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December 12, 2013

Pride in Your Ride: Motorcycle Photography by Steve Isaacs

We asked photographer Steve Isaacs, featured on pages 22-23 in our December issue, to tell us about his studio design and the setup behind his motorcycle portrait photography.

By Steve Isaacs

We’ve put together a very effective lighting and backdrop setup, which you see here, for our in-studio motorcycle photography. 

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To get an idea of scale the back studio wall is 24 feet across and the white roll-up flooring is 12 feet wide by 24 feet long. I set this at an angle in the studio because the concrete floor is not level. In this position the floor is fairly level, making it easier to stand the panels and not have large gaps at the bottom of a panel where it sits on the floor. I had a problem with the foam core bending if left standing for very long, so I taped 1-inch PVC pipe to the back side of the foam core. Those are the white ribs you see against the black side of the panels. This kept the panels light weight, making setup and teardown easy, even with one person. The canvas you see on the floor and under the table provides a surface to roll the bike in and not leave tire tracks everywhere.

The motorcycle studio setup uses an 18-foot truss to suspend three Paul C. Buff Einstein flash heads in soft boxes overhead to provide the main lighting. The reverse side of a 12x24-foot linoleum floor, painted white, serves as the floor and can be rolled up for transport. Foam core is suspended at each side using simple backdrop stands and bars to create 12-foot false walls at each side with angled panels at the front to reflect more light to the side of the motorcycle. We drape black cloth over the setup to black out anything overhead that would otherwise be reflected off the motorcycle.

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When I don’t have a motorcycle in studio, I use this gray stool with a 10-foot PVC pipe as stand-in to set exposure and the flash settings. I can check shadows and adjust the light for a usable (maskable) separation from the white background.

It's the combination of all of these white surfaces that produce the even lighting at the side of the motorcycle. The overhead soft boxes create the highlights that accent the curves of the tank and fenders. The back wall is also made of foam core suspended on backdrop stands, making a 16-foot false wall. Additional flash heads at each side and pointed toward the back wall illuminate the wall to create a complete white background when desired. Two more flash heads located at the front of the setup add depth and highlights when creating portraits with the motorcycles. We use Paul C. Buff heads because I can control them using a remote mounted on the camera. This saves considerable effort when adjusting the intensity of the overhead flash heads.

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We use two cameras during the session. One camera is mounted on a tripod some 40 feet from the motorcycle and at a low angle (18 inches) for the profile images and stays on the tripod. This is tethered to a laptop computer using a USB interface. We use the second camera hand-held to capture closeup detail images and for the portrait images. An Eye-Fi card in the second camera wirelessly transmits the images to the laptop where the client can view the images as they are being captured. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is configured to automatically import from a watched folder, which simplifies workflow later and shows the images as they are captured.

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Having the client immediately see the images live during the session has helped tremendously to produce the images the client wants. Though some photographers don’t like the client to see the images before they're finaled, I find the immediate feedback very important. I liken it to a jazz musician playing to a live audience. I do have to educate the client a bit so that the he or she understands the images are only the starting point for the final result. I don't want skewed expectations to confuse the session. 

After capturing the images I spend time in Photoshop to create the composites, which become the final images. This is where my work is distinct from others’.

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©Steve Isaacs Photography

This finished family portrait shows the type of composite we’re known for. The bike owner didn't want to have his picture taken, so he had his bike stand in. That’s the family crest in the corner. A local airbrush artist created the Celtic theme, and the bike was built by a local custom house, the culmination of a four-year labor of love. The owner wanted me to photograph the bike before he started the engine for the first time, and the family portrait was impromptu on the spot. 

The image above was taken using the prototype portable indoor setup. All of the parts are there and can be loaded into a trailer to be transported to different indoor locations.

This studio setup is one commonly used for advertising and magazine photography. I’d like to construct a slightly larger version of this setup to use with automobiles at some point. With the addition of flash heads with snoots for depth is working quite well for product photography (see below).

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Steve Isaacs Photography hopes to unveil a portable version of this studio at the 2014 Inland Northwest Motorcycle Show with a goal of one hour for setup and one hour for teardown. We considered designing a setup that we could use outdoors, but we’ve tabled that idea due to of concerns about wind and rain along with dust control, which would require a tent and additional flooring, making the setup significantly more expensive and difficult to transport and set up.

 

June 11, 2013

Blogging for Photographers: Creating a Community and Dealing with Negative Comments

Jolie O’Dell's new book, "Blogging for Photographers," is a thorough guide to everything you'll need to know about beginning and succeeding in the blogging process. From early preparation that will save you loads of time to more advanced advice on how to navigate the Internet and the potential pitfalls of putting yourself in front of the public. She goes over the technical side and shows you examples of specific successful blogs to illustrate her points. Here we share a small part of her chapter on community, which also includes information on spam, blogger networking, making good impressions with introductions, moving up networking tiers, and integrating social media.   —Joan Sherwood, Senior Editor, Professional Photographer

This article was excerpted from Jolie O’Dell’s “Blogging for Photographers: Showcase Your Creativity and Build Your Audience” book, published by Focal Press last month. “Blogging for Photographers” is available in stores and online for $24.95.

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Community

One of the great parts of being a blogger is the fact that you get to interact with your audience. But when you’ve done your part by creating great content, readers get to do their part by responding to it, sharing it, and getting more involved with you, your blog, and each other.

Building a community is an exciting and sometimes exhausting endeavor, but it brings you close to your audience and creates real connections between you and your readers. And when those connections start to form, you’ll see some interesting “network effects” on your blog.

A thriving network can start to have a gravity-like effect on the surrounding areas of the internet. The stronger your community becomes, the more readers will get pulled into it. One regular reader will share a link in a tweet, another will email his friend about an insightful post you wrote. Little by little, your readership will grow; as you make connections on a personal level, your network will grow. And as your network grows, so does your personal brand, your business, and your overall ranking in the world of photo blogging.

 

Creating a community in comments

Don’t be shy—if your readers were interested enough to leave a comment, you should meet them halfway and start a dialog whenever possible.

The first, easiest, and most obvious way to start building a community is by reading and responding to the comments on your blog.

Note, I did not say by obsessively checking and pondering the deeper meaning of the comments on your blog.

This can be hinky territory for even the most self-assured photo bloggers. Your snaps and scribbles will acquire a diverse crowd of readers, and not all of them will be supportive, pleasant, or sane. That’s the gamble you take when you work in the public eye. Prepare yourself for some positivity, some neutrality, some negativity, and a healthy serving of spam, and try not to take it all too seriously.

If you’re particularly concerned about angry, unpleasant, or profanity-laced comments, your content management system (CMS) will likely give you an option for pre-screening comments before they are publicly published on your blog. If you choose to moderate all your comments this way, try to check for new comments at least once a day, more frequently if you get more than a handful of comments.

With that caveat in mind, know that the comments section on any post can be a lively salon for fascinating conversations between peers. Beginners can ask you questions; you can respond with specific tips. Old pros can offer you suggestions for new techniques to try. Avid fans can give you digital applause, and thoughtful connoisseurs can give you constructive critiques.

You don’t have to respond to every comment you get. In fact, many of your commenters’ thoughts may be along two well-worn lines: “That’s great!” and “Me too!” While these kinds of responses can certainly enliven and flesh out your comments section, they don’t really add much substance to the conversation you started when you published your blog post, and they don’t necessarily require a response from you. If you’d like to respond, you may absolutely do so, but be advised that the blogger who responds to every comment creates a cluttered conversation stream and cultivates an overly eager image.

