The holidays are a perfect time to practice your portrait-taking skills. Bring out the best in your subjects and take memorable family portraits with some expert instruction! Because we at SmugMug are big fans of photo education, we’ve asked author and professional photographer Kirk Tuck to reveal his top five tips for successful family photo sessions. Learn the essential skills for capturing beautiful family portraits in Kirk Tuck’s FREE online class, Professional Family Portraits, over on Craftsy.com.
1. Bring Out the Best in Mature Subjects
Try adding fill light with flash, or even a cheap piece of foam core. Use off-camera flash as your main light and use umbrellas (cheap and easy) to modify the light. Or situate your couple in their living room for stunning environmental portraits.
2. Capture Toddlers
Toddlers are particularly hard to pose and it’s typically difficult to maintain their attention; make the best of the small window you have with them by limiting their distractions. Get down on their level, and use simple items like a lit match to capture their attention (and get that wonderment-look).
3. Set Up a Studio in Any Home
In a few simple steps you can transform any garage into a studio. When you lift the garage door you have great ambient light that comes in! If the house or garage is cluttered, bring a gray seamless backdrop. Be sure to consider the color of the walls and ceilings when bouncing flash, too, because colored walls can tint your images.
4. Success with Posing Larger Groups
Take the time to thoughtfully choose your location, for example look for hills, walls and contours. You want to shoot in the shade so you can have even light. When it comes to arranging and posing groups, odd numbers are best, form triangles and have the family members slightly face each other to show a connection.
5. Get the Best Results with Your Digital Editing
No photo is complete until it has been taken into the digital darkroom: Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. Use the healing tool to remove scars and soften wrinkles in Photoshop. And, use the sliders in your layers to make believable changes in skin blemishes, like wrinkles.
In the FREE online Craftsy class, Professional Family Portraits, Kirk will cover:
- Advanced strategies of family portraiture as Kirk shares his best techniques for lighting, posing and composition.
- Fail-proof ways to take adorable shots of even the most impatient little ones.
- Using foam core, umbrellas and bounce flash to create ideal lighting in any setting, and explore broad and short lighting for warm, engaging portraits.
- Quick, effective strategies for transforming any room into an uncluttered studio – even a garage!
- How to select a location and direct poses for a large group photo.
- Step-by-step post-processing strategies to remove blemishes, soften wrinkles and adjust color cast to ensure your portraits have professional polish.
- All the benefits of an in-person seminar from the convenience of your home.
Kirk will critique your photos and answer any questions you have, and since you’ll own your class forever, you can learn at your own pace and revisit techniques before your next shoot.
Sign up for Professional Family Portraits for free now, and take natural, high-quality photos that preserve precious moments in time.
What are some of your own favorite tips and tricks for photographing your families? Share your ideas in the comments below!
Commercial photographer Kirk Tuck has photographed many extraordinary people, from President Bill Clinton to Academy Award winner Renée Zellweger. He’s also authored several books including Photographic Lighting Equipment: A Comprehensive Guide for Digital Photographers, Minimalist Lighting: Professional Techniques for Location Photography, and Commercial Photography Handbook: Business Techniques for Professional Digital Photographers.
Next in our holiday print lab series are our neighbors just over the hill: Bay Photo. As the first pro-only lab that we introduced at SmugMug, Bay Photo has earned the trust of pro SmugMug photographers since January 2009. Remember that anyone with a Portfolio and Business account can set your own prices and sell all kinds of print products direct from your SmugMug galleries. At Bay Photo, your clients can order Photo Extras like mats, frames and more. Perfect for making a little extra money this holiday season!
Today we’re getting the inside scoop about ThinWraps, one of Bay Photo’s most lightweight mounting options. If you’ve never seen or ordered one for yourself, this is your chance to see just how these special prints are made.
Where does Bay Photo find its inspiration?
We listen to our customers! Our customers are professional photographers and creative artists and we get amazing ideas from them. We do what we can but some ideas are just too unique to add to the line up. We also listen to our employees. Our team members have a ton of experience in their specific area of production. They come up with awesome ideas for how to modify an existing product or for completely new ones. Again we wish we could implement more of the ideas that come from our team members.
What do Bay Photo employees think?
