The Best Small Investment Tips to Become a Pro Photographer

A lot of young photographers to be are trying to make the transition between being just a passionate amateur to being a fully legitimate professional photographer. What separates the first from the latter isn’t necessarily the skill or talent and or even the experience; but more like an arbitrary convention that differentiates between a hobby and a business. In other words, if you get paid for it, or if you open some kind of official start-up, it means you’re a pro. If you just do it for pleasure, you’re an amateur. In a way, it’s completely unfair, because if you’re striving to become a pro photographer, the term “amateur” stuck to your current identity somehow implies that you’re not doing a really awesome job, but the truth is that you may be very skilled and talented, but you just didn’t get a paid gig so far.

Still, if you want to make that transition once and for all, either by founding a small photography start-up or simply by charging fees for your services, you need to do a couple of things first. The most important thing is to be really good at photography and to keep getting better, but we’re sure you’ve already got that covered. As a young photographer striving to prove yourself, it’s probably the main thing you’re working on when it comes to improving your odds of making it to the pro league. But the other thing you should pay attention to, in addition to simply improving your skills, is investing a bit in some essentials that would help you become a pro photographer faster. Here are our tips on what small investment you should consider, the matter is of course debatable, but our suggestions do make a fine starting point.

1

A tripod: We will not start this list with a good or professional camera, because it’s the first thing photography aficionados think about by themselves. Chances are, if you’re trying to become a pro photographer, you already though about it and invested in your camera by now. But our experience with aspiring photographers tells us not all think about getting a tripod as well, many preferring to just point and shoot. Perhaps it’s time to reconsider this approach.

2

A cheap old film camera: Nowadays everything has of course gone digital and that has become the standard for quality and everything. Vintage film cameras are, in consequence, very cheap now, and somehow regarded as being not so good. While it’s true that digital photography opens up a world of processing possibilities and filtering options and so on, film photography should not be despised by an aspiring pro. Not only would it help your overall skills and understanding of photography if you experiment with such a camera for a while, but it would also allow you to produce some wonderful pictures which current cameras couldn’t really achieve in the same way. Just look at the wonderful work people like Oleg Oprisco are doing and you’ll understand. Also, a vintage film camera looks really cool and makes you seem the master of all equipment. If you can create amazing images with that, you can do it with any kind of gear.

3

A high-power Monolight:  Professional lighting can make the difference between an amateur photo and a truly stunning and impeccably done photo. It would be a shame not to highlight your good camera and good skills with the proper accessory, and this one should be the first on your list. Why a Monolight, in particular? Because one of these can be also used indoors to create a studio-like setting, but it’s also portable enough to take with you outdoors as well (or to other locations). Until you can afford an actual photo studio, it will give you the best chance of shooting like a professional photographer and of impressing the people you work with as one. If you’re on your way to become a pro photographer, these three are the magic tricks you should have up your sleeve.

How to Choose a Makeup Artist for Wedding Photography

Choose-a-Makeup-Artist-for-Wedding-PhotographyPortraiture and wedding photography are definitely the two photo niches in which you can’t possibly do without the presence of a professional Makeup Artist (or MUA). Now, the problem with knowing how to choose a makeup artist for wedding photography is similar to finding a good photog for a wedding. Just like anyone with a camera believes they can pull off a great wedding shoot, so anyone with a makeup palette is convinced they know all about professional makeup. Hint: they don’t. If you want to see great results and happy clients, you need a pro MUA, and here’s how you go about finding and hiring one:

1. Go to Model Mayhem

Aspiring pro photographers, who dabble in either portraiture, fashion photography, fine art, wedding photography or anything that has to do with setting up a setting that also involves people, need to know Model Mayhem. This is a great platform for finding models and MUAs, irrespective of your skill and experience level. If you’re just starting out, you can help the MUA build their own portfolio, while you also improve yours, through TFP (trading for pictures) instead of paying them for the work. If you’re a more experienced photog, seeking to improve their business, choose a makeup artist for wedding photography who’s worked with a modeling agency. Try to find someone who is not only like-minded, but similarly experienced.

2. Choose a makeup artist for wedding photography who is great

While there’s no such thing as the perfect MUA, a great wedding photography makeup artist does need to tick off a few qualities on a checklist. Here are some things to look for in an MUA:

-          Punctuality. Nothing spells professionalism (or lack thereof) more in this business than respecting meeting times and deadlines.

-          People skills. If you want to choose a makeup artist for wedding photography in particular, then you need to look for someone who understands they’re not working with professional models. They’re working with real-life, nervous, often stressed out couples to-be.

