Selling photos online couldn’t be easier

Today it is easier to sell your images than ever before.  I wanted to share what I am using to sell images online.

I have been posting images in galleries online for people to purchase since 1993, so from all this experience I chose PhotoShelter as my online gallery.

Here is what my clients see when they go to the home page of my gallery:

I could probably use this as my website.  It has everything pretty much here in addition to the galleries clients want to go to for their images.


Now I can create a private gallery that with just an email and password people can access. I prefer doing this with most clients since they are less likely to pass around their email address with a password.

I can also create a gallery that has access with a password.

What can you order?

There are four things I offer on some of my galleries. Depending on which ones I turn on I have the option to sell: 1) Prints, 2) Products, 3) Downloads and 4) Rights managed Downloads.

This is an example of once a person likes a certain photo and clicks on the +Buy button they will see something like this screen above. The three colored arrows I added to help you see there are three of the four things I offer here with this photo.

Prints are highlighted here by the red arrow. My clients can order just about any size print that my supplier offers. I just go through the form when setting up my price and just those that I put my price on will show up.  I can have as many price lists I want and choose the list for any group of photos. I may have print prices really high since the photos might be rare or they are for fine art work to display in galleries.

The products tab which is highlighted by the blue arrow lets the customer order things like coffee mugs, mouse pads, t-shirts and more things like this. Again, only those item I choose to price will show up.

So many of my customers just want the digital image for usually two reasons. First of all most people want an image they can use on social media. They just want to display it for their Facebook friends for example.  These are low resolution and you cannot do too much with this size image other than social media.  I also offer a full high resolution download as well.  This is for folks that want to make their own prints. Since this means they will not be order a multiple print package and I will loose these sales the price is much higher to offset the sales I am loosing.

Rights Managed Sales

I also have media outlets and companies that want to buy my images to use to help their business. Depending how they want to use them they pay a different price. Now this is where the online website does so much for me that I would always prefer the customer buying online rather than the phone call.

The prices for stock sales go from really small amount to rather high due to how they plan to use it. PhotoShelter has built into their system FotoQuote’s pricing for stock. You can make modifications to the pricing structure. You can lower or raise your rates in different categories by percentage of fotoQuote’s rates.

The client just picks from the pull down menus and when they are done they have a price that they can agree upon and quickly pay and get the download right then.  No phone calls or negotiating.  Of course they can send an email and let me know they want to pay me double the price if they like, or as many will try and do get me to lower my price. Either way they now have a starting price based on parameters. Gives us a starting place for negotiation.

As you can see in the screen grab above, the client made choices and ended up with a quote of $126 for use of an image one time in the magazine and digital version.

What the photographer does to make all this work

I upload the high resolution images to PhotoShelter. I must pick a vendor to fullfil my prints and products. I then set the prices for the vendor.  I setup the prices for download for personal usage and also setup the rights managed prices.

After I upload and set of images then I normally select all the images in that gallery and price them choosing from the price lists I created.

I then set the security for the galleries and then send links to the customers I need to see the images.

The only other thing I can do is then also promote stock images I have for sale.

Once they are up I just get notices when an order is made and then payments online to my PayPal account. Now that is super easy for me.

Check out PhotoShelter yourself.

Photography can help self esteem

Gift giving is part of our lives. We enjoy giving gifts as much as we enjoy receiving them.

I have found that photography is one of the best gifts you can give. When we get together for events we often like to remember these times with photos.

Pure Fashion’s fashion show at St. Thomas More Church in Decatur, GA.

Making the Photo

When you point your camera at someone you are saying you are important. People do not take picture for the most part of things they dislike, rather they point their cameras to those things they cherish most. While we do not announce to everyone with a megaphone that is what we are doing, the act of photographing someone is giving that person importance.

I have been hired to help a client impress their clients by having a professional photographer to take photos of them at an event. Some clients will even create a red carpet and have extra people their popping the flashes on their camera just to help create that environment that those walking on the red carpet are important.

My daughter at her fashion show. She enjoyed learning how to carry herself and how to look her best.

Just taking someone’s picture is one of the best ways to give honor, dignity and respect to another person.

When we take pictures we are taking them not just for ourselves, but to share. We want to show our friends and family who we met and what we saw.