They take pride in producing a product that is of a higher quality than what can be found elsewhere. We make products for professionals and we don’t skimp, often doing by hand what other production facilities may use machines to do. We have true artisans in the lab who refuse to put out an inferior product under the Bay Photo name. Plus, it’s fun!!
How did ThinWraps get their start?
ThinWraps actually have a very interesting beginning. The idea came about one night, late at night, when Larry, the owner, and Polo, one of our production department leaders, were making sample books for our trade show booth. We wanted to show all the different materials we could offer on our books, but didn’t want to use regular swatches and didn’t have the space to have a book of every type of material, so we decided to make the front covers only and mount them on the wall of the booth. When they were prepping the different materials they wrapped one of our photowrap covers, added a block to the back and a light bulb went off! Why not wrap prints on board add a mount block and hang that on the wall? It makes a unique, beautiful finished product ready to hang right out of the box and very contemporary looking.
Once we put it into our ordering system we knew ThinWraps were really a great idea because soon customers were asking for more options and sizes and competitors were starting to offer them too. Our original ThinWraps were the same as what you can order now, but we have added more options; Glossy and Satin laminate over lustre or metallic photopaper or canvas all wrapped around a board and finished with a nice back and your option of a mount block or an easel. You can also choose the original ThinWrap or a padded SoftTop ThinWrap!
Why would you recommend pro photographers give ThinWraps a try?
It is a clean looking product and is very easy for the end customer. It’s ready to hang on the wall right out of the shipping box. No framing or additional service needed. It’s contemporary looking piece and that is playful enough for a kids room or professional enough for an office.
How would you recommend keeping ThinWraps looking great?
The ThinWrap is very versatile and is well finished to last a long time. Like any photographic product it should not be put in direct sunlight, but it is also a product that can put up with a little bit more abuse; if the kids have sticky fingers, the laminate protects the image and can be cleaned off! Our favorite ThinWrap option combo is the metallic paper with satin laminate. It has the awesome metallic sheen without the glossiness which adds depth and a touch of something special to just about any image!
Thanks again to Bay Photo for this detailed look at an innovative product we love! Once again, if you’ve never before turned your images into beautiful prints at SmugMug, you’re missing out. You can easily turn your favorite photos into prints and gifts by opening any gallery and clicking the Add to Cart button. If you’ve disabled printing to visitors, the button will read “Owner Buy.” See how to print at SmugMug.
If you’ve ever considered opening your own photo studio for your clients, this month’s SmugMug podcast is just for you.
Studio photography offers a ton of convenience in a compact space. You’re in total control, leaving nothing to the weather, light, temperature, or anything else that could complicate your interaction with your clients. But renting a commercial space can be expensive. Why not use the extra space you’ve already have?
We talked with family and senior photographer Steve Harrington about how his booming business began right in his basement. He answered questions that you may have wondered about having a home studio, like:
- How did your family react to this decision?
- Do you need special insurance?
- How do you handle marketing of your address on social media?
- Have you ever had a customer just arrive at your door?
- Did anyone pass on your services because you were working out of your home?
Photo by Steve Harrington Photography
Listen to the podcast now on our new podcast site! And we hope that those you considering the move to studio photography learns a bit more about the options available to you.
PS. If you’re hungry for more, don’t forget to visit SmugMug’s education site for more podcasts, video tutorials, our live events calendar and tons of articles about photography, running a business, and how to get the most out of your SmugMug site. See you there!
One of the most popular (and constant) debates between photographers is how to properly price your work and know that you’re not over- or under-charging for what you do. We’ve covered this topic before, but like fingerprints, no two photographers are the same. How do you know that someone else’s magic number is right for you?
Pricing Podcast with Dane Sanders
Tune in to our latest podcast with the inimitable Dane Sanders: photographer, entrepreneur, educator and author of countless business strategies for photographers like you. He’s no stranger to helping passionate people find their stride, get their businesses off the ground and turn their love into a lucrative way of life.
In this podcast, you’ll hear answers to some of the most important pro questions, such as:
- Are you a freelance or a signature photographer, and why does it matter?
- How do you get past the “newbie mindset” and stop sabotaging your success?
- Are there any benefits to being new, and how can you leverage the opportunity?
- Can you afford to accept that next photo gig?
- How do you charge a fair price without scaring the client away?
- Why should you trust your print lab?
