Tag Archives: simplify

Portraits and Making Your Subjects at Ease

15 Sep

Anyone who’s every shot a portrait – professional or novice – knows that a comfortable subject makes for much more natural photos. Putting people at ease takes practice and good people skills (a sense of humor doesn’t hurt either!). Add on top of that getting inspired, capturing the style or type of shots they have in mind, working with the light and environment around you… there’s a lot to juggle. Here are a few starters to help get them – and you – relaxed and ready to capture some magical moments:

1. Set it Up

Talk to your clients before the session. Get to know them. Make decisions together about locations they like and even the style of images that gets them excited. Offer ideas about what to wear. Emphasize choosing clothes and accessories that show off their individual personality – and make them feel like a million bucks.

2. Be Prepared

It’s a no brainer, but still the most important part of the session. Know your gear well, think about the session in advance, have a plan for poses and settings that will make for great shots. A good photographer is constantly learning and growing. Never let your skills get stale!

3. Sweat the Details

Get your gear in order. Lenses cleaned, batteries charged, cards formatted, reflectors and props packed (and whatever else you’ve got in mind for the shoot). You’ll be like a well-oiled machine with nothing incidental to distract you.

4. Relax and Have Fun

When you’re feeling good and exuding confidence, your clients will sense it and know they can trust you, your skills and your creativity. If you’re feeling a bit nervous in advance (which is totally normal!) set the mood on your way there with a song that gets you positive and pumped!

5. Start the conversation

Get to know them. Ask questions and learn about what makes them tick. Take any great trips lately? What’s your favorite restaurant? How about them Phillies? Most importantly, be yourself. Get to know them like you would at a party – not like it’s an interview. Great conversation can help their mind wander, get them to relax and even lead to some fun expressions!

6. Give them a Sneak Peek

Being in front of the lens when you’re camera shy can make you feel vulnerable. When I start a portrait session and notice any anxiety, hesitation or awkwardness, I’ll often show the couple (or kids or family) a frame or two on the back of my camera to get them excited and show them how great they look.

7. Master your Poker Face

If you’re not in love with a shot – the composition, lighting, expression, anything – don’t give it away. Keep smiling. Set the tone. Adjust, move, give direction; do whatever you need to in order improve the shot – but don’t let it stress you out. Stay fluid and keep shooting. That amazing shot could be your next one!

8. Be intuitive

– Don’t get so wrapped up in the aperture, light, composition or lens choice that you aren’t in tune to your subject and their expression, body language or comfort level.

– If they’re shy or hands-off, don’t get in their personal space. Instead provide clear direction and helpful tips. Show them with your own body, what you have in mind. If there’s a stray hair out of place, or a strap or tag showing, be polite and ask permission to adjust it, or ask them to fix it themselves.

– Gauge their comfort level and choose poses accordingly. Personally I like to start with something natural and move around my subjects, giving them little tips if needed, and only occasionally. Eventually they start to ignore me, relax and not think so much about what they’re doing, how they are smiling, etc.

9. Share your Enthusiasm

Every photographer I have ever met is absolutely head over heels in love with what they do. You are too, am I right? So while you’re shooting, share your enthusiasm and love for photography! Let your subjects know what amazing light you’re seeing or the fact that you love the bright green wall across the street. It’s contagious and they’ll get excited too!

Do you have great tips or advice on portraits and getting your subjects comfortable? Add a comment and share!

Review: The WPPI Road Trip

29 Aug

WPPI Road Trip

Who:  WPPI
What:  Road Trip
Where:  Philadelphia
When:  August 22, 2011

Why?  Couldn’t get to Vegas for the largest Portrait and Wedding Photography Convention? Well, WPPI decided to make a Road Trip to select cities bringing speakers and vendors right to your hometown.

Pros:

– Avoided Philadelphia International Airport – just had to take a train.

– One day commitment only, which meant no need for an overnight stay.