-          A flair for branding. And not just their own. The best MUAs are both adaptable and pour their own vision into each shoot. This means that they understand and respect your own brand of wedding photography, while also pitching in their flair and skills.

3. Gauge your chemistry with your MUA of choice

In fact, let’s take the above pointer one step further: as you work with more MUAs, find a few of them (three or four, let’s say), with whom you’ve got chemistry. Chemistry, in this case, can be defined as similar work ethics, similar creative visions, and respect for each other’s skill and experience. It also has a lot to do with basic human interaction: if the two of you generally get along and can share a few laughs, then you have yourself a winner. We can’t possibly stress how important this is. The last thing you want is a meltdown between you and an MUA during an (already charged) wedding shoot.

4. Create a money-making wedding photography team

As you evolve and your wedding photography business progresses, make sure to stay as consistent as possible, in terms of how you choose a makeup artist for wedding photography. Work with the same people as often as you can, if you’ve found some who meet your standards and the above criteria. Have a go-to list of MUAs that you know you can rely on and book for shoots. This way, you can have the comfort of knowing what to expect, in terms of makeup, so you can go ahead and focus on your share of the work.

Increase Your Productivity By Working In Themes

Are you a solo-preneur? If so, you know exactly how many hats you need to wear each day to accomplish everything on your list.

And while you probably manage to get most of the important things done each week, I’m sure there are always a ton of items left at the end of the week – the things you keep moving from list to list each week, hoping to get to them eventually.

While you are probably getting a ton of things done, are they the right things?

For instance, lets say you really love production. You love editing your images, printing them out, placing them in albums, and framing them for your customers. Yet you hate marketing, and frankly don’t really understand all the different pieces you should be doing to put an effective marketing plan into place.

You may be able to check off all of your production work each week with flying colors. Yet the marketing tasks keep moving week after week without the “check”. And the more you push marketing aside, the greater chance you have of seeing your business fail.

There is a way of stopping that trend in its tracks. Develop your own internal theme days.

In this case, the definition of “theme” is: to give a particular setting or ambiance to. Which means you are defining a certain aspect of your business by a special topic. The best thing is you can use “themes” in so many ways, and in every way it will make you a more efficient person. Let me show you how. [Read more...]

The Do’s and Don’ts of Being A Second Shooter

When you are a photographer, you have your own ideas, your own agendas and your own style. You know what you want to accomplish and how you’ll go about it.

But when you add a second shooter to the equation, it can make your life ten times easier … or a complete nightmare. It doesn’t even come down to who your second shooter is – when I first started shooting with my husband Andrew, we had many “fights” about what to do and what not to do.

Two people means different styles and different ideas. That’s a fact. But your clients don’t care about the dynamics between you. They just want awesome photographs. And rightfully so.

Which means before you bring on a second shooter, whether its your spouse, best friend, or a new hire, you better have a clear understanding of what you expect from the second shooter. And have a way to communicate that knowledge to them before the shoot.

Here are some ideas to get you going.

DO – Write down your expectations in “contract” format. It’s much easier to design your second shooter wish list while sitting down and brainstorming your requirements. Whether you choose to use a contract or not is up to you, but at the very minimum have a form that allows you to go over your job expectations.

DON’T – Never explain things or issue new requirements in the heart of the shoot. Yes, the second shooter should be able to think ahead and be there for you. But they should understand what you want to accomplish long before standing in front of the client. [Read more...]

Can A Photobook Help You Gain More Sales?

Think photo albums are dead? Think again. They are simply changing from the books of yesteryear that had matted images.

Nowadays, people are used to loading up their images and creating their very own photobooks with just a few clicks of a mouse. And while you may think that if a client can product a photobook, why should you, its ultimatley quality that sets you apart from the average consumer.

People think long term, and use their consumer-driven images to tell a story. You can shorten the story, make it much more detailed … and much more professional.

Start by choosing a photobook printer

In today’s marketplace, photobooks can be created in a variety of ways using a variety of sources. You can order the Apple book from your iPhoto program, or try one of the many other sources out there.

AdoramaPix Photo Books

Blurb

Embassy Pro Books

Zookbinders PhotoBook

ubyu Books

Come up with a theme for your book

If you simply let your customer pick a few favorite images and throw them into a book, the value of the photobook goes down. But if you create a theme before you shoot and develop your photo session around that theme, you can easily create a dynamic storybook from your session. People pay for design as much as they do photography. The more creativity you put into it, the more successful you will be.

If you are new to album design, do a sample with a friend/child/sister. Don’t think photo session; think album design. What can you do to tell a story through a short, one hour/half day photo shoot? It makes you look at your photography slightly different and can really enhance your shooting abilities.