Rather, it might be best (especially when you start getting more than one or two comments on a given post) to chime into the comments only when you have a specific thought to add, a question to address, or a point to clarify. Think of yourself as the host or hostess at a reception. Your job is to welcome people in, set the tone for the event (both of which you’ve already done in your blog post), and then facilitate a natural and pleasant conversational flow. Too much chatter on your part is as destructive to said flow as stone silence.

When you chime into a conversation in the comments section underneath a post, you can reply to a group or to a specific commenter. Just avoid confusion by being specific about whom you’re addressing, and be as clear as possible with whatever point you’re trying to make or question you’re trying to answer.

In general, your readers will be delighted to know that you’re not only an engaging writer and terrific photographer but also an active participant with your fans and friends online. You’ll probably build ongoing online relationships with at least a few folks who return frequently to read and comment; it’s the very beginning of a community and can end up being one of the strongest parts of your blog if you choose to make it so.

When responding to comments from others, be as personable as you would if you were speaking to them in real life. After all, when you take away all the code and pixels, we’re all flesh and blood, very real and distinct personalities who are quite connected through the internet. Even though we may be physically remote, we should strive to be as polite and respectful as if we were sitting next to one another in a public place.

Practicing such courtesy is easy when you’re answering a simple question or responding to a positive remark from a fan or friend. However, when a reader has a critical comment, it can be difficult to rein yourself in. The web gives us all a powerful feeling of invulnerability, and too often we take this feeling as license to insult and shame others whom we perceive as insulting us.

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DEALING WITH NEGATIVE COMMENTS

No matter how cheerful your posts are, you will invariably have to deal with some naysayers and nasties at some point.

Getting critical comments—be they constructive or otherwise—is absolutely unavoidable for any blogger. In fact, fear of such comments has held many a creative soul back from blogging. But you shouldn’t let your apprehensions about this facet of online life intimidate you or detract your enthusiasm.

In fact, your policy on and reactions to negative comments can be a huge factor in establishing the ethos of your blog’s community. How you respond to these kinds of comments will set you apart and define your character—and, if you’re blogging as a business owner, will send strong signals to your potential commenters.

Different bloggers have different approaches. The thoughtful will carefully engage detractors in an intelligent and reasonable debate. The thick-skinned will poke fun at meanies. The Pollyannas of the internet will post a thorough section on their expectations of positive commenting and will delete anything with a hint of snideness or profanity.

But every seasoned blogger will have developed their own techniques for dealing with negative comments. Here are a few helpful tips and coping mechanisms for the bad/ugly spectrum of comments, from the ugliest insults to well-meant critiques:

Don’t feed the trolls! This is Rule One of online communication. It simply means that while you will encounter “trolls,” i.e., web-dwellers who exist online for the purpose of inflicting emotional pain on others, you are under no circumstances to “feed” them, i.e., show any sign that you notice or are affected in any way by their antics. If you get a “trollish” comment, delete it, do not respond to it, and move forward immediately without paying any further mind.

Take the high road. If someone leaves a nasty comment or one that’s just critical of your work, you can always come out on top by being unflappably gracious. A simple, “I’m sorry you feel that way. Have a great day!” can quickly and successfully close the matter, allowing you to save face, still remain in control of the situation, and not be dragged into a flame war (a heated back-and-forth that sucks everyone involved into a maelstrom of negativity and hyperbole).

Sometimes, you don’t have to respond with a correction or rebuke to an obviously incorrect negative commenter. Your other readers will come to your rescue—a good sign of a healthy community.

Delete, delete, delete. You’re in charge here; this is your playground. You are in no way obliged to publish every comment you get, and you can delete anything that doesn’t fit in with the vibe you’re trying to cultivate. Free speech certainly has its place, but your blog isn’t a public or government-owned property. If detractors want to speak freely, they can darn well set up blogs of their own.

Don’t fear the banhammer. The banhammer is your privilege as a blog owner; in most CMSes, you can permanently ban any commenter who you feel is dragging down the tone of the conversation with verbal abuse, threats, or profanity (if that’s not okay on your blog).

Take a deep breath. If you get a particularly vitriolic comment that just sets your teeth on edge, walk away from your computer (or shut down your smartphone) and go blow off some steam before responding (or not responding, or just deleting the comment altogether). Some low-blow comments will go straight for your emotional jugular. In those moments, you might need a mantra; I have a few of my own! “These people don’t pay my bills” is a perspective-saving personal favorite that reminds me why I blog and reinforces the fact that a bad comment has no real-world impact on me.

Negative isn’t always nasty. Some folks will leave comments that they didn’t like your work or they didn’t understand your story or they hate the lens you’re using, and so on. Don’t let it get to you emotionally, and assume that the commenter meant well. If you start by giving them the benefit of the doubt, you can decide for yourself whether the criticism does, in fact, have any merit; but if it was made without malice, there’s no need to get upset.

Laugh! Sometimes, an overly negative commenter is so off-base that their words go from offensive to just plain bizarre, outlandish, and ludicrous. Feel free to shake your head and chuckle. One seasoned pro in the blogosphere tells me he likes to reply to these commenters with three simple words: “You fascinate me.” It’s a little wink-wink that lets other commenters know you’re in on the joke and don’t take the negativity to heart.

Just remember: Your commenters, positive and negative alike, don’t really know you. Any comments they leave are more a reflection on them than on you. Dark people leave dark comments, and we have to pity them for not having better things to do with their lives.

Finally, there might sometimes be posts that stir up strong reactions or controversies in the community. Likewise, if you do any personal blogging, you might also find yourself delving into some very tender territory. In most blogging software, you can turn comments on and off for an individual post, and on my own blogs, I will very often flip the switch into no-comment mode if I feel that I’ve said all I have to say and I don’t particularly need or want feedback from others.

This might strike some of your readers as a high-handed way of avoiding criticism, but look at all the facts: You took the time and effort to set up a blog, do all your photography, and craft a well-thought-out blog post on a perhaps sensitive subject. It’s your work, and no one is entitled to any part of it. If you don’t feel like subjecting yourself to commentary—positive or negative—you can simply close the comments section.

When I do this on my own blog, I run a brief disclaimer at the bottom of the post, where the comments section would normally be found:

“Comments are closed for this post. You are encouraged to disagree, debate, or expand the conversation on your own blog; you will be linked to via trackbacks and pingbacks.”

It’s a polite but firm way of telling your readers that while you appreciate them, this particular post is a one-way talk or speech or demonstration rather than a roundtable discussion.

It goes without saying that people act differently online than they do in real life. It takes a cool, collected head to rise above the noise sometimes—but patience and an even temper almost always pay off.

August 16, 2012

Opinion: A Challenge to Slow Down

By Scott Hays

While it may feel good to blame the lady down the street with a high-quality camera for our business troubles, it’s time to consider the contributing factor that we have the most control over. Ourselves. There’s nothing you can do about camera manufacturers improving their product and making it affordable enough for enthusiasts to attain. You can’t blame people who are enthusiastic about photography and want to make it the source of their livelihood. We were all at that level once. But we can examine ourselves and refine our technique and force the competition to rise to our level rather than letting ourselves get sloppy and only equal theirs.

Before digital, we had to wait until our film came back to see what you had accomplished. When we shot a senior session, most of us were pretty content with shooting a roll of 24 exposures, maybe 36, and then setting an appointment for our customers to come back to see the results. Now, with the aid of immediate feedback, the practice of shooting hundreds of images and culling them down to “the good ones” has pervaded the profession. It has allowed our artistic brains to get lazy.

