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Let’s Connect at WPPI 2014 in Las Vegas

February 27, 2014 Leave a comment

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 

Become a better photographer in minutes! Submit your best wedding photo now for an in-depth critique by one of the Top 10 Best Wedding Photographers in the World, David Beckstead. Details here.

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.

http://school.smugmug.com/WPPI

See you soon, wedding pros!

Podcast: How to Get Paid What You’re Really Worth

June 27, 2013 3 comments

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.

Bride and groom in veil by Dane Sanders

Photo by Dane Sanders

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:

  1. Listen to our most recent podcast with Dane Sanders.
  2. 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.

Sportraiture: Punch Up Your Portrait Photos with Levi Sim

March 25, 2013 6 comments

What’s “sportraiture?” you ask? Simply put, unique portraits of fervent athletes showing them doing what they do best. Pro photographer and SmugMug educator Levi Sim has a place in his heart for the passion and thrill of this type of portraiture, and today he’s sharing the three key tips on how to make it happen for you.

By Levi Sim

When I started photography four years ago a local photojournalist, Eli Lucero, opened my eyes to sports photography. He said, “You know when you make a great portrait that shows emotion and it’s awesome? Athletes are finally performing what they’ve been practicing, and powerful emotions show on their faces all day. It’s great to be a sports photographer.”

Ever since then, I take every opportunity I can find to shoot sports.

Still, I’m a portraitist at heart, and I can’t help making portraits of people everywhere I go. Here are three tips that let me maximize every opportunity I get to shoot great sports portraits.

1. Know Your Game

Athletes spend many hours every day for many, many years to learn to perform flawlessly. They have worked incredibly hard to have the body and the skills to do what they do. It is disrespectful to put them in front of your lens and then mess around with your camera, trying to figure out the best settings. You owe it to them to be proficient at what you’re doing because you’re photographing other passionate people.

Now, I’m not saying you have to be a pro who knows everything before you photograph someone. I’m saying that you do your practicing before you shoot the athlete. At the very least, grab a kid from the sidelines and practice your setup right before you invite the athlete over. Then you can be confident that you’ll get a good image from that same setup.

I’d also recommend quitting while you’re ahead. If you’ve just taken a good picture with a test setup, don’t say, “Let’s try this other thing,” unless you’ve also practiced the other thing, too. They’ll think you’re the best photog in the world if you fire off two frames and have a great picture; if you mess around with the unknown, they’ll be frustrated and disappointed.

Practice your setup, take a good picture and say thank you.

2. Seek Passionate Subjects

I’m not likely to get the opportunity to spend a few minutes photographing a famous athlete, like John Elway or Danica Patrick. But, if I go to the open track day at the local race track, I’ll definitely be able to photograph some very passionate people, and they are likely to let me spend more than a few minutes taking pictures of them.

This is my pal, Jeremy. He’s the one who told me about the open track days, and his wife’s a member of my local SMUG, so he invited the group down to make pictures. Now it’s become an annual event on Memorial Day for the club, and we have a great time.

The track is crawling with guys and gals who are so passionate about racing motorcycles that they travel across the country to race on a world class track.

These people spend their lives working to earn money so they can blow it on a few tanks of fuel and a few sets of tires in a single weekend. They aren’t the kind who ride because it’s cool. They ride because they can’t not. These are the kind of people you really want in front of your lens, and they are the kind of people who will be pleased to help make a picture.

All athletes fit this category of Passionates. I hope you do, too.

3. Use Technique, Timing, Lighting – Anything It Takes to Create a Memorable Shot

It’s interesting that when talking to athletes they can describe the winning goal of a game they played ten years ago. Passionate athletes remember the intricate details of a split second for their entire lives. And if you think about it, that’s exactly what we do as photographers, too.

When you make a picture after a game, that picture will be part of their memory, and an important piece of the experience. I recommend that you prepare a few techniques that will allow you to create a memorable image –something your subjects will be happy to show off to future generations.

In these motorcycle portraits, the guys just got off the track where they broke speed records passing others around the turn, one knee dragging on the ground and sending sparks flying. They have the courage to get back on their bikes after tipping over and sliding through gravel for a hundred yards. I’m just taking it for granted that you have the courage to approach them and ask to take their picture.

