I have been covering an annual meeting for a client these past few days. For the most part I can set my camera to these settings:
Auto ISO – ISO 100-12800 on Fuji X-E3 & ISO 100-102,400 on Nikon D5 with starting shutter speed @ 1/100 or 1/200.
I find that in places I am working fast that I tend to take the shutter speed up a little faster to avoid getting motion in photos due to being anxious.
So for about 90% of the photos this works just well. I was able to capture speakers and people hanging out at the event.
Now the problem comes that if you are not use to shooting a variety of things when you get the Olympic Gymnast Laurie Hernandez performing shooting at 1/200 will make her look out of focus and blurred.
Since I shoot sports as well I just switched my Auto ISO shutter speed setting to 1/4000. I have this saved as a preset that I choose on my Nikon D5.
I also must remember to switch the camera back so that I am always getting the best quality, which is the lowest ISO at the lowest shutter speed I can shoot safely to get sharp photos.
Hope this tip reminds you to check your shutter speed when shooting events. Is it set to stop the action appropriately?
One of the best ways for restaurants to get you to buy their food is to sample it. Walk through almost any malls food court and one of the restaurants is giving out samples. When you have low market awareness with your food then you have to do something to get people to know you exist and what you offer is good.
Now photographers don’t have to give their photos away for people to know what they will get if they purchase a photo from you. They can look at your portfolio and it serves the same purpose.
Successful business model is one that is a win-win deal for all involved. The problem for most people starting out in business is they don’t know what they don’t know.
The devil doesn’t come dressed in pointy horns. He comes in everything you wished for …
Drug dealers give free samples to get you hooked. They don’t work in back alleys all the time. Today many are selling what appear to be legitimate prescription drugs. There are even doctors who have been doing this because it is so lucrative to them because of the kickbacks they get from drug companies.
When most successful business start out they hired lawyers, accountants and other experts to help guide them so they would be successful.
When you start out I cannot recommend enough getting expert help. One of the best photography organizations I know is ASMP [American Society of Media Photographers]. I have been a member since 1987.
The group was founded to help represent magazine photographers in matters of wages and working conditions. Those early years ASMP was acting as a union for photographers. While today it isn’t a union the purpose of ASMP at its core is to help photographers be successful businesses.
Remember Groupon? Businesses thought that giving super discount to get customers in their doors would have them later pay full price. A study by Lightspeed Research shows that 63% of Groupons are purchased by existing customers. … Sucking value out of the small business market will ultimately damage the local merchants that are the bread and butter of Groupon’s base. Groupon’s model is not sustainable.
Now if Groupon which is a discounted price sucks value our of small business what do you think of Unsplash?
Beautiful, free photos. Gifted by the world’s most generous community of photographers.
Remember photographers do not have to give photos away like you see in a mall’s food court. They can show their images on websites or displays. People can get a taste of what you offer without you giving anything away.
Remember: “Successful business model is one that is a win-win deal for all involved.“
Mikael Cho is a graphic designer who was solving “his problem” when he started UnSplash.
Mikael’s problem was that when he needed samples for an idea he was working on he realized that when he went to Google Images he couldn’t just use those images. Not sure exactly how he knew that those were copyrighted and not for free, but I am guessing it would be similar to others who start out. They made mistake and someone pointed out you cannot do that without paying for the images.
By the way Mikael had his bills paid by another way it appears than graphic design. He thinks of himself as an artist. He just wants to create and share.
This is great if you have a job. Then your creativity is a hobby and not a career. The problem is that Mikael sucked people who want to do this for a career into his creative vortex.
Mikael seems to be talking as an artist. I have heard this many times before. Usually in the past I would then hear they don’t want to “sell out.” Wikipedia defines: “Selling out” is a common idiomatic pejorative expression for the compromising of a person’s integrity, morality, authenticity, or principles in exchange for personal gain, such as money. In terms of music or art, selling out is associated with attempts to tailor material to a mainstream or commercial audience; for example, a musician who alters his material to encompass a wider audience, and in turn generates greater revenue, may be labeled by fans who pre-date the change as a “sellout.” A sellout also refers to someone who gives up, or disregards, hence the term ‘sells’ – someone or something – for some other thing or person.