Professional makeup artists worked individually with all the Pure Fashion models to teach them how to apply makeup that help to accentuate their beauty without making them look over done.

My daughter is having her makeup done while her friend watches.  

What I liked about this event was everyone was celebrating each other and learning from each other. They all wanted each other to look their best and it wasn’t about someone looking better than everyone.

Dressing Up

We take time every morning to go through a ritual to look our best. We learn what looks best on us. We are color coordinating clothing so we look not just out best, but the best for each situation.

Designer works with the models to show them how they can accessorize with her scarfs.

Pure Fashion teaches the model how to carry themselves. They know that the way you look and talk will help your self esteem.  The confidence you project helps to draw people to you.

Our next door neighbor and my daughter’s friend is in the program as well.

I tried taking photos of the girls walking the runway with available light, but decided I wanted the best possible light.  I wanted the photos to look their best. If they had taken this much time to pick out outfits and style their hair and put on makeup–I needed to bring my best as well.

I put four Alienbees B1600s with 7″ reflector in the corners of the room bouncing off the ceiling.  They at on 1/8 power so I was shooting at ISO 1250.  
One of the most important things to me in a photograph is expression.  Here I feel like I captured the fun everyone was having. 

Sharing the Photographs

Giving people photos after they come to your home for a party is a great way to help them and you remember those good times. People may put your photos even in the most honored spot in the American home–the refrigerator door.

Today I probably share as many photos with my friends and family through Facebook as anywhere else.

For the Pure Fashion event I wanted to share the photos but also make it easy for the parents to order prints or just about anything they like to put their daughter’s photos on. I put all the photos in an online gallery.

Here are the photos I shared with the parents.

Once they click on the image and see it larger, they can click on the “+Buy” green button. When they do that this window pops up.

They can see the photo on the left and options. If they click the tab in the top right hand corner they can choose to order products (i.e. coffee mugs, mouse pads, iPad covers, etc) or they can choose download as show below here.

I gave the parents the option to order a small resolution image for use in Social Media (Facebook, Twitter etc) or they could purchase at a higher price the higher resolution image which they can use to make their own prints.

Today I think people want the digital image at least large enough for them to share using their preference for Social Media.

Other Outlets

Since Pure Fashion was hosted by St. Thomas More Church, which is part of the Archdiocese of Atlanta. I have done work in the past for their newspaper The Georgia Bulletin.  I sent an email to the editor and asked if they were interested and they even had a writer already there.

They were very interested in the photos. Now besides having a photos made of each model so they could have a professional photograph from the event to remember it, they were going to be celebrated through the media.

Even if the model’s photo isn’t used in the publication it elevates the event and makes this a big deal. It helps to improve their self esteem.

You can bless someone’s life

One of my good friends started taking pictures and giving them to people. While he was working in Japan his son’s played baseball. They spoke almost no Japanese. He would take action photos, team photos and even individuals of each of the boys on the team.

He made prints and found some nice folios to put the photos in to give to each of the parents. He knew in Japanese culture your presentation of a gift was just as important as the gift.

The families had not ever had this done before and the response was overwhelming. Today some of those families have flown from Japan to visit them in the states.

My friend discovered that his hobby of taking photos was a blessing to those he gave the photos.

Want to be a blessing to others and improve their self esteem–take photos and share them.

LCD vs Viewfinder: Couple things to consider

Nikon P7000

LCD Benefits

First of all the LCD on most modern digital cameras and even cell phones is pretty big.  Compare that screen to the little eye piece on the Nikon P7000 above and at a first glance you might prefer using it over the viewfinder.

For the most part you can display more information on the LCD than in the viewfinders.  Here you can see I have the camera set for Aperture Priority due to the big “A” in the left-hand corner.  You can also see the ISO of 100, 1/1 and ƒ/4. In addition to these settings you can see the histogram, the flash is turned off, vibration reduction is on and also infrared remote is turned on.

Also you can see the JPEG setting is on FINE JPEG. Next to it the size of the image is set to the highest for this camera, which is 10 Meg.

As you can see in this photo of me using the LCD, I must keep the camera a good distance from my face.

LCD Disadvantages

Holding the camera still this far out is difficult.  I guess you now know why almost all point and shoot cameras now have vibration reduction. It is trying to compensate for the above average camera shake as compared to the viewfinder.

