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Creating Different Session Types to Welcome Everyone’s Dollar

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017


Creating Different Session Types to Welcome Everyone’s Dollar with Blair Phillips

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.



Newton’s first law states that an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. If things could just automatically stay in motion, all businesses would be set. Unfortunately, we are always faced with an unbalanced force. To remain successful, you must possess the ability to continually change and adapt to the marketplace.


We have seen many changes in our business over the past 10 years, with the largest change beginning about a year ago. It was common for clients to pay an average of $2,000 for a portrait order. The general public has begun to lose sight of the value of professional photography. In years past, there were not as many options for a good portrait. Now you can get a decent image on a phone, use an app for a decent edit, and your image is ready for social media. Social media seems to be the most important reason for pictures these days. In response, our studio recently completely overhauled its offerings.


Just as retailers are closing more and more stores and innovating to protect themselves from the bite of online sales, photographers also have to find ways to stay relevant in the marketplace. It is easy to sit at a desk and find the lowest price in the world and have something shipped right to your doorstep. Americans are accustomed to getting what they want when they want it. So at our studio, we have three pricing tiers that fit almost every budget.


The first option we offer is the traditional session that we have offered from day one. It’s a two-hour shoot with unlimited sets, indoor and outdoor, followed by an in-person sales appointment. Hair and makeup are included. If they don’t want hair and makeup, the price for the session does not change. We explain that it is complimentary. With hair and makeup, sessions tend to be more inspired. This session is for the individual or family that is not as budget conscious, and are used to getting exactly what they want. You should always keep products and services that may be considered too pricy for the average client. You should not punish the client who will spend a lot of money. Always have the higher-ticket offerings available for those clients. Think of it as the parking lot of a shopping mall. You peruse the parking lot and find vehicles that range in price from $500 to $100,000. There are people from all walks of life who gather there, in search of similar things, with completely different budgets.


We were getting phone calls from people stating that they had a certain budget they needed to remain within. Some of those budgets did not fit within our offerings at the time. Realizing we were turning away potential income-producing customers, we developed our second option. We wanted to create a way to let them spend their money with us. Our second session offering includes a modest session fee that nearly anyone can afford. We fought the issue of people that only want the digital files for long enough. This session generally lasts less than an hour, with two outfit changes, and includes only the digital files.


We also offer 40 percent off the regular price of prints should they choose to order any from us. When they order through us, they get the very best color, consistency and quality. Think of this as an express session for the working family that wants the experience and quality that you offer, but may not have a big budget. This gets them in the door. You have not put forth a ton of effort, and have created a new client who will market in the community for you. This has allowed us to reach a ton of new clients who would not have come in for the premium session that we offered in the past. It has opened up another side of our business. The key is adjusting the amount of time you put into these types of sessions to ensure you maximize your profits.


We developed our third type of session for the client who loves our work but cannot afford our higher-priced products. I see no harm in making everyone’s money welcome. We offer a session that takes 10 minutes, on one set, and post the images online for them to order from. The key is to collect the session fee and a minimum order requirement up front. This way you are guaranteed to make at least that amount of money for your efforts.


There’s very little work involved. We would never be able to reach these clients otherwise. These clients often return again and again. This turns into a constant influx of small amounts of cash. We stack these appointments on certain days each month. These sessions are an in-and-out type of deal. Every dollar I bring in helps the bottom line.


However you view the photography industry, we can all agree that it is constantly evolving. There are not many things in life that remain the same for eternity, without constant improvements or attention. The photography business is not self-sustaining without your constant evolution and willingness to answer the call of clients’ spending habits.


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 Marketing Headshots Game Plan

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017


The Marketing Headshots Game Plan with Moshe Zusman

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.


When I first picked up a camera, I had no idea I was going to use it to photograph powerful CEOs, fly on their private jets to where they wanted me to photograph huge business deals and find myself almost too busy in my studio. If you’re starting off in weddings, it can seem like a pretty big leap to jump into a new genre of photography. A lot of people think it requires a completely different method of marketing, but it doesn’t.


When I first moved to D.C. from Israel, I started researching photographers in the area, and kept hearing the name of a celebrity photographer (no I’m not going to tell you who). Everyone knew him. He was marketing himself perfectly. The celebrities he photographed and put on his website weren’t paying him to be their photographer, but somehow he was photographing them regularly. Bingo. Marketing brilliance.