After chatting for a sec about the bike, or the game (or whatever), I usually say, “There’s some really good light right over here, and I wonder if you’d let me make of picture of your bike — yeah, with you in it!”

I’ve never been turned down.

Now, put on your widest lens and get in close. No, closer! These portraits were made within inches of the subject, almost touching their bikes with my lens. I used the incredible Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8. When you get in close with a wide lens you make a picture that is distorted and absolutely not normal. And not-normal makes it memorable.

The key to these pictures is the lighting. These are all made within a half hour of noon, so the sun is straight overhead, and there is no light in their eyes to fill the raccoon shadows on their faces from their eyebrows and ball caps. My solution is to use a speedlight to pound some hard light back into their faces and the shadows on their bikes. These are hard looking guys with sunlight casting hard shadows all around, so using a bare bulb speedlight really fits the scene.

Remember: the speedlight is not mounted to the camera–that would be obvious in the picture and ruin the look. The flash is off to the side, and high, as if it’s a little more sunlight from a slightly different direction. Whether you use your camera’s proprietary speedlights controlled by the camera, a radio trigger or an extension cord, you’ve got to get the flash off the camera to control the direction of the shadows. When using a very wide lens (shorter than 35mm), you can even hand hold the flash to the side and it will be enough. I prefer to have my buddy or my subject’s buddy hold the flash.

One More Thing…

For best results in sportraiture, bring a friend. Or two. The more the merrier! You’ll have more people there to help make your vision happen, and more visions to make things happen. You help each other hold stuff, ask each other questions, make the rest of the town jealous by talking about “that great time you spent at the track,” which then gets more people to join in next time. Photography is always better with friends.

All photos by SDesigns Photography

Going to WPPI 2013? Come say hello!

March 6, 2013 Leave a comment

Since we’re big on meeting our customers, we love going to WPPI each year and seeing a slice of the wedding and portrait world. Viva la Vegas!

If you’re going, too, say hi! We’re here to hear what you think, share what we can and shed some light on any of your burning questions. So swing by, shake our hands, bend our ears, grab some swag and take part in the fun.

Meet Us in Booth #1529

Apart from our shining faces, you’ll see:

  • A giveaway for current Smuggers. Win a total website makeover by one of our amazing Certified Customizers: FastLine designs. It’s your chance to get the beautifully branded, professional website you’ve always dreamed of. ($665 value)
  • A giveaway for everyone: Enter to win a mind-bending prize package from SmugMug + friends, including one year of SmugMug Business ($300 value), print credit from Bay Photo Labs ($300 value), a gallery wrap print from WHCC ($300 value), two-year membership at PhotoTraining4U ($390 value,) Perfect Photo Suite 7 Premium from OnOne Software ($299 value), “Design, Print & Bind” Album from Zookie Pro ($300 value), and $150 credit from Blurb books. Whew!
  • A fun, free photo booth so you can seal the experience with a(n infamous) Smilebooth pic! We’ll have creative props for you to use and an online photo gallery to share all the fun. We don’t always believe in all that “What happens in Vegas…” stuff.

And we’ll have some big-name photographers like Jeremy and Zabrina from JeZa Photography hanging out with us to answer questions about the photo biz and share tips on how SmugMug fits into the successful pro’s workflow.

Make Time for Awesome People We Like

If you’re seeking words of wisdom from your favorite pros, here’s when you can catch them over the course of the week. Check the WPPI directory to find exact locations:

Corinne Alavekios
Photographic Essays: From Ordinary to Extraordinary
3/10/2013 9 AM – 10:30 AM

Suzette Allen
Retouching Power with Photoshop CS6
3/13/2013 8:30 AM- 10:00 AM

David Beckstead
In the Box, Through the Box, & Out of the Box with a Videolight!
3/11/2013 11:30 AM – 1:30 PM

Bambi Cantrell
Beyond Boudoir
3/7/2013 9 AM – 5 PM

Lawrence Chan
Content Marketing and Social Media: The Secrets to More Bookings and Online Engagement
3/11/2013 4 PM- 5:30 PM

