Using Speedlights with Grids

February 5th, 2016

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Using Speedlights using Grids w Michael Anthony

Learning to creatively use light is something that photographers can do to help make their portfolio stand out among their competitors.  In the last 5 years, the number of photographers adding off-camera light to their technique has increased substantially.  In addition, tools that help supplement our efforts as strobists have become increasingly available to us.

We use speedlights extensively in our wedding photography in Los Angeles.  They are our most often used tool and contribute greatly to the differentiation brides see in our portfolio.  Until recently however, speedlights have always been difficult to modify to our particular needs, especially when it came to control mechanisms such as grids or snoots.   Just a few years back, while walking through one of the large photography industry tradeshows, I came across a company called Magmod.  At first glance, I will be honest, I thought the product would be another gimmicky flash modifier that you see bundled with cameras from major retailers.  That instantly changed as soon as I held it in my hands and saw the demonstration of the product by the Magmod team.  I knew right then and there that Magmod would become an invaluable tool in our use of creative light.

 

MagmodGrid

While Magmod allows for easy modification of flash color, today I want to talk about control.  More specifically I want to talk about the use of their grids.  Magmod allows for a stackable grid that will narrow the beam of light emitted from your flash.

 

Take a look at the below example of a flashhead zoomed to 200mm without a grid, vs the same scenario with a grid.

 

GriddedExample NonGriddedExample

 

One of the first ways you can tell that something is off in a photograph with off camera flash is the amount of that light that is spilling on things other than your intended subject.  Remember, naturally our eyes are drawn to the brightest part of an image, and if an image has flash light spilling on the floor, wall, or anything other than our subjects it will be distracting to a viewer.
The easiest way to control the spill of light is to use a grid.  A grid is a piece of material with numerous small openings that help direct the light into more of a straight line from flash to subject.  Grids will give you more control of your light then snoots, and will allow you to place emphasis on your subjects easily.

 

We often use speedlights to backlight our subjects.  When backlighting without a grid, you will get light spill on the floor, which will almost always detract from the look of your photograph.  By adding a Magmod grid to the speedlight in the below photograph (along with a stackable colored gel) we were able to control the light spill perfectly.

 

GriddedBacklight

 

In addition, a grid will allow you to add a hair light to your subjects without light spilling on the walls, which is particularly useful for bridal prep scenarios.

Hairlight

 

We also use grids on our off camera lighting during wedding receptions, which allows us to keep the spotlight on the subjects.  Take a look at these examples from receptions where we used gridded speedlights.

Receptionimages2 ReceptionImages3 Receptionimages4 Receptionimagesone

 

The quality of photography is continuously improving at an exponential rate.  In order to stand out in today’s market, it’s the little things that will matter in your work.  Taking the jump into creative lighting is the first step, but refining your use of light will ultimately be the thing that sets you apart from your competitors.

 

5 Tips for Better Blogging with Michael Anthony

February 2nd, 2016

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5 Tips for Better Blogging with Michael Anthony

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the February issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

 

As business owners, we have many decisions to make when marketing to new clients. We need to weigh the benefits and drawbacks to certain avenues before deciding to invest in them. This can include both paid and free methods of advertising. Today, I want to talk about one of the most effective and basic forms of marketing available to pro photographers: blogging.

 

For an image-oriented business, blogging is one of the most simple and effective forms of marketing available. It allows us to showcase our latest work to potential clients, to communicate our ability to provide consistent results from shoot to shoot, rather than just a few good portfolio images on our website.

 

Here are a few things you can do to make sure you’re making the best use of this free marketing resource.

 

TIP 1: Focus on good text content for SEO purposes.

 

This should be the first thing you take into consideration when creating a blog post. The structure of your post should be engaging to viewers, but also to search engines—first and foremost, to Google, where text is king. Not just any text, but quality text that will be engaging to your website’s viewers. Google also cares about how you structure your posts, and it pays attention to content that you tell it is important. Your post title tells a search engine what your post is about, so structure your title with keyword-rich phrases that relate to the content of your post. Use appropriate heading tags (h1, h2, etc.) to tell search engines what to prioritize in your article.

 

While good SEO can attract potential clients searching for a key phrase (such as “los angeles wedding photographer”), search terms are very competitive and may not be obtainable in the short term due to a number of factors that are beyond our control. Instead, focus on being found via keywords that are less competitive but that still relate to your ideal clientele. Focusing on venues has been extremely successful for us in finding clients who are searching for images of weddings that took place at specific venues.

 

In your main content, focus on using more keyword-rich phrases, without overusing your keywords. Your content should sound normal when you read it aloud, since overusing particular keywords can earn you a penalty from Google. In addition, do not reuse content from post to post, or from elsewhere on the Internet. Google hates duplicate content and may penalize you if you are copying and pasting verbiage. Use a good plugin such as Yoast to make sure your blog post meets the minimum criteria for good search engine optimization.

 

TIP 2: Take time to focus on the metadata in your images.

 

Metadata is often overlooked by photographers. Lightroom allows us to easily alter metadata in an image. I am not going to sugarcoat it: This is the most consuming part of blogging, but it is the most necessary in order to get good results in the search engines.
In the library tab in Lightroom, scroll down to the Metadata module. From there, click the dropdown menu just left of Metadata and select Default. The next section goes into detail about many of the fields that will appear. After you change the metadata in your Lightroom catalog, don’t forget to highlight all of the images you changed, and then choose Metadata > Save Metadata to File.

 

Filename

 

The filename you choose matters. We usually title all of the images in a blog post the same way, sequentially (“Hyatt-Valenica-Wedding-Pictures-1,” for example). Whatever you choose, make sure it’s relevant to the blog post, and use hyphens to separate the words since this filename will become part of the URL of the image when posting online. SEO experts recommend you use a different filename for each image. While this may be best for SEO, it is very time consuming.

 

Title

 

This is what Google reads alongside the filename to give your image context. Choose a separate title for each image. Remember, Google does not like duplicate content, and if you choose the same title for each image, Google will likely pick one to index, rather than all of them for different search terms. The problem is that you will not have a choice as to which one is indexed. In a wedding post, I create titles like “Groom with his mother and father before ceremony at Wayfarers Chapel” or “Bride putting on veil at Hyatt Huntington Beach.” Google associates words such as bride and groom with wedding, so don’t obsess about constantly using the same words in your titles.

 

Caption

 

Google loves text, and the caption is where Google wants to see the details about what is going on in your photograph. Good practice is to write 100 to 300 words in your caption for each image. I know it’s time consuming, but it helps get your images indexed in search engines. Use keyword-rich (not spammy) text when describing what is going on in your photograph.

 

Sublocation

 

Matt Cutts, head of Google’s web spam team, announced in February 2014 that Google may use location information along with other metadata embedded in your image to influence search engine ranking. I usually include the location of the venue I am shooting at in the metadata of my images if it is a location people would be using in a search engine query.

