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Sage Advice: Admitting Your Mistakes

23 Nov

To move forward, you have to be able to look back.

At times it can be difficult to find perspective, especially when you’re running your own business, shooting, marketing, wowing customers and balancing life amidst all the responsibilities. Today’s post was originally published last year but is still totally relevant and helpful today. It made me think more critically about things I could improve on and didn’t even realize; I hope it helps inspire all you Betties out there to continue growing, improving and striving to be better!

My 25 Biggest Mistakes

by Brandy Anderson of Fresh Sugar Photography

I’ve made many, many more than 25 mistakes in my 5 years in this industry, but these are some of the ones that affected my business the most. If anyone of them can help any of you from making the same mistake, I’m glad to share them. Some of them may be surprising, and some of them may be so obvious you are considering me an idiot right about now. I’m ok with that.

In no particular order:

1. Taking on too many “free” sessions.

This is a lesson that I most recently learned, and am still recovering from. I love to give to charities, and I love to expand my portfolio, and I love to give photography to my friends. However, all of this “love” has added up to a backlog that I am only now recovering from after taking some time off from shooting. I am still editing free sessions from November, and *just* finished one from September. So what, you ask? It was free! Yes, but now my reputation is suffering because I will be forever known to these people as the photographer that takes forever to get your images to you. They don’t care that it was free. They care that they actually HAVE the photographs.

2. Letting emails sit in my inbox.

My automatic email responder tells people who inquire about a session that I will respond within 24 hours. But for the longest time, I was taking 3-4 days to get back to people, and even (gasp!) sometimes forgetting about the email at all and not finding it for weeks afterwards. Whoa. Bad, bad business practices. After getting my 5th or 6th response from potential clients who had already booked with someone else, I smartened up. I try to email back immediately after getting the email. Clients like that. And I like having clients.

3. Not having confidence in my work.

If you haven’t really talked to me in about 3 years, you would be amazed with the change. When I was first starting out, I had very little confidence in my work. I put on a brave face with clients, but I was constantly comparing myself to other photographers, and falling short. Even when I had been in business for awhile, doubts plagued me. Now I’m not saying that today I think I’m a rockstar, but I believe in myself and I know that I can do whatever I set my mind to. I can be just as good as anybody else.

4. Buying too many actions/templates/etc.

I have about 20 different coffee table book templates. Guess what? I have not, nor will ever offer coffee table books. WHY on earth would I even buy one template, let alone 20? Obviously because I like throwing my money away. Now I think carefully about every single business purchase I make.

5. Hiding.

This is a personality flaw I’ve always had. When things got overwhelming, I hid. There’s a part in book Confessions of a Shopaholic where she just runs away from all her debt, etc and hides at her parents’ house. That’s me. Whenever I felt overwhelmed, I would just stick my head in the sand and pretend things weren’t happening. As you can guess, things don’t get better on their own, and you can create some pretty upset tummies by hiding out from your problems. Now, as hard as it is to do – I know that it’s just so much better to confront everything head on.

6. Thinking Photoshop could save me.

When I started shooting RAW, I was in love with the fact that I didn’t need to custom white-balance anymore. I could just shoot and fix it later. Exposure problems? Oh well, fix it later! Except if you don’t get it right or nearly right in-camera, good luck getting a great image out of Photoshop. Oh, it can look ok . . . but do you really want to be sweating out your ordering appointment worried that they are going to choose something that was overly “fixed” in PS and might not be enlarged well? Which leads me to –

7. Showing clients less than awesome images.

Crap exposure, weird color, missed focus. You know the minute that you put ANY image with those problems in a gallery, a client will order it. Big. HUGE! And then you can either give them a substandard product, explain to them that they can’t have the image they want, or convince them to get a canvas (heh heh). I’ve learned to save myself the headache and get rid of those images right away. Now that’s not to say that I still won’t show something with more emotion than technical perfection. But any imperfections have to be pretty minor.

8. Laziness.

By nature, I am a lazy person. I work from my bed more than I really should admit. I love doing nothing – I love not working. It’s true! Thankfully, I love working at this particular job, so it counteracts my inherent laziness. But, I will leave things to the last minute and procrastinate and not get any work done and play Cafe World on Facebook and look at engagement rings at Costco.com. (I am already married and not likely to get engaged anytime soon.) Then I have a whole pile of work that has built up and I have to work really, really hard and I get stressed and it stinks. So I just try to plug through my to-do list everyday and schedule my laziness for appropriate times.

9. Laziness. Part Two.

Laziness on the job. Every so often, I slip into a rut, and I stop trying new things at sessions. I go through the motions, get the usual shots and try to get the heck out of there. The clients don’t really know any differently – it doesn’t show in my personality or anything, but I’m just not that into it. I don’t feel inspired and just hit my go-to shots and then pack it up. I try now to find little things to inspire me for every session. Either a new blanket for a newborn, and new trick to make older kids laugh, or a new location. It’s up to ME to put the creativity into my photography.

