2015 Black Friday Photography Deals

November 25th, 2015


Our BIGGEST Web Store Sale of the Year!  Enjoy 25% off and Free Shipping* during our Black Friday Sale. We have the largest selection of unique packaging & flash drive styles developed with the needs of Pro Photographers in mind. Whether you offer digital images, printed images or BOTH,  we have you covered.  Customization is always included in our prices and we have no minimum order quantities.

We know once you try us – you’ll love us! *Free Shipping offer is valid for US, Canadian & EU orders only.

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Save up to 65% on the best business management system for photographers. New members: Get two years of 17hats for just $249, and lock in this price for life! It even comes with a 30-day money back guarantee! Just sign-up today and click on the banner inside 17hats.

Existing members, we’ve got you covered too; get 2 additional years for just $199! Login into your 17hats account to take advantage of it.

There is no code needed. Just sign-up on Black Friday (it expires at midnight PST).

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Join over 7,000 other creatives — including photographers like you — for three days of inspiration, learning and networking. MAX includes dedicated photography and video tracks with sessions to help you succeed in today’s competitive landscape. Learn how to get noticed by applying your skills to new mediums, sharing your work with the community and building your personal brand.

Preregister (no obligation) by March 31 and save US$500 off a full conference pass.

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Enjoy 40% off our quality 1.5″ Giclée Canvas Gallery Wraps and Metal Prints.

Today, it’s more important than ever to differentiate yourself from the competition. What better way to do it than with great products that leave your clients speechless? People will pay for quality.

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Save an extra $50 on two great lenses! Hurry! Valid 11/27 thru 12/7 only.

$130 total rebate savings on Tamron 16-300mm Di II VC PZD Macro All-In-One Zoom ($80 reg. rebate valid thru 12/31 plus $50 bonus rebate valid 11/27-12/7 only) Here.

$120 total rebate savings on Tamron SP 150-600mm Di VC USD ($70 reg. rebate valid thru 12/31 plus $50 bonus rebate valid 11/27-12/7 only) Here.

Hurry! Offers valid 11/27 thru 12/7 only.


Biggest discount EVER on ALL Spider products – press the shutter on this massive Spider sale today!

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Black Friday is for turkey hangovers, afternoon naps…. and free songs! This is a deal you don’t even have to leave your couch for. Songfreedom is offering everyone a free Standard Silver license using the code BLACKFRIDAY15. No need to stand in line or dodge elbows to get this offer. All you have to do is enter the promo code under your account and it’s yours to redeem!

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The Biggest Sale Ever. Get SmartAlbums® album design software, plus 1-year Cloud Proofing subscription for only $199 ($498 value). Hurry, offer expires Nov 30.

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This Black Friday + Cyber Monday, we have something for every photographer. Buy now online or at one of our participating dealers!

Offers available through November 30th, 2015.

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Save 60% on ShootProof for your first year! Act fast as the discount reduces through Cyber Monday.

Expires 11/30/2015 at 11:59PM.

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Black Friday Blowout Sale! Get any New York Collection album for 40% off!

Files must be uploaded by 11:59pm CST on 11/30. | Certain restrictions may apply. | Only valid on NEW orders placed on 11/25, 11/26 or 11/27.

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Huge holiday savings! Take advantage of our Black Friday sale and enjoy 50% off all digital products at the Behind the Shutter store! Holiday cards, save the dates, wedding templates and more!

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Build Your Brand: 5 Tips for Being More Than Just a Photographer with Craig LaMere

November 1st, 2015



Build Your Brand: 5 Tips for Being More Than Just a Photographer with Craig LaMere


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the November 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’s so easy for anyone to call himself a photographer, so it is more important than ever to find your way out of the masses and be seen as unique. This month, I talk about work you put out to the world, how versatile you are in your shooting, your identity and the stuff you are doing just for you. These are four of the big components that go into a shooter who’s more than just a picture taker.


Your Work


Your work is your introduction to the world. It really is your calling card and what potential clients are attracted to first. One of the best ways to separate yourself and be more than just any old shooter in your area is to have work that is on another level from most of the other work in your market.


This could be because of the locations you use, the type of lighting you use, how you process images or all of the above. No matter the difference, make sure you are doing something to be different. If you are shooting the same, processing the same, using the same filters, you are setting yourself up for a pretty hard time because you are producing a mass product. Mass products can be sold in volume at a lower price. If your customers can get your product from 50 other shooters in your area, they are going to get it for the cheapest price they can.




Just about every single human being is a photographer. Whether they use a DSLR, a point-and-shoot or a phone, everyone is snapping images. At no time in history has it been easier for people to become photographers. I can’t even imagine the number of images the average person sees in the course of a day, between Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest.


Pro shooters are always stressing about how this glut affects their business. I would argue it’s not the number of shooters in their area, but rather the skill level and versatility—or lack of it—that’s hurting a lot of shooters. If you put all your eggs in one basket and decide you are only shooting one or two ways or only shooting one or two genres, you are walking away from business—or, I should say, business is walking away from you. The more versatile you are, the better able you are to take advantage of the opportunities that will come your way.


It is way easier to get business from existing clients than always having to find new ones. Do a great job for a client, and you’ll see that client again. If you’re a one-trick pony, you’ll lose your hard-earned clients. Being versatile does not mean you have to market that you shoot everything. It just means you can shoot everything if you need to. You’re a reliable, go-to resource for your clients, and that is big.


Finding Your Identity


One of the most important things a shooter can do to take herself out the pool of millions and millions of generic shooters is to create a distinct identity that clearly defines who she is and what she has built. Some people call this branding. But identity is more than a brand in our industry. We artists are not only creating products to sell to the public; we are also selling ourselves to the public.


When you create a brand, you are creating an idea about your business and your products. But when you create an identity, you are creating a persona. Your persona is your personal connection to the world. This is why identity is far more powerful than a brand—it’s that personal connection that stirs an emotional response toward not just your work but to you as the creator of the work.


