Friday, 30 December 2011

Social Media ~ Attract, Convert, Measure ~ PART THREE

So far we have covered how people find your business and we have discussed how to convert people that contact you into paying clients… now I would like to discuss how to measure success and determine ROI.

To recap we found out that social media, if you are doing all the various traditional and online marketing, generates a small fraction of your business… but, if you are like me, Social Media is the majority of your marketing initiatives; thus generating the majority of your leads.

We also discussed that people that you are attracting to your business through social media are better informed than other clients, thus making you work harder to make them paying clients…

So now, for argument sake, you have sold them. The money is in the bank and you’re on to the next potential sale… not so fast… shouldn’t you truly understand how that client came to you, what it cost you to get that client; then determine if it was cost prohibitive to even make the sale?

If you are investing too much time, spending way too much money, and it is resulting in minimal sales is it really worth it? After all, the definition of insanity is, “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”.

The purpose of this BLOG entry is to just make you think. I am not going to be the guy that says you should not sell something, or you should sell something. I just want to give you options and create opportunities to help your business grow. Heck, in one of the examples you will see below about my “Twitter” efforts is an example of an ROI loss that I am willing to take because of the increased exposure I get.

I want to take a look at something I was just exposed too; it’s called the “Social Media Money Formula”. The formula looks like this:

(R – Cg) * (F * Cr * Or * Pr) – (h * T) = Profit

R = Revenue per sale
Cg = Cost of goods sold
F = Number of friends/followers (SM reach)
Cr = click rate on SM links (% of followers that click)
Or = Opt-in rate) % of clicks that opt-in)
Pr = Purchase rate (% of opt-ins that buy)
H = Hourly rate for your SM efforts
T = Amount of time you spend on social media

The translation is (Revenue minus cost of goods) * (Number of friends times click through rate times opt in rate times purchase rate) less (your hourly rate that your time is worth times your total time spent on social media) equals your net profit. Or for you business types, “Earnings before Depreciation, Taxes and Amortization”, “EBIDTA”

Let’s look at a real world scenario for me. I have 431 followers on Twitter and have tracked all the sales I generated because of Twitter in the month of December. FYI, I always ask how people found me so I can track ROI back to my individual efforts.

I am going to determine the ROI for a sale of a few images to a client that found me on Twitter during December… This was the only revenue that I generated through my Twitter initiatives during December, so it will be simple to show you as an example.

($250 in revenue less $40 in cost of goods, travel and editing time) x (431 followers on Twitter X 50% estimated click rate X 4% opt-in rate to enquire about images X 10% conversion rate of people opted in to who bought) ($50/hr for my billable hours X 4 hours of my time per month working on Twitter)

Net profit after hard costs ($210.00) x Conversion of my Twitter followers (0.862) – my time doing social marketing ($200.00) = -$18.98 Profit for the sales of a few images from my efforts on Twitter. So I lost money on in my efforts on Twitter but I expanded my network, had a few people sign up for a newsletter and did a decent job creating brand awareness.

My true bottom line showed a net loss when I did the ROI equation, but overall I actually put money in the bank and more people found out about my “Brand”… aka, Me. It may have not been a smart move, and maybe I should have walked away like i said in the post after this one... but I made the conscious decision to sell them for less than I normally would have.

If I want to increase the ROI I know I have to do a few more things to increase my brand awareness and create better conversion… and you may want to try these as well.

For those that blog tips and tutorials, create more compelling information and schedule the releases at the same time each week. These BLOGs for instance are always released at Friday at 5:30pm. People are starting to know that about my blog and will come on the weekend to read what I posted.

At the end of each blog entry put in a web form or contact form to let the reader get more information and get on your mailing list. This further bolsters your follower base and increases your chance of conversion for whatever it is that you sell.

For those that just post out photos that you have taken… make sure you have links to blog tutorials that you may have written on how to take that type of image, post a link to your price list or post a link to other photos you have taken. Offering alternative options for the web browser to look at keeps them on your website and will increase your chances at converting them as clients.