10. Pretending I’m not a business person.

If you are in business, you are a business person. I don’t care how creative you are – someone’s got to think of the biz side. If not you, then someone else. I used to only do the things I liked and let the other stuff slide. But it turns out that other stuff is kinda important, and can kill your business if you don’t take care of it. Like knowing if you are making any money. Again, leading me to:

11. Taxes.

I am going to admit something that hopefully won’t land me in federal prison. I didn’t do taxes for 2 years. 2 years. I did my usual procrastination, then hiding routine. For two whole stinkin’ years! Imagine the knot in my stomach, always having that in the back of my mind. I had no idea what I had made, no idea what I owed, and it was making me SICK. But one day I just honestly smacked myself upside the head and bought QuickTax. It took me about 2 hours to do everything, and it was DONE!
My challenge these days is getting my taxes in on time each year. I still owe a $23 penalty from last year. I will write the cheque after this post. I promise.

12. I put a baby in a tree. On purpose.

Against my better judgement, I had a parent suggest it, and I complied. The dad was behind the baby holding it and hiding behind the trunk. But it was still a stupid and dangerous thing to do. I completely and totally regret it. I did it because I wanted to impress other photographers. Now I don’t even SHOW that image to other people because I am so embarrassed by it.

13. Letting people take advantage of me.

I’m Canadian, therefore I am a nice, polite, person. Which means that sometimes people try to push me around. They can try.
Because after having a couple of people push me to bend policies and then getting severely burned by doing so, I don’t let myself get pushed around anymore. I still give great customer service, and almost always say yes – but sometimes those yes’es have price tags that I attach. If something is going to take me extra time to do and it’s outside the norm of what I offer, then I will charge for it accordingly. There’s a great saying about bending over backwards, not forwards.Also, for those of you involved in commercial photography – this is practically an epidemic. Because there are so many photographers willing to shoot for peanuts because they think it’s “exciting”, more and more companies will try to lowball you for jobs. DON’T LET THEM. Know what your rates should be, and if you don’t – get FotoQuote or get out of shooting commercial projects.

14. I used to pay A LOT of attention to my local competition.

So much so that I could tell you what hex code they used on the text on the footer of their blog. In other words, too much attention. I still think that a knowledge of your local market is smart for ANY business, I think photographers can get wrapped up in each other way too easily. When you look at another photographer’s site, there’s just no way to be objective. You are always going to find locations that are cooler, shots that are better, prices that are lower. It did me no good to get tied up in knots about stuff like that, and it didn’t inspire me to be a better photographer. More like a bitter photographer.

15. Studio Envy.

I will admit that I still get studio envy every so often, have you SEEN Danna’s? I’d love to be able to not have to drive all over creation to get to a session, I’d love to have that professionalism that comes with having a space. However, with money being important to me and the lease prices being crazy expensive in Calgary (about 3K a month for 1000sqft, not including insurance, electricity, utilities, parking, furnishings, etc) it just doesn’t make a lot of financial sense for me to do it. Yes, I could take more sessions, and yes, my sales would be higher with the in-person ordering. At the moment though, with my youngest daughter still two years away from school, I don’t have the time to devote to being there. It’s just a financial risk that I am not willing to take right now. I am more about keeping the money for awesome vacations than paying “the man” every month.

16. Overexposing in my processing.

I went through a phase for about a year, where everything I did was SO FREAKING BRIGHT. I have no idea why, except at the time I thought it was awesome. I took some shots of my Filipino friends, and after I processed them, they looked more caucasian than I do! Bright, light skin doesn’t look natural, and while it is a look, it’s not one that I am going for anymore.

17. Underexposing in my shooting.

What the heck was I doing for awhile there where all my images were so dark in-camera? Maybe that’s why I was over-processing them later. All my images for a period were underexposed by at least a stop, requiring me to adjust exposure later in RAW and introduce more noise to the image. Now I tend to overexpose slightly if anything, because an overexposed RAW file is much easier to recover and process than an underexposed one.

18. Message boards.

I still visit some photography forums, but I don’t devote the hours upon hours that I used to. Forums like ILP and Props can have a wealth of knowledge, but also a wealth of other stuff that will suck away your time. Maybe it’s because I don’t have as much to learn, but I don’t spend a lot of time on forums anymore, which makes me a lot more productive. If you can keep your participation to a level where it’s not damaging your overall time management, then have at ‘er. Just know what threads are worthwhile. And make sure you try to keep giving back what you get.

19. Believing the hype.

I used to get sucked into believing pretty much everything I heard. A photographer with an average sale of 13K. Someone who was traveling all over the world to shoot babies. Someone who is so freaking awesome that you pale in comparison. Just remember that we all try to make ourselves look great, it’s good PR. We all want to look cooler than we are, busier than we are, more successful than we are. So if you’re told that your “frenemy” just booked 15 NBA triplet sessions for next week, just smile and wink. Who knows? Your next blog post of the amazing home and kids with designer duds may just be of your sister-in-law that you begged to let you shoot her family for free so you could put it on your site. I won’t tell if you won’t.

