How to WOW your photography clients with Sticky Albums

July 6th, 2016



How to WOW your photography clients with Sticky Albums

First, we need to understand the reality of the landscape we operate in today.


TIME. You have got to get to market faster! We take too long. In today’s market of NOW we have got to get images in front of our clients while the event is still fresh in their minds.


Instagram. Facebook and the plethora of digital-now options are your competitors. At this point, after the event, it doesn’t matter what your competitors are doing. Your competitors aren’t other professional photographers at this point. Your competitors are all those people at the wedding with cell phones and DSLRs like yours. They are posting images, sharing images, tagging images all in real time. And you? Weeks or even worse, months behind.


There is no substitute for speed. We have got to get in the game.


Digital. Today, all clients want some level of digital. Almost every client from seniors to families to weddings are engaged in social media. They want their images online and they want their friends and family to engage.


Most photographers are convinced that if they post their images online clients will steal them. There is probably some truth to that, but I am here to tell you, thats going to happen no matter what you do. We have got to find a way to engage with our clients in a way that is meaningful to them.


Everyone wants digital. Figure out how to give them what they want while protecting your interest.


Value-Add. Almost every single product we produce for clients has a hard cost to it. Meaning, we have to pay out a significant percentage to produce that product for them. When this happens, it becomes very difficult for us to add value for our clients without incurring significant additional costs on our end. So, what’s the solution? We MUST find solution for our clients that have little to no hard cost of goods every time we produce it for them. This allows us to maximize profits while increasing value for our clients.


Sticky Albums is one such product. Sticky Albums allows us to produce something for our clients in near real time that we are delivering to them on their honeymoon or as a final deliverable. This is not just for weddings. Seniors, families, glamour clients, engagements, weddings and the list goes on and on. Imagine being a client and receiving their very own app for their phone with their images on it readily available that they can share with friends and family. How much is that worth to your business? How much value would a client receive from something like this? How many referrals would you receive from the people they show and share their images with?


If you are not using Sticky Albums this way you are missing a huge opportunity for your business and a huge value-add for your clients.


Here is a simple workflow. Less than 15min to execute. 


1) Shoot your event.

2) Get home or back to your studio and download those images.

3) QUICKLY and I emphasize quickly – select 25-40 images. Stop obsessing!

4) Work within Lightroom and give them some basic edits – color correction maybe black and white

5) Upload and process via Sticky Albums

6) Share with your client.


BOOM. That’s it. Don’t over-complicate it. It can be shared before they come in for their preview or after. It can be incorporated into a package or it can be something you offer as a surprise. The possibilities are endless, but you have got to get in the game and start doing stuff like this for your clients TODAY.


We believe in this so much – has convinced Sticky Albums to come up with a lifetime plan for you for a ridiculous price. You will pay once and able to deliver on this for your clients FOREVER. The cost over just a short window of time becomes less than a single cup of coffee. It is truly a no-brainer.

Click to learn more about STICKY ALBUMS SPECIAL OFFER.



Turning the Ordinary Into Extraordinary: Transforming Bad Locations Into Gold with Michael Anthony

July 1st, 2016


Turning the Ordinary Into Extraordinary: Transforming Bad Locations Into Gold with Michael Anthony


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the July 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.


Wedding photographers don’t have the luxury of controlling all aspects of where we work. Of all the photography genres (aside from pure photojournalism), we often have to work in some of the worst lighting and locations imaginable. We don’t have control over the quality or color of light. On top of all of that, you are working with a bride and groom who have spent up to 18 months planning this very important date, and they have chosen you to document it all. That’s a lot of pressure.

I am not going to sugarcoat it for you. Despite all of the above challenges, if you do not perform on a client’s wedding day, the fault will rest on you alone in the eyes of your clients. Perception is reality: You are showing them beautiful photos in your portfolio, so their expectation is that you will create beautiful photos for them on their wedding date.

That brings us to the challenge: How do you create amazing photos for your brides and grooms, despite not being able to control your environment? You have to think outside the box and adopt a MacGyver mindset. Everything in your room or environment can be used as an element to make beautiful images. When you are dealing with a bad location, you can start by taking your subject out of that environment. Here are some common ways to do that.

Example 1

Use light to remove your subject from the distractions.

This image was photographed using a single speedlight placed inside a closet. The church lady was rushing us to get the bride out of the dressing room, and gave us five minutes to make this shot happen. We were able to complete it in less than two minutes because the elements of the photograph were very simple. By bouncing the speedlight off the wall in the closet, we were able to create soft light on the bride. I had Jennifer give the veil some motion, which made this image look like it was created from an open window.

We did not move any of the elements you see in the before image to create this final shot. By just using light where you want it, you can hide elements of an image that are not conducive to your final result.

Example 2

Add light to common light fixtures to create beautiful images.

In this image, we placed the bride under a sconce light. The light on the bride’s face, though, was competing with the actual light source, and was obviously darker, making the light source the brightest part of the image, rather than my bride. I had my assistant use a Westcott Ice Light with a CTO gel to match the ambient light from the lamp, and we used barn doors to concentrate the light on the bride. I had the bride wrap herself in her veil to bring attention to her face, and I turned her body away from the light but her face back into it. This allowed the texture on the veil to show through, and it also lit the short side of the bride’s face. We took two images, and in the final image, we removed the light trail from the Ice Light.

Example 3

Use all of the elements of your environment.

The trick to getting water or smoke to look great on camera is to get your light source behind it. We originally were going to use a can of fog to get this shot, but it was a bit too windy. There was a barbecue close by creating a ton of smoke. I placed the groom with his back to the sun, and the sun spilled some light rays through the smoke. We placed a Profoto B1 with a 2-foot Octa box camera left, and took a low angle with our Canon 11-24mm F/4.0L lens to accentuate height and give him a powerful appearance. You can see in the final shot how all of the elements came together to create a unique and dynamic image.

Example 4

Use abstract elements to create interesting images.

