Making the Leap from Mom to Pro
As the new school year creeps closer, it’s time for many of us to transition back from full-time parent to full-time pro.
This month’s SmugMug podcast features Clickin Moms’ teacher and mom extraordinaire, Alicia Gould, of Alicia Gould Photography. Like many professional photographers, she started out by taking photos of her family, then watched her hobby blossom into a successful pro business. We sat down and asked her about all the fun and hard work that many women experience when making the leap, and what issues you might face when you start your own new business.
You’ll hear answers to questions like:
- Do you need previous experience or an artistic background?
- How and why you should balance your time with your family?
- How do you judge success as a momtographer?
- What’s the most important decision you can make when starting your business?
- What are some unexpected mistakes you may end up making?
- What kind of equipment is in a successful family photographer’s kit?
Photo by Alicia Gould Photography
Download the podcast right here and have a listen while you put the finishing touches on your latest summer photos. We think you’ll be inspired to take your shooting to a whole new level!
Composing Images in a Natural World
If you prefer photographing trees to toddlers, join our upcoming webinar, featuring world-reknown nature photographer Steve Gettle.
We’ll focus on the many elements that make up the composition of a beautiful nature image, using hundreds of examples and practical, real world situations. You’ll learn the “rules” of composition as well as when and why to break them. You’ll find out how to see the picture, and how to work a subject to maximize the potential of every situation.
In addition, we will cover how to control such things as lighting, backgrounds, depth of field and perspective to enhance your composition.
Composing Images in a Natural World
Thursday, August 29th, 2013
8:00 PM ET, 7:00 CT, 6:00 MT, 5:00 PT and 1:00 AM BST
Photo by Steve Gettle
***UPDATE!*** You can watch the recorded webinar on our YouTube channel.
We hope that everyone out there has been having a great summer full of wonderful experiences… and the pictures to prove them!
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
We talked with fashion photographer Dallas Nagata White the other week and she primed the pump for a great month of behind-the-biz fashion secrets. Our next post is an interview with two of the key elements behind every one of their shoots: the wardobe and hair stylist.
Tyson Joines has been dressing the some of the industry’s biggest celebrities for the past 4.5 years, including Bruno Mars, Kimora Lee Simmons, Kat Graham, Debbie Matenopoulous and Holly Madison. Hawaii native Mel Mariano sculpts show-worthy hair from the salon to the runway, transforming models into muses. Both have taken the time to shed some light about what it’s like to work with photographers in the fashion business, and just why it’s best to let pros like them handle the heavy lifting when it matters most.
With so many talented people working at once for the final image, who takes creative lead on the shoot?
Mel: I’ve noticed that the photographer is the “creative lead” in all the shoots I have done in the past. But what I truly appreciate is when they allow me (the hairstylist) and the makeup artist to use our own creative ideas to help bring their vision to life.
Tyson: If there’s a Creative Director involved on a shoot, then they would take the lead. From my experiences, on smaller projects that don’t have a Creative Director, it’s usually the photographer that takes the lead creatively.
What kinds of questions should the photographer consider for you before the shoot?
Tyson: Communication can be really natural and easy, or it can be like pulling teeth, depending on the team you’re working with. I have experienced both spectrums myself. Some questions I’d need to consider before the shoot are: What are the photos going to be used for? What is the concept? Is their pay involved or is it a trade shoot? If it is a trade shoot, how soon can I expect to see the photos? As a stylist, it’s also important that I know the models measurements, too.
Mel: If there are any changes to be made then communication on that part must be good and clear. I listen and adapt well to different ideas while still following the concept we discussed. So if there are any styles they want me to create, I usually am good in thinking on the spot if its a sudden change or a “spark” of a new idea happens!
How much time is needed to plan and execute a photo shoot? How much input do you have in crafting the mode’s look?
Mel: The makeup artist and I have a little system: I usually start and set up the hair, depending on the look, while she sets up her makeup. Once I have completely set up the model’s hair she then starts on the make up. Then once the make up is complete, I come back in and finish the hair style and mold it to desired look.
Tyson: The time span when planning a shoot really depends on the urgency of the shoot, and your connections when putting a team together. The stylist has a fair amount of say in the shoot; the clothes after all, are the first thing you notice when you look at a photo.
