Crush the Competition: 3 Ways to Get Ahead in Business

February 1st, 2017

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Crush the Competition: 3 Ways to Get Ahead in Business with Jeff Rojas

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As a business owner, you’re constantly battling the competition. In an ever-evolving market, it can be exhausting to keep up. This month, I show you how to crush the competition.

 

Remember: You are the competition. Everyone else is just a benchmark.

 

I went to my first hockey game recently with a friend and client, Mark, who was introducing me to the sport. He’s a tech entrepreneur I admire whose business has been vetted by all the biggest social platforms, along with major hitters in the entertainment industry. He and his two business partners are killing the tech game.

 

I digress. Mark starts discussing the dynamics of the sport and why certain players are so important to their team. He says that as a child, he loved playing hockey and that there was no better feeling than when you scored a goal and your team cheered for you. You were the rock star for that moment in time. The crowd didn’t matter. He turns to me and asks which position I’d play.

 

I sit for a few seconds thinking about it. “Who’s the best person on that ice right now?” I ask.

 

Mark points at a guy on the ice.

 

“I want to be better than that guy,” I say.

 

He asks me why.

 

“It wouldn’t matter if anyone else knew,” I answer, “but as long as I’m better than that guy, then I know I’m the best, and that makes me feel happy.” I believe everyone has one leading trait that guides them. I’m competitive. I’ve always been competitive. I’ll always be competitive. That’s who I am.

 

Here’s the thing about being the best: You have to be wise with whom you’re comparing your success against, because it could be hindering your progress. I say that because most artists are so focused on their specific market, they forget how big the world is. If you’re a goldfish in a fishbowl comparing yourself to other goldfish, you’ll be only as good as the best person in that bowl. If your goal is to be a shark, then you need to focus on how to swim with the sharks. That’s the simplest mindset to have.

 

If you’re training with the pros, chances are you are light-years ahead of local competition. Think about that the next time you’re hung up on your competitor’s next award or victory. Think bigger. Find better mentors. Hang around better people. Be better.

 

Here’s a personal example. Every week, I pull social media reports on the largest names in the photography industry. Without naming anyone, I’ll show you how I benchmark everything from my successes to my social stats against people I’m striving to reach.

 

Figure 1.2 shows my social stats in a single week against five industry leaders. While I’m still in sixth place in followers, my active growth and engagement is far greater than that of my competitors. Through that benchmarking process, I’ve learned how to craft my content in such a way that it resonates better than that of my peers, which has allowed my brand to outperform my competitors if we average our stats for audience versus engagement ratio. This is the methodology that can reach 1.2 million on Facebook this year, a million minutes watched on YouTube, etc.

 

Your brain’s perception of what you’re capable of is the only thing hindering you from what you want to accomplish. As the old saying goes, “Work until your idols become your rivals,” and once you’ve reached that step, find new idols.

 

Stop talking and start doing.

 

These days, it seems like everyone is either a “photographer” or an “entrepreneur.” The truth is, 99 percent of people who claim either are full of crap. We’ve all seen them, the relative with a camera who is a “photographer,” but really makes his money working in an office Monday through Friday. If that’s your gig, that’s great. I respect that you’re putting food on your family’s table, but you’re not a professional photographer unless you’re making your income from photography. Professional photographers make their living from photography, not accounting. In that same respect, you’re not an entrepreneur just because you’re working for yourself or because you’re trying to work for yourself.

 

“Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled.”
–Harvard Business School Professor Howard Stevenson

 

I always tell aspiring photography professionals that they need to be an entrepreneur first and an artist second. Photography isn’t easy, but learning how to adapt to an evolving market and client expectations becomes paramount when you’re trying to grow or start your business. Resources should not be a problem when you’re beginning a business. Any great businessperson can turn $1 into $1,000 if they’re resourceful. That’s the attitude I expect my peers to have.

 

This is why I appreciate action over talk. It’s great to have plans, but it’s always better to accomplish them. I’ve found that most people talk more about their dreams and aspirations than they actually spend trying to accomplish them, and it frustrates me. Why? Everyone is capable of grandeur if they’re willing to work for it.

 

Here’s the secret to accomplishing long-term plans: Dissect them into smaller, more manageable pieces.

 

I wrote two books last year. Anyone who’s written a book (or an article) can tell you that it’s just like high school. Most of us just sit there and stare at a blank screen if we don’t have ideas in front of us. The worst thing to do when you have a large project is to try to accomplish it all at once, which leads to procrastination. Dissect that project into smaller pieces.

 

When I’m writing a book or article, I write a working title and a brief description. From there, I break that content into three to five manageable sections and then break each of those into subsections. If you read my Photographing Women last year, you noticed the book is divided into three sections: Theory, Posing and Lighting. While it makes it easier for the audience to understand the content, it makes it easier for me to write because I’m able to break down the content by section and then feel like I’m getting things accomplished quickly.

 

People who get things done always outperform people who talk about it. As Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”

 

Remember that copycats can’t make the cut.

 

Worried about someone stealing your style or replicating your work? Get over it. After I published Photographing Men, some of my own peers tried emulating my lighting, retouching and posing, which flattered me. Why? Because it told me I was doing well, that I was onto the next best thing.

 

“They can imitate your style, but they can’t imitate your creativity”
–Sonya Teclai, TheGoodVibe.co

 

This is why I find it interesting that so many photographers spend the time trashing their competition for mimicking their lighting, styling or businesses. If you spent that time working and growing as a businessperson instead of complaining, you’d grow your business more quickly. Those five hours you spend each week writing emails and commenting on social media are much better spent on technique and business. Focus on what you can control.

 

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

Building Blocks: Great Seasonality Doesn’t Happen by Itself

February 1st, 2017

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Building Blocks: Great Seasonality Doesn’t Happen by Itself with Skip Cohen

 

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It’s February, one of the three times of year you don’t have to do much to attract customers. Love is in the air thanks to Hallmark, American Greetings, Godiva and the rose industry. The demand for photography under the love umbrella is stable and the need for engagement, wedding and boudoir images is high.

 

If you’re reading this and didn’t do much to promote your business in February, it’s too late, but there’s another round of great seasonality coming in the spring. Most of you will now turn your thoughts and energy toward Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and graduations starting in May.

 

But here’s the point I want to hit hardest this month: What about the times between holidays? The times when you’ve got to stand on your own without help from society? Most of you simply kick back and wait for the Seasonality Fairy to sprinkle business on your doorstep.

 

Nothing happens during all those other days of the year unless you get creative and aggressively go after the business. You’ve got to create your own seasonality.

 

Here are some ideas to get you out of your complacency. You have so much control if you make an effort and go after the business that’s out there.