Though I still love shooting digital, I have begun to shoot wet plate style as they did in the 19th century. No, it’s not a superior method of photography, but I find it fascinating. It can take up to an hour to prepare, shoot and finish one image. No built-in light meter, no light meter period. You take your lens cap off, count or look at your watch, and with experience you learn how long to expose your glass or tin plate. It can be anywhere from three seconds to 30 minutes if not longer. As there are today, there were specialists. There were portrait photographers, and the photographers who made what we would consider a head shot, which were the size of wallet images today. There were landscape photographers. They had one thing in common: the image took time to set up and prepare. If they wanted to shoot away from their studio, they had to have a mobile darkroom. Once you expose your plate, you have approximately five minutes to process it.

So how does this apply? Somehow the machine-gun shutter has become the norm. What do we accomplish by taking four or more shots of the same pose? What would happen if we started to take only 15 to 20 images in an entire session? Our clients aren’t expecting a couple of hundred images; they are expecting to see an incredible finished product. Is it the client who wants to see us acting like a fashion photographer at their child’s senior session, or is it that we don’t trust our own abilities? Slow down.

When photographers had no choice but to get it right the first time, they made beautiful portraits. Granted, it wasn’t our 21st-century style, but you can shoot in whatever style you like, refrain from overshooting, and still create incredible work. We have a choice, yet we are choosing to lose sight of what photography actually is. Photography isn’t taking pictures, it is the study of light.

Challenge yourself on a day when you don’t have a client. Go to the park or a visually interesting location, and only allow yourself to take 12 images. Take a friend or family member and shoot portraits. Use only manual settings, and under no circumstances should you view any of the images until you get home and download them. You will learn so much about yourself and your photography. If you still have your 35mm film camera, go pick up a roll of C41 color or black-and-white film. Take it out and shoot a roll of 24.

This exercise will help you believe in your abilities again. It will tell you what you need to work on. The first time you can’t look at the back of your camera, it will feel almost like an anxiety attack. If you have never taken on an exercise like this, grab a photographer friend and go out together. It gets a little amusing. Do this once a month. You will be amazed by how much your images improve when you slow down and think before you shoot.

As photographers, we need to start shooting for quality not quantity. How you do that is solely up to you. If we are as comfortable with our knowledge of photography as we all believe we are, we should slow down and use our knowledge of the foundations of photography. That’s an impressive photographer. It just might impress your clientele as well.

So when you preparing for your next session, or come back from the exercise I mentioned, think about how you are shooting. Ask yourself if you are shooting with deliberation. Can you slow it down? Can you become a better artist?

If you would like to comment on this essay, please post on our Facebook page or send an email to Senior Editor Joan Sherwood.

August 8, 2012

Identifying an Email Scam Before It's Too Late

By Maria Matthews

Chances are you’ve received scam email, such as one saying you are the lucky winner of a huge cash prize, and all you need do to collect is email back with your address, place of work, and for tax purposes, your Social Security number. You’re on to those, but what about one from a frantic bride begging you to cover her destination wedding in just a few months’ time because the one she had booked suddenly disappeared? Watch out! Not all scam emails are clearly phishing schemes. There are plenty of advanced scams that cast a smaller net, aiming for you.

Whether it’s a wedding, a commercial shoot in an exotic locale, or the cover shot for a high-profile magazine that requires immediate travel, watch for a few things that can alert you that your dream job might hook you into a financial nightmare.

Warning signs

• The client asks to pay you prior to seeing your contract, or even discussing your fees
• The client asks you to be responsible for paying other vendors
• The client says they reside in another country, frequently travel internationally, or require you to travel on fairly short notice
• The client’s “major event” just suddenly came up
• The event is to be held at a venue that does not exist
• The client wishes to deposit payment directly into your bank account
• A check or money order arrives that’s substantially higher than the negotiated fee—the client “accidentally” overpaid and requests a cash refund or wire transfer
• The client asks you to provide your services or products without a contract in place and without paying beforehand
• The client’s email address is the only way to reach him, and they cannot provide a valid physical address or telephone number for whatever reason

If you encounter any of the above, do not reply at all if it’s the initial email, and immediately stop communicating if it happens in subsequent emails. If you fear you’ll be risking your reputation for customer service, tell the prospect you took another booking for the date, due to the prospect’s uncertainty. These scams are often ploys to collect valid email addresses in order to send you additional spam in the future.

Your next step should be to immediately notify the email provider (such as Yahoo!, AOL, Google) of the offending sender and message. Email service providers all have an “abuse” contact online on their customer service contact page or in their Terms of Use or Terms of Service agreement. The provider might then freeze or delete the fraudulent account.

You can also notify federal agencies that collect and investigate such spam. Inform the Federal Trade Commission at spam@uce.gov, or you can fill out the online form at ftccomplaintassistant.gov. The Internet Crime Complaint Center, run jointly by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, National White Collar Crime Center, and Bureau of Justice Assistance, catalogues online fraud and partners with law enforcement agencies at varying levels to investigate reports; go to IC3.gov.

If it’s a business that emails you, also report the incidence to your own and their state’s Office of the Attorney General. The division that investigates cyber-crime or online fraud typically falls within the attorney general’s jurisdiction. If the firm engaged in the scam seems to be a reputable, well-known or large company, contact the company as well. It could be their identity has been hijacked.

If you’ve already invested a significant amount of time in landing the “prospective” client, and he’s made a payment, do not attempt to deposit a check without verifying its legitimacy, and verify that the funds are in fact available. Take the check to your bank or call the bank of origin and ask for verification of the account. In most cases, the check has been previously deposited or is drawn on a closed account.

In some instances, the “client” might send a money order. Do not cash or deposit it without verifying it with the fraud department of the issuing institution; e.g., Western Union or the U.S. Postal Service.

In addition to phishing schemes, email is also used in cash forwarding scams. For the latest trends in e-scams, visit postalinspectors.uspis.gov and fakechecks.org.

Bottom line, never jump into an assignment without meeting or speaking with your client by phone, and never accept payment of incorrect amounts or in manners outside your norm.

Maria Matthews is manager of the PPA Copyright and Government Affairs Department.

July 11, 2012

How To Plan, Produce, and Sell Your Photo Book: Part 1 - Planning

Planning Your Photo Book

By David FitzSimmons

Do you have a great idea for a photography book but are unsure how to get it published? The good news is that there are more publishing options today than ever before. Besides working with traditional publishers, doing it yourself is an often practical alternative. In part one of this three-part series, I will cover the preliminary five steps for planning your publication, getting you started down the path of publishing success.

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Researching the ins-and-outs of self-publishing allowed me to find and hire industry experts to help produce "Curious Critters," which sold out its first printing in four months. The nonfiction picture book has won five national book awards.

 

1. Pick a Unique Subject
If everybody is writing about HDR, portrait lighting, or Photoshop techniques, find something else to focus on. Look at your own work. What do you specialize in? Postage stamps? Colorful crystals? Low key portraiture? Survey the field by going to bookstores and libraries. Do a thorough search online. If your book is already available, find a new angle or do something different. If you see nothing on the market like what you are doing, celebrate! Success in publishing often comes from finding your niche.

2. Choose your Audience
Products—yes, your book is a product—are aimed at target audiences. Try to define exactly who will be most interested in your book. Ask yourself: Who is most excited about your subject? Who would come hear you speak on your book? Who would be willing to buy it? The answers to these questions help you describe your audience. If you photograph children, for example, your book might appeal most to females, ages 25 to 45, with families. A common mistake is to believe that your book will appeal to everyone. Trying to attract everyone is most often the fastest route to attracting no one.

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My picture book began as a commercial assignment. Sigma produced two print advertisements using my Curious Critters portraits of common North American critters, one featuring an Eastern box turtle.