Marketing is much like math. Math is the same in every language, and marketing principles are the same in every business. Marketing is learning how to get your business out there and make it look attractive enough that people will want to plunk down their dollars to work with you. Everything in D.C. is who you know and who knows you. I knew no one when I came to the states, so if I can do this, anyone can. Here’s my game plan for marketing myself in the headshot world.


  1. Meet People


Photographers hate this part. A lot of us are introverts and got into photography because it put something between us and everything else. If you’re working with headshot clients, you’ll soon discover that being a people person is no longer an option, it’s a must. You have to learn how to bring your client’s best self out, which comes through conversation and getting them to let their guard down.


Thankfully my wife, Ashley, was working in a PR firm at the time and introduced me to a foodie who got me in to photograph top chefs, cocktails and food. I was growing my portfolio, but more importantly, I was meeting people—business owners, magazine editors and publishers, all people that I could network with to grow my business. You don’t need your own Ashley for this. Think of how you are already connected and start expanding your network there. As Tim Sanders says, “Your network is your net worth.” Networking and word-of-mouth became the cornerstones of building my business and life those first years.


  1. Photograph People


I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but work with me on this one. If you don’t have a portfolio, you’ll need one. If people don’t know you photograph headshots, you’ll need to do more of it. If you’re not comfortable getting people comfortable in front of your camera, you’ll need to practice.


This is where my headshot date idea came into play. When I was transitioning from weddings to studio work, I needed to create a portfolio. Unlike weddings, I didn’t need to spend the next year developing a portfolio. I could do it in a day. And I did.


I sent out invitations to everyone I knew and asked them to let me photograph them. In just a day, not only did I build a complete portfolio (exactly like we do at, but I also practiced my lighting, developed my banter with my subjects and built relationships with people from all types of career paths. It’s one of the best things I did to jumpstart my headshot business.


  1. Make It Easy


Photographers spend so much time getting clients in the door, but when the client finally gets there, they’re met with obstacles. If you want clients to book with you and leave happy, you have to make everything extremely easy for them. This starts the second they get to your website.


My website ( is chockfull of information for my clients. They’re first met with an Animoto video introducing them to me and my studio. They can then browse through my comprehensive portfolio and take a look at my pricing and packaging in the info section. The most important thing about the info section is the FAQ. Every typical question I get is listed there, along with a video summarizing the most important parts. I give my prospective clients everything they need to decide if they’re going to book with me.


Now comes the best part. When a client decides they’re ready to book, they don’t need to call the studio. They don’t need to send an email and wait for a response. Everything is done right through my website. Clients use Square Up (related to Square, the credit card processing service) to choose a booking time, type of session and add-ons, and pay right there on the spot. It makes my life easier because the system is linked to my Google calendar and, once an appointment is booked, it updates my calendar automatically. The whole process is fast, effective and super easy for the client.


After the session, delivery of the images is just as simple. I tell them they’ll receive their final retouched images within 48 hours of the session, and all they have to do is wait for an email. Using CloudSpot, I share the images with the client in a super sleek email with an easy-to-use photo sharing system. It doesn’t get any easier for me or my clients.


If you’re looking to change photography genres like I did, or perhaps you’re just looking for an extra marketing boost in your current business, these principles will help you out. Not only will they better your business, but they’ll better your life as well.


Check out this video to see a few more marketing tips for your headshot 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.

3 Ways to Nail Client Consultations

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017


3 Ways to Nail Client Consultations with Vanessa Joy

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


One of the best experiences I had when I was working for another photography company was being able to observe consultation sessions. Out of all of the photography education out there, there isn’t much on how to talk with clients—or, more precisely, how to talk clients into trusting you with their money and memories.

It’s not easy to teach because you’re essentially teaching people skills. There are other elements to it, like selling without being salesy and setting client expectations while walking them through your process. But at the root of it all is the ability to communicate and connect with other people. To some, this comes naturally, but if you’re an introvert like I am, you’ll need to work on this. Our students work on it while shooting their portfolio for half a day at

#1 – Practice

How do you practice consultations and sales sessions? It’s unlikely that another photographer is going to let you hone your skills on their potential clients. But that doesn’t mean you can’t practice talking.