– The same impressive speaker lineup – right in your own backyard

Cons: A Fellow Photo Betty, Amanda Young, and I did not win any of the awesome prizes that were drawn. We think there was a serious conspiracy…

Speakers:

Susan Stripling

I am a big fan of her work. What I appreciated about her opening was the challenge she posed to the audience on never being satisfied. The challenge was to always challenge yourself. This is the competitive edge that will set you apart. She discussed composition techniques and working to search the room, to go beyond the obvious. Her work can be found at www.susanstriplingblog.com

Dawn Shields

Dawn was able to speak about the power of a personal project. She shared her “Legacy” Album, which won the Grand Album award at WPPI in 2010. As photographers, it is important to always be growing creatively. When you can find something that is truly your own project, from beginning to end, the creation in itself is both rewarding and fulfilling. Learn more about Dawn’s work at www.dawnshields.com

Damon Tucci

Very fun and engaging speaker. I loved the image examples shown and discussion of how he used lighting. He focused on the usage of speed lights, video lights and available light to enhance your photos while shooting in the field. Beyond just usage, we discussed how to use these tools to make images more dramatic. He had great examples for posing brides and grooms to relax them, giving them a completely natural appearance. To find out more about Damon, visit his site at www.damontucci.com.

Jared Platt

In just 90 minutes, we were given great solutions to reduce editing workflow by almost 50%. His discussion identified time wasters, and how to effectively eliminate them while focusing on true post-production efficiently. I loved his teaching style and was glad that he can be found on Vimeo with quick sessions, under Jared Platt. A sample is here http://vimeo.com/24735627 and his site is  www.jaredplatt.com.

Lindsay Adler

Lindsay covered the essential concepts of fashion photography and how these can apply to portrait and wedding photography for stunning imagery. She discussed key concepts such as simple location, utilizing unique props, posing, lighting and styling. Quite frankly, I am not sure what my opinion is on the usage of props for shoots, but Lindsey was able to show and demonstrate creative ways to set a scene to make the images vivid and inviting. There were truly some great learnings from this presentation. She will also be speaking at PDN in October on Social Media Marketing, which I think will be something worth attending. You can find out more about Lindsay’s work at www.lindsayadlerphotography.com.

Tech Tuesday: Apple’s OS X Lion

12 Jul

A few weeks ago we reviewed Apple’s new mobile operating system iOS5 and the introduction of iCloud – and how they’re going to make photographer’s digital lives more streamlined. Today, we’re covering the new version of Apple’s desktop operating system, which according to Apple should be available for $29.99 – any day now.

OS X Lion – a whole new animal

Multi-Touch Gestures

Inspired by the tactile functionality of the iPhone and iPad, Apple has integrated the gestures that mobile device users have grown to love. Now you’ll be able to use the same fluid and realistic gesture responses, including rubber-band scrolling, page and image zoom, and full-screen swiping, right on your desktop.

What does this mean for photogs?

– You’re in Photoshop or Lightroom, and want to get a closer look. No need to mouse over to activate the zoom tool or hit a keyboard command, simply pinch to zoom in or out. Get a closer look in your favorite web browser by simply double tapping.

– Within an application, like a word document, or several open tabs in your browser, just swipe, like turning pages of a book, rather than mousing over to scroll the scroll bar.

– If you have multiple apps open, you no longer will need to mouse down to the dock or hit COMMAND+Tab on your keyboard to browse the other open apps. When viewing an application at full screen (another new feature we love!), it’s as easy as swiping with three fingers, which shuffles your full-screen apps like playing cards.

What you’ll need:

If you don’t already have one, you’ll need a Multi-Touch Magic Mouse or Magic Trackpad to take advantage of gestures.

Full-Screen Apps

Now instead of resizing your browser windows to fill up as much space as possible to hide that messy desktop, you’ll be able to clear away the clutter and see one App and nothing else – instantly – by just clicking the new full-screen button in the upper-left corner of your app window. BAM!