Simply put, you can’t live out your purpose if you aren’t selling and that’s why sales is a critical skill for artists to develop.
Even if you don’t participate in Unsplash and give your images away you should be very concerned. You cannot stay in business if your clients can get what you could provide through a “FREE” service like Unsplash.
All working photographers need to educate the public and especially those who are trying to be photographers on the pitfalls of highly discounting their work or giving it away for free.
I understand shooting your first wedding for a friend to get samples to show for a portfolio. You do have to do some work for free to create a portfolio, but once you have examples you no longer have to do free to show what customers can expect when they hire you.
Your goal as a successful business should be to have customers who are willing to pay full price and come back to you over and over.
A few weeks ago I had a Facebook friend request. It was another photographer. Now this scenario has happened more than just once for me. I want to walk you through what happened and what I want to share with those photographers who are struggling financially.
Since I didn’t recognize the name I went to his profile and clicked on his “About” section. Here you can see my information.
Now little did he know that I wasn’t just a photographer, but I hire photographers throughout the year for a few of my clients. I act as a director of photography role as well as other roles for those corporations.
I was looking for a few things that I feel like show me you are a successful professional photographer who is growing their business.
Do you have a way for me to contact you other than Facebook? I like to see three things: 1) phone number, 2) email, & 3) website.
It wasn’t long in our messaging that he said something like he is struggling as a freelancer because his market is over saturated.
When I asked if he had a website he said I need to work on that. He even said he knew that was important.
2 Create a domain name. I recommend Godaddy, but there are others. This is where you create your personalized web address. A .com address runs about $12 a year, but if you buy it for many years the price drops. You basically rent these addresses. You can also “mask” your website domain name with your custom domain name.
3 Create email with your domain name. I have actually had so many email addresses through the years that I cannot remember them all. I started with Compuserve and it was a number. The cool thing is once you own your domain name you can “mask” your @gmail.com address to be email@example.com. People send you email to your address and it actually can go to your @gmail.com address. The advantage here is that in 20 years when Google goes out of business or is bought and the email address changes to all your customers and prospects you are still firstname.lastname@example.org.
4 Create business card. Be sure your card has: 1) your name, 2) phone number, 3) email address, 4) website address, 5) your town & 6) your specialty. You want people to find you but you don’t have to put your street address on there to advertise to people where all your camera gear is located. You do want people to know if you are close by for an assignment. Don’t put just photographer on the card. That is as useful as putting human on the card. Put what you are the very best at doing on your card.
5 Buy business software. I recommend to photographers Cradoc’s FotoBiz. It will help you with creating cover letters, creating estimates & invoices and tracking of your receivables and payables. It also includes FotoQuote, the industry standard pricing guide for freelance photographers.
6 Create a home budget. This should be the very first thing you do. You cannot know what to charge if you don’t know what you need to pay your household bills. Once you have created a home budget that takes into account everything you spend money on during a year from rent, food, and the basics; it should also include things like vacations and retirement as well.
When done celebrate! This is what I would call the foundation for your business.
7 Last step is a Marketing Plan. In a nutshell this is where you will identify all those potential customers who need your specialty.
Rule-of-thumb marketing. If you contact 1,000 contacts only about 100 of these will be interested in your services. That means that 900 have various reasons that they are not interested. The reasons they are not interested run from every thing from they has someone they are happy with or that your style of work doesn’t mesh with their style.
Out of the remaining 100 only 10 will hire you. Again there are many factors here. The best way to put this is 90 are willing to date you, but not marry you.
No matter what you are doing, you are marketing yourself. Either you are helping your brand or hurting it. When you meet new people how many know that you are a photographer?