3. Determine How Many Books You Want (and Are Able) to Sell
Once you have picked your subject and your audience, then figure out how many books you want (and will be able) to sell. Realistically, are there 500; 5,000; 50,000 people who would buy your book over a period of 3 to 5 years? While there may be thousands of people interested in your subject, can your reach them all?

4. Choose the Best Publishing Option
If you wish to sell 5,000 to 50,000 books, you have a couple options. Most people submit their work to a traditional publisher. Before you prepare a book proposal, go to libraries and bookstores and search online to see who is producing books in your field. Get current copies of Writer’s Market and Photographer’s Market (both by Writer’s Digest Books) to find out each publisher’s requirements for submitting your book proposal. The directories will help you know for which publishers you will need an agent.

The other route—the one that I used in publishing my children’s picture book Curious Critters—is to start your own publishing company. When I founded Wild Iris Publishing, I immediately hired a book shepherd (or consultant) and then a designer, editors, and a publicist, all available for short-term work. Because starting your own publishing company involves a lot of time and effort, a steep learning curve, and a sizeable investment up front, many people prefer working with a traditional publisher, but nearly complete control of the design, production, marketing, and sales may be important to you. I find that knowing many aspects of publishing, from imagining a book to marketing it, helps me craft a product that will sell.

For smaller numbers of books, say, in the hundreds, look into other self-publishing routes. Print-on-Demand (POD) services such as Lulu, Blurb, MILK or Amazon's CreateSpace allow you to design your own books, upload them, and print small numbers at a time. Some companies will sell, print, and ship single copies to buyers. While POD books tend to be simpler to produce, because profit margins are very low, hiring designers, editors, and publicists becomes hard to justify. Generally traditional distributors do not deal in POD books.

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My research included reviewing the National Research Council’s science education standards. "Curious Critters" meets all K-8 national life science standards. The red flat bark beetle teaches young readers about habitats, diet, and—with a half dozen mites crawling on its back—parasitism. The black swallowtail focuses on predator/prey relationships and mimicry.

5. Do Your Publishing Research
Before you begin any of the above, start reading on the subject of publishing. Whether you go the traditional route or self-publish, I recommend reading Dan Poynter’s Self-Publishing Manual and Peter Bowerman’s The Well-Fed Self-Publisher. Both books not only offer great insights into traditional and self-publishing but also offer copious lists of individuals and companies that can help you succeed. Also consider subscribing to Publishers Weekly, the industry standard trade publication. Reading PW regularly will help you understand the trade, keep track of current trends, and inspire you to imagine your next project.

Finally, join trade organizations. In producing Curious Critters, I found great help from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the Independent Book Publishers Association. Research organizations in your field and join them. Attend their meetings, read their publications, and always ask lots of questions!

Next … Part II: Producing Your Photo Book

Followed by … Part III: Selling Your Photo Book

Writer and photographer David FitzSimmons (fitzsimmonsphotography.com) is one of five Sigma Pro photographers and a professor at Ashland University. Check out his award-winning children's picture book, “Curious Critters,” at curious-critters.com. 

 

May 23, 2012

News: PickPic Acquired from WHCC by Colorati Team, Improvements in Development

By Jen Christensen

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ProofPro, the award-winning photo studio management system, is about to get even better. Its parent company, PickPic, was recently purchased from White House Custom Colour (WHCC) by a management company that already has significant improvement plans underway.

The new CEO of PickPic, Sanjay Ahuja, is part of a team of investors that owns the post-production specialist and industry leader Colorati who are also behind this latest acquisition. ProofPro is the best in the business, Ahuja says, but it was time for an upgrade.

"We understand the big challenges photographers face," Ahuja said. "With our improvements, we will help ProofPro better engage with the customer and will help photographers sell more prints."

ProofPro lets photographers take control of their online photo proofing galleries and order fulfillment. It features large gallery images, a simplified shopping process, unlimited low-resolution image uploads, a personalized domain name of the user's choice, a PCI-complaint server environment with tight security, unlimited phone and email technical support, and a seamless design that blends in with the look and feel of an existing website. It won a 2011 Professional Photographer magazine Hot One Award.

One of the system's biggest improvements is that it will work on mobile platforms, giving photographers greater opportunity to showcase their work on an iPhone or iPad—something the system could not do before.

Another planned enhancement is better lab integration with WHCC and other top printing and fulfillment partners. Photographers will still be able to use the lab of their choice, but if they pick a lab in PickPic's network, then their orders will go straight to the lab. ProofPro users will also immediately get discounts with Colorati, a popular post-production company for wedding and portrait photographers.

ProofPro will still be available to photographers on a paid subscription basis. That's particularly good news for high-volume photographers who prefer not to pay by the print, which can cost up to 24 percent more per photo.

"It's a simple and elegant system that photographers already love," Ahuja said. "In enhancing the user experience, we believe that in the end the customer will buy more photos. We are very excited about the future of this significant development push."

June 30, 2011

Taking the Second Step to Becoming Certified

By Marianne Drenthe

In Part I of this series I touched upon my rationale for taking the steps towards becoming a Certified Professional Photographer (CPP). In the comments section was a statement that hit home:

“After all these years, getting a certification only because there is much more competition doesn't really make you all that different than the competition, does it? I think certification has a valuable meaning, but doesn't necessarily mean those without it aren't worthy professional photographers either. Despite that sticker in your window, you still have to prove yourself to your clients and really, only to yourself.”

The reasons for getting certified extend far beyond being above the competition. While you really do have only yourself and your client to answer to, getting certified is simply a goal that you have to set for yourself. While I may think my work is solid, and I have a great base of repeat (as well as new) clients, I still have goals: certification is just one of them.

The added benefit of getting certified is that I will be able to market that added benefit to potential clients. With the influx of new, often technically lacking photographers coming in, becoming certified is having a stamp of approval from a professional commission. Really it’s not much different than other professions. There are board-certified heart surgeons, board-certified pediatric oncologists—though of course I’m not professing that photography is akin to performing brain surgery. Because we’re involved in an industry that doesn’t have licensing or schooling requirements, we do not have that built-in stature that schooling and licensure give.

The question boils down to: As a photographer, how do you show your clients verification of your own excellence? There are many ways, and getting CPP certified is just one of them. Good work is another. Both together? Double whammy.

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A selection of Marianne Drenthe’s image submissions for CPP certification. ©Marianne Drenthe 

Continue reading "Taking the Second Step to Becoming Certified" »

February 24, 2011

Blogging SEO Secrets

By TJ McDowell

Chances are good that as a photographer, you’ve got a blog that you use to promote your studio, but if you’re not tapping into the power of Search Engine Optimization to bring in more blog readers, you’re missing out on the opportunity to show your work to a lot of potential clients. If your main website is an SEO-killing Flash website, having blog content show up in search results means that you’ll still get your studio name in front of searchers who are looking for photographers. Even if your main website shows up in search results without help from your blog, you can still use your blog to target hundreds of additional search terms that you wouldn’t be able to effectively target on your main site.

Keywords In Post Title And Page Name

Knowing which keywords to target can seem like a guessing game at times, and in some ways it is. If you follow one guideline though, you’ll start to see good results over time. What you want to do is to choose a keyword phrase that includes location-specific words. The location you choose for your keywords could be as general as a city, or it could be as specific as the name of a park. It’s completely up to you. Some keywords get more traffic than others, and you can use the Keyword Tool in Google AdWords to get a general feel for how much traffic a term gets. With some of the smaller locations, like a church or reception venue, the terms won’t get enough traffic to even register with Google. You’d be surprised how quickly the low-volume searches can add up, though, so don’t think of low-volume search terms as irrelevant. Once you have your keywords picked out, include them in your post title. I have my Wordpress blog set up to generate my page name from my post title, so I don't have to worry about changing my page name manually. If your blogging platform doesn't use the right page name automatically, you'll have to set your page name yourself to include your keywords.

