In Case You Missed It: The Business of Love

In the eight weeks leading up to the biggest Wedding Photography tradeshow of the year (WPPI!) we’ve been posting up a storm of great posts featuring sage advice, photo tips, and SmugMug tricks all aimed at helping you become a better photographer in the business of love.

We truly hope these articles have been inspiring and educational, whether you’re a seasoned pro ready for the best wedding season of your career, or a beginner looking for ways to meld your love of photography into everyday life.

Here’s the recap, just in case you missed one of these great articles along the way.

R.L. Morris Photography, on the Business of Love

Photo by Lee Morris

The Business of Love

  • Intimate Portraiture: A behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to make your boudoir studio truly successful. Guest post by Je Revele Fine Art Photography.
  • Are All Weddings Created Equal? How and why traditional engagement photography techniques won’t work for same-sex couples. Podcast with Kathryn Hamm and Thea Dodd.

The Love of Photography

Your SmugMug Toolkit

  • Privacy Cheat Sheet: We’ve got a number of safeguards that can be mixed and matched to create the perfect bouquet of privacy for you, no matter what you shoot.
  • Print lab Love: You’ve probably noticed that SmugMug offers not one, not two, but FOUR fabulous print lab options, each offering a full array of great print products. Here they are.

Sportraiture: Punch Up Your Portrait Photos with Levi Sim

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

What’s in Your Bag? SmugMug’s Ivan Makarov, AKA Uncle Scrooge and G+ Superstar

We’ve always said that we love photography, but how can you tell it’s true? We’re busting at the seams with our crazy obsession for all things photo, and some of the most gear-minded folks on our team wanted to bust open their bags and show you what exactly they’re hauling around this year. Or this week. This minute. (You know how it is!)

Today we interviewed Ivan Makarov, SmugMug’s Controller. Since his official title is scarier than sand in a focus ring, we just call him “Uncle Scrooge.” Ivan’s been taking hauntingly beautiful black and white photos for years before he came to SmugMug, and he’s showing us what it takes to capture those now.

Not just Ivan’s! We’ll feature future interviews by fellow SmugMug gearaholics to cover the rest of this luscious lineup.

Why did you pick the setup that you have?

It took me a few years to put my setup together. I wanted to cover all focal lengths I usually shoot with sharp lenses, and I also wanted it all to fit into a backpack so I can take pictures both in the urban and nature setting. I shoot nature, I shoot architecture, and occasionally I shoot people. So this setup allows me to cover it all.

What’s your #1, go-to, must-have, desert-island item?

I shoot the most with 85mm f/1.4. It’s super sharp, and I’m in love with how it renders out-of-focus areas. The reason why I shoot with that lens a lot is because I have a house full of kids (three little clowns!), so I shoot them all the time. It’s a perfect lens to capture their little lives and faces.

What’s the rarely-seen underdog in your pack?

I hardly ever use a macro lens I own. I knew it from the start and was on the fence about buying it for years. That’s why I went with a Tamron version rather than a Nikon version – I knew I’d shoot with it very rarely. That turned out to be true, but this lens by Tamron is actually pretty good.

Are you an off-brand kinda guy?

I own a Sigma lens and a Tamron lens. They aren’t build as well as Nikon glass, but good enough for a lot of situations, and are often cost half the price.

Confession time! What’s your worst gear fail story?

I was once shooting a portrait of a nephew on the beach using off camera flash. A rogue wave came in, sending fully charged flash into the water. It electrocuted me, and fried the flash right away.

Show us one of your favorite shots and what you used to get it.

This shot was taken with a 80-200mm lens. I wanted to get closer to the pilings, and also get the Bay Bridge in the background.

To end on a dreamy note, what’s at the top of your wish list?

I would upgrade my Sigma 24-70mm with the Nikon 24-70mm. The Sigma is very soft at f/2.8 and is very slow to  autofocus. I do shoot with it quite a bit because it’s pretty sharp after f/5.6. Nikon’s version costs five times as much but the upgrade is probably worth it.

Uploading to SmugMug: What, How Big and How Many?

If you’re new to SmugMug, you may wonder exactly what, how much and how often you can upload to your galleries. And we agree — it’s a good idea to get an idea of what your limits are… particularly when there isn’t one.

The quick version: Upload JPG, PNG, or GIF files up to 50 MB and 100 megapixels apiece, videos up to 3 GB and 20 minutes apiece. Add up to 5,000 photos into each gallery and create as many galleries as you want.

Uploading at SmugMug

You’ve got tons of options for getting your photos from your computer and into your galleries. Our two favorite methods right now are:

1) Our default, browser-based HTML5 uploader. It’s lightweight, accessible from any computer/browser, and lets you drag and drop files from your desktop into the upload box. Voila!