Tony Corbell
“Between Light and Shadow”- An Educational Conversation About the Craft of Photography
3/13/2013 3 PM- 4:30 PM

Bob and Dawn Davis
Llevando un Pequeño Negocio Local al Éxito
3/12/2013 9 AM- 10:30 AM

Kay Eskridge
Beyond Boudoir
3/11/2013 8:30 AM- 10 AM

Gustavo Fernandez
Second Shooting: Learn the Wedding Business FAST
3/11/2013 3:30 PM- 5:50 PM

Mike Fulton
Wireless Flash and Strobes Tips and Tricks – Both Manual and TTL
3/11/2013 6:30 PM- 8 PM

Zach and Jody Gray
How to Avoid What Small Businesses Do: Fail
3/10/2013 3 PM- 4:30 PM

Vanessa Joy and Rob Adams
How to Start Your Photography Career Step-by-Step
3/10/2013 11 AM- 1 PM

Kevin Kubota
Pimp Your Speedlight! Location Lighting Tips and Techniques
3/10/2013 9 AM- 10:30 AM

Scott Robert Lim
Crazy, Stupid, Light: Amazing Off Camera Lighting Techniques
3/10/2013 3 PM- 4:30 PM

Denis Reggie
Beyond Cliche: A Case for Authenticity in Wedding Imagery
3/13/2013 3 PM- 4:30 PM

Dane Sanders
Going to Market: Maxmizing Portrait and Wedding Profits
3/10/2013 9 AM- 10:30 AM

Matthew Jordan Smith
10 Secrets to Building a Powerful Photography Career
3/11/2013 4 PM- 5:30 PM

Kirk Voclain
Lighting and Posing Today’s High School Seniors
3/11/2013 8:30 AM- 10 AM

Moshe Zusman
Shedding Light on the Wedding Venue
3/11/2013 3:30 PM- 5:30 PM

Are you ready for the most amazing year in the wedding and portrait industry yet? We can’t wait to meet you!

XOXO,

The SmugMug Family

The Business of Love: Getting Intimate with Je Revele Fine Art Photography

January 15, 2013 2 comments

We’re so excited to debut this guest post from the two lovely and incredibly talented ladies over at Je Revele Fine Art Photography, who we featured as a Success Story last summer. Love is in the air as Valentine’s Day approaches, pros fill their wedding calendars and winter engagements blossom into summer nuptials. So with the “Business of Love,” we’ll feature insights and tips related to planning, shooting and selling those beautiful photos you’ll take in the coming weeks. Enjoy this behind-the-scenes look into what goes into crafting the stunning images you see at New Jersey boudoir photographers Je Revele!

Insights from Natalie Licini and Cate Scaglione

When Cate and I joined forces, it was based on a love and a shared vision for Intimate Portraiture. From the beginning, we had a common passion about the kind of work and client experience we wanted to create for our clients, which we believe has been the foundation of our success.

Our business is a fusion between photography, a luxury spa, and an art gallery. We make more than beautiful portraits. Our clients cherish the wall art we make for them… but beyond that, they remember the experience of the day, how they connected with Cate or I and how our stylists made them feel. Ultimately, their memory is about feeling beautiful and special. That translates very powerfully into the portraits we create for them.

Cate and I have different personalities and approaches when it comes to working with clients. We sometimes find that one of us may be more compatible with a certain type of shoot or client, but the one constant is the final product our clients receive. Our end-to-end client experience is something we both take part in, regardless of which of us photographed the client. Cate often handles pre-consultations whereas I often execute the sale. We both handle editing and post-production. Our common ground is in our aesthetics, editing style and a mutually unwavering commitment to the quality of our product and studio experience.

The Value of the Pre-Consultation

Our process always starts with a pre-consultation, which is a critical component to the shoot and its subsequent sale. We believe this first step is a major component to our success. Our clients are surprisingly open during our pre-consultations, which enables us to know them on a highly emotional level, upfront. We like to hear what the client is envisioning and learn who they are to plan the session of their dreams. The pre-consultation serves a two-way purpose; we get to know them intimately beforehand to effectively plan a shoot and they get excited about it. Both of these factors lead to higher sales.