20. Feeling guilty.

I actually feel that guilt is a pretty wasted emotion. You made a mistake, learn from it and move on. Your guilt isn’t helping anyone. For reals.

21. Not backing up properly.

“I’m not a wedding photographer” I said. “I can go back and do a reshoot” I thought. Fine, maybe you can. But do you WANT to? I’d much rather spend the extra 10 minutes making an extra backup than the hours of a reshoot and re-edit. Oh my gosh, the stress of trying to recover images. Now I back-up my computer with Time Machine, with BackBlaze online, with an external hard-drive AND with DVDs. Excessive? Maybe. Safe? Definitely.

22. Getting rid of files.

I tell my clients that I keep ordered files for one year. I had a client from 3 years prior want to purchase her digital files and I only had one copy of them, and it was on a busted hard drive. Bummer to lose out on that sale. But hurrah, I also had it on disc! If I had tossed those files to save “room” (and COME ON, how much room does it take to save the files?) I wouldn’t have that extra money in my pocket. Now I try to save everything. It’s like free money sometimes.

23. Being too much of a fluffier.

Tissue paper, fancy cards, expensive things sent to the clients before they pay me a dime. I know this works for other people and that is awesome. I get the whole “boutique” studio thing. I however, want money. Cold hard cash, and I want to keep my bottom line as low as possible. So I carefully research what products give me the best look to match my branding, and discard the rest. I still have a lot of cool packaging and products, but I’m also as green as possible – making killer .pdfs to send instead of fancy triple tri-folded welcome cards. I still have a case of tiny silver tins that I thought would be great for wallets, but they are actually too small because I didn’t bother to match the measurements. Any ideas?

24. Listening to my husband.

He’s a smart guy, maybe almost as smart as me. He owns a company. He runs a business. But he has no stinking idea about MY business. Don’t get me wrong, he gives me lots of good advice. Lots of common sense advice. But he never really can give me specific advice or ideas about this biz, because he’s #1 – not in it, and #2 – not a woman and not a mom. Before you yell at me for being sexist, think about who your clients are. If they are not overwhelmingly women, you are tricking me and not actually a baby photographer. Because the people we are targeting are moms, are women. And last I checked, my husband was neither. He just doesn’t think like women do, men tend to think with their heads while women think with their hearts. So while his advice and ideas are always practical, they are never emotional – and that’s what we need to tap into to succeed in this particular business.

25. Not sharing and not caring.

I am not a private person. I have a big blabbermouth and I love to talk. Back when I was still listening to him, my husband was constantly telling me to stop telling my photog friends (online and in real life) all the awesome things I was doing. That I needed to keep it to myself, or someone would come along and steal it. And guess what, people HAVE come along and stolen stuff. And I got bent out of shape, I got really mad, I even once yelled at someone on the phone. Gross. Being afraid of sharing, being afraid of friends and being afraid of people in general is not how I want to live my life. AT ALL. So now I share, and I share as much as I can. This blog, and the mentoring we’ve been doing has been such a gift to me. I love thinking up all the things I can share, and I love seeing other photographers grow. And now no one can steal anything from me. Because I give it all away and that’s MY choice.

Thank you Brandy for letting us share your honest wisdom, and Caitlin Domanico for sharing the original post on Facebook and making this one possible!

2012: The Year of the Belly! – Guest Blogger Sarah Schulte

15 Nov

As I sat in my chair with a sleeping newborn in my lap, my mind raced…I needed something to distract me.  It was winter, wedding season was over and the next season wouldn’t kick into high gear for another couple of months.  I was caught up on albums, edits and (gasp!) even my marketing.  Maybe, just maybe, it was time to do a project for ME!  Something that would get my creative juices flowing, that had nothing to do with weddings, and that could refresh my mom brain just in time for me to go back to work.  When I was still pregnant, John (my husband) had painted my big belly up like a Jack-O-Lantern for Halloween.  It was cute, it got lots of comments on Facebook…it must be cool…wouldn’t it be fun to paint other pregnant bellies?  Surely, John wouldn’t mind it if I volunteered his services…and I bet pregnant moms would jump at the chance to jazz up their bellies.  I could take a snap when they were done, keeping the elements as uniform as possible, and find a way to display them.

How to display them?  I sure didn’t want to do all this work just to leave them on the computer…how about 12 bellies, 12 months – a calendar!  What a cute gift that would make…I could sell them and give the money to a charity!  I  wanted a charity that was uplifting, joyful, and for children.  I chose Little Smiles because I love what they do for children…bringing smiles to the faces of kids in local hospitals, shelter and hospices.  They remind kids to be kids.  I had donated several sessions to their Little Smiles Ball Silent Auction in the past, and it was an important organization to several of my clients.