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Post Frequently

If you’re going to be targeting search terms with lower volume, you’ll need to post more frequently to bring in the kind of traffic that brings regular bookings. Posting frequently with easy-to-rank keywords is a great way to get in front of searchers even in a crowded market. If they’re even considering SEO, most of your competitors will be going after the high competition keywords because that’s where they think all the traffic is. They’re skipping out on the low-hanging fruit because they may not even realize people are including very specific locations in their searches. The more you post on specific locations, the more you bring in traffic that no one else had even thought about targeting.

Interlink Posts

Aside from increasing the number of posts a user visits and the average time spent on your site, interlinking posts can also do wonders for improving the ranking of your blog posts in Google. Adding a link from one post to another can be a little tricky at first—at least if you’re doing it correctly. After a while, it becomes almost second nature though, so stick with it. The key when linking to a post is to fit the link in naturally with the rest of your content. As you get better, you’ll be able to include the link in the middle of a sentence, so the fact that there’s a link in the sentence won’t make the sentence seem awkward. The other trick is to have your keywords included in the link text. So for example, if you’re writing a post on how to prepare for a session, and you’re linking to a previous post on clothing choice, your link text may be “how to choose outfits.”

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Continue reading "Blogging SEO Secrets" »

February 23, 2011

Book Review: "Marketing for Solos"

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By Betsy Finn, Cr.Photog., CPP

On the recommendation of a friend, I recently ordered a copy of the newly released book, “Marketing for Solos,” by Jeanna Pool. After reading the book cover to cover in a single weekend, I thought to myself: “this book could be really helpful to photographers!” As small business owners, we often find ourselves overwhelmed with various facets of running our business (usually a one-person show). In her book, Jeanna Pool cuts through the philosophical jibber jabber of marketing, and offers real world advice and practical suggestions for the solo business owner.

The tenets of marketing aren’t new to me. I came away from college with a degree in both Studio Art and Business Management, so I know the theories of marketing. I know what we all, as small business owners, should be doing to market our businesses. But I also know that, too often, we get caught up in the day-to-day operations of running our studios and forget to devote time to our marketing tactics.

That’s where Pool’s book comes in. More than just a book to read once and add to your library, “Marketing for Solos” is designed to help you work through some of the important cornerstones of your marketing plan. Pool walks you through how to determine or find your niche market, why you need to focus your marketing efforts on prospects with specific traits, and how to develop effective marketing pieces that will yield results. Additionally, the book focuses on strategically diversifying your marketing efforts so that you don’t end up with all your eggs in one basket.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Pool about how this book could be particularly useful for photographers. Pool said, “It's one of the only books of its kind that teaches the solo photographer how to market their business successfully. It can be really hard to market your business when you can't be in two places at once … [‘Marketing For Solos’] makes marketing manageable.” I also asked Pool what one most useful tidbit of information photographers might take away from her book. She said, “The biggest thing photographers need to do is pick a focused niche. It separates the successful photographers from those who are just ‘getting by.’”

I really took to heart one of Pool’s comments from the book: “Most small businesses struggle, fumble, and ultimately fail for one simple reason—lack of clients. And a lack of clients is a result of one thing—a lack of marketing” (p. 20). There are many artistically competent photographers whose businesses are walking a fine line between failure and survival simply because they don’t know how to market. Waiting for clients to fall into your lap is not an effective way to stay in business. You may be the one “doing it all” at your studio, but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice when it comes to marketing. “Marketing for Solos” will help you to market yourself, and your business, in a way that is sustainable for the one-person small business.

“Marketing For Solos” is available at Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/Marketing-Solos-Ultimate-How-Successfully/dp/0976996278) for $19.95. For more information about the book, visit Jeanna Pool’s website: marketingforsolos.com.

Betsy Finn, Cr.Photog., CPP, has a portrait studio in Dexter, Michigan (BPhotoArt.com); she shares tips and ideas for photographers at LearnWithBetsy.com.

January 4, 2011

Taking Steps to Becoming a Certified Professional Photographer (CPP)

By Marianne Drenthe

Part I

You probably already know what the current state of affairs in professional photography is today. The pioneers of the most recent “natural light” revolution are coming to realize that we’ve made it look too easy, too effortless, too fun. If I look, it takes me less than a quick two minute Google search to discover one, 10 or 20 new local pro photographers I didn’t know existed just a few months ago.

That slew of new pros is a mixed bag filled with the good, bad and ugly. On their websites there’s a range of lackluster to good photos mixed with content “borrowed” from other photographers, all presented using relatively easy-to-build and cheap-to-obtain template sites. The result is that in any local area, the bulk of photographers look interchangeable with price being the differentiating factor. A relatively low cost of entry to the profession coupled with the delusion that it’s easy to be a professional photographer has resulted in an industry-wide “it’s easy” sort of mentality. Established pros know that business of photography is in fact, not easy. Balancing the effort behind being an artist, technician, business owner and marketing strategist to make a profit and stay afloat is a tightrope walk without a net.

So what is it that sets me apart from everyone else? Is it my client testimonials? Is it my look? Is it (insert any number of things here)? I know that I am more than the sum of my location, my style, my website, my ideas for posing and clothing choices. I know it’s none of those things; what sets me apart, in many ways, are a number of things that are not quantifiable. Logo, location, shooting style—all are fairly easy for others to imitate and not the key to elevating me and my business.

So how can you take it up a notch, to take your experience, education and knowledge and translate it into something tangible? How do I take those things that make me better and more qualified than the rest and turn them into something that a potential client can understand? The answer is much easier than I thought it would be.

Continue reading "Taking Steps to Becoming a Certified Professional Photographer (CPP)" »

December 9, 2010

Review: Optoma PK201 Pocket Projector

By Kirk R. Darling

I’ve been conducting sales sessions in my clients’ homes for four years using a tabletop digital projector. There are significant advantages to in-home sales sessions, but the disadvantage is that my “sales room” is like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates: I never know what I’m going to get.

That demands great flexibility, which until recently for me has meant being prepared to show images on my laptop, on my clients’ own home theater screens, or with my projector. Using the projector usually meant projecting on the client’s wall with the projector on a tripod-mounted platform, but I also kept a collapsible 50-inch tabletop screen handy. It took more set-up time than I liked, but compared to showing paper proofs, the time and trouble had been worth it.

That was the past. Now I have a new tool that has eliminated the set-up, reduced my gear load, and improved sales. I replaced my tabletop projector with a pocket-sized pico projector a few months ago, and the reception from my clients has been enthusiastic—and profitable.

My new projector is the Optoma PK201 Pico Pocket Projector ($270-$300 street price), a battery-powered projector more compact than an exposure meter. 

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Image ©Kirk Darling

I like using this pocket projector, but I’ll tell you the bad news first. The Optoma PK201 is rather dim (20 lumens output from its 20,000-hour LED light source), it has harsh contrast (2000:1), and its color accuracy can be slightly off. In addition, the fixed focal length lens has a “throw ratio” of 1:2.2, which means that I sometimes have to stand farther than I’d like from the wall.

Continue reading "Review: Optoma PK201 Pocket Projector" »

December 8, 2010

Workflow: Checklists and Timeouts

By Chontelle Brown, CPP

Whenever I hear about a business or customer service error, my first thought is, “they should have had a checklist” or “someone didn’t use their checklist.” Checklists are reminders that reduce the risk of error for routine tasks.

