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Hacking Lightroom for Faster, Better In-Person Sales

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

Feb17_largeblog_pblume

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

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 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.

Applying Glamour Techniques for Stand Out Weddings and Headshots

Sunday, January 1st, 2017

Jan17_LargeBlog_PBlume

Applying Glamour Techniques for Stand Out Weddings and Headshots with Phillip Blume

 

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.

 

Use your best James Cagney impersonation while reading the following: “Mmm, those dirty rats! They’ve hoodwinked us, see? They made us believe glamour was only for the bedroom. Well, I’m sick of carrying cameras and shooting naked women!”

 

If you aren’t sure who James Cagney is, get some culture, ya filthy animal. On the other hand, if you aren’t entirely sure how to define glamour photography, I might find it in my heart to forgive you. After all, its meaning has changed a lot over time.

 

In the era of Cagney’s gangster films, glamour was associated with the bright lights of Old Hollywood sets. Imagine almost any frame from an Ingrid Bergman or early Audrey Hepburn film, and you can envision the high-contrast black-and-white glamour of classic Hollywood. Long before cinema was born, the word glamour meant a magical spell that made reality look different to its targets.

 

That’s how I prefer to think about glamour photography—not as erotic photography, but as a set of magical techniques early Hollywood used so well to lift subjects out of the everyday and place them on a pedestal of perfection. Perhaps they were not what they seemed, but they represented an ideal.

 

With that in mind, let’s look at a few of those techniques and how to apply them for “perfection” in our wedding and headshot photography.

 

  1. Greater Contrast Ratio

 

Old Hollywood largely relied on bright lights to illuminate stages for low-tech cameras that struggled to see in the dark. The result was that iconic high contrast, a mix of both dark shadows and well-exposed highlights in the same image. The glamorous light conveniently suited the melodramatic themes of classic cinema. What is exciting about today’s high-ISO cameras is that they allow us to achieve the same look, whether we use supplemental off-camera strobes or stick with natural light.

 

But where do you find that kind of light? You have to know where to look.

 

When shooting available light, look for naturally glamorous light anywhere indirect sun is filtering in from one direction. Look down an alley, under a low-hanging tree bough or in a large entryway. The important thing is to make certain the light is coming into your space only through a relatively narrow opening. An awning over a long walkway is probably no good since light is still coming in from all around. The point is to not block overhead light, but to leave your subject mostly in shadow and underexposed. Deep shadows create a sense of mystery in glamour photography. A singularly controlled light, then, allows you to draw attention only to the most flattering and desirable elements of a face or body.

 

Remember the inverse square law? It’s crucial to getting your lighting ratios right. As light travels, it loses its power a lot faster than you might expect. Wedding photographers pay homage to this principle in ugly getting-ready rooms every time they shoot a portrait by window light.

 

You learn quickly that if you want that trendy bright and airy bridal portrait, you have to move the bride farther from the window. If you’re too close to the light source, the front of her white dress looks blown out, even as the back of the dress (farthest from the window) disappears into shadow or ugly orange hotel light.

 

For glamour, though, you want that quick falloff. Move your subject closer to the light source and expose for the highlights. You’re not trying to show everything in your glamour portrait. Let the background go dark and crop away the unimportant bits. This is your perfect opportunity to light those glamorous details, too.

 

I love the control I get with portable strobes, which allow me to create glamour light in any environment. Don’t get confused: High-contrast light is not necessarily the same as “hard light.” In fact, I tend to shoot through an umbrella that is as close as possible to my subject. This creates softer, flattering, romantic light without a hard edge. But because the light is close to my subject, the falloff is still quicker. That means more shadows, more specific points of interest left in the light and more glamour.

 

  1. Higher, Faster, Farther

 

Now, where to place your light for a glamour look? Think “higher, faster, farther.” Subjects tend to look more glamorous under a more elevated keylight, which accentuates the shape of the face and cheekbones, casts shadows down the nose and neck, and brightens the eyes.