 

TIP 3: Your blog is not for your current client, but for your next client.

 

Way too often when I look at photographer blogs, I see some amazing images, but then I see some that actually detract from the body of work in a post. Early in my own career, I thought it was prudent to tell the whole story of a wedding day in a blog post. I would include 60 to 70 images of things like close-ups of hands during the cake cutting, or the groom placing the ring on the bride’s finger.

 

Are these important moments? Sure, but they are not going to influence the next person looking at my blog to hire our studio. Instead, use only images that you feel show what is unique about your style of photography. Our style is unique, but we still take traditional photos on the day of the wedding. You just won’t see these images on our blog because they do not showcase what is different about our style.

 

Give the images you are blogging the same attention that you would if the client chose them for their wedding album. These images need to be more than just color-corrected, and should show your skill in lighting, composition and retouching. Keep the mindset that the images you show are designed to attract your next ideal client.

 

TIP 4: Use the power of social media to attract clients to your blog.

 

Many photographers are eager to get images posted on social media to reach potential referrals. By sending images straight to Facebook, though, you are not taking advantage of the search engine optimization benefits you get from getting extra traffic to your blog. When clients are eager to share their images, they will happily take a link that you send them and share that rather than just images from a social media page.

 

That link will get people to your website, increase your website traffic and get potential clients right where they need to be to see the rest of what you offer. Remember to put a contact form at the bottom of your blog post. If you are using WordPress, NinjaForms is a great plugin that allows you to do this. Squarespace allows you to add a form at the end of a post as well.

 

Remember, for this to be effective, an event or shoot has to still be on people’s minds. If you are a wedding photographer, blog the images within 72 hours. In 2016, my goal for our main Michael Anthony Photography brand is to get a wedding blogged no later than the Monday after a Saturday wedding so I can market it Tuesday to vendors and the client’s social network.

 

Tip 5: Your blog can be the most effective form of follow-up you have for cold leads.

 

We have spent a good portion of time talking about the SEO benefits of blogging, but in addition to good SEO, blogging is great for organic marketing as well. Every time we put up a new blog post, we send out an email campaign to our list that is constantly updated with new leads. These leads now have the opportunity to reconnect with our business, and I can’t tell you how many times this has turned an otherwise cold lead into a signed contract. It is our most effective form of follow-up, going well beyond a random follow-up email because it’s indirect and reminds clients why they initially connected with you.

 

While there are many forms of marketing, the blog still remains one of the most important tools we have. If your blog is stale, update it at least once a week to ensure you are providing potential clients fresh, up-to-date content. If you need to, set up some styled shoots for fresh images just for your blog.

 

While blogging may seem time-consuming, with persistence and consistency, you will see results from incorporating it into your marketing plan.

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the February issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

How I Got the Shot with Sal Cincotta

February 2nd, 2016

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How I Got the Shot with Sal Cincotta

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the February issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

 

This month’s shoot was, in a word, fun. I love having a creative group of people around me. This time, we had an internal debate about the direction and concepts for the cover shoot. We had two options that we just couldn’t decide on. So we did both. I know, a good problem to have.

 

Alissa had this vision of a high-fashion metallic silver background. Krystal, one of my staff members, had created this killer headpiece from scratch. Both ideas were really cool and enticing, but only one would get the cover.

 

No spoiler alert here, but as you can see, the headpiece won out. It’s interesting how we all work creatively. It’s so important that the photographer “see” the vision. For the silver paint, it wasn’t my vision and I just couldn’t see it. As a result, I was not happy with the final shot. Admittedly, I didn’t do the best job shooting it. As artists, we see this a lot, don’t we? The free advice we get from those around us is always, “You should try this.” I want to smack people sometimes. Yeah, and you should try playing in traffic blindfolded.

 

My point is that vision encompasses so much more than the obvious factors around you. I have learned something about myself over the years: If I can’t visualize the shot beforehand, I’m going to have a very hard time taking the shot. I imagine this is true of most visual artists, and something to keep in the back of your mind.

 

Okay, back to the action.

 

Concept.

 

The concept here was all about the custom headpiece. When Krystal offered up the idea, I wasn’t onboard with it at all. I couldn’t see it. Her description didn’t knock me out: “Okay, it’s gonna be cool, with feathers coming out of the top, but the feathers will be gone, and I am going to spray-paint it too.” Huh? I was thoroughly confused. I couldn’t visualize it.

 

She put a lot of time into it, working away at the head of a Styrofoam mannequin on her desk. Watching it all come together was pretty cool. Suddenly, I had vision.

 

Altogether, I am pretty sure this piece cost us less than $40. Not that this is something you would wear out on a Saturday night, but it’s pretty damn cool for a commercial-style shoot.

 

Location.

 

Have hotel room, will travel. Not everything you do has to be on a large set or with tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of set design, staff, lighting, etc. We were in Chicago and had access to some talented people. First up, makeup artist Vanessa Valliant, signed with Wilhelmina, who has worked with the likes of Jennifer Hudson, Lady Gaga, Madonna and Kardashian Kollection. Suffice it to say, this girl knows her stuff.

 

Our model is an adorable law student named Kellen. What I loved most about Kellen was not her good looks, but her smartass personality. As a native New Yorker, I appreciate sarcasm more than you will ever understand. We spent the day laughing and making great images.

 

Lighting and background.

 

I know, you must be tired of hearing me talk about the Profoto B1, but it really is one of the best products on the market. It’s got the portability and the power I need. I am all about the right tool for the job. Sometimes that tool is a speedlight, and other times that tool is a B1.

 

We had two Profoto B1s, one with an umbrella and another with the portable 2′ Octa Softbox. Super light and super portable. Equally as important, in a small space like a hotel room, the lights and modifiers are easy to work with and, best of all, put off little to no heat compared to traditional heads.

 

The background, as you can see, is nothing fancy. Just an unlit white background. This will go gray, which I like for this shot.

 

Gear.

 

Profoto B1

Profoto Umbrella

Profoto 2′ Octa Softbox

Canon 1Dx

Canon 85mm 1.2

1/250th of a sec @ f1.2, ISO 200

 

Alternate shot.

 

Alissa had pitched another idea that didn’t make final, but let’s talk about it. The concept was a fashion-fantasy-meets-Tin Man-from-The Wizard of Oz commercial shot. It just didn’t knock me out. I couldn’t see it.

 

I can tell you this, though: It was pretty cool to watch it come together. Vanessa had to order special makeup, a metallic-silver body paint. And the background? That was pretty damn crafty. Now, I can’t take credit for it—credit goes to Alissa, who somehow MacGuyver’d it using aluminum foil and a cardboard box.