Since I used the marriage metaphor earlier, your marketing should be like the process you find your mate. You are working on building a relationship. So the first time you meet someone you don’t ask him or her to marry you. Also you need to be clear that you want to date or you never make it clear that you are interested.
I have written many articles on marketing that you can search for on my blog here.
I hope this has given you some things that can turn your lack of getting work into the road to prosperity.
One of the types of photography I do a great deal of for clients is the event coverage. This is the type of coverage that you are capturing the photos with available light and an occasional on camera flash for a quick grip and grin.
In these situations you need to go as wide as possible to pretty close up. I find that the Nikon 14-24mm ƒ/2.8 is the best lens for capturing those super wide and wide angle shots.
With a new campus dedication I needed to show tour groups going through and around the new campus. I used the 14 -24mm to capture the room interiors with people to give a sense of perspective and to capture as much of the room as possible.
Now I was also using the 28-300mm because I was needing to capture moderate to telephoto shots of people around the campus and the speakers at a podium.
Now this lens combination works great for just about any situation. Now for a smaller venue I am often using the Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4 when I just want to carry one camera.
If you are to cover things where you have speakers an need to capture rooms where you cannot back up enough then the 14-24mm and 28-300mm lenses will help you do a great job.
I am also loving my Fuji X series cameras and lenses. I am finding shooting with the Fuji X-E2/X-E3 with the 10-24mm and the 55-200mm lenses will give you a similar lens coverage.
The Fuji is much lighter system than the Nikon.
It is much easier to walk around at an event all day with the Fuji system.
I haven’t tried the Fujifilm XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS. I would love to try this with some high school football games to see if it could work. However, I am super confident with the Nikon D5 & Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 with the TC-2001 converter keeping up with the action.
I am also more pleased with the Nikon D5 having microphone and headphone jacks for recording video. The Nikon D5 is the camera system that does it all and really my only complaint is the weight.
My recommendation is to have lenses for covering events that are at least 20mm wide to 30mm for a full-frame camera. As far as a camera I cannot see ever buying a camera today that doesn’t have ISO of at least 51200 and the low of 100. This will let you shoot in almost every situation without the need of a flash. The reasons I use my flash today are to add light to improve the photo where often there is no light.
Shooting events requires you to be ready for just about everything, so be sure you have the lenses, camera and flash to do deliver for the client.
I bought the Fujifilm 10-24mm ƒ/4 lens. It translates to a 15-36mm (35mm Equivalent) lens.
Now I have advised many photographers looking for smaller systems the Fuji mirrorless camera. Many of my friends have already had this lens in their bags for a while, but I finally picked this up and before using it on a paying job I am just shooting test shots.
My test shots are not portfolio shots.
I am just shooting things to get the feel for the depth-of-field and how it focuses, which by the way is super fast and quiet on the Fuji X-E3.
This is one of my favorite zoom ranges I like to use a great deal. I have the Nikon 14-24mm ƒ/2.8 that I use on my Nikon D5. Which is like a center block compared to the Fuji X-E3 and the 10-24mm.
I love just taking photos all the time. It is not just my profession, but also my hobby. However I am not a fan of the weight of the Nikon D5 cameras and lenses. I do trust them a whole lot more than the Fuji, but this has more to do with having 35+ years of experience with my Nikons.
When someone pays me to shoot an assignment for them they are paying me to know what my gear will do as well as for my creative instincts. Whenever you buy new gear always take it for a good number of test drives so you are aware of any quirks before you find out on the paying job.
Stay tuned for more photos from my new Fuji X-E3 and my new 10-24mm ƒ/4 lens. I am off to Hawaii in a few weeks and can’t wait to see how they do around the Big Island.
I am my families visual historian. I take photos and give them away to my family all the time. Thanks to social media there is a really good chance these may be seen and enjoyed many times more than when I shot film and and they went into a family photo album.
While I am not working on an assigned story, I am still capturing our families story in moments. The cool thing with social media is our ability to match words with those pictures.
