This Is How Much Digital Cameras Have Changed In The Past Decade

3 10 2010

It’s amazing to see how much things can change in a decade. Ten years ago, we invested in our first digital camera, and were amazed with the storage space on our 256 megabyte cards. Now a simple point and shoot consumer grade camera has more bells and whistles than our original DSLR.

Pricing Your Photography

Speed now is everything. A decade ago you could shoot at a maximum burst speed of 8 fps for up to 16 RAW frames. Today it’s at 10 fps for up to 28 RAW frames. And if you really want to show movement, with today’s Mark IV, simply turn to video mode, and capture everything as it happens.

While speed and functionality have changed considerably, the one thing that’s remained constant is cost. For about the same price as you paid a decade ago (not taking into account inflation or any other economic factors of course) you can purchase a workhorse camera perfect for the professional photographer.

10 Things You Never Want To Do With Your Online Photography Portfolio

16 08 2010

As a photographer, your most important marketing tool is your online photography portfolio. On your website or your blog, this is what’s going to showcase your work, and get you hired. Yet I see mistakes all the time. And I have a ton of questions like, “Why isn’t my site getting any traffic?” and “Why aren’t people contacting me online?” Here are 10 mistakes I see frequently – do you see yourself here?

1. Enter Page

Do you really need to divide up your site, and dedicate one whole page to making your visitors choose? If they type in your URL, they want to see your site. They want to start learning about you immediately, not have to decide if they want to visit your Flash site, Mobile site, Fast site, Slow site, Blog, Flickr portfolio, etc. Yes, you can weave things into your site, and have things on the side of your content that allows them to navigate elsewhere. But don’t make your first impression just a choice.

2. Photo Size
Have you ever gone to a photographer’s site, only to wait 30 seconds for it to load a huge file thousands of pixels in size? Boring. This is the web. You don’t need large files – the smaller the better for loading, and to protect you from clients downloading them to manipulate them. Stick to an image that is between 500-1000 pixels on the long edge, depending on how you are grouping them together.

3. Music

Um, no. Just don’t do it. There is no such thing as setting the mood or creating ambiance. If a visitor heads into your site at work on their lunch hour, you better believe they will back out quickly when the music starts. The web is visual, unless you find a video you choose to watch.

4. Photo Quantity
A portfolio is what you make of it. You can have a flash gallery that creates a slide presentation. Or you can choose to sort by category, client or niche, and showcase a great deal of your imagery. This isn’t a place to put every image from the shoot – showcase what made the shoot special. For a portrait setting, we may have put up 10 to 20 images. For a wedding, around 200 (we shot 2000-3000 images at every event PJ style). There is no such thing as too many photographs, IF you tell a story with what you have.

5. Fill It Up
Every photographer has to start somewhere. If you really want to get into weddings and you’ve only done one, by all means put it up. But don’t forget to quickly put up every other wedding you do as well. A potential client really wonders when they visit your wedding gallery, and only finds one bride.

6. Pay, Don’t Go Free
With all the options you have available to you today, there really is no reason to not have a classy, custom made web presence. Don’t opt for a Facebook or Flickr presence only. You have to control your portfolio, and give it your unique style.

7. Make It Easy
Create navigation that’s easy to follow. Don’t load it up with 30 choices; make it easy for me to decide where to go to next. Don’t label things with “cute” wordings. Go for the normal, and follow what the big stores do. People are used to commonality here, so don’t confuse them by trying to be different. Be different in your photography style, or the way you offer customer service. Don’t go for the cute on things you can’t control – like the way they move around your site.

8. Flash
If you’ve been on this site before, you know my feeling towards Flash sites. Don’t do it. It makes things difficult to control, difficult to navigate, and difficult for the search engines to find. I don’t mind the occasional Flash splashes to show off some of your work. But don’t put your entire portfolio into a Flash presentation. They will always have to start at the beginning, and can’t be specific about images they like. “I like the image at this URL, clicking the 3 category, the 15th image in” makes it a little hard to communicate.

9. Think Sales
I’ve been on photography sites where there is no contact information. Period. The idea of having a site is to make connections, and let anyone and everyone connect with you. Have a contact us form. Put your email on every page. Put your phone number right near your header. Put your address and a map to your studio. Put your Facebook, Twitter and Flickr connections on every page. Tell them how to connect with you.

10. Be Original
Don’t look through photographers sites to find one to mimic. Go to a different industry. Check out architecture, authors or sculptures. Look through Amazon, Oprah and Martha Stewart. Find things you like, and pull from a variety of sources. You don’t want a potential client to show up and say, “this site was just like X’s site”. You want them to say, “WOW”.

3 Lessons I Learned Building My Wedding Photography Business Past the $100,000 Level

23 07 2010

A few years back I started doing research for a book I was writing on photography. And I was shocked to learn that in the photography industry, the top 10 percent of all photographers earned in excess of $53,900 per year. That meant 90 percent of all photographers where earning less than this. I knew then something had to change, and my entire VirtualPhotographyStudio concept was born.

building a wedding photography business

Inevitably when I teach or am around a group of photographers, someone always asks about my lessons learned. “What do you wish you knew as a start up that would have helped you jump to the Six Figure faster?” So here are my top 3 lessons learned.

1. Getting To $50,000 is much harder than getting to $100,000
The most difficult thing about building a photography business from the ground up (or any business for that matter) is figuring out what it takes to make it a full time success. If you are earning $10,000 or $20,000 per year from your photography, you have to have a supplemental income from somewhere. But once you hit the $50,000, you’re beginning to look at it more with a full time status. (Yes, there are still all of your expenses you have to subtract, but you’re still earning a pretty decent fee.)