 

The lighting setup was a little different. If you look into her eyes, you can see the clever setup. We had the Profoto B1 with Octa Softbox on the right of the shot, and used the Profoto Silver Reflector on the floor, camera-left, to push light back up into the shadows. The main light was just bright enough to catch the crumpled-up foil on the background to give it some dimension.

 

The settings for this shot were 1/100th of a sec @ f2, ISO 160 using the Canon 85mm 1.2 and the Canon 1Dx.

 

While this didn’t make the cover, it’s still a neat shot.

 

Closing thoughts.

 

It’s all about vision. You have to be able to visualize your shot before you take it. Having some creative people around you for inspiration and collaboration is what I love most about working on shoots like this. You never know what you are going to get. You have an idea, a concept, a vision, but you never know until that shutter is released and the image made.

 

I learned a lot about how I work and see things. I hope my team learned as much about me as well. Challenge yourself every day. Challenge yourself to do something a little out of your comfort zone, even if you don’t initially see the vision. Create a vision and adapt. I promise you, you will be a better photographer in the end.

 

I am a wedding and portrait photographer, and shoots like this challenge me to think a little differently about what I am doing. Because of that, I have watched my knowledge and skill increase tenfold over the past year. So, where do you want to be as a photographer? Go out and make it happen.

 

Want to see how we edited the shot? Sign up to be an Elite+ member today. Get the printed magazine and access to behind-the-scenes videos like this at www.behindtheshutter.com/shutter-magazine.

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the February issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

What Makes a Luxury Brand? 5 Ways to Raise Value and Justify Charging More with Vanessa Joy

February 2nd, 2016

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What Makes a Luxury Brand? 5 Ways to Raise Value and Justify Charging More with Vanessa Joy

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the February issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

 

The secret behind creating a luxury boutique-style brand isn’t classified information. In fact, it’s fairly obvious because most of us know what to expect when we walk into a high-end retailer. If you don’t, take the time to check out a luxury boutique clothing store, or pretend you’re shopping for a car at a Porsche dealership.

 

Last year, I photographed 20 weddings ranging from $6,821 to $18,482, with an average spending of $11,379.15, in an area where the average price paid to wedding photographers is $4,000 to $5,500. With my couples spending more than double the average, I know a thing or two about a luxury brand. Let’s break down the luxe experience I offer.

 

Show Me the Wow

 

This is where the rubber meets the road. The start-to-finish experience you give your clients either holds your brand true to its word or calls its bluff. Your brand sets the expectations for your clients, and you have to follow through with it 110 percent.

 

One way I maintain my brand image is through client gifting. I want my clients to feel special. I want their decision to be validated throughout our time together. Better yet, I want to give them tangible items to share on social media and brag to their friends about, which further establishes my brand recognition and reputation. I give them a hello gift, a goodbye gift and a “It’s almost your wedding day” gift. Gifting is one of my favorite love languages, and I love showering my clients with surprise presents.

 

However you want your clients to remember your business and however you want them to share it with friends and family is how you’ll want to tailor their experience. Do you tout yourself as being an expert in your field? Continually offer tips and tricks to your customers. Is your business about quality of life? Then look for ways to help improve your client’s wellbeing outside of the service or product you’re providing.

 

Go above and beyond for your clients in a way that superbly represents your brand mission, and you won’t go wrong.

 

Don’t Blink

 

When I first started charging for my work, I was 15 years old and a Realtor wanted headshots. So I set up my white backdrop (that I had no idea how to light, by the way), got my exposure on my Canon 10D and promised the client that we would keep taking pictures until we got one she could use. All for $50. I remember cringing when I told her that’s what I would charge her.

 

Spouting off the number in your price list may not be the most natural thing in the world, and that’s okay. However, that doesn’t excuse you from learning how to confidently give your pricing to your prospective clients. State your fee without hesitation. If you hesitate, so will they. If it’s easy for you to say, it’ll be easier for them to pay.

 

Along those lines, be extremely careful about discounting. Luxury brands don’t discount. Christian Louboutin shoes are almost never on sale. When you walk into Gucci or Prada on Fifth Avenue in New York City, you’re not going to find clearance racks (and if you did, shopping from them would almost be considered tacky).

 

If you want to throw in something additional for your clients to sweeten the deal, offer them a “gift” rather than a discount. Gifts come from friends and family; discounts come from used-car salesmen.

 

Shopaholics Rejoice

 

You want your clients to value the product and service you’re offering, especially if you run a boutique business and are charging a premium for it. Part of being able to get your customers to pay your luxury price is conveying to your clients that you too value what you’re offering.

 

When you’re selling high-end fashion apparel, you can’t do it while wearing off-the-rack. You need to wear staple pieces from high-end brands to be convincing to your clients and to relate to them. (Too bad clothes aren’t typically a tax-deductible purchase.) Likewise, when you’re selling top-dollar photography, you have to show your best personal work. Hang your most treasured pictures of you and your family in your studio, and talk on social media about your next planned time on the other side of the camera.

 

The brands that you buy, wear and support say a lot about you and your business. Political affiliations aside (not to belittle the effect that can have on business), the brands and type of brands you visibly support communicate something to your audience. Make sure that they’re communicating that your brand is luxury from start to finish.

 

Would You Smile Already?

 

When I do my initial consult with clients, I always tell them about my second photographers who will accompany me on the wedding. In a second shooter, I look for people who are great at what they do, but also people with a similar personality and demeanor to me. If I’m trying to get my clients to pay me for who I am rather than what I do, then who I am needs to be seen in my employees too.

 

I often tell the story of an amazing photographer I chose not to hire. Typically, before I hire a photographer, they come along on a test wedding not only so I can see the work they produce under the same circumstances that I’m shooting in, but so I can see how they work. Once, I had a photographer join me for this on-the-job interview who wowed me with the images that came back. What I didn’t love was that throughout the whole day, the photographer looked angry. When I addressed this, the photographer stated he was so focused on creating great imagery that he was in “the zone” and didn’t realize he was coming off negatively. Okay, fine. I could accept that, so I gave him another shot. The second time around, it was unfortunately still the same. His images were fantastic. His inability to smile through the stress was not.

 

One of the biggest day-of perks my brides experience is that I am calm, collected and seemingly in control the entire time. Even when everything is going haywire, I’m still smiling just as any experienced luxury photographer should be. Being a rock for my clients is part of my brand, and indicative of the experience I want my clients to have—so every member of my team needs to know how to do the same.

 

Who Are You?

 

You are your brand. You are the face of the company. You are what makes it unique. The best part about this is that you can simply build the luxury brand around who you are. The most well-branded small businesses I’ve seen are ones where the owner has done exactly that. A high-end wedding planner I know—who’s an Anthropologie nut with Restoration Hardware all over her house—became wildly successful by making her business an extension of herself and her lifestyle.

