun to experiment with different times of day. This photograph was taken during the last hour of the day, probably in the presence of a few sharks too shy to make themselves known.
Underwater Photo Tip #3: Skin tones look the best within 1-5 feet of the surface. Beyond that, you start to lose the warmth and reds in their skin tone.
Underwater Photo Tip #4: Lately I’ve been using an Outex, which is a silicone water cover. It’s rad because you can use different lenses in it, and it has a tripod neck strap. It’s worked really well underwater in lots of different situations.
Underwater Photo Tip #5: You don’t always need a fancy camera or underwater setup to take a good photo. This photograph was taken on a GoPro. Read more about shooting with a GoPro on my blog.
Underwater Photo Tip #6: Working with props and clothes can be challenging underwater but worth the effort! In this shoot, I created a jellyfish from an umbrella, ribbons, and beaded curtains. Just be careful you don’t lose anything in the process!
Underwater Photo Tip #7: Within the realm of underwater photography, there’s not much in your control. It’s all about being in the moment and finding the composition within the “chaos.” Most of my favorite photographs were taken when I just let things “be” and used my camera as a way to interpret what is happening at the present moment, rather than trying to orchestrate and control any of it.
Underwater Photo Tip #8. Protect your gear. I alternate between surf housng and water covers depending on the conditions I shoot in.
Find Sarah online:
When not finishing up her film-production degree on the coast of California, Sarah Lee spends as much time as she can in the water. Be it Hawaii, Australia, or any coastal beach, she loves diving in to see what photos can be captured beneath the waves. Her natural love of swimming led to photographing swim meets, and her interest in photography grew until she started taking her camera in and under the water to photograph other swimmers, surfers, and good friends. Sarah’s passion has led to her work being featured in Italian fashion magazines and for adventure companies in Australia and New Zealand.
How long have you been a photographer?
I started taking pictures in high school, and I never thought I’d do it professionally. I grew up surfing for fun and swimming competitively. Someone handed me a camera during a swim meet one day, so I started taking pictures. When I started shooting, I really enjoyed the way it allowed me to interact with people and capture what was happening. And it evolved from there.
How would you describe your specialty?
What I do is 90 percent focused around the water and ocean. I grew up around it—and in it—and it’s very important to me. I would describe what I do as water and lifestyle photography. It’s people interacting with nature, in water.
My approach to photography is more spontaneous, because, for me, it’s more about capturing what’s actually happening than trying to make something happen. With water, many things are out of your control, and I love that. Whatever the water and light decide to do, you have to adapt to capture it.
Have you worked on a lot of surf photography?
Probably my favorite thing to do is surf photography, but I approach it more as something to do for fun. I was in Fiji two years ago during one of the surf contests, with 15- to 20-foot waves. I just love swimming and shooting in huge waves!
Is that the coolest place you’ve traveled for a shoot?
Actually, there’s this spot in New Zealand called Blue Duck Station. I traveled there with the Alison’s Adventures series I was working on. It was this amazing farm filled with sheep and horses and rivers—just the most majestic place. Imagine riding horses up the tallest mountain at sunrise to watch the fog separate over the mountains. It was incredible.
Are there any other shoots that are particularly memorable for you?
I did a shoot for a high-fashion design company, forte_forte. This Italian clothing company found me online, and they sent me their capsule collection that they wanted to have photographed underwater. They were these gorgeous, expensive gowns, and I told them, “You know they’re going to get destroyed, right?” They didn’t blink.
For that commission, I got some of my friends together—swimmers and surfers—and we swam under really big waves with these really heavy, long dresses, and it was an incredible feat, especially for the models. forte_forte loved it. It got published in Marie Claire Italy, too, and all over the Internet.
Did the models have to change in the water?
Yes. I swam with a huge backpack filled with the dresses, and the models had to change in the water between waves. That’s also why I use only experienced swimmers and girls whose swimming abilities I am familiar with.
It sounds challenging!
It’s extremely challenging! Especially for the models since they have to swim in the dresses, too, without fins. It can be really tiring for them.
Have you done any more fashion shoots?
I did one a couple months ago for another Italian company’s swimwear line. They had these expensive Italian leather boots they wanted shot underwater, as well as purses and jackets with bikinis. Styling is a bit impossible, but there are approaches to having a purse underwater and having clothes in motion.
And the model—huge props to that girl. She had to wear high heels and a jacket while holding a purse under the waves, and she was amazing. I tried to put on one of the shoes just to see what it was like, and it was a disaster.
How do you find models for your underwater shoots?
Mostly it’s people I meet surfing or swimming. I’ve never really used a professional model before. Because water is such a difficult element to deal with, it’s important the models are strong swimmers and are aware of what the ocean can do—and be able to hold their breath well. It takes a really special person to do that.
Do you have signals to direct the models while underwater?
We actually wait to surface to give direction. It’s all about timing so we can talk above the water and give direction, then go back underwater to continue shooting.