Nike is one of the strongest brands on the planet. Its logo is so recognizable that it transcends all continents, languages and people. Nike could put that swish on a pile of poop, and someone out there would buy that poop because it is Nike poop. Even with the global reach Nike has, could most people name the owner or founder of Nike? If the owner of Nike were sitting next to you on a plane, would you automatically know who it was? I would bet my last dollar most of you would not. I know I wouldn’t.


Apple, on the other hand, has always had something Nike never did: a very clear captain of the ship. Nike has had great spokespeople but never a Steve Jobs. Even after his passing, Jobs is still the captain at Apple. He was, is and always will be synonymous with Apple. His philosophies and ideals were the company, and he was the identity of Apple. In death, it could be argued Jobs has become even more of an icon for the company.


Shooting for Yourself


One of the very best things a photographer can do to ward off boredom and stagnation is to shoot personal work. Many full-time photographers, for various reasons, never take time to shoot for themselves. The rampant discontent is obvious from all my speaking and teaching engagements. I always ask people how many shoots a month they do just for themselves. The answer is usually very few, if any.


The one commonality between shooters is that they all picked up a camera, discovered they loved it, got better and better at it, fell in love more and more with the images they were producing, and decided they would like to make their living doing what they loved. Isn’t that the dream of everyone?


The irony of what I am seeing out there is that the more successful that full-time shooters become, the less they enjoy photography. Because they aren’t enjoying shooting as much, they and their work stagnate. I don’t know any shooters who are in the business just to create revenue. Because there really are no places that teach people the reality of owning a studio or the reality of the business of being a full-time shooter, we all find out quickly that this is a very hard industry to make a living in. It’s easy to get bogged down, to become too busy for anything other than client work, and to stop shooting personal projects.


That’s why full-time shooters become disenchanted. The lack of personal shooting can stunt your artistic growth. You’ll cease to fulfill your creative needs. When that happens, many shooters go into autopilot mode. That is not to say the work is not at a high level. It just means it soon becomes the same work over and over again.


If you fall into this category, take some time to shoot something just for you a few times a month. You will see a dramatic change in yourself, and your work will reflect it.


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

Keeping Up by Creating Brand Consistency with Blair Phillips

November 1st, 2015



Keeping Up by Creating Brand Consistency with Blair Phillips

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


Branding can be just as important, if not more important, than your photography. It is an invaluable part of how the public views your business. It is a feeling or emotion that comes to mind when someone thinks of you. Aesthetics are one of the first things that come to mind when talking about branding. If you are trying to get people to spend money with you, you must create an environment that is conducive to spending. Your workspace and studio should reflect your brand throughout. They should have a feel and a look that represents exactly who and what you are. We have a certain candle that we burn each day in the studio. Our clients are used to that smell. It has become a part of our brand.

Establishing Brand

Maintaining a brand can actually be the easy part. Establishing it is often more challenging. The easiest way to establish your brand is to rely on friends and family. Relying on those people can help ensure that you get started off in the right direction. Print 10 of your favorite images you have ever created. Put the images in front of them and ask them for five to 10 words they feel best describe the images.

What you are looking for is to receive emotions that best describe your work. Once you have those keywords, you can begin to build your brand. When I first did this, there were two words that were mentioned by several people: eclectic elegance. Those two words became the direction of my brand. Everything I do in my business reflects eclectic elegance.

Now that you have established your brand, the hard work has only begun. A company’s brand should be treated as a human being. Your brand is your reputation. Your brand often has only one opportunity to make a great impression on people. It is similar to opening a restaurant. You must do everything within your power to make a customer’s first visit a success. If the experience is not great, you will likely never see them again.

Fortune 500 companies have a spokesperson who goes straight to the media if there is ever a huge problem with their product. Their number-one job during that situation is to protect the brand. Celebrities are very protective of their brand as well. After a personal controversy, the first person you normally hear from is the celeb’s publicist. This should be a reminder of how valuable your brand really is.

Let’s spend some time putting some things in place to make sure your branding is living up to its full potential. Create a progress report for your brand. It is very easy to get so busy that you get off track and head in the wrong direction. Take a break from your photography for a few hours, and use that time to make sure your branding is where it needs to be. Ask yourself if your brand is running wild or if it is truly reaching your target market. Evaluate your work, customer service and day-to-day operations. During that evaluation, make sure you are providing something that truly sets you apart from your competitors.


To maintain longevity in the marketplace, a lot of photographers specialize in several genres. I’ve found success this way. This is a good way of making sure you nail your brand. When you look at a senior session and a child session I have shot, you will easily recognize my brand in each. Branding is instinctual. You should automatically be able to imbue all of your photography with a similar style that echoes your brand. To ensure your brand is working and growing with you, stay true to your ideas and follow your style and instincts.

Social Media

Social media has become an integral part of our daily lives. There are tons of photographers who use social media as a way to start, maintain and grow their business. There are arguments for and against keeping your personal life and business life completely separate online. I like to keep them together.

A glimpse into a photographer’s personal life is a window to her brand. I post studio images on my social media pages, but I also post selective images that show the bond with my family. I post images of things I do outside work. This allows clients and potential clients to see what I am like. All of those activities help build my brand in the customer’s eye. People argue that they do not want clients to know all of their personal information. If there are things you don’t want people to know about you, just don’t share that information. Social media is generally the first place people go to see any of your work, so let you brand be known there.

Gather Branding Tips

One of my most favorite things to do is to visit high-end retailers as a customer and just sit back and watch how they handle day-to-day operations. I was out of town a few weeks back, and, while checking out of my hotel, I got a branding idea. It was a high-end hotel that made its clients’ spending feel justified. Normally you are given a piece of paper under your door the night before with a list of charges. When I reached the counter, I was handed a leather folio with my receipt and a very nice pen inside. That was a great example of its brand really working for them.