All that in the span of one nap…and now, almost one year later, the calendar is done!  I didn’t think it would ever get finished…waiting for bellies to be the right size, for John to be available, for the expecting moms to be available…but we made it and I am so excited and beyond thrilled with how they came out.  If you want to purchase on of these bad boys, send an email to calendar@sarahschulte.com.  Please include your full name and mailing address and specify if you would like to pay by check or through PayPal.  Orders will be collected and invoices will be emailed out on a first-come, first-serve basis until the calendars are gone!  Calendars are $31.50 (includes tax and US Postage) each and should arrive in time for the holidays.  I’ll be taking orders through the month of November, and $10 of each calendar sale will go to the Little Smiles Organization.

Sarah Schulte is the owner of Sarah Schulte Photography and is a proud member of the Photo Betties Network.

Scatter Joy! One Photographer’s Journey of Giving Back and Discovering True Happiness

1 Jul

By: Amber Shader

“Happiness is not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of
achievement, in the thrill of creative effort” – Franklin D Roosevelt

I held my first “real” camera in the eighth grade. It was a Nikon F2 that I used while taking a summer photography class with a grade school friend at a local community center. Photography quickly became my new passion. Every weekend I looked forward to going to the community center to learn new things. Our teacher was super cool too. He rode a motorcycle, played guitar and looked just like Jerry Garcia. Every weekend, he taught us new things like how to shoot manually, how to develop film and how to do cool things with negative transfers using anything we could find like lace, bows, and big 80‘s hooped earrings.

Once the class was over at the end of summer, my parents got me my very own camera, but it was the type you had to put flash cubes on top of. I couldn’t change lenses, I couldn’t shoot manually or develop my own film anymore, so needless to say, photography didn’t stay a strong passion for me with my little flashcube Kodak camera. I didn’t start shooting again until my freshman year in college. I saved up and bought the cheapest Pentax film SLR I could find and took as many photography electives I could squeeze in while getting my degree in Business Administration and Human Resource Management.

Getting back into photography during college was fun, but I never thought I could make a living as an artist. I think the character Charlotte from the movie Lost in Translation summed up the extent of my college photography experience when she said, “I tried taking pictures, but they were so mediocre. I guess every girl goes through a photography phase. You know, horses…taking dumb pictures of your feet.” Before I knew it, I was working full time, dating my soon-to-be husband and completing my MBA in Organizational Leadership on nights and weekends. I stopped shooting completely and spent 13 years working in Corporate America, climbing the rungs of the corporate ladder. I was a Vice President of Human Resources for a Fortune 100 company, I had a great husband, a great home and plenty of disposable income to buy all the clothes, handbags and jewelry I wanted, but what I did not know at the time was that I didn’t have true happiness and was merely surrounding myself with material things things that did not matter.

It wasn’t until 2010 when a sudden car accident of one of my colleagues at work put everything into perspective. She literally drove across the street from our building to grab a coffee and another vehicle ran a red light and broadsided her. She died instantly. It wasn’t her actual death that was the lightbulb moment for me. My lightbulb moment was during her actual eulogy when people said how much she gave to the company. It was truly then that I realized I wanted to reinvent myself so I could do something I loved with my life vs. being a corporate title on an org chart.

After the funeral, I started to slow down and enjoy the little things in life more like spending time with family and friends, traveling, reading etc vs. working 60 hour work weeks. I also stumbled across an Emerson quote to “Scatter Joy!” and it became my new mantra. To me it meant and still means keeping it simple, traveling the world, finding beauty in all things, caring deeply about people and leaving the world a better place. Around the same time I stumbled across the quote, my wonderful husband encouraged me to start shooting again and he bought me a new Nikon D40 for my birthday that year. I started to get the passion back and I knew photography was what I wanted to do with my life.

I started shooting as a part time photographer on weekends and I slowly built up a client base. I also created my business model around my mantra “Scatter Joy!” and included a minimum of 12 silent auctions or charitable events a year. I started to discover the true power of photography, not just through the images I was creating but through the fact that I could give my time, talent and heart to make the world a little better. I know it sounds cliché but through giving back to the local community I discovered my true happiness. Charitable giving as a photographer also has another upside and if you have ever had the opportunity to listen to Sarah Petty or read her Joy of Marketing blog, then you know that charitable giving is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to grow your business by creating buzz. I am living proof of that too because I was able to make the leap from part time weekend photographer to full time professional photographer largely because of my mantra to Scatter Joy!

So how can this mantra work for you and your business? Here is some advice (in no particular order) that worked for me:

• Decide what you can afford to give in terms of your time, resources, services, products etc. and build that into your business plan. Giving away your time and talent is still an important business decision to consider in terms of cost vs. benefit. I personally landed on a minimum of 12 events/auctions a year, but that may not work for everyone.

• Decide your philanthropic priorities. Are you passionate about charities for animals, the arts, children, the environment? My personal decision was to focus on philanthropic efforts for children and animals since I am passionate about both and love shooting both in my sessions.

• Decide if you want to work with designated national portrait charities supported by PPA or WPPI like Operation Smile, Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, Tiny Sparrow Foundation, etc. or create your own events and work with local groups. You can also do a hybrid of both. I personally decided to work with existing groups including The Moyer Foundation and The Real Charitable Housewives of Delaware.