 

It seems like a no-brainer, but it’s amazing how many people I’ve seen attempt to create a business that’s the opposite of who they are. One of two things will happen in that case. Either the business owner changes who they are to be a reflection of their business, or there’s a disconnect between the owner and the brand that leaves clients subconsciously confused.

 

Take Steve Jobs, for example. That man looked, dressed and acted like everything we know the luxury brand Apple to be. He was simple and sleek, with an intelligent sophistication about him. He practically was a black iPhone. Could you imagine if he was the opposite? If he wore Free People clothing and acted like a flower child? Or if all of a sudden he took up the hipster trend and traded his black shirts and wire-frame glasses for plaid and thick frames? He wouldn’t be Apple anymore, and there would be a huge disconnect with the brand. A luxury brand doesn’t have loose ends. Everything, and I mean everything, is strategically placed in a beautifully decorated and presented package.

 

This isn’t to say that you need to script your life. It’s just the opposite, because when you make your business about you, all of the above will easily fall into place—it’s just you being you.

 

To quote Gary Vaynerchuk in his book Crush It!: “Watch me for two seconds and you know exactly who I am and what I stand for. Authenticity is key…. I’m not putting on a performance when I do the show or my blog posts—I’m just being me.”

 

Luxury branding is a continuous task that evolves with your company. I’m working on a new brand at BreatheYourPassion.com, and I’m starting from the ground up. You can create or adjust your brand at any time. That’s one of the best parts about owning your own business. What you do can be as small as the type of Post-it notes you use or as large as the billboard space you just rented.

 

For me, these three words perfectly describe the basis of luxury branding in photography: Just be you. Start with you, end with you and be true to you everywhere in between.

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the February issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

12 Marketing Tips for 2016 with Skip Cohen

February 2nd, 2016

Feb16_LargeBlog_SCohen

 

12 Marketing Tips for 2016 with Skip Cohen

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the February issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

 

Just because it’s winter and business is slow for most photographers doesn’t mean you get to relax. This is the perfect time to plan some exciting promotions for the year ahead. In fact, if you haven’t done it yet, it’s the only time.

 

Creating an effective marketing/promotional calendar takes time and work, starting with making sure you understand the needs of your target audience. You need to pay attention to trends in your market, your demographics and especially what type of promotions will have the most appeal/value.

 

No one article on marketing could cover everything you need to do. Not all of the following ideas will work for everybody, but they’ll help you start thinking about putting a little strength into your marketing and promotional efforts.

 

Date Night: I first heard this idea a few years ago from a photographer at Skip’s Summer School. Since then, a lot of people have put a different spin on it. Start by finding a great little restaurant in the community, and work with it on a discounted gift certificate for two for dinner.

 

Next, your pitch to Mom couldn’t be easier to understand: “When was the last time you and your husband went out for dinner without the kids?” Your promotional offer is a package deal that includes a half-hour portrait sitting shot like an engagement session, and then they’re off to dinner—on you. The gift certificate is included in the evening along with the portrait session. It’s up to you what prints and finished product you want to build into the package.

 

Start a Networking Luncheon: All of you have the ability to start building relationships with other vendors who have the same target audience. A wedding photographer, for example, should have relationships with florists, limo companies, caterers, venues, wedding consultants, travel agents, bridal salons, hair salons, tux shops and music promoters.

 

Find an inexpensive local restaurant, preferably with a private room, and simply invite everybody to lunch. Work on a fixed price with the restaurant so you’re not chasing everybody to split the check.

Imagine the growing strength of your network if you were sitting in between a florist and a caterer. This is about building relationships, and the first meeting is just about getting to know everybody.

 

Lab Promotions: Every professional lab introduces new products almost every week, but so many photographers fail to stay on top of what’s new. Even more important is sharing that information with your clients. There’s that old line: “If you do what you’ve always done, you won’t get any more than you ever got.” Look for new products that are a little different and that get people excited.

 

Technology has given labs the ability to print on virtually everything. Just pick up the phone, call your lab and ask, “So what’s new and different?” Then work on getting a few samples to show your clients.

 

Partnerships: I’ve written a lot about bringing in partners. Here’s a perfect example. Find two noncompeting partners and design a direct-mail piece. Create an oversize postcard. Buy a mailing list and split the cost between the three of you. Each of you becomes an ambassador for the other businesses, and you’re saving 66 percent of the cost for design and mailing.

 

Cross-Promote With Other Companies: Along with partnerships in mailings and brochures comes your ability to cross-promote with other products. For example, you could work with a florist to create special offers for each of your products.

 

Third-Party Promotions: I did a podcast for Weekend Wisdom with Doug Box last year, and he shared some outstanding ideas. The summary is pretty simple. Offer a gift certificate to a third party they can give their clients. Doug talked about a photographer he worked with who came up with a gift certificate for a portrait sitting for her insurance agent to give away to key clients. Because the gift was from the agent to his clients, the photographer was insulated from looking like she was discounting her products. It drove traffic to her studio and created new business.

 

Career Day at School: If we’ve learned nothing else from retailers like Toys R Us, it’s that the way to get to Mom and Dad is through their kids. Relax, I’m not talking about anything deceptive, just building relationships that position you as one of the leading photo educators in your community.

 

There isn’t a school on the planet that hasn’t had budget challenges in the past few years. Every teacher is looking for ways to inspire students. Doing a presentation on being a photographer is a great way to get your name out in the community. And if a Career Day type of presentation isn’t to your liking, offer to help older students with the school yearbook, newsletter or website. The key is to be involved and make the community aware of your interest in giving back.

Pet Promotions: Dog Days of Summer is still the holy grail of pet promotions. It was started by children’s photographer Vicki Taufer many years ago. Her promotion was for a free sitting and 5×7 of the owner and their pet, or just the pet. When the smoke cleared, Vicki and her staff photographed 120 sessions and had 40 people on the waiting list.

 

To qualify for the free sitting and print, participants had to bring a food donation for the Peoria Animal Shelter. Vicki pulled in several partners for the promotion, and each became an ambassador to help spread the word.

 

It’s up to you whether you do a small print for free or charge a minimal amount, but the idea is to get pet owners in for a portrait. Remember the hierarchy of why people hire a professional photographer: brides, babies and pets, in that order. Within two years of this promotion, Vicki’s studio became one of the best-known pet photographers in the area.

 

Your Database: I’m so tired of hearing photographers talk about finding new customers when they’ve done nothing to cultivate stronger relationships with their existing clients. I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t be looking to expand and bring in new customers, but let’s start with those you already have.

 

First, keep in touch with your past clients. A while back, I did a podcast with Angela Carson, a children and family photographer out of Detroit. She knew exactly how many portrait sittings she needed to do each year and how many of them would be repeat customers.

