Over the last few weeks we’ve been thinking about our big planet and all the weird riddles that concept brings. We’ve brought you information about tiny photography, tips for your small business, how to shrink the gap between you and your fans, and how to make your time sitting at your desk smaller so you go to out and explore this glorious world.
Here’s a quick recap.
Photo by Liquid Drop Art
- Brian Valentine’s Beautiful and Savage Garden Fantastic (and useful) tips for taking your own stunning macro bug and flower photos.
- The Weird, Wonderful World of Droplets eBook author Corrie White shares her story of how she got started taking intensely gorgeous droplet photos… and how you can, too.
- Tilt Shift Miniaturization Honey, I shrunk New York! An interview with fine art photographer Richard Silver.
Your small business
- How to Stay in Business Our friend Varina Patel magically juggles her photo education business, travel, and her family. She shared some great tips with us about how to keep the first afloat.
- 7 Rules for Small Businesses Will your small business survive? Quickbooks Certified Advisor Kathy Rappaport has something to say about that.
Shrink your workflow
- SmugMug time savers hiding under your nose It’s gorgeous outside, so what are you waiting for? Use these tricks to save time at your desk, so you can get back to shooting.
- Kickstart your Lightroom Workflow Matt Kloskowski is a master Adobe educator and it shows. Here are his suggestions for Lightroom users to get your photos organized before you can say, “Publish!”
Shrink your world
At SmugMug, we’re all about supporting your business and we love to help you succeed. Today’s guest post is by our longtime SmugMug customer and successful full-time professional photographer, Kathy Rappaport. She is CEO (Chief Everything Officer) at Flash Frozen Photography Inc. in Woodland Hills, California. For many years she kept her pencil sharp as an Accountant and honed her Marketing and Operational skills as a VP in Bank Management. She’s a QuickBooks Certified Advisor and consults with photographers on best business practices when she isn’t photographing families, children, dogs and women in lingerie (though usually not all at the same time). So, we were thrilled when she shared her tips with us, and we wanted to share them with you.
The US Small Business Administration says that 80% of small businesses fail in the first five years. So what are some good business practices for photographers so they don’t fail? Or better yet, so they succeed? Here are a few of mine!
1) Good Accounting!
If the reason you work is to make money, then you’d better track how much you make, how much things cost, who owes you money and how much you owe the government. My favorite solution is QuickBooks. It comes in Mac and PC Flavors and even Online and mobile editions now. My personal favorite is the Premier Edition (which is for PC) because you can track your costs and customers in detail. There are many good features to the program like customized invoices, sales tax tracking, customer tracking, inventory and product sales. It’s pretty easy to learn and maintain. Take care of your money and it will take care of you! There are other solutions, but, this is reasonable and comprehensive. And way better than a shoebox.
2) Good Pricing!
“My camera is paid for and I love to shoot so anyone who pays me something is my client.” Well, just because people pay you doesn’t make you a professional. A Professional has a business license, insurance and charges money for their products and services. You have to have good accounting to figure out good pricing. A good place to start is to figure out how much a fair hourly wage is for your skill level. Then multiply that times three or four. Why? Your camera will need replacement, your lenses will surely need service, your cost of business (like insurance, props, gas, supplies, your phone, printer , software, internet) are a part of price you charge. Don’t forget some of your time is spent on editing and finishing your work. You need to include saving for your future. Your retirement, taxes, and replacing your equipment. You can add up your costs and figure out a daily/weekly/hourly rate plus time to arrive at a price that will keep you in business.
3) Good Customer Service!
I hear over and over from some so-called professional photographers that it’s not necessary to call customers back or that they wait weeks to deliver work. If they have some miscommunication they send an email. The best thing you can do is be omnipresent to your clients. Respond NOW. Call if there is a problem. Knock their socks off and they’ll tell their friends. Disappoint them and they’ll tell the world. Underpromise and overdeliver. Find something special to say thank you. Maybe an extra print from the merchandise selection of your SmugMug catalog. Even a handwritten greeting card says you care.