Dive in to iTunes right now and start listening! Podcasts are the perfect way to give yourself a competitive edge while you’re processing last night’s photos, or while you’re stuck on your morning commute.
We REALLY Want You To Succeed! Listen and Win More Ways to Learn
If you’re hungry for even more photo knowledge, we’ve got a Full Scholarship* to give away for Skip Cohen University’s Summer Session in Chicago, August 11-14, 2013. One lucky winner will get a chance to fine-tune their photo and business skills, meet other photographers and recharge their creative batteries. Read more about the program here.
* Airfare and accommodations not included
Here’s how to enter:
- Listen to our most recent podcast with Dane Sanders.
- Tweet your most memorable “A-ha!” moment at us and use the hash tag #ahasmugmug
We’ll pick one lucky random winner on July 3rd, 2013.
So keep listening, keep learning and start getting more light bulb moments when it comes to your business!
UPDATE: Congratulations to our winner, Joy Michelle Photography (@joymphotography)! We’ll be in touch with you ASAP with all the info for SCU’s exciting summer session.
These days, everyone has a website and we think they’re great. But how do you know exactly what your friends, family and fans are really thinking when they see it? And if you’re a pro making money from your craft: Are you sure that your site is doing everything it can to get you clients and seal the deal? How much business are you losing from silly mistakes?
After browsing tons of sites and hearing the advice from our marvelous team of Support Heroes, we’ve compiled a list of tips to help you get the best, most effective and appealing website you possibly can.
1) Your Contact Information
Omitting or hiding ways for people to reach you is a grave mistake, one that you may not even know you’re making. Think it through: If someone finds your site and wants to talk with you, how would they do it? If you forget to include your contact information (or hide it several clicks deep), would you expect them to spend more than 5 minutes hunting for it before they give up? Chances are you don’t even have that long before they move on.
It’s true that putting your email address or phone number out in public can be risky. But there are plenty of great ways to let your fans reach out to you without throwing the door open to everyone that walks by.
What you should do: First and foremost, have a way to contact you either at the top, bottom, or in the navigation bar of your website. With SmugMug it’s easy to add a link using the Easy Customizer, plus we highly recommend that SmugMug Portfolio and Business users fill out the Customer Email info in their Account Settings. This way, anyone clicking the “Contact” link in your footer will get a safe, handy pop-up box where they can send you a direct message. You can even customize the text and place that link in your navbar.
The great thing is that everyone has a website these days, including you. But the downside is… everyone has a website these days. How will you stand out? The answer is: Be yourself! You have a personality and it’s completely unique. Use your witty language, goofy selfies or whatever it takes to show the world that you’re way more than just another link on the web. Talk about what drives you and why you’re so passionate about your work. They’ll absolutely love meeting you in your studio or your next gallery show.
What you should do: It’s hard to talk about yourself and it’s even harder to weed out what strangers want to hear (vs what’s TMI), but don’t be afraid to browse through some of your favorite websites and see what sticks in your mind about their bios. And what doesn’t.
3) Punctuality, Punctuation, Competence
Nothing looks more sloppy than a super-slow website with broken images and dead links. Even if you aren’t looking to make money through your website, you still want to look poised, polished, and perfect as any pro. Right? So do a regular audit of your site, click those links and update them regularly to make sure they work the first time, every time. When you’re logged out of your site and viewing like a guest, what do you see?
What you should do: On SmugMug, we already give you warp-speed page loads and unlimited traffic and sharing. So become as famous as you want. We can take it. Our Share button will generate handy share and embed links for all your photos, so you can be sure those images look beautiful every single time.
Your gorgeous photos may speak for themselves, but if your site’s a mess the message will still get lost. K.I.S.S. When you have house guests you clean up, so extend the same courtesy to your online space. No one needs to see (or trip and fall into) the photographic equivalent of your laundry pile.
What you should do: Curate a few examples of your very best work and make it easy to find via a slideshow, featured gallery at the top of your homepage, or a straightofrward link in your navigation bar. Similarly, create a clearly-labeled About page and a way for them to contact you. Love to archive? That’s OK. Just keep the rest of your photos neatly organized, too, so leisurely browsers can find their way around.