Whatever you post online on your website the formula is quite simple…

1)Create compelling and interesting content
2)The content must lead them to an opt-in form so they can see more valuable content
3)Share all your content via social sites
4)Capture the leads
5)Follow up immediately when they enquire
6)Sell them…
7)Ask for referrals to obtain more prospects

If you would like more information or would like to receive my newsletter please contact me through my website here.

Have a great New Year’s celebration with your friends and family,


How to Set Your Pricing and Generate Profits - The question on many photographer's minds

Pricing your photos is one of the greatest hurdles for photographers looking to turn their passion into a business. We are often insecure at this point in our personal photographic growth and may not believe we are as good as others believe... so how could we ever believe people would pay good money for our images?

It can be especially nerve wracking when a client asks you why they have to pay so much for your photos and services. Especially if you have not done your homework and you just stole some pricing from some other local photographer’s website as a quick fix.

You HAVE to understand that you are now a small business owner, you have to separate personal feelings and let go of the personal connection with your images, then charge a fee where you are generating a profit margin. You need to calculate and understand what you are charging; and be confident that you are worth what you are charging.

You see, you need to not only know the worth of the services you are providing, but you need to know how to articulate what you’re worth and why you’re worth it. Make sure you’re equally versed in the business practices as you are in your photography skills. If your images are of a certain quality and you have the confidence to negotiate the value proposition of your company with confidence, you give your client confidence as well.

The following should provoke some thought and give you some ideas on how to better price your images and services and generate a profit.

Know What You are Worth

Before we go any farther... you have to know and believe what you are worth.

Scenario #1... This is your full time job
The first step is to do your research and find out what the competition is charging for what they are offering. This will give you some confidence at coming up with your own prices. But do not just cut and paste their pricing. People do not only buy on price alone... they buy relationships and value.

The first step you could do to determine what you are worth is by calculating your Cost of Doing Business (CODB). Your CODB is what it takes at the end of every month for you pay your bills. Be realistic here, you’re likely not going to be bringing in a lot of money during your first few years of business.

You could reach your CODB by a few simple calculations. Take all the expenses you need to run a business for the month – website hosting fees, insurance, rent, insurance, food, travel etc., add a salary, and then divide that figure by the number of jobs or images you think you’ll book or sell during any given month. Keeping in mind that you may have to lower your salary or overhead in order to achieve new business.

Scenario #2... You have a full time job and you are also in the development phase of building a photography business
I have a full time job that I love doing at this point. But I am also a nature photographer by heart and sell my images and run workshops for people of all levels looking to be better photographers or need help growing their business.

When I first started out I would determine that an image will be for sale, I took into account what it cost me to take a specific image. For example, I drove 50 miles, slept over at a hotel, had breakfast and dinner and came home with a couple hundred images. It took me one hour of editing time, and the result, I have one image I deem good enough to sell. So my hard costs were:
$25 in gas,
$15 in food
$75 in hotel accommodation,
$40 for my one hour of editing time
Total hard costs to produce image was $155.

I then determined that i will sell this image no less than 10x. That leaves a hard cost of $15.50 per image sold before I print. I then add a cost to print which could be $75 for a canvas print. That leaves $90.50 as my hard cost to produce the finished print. On top of that I always ad $50 for my profit and that leaves the price of that particular image at $140.50. A few different variables may come into play with lowering my hard costs, things like, I did not stay overnight, I came away with two images that I could sell... you get the point.

Now that I have been doing this for a few years and I can now average my prices by size and know I am generating enough profit for every image I sell. I also use a formula that determines ROI from my marketing efforts and you can read that in my blog posting about converting clients using social media.

For my workshops I simply charge what I believe my time is worth. I offer three different types of workshops. The first a quick one hour camera tutorial for people that just received their camera as a gift and want to know what the camera does.

The second is a four hour workshop where i give a price break on my time for multiple hours, but maintain a decent profit margin based on my experience and tenure.

The third type of workshop is a mentor program. I know how many hours it takes to be a mentor and I price it out based on hours spent with each client.

For any workshop I can justify the expense by the added value that I offer and the quality of my own work. As I do more workshops and my images elevate to another level, I will increase my price and be able to justify it easily.