The staff called me Mr. Phillips throughout my stay. That was a direct representation of the brand they have built. That little extra effort will have me talking about my experience with that company for a long while. I will also try to incorporate similar branding techniques that will give my customers the same emotions I felt at that hotel. Once you become brand-conscious, you will begin to evaluate every customer service experience you encounter.

Branding is involved in every business transaction. It is a type of silent partner that runs parallel with customer service. Customers are easy to reach, but it becomes more and more challenging to get them to come to your studio. This is partly due to there being more choices for consumers, as well as clients’ lifestyles becoming more stressed for time.

Rock-solid branding is an absolute must in order to find complete happiness through success. Great images alone are not going to be enough for the future. Continue to search for creative ways to establish a presence in consumers’ minds. Once you establish that presence, it is up to you to create a residence there.

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the November 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-Part Workflow With Lightroom CC Part 4: Advanced Editing with Dustin Lucas

November 1st, 2015



5-Part Workflow With Lightroom CC Part 4: Advanced Editing with Dustin Lucas


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the November 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 done with the monkey work and ready for the next steps before delivering files to your clients. Bring on the creativity. Lightroom CC offers quite a wide range of editing capabilities, as I have covered in previous articles. Now we are ready to see these in action. Let’s look at how to streamline your advanced editing at a proofing level.


Managing Files


At this point, we have 5-starred, selected and color corrected all 862 files. This is a great place to start organizing these files for further processing. If you are unfamiliar with managing files in Lightroom, please refer to my previous article, “5-Part Workflow With Lightroom CC Part 1: Storage & File Management.” With the Raw files organized and stored in Lightroom, we need to continue with file management for different types of edits. Keep in mind this workflow is for a single client catalog and not a master catalog.


Navigate to the Library module and begin to create subfolders in the Short Wedding folder. This moves the Raw files outside of Lightroom. (Image 1ab) I suggest leaving all the files in the RAW folder and using Lightroom to organize these files as we have before. Creating and moving folders in Lightroom is time-consuming and doesn’t create copies for you. Previously, we created Collections to manage the Original, Select, Black and White, Creative, etc., and I suggest staying with this workflow. (Image 2) It is so much faster and more efficient to work this way. Since we only have one Raw file saved and we want to make multiple types of edits to it, we need to create virtual copies.


Virtual copies are exactly what they sound like, and they do not save to your HDD. This is important to remember because they exist in Lightroom only as copies. You must export these copies like any other file to apply the adjustments and create a new image file.


They are easy to create. Select the files and hold CMD and the apostrophe key (’). (Image 3) Once the virtual copies are made, they are automatically selected and ready for you to drag them into the proper Collection. (Image 4) Another technique is to select the files, create a new Collection and check the options Include Selected Photos and Make New Virtual Copies. (Image 5) This is useful for custom Collections. Taking this a step further, I use color labels to designate what type of edit is to be applied. (Image 6)


Using Local Adjustments


Let’s now process the creative edits a step beyond basic color correction. This is where hotkeys and knowing how to navigate Lightroom becomes crucial to efficiency. Using local adjustments is great for cleaning up your creative edits. You can integrate these into the color-corrected files, but you have to think of these files as proofs, not prints. This is how you add value to the other edits and make it worth the time you spend processing them.


Before getting into the different brush types, we need to get familiar with the preset effects. Select the adjustment brush to get to these effects presets. Default single-adjustment effects are listed in the upper section, and the multi-adjustment effects are below. (Image 7) You can create and save custom presets. I suggest starting with the default ones and building from there. I have made a custom dodge/burn and a skin-softening effect. To do this, select a current default effect and add some adjustments to it. (Image 8ab) For burn, I added some contrast, dropped highlights, and dropped the clarity and saturation. Drop down the Effects menu and select Save Current Settings as New Preset. (Image 9) Name the preset by the area affected first, then the effect—i.e., “skin soften, teeth whiten, etc.” This organizes things and makes selecting the appropriate brush much easier.

Select a file and strike the “K” key. This activates the most versatile tool, the adjustment brush. From here, click and drag your cursor over the area you want to treat. A newer feature that Lightroom added is Auto Mask. This works well in high-contrast areas where neighboring colors have distinct edges that separate the two. (Image 10) To activate this feature, strike the “A” key. You can remove the effect or mask by holding down Alt + Option and clicking the unwanted areas. (Image 11)


You can view the mask by either scrolling over the edit pin or checking the box labeled Show Selected Mask Overlay. (Image 12) Decreasing the brush size is easily done by repeatedly striking the “[” key or increasing it with the “]” key. After you’ve painted the mask, hold Option and click the Edit pin. Drag to the left to lessen the effect, stay at the center to keep the same preset settings, and scroll to the right to increase it. (Image 13) You can do this with all the local adjustment tools as well. The adjustment brush is great for custom masking your dodge/burn and skin smoothing effects. Move into Photoshop when you need more extensive work done.


The radial filter can be very powerful when you want to lead your viewer to the subject. Activate this tool by holding Shift + M. The best strategy for this tool is to click in the center of your subject and drag the oval/circle outward. (Image 14) Hold Option while dragging to achieve a perfect circle. (Image 15) This tool allows you to custom-mask in the effect as well. Hold Shift + T to toggle the standard brush, and then hold Option to toggle the Erase Mask feature. I like to use this for burning down everything but the subject. This works well with close-up shots with high contrast. Another quick way to utilize this tool is to draw your oval in a small area and invert the mask by striking the apostrophe (‘) key. This leaves an image underexposed and brightened specifically for the subject. (Image 16)