 

Your Blog

 

There it is again, that four-letter word that haunts you. Build a stash of content so you can be sharing something fresh at least twice a week consistently.

 

Not sure what to write about? Think about the value of photographs. Remember, your target audience is Mom, and her kids are growing up way too fast. Share an image with lots of emotion and write about the value of stopping time for a memory. Share a few photo tips for better images. Share some great locations in your community for backgrounds. Share articles about things to do with images—from frames to slide shows, to some of the novelty items every lab offers.

 

Create Your Own Events

 

You don’t have to wait for Hallmark to put the word out. Create your own.

 

Children’s photographer Vicki Taufer has been doing it for years, and I’m stealing a few ideas from her playbook.

 

She sent me one of her holiday cards years ago whose impact I’ve never forgotten. It was a four-panel accordion style. On one of the panels was her calendar for the year. Remember, she’s one of the most talented children’s photographers in the industry, and knew she just needed to support Mom’s need to capture memories. First she created a product she called “Limited Edition Prints,” which she described as “very special portrait sessions offered by V Gallery. We photograph each themed session at certain times during the year, which makes them very exclusive. Our extensive investment in props and accessories makes these portraits one of a kind.”

 

Next, she created one theme after another with incredible “Mom Appeal.” Here are a few examples:

 

March

2nd – 12th: Children’s Formals and Shabby Chic

16th – 19th: Grandparents’ Special

23rd – 26th: Funny Faces Week

 

April

13th – 16th: Best Friends

20th – 30th: Baseball Dreams

 

May

4th – 7th: Little Flyers

11th – 21st: Once Upon a Time

25th – 28th: In the Garden

 

Before the new year even started, she built her own seasonality by creating opportunities for images that no mom could turn down, but that was only part of Vicki’s marketing.

 

Use a Few Adjectives

 

You’re artists, not writers, but think about how you describe your work. Are you selling an album or the “first heirloom of a new family”? Are you offering a print or creating “a tangible fine-art memory to share with future generations”?

 

Most of us rarely paid attention in English class, but here’s where it all pays off. Don’t just describe your products with all the excitement of a chemist in the lab. Let a little romance in. Spice things up. If you’re stuck because you hate to write and you cut most of those English classes, it’s time to go back to school.

 

Relax. Go to a local high school and find yourself a senior who loves to write, or, for that matter, an underpaid English teacher who’d like to work part time for you.

 

Seasonality in Every Specialty

 

Children’s photography might be one of the easiest to talk about, but there are opportunities in virtually every specialty. For example, in the pets arena, Vicki Taufer, in another moment of brilliance, did the original “Dog Days of Summer.”

 

She knew there was a correlation between pet owners and family, so she launched a program for a free 5×7 pet portrait to kick it off. This was cause-related marketing, with a requirement to make a food donation to an animal shelter. She had a few partners in the community to help promote the event.

 

When the day of free 5×7’s ended, Vicki and her staff had photographed 120 pets with 40 on the waiting list. It eventually established V Gallery as the number-one pet studio in the area.

 

Utilize Your Data Base

 

Before you start worrying about where to find new customers, what are you doing with your old ones? Let’s use wedding photographers as a perfect example.

 

After couples start families, there are endless opportunities for portraits. It’s not just the bride and groom any longer, but a constant stream of potential memory makers as the kids grow and the family dynamics keep changing. Mom and Dad are typically missing a little romance. Life, kids, responsibilities get in the way.

 

Here’s your chance to be a hero in your community.

 

On the family side, do a direct mail piece to all your past clients. It can be as simple as a personalized letter. Remind them of your skill set and let’s get you in there to help capture those memories of the family changing and the kids growing up. Before you roll your eyes and tell me you’re not a children’s photographer, if you don’t want to build out your skill set, then build a relationship with another photographer. Find an artist who specializes in children’s and family portraiture.

 

On the romance side, launch a program reminding Mom that’s it’s been too long since you did their engagement portrait. I love the concept of date night, and it’s so easy to make it fit into your business.

 

Date night starts with you reminding Mom, “When was the last time you and your husband got out for a night without the kids?” Next, go to work with a local restaurant and get a discounted gift certificate for a romantic dinner for two. The components of the package can also include a short portrait session loaded with the same fun you put into the couple’s original engagement session. It’s all included in one package price. They’ve got to get the sitter, but you’re there to capture another memory.

 

There’s so much more I could write about, but here’s the bottom line. You don’t have to wait for society to give you reasons to capture images. Building a business doesn’t happen by accident; it’s the result of planning and an incredible series of efforts all built on your passion for being the best.

 

If you’re stuck, email me. Most of you know how much I love this stuff. Sometimes the biggest challenge is being too close to your own business.

 

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

Hacking Lightroom for Faster, Better In-Person Sales

February 1st, 2017

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Hacking Lightroom for Faster, Better In-Person Sales with Phillip Blume

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It was our moment of truth. We felt like we were stepping off a ledge, with only the smallest hope that the fall might wake us from our nightmare.

 

It had been a year since my wife, Eileen, and I had realized “the dream,” going full-time as wedding photographers. To the outside world, Blume Photography looked like an instant success story. I suppose they were right; our culture tends to define “busy-ness” as success. But the dream had become a nightmare. We were slaves to a business that robbed our time from friends, personal endeavors and even our newborn baby girl. In exchange, we barely were making ends meet.

 

We never aspired to be more than a mom-and-pop studio. We were two lovers in love with shooting and sharing. Leave physical items out of it, we thought. Ours was the simplest business model with no strings attached, right? But there was a string. As bookings increased, the time demand began to tighten like a noose around our necks.

 

But we had to jump.

 

We are not salespeople. The idea of adding sales meetings to our already loaded workflow was, well, counterintuitive. If this business model failed, we would hit rock bottom. Instead, we soared. Today, artwork sales account for almost 70 percent of Blume Photography’s profit.

 

If I could help you tame the sales monster using software you already own, what would it mean for you? Tripling your current salary? Profiting more from images you’re already creating? In line with our principles, we still reject high-pressure sales tactics. So how does it all work?

 

We do it all in Lightroom. Just like the philosophy our ComeUnity Workshop students learn to apply in every area of business, we focus on simplicity: maximize your impact, but minimize excess tools and effort. Yes, we’re familiar with the shiny features that specialized sales software boasts. Yet we see no reason to pour our time or money into them. Here is how we hack Lightroom to make our sales sessions soar.

 

Folders vs. Collections

 

Lightroom is first and foremost a tool for organizing photos. This makes it perfect for sales. If used correctly, you’ll never risk misplacing or misinterpreting an order. Plus, your images already live in Lightroom, so there’s no more exporting, importing and transferring to new software—adding hours to your workflow.