This was a technique I first wrote about back in the 2015 wedding addition, but here we are doing it with lights rather than glass. When we got to this location, the room had very little for us to work with. I noticed the table had a decoration that featured small orange bulbs. I thought that I would be able to use those bulbs to create an interesting foreground element. I placed a CTO gelled flash on the ground pointing upward at the wall to give the groom some separation from the wall. Finally, I placed a gridded flash directly at the groom’s face. We gridded the flash to keep light from spilling onto the wall and washing out the light created from the background light.

When shooting through objects, it’s important to make sure the object you are using as your foreground element is not too bright, or it will detract from your subject.

We keep two sets of battery-operated string lights in our bags: one cooler-toned color and another warmer-toned color. You can get these on Amazon for less than $10, and you can use them for both shoot-through elements and backgrounds for your ring shots and other macro images. Experiment with shooting through water, smoke and glass for different effects.

Example 5

Try these simple setups for ring shots.

I used to stress out about finding the perfect photograph of the wedding rings when I started shooting weddings. Today, we typically photograph ring shots in less than two minutes. A ring shot comprises light, a background and a setting.

I usually start with a background for a ring shot. I look for anything that creates good bokeh. Jewelry or anything sparkly is our best option. From there, I look for a setting to place the rings. I look for a reflection or another sparkly surface, such as a bride’s shoes, purses or, in this case, a glass table (granite works great as well). In this image, we used the decorative pinecones on the center of the couple’s table as a background. Wherever you are right now, look around—I guarantee you will find a surface that will make for a good ring shot.

Camera Settings

Camera settings are extremely important. I usually photograph ring shots at f/8 to f/11. This is crucial to getting that ring tack sharp. Even shooting at F/5.6 leaves me with a lack of good focus. When you shoot at such small apertures, you rarely have enough quality light to get a good exposure. Enter the Ice Light, one of my favorite tools for bridal prep. You can also use standard video lights. Place your lights on either side of the rings, and make sure the light is hitting some of that sparkly background. Experiment with different compositions to get the best result.

Remember, as wedding photographers, it’s always going to be up to us to perform on the day of the wedding. If you consistently show creative imagery in your portfolio, your clientele expects you to provide similar results. Bad lighting is not an excuse that will fly with your clients. Take extra care to make sure you are able to deliver on your client’s expectations.

Understanding how to push your surroundings to the limit requires you to have an extensive knowledge of light—how it behaves and how you can manipulate it to meet your creative goals. You also have to understand how your camera settings influence the final image. For instance, in our shoot-through technique, shooting at a wider aperture produces better results than shooting at F/11. This is because the bokeh at F/2.0 is a lot more pleasing to the eye as a foreground element when the aperture is wide open.

As with most things in photography, the best way to get better is by practicing until you have a solid grasp of the foundations of a good image. From there, you will naturally see the potential in new locations, and you will be able to push them to their maximum potential.


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Deconstructing the Light: How to Recreate Killer Lighting with Michael Corsentino

July 1st, 2016


Deconstructing the Light: How to Recreate Killer Lighting with Michael Corsentino


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If you’re like me, you’re a visual person and probably have childlike appreciation of the world around you. You’re excited by the wealth of visual content that surrounds you. Magazine covers, movie posters, movies, television, DVD and album art, advertising campaigns, online images and retail signage all provide a never-ending supply of inspiration. It’s all around us. This work is being produced by some of the best photographers, stylists, hair and makeup artists, and models working today. These creative teams know their stuff, and are an amazing resource for both technical and creative inspiration.


If the above description sounds like you, then you’ve probably found yourself on more than one occasion standing in front of an amazing image slack-jawed and asking yourself, “How the hell did they do that?”


Deconstructing and attempting to recreate the lighting used in the images you’ve seen is one of the best ways I know to keep learning and growing technically and creatively. So what do I mean by “deconstructing” the light? It’s actually really simple. Each image has a series of telltale signals and clues that provide insight into their creation and a general roadmap for re-creation. Figuring out what to look for to unlock the lighting secrets behind images is easy once you know how.


I look at it like a fun puzzle-solving creative habit that encourages practice. Sleuthing the clues behind the images you love will help you develop a visual vocabulary you can use not only to reverse-engineer images but also to bolster your own lighting skills. This way you can emulate and incorporate exciting new styles into your image making.


The beautiful thing about inspiration is that it sets you up for investigation and discovery. While at the outset your main goal might be to recreate what you’ve seen, in the end the process generally leads you in other new and unexpected directions. You’re essentially riffing on an idea. So you follow the inspiration, but then allow yourself the creative freedom and open mind to explore other directions based on that inspiration. That’s when the magic happens.


When you’re deconstructing light, you’re trying to figure out the tools, techniques and lighting arrangements used to create the effects you love. You’re looking for signals from the shadows—are they hard or soft? This tells you things about the modifiers used and the distance the lights are placed from the subjects. If the light is hard, with rapid, crisp transitions from highlight to shadow, it’s a safe bet a reflector, grid spot or bare strobe was used. It’s also probable the light may have been placed at a considerable distance from the subject (this isn’t always so, but it’s a good rule of thumb in most cases). On the other hand, if the light is soft, you’re likely dealing with a diffused source, such as a softbox or diffusion panel that’s been placed close to the subjects. This creates soft light with gradual, diffuse transitions between the shadows and highlights.


In addition to the quality of the shadows, you’ll want to pay attention to the direction, angle and depth of the shadows. This dictates light placement, angle and height. They’ll also provide clear-cut clues about what lighting pattern was used—Paramount, Rembrandt, split, broad, short, etc. Next are the catchlights in the subject’s eyes, which provide clues about the types of modifiers used and number of lights employed. So you can see with a little knowhow and a bit of educated guesswork, you can get a pretty good idea how the images you love were created.


The image that inspired this particular shoot was one I saw traipsing around Las Vegas during last year’s WPPI. It was a promotional image for the tribute act The Australian Bee Gees Show. Check out the video. (I love the Bee Gees, but I’d never heard of this show.) The image spoke to me and stopped me in my tracks. Enter my trusty iPhone—or, as I like to call it, my “inspiration catcher.” I have an entire library of drool-worthy images that I’ve captured on the go. It’s an amazing tool and a great habit to get into. I photograph magazine covers in the supermarket, ads on walls, movie posters, ads in magazines, signage, movie and TV screens, you name it. If it visually excites me, I’m grabbing it with my iPhone.