4) Have a Good Plan!
Don’t just have an idea and implement it right away. Think about it. Plan it out in the form of a business plan. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Plan your marketing efforts, your customer service initiative, and your business goals. Make a calendar and a task list. Plan out the amount of money you want to make, how to get there and budget it out. It’s like taking a cross country trip without having a road map if you do things by the seat of your pants.
As a solopreneur, you shouldn’t do it all. You do need to get legal advice and accounting advice. You can get contracts online, but, they might not be right for your situation. Same with accounting. You should never take everyone’s advice when it comes to accounting and taxes. They are really personalized. Find out what kind of entity you should be. I hear S Corp and LLC all the time as advice but they really might be wrong for you and cost you big time in the tax department. You might have some graphics skills, but, a good printer and graphic designer will present your work to make you stand out. Maybe you even need to hire someone to train you in how to do something so you can do it properly instead of guessing. I don’t know the first thing about HTML and having an expert handy makes me sleep better at night knowing that everything is right.
6) Do Things the Official Way!
Don’t be a scofflaw. Get your location permits, business license; your DBA, carry liability Insurance, your Sales Tax License, your tax Identification number. Go to your local chamber of commerce or accountant and see what you need to do to be a real business. Not having those things can cause you to have penalties, interest, fines, or expensive legal and accounting fees. If people pay you to photograph, then the end result is you have a business. The IRS says you have to file a tax return if someone pays you as little as $400.00.
Practice your craft. Up your game. Take care of yourself. In your marketing plan you should be out there meeting people both inside and outside the industry. Learn about business just as much as you spend time learning about the latest lighting techniques. Up your game and keep improving and learning. Read good business books. You will never know everything, but don’t stop adding to your bag of tricks. Challenge yourself to reach for the stars. I know you can do it.
Attention, Lightroom lovers! Today we have a great post by one of our friends, Matt Kloskowski, full-time Education Director for Kelby Media Group and a Tampa-based photographer. He’s the Editor of Lightroom Magazine, author of several best-selling Photoshop books and teaches Photoshop, Lightroom and photography seminars around the world. So we’re flattered that he hand-picked a few favorite ways for Lightroom-armed Smuggers like you to get their photos finished faster. After all, we’d rather be outdoors shooting in the sunshine than stuck at our desks. Wouldn’t you?
If you’re a pro photographer thinking about joining the National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP) and continuing your photo education, they’re offering a free 24-hour trial membership now. Try it out!
Hey everyone, Matt Kloskowski here with some tips on speeding up your Lightroom workflow. We’ve all heard the phrase “time is money.” Well, if you’re shooting weddings or events, you need to get through your photos and get them organized as fast as possible. Then you can get on to the good stuff of editing and getting out there to shoot more photos. So to help out, I’ve compiled 5 of my favorite tips to kickstart your workflow and keep you moving through Lightroom as quickly as possible.
Tip #1. Use Flags Instead of Stars
A big part of speeding up your workflow is identifying your favorite photos in some way. That way you can do something with them. Well, if you look under the photo menu you’ll see Lightroom has 3 ways of picking out your favorites. First there’s Set Flag. next, there’s Set Rating and finally there’s Set Color Label.
Here’s my thoughts. Ratings and Color Labels are really difficult to work with. Most people are familiar with the 1-5 star rating system but the main drawback is that it has too many choices. 5 stars is a keeper right? 4 stars probably means the photo is pretty good. 3 means it’s decent. 2 would be bad. and 1 star would be a reject that you throw away. Well what happens as you go through your photos and you come across something that isn’t a throw away or isn’t an absolute favorite keeper? You sit there and debate with yourself whether it’s a 2,3 or 4 star photo. Either way, it’s not your favorite so you’ll probably never do anything with it. But yet, you’re giving it too much time in the rating process. And inevitably, when something takes too long, we stop doing it.
