5 Things A Virtual Photography Studio Can’t Live Without

A couple of weeks ago, I announced that we were in transition phase, and were attempting to make our virtual office, well, more virtual. A lot has been happening over the past two weeks, and along the way we’ve discovered a few things we’ve transitioned into that we can’t imagine we ever lived without

Phone System

Yep, my original post a couple of weeks ago was all about Google Voice. We really love Google Voice and it allows us to be in the office no matter where we are or what phone we choose to use. But what we like even more is not needing a landline. No more phone bills with a ton of taxes and fees when we very rarely use it. Now everything is fed through Google Voice to one of our mobiles, or to our VoIP system (we use ooma). [Read more...]

5 Big Ticket Items Photographers Pay For, Then Seldom Use

Yesterday I announced that we had moved from our large suburban home, to an urban condo environment, decreasing our space down to one third of our large home size.

When you do that kind of downsizing, you really start looking at what you’ve put in the back rooms, in the closets, and in the garage, yet have seldom picked up since you purchased it. What’s even more distressing is the items you find in their original packaging. Did you really need it if you never even opened it?

While an occasional office supply is one thing, when it’s a big ticket item, it’s a whole different issue. Imagine what you could have done with that money if you hadn’t invested in that purchase?

As we were looking through things, listing items on Craigslist, and giving things away, we discovered 5 things that we invested in, yet seldom used.

Camera Doodads

If you’ve ever gone to a photography convention, you’ve probably fallen for the shiny object syndrome. When you walk up and down the aisles, caught up in all the sights and sounds projected straight towards you, it’s easy to fall for it. Companies promise miracles, and great tools, gadgets and doodads that will improve your photography, or help you run your business more efficiently.

So you invest in a doodad or two. Two becomes twenty. And so on. Pretty soon you have boxes in your spare closet full of shiny doodads, many unopened and untouched. [Read more...]

Set Up Your Photo Studio Anywhere

What do you do if you need shooting space in different locations, and you know the cost of renting a studio will leave you no profits at all? Why not use an inflatable photo studio instead.

The IPS (Inflatable Photo Studio) may be your solution. With an IPS, you can be set up anywhere, any time. An IPS is made of a variety of materials, UV protected polyethylene to vinyl/ PVC, and severs well under a variety of conditions. When you hear the word “inflatable”, you may tend to think of the jump castles you find at birthday parties. However, an IPS is stronger and built with an internal structure that means it will hold its shape when assembled, even with a puncture or tear.

Want to find out more? Visit the Inflatable Photo Studio website.

2 Easy Studio Lighting Setups

A guest post by Allen Mowery

Anyone think it’s difficult or expensive to get professional quality lighting? Here are a couple lighting setups to debunk those myths.

I was inspired to try out a couple ideas that I had generated on the drive home from the office recently, so immediately upon arriving at my abode I furiously turned the living room into a makeshift studio. I was particularly interested in testing this technique on a small scale since I have been wanting to build large, portable diffusion panels for a while now with this particular setup in mind. My three-year-old daughter, having apparently been watching too much America’s Next Top Model lately, willingly volunteered to be my victim, frequently repeating “Work it, work it …” as she made her way through a repertoire of poses.

Setup Time: 2-3 min.

Simple 2-Light Setup

THE SETUP: A DIY diffusion panel was placed behind the subject to act as a simple backdrop. A Vivitar 283 was shot through the diffusion panel at about 1/2 power to brighten the backdrop and act as a rim light, and a Promaster 7000m was fired at full power into a DIY reflective umbrella to camera right at 45 degrees to subject.

[Read more...]

8 iPad Apps Perfect For The Small Photography Studio

PhotoPad by Zagg
PhotoPad is a photo editing software that allows you to do a variety of things with your images:

  • Rotate the image
  • Crop
  • Adjust color, contrast, tint and saturation levels
  • It will also allow you to create ZAGGskins – covers for the back of your mobile device – by using your photos and your tools.

And best of all, this app is free.