Next, the Graduated Filter effect is another great tool for those who use the rule of thirds a lot. Strike the “M” key, click on the opposite side of your subject and drag the edge of the mask just past them. As you drag the cursor, the effect begins where you first click, and feathers the mask to the opposite side. (Image 17) If you would like to adjust the width on both sides, just hold the Option key and drag the cursor. This tool has the same capabilities to custom-mask out the unwanted areas as the radial filter. I like to use this tool for darkening two-thirds of the image where the couple is off to the side. Also, this effect is great for burning down a sky. (Image 18)


Spot Removal


Lightroom has made quite a lot of improvements to the accuracy of this tool. Strike the “Q” key, which brings up the Spot Removal tool. There are two types: clone and heal. If you are familiar with these from Photoshop, they work very similarly. Cloning replaces the areas selected with a copy of another area. Healing samples the area around the selection and renders an approximate representation. Toggle between these by holding Shift + T. Begin by selecting an area you want to remove; a blemish or pimple is a great place to start. (Image 19)


Lightroom auto-samples from a similarly colored and toned area in the image. You can adjust the sample area by dragging the other circle. (Image 20)


Cropping and Straightening


This is a very subjective adjustment at a proofing level. It is a very intuitive tool in Lightroom. Striking the “R” key applies the cropped grid to your image. I usually keep the image locked to the original aspect ratio until I bring the image into Photoshop. (Image 21) From here, I can straighten the image by holding the CMD key and drawing a line on a vertical or horizontal axis. (Image 22) Auto-straighten to the rescue. I wish they had created a Quick Develop option for this instead for batching. By selecting Constrain to Image, an image that is cropped remains within its borders. This is a great option to have selected when using automated adjustments. What I like about Lightroom’s nondestructive functionality is that you can always reset this crop and get those pixels back when you need to print large. In Photoshop, you have to save out multiple versions, and then it gets messy organizing the files.




Lightroom offers vast capabilities to your editing style. I’ll cover the other adjustment tools in the final article, “5-Part Workflow With Lightroom CC Part 5: Output & Archive Strategies.”


At this point in the process, we are ready for online viewing and/or a live preview with the client. I am comfortable showing these images to my client. I will work a few images extensively in Photoshop for that wow factor as well. Nothing better than having a canvas print ready as a surprise for the newlyweds. Usually a great sale.


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the November 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 Assistant’s Manual: The Pursuit of Excellence with Alissa Zimmerman

November 1st, 2015



The Assistant’s Manual: The Pursuit of Excellence with Alissa Zimmerman


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


We all go through multiple phases in our lives in the pursuit of finding ourselves and becoming the person we were meant to be. For many, that pursuit comes in multiple phases and continued personal growth over the course of their life. The person you think you were meant to be when you were 18 is not the same person you thought you were meant to be at 25. This evolution in self-value is what I consider the pursuit of excellence—personal excellence, that is.


I recently celebrated my fourth year as a member of Team Cincotta. I looked back over the course of those four years to see the person I have become—someone I never would have imagined existed just four short years ago. Sal has groomed me into a leader, a fighter, a competitor, a savvy businessperson. More importantly, I have pushed myself to be all of these things just as much as he has pushed me, because I never want to lose this incredible opportunity I’ve been given—and while I may not be an owner of my own company, this article should resonate with many of you as business owners and entrepreneurs.


I read an Inc. article on our flight home from China called “Top 10 Qualities of Highly Successful People,” by Lolly Daskal. It got me thinking about the qualities I see in Sal and the ones I strive for in myself. The article talks about qualities that benefit those around you, but my biggest takeaway was the fact that the majority of the top qualities were those that focused more on the self. As Daskal writes, “If you live your life as most people do, you will get what most people get. If you settle, you will get a settled life. If you give yourself your best, every day, your best will give back to you.” I couldn’t agree more.


Trusting Yourself


As I sat thinking about the article, I realized that so much of what I have accomplished over the past four years has to do with learning to live and let go, to trust myself and my instincts and let go of fears and insecurities—all things that were stopping me from growing as a person and in my role in this company.


Learning to trust yourself is huge. There was a point in my life when I let fear dictate my every decision. Which, of course, got me nowhere. I had big dreams, and even bigger disappointments when I couldn’t find a way to avoid the fear of challenges or failures. It’s always easier to give up and blame someone or something for not allowing you to accomplish your goals. It takes a strong person, however, to channel those fears into productive behaviors that motivate you to succeed—to look at your challenges and potential failures as opportunities to kick ass and take names. That was one of the biggest mind shifts I had to go through to get me to where I am today.


People: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly


Surrounding yourself with the right people in the pursuit of excellence is another crucial piece of the puzzle. We’ve all been there before: You grow up with a certain group of friends, then separate when you go off to college. Then the friends you make in college soon go in their own directions as well. Life is all about experiencing new things and meeting new people. That doesn’t mean these people have to remain a key factor in your life forever. Sometimes the best way to move forward and accomplish your goals is to let go of cancerous relationships—the ones that hold you back from being the best version of yourself. It’s a tough idea to process for many, to just weed through friends. Yet, it is one of the most freeing feelings to not have the weight of haters in your life. At this point in our lives, a true friend is someone who believes in you—supports you, regardless of how insane your ideas or goals may be.


Not only do you need to filter out the negative people in your life, but this is also the time to start surrounding yourself with like-minded people—individuals who have the same or similar passions, who want to see you accomplish great things. The people who understand that starting a business takes a lot of time and attention, and don’t get butt-hurt if you can’t chat on the phone every night or go out drinking every weekend.


Suck It Up


Working for a New Yorker has been one of the most impactful experiences in my growth. For someone who started out as a people-pleaser, being around this blunt, sarcastic, honest and usually pretty harsh personality has given me incredibly thick skin. Life is too short to beat around the bush, especially with people you truly care about—this goes back to my point about surrounding yourself with the right people. I have never once thought Sal’s blunt honesty was about putting me down or belittling me. Instead, I see it for what it is: honesty that will push me in the right direction of bettering myself and growing into the employee he needs.