In order to grow from $0 to $50,000, you have to put your systems in place. You have to build your marketing materials. You have to build up a good clientele. You have to have your prices and your products well defined. And you have to devote enough time to everything in addition to your supplemental income source.

Once you move past the $50,000, things are in place – it’s just a matter of taking it to the next level. If you’re struggling now to break into the $50+ level, what do your plans look like? How are you going to achieve it? Make sure you’re thinking at a full time level to achieve full time success.

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10 Tips For Taking Portraits In The Cold and Snow

14 01 2010

1. Choose your location before the clients arrive. In the summer it’s nice to walk around, shooting in several places. In the winter, the cold can get to you quickly. Have places picked out ahead of time, and walk your clients there quickly. Keep them bundled in coats or close to the car until the shoot, then move quickly. Avoid the red noses and cheeks if possible.

2. Wear all the snow gear. Your clients will be in a fairly comfortable place. But to get the best shot, you may need to head into a snow bank, lay down on the snow. Make sure you have boots, gloves and a warm hat, and maybe even snow pants to keep you warm and dry.


3. Have your clients dress for the snow too. It may seem silly to remind your clients to dress for the snow. But the last thing you want them to do is show up with a 3 year old in a holiday dress and shoes, crying because she’s freezing. Give them a clothing consultation, and have them dress similarly and appropriately.

4. You don’t need a ton of snow to create a great backdrop. Look for interesting viewpoints – tunnels, pathways or backdrops. Then move your subjects in the scene to complete the image.

5. Use the snow as a prop. Snow can add dimension to your portraits, and can give you a soft glow. Make sure you use a lens hood to prevent the snow from falling onto your lens.

6. Have the family bring along props. If they want an outdoor winter portrait, chances are they like to play in the snow too. Do they have skis, snowshoes or a snowmobile? Incorporate that into the image for something personal to the family.

7. Overexpose your images. With the majority of your background being white, you’ll need to overexpose your images by a stop or two. With digital, you can play around with your settings and see your results before you place your subjects into the image.

8. Have a call list for snow days. Many areas can go weeks without a snow storm, then be hit by several inches of beautiful snow. Create a reserve list, and give them a call early in the morning to head out and shoot. If it’s cloudy and snowy all day, you may be able to get several clients in per day.

9. Price your snow day sessions higher than regular sessions. These are limited editions – they can only take place when it snows. With your reserve list, they will quickly become an in demand item. Take the session fee up front in order to be placed on the reserve list. That will make them more motivated to keep the session.

10. End with photojournalism. After you get your posed images, stage a snowball fight or build a snowman. Capture the family having fun, and you’ll get some dynamite fill-in images that they may like even better than the posed.

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Photography Studio – Going Out Of Business

25 06 2008

How long can a photography studio stay in business if it isn’t making any money?

I came across a photography site today in which the photographer had listed prices. I won’t use names – but I guarantee you can find prices like this on many, many different sites.

Event fee $300, includes photographer and assistant for 3 hours of time, plus a DVD with images. Additional hours available as needed.

So let’s do a few calculations.

$300 for 3 hours of work – that’s $100 an hour

Let’s assume an hour each before and after the event getting organized – down to $60 an hour

Let’s assume 3 hours of meeting time to book the client and to deliver the DVD and final products – down to $37.50 per hour

Let’s assume 2 hours of production time, transferring raw images to computer, editing and burning DVD – down to $30 per hour

Normal business expenses:

  • Vehicle
  • Gas at $4 per gallon – depends on the distance of the event
  • Camera equipment costs
  • Costs of brochures, business cards, paper, envelopes, advertising – everything to bring in the clients
  • Rent
  • Office supplies
  • Phone expenses
  • Utilities

Okay, with all of those expenses to add up, I’ll be conservative and say it costs about $30 per hour – which means we’re now down to $0

Oh, and did I mention that there are two people at the event – which means you have to pay that second person per hour – I guess we’re now into the negative.

And does this person really have a chance of making a huge additional sale? They are giving away the DVD, so I think chances are pretty low.

Becoming a professional photographer means you have to make money. You have to give yourself a profit, and pay yourself for your expertise.

If you don’t, you’ll be hanging that Out Of Business sign very soon.

What can you do? Charge what you’re worth, and charge to run a profitable business. One of the reasons our studio became a Six Figure success in under two years is because we charged what we were worth for our services. We made sure our expenses were completely covered – including our own salaries – and made a healthy profit on top of it all.

It doesn’t take luck to become a Six Figure Photographer. It takes business planning. What are you doing to guarantee your success?

Photography Memory cards – What are you paying

6 03 2008

When digital photography started to become mainstream, I remember paying $250 for a 256MB chip. This ranged to be about $1 per meg of memory. In today’s pricing, pretty expensive. Memory has fallen in price and memory cards have become so cheap that you can purchase larger cards an take lots more images. What is the most that you have paid for a memory card? What is the cheapest. Funny when you think back at items like this.

How To Market Your Stock Photography Images

31 01 2008

How To Get Started – What you need to do to begin–or continue–in stock photography, today.
Choosing Your Markets – Where and how to find photo buyers the easy way. How to let them know about your stock photography services. How to get them to take a look at your work. How to cultivate their continued interest in what you do.
How To Market Your Stock Images – The marketing process. Benefits in marketing your own work as well as why you might choose not to do it yourself and work through an agency, instead.
Here’s where you can get all the up-to-date information you need to sell your stock photo images online today…
Stock Photography: GOING DIGITAL