 

First, always remember that the Folders menu (in your left-side toolbar) is a literal representation of the folders you have organized elsewhere on your computer. If you Add a Folder in this section, you are creating a real folder somewhere else on your computer or external hard drive. Our Folders section is organized first by year, with folders labeled “2016,” “2017,” etc. Beneath each year, we add subfolders for genres like weddings, families, seniors and newborns. Inside each genre subfolder, we add a new subfolder for every shoot, like “John & Jane” under the “weddings” subfolder for 2017. You get the idea.

 

“Collections” is where you’ll run your sales sessions. Keep in mind that Collections are just virtual groupings of whatever photos you put in them. They don’t show up anywhere else on your computer, just in Lightroom. To begin, click the “+” icon and Create a Collection Set called, for example, “2017.” Since we perform a sales session for almost every shoot, we essentially mimic our Folder structure here in Collections, making everything familiar and easy to find. However, whereas we had “John & Jane” inside our 2017 > Weddings folder above, here in Collections we have “John & Jane Premiere” instead. So what’s different about this Collection?

 

In the subfolder “John & Jane,” we have all our photos from their wedding (the good, the bad and the ugly). There, using the “P” key to flag favorites, we select our top 800 or fewer photos to show the client. We now filter to view only our flagged images. You could personally edit your images at this point. But we instead highlight them all, then File > Export as Catalogue… allows us to send only the Lightroom Smart Previews to Evolve Edits. Unlike the era of “overnight uploads” or snail-mailing hard drives to our editor, the Smart Previews are uploaded in just a few minutes. While we wait, we send our client an email to schedule their sales session, or what we’ve dubbed a “Premiere.” Evolve returns the edited images, and we simply “apply” those edits to the folder before the meeting.

 

Now we drag only our 800 select edited images to “John & Jane Premiere” in Collections. See where this is going? I don’t want John or Jane ever to see or think about the images we scrapped. Part of my job as an artist is to curate my own work; everything I touch isn’t gold—in fact, a lot of it is a work in progress or just plain bad.

 

Inside the “John & Jane Premiere” Collection now, I can remove all ratings (flags, stars, etc.) without mixing good images back together with unselected images. I’ll need this clean slate so the clients can then use Lightroom’s rating system for their own selections.

 

Set the Ground Rules

 

After getting our clients excited about their images with a brief Animoto slideshow (about 70 images), we go through every image with them. All 800. This is where setting ground rules is crucial. Allowing your clients to choose the images for their family books or wedding albums is a powerful strategy that allows them to sell to themselves. Now you won’t have to be a pushy salesperson, because most clients will realize they need to purchase a book or extra album pages to fit (no, better yet, “preserve and display”) all the images they’ve just fallen in love with.

 

But you don’t want a sales session to drag on too long. If you leave the ground rules too open-ended, your most budget-minded clients will want to review their images again and again in an attempt to narrow it down further. It’s a painful process for you, but even more painful for them as they unhappily axe images they’d hoped to see in their album. They’ll walk away from the sales session exhausted, disappointed and with a bad taste in their mouth.

 

Here’s what we say to set expectations and ensure they leave smiling: “I’m so glad you loved your slideshow. To give you an idea, those images were less than 10 percent of all the images we’re about to look through together to select your favorites.” (Your clients’ expressions will reveal excitement and shock.) “Yeah—it’s a lot. But here’s how we’ll make it as easy and helpful as possible. We will do just two run-throughs of all your images.”

 

First Phase

 

“You see that film strip of images at the bottom of the screen?” I say. I refer them to the row of all images viewable below the main preview image in their Lightroom Collection (viewed in Preview mode). I keep control using a wireless keyboard; my clients direct me audibly.

 

“For the first run-through,” I explain, “I’ll literally click through that whole row of images, from the first to the last. But I’ll move pretty quickly and mercilessly. We won’t go back to look at any past image again, and we won’t compare any similar images side-by-side. First, I just want you to see every image. If you like an image at all—in fact, as long as you don’t dislike it—just react to it or say yes, and I will mark it with two stars. If you don’t tell me, I won’t mark it and it will disappear forever. So if you think you might want to see it again later, paint with a broad brush.” The important strategy here is to have your client choose positively, focused on images they like rather than critiquing images they don’t. After phase one, filter to view only their two-starred selections.

 

Second Phase

 

“On the second run-through, I’ll bring up several images at a time,” I continue. I show them how Lightroom allows me to Command-click multiple images and view them together. Depending on the size of your monitor, you can bring up four, six or more images together, and view similar images side-by-side. (I prefer the speed and ease of this method over Lightroom’s Compare Mode, which we never use during sales sessions.)

 

On this run-through, clients can tell me how they feel about any image on screen: “Think about images for your book,” I say. “If you want to save an image, let me know.” To save the images they like on the screen, I simply Command-click it again; it drops out of sight, but retains its two-star rating. “Or if you can live without a photo and want to get rid of it, let me know, and I can remove it as well.” If this is their request, I click the image with my mouse and hit 1 star. It disappears due to the lower rating but still has one star, which is helpful if they regret narrowing an image and want to find it again quickly. We never want to be “salesmen,” or make a client feel bad about narrowing an image; in fact, we congratulate them occasionally: “Well done. I know it isn’t easy narrowing down, but you’re doing a great job getting it to the real cream of the crop.”

 

The Close

 

At the end of phase two, we make clear we’re there to serve without overselling. I won’t even mention the highest-priced Package A if it doesn’t suit their image selections. Our instructions are simple and clear: “After two full run-throughs, we have a really accurate idea how many favorites you have.” Then I use a phrase that helps prevent requests for further run-throughs: “Having some extra images is great, too, because it gives us flexibility to design your book aesthetically.”

 

Referring to our bundled and discounted art packages, which are available only during sales sessions, we explain: “You have 100 favorite images. So you can fit almost all your favorite images into the book provided in Package B. Or Package C could work as well; we wouldn’t be able to use all your favorites, but we could fit a lot of them and still tell your whole story beautifully without too many gaps.” See? All the options on the table are good ones.

 

Create Your Code (and Know Your Shortcuts)

 

Labeling images for various uses takes up the most time during a sales session. Decide on a clear and consistent code for how to label images for production, whether they will become prints, canvases or other products. For example, beyond the two-star system, we use Lightroom’s full range of ratings features to label which artwork items we’re producing for different images, then place those orders.

 

To learn more of Phillip & Eileen’s simplified strategies for photographers (business and shooting), go to www.blumephotography.com/photographers and download a free gift. We also have new live educational videos coming all this month.