Filterstorm
Filterstorm was designed specifically for the iPad, and allows for more intuitive editing on the iPad compared with its desktop counterparts. As a professional, this is one you should definitely give a try. You can do a variety of things, including:

  • Adjust the entire image by brush or color range
  • Adjust the brush size
  • Adjust color balance, brightness, contrast and saturation
  • Crop, scale and rotate
  • Sharpen
  • Vignette
  • Send your images using email or FTP

While it’s not designed to replace your desktop applications, it’s a great tool to have when you are on the go.

SketchBook Pro
Are you a doodler? Do you like to draw out your ideas as you think of them? Then you’ll love SketchBook Pro. It provides you with a complete set of sketching and painting tools that allow you to design directly with the iPad multi-touch interface. You’ll have high quality brushes and tools that allow you to draw and create a variety of drawings right on your iPad canvas. Perfect for impromptu meetings with friends or your staff.

MOO Business Cards – $21.99 for 50 unique, customized Business Cards, each one with a different design.

Pages
What’s one thing your iPad can’t do? Be a word processor. Or wait, now it can with Pages.

Pages gives you all the tools you need to create and share documents. From templates to advanced layout tools, you’ll be able to create documents in no time. Incorporate your photos and videos, resize and rotate your page, create columns, or add tables. This will be a definite tool you can’t live without on the road and everywhere else.

deskPad Office
Love sticky notes? Then deskPad Office is for you. Create to-do lists, add notes to yourself, draw pictures, or add maps – if your monitor is loaded with sticky reminders, this will be one app you can’t get enough of.

PrintCentral
When you’re out creating on your iPad, chances are you’ll find something you want to print. From web pages, to email, to documents and photos, PrintCentral handles it all. It works by printing directly via WiFi, and works with any printer and any type of document via your Mac, PC or 3G.

Evernote
For a free app, Evernote is a very powerful program. You can easily create notes using text, photos and audio files, organize and synchronize them with your Mac, PC or web.
Build up your favorites, and instantly have access to any of your information at any time.

HootSuite
If you use Facebook and Twitter, you have to have HootSuite. HootSuite makes managing your social accounts a whole lot easier. They have a light version, or upgrade to the pro version for $2.99. HootSuite gives you the power to manage all of your Twitter accounts, update your Facebook profile and pages, set up Twitter searches, track your results along the way, and automate a lot of what you do.

Organize Your Photographs With PicsMatch

Have you ever spent more time searching for a file, than actually manipulating it once you’ve found it?

Have you ever put a photograph into a file – knowing its location made perfect sense when you originally put it there – yet even a few days later you have no idea where it is?

PicsMatch can help you find what you’re looking for, and even help you organize based on what your plans are for the photograph.

PicsMatch - photo recognition software for photography studios

PicsMatch is a facial recognition software that assigns an ID for anyone in a photograph, and will sweep through your hard drive finding any other matches for that facial ID.

Once you have your images together, PicsMatch gives you a variety of tools to work with the photos. You can use one of the tools in the Zoom Editing Suite, such as the crop or sharpen edit options, or choose an effect such as the black & white feature.

Once you find your images, create a special album folder with the images you select. You can even share the images using the PicsMatch tool bar, and choose to print, burn to disc, or share with family and friends on your Flickr account.

At $49 for a downloadable copy, it’s a tool that’s easy to use just about anywhere. PicsMatch is compatible with Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 operating systems – so if you are PC, this may be a great tool to add to your toolbox.

Photography Disaster Protection and Recovery – Are You Prepared?

Being a photographer means you have many dollars worth of valuable equipment and inventory. Camera bodies. Lenses. Meters. Tripods and light stands. Computers and flash cards. The list can go on and on.

Have you ever thought about what would happen if your studio burned to the ground, your bags were stolen from your car, or you left a bag at a reception site? Photography Disaster Protection and Recovery

While all of your equipment should be covered through your business insurance policy (that’s your first item to check), there are other things you can do to make sure recovery and replacement happen quickly.

Start by inventorying everything you have. Create a list of:

  • The piece of equipment – brand, make and model
  • Serial number

Also photograph each piece, and keep the photographs together in your file.