What are the tools of your trade?
Mel: I keep things simple, I don’t like complicated things. Using the right product for any job is key, as well as the technique in hand. Always want to “work smarter, not harder”. A simple setting of the hair can lead to various hairstyles I can create in the end.
Tyson: My tools as a stylist are really simple and accessible. A wardrobe stylist needs a steamer, garment racks, pins (clothes, safety), double stick tape, masking tape to tape the soles of shoes, garment bags, hangers, a sewing kit, and a retagging gun for merchandise tags.
How do you manage outdoor photo shoots and the dramatic Hawaiian weather?
Mel: Sometime we play things by ear, keep updated with weather reports especially if its an outdoor shoot. Or if worst comes to worst we change location. Not a difficult task since most of us are from the island we always have a “Plan B” location in mind already, or a default location/studio if available.
Tyson: Outdoor shoots are really tricky to execute. You obviously can’t control the weather, so you need to work with what you’re given. For instance with regard to wind, hopefully the models hair would be pulled back out of her face or in a similar style that works well with movement so she doesn’t have to fuss with it.
What happens on the day of the shoot? Walk us through a typical day on the job.
Tyson: Hopefully when the day of the shoot comes around, the stylist has already done a fitting with the model, and the photographer has scouted the location. On the day of the shoot, the make up artist and model usually arrives first to start hair and make up. The stylist typically arrives next, sets up their garment racks, and starts steaming clothes and picking looks to wear from his or her options. The photographer arrives last and shortly after shooting should begin. Once every look is finished being shot, the stylist will change the model into their next outfit, and the make up artist will do touch ups as needed.
Mel: We arrive on location for call time with the hairstylist, makeup artist, and model. Then we introduce ourselves if its a first time working with the model and typically we always compliment the model right away. A “good vibe” from the start is the best impression and helps keep the mood that way during the shoot. The model can produce great pictures if she feels good the whole time! Then I would get started on her hair, setting it with the curling iron and prong clips. Once that is done, the makeup artist can start on the makeup process. Then towards the end of makeup being done I start taking down the set I created and mold and style the hair to the desired look. If they will be photographing multiple looks, I can easily build those on as the look changes. And while the photographer is shooting, I step in when needed in-between shots to touch up the hair. Our goal is to make her look perfect in every shot!
What contracts, insurance and other business details need to be looked after?
Tyson: Typically more established stylists have some sort of business insurance. That tends to cover lost or damaged clothing which sometimes happens on shoots. The photographer may have a release form for the model to sign stating the stipulations of photo usage.
Mel: I am not too aware of contracts on my part, but if their is a model release form required by the photographer then that gets taken care of between them.
What is your opinion on Trade For Prints (TFP)?
Mel: TFP is basically working so that everyone involved will share the final images to use in their own portfolios. I have done a few for the purpose on building my portfolio, and I don’t mind doing it at all.
Tyson: I think TFP shoots are great in certain situations. If you’re just starting off, a stylist TFP is a great way to hone your skills and work with people who are at a similar talent level. I do think there is a time when TFP shoots need to be stopped. When you have a solid amount of work under your belt and after you have established yourself as a respected worker, it’s time to set monetary rates and launch your business!
What does the ultimate dream job look like for you?
Mel: Ultimately, I want to work on big jobs and big time shoots. Locations of the shoots would probably be all over the nation and even international private and popular spots or studios. Everyone would be so professional that I would only take 5 hours, tops, for multiple looks and shooting time.
Tyson: The ultimate dream job for me would be a really intricate high fashion shoot with a supermodel, and a world renowned photographer. I can just imagine the couture dresses that would be on set, and the amazing locations we would shoot at.
Is it generally expected that you’ll get copies of the photos to use for your own portfolio?
Mel: I always would expect to use the photos because it is always my work in the photo. I wouldn’t sell them for any reason but simply use them for my portfolio work. I always ask permission from the photographer first.
Tyson: If it is a TFP shoot, yes, it is expected (and pretty common knowledge) that photos will be provided to the entire team. If there is no monetary compensation, then photos would be my payment.
If you had to pick 3 things that you wish photographers would consider when working with stylists, what would they be?