 

Angela makes it a point to keep in touch all year long, tracking special birthdays and anniversaries, for example. With some of her best clients, she’ll even pick up the phone and check in now and then—not to sell them anything, but to keep building the relationship.

 

Assuming you did a great job, your past clients are your best ambassadors. You might want to start with a personalized letter to everybody you photographed over the past two or three years announcing a new service you’re offering, a new frame line or something else you’re adding to your business.

 

Frequent-Buyer Programs: Over the past decade, we’ve all become “point whores.” The commercials have us thinking, “What’s in your wallet?” We buy products on specific credit cards to get the points to reapply to travel and other products.

 

Why not start your own program? It’s easiest as a children’s photographer, because isolating those memory-making moments is straightforward. But everybody, no matter their specialty, can build a referral program for previous clients.

 

Own Your Zip Code: I’ve written about this before. It’s old-fashioned marketing at its best. There’s nothing more effective than knocking on every business door within a few miles of your location. This is about being helpful, and it’s nothing more than introducing yourself. It’s a great way to remind people, regardless of your specialty, that you’re in the area and available to help with any of their photographic needs.

 

Do an Open House: Here’s where your creativity can shine. If you have a studio, this is perfect, but if you work out of your home or only have an office, it’s a little more challenging but still doable. Look for another vendor in the community to work on this with you. Maybe it’s a restaurant with a little ambiance, a gallery or spa. Remember, your target audience is always “Mom” in the portrait/social specialties, and it’s an opportunity for you to team up with another vendor to host an evening event.

 

We’ve all been to gallery openings with wine, cheese and artists working the crowd. You can do the same thing. It’s a chance for you to show off new products you’re launching with your lab and create excitement.

 

Just remember a couple of key points. First, your goal is always to exceed client expectations and make yourself habit-forming. Second, you’ve got to use all the communication tools at your disposal. That means your blog, direct mail, Facebook and Pinterest, community involvement, publicity, advertising, networking and personal contact.

 

There is no single formula for success. It takes time and patience. In the end, though, when you choose a job you love, you will never have to work a day in your life.

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the February issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

Guerrilla Lighting Gone Wrong: A Cautionary Tale of Backups and Adaptability with Michael Corsentino

February 2nd, 2016

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Guerrilla Gone Wrong: A Cautionary Tale of Backups and Adaptability with Michael Corsentino

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the February issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

 

No matter how good you are, you’re only as good as your last shoot. That means you’d better get the shot. Being prepared for the unexpected will help you do this. This was never more evident to me than on a recent location shoot where everything that could go wrong did.

 

The Brief

 

Twice a year, the big open field by my house is dotted with countless round hay bales. I’ve been trying to get the Orlando rock band Blaine the Mono, which I do promotional work for, to do a shoot using the field and hay bales as a backdrop for the past two years. The bales don’t stick around long; they’re removed after a short drying period, so there’s only a limited window of opportunity. Due to scheduling conflicts, it hasn’t worked out until this year.

 

The Original Plan and the Adapted Plan

 

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans,” as John Lennon famously said. This is one of my favorite quotes. It relates perfectly to the vagaries and joys of location photography. My original vision for the lighting and composition for this promo shoot of Blaine the Mono was one thing, but for reasons beyond my control, some happy and some not, what I ended with was something entirely different. The good news is through skill, preparation, a bit of luck and an open mind, I was able to make it work and produce a killer image.

 

I turned the photography lemons I got that day into lemonade, and so can you. It’s often said, and I believe it’s accurate, that the true mark of professionals is how they handle things when everything is crashing and burning around them. This shoot was the perfect storm.

 

The Shoot

 

Strike one: The band arrives an hour late, cutting heavily into setup time. Thankfully, all my gear—modifiers, lights, ladder, light stands, etc.—had already been packed up, so I was ready to go the minute they rolled up.

 

Strike two: Shortly after we arrive and start setting up, we narrowly escape getting busted for trespassing. Turns out the field we were in was private property, and we weren’t supposed to be there. We were allowed to finish up, but were told to be really quick and warned in the strongest terms that at any moment the agriculture police—yes, there is such a thing—could roll up and arrest us. Great, now I was sweating it! The band had traveled over an hour to get there, and I didn’t want it to be all be for naught. So we crossed our fingers and continued setting up.

 

Strike three: My Profoto 7B 1,200-watt second pack is dead on arrival. I’d tested it before the shoot, and it had been working fine. It must have been on its last legs, and I’d used the last few pops during my preflight testing. Things just kept getting better!

 

The pressure was on. We were losing the sun, the cops might be showing up at any moment and I had to scramble to come up with an alternate plan to salvage this shoot in a hurry. My initial plan was to shoot with a 74-inch Elinchrom Octa, placed to the right of and between 10 to 15 feet away from the band. I needed a lot of light because of the size of this modifier, my indirect light source and the distance involved. Hence the 1,200-watt second pack, which was now out of the picture.

 

I always bring a spare head or two, so I had a Profoto B1 on hand, but that’s only 500 watt-seconds. So the Elinchrom Octa was now also out of the picture. But I’d need a different modifier, one that would work with the lower-powered B1 and provide enough output and coverage for the group shot of Blaine. I’d brought along two Profoto 65-inch XL Umbrellas, one white and one silver, for extra options. I opted for silver for the extra output it would deliver, and accepted that I’d have a more specular look. It was a different look than I’d originally envisioned, but it ended up working in my favor.

 

The Elinchrom Octa would have delivered a soft, even light with gradual transitions between shadows and highlights, otherwise known as soft light. The silver Profoto XL Umbrella created a crisper light with faster transitions between shadows and highlights, known as hard light.

 

After some quick testing and adjusting of the position and power of my light, we were ready to knock out the world’s quickest photo shoot. And we didn’t get arrested. Man, did we hightail it out of there.

 

The Preflight

 

Just as a flight crew checks all the systems on an airplane before taking off, photographers should be in the habit of testing their systems and components before a shoot. This has saved my butt more times than I can count.

 

It’s easy to be lazy and just throw everything into your gear bag and go, but you’re really rolling the dice. I sleep a lot easier prepping my gear the night before the shoot and taking the time to test all the systems to make sure everything is working and that there are no missing pieces. Funny thing about photography equipment: Even the smallest, least expensive, seemingly most inconsequential piece of equipment can cause an entire shoot to grind to an unceremonious halt if it’s missing or malfunctioning. Things like a broken PocketWizard, a missing memory card or a malfunctioning cord can derail your shoot in a heartbeat, so it’s important to be organized and prepared. I use a gear checklist to keep track of what I need to pack for location shoots and what needs to come back when we’re done.

 

The second but equally important part of being prepared is backups. Having backup gear and several modifiers on hand, especially on location, not only saves the day when systems fail but provides creative options when your initial concept doesn’t meet expectations. I always pack extra sync cords, an extra PocketWizard, an extra strobe and a few extra modifiers.