For years the airline industry has used checklists and, not coincidentally, now has the lowest fatality rate in decades. Most recently, operating rooms have implemented similar ideas with checklists and timeouts. While we are not in a profession that risks the life or limb of our clients, we do stake our reputation on our performance and run the risk of failing in our business.

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When we become complacent, we create a situation open to latent errors—errors that may not become apparent until later. The more we deviate from norm, the more comfortable we become with this deviance, or the new normal. Before long, you may not immediately back up your images from a session because you skipped this step previously without consequence. As we all know, this is a recipe for disaster.

By creating and using checklists, you ensure each step of your workflow is completed, thus preventing errors or having to redo work because it was done incorrectly the first time. Checklists have helped streamline processes in my studio. I have a checklist for my entire workflow as well as a checklist for each session type. This ensures that I am always prepared when my client arrives, no more last minute searching for a diaper cover or fumbling to find that I forgot paper towels and wipes during a newborn session.

Continue reading "Workflow: Checklists and Timeouts" »

July 7, 2010

Harvest Couture, for Clients with Stylish Taste

By Diane Berkenfeld

The word couture is usually associated with fashion, but not anymore. Harvest Pro, the California-based wide-format printer that’s been producing museum quality Giclée prints for more than two decades has turned their sights to the photo industry. Harvest Couture will offer photographers the ability to offer truly unique photographic art pieces to their clients, by printing photographs on acrylic and metal.

Three substrates will be offered: acrylic with hand laid silver leaf, acrylic with white ink printing, and metal with white backgrounds. Out of these three different materials, come four possible ways to print. They currently offer four sizes: 20x30, 24x36, 30x40, and 40x60 inches. Custom printing is possible up to 4x8 feet, and the smallest the company will print is 16x24 inches.

According to Jenny Coulston, Pro Photo Curator for Harvest Couture, these sizes are better for photography. “We do believe if you’re going to do it, do it at least as a 20x30. At that size the images feel like an art piece,” she says. The biggest issue for the company is showing off the end result to prospective customers, because the printing processes create a one-of-a-kind photograph. When you view these prints, slightly altering your viewing angle can change the way the image looks.

Coulston says photographers can have multiple-piece editions created or one-offs.

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This 40x60-inch print on metal hangs in the Wedding Sales Room at the Ritz Carlton in Laguna Niguel, Calif. ©Kathleen Clark Photography

Continue reading "Harvest Couture, for Clients with Stylish Taste" »

July 1, 2010

Feature: An iPad In New York

By Bob Zimmerlich, CPP

A few days after picking up the new iPad with 3G service at a local Apple store here in Phoenix, I was on my way to New York unexpectedly for a funeral of a close family friend. Since I was packing light, I thought this would be a good test to see if the iPad could replace my heavier MacBook Pro on a short trip since I wasn't planning on any photography related work.

Just after I arrived at JFK my sister asked if I could do a headshot of her for her new startup business. My judgment must have been thrown off by the red-eye flight, because I said, “Sure, absolutely,” without a second thought. Problem was, I didn't have any of my gear, not even a camera. That's OK she said, she had a Canon Elph point-and-shoot. Now I'm thinking, oh, golly, gee whiz, sis—that will be swell (thinking in 1950s terms being the more civil alternative to cussing).

Since I wanted to use natural light, I downloaded an app called PhotoCalc onto the iPad to see when sunset on Long Island would be, then checked the local radar with the WeatherBug app's visible satellite radar loop. Seeing that clouds would be rolling in from the west by 5 p.m., and knowing the limitations of her camera, I knew we would want to finish the shoot inside with window light before then. With some proper positioning, a sheet of white foam board as a reflector and a rigged tripod, the shoot went well considering the situation.

Now for a little post processing, but without my trusty MacBook Pro what could I do? I thought, let's put this iPad to a real test.

Continue reading "Feature: An iPad In New York" »

June 30, 2010

Marketing Yourself as a Greener Portrait Photographer

By Dawn Tacker

It's relatively easy to show the world that you care about the environment. Demonstrate your green-ness in your business as well to connect with the educated, savvy group of families that make wonderful, caring portrait clients. Together you and your clients can help bring positive change.

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Understanding the Eco-Aware Family

Many families who are concerned about the environment view all their purchasing decisions through a green lens. The power of supply demand is a beautiful thing - as more like-minded consumers ask for and purchase greener options, more options are available to them. The photographic industry is in its infancy when it comes to offering greener products. Ride the wave of change by understanding your eco-friendly options in photography, educating your clients about their greener options, and letting your environmentalism shine through all that you do.

Educate consumers

  • Have a well-articulated environmental policy on your website that indicates all the things you do to run a greener business. Going through Greener Photography's certification process will provide a roadmap for writing your statement.
  • Help your clients understand the environmental impact of traditional photographic products. For example, explain why RC prints are not eco-friendly.
  • Ensure all aspects of your business reflect your environmentalism. For example, use recycled paper/natural paper options for printing promotional materials. Start with Greener Photography's list of offset printers offering such products.

Continue reading "Marketing Yourself as a Greener Portrait Photographer" »

June 10, 2010

Leveraging your Greener Photography Business

By Carli Morgan & Alina Prax

Being eco-friendly is more than an expression for certified Greener Photographers: it’s about choosing practices that have less negative impact, and more positive impact. Leveraging your greener photography business attracts like-minded consumers and builds ties within the environmentally conscious community. Here are some ways you can expand your green business network.

Networking

Act Locally! Identify other eco-friendly vendors in your area. A simple internet search can turn up local companies that have green business practices and products. Establishing working partnerships with local companies and organizations can help you reach many more eco-minded consumers than you can reach on your own.

Identify potential businesses with whom you can partner to reach eco-minded clients

o Attend a local Green Drinks
o Search on Etsy for local artisans
o Find out where your eco-minded clients are spending their time and money. For example:

• Are they are doing a beach clean-up with Surfrider Foundation?
• Volunteering for their local private school with the environmental focus?
• Are they members of the Sierra Club?

After identifying the companies and/or organizations with whom you want to partner, foster community by offering your services. For example:

• Photograph their Board of Directors
• Photograph their events
• Provide images for their website
• Photograph and provide prints and albums for green wedding venues, florists, and bakeries

Continue reading "Leveraging your Greener Photography Business" »

December 18, 2009

28 speakers. 14 hours. Serious Money Making Ideas.

Join Sarah Petty and 27 other industry leading photographers for The Joy to the World FREE Marketing Websummit on December 28, 2009 . We'll each share our best money-making ideas for your business in the new year. From promotional ideas, to earning a larger investment from each wedding client, workflow improvements and more, you'll learn so much in these 14 FREE hours to substantially grow your business in 2010. At the same time, we'll be helping fund smiles for children in need of cleft lip and cleft palate surgeries through PPA Charities.

Over 10,000 professional photographers registered for our Master Photographers Free Marketing Telesummit in September. Now they're doing it again to help you get off to a strong start in the New Year … and it's BIGGER and BETTER! This time, you can learn from David Jay, Sam Puc, Julia Woods, Jerry Ghionis, Scott Crosby, Will Crockett and more! The Joy to the World Websummit promises to provide you with serious money making ideas for your business. All you need is a computer with an Internet connection to join us December 28 (and the latest version of Adobe Flash —It's free, too). The Websummit will be available for 24 hours beginning at 12:01 CST on December 28. Listen to only those speakers you like best or watch all 28. You can start, stop and pause each speakers' presentation to learn at your leisure within the 24 hour window. Simply REGISTER NOW for FREE!

If you're not available on December 28, 2009 or want to get a head start on 2010 planning for your business, you can purchase the Adobe Flash files of all 14 hours for $89 and receive access to the speaker presentations IMMEDIATELY. A pre-websummit special price of $59 is available until December 27. Just register before December 28, 2009, and you'll receive this special offer!