Now using the viewfinder the camera now is right next to my eye.

I can now use my two hands and my head as a tripod. I push the camera next to my head and this will help steady the camera and when you do that your pictures are sharper because you are not as prone to shaking the camera.

My Nikon D4 also has a LCD like the Nikon P7000, but you will rarely see photographers using it to shoot still images.

When you are outside it is very difficult to see the LCD in bright sunlight.  I would prefer the viewfinder.

Viewfinder Advantages

  • Can use your body as a tripod since you can now steady the camera on your head
  • Can see in any situation
  • On most DSLR cameras all the information on the LCD is in the viewfinder
Viewfinder Disadvantages
If you want to take a photo above at a birds-eye l you cannot see what you are doing and the LCD will help you still see what the camera is seeing.  This is also true for low worm’s eye perspective.
Neither the viewfinder or LCD works for every situation.  I would always want both on any camera I buy for now on.

Photographers need to be guided by light

Finding your Direction

The thing that affects the photographer life and work is where they point their inner compass. What do they use to guide their path?

Houston we have a problem. The problem we have today is our role models. 

As we mature most of us grow up and realize we should stop worshiping athletes—unless they’re on the field. The same is true with the celebrities. We should admire their talent, but when they do stupid things in their every day life we need to not emulate this behavior.


During the age of adolescence we start to have the ability to do abstract thinking. Usually this starts between the ages of 12 to 15. This is when youth start to realize that just because a friend is attractive doesn’t mean all they do is wonderful, just as if someone who is less attractive is going to be all bad. 

When I teach lighting I start first with just one light using a grid. After teaching about getting the proper exposure, I encourage my students to not move the light, but for them to move and walk around the subject and make photos. This is one of the examples I used when teaching this concept of them moving in relationship to the subject and how the light looks different. We need to do this with role models as well. Look at them from many directions to really learn from them.
While we are starting to learn how to do abstract thought our brain isn’t finished developing. It is not until about age 25 that our brains are developed. 

A side note to this if you abuse drugs, it is the age that you started abusing them that the brain can be so adversely affected in that is the developmental age you will in many ways never grow out of–because you damaged so much of the brain cells.

Too many bad role models in photography

Today I think we have way too many bad role models in photography. I believe the digital age has hurt as much as it has helped society. 

One of the examples of this is how social media helped to connect us to the world and at the same time bullying has risen to levels beyond those of the past. People feel free to say things in the cyber community that they would never say to someone’s face in the past.

Today a person can rise to prominence within seconds due to a photo they post on the web. Within a very short time they are held up as a leader in the industry for just one photo. 

I am seeing more and more photographers rise in prominence because they are taking wonderful photos of humanitarian work worldwide. The exotic locations are helping their work to be talked about in forums and even invited to speak to conferences.

We can learn from all these photographers. The key is gleaning the good stuff and sifting away the bad stuff.  This is what we learned to do in our adolescence. I learned that going after the super models was a good way to have a disastrous relationship.  I learned that I wanted someone attractive, but there were other criteria than just looks for a mate.

Stanley’s criteria for a successful photographer role model:
  • Sustainable business model. I want to have as my role model those photographers who are able to pay all their bills and are not in debt. I also prefer that they are able to support more than just themselves.  They do not have to have children, but I want to see a business model that could support them.
  • People person. I want my role model to give honor, dignity and respect to all they come into contact with. I do not believe a jerk is something I need to emulate to be successful. 
  • Balanced life. Workaholics is not what I want to follow. I want to know how to work hard and play hard. I respect those with strong families and friends in their life.
  • Professional level work. I want to see work that is professional standards. I am also interested in seeing a consistency in their work. Having some outstanding work is good, but what is disappointing is someone who produces poor work too often.
  • Servant’s heart. I really like following those photographers who give back. They serve as mentors or are involved in their professional organizations and even their community. I am not a fan of those who are greedy and it is all about them.

I do learn a great deal from other photographers, but that doesn’t mean I want to emulate them. I even study them and their work, but not all these become my role model–but I do learn from them.