 

Remember, you’ve got people counting on you to produce. Taking the simple steps above will put you on solid footing and help you deliver the goods.

 

The Whole Is Always Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts

 

It’s tricky to describe the elements that differentiate a winning capture from the frame that came before it or after it—you just know it when you see it. As you can see by comparing the rejects to the final from this shoot, it’s the small things that make a big difference. The best images are the result of collaboration, either explicit or implied. Maintaining open communication with your subjects and team is key. Having an open mind and a willingness to not only accept but encourage input, think outside the box and deviate from your plan goes a long way toward keeping things spontaneous, energized and creative. I can’t recommend this enough.

 

Without this collaborative mindset, it’s easy to get stuck seeing things in only one way and missing out on the real magic that’s right around the corner. It’s about letting go and not being afraid to share the creative credit. This shoot was no different. Even though we were completely under the gun, with failing gear and a possible trespassing arrest looming, we worked together to create a winning image. Because I kept an open mind and was adaptable, the final image was so much better than the one I’d had in mind. By allowing the band to play a role in the creative process, we created a much stronger final.

 

Post

 

Due to these events, there’s only one final from this shoot, but that was always the mission anyway. Anything else would have been gravy. There were other acceptable images, but the final was the clear winner. I kept post simple using a combination of Capture One Pro and Google’s Nik Color Efex Pro Bleach Bypass effect. I tinted back the effect so it didn’t overwhelm the image, and added a few empty layers to my layers stack set to soft light blending mode for burning and dodging where necessary. If you haven’t tried this method, check out this month’s video for a short demo.

 

Get the Shot

 

At the end of the day, it’s all about getting the shot. Be prepared and flexible, bring backups and alternates, and have the ability to think on your feet. These are the tools you need to get the job done no matter what comes your way.

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the February issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

5 Ways to a Better Photography Education with Leonardo Volturo

February 2nd, 2016

Feb16_LargeBlog_LVolturo

 

5 Ways to a Better Photography Education with Leonardo Volturo

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the February issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

 

Congratulations: If you’re reading this, you’re on the right track. Photography is more than just taking pictures and investing in the never-ending flow of gear. If you want success, the most important thing to invest your time and eventually money into is education. As Ben Franklin said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest”—and this month, I want to drop some knowledge on you and give you some insight and tips for maximizing your photography educational opportunities.

 

Before we dive in, here’s some of my history, which will show you how I got to where I am today.

 

I actually got my start in the wedding industry almost 20 years ago, around the age of 12 or 13. It began with an interest in music and a family friend who had a DJ company in Brooklyn. I worked my first wedding at 13. Over the years, I worked hundreds of events and learned the ins and outs of the industry, along with regular nightclub gigs and some radio work. In 2002, I relocated to South Florida and spent a couple of years getting involved in the industry down there before launching my first company in 2004, when I was 21. We started off offering DJ, production services and videography, having partnered with other local professionals. Not too far down the line, we started offering photography and brought on several shooters to become a full-service event company. I was deejaying and handling sales and service. It wasn’t until years later, in 2012, when I first picked up a camera.

 

If you ask my wife, the story goes like this: “One day, he picked my camera up off the bed and said, ‘How do you use this thing?’ I showed him a couple of things, and the next day, he was teaching me stuff.”

 

My wife, Melissa, had been shooting for years when we got together at the end of 2011. Up until that point, I had only been selling. My interest was piqued. I love everything tech and I love learning, especially learning things that are difficult. When I get into something, I devour it. So after that day of simply picking up a camera, my journey began.

 

Here are a few tips for finding your own way in photo education.

 

Online Resources

 

There are endless education opportunities online, from free YouTube tutorials to subscription-based sites, live courses and on-demand education covering all facets of photography. My first stop was to Lynda.com, a subscription site with on-demand courses. I started with their Foundations of Photography courses, covering exposure, composition and the different types of lenses. I also found some Lightroom and Photoshop classes to start understanding processing and workflow.

 

The next site we discovered was CreativeLive, where the first course I ever saw was Sal’s High School Senior Photography, in the summer of 2012. Seeing that class brought us into Sal’s world and led us to his workshops—and to where we are today. CreativeLive is a strong resource with live and on-demand courses featuring some of the top educators in the industry. It’s definitely worth staying on top of their schedule for the free live courses, which you can purchase for anytime viewing.

 

If you’re reading this, then you obviously know about BehindTheShutter.com and Shutter Mag, the leading educational magazine in the industry. Stick with us, and you’ll have a great resource featuring top educators across all styles of photography.

 

Lastly, don’t forget about Facebook groups. Some are a nightmare-filled, with trolls and complainers, but there are some solid groups out there where you can get some quick tips and inspiration. They include In Person Sales for the Professional Photographer, which is great for learning about IPS, and The Shredder, which is good if you’re not afraid of getting your images critiqued. And of course the ShutterFest community is incredibly knowledgeable and giving.

 

These are all great options for the burgeoning photographer that provide a minimal or free barrier of entry.

 

Workshops

 

Finding a great workshop is an art in itself. There are so many out there for varying levels of experience. Workshop costs range from very inexpensive into the thousands of dollars, and from local to exotic destinations around the world. The main thing you need to do here is evaluate your needs. You won’t find many one-size-fits-all workshops. Don’t just sign up because of the name associated with them. Dig into everything being offered in the class. Does it make sense for your business and style? Read reviews from previous attendees. Just because Lebron James puts on a basketball camp doesn’t mean it’s a great one.

 

These can be significant investments. When you walk away implementing new ideas and processes, you want to have confidence that you’re going to see a return on your investment.

 

The biggest mistakes I see from workshop and conference attendees is:

 

  1. They’re not even paying attention to the teacher, and end up standing around talking. This can happen in a large group or if the teacher doesn’t have solid command and direction.
  2. Students go home and don’t practice or implement what they’ve learned, essentially throwing away the entire experience and money they’ve spent.
  3. They showcase the images they shot in class in their portfolio without being able to reproduce that level of work on their own.
  4. Attendees are wallflowers who don’t make the most out of the workshop.

 

Get in there, get involved, don’t be afraid to mess up—and, when you get home, keep up with everything you just learned.

 

Conferences & Organizations

 

ShutterFest, WPPI, Imaging USA, PhotoPlus, PPA—there are quite a few photography conferences, trade shows and organizations providing high-quality education and support services, and they all have their own unique and appealing features. It’s hard to choose between them. Conferences last up to a week and feature a host of classes covering all aspects of shooting and the business of photography. At trade shows, you can check out new gear and products. There’s a wealth of information available at these events, and, with the right game plan, you can walk away with some great skills, friends and connections.