I really like the “deconstructing the light” format, so hopefully, if you guys are up for it, this will become a semi-regular feature for my lighting column. This shoot is the perfect place to get started because it is super easy, involves minimal gear and yields killer results. Using the guidelines above, I looked at the light in the image that inspired this shoot (again, check out the video to see that), and slowly broke down the various qualities of light to make an educated guess about how it was executed.


First of all, it was clear the image was produced using one light. It looked to me like a series of captures was made, one for each band member, and later those images were composited together onto one canvas to create the final image with the entire band. You could get close to the original final image with one capture, but it would require significantly more gear, a very small aperture (due to the staggered group pose), potentially requiring a more powerful strobe, and you’d also be looking into only one vantage point. This would present a problem. Looking at the group in the original image, I could tell that the band member in the center had been photographed from a position much lower than the rest of the band, who’d been shot from high above eye level.


I kept it simple and followed my gut about how the image was originally created. That meant using only one light, a 500WS strobe. This is a tool many of you have, so it’s something you definitely can try too. Next, I looked at the light coverage. It was clear that the illumination on the subjects was a very tightly confined pool of light, which meant one thing: grid. The other clue was the transition of the shadows to highlights, which was crisp and rapid. This was a clear indication that the source was a small point light source (undiffused strobe), creating hard light. I wasn’t sure what degree or kind of grid was used—grid spot or soft egg crate—but I was at least on the right path to get started. I ended up getting lucky, and the 20-degree grid spot I started with was the right tool for the job. The next clue came from looking at the shadows, their quality and direction, and what was happening with the catchlights in the eyes of the subjects. This gave me the clues I needed to properly place my light in relationship to my subject. When doing this, consider the direction, angle and height of the light.


I needed to capture separate images of each subject lit from both the right and left side to keep my options open when compositing in post. I wasn’t sure who would look better lit from the left or right, etc., or how the images would eventually lay out, so having options was essential. I also wanted to be able to transition quickly from one setup to the next, again using only one light. To do this, I metered the first setup, lit from the right, and shot everyone assembly-line style. Next, I used a measuring tape to determine the distance of the keylight from my subject position. I rotated the keylight from one side to the other, using the measuring tape to match the distance. Then it was simply a matter of a few captures and keylight position adjustments to create matching shadows. In a matter of minutes, I set about capturing each band member lit from the left.


This is an easy one to try for yourself, so I hope you give it a shot. Using the tips above, start getting into the habit of analyzing and deconstructing the images you love. If you do, you’ll be rocking some awesome new lighting techniques in no time.


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5 Ways to Improve Client Relationships with Vanessa Joy

July 1st, 2016


5 Ways to Improve Client Relationships with Vanessa Joy


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If we’ve learned anything about our industry in the past 10 years, it’s that advertising doesn’t work the same anymore, but relationships still do. Why? Because people ultimately don’t change. Humans thrive off the feel-good energy that good relationships create. Building relationships with your clients will bring more people in your door—and happy people at that—than advertising ever could.


One of my favorite books is The Five Love Languages. It breaks down the ways humans can practically communicate and receive love. Everyone has a tendency to give or receive love in one or two (or, hey, maybe all five) of these love languages, and your clients are no different. I’m not saying you need to know the love language of all your clients. But a great way to make sure you communicate your appreciation for them is to implement at least three of the five love languages as a regular practice in your business.


I’ve taken the five love languages explored in the book (words of affirmation, acts of service, quality time, gifts and physical touch), and translated them into ideas we can apply to our photography businesses.


Words of Affirmation


I tend to have a tough time with this one in my home. I’m like Will Smith in the movie Hancock, where he stutters as he tries to say, “Good job” to a police officer. This might be the simplest thing we can do in our businesses, but it’s the one that benefits our photography the most.


When you’re photographing a client, genuinely compliment them on something. It’s a confidence boost for your client to hear they look good, or that they’re listening to your posing directions really well, and it directly affects how they look on camera. Confidence is a key aspect of modeling, and you can help your clients get there by speaking to this love language.


Acts of Service


Photographers tend to easily do this on a shoot, whether you’re a wedding photographer being the hotel maid by cleaning up the room before it’s photographed or being the hair stylist for a senior shoot. A lot of that extra work that we put into our job the day-of tends to go unnoticed, so if you want to speak to this love language, try the following.


Set up a few email automations in your client management system—like Tave, 17Hats or Sprout Studio—that give your clients something more, something unexpected. I send my clients timing guidelines right around the time they’re planning their hair and makeup schedule, ideas for them to be comfortable in their wedding shoes once it gets closer to the big day and other helpful advice that a wedding photographer typically wouldn’t provide. This shows that I go above and beyond, but also helps me communicate with them easily and more often.


Quality Time


This can be one of the toughest to implement because it requires something that most business owners don’t have enough of: time. Your clients probably won’t have much of it either, so my idea here is to offer quality time with your clients, but also give them the option of a faster experience.


Six to eight weeks before every wedding, I ask my brides to fill out their online questionnaire, and then offer to meet up for coffee near my studio to go over their schedule or do a call instead. Nine times out of 10, they don’t have the time to drive to me, so they take me up on the phone call or video chat. It’s a win-win.


I have seen photographers attempt this by taking clients out to dinner after an engagement shoot. I think that idea is great, but it does take more time and money that you may not have. Or worse, I’ve heard clients speaking about photographers they met with who insisted the clients join them for dinner after the engagement session, and the clients didn’t book because they weren’t interested in spending the extra time. To each her own, but make sure your clients aren’t feeling pressured either way.




This one is already pretty popular in the photographer community, so I’ll just give you a few ideas for gifts to give your clients—perhaps when they book with you or when you give them their final product.


  • Present a bottle of wine in a custom wine box from Photo Flash Drive.
  • I give away the book 10 Great Dates Before You Say ‘I Do’.
  • I like the photo lockets from Chasing Lockets and luggage tags from Miller’s Lab.
  • How about a gift card for the movies or a restaurant?
  • A Starbucks gift card is always appreciated.
  • Chocolates and sweets are easy.
  • A honeymoon tote bag with your logo on it would be cool.
  • Boxfox makes awesome custom gift boxes.