How to Articulate Your Worth

Now that I gave you some sort of idea on how to charge for your images and services. The next thing you have to be able to do is to be able to articulate why you charge what you charge. A good way to do this is to create marketing materials that can be described as a “sales pitch”. It is simply a page of the features and benefits of doing business with you. This is the “why are you worth it” document.

A good example of this is the following... I have been to Paris six times in my life. I have stayed in 4 different districts and know people that live in the city. I know what time of year is good to visit certain attractions and how to get deals in order to get into a maximum amount of venues for anyone attending a photography workshop in Paris. I also know where to stand to get better images and what times of the day work best for specific attractions.

Is that not more appealing to a potential client than simply going on a Parisian photography workshop with another photographer that does not know the city like I do? I offer a lot of extra value by coming with me.

Another good way to get the price you want from a client and subsequent referrals is to under promise, over deliver. I’m not telling you to down play what you bring to the table and definately not exaggerate what you can do for a client. Negativity can spread like wild fire. Just go the extra mile to really deliver on your promises – you’ll not only create a happy client, but the referrals will already come to you sold on your services.

Here is a real world example of mastering this art form. I sold two images to a gentleman and he paid me the price that I was asking. I also had a third image from the same series of images he wanted. Understanding that the images were for his father for X-Mas, I sent him a third image in digital format as added value. He had to print the third image, but he got more bang for his dollar by buying the images from me than he would have if he bought from anyone else.

Listen to Your Clients and Watch For Buying Signals

OK, so now you know your worth, you’re prepared to articulate it with confidence, and now it’s time to discuss the importance of listening to what clients are telling you. This is important step in being able to adapt your photos and services to your clients’ needs.

Every client may be different, so you need to be able to adjust your offerings. Especially today in a very competitive market. Your clients know more today than they ever had, and even some may be amateur photographers that have their own opinions.

You also need to understand buying signals... watch for the body language and not so much their words. People are conditioned not to say “no” when you are sitting down with them. People generally hate confrontation. You may walk away from a client meeting and think you sold them, when really, they just didn’t say “no” to your face and save it for a phone call of email when you follow up.

You have to learn to recognize the hidden signals and not just the verbal ones. If you’ve got a client leaning forward, engaged in what you are showing them and nodding a lot while you’re talking, chances are you’ve sold them. If you find them leaning backwards in their chair, hands crossed ... or even taking phone calls, chances are they are just going through the motions with you.

Engage them, ask questions, overcome objections and ask for feedback. God gave you two ears and a mouth for a reason, listen twice as much as you are talking when selling a client... If you give them what they want and can agree on a price... then show them how you are going to over deliver on what was discussed. I guarantee your chances of success will increase.

Last, ask for the order. Never be afraid to ask the client for their business more than once. If you don’t ask, you are never going to get!

Say it Ain’t So...

Yep, sometimes you are going to have to walk away from a client. You will have clients that want everything for nothing

It’s never fun to have to know that you walked away from work. It goes back to those inner thoughts, “Am I good enough to be charging this?”

If you are this far, than I would say you are good enough, and you should walk away. Unless of course there are strategic reasons to do something for little money, or business is so bad you have to take it.

Compromising on price is a slippery slope. If you discount too much, people will find out about it and the next client that walks through the door will come expecting a discount instead of seeing the value in what you offer. Why, cause the referral they got was that you were talented and your prices are inexpensive.

What I offer here are guidelines and examples... food for thought if you will... The lessons here are... (1) to know what you are worth, (2) be able to defend it, (3) give value and be smart about what clients you do take.

I wish you all luck in your own photography business. If there is any way I can help, please contact me through my website here.

Good luck in 2012, and I thank you for all your continued support over the past year,


Friday, 23 December 2011

Social Media ~ Attract, Convert, Measure ~ PART TWO

This is part two of three in a series of postings dealing with Social Media. This posting will focus on how to Convert web traffic to buying clients.

For those of you that missed “Part One” I would suggest you go back and read that BLOG post so you understand what influences traffic to your website. Then come back and finish reading this post.

Buyers are in control now more than ever, especially consumers coming to you from an online source. There is so much information out there on the internet that our customers are approaching us armed with competitive information and even most are amateur photographers themselves, therefore able to take photos that occasionally rival a professionals. So, not only is there more competition out there, the people we are trying to sell are extremely well prepared before they talk to you.