Mission Control

Mission Control is simple – it helps you get all your ducks in a row and see what you have open, with a highlight window for each App. So instead of just glancing down to see my dock, and trying to recall what I have going on in Lightroom, iChat, Photoshop, Word, Illustrator, Safari (etc.) I’ll just be able to swipe up with three fingers on my trusty trackpad, and get the lay of the land. Kinda like this:

Launchpad

Launchpad is kind of like Mission Control’s orderly cousin – which lets you see a neat grid of all your apps as icons on your desktop (accessible from your dock) rather than having to navigate to your Applications folder and view them in a dialogue box. Clean, simple and right there. Functionality is the same as the iPhone or iPad, so you can:

– Hold down an icon with by clicking on touch pad to activate all the apps, and click the “x” in the corner to quickly delete an app

– Drag an app icon onto another icon to categorize them into folders like “Business”, “Post-Production”, “Games”, etc

– Swipe across your trackpad to move between pages

– Open any app with a tap or click

Mac App Store

If you’re an iPhone user, this is not a new concept. But the fact that the App Store will now be integrated into OS X Lion, letting you browse, download and install immediately – rather than buying discs (in person or online… which equals time and/or waiting) is pretty cool.

In addition to quick downloads, you’ll also get easy integrated updates, and fast, simple installation across devices.

It’s not the sexiest update – but it’s certainly pretty darn sensible. Think about the big apps. Like Lightroom. Or perhaps when you get a last minute word doc from a client and don’t see it until 1 am the night before big the event – and you don’t have the most recent version of Microsoft Office! No worries! Just search, click, download, and viola! It’s open. Maybe now the App Store looking a little sexier?

Auto Save and Versions

Sometimes I’m groovin’ on an edit or retouch, music blaring, feelin’ inspired, and suddenly remember “Oh yeah – I haven’t saved yet…” after 20 minutes of work. Then I quickly save my .psd and breathe a sigh of relief. Well, with OS X Lion, Apple’s got a fancy new update that will let me edit to my heart’s content, without having to worry.

Auto Save automatically saves your work, while you work, during pauses and every five minutes. This is what I’m most excited about – and can’t wait to see in action.

Why’s it so great?

– It saves versions within the same file, rather than multiple versions of your file (therefore saving room on your hard drive).

– If you’re editing an email or shotlist, for example, and halfway in, realize you erased something important- no problem! The Revert feature returns your document to the state it was in when you last opened it, and Versions shows you the current document next to a cascade of previous versions which have been saved. And if you just want to grab a section from an earlier version, you can copy and paste between versions.

Mail

Last but not least for the OS X Lion updates, is a fancier, shinier version of Mail that offers a widescreen, two-column view of your emails, one-click access to folders, quick drag-and-add folder functionality, detailed preview (so you glance at your list of emails and get an idea of content before opening), enhanced search, and best of all Conversations.

This new feature (which gmail users enjoy) automatically groups messages from the same conversation, in chronological order. Why’s it great? It removes redundant text from previous message threads to save time scrolling and searching for old emails and details, in an easy-to-follow, linear format. Not too shabby.

What’s next?

So there you have it – all the updates – some which are a bit more “fluff” but others that will certainly save time and make life easier when you’re on your desktop. Which, let’s face it – is a good portion of the week. If you’re interested in upgrading (for just $29.99 – it’s a great deal) you’ll need to:

1. Make sure your Mac can run Lion

– Click your Apple icon in the top-left of your screen, choose “About this Mac” and find out if it has an Intel Core 2 Duo, Core i3, Core i5, Core i7, or Xeon processor. if so, you’re good to go.

2. Make sure you have the latest version of Snow Leopard

– Click your Apple icon in the top-left of your screen, choose “Software Update” to install version 10.6.8 (Snow Leopard) if you don’t already have it

3. Download OS X Lion from the App Store.

– It’s not ready just yet, but you can sign up for a notification when it is.