The best thing about a gift is that it really doesn’t matter if it’s worth $5 or $500. Communication through the gifting love language is more about the thought behind the gift than the gift itself. It’s the idea that you were thinking about them when they weren’t there, and went so far as to surprise them—that really brings it home.


Physical Touch


This is another area where I’m not the best in the world. Maybe it’s because I scored 96% male-minded on a personality test once or I’m just inherently shy, but it’s really amazing how far a hug goes. Truthfully, Americans really are the worst at this. In many countries, you greet perfect strangers with a hug and kiss, but stay culturally appropriate when you show affection.


If you want to immediately relax your clients and make them feel like you’re their best friend in the world, just skip the handshake when they come in for a consultation and go right for the hug. As long as you go for it with a huge smile, like it’s the most natural thing in the world, you can’t go wrong. It’ll instantly disarm them and make for a much better consultation, session or wedding day—for both of you.


If you have the time, check out the book The Five Love Languages. Its suggestions will create happier clients who will make your job more pleasant, give you more referrals and make you more money.


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the July 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 Tips for Defining Your Style with Sal Cincotta

July 1st, 2016


5 Tips for Defining Your Style with Sal Cincotta


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the July 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.


Stop copying other photographers.


Want to define your style? Allow me to tell you the surefire way not to: Copy what other photographers are doing. Sure, you love their work, you are a fan even. Nothing wrong with that. One thing missing: vision. You can copy their work, but you will forever be chasing their work.


This is the way they see the world. It is their vision. When you copy someone else, it never feels right because you don’t really see it.


There is nothing wrong with looking to other photographers for inspiration. We all need some inspiration, and it’s always inspiring to see how other photographers see the world. It’s truly incredible: You can take 10 photographers, put them in the same room with the same camera, lens and light, and you will get 10 completely different images. That is awesome. But imagine if you were to try to copy another photographer in any given situation. It will always lack something and fall short of an incredible image.


Experiment and get uncomfortable.


It’s easy to do what you have always done. It’s predictable. You know you are going to get something that historically has worked for you. Maybe you are a veteran or a newbie still trying to figure out off-camera flash or how to use the settings on your camera. This piece of advice holds true for everyone.


The best way to find your style is to get out there and try something new. As a 10-year vet myself, I am constantly trying to push myself and try something that’s new and refreshing. It is easy to get stale as an artist. Inspiration, which we will talk about next, becomes crucial in this journey to continue to grow.


The way I like to experiment is to try something new or different every time I shoot. Different doesn’t mean reinventing the wheel. Different can be as simple as a tweak to something you have been doing for years.


I like to challenge myself and my team to push the limits of our creativity. We might walk into a wedding and I will issue a challenge. Today, it’s all about reflections. Or it’s all about geometric shapes or patterns. This forces me to look for repeating patterns, or triangles, or reflections in windows, tables, puddles, etc. This is an incredible way to get yourself to “see” things that you might not ordinarily be unaware of. Try it, and I promise you will see the difference.


Look to Hollywood and art museums for inspiration.


I always look to Hollywood for inspiration. I find it’s much easier than looking at other photographers. Instead of trying to copy a Hollywood director, I try to incorporate his vision into my work. It’s incredible what you will see if you are looking for it. Composition, tone, editing and lighting are all on display in an incredible way.


There are two movies I love and that never get old. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is visually breathtaking. The composition alone is mind-blowing. If you have not seen this movie, rent it and watch it with the volume off. Don’t engross yourself in the storyline. Just watch and absorb.


Another great film is the miniseries John Adams starring Paul Giamatti. This is yet another example of incredible visual stimulation. This winner of 13 Emmy Awards is something worth watching for sure—and you’ll even learn something about one of our presidents.


The key here is to watch how Hollywood is telling stories and to figure out how you can incorporate these techniques into your own storytelling.


For more great inspiration, head to your local art museum. I started doing this a few years ago. Every part of the painting is put to use. There is no wasted space. They had to tell a story on their canvas. In that story, they would tell substories as well. If you have a chance, sit there and just let your eye wander through a painting, and you will be amazed at what you find. Look for your primary element. Look for the secondary element. Look for that tertiary element if it exists.


Painters are incredible storytellers. The storytelling is not just about the subject they choose, but the use of color, composition, lighting, etc. Want to learn about portraits? Check out a guy named Rembrandt. He was a true master. I was at the National Gallery in London and had the honor of staring at some of his amazing work for hours.


Show your clients your style.


It becomes harder and harder to find your style when you are afraid to showcase it to your clients. Why? Based on my conversations with photographers, it appears you are afraid of the rejection. Instead, artists seek approval. It’s an artificial security blanket that becomes a vicious circle. You lack confidence because you are not shooting true to the way you see the world. You are trying to deliver something that your clients like or want instead of being confident and showing them your true colors.


This was probably one of the toughest things for me to learn. I was so busy trying to make everyone happy that I lost sight of what I wanted to do and why I got into photography in the first place. And the funniest part of the whole thing is that once I started showing clients my style, basically the way I see the world, I started getting better clients. I started booking clients who valued the way I saw the world. And with that, I started making more money because I could charge more. And then my confidence grew with every shoot because of the positive feedback I was getting.


Shoot for you.


Stop trying to be everything to everyone. Shoot for you. Embrace the way you see the world. You will never please everyone, and that’s okay. Let it go. Here is what I can tell you: If you try to make everyone happy, you will make no one happy, including yourself. If you are like me, you got into photography because you loved it. I have seen so many photographers resent the business side of photography because they are no longer doing what they love.


It doesn’t have to be that way. Embrace who you are as a photographer, and you will attract clients who love your work and will let you do your thing. When you get to that point, you will have more confidence, and with that confidence comes a new love for what you do.


Over the last few years, I have become extremely comfortable and confident in my work and my ability to create art for my clients. I am happy with what I am charging for my work, and I feel like I have the best job in the world. I get paid to do what I love every single day.


Chase your dreams and don’t ever give up.


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Lighting In Motion: The Art of Lighting Dancers with Craig LaMere

July 1st, 2016

July16_LargeBlog_CLaMereLighting In Motion: The Art of Lighting Dancers with Craig LaMere


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the July 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.