 

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

The Emotion of Sales and Marketing

February 1st, 2017

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The Emotion of Sales and Marketing with Melanie Anderson

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

 

This month, I share several vital areas of my business that enable me to communicate clearly with my clients, ensuring that I am maximizing my time, shooting with intention, and creating products and a workflow that put the focus on the client experience. Efficiency is key. You must have a system in place that puts you in front of clients and creates an emotional experience. Below are four ideas that can help you connect with clients, from the initial contact to in-person sales.

 

Connecting With Clients: Responding to Emails and Social Media Requests

 

When a prospective client contacts me, I always respond this way: “Thank you so much for your interest. What is your phone number? We will contact you with details.” I do not respond with pricing or have a conversation via email. I need to make a personal connection with my clients. I need to sell them on the experience. I cannot stress this enough. We are a high-end elite studio, and we must preserve this reputation through the experience, conversation and how we educate our clients to “see the difference.”

 

I always ask, “How did you hear about our studio?” I want a personal connection—did they hear of us from word of mouth or social media? Did they see our display at the mall, their doctor’s office or the hospital, or maybe the extreme team or senior banners hanging on the fields and in the gyms at high schools? This is vital because it tells me if my marketing efforts are working.

 

I want to find out the purpose of the shoot and any important details. I express excitement over their session and lead them toward booking by suggesting available dates and times. You should be able to secure most everyone who contacts you for a session. You have engaged them to a point that they want to have you capture this moment in time because they understand the importance of preserving it with a pro. They feel comfortable, like they are in good hands, and will sacrifice in other areas to be able to afford your services.

 

A client preparing for a session is stressed out. It requires a lot of prep work. Our job is to ease any anxiety they may have and create the best experience for the entire family. Make it easy to order, and provide beautiful products. I can do all of this over the phone. I do not need to schedule preconsultations, which means I can spend that time growing my business via networking or taking on more sessions.

 

I pride myself on being personable and easy to engage. This personality strength comes out when I photograph. I am better able to capture emotion and expression. I get the “real” smile, which is accompanied by the smile in the eyes. I do not overshoot. You must be intentional with your time and your client’s time—before the client knows it, I’m finished with the shot and we’re moving on to the next location, outfit or pose. This keeps the client from feeling defeated.

 

You have to be able to work fast. Clients are already self-conscious about what they are wearing, how they look and every flaw they see; if you take too long to grab a shot or take too many shots, they see the lack of confidence in you, and that emotion rubs off on them. They no longer feel so good about their appearance, and this shows in the photos. Lift your clients up. Make them feel beautiful so that beauty comes out in their photos, thus creating an emotional connection and driving sales.

 

Clients want photos that make them feel good about themselves. You must understand posing, lighting and lens selection so you can move swiftly through a session. If you find that a certain pose and location are not working, move on, don’t force it. Perfect a system that lets you engage with your clients while you’re shooting. Your camera and vision are an extension of you, not a barrier. Allow the equipment to do the work. Know ISO, aperture and shutter speed so that you are not using up valuable time on technique. You must be able to do this in any environment at any time.

 

Intentional Conversation

 

Prior to the session, I ask a few questions. I want to understand the purpose of the session. Do they have specific needs for their home or family members? I need to know if my client understands the value of wall portraits—if not, I educate them and ensure that this investment is worth every penny.

 

Family dynamics change, and photography has a way of stopping time and allowing us to relive moments in time. We must convey the emotion of this from the beginning. I want to understand the family as well: Will I have a challenge with one of the children? Are all who are present willing participants? I discuss a few collection options while I’m photographing. I mention how beautiful a certain image just captured would look on a canvas. I discuss collage options, and explain these are part of one of our portrait collections that I will show them in the sales room after our session. I want my clients to be visualizing the final product in their home during the session. This creates an emotional attachment to images and ensures that even my favorites are purchased and created in sizes that are intended to showcase my work—not only in their homes, but on the social media pages of friends and family.

 

After the portrait session, I tell clients that we are going to schedule a sales session and to plan to be here for about an hour. I remind them that I do all of my sales in person, that anyone involved in purchasing decisions needs to be here and that they will be making their purchasing decisions the day of the sales session. I tell them their photos will not be pre-edited. I will crop the images and switch a few to black and white if appropriate, but the images will not be edited.

 

You should not need to pre-edit. You should be able to upload quickly to your sales software and provide a sales session within minutes. I can have a sales session ready within 10 minutes for clients who are coming in from out of town or grandparents who are visiting. It is not always convenient for them to come back to the studio. I must be able to adjust and schedule these as needed. You should be either behind your camera or out networking, not behind your computer pre-editing images that your clients are not buying. You must create an efficient workflow in order to maximize profit.

 

In-Person Sales

 

Sales should always be done in person. I can control the environment. I can educate clients on layout and sizes while adding emotion to the sale. We are the experts. We need to project the vision of what will look best in their home. I have product samples laid out on a table, including announcements and mounted prints. On the wall are the framed and canvas collection options.

 

I always have an idea about the client’s budget going into the sales session, which I gathered from previous conversations. So I know whether to pitch them wall art, creative pieces or gift prints.

 

Emotion leads photography sales. In order to meet and exceed your sales goals, you must engage your clients on an emotional level. The products that trigger an emotional response include canvas wall art, signature albums, brag books and our extreme metal pieces.

 

Since my studio is high-end, I am not the photographer for everyone. There is a price that comes with exclusivity. I have to involve the client emotionally, shoot with intention and provide quality products and a personal experience. When I project the slide presentation of the family, senior or newborn on the wall with music, the emotional connection is made. When clients see their portraits larger than life, they know the investment is a good one.

 

 

Action Plans

 

* Head to Anderson-Education.com for a list of products and companies I love, plus discount codes. These items can help your efficiency, client workflow and sales.

* Add the following verbiage to your communication:

“How did you hear about our studio?”

“What is the purpose of the session?”

“What do you plan to do with the images? Where will you hang them?”

* Switch to in-person sales if you are not already providing that service.

 

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

Workflow Tips From A to Z

February 1st, 2017

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Workflow Tips From A to Z with Michael Anthony

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

 

Running a photography business is no easy task. While many people think our job consists of photographing our subjects and delivering products, any photographer with a successful business will tell you there is much more to it than that. In addition to all the business-related tasks, we are responsible for the safekeeping of our clients’ most treasured memories. For wedding and event photographers, our business and reputation is at stake with every job we upload.

It goes without saying that when handling millions of images a year, staying organized is no easy task. But it’s critical that you have a system in place to handle the influx of new images/video to your system.

As primarily a wedding photographer, I look forward to December about as much as I look forward to Tax Day or a visit to the dentist. We don’t have much revenue coming in, but we have lots of expenses: client album orders, holiday shopping, bridal show payments. It is also the time of year when we take advantage of the abundance of time by evaluating and tweaking our systems so we’re ready for next year’s workload. This year, we put an emphasis on production and workflow.