Mel: Every photographer is different in how they direct, so it varies with most. If they aren’t thinking about any aspects of the shot except lighting and angle, then as a versatile hairstylist I look out for the overall look and appearance of the model. For example, if the hair needs to be fixed or out of the model’s face, if the makeup got smudged and needs to be blended out, or if the clothes are a bit off or look awkward then I would help out with adjusting that, too. The best part of working with a team is having that extra help, even if its not your job. I don’t mind at all.
How would you suggest up-and-coming photographers get started with finding a stylist to work with?
Mel: Work of mouth is the best way, and networking at the same time. For every shoot I do I make sure I pass out my business cards to everyone. You never know who may need my hair expertise for future work, and I’ll always be up to get more experience and meet more artists!
Tyson: If you’re just starting out as a photographer, you can find stylists on websites like ModelMayhem.com,lookbook.nu etc. Be sure to check with the other creatives involved in the shoot, (hair, make up), as they will probably have several references for you.
What are the benefits of hiring pro stylists for individual client portrait sessions?
Mel: Hair and makeup stylists know the vision and how to execute the desired look effortlessly. And when you fully trust in their knowledge and skill, it makes everything go smoothly!
Tyson: Hiring a stylist will really benefit everyone involved in the shoot from the client to the photographer. The client gets a shape flattering, (hopefully) stunning outfit, and the photographer gets his or her photo’s enhanced to the fullest visually. The outfit the client is wearing is one of the first things that will pop out at you when someone is reviewing your photos.
If there is anything else that you want to comment on about the the fashion world, working with models and photographers, or anything you’d want to suggest to up-and-coming portrait photographers?
Mel: Fashion is everywhere we go, everyone has a different eye for art and creativity. The one thing that connects us all together when working as one is that “creative eye.” All artists (hair stylist, makeup, photographer, stylist) need have an “open mind.” Once you close your mind to other artist’s ideas, you lose all possibilities of the work being even better than what one could imagine. Always have a good personality and keep it professional while having fun! I’m sure we all LOVE what we do, and thats what makes everything worth it!
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
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!
Landscape photographer and pro educator Varina Patel is one of those people we all aspire to be. From the mountains to the deserts, she travels around the globe chasing the light and enlightening photographers near and far. We’ve long been inspired by her incredibly varied and inspiring blog posts, eBooks and workshops, as well as her ability to keep her photo education company running smoothly and in sync with her husband, Jay Patel. We talked with Varina about how to keep your photo business blooming year after year. Here’s what she suggests.
By Varina Patel
Take your business seriously.
Jay and I may be a husband and wife team – but we are running a business together. It’s so easy to lose sight of the goal in the face of the day-to-day requirements of running a business… especially when you have lots of other responsibilities that require your attention. In order to keep things running smoothly, we have monthly meetings where we discuss our plans for the upcoming month. We decide which projects are worth extra time, and which ones need to be scaled back. We look at our sales and financial data and decide where we should focus our efforts. We make sure we are working towards the same goals – and that we are never working at cross-purposes.
Don’t be afraid to change your plans.
Of course, having a solid business plan is important… but plans should be fluid. Don’t be afraid to change your plans as your business opportunities shift. Jay and I are constantly re-establishing priorities as we navigate the ever-changing world of photography. Stock photography was a productive business for us at one time – but as the market became more and more saturated, we found that our efforts weren’t paying off as well as they had been. So, we tested new waters. We taught workshops, wrote eBooks, photographed events, submitted images to magazines… and as our business grew, we found out where we could make the most of our limited time. Right now, our focus is on eBooks and short workshops – and as times change, we will continue to refine our goals and shift our plans to meet the ever-changing needs of our business.
Know your own strengths – and your weaknesses.
I can’t emphasize this enough. It’s important to know what you are good at – but knowing your weaknesses is equally important. Heck – maybe it’s even more important. When you are aware of a weakness, you need to focus your attention on it. Nobody said running a business is easy. If you aren’t good at handling your finances, do some research, take a class, or hire someone to do it for you. If you want to write eBooks but your grammar and spelling is terrible – hire an editor. Need a good website, but you don’t know a thing about design or ecommerce? Call on the SmugMug Support Super Heroes. Ignoring the problem isn’t a solution… and it can cause all kinds of headaches in the future.
Use social media to build a relationship with your clients.
