Switch 2 Social Recap | A Seminar on Social Media and Blogging

Last Thursday I spoke at an ASMP event titled, “Social Media Secrets Revealed,” about how blogging has helped my business grow. For those of you who attended, thank you. For those of you who couldn’t make it or were too far away, you missed a great show! Rosh Sillars was the keynote speaker and had some great tips. Pascal Depuhl, Jorge ParraScott Coventry and I were additional speakers who shared our own personal success stories. My story was about how blogging has really helped my business. It is often overlooked by artists because we think our work speaks for itself. But in a world where clients want to know who they are hiring, the blog is your new resume and portfolio.

 

When I talk to people about blogging, there is often a lot of fear surrounding the idea of it. Some common fears are related to insecurity, weak writing skills, lack of information, and the list goes on. Insecurity stems from the misconception that someone else out there probably knows the topic better. Many people are anxious that writing isn’t their strong point and so are afraid of not sounding eloquent. Some have a false belief that they should first gather more information and then blog when they really have something of epic proportions to say. Whatever your reason, just toss it out. My first blogs were terrible (and some still are). I mean really, really awful. And the pictures that I took back then, well, I wouldn’t be putting any of them on my website today. But it was material. It was content. It was a starting point. Writing anything is almost always better than nothing. Nothing will get you nothing. Often, the idea of writing for the entire online community is daunting. Sometimes it helps to imagine that you have no audience, that you are just writing for yourself.

So, where do you begin? What would you like to tell someone about yourself or your work if you were writing in a journal and could say anything, for example? Write that. Add some visuals if you have them; if not, oh well. Post what you wrote. In the beginning your audience probably will be close to zero. I have been posting so infrequently that I’m pretty sure the size of my blog’s audience is back down. But, even if it isn’t, I prefer to imagine that it is because if no one is reading my blog and I’m just writing to give Google some fresh content to crawl, the pressure is off! I have yet to lose a client because of a blog post (knock on wood it doesn’t happen in the future). So, I have nothing to lose and everything to gain, which is the same for you!

So your homework this week (for those of you who already have some sort of blog platform up): Write a post. Even if it is a post about never getting around to posting (I think I have at least 10 posts like that). But write something! Break the ice!! You have to start somewhere!

If you don’t have a blog yet, you have a bigger assignment: Figure out what platform you want to use to blog (research WordPress, Blogger, etc), learn how to install it and get to it. Or get a buddy who is computer savvy to do it for you. If you have no computer savvy friends, hire someone to do it. Just figure it out and do it!! Worst case scenario, you don’t install it correctly and have to try again. Practice makes perfect and eventually you will get it!

E-commerce Photographer Miami | How to Produce a Professional Photo shoot, aka “What the heck do I do now?”

Everyone has to start somewhere. Chances are good that if you are reading this blog, you are wondering what the heck do I need to do to produce a photo shoot? It’s OK! No one will tell! In fact you can message me with any questions you might have. My goal is to help my clients or anyone who finds themselves needing to produce a photo shoot. Ready? Here goes!
When planning a shoot, there are a multitude of things to consider in order to make your shoot successful. As the saying goes, “The devil is in the details.” Here are ways to plan out those details to make for a successful shoot. While this is a list of important items to keep in mind, the descriptions are purposely broad with some specific examples given; your distinct needs for your shoot will require you to refine, add and/or subtract items as necessary.

Some of the very first things to take into account are your budget, due dates, the shot list, and usage. Identify the budget for the shoot, and determine how rigid it is. This will help shape the decisions you make regarding the entire production. How much flexibility do you have if unexpected costs come up? Due dates are crucial to keep in mind. When are the images needed? Understanding your time frame will allow you to work backwards in creating a schedule. A shot list is also imperative. Brainstorm what photos you will need. Does your product need to be shot on-model and/or still life? Do you need various angles of each item? How many total images do you need of your product(s)? And don’t forget to keep in mind the usage. How will your photos be used? For advertising? Internally? On the web?