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!

Tech Tuesday: iCloud and iOS 5

7 Jun

Apple’s commitment to user experience, function and design was summed up in Steve Job’s opening statement at yesterday’s WWDC 2011 Keynote: “If a hard drive is the brain and sinu of the computer, the software is the soul.”

If you didn’t watch the 2-hour video, and haven’t made sense of all the articles and posts that have bombarded the interweb, you’re in the right place. We’ve got the highlights that photographers will appreciate – with big visuals* and details on how it’s all going to make your digital life easier. It’s a lot of ground to cover – so today we’re going to start with the mobile benefits you’ll get from iCloud and iOS 5.

Farewell MobileMe. Hola iCloud!

Apple has replaced MobileMe and it’s $99/year fee with iCloud, which syncs all your documents, photos, books, music, videos and app data automatically, and backs them up over wifi.


– Works on Mac, iPod touch, iPhone and iPad
– Seamlessly integrates your apps – including iTunes, Photo Stream, Apps, Books, Documents, Backup, Contacts, Calendar and Mail – so all your content is available and up to date on all devices
– Keeps your email, contacts and calendars up to date across all your devices
– Manages and backs-up your content effortlessly – no syncing required
– Includes 5GB of FREE storage when you sign up, which excludes any purchased music, apps, books or your Photo Stream

Better, faster, smarter – with iOS 5

The newest version of Apple’s mobile operating system has over 200 additional features. It’s available this Fall and is compatible with iPhone 3GS, iPhone4, iPod touch (3rd and 4th generation), iPad and iPad2.

Camera: Never miss the shot again

When not wielding fancy dSLR’s, chances are we’re grabbing inspiration or special everyday moments with our phones. Apple’s updates to the Camera app make it possible to capture a photo at a moment’s notice, instead of fumbling to unlock, load the home screen and then open the app.

– Access the Camera directly from your Lock screen with the new Camera button
– Zoom in and out, take a photo using the volume-up button
– Use the new Photos app editing features from the same screen to enhance, remove red eye and crop

– If you have Photo Stream enabled in iCloud (more on that in the OS X Lion section), your photo will automatically download to your other Apple devices

Reminders: A smarter way to get things done

There are tons of to-do list apps out there, each with their own benefits and caveats; I mentioned my love for Teux Deux in a recent post on iPhone apps. And it rocks. But Reminders is different. It isn’t just a simple list making app. It’s smart. Super smart. Say you need more Compact Flash cards and batteries. Next time you are near your camera store, Reminders will send you an alert based on your GPS location. How cool is that?

– Create tasks from your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch
– Specify due dates and locations for your tasks
– Create location-based alerts that remind you to perform tasks when you’re in a specific place
– Works and automatically syncs with iCal, Outlook, and iCloud

Notification Center: Everything in one spot

No more jumping from app to app to check your new messages, listen to client voicemails, check Saturday’s weather for your upcoming shoot or see what’s on your plate for the day. Now you’ll get all of your notifications, alerts and updates in one place, including Weather, Stocks, Reminders, Calendar, Mail, Messages and more! How it works…

From the Lock screen:

– Notifications appear right on your lock screen so you can see what’s happening at a glance
– Easily swipe any item to view it directly in the app

From the Home Screen:

– Wwipe down from the top of your screen to view the list
– Tap on an item – like a new email – to be taken directly to that email in the app

From an Application:

– A subtle notification bar appears up top when you have an alert
– Tap to view it, swipe down from the top of th screen to view your entire list, or do nothing – and quickly it disappears
– Customize which notifications you want to see and which you don’t

Twitter: Native integration for easier tweeting!

– Enter your twitter account information once in Settings, and every application and device links up
– Tweet directly from Safari, Photos, Camera, YouTube or Maps
– Add locations – no matter where you are
– Take a photo and tweet it in three simple taps; take a photo, tap tweet and send!