5) Your Brand
Panic not, weekend warriors. Even if you’re not a working professional, it’s important – but easy! – to give your viewers a unified look and feel that translates to a cohesive experience. Yes it sounds markety, but simply using the same colors and font size from page to page can keep your fans feeling grounded and sure that you’ve got your stuff together. And you do, right?
If you’re a pro, having your company’s name, logo and a simple set of colors can be all you need to say, “Yeah, I got it.”
What you should do: Customization on the new SmugMug is as easy as drag-and-drop. You can add your own logo to the top of your site, pick your own colors and even create your own Themes that match your brand. It’s easiest to just try it, but you can get an idea of how it’s done by browsing the articles on our help pages.
What you should do (for Legacy SmugMug): The Easy Customizer makes it easy for Power Users, Portfolio and Business SmugMuggers to add a custom logo graphic to the top of every page. Choose matching colors using the tools under the Background, Text, Boxes and Photos bars and you’re all set to go. Read more about our customization options here, and, pros, don’t forget about Order Branding, too.
6) Your Services
The key to making great sales is to do the thinking for potential customers so they don’t have to. The most basic way to do this is to be crystal-spanking-clear about what your specialities are and which services you offer. Whether you shoot BMX, babies or brides, making it obvious in your brand and portfolio is the best (and most efficient) way to make sure that the right customers are finding you. After all, if you’re a commercial fashion photographer, do you want to be fielding questions from the local high school sports team?
What you should do: Create a specific page on your site that lists out what services that you do offer, and give your fans a phone number, email address or other way to get in touch with you. If you just want a guestbook for comments, we recommend uploading at least one photo and turning on comments so folks can say hi. Check out FAQ 29 and 30 to see how to do this if you’re using Legacy SmugMug. Here’s a tutorial that shows you how to create a custom page in the all-new SmugMug.
7) Your Best Work
People are looking to see just what you’re made of, so this is your chance to sum it up and show it off. Curate a gallery that contains the best examples of what you do and keep it updated with fresh new photos as you take them. Choose images that really show that you love what you do, and show the full breadth of your abilities: Lighting, posing, serendipity, emotion… this is what people love to see! As an added bonus, you’re choosing the clients and fans who resonate the most with what you do.
What you should do: Take a swing through the photos that you remember best and that you think represent yourself. It can be hard, but you can always use Collect Photo to add a virtual copy to one gallery, then easily remove the ones that you don’t think make the cut.
8) Your Location
The web is a wonderful thing and brings people near and far to your doorstep, but this can be a setback, too. For example, it’s obvious to you that your town of Springfield is in New Jersey, but potential Googlers in Massachusetts, Illinois, Oregon and Missouri may not be so sympathetic. Be specific about the areas that you serve so that you’ll score top search results by clients looking to hire locals like you.
What you should do: If you talk about your location in your homepage or About page, be specific about the state or country where you’re willing to work. You can also add those terms and keywords in your Account Settings > Discovery > Search section so that Google and other search engines pick you up ASAP.
9) Good Grammar
Need we say anything about this, really? Your website is a representation of you, right down to the words you’ll use. Please be sure you make sense, you’ve put in the effort to have it proofread by someone else, and that everything looks as clean and polished as you are.
What you should do: Write, edit, then get a second (or third, or fourth) opinion. Read the copy on your site out loud. Check your spelling. Sleep on it, then read it again. All the usual tricks of the trade will help you step back and get as much perspective as possible. The best part is that any- and everything is easily changed on your SmugMug site at any moment… so edit as much as you like!
We hope that these 9 tips come in handy the next time you’re spring cleaning your website. Got more great ideas for getting fans finding you? Please share!
- Account Settings and what they do
- SmugMug’s four fabulous account types
- Get a Link to share (with one click)
- How to feature slideshows and galleries on your homepage
- Get organized with Categories
- How to start branding with the Easy Customizer
- What are my customization options?
- Order Branding: The SmugMug pro’s secret weapon
- Leverage SmugMug to make the most money
- Copy-and-paste customization FAQ
- Collecting photos for easy portfolios
- SEO made easy on SmugMug
In the eight weeks leading up to the biggest Wedding Photography tradeshow of the year (WPPI!) we’ve been posting up a storm of great posts featuring sage advice, photo tips, and SmugMug tricks all aimed at helping you become a better photographer in the business of love.