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November 5, 2009

Tips for Greener Photography: Beyond the Three Rs

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By Jessica Riehl

The heart of any environmental conservation program are tenets that make up the recycling symbol: reduce, reuse, and recycle. But why limit ourselves to just three R's? These are Greener Photography's favorite five R's to help you run a greener photography business.

Reduce:

• Reduce the amount of paper you use on a regular basis by printing front and back; consider implementing a paperless office.
• Reduce the number of shipments you receive from your lab by consolidating orders into as few shipments as possible.
• Reduce your energy consumption by turning off equipment when not in use, replacing incandescent bulbs with CFLs, and use natural forms of heating and cooling.

Refuse:

• Refuse that plastic bag when you purchase items where a bag is not necessary, or bring your own bags.
• Refuse bottled water. Invest in a water cooler, filtration system, and/or a water bottle.
• Refuse, or rather refer, jobs that require air travel.
• Refuse shipping upgrades to 2-Day Air. Ground shipping is significantly less polluting.
• Refuse to patronize businesses that do not have an environmental statement.

Continue reading "Tips for Greener Photography: Beyond the Three Rs" »

September 30, 2009

Tips for Greener Photography: Greening Your Battery Usage

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By Jessica Riehl

We use batteries in everything from our cameras to our computer mouse. While eliminating batteries from our camera bag is not an option, we can reduce the environmental impact of our battery consumption with a few simple tips.

• Properly store your batteries. Proper storage of your batteries will increase their life. Energizer.com has an excellent list of do’s and don’ts for battery care. For example, when carrying batteries in your pocket, do not allow them to rub against metal objects. This can short-circuit your battery, which can lead to leakage. For the same reason you do not want to mix different types of batteries in a storage container. Use battery cases, such as this one found on Greenbatteries.com, to keep loose batteries organized in your camera case.

• Recycle your batteries. Rechargeable batteries contain heavy metals, which if not properly disposed of can become an environmental hazard. To find a recycling center near you, visit Earth911.org. Earth911.org also has an excellent Rechargeable Batteries 101 help section.

• Buy the right battery. Greenbatteries.com states that “for most high drain electronic devices, like digital cameras, rechargeable batteries will continue to work much longer than alkaline batteries. In fact, in devices like digital cameras, NiMH batteries will run on a single charge for 3-4 times as long as they would on an alkaline battery.” Rechargeable batteries come in different capacities such as 2700 mAh or 1700mAh, so be sure to purchase the highest capacity available. Additionally, all batteries are not created equal. For a review and rating of the current batteries on the market, check Consumerreports.org.

• Be smart about your battery consumption.T urn off your equipment when not in use to eliminate unnecessary battery drainage. Use a battery charger that is specifically designed for the type of battery you are using. For example, you should use a smart fast charger for a battery described as quick charge. Charge batteries only for as long as necessary rather than overnight. Greenbatteries.com states that over charging a battery will reduce the life of the battery.

Continue reading "Tips for Greener Photography: Greening Your Battery Usage" »

September 16, 2009

Tips for Greener Photography: Shipping

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By Jessica Riehl

Most of us underestimate the impact of shipping our products and supplies. Did you know that components of photographic products are often shipped multiple times before they are assembled? Did you know that air shipping is the most carbon-intensive form of shipping? From Yvon Chouinard’s book “Let My People go Surfing,” here are a few statistics on generic energy costs to ship per ton:

Rail or boat: 400 BTUs per ton mile
Truck: 3,300 BTUs per ton mile
Air Cargo: 21,760 BTUs per ton mile
Air Cargo uses 6.5 times more fuel than shipping by ground.

We should not only ask questions about where things come from, but how they are shipped as well. As Elisabeth Rosenthal reported for The New York Times, “Under longstanding trade agreements, fuel for international freight carried by sea and air is not taxed” (Elisabeth Rosenthal, "Putting Pollution on Grocery Bills," The New York Times). In other words, no one is paying the environmental cost of shipping.

What can you do to reduce the impact of shipping?

• Build the extra time into your workflow to use ground shipping and inform your clients of the ecological benefits.

• Recycle your print boxes and sheets of cardboard used to protect your photographs. Cardboard sheets can be donated to art classes. Most local shipping stores will take your old packing peanuts and reuse them.

• Consolidate your orders. By ordering once a week or every two weeks you will reduce the number of boxes you receive and the number of trips a shipping carrier will make to your door.

Continue reading "Tips for Greener Photography: Shipping" »

June 12, 2009

Tips for Greener Photography: Mulch Marketing 101

Resources for Greener Promotional Materials

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By Thea Dodds and Dawn Tacker

The purpose of all promotional materials is to sell your services and products, and to build your brand. But the methods of marketing have changed drastically with the rising sophistication of electronic media. Are printed materials going the way of the dinosaur? Greening your promotional kit is an opportunity to make your business sell better with less waste and lower costs. Here are some ideas to green your marketing efforts.

Shades of Green

Your promotional strategy should comprise a variety of marketing materials aimed at your target audience. It is rare that one promotional piece alone will be enough of a call to action to turn a window shopper into a client. You have to hit your target market from different angles through different types of media. This article will focus on electronic and printed promotional materials, and we’ll have future Greener Photography articles on other types of promotional materials. Each of the marketing methods here is an opportunity to choose greener marketing materials and brand yourself as an earth-friendly photographer.

Continue reading "Tips for Greener Photography: Mulch Marketing 101" »

April 6, 2009

Tips for Greener Photography: Running an Eco-Friendly Photography Business

By Erica Velasco of Vision Photographs

GP_logo.jpgThe first article in the Tips for Greener Photography series offered tips to make your photography office greener. This month the focus will be on incorporating green practices into your business. There are simple things you can do right now to change your business practices and workflow, make your business greener, and offer greener products.

Here are some ideas to inspire you to make your business more eco-friendly.

Greener business practices and workflow

  • Go paperless by leveraging the power of the Internet and uploading client information and forms to the Web. Your client can book her wedding, sign her contract, and pay invoices online.
  • Utilize online Web galleries to proof your sessions and albums. In-person projection proofing is also a great way to reduce the need to provide your clients with paper proofs.
  • If you provide your clients with digital images, use portable or reusable hard drives to deliver the images instead of a CD or DVD. It is always more desirable to provide a client with a reusable versus a disposable option.
  • Choose online banking, have your bills sent via e-mail and pay them online.
  • Print all of your paperwork double-sided, then recycle your waste paper.
  • Use recycled paper for necessary printing, including marketing collateral, business cards and sample products. Many printing companies offer printing with soy- or wax-based inks and recycled paper; check out the list at Greener Photography (greenerphotography.org/links.html).
  • It is better to reuse than to recycle. Reuse cardboard boxes to ship client orders. Donate extra cardboard boxes to local preschools, art classes, or shipping stores. Reuse shredded documents as packing material.
  • Recycle ink cartridges, CDs and DVDs. For more information on recycling CDs and DVDs check out cdrecyclingcenter.org.
  • Try to eliminate sensitive paperwork that requires shredding.
  • Use short-run printing when it is appropriate. For example, print a small quantity of brochures, then order another small quantity when your inventory is low.

Continue reading "Tips for Greener Photography: Running an Eco-Friendly Photography Business" »

March 17, 2009

Studio Design From The Ground Up

By Sarah Petty, Cr.Photog., CPP

It’s so exhilarating for a small business owner to imagine building his very own building, a space with smooth new walls, plumbing that works, windows that are easy to clean, a place for which each monthly payment brings him closer to outright ownership, a place he could sell 20 years down the road. My husband, Joe, owns a small architectural firm, and we have long dreamed of building something together.