2) Lightroom’s free SmugMug plugin. So many photographers from all walks of life love Lightroom for its ease of use and powerful editing capabilities. Download the free SmugMug plugin if you haven’t already got it, and start making your life that much simpler. Best of all, you’re publishing direct from your digital negatives, which means no extra JPG files to suck up space on your hard drive.

We’ve got lots of other options if those don’t bake your potatoes. From SmuggLr to Star Explorer, our community has created as many methods as possible to upload photos from wherever they are, just the way you like it. Check out your options here on our Apps page, or click the green “Choose a different uploader” from the bottom of the web uploader box.

How Big Can Galleries Go?

You can create as many galleries as you wish on your SmugMug site, and each one can be tweaked to have different SEO, privacy and print settings as you’re aware. You can give them a total makeover by choosing one of four different Viewing Styles, too.

Your galleries stretch with your screen and adjust to fit the largest images the gallery settings allow. They’ll also auto-adjust so that you see fewer gallery pages on big screens and more pages on smaller ones. We’ve capped photo count to 5,000 per gallery because basic tools like sorting and keywording become impossibly difficult when you have that many photos in one place.

The Many File Flavors at Smug

When it comes to photos, we accept JPG, PNG and GIF files up to 50 MB apiece. Which file you use depends on what you’re going to be doing:

JPGs are the format you’ll use the most. The only file type our print labs will print from, and they’re ubiquitous, so it’s easy-peasy for your fans and clients to view them if you’re offering digital downloads.

PNG files are recommended for images that contain transparent areas, like the site branding files that Power, Portfolio and Business users will use. We’re talking header logo images and watermark image files, to start.

GIF files are commonly used for animations. We don’t hear much about them these days, but who doesn’t love watching a good cinemagraph? We’re always thrilled to see what great ones you’re making.

If your tipple is video, you’ve got a lot more options. There’s tons of codecs out there and we support a good number of them. Check out the list here, which may not include everything but does come with bonus conversion info.

Just be sure that your videos are under 20 minutes long and 3 GB apiece.

Vault It! For Everything Else

SmugVault, our archival service provided by Amazon, is for the kitchen sink. PDFs, TIFFs, RAW, CR2, DOC whatever you’ve got and want to keep safe, keep it there. You can upload any file up to a max of 3 GB, and you can view and retrieve them from the familiar SmugMug gallery interface. When possible, we’ll even create a JPG preview so you know exactly which file you’re looking at.

Take a closer look at SmugVault, Amazon and how it works.

Tip: Because all video files are processed slightly on upload to SmugMug, you can choose to Vault your originals. This way, you always have a copy in case your hard drive goes boom.

We hope that everyone has a better idea of what’s possible with their accounts. So go ahead, grab your bag and get out there shooting. We’ll see you on the upload!

Link roundup:

Smug Tip of the Week: Stop Slapping Your Customers

The idea of people right-clicking on your website can be a bit maddening. The easiest fix is to enable Right-Click Protection in your gallery settings and foil those thieves. They get a pop-up message. You feel safe.

Right-click protection can be a good deterrent and we’ll tell you to use it together with our other image protection features. But here’s another idea that will make both you and your fans happy.

Take Lemons, Make Sales

Rather than slapping the hands of people who clearly love your photos, give them what they want: Prints! Or downloads, or merchandise, whichever you prefer.

How? We highly recommend that you write a personalized, informative message in that pop-up box. You’ll always catch more flies with honey, so don’t use a scary, “Don’t steal from me, EVER!” line… unless you’re absolutely sure that you feel that way.

Here’s how to do it:

Pro users (Portfolio and Business accounts) can open up the Easy Customizer and click on the “Photos” header. In that field below, you can enter a custom message for that pop-up window. By default it says, “These photos are copyrighted by their respective owners. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use prohibited.”

But we recommend typing up something friendly and informative.

Here are some examples to get your gears turning:

Thanks for visiting this site! All images are available for purchase as print or downloads via the Buy button.

Photos are (c) Sam the Photographer. Look for the buy button to buy a print for yourself.

We love you even more for loving our pics. Click the buy button and choose your favorite format.

Love this? Purchase a 5×7 print and get it delivered to your door.

If you prefer to use your own code, you can always open up your Advanced Customization (located in your Account Settings > Style tab) and enter the following in your Bottom JavaScript box. To customize the message, simply change the text inside the quotes:

rightClickWarning = "All photos are Copyright 2013. Unauthorized use is prohibited.";

Great Idea Part 2: Use Your Gallery Description

We’ve said this before, but we can’t say it enough: The gallery description field is an amazing, untapped resource. We highly suggest that you type in some info about your photos, give them step-by-step instructions on how to add prints to their shopping cart, list any limited-time coupons you’re offering, and make personalized suggestions about which prints and products you recommend the most.