PC Free: No Mac? No PC? No problem!

Apple has finally cut the cord. Now users will be able to use the iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch right out of the box!

– Activate and set up wirelessly
– No more cables required; OTA (over the air) software updates can be downloaded directly on to device
– Back up and restore automatically using iCloud

iMessage: Now iPad and iPod Touch can chat too!

– Chat with friends between iPhone, iPod touch and iPad
– Works over Wi-Fi and 3G

Other Great Stuff

With over 200 new features, we could go on and on. Here’s just a few more great updates worth noting:

+ Safari reader strips out ads and other distractions for easier reading.

+ Mail now offers rich text editing and a system-wide split keyboard option.

+ Newstand lets you keep all your magazine and newspaper subscriptions in one beautifully designed spot – and organize it to your liking.

The only thing we’re bummed about – is that it won’t be available until the Fall! Good thing we have summer to keep us distracted…

If you want to check out the complete list of iOS 5 features, visit Apple or watch the video.

* All content was sourced directly from Apple’s website and YouTube page, and includes links to learn more.

Tech Tuesday: iPhone App Love

26 Apr

Aside from my gear – the most helpful tool I have with me is my iPhone. And I’m constantly searching for helpful apps that will make me do my job better, smarter and more efficiently.

The problem is when you google “photography app” you get all kinds of fun, iPhone camera specific stuff like Hipstamatic or Instagram, and tools to tweak or edit your iPhone photos, but there’s very little out there that’s geared towards professional photographers. So… I thought I’d share my list of favorites to start a conversation. And if anyone out there has more – please comment and share the love!

Sunrise Sunset Lite: FREE!*

Great for when a client has me on the phone and wants to schedule a portrait 7 months from now. I can quickly search the location and date and viola! I know when sunrise and sunset will be – in less than a minute. Then I can pick the perfect time so I know I have lovely light.

Pocket Scout Lite: FREE!*

No more emailing iPhone pics with addresses to remember a great spot. Pocket Scout to the rescue! This wünderkind lets you snap a photo and automatically grabs a GPS location and street address, lets you enter a name/title, add notes, share with ease, and even gives you directions back when you’re ready to visit.

The only thing I wish it had was a map view of locations closest to where I am (rather than a line list of each). Still, a great resource and tool!

Dragon Dictation: FREE!

Press. Speak. Send.

That’s the simple tagline for Dragon Dictation and it’s spot on! I find this voice-to-text tool incredibly helpful for car rides when inspiration hits, or at a wedding when I want to remember specific details like the story behind the bride’s dress or the best man’s witty joke.

There sometimes are slight errors – punctuation drops out for me at times – so make sure to proof before copy/pasting. You can also push to Twitter, Facebook, email and SMS.

TeuxDeux: $2.99

If you haven’t read it, The Design of Everyday Things is an amazing book, about how you experience and interact with, well, everyday things – and why we naturally like those that are better designed; they feel right and make sense.

This is why I love TeuxDeux.

Smart design, intuitive interface and simple function. It actually makes me excited to view my lists and start knockin’ things out. I tried other apps that were OK, but this one is just so lovely!

TripAdvisor: FREE!

OK, so it’s a travel app, not really a photography-focused app, but it’s fantastic. User-generated reviews about restaurants, hotels, sights, anywhere you want to go.

Booking a hotel for a gig that’s overnight, but aren’t sure which mid-range hotel kayak.com served up is best? Want to stop for a bite or coffee before a session but don’t know the area well? Trip advisor’s got your back.

Worldwide reach. 28 languages. Real reviews, photos and ratings. Need I say more?


*Upgraded paid and/or pro versions available with more fancy features

What are your favorite apps? iPhone, Blackberry, Droid… don’t be shy! And if you have some cool ideas to share that are Tech Tuesday worthy, give us a shout! Email info@phillyphotobetties.com and send us details. We’d love to hear from you!