So try this. Instead of using ratings, use the flagging system. This way, you get two choices:
- Flagged means you like it.
- Reject means you don’t and you want to delete it.
Go through your photos quickly and hit “P” to flag or “X” to reject. If you don’t flag it or reject it, then it stays unflagged which is that gray area that you’re just not sure about. But you don’t have to press a key to be indecisive – Lightroom just assumes you’re indecisive about the photo by leaving it unflagged. So your job becomes really easy! Flag it if you like it and think there’s a remote chance you’ll do something with it again one day. Reject it if you don’t. Then hit the right arrow key and move on.
Tip #2. Delete the Bad Stuff (and an easy way to do it)
Another way to speed things up is to keep your library as clean as possible and get rid of the bad stuff. If you followed the previous step and are using the Flag system, you should have some rejects that were marked with an X. A really simple way to delete them is to go up to the Photo menu and choose “Delete Rejected Photos.” Lightroom will delete all the rejects all at once so you don’t have to go back and get rid of them later.
Tip: When you try to delete a photo Lightroom will ask you if you want to delete it from the hard drive or just from the Lightroom library. Personally, I want me rejects gone forever so I delete them from the hard drive rather than just removing them from Lightroom.
Tip #3. Use Collections
Using Collections in Lightroom is more important than ever and probably one of the fastest and best ways for you to speed up your workflow. Photos that go into a collection are the photos that should be one click away and the photos that you’ll want to see most often.
To put it simply, think of a Collection as a photo album. Let’s say you have 2000 images from a wedding. You want to quickly show them to the bride/groom or family. Do you go through and show them all 2000 photos? No way. Instead, you’d create an album. Well that’s what a collection is. It’s a way for you to get to your favorite photos in just one click no matter where you are in Lightroom because the Collections panel is everywhere.
Typically, I’ll look at my photos in the Folders panel and go through them one by one. I’ll hit the letter P (for Pick) to flag photos as a favorite when I come across them. Then I can quickly sort to just see my picks by clicking the little flagged icon in the Filter strip just above the filmstrip:
Once I’ve figured out what my favorites are I select them all (Edit > Select All), go to the Collections panel and create a new Collection with a descriptive name (usually the last name of the bride/groom). Now, no matter what I do in the Folders panel and no matter what folder I’m looking at, I have a one-click way to get to my favorite photos from that event.
Tip #4. Use Collection Sets
Collections have an extra level of organization called Collection Sets that are key for events like weddings. Think of a Collection Set as a group of nested folders. If you put your picks from a wedding/event into a Collection, you’d have all the best photos from all parts of the wedding in one place (the Collection you created). The problem is that this Collection could be huge, so this is where Collection Sets come in.
You’d create a Collection Set (example: the top level folder with the bride/groom name) and then create Collections within the set for each part of the wedding (example: formals, church, reception, etc…). Here’s what a Collection Set could look like in Lightroom:
Tip #5. Use Smart Collections for the Long View
Collections are also smart: They can organize themselves automatically as you import photos into Lightroom. One example of this could be a Smart Collection to help organize your portfolio photos. These are photos that help get you new business as you update your website, so you’ll want to keep them close, easy to get to, and – most importantly – easily updated.
For example, anytime you edit a show-worthy image, put the word “portfolio” in the image title or give it a certain color flag or label. Because Lightroom’s Smart Collections are “smart”, you can set up a rule to detect that this photo meets certain criteria and have it placed directly into a “Portfolio” collection for you.
The best part about it is that once you set up your Smart Collection, Lightroom automatically does the rest.
Bonus Smug Tip: Get Them Uploaded Safely
Once your photos are all cleaned up and ready to go, you’re just a few clicks away from uploading them safely into your SmugMug website. The publish plugin is free, gets your photos seamlessly into SmugMug, and also lets you sync, make galleries and keep your online presence as clean and organized as your Lightroom library. You can also see and adjust your customer’s Event Favorites, republish, and even proof your orders all right within the SmugMug Publish module. Get it now!