• Maximize social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook and blogs to highlight your charitable giving. Don’t be afraid to talk about yourself and the good works you are doing. I actually had The Moyer Foundation find me via my tweets about another charitable giving event I worked on for the American Red Cross. If you don’t post it, write about it or share your beautiful images, you are not maximizing the great PR opportunity.

• I’m not promising you will be able to quit your full-time day job as soon as you start taking my advice and adding charitable events to your business model. However, what I can promise you is that you will feel more fulfilled and happy and your business will grow.

One of my most recent events was the Real Charitable Housewives of Delaware’s “Help Japan Bloom Again” event, benefiting the American Red Cross and The Moyer Foundation’s “Evening at the Ballpark” (which in turn, benefits Camp Erin and The Moyer Foundation).

We were able to raise almost $4,000 for the American Red Cross and $100,000 for Camp Erin/The Moyer Foundation! I was so proud and happy to have Amber Shader Photography contribute and be part of both of these special events.

Longer term, even though I don’t ride a motorcycle, play guitar or look like Jerry Garcia, I would love to start teaching photography classes to kids at the same local community center where my love for photography started. Hopefully I can help Scatter Joy! and share my passion for photography with the next generation of future photographers!

Wish Upon A Wedding

14 Apr

By: Brittany Ostrov

Calling all Wish Granters!

It’s hard to believe that it’s already the middle of April and that I attended The Wish Upon A Wedding (WUW) Philadelphia Chapter launch Party months ago! The Launch Party was a fantastic event hosted at the Top of the Tower on January 31st, 2011 that both gave everyone a brief overview of WUW and showcased some of the wonderful vendors already committed to the organization. WUW Philadelphia was completely overwhelmed with the show of support from the Philadelphia Event Industry, selling out with over 200 tickets sold in just 6 days through Facebook alone! Lucky for me, one of my partners in crime, Meredith Miller (Designer at CloudFish Studios), had informed me of the event so we were able to snag our tickets right away!

Wish Upon a Wedding is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that provides weddings and vow renewals to couples facing terminal illness or other serious life-altering circumstances, regardless of sexual orientation. Often, couples facing such situations do not have the energy, time, money, or resources needed to plan their wedding. This wonderful organization takes care of all the details, offering couples a chance to relax and enjoy a very special and intimate day while surrounded by the love of their closest family and friends.

Wish Upon a Wedding President, Mark Kingsdorf

There are so many ways to help this organization by donating, fund raising, volunteering and more. What became the most significant way for me to help was to become a Wish Granter. Wish Upon a Wedding relies on the generosity of professionals from the wedding and hospitality industries to provide goods and services for those in need, or the Wish Recipients. The organization is able to call on their large database of regional Wish Granters to make these weddings happen. From caterers, photographers and designers to DJs, bakers, and venues, WUW has the contacts to make a wedding happen almost anywhere in the United States!

Becoming a wish granter is a great way to both share your trade and give back to those in need, and they still really need your help. I know in the hustle-and-bustle of everyday life we sometimes get too caught up in work and not enough on the outside world, but there are plenty of people out there that really need our help. We each have something special within us successful at what we do, and to share that gift with someone that honestly deserves it is one of the most rewarding things we can do.

So, if you would like to become a Wish Granter (and live in the Philadelphia area!), all you need to do is fill out this form. WUW also has chapters all over the United States, so check this list to see if there’s a chapter closer to you. Or to learn more, visit the website to find out more information about this great organization!

Do you know of other organizations or volunteer programs that work with photographers? Would like to write a post to share them with the Photo Betties? Give us a shout! Email heather@ or jenna@phillyphotobetties.com and send us details. We’d love to hear from you!

Check Out Skip’s Summer School

31 Mar

By Heather O’Mara

Last March I woefully knew I had missed the bus on WPPI. Come May, I needed something that offered great speakers and resources at my fingertips. Something where I could get a jumpstart and find out what I was really doing right, or really doing wrong.

Then it happened – I got an email about “summer school” – Skips’ Summer School – being held in August in Las Vegas. The description, covering a wide range of photography topics such as weddings, portraiture, portfolio creation, lighting, business tips and more, was completely appealing. It was exactly was I was looking for and so much more. At the time, I did not realize the positive impact it would have on my creativity, my business and future planning.

When I returned, my head was spinning. It was very intense; back-to-back presentations beginning at 8am and concluding at 5pm. In fact, Tuesday, we came back from 6am to 8pm. Yes, intense.

So what was it that I found so uplifting, so life changing, that made me a better Heather O’Mara? Okay, maybe that’s laying it on a little thick. But here are a few highlights from some names you may recognize…

Dane Sanders

He opened it up at 8:00am – easy for east coasters. Touching on so many things, giving us a glimpse of himself and how he launched his business. He identified with so many of us in the audience, reviewing blogs for inspiration and reading additional education pieces to hone our skills. He also mentioned those late nights, when we are reading other photographers blogs with our glass off wine thinking “These people are so darn good, my images stink.” His advice? Stop, stop, stop!