One of the best ways I learned to speak to people was by traveling alone. It can be as simple as taking public transportation and striking up a conversation with a stranger. I would take the PATH train from New Jersey into New York City and find people to talk to on the way.

Doing this boosted my confidence in speaking to people, but it also taught me how to talk to just about anyone. It’s easy. First, I’d break the ice by commenting on an article of clothing they were wearing, or maybe a bag a woman was holding. I’d continue by asking them questions. It’s all small talk, really, but that kind of talk is all you get when talking with clients. You get one first impression, and it’s best to give it while not shyly stuttering.

#2 – Lead

When you meet with a client, lead the meeting. This ensures it goes where you want it to go, and gives off an air of confidence and experience. I guide my wedding clients through a few crucial steps, hitting all the important things they need to know.

Don’t chatter through the whole presentation like you’re giving a lecture. Leave room for them to ask questions. Have a plan. If there is a lull in the conversation, you should know exactly where to move it.

Here are the things I always cover in an initial consultation:

  • Rough timeline of the day
  • Pricing and packages
  • Delivery times and methods
  • Next steps for booking

#3 – Read

Learn how to read people.

Interpreting body language and reading between the lines is an art. You need to be able to figure out how people are feeling without them saying it. So much of their unspoken communication tells you if they’re ready to book, if they need a little push, if they need a little time or if they just want to get the heck out the door.

Understanding how your clients are feeling will help you lead the session and speak to them better. It’s also a matter of demographics. I realized a long time ago that my typical New Jersey/New York clientele just won’t go for that cliché sales pitch ending: “Does this sound like what you’re looking for?” Even if they did, yuck—those words would taste like vinegar coming out of my mouth.

Toward the end of a consultation, I can usually tell if they’re ready to book, in which case I say, “Do you want to me send you a contract to look over?” Or, if I feel they need to think about it or just aren’t interested, I give them space and tell them to go home and talk it over, and let me know if they have any questions.

Either way, I want to leave them with a good feeling, like we connected. Whether or not they hire me, they will have only nice things to say about me. That is a successful consultation in my book.

Making people feel comfortable is one of the most important skills a photographer can possess. We can be amazing at our craft but fail because we have no idea how to relate to other people. We can’t be shy. Wallflowers have a much harder time booking gigs since most of us are sole proprietors.

The same goes for marketing. I know too many photographers who are incredible at what they do behind the camera, but can’t make a living because they don’t know how to market themselves. That’s why this issue of Shutter is your goldmine. It holds the keys to growing your business. Don’t just read this. Do it.


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.

Use Contests to Expand Your Social Media Reach

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017


Use Contests to Expand Your Social Media Reach with Curtiss Bryant

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.


In the past, we had great success with Facebook/Instagram ads. Then something changed, and they are no longer as effective. We were spending more money and not getting the same amount of engagement as before, so we started to abandon them. We still needed something to gain reach on social media to replace Facebook ads. We decided to run a contest for a free shoot, and the results were amazing. It’s the same thing we were doing before with the ads, only this time it was all organic reach and we didn’t pay a penny. Let’s look at how to use contests and “free” giveaways to drive social media reach to grow your business.


First, let’s dispel the myth that free devalues your brand. Shooting a cover for a large magazine is often a free shoot; but in return, you get the cover image on a magazine that is seen by thousands (sometimes millions) of people. That is certainly not a bad use of your talents. Free doesn’t have to be a bad word. Embrace it to help your business grow.


Step 1: Build the Demand


We rarely discount our services, and everyone in our area knows that. When we do offer a contest for a free shoot, it is a big deal because it’s the only time you can get us for free. If we did discounts or sales all the time, there wouldn’t be an incentive to enter the contest, as they could just wait for the next giveaway or discount. If we did a monthly mini-session, why would anyone want to pay full price for a regular session when they can just do a monthly mini-session for a fraction of the price? It is the same concept here. If we always offered a discount, why would anyone pay full price?


We run these contests twice a year, coinciding with engagement season and the holidays. The one over the summer is for engagements and the two we do over Christmas are for regular sessions as well as engagements (one for each).