We’ve just begun a venture in creating a custom-designed, functional new building to house both our businesses. The two businesses can share a lot of spaces, and even personnel. We’d both love to have a dedicated receptionist to answer the phone and greet clients, but neither of us needs a full-time employee. We plan to share one full-time employee who can help us both stay organized and be a gatekeeper of sorts, while helping us make a professional and consistent first impression with our clients.

We’ve been working for years for the finances to make our dream a reality. The PPA Studio Benchmark Survey showed us that to be profitable, no more than 10 percent of our gross sales should go toward overhead (assuming you manage the other costs of business). So, for example, if your business grosses $200,000 per year, it’s safe to pay out about $1,700 per month ($20,000 per year) for rent, utilities, and other overhead expenses. 

It’s my philosophy that your business should grow only as fast as you can justify financially. You don’t need to take out huge loans to build a building—in fact, I believe the opposite. The Benchmark Survey also shows that home-based studios are generally more profitable than retail studios, a correlation of less overhead expenses. If you understand your financial statements and grow your business as supported by those figures, you’ll have a successful business and sleep soundly at night. Those figures will tell whether or not that success can support building a new studio.


Rendering:Joe Petty; Photo: Andria Crawford-Whitehead

Continue reading "Studio Design From The Ground Up" »

March 12, 2009

PPA Sheds Light on Facebook License Policy

What happens to image licenses when those images are posted to a third-party site?

Facebook found itself in hot water in early February after stating it would continue to hold a usage license on artistic works posted to its pages after the owner of those works deleted them from the site or closed his account. A public outcry elicited a quick about-face from the company. The following day, Facebook issued a statement clearly articulating that its license to use posted images expires when users delete them from the site or close their account.

In a letter sent to Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, PPA stressed the importance of adhering to U.S. copyright laws and explained that copyright protection is integral to the livelihood of professional photographers.

The majority of Facebook’s 175 million users post photographs to their pages and many pro photographers incorporate Facebook in their marketing plan.

As content-sharers on Facebook, users have given the site a license to distribute and display their work. When any user (including a professional artist) posts an image to the site, he hasn't given away rights to that image, but allowed Facebook to show and share it. Facebook does not assume ownership of the work posted.

With the volume of online content sharing, PPA understands any website owner’s desire for protection when handling copyrighted creations. That’s why Facebook asks photographers to grant usage licenses for the images posted on its site.

Whenever someone views your images on your Web pages or a communal site, or when an image you created is queued up in a search, it qualifies as a reproduction of your work. Facebook is bound to ensure that you, as a site user, agree to the display and distributionof your images within its online community.

Content-sharing website owners will also use their terms of service statement to help content creators manage their copyrights. Facebook, for example, requires users to affirm that they’ve obtained permission to use any information or creative works they post to the site. Further, Facebook provides information on its adherence to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and the procedures copyright owners can easily follow to get infringed works quickly removed from the site.

—Maria Matthews, PPA copyright andgovernment affairs manager

March 1, 2009

Tips for Greener Photography: Eco-Friendly Studio/Meeting Space

By Thea Dodds of GreenerPhotography.org

This is the first in a series of tips on how to make your photography business greener. We'll start with taking a look at your physical space—office, studio and client meeting space. What does a greener photography studio or meeting space look like? Here are a few ways that you can make your space greener … and save money, too. Look for more Tips for Greener Photography each month!

Location, Location, Location
   • Be convenient. Have your space easily accessible by public transportation, close to other convenient locations.
   • Look for a studio with good natural light to minimize use of electric lighting.
   • Consider the sun exposure of your space and the needs of your climate.
   • Make it multi-functional! Coffee shops, cooperative artist spaces, and home offices are an easy way to share the impact of your studio/meeting space.

What's on the Inside? Paint, Stain, Flooring, Plastering.
   • Use milk- or clay-based paints for walls and ceilings.
   • Look for zero- or low-VOC paint and other materials.
   • Use natural flooring made from local materials and/or reclaimed materials
   • Avoid synthetic carpet.

Furnish It Green
   • Buy used furniture.
   • Buy furnishings locally.
   • Look for certifications, such as Forest Steward Certification (FSC) and organic furniture/components.
   • Look for uncertified, but still important claims, such as Made in the USA, Non-toxic, Sustainable.

Continue reading "Tips for Greener Photography: Eco-Friendly Studio/Meeting Space" »

February 12, 2009

February Issue Facebook Article Correction: Page Not Profile

In the February issue of Professional Photographer, in Lindsay Adler's article "Facebook: Network With Seniors," we inadvertently suggested readers create both individual and business profiles, which is a violation of Facebook terms of use. We regret the error.

Instead, a photographer can set up a business account or set up a personal profile and then create a Facebook Page for their business identity. Only the official representative of an artist, business, or brand may create a Facebook Page, though that person can choose to allow others to help administrate it. You may transform a business account into a personal account, but once you have created a personal account, you cannot revert back to a business account or create a business account.

The Facebook Help Center has a section that completely explains Pages and business accounts

This is the article republished with corrected text and clarifying information from Facebook's Help Center.

Facebook: network with seniors

Learning to take advantage of the No. 1 Web site among seniors can be a huge sales advantage.

By Lindsay Adler

Quoted text is information that comes directly from Facebook’s Help Center.

What’s the one place nearly every high school senior goes daily? Online, to Facebook.com. This center of mass communication has more than 36 million members. It’s the No. 1 social network for the modern high school student. Facebook users post profiles of themselves containing such information as their age, e-mail address and interests. They post photos and videos of themselves for e-friends the world over to view.

Continue reading "February Issue Facebook Article Correction: Page Not Profile" »

January 19, 2009

Using Technology to Take the Edge Off Recession

Video products, image repair, press books and unique output and display options

By Sara Frances, M.Photog.Cr.

How can you break even in this economy and even be profitable? Now’s the time to apply technology to the task. You already have an advantage with your devotion to high-quality posing and lighting and attentive customer service. Your allies? New pro camera technology, unbelievable software, sleek lay-flat press books and many other innovative digital products that consumers haven’t seen before and don’t have access to. Pick products and equipment that boost your capabilities into the must-have category. Be bold, and make this downturn your opportunity to re-tool your studio and master cutting-edge skills.

Video
The idea that photography and videography will overlap and eventually merge changes the role of photographers as imagers. We’re looking at the possibility of capturing images for stills, video, prints, publication, signage, Web publication and electronic media. The future lies in cameras that take both still images and video, such as the Canon EOS 5D Mark II. The Canon 5D has been an event and portrait industry workhorse, and with the new 5D Mark II, we’ll be able to provide an outstanding array of new services thanks to the video capture. Think news reporting, public relations, forensics, medical, surveillance, product demos. Think of markets far broader than you’re accustomed to. Think of exciting 30-second shorts for YouTube and Facebook, not to mention commercial Web sites.

Wedding and event photographers are already getting into cooperative ventures with videographers to provide seamless, one-stop coverage. Be very choosey about who you pair your name with; look for a professional video company with skills that match your own. The shaky-cam stigma of amateur video will do your reputation no good.

Proficiency in the latest Apple Final Cut Pro video editing software with its added motion and color modules will catapult your video into Hollywood status, but it does takes time to learn. We’re finding significant interest in video, and very affordable DVD instruction and presentation by all sorts of small businesses. The trend is very much toward motion picture PR rather than stills, and not just because companies have opted to choose one or the other for economic reasons.

Continue reading "Using Technology to Take the Edge Off Recession" »

About Business

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Professional Photographer Magazine Web Exclusives in the Business category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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