I still make those formal photos of our families, but it is the living life photos that capture the personalities of each person in my opinion so much more.
This role often means you are just observing, but I believe long into the future when I am no longer here my family will be cherishing these and learning about their ancestors.
My mother’s dad was always documenting his family as well as my dad.
I grew up every Christmas with my dad having these lights pointed at us as we walked into the room. I am not sure I really saw anything for a few moments it was so bright.
This is one of the rare moments where my wife Dorie has been with two of her sisters. While getting to see them was awesome capturing the moment for us to remember makes this so we can then tell the generations to come who their family is and how they are all related.
Here are a few tips to make you an even better visual family historian.
Take lots of photos of your family
Share your photos with your family. USB Jump Drives are good.
Use metadata to put the text with each photo. Be sure you have the occasion as well as the names of the people in the photo.
Put your photos online in some storage system like Google Drive, DropBox or many other online services you can find.
Create photo books. I use Blurb http://www.blurb.com/user/stanleyleary
One of the best things you can be remembered for is how you captured your family for everyone to enjoy now and for eternity.
Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? – Matthew 6:26
The past few weeks have been bitterly cold for our community in Roswell, Georgia. While we didn’t have a lot of snow it stayed on the ground longer than normal due to the freezing weather.
While we have birds all the time at our bird feeders during this cold snap they have been eating a lot more. I think this is due to the ground being so cold to kill many insects and keeping many in the ground.
We stayed inside more than normal due to the icy streets for many days.
Since I just can’t sit still I decided to make photos of the birds at our bird feeder with a new Fujifilm X-E3 camera I bought as well as a new flash system made by Flashpoint for the Fuji cameras.
This morning I was pondering how they survive and was reminded on the scripture that says God takes care of the birds. What I was fascinated by in the scripture was that birds do not “sow nor reap nor gather into barns” as humans do, yet God takes care of them.
No matter how well I know the scriptures that talk about how God will take care of us–I worry.
It’s true we all worry to some extent but do it too much and it can color your whole life, leaving you strung out, unhappy and constantly anxious. It’s not unusual either. Around 1 in 20 of us experiences excessive worrying – called Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – at some time in our lives.
If you are really struggling then get some help through I licensed counselor like a social worker, psychologist or psychiatrist.
One thing I noticed from being locked up inside due to the cold is getting cabin fever. It can be depressing as well.
Keep physically active. Develop a routine so that you’re physically active most days of the week. Exercise is a powerful stress reducer. It may improve your mood and help you stay healthy. Start out slowly and gradually increase the amount and intensity of your activities.
Make sleep a priority. Do what you can to make sure you’re getting enough sleep to feel rested. If you aren’t sleeping well, see your doctor.
Eat healthy. Healthy eating — such as focusing on vegetables, fruits, whole grains and fish — may help in reducing anxiety.
As a freelancer looking for work to pay your bills focus on those type of jobs that people need now. Portraits/headshots are usually needed quickly as compared to someone booking a wedding photographer.
People don’t book headshots 6 months to a year out, but that is how they book photographers for their weddings.
Get together with other photographers and just talk. They will not solve your problems by telling you their client’s names, but you will pick up tricks and how they talk to their clients.
Maybe you can just practice a cold call with another photographer. Maybe you can practice doing an estimate with them.
Don’t let life ruffle your feathers.
Focus on one thing at a time. For me–and most people–multi-tasking typically leads to chaos. I try to choose one task, see it through, and head on to the next task that needs to be done.
Learn to be flexible. Things will come up or someone will ask you to help with something, so learn to go with the flow a little bit. Just take a moment to think about what is happening and regroup. Change your plans accordingly.
Learn to prioritize. Let’s just face it there are things that if you don’t get to them will not really impact your goals. However, there are some action items if you put off can wreak havoc.
You can use your energy to focus on all that could go wrong or and even better just focus that energy on doing something. The energy amount is about the same, but one moves you forward and ones leaves you standing still.