One of the things about photography I love the most are the millions of genres and subjects there are to capture. My interests vary a lot. To get an idea of how varied they are, all you have to do is take a look at my music play list at any given time. You will find Tool, Journey, Metallica, DMX, Frank Sinatra and Pearl Jam all occupying the same space. My shooting interests are just as wide. I love seniors, fashion and portraits as much as I love boudoir, weddings and families. Each genre comes with its own set of challenges.


This month, I look at one genre I can’t get enough of: dance.


Choosing the Best Shooting Options


When I shoot dancers, my first three thoughts are: How are we going to pose the subjects? What is our light source going to be? What mod do I want to use? The way you pose your dancer determines how you conduct the rest of the shoot. Are they going to stand still, or are you going to let them cut a little rug?


Shooting Static Dancers


If you are going to shoot more static poses or if your subject is going to move and pause, you can approach the shoot in more of a portrait mindset. Shooting a portrait session is far easier to control due to limited variances. You pretty much place your subject, pose your subject, meter for the highlight and shoot. The choice of modifier you use for a portrait session is not limited, so you have full control.


Shooting Moving Dancers


If you want to capture your dancers’ movement in studio, that is a whole other ballgame. You have quite a few decisions to make because you have to account for anticipated movement. You don’t know for sure where the light is going to fall on your subject like you do in a portrait session, so you have to guess where your subject is going to be in relation to your light. And because of the movement, you have to be really choosy for your modifier. You have to decide if you want light all over to make the image light and airy, or if you want more directional light to add drama and power to the image. This decision determines the light source you use.


Shooting With Big Mods


If you want light, airy images in studio, the choice of mod is a pretty simple one. Go with a large source like a 4×6 softbox or a 70-inch parabolic with either butterfly or loop light position to get the most coverage. Either setup is foolproof. With butterfly, you bring the light source behind and above you at 45 degrees down. If you have lower ceilings, this setup might be a little flat because you can’t get the light high enough to make your pattern. In this case, bring the light to the right or left, and do a loop light pattern. Loop light gives you the dimension and depth you need.


Shooting for Contrast


If you want to shoot with more contrast with more dramatic lighting, shoot either beauty dish with a grid or a strip with a grid. Keep in mind that when you move to a light source with more contrast, especially with a grid, you have to be mindful of where the light is going to fall with the movement of your dancer. It’s easy to clip or miss them altogether. This is why I recommend using a loop light pattern with the main light source. If you need fill light, use a second light source instead of a reflector or V-flat, since the main light source will not put out enough light because of its distance to the subject.


For fill, I find the best solution is to put a second light with a 4×7 or 3×4 box behind and above you. All I’m trying to do is send a huge wall of light at the subject. I usually meter the fill at a stop and a half lower than the main. That pretty much gives you enough light in the shadows so you can pull any info out that you need.


Shooting Constant Lights


Another light source I use to shoot dancers is continuous florescent lights. The thing that is so nice with the constants when shooting moving dancers is that you get what you see. There are no surprises, and you can shoot as fast as your camera can fire, which is a huge plus when shooting dancers.


The downside of shooting constants is, like always, the power issue. That’s huge because of the combination in camera settings you need to make it work. Because of the power of constants, you have to shoot at a higher ISO. I shoot at about 400 to 500 ISO when I’m shooting my constants in a portrait session, but I have to go way higher when using them for dance because, unlike in portraiture, you have to shoot at a higher speed to freeze action. That magic number is 1/500 or higher.


To freeze action without flash outside, you need to be around 1/500 or higher. Because I treat constants exactly the way I shoot natural light, the rules are the same. I have to get my shutter speed to 1/500 or more. To do this, I usually have to push the ISO to 1000 so I can shoot at f2.8–f3.2. When I am shooting dancers like this, I always use my 24–70 2.8G at 24mm–60mm when I’m at f2.8–f3.2. Your images will be in focus and sharp because you don’t have depth-of-field issues like you would if you were shooting at 135mm–200mm at those f-stops.


Shooting with this setup allows you to rapid-fire your camera and give yourself the most opportunities to capture that perfect moment. But if you are a strobe user, there is a better way.


Perfect Timing vs. Rapid Fire


I’ll bet most strobe shooters who are trying to capture movement do it one frame at a time. They set up their lights, tell the client to move or jump, and then try to hit the shutter button at the perfect time. Everyone gets lucky every once in awhile, and sometimes you get the perfect image in the first few attempts. This method takes a little while, which can be hard on your client.


Then one day on YouTube, I saw this strobe flashing like a machine gun on a fashion shoot. I was so sad watching the video because I was thinking I would have to sell all my strobes to get the ones I just saw—I had to be able to do that. I’d usually unload a bunch of heads on eBay and get the new ones, but on second thought, that would have meant a loss of money. I decided to call the manufacturer of the strobes I was using at the time. I told a rep about what I had seen, and asked if my heads would do that. They said it was just a matter of the heads being at a power level where they can recycle as fast as the body can shoot.


With that info in hand, I went to work. Finding the recycle time was just one part of the equation. The other parts that go into the recipe are the f-stop and the ISO and lens combination in relation to the power output of the strobe. At the time, my fastest body would shoot at about 10 frames a second, so the goal was to find the place in the strobe’s power that would allow for that recycle time.


The power setting that would recycle fast enough was about a quarter power on a 600ws head. Most studio shooting is done at ISO 100 and at about 1/160 shutter speed, but because of the low power, your images will be way too dark at any f-stop past f2. The issue with f2 is that the room for error is very small. To fix the aperture issue, we have to shoot at a higher f-stop, which means we have to move the ISO up.


But as you move the ISO up, you start to deal with the noise in your images. It’s not a huge issue if you are shooting on white, but it can be a mess if you are shooting in a dark location. I found that if I move my ISO to 400, I can meter at f3.2–f4. That might seem like a pretty open area, but that is where lens choice and focal length come into play. Shooting a 200mm at f3.2 and shooting a 24mm at f3.2 gives you different results. My Nikon 24–70 2.8G is the perfect fit for this setup. I like the zoom because you can move in and out as you need to. With the wide focal length, you won’t have depth-of-field concerns, and every part of the image you shoot at f3.2 to f4 will be sharp.