As a result of our pre-consultations, we’ve found ourselves planning era-inspired sessions of the 1920s, 30s, 40s, or 1980s. Some sessions are based on specific milestones, like one client’s 50th birthday where we planned a “past present and future” theme incorporating various themes of her life. Other clients find art as a healing mechanism, to recover from the death of a loved one, a double mastectomy or to regain confidence after a divorce or breakup. And yet other times, our sessions are to mark a celebration, such as remission from breast cancer, bachelorette parties or a special anniversary. On one occasion, we even held a Ladies Day of Glamour, a fashion-inspired day where we served lunch, champagne and a private chef who prepared a special dinner on the terrace of the castle in between their individual photo shoots and styling sessions.

No matter what type of session, their day with us is about comfort, convenience and luxury. We furnish them with everything they need to relish in their beauty, which includes in-house stylists, delicious hors deurves, chocolates, champagne, an in-house wardrobe to peruse, or our concierge-approach to designer gown rentals. We often find that the more we do to create a great experience, the more engaged they become with their images.

The pre-consultation is truly step one of putting clients at ease for the shoot. They feel they have a pre-established connection with us and they know what to expect. In addition, we put ourselves at ease through a consistent routine of scheduling, either as a 10AM or 1PM session appointment daily. We don’t waiver much and clients are OK with that.

Fluidity and Confidence During the Shoot

On the day of the shoot, women can initially feel nervous, shy or self-conscious… or all of the above. Cate often jokes that there is a “nine minute factor” in which clients find the joy and liberation of the session, a point at which the nervous excitement goes away. After those first nine minutes, we feel them come to life. We always give them authentic feedback and compliments early in the session. We do our best to make them comfortable, happy and show them a sneak peak of an early photo to build confidence in themselves. We don’t always show them the images, but sometimes we find that it enables clients to let go and embrace the experience. This approach can often be reassuring.

We hear a lot of consistent comments from women, regardless of her age, body type or overall appearance. One of the most common phrases is: “I’m not not photogenic at all”, almost as a warning. We often say: “Have you ever had your photo professionally taken? {often the answer is no} Many of your photos may be taken by friends and family under challenging lighting conditions so you may think you’re not photogenic. But beautiful light and proper direction by a professional photographer can definitely make you look your very best. If you’re photographed in darker light some clients feel they look wider or older. Let me show you a posing example”.

At this point, it’s a great example to show them how I’d look straight on flat-footed. I’d look wider, static… almost bored. With some adjustments, bending my knee, pushing my weight on my back hip in beautiful light and suddenly, I look thinner and prettier. The clients instantly feel more confident!

The pre-consultation is always a guide to how we pose our clients. The direction will vary depending on the styling and theme of the session. Our intimate portrait work may include high fashion photos, fine art nudes, boudoir or all of the 3 in one session. I feel the best approach is to pose my clients from the feet up, posing them standing, seated, leaning or laying and guide them so they look and feel beautiful, slim and elegant. The wrong pose can instantly add 10 pounds to any client. We do our best to ensure the opposite is true with every photo. The last step is to ensure they look relaxed and their hands are relaxed. Little adjustments with hands and encouragement can make your client shine brightly from the inside and you see that in their eyes.

For our intimate portrait work, we shoot both indoor and outdoor at our studio. Our studio has over seven acres of picturesque grounds at the castle, with brick and stone, old classic architecture, thick woods, beautiful gardens and trees, etc. We shoot indoors using both natural light and strobes. We love variety, but we photograph our clients truly in accordance with the pre-consultation we planned. At all times, both Cate and I each shoot with our own two cameras. Cate uses her two Canon 5D IIs using a 85mm and a 24-70 or a 70-200, depending on the session. Cate likes fluidity and tries to incorporate with a single new idea each shoot. I always photograph my clients with my Canon 5D Mark III with my 85mm 1.2 on the right of my rapid double strap and my Canon 24-70 II on my left. We love both perspectives for intimacy and storytelling. The dual-camera approach is important to the flow of the session because changing lenses causes delays, which breaks your clients’ enthusiasm. It’s important to keep a rhythm and energy going… for all parties involved in the shoot!

