The Middle Class Photography Studio Is Dead … Are You Still Running One?

Here in the US, we’re in the last minute race between two candidates that will attempt to steer our country towards a brighter tomorrow. And while the issues are flying high, with each side accusing and trying to explain why they are the only true leader for the job, only one thing is for sure: the middle class as we know it is quickly dying away.

Nope, I’m not going to get political here.  But I do think it’s important to watch what’s happening and base your own decisions off of the trends that are happening. That’s what I’ve done my entire life, and it’s how I ended up where I am today.

I grew up firmly planted in middle class America. Nice house in the suburbs. Dad made a good living. Mom stayed at home with the kids. New cars. Nice schools. College education. Life was good.

And a huge majority of the population had the same lifestyle. The suburban sprawl took place, giving a newfound luxury to many people throughout our country. And not just our country, throughout the world. Those same values and trends have occurred everywhere, allowing the middle class lifestyle to filter out to many.

Living that lifestyle was great. But what was even more important is what came after.

Our parents didn’t plan for retirement – it was expected. Sure, they took advantage of stock option programs and retirement pension plans. But the company they worked for took care of them. They knew social security and their pension would be there waiting for them from the moment they retired until the day they died.

Today that’s all gone. [Read more…]

Photography Is Still An Experience

When you see an average picture, it simply stares back at you showing you an object, a person or a thing. It does little for you because you don’t become emotionally attached to it. Its just a representation of something at some point in time.

That unfortunately is how most photography exists. The average person whips out their iPhone and snaps a photo of the person they are with smiling at the camera. There may be something in the background, but for the most part its just another smiling picture amongst the many they’ve already posted to their Facebook page.

But if you come across an exceptional photograph, it does more than show you a person or object. It does something to you. It touches your heart. It makes you say wow. It gives you a reason to stare at it just a bit longer. It makes you feel like you are there, participating in whatever action is taking place.

And that is a rare art form. That truly is what separates a great professional photographer from everyone else.

If you look back over the life of photography, things are always changing. And you can find a true professional at every stage. One who took what photography had and pushed it to its limits.

While cameras and photography as a whole didn’t change much over a 100 year period, the onset of digital has sped up that process. And of course in some ways made the whole industry fall flat on its face. When everyone is a photographer, how can you separate what’s good from what is average? That’s the problem we are facing right now.

The general population is inundated with photographs – they are everywhere. So if someone jumps into the “professional” category, yet still takes average images, they soon lose a sense of what’s good and what’s great.

Which means now more than ever, separation is the key to survival. You have to look so different, be completely surprising in your presentation that the average person stops and stares and says wow.

Its never been about the picture or the subject matter. Its always been about the experience. And that experience can be spread across the entire time frame you are together with a client; from the creation of the image, to the way the final image is portrayed.

Because photography is changing, its important to keep up with the trends to find out how you can reach beyond what the average photographer is doing, and give yourself an edge setting up the “wow” experience. Its also important to see what people are investing in and what big companies think is going to be the next best thing in the world of photography. And according to billionaire investor Mark Cuban, that may be with a company called Condition One.

Condition One is an interesting new concept that combines still images, video and the iPad to give users the ability to look beyond any scene they are currently viewing.

Have you ever seen a photograph where you wish you could turn it just slightly to see what’s beyond the four sides of the image? Now you can.

It gives you the impression of being there. It allows you to be a part of the scene. It allows you to experience not only what you’re viewing, but also gives you the option of seeing beyond the scene. Its completely interactive and gives you a unique experience – the wow factor.

What are the possibilities? That still remains to be seen.

But like with any technology, the key here is to let it open up the possibilities and give you a reason to stretch and be different than your competition.

We already know photography is changing.

We know people don’t want the typical wall photographs like they used to.

We know they like technology, the ability to share things and the ability to carry things around on their iPhones and iPads.

We know video will be more important than ever in the future – its already built into many of today’s professional “still” cameras.

Will this give some truly inventive photographer an edge to succeed?

Can You Find A Future In Cinemagraphy?

Are you a Harry Potter fan?

As people move around the school, the one thing you can’t help but notice is the photographs. Large and looming, many of the images became an integral part of the overall story line. They were helpful, motivating, resourceful and comforting.

Yet these weren’t just normal photographs. When you peered at each image, they actually moved. The person would walk to and fro, and in sometimes actually communicate with the person viewing it.

And while it seemed like something made for the movies, for others it appeared to be a new approach to business.

Using high speed photography and technology, some are now turning to a new trend in creating a photograph – and turning them into cinemagraphs.

These images are more than animated images; they are taking photographs to a new realm. A cinemagraph isn’t a photograph and isn’t a video. It lies in between capturing a living moment in time and how that moment was experienced.