Kevin Kubota

Loved him. He had such a warm, approachable energy. What struck me was how he shared his personal self-doubt (what?!) about the quality of his work. One day he said to himself, if these people can be published in a magazine with their work, “Why not me?” This is a question we need to ask ourselves. He also delivered us homework, projects that I still continue to work on, because they are not easy.

Joe Buissink

I do not know where to start with how wonderful I thought his presentation was. He spoke from to heart. For a man that has photographed the weddings of Jessica Simpson, Jennifer Lopez and Jennie Garth – and so beautifully – he is modest. What struck me most was how he described his thought process during a wedding, which paralleled mine. Now granted, I am NO Buissink, but hey, it did make we want to buy his book. Additionally, he also added approaches to fine-tune ways to get your couples to emote.

Cliff Mautner

I loved hearing his discussion on light. Not just on shooting, but his differing observations on television as well. After bringing up the topic of Lighting used in “Mad Men,” I was hooked. As he spoke about lighting for weddings, he discussed embracing lighting and not shying away, and I have done this ever since.

Jasmine Star

I will admit it, I was a little skeptical of listening to her speak, but honestly, I am glad I had the opportunity. She had so much to share and I was able to take a great bit away.

There were other great speakers regarding business management, marketing and shooting portraits, a limited collection of outstanding vendors, and a lighting lab – an opportunity between breaks to work with Tony Corbell in hands-on demonstrations with lighting setups. I was also able to meet photographers from all over the country, which was a nice way to make contacts. This experience for me was priceless and I highly recommend it.

Interested in attending? Skip’s Summer School 2011 is set for July 31- August 3, 2011 at the MGM in Las Vegas. There is a great line up of speakers with even more hands-on training this year. So, take the time off this summer and head to the desert. You are worth the investment and your business will thank you!

Here’s a promo to give you a taste:

Skip’s Summer School from Clay Blackmore on Vimeo.

“I Love Being a Photographer and I’m Keeping It That Way!”

30 Mar

By Tara Jones

I went to WPPI this year for the first time and was completely blown away! What a game changer that event can be for your business; although, for me it was a game changer in a way that I did not expect…

I was sitting in one of the workshops geared toward pushing print sales for boutique studios, and I thought to myself, “What am I doing with my business, my career? I did not get my degree in photography to sell prints.” As I sat there, I began furiously writing down all the things I wanted to shoot; all the things that I knew would make me a happy photographer. And when I finished writing out my list, I picked up my things and quietly snuck out the back door. And let me just say this: I have NEVER walked out on a class before, because I know there is always a key piece of info in every workshop for everyone. But that day I knew it was time for me to make some changes or else I was headed for burnout and misery!

When I came home I had so much clarity about why I love being a photographer and what I needed to do to keep it that way. And God as my witness, as soon as I made the decision to go after the things that make me happy as a photographer, the kind of work I wanted started knocking on my door!

I know. I know. It sounds like a totally Cinderella fairy tale, but I swear it’s the honest truth!

Here’s the list of things I changed about my business since my light bulb moment at WPPI:

• I raised my prices and started treating them as goals. The higher prices push me to produce work I feel is worthy of that dollar amount.
• I became extremely selective about the new boutique-type clients I take on.
• I limited myself to one wedding client per month, which allows me the time to produce quality work for my brides and more time for me to pursue the work that makes me happy.
• I began shooting personal projects that fulfill me as a photographer.
• I allowed myself more time to teach and mentor.

Now, it’s only been about a month since I made these changes, but so far so good! And at the end of the day all I know is this: life is far too short to do work that makes you miserable. I never want to be a ho-hum photographer! I want to wake up every day excited to get to work! Something I tell my mentoring clients is to do what you love and the right kind of work will follow. And I believe it will for me, too.

Tech Tuesday: Upcoming Lighting Workshops

8 Mar

By: Nicole Peterson

It’s a dirty 5 letter word amongst many photographers – “Flash”. Some us love it, but more times than not, I hear a lot of photographers cursing it’s very existence.

Fortunately, there’s a series of lighting workshops coming to the area to get you on your way to becoming BFFs with your on- and off-camera flash:

Neil van Niekerk Workshop on Flash Photography and Lighting

Date: May 16, 2011, July 11, 2011, September 12, 2011
Location: NY, NY
Cost: $600

The workshop is part seminar and part hands-on shoot, based on topics and articles from the Tangents website (if any of you are familiar with Neil’s site then you know he is very informative and a master with lighting). Some topics covered are:

+ TTL / Auto flash .. vs .. manual flash
+ Exposure metering for ambient light
+ Implications of flash sync speed
+ Adding fill-flash to available light outdoors
+ Directional bounce flash
+ Flash modifiers – uses & limitations
+ Wireless TTL flash
+ Using video light
+ Off-camera flash with a softbox (manual and TTL)

Cliff Mautner Lighting and Skillset Bootcamp

Date: July 11-13, 2011
Location: in/near Philadelphia, PA
Cost: $1800

Cliff’s workshop will feature:

+ Various technical aspects and a deeper understanding of your gear.
+ A multitude of creative flash techniques.
+ Lighting your subjects from noon to midnight.
+ Live bridal shoots on location in Philadelphia.
+ Individual hands-on instruction during shoots.
+ Techniques in capturing the essence of our clients.