Step 2 – Decide What You Want to Offer


Do you want to offer a full session? Do you want to offer digitals? Prints? We want to keep our out-of-pocket costs as low as possible on these giveaways, so we offer only digitals—they are the cheapest product for us to produce. Digitals also happen to be the most expensive product we offer, so the giveaway value is huge. Our Christmas giveaway is our biggest value of the year. We give away the session and include 20 digital images, which is worth over $1,000. For the engagement giveaway, we include the session and five digital images (a $499 value). We have found that the bigger the value of the giveaway, the more people are interested.


Step 3: Structure It for Success


Since Facebook ads stopped working well, we needed to find another way to reach a large audience. With these contests, we are able to do so if we structure them properly. We cannot just post the contest and tell people to message us. Once we post the contest on our page, we tell people they have to do three things to enter the contest:


  • “Like” our page
  • Share the post
  • Comment with the word shared on the post (or have them tell you their favorite movie or something else fun)


We don’t have time to monitor it to make sure they do all three things in order for their entry to count, so we count them just as long as they comment, since we need names to include in the drawing. Posts that include an image with the giveaway details are seen more throughout Facebook than a post with no image. The most important aspect here is that they share the post so it builds organic views. The more people who share it, the more Facebook puts it out. The likes on the page don’t mean much, but it does get noticed by potential clients who are looking for a photographer. To them, more likes equals a better photographer, so they aren’t a bad thing to have.


Our engagement contest is a bit different. We use the same idea as above, but we ask that people comment on the post with a name of someone who recently got engaged, rather than commenting “shared” on the post. This way, we have the names of the bride and/or groom, and they can see the post as well (and share it). This can be more successful than a bridal show because the engaged couples are now being given to you on a platter (for free) rather than you having to find them on your own or pay money for a bridal show. Bridal shows are an important part of what we do, but this gives us extra names to help us fill our books (more on that in a bit).


An important thing to remember is that they have to go to our page and like, share and comment on the post on the page in order to count. They cannot do it on shared posts since we will never see them. We want them on our page checking out our work.


Step 4: Determine a Winner


Now that we have all these entries, how do you know whom to pick when the contest ends? We take all the names of those who commented (or those tagged engaged couples) and put them into a spreadsheet so each is assigned a number. We hop onto Facebook Live and use a random number generator to generate the winner. We announce them live so that people see it’s a transparent process and we aren’t just selecting people we know. Normally, we do the big giveaway (the reason they signed up), and then, as a bonus, we include a few smaller giveaways (mini-sessions). This way, more people win and we surprise them, which gets them talking about us with their friends.


Step 5: Make Everyone a Winner

This is huge for our studio. We reward everyone who participated in the contest with some type of prize. For the portrait giveaway at Christmas, we offer everyone a discounted session fee. We do not announce this; we simply message each person with the offer. This weeds out those who aren’t willing to invest with us, and allows us to shoot more portrait sessions than we would have otherwise.


For our engagement entries, we make everyone a winner of a free engagement session. This gets them into our studio, where we can show them what we do. If they hire us for the engagement session, chances are they will hire us to shoot their wedding.


We make it known to all the secondary winners that products and images are available at an additional cost and are not included in the free/discounted session they receive. This eliminates any confusion. They know they are expected to pay for any prints or products they want.


In addition to the winners (who will likely spend more money with us), we have all the people who saw our name all over Facebook for a week. Those people will remember us when they look for a photographer, and will likely reach out to us first. Our recent campaign for Christmas brought over 20,000 views, over 280 shares and 200-plus likes to our pages. We didn’t pay a penny for that reach, nor did we boost the post. It was simply organic reach, using the power of social media to get the word out and get people to our pages.


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.

Crush the Competition: 3 Ways to Get Ahead in Business

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017


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

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


As 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,


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

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017


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


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


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:



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

16th – 19th: Grandparents’ Special

23rd – 26th: Funny Faces Week



13th – 16th: Best Friends

20th – 30th: Baseball Dreams



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.


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Hacking Lightroom for Faster, Better In-Person Sales

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017


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 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

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017


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 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.

Make 2017 Your Year

Sunday, January 1st, 2017


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.




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.




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.




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.




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.

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