The keys to converting these types of clients is really quite simple in theory, it just takes a leap of faith from traditional ways of thinking. Just remember the acronym, “RISE", its an acronym for “Respond, Intelligence, Share and Enjoy”

“Rise” above your competition!

Respond – If a potential client contacts you, respond in an efficient and timely manner with more information than they asked for.

You have so many competitors out there that you need to respond as fast as you can with a personalized message. Engage them and maintain a captive audience.

Intelligence – You have to make sure you know just as much about what your competition offers than what you offer. Sounds silly, but it’s true. Information is power and will give you control.

The Chinese General Sun Tsu who wrote the “Art of War” teaches, “It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.”

Share – Prior to the internet, information was scarce. Now, those that are visable on the internet have to share their information and become a trusted member of an online community in order to attract potential clients. If you don't share and offer a lot of information, a competitor is just a click away. Its not like the potential client is driving from store front to store front. They are sitting at home and just have to click on the next photographer to find what they want.

When if comes to social media people do not want to be sold, they just want options. In order to penetrate any social online community you need to be perceived as an expert and just have a strong presence. Remember what I said in part one, “you are in or you are out of social media”!

If you are in, be IN, and participate in the community, share your knowledge and allow the potential clients know you are a trusted source… that comfort level you gain will go a long way in converting the tire kickers into dollars in your jeans.

Think of it this way... why are people on facebook? To reconnect and talk to friends? If you are one of their friends and you are always posting about your products and services and always trying to sell something... well the perception they will have about you on Facebook is probably the same way you feel everytime a pesky telemarketer calls your house at dinner time trying to sell you window cleaning services.

Enjoy – Have fun in your online communities… don’t beat people over the head with your products and services. Just enjoy the communication… send out silly surveys, talk about your family, throw out jokes… let people know the real you.

If you are not enjoying yourself you are not going to do it well. Let’s face it, we are photographers, we prefer to be behind the camera. So while doing this necessary evil, you might as well enjoy yourself. Your engaging personality will come through and people will learn to trust you... then they will buy from you.

In the next post in this trilogy I want to start to discuss something that I just learned… it’s called the “Social Media Money Formula” … this again comes courtesy of Tyler Garns. In addition to that you can also expect to learn how to "Measure" your efforts to see if they are working.

But not only "Measure" success, but I will take a deeper dive and help you really understand what your ROI is. We will be accounting for more than just looking at the money you make, but the time you spend doing certain things.

Talk soon and remember to RISE above your competition!

If you would like more information please contact me below. If you also want to be on my mailing list, please email me and I will put you on the distribution list that goes out 4x a year.

Please contact me by clicking here

Enjoy the holiday season with your family and friends.


Friday, 16 December 2011

Social Media ~ Attract, Convert, Measure ~ PART ONE

I attended a webinar this week about social media. The webinar was put on by Tyler Garns. If you are on TWITTER you can follow Tyler at @tylergarns

The information he pumps out is extremely valuable to anyone owning a small business and wanting to grow their revenue through maximizing online.

I am going to split this blog out into three parts because of the vast amount of information I have to give. This posting will focus on what influences website traffic to your website, the “Attract” portion of these BLOG entries.

What influences website visitors?
The primary influencer to a small business’s website still is “familiarity with your brand”. Generally this accounts for 38% of your monthly traffic. This is people that know you or your company name and will search for your name on a search engine query. Or they will come directly to your website by entering in your URL. I suggest that you go to your analytics tool and look at the referral traffic to your site, find out where the traffic is coming from, and add up the searches with your name or company name to the direct traffic to your specific URL.

This will show you how familiar people are with your name or brand, and how that translates to a percentage of your overall traffic

The second most influential for website traffic is promotional emails. In my experience I know this to be true. If you are doing email blasts or newsletters, and you are doing it right with deep linking you will see the benefits. If this is something you are doing in your mix of marketing, the statistics say that this will generate approximately 19% of your website traffic.

Where that traffic from your newsletter lands is entirely up to you. I like to drive people right to specific pages on my website. Why? Because I know what pages I have higher conversation ratios of taking browsers to paying clients.