Remember birds go where the food is and this is called migration. This is where we get word migrant workers. They go where the work is for them. They go where they can help their families survive.
Today is a day for action. The question for you is what actions will you take? While the birds don’t “sow nor reap nor gather into barns” they are out looking for food. How about you?
Yesterday when I was in my Sunday School class we were studying the story of Cain and Abel. While I have read this story over and over since a little child each time I come to the scripture a little differently. Life experiences and where I am in life really can impact one’s perspective.
Reading this as a business owner I saw this in a new light. I thought of how I see this story lived out in business every day.
Just read the story with a customer being God and while Cain and Abel are two freelancers giving estimates to get a job.
4 Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man.” 2 Later she gave birth to his brother Abel.
Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. 4 And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”
8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”
“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
10 The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. 11 Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”
13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is more than I can bear. 14 Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”
15 But the Lord said to him, “Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him.
While discussing this passage in our class I was struck by why God didn’t treat both Cain and Abels gifts equally. The scripture doesn’t say why he treated them the way he did.
You would think God should treat them equally.
I can think of many Christmas and birthdays where opening a present I was disappointed or one of my family/friends were disappointed with a present. It was always important in my circles that you were appreciative for the gift.
So I can get why God might like one gift more than the other, I am that way. Our customers and potential clients also have reasons they pick one vendor over another and they don’t always tell you why.
Instead of dealing directly with God over his gift Cain got angry with his brother Abel. Sound familiar. We often are upset with our competition.
Instead of taking our anger out on others we need to work on ourselves. We need to remember there is always a next time. Maybe not with that client, but with another.
Maybe you are like Cain and realize you only have “fruits of the soil” as a farmerand not an animal to sacrifice because you are a farmer and not the cowboy. Don’t be shortsighted and think the only way you can win a contract is to take out your competition. [You could be just talking about your competition in a bad way to the customer.]
Look at what you have to offer and do everything you can to be sure that your presentation of your gifts is as good as the gifts themselves.
Focus on your Audience’s Needs. … As you prepare the presentation, you always need to bear in mind what the audience needs and wants to know, not what you can tell them. While you’re giving the presentation, you also need to remain focused on your audience’s response, and react to that.
A month from now I will be back in Kona, Hawaii to teach the YWAM School of Photography 1 portrait lighting and business practices for a week.
This group photo is last year’s class. This year’s group will be twice the size of last year.
While I will be teaching a great deal about lighting the business practices is the one thing that over the years has proven even more valuable to the classes.
“How do you make a living doing photography?”, is answered through solid business practices.
Knowing your Cost-Of-Doing-Business and how to price your work doesn’t get you clients. It only makes sure that you make money when you price jobs rather than losing money.
How do you get those clients? Well this is the Catch-22 of Freelancing.
When you are a professional photographer you are like every other business person. You are in the business of solving people and businesses problems through the use of photography.
What you need to be doing is interviewing people and listening. You need to find out what their problems are so that you can pitch to them solutions for which you can provide those services.
Having a portfolio is like any other business where you can display your wares, or as in this example Maine lobster buoys on the side of the road of commerce.
If the client know what they need then this works really well, except now your work is more of a commodity. This is an article of trade or commerce, especially a product as distinguished from a service. Due to your work being seen as a commodity it is much harder to get prices that work with your Cost-Of-Doing-Business.
You need to be seen as a visionary for the person’s business and not just a commodity if you are in the creative arts type of a business.
You need to put yourself in situations where you get to listen to business people talk about what they do. You need to learn about their business. You need to ask questions that give you understanding.
Only when you really understand what problems they are facing with their business can you then think of ways that you can help solve some of those problems.
Now often they do not even know that your solution is to a problem they have. This will come over time where you start to recognize problems facing business owners and knowing that there are solutions you have done for others that could work for another business.