While it is important to keep this list handy, make sure it’s secure and separate from your equipment. If you store it on your computer in your studio, make sure the backup is off site. Google now offers up to 20 GB of storage for only $5 a year, which definitely can be an affordable solution for you.

Like most photographers, there are the occasional times when you are in a hurry, and move from one location to another quickly.

When you’re out photographing, another tip is to get camera bags with specific compartments. Our favorite has always been the Porter Cases with wheels – they give you the flexibility of pulling in multiple bags with their special cart feature. Always make sure each compartment is filled before you leave the site. Also count your bags in your car before leaving to ensure you have everything with you.

image source

When Do You Say No To Upgrades?

Windows 7 was just released today – promising to be a big improvement over Vista. So, do you rush out and buy Windows 7, maybe a new laptop or desktop to go along with it, and maybe even upgrade software along the way?

Same with camera equipment. Canon just announced its newest camera, the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV. Not only does it offer you a ton of features like 16 megapixel sensor and 14 bit A/D data conversion, but it also has full high definition video capture as well. Due out in December, the price of $5,000 may be enough to scare off some photographers, questioning what REALLY has top priority in their businesses.

I was out on several forums yesterday chatting about this very subject. When you’re struggling to maintain your old profit levels (or maybe even a profit level at all), when do you say enough and simply not upgrade?canon camera

I know as a business owner, I’ve faced that question a lot over my career. So I’ve come up with a few guidelines that help me decide when to upgrade, and more importantly, when not to.

1. Do you already have a system in place that works?
Is what you are currently using working? Are you having problems with it? The old saying, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” applies here. As long as everything works for what you need, stick with the old.

2. Is upgrading essential for your business?
Some tools you use every day. As a web designer, Dreamweaver and Fireworks are used daily. As a photographer, Photoshop is at the top of the list. When a new version comes out, it’s mandatory to improve your productivity within your business.

3. Would not upgrading make you less professional – your clients may be more up to date than you?
As a photographer, walking into a wedding using a camera body that’s several years old could put you on the spot if a guest has the latest equipment. While it is important to keep up to date, you don’t have to replace everything all at once. If you have three or four camera bodies for backups, you don’t have to replace all at once – for the most part they all still do the job. Set yourself up on a schedule – one new body every year – and stick with it. Phase out the oldest and sell it on eBay, and put the newest one to work.

What are your ideas on upgrading? When do you no to buying the latest – just because its available?

How To Make Your Own Light Reflector

Are you starting your own photography business? Then you know the value of learning how to make your own light reflector. Not only can it save you money to invest somewhere else, but it can also give you a quick way to instantly improve your photography.

When shooting portraits outside, it’s easy to tuck people next to trees and near buildings to  avoid the harsh sunlight. But sometimes you find a scene that would be perfect for your client – yet the direct sunlight is streaming in. That’s when a lift reflector comes in handy.

When people talk about light reflectors, they are usually talking about one of two things.

A light reflector that bounces the light.
A light diffuser that softens the light.

A light reflector generally comes in two colors, silver and gold. Silver provides a bright reflection; gold provides a warmer, softer glow. Both are designed to be used close to the subject, using the light as a directional source to bounce back into the subjects face. Play with the reflector until you get the lighting you are looking for – its easy to see results just by tilting the reflector.

[Read more...]

Don’t Have A Lens? Just Rent It

This past week we spent some time in Arches National Park in Moab, Utah. While we have a ton of our own equipment, we thought it would be fun to try out one of the lens rental places, to get a feel for how easy it is to rent, and to report it all back to you.

We started doing our research a week before we left home. We decided to try LensRentals.com based on our own personal research, and the recommendations of our followers on Twitter. We placed the order on Friday, for Tuesday delivery, as we were leaving town early Wednesday morning.

lensrentals 

We selected the lens we wanted, put in our credit card number, and gave our phone number for verification. They had an easy, computer generated process where they called us, we entered a code we received from the order, and the verification was complete. Then the lens was on its way.

[Read more...]