Tech Tuesday: Memory Card TLC

5 Apr

Fancy lenses, flash accessories and the latest dSLR aside, the most important thing in your bag is your memory cards. You probably realize this – but are you treating those little guys the way they deserve to be treated? Here’s some tips and information you may not have known… to help you keep ’em safe and cared for:

Don’t skimp.

Go with a reliable manufacturer (SanDisk, Lexar, etc.) and choose the best card you can afford. When I say “best” I’m purposely being vague; the right card will vary based on your personal needs. Research, figure out your budget and ask a professional at your camera shop which is best for you.

(This can be an entire post in itself – so if you’re interested in learning more about specifics a few good places to start are here and here.)

Find the perfect fit:

A few big cards? Or several smaller ones? You’ll find photographers split on this one – but personally I feel I’d rather have several back-up cards and switch more often – and not put all my eggs in one basket. Using smaller cards lets you spread out your photos and reduce the probability that you’ll lose them all at once. Heaven. Forbid.

Label ’em:

Number and date your cards – for several good reasons. To help keep track of them, to know which cards have been used and which cards are empty while shooting, and to know how old they are. If you already have a bunch in your bag, find a taxonomy that works for you. It could be largest to smallest, fastest to slowest, ROYGBIV… whatever make sense for you.

I shoot primarily weddings, so I began numbering with the smaller, slower cards that are “safe” for getting ready, then followed with the larger, faster cards. I know I’ll want those later in the day for quick bursts and lots of action – and when I won’t want to worry about how many shots I have left, or switching cards.

Protect ’em:

Lightware's Compact Flash Media Wallet (in Raspberry Pink)

We’ve all thrown our memory cards in a pocket or bag once or twice when rushing, but they are super sensitive and easy to lose… so be careful!

Keep them dry and clean, away from extreme temperatures or electro/magnetic currents (this includes magnetic enclosures for purses/bags) and don’t ever drop, crush or bend them. Although those plastic holders that come with the cards offer an extra layer of protection – when you’re going through a dozen or so cards – they aren’t realistic. Pick up a protective wallet (or two) to keep track of and protect them.

Many manufacturers now have fine-tuned cards which now work in extreme temperatures and survive dirt, dust, and even submersion in water. SanDisk even has a video on their site showing how their cards pass the “Stomp Test”, where a dozen eager, energetic middle school kids go to TOWN on a half dozen cards. If you invest the money and trust in those – awesome. But being careful couldn’t hurt, right?

Stick to a plan:

Have a method when you gear-up, during your shoot and once you get back to your studio. Have a simple set of steps – and stick to it.

Format beforehand:

Always format your cards before you begin shooting to save time. This will wipe any data, images and file names – and prevent accidentally shooting with old photos on the card – and therefore less room for you to shoot. Also, it will just make life easier and leave one less thing to remember, so you can focus on capturing amazing images.

Don’t fill up:

Don’t shoot every last frame available on the card. Leave room for a few shots as some cards can run into issues when they are completely full. Some photographers only fill them halfway, I’ve heard of others who split portions of the wedding day or session over multiple cards to serve as a safety net, this way they have some images if a card goes bad.

Turn off your camera:

Don’t forget to shut off your camera before removing the card, and wait a second or two as a precaution. This avoids ‘voltage shock’ when removing it – which is less common but still a possibility. (Lexar recommends you “count to 5 before turning the power off. This will ensure the camera has finished writing to the card – especially large files – and helps avoid possible corruption.”)

Also – be sure to keep charged batteries in your body; don’t let it run all the way down, which could result in the camera turning off while buffering.

Heed the warning signs:

If an image preview is damaged, your camera gives you an error message related to your card, or things just don’t seem right, stop using the card and switch to a new one. Everything might be fine, but there’s a chance the card is corrupt and not recording your shots, or that you are overwriting existing files.