 

If you’re totally dependent on natural light, this might mean waiting until the perfect moment before sunset, or “golden hour,” when the sun is overhead at a 45-degree angle to your subject (or even higher, but never directly overhead). To complete the effect, have your subject face the sun, but turn her face aside until a shadow is cast along one side of her face. An overcast day will also get in the way of this look; the last thing you want is omnidirectional light filling in your shadows. Look for direct sunlight, and feel free to soften it with a diffuser—as long as you keep it directional.

 

As the sun drops lower, you can create a unique but equally glamorous shot using sunlight behind your subject. Now that the sun is near the horizon (too low to cast those shadows down the cheek and neck), turn your model around. Keep the sun itself out of frame to reduce flair, or place your subject’s body directly between your camera and the sun to obscure it entirely. Either way, your model is now glowing with a seemingly celestial light. You can bring in a reflector (high above your model’s eyeline but not so high as to leave her eye sockets dark) and direct the sun’s rays down across her face. For glamour, a silver cover on your reflector works wonders—it increases the power of the reflected light and magnifies your high-contrast look, plus it lends additional specular highlights reminiscent of Old Hollywood.

 

The point is to make sure the main light is farther from you, always coming in from a different direction than your shooting angle. Your camera and the light need to stay farther apart, so this is not a genre for on-camera flash shooters. (Well, that’s only partly true, as I’ll demonstrate in the video below.)

 

If you’re using a strobe, place your light farther around the side of your model than you’re used to. Get used to extreme light angles. Again, raise it higher and point it down more sharply. Have an assistant lift the stand and dangle it over your subject, aiming it at the ground in front of them. This technique, known as “tabletopping,” shapes cheekbones dramatically. If you use a softbox or umbrella, the indirect rays coming through the modifier will light your subject, while the middle of your light (pointed toward the ground or a reflector below) will bounce back up and help fill any shadows that are too deep with lost information.

 

The “faster” part comes into play with strobe, too. For manual strobe, you’re limited by your camera’s shutter sync speed. You can’t shoot faster than about 1/200 second on most cameras, so don’t shoot any slower than that, either. In general, you want to keep out as much ambient light as possible, guiding your viewer with the light you’re adding to the scene.

 

  1. Multilight Setups and Natural Direction of Light

 

I’ve heard it said that effective commercial photography is often the result of “more flashes, more specifically focused on more elements of the image.” That’s certainly the case for many old and glamorous films, and for cinema today. For glamour photography, it doesn’t hurt to get brave and make the big jump into multilight setups. For now, though, let’s just touch on the value of using at least two lights.

 

Glamour requires something the art world calls “sprezzatura.” Your subject should look unaffected, distant and transcendent. One way to make any model seem “above the fray” or even otherworldly is to subtly defy the laws of nature.

 

A photographer should generally position any off-camera light to illuminate his subject from the same direction as the natural light visible in the image. In other words, if the clouds and trees in your background are lit by the sun from frame left, you should also light your bride from frame left. Although the lighting now looks beautiful, it’s not too good to be true—you’ve created the illusion that all the light in the image is natural.

 

Glamour gives you the opportunity to learn the rules so you can break them. So mix things up and try a cross-lit pattern—a hair light from camera left, a keylight from camera right. Or, while shooting outdoors, set up so that the setting sun paints your background directionally from camera right, then light your subject from high camera left. The composition can be stark or subtle, but it leaves the viewer with that glamorous flavor in her mouth, as if the subject is unaffected by the laws of nature, illuminated by celestial light.

 

  1. Set the Scene (Props, Locations, Play of Light)

 

Finally, keep in mind that glamour techniques are not suitable in every situation. If you’re shooting portraits or a wedding at a classic art deco building, you want to pull these tricks out of your bag. But while shooting a barn wedding, not so much. I like to play with glamour style during the individual bridal portraits and groom’s portraits on a wedding day. During a headshot session, I always get my standard, well-lit money shots first. That’s what clients are paying for. But I never miss the opportunity to create more stylized glamour shots to keep myself creative and impress the client. These images aren’t about smiling at the camera; direct the expression (as I’ll show you in the video below) to add to the mood. The more glamorous shots are often what clients choose for book covers and album sleeves.