Here is the Catch-22 you must face each day to make a living as a photographer. You have solutions for a business to thrive, but you must first find a way to know what problem a particular business is facing before you can offer a solution.
Making this even more complicated is that if the client already knows what they need then you will be treated as a commodity. You need to be the photographer that has business solutions and not just the ability to take a picture.
This is the time of year we make New Year’s resolutions, which are typically about taking care of ourselves. What are your Business New Year’s Resolutions?
Most likely whatever you come up with is a way to build your brand. Let me give you some business topics, which you should be very concerned about this year.
Number One _________________
I want to leave that blank for now for a reason. I will come back to it shortly for you. Now lets look at some of those hot topics.
Quality Control – You should be always concerned that you are giving your customers the very best that they can get in the open market. Notice I didn’t say the best that you can give them. If you lack something that is keeping your quality behind that should be one of the things you want to address this year.
In my industry photographers are always trying to keep their camera gear as new as possible. The images coming out of the newest cameras are superior to the quality of older models. I know many photographers who update immediately and other who upgrade every other model.
Speed of Service – If you are not careful your competition will take away your business just because you are too slow. Customers have problems for which a business has a solution to fix. If you are too slow the customer will go somewhere else to get those problems solved.
Pricing – There is a great deal of things that affect pricing, so you need to be sure you are on top of everything.
One thing about pricing is the cost-of-doing-business that you must be sure you are covering in order to make a living. However have you considered how your pricing comes across to the customer?
Too many businesses are more concerned with what they make and covering their costs that their pricing is really worded to how they think and not about how the customer thinks.
I am a big proponent of at least giving a customer three to four prices. Bare minimum, medium and high price packages and even the Whoop Ti Doo for a fourth option.
How you differentiate the pricing points also gives a better understanding about the different services you can provide.
I want to go back to the Number One thing that I started with but left blank. What are your core values that guide your business?
This core value is what I think of as the culture you exhibit to your client. When you go into a hotel where the décor is all about log cabin as compared to going into a castle it sets a tone for the business.
I think also about the restaurant chains Texas Roadhouse, The Ground Round and Logan’s Roadhouse that all served peanuts and customers toss the shells on the ground. The waitress greats you with Howdy as much as a Hello.
Now these core values often will have you doing things that do not make the most business sense. We often talk about a person having a moral compass. A moral compass an internalized set of values and objectives that guide a person with regard to ethical behavior and decision-making.
I know of one man who when finding out that his employee was drinking on the job confronted the young man. As long as an employee would come clean and own up to their in digressions then he would do all he could to help that employee.
He helped that employee overcome his drinking problem. It made no business sense to do this, but this was his core value of giving those who need help and willing to make changes the help. Now he would fire many people as well and the line in the sand appeared to me to be one of if the person would own up to their mistakes.
Here are some ways that you might want to evaluate how your character is coming across and revealing a lack of core values that show a moral compass.
How do you speak to your spouse? Let me say I am preaching to myself on this one. We all need to show respect and not get so short with those closest to us. Every time you answer your phone and it is your spouse often there are others in ear shot who hear how your treat your spouse.
How do you speak to your children? Now if you don’t have any this could be anyone who is a subordinate that depends on you. You always want to speak with respect and love to them. You still need to discipline but how you do it should be one that helps to build them up and not tear them down.
How you speak to those serving you? Our son works in restaurant as a server and the stories he tells is horrifying as to how people treat others. You need to have the ability to request things you need and correct a mistake in a way that gives honor to those who serve you. Now if you get horrible service and are mistreated you still can handle this in a way that demonstrates the high road.
How do you speak to your enemies? Truly listening to others and addressing their concerns in a calm voice is powerful way to win friends. Stay with the facts over disagreements and explain what you can do and what you are unwilling to do.
It is your attitude that can jeopardize the situations more than the words themselves. As Abraham Lincoln wisely said, “Better to be silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”
Put your moral compass first this year. Focus on relationships and not on transactions. If you do this then you will be successful.