Other topics covered:

+ Client interaction and relationships
+ Sales presentation skills including a mock presentation
+ Building a referral base through vendor/partner relationships
+ Client retention
+ Workflow from capture to proof

Zack Arias One Light Workshop

Date: October 19, 2011
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Cost: $800

Workshop excerpt:

“Are you intimidated or even “afraid” of your flash? As if a Bengal tiger is attached to it? Are you stuck in TTL and dissatisfied with the inconsistency of your flash output while shooting? Do you have some sort of cocktail cup stuck on top because someone said you could replace your softboxes and umbrellas with that thing? This is your kind of workshop then!

We spend a lot of time getting to know how light works and how amazingly consistent it can be from shot to shot to shot to shot. The intimidation of flash photography is going to melt away for you. You will walk away with the confidence and knowledge you need to take control of your shoots. Imagine walking into any environment with a simple lighting rig confident that you will make great portraits you are proud to deliver because you understand light and how to use it.”

Budget-Friendly Alternatives

The FlashBus 2011 Tour

Date: April 6, 2011
Location: Philadelphia, PA (and 28 other cities nationwide)
Cost: $99.95

On a budget and looking to learn the basics? Adorama is sponsoring this national taught by David “The Strobist” Hobby and Joe “Numnuts” McNally, which runs all day and is more of a traditional, group seminar.

Workshop excerpt:

“Two different styles of lighting and two different ways of teaching combine as Hobby and McNally join forces to explore and explain good light – good light done fast and well.

You’ll spend the day studying light as you watch over the shoulders of two experienced professionals. Their paths may be different, but the end goal is the same – to create interesting light that is appropriate to the subject and to do it in an intuitive way. Doors will open at 9:30am, and we’ll hit the ground running at 10am. The morning will be spent in “manual” mode, then we’ll switch to “TTL” for the afternoon lighting session. We’ll wind things up with a living room-style, no-holds-barred discussion/Q&A period (ending around 5:30 p.m.), after which you’ll want to go home and try out some new ideas.”

PhotoTuts

If you’re looking to learn from the comfort of your own home, check out these lighting tutorials from PhotoTuts’ Top 100 list (submitted by Heather O’Mara):

Photography Lighting Tutorial

Get the Right Light

7 Tips for Great Photos in the Dark

10 DIY Lighting Hacks for Digital Photographers

How to Create Sunshine Effect in Studio with Artificial Sunlight

Professional Lighting in Model Photography

Portable Lighting for the Studio and on Location

Tech Tuesday: Motibodo Espresso for Workflow

8 Feb

By Noelle Andrews

As photographers, and especially portrait and wedding photographers, we are always looking for ways to cut editing time and make workflow more efficient. Those of you reading this are most likely avid Photoshop and Lightroom users and have your own arsenal of tools and tricks to get you through the rigors of photo editing. If you are like me, up until about a year and a half ago before I started working at a high-volume studio, I was using keyboard shortcuts in Photoshop and Lightroom to help speed up the process. However, I was introduced to the genius of DQ Studios’ Quickeys and my approach to workflow and editing has changed drastically. It’s no longer an arduous task but a rather carefree and enjoyable process. That’s right kids, I said enjoyable.

So, what is it?
Well, first I have to start off by saying that if you are familiar with DQ Studios, they are now operating as Motibodo “espresso for workflow.” They have recently introduced a few new products to replace the older module that I have been using for Photoshop – previously called “DQ Quickeys.” These new products include the MotibodoBOARD for LR and the MotibodoSKINS for LR and PS. So instead of using your regular keyboard with shortcuts set up for the tools and actions you normally use, everything you need is customized in a keyboard made just for LR and PS users. I will admit that I have not yet tried MotibodoBOARD for LR but am extremely excited for this new addition to the product line!

MotibodoBOARD for Adobe Lightroom
This is a very sleek and sexy Apple titanium keyboard that is custom printed with the Motibodo symbols and editing tools. Not to worry my fellow PC users, the software that comes with it allows the keyboard to be compatible with both Mac and PC. As Dave simply states in his online video tutorial, you can imagine that if you were to place your hands in the regular typing position, your fingers would rest on the F and J keys. This is where they have placed all of the basic adjustments that you would use in LR on a regular basis. So there is where you will find your exposure adjustments up and down, fill light, contrast, brightness, etc. Other relatively important keys include the next button, toggle between library and develop modes, crop tool, and the paintbrush tool with eight local adjustment brushes right on the keyboard. As an added bonus the function keys come pre-programmed with twenty presets, ten of which are Dave and Quin’s favorite Totally Rad LR presets. Sweet!