The following marketing initiatives seem to bunch up and represent the second tier of marketing influencers to your website.
Search Engine Results accounts for 8%
TV, Newspaper, Radio and Magazine account for another 8%
Word of mouth recommendations yet again accounts for 8%
Traditional internet advertising accounts for 7% of your traffic generation.
To be honest I do not know many photographers that advertise on TV, Radio, newspaper or magazine; and frankly there are very few that even do traditional internet advertising.

I would suggest that us, as photographers spread the 15% that these advertising mediums traditionally account for and distribute that over our newsletters, social media, SEO and SEM tactics. What we do, do as photographers is influence our search engine results and if we are paying attention to our reputation, we can influence positive word of mouth.

Search engine results being on average 8% of a small business web traffic is low to me. While I just let it go on the webinar because there were many types of small businesses in attendance, I disagree with this stat for a photographer. If you are trying to grow your business, and you have a website you will be focusing significant amount of your time on keywords and meta tags on your website to ensure higher ranking in search results. I know I do, and I pay as much attention to this as I can, both on my blog and on my website that showcases all my photos. Search engine results, and subsequent click thru to my website accounts for just over 10% of my website traffic… and growing.

I am sure if I purchased keywords this would grow, but I decided to focus on SEO versus SEM, I am saving the money and I only invest my time. And yes, time is money, but when faced between watching TV or doing SEO on my site, doing the SEO usually wins over a mind numbing episode of Grey’s Anatomy… Now, the Big Bang Theory is another story. Not much gets in the way of me and my thirty minutes with Sheldon, Leonard, Penny, Raj and Howard.

The last grouping of influencers seems to fit together nicely as well. It will prompt those of you that do not participate in social media to question whether it’s worth the effort, but for those of us that participate in social media already have the answer, and that answer is yes, absolutely.

The statistics show that for small businesses the following seems to generate smaller percentages of traffic.
Interaction on Social Networks accounts for 5% of the traffic
Blogs and discussion boards account for 3% of the traffic
Shopping comparison sites and product review sites account for 4% of the traffic.

Personally, as a photographer that participates in social marketing, I can say firsthand that social marketing is the largest influencer of traffic to my website. BUT… a word of caution. You are either doing social media or you are not. There is no half way here. Commit yourself to it and you will drive traffic.

Social media is a huge topic unto itself so I am not going to go into all the details here. Social media can consist of using websites such as… Facebook, Google+, Farmville, Flickr, 500px, youtube, Gowalla, Instagram, twitter and many, MANY others.

The trends that do seem to be taking hold that you might want to look at are, “Urbanspoon”, a geo based application that will find places to eat, be entertained etc, Google and Facebook places to list your businesses on to be found. Other trends that are on the rise are Foursquare, Gowalla and Groupon. But one that I would suggest you get involved in is YELP… get engage here and see the rewards for traffic generation, and subsequent conversation because the traffic are qualified prospects.

The next posting will be about converting traffic from browsers and tire kickers to actual clients… that will come out next Friday at 6pm EST.

In the meantime, if you want more information please contact me below.

If you also want to be on my mailing list, please email me and I will put you on the distribution list that goes out 4x a year.

Contact me by clicking here

Until next time, happy shooting!


Thursday, 15 December 2011

An Interview with Kevin Pepper

please click the link below to read an interview i gave about my growth from an amateur photographer to professional

please click here

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Macro Photography

Macro photography is just another term for close-up photography. There are various schools of thought on when a photo becomes a “macro”. My view is that a photo becomes a macro when the image in the photo is larger than the subject you photographed. If you would define it as different I would love it if you would share it with everyone below in the comments field.

Macro Gear

While it's easier to shoot macro on a bright sunny day, often you'll find that you still need to use a flash to fill in the light and help stop any minor motion. With a point and shoot camera you have less options. You should experiment with using the different flashes that are available on your camera. I might also recommend defusing your flash. You can do this by taping a piece of white tissue paper over it. This will soften your flash. DSLR users who don't have an off camera flash will need to defuse their flash with tissue paper or a diffuser. If you have an off camera flash you should bounce the beam of light. If you're working outdoors you'll need to have a white reflector to bounce your flash off of.