What kind of conditions do you look for when you go out for a shoot?
It depends what kind of shoot it is. My favorite kind of shoot is early in the morning or sunset underwater—just like any photographer’s ideal timing. Condition-wise, it depends on the spot and if it will be high tide or low tide. Each spot is different in terms of when water clarity is best. There are so many elements to consider, like surf size, tide, wind, and weather.
For shooting underwater, you want bright sun and less cloudy weather. But above the water, like for surfing, I love cloudier, darker skies with light—like when a storm has cleared and the clouds are dark but there’s so much light. That’s the best.
How far do you usually have to swim out?
It depends on the spot. For some places it’s 50 feet off shore, and others it’s a couple hundred feet. Lighting for underwater is best between 1 to 8 feet from the surface. Too deep and you lose a lot of light and clarity, and it affects skin tone.
Is everything you shoot natural light only?
Ninety-nine percent of what I do is all natural light. I’ve tried flashes underwater, but I haven’t really gotten into it. Lately I’ve been shooting underwater at sunrise or sunset to experiment with natural lighting.
Have you ever used props other than dresses and other items your models wear?
For one shoot, I really wanted to build something that looked like a jellyfish. We found a plastic umbrella, bought some beaded chandeliers that go over windows, took them apart, then stitched them onto the umbrella and added ribbons. That was really intense to deal with in the water.
Was the umbrella easily tossed around by the waves?
We didn’t take it into the waves because of the risks of having a huge umbrella underwater, so we took it out into deeper water for that shoot. It worked out pretty well—and no plastic pieces were lost in the process!
What gear could you not live without?
If I could just have one lens and body to walk around with, it would be my Nikkor 50/1.2 and 5d MkIII.
Lately I’ve been using an Outex, which is a silicone camera cover. It’s rad because you can use different lenses in it and it has a tripod neck strap. It’s worked really well underwater in lots of situations.
And of course fins—and goggles, sometimes.
Do you have to decide on which body and lens you’re using before you swim out for a shoot, or do you ever swim back to shore for a lens change?
I have to choose one and go out for the entire shoot so no; I have to make a choice and stick with it and shoot it all on manual, adjusting aperture and shutter speed as I go. I’ve done it enough that, based on the conditions, I know what’ll work best. For anything underwater, you’re usually shooting fisheye or wide angle.
It must be like manual zoom, too, but instead of walking you’re using your fins.
Totally! It’s cool because you can just be underwater, floating and swimming. It’s not always just a “walk in the park,” and that’s what I love most.
Any advice for an aspiring photographer?
I like to approach every photo session as an experiment. Be open to whatever nature and the elements give you, and work with it. Take it easy, and adapt to whatever happens. So far that approach has worked out for me.
Find Sarah online:
SmugMug was born and bred by photography lovers, but this doesn’t mean that SmugMug can’t be great for everyone. SmugMug is an awesome place for people from all walks of life, and we feel strongly about photography being an essential part of your life — no matter what you do.
So what’s the benefit of a photo website for people who don’t “do” photography? Easy! A beautiful and safe place online to keep everything that’s important to you. Whether you’re a mom, a student, a lawyer, a small business owner or a chef, your photos (and videos) are how you get your message across to other people.
If you or someone you know didn’t think you were pro enough for SmugMug, here’s a list of reasons why we think we’d still be a perfect fit.
1) You can show off big, beautiful photos.
From XS thumbnails to edge-to-edge huge, SmugMug is based on huge, gorgeous photos that show off every pixel of what you do. Even if you’re not a photographer, big pics have a place: as a background image on your homepage or in a sample gallery that shows off your cooking, your offices, your portfolio of what you do best. No matter what your profession or what you love to do, we’re pretty sure that it’ll look great in pictures.
2) Build completely custom pages for anything you want.
Custom web pages let you create anything you dream up on your new site: price sheets, About Me, directions to your storefront or anything else you want your visitors to know about you. Fun facts? Easy! Lists of your favorite vendors? It’s a snap. Here’s a little tutorial that shows you how to do this via our easy drag-and-drop design, so you can build any page you can imagine.
3) Automatically get easy-to-read URLs.
In addition to being able to grab your own custom domain, you can make sure any page on your website has an easy-to-read link. We call them NiceNames: easy, readable, search-engine-friendly URLs that make it drop dead simple to tell someone where to find your website, even if you’re not at your computer. Pssst: they look great on business cards!
- Example: http://www.macaskillphotography.com/Newborn/Diego-4-Months/
4) Tie together every page with your brand.
Whether you’re the head of an internationally-reknowned restaurant or you just love the colors blue and green, your website should reflect your brand. SmugMug gives you dozens of one-click themes to match virtually any mood, and the ability to create your own if you don’t find what you love in the list. And if you’ve already got a logo designed for you, set it across all of your galleries and pages so your visitors know that you’ve got your act together.