MotibodoSKINS for Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop
The MotibodoSKINS for LR and PS is a silicone cover that can be used overtop of your regular keyboard* or if you purchase the Motibodo Board for LR, you would just need the PS skin to go on top of that as well. Like the LR keys, the Motibodo Skin for PS has all of your tools and basic adjustments right at your fingertips. Some highlights include Motibodo retouching tools like Non-Destructive Dodge, Burn and Contrast, Heal and Clone Tools, dedicated workflow keys for Straightening and Cropping, Magic Object Removal and a Quick-Liquify tool. As expected, there are twenty Photoshop actions from the DQ Studios line that includes Skin So Soft, Shine Remover Makeup, Teeth Whitener, Warming/Cooling Filters, Vintage DQ, B&W Grain and much, much more. So you’re wondering what the bonus is this time right? An entire Suite of Album Design tools are included as well. You really are getting an entire workflow army included in these bundles!

Wrapping Up

So in a nutshell, having used DQ Quikeys and actions I can honestly say that it’s worth the money for the amount of time and effort you will save by using these products. The engineering and ingenuity of these products are well thought out and very intuitive as you can tell by the research and testing that was put into making them. The layout works just as well for both right-handers or left-handers and when use in conjunction with the Wacom Tablet (previously introduced by Jenna in her recent Tech Tuesday post) the results are mind blowing! Not to mention the customer service and support that you will receive from them is outstanding. There has never been a time where I didn’t email a question and get an immediate response. I would highly recommend their products to any professional photographer looking to enhance their workflow efficiency. Be sure to check them out at WPPI and see for yourself!

What else do I need to know?
System Requirements are Adobe Lightroom 3 and Adobe CS5. So if you have an Operating System that runs these programs, then your computer is already equipped to run the Motibodo Software. You must own a copy of these Adobe programs because Motibodo does not come with LR or PS.

*In order to use the MotibodoSKINS you would need either the MotibodoBOARD for LR3, an Apple USB compact Keyboard (no numeric keypad; English) or an Apple Wireless Keyboard (English). The MotibodoBOARD can also be used in place of your regular QWERTY keyboard. Each purchase comes with a Motibodo Personal Usage License and a portion of every sale will be given to a non-profit organization. All sales are final so no refunds or exchanges.

For more information and pricing please visit Motibodo.

– Noelle Andrews

Me Ra Koh: “Female awesomeness…”

6 Feb

by Susannah Gill

I first saw Me Ra Koh at Photo Plus Expo in NYC. I was on my way to a Kevin Kubota business class and walking past the Sony booth when I saw a woman presenter – a rarity at these photo conventions! I loved her enthusiasm, her funny voice and her never-ending laughter….I walked as slow as possible to get in as much of her as I could (so slow I was 15 minutes for my class!) Two months later I saw that she was doing a workshop in NYC at Adorama. I was there front and center and soaked her in!

The workshop was a little basic, aimed more at beginners, but still she had so much to offer as far as being a woman in the field! Her story was so inspiring and her rise from photo Mom to photo star is pretty incredible. She had great tips that I instantly applied to my business the next day and I have already seen results from! This woman is exactly what the industry needs; someone real, someone very talented and someone willing to share without making you feel like a dummy for not knowing.

It is hard to actually find her work because her web site is devoted to helping woman learn. She offers business tips and photo tips – what she has coined “photo recipes.” Her life changed 180 degrees after being raped and then later again after the death of her child. She has turned two disastrous events into positives and she uses all this to fuel and motivate herself & woman to be the best that they can be. During her presentations she does show her own work – work that gave me goosebumps, tears and had me laughing out loud!

If you are interested in some female awesomeness at WPPI be sure to check out Me Ra Koh on Wednesday, February 23rd at 8-10 a.m. Find more details about the Platform Class here.

If you want to read more, check out her work and get inspired, here’s where to go…

www.merakoh.com/about-me-ra/
www.merakoh.com/
www.merakoh.com/blog/

FREE Lightroom Workshop for Newbies

5 Feb

by Isabel March

It’s the Sunday after a wedding during the height of wedding season. You stare at the 11 8GB memory cards you shot the day before. You sigh. You realize the daunting task ahead of you…post processing this complete wedding in less than one week.

Import, organize, rate, cull, batch, develop and export…Lightroom to the rescue!

Learn how to successfully manage your workflow, cut down your post processing time and let go of your fears of learning yet another photo editing program.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011
6:00-9:00pm
Isabel March Photography Studio

RSVP by Friday, March 4, 2011 to Isabel
Free for all fellow Photo Betties.

Space is limited to 15 attendees. Light munchies and beverages will be provided. Bring a notebook and your favorite writing utensil. If you have a laptop with Lightroom installed on it, definitely bring that too! If you are unsure if you want to add Lightroom to your post production arsenal, download it for free at Adobe.