What I learn from photographers that I would not consider role models:

  • I learn a new technique
    • I have discovered from one of the photographers how to carry a set of clothing that you can ask people to wear to improve the photo.  One thing I thought was cool was the coveralls he carried to factories. He would put workers in red, yellow or blue coveralls and this helped tremendously give a pop to the photo.
    • Learned how to trigger off camera flash using a new technology.
    • How to use remote cameras.
  • Negotiating skills. I have learned from many photographers how to do a better bid for jobs.
  • Gear choices. I have learned about camera bags, lighting kits and more from photographers.
  • What not to do
    • I have watched many “famous” photographers kill a kid’s enthusiasm by not giving them the time of day when they were trying to talk to them.
    • How many photographers will use foul language when talking to a group. My comedian friend Jeff Justice helped me to realize this from his comedy workshop. He will not allow foul language when they give their performance at The Punchline” because if you cannot be funny without it using it will not make you funny. Also, his most successful students thank him because this helped them get on TV.


Just because you think someones photography is great or the places they are going is something you want to do–be very careful before making them a role model and start copying them. Don’t be an adolescent and get all caught up in their looks for instance. Look for the mate–the total package.

You need to separate the photographers who are being held up as leaders from those you make as a role model (LIGHT) and those who you can glean things from (DARK).

Photographers need community

Bill Bangham is the keynote speaker at the Christians in Photojournalism meeting Saturday September 22, 2012 in Roswell, GA.

There have been times in my life where I really experienced isolation from other photographers. I moved to Long Island years ago and for the year that I lived there I just didn’t have anyone I knew that was a professional photographer to get together with and talk photography.

There have been other times where I have not had other professionals to talk with face to face. This is not good for me.

I believe we need to get together with other photographers doing what we do for fellowship and time to exchange ideas.

Do you have a photographer friend that you can have coffee with on a regular basis? Do you seek out someone to talk to that understands what you are talking about?


I am a member of a few groups and have been a member of other groups in the past as well. Today I am a member of American Society of Media Photographers, Sports Shooter and Christians in Photojournalism. I have been for most of my life a member of National Press Photographers Association as well.

These organizations have been great because they all have meetings and social media presence where I can connect with other photographers.

In the early 1980s I was a member of ASMP in Richmond, VA. Since we didn’t have social media then and most all the meetings were in Washington, DC for our chapter I never really experienced the community I so desperately was wanting and needing in my life.

Living in Atlanta has been one of the best places for me because of the access to so many photography groups. I have spoken in the Metro Atlanta area to many photography clubs, colleges, and many of the organizations like ASMP. I have enjoyed attending all these groups meetings.

CIP Atlanta Meeting

What I get out of community

The number one thing I get out of all these groups is a relationship with people who enjoy photography. We have something in common to talk about and share.

How does my work stack up with the rest of photographers. I get to see other photographers work and not just see if I am better or worse than them, but to appreciate there talent. If your purpose is just to show how good you are and have people think you are great then your narcissistic behavior will keep people away from you.

If you think someone’s photography is impressive go and tell them at these meetings. Be a leader and learn to encourage others, if you do sooner or later others will return the favor.

Occasionally I am booked on a day a client calls and asks me to do a job. It is because I have met another photographer through these groups that I am able to help my client out and refer them to a competent photographer. I have also talked with the person long enough to know if they have a personality that will work well with my client.

There are more things that I get than these, but this should help you see the value of networking with your colleagues.  They are not just your competition.

Be a Joiner

Here are some links to the organizations I am involved with and I encourage you to check them out and see about joining one and getting involved.

Berrie Smith cleans and repairs cameras at the CIP Atlanta meeting.
We have Berrie Smith coming to our CIP Atlanta meetings and all the members are enjoying having someone to work on their cameras at the meeting.  Another benefit of going to the meetings.

Comedians and still photographers have something in common

Dorie Griggs performs at the Punchline as part of her graduation from Jeff Justice’s comedy class.

Mike Sacks discovered in his research for a book on comedy a common link of many comedy writers is OCD. Sacks is on editorial staff of Vanity Fair and the author of And Here’s the Kicker: Conversations with 21 Humor Writers About Their Craft.  

Sacks admits that he is OCD and believes it is true for 70% of comedy writers.

While not all my photographer friends are OCD and I haven’t done any research on it, I have noticed many of my photographer friends have OCD tendencies.

You need to be persistent to find the right words, just as the photographer must continue to look for the right moment to communicate.