What Lightroom tricks have shaved seconds off of your photo editing workflow? We’d love to know!
Bored with shooting the same ol’, same ol’? If you’re like the rest of us, malaise is destined to happen eventually but there are lots of things you can do to breathe new life into yourself… and your camera. Here’s ten ways we recommend.
photo by Windermere Studios
1) Shoot something new
If you’re a portrait or a wedding photographer, you do the same thing all the time. Why not point that lens at something else: A sunset, people on the street, flowers in your garden, skateboarders at the park, the Milky Way? You may discover new ways to use your existing gear that you never would have thought of before.
And who knows! You may even end up finding a new niche.
2) Find a group to shoot with
Nothing lifts the mood like a smile, and there’s tons of that at a photo walk. Social sites like Meetup.com and Google+ are only two of many options where you can find like-minded photographers like you getting together to shoot something fun. It’s always inspiring to see what other people are using and doing, and you may end up making a few new friends, too.
Better yet, if you’re thinking about organizing your own photo walk, we have some tips for you.
3) Shoot a theme
Sometimes the way to stretch yourself is – yes, it’s weird – to limit your boundaries. Try taking pictures of just red things, a series only looking upwards, or any series you can think of with a common theme. You’ll find yourself liberated by the rules, grounded by great focus, and perhaps even seeing something new in the mundane.
Try uploading those photos into a single, themed gallery, too. You might like the result!
photo by Schmootography
4) Rent something new
With companies like Borrowlenses.com out there, it’s so easy to take your dream lens for a spin. From macros to mega-zooms, you can get anything you want shipped to your door and enjoy it for as little (or as long) as you like. Especially great for getting to use highly specialized lenses like fisheyes, which pack a lot of punch mixed up in with your regular portfolio offerings.
And did you know that Borrowlenses is part of our ClubSmug? They’re offering logged-in SmugMuggers a special discount on your next lens rental, so why wait?
5) Try a Daily Photo project
Daily photo projects aren’t a new concept, but there’s a reason why they’re still around. It’s pretty neat to take a picture every day, whether you frame it with a common theme or just take a picture of whatever you’re doing at a certain time each day. It may not be high art and you may miss a day here or there, but it still gets you thinking about shooting each day without the stress of your business or a client. It’s YOUR time, YOUR life. Enjoy it!
At the very least, they make fantastic time capsules. Going through your photo diary ten years later is priceless. Browse SmugMug’s Daily Photos community to see some great examples of Smuggers documenting their lives.
6) Take a break from shooting
At the other end of the spectrum, you may just need a break. Put the camera down but don’t get stagnant — go hiking, pick up a paint brush or a pencil, read a great book, take your kids to the park, or do yoga. Try new things that don’t flex your photography muscles, and you may find your creativity growing back.
photo by Schmootography
7) Take a workshop
Some people thrive in the formal education environment. Is that you? With the boom of digital photography workshops of all types, you’re bound to find a way to learn something totally new, and find the best environment for you, to boot. From one-day classes to week-long trips, you can take up a brand-new photo skill and actually get good at it in relatively short time.
8) Look at other people’s art
Taking an afternoon to the museum could be the best thing you ever did for your craft. Switch gears, stop stressing about creating your own art and take a look at what others have done before you. The timeless work of old masters or the trailblazing pieces of new ones will inspire, stretch and get your brain thinking in great new ways.
Similarly, take a look through photo blogs and social channels to see what other photographers are doing. You may be inspired to try something new in the format you’re already familiar with. No need to trek down to the art store.
Nothing gets the soul going like travel. Speak, eat, look, immerse yourself in new cultures and notice new things. And you don’t have to go far, unless you want to: You can experience a whole different side of your own town that you’ve never even noticed by volunteering at an organization, taking a walk to that park you’ve never visited, paying attention to local events and flyers posted on the street.