If you have never tried this method, try it out for your next dance shoot. A faster body will give you the most opportunities to capture that perfect moment in time that your dancer will love.


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How I Planned the Shot: Busy-Season Workflow with Alissa Zimmerman

July 1st, 2016


How I Planned the Shot: Busy-Season Workflow with Alissa Zimmerman


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Summertime is prime time for on-location shooting at Salvatore Cincotta Photography. We’re based in the Midwest, which means unpredictable weather on a daily basis. We schedule senior shoots, engagements, families and headshots back to back and have come up with a seamless process to ensure everything runs as smoothly as possible. Having the right workflow in place from the beginning takes your studio to the next level, allowing you the time to focus on giving your clients the best possible experience instead of having to worry about the details on the back end, especially when things go wrong (and they always will).


The scheduling.


With our crazy schedule, I like to choose two days per week to block off for shooting during busy season. We have set up a workflow that allows us to book five sessions per day; senior and engagement sessions last one and a half to two hours, and families and headshots last about an hour. It’s extremely important to allow enough time for travel and food, and for any unforeseen errors in the day (clients running late, traffic, etc.).


I start the booking session from the last time slot of the day and work forward as the bookings come in. This means we can use the first part of the day to get work done in the office and not throw a wrench in the schedule by booking a session mid-day. I also know Sal is not a morning person, so we make it so he doesn’t have to be anywhere first thing in the morning.


Our normal time slots for a shoot day are as follows:


9:00 a.m.–11:00 a.m. | Senior Session

11:00 a.m.–11:30 a.m. | Lunch

12:00 p.m.–2:00 p.m. | Senior Session

2:30 p.m.–4:30 p.m. | Senior or Engagement Session

5:00 p.m.–6:00 p.m. | Family Session or Headshot

6:30 p.m.–8:30 p.m. | Engagement Session



The back end.


17hats has been a game-changer for our studio. Having the ability to set up workflows for each type of shoot and customize each step of the process to send out auto reminders, follow-up emails and internal reminders to schedule previews is invaluable to our company. With this program, I feel confident knowing everything is getting done on the admin side of my job, and I can enjoy my time assisting on photo shoots and providing our clients the best experience possible.


I have set up specific workflows for each type of client who comes through our studio. It makes life so much easier when you take the time in the beginning to set up these workflows so you don’t have to waste time later tweaking them each time they go out. I have each workflow customized for senior sessions for boys, senior sessions for girls, engagement sessions in St. Louis, destination engagement sessions, etc. Having your workflows set up this specifically helps tremendously in the long run because the language is completely different in the emails going out and you don’t have to worry about setting everything up as auto-send.


The shoot.


During the shoot, you should be focused on getting the shots that matter, then get creative. For senior sessions, we know exactly what types of shots sell. Mom and Dad always buy the tight headshot as a 16×24 canvas of their son or daughter. Always. We know engagement session clients always buy the big signature edit type shots as a 20×30 acrylic and a 15×30 pano, so we choose scenes that lend to these types of shots.


Sal has a rhythm he works through, his progression, for each outfit and each scene. Tight, middle, wide. All of which are shot using a 70–200mm lens. Take it a step further and bust out an 11–24mm lens for a super wide shot—this shot makes for a great signature edit, your wow image from the session. Take it another step further, and put on an 85mm 1.2 lens for the tighter headshots to give you a stunning portrait with incredible depth of field.


Choosing the right locations for each outfit plays a huge part as well. We have specific parts of St. Louis we scout and try to stick within during each session. It makes no sense to waste time driving all around town when you can stay in one area and knock out all the scenes. All you have to do is change your perspective or the parts of each location you shoot in to give your portfolio some variety. We shoot in the same 20 to 25 locations in our area, and our work never looks the same.


The obstacles.


Obstacles are inevitable. What can go wrong will go wrong, especially when you’re planning a day of back-to-back shoots. You just have to be able to adjust and make sure you’re not killing the experience for your clients.


Tell your clients your process for inclement weather from the get-go. This way they are not surprised or angry if bad weather is predicted and you have to reschedule your shoots. Here’s our initial booking email outlining our process:


Because our sessions are outdoors and our goal is to provide the best and most unique experience possible, we are limited in regards to the weather. In order to create the best images possible, we may reschedule your session due to heat, cold, wind, rain, etc. Be prepared if there is more than a 50% chance for inclement weather or if heat is expected in excess of 95 degrees; you will receive a call or email the night before to possibly reschedule. The shoot is not officially canceled until you have heard from us—hopefully we will have great weather!


Knowing what to say and what not to say to clients is the most beneficial knowledge you can have. As you run into obstacles along the way, document them. Work through the issue and evaluate what you did right and what you did wrong in handling the situation. Create a process to avoid the issue in the future.


Efficiency is key in planning full days of photo shoots. Being organized and detailed in your process takes time to set up in the beginning, but will make your life so much easier and stress-free in the long run.


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Filmmaker Lighting 101 with Joe Switzer

July 1st, 2016


Filmmaker Lighting 101 with Joe Switzer


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Over the years, we have found a combination of both artificial and natural light is best. Letting each shoot and situation tell us what to do has been the best approach. Our style is quick, with limited time to film each scene. This month, I show you how to light both weddings and corporate event. The goal is for you to achieve consistent, beautiful lighting with some epic flare. Here are the Top 5 must-knows about lighting the Switzerfilm way.


#5 – Working with different lighting temperatures in the same room


If you film or photograph weddings, this is something you’ll run into consistently. On a typical wedding day, when you walk into the bridal suite, there can be three or four different-colored lights in the room—lights on the ceiling, lights on the walls, some window light and a bulb light from the makeup artist blasting on the face of the bride.


When we were first getting started, we would just film and hope we could change the color in post. That approach didn’t work. The color of our videos was inconsistent and unflattering. To avoid trying to match up all the different lights, we have learned to always move our subject. In almost 100 percent of all situations, there is always a window with some natural light.