We truly hope these articles have been inspiring and educational, whether you’re a seasoned pro ready for the best wedding season of your career, or a beginner looking for ways to meld your love of photography into everyday life.
Here’s the recap, just in case you missed one of these great articles along the way.
Photo by Lee Morris
The Business of Love
- Intimate Portraiture: A behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to make your boudoir studio truly successful. Guest post by Je Revele Fine Art Photography.
- The Changing Business of Wedding Photography: Film to digital and beyond. Are you keeping up? Guest post by our friend, Lee Morris.
- Are All Weddings Created Equal? How and why traditional engagement photography techniques won’t work for same-sex couples. Podcast with Kathryn Hamm and Thea Dodd.
- Quadruple Your Wedding Reach in Half the Time: Just like it says. Learn about SmugMug, SnapKnot, and the best workflow for same-day edits with Vanessa Joy.
The Love of Photography
- Photowalks with Scott Jarvie: Circle the cameras, round up your friends! How to plan and pull off the photo event of the year.
Your SmugMug Toolkit
- Privacy Cheat Sheet: We’ve got a number of safeguards that can be mixed and matched to create the perfect bouquet of privacy for you, no matter what you shoot.
- Print lab Love: You’ve probably noticed that SmugMug offers not one, not two, but FOUR fabulous print lab options, each offering a full array of great print products. Here they are.
- Events, Favorites and Sharegroups: Save your friends a few brain cells. How to help them easily find the photos they want.
- How to Maximize Your Wedding Workflow, using SmugMug.
Wedding shooters: How exhausting is it to stay on top of your marketing plan? You always have to stay a step ahead and hunt for new clients while making your current ones happy. With thousands of photos to edit, you don’t have a lot of time to curate your photos, organize them in sets and send them out to magazine and blog editors.
And let’s not even talk about figuring out the best ways to harness the most powerful tool of them all: Facebook.
So why don’t you join us while we talk about it?
Same Day Edits: A Wedding Workflow Webinar with Vanessa Joy and Rob Adams
Pro wedding photographer Vanessa Joy and wedding videographer Rob Adams will share what they know (and answer your questions) about achieving the holy grail of all pro photographers: To take the right pictures, effectively market your work, and deliver the photos to your clients in record-breaking time. Win/win/win.
Here are the deets:
March 26, 2013 – 8:00 PM ET
Duration: 1.5 hours
Register HERE at GoToMeeting
Vanessa will show you how to use SmugMug, SnapKnot and other tools get your SEO maximized blog post, online gallery preview, photo slideshow, 2nd photographer photos, Facebook marketing and blog/magazine publication submissions all done on the night of the wedding, and all while wowing your clients and their guests with a same-day-slideshow and same-day-album.
You won’t want to miss this 1.5-hour webinar that will drastically improve your workflow, marketing, social media and client satisfaction.
Bonus Workshop in Los Angeles
Want to learn a full day’s worth of info about this topic? Check out their upcoming workshop, “Beyond the Same Day Edit,” on April 14th, 2013. Get the details about it on creativeLIVE and enroll for free.
Here’s to kicking off the most successful wedding season, yet!
UPDATE! In case you missed it, we’ve saved the webinar so you can watch it any time on SmugMug’s YouTube channel.
All photos by Vanessa Joy Photography
As you get ready for wedding season, we want to send a friendly reminder to any of you out there who may still be scared of one of our favorite Business features: Events.
Don’t be intimidated, because Events are just what the doctor ordered to keep your friends, fans and family sane. If you’ve never used this feature — or its little brother, Sharegroups, available to Basic, Power and Portfolio members — here are just a few reasons why you should dive in and give it a whirl.
1. Your friends will thank you.
Instead of sending a huge catalog of links to your wedding guests, send just one. Both Events and Sharegroups are “islands” that contain as many galleries as you wish, so there’s no need for guests to get off track. Mentally, it’s an easier and more friendly approach… especially since you get to pick the URL.
In short, you share just one link and your visitors don’t have to poke around your vacation pics looking for the bride.
2. You can exercise your OCD tendencies.
Events come bundled with lots of cool features, like a place to display a slideshow of favorites and details about the shoot, the ability to add in as many galleries as you wish and arrange them, email templates for sharing and lots more. Everything stays neat and tidy, and you can use all the options or just a few. Best of all, each client (we call them “Participants”) gets their own special view of the Event, and a unique gallery to hold their Favorites. So whether it’s the bride, her mom or a favorite aunt, their selections don’t get mixed up.