Poets will spend years on poems looking for the right word for their poem. The difference between word choices is profound.

Advertising slogans can flourish or die with the difference in a word choice.

While “it” and “something” can both be anything, “just do it” is everything “Just do something” is not. See, copy does matter. –@leeclowsbeard Twitter

It’s the story

A well-developed character is core to good comedy and not necessarily the joke. Jokes are the sauce of comedy and not the steak. They often teach comedy writers to take out the jokes and if it is not funny, go back and rewrite it. Once the story is funny adding a joke just adds to the humor.

Photographers will work situations and find they have lots of photos of a subject. When they go through and edit the photos they need to boil down to those moments that tell a story effectively.

Analyzing why something is funny is a like trying to discover why people fall in love. It is not impossible to understand, but it does take a lot of experience and certain amount of talent to understand it.


Writing good comedy is a lot like writing music. The words must fit a rhythm and beat when delivered or it just doesn’t work.

My wife took a comedy class from Jeff Justice here recently. The last class is actually their performance at the Punchline. Getting to listen and watch their first performances as compared to listening to seasoned pros had more to do with their timing than with the words.  I could feel the lack of rhythm in their delivery and then when a seasoned pro closed the night off, could sense the next line and how wonderful it felt.

What the comedian must write into their routine is silence. It is one of the most important aspects of good comedy and music. The famous jazz artist Miles Davis used silence to create his melodic melodies create mood and an atmosphere.

The audience needs time to absorb the situation and understand it before they can respond to a punchline. Some of the best comedians can take you through a series of punchlines to a great crescendo by just spacing the lines a part from each other.

The key to timing understands the need for the audience to absorb a moment. This is the common thing that still photography and comedy have in common.

A visual moment needs time to be absorbed and depending on the moment may need longer for better impact.

It is all in the delivery

While the comedian has written all their material and practiced it over and over, then final piece of success and failure is in the delivery to the audience.

Printed on the page these same routines will be flat.  The comedian brings them to life.

For the photographer the deliver of the image to the audience needs space and time as well. This is where one good image with text is far more powerful than a video that doesn’t give the audience the time to absorb a moment.

Just as the comedian doesn’t pause after every word, neither does a video need to be all stills to have impact. The communicator understands what moments need a pregnant pause.

One thing I have come to believe is a key to when something needs a visual pregnant pause is when it is emotional. It can be on either end of the emotional spectrum from pure joy to despair, both ends of the spectrum need more time to breath.

As you move more to the center of fewer emotions then the time necessary is less.

Beyond Facebook for the photographer

Concept of free explodes

Chris Anderson wrote a very compelling book Free: The Future of a Radical Price, in 2009. The book was timely because it was addressing the disruptive behavior being experience primarily due to things like Google and Facebook.  However, Anderson traces the history of free back to Jello in 1896 giving away more than five million recipe books to introduce their product into the market.

Music industry and free

Between 1999 and 2001 there was a peer–to-peer file sharing network that people were sharing their MP3 files. The name of this network was Napster.

This was the turning point in the musical industry. Musicians were having their songs pirated and it was not until January 9, 2001 when Steve Jobs averted this catastrophe with iTunes. This was where the industry helped to stabilize the music industry and helped it turn around losses into profits.

Photography and free

In 2004 Mark Zuckerberg turned his school project facemash into Facebook. This was an invitation only social network until September 26, 2006 when it was opened up for anyone over the age of 13 to join. Two years later in 2008 more than 100 million people had joined.

The turning point for photography with Facebook was July 2007.  This is when users could put photos on their wall. Prior to that only text could go on the wall.

Facebook allows users to upload an unlimited number of photos, compared with other image hosting services such as Photobucket and Flickr, which apply limits to the number of photos that a user is allowed to upload. During the first years, Facebook users were limited to 60 photos per album. As of May 2009, this limit has been increased to 200 photos per album.

Before & Now


•    Sharing photos was primarily done with prints and cost for each photo produced
•    Sharing electronically was done by email attachments
•    Photo identification was rare to in general non existent with photos and photo albums
•    If you wanted to pass photos to many people you made multiple prints
•    Their was a good amount of knowledge and effort made from the time the shutter was pushed to having prints or having it in the computer to share

•    You can upload unlimited number of photos for free
•    You can tag a photo along with others being allowed to do so that now we are able to have photo identification which was missing before
•    Digital copies are in general free except for the space they take up on your computer
•    Today people are using their camera phones more than their cameras.
•    The immediacy of taking a photo and sharing it can be even automatic if you change your preferences on your phone and Facebook account.