We arrive early and work with the makeup artists to help them bring their equipment to the light. More often than not, the hair and makeup professionals are happy to work with us. After we get our main subject near the window light, we turn off all other lights. This allows us to keep our subjects bright and the background darker. Natural light looks beautiful, and you don’t have to mess with any artificial lights in tight spaces.


Avoid filming with different lights on in a room. Find a way to get to the natural light and turn all the other lights off when you can. If the hair and makeup artists need a light on, it’s okay to have one light on for the rest of the room to keep everyone happy, but less is best in these situations. A good rule of thumb is to take the bride to a window and turn off all the lights. In extreme situations, we have changed rooms or moved the bride or groom to the hotel lobby. Take action and get rid of all the mixed lighting.


#4 – Wedding reception light


What do you do when the DJ turns on his blue, green and red lights? You could do nothing, and have a bride with a red or blue face for all the reception video shots. That’s not an option. You could ask the DJ to turn off his lights. That’s not going to happen without a fight. Adjusting the settings in your camera for five or 10 minutes that you don’t have won’t help much.


Receptions are dark, so you have no natural light to work with. The only solution in these situations is to have your own lights ready to go. We’ve tried a half dozen different lights. Our vision for artificial lighting was something small and powerful. This wasn’t really possible until LED lighting technology became available.


For 100 percent of all our artificial light solutions, we use Fiilex lights. The model we use is the S282 Mini All-Weather Interview Kit. This light is portable, bright, water-resistant and small. We can quickly adjust color temperatures and change the brightness. Our photographers are ecstatic when we turn on these lights. The lights have a barn door, so we can control the size of the light. This works wonderfully for dances and speeches because the reception venue theme and look remain the same and the subject is in beautiful light.


The next time a DJ uses his rainbow lights on the dance floor, you won’t have to worry if you have the Fiilex light setup. Your light will overpower his, and you’ll have the consistent beautiful light you want. For our shoots, we carry two lights and stands with a set of extra batteries. We want to be portable and never worry about plugging into an outlet. If the reception is outside on a beach and it’s raining, the Fiilex lights are weather-resistant and the batteries last for hours. No more struggles with wedding reception lighting. Make it easy on yourself and go get a Fiilex S282 kit.


#3 – Lighting etiquette


It’s likely you’ve worked with a photographer or filmmaker who had no clue about what’s right or wrong at a wedding reception or other event. Remember that planners, designers and coordinators have worked a year or more on these events. They have themes, colors and details that are important to your client. Those clients have spent the majority of their budget on that, not your video services. You could be ruining the ambiance of the party with your oversize video lights if you’re not careful.


This is not always about what you want or need. It’s about the team you’re working with and the client. Take a step back and realize that what you shine at the reception can do damage if it’s too much. Keeping lighting to a minimum has worked well for us. For the major events like first dance or a speech, we crank the brightness higher. When nothing is happening, we turn the lights off.


Put the lights in a low-traffic place so people don’t notice or trip on your expensive gear. The ultimate goal is to not ruin the mood of the room or moments with your dorky video light. Good common light etiquette goes a long way, and you’ll get referrals from planners, DJ’s and other photographers when you show your team-player attitude.


#2 – Looking for the light


I’m always looking for light in every scene. My first step is to look at the ground and then factor in the sky. Ultimately, your camera will show you what looks good. Over time, you’ll get more comfortable finding light more quickly. When I’m looking for the perfect light positioning, I use edges of lights that a building might cast in a city. In a park, a shade tree gives a beautiful light flare when shooting a subject in motion. If I’m shooting into the light, it’s a given that a Ronin-M or track should be used.


The look of sun flare and motion look epic. Have your camera set to manual so you can control the exposure. If you’re filming into the sun on AV or auto mode, it will change the exposure and take away your sun flare. On just about every video shoot, we walk on set and ask, “Where do you want us?” Before you answer that question, let the light tell you what to do.


For close-ups of people, I look for shade so they’re not squinting. The same can be said for interviews. When we’re filming adventure or action, we want all the sun flare we can get. It’s easy to forget about background lighting like bokeh, which is the out-of-focus background light. The lens and background you choose determine how your bokeh looks.


One of our favorite lenses for this is the 85mm, but as long as you have a long lens or a lens with a lower aperture option, you’ll be able to maximize bokeh. The most typical example of good bokeh is candlelight. On our recent shoot inside a spa, we were able to position the subject where the background had all the candlelight, which maximized the bokeh.


Always be thinking about how to maximize your natural light and background light to get the results you’re looking for.


#1 – Controlling the schedule


We always try to schedule our filmmaking around the “magic light” times. That means early or late in the evening.


A good example of this is the workflow and scheduling of our most recent photo and video shoot in Pennsylvania. During the heat of the day, we filmed inside or in shade. Most of the shots were outside hotels, in spas and by pools, on golf courses and beauty shots. For lighting to look dreamy outside, it’s crucial to get your scheduled shoots during the first two hours in the morning and the last two hours of sunlight in the evening.


Mornings worked well for golfing because the grass sparkled with dew in the rising sun. It has a glistening effect, and looks incredible in wide shots. Sometimes you get those puffy white clouds and sunshine that can look great at high noon. Always work with your client to get the most of your weather and natural light conditions.


Design the schedule in your favor. When you run into rain or extreme weather conditions, you can go to your backup plan for inside or under cover. Don’t let your corporate clients or wedding couples determine the schedule. Plan for lighting success with a good game plan to take advantage of weather, sunrises and sunsets.


On your next shoot, don’t settle for average lighting. Move your subjects, turn lights off, have your artificial mobile lights charged and ready. Take control of the schedule and look for those shadows and sun flare. Move quickly, and remember: No matter what situation you face, you can always find good light.


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Picking Low-Hanging Fruit with Skip Cohen

July 1st, 2016


Picking Low-Hanging Fruit with Skip Cohen


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It was back in my Hasselblad days when I first heard the expression low-hanging fruit. Low-hanging fruit refers to those things you can do quickly and easily for a positive impact on your business.


For over a year, I’ve written article after article meant to be building blocks for a successful photography business. Well, we’re already halfway through 2016, and it’s time to get you thinking about some of that low-hanging fruit out there to help you build a strong second half for your business.