After photographing 100 weddings in 2016, our studio tested its resources and uncovered flaws that were critical to saving time and staying organized. Think about this: If an album order comes in and you need to track down images on drives from a year ago, that can significantly hamper your ability to deliver the client’s product on time, which can cause a major customer satisfaction issue for your business and a bad experience for your clients.

This was the type of problem we were running into consistently, and it was a major pain point in our business. I knew that something had to change immediately.

“It’s up to you to dictate your business’s rate of growth as best you can by understanding the key processes that need to be performed, the key objectives that need to be achieved, the key position you are aiming your business to hold in the marketplace,” writes Michael Gerber in The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It.

The part of that quote that stuck out for me was that you have to understand the key processes that need to be performed in order to accomplish the main objectives of your business. I wrote down every step of our workflow as part of a process manual for our studio.

The process manual allows me to assign tasks to members of my team. I don’t have to sit down and explain every aspect of a task. While it may seem redundant to write a process manual if you work alone, I can assure you that it’s not. Using tasks and workflows through 17Hats or other CRM software is great, but I highly recommend keeping a process manual for every aspect of your business.

Now that we understand the importance of processes in our business, let’s look at how we handle workflow in a high-volume studio. Our system has been designed to ensure ease of access and to secure data, and will work whether you are running a high-volume studio or a small boutique studio.

Data Backup: Rule of Twos

Digital technology has given photographers an incredible advantage. With those advantages also come risks, such as loss of data, but we can easily mitigate those risks. Storage media are inexpensive, but I cringe every time I hear a photographer say they lost a client’s images. There is no excuse for that these days. It happens to photographers who don’t follow a process of backup and redundancy, which is critical for any studio. You should always have at minimum two copies of your clients’ images, in separate locations. I call this the rule of twos. As you will see, our studio uses more than two in most cases.

Point of Capture

Many photographers do not understand that when your client’s images are on the card inside your camera, they are at their most vulnerable. There are many reasons for this. Most importantly, these are the first copies of the photos, making them the easiest to lose or become corrupted.

When the 5D Mark III first came out, we invested in it right away because it allowed dual card slots to simultaneously record Raw images at the point of capture. If you have not had a corrupted card yet, you eventually will.

Just this summer, I was photographing a wedding and came home to download images. I shot it with my 1DX Mark II recording Raw images to a CFAST card with a second Raw copy being recorded to a CF card.

When I got home and uploaded the images to my computer, I discovered that the images on the CFAST card had become corrupted. Had I been shooting on a camera that allows only a single card to be recorded, I would have lost those images, and potentially had a huge expense of data recovery which may not have recovered the corrupted images. Thankfully, we had a CF backup that allowed us to upload without a problem.

In addition, if you are shooting with two cards and you have to leave your camera for whatever reason, you should always bring one card with you. That way, if someone walks off with your camera, at least you still have the images.

Uploading

When you upload your images, you should copy them directly from the card onto a folder using Windows Explorer, Photo Mechanic or Finder on Mac. Do not use Lightroom to import images, which can cause problems.

It’s also crucial that you upload over a wired network, never wirelessly or over a NAS. Large amounts of data can become corrupted if there is a disruption in the network.

Upload directly to a fast drive, such as an internal SSD, using a USB 3.0 reader. Just a few years back, it would take hours to upload an entire wedding over USB 2.0; with CFAST technology in the 1DX Mark II, you can upload 3,000 Raw images in under six minutes, and all types of media upload significantly faster over USB 3.0.

Backing Up

You are a professional, clients will have no sympathy for you if you lose their images, including after you delivered their JPEGs. I know it can get expensive because you must buy two of everything, but it is essential that you follow the rule of twos and make sure you have a system in place should a catastrophe occur.

Our studio uses a Synology DS1815+ 32TB NAS server configured in RAID 5 as our primary storage device. That NAS syncs with a second identical DS1815+ at my home using Synology’s Cloud Sync technology. This allows me to work during the day, and go home and pick up right where I left off. I have access to all of my clients’ files at home and at the office. This gives me redundancy should one of my drives fail beyond repair. RAID 5 allows the NAS to use parity to rebuild itself if an internal drive fails, but I wouldn’t rely on any non-mirror RAID system by itself since there is not a 100 percent assurance that the array will be able to rebuild itself.

Once the images are backed up to our server, we back them up to a single 8TB HDD I keep at home. I keep this drive in my home because it’s my last line of defense against lost images, and it is safest there.

Lastly, have a cloud backup solution. While my office Internet doesn’t support the high speed necessary to back up Raw files, my home Internet does, so we use CrashPlan, which we point to my home server. This allows all our clients’ images to hit the cloud (in addition to ShootProof backups of final images). Remember, when it comes to backing up images, redundancy is key.

Let’s go through our full workflow step by step.

  1. Shoot the job to two separate cards. Immediately after the wedding, one set of cards goes into a memory card wallet, and one remains with the camera.
  2. Upload images to an internal SSD (working drive) and server; back up to an archive HDD.
  3. Cull and process images on an internal SSD using the following folder structure:
    1. 1-Raws
    2. 2-Masters (selected Raw files stay in this folder)
    3. 3-Web size (for blogging and social media)
    4. 4-Catalog (I export the Lightroom catalog here)
    5. 5-Proselect (I store the client’s Proselect album here)
  4. Once I complete folder 5, I upload the images to ShootProof.
  5. Transfer folders 2 through 5 to the server (it should already be there from your initial download).
  6. Remove the files from your working SSD after verifying transfer is complete.
  7. Later after the client’s in-person, we create two additional folders:
    1. 6-Print order
    2. 7-Album

It has taken us years to create a system that allows for easy access to clients’ images. We have also made sure that this workflow allows for quick editing using the working drive, along with redundancy protections.

We are always making modifications. As you start to find the pain points in production, you must be ready to find ways to fix those issues ASAP before they create customer service problems.

 

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

Bridal Show Brochures from Bay Photo

January 5th, 2017

It’s that time of year!! Bridal show season.

Are you ready? Are you ready to show your brides something that stands out? Sure, you are going to be in your booth, talking to them, meeting with them – but what are they leaving with? When they get home – how will they remember you from the other photographers? What is your leave-behind?

A flimsy piece of photocopy paper with your pricing on it?

Good luck!

And what about when you meet face to face? What are you giving them? Every business in the world understands this concept of a leave-behind. Why don’t you?

It’s inexpensive and sends the right message to your clients.

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF BAY PHOTO DISCOUNT

25% Off Press Printed Magazines – Promo Code: SAL25MAG – Expires January 15th.

Also – Check out our St Louis Wedding Photography brochures below.