With that thick skin also comes a sense of pride in yourself and your work. I have learned to never accept no for an answer—that results come from being persistent and confident in what you bring to the table. Again, life is too short to waste time with niceties. You want something? Go get it. Someone tells you it can’t be done? Prove them wrong.


The pursuit of excellence starts with yourself. Once you learn to understand and trust yourself, the rest falls into place. As a business owner or as an incredibly driven employee of a business owner, you should never stop pushing yourself and those around you in your own personal pursuits. Of course, it’s always easier to give up, to take the short cuts or the easy way out—but what’s fun about a life with no challenges?


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the November 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 Anatomy of a Strategically Search-Engine-Optimized Homepage with Justen Hong

November 1st, 2015



The Anatomy of a Strategically Search-Engine-Optimized Homepage with Justen Hong


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


Your homepage is the most important page of your site. It almost always has the most page authority, since the majority of inbound links typically link to the homepage. There is no formula to a perfectly search-engine-optimized homepage. There are a couple hundred or so ranking factors, so it’s hard to nail them all down. Even a mediocre website that has a ton of high-quality inbound links can rank very well. The design and content of a homepage can have a tremendous effect on how well a website ranks. Let’s dissect a sample homepage and the design choices I’ve made on it, strategically, to help boost its ranking.





You can’t see it in the screen shot, but the actual website will have a “sticky” header, meaning when you continue to scroll down the page, the header stays at the top of the screen. This allows users to always have access to the main navigation no matter how far down they go. This creates a good user experience, which is a ranking factor, and it makes moving around the site convenient for users. We also added the phone number in the header, making it easy for visitors to call from any page on the site. When users click on your phone number to make a call from a smartphone, search engines take note: It’s called Mobile Clicks to Call, and it can help with your local rankings.





I’ve recently been moving away from slideshows on the homepage because they tend to slow down load times (Google hates slow-loading sites). We’ve developed a high-performance slideshow that loads quickly, and we keep the slideshow image count down. In this sample, we are highlighting the studio’s four core markets with one signature image for each category, along with a button to drive them to the portfolio pages.


One huge mistake I constantly see is photographers keeping a large portion of their portfolio on their homepage, whether in a slideshow or a grid of some kind. By doing this, you are not incentivizing visitors to go any deeper into your site, especially the ones who are just there to look at photos. This can lead to an increased bounce rate (when a visitor looks at one page on your site and then leaves)—or, worse yet, pogo stick (when a visitor looks at one page on your site and then bounces back to his original search). Both can negatively impact your ranking. The best homepages lure visitors into other sections of the site, easily guiding them to the information they want.



Main Content


Down from the slideshow is the main content area. We have this section broken down into tabs. The welcome section will contain the <h1> html tag. The <h1>, also called the “header one” tag, is important when it comes to SEO. It should contain the main targeted search term that the web page is targeting. In this case, I would have it read something like: “Kansas City Wedding Photographer.” It is also important to have additional keywords sprinkled throughout the paragraph copy, but only where they make sense. Do not just add them to add them—and, most importantly, do not keyword-stuff the body copy. That could lead to a search engine penalty.


Shown in the screenshot is the Weddings tab. Weddings & Engagements is another header. We also have a link to learn more, and an important call-to-action button to Secure a Wedding date. It is important to have call-to-actions throughout the site where they make sense.


Next we have a testimonials section. This is here for two reasons: to add credibility and because it’s a good place to add additional keywords. Studies have shown that when websites have testimonials, people tend to trust them more, even if they don’t know the person. We also have an outbound link going to The Knot where users can read more testimonials. Keep in mind that anytime you have an exterior link on your website, it should open in a new window. You don’t want to lose your visitors.


This section is also a great place to have additional natural keywords. In the sample testimonial, the word wedding is used multiple times, along with photographers, photographs and videography. It is important to have your targeted keywords and related keywords throughout your site in natural occurrences. Always avoid keyword stuffing.


Second to last is the “Latest From Our Blog” section. We’ve added this to keep the homepage fresh. Anytime our client adds a new blog post, it is automatically fed into the homepage with an eye-catching featured image. Adding fresh content to your website on a regular basis can help with ranking and bring Google’s spiders back more often. That is why it is so important to blog and keep your portfolio current. You don’t want your site to get stale. Freshness is a ranking factor.


Finally, we have the footer. In the sample footer, there is a “2013-2015 The Knot Best of Weddings” logo, which adds additional credibility to the site. Next we have the NAP (name, address, phone number), along with additional contact info. This is extremely important to have on every page of your site. Google looks for a NAP on every page, and uses it as a ranking factor, especially for local searches.


Use a local phone number rather than an 800 number. Google prefers a local phone number for local searches. To the far right is the copyright, along with links to an HTML site map and a privacy policy. The HTML list site map provides links to every page of your site. If you have a WordPress website, there are multiple plugins for adding HTML site maps.


One last thing: It’s important to have a privacy policy accessible from every page, especially any page where you are collecting personal data. Google looks for these.


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the November 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 to Sell, Shoot and Edit Your First Video Project with Joe Switzer

November 1st, 2015



How to Sell, Shoot and Edit Your First Video Project with Joe Switzer


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the November 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 hardest video to sell, shoot and edit is the first one. Many of you have thought about video for years. You understand composition and lighting, and have mastered the art of photography, but you’ve never started your first video project. Today we discuss the key ways to get your video company up and running by starting and finishing your first video production. This isn’t easy. It takes dedication, but if you give it a chance and complete this one video project, chances are you will be a filmmaker for life. I’ve broken it down into three fundamental parts. Let’s start with the sales process, which I have found to be a weakness for most first-timers.




It’s hard to sell your first project when you have no previous work to show. But it’s no different from your first photo session. You probably did your first session for a small fee or even free. So my advice is simple: Just give it away. No matter how qualified you are behind the camera, if you can’t sell yourself or have nothing to show potential clients, then you won’t be a success.