The next thing to plan is the art direction. This is something that can be done in-house or outsourced, but is a significant aspect of your production. Art direction involves sourcing inspiration for your photos (I suggest collecting visual examples for this), making sure the photos line up with your company’s image, and ensuring that the photos convey the mood and environment that you want your product(s) to have. And, of course, this all dictates the type of photographer that you will use. You wouldn’t choose a nature photographer for an action shot of a model, for example. Which leads us to the casting…

Your next step involves casting and determining the details of the actual shoot. Your casting may include hiring models, stylists, hairstylists, makeup artists, and, of course, the photographer (to name a few). You may also need to hire a professional retoucher for post-production. Some photographers can do their own retouching, but it is important to determine whether they can do it well. You then need to ascertain whether you will be using a studio or a location for the shoot. If you plan to shoot on location, you will need to obtain permits or permission to use the site, and you should have a back-up plan in case of weather issues. You also need to consider your set. What inanimate objects will you need to complete the shot? What wardrobe or accessories might you need for the models? Is a manicure necessary due to close-up shots of a model’s hands?

Within the location details (whether on location or in studio) it is essential to plan food and beverages for everyone at the shoot and possibly transportation to and from the site. You may even need to provide lodging for the clients, models and/or the crew, depending on the location.

Image selection is an important part of the process. This can occur either on set or after the shoot. If the photographer shoots tethered to a computer, you can see the images immediately as they are shot. This gives you the opportunity to select your images while on set, and it also allows you to confirm that you have everything you need before the shoot is done.

After the shoot has taken place, there is still work to be done. The post-production work includes file management (naming, re-sizing, and delivering the images as digital files), as well as any retouching that may be required. When budgeting for your shoot, it is important to determine whether these costs are built into the photographer’s fee or will be charged additionally.

After taking all of this into account, the big question is can this all fit into your budget? If the answer is no, it is time to re-evaluate some aspects of your plan. Can you get a higher budget? Can you be more specific in your usage? Can you reduce your shot list? What can be done in-house?

And lastly, don’t forget about payment. When are people expecting to be paid? How long will it take your company to pay?

So, here is a quick checklist to help you plan your shoot:

budget
due dates
shot list
usage
art direction
casting
shoot details
location details
image selection
post-production work
payment

Just remember, this is a list of important items to keep in mind, but the descriptions are broad. You will need to tweak the list depending on your own needs for your shoot.

Here is a handy flowchart for your reference:

 

E-Commerce Photographer| Intro and Banner Shots

I recently shot marketing and lifestyle images for Frank Morgan’s American Swimwear, a startup company based in New York, whose brand focuses on the young, twenty-something crowd. As you can guess, a company’s website needs more than its e-commerce shots to sell the product. Having lifestyle photos which project the image that the company is targeting can really enhance the website. A strong intro shot draws customers to the site, where the e-commerce shots will then provide the necessary product information.

For our shoot, we first shot the e-commerce images in the studio, and then ventured out to the beach to shoot the lifestyle images. It was a typical gorgeous day on the beach in Miami: blue skies, turquoise water, white sand. Clearly we had a lot of beauty to work with, including the designer’s sister who flew down from New York to be our model.

The images we shot outside were to be used for banners and intro on the company’s website, so they needed to have ample room for cropping, placement of text, the company’s logo, etc. Here are four of my favorite photos from the shoot.

 

The following photos were shot to be used as intro photos on the company’s webpage. With the brand’s focus on a youthful crowd, these images are intended to be young, playful, and flirtatious.

This photo was shot with the purpose of being used for a banner on the company’s website. It allows room for cropping into a narrow, horizontal image without eliminating any of the crucial components of the photo.

Here are two examples of how photos can be used as intro shots on a website. Space was purposely left on one side of the photo to have a generous amount of room for the necessary text.

Here are two examples of how photos can be used as banners on a website.

E-commerce Photographer South Florida | The Picture Sells the Product

Sometimes it’s hard to justify the cost of e-commerce photography, especially when the product will be photographed on a model. Instead of just paying for the photography, the client will need a whole team to produce photography that will sell products. That means (in some cases): photographer, model, hair & makeup (not always one person for both), stylist, assistants, location, catering (if the shoot is going to be a full day), etc., etc., etc. It’s hard to imagine getting all that on the budget that most startups have. So, how can you make the photo shoot worth it? Considering that a startup has a smaller budget, the goal would be to shoot less product perfectly, rather than shooting all of your product in a mediocre fashion. Think quality, not quantity. It certainly isn’t worth wasting the budget on sub-par shots. In the world of e-commerce photography, if you can’t do it right, don’t do it.

Recently, I came across a photograph of a swimsuit I liked. The still life shot looked really good and it was selling to me.

So I decided to follow the link to the website where I could buy it. Once there, I saw more shots of the swimsuit, including some that were on model and I really, really liked the swimsuit!