Used together, you’ll put forth friendly, informative and smart suggestions to your fans. The perfect way to use your powers for forces of Good.

Reminder! Business and Portfolio subscribers can set their own pricing and make money on every sale, but only when Pricelist(s) have been set up. Visitors can also buy photos from Power User accounts, but they can only be sold at our base prices. See what you get with each account.

What if I don’t want to sell, period?

Easy-peasy: Open up your Gallery Settings, scroll down to the bottom and toggle the “Printable” option to No. Your Buy button goes poof.

We hope that these tips help your fans love you even more than they already do, and that you’ll be more comfortable sharing your beautiful photos, too.

Links to love:

SmugMug Success Stories: Kent McCorkle Photography, LLC

The Sportsman: Kicking Off a Second Career and Having a Ball

Name: Kent McCorkle
Position/Title: Owner/Photographer
Company: Kent McCorkle Photography, LLC
Location: Metro Atlanta, GA
Market: Sports (professional, college and high school), plus local news and company-sponsored events
Bragworthy Factoid: Earning back his initial investment in his SmugMug site within a few months of launching his business.
SmugMugger since: 2004

Career Highlights…

  • First time being accepted by a media wire service to cover sports.
  • Breaking into Division I college and professional sports.
  • Seeing his work published in Sports Illustrated, on ESPN and in other national publications.

Favorite Features…

Making the most of a moment

Kent McCorkle knows the exact moment he became a photographer. After more than 30 years working in the corporate world, raising a family and flirting with image-making, everything changed with a single email. Although he had enjoyed capturing youth sports, vacations and other personal moments for years, he hadn’t thought seriously of working for profit. Then he was contacted out of the blue by an architectural design firm about photos he’d shot and posted of antebellum homes during a family holiday. Interest sparked, McCorkle quickly sold them the images for publication in a book. Fast-forward to today: McCorkle has settled firmly into sports photography, fashioning a second career out of his passion for capturing exciting moments in youth athletics. Riding the digital photography wave and fueling his interest with online support resources, he honed his skills and bided his time. “The idea of selling photographs had never crossed my mind…[but] after the surprise of selling my first photographs, I began to wonder if parents might be interested in purchasing the sports-action photographs I had been taking of their kids.”

Fit to print

Along with technical mastery, McCorkle has acquired a deep knowledge of the byzantine world of sports photography. His advice for the aspiring and uninitiated? Get your feet wet covering youth sports before attempting Division I college and professional athletics, both of which require extensive credentialing. “The first step is to gain lots of experience photographing sports at lower levels,” he says. “Develop a portfolio that shows your best work. Standards for acceptance by wire services are very high. Compare your work to what you see in major sports publications. You can also visit media wire service websites and see examples.” Photographers must be affiliated with approved media companies to shoot higher-level sporting events; the sports governing associations license the images for distribution. McCorkle suggests honing your craft by connecting with other photographers. “Even at high school games, you may have opportunities to pick up tips and learn techniques from more experienced photographers.”

SmugMug and sports

Citing SmugMug’s “remarkable” customer service, continual innovation and “flawless” order processing, McCorkle considers the service foundational to his business model. From the outset, SmugMug helped McCorkle streamline his burgeoning business needs. He especially likes the one-stop shop aspect. “I started with SmugMug because it offered the ability to create a gallery-based photographic website and sell photos. Order placement and fulfillment were the clinchers for me,” he says. He continues to add SmugMug features to his arsenal, sometimes evolving his workflow to take advantage of SmugMug’s conveniences. “I was slow to get on the Proof Delay bandwagon because every image uploaded to my galleries had been fully post-processed and I considered them print-ready,” he points out. “But then I started using it in order to allow me one last chance to make sure everything is right.”

Pounding the pavement

McCorkle’s business acumen has proved invaluable since his transition to photography. Underscoring the importance of building multiple revenue streams and diverse customer segments, he has cultivated clients ranging from athletes’ families and high school booster clubs to local news outlets and national publications including Sports Illustrated and ESPN. “In all but one case, my freelance work with newspapers resulted from my making initial contact with either the editor, sports editor or publisher,” he says. “Sometimes a simple email expressing your interest in working with the paper is all that is necessary to get the ball rolling.” McCorkle adds that persistence and patience are key. “Each time that I’ve expanded the types of sports I photograph or my customer base, I’ve followed a simple principle from my corporate career. Stated simply, it is ‘gentle pressure, relentlessly applied,’ ” he says with a smile. McCorkle markets his business in creative ways, ranging from hardcopy business cards he passes out while shooting games to requesting links to his portfolio on booster club sites to emailing booster officers gallery links and asking that they forward them to coaches, parents and fans.

Love what you see? Check out our other incredible SmugMug Success Stories.

Webinar Alert! Quadruple Your Wedding Reach in Half the Time

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