More than Facebook

On September 6, 2012, Facebook closed the deal to buy Instagram. Unlike Facebook, which was created with computers in mind, Instagram exists only as a mobile application. As you can see the immediacy of creating and sharing images is at an all time high.

Most all photographers today are offering social media model for their clients. Most weddings are assumed that the client wants a digital version to share to their social media groups.

For most wedding photographers this is the baseline of their product. Most brides expect a low-resolution digital image to use.

Even for the commercial shooter many of their images are being tweeted or put on corporate Facebook pages.

With so much of social media being free to the client having to pay for any content is almost foreign to their world. 

However, I do not think a Steve Jobs type of entrepreneur is coming to save photography as was done with iTunes for the music industry.

Photographers need to be aware and helping the client see how they are aware of how photos are used in social media and their savvy understanding is what they are offering to help make the photos they take stand out amongst the millions of image being posted everyday.

Photographers also need to help clients understand while having photos on social media sites is important it is quickly there are other ways to break through to get their message out.

We need to help them rediscover prints, snail mailings, brochures, billboards, television and other outlets other than social media.

Photographers should lead the industry in showing clients what they can do rather than talking about what they can do, because “seeing is believing.”

You need to make some large prints so your clients can see how these can create impact. Too many corporations loose opportunities in their locations to show what they do by simply hanging large prints on the walls of their offices.

One of my clients has masterfully used the billboard. Chick-fil-A introduced their mascot in 1995 on a billboard near Turner field in Atlanta. Today these cows are helping brand Chick-fil-A coast to coast.

I recommend photographers start using these other mediums, which can turn into sales to market themselves.

If you know anything about privacy settings on things like Facebook, then you know how easy it is for people to block all your content if it is on the computer. However, snail mail has to touch their hands before it hits the trash and for a brief second you have a chance to get your message to them.

Want to grow your business—do more than provide a digital image for Facebook.

Camera bodies and the importance of simplicity

Nikon D4 with Nikkor 28-300mm

Importance of Simplicity

It is very common when I am out taking photos as a professional that people will often hand me their camera and ask me to take a photo of them with their friends.  They see my gear hanging around my neck and shoulders and figure, he knows what to do.

Camera manufacturers have not gone the way of Steve Jobs when it comes to camera design. Frankly, I think most every camera is quite difficult to use. Even these point and shoot cameras that people hand to me and want me to take a photo of them with their friends are complex.

One of the first things I often and wishing I can do to improve those photos for folks is to turn on their flash outside. This will help get rid of those awful shadows in their eyes making them look like racoons.

Just try and pick up four or five different cameras and quickly turn on the flash. It is quite difficult.

Ideally when I make a switch to a new camera system I would like to just trade all my cameras at once and then buy the latest gear. This is how I did it in the days of the film cameras.

However, today these professional cameras are not $1,000 for the top of the line cameras. Just one Nikon D4 costs $6,000 or what I would have spent to replace all five of my film cameras.

With film I carried five cameras. I had two black and white cameras and two color cameras. I had slower daylight film for outside and high speed tungsten indoor film in the other cameras. I also had a backup camera.

The good news today is I do not need five cameras. I need two or three cameras. Today, most pros carry two cameras for one major purpose–backup. You cannot afford to be on a job and the camera stop working and not have another camera to finish the job.

The other reason most pros also like a second camera is to avoid switching lenses on bodies too often. Each time you switch a lens you run the chance of dust getting on the sensor. The other problem is the time it takes to switch lenses can be the difference of getting or missing a shot.

Different cameras can cost you a shot. The difference in the Nikon D3s and the Nikon D4 is not so great that in a hurry you know which one is in your hand. However, the minute you decide to change how you are focusing you will realize you have the other camera in your hand when you try and change it.

Since I have been shooting digitally, I am usually having to buy a new camera at a time and sell some old gear. It just is difficult to order two $6,000 cameras for a total of $12,000.