Even when you're trying your best to stay perfectly still, you move the tiniest bit. This movement can make your macro photography look a little blurry. Using a tripod will help you get a sharper image. So you don't have to touch the camera when it's taking the picture try using the timer or if you have a DSLR use a remote shutter release. For me that is preferential.

If you're shooting pictures of insects using a tripod could be quite difficult. Most bugs move way too fast to give you time to set up. In these cases you'll have to take a hand held photo. Brace your elbows against your body and hold yourself as steady as possible. You may even want to lean up against a tree or something to steady yourself even more.

Cameras and Lenses
When working with a DSLR camera, you should consider buying a lens for macro photography. Lenses can be quite expensive, but the right lens will allow you to take great pictures. When purchasing a lens you want to take into consideration what you'll be photographing. A 55mm macro lens will give you beautiful clear images. You'll have to be pretty close to the subject though. If you're planning to take pictures something that will be easily scared, this isn't the best option. Then you should try using a 100mm or a 200mm lens. This will allow you to have some distance between you and your subject. Some people opt for a zoom lens. These are also good options.

If you can't afford to go out and buy a new lens, you can use close-up lenses also called diopters. These are like magnifying glasses you can screw onto the front of your lens. They come in a variety of strengths or magnification powers.

Another option is getting an extension tube. An extension tube is a tube you can put between your camera and your lens to increase the lens' magnification.

Using a combination of extension tubes and close-up lenses will give you the best results for macro photography. Remember to make sure you buy close-up lenses and extension tubes that are compatible with your camera.

On your lens you'll see a series of f-stop numbers. These f-stops determine the aperture setting for your shot. A small f-stop number will make the aperture wider. This means you'll have a shallow depth of field and walk away with a smaller area in focus on your image. .

You also need to adjust your shutter speed--the length of time the shutter stays open. If your shutter is set to stay open for a long time, you'll be unable to get a sharp image of a subject that's in motion. For that you need to set a fast shutter speed.

The most common lens in macro photography is in the 100mm focal range. However, you can get a decent one at 60mm as well. You can even get a super-telephoto close-up lens at about 180mm. What makes them special is their ability to get close to the subject, thus filling the frame with a subject like a bug or a flower bud.

Some will ask if there are zoom lenses that are good for shooting these kinds of shots. The answer most photographers who deal with this type of shooting is that you need to stick with a single focal length, such as 100mm. This will give you a much better quality photo.

The good news is that even though you will need to spend quite a bit for a good quality lens for macro photography, it will be good for capturing great portraits and it will give you fantastic street journalism photos as well.

When choosing your new lens, pay attention to the aperture rating. Try to get an aperture of f/2.8 or greater. Personally, I own a 50mm, F/1.8 which produces fantastic images. This simply means that the opening will be wide enough to accomplish two things. First, you will get excellent blurred backgrounds when shooting at the wide aperture. You tiny subjects will stand out nicely because of this. The second thing is the ability to shoot in low light situations. The wider the aperture, the faster the shutter speed can be.

When you finally make the decision to add this piece of equipment to your camera bag, you will be delighted with the results and wonder why you put it off for so long. Even if you are shooting with the cheapest DSLR camera, the lens is what will make the largest impact on image quality.

Things to Consider

When following these macro photography tips don't forget the rules of composition. Try to use the rule of thirds in your pictures and remember that they eye is immediately drawn to the light.

One other thought when it comes to composition; compose the shot in the camera. I tend to do my best to fill the frame with the image I want and not rely on editing software to crop down the image later.

Automatic focus is very convenient, but when working with macro photography you'll usually find that manual focus gives you a better result. It will allow you to have more control over the selective focus on a specific point in your image.

Happy Shooting,


Sunday, 11 December 2011

Being Sponsored – The PROS and CONS - with an update on this entry

Imagine getting free gear from a manufacturer because our photos are so great! Wouldn’t it be fantastic!?

I talked to a few manufacturers at a recent trade show because I was thinking about writing this article. I thought I would ask them each how many times they get contacted by photographers every year, their response, well; it was more laughter than figures. But I did catch them both say it runs into the thousands each year. The advice I received from the people that make the decisions on whether you are even going to be considered a sponsored photographer... “You have to be a top tier photographer and a top tier marketer before we would even consider looking at your portfolio.”