  • Own Your Zip Code: Knock on the doors, literally, of 20 businesses within a mile or two of your home base. Introduce yourself to Realtors, attorneys, doctors, etc. It doesn’t matter what your specialty is. Say something like, “Hi, I’m [your name here]. I just want to introduce myself. My specialty is wedding photography, but that doesn’t mean I can’t help you with any of your photographic needs. I love living in this area, and I’m here to help any time.”


  • Call Your Lab: You need new products and ideas for promotions. There’s nothing easier than a phone call to your lab with the question, “What’s new?” Good labs are creating new products all the time, and you don’t need to wait until the next convention to find out what they are.


  • Pick Up the Phone: Contact 10 clients from last year. This is relationship building, which is nothing more than keeping in touch. Become a part of your clients’ lives—not in a hard-sell way, but as a relationship.


  • Build a Stash: This is about your blog, making it more effective. Sit down and come up with 10 topics for blog posts, and then over the next couple of weeks, write them up. That will give you 10 posts to help make posting more consistent.


Stuck on ideas for posts? Try some of these. Give your readers picture-taking tips to help make their images better. Tips on posing, moving in closer, backgrounds, storytelling, locations for great pictures in your community, flash on or flash off, and depth of field. There are so many things you do every day that will be helpful to your readership.


  • Change Your “About” Page Photo: It’s bizarre to me that so many of you are professional photographers yet share a horrible or irrelevant headshot of yourself on your website’s About page. My favorite shot is one of the photographer working with a client. This shot is taken off the right shoulder of the photographer from slightly behind, with the subject in the background just outside the depth of field. Plant the seed that you’re a photographer.


  • Visit YouTube: YouTube is loaded with great content from virtually every iconic photographer in the industry. Just hit the search box and start typing in names, starting with Sal Cincotta. With Sal, you’ll find video after video to help you raise the bar in your business and technique.


  • Come Up With a Special Project: Special projects in photography all tie back to keeping your battery charged when it comes to the passion that got you into the business in the first place. Just to start, pick a subject or technique you love, and then start building images around it. Your primary business may not be what you started out wanting to photograph for a living, but that doesn’t mean you can’t keep the passion for the craft alive by focusing on subjects you’re passionate about.


As you start to build a theme of images, use them in your blog to share ideas on creativity. Remember, your website is about what you sell, but your blog is about your heart.


  • Look for Images for This Year’s Holiday Card: It’s never too early, and no photographer should ever use a store-bought card. That means now is the time to be thinking about your December card and looking for an image to use. Don’t forget about images for your thank-you notes and stationery as well.


  • Visit a Few Websites: Every photographer you admire has a website. Take the time to visit each one and look at their galleries. Here are some iconic names to Google: Mary Ellen Mark, Joe McNally, Howard Schatz, Gregory Heisler, Peter Hurley, Seth Resnick, Matthew Jordan Smith and John Sexton.


  • Review Your Galleries: Styles change, your skill set changes and consumer trends change—let’s get your galleries cleaned up. For the most part, this is just house-cleaning, and requires you to delete any image that isn’t better than what Uncle Harry could get. Show only your very best work.


  • Phone a Friend: A healthy network doesn’t happen by accident. It takes work. Pick six people to call this week who are in your network but who you haven’t talked with in a month or more.


  • Write a Letter to Past Clients: Whatever your specialty, there’s at least one associated type of photography that you can easily expand into. Weddings, babies, children, family and pets are all connected. Expand your services, and then send a personalized letter to your past clients announcing it.


  • Add-on Sales: Your core product might be photographs, but you’ve got a full selection of associated products. One great example is picture frames. Another is presentation boxes and image storage. Most of you tend to stay focused on albums, but there’s so much more to offer. Looking for more ideas? Wander over to


  • Schedule an Open House: So what if you work out of your home? That doesn’t mean you can’t remind people what you do for a living. In fact, my guess is that 50 percent of the photographers in the portrait-social categories are part time and work out of their home.


Ever been to a gallery opening? Typically it’s an evening of wine and cheese and a chance to meet the artist and see their work. Find a small, fun restaurant or other venue. Rent a few easels to show off your work. Send out an upscale-looking invitation and then be there to meet and greet members of the community.


You don’t have to do this alone. Bring in another photographer or other vendors looking to reach the same target audience. Cohost with a florist.


  • Share Your Images With Vendors: I watched a video by Bob Davis recently and loved something he does after each wedding. He “blesses” each vendor with images of their services at his weddings. He sends images to the florist, caterer, entertainment, etc. after the event. The only thing he asks is that the images always have his photo credit.


  • Set Up a Networking Luncheon: Pick an inexpensive restaurant with a private room. Send out invitations to everybody associated with your specialty. For wedding photographers, it would be florists, wedding planners, spas, tux shops, bridal stores, travel agents, caterers, bakers, limo companies, musician agents and venues. For pet photographers, it would be animal clinics, pet stores, pet food/product reps, etc. Children’s photographers would seek restaurants that cater to kids, toy stores, children’s entertainment companies and clothing stores.


The purpose of the meeting is just to talk about your businesses and meet each other. Imagine the power of the network you can build sitting between a florist and a caterer over lunch.


  • Be a Lunch Slut: Yes, I did just write that, but only because I consider myself to be the biggest lunch slut in photography! I’m constantly meeting new photographers and business owners over lunch. It’s such an easy way to build a relationship with somebody new, and there are few things more effective in getting to know somebody.


Start by picking up the phone and inviting one of your competitors to lunch. Many of you need to stop acting like your competitors are your enemies. There are so many things you can do together to help strengthen both your businesses.


  • Take the Day Off: What could be easier? Many of you have become so obsessed worrying about your business that you’ve reached the point of diminishing returns and are about to crash and burn. Learn to recognize the signs of burnout and then take action. Step away from the business and clear your head. You’ll be amazed what new ideas you’ll come up with when you’ve recharged your batteries.


There you have it, 18 ideas to help you build stronger brand recognition; many of them, you can be doing at the same time. You’re part of an amazing industry, but building your skill set is only one of the ingredients for success. You’ve also got to build relationships with your vendors, clients and community.


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the July 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.