Have a Back-up Plan:

Lexar® Image Rescue® 4 Software


Obviously, as safe as we are, stuff happens. And when it does, you can be prepared with recovery software. Each manufacturer has their own, and includes information in your memory card packaging.

Just remember that if you have an issue – be it an error, accidentally formatting the card, whatever – stop shooting and stay calm. Your photos might be fine. If you continue shooting, the images that you capture will override the files already on the card. Remove it from the camera and run your recovery software on it to retrieve the images.

New Years Resolutions for Photographers

30 Dec

It’s that time of year… The holidays are slowly disappearing in the rearview, but we’re still buzzing from the fun, festivity and egg nog. Why not harness those positive vibes and make a New Years resolution for your business?

In the spirit of simplicity (for the upcoming 1.1.11) we’ve compiled a few ideas to help you streamline your business, become more productive and get more of your life back!

Get it together

Unless you’re über efficient, or some kind of Rainman-esque genius, keeping all the details from your weddings, portraits and events is a daunting task. Emails, texts, facebook messages, voice mails, contracts, tweets, notes written on scraps of paper… it’s a lot to remember and document. And recalling specific info on the fly – like names, contact info, dates, locations, personal details, payment schedules – is almost impossible without some serious time and effort.

While it would be amazing to hire a studio manager to take charge, it’s not a realistic option for many. There are, however, a few excellent online tools out there that can become your virtual studio manager – by helping you get organized and stay on track! Here’s a few we like:

Trim the fat

We’re not talking fitness, people! We mean your camera bags, drawers, cabinets and storage closets. Are they cluttered with old gear you don’t use, random gadgets you picked up years ago or extraneous batteries and CF card holders?

If you have this (or more!) taking up space it’s time to declutter and reap the benefits! Clear out what you don’t need or use. If there’s gear or gadgets that haven’t seen the light of day in months or years – get rid of them!

Donate to charity or offer them up to needy photographers and budding newbies. Post gear you want to sell on craigslist, ebay, usedcamerabuyer or bring it to your local camera shop. Calumet buys back gear in exchange for store credit, so you can turn that old stuff into new gear you’ve had your eye on!

Learn a thing or two

Whether it’s learning more about technology, lighting, posing, marketing, new software, new hardware, album design, social media trends, wedding trends, blogging or one of many other things photographers need to keep on top of, there are many ways to grow creatively and professionally. One of the biggest benefits, however, is streamlining those processes.

Work towards mastering skills you aren’t the best or most efficient at. Though it may sound counter-intuitive to spend time in order to save it, in the end it can make your life easier. Perfect your images inside the camera; learn new software to make retouching and editing more efficient; get your lighting just right and experiment with new products or techniques; find an untapped market, or reach new clients and partners through social media. Consider focusing on one and spend a few hours each month to improve your ability in that area. Here are some resources for classes, workshops and conferences that might get you on track:

Photography Training:
The B School
Carla Ten Eyck Workshops
Cliff Mautner Photography Bootcamp
life {as an artform}
One-2-One Workshops
The Roots Workshop

Software Training:
Jared Platt Workshops
Kelby Training
Lynda.com

Conferences and Tradeshows:
PND PhotoPlus Expo
PhotoShop World Conference & Expo
WPPI Conference and Tradeshow

Get a makeover

Remember that old saying “Messy room, messy head?” There’s a bit of wisdom in it – after all, clutter can suck the time, inspiration and productivity out of your day.

The thing is, cleaning isn’t really an exciting activity. So, why not have an office makeover instead? It’s an instantly fun, creative project!

Real Simple has great tips for organizing, as well as redecorating your home office, that are sure to get you motivated.

Unclutterer can give you a daily dose of organizational enlightenment, if you want to ease into things.