Every time I make the switch to a new camera till I have all identical cameras I find myself getting very frustrated. It isn’t that the new camera isn’t better designed, it is the problem that the improvements made changes.

It would be easier to have four cameras. Two studio and then two DSLR journalistic cameras. This way when you are shooting high resolution stock images of products you had your primary camera and backup all the same. Same for the journalistic camera that helps you do video in the field and shoot at high ISO.

Financial Revelation

Back in the days of film, my gear was easily 1/4 to 1/3 the cost of what I need today.

When I shot film I didn’t need a computer, PhotoShop or Lightroom and all the gear to insure color accuracy of the monitors. 

A professional photographer today will most likely have two pro cameras costing $3,000 to $25,000 each and a computer digital workstation (Computer, Photo Software and calibration devices) which run from $5,000 to $15,000.

So when you are shocked at why their prices are higher today when there is no film you know it is due to the cost of digital.

In the days of film photographers could keep their cameras for easily five years. Today, you can keep your camera that long, but your competition will have gotten the latest digital camera that let’s them make photos you cannot on your present camera. You keep up to stay competitive, which now costs more than ever.

How to keep it simple?

Buy all the same type of cameras and stay with the same manufacturer of camera so the learning curve is shorter. While the cameras are quite complex the key to simplicity is not to introduce different cameras.

This is how I love to carry my cameras, Two Nikon D4 cameras with one having a 14-24mm ƒ/2.8 and the other with the 28-300mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 VR. Yes I have many other lenses I will use, but this is my default.

I shoot now with two Nikon D4 cameras. I want to keep it simple. I also carry my Nikon P7000 with me all the time. I like to keep my eye fresh so when I am on the job I am thinking about the shot. It would be just like a musician who practices every day so that when they perform they are at their best.

Am I the best photographer for my client?

Have you asked yourself this question? Am I the best photographer for my client?

If you are wanting your business to grow you need to answer this question from the client’s perspective and not yours.

So, who else can your customer use? How does your work stack up to the competition?

It will take some time for you to be competitive. You must first being doing your best for you. You cannot be the best overnight. It takes time to develop.

Before you can soar you have to learn to fly

Let’s be reasonable, when you are starting out there are a lot of photographers better than you. However, you need to be sure you are at your personal best at all times.

You are building a reputation. You need to have your reputation precede you by word of mouth from your Google ranking, and from your business social media presence. What can you do now to help you have something that when people investigate you there is something for them to find.

When you go for it you need a good parachute


Before you call on a prospect and hope they will hire you you need to have done your homework. You need to know all you can about the client. What do they need a photographer to do for them.

You need to be conveying value and not benefits and features. The only way to do this is to know enough about them to help phrase your benefits and features in ways that can be of value to them. How will this help them?

Always have two or three ideas to propose to them when you call. I like to think of stories that my customers could be doing. Most of the time these are typically best practices stories. Every company wants to feature those that are doing the very best in hopes that others can copy some of those techniques to improve their performance.

How will you back all these claims up with new clients? How about using video testimonials from your present clients?

Keep yourself focused on a goal

Keep your standards higher than your clients

It is easy to be satisfied with a certain level of work when you are getting work. What is dangerous is becoming complacent. Your competition only needs to show they are a better fit for the client than you.

If you are always growing and looking for how you can improve your competition will be behind your more often than in front of you.

Realty Check

Your clients are looking for a trusted adviser who has good ideas and thinks of of how to help them.  They are not needing someone who is slick and great with a presentation. They need something solid and not about a great sales pitch.

Are you the best person for your client? Can you honestly feel that in your heart? If you can great. If not do all you can to be your best and be able to believe this about your talents.

Today Photography is like Musical Chairs

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First graders playing musical chairs

When we were younger we used to play musical chairs.

The game starts with any number of players and a number of chairs one fewer than the number of players; the chairs are arranged in a circle facing outward, with the people standing in a circle just outside of that. A non-playing individual plays recorded music or a musical instrument. While the music is playing, the players in the circle walk in unison around the chairs. When the music player suddenly stops the music, everyone must race to sit down in one of the chairs. The player who is left without a chair is eliminated from the game, and one chair is also removed to ensure that there will always be one fewer chair than there are players. The music resumes and the cycle repeats until there is only one player left in the game, who is the winner. When down to the last two players the chair may be moved as long as the music has stopped before the chair has been touched.