But, unfortunately, it was sold out. Lucky for me the company had put the designer’s name on the swimsuit so I did a quick search to see if I could buy the swimsuit directly from the designer’s website. And that, my readers, is when I did a double-take. I could not believe it was the same swimsuit. The designer had different colors but I had NO desire to buy this product in any color. It looked terrible in the still life; all the various colored swimsuits were shot differently. On model it was unflattering as well.

As you can imagine based on these photos, I’m not sold for a lot of reasons. Let’s look at this on model first. The suit isn’t showing me the side details at all, her pose is awkward and not relaxed which makes me wonder if that is because the swimsuit isn’t comfortable. This isn’t clear to me that the swimsuit is reversible here. I can’t figure out why I’m not seeing the back of the light blue swimsuit (it takes me a while to figure out that the dark blue is the outside of the light blue swimsuit and that is what I’m seeing).

The still life images vary quite a bit. One shot makes the bottom look uncomfortably small. The straps are all different on the tops and it just looks messy. The description on the image tells us the color of one side and the bungee but not the reversible side which makes me wonder if they are all reversible , especially for those whose color is closer to skin color. Or, in the case of the palm print suit, I have no idea if it is even reversible.

I can only imagene the return on investment (ROI) for the first images was astronomically higher than the ROI of the second set of images. I’m sure the budget for the first set of images was also much higher. So to be fair, this is a “you-get-what-you-can-pay-for” situation.

Now, here’s what I would have done. If the client didn’t have the budget for great shots in all colors, I would have recommended that we shoot one swimsuit perfectly, then shoot color swatches of the details for each alternative colored swimsuit. If the budget allowed for it, I would say shoot that swimsuit on a model because the ROI will be bigger. If the budget didn’t allow for it then shoot one perfect still life and, if possible, one group shot with each swimsuit stacked showing the detail of each swimsuit displaying the bungee, the color inside and the color outside.

This would save time (and hence, money) by not having to style the whole swimsuit.

So there you have it. My two cents, from an e-commerce photographer’s perspective on what to do to optimize your e-commerce photography ROI.

Miami Portrait Photographer | Optimize your headshot!

Many of you already know me on a personal basis, but for those who don’t, my husband Sam is an internet guru. I really don’t know how else to describe him. He works in hospitality helping hotels make the most of their online presence. This week he will be speaking at a conference in Tennessee and so he came to me because he needed a new headshot. Okay, so why is this interesting? Photographer takes picture of her husband… big deal. Actually it was what he taught me that was so cool I wanted to share it with everyone. On one of the blogs he follows Cyrus Shepard created a post called “How Optimizing My Ugly Google+ Pic Increased Free Traffic”. To sum it up, by placing a color behind the subject people were statistically more likely to click on that person or their link/article. Google likes to put our bio pictures all over everything it can now, and the internet has become overrun with black and white head shots, or head shots against a black, white, or grey background. So when I photographed him we did it against, you guessed it, grey (and I included a black and white of the shot for him too, aren’t I nice!?). He shared the article with me after our photo shoot.

 

He took it upon himself to add orange to the background (this is what we would call an artists rendering of what he did, I can’t find the actual file anywhere now)…

Orange. Bright orange. Now, no offense to my beloved or anything here, but after some convincing he let me have a go at changing the grey background to a color for him. I went with a techie blue (he also has blue eyes so that was inspiring me).

When I saw his new headshot with this color pop up in my text messages I the post hit home. My eyes immediately rush to his shot over all the other photos next to text messages in my phone (everyone has a little photo next to their message on my phone). The effectiveness of this in a larger setting (aka, the web) was not lost on me.

Since then, I’ve shot two more portraits one for a writer, one for a jewelry designer, both asked for blue as the color behind them.

At this point, I’m feeling rather out dated with my black background behind me in my bio pictures. Guess it’s time to update myself! What do you think??? Out with the old….

In with the Warhol?

How to run a business and start a family | Part 1

I have a confession. I have been very, very busy this year. On top of already this being one of my busiest business years to date, I went and became a mom back in March.
I have a second confession, many of my clients didn’t know I was pregnant or that I had a baby.

First, let me say, this is a subject that I’m sure will hit home to a lot of my readers. I’m a 30 something year old woman, who has been nurturing her own business for about 8 years or so now (plus 1+ year of interning and 4 years of college for photography at RISD). So it was not lightly that I decided to start a family. It seems like my path is crossing with a lot of women who either own their own businesses or have worked their tail off to start a business who are around my age and facing this question: do I want to have kids? That question is quickly followed by the next one, what are the sacrifices of starting a family? And of course, that gets more specific with wondering, is it even possible to keep my career on course and become a parent?