Social networks are incredible marketing tool that offer small businesses like ours an opportunity to be noticed among corporate giants with enormous budgets. We don’t have to spend a dime to connect with millions of people who are interested in what we are offering. Our foray into social media began with our blog. I spent more than a year writing regular blog posts before people really started to pay attention. There were lots of times when I thought maybe my efforts were wasted, but I knew that quitting was the surest way to fail… so I kept plugging along. Over time, more and more people began to comment and subscribe. During that time, I started posting on Facebook too. Pretty soon, I had a pretty solid collection of “fans” who would leave comments and share my photographs. When Google+ came along, I didn’t hesitate. This was a whole new experience. Suddenly, photographers were having in-depth discussions about everything from composition to marketing – and people were adding us to their circles at a fantastic rate. Best of all, we were really getting to know some of these people! They were becoming our friends. They were recommending our work to others, signing up for our workshops and webinars, and buying our eBooks! We met some of them in person, went shooting with them, and got to know them on a personal level. Those experiences took social networking beyond marketing. Now, we are a part of a dynamic community of photographers who exchange ideas and inspiration.
Look for ways to minimize content creation and maximize content consumption.
So yes. Social media is a great tool. But it can be your downfall, too. Don’t let it consume you! The trick is to find ways to minimize the amount of time you spend creating content for social media – while maximizing the consumption of that content. What does that mean?
Well – we only have a limited amount of time to spend writing blog posts, updating our websites, posting on Twitter or Facebook or Google+. And yet – we want to be sure that the content we create is seen by as many people as possible, right? So, if I write one blog post, I want to make sure everyone knows it’s out there. I need to get it to my followers on Facebook, my fans on Google+, my subscribers on Twitter – in short, I need to make sure it’s as visible as possible.
Right now, we create almost all of our new content on my blog or on Google+. Content from the blog on my website is automatically syndicated to Jay’s website and our other social media platforms. (Ideally, a single source of content would be preferable… but Google+ doesn’t provide means for automatic syndication yet. In order to share with our very large audience on Google+, we need to manually share a link or copy and paste content to our streams.) Automatic syndication lets us send out our content to twitter, facebook, and our RSS subscribers without an additional effort on our part. So we create the content once, and everyone knows it’s there. The process takes discipline and forethought – but you can make social networks work for you.
Know your target audience.
Take some time to decide who your customers are. Are you selling prints to art collectors? Writing eBooks for budding photographers? Teaching beginners to use their cameras? Look at your strengths, determine what you want to be doing – and then decide who you are targeting. Jay and I know that our primary audience is other photographers – people who want to learn how to use their camera. So, we target our posts to appeal to those people. We include brief tips in every blog posts. We speak in a variety of forums – sharing knowledge with large groups of people so they can get to know us and our teaching styles… and share our names with their friends. And we are always looking for ways to reach out to the photographic community – even this article is part of that effort.
Make sure you are valuable to your customers.
Maybe this is obvious, but it’s absolutely critical. If you purchase one of my eBooks, I want you to come back and purchase another, right? And the only way you are going to do that is if you really feel that the eBook was valuable to you. So, we work hard to make sure that we pack those books full of information. We regularly go back and review older books to make them better, and we are constantly looking for more knowledge so we can share it with others. Workshops are no different. We want our students to go home feeling like they are better photographers than they were before they arrived… and more importantly, we want them to be confident in their ability to repeat the techniques we’ve taught. As nice as it is to come away from a workshop with some amazing photographs – what we really want to do is teach people to take amazing photographs when they are on their own and we’re not around to help out. So, figure out what your customers want, and work to make sure that you are providing that. Doing so will translate to more clients, more sales, and more word-of-mouth advertising.
Act like a professional.
I think too many photographers forget how important it is to present themselves as professionals. I’m not talking about business suits and corporate accounts. It’s really not that difficult. Start with a well-designed website that works well. Design a simple logo and print up some business cards. Respond to emails and queries in a professional manner – it’s ok to be casual, but don’t be sloppy or rude! And perhaps most importantly, present only your very best work! Don’t just stick photos up there to fill gallery space. It’s better to have a small collection of really great shots than a huge collection of mediocre ones.