If you are like me you think about being sponsored by a camera company. Well, let me rephrase that, I used to think it would be great. Not anymore. After talking to a few photographers that do get free gear I realized that it is not that special. Sure, you get more expensive gear, the kind us mere mortals dream about using. But the reality is that the sponsoring company holds all the power and the photographer gives up so much more than they really should.

Quite often the company will get the rights to use of the photographer’s images to promote the product you are using. Your work then ends up in promotional pieces everywhere in exchange for a camera and a few lenses. On the flipside, if you actually sold images directly to a company; you would make more than enough to go out and purchase the gear you got for free... and be able to go buy your spouse something nice because they put up with the crazy hours of a professional photographer.

Even worse than not getting the value that your images are worth, there is something that one photographer referred to as “being muzzled”. As a sponsored photographer you will not be allowed to express your honest opinion about the company’s products. Let’s face it, camera companies all make fantastic products, they also all make products that are not that great. Once you are sponsored, you are going to be expected to say that all this company’s products are great. I don’t know what you think... but doesn’t your personal credibility come into question if you are out there saying you don’t believe there have ever been issues with a camera we all know was flawed from the moment it hit the shelves?

Let’s also not forget that a camera manufacturer will want you to use only their lenses... You may not be able to use those Tamron or Sigma lenses that sit in your bag that you have grown to love.

I guess if you want to try for a sponsorship, who am I to suggest otherwise. You will have better gear than me and I will suffer from lens envy if we are shooting side by side. You will no doubt have the gear and definitely the notoriety that I don’t.

But I will have free speech, the best equipment my money can buy. I will not be tied to just one manufacturer and I will still have the opportunity to sell my images to anybody and everybody that will buy them. But then again, you have the better gear and opportunities I dont have...

Which would be better in your opinion?

Regardless if you are sponsored, or not,

Happy Shooting!

UPDATE TO THIS ENTRY - December 9, 2012

I wrote this blog post originally over a year ago and my photography career has really taken off in the past 14 months... I started a new company that has run workshops and runs seminars... and I have recently started to develop solid business relationships with some companies based in the photography business and in the peripherial of the photogrpahy business. So... guess what, I now have sponsors... but the key here is that they are "mutually beneficial business partnerships"

I will say this. I did not accept a "business partnerhsip" with just any company just to get free gear. I created mutually beneficial relationships with companies that have products I believe in... I still will not endorse a product that is not worthy of a positive review. My integrity is too important for the sake of a piece of gear worth a couple hundred dollars... but i do now use products from various companies... and I will review them, I will endorse them and I will, more importantly, use their product to help my students take better photos and help me on my own photogrpahic journey.

The key here for me... "mutually beneficial relationships"... i help them sell gear and get their name out there and in return, for the large numbers of clients that I can get their gear in front of I am paid in one form or another" ... and my partners work with me becasue I am an extension of their company. I believe wholeheartedly in their products and am an advocate for their business philosophies and their product.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

An art form that preceeds Kodachrome

In the infancy of photography, photographers had no choice but to shoot in black and white. Then, in 1936, the invention of kodachrome offered the alternative of colour photography to the world. Surprisingly enough though, black and white photography did not die off, instead it flourished as a popular medium. Modern black and white photography is unmistakably art, and many photographers regard it as the purest form of photography.

Some will say that nothing but B&W photos can capture the emotion and convey the mood of a photo better. Colors can be stunning, and really add to an image’s beauty, but they can also work as a distraction, especially if you have a lot of bright colours causing confusion.

Black-and-white photography consists of 5 key concepts, below, I have offered 5 tips that you can use to adapt these concepts to your images.

When you are shooting black-and-white photographs you should look beyond the colors and focus on the shapes that surround you. Colors tend to take away your focus on shapes, so forget about them when you are out looking for good places to capture.

“Look at the world through monochrome eyes” I was once told.
Easier said than done for a fledgling photographer that was still struggling with the exposure triangle of aperture, shutter speed and ISO… so here is a tip I learned long after I was told to look through my monochrome eyes… go buy a square black and white filter or an grey ND filter. Look at a scene through that filter and train your eyes and brain to see how a black and white image will look completely different than a colour image.