Then put a sample album together. With many programs today, you can put the album together without printing it. Practice. Put together a comprehensive album and evaluate what you would change, where you would add. Strive to develop a large album, not just a few pages. Money from clients comes when you can give them a comprehensive product that stretches beyond what they can achieve on their own. That’s what makes you an artist.

The most important image is on the cover

As you develop photobooks again and again, you will quickly learn what makes a good cover … and what makes a great one. When a client is showing off their photobook, the first impression will be formed by the cover. Make it a great one. Spend the extra time setting it up and creating one that will be perfect for the cover. Don’t be afraid to pick it for your client; that’s what makes you the artist. The only caveat here is to make sure they don’t hate the image; take multiple to make sure they like the expressions and they are comfortable with the look and feel.

Remember, you are the designer

Many photographers miss the step of design and allow their clients to select favorite images before the create the book. Never let them see the images first and try and retrofit the images into a book after they choose. When you become a designer, you think differently. You approach your photo session as a storyteller, not just a photographer. You learn how to build pages and what looks good together. You think storyline and how pages flow. You build on emotion, not just favorite shots.

Ebook too?

In today’s world, many clients will be just as excited by having an ebook as well as a photobook. While ebooks can be great additions to your sales, never make them the entire focus. Instead, give them as add-ons to your photobook packages. Nothing is as beautiful as printed images. And nothing will be preserved the way a printed book.

7 Favorite Tricks To Work Through Procrastination

Do you ever find yourself procrastinating? Its human nature.

Many people would define procrastination as laziness – you simply keep putting things off because you have other things to do. But if you look at what you normally procrastinate on, it really isn’t laziness at all.

Instead, its more about fear – fear of not understanding, fear of not being able to be perfect, fear of being completely overwhelmed.

And while this fear is what drives us forward, it can also hold us back.

Here are 7 of my favorite tricks I use when I find myself procrastinating over something big.

1. Start your ideas immediately

When you get an idea, what do you do with it?

Most people get an idea, and start thinking about it.

Then they wonder if it’s a good idea.

And they wonder some more.

And eventually the idea no longer has merit.

And they move in another direction.

If you get an idea, take action. Now. Write it down. Do some research. Formulate it as complete as possible. Print it out and look at it. Take action to put even just a piece into your business.

Just by moving it from the idea mode to the action mode, the likelihood your idea will help you jumps tenfold. [Read more...]

7 Things That Should Be On Your Not-To-Do List

I love to-do lists. I don’t scratch them out on sticky notes and throw them away at the end of the day. Instead I keep a spiral notebook and write down every detail, checking things off when they are complete. It’s a nice way to keep a record of where you’ve been. And you can also go back and refer to notes if you have questions in the weeks and months ahead.

And while I’m a firm believer in creating written to-do lists, I also have started keeping a not-to-do list.

I heard about this concept a while back, and have really come to appreciate what it does for your productivity. The idea is to eliminate the activities that are costing you a ton of time during your workday, yet really aren’t providing you with any reward. Yep, they’re basically the time wasters.

The easiest way to find your time wasters is to sit down with your monthly to-do lists, your monthly calendars, and any other tools you use to track your time during work hours. Where did the biggest chunks of time go? Were they productive?

While every business owner is going to have their own areas of concern, there are several areas that seem to affect small businesses in general. Take a look at this list and see if you can see yourself in any of them. I’ve set them up to be in not-to-do list form.

1. Do not answer unexpected phone calls.

The world runs by caller id. When the phone rings, if it doesn’t ring with its own unique ringtone, you glance down to see who it is. Then its decision time.

If it’s during normal work hours and it may be a potential customer, answer it. But if you’re in the middle of a project, talking with a client/friend/co-worker, or its after hours, let it go to voice mail. Have a great message that will provide the caller with the appropriate information. And consider getting a better phone system that can allow you to do different things with the message, such as send you a copy to your email so you can read it at your convenience.

Dig Deeper: Google Voice – an Amazing Tool For Virtual Photographers

2. Do not leave your email program open and check it all day long.

One of the biggest distractions outside of the phone is your email. That little “ding” when an incoming message appears can throw you completely off track and quickly scrambles your priorities. Every email has the potential to delay what you are currently working on by minutes, hours or even sometimes days. Instead, set up two or three times per day to check in and see what needs your attention. I usually spend my first hour or so working on my own project and check email when I’ve accomplished my first set of to-do’s. Then I check in when I’m back from lunch, and again before I shut down for the day. If I’m expecting something important I may check in more frequently. Otherwise three times per day is more than enough. Just because you have access to it with your phone, iPad or other portable device doesn’t mean you have to do it. [Read more...]