 

ShutterFest is the new kid on the block. It’s heading into its third event at the end of March. Sal made a lot of waves when he launched his conference. It was more intimate, very hands on and free. ShutterFest has grown immensely in a short time. It includes a full trade show and the brilliantly named Rent-a-Human program, which gives attendees free access to models, wardrobe, and hair and makeup. There are shooting bays for working with the latest in Profoto gear, nightly parties and instructors who are always available and who put in extra time with attendees outside of their scheduled classes.

 

WPPI is another great experience. Head out to Las Vegas for a huge trade show, a week of classes, parties and around 15,000 of your photography friends.

 

I always made it a point in classes to be up front and involved. Aside from getting the most out of the class, it also helps for networking and making connections with the instructors. I’ve built several great relationships by doing just that. It helped greatly in finding a couple of mentors. That is the best advice I can give you.

 

If you’re attending any of these conferences, I recommend spending some time in the image competition judging rooms. There you’ll see work from your peers and some of the greats dissected and scored. You’ll learn what makes a technically great image. I also suggest you enter some of your own images to get that feedback and maybe even an award or two.

 

Finding a Mentor

 

Finding a mentor has been the most crucial and best part of my journey in photography. I have been very fortunate in the last few years to learn from and work side by side with some of the most talented artists and businesspeople in the industry.

 

Two people who have been very influential and supportive in my career are Sal Cincotta and Michael Corsentino. Like I said earlier, I first saw Sal on CreativeLive in 2012. What spoke to me immediately was his teaching style and no-nonsense Brooklyn-Italian attitude (yes, that is a thing). Being from the same neighborhood with the same background, I was easily able to relate, and I knew this was someone I wanted to learn more from.

 

Sal was also on tour that year, and was coming to my area soon after I saw that course. My wife and I (we weren’t married yet) purchased tickets to the two-day course. I told Melissa I was going to walk right in there, sit in the front row and be in his face the whole time, getting as much out of the classes as I could. We learned so much in just those two days. We started implementing what we learned immediately, and continued to follow Sal and his teaching.

 

Melissa and I were able to build a relationship with Sal and Co. over time—emailing, going to workshops, one-on-one coaching. We became friends, and Sal’s team even shot our wedding. Ultimately, in an incredible turn of events, we relocated to work with them. This is not a template for working for Sal (so don’t go sending emails), but more about me seeing someone I could connect with to better myself, and that person offering his knowledge and support for the betterment of not just me but the community.

 

I was able to connect with Sal and Michael in the exact way I said you guys need to attend workshops and conferences: by putting yourself out there, interacting, networking.

 

At the first ShutterFest, I took one of Corsentino’s classes and got myself front and center to be involved with as much as I could. I ended up being called on to assist for the rest of the class. After class, I found that he was from Brooklyn but living closer to me, in Florida. We chatted awhile, and eventually met up back home and began working on projects together. Corsentino has been a great asset in helping me cultivate and grow my lighting skills, and someone I reached out to about writing after I was asked to write for this magazine.

 

Having forged relationships with two great educators, I was able to grow my business and skillset in every direction. Going through all this has also better equipped me as a writer, speaker and future mentor to others.

 

The information is out there. There are so many great avenues for education, and I’ve touched on just a few. I hope you’ll take this information and make the most out of your opportunities. Remember, education is not just about photography and learning how to make great images. For my fifth tip, check out the video.

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the February issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

You Are Likely Flying Your Drone Very Illegally with Rob Adams

February 2nd, 2016

Feb16_LargeBlog_RAdams

 

You Are Likely Flying Your Drone Very Illegally with Rob Adams

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the February issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

 

It seems like everyone in the photo and video world has a drone these days. We can now get amazing perspectives and high-angle shots with superb image quality, allowing us to take our productions to a whole new level. But you may be surprised to hear that if you are flying a drone like the insanely popular DJI Phantom series of quad-copters, you are very likely breaking the law—federal law.

 

The Federal Aviation Administration just enacted new regulations for small UAS (unmanned aircraft systems) that cover all drones weighing between .55 and 55 pounds total, between the aircraft itself and any payload. Many of us (including me, before I dug deeper) thought that all we would have to do is register our drone via the Federal Aviation Administration website when the time came, pay our $5 fee, affix our registration number to the drone and off we fly. Wrong.

 

The new drone regulations that went into effect on December 21, 2015, the ones everyone has been talking about, legally apply only to hobbyists, not commercial users. Commercial users operate drones for profit, so we are bound by other, more stringent regulations and operational license requirements. According to the FAA website (www.faa.gov/uas), any person or business that flies a drone for commercial profit must apply for a Section 333 exemption from the FAA, which allows them to operate their small UAS under more specific guidelines.

 

That’s not all. The new UAS regulations stipulate that hobbyists who register their drones must abide by certain rules. They must maintain a flight ceiling of 400 feet in elevation above sea level (not 400 feet from where you are standing), not fly within 5 miles of any airport or government building, and not fly directly over people or highways. The exemption further states that drones must not fly at a speed greater than 80 MPH, and that users maintain visual line of sight at all times, fly only during daylight hours, never around stadiums or sports complexes, and always have a dedicated observer during all flights to keep visual track of the UAS.

 

But wait, there’s more. Commercial drone operators who are granted the Section 333 exemption must also obtain and carry a Certificate of Waiver, issued with a granted Section 333, and must obtain an FAA Airman Certificate. That’s right, you need a pilot’s certification to fly your drone commercially. Don’t shoot me, I’m just deciphering the federal law. You can see screenshots of the UAS registration information on the FAA website in Figures 1.1 through 1.4.

 

What this means is that the new drone regulations basically don’t apply to any of us using our drones for commercial purposes, and we must still jump through hoops that have always been in place in order to fly and capture images with our drones legally. So the new regulations are basically only for enthusiasts who got a drone for Christmas this year and fly only for fun. Depending on where you live and your local laws, you may need to visit a local flight school to become certified for the Airman Certificate.

 

The FAA’s website shows examples of Section 333 exemption applications that have been submitted, and also letters of approval so you can see who is actually licensed to fly their drones and what permits are pending. The information is very specific. Each applicant is required to list the type, model and serial number of the drone they intend to fly, for what purpose and what the final payload will be. If accepted, the FAA will authorize specific permission for what you have listed for a period of two years. You can see a portion of one such approval letter here detailing the permissions granted.

 

You’ll have to affix your registration number someplace on your drone where it is plainly visible, and there is a $5 fee to obtain the registration certificate. No sticker is provided, just a number that you can put on the drone by means of a marker, label, sticker or etching.

 

The FAA is also getting serious about giving everyone the right to declare their property, residential or commercial, as a “no drone zone,” providing logos on its website that people can download to put on signs and stickers.