Find something or someone you adore, and put all of you passion and energy into doing the first project for free. Maybe it’s a charity, friends who are getting married or a small company you’re obsessed with. Your first sale will be memorable and influence future clients. Keep an open mind, and don’t be so picky if it’s not exactly a dream project.


The first sale that started Switzerfilm was for $150. It was a wedding highlight put to VHS. The sale came from a wedding photographer who recommended us and told their client that we were just getting into the business.


Weddings are a fabulous way to get started with video. The quickest solution might be to start working with a photographer in your area. Or, if you’re already a photographer, this is a simple add-on you can offer to all your current clients. Once you have this first video to show as a sample, you will start booking future film projects.




What do you need for this first video project? A misconception is that you need three professional 4K cameras, monopods, tripods, sliders/tracks, a handheld stabilizer, drone, audio tools, lighting and a bag of a dozen lenses. Eventually you might have all of that equipment, but you can start with something as simple as a monopod and an iPhone in a worst-case situation.


Most of you at least have a camera, a few lenses, and a monopod or tripod. That is all you need to get started and capture amazing shots. To get off to a great start, use a camera, monopod and track. The Sirui P-324S Carbon Fiber Photo/Video Monopod is a great choice. You can find a decent slider on eBay for less than $100. If you have a larger budget and want the best, get the Rhino 24″ carbon slider for $500.


To make your filming experience easier, it’s best to have the same fluid video head on both your track and monopod. This allows you to take your camera off quickly and connect to your slider and monopod in just a few seconds. Reread and highlight those last two sentences. This can break you and ruin your filming workflow. We use the Manfrotto MVH500 AH video heads.


First, you must realize that time is against you with video. Take extra time. You’ll also be exerting more physical energy to get your shots. Many of you who are shooting photography take for granted how easy it is because you’re using the handheld technique, grabbing all sorts of different angles with your AF mode on. Handheld and autofocus do you no good if you want a professional video look. This is a big obstacle to overcome for photographers, but with a little practice, it will become second nature. You’ll be able to use your video tools quickly, and rarely miss a moment with manual focus.


You don’t just want to show up and start filming at the ceremony. If you are one of those photographers who works by the hour, you will need to reconsider your hours for video production. You’re going to need all the time in the world. Even though we’re not capturing more than a few hours of video footage all day long to make a two- to three-minute video, we spend most of our time positioning ourselves for the candid, in-between moments, and of course getting all those angles and establishing shots: wide, close-ups and time-lapses. You don’t know what shots will make the final video, so it’s essential to keep moving and positioning yourself for success.


Doing this all day long is exhausting because you’re starting in the morning before the bride or groom gets ready, and you don’t stop until about halfway through the reception. When you get to your edit, you’ll be thankful for all the variety and extra footage to work with.




After you sell and film your first video production, the final step is the edit. Before you learn anything about editing, I want you to think about this analogy. Remember your last lavish family dinner? A dinner where you plan, prepare and enjoy each other and all the home-cooked food? You end up having a pile of dishes that need to be washed. You could wash them right away or you could let them soak. If you let them sit and soak, you might forget about them until the next day. You might be running late, so you might not get to them until the following evening. Maybe you’re too tired, you had a long day at work, so you put it off again. Get the point?


It’s best to start your edit right after the shoot, while it’s still fresh in your mind. You’ll finish it much more quickly because you just experienced the production behind the lens, so you can easily visualize the amazing moments of the day. Don’t let those dishes soak!


What software should you use to edit? Another misconception is that you’re going to need to spend thousands of dollars to buy a Mac and Final Cut Pro. If you’re on a Mac, iMovie is a great way to get started. If you’re on a PC, use anything free; Windows Movie Maker, Sony Vegas and Adobe all do a great job. Most of you are on the Adobe cloud program, so it might be easiest to use Adobe Premiere Pro. You just want to do basic editing, so you won’t need anything fancy for your first productions. If you have a budget and want to purchase something for the long term, we use an Apple MacBook Pro running Final Cut Pro.


What should the edit look like? The overwhelming majority of creatives who want to get into the video industry make this so complicated on themselves. For some reason, they think they need to make a 20-minute video, tell a story, use audio, insert fancy transitions, text and graphics, and use color filters.


For your first edit (for all edits, actually), think simple. Switzerfilm wedding videos are two- to three-minute films put to music. That’s it. Roll the credits. We make music videos that don’t have text, graphics, transitions or audio.


We use SongFreedom to license all our music for all of our wedding and corporate productions. For our most recent edit, we used the American Authors tune “Best Day of My Life.” Look for music that is mainstream or indie, and nothing longer than four minutes. If you fall in love with a song that is over four minutes, shorten it. For your first edit, you probably won’t have enough amazing footage for a one-minute video, so keep your song choice short. Your goal is to make something that people can engage with and share. Nobody is going to share a 10- or 20-minute video, so don’t waste your time making it.


After you get your song, it’s time to place it in your editing software. Now how do you decide what video clips to put where? I usually like to use the approach of a good speaker. Orators tell you what they’re going to tell you, tell you, and then tell you what they told you. You can apply this same template to your first wedding edit. You want your video to start out with excitement and wonder by giving the audience a glimpse into what the video is all about. Maybe the wedding edit could start with a few shots of the reception, wedding and creative post-ceremony shots. If you have a three-minute song, the first 10 to 15 seconds is your chance to bring your audience in and let them know they don’t want to stop watching.


The rest of the video could be in order of the events, like wedding prep, ceremony, post-wedding shots and then reception. The ending needs to be that “wow” moment and recap of how amazing the day was. A common mistake of first-time editors is they use all the footage and have nothing good left for the memorable ending that inspires viewers to share and watch again. The actual video clips need to be short and unpredictable. Use a few one-second, three-second and half-second shots. Then, for the epic motion shots, you can get away with holding those for up to five seconds.