The idea originally started when photographer Jamie Beck partnered with graphic artist Kevin Burg, and Cinemagraphs was born. The two collaborated and decided to take the concept of photography to a new level that would forever change the way we look at photography. Visit both sites – Cinemagraphs and From Me To You to see their work in action. They’ve taken their work to many commercial and fashion accounts, including Ralph Lauren and an appearance in Lucky Magazine.

Can you find success at cinemagraphy? For these two, the answer is yes.

And because of their success, its rubbing off on others. [Read more…]

The Next Big Trend: Reality Photography

What did you watch on television when you were little? Chances are it was comedy shows, family sitcoms, maybe a drama or two. What they all had in common was they were thought out, written, rehearsed, and filmed for television.

You can’t say that any more. What are you watching today? American Idol? Voices? The Bachelor? Biggest Loser? Sure they are planned and thought out – you can never throw anything together without a lot of thought first. But their focus is entirely different. Instead of paying big celebrity stars to act in the show, they bring in contestants from every day life and make them compete for a shot at success. Whether it be a singing contract, marriage or a million dollars in your pocket, the goal is to bring celebrity status to normal, every day common people.

And of course people love it. Everyone wants to be famous. Everyone wants to be a star. And as the character Rachel from the television show Glee stated, “Nowadays being anonymous is worse than being poor.” [Read more…]

Get Ready For The Newest Industry Trend … Nostalgia

“In an era of unscratchable touch screens and sleek, perpetually Internet-connected devices that seem to smoothen all the edges of the world, people suddenly find themselves yearning for the reassuring roughness of the imperfect.”

In a recent article in The China Post, the writer questioned if we may just be at the tip of a brand new era. Technology? Nope. Information? Not quite.

Instead, what this writer proposes is we may be at the beginning of the nostalgia era. People are looking for a way to revive the feelings they once had by things of the past before we morphed everything into a digital rendition of itself. We miss touching and feeling things that had meaning without the necessity of plugging it in or running an “app” for that.

And in fact this article may be on to something.

Think of the most recent sale within the photography industry. Instagram sold for $1 billion dollars; its an app designed to make photographs have an old-world look.

When you take a photograph, you simply use an app to turn it into something from another time. With a touch of a button, you capture an image and apply various techniques. Then shoot it out to your friends through your favorite site, whether its Facebook or simply placing it on your blog. You aren’t giving up the things you love about today – instantaneous capture and manipulation, and sharing with friends around the world. Yet you’re giving it a look you remember from your youth.

And this isn’t the only example. [Read more…]

Will Mirrorless Cameras Change Photography?

We’ve been doing our research and are ready to take the plunge. Yep, we’ve got our order in for our first mirrorless camera, a Sony NEX-7

We’re heading to Europe soon, and have decided that traveling with 3 laptops, 3 iPad/Kindles, 3 iPhone/iPods and a big bag of camera equipment isn’t something we want to do. So the logical choice was to cut out the camera equipment. Especially when we started reading the reviews of the NEX-7.

People love cameras. recently surveyed more than 275,000 people and found that while point and shoots and DSLRs are still at the top of the heap when it comes to camera purchases, mirrorless technology has definitely claimed its stake in the “war”.

What makes 3rd generation cameras attractive is the fact that they offer the “best of both worlds” – the functionality of the DSLR and the size of the point and shoot. Because it offers a mirrorless design, its simpler, smaller and easier to carry. Because the camera body is designed differently, the lenses are simpler and smaller as well. Meaning the entire camera system – body and lenses – can easily fit in just about any bag you want it to. So you don’t need a large camera bag that makes it pretty obvious you are a professional photographer. And you don’t have to whip out a lens that makes it pretty obvious you’ve spent big bucks.

Will mirrorless cameras become a fad or will it form the future of photography? Right now there isn’t a large lens selection available with 3rd generation technology. Which may be a huge consideration for a professional who shoots a wide array of photographs, such as at a wedding. But as they continue to improve the selection, that “difference” will become obsolete.

And ultimately its not about what camera you use or what lens you use; its all about your creative eye, how you market yourself and what your portfolio looks like.

What is your opinion on mirrorless or 3rd generation cameras?


Will Generation C Love Your Photography?

What if you could find a group of people that loved what you do? And they had the perfect group of friends who were just like them, loved hearing recommendations, and valued their opinions enough to use the same companies they talked about?

Sounds like a perfect group of people to target with your marketing, right?

Welcome to Generation C. Generation C is a group of Americans who are between 18 and 34, consume media, socialize and share experiences through technology devices more than any other age group. Oh, and they are leaning heavily towards being more female.

The C stands for connection. They love new devices and new experiences like no other group before them. And because they are highly connected to their devices, it offers you both a challenge and an opportunity to market to them.

Want a simple way to combine photography with technology? Head over to Google and do a search for iPad wedding albums. I’m already finding many photographers who are combining the two together and delivering their clients a dynamic presentation.