Sharegroups are the simplified version of the above: Bundle all the galleries you want under one Sharegroup and share the link. Like Events, you can enter a description and sort the included galleries in whatever order you wish. You’re still able to tweak ’til it squeaks.
3. You stay in control.
You’re the star; everyone’s waiting with bated breath to see your photos. When you’re ready, release all their galleries with one click, and (if you have a Business account) keep track of everyone who takes a look. The secret? Events’ registration feature. Just toggle the Registration setting to “Required” and anyone viewing your Event will be asked for their email address.
Both Events and Sharegroups can be locked down with viewing passwords, so images don’t fall into the wrong hands.
The 2-Minute Guide to Making Your First Event (or Sharegroup)
1. Make it.
To create an Event, open up your Account Settings and look under “Business.” Click on the “Making Money” tab and you can manage your Events on the right:
For Sharegroups, look under your Accounts Settings‘ “Discovery” tab and find Sharegroups under the “Sharing” tab:
2. Give the details.
Once you’ve opened the manager, click the “New” button at the top right and fill in your details.
3. Add the good stuff.
You can add galleries and Participants right away to Events. Don’t forget to click “Save” once you do!
For Sharegroups, you’ll have to save your new Sharegroup first, then go back to add the galleries to it.
If you want all the details about how these features work, check out our help pages for all the info. We’ve got a few other articles in our resource center for Pros on the endless benefits of Events, too.
Do you know Lee Morris, pro photographer, video producer and wicked-good educator? You should. He’s an incredible, seasoned commercial, advertising, fashion and wedding photographer, plus he’s co-founder of the refreshingly useful website Fstoppers.com. He’s also a friend of ours who took a moment to reflect on the wedding business, why it’s so hard, how it’s changing and how pros like you can make the most of it by staying true to your heart.
by Lee Morris
Weddings, From Film to Digital
It’s hard to imagine now, but just a few years ago wedding photographers burned every image into a single piece of film. If they didn’t expose or focus the image correctly, the frame was ruined. If the film was processed incorrectly, scratched, or lost, the picture was gone forever. A single piece of film with a quality image on it was a very valuable thing and wedding photographers charged accordingly. It was common for wedding photographers to charge a single flat rate to show up to the wedding but then an additional fee for the number of images taken and processed. At the time it was very common for couples to pay their wedding photographers a few hundred dollars to take the pictures, but they would then spend thousands paying for prints and albums to be made after the event. Just a few years ago, a digital copy of a photograph, one that you could view on a computer was worthless to couples getting married. They wanted classic prints that they could hold in their hands, hang on the wall, and share with their friends, and they were willing to pay a premium for them. Times have changed.
As digital started to take over, wedding photographers were very slow to give away or even sell the files to their clients and rightfully so; for their entire careers, they made most of their money selling prints, not actually shooting. Many photographers that were unwilling to adapt their businesses actually went under because they thought they couldn’t compete with the new “cheap” digital market. What many of these photographers failed to realize was that the money was still there, in fact, as wedding photography progressed, couples were actually willing to spend more; many of them simply weren’t interested in paying for expensive prints in a digital world.
The Role of Sentimentality in Business
When it comes to managing a business as intimate as wedding photography it’s easy to let your emotions take over. I try my best to approach my photography business as I would any other business. I need to manage my time, keep my current clients happy, consistently book new clients, and make money. So many photographers fail to meet at least one of these goals. Maybe you are really good at making your current clients happy but you work too much and you don’t enjoy your job or have time to enjoy your life. Maybe you book a ton of work but you don’t charge enough and you are constantly struggling financially. During the digital revolution many photographers that didn’t change their pricing structure were incapable of making their current clients happy. Maybe their pictures were great but as digital started to take over, couples felt like they were getting nickeled and dimed after the event. If you can’t make your current clients happy, you are going to struggle to find new clients.