5) Never have to worry again about site stability & bandwidth.
Once you’ve done all the work of building your new website, the last thing you need is for it to max out when too many people visit! Not at SmugMug – we’ve always offered unlimited bandwidth and traffic because we believe that photos are meant to be shared. We’re backed by Amazon and use the most cutting-edge technology to be sure that your pages load blazingly fast, no matter where you or your viewers are. Want proof? Our site status page is always open to you: http://status.smugmug.com
6) Complete flexibility in how to structure your site.
You can create whatever kind of site you want, from simple to complex to deep. SmugMug’s flexible organization lets you nest folders inside folders up to 7 levels deep, meaning you can organize your photos, videos and pages in a million different ways. And you can create as many folders as you wish, with more folders or galleries inside each to make the nested hierarchy of your dreams. Perfect for perfectly organized family history, your children’s lifetime in photos or anything else you do. Best of all, you can easily manage them with a clean, beautiful drag-and-drop site-wide organizer.
So what do you think? If you’ve got a website for a non-photography lifestyle or business, we’d love to see it! And if you’re still not yet sold, check the sites above to get inspiration and see what you can build.
- The full list of SmugMug’s great features
- SmugMug’s 9 gorgeous display sizes
- Set a full-screen slideshow on your homepage
- Use drag and drop to create webpages
- Get your own domain at SmugMug
- Easy, custom URLs that Google loves
- How to put your brand on your SmugMug website
- 9 examples of beautifully branded websites
- The OCD dream: Folders inside folders inside folders
- The site-wide, drag-and-drop Organizer
- How to get that shoebox of photos online
SmugMug Pros in the UK and beyond, we’ve just added three new gorgeous products to your Loxley catalog! We’re so excited to finally deliver some of the newer creations from one of the most highly regarded print labs in the world, and a new way to sell them to your clients.
1) Acrylic Gallery
The Acrylic Galleries feature your print mounted behind crystal clear acrylic for a razor sharp, stunning effect.
2) Single and Dual Colour Desk Frames
Perfectly portable for your home or office, this modern alternative to the traditional desk frame gives you a dark or light option to complement any decor. Additionally, your image stays durable with a protective satin heat seal.
3) Print Wraps
Loxley Colour’s Print Wraps stand proud of the wall with a uniquely padded, tactile surface that is so much more interesting than the standard print and frame. It’s lightweight and laminated for durability so you can invite your clients to touch and feel the difference.
NEW! Price and Sell Packages Through Loxley Colour
Lots of SmugMug Pros wanted to sell Packages through Loxley Colour, and now you can. Packages let you set a single price on a collection of different print products, making it easier for clients to check out. Take a look at the complete Packages help page for more info, to see the customers’ experience, and to get started.
NEW! Invoices for VAT Registered Pros
We’ve made a few changes to the way you’ll deal with VAT if you’re a VAT registered pro. We’ll begin sending you and your clients invoices, so keep an eye out for those and be sure that your account information is present and correct. We’ve sent emails about this to all pros in the EU with more details, so please refer to that if you have specific questions about collecting VAT on your SmugMug pro sales.
Will these new print products take extra time to manufacture/process?
Acrylic Prints, Print Wraps and Desk Frames take an additional 3-4 business days for manufacture and processing, so please be sure to build in enough leeway if you or your clients need their prints by a specific date. Also, don’t forget to consider shipping times, too.
How do I set my pricing again? And what are the details on getting paid the money I earn?
Remember: With a Portfolio or a Business account, you can easily set a markup over our base print prices and keep 85% of the sale. We provide step-by-step instructions on how to manage your Pricelists, as well as everything you need to do to get your profits paid to you.
I’m in the USA. Can’t you add more products from your other labs?
We’d love to! We’re always looking to update the catalog of products we offer from our labs and we’ll update this space whenever we do. Stay tuned!
Any tips for me as a pro who wants to offer these new products?
If you’re new to selling or just need some fresh ideas, here are a few of our suggestions for adding these new prints to your lineup:
- Desk frames. You may be low on wall space, but we’re pretty sure you’ve got a desk. Because of their compact size, Desk Frames are a perfect way to brighten up even the tightest corners of any room.
- Print Wraps. These are so unique, it’s a no-brainer opportunity to offer your customers a fun, new way to display their memories. Despite their light weight, Print Wraps are ready-to-hang without a frame so we recommend that you keep your final (pro) price consistent with other finished prints of this size.
- Acrylic Gallery These gorgeous prints turn your photos into something truly show-worthy! They’re perfect for getting a completely upscale look for your walls. Again, if you already sell finished and framed prints to your clients, we recommend you price your Acrylic Gallery prints consistently with those.
We hope you love the new offerings through Loxley and will share your experiences with us, too. As always, talk to our Support Heroes if you ever have any questions about buying, selling or anything you can do on SmugMug.
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!