100 New Photo Clients Just For You

What would you do if tomorrow morning one hundred people were lined up outside of your doors, credit cards in hand, ready to sign up and do business with you?

Your first reaction is hopefully, “YES!”

Your second reaction may be, “Oh no, now what?”

When one client calls, emails or stops by and wants to do business with you, you can handle the situation with ease. Even if you don’t have everything in place, you can usually muddle through and accomplish the transaction.

But with 100 people lined up, things change. You have to move quicker, think less, and have things in place to make the entire process run smooth.

Think it out. No matter what your reaction was when you read the first sentence above, your mind has probably started thinking of tasks by now. Don’t stop the ideas from coming. Instead, spend some time taking it all in, and writing down a list of ideas. You’re best ideas come when you face a task from a different perspective. I’m willing to bet most of you have only dealt with one client at a time, so the pressure was off. By looking at your business through a different set of eyes, you’ll quickly find where your problem areas are. For instance, maybe you spend quite a bit of time customizing and writing up a contract for each wedding client that comes in. But if you have 100 wedding clients waiting, there is no way you could customize each contract. How can you automate it? Can the contract be saved as a document that is 95 percent complete, with just a few clauses that need to be modified and changed? If that’s the case, type up as many of the clauses as you can and store them in a separate word file. Then its just a matter of copy/paste, and the contract will be ready in seconds. [Read more...]

9 Ways To Present Your Photographs And The Value They Portray

How do you present your final photographs to your client? How you present them says a lot about you. Do you take the cheapest way possible to save money? Or do you spend a little extra to present something your clients can’t get anywhere else.

If you shop at Wal-Mart, you expect the cheapest plastic bag possible at the checkout. You’re there to save money, and you don’t want to spend anything more than absolutely necessary.

But if you go to Tiffany’s, how it’s presented is almost as important as what is inside the box. If you give a Tiffany’s gift, you can present it in the box and in the bag it comes from the store in, knowing the recipient will squeal with delight when they see that light blue color.

How are you presenting your images? And what value do they have in the eyes of your client?

CD

Does a CD truly portray value in your photography? Or is it the cheapest presentation possible? Even if you create a custom insert in the jewel case, and etch the CD with your logo, they don’t get to experience your images upon receipt.

While a CD may be a great addition to a large package order, it should always be presented as an afterthought. You want people to look at your photography and experience the artwork – not have to take it home and pop it into their computer.

Loose Prints

A stack of loose prints has low value to a client. They receive a stack of loose prints from the big box store. Yes, they may love the images, but by presenting them in a stack, they can shove them in a drawer, touch them with dirty fingers, and bend them by throwing them on a desk.

Cardboard Folders

Cardboard folders have been around for decades. It’s a great way to add value to an image, and give the customer a better way to temporarily display it, and hand it out to family and friends that have placed orders. It’s also a step up from a loose print, and can be used to combine a two or three images, similar to what sports photographers give when presenting a group and individual image.

[Read more...]

8 Things A Photographer Should Never Do

Trying to run a successful business? Unfortunately many photographers think of themselves as photographer’s first, business owners second.

If you’ve started up your own business, your business is everything. Your niche, or what you specialize in, just happens to be photography. Business is business. If you want to be successful, you have to make sure your business has key characteristics in place before you grow it to the next level. Yet that can be hard for some. Take a look at these 8 things, and see how many you are currently doing.

1. Hold checks and bills until “payday”

Do you ever find yourself holding a bill back until a client comes in with an order? You have a cash-flow issue.

Many businesses go under not because they are low on clients, but because they don’t have enough cash on hand to pay current expenses. Start a savings account now and build up three to six months of cash-flow. If you normally spend $2000 in a month, have $6000 to $12,000 on hand. This will help you during downtimes and slow periods.

2. Do everything for the first time

Do you find yourself typing up the same email again and again? Do you find yourself answering the same questions over and over? You may be lacking a system.

Chances are you repeat yourself a lot throughout the week. “Do you have this date open?” is a common question emailed to wedding photographers. Sit down and come up with a great email for both answers – yes and no. In the yes email, you can describe your services, ask for more details like where the event is taking place, and lead them to different portions of your website. In the no email, you can refer a friend that may have the date open. If you create a great email upfront, you simply copy/paste, and change a few of the details.

For every instance you find yourself repeating your actions, sit down and create a perfect system. Then use it again and again. It will give you more time to do the important things in your business. [Read more...]