Exquisite Marketing

One thing we noticed was that clients booked us because they are attracted to our fine art work and they wanted to hang a piece of art in their home. We’re always excited to do what we love, but from a business perspective it was limiting. Cate always tended to shoot intimate close-ups for her fine art. I liked to shoot wide for maximum storytelling. So we made adjustments on both our parts and begun offering a variety of posed beauty portraits, creating the variety and “bigger picture” story for our clients. This enabled us to sell both wall art and albums or image boxes with each sales session, doubling our revenue instantly. It changed and reshaped our business.

This past summer, we created a marketing plan which cross-promoted with venues, stylists and clients. We offered gift vouchers enclosed in a gorgeous black box with thick white satin ribbon. Targeting our class-A clients and vendors was a great way to attract our ideal clients for intimate portrait sessions.

Pricing is an important part of the brand. Our brand is about a premium experience and making woman feel special and important. We are priced accordingly and our brand look and feel helps us communicate that idea. One can never underestimate the importance of being well branded and well priced for your target audience. You attract what you put out there in the market.

Working Together as a Team

There are two of us in our studio and naturally, we work a little differently than one another. However we maintain a very structured workflow for the consistency of the client deliverable and final product.

First, we download our images from our cameras and with Photo Mechanic do a “sort by capture time” and rename the RAW files. Then, there is a culling process in Photo Mechanic which we reduce the gallery selections to 75-100 images. We then import everything into Lightroom 4.

Cate and I process images a little differently, but generally maintain the same aesthetic with our custom-created presets and actions Cate made from our most inspired looks. I label about 40% of the images in LR using the star rating, which I make black and white. I use the same style black and white throughout for consistent styling and branding. I take the remaining 60% and edit them with a desaturated vintage color. I don’t cherry-pick which images are black and white, I randomly choose. Cate really enjoys the editing process and tends to like to look at each image individually and decide with each image what should be presented in color or black and white. Our editing aesthetic can vary a little from session to session depending based on the styling and theme (example: 1930s era), but in general there is about a 40/60 rule for bw/color (unless we know from our pre-consultation a client has a penchant for a style). No matter what, we always try to ensure that our post-processing maintains that signature Je Revele look.

We typically decide before the sales session which portraits would have the best potential as a fine art wall portrait. Rarely do we edit any fine art work before the viewing appointment. Instead, we show several beautiful fine art portrait samples to clients during the viewing appointment. This explains what their portraits could potentially look like and it usually illustrates the idea quite well.

From the beginning of our Je Revele adventure, we decided that our Intimate Portraits were about creating intimacy with the client and helping them see their beauty. It was never about the wardrobe like lingerie or boudoir-style setting to define our genre. In this sense, our Intimate Portraits are very much the same vertical as our other portrait work. With this philosophy in mind, we price our Intimate Portraits the same as our other portrait sessions including families and high school seniors. Our newborn photography structure and weddings have a different pricing structure, however to accommodate the very specific needs of those life stages.

At the end of it all, we simply want our clients to look and feel their most beautiful self. That’s incredibly important to us… we feel it’s what differentiates us. We listen to their needs and understand why they are doing the session… and we deliver according to that. That’s intimacy.

All photos by Je Revele Fine Art Photography

SmugMug Success Stories: Je Revele Fine Art Photography

August 20, 2012 7 comments

The Partnership: Two Artists, One Platform, Limitless Possibilities

Name: Natalie Licini and Cate Scaglione
Position/Title: Co-owners
Name of Company: Je Revele Fine Art Photography
Location: New York City, New Jersey
Market: Portrait Photography
Website: www.jerevele.com
Bragworthy Factoid: Their studio is located in the historic stained-glass-filled New Jersey castle where actor Michael Douglas was born. The windows were imported from 14th century churches in France.
SmugMugger Since: 2009

Career Highlights…

  • Natalie is a silver medalist for the 2012 PPA International Photographic Competition.
  • Three of Natalie’s images merited and two were put on loan the first time she submitted work to the Professional Photographers of America (PPA) awards in 2011.
  • Natalie won several awards at the 2011 Wedding Photography Association (WPPI), including second place in the Wedding & Portrait Photographers International.
  • Cate worked on several award-winning print and TV ad campaigns for major luxury brands, some of which were photographed by Annie Liebovitz and filmed by Martin Scorcese.
  • Cate’s earliest Intimate Portraiture work won awards with the International Association of Boudoir Photographers.