When I started my business years ago I learned very early on that I hated making prints and albums. I could shoot a wedding in a few hours and make a few thousand dollars but it would take me a full day to retouch a few pictures, print them myself or take the files to a lab, package them up, take them to the post office and I would only make a few dollars profit. In many cases my clients would have to wait weeks to actually get their prints because I was out of the state shooting another job. I decided that I was going to start giving away the digital files with each of my weddings. Maybe I would lose a few dollars on the back end but I was also gaining a ton of free time and my clients were happier because they could print their pictures, how they wanted, when they wanted.
As a single guy in my twenties, money was important to me but free time was far more valuable. Once I had booked my 20 or 30 weddings for the year I knew I had plenty of income to support myself and I now had the security to start working on other things. With the extra time I had gained, I created the photography website Fstoppers.com. If I had focused on custom prints and albums like other photographers do I have no doubt I would have made a bit more money but Fstoppers has been far more rewarding. Creating videos for our website like Bon Jovi’s photographer behind the scenes, or Peter Hurley’s: The Art Behind The Headshot, or our newest video: How To Become A Wedding Photographer, has been the most exciting experiences of my life.
My point is that you may love your photography career (I sure do) but if you can give yourself some extra time, who knows what you will be able to create.
SmugMug = Time = Money
When I found SmugMug I realized that it filled 3 major needs in my business:
1. High resolution backups are included with the subscription.
2. It allowed me to promote my photography by giving guests and family members a place to go to see my work.
3. Bay Photo integration means I give my clients high quality prints without actually having to do any work.
By simplifying my business I was meeting all 4 goals above; I had more free time, my clients were happier, I was marketing to new potential clients, and I was making money from print sales each month.
It’s easy to think that we know what’s best for our clients. We may know that if they don’t book an album now, they will probably never get one made. But the sad truth is that many of our clients would rather put their pictures on Facebook than deal with an album. It’s important to remember that we are hired by these couples to do a service for them; if they don’t want prints, we should figure out what they do want and charge them accordingly for that. If you’ve ever bought a car before you know how obnoxious it can be when the salesman tries to sell you on something you don’t want. There are so many other ways to make money with wedding photography that may not involve incredibly expensive prints. I make far more money than I ever did selling prints selling engagment and bridal sessions, setting up a photobooth at receptions, selling video slideshows of the event, and offering a video service. Many photographers also don’t know that SmugMug makes it incredibly easy to sell digital copies of files. If you don’t want to give away your files like I do, you are able to set the size and price for each individual picture.
I want to make it clear that I love high quality prints and that many wedding photographers make a lot of money selling prints, even today. I love seeing my work printed huge, professionally framed, and hanging on a wall. My point is simply that times are changing and the current generation of brides probably do not want the same things that their mothers wanted. To stay ahead of the pack you need to deliver exactly what your clients are looking for, not what you think they will appreciate one day.
If I could sum up this article into a single point it would be this: Listen to your clients, and give them what they want. A happy bride will tell her friends how wonderful you are you will never have to worry about a shortage of work. In some cases, especially this one, it can make your life a whole lot simpler and you might even make more money.
All photos by RL Morris Weddings
Get a Boost in the Business of Love
In the spirit of wedding season and WPPI, we’re going to pick one extremely lucky winner who will sharpen their wedding photography skills and fistbump the biggest stars of the wedding biz in Las Vegas.
Here’s what we’re giving away:
- 1 copy of Lee Morris’ How to Become a Commercial Wedding Photographer DVD ($299.99 value)
- 1 all-access pass to WPPI 2013 in Las Vegas, NV ($399 value)
Here’s how to enter:
- LIKE SmugMug’s Facebook page
- LIKE Fstoppers’ Facebook page
- POST A COMMENT BELOW answering the question:
What (to you) is the hardest part of being a wedding photographer?
Get your entries in and we’ll randomly pick one winner on February 13, 2013. So keep your eyes peeled and don’t forget to check back for when we announce it here.
Edited to add: The giveaway is over but you can still learn! We highly recommend that you check out Lee’s video, available now on the Fstopper’s site. It’s a comprehensive, 14-hour, 2-years-in-the-making tutorial covering everything you’ll ever need to do know to become a successful wedding photographer. Check out the trailer to get more details about what you’ll learn and why wedding photography will change your life.
UPDATE: We’ve spun the wheel of destiny and it picked… Dennis Schroader! Congrats Dennis and we’ll be in touch with you to deliver your prizes. Thanks to everyone who shared their thoughts with all of us in the wedding industry!