Click to make them larger.

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Organize Your Photographic Chaos in Lightroom CC

January 1st, 2017

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Organize Your Photographic Chaos in Lightroom CC

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

 

Working in photography can be chaotic without a certain level of organization. Once the shoots are all over for the week and you are ready to start feeding your images into your computer system, you have to make the decision to be organized. Trust me, the struggle is real. I just want to plug in the card reader, copy the images to the computer, and start culling and editing. Having to worry about storage and backup is not a priority, right? Or it’s just too much of a hassle to deal with—your clients need their images like yesterday! Well, if you don’t have a solid plan and are beyond unorganized, those clients might not get these images because you either lost or accidentally deleted the only copy of them. Get out of your own way and design an easy plan for your files.

Lightroom is a great program for organization, and even a lot of post-production. So stop using Abobe Bridge. Are you still using Photoshop CS1 as well? Stay away from operating system file applications like File Explorer (PC) and Finder (Mac) to copy/move files or build folder trees to organize. Learn to love Lightroom—it’s your friend! By understanding some fundamental components of Lightroom, you will be able to create a plan that works for you.

Import Into Lightroom

Whether you just bought Lightroom and are opening it for the first time, or have used it in the past, we have to start with a catalog. Creating a master catalog is a great way to organize everything into one organized archival space. Let’s do that: Create a catalog and start from there. For current Lightroom users, you may have a file lingering in your Pictures user folder named Lightroom Catalog.lrcat already; if you do, copy that file to a new location and rename it. Name this file “Master Catalog” and open it.

Now we have an empty catalog with which to begin building our organizational plan for the thousands of files scattered across multiple hard drives and memory cards. Take a deep breath. There’s a lot to learn, but it’s simple to execute.

The easiest way to import images into Lightroom is to drag and drop the device or folder from your operating system’s file application, File Explorer or Finder, into the Lightroom Catalog. This quickly allows Lightroom to automatically locate those files. You can even add other folders to the import. By holding CTRL or CMD and clicking on folders under the File section listed in the Source panel on the left-hand side of the Import module, you can add content to import.

I recommend doing this for memory cards as well to enable the ability to import from multiple cards; if you have only one memory card, choose the card under the Devices section in the Source panel. Once the files are selected, we are ready to examine the types of import options available.

Copying Files

At the top of the Import module, we must choose type of import. These options include Copy and DNG, Copy, Move and Add (6). The Copy options are necessary when we need to pull data from one source and store to another.

Ingesting your memory cards is a perfect scenario. There’s a big decision to make: create a DNG or copy the Raw? I avoid creating DNGs because I want the proprietary camera Raw copied so I can work from it, which saves a step and makes my workflow more efficient. I could argue until I am blue in the face with the post-production gurus out there about DNG versus Raw. DNG files embed metadata rather than using a sidecar file like Raws do (called an XMP file). DNGs are recognizable in older versions of Adobe Camera Raw, whereas Raws are less flexible. Read up on it if you want to use DNGs—don’t just take my word for it.

Copying requires you to choose a location or destination for these files. In the right side panels, the Destination section automatically expands. Let the file organization begin! We can create a new subfolder, choose to organize by capture date folders or choose a preexisting folder on the destination source drive.

I have my storage drive setup for clients with a folder tree of Year < Type of Event < Client Name. I create subfolders as follows: Originals, Export and Working. I generally don’t veer from this folder tree organization. For personal work, it’s a whole other monster, partially because my wife and I import images of our son separately. Unless it’s a special event like his first Christmas or yearly progression, I organize by date in a subfolder called “Raw Originals.” We keep things simple for the tens of thousands of images we have so far.

Move is the next option in the Import module; this is available only for folders listed under the Files section of the Source panel. The Destination panel opens and requires you to choose a location for the file transfer. This option is useful when you have imported files to a temporary location on site at a shoot or if you are archiving files to another storage device. The options for the Destination panel are the same as Copy import.

Building Raw Previews

Add is the only option for simply adding files to your catalog without copying or moving them from the source. As you noticed, the Destination panel disappears and you are left with only the File Handling and Apply During Import panels. Under File Handling, you can choose to build Previews. Understanding how Lightroom renders previews for your files is important. Minimal is the best option for a quick import to begin editing; you will notice that each file you click on has to load in order to view or edit it. Zooming into an image can take even longer; we will get into that in a bit . The next option is Embedded and Sidecar, which work similarly to how Photo Mechanic works. These load quickly but do not render the previews good enough to even cull images seamlessly.

Standard previews are the way to go when you want to begin culling images in the fit-to-screen view within minutes of the files being imported. These load quite quickly and actually automatically generate when develop changes are made to your images. Remember that previews in Lightroom are generated based on settings in Lightroom with the Raw file linked. If you edit an image, Lightroom must rebuild a Standard preview.

The same goes for 1:1 previews. These allow you to zoom in at 100%, which is important when culling images to check sharpness. Building these larger 1:1 previews can take 10 images about a minute to load. That is a long time when you shoot thousands of images for a wedding. Are you on a tight deadline to get the work out the door? If so, build Standard Previews first and, by changing some of your catalog settings in preferences, you can cut a lot of time out preparing your catalog to cull. Lower the Standard preview size and quality so rendering takes even less time. Then you can build 1:1 previews for the selected files and walk away from the computer for an hour.

We haven’t even mentioned Smart Previews, and these are awesome. You have the ability to build these at import as well. This is a whole other type of preview generated in Lightroom. Smart Previews are actually low-resolution DNG files saved within the .lrdata file to allow you to work offline. No, I don’t mean without Internet; I mean without the original files connected. This makes Lightroom lightning fast and more versatile for mobility or working on multiple machines.

Nonetheless, you still need to build Standard previews like any other image file. Also, the old routine was to unlink the Raws by either disconnecting the drive or relinking to a folder not containing the Raws, so the Smart Previews would kick in. Now, Lightroom finally gave users the performance option to choose how Lightroom uses these previews over the originals.

Thank you, Adobe, for finally doing something about the lag in Lightroom CC. You Lightroom 5 users upset about CC know what I am talking about.

Adding to Collections

This is my least used option at import, mostly because I import large groups of images at once. You can create Collections and Collection sets as well as add images to your current ones. This groups the images together into a virtual sorting option that only reads in Lightroom. This is unlike applying attributes like star ratings, color labels and flags that can be saved with the other metadata of the file.

Backup at Import

Now you have a hidden option in the Import module to back up files to a second source location as well; this feature is so important. It’s listed under the File Handling panel. Check the box and click the file path below to choose the backup location. Not every ingest software has this capability—before Lightroom, I would use Apple’s Image Capture until realizing Nikon Transfer that came with my camera was the way to go. Forget all of that—I can back up in Lightroom along with copying, moving and adding files as I go. There’s no reason not to back up; it’s common sense.