Learn More about Photography from Jay and Varina Patel
If you’re looking for more inspiration, photography tips, education and webinar workshops, visit Jay and Varina’s blog over at Photography by Varina. And use this exclusive discount code to get 10% off any eBook order over $20: SMUGMUG314
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
No matter what you shoot, we’re pretty sure that all photographers need a little privacy every now and then. So whether you’re looking for a safe photo-home for an exclusive (reclusive) client or just for your mom, look no further than SmugMug. We’ve got a number of safeguards that can be mixed and matched to create the perfect bouquet of privacy.
Your Options, in a Nutshell
1) Unlisted Galleries. Often called “private” galleries by some, these galleries aren’t visible on your website to anyone but logged-in you. The only way fans can see one is if you give them a direct link.
2) Gallery Passwords. Provide a password and nobody can open it until they enter it right. You won’t be asked for it when you’re logged in to your account, because we know it’s you. Unsure? Look for the teeny yellow lock icon next to the gallery’s name.
3) Hello World! and Hello Smuggers! These toggles ensure that your stuff does or does not show up in web searches. ”World” = Google, Bing, etc. ”Smuggers” = SmugMug search. Set this site-wide from your Account Settings, or on a gallery-by-gallery basis via Gallery Settings.
Then, Take It Further With…
4) Hide Photo. Like unlisted galleries, but for individual photos. You can check the box under any image or video in your gallery to hide it, and only you, the gallery owner, will ever know it’s there.
5) Hide Owner. This gallery setting makes your URL generic. It doesn’t mean that your gallery isn’t visible, but it does remove your customizations and your nickname from the link so that viewers can’t trace it back to you. If you want, you can add a gallery password and/or make your gallery unlisted, too, when you use this feature.
6) Sharegroups. Share multiple unlisted galleries with one link using Sharegroups! These are amazingly useful for guiding friends, clients and family to specific galleries from your latest shoot, without having to worry about them being seen by the public eye. And better yet, they won’t get lost. You can put passwords on the galleries in your Sharegroups, if you wish, but you can also set a master password to let your viewers unlock them all at once.
7) Events. These are Sharegroups on steroids, available only on Business-level SmugMug accounts. You create Events with additional flashy features (slideshows, user registration, etc) and add galleries, give special people (e.g. clients) their own unique viewing link, and the ability to tag their favorite photos. Together, it makes browsing and buying photos a breeze.
8) Site-Wide Passwords. Not for the faint of heart! Lock your whole site from the top down. Anybody visiting links to your galleries will have to enter the correct password before they can see a thing. Even your homepage.
The Privacy Ripple Effect
- Lockdown doesn’t mean your images can’t be shared. Anyone who can view the gallery can still click Share or post a link to Facebook. Please think about whether or not you want your friends’ friends passing your links (and potentially viewing passwords) around. Feeling queasy? You can hide the Share button from your viewers by toggling Easy Sharing to “No” in your Gallery Settings.
- Keywords and searchability take a hit. This is a no-brainer to some, but we still sometimes get asked by photographers why their fans can’t find hidden photos via their site’s search box. In short: Only you as the logged-in site owner can search for (and find) images in unlisted and passworded galleries.
- Photos can’t be collected from unlisted and passworded galleries, unless it’s by you. As the logged-in owner you’ll always be able to collect your own photos, but guests won’t see the orange Collect button if the gallery is protected in any way. If the photo is collected from an unlisted gallery then your visitors won’t see a link back to the original. Photos collected from public, passworded galleries will be visible, but fans will need to enter the viewing password when they follow the link to see more.
- Feature a photo to make your locked gallery’s thumbnail pretty. We won’t display any part of the gallery when your gallery is protected with a password, and this includes thumbnails of the images within. But you can always swap the generic thumbnail for any image in that gallery — just use the gallery Tools button > This Photo > Feature.
- Unlisted and Passworded galleries
- Hello World! and Hello Smuggers!
- Everything about your Account Settings
- All about Gallery Settings
- How to hide individual photos
- Sharing multiple unlisted galleries: Sharegroups!
- Events, Favorites and how they work for Pros
- Site-wide passwords, and making your whole website private
- Keywords and searchability on SmugMug
- Collecting Photos, or putting photos in multiple galleries at once
- How to choose the thumbnail for your gallery