You want to keep viewers on their toes so they can’t predict the flow of the edit. For most of our edits, the bulk of video clips are around one to three seconds. Keep the shots as short as possible in all your editing.


You know enough people to find something exciting to film, so just do it. You can more than double you business with this new revenue stream, but the biggest reward is seeing the reaction of your clients watching their video for the first time. It gets a different reaction than a photo. The music and video is a combination that causes tears and thunderous applause like you’ve never seen or heard before.


Giving video a try might just change your business and your life.


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

Developing Your Personal Style with Lori Nordstrom

November 1st, 2015



Developing Your Personal Style with Lori Nordstrom


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


If you want to know the real secret to what matters most in business, just look in the mirror. That’s right, it’s you. When all things are equal, and in the competitive world we live in today, things almost always are, people buy you. 
—Jeb Blount, People Buy You


I often hear questions like these from photographers: How do I know when I have a style? How do I get people to recognize my work?


We all want to be known for something. We want our work to be recognized. Developing a recognizable style takes time, but it starts with simply diving into your own personality and who you are as a human being. You’ll know you have a style when you start seeing “you” show up in your photography, marketing, communication, your overall look. This style represents your brand, and your brand is what people think about when they think about you, or think about working with you.


In People Buy You, Jeb Blount reminds us that the real secret to what matters most in business is what we see in the mirror. In the competitive world we live in, most things in comparable businesses are equal. And when all things are equal, potential clients will choose a small business based on the personality of the person they will be working with. In a small service-related business like photography, this couldn’t be more true. Potential clients will choose to work with someone they know, like and trust, someone they connect with.


One of the first steps in developing your style, and in turn your brand, is to figure out who you are and what message you want to project to your marketplace.


Ask yourself these questions:


What are three to five words that describe my personality?

What are the values I want myself and my business to be known for?

What do I love to photograph?

What do people tell me I’m good at?

What am I passionate about?

What are my strengths?

What can I do differently that my target client has never seen?

What parts of my background will connect my target client to me?


Don’t try to be all things to all people. A niche market is not only a focused market, but a targetable market. As soon as you understand what your style is, you can go through the process of finding and developing your niche and defining exactly whom you want to work with—whom you want to attract to your business. Remember, even large vendors can’t meet all the needs of all the people. Successful businesses have identified a previously unmet need in their area—in other words, they have developed a niche market and are profiting by meeting needs that no one else is meeting.


Don’t worry that defining your style and niche could be limiting for you. It doesn’t mean you are barred from doing a variety of things as a photographer, but having a specialty will attract those clients you get the most joy out of working with. If you are trying to do it all, you just become a blur. Being a generalist sends no message at all. Specialists stand out.


We have to create an identity and niche for long-term business growth. Our clients are on information overload, and photographers are everywhere. All photographers can do a little bit of everything, so how are you going to stand out in the minds of your clients and potential clients? You must be very clear in your area of expertise. The majority of successful businesses succeed by following a narrow focus in their market, product, service, benefit, location, category and marketing methods.


“No one wants to work with a cookie-cutter,” said personal branding specialist Meg Guiseppi. Your clients need you to specialize in the exact thing that they need. They want to deal with an expert. You’ll be able to charge more for your expertise, and you are going to get opportunities to do the work you want to do. In short, define your niche and describe your uniqueness; be an expert, and you can achieve success.


Case Study of Two Children’s Portrait Photographers


Name: Nancy

Personality: “Outrageous, bold, life of the party, animated”

Values: “I want my clients to have a ton of fun during their sessions. I want kids to leave with happy faces and stories to tell. I want parents to remember the giggles and excitement every time they see their portraits.”

Passions: “Loving life, trying new things, making people happy, living every day to the fullest”


Nancy’s photography is colorful and saturated, and shows kids running and jumping. She is not into posing or telling kids to stay still. Nancy plays games and always has a fun surprise for kids to be photographed with and take home. Nancy loves to photograph kids at play, and her favorite locations are the park and playground.


Nancy’s logo is a fun font with bold colors. These colors are carried throughout her marketing; everything is bright and cherry. Phrases such as let’s playgiggle and laugh out loud are used throughout her website and printed pieces. When communicating with parents, Nancy tells them their children will have a great time, and to prepare them with that expectation. Nancy gives the parents specific cues, like, “Tell your kids that you’re going to meet a friend and have a great time together.” She makes it clear that she will let them be themselves and will capture all of those happy moments with her photographs. She helps parents understand her fun style by sharing testimonials from moms whose kids didn’t want to leave or who begged to have their picture taken again.


Name: Mary

Personality: “Soft-spoken, sweet, caring, loving, personal, insightful”

Values: “I want clients to know how much I care about them and their family. Family values are very important to me, and I believe that each stage of childhood should be captured beautifully and treasured. I want my clients to feel appreciated and to communicate to them through words and images how important their children and their family are.”

Passions: “Truly getting to know people, deep conversation, the smell of babies, long walks, quite moments, and alone or one-on-one time”


Mary photographs primarily in black and white. When she chooses color, the colors are soft and hazy. The eyes make the statement in the images—you seem to see right into the very soul of a child. Mothers trust her, and never hesitate to hand her their baby or allow her to leave her sight when photographing their child. When photographing families, she asks them to lean in, to whisper to each other or to think about all of the reasons they love one another.


Mary’s logo has soft colors and a scripted font. Her marketing talks about cherishing each moment, remembering the love and telling a story. Moms feel instantly comfortable around her. She uses testimonials from mothers who trusted her and felt nurtured after spending time with her.


As you can see, Nancy and Mary have two very different personalities, and neither is right or wrong. You may be drawn to one over the other based on your own personality (and so will potential clients), but you can see that each can be successful by drawing from her own uniqueness, by developing her own personal style. By being clear about who they are, they have learned to weave themselves into all aspects of their business.