Applying IPTS Metadata and Keywords

IPTS metadata includes copyright, studio name, URL (website), job name, keywords, location and date. This is an overlooked process when ingesting photos into your computer. Copyright, for instance, is a big topic for many of us. Adding copyright information after capture saves your contact information for permissions and usage. Keeping your guard up with digital images becomes difficult when you post them online or deliver thumb drives to your clients. You should get into the habit of adding this information at import.

Post Import File Management

You should never move imported files outside Lightroom. This causes chaos for your catalog. Move, rename and remove files in the Library module of Lightroom. Moving and creating new folder trees on your hard drive can be done in the Library module on the left-hand side under the Folders panel. Click the “+” button to create new folders or subfolders.

Select the appropriate parent folder; access this by right-clicking on the current folder displayed and choose Show Parent Folder. Now click the “+” button and choose Add Folder or Add Subfolder. You can preselect files to move for a fast transfer, or simply drag and drop selected files into the new folder created. It’s very simple, and should be done only in Lightroom.

Collections can be very versatile for organizing files beyond attributes, keywords, dates, etc. Adding these is as simple as moving files in the Folders panel. Click the “+” button in the Collections panel to start making Collections and Collection sets. Think of these as smart folders that exist only in Lightroom. They do not tamper with your file structure outside the catalog. They can be very handy when you need to refine your currently organized folders. I created some for my son’s first year. We add images to Collections each month to make them easy to sort, rather than using the Library filter by date and all the drop-down folders. That is a nightmare.

Quick Culling Process

There are so many ways to cull images in Lightroom. I could write an article explaining how each one benefits the user. I am going to make this short and sweet. Part of organizing your images is to cull out the losers. Flags are the easiest way to keep track of images you want. They also provide a way to signify you have already reviewed these images by giving them a rejected flag. This is brilliant and can remove added work to your already stressful workload.

When culling, I start in Library module. I double-click an image and tap the “L” key twice. It’s lights-out mode for selecting, also known as Loupe mode. I can then add flags by using “x” for rejected flag, “p” for keeper flag and “u” for unflag. Hold CTRL or CMD and arrow down to add a rejected flag or up to add the keeper flag (37). I find it easiest to not have to hold down a button the entire time. To cull, I select out the bad ones only and strike the “x” key. If I make a mistake, I hit the “u” key. Then I choose the Library filter “Flag,” select unflagged, select all and strike the “p” key.

Things to Keep in Mind

Staying organized with Lightroom can mean the difference between causing chaos and controlling it. Beyond the simple time-saving factor involved in managing your files, you can rest easy when it’s all said and done.

I get it: You jump on the computer and you just want to cull/edit already. Starting at import, you set the tone for your entire file management structure. Just remember to make an organization plan that fits your schedule and workflow.

These are simple tips I have developed for myself. They are not meant for every photographer. Any way you do it, get organized to get out of your own way.

 

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

Make 2017 Your Year

January 1st, 2017

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Make 2017 Your Year with Sal Cincotta

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the January 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 wishing for better times. Stop hoping. Stop thinking that the gods are going to bless you with an incredible year and newfound wealth and success.

 

It doesn’t work that way.

 

It’s about busting your ass day in and day out. Put your time in and plan for success. Success is not an accident. It’s the result of hard work and some serious planning.

 

Every year, we step back and assess the year before. We look at what we did right, what we did wrong and what we need to fix. We look at new opportunities and how we can take advantage of them before our competitors beat us to the punch.

 

Below is your cheat sheet to putting your team through this exercise to ensure you maximize your success in 2017.

 

Take a couple hours of your day to sit quietly. No email. No TV. No distractions. You are about to plan your entire year: Give this the time and attention it deserves.

 

Now, grab a sheet of paper. Create four quadrants and label them Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

 

Let’s start with an easy one.

 

Strengths.

 

This should be somewhat easy for you. What are you doing right? What are you good at? This is no time for modesty. This is about you beating your chest. Surely this is something you are doing well. If not, it might be time to call it a day and move on to something new. I doubt that’s the case, so let’s think about this.

 

What should be listed here? Here are some things we have listed for our studio.

 

// Customer experience. Something we pride ourselves on is being very attentive to our clients. We quickly respond to all requests. We treat our clients to gifts and subtle gestures throughout the process.

 

// Turn times. Our clients see their fully edited images in two weeks. This is a huge competitive advantage for us.

 

// Distinctive style. Every day, I work hard to ensure my style of shooting and editing stands out from the crowd. This ensures we can charge a premium in the overcrowded marketplace.

 

Weaknesses.

 

This one is going to be tough for you. It requires brutal honesty. A lot of artists can’t handle the truth. They operate in a touchy-feely world where everyone gets a hug and a trophy. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that’s not how the world of business works. If you want to grow professionally and personally, it’s time to put your big-boy pants on and get down and dirty.

 

What should be listed here? Where are you weak? What are your clients saying? If you are in business, one thing is for sure: People are complaining about something. I operate under an 80/20 rule. If a single complaint comes in, I am unwilling to make changes to my business. But if I start seeing a trend, I start investigating.

 

Things to look at.

 

// Turn times. How long does it take you to get images to your clients? Anything over two weeks is too long. Anything over 30 days is suicide in today’s instant and insatiable marketplace.

 

// Response times. How long does it take you to respond to client emails and phone calls? It should be less than four hours.

 

// Product offerings. Do you offer your clients relevant products? What’s that, you say? You are not offering products? Then you are an idiot. Sorry, but in photography and business, you are not living up to your potential. Are you offended? Good. You should be. I am offended for you. You are a business owner! Your job as CEO is to make intelligent decisions for your business. So make them! You cannot earn a sustainable living in this industry if you are shooting and burning. It is that simple. You need product to sell to your clients. Otherwise, they are going to take your files and buy products from someone else. Stop convincing yourself that people don’t want product. They do. Our studio is built on that assumption.

 

For those of you who get it, make sure you are staying relevant and looking for new products to offer your clients. Prints and canvas will always be a staple, but there are lots of other products in the marketplace that clients want. Look at metals and acrylics. Our clients love them.

 

Opportunity

 

Every day I wake up looking for new ways to grow my business. There is opportunity everywhere. Executing that opportunity is an entirely different conversation. You always must decide on your top five. You need to look closely at both the financial opportunity and opportunity cost. Opportunity cost is the cost of choosing one opportunity over another.

 

From time to time, I am willing to take some risks and pursue an opportunity that isn’t fully baked, but one that I see a ton of potential in. I have to know that pursuing this opportunity might cost me in the short term, because I will have to pass on another potential opportunity. Hence, opportunity cost.