Not only can you put your wedding album onto the iPad, you can customize the iPad too. Try a skin – I love what Nordica Photography has done.

Or look for a iPad album. Here is a great option from Allister Freeman Photography.

If you haven’t thought about putting technology into your business plan, sit down today and do it. There is a lot of potential, especially if you are one of the first to put something into place within your area.

Let me know if you have any more ideas – I’d love to see what you are doing.

Photography + Small Business + PIPA and SOPA = Death To An Industry

A couple of weeks ago, I posted Why SOPA/PIPA Affect All Of Us to help you better understand two bills that were before congress and the impact they could have on us all. I’ve been involved in groups for the past couple of years that have been watching and fighting this “concept” as it makes its way through both state and federal levels again and again.

I was happy to see both tabled and not put forward for a vote. But again, they were merely tabled, not stopped. Which means they will surface again. And probably again.

So of course I keep following what people are saying and what industries support these types of bills – and which ones are against it.

I was very surprised a week or so ago when PPA came out with a post on their site and also proceeded to email it out to their members. If you haven’t read it, head over and read it now.

SOPA and PIPA – Don’t Be Fooled

There are many things wrong with this lines of thinking – so many I could literally go line by line. But the one item in particular that stands out to me is:

“So when a behemoth corporate money-maker like Google attempts to stand on the backs of photographers to increase its profits, we as your association take exception.”

Yes I will agree, Google is a huge money making company. Yet they stand up for keeping censorship at bay and work to give everyone free reign to promote and do as they will to make money as a small business. They work to keep the playing field as equal as possible for everyone online. Google isn’t alone – Wikipedia and others all have the same approach to Internet regulation. Which is why a great majority of them went dark to support defeating the SOPA and PIPA regulations. And will continue to do so again and again.

There are two ways of looking at business today: old school or innovative.

The Internet made old school obsolete. If you’ve ever read the book “Who Moved My Cheese”, old school associations and businesses are still in the old store room, looking for “cheese” that has long since disappeared. Yes, there are still ways of making money with old school thinking, but they are drying up quickly. Not just in photography, but in every industry out there – think newspapers and book publishing.

Yet the Internet is what is allowing small businesses to be truly innovative. You can use sites like Google, Yahoo, Facebook and Pinterest with simply an investment of time (occasionally a little money) and a whole lot of magic to create a business beyond your wildest dreams. Its you, your innovation, a little time, and magic can truly happen.

Who is threatened by that? Old school businesses who like things the way they always were. We will never go back to the way things were. The only way to move forward is to allow us to keep the playing field as equal as possible.

Here are how others are sounding off

The Foolish PPA is Pro PIPA and SOPA

An Open Letter to David Trust and PPA

Photographers Supposrt SOPA and PIPA?

Open Letter to PPA and David Trust

And a few statistics to show you where others stand:

SOPA and PIPA Internet Blackout Aftermath

What’s your opinion?

The One Big Secret You Can Learn From Kodak

Its official. Kodak filed for bankruptcy today.

The 131 year old company went from being the leader in the industry, to losing sight of a strong, successful path.

They went from employing 63,900 to 17,000 in less than 10 years.

They failed to see future trends (even though they developed digital technology), which ultimately cost them everything.

Yet its not uncommon in today’s world.

We see it everywhere. The big companies of yesteryear are falling every day.

Part of it is the “red tape” that exists behind the industry walls. They do business the way it’s always been done. They can’t change quickly. They can’t react to current trends and what people want the most.

So they are dying off.

What’s needed in the future are quick thinkers, rapid reactors and speedy implementers.

When a new idea is conceived, you need to jump on it as fast as possible. [Read more…]

Why SOPA/PIPA Affect All Of Us

I normally keep this blog political free and completely related to running a photography business. But after following net neutrality issues for years, I know the only way to stop things is to become active. When groups gather on the capital steps to show support for leaving the Internet “free” – I’m there. And when large groups are doing whatever they can to stop America censorship of the Internet, I’m there as well.

If you haven’t heard of SOPA/PIPA, take a few minutes to learn more.

Both the Senate (PIPA) and the House (SOPA) have sponsored bills to pass Internet censorship. And while the House has tabled the bill – not killed it, just tabled it for the moment – its still live and active in the Senate with final voting to occur January 24th.

SOPA/PIPA impact far more than just US citizens. It impacts everyone who uses US-based IP addresses and VPNs to access the Internet. That includes travelers, educators, journalists and businesses that have International clientele.

Now is the time to make your voice heard. You can get active in a variety of ways – visit the American Censorship site for more information.

If you are in business for yourself and you want to continue doing business online, this will impact you. Take a stance now to make sure you have the freedom to run your business anyway you choose now and well into the future.