When you clarify your own personality, strengths, values, uniqueness and passions, you’ll have a much clearer vision of whom you want to work with and how you’ll do business. Be true to your personality in all aspects of your business. Be thoughtful and deliberate in the language you use, the marketing you create and the experience that your client has working with you.


By basing your business around your uniqueness, you’ll not only develop your style and niche, but it will be easier for you to avoid the extreme burnout that businesspeople often experience, because you are always being true to who you are, and always doing what you love. There is only one you, so be all of you that you can be.


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

Building Your Brand & Portfolio Through Partnerships with Leonardo Volturo

November 1st, 2015



Building Your Brand & Portfolio Through Partnerships with Leonardo Volturo


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the November 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, I want to share a few stories and give you some tips on how we were able to create and leverage relationships to build our existing wedding portfolio, as well as build a new portfolio from scratch for our new studio. The end result was not simply ending up with new images, but getting our names out there in different markets and other types of photography—and cultivating vendor relationships.




Let’s dig into approaching a bridal salon. The goal is to build a relationship for referrals, display your work and gain the use of the shop’s dresses to build your portfolio.


A good starting point is to look back at your previous weddings and see where the brides got their dresses, and use those images as a way in. You can then show up with a 20×30 canvas featuring one of their brides for them to showcase. Shops love featuring their own real brides versus stock images from dress designers.


Before approaching shops, we asked ourselves, “How can we help them help us?” You can’t walk into any of these situations and simply ask for product or if you can leave your marketing info there. You need to make it more about them and show interest in their business and a willingness to do things to help them grow. Dale Carnegie said, “You can make more friends in two months by being interested in other people than in two years of trying to get people interested in you.”


So with that in mind, we quickly came up with ideas of things we could do for them that would be mutually beneficial. We set up a meeting with an owner and her two daughters, and presented some of our ideas. First, we let them give away a free engagement session with us to brides who spent a certain amount of money. That of course brings us brides and also encourages their brides to spend a little more with that added incentive.


Then we worked a cross promotion, and used them as one of our preferred vendors, offering our brides $100 off their purchase.


Next, we wanted to work in a way of gaining access to their dresses. We offered them canvas prints from our shoots to be hung in the store. This part can get expensive, depending on how big the shop is and how many images you want to put in there. It’s great exposure. We printed up 24×36 canvases and put them at the entrance, by the mirrors and in the dressing rooms.


Think about how many brides go into those dressing rooms and are now staring at your images with your watermark as they change in and out of dresses. That is great exposure for your brand. You’re building your portfolio, and you’re allowing the store to showcase its dresses on “real” brides rather than just stock imagery.


This shop also does prom dresses. Prom dresses equal junior and senior high girls. They’d been sending out marketing pieces several times a year to their list of high school girls. As we did for bridal, we offered to photograph some of their girls featuring several prom dresses they wanted to showcase. We were able to piggyback off of these shoots to create images for our portfolio and feature our images on their marketing pieces. All of which didn’t cost us anything but our time.


We then helped them put together a prom fashion show that we photographed. We used the fashion show to market ourselves with promotional postcards featuring the shoots we did of other girls.


This one simple relationship we were able to build landed us exposure and a relationship on multiple levels. It’s an integral piece of marketing and networking that you should be doing when you’re looking to build both your relationships and portfolio. We covered all of our bases stemming from one simple conversation and by being genuinely interested in someone else’s business and success.


The New Studio


Earlier this year, we moved from our old office/showroom space into a full-on studio with an infinity wall, sales area and office. Our expenses went up across the board for this larger space. We went in there with a plan for how to monetize the space to its fullest potential. We wanted to do headshots, fashion style shoots, creative portraits and more. To begin to monetize those other avenues, we needed a portfolio before we could even begin marketing.


Rewind back to April of this year. We were heading to Costa Rica for an engagement session, and the client’s hair and makeup artist, Rogelio Morales, was flying with us. We hadn’t met before. We hit it off right away and worked closely over several days on styling and planning our shoots. During that time, we’d discussed how Rogelio wanted to build his portfolio. So after the trip, we set up a meeting to see how we could start working together regularly. We planned portfolio-building shoots and concept shoots that were also used for Shutter articles. The opportunities and relationships began rolling in the more we collaborated and got to know one another.


A great opportunity for us to make a connection and build our portfolio came when Rogelio told us he was friends with a business owner who had a new makeup line, Brugal Makeup. The owner was about to launch her first store in a mall, and was in the process of rebranding. We collaborated with Rogelio and Brugal, deciding on looks based on the products they offered. We wanted to show the looks that could be achieved with their various palettes. We chose models and concepts, paired them with various looks and colors and even seasons. We teamed up with designer Lisu Vega to source wardrobe to complement those looks. Brugal needed promotional content, we wanted to build our portfolio and Rogelio wanted to build his. It was a win for everyone.


Following that, we were introduced to the pageant world. I needed a model for an upcoming Shutter article, and Rogelio mentioned that a friend of his was the head of a pageant and represented some girls. We were quickly scheduled to photograph Miss Cuba Queen of the Continents (my model for last month’s article). I got the shots I needed for my article, and they got the shots they needed. They were so happy with us and our work that they wanted us to photograph another one of their girls, Miss Teen Cuba, the model in this article.


What began as a simple shoot for trade turned into a future well-paying session, a new relationship and an entry into a brand-new realm for our business. In a short amount of time, our portfolio was growing exponentially and we were making money in our new space.


We began offering Rogelio as our in-house hair and makeup artist for engagement sessions and weddings. That’s given us the confidence of working with a proven stylist on a regular basis, while he gets a new income source.


All you need to do is be genuinely interested in others to snag so many opportunities and avenues out there, to make connections and build your business. Make everything a two-way street. Be willing to go that extra mile for someone else, and you will be repaid many times over.


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