OK, here I am talking out of the other side of my mouth now… It is still prudent to not completely forget about colors when shooting black-and-white photographs. There is always contrast between dark and light colors but also between shadows and lighting.

Try shooting a light subject against a dark background. Try to photograph bright colours against dark colours, a soft pale green against a blue background… Do this in order to understand that contrast adds some depth. I might also suggest that you take a look at the color wheel… see what colors contrast each other, and learn how they interact with each other.

Patterns can be hard to express in a color image. Colours tend to draw the eye because we are naturally attracted to colours like red and orange. Colours will distract the viewer’s attention and possibly miss the pattern you were trying to bring forth. With black-and-white photography this is not an issue. The pattern will stand out more, so, when shooting black and white… watch for patterns. They are everywhere, and the experienced photographers use them to their advantage.

In black-and-white photos you should be paying much more attention to texture. The reason is that the color information is not being picked up by the brain. Nothing is there to distract the viewer to really “see” the photo the way it was meant to be seen.

This last element is very important because it will affect all of the others that are mentioned above. You can play with lighting in so many different ways. Side lighting can for example create a dramatic effect. Lighting a subject below ads a sinister feeling and creates emotions. Illumination from above can convey peace and tranquility. Dead on flash from the camera that is too intense, well that will just over expose the image and possibly end up in the trash folder.

Now that we have gone through the elements that you need to pay attention to when taking black and white images… use them as a guideline and play with them when you are out shooting. Paying attention to these details will separate your images from the rest.

So now let’s discuss a few points about you and your camera

You as a photographer
There are two types of black and white imagery in my mind. Some may disagree as you get more complex, but for the sake of this article… let’s keep it simple. There are “high contrast” black and white images and there are images that have more midtones and do not reach out to the edges of the whites and blacks on your histogram.

High contrast images convey more reactionary emotion while even flowing grey tone photos are softer and offer more subtlety… Which type of photographer are you? I am not saying you have to be one or the other. I am just saying, pick a style, master it, and move to the other style. Find out where you are comfortable and where your style allows you to go.

Your Camera and Software
If you are intentionally heading out the front door with the conscious thought of taking back and white photos… a few good tips for digital SLR users are
1) Shoot in the RAW format (which you should do for the best quality colour to black and white conversions anyway)
2) You could set the Picture Style, or shooting mode to a black and white mode. The photo will be displayed in black and white on the camera’s LCD screen… BUT, because you shot in RAW, you will still have all the colour information in the RAW file for your conversion afterwards.
3) Maybe grab your ND filters or black and white filters if you do not want to shoot in black and white. This will eliminate the colours when you are out shooting.
4) One last thought… you might have your own software, perhaps Photoshop – or any one of a dozen or so programs. Any of these will do a better job at black and white digital photography than your camera will. Think of it this way – your camera is specially designed to capture photographs. Your software is specially designed to "edit" photographs. Do you really want to ask your camera to do a job that your software is designed to do? Just sayin…

See More Examples of Black and White Images Here

Happy Shooting in monochrome,


A Few Of My Favorite Photos

I was sitting here today thinking about what my next BLOG post was going to be and I decided to share some of my favorite photos...

Reflections of an iconic structure

The Eiffel Tower photo is my favorite photo that I have taken in a long time. I love the perspective because it was captured in the puddles. This iconic structure has been shot to death but this one offers something different.

Heavenly Morning

The Fifty Point Conservation area piers behind the military shooting range... I love this photo because it represents patience and perserverence. I went back to this location to try and capture this structure the way I wanted. After 5 trips I believe i got the shot i was after (IMO)

Mount Dumyat, a sheep and Wallis Monument

This photo from Scotland was a trek. I had to climb to the top of Mount Dumyat to get this view. Wallis Monument has been shot from every angle, but few make the trek to the top of the 1600ft vertical elevation through the winding winding path. A hike I am glad i made with Joe, Karen and Dylan

So these are three of my favorite photos, a family memory, a romantic vacation and a trip to my favorite place to shoot.

What are some of your favorite shots?