 

For a videographer like me, the new regulations pose a glaring issue. I’m not a pilot, nor do I think I will be taking a certification course to become one. Have you seen what it costs to learn to fly? It’s cheaper for me to outsource my drone work to someone who holds the certifications, and let them assume all the risk and responsibility. For as little as I use my drone for wedding work and commercial ventures, I certainly won’t be jumping through these hoops unless absolutely necessary. I won’t be flying my drone illegally, either. You will likely find it listed for sale on Close5 or eBay soon.

 

Here’s the text from the FAA’s website detailing Section 333’s requirement for the pilot’s certification:

 

By law, any aircraft operation in the national airspace requires a certificated and registered aircraft, a licensed pilot*, and operational approval. Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (FMRA) grants the Secretary of Transportation the authority to determine whether an airworthiness certificate is required for a UAS to operate safely in the National Airspace System (NAS).

*This authority is being leveraged to grant case-by-case authorization for certain unmanned aircraft to perform commercial operations prior to the finalization of the Small UAS Rule, which will be the primary method for authorizing small UAS operations once it is complete.

 

The Section 333 Exemption process provides operators who wish to pursue safe and legal entry into the NAS a competitive advantage in the UAS marketplace, thus discouraging illegal operations and improving safety. It is anticipated that this activity will result in significant economic benefits, and the FAA Administrator has identified this as a high priority project to address demand for civil operation of UAS for commercial purposes.

 

This is pretty clear, and it’s a blow to all of us videographers and photographers who’ve been having great fun producing stunning aerial images with technology that is only getting better as demand increases.

 

In my video in this issue, I speak with Ray Adams, who’s an FAA spokesman and president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association Northeast Region (and also my older brother). We discuss these regulations and the misconception that commercial drone operators are required to do only what’s required of hobbyists.

 

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the February issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

Client Communication and Workflow to Maximize Sales with Melanie Anderson

February 2nd, 2016

Feb16_LargeBlog_MAnderson

 

Client Communication and Workflow to Maximize Sales with Melanie Anderson

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the February issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

 

Bad communication and workflow can gum up your sales process and stagnate your entire operation.

 

Let’s first discuss client communication. Our sales begin with the phone call. When a client calls our studio, we immediately ask how they heard about our studio. Typical answers include the mall display, doctor’s office displays, social media and word of mouth. The number-one answer we hear is, “You are everywhere.” We ask because we want to know where are marketing efforts are working, and we want to maximize these opportunities.

 

This gives us an idea of the type of client we are interacting with. As we begin discussing session options, we talk clothing, time frame and what to expect. We also share a “starting at” price range to give our clients an idea of what they may expect to spend.

 

Next, I ask what they hope to achieve during this session. What is the main goal? Are we documenting a family that hasn’t been photographed in more than five years, or are we photographing a family that comes in year after year? This is important. I want to know what they will need. Are we looking at albums, wall art or gift portraits? I shoot with intention, and the more information I have ahead of time, the better.

 

I then offer suggestions that I think will best suit their needs, along with approximate costs. This ensures we are staying within their budget. I show them wall art and albums in the studio. Once we begin the session, as I’m photographing, I mention images that I think will look best as canvases or collages, and how many images we should plan for if we are photographing for an album. I want to be sure I have met or exceeded their expectations, giving them plenty of variety to choose from.

 

Once we have completed our photography session, I mention that we will be scheduling the in-person order session. This usually takes place the following week. I walk them into my sales room and state that their images will be narrowed down and cropped. No postproduction work will be done. When they arrive, they will view the images via projection and narrow down their favorites. I then begin discussing the portrait collection options—what is included and how much it will cost. I have wall portraits displayed, gift portraits on the sales table along with albums, wallets, announcements, etc. I want my clients to be able to hold and look though whatever is of interest to them. I explain that if they purchase a collection, any à la carte items will be 20 percent off.

 

A few additional items I share is that anyone who needs to be involved in financial decisions needs to be at the order session. They will be making their purchasing decisions that day. I mention that whatever their budget is, I just want to spend it wisely. That is important to me. I am here to serve. I want all of my clients walking away having experienced the best possible service and receiving the best possible products. Word of mouth is huge for me, and the verbiage and experience I convey to my clients is crucial. I don’t ever want a client coming into a sales session unprepared and unable to make a decision. We have a workflow in our studio that ensures we are efficient and productive.

 

As I mentioned above, I shoot with intention. That means once I have nailed the shot, I move on. I am not a spray-and-pray type of photographer, hoping that within a few hundred images that I have captured something that will work. I photograph exactly what my clients need, and then a few extras that I think they will love.

 

When a client calls, we make a record in our studio call log. This is a reminder of what information we need to gather in order to schedule a session. This paperwork is then placed in a clear sleeve and inserted into a binder labeled “Upcoming Sessions.” We call all clients the day before to remind them of their session and confirm their time, along with any items we need them to bring.

 

When the client arrives at our studio, she does paperwork, which includes a waiver covering use of the images. This is so vital, because we share everything on social media, and occasionally I use their images for commercial work or print competitions. I need to be sure I have their permission to do so. Only on a rare occasion do I have a client not willing to sign this release. This is typically a boudoir client, and for obvious reasons, I am okay with that. Respect their wishes and do not use their images if a client has not given permission.

 

After we begin the session, I discuss with them what to expect, and ask them a few questions so I am equipped to handle all of their needs. After their session, I walk clients into the sales room and specify everything listed above. When the client leaves, I upload the images to the sales room computer so I can prep for the order session. I’m often unable to complete this task immediately because I have sessions back to back, so I’ll have several to do at once. Once I am completely finished with that session, the CF card is placed in the clear sleeve with the client paperwork and given to our designer. Our designer then uploads the images and creates two copies to ensure we have a backup on an external hard drive. Once all copies have been created, the card is cleared and the client paperwork is placed in the order room, ready for the sales session.

 

The client’s order and payment information is placed in the clear sleeve and given back to our designer. Images are processed, orders are placed and images are posted to social media. That paperwork is then placed in the back for when the order arrives and needs to be sorted through. The order is then packaged and the client is called. The order and the paperwork are then placed up front ready for a signature showing their entire order has been completed. The final packet is then filed and available for reference at any time. Throughout this process, we also have information online regarding the client, type of session and payment information.

 

I hope this article has given you some specific verbiage you can use with your clients. The more you can educate ahead of time, the smoother the process will be.

 

Here’s a recap of specifically what I say to each client:

 

How did you hear about our studio?

What are your plans for the images?

Where do you want to place them in your home?

Whatever your budget is, I just want to spend it wisely.

Anyone who needs to be involved in financial decisions needs to be here for the order session.

You will be making your purchasing decisions on the day of your sales session.

 

Action Plans:

 

Be intentional in your shooting.

Ensure that you have a process for client workflow; use my examples as necessary.

Educate your clients.

 

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