Even if you do a little cleaning, don’t have a boatload to spend, but are a bit crafty, you could make some fun stuff to spruce up the place and get your creative juices flowing! DesignSponge has tons of cool, DIY projects.

Make new friends

Being a photographer is awesome! You meet lots of cool people, get hired to be super creative, snap a bunch of photos and voilà – it’s done!

Well, that last point may be a bit misleading. Back here in reality, hours of post production takes up a lot of our time – and we only have so much to go around. Many photographers today have full-time jobs, side gigs, children, families, volunteer projects and other important obligations. By outsourcing your photo editing to a local artist or professional post production company, you get more of your life back…as well as your sanity!

Now, we realize this may be a sticky subject for some. It’s so easy to say “It’s just a few hundred (or thousand!) images – I can handle it.”I just don’t think anyone else can do it the way I can.“I save money if I do it myself.” Don’t be scared – you can do it! These professionals are exactly that – pro’s – and many can do it better, and faster – which makes YOU look good! Many companies offer a dozen or so sample images free. So try them out! What do you have to lose? Better yet, what do you have to gain?

Below are a few tips on teaming-up and finding the right person for the job.

Local graphic artists and fellow photographers

There are many highly qualified artists in your area who can lend a hand. You just have to find them. Post a quick message on facebook. Check out craigslist posts or list one of your own. Email close friends and colleagues who might know other creatives. Look to local art schools or colleges and universities with design and photography programs. With a little networking and searching around, you can sniff them out!

Online post production companies

Many professional digital media post production companies have popped-up in recent years (some started by photographers who related to being overwhelmed by editing) that offer a wide variety of services like rough editing, RAW color processing, RAW to JPG conversion, retouching, customized artistic editing, proofing, synching images, archiving and more! Here are a few with proven track records:

Find enlightenment

It’s so easy to get into a rut. Part of that can be a good thing – it means you have perfected and defined your style – but every artist needs a pick-me-up to keep their work fresh. In an industry where technology changes by the minute, there are tons of resources out there to help you stay on the cutting edge with your images and challenge your muses. Here are a ways to get inspired:

If you want to keep it simple:

• Subscribe to a photography magazine like Aperture, American Photo, fStop, Rangefinder, B&W, Popular Photography, PDN or Shutterbug and get a monthly dose of inspiration delivered right to your door.

• Subscribe to a magazine or publication of interest to your clientele or personal photographic style – in categories like fashion, fine art, travel, the outdoors – to think a bit more outside the box.

• Visit local art museums and galleries.

• Spend a few minutes each day looking at a photographer’s blog that you really love to see how their work is evolving.

• Get involved in your photography community (Photo Betties, anyone?) to network, collaborate and grow.

Take it to the next level and resolve to:

• Master a new technique (such as HDR imaging, moving pictures, creative lighting effects, etc.)

• Introduce a new sense of style to your repertoire.

• Invest in a new set of actions and see how your post-production vision changes.

• Second shoot for a photographer with whom you’ve never worked before to see how their approach can motivate you.

• Attend at least one workshop this year, either online or in person.

Get some help

When you try to do it all, you inevitably can’t.

If you haven’t yet partnered with a professional hosting company like Pictage, Collages, Zenfolio, SmugMug, Bay Photo or PickPic, you could really be missing out. These companies have customizable galleries that display your images with class; fulfill orders so you don’t have to deal with credit cards, shipping and emailing back and forth; keep an online email database of all visitors to your galleries; offer valuable cloud storage as back-up in case disaster strikes and help market your work with promotions and gift credits geared towards guests to the website. Not to mention less stress, more free time and added productivity.

So that’s our take on tackling the New Year with a plan! What’s yours? Answer the poll at the top of the page, or post a comment to share how you’re resolving to improve or enhance your photography business in 2011. Don’t forget to include additional tips, ideas, links – whatever inspires you!

And whatever your resolution, we hope that 2011 develops into a magical, exciting new year!