Favorite Features…

A match made in heaven

Originally independent fine art and portrait photographers, Natalie and Cate met after being introduced by a common client and attending the same workshop. Instantly inspired by each other’s work, for several years they flirted with each other as friends and colleagues. Ultimately, they realized their unique experience and esthetic presented an opportunity: merging their collective strengths to form a new kind of photography studio. Cate had an earlier career as an advertising executive; Natalie worked in finance. “We’re opposite in our personalities and skill sets,” Cate says. “But our artistic sensibilities are very similar. We’re both sensitive, relationship-oriented people.” The professional marriage allowed them to not only enhance their artistic, creative brief and storyboarding offerings, but also to branch out beyond photography into branding and strategy, services unique in the photography marketplace. Calling the resulting partnership “kismet,” Natalie believes the alliance has strengthened their business across the board—their artistry, business model, client services and strategic concepting. “Eventually, we didn’t like not working together,” she says. “We innovated in ways that surprised us.”

Reveling in their new look

Creating a unified and functional online presence presented a challenge: Not only did Je Revele need to brand itself as a true partnership, it also had to feature three separate competencies—in wedding/life portraiture, intimate portraits and, most recently, commercial. Thankfully, SmugMug was up to the task. “We customized our website using a sophisticated architecture that was necessary for our business,” Natalie says. “This allowed two artists to merge and optimally showcase their work.” The partners attribute their success in part to SmugMug’s customizability, which Natalie calls “streamlined and easy to use.” Having a lush, thoughtfully organized site has helped them build a sprawling client base via referrals and Google.

Two artists, one tool set

As sole proprietors, Je Revele’s principals were forced to turn to various online tools to manage their business. Not With SmugMug. “We wanted to have one interface to archive, display, sell and manage client photos,” Cate says. “SmugMug is a one-stop shop and we love it.” Natalie adds that not only does SmugMug save them considerable time, it also helps their clients. “Our brides love seeing their galleries online, sharing with friends and family after the wedding. Now they can have guests order prints directly. Many of my clients have booming careers [themselves], so this is a time-saver for everyone.” Natalie and Cate use the Events feature to send links to clients, so they can select their favorites from a set of proofs, for printing or inclusion in an album. They particularly love the way commenting is fully integrated, so that their clients can give feedback on photos, concepts and ideas on the spot.

Never-boring storyboarding

Je Revele’s unique consultancy requires what they call “custom inspiration boards” as well as more conventional storyboards to convey their vision to clients. In the past, they used a popular online pinboard site to introduce their ideas and assets. That changed when they discovered everything they posted there was either public or owned by the domain host. “We decided to migrate [everything] to SmugMug for security and privacy,” Natalie says. “We do a lot of high-end intimate portraiture, much of it personal, a gift or surprise for loved ones. Now we can password-protect their photos in a SmugMug gallery. The private nature of it makes everyone feel like a VIP.” Cate emphasizes that SmugMug’s privacy and security measures also protect Je Revele’s intellectual property. “Before, we were emailing creative briefs as huge attachments,” she says. “Anyone could take it and use it, replicate it, perform services herself. Putting it in a private gallery gives you more control. We can change the password and take it down when we want.”

Going beyond the image

SmugMug’s ability to protect both ideas and assets has helped Je Revele’s founders expand their business, forging ahead not just in traditional photography, but also in branding and strategy. “Our background in business development and brand management is crucial to how we’re doing all this,” Cate observes. “What’s interesting is we’re not just using it to serve commercial clients. We’re also doing a lot of consulting work for other photographers and industry vendors.” Natalie expands on why SmugMug’s seamless client-facing experience and architecture works so well for their beyond-photography business model: “As we work with commercial clients, we’re not just showing up and helping them execute their vision—we’re helping them see if their branding is aligned with their vision.”

Excited to see how SmugMug can help your photography business? See our other amazing Success Stories!