 

So, where does opportunity lie for you? Here are some things you should be looking at.

 

// Vendor relationships. Want to grow your business? I’ve got news for you. You won’t grow it alone. Start investing in vendor relationships. Try doing some free stylized shoots. Work with vendors to build your portfolio. Give them your images to use for their own marketing—with the appropriate photo credit, of course.

 

// Expand your offerings. Are you a wedding photographer or a baby photographer? Maybe it’s time to expand past that. What about high-school seniors? What about offering headshots to local businesses? There is a huge opportunity there. I don’t know a single business that doesn’t need updated headshots.

 

// In-person sales (IPS). Are you still shooting and burning? Maybe in-person sales is the opportunity you have been looking for. Make this the year you try IPS, and then watch your sales go through the roof.

 

// Customer service. This is an opportunity for all of us. Look for ways to improve your turn times. Maybe send a thank-you card after a client books, or even a bottle of wine to your top clients.

 

Threats

 

Every business faces threats. It’s foolish to ignore this fact. You need to be aware of those threats. It’s like anything else in life. Acknowledging the issue is the first step.

 

So what are the threats to your business? Here are some things to consider.

 

// Low-cost competitors. There will always be the low-cost provider in any industry. How do you plan to compete? What will you do to stand out from the crowd? If you don’t have a competitive advantage, you are just another person with a camera.

 

// Consumer preferences. What consumers want today is completely different than what they wanted two years ago. Is your business adapting? If not, this is a huge issue. Your photography style, editing style and product offerings all matter.

 

// Indifference. Indifference to good photography is one of the major threats I see to my business and our industry. People are okay with shitty pictures for some unknown reason: “I have a friend”; “I only need a few pictures.” Statements like this send chills down my spine. How will you deal with this threat? We have to educate our clients on why great photography matters.

 

If you invest the time in this exercise, you will, without a doubt, come up with a matrix of action items you will need to implement for the upcoming year. Meet with your team, or just lock yourself in a room and review your action plan. How will you execute it? You don’t want to wait until the end of 2017 to evaluate your station. Constantly reevaluate your plan 30, 60, 90 days out. Keep staying on track to your most successful year yet.

 

2017 is your year. Make it great.

 

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

Finding Your Style in Glamour Photography

January 1st, 2017

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Finding Your Style in Glamour Photography with Craig LaMere

 

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

 

When you hear the term family photos, you know what family photos are; when you hear the term business headshot, you know what a business headshot is; and when you hear the term newborn pictures, you know exactly what that is. Two genres that are harder to pin down because they are always evolving are boudoir and glamour. This month, we look at my idea of glamour photography and some of the ways I shoot it.

 

Glamour to Me

 

When I was growing up in the 1980s, glamour meant denim jackets with raised collars, lots of makeup and hair teased to the moon with a gallon of hairspray. Nowadays, I look at glamour as a hybrid of boudoir and fashion. Some say glamour is more of what you would see in Maxim or Playboy, but that is not the definition I have adopted. Glamour has the sexiness associated with boudoir and the clothes associated with fashion. The two meet in the middle to create something unique.

 

I know a lot of women who feel confident in who they are, who embrace their age, who are proud of their position in life and who are comfortable with their sexuality. They want beautiful images of themselves, but do not want the stylizing that goes into a fashion shoot. They don’t want to be half naked, like in a boudoir shoot. For these clients, our version of glamour is the perfect genre. Glamour in my studio is all about making our clients feel sexy, beautiful and awesome by combining killer hair and makeup with dresses, gowns and lighting—but in a more conservative atmosphere than that of our fashion and boudoir sessions.

 

Hair and Makeup

 

For our glamour line, hair and makeup is one of the most important components to creating killer images. It sets the mood. One of the most powerful parts of boudoir for most clients is when they come into the studio as their regular self and, in a few hours, they are a whole new them.

 

This is the same for our glamour clients. They come into the studio clean-faced, no makeup, hair in a ponytail. Then they sit in the chair, and my badass stylist goes to work on her. We turn them into supermodels. They love it.

 

All woman want to feel pretty and special. That’s what we give them. Our clients are well taken care of. For many, this is their first time doing a session like this, so they are a little nervous. But this is also an opportunity for them to relax and let their nerves settle.

 

The actual hair and makeup is pretty standard: smoky eyes, big curl and, at some point in the shoot, we do an updo.

 

Clothing

 

We do a presession consult to gather the important information about our client. We find out hair type, skin type, body type and their overall comfort level for the shoot. We also start planning their wardrobe.

 

Wardrobe is where the hybrid nature of our glamour product starts to show. Most of our clients want to be sexy and show some cleavage and some leg, but they do not want to show off all the goods. Clients bring different dresses, mostly evening gowns.

 

I tell my clients that the clothes themselves, while important, are not the most important part of choosing wardrobe. The most important part is to make sure they can be 100 percent comfortable. Your client could show up with the greatest dress on earth, but if she does not feel good in it, you will get just okay images because her mind will be on everything but the shoot and she will never relax enough to kick ass.

 

Lighting and Backgrounds

 

My glamour product is more portrait-based than fashion or boudoir. So, even though my clients have great wardrobe, I’m focusing more on them than their clothes. For that reason, I also use very simple backgrounds and very soft lighting.

 

For glamour, I use hand-painted muslins. I love their tones and textures. I have about every tone and color of muslin you can imagine. The color of clients’ clothes doesn’t matter because I have a muslin in every tonal range. I like to keep everything in the same tonal range so my client is the focus of the image and is not competing with the drop.

 

Our lighting setups are very simple. We want soft and elegant images, which means big diffused light or directional diffused light. Elegance is about using a light pattern that flatters every body and skin type, which to me is loop light. To create the loop pattern, place your light at a height so that the middle of your box is above and 45 degrees down on your client. Then all you have to do is bring the light around till you see a little loop shadow on the side of the nose and light in both eyes. If you want a little more drama, pull the light back around until the shadow on the nose extends and connects with the cheek, which is a Rembrandt pattern.

 

I use constant florescent lights in a 3×4 box. The light from the constants is so buttery soft and forgiving that you can’t take a bad image. If you do not have constant florescent lights, use a large softbox—a 4×6 or a 52-inch octa—to get very pretty, soft light.

 

If you want more directional light, use a strip with your constant lights; the light source is so diffused that it does not become specular in the smaller box. This is one of the only times I do not use a grid with my strip. If you want more directional light with your strobe, use a small box, maybe a 2×3, but be very carful using a strobe with a strip; a strobe is too specular, making your light way too hard.

 

Though glamour has many definitions, my version works for my studio and my clients.

 

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