The answers won’t be the same for everyone. But for me, I had no intention of letting my business get off track because I was going to start a family. Upon the suggestion of one of these woman whose path has crossed mine, I am going to write a little bit about how I made this transition work and how I was able to meet all my clients needs during this time.

So this first post is about making that choice to become a parent. Not everyone has the luxury of getting to make that choice and so already you are lucky.

Like many of my peers, I was very scared to start a family, for lots of reasons. What was going to happen to my body/career/marriage/etc?

The fear of what starting a family would do to my marriage caused my husband and I had some very intense conversations. These were no holds bar honest conversations. In these talks, we confessed what we both wanted our marriage to be like and where it currently fell short of that and what we needed to make sure we didn’t let go of when a baby arrived. We talked about “what if” situations. We discussed our peers who had children and the strains we saw them going through and mapped out strategies if we found ourselves in the same boat. Naturally, so much of what we talked about didn’t come true for us or did but in a way we never predicted. But being able to have already talked about stresses in a “what if” scenario took some of the taboo out of discussions when the situations were taking place.

Please don’t judge me because I know it is a vanity, but I didn’t want to loose my body to a child. This was a huge source of anxiety for me. Throughout my whole pregnancy it was a stress. I’ve always been in good shape and in the last 5-10 years put a lot of effort into eating right and being an athlete in my free time (My husband and I paddle, Dragon boats/OC/Sup, anything you can think of). I was terrified that I would have a baby and never get back into my shape and it would cause stresses on me and my marriage. So, just like above, my husband and I talked about it. A lot! I worked out until I really couldn’t, whatever I could do (my Dr said no to continuing to do crossfit, which now I think I might have been able to do actually). I ate as right as I could (first trimester all bets were off, my nausea decided I was going to eat a lot of Mac-N-Cheese with chicken nuggets -seriously, like in 3rd grade again). What really helped was acknowledging that my husband loved me, he liked me being in shape but loved me and that wasn’t going to change with the transitions my body went through. I picked a good man to marry, one who I knew wasn’t in it for looks. So that helped. And as a side note, if your with a guy who you feel like would leave you if you weren’t smoking hot anymore, maybe you should rethink that relationship because we are all going to get old one day and no matter what you do, gravity is going to get you.

Now the golden ticket: career. I decided to keep quiet about expecting to all of my clients. I let them ask me about it when I was showing enough that they were curious. I decided that there was a line between personal and professional life and to be honest, I was intimidated that my clients might run to someone else. So I knew that meant I had to make sure their photo needs were met EXACTLY as they were when I wasn’t pregnant.

That included a plan for going into labor during a shoot. I trained and trained and trained an amazing assistant of mine to do anything and everything I could so if I ended up in the hospital or on bed rest my business could still run. Picking the right person is key in this. For me, she had to be as attentive to detail as I am, friendly, professional, and okay with me staring over her shoulder commenting on her every move. I also had to trust her immensely. Essentially I knew I wasn’t going to get any downtime pre baby/labor/post baby so I had someone else to be there just in case I was too weak or physically unable to do my shooting so my clients wouldn’t have their images or timelines compromised. Luckily, I didn’t need my assistant to do too much when the time did come. But I had to be incredibly prepared. The total unexpected upside of this was that after I hired my childcare and found myself back in the swing of things I had the most amazing assistant ever! She was trained to be my hands and so I could trust her to do every light setup perfectly, know how to style everything I work with, understand the timelines needed (there were nights that she pulled all nighters to get my stack focus images ready so I had a file to work on) and always have a positive attitude.

Interview the crap out of this person. And pay them well. This was a cost of my business continuing to run so even if I broke even for a while because I had her helping me it was worth not loosing accounts/clients over. Be ready for complications because other people will notice your amazing assistant and offer them work as well. I was lucky that the clients that did that were super sweet people and we were able to work something out where my assistant could help them and me.

This fear, of how a baby would affect my business was a huge roadblock for me when I thought about starting a family. Even when I had been training and teaching my assistant it wasn’t until my clients could see her work and were comforted that as a team we were producing images as consistent and dead on as always, that my mind was at ease. Hopefully some of these confessions and tips help you put your mind at ease too. It really can be done and things will be okay. I’ll keep posting (as much as I can because having a baby does cut way back on my blogging time) more about how I am working through this transition and how it actually, positively has continued to affect my business.