SmugMug Success Stories: Meghan MacAskill Photography

August 16, 2012 11 comments

The Prodigy: Realizing a Childhood Dream & Building a Brand, Client by Client

Name: Meghan MacAskill
Position/Title: Owner
Name of Company: Meghan MacAskill Photography
Location: Sunnyvale, CA
Market: Family and Newborn Portrait Photography
Website: macaskillphotography.com
Bragworthy Factoid: MacAskill quadrupled her business in the last four years
SmugMugger Since: 2003

Career Highlights…

  • Realizing she was photographing so many non-friends that she had to start charging for her services.
  • The moment her SmugMug website went live (she viewed it every 10 minutes!).
  • Beating the recession by doubling last year’s earnings.

Favorite Features…

From Barbies to business

MacAskill pulled off her first shoot with Barbie models, a child-size camera and hard-earned allowance money. Although it took a few more years for her to transform her passion into a business, she now operates a successful part-time shop, relying 100% on referrals from happy clients. MacAskill is still driven by the same ambition that inspired her when she was nine: to improve her craft and entrance her clients. “I think about what I would want out of photos of my family,” she says. “I push myself to not only pick the right spot, the right lighting and the right posing, but to also get my clients to be real—to capture their personality and family dynamic.”

Client cheerleaders? Bring it on

Morphing from a talented hobbyist to a seasoned pro meant developing a specialty and cultivating that market. “My customers are young South Bay Area moms,” MacAskill says. “They appreciate fresh, modern, colorful photography that captures the memories, expression and joy in their lives. They are my biggest fans and cheerleaders and refer new clients to me every time. Once potential clients view my SmugMug website, they are impressed and trust me [to document] their children, family and memories.” MacAskill attributes her success in part to providing a quality experience, both on game day and beyond. “Your memories of a [shoot] affect the way you view the photos later. If the shoot was difficult, no matter how the photos turn out you might look at them and remember what a pain it was,” she says. “I want the photos to be a reminder of a really fun day you spent with your family. My job is to put clients at ease, make sure we have fun, and make sure that translates into beautiful photos.” She credits SmugMug’s gorgeous gallery display with maximizing the client review process.

Making friends with features

When it comes to taking advantage of SmugMug’s features, MacAskill is a true pro. “My site is customized from top to bottom. I get praise and compliments all the time on how clean and modern it is,” she says. “Clients see a beautiful website and know that I am a desirable photographer.” MacAskill ensures a seamless proofing, selection, editing and purchasing experience by using such features as the shopping cart for print sales, price lists, events and proof delay. “I am a busy working photographer. As a business owner I deal with both front and back-end issues,” she points out. “I simply don’t have time—or a studio—in which to do proofing sessions with clients. My clients love proofing their images from the comfort of their own home.” MacAskill makes great use of the Events tool in her wedding business, relying on the easily navigable Events gallery hierarchy in particular. “It’s very important for me to see what photos my bride and groom love and the favorites feature allows me to do that,” she says. Because her clients order prints on their own time, she appreciates that Proof Delay allows her to check orders before they go to print. “I have fixed so many potential cropping and editing problems with this feature, before they could become a problem.”

Branding secret: Strong offense, stronger defense

When it comes to image security and archiving, MacAskill calls SmugMug the best. “The image storage problem that plagues lots of pros has never been an issue for me. I feel reassured knowing my images are stored safely on SmugMug in their original sizes.” MacAskill’s customized settings also watermark her images automatically when she uploads a new gallery. Plus, she uses package branding. “I want my clients to see that extra bit of branding when their prints arrive and feel like they’re coming directly from me,” she says. Another favorite? Coupons and print credits. “I use coupons all the time,” she says. “Print credits are vital to my business model. [I noticed] that many clients weren’t actually pulling the trigger and getting prints. I decided to model photo sessions differently and include a print credit in every package to guide clients into purchasing prints. The photos my clients put on their walls are a constant reminder not only of the fun day we had and the relationship they have with their family, but are also the best advertising — they constantly remind clients to get their photos taken again. It has been very successful and SmugMug’s coupon feature is vital for it to work without me filling those orders myself.”

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