 

Glamour photography may sometimes seem like an advanced, unobtainable genre with too much fancy technique. It’s the very glitz and glamour of this style that makes celebrity look unobtainable. That’s the power of perception. But it’s one of the best genres in which to explore and perfect light. It is a bold and unapologetic genre, full of extremes. Learn this, and then you’ll be ready to move on to the nuance and subtle techniques of any other genre.

 

To download a free behind-the-scenes lighting video shot on location with Phillip Blume, visit www.blumephotography.com/light-live-demo (this month only).

 

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.

Online Photography Training | Snapknot.com

Sunday, January 13th, 2013

Online Photography Training

Looking for an online web strategy that works? Join Sal Cincotta and Snapknot.com on this free online photography training webinar where they take you through the process of putting together a web strategy for your wedding photography business. Topics covered include understanding today’s bride, setting up your site for maximum impact, the power of testimonials, using 3rd party wedding sites like Snapknot.com, Facebook, and SEO strategies to ensure you are ranking your photography business at the top of your local search results.

Its never easy when you are launching or revamping your wedding photography business. So many questions about strategies, finding your brides – you know? the right bride!, social media and optimizing your web site for the best google ranking possible. Sal Cincotta takes you through the strategy they use at Salvatore Cincotta Photography for their online presence.

snapknot.mov
 

DISCOUNT CODE EXTENDED // 1 Yr Diamond Membership Reg $600 Use Code sal1 for $199 Diamond Membership expires Jan 31st. Visit Snapknot.com for more details.

Sal Cincotta and Taylor Cincotta are committed to free online photography training and raising the bar for photographers around the world. Feel free to share this and get the word out using social media. Help spread the word and be a part of educating photographers everywhere.

Sticky Albums Webinar | Online Photography Training

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

Online Photography Training

Looking to stand out from the crowd? Tired of the “everyone is a photographer” mindset? Then you need photography tools that allow you to take your photography business to the next level. This free online photography training webinar with industry leaders Sal Cincotta and Taylor Cincotta will show you how they use Sticky Albums to really give their photography studio a leg up on the competition.

In this free online photography training webinar, Sal will explain to you their clients current mind-set and cover how they position and sell Sticky Albums to them.

Wedding photography clients love Sticky Albums as a way of showcasing and sharing their wedding images with their family, it truly is a no-brainer. For portrait photography clients, its the same concept. After a photo-shoot, they want to share their great images with their friends and family and Sticky Albums really gives them, and your studio, a cost-effective solution for doing that.

Download the free copy for your clients and the free lightroom preset for exporting to Sticky Albums // click here to download.


online photography training sticky albums
Sal Cincotta and Taylor Cincotta are committed to free online photography training and raising the bar for photographers around the world. Feel free to share this and get the word out using social media. Help spread the word and be a part of educating photographers everywhere.

PhotoBiz Webinar | Free Online Photography Training

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

Free Online Photography Training

Want to use an online sales strategy for your photography business? Tired of giving away the digital negatives with no sales from clients? Well watch this free online photography training webinar with industry leaders Sal Cincotta and Taylor Cincotta as they show you how they use Photobiz for their online sales strategy. Online sales doesn’t have to be difficult or awkward, but you do have to have a call-to-action. There are certain pieces that are required to have a successful sale. Great imagery is only one piece of the puzzle. In this free online photography training webinar, we will take you through the entire process, how we work with clients both in-studio and online, and how we bring it all together with the clients for the final sale.

 

free online photography training webinar
Sal Cincotta and Taylor Cincotta are committed to free online photography training and raising the bar for photographers around the world. Feel free to share this and get the word out using social media. Help spread the word and be a part of educating photographers everywhere.

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