What’s around your next corner?
10) Enter a contest
Sometime a little friendly competition is just what you need to hone in and focus on your craft. Get the blood pumping with a photo contest where there’s a set theme and (if you like) a tasty prize. Just be sure to check the rules and be sure that the way the organizers handle copyright and ownership of submitted images is OK with you.
photo by Schmootography
We hope some of these methods work to breathe new life into your photo-passion. What are some things that you’ve done to rekindle your love for photography?
It’s that time of year to fire up the oven and start whipping, baking, simmering and roasting. With all those great things coming out of the kitchen, you’re going to want to share every delicious morsel with friends, fans and family who can’t personally make it to dinner.
But what if your food photos don’t look quite as tasty as the real thing?
The good news: There’s no need to ask Santa for a brand-new DSLR. Here’s how you can take delicious, reach-through-the-screen-good photos of your cooking using any old camera. Even with your smartphone.
1) Crop out the fluff.
First and foremost, your food is your subject! Crop out any non-essentials to your scene, like salt and pepper shakers, extra chairs and hungry guests waiting for you to put the camera away.
To help with this, shoot your dish from every angle: low, head-on, even from directly above. You’ll find the perfect perspective for any palate.
2) Use soft, diffused, angled light.
Put your food by a window and shoot from there. Remember those scary recipe books of the 1960s? You’re trying to avoid that. Natural light is your ticket to tantalizingly waving your latest culinary creation at your friends without making it look like a crime scene investigation.
Morning light tends to be cooler in temperature than evening light, but as long as your source is soft, bright and to the side, you’re ahead of the game. Don’t be afraid to overexpose and make your scene glow if it means you pick up all those tasty details in the shadows.
Is it winter-dark by dinner? Bounce your flash off the ceiling or a wall to spread the light evenly across the scene. Done right, this can mimic the cool, tranquil light of a perfect spring morning.
Mobile tip: Use photo apps like Camera Awesome to pick your exposure spot, and use the Image Stabilization mode (the shaky hand icon) to get the cleanest shot. Many filters, like ShadowOpener, also brighten the image for when you’re stuck in low-light situations.
3) Hands off!
Take your photos before you start eating and leave your fingers out of the shot. You’re creating that moment of delicious tension when your guests are seated, the wine’s uncorked and they’re ready to go. It’s a perfect culinary fantasy, so why show teeth marks and someone else’s hands?
Of course, there’s exceptions to the rule like when you’re documenting the step-by-step cooking process, or showing your guests having a great time.
4) Get close. REALLY close.
Fill the frame and focus on texture. There’s nothing sad than a tiny, blurry burger in the center of a huge table. You want your food larger than life, the size it looks when you’re just about to take that first bite! Get close as your lens allows. (You can always clean it later.)
To emphasize this, use shallow depth-of-field and nail the focus… or boost the bokeh by applying a blur after the fact.
5) Make it pop!
Forget black and white — is there anything more bland than single-toned food? Be free to find the most festive berries, herbs and other ingredients to add pops of celebratory color all around your shot. With bold, beautiful ingredients in season like pomegranates, persimmons, currants and squash, you’ve got lots of options to make your plates sing.
And dig up the good china: Your favorite dinnerware is dying to complement your cooking by creating a neutral backdrop, or by adding more visual interest to the scene (like above).
BONUS TIP: Use your photos on recipe cards.
Pic and recipe by Downriver Photography
Why keep it to yourself? Once you’ve taken photos of your favorite creations, turn them into recipe cards using one of our 4×8 or 5×7 card templates. Drop them into your annual holiday mailings or wrap one up in every present you give. Recipes are a treasured, personal gift that anyone can enjoy.
Happy shooting! Here’s to good eating and fabulous photo sharing this holiday season.