In the early rounds people are excited that not only they got a chair when the music stops, but their friend did as well.

What does musical chairs teach us?

  • To stay in the game requires you do be on your toes and paying attention to the music, the chairs and everyone around you.
  • Alliances are often formed between friends. You will find that often friends will help one another and force you out.
  • There can only be one winner of this game
Musical Chairs is a fun game to play, because rarely does the same person always win. There is a certain amount of serendipity to this game.

Photography is a profession in a Red Ocean

Blue ocean strategy challenges companies to break out of the red ocean of bloody competition by creating uncontested market space that makes the competition irrelevant. Instead of dividing up existing—and often shrinking—demand and benchmarking competitors, blue ocean strategy is about growing demand and breaking away from the competition.

Kim, W. Chan; Renee Mauborgne (2004-12-16). Blue Ocean Strategy: How To Create Uncontested Market Space And Make The Competition Irrelevant . Harvard Business Press. Kindle Edition. 

When you look around yourself as a professional photographer and you notice that there is more and more competition each year you are experiencing a game of musical chairs, but in this game the number of people is growing and the number of chairs is the same or maybe less.

I can tell you from personal experience this is not a fun game to play. It isn’t a game at all when after so many rounds you find yourself not winning at all because the odds are too tough.

Where are the Blue Oceans for photographers?

Unfortunately, blue oceans are largely uncharted. The dominant focus of strategy work over the past twenty-five years has been on competition-based red ocean strategies. The result has been a fairly good understanding of how to compete skillfully in red waters, from analyzing the underlying economic structure of an existing industry, to choosing a strategic position of low cost or differentiation or focus, to benchmarking the competition. Some discussions around blue oceans exist. However, there is little practical guidance on how to create them. Without analytic frameworks to create blue oceans and principles to effectively manage risk, creating blue oceans has remained wishful thinking.

Kim, W. Chan; Renee Mauborgne (2004-12-16). Blue Ocean Strategy: How To Create Uncontested Market Space And Make The Competition Irrelevant (p. 5). Harvard Business Press. Kindle Edition.

Picking the right instrument early can help you get a college scholarship in music. The reason is simple–less competition.

If you wanted to major in music and decided to be a voice major, the number of scholarships verses the number of students applying is like going to Las Vegas and playing the slot machines.

However, if you were to pick an instrument like viola, bassoon, oboe or french horn for example the odds are more like playing cards with your friends at home.

One way to separate yourself from all the other photographers is photographing subjects that time wise cannot be done after normal business hours.

The first place I find hobbyist dipping their toes into the profession are those subjects where they can do this without conflict of work.

Here is a quick list I have of places many people can enjoy shooting after work:

  • Concert Photography
  • Weddings
  • Sports
  • Nature

Everyone of those subjects in my opinion is over crowded with photographers. Those photographers who are successful have done so by choosing a strategy of low cost (free) or differentiation or focus, to benchmarking the competition.

Zack Arias was one of those photographers shooting concerts and not making enough money to leave his day job at Kinko’s. He was also helping shoot as a second shooter at weddings with his friend. Both of these allowed Zack to have a job to pay the bills.

Zack however looked around and noticed everyone was giving these bands free photos of them playing in concert.  Zack saw little room for any way to make a living doing this, yet this is where he was most motivated.

Zack noticed most of the local bands didn’t have any good publicity photos and good photos for CDs. Two things collided for him at one time, he decided to use an off camera flash to photograph a concert and his creativity for finding a blue ocean.

With one camera, one lens and one off camera flash Zack went after a blue ocean. He sent letters to those bands he researched that most likely had enough money to afford paying him for quality poised band photos.

He offered them a free session if they contacted him within 30 days. Zack shot many of those bands and found himself in a blue ocean.

Keith Ladzinski is another photographer who has found a blue ocean in photography.

I met Keith Ladzinski through my friend Dave Black.  We were looking for a photographer to help connect with some of the younger students at a conference. Dave said Keith is your guy.

Keith was first a kid who loved skateboarding and rock climbing. He started to photograph his friends when they were out doing some of these cool moves.

You are not going to find a pool of photographers who are willing to climb the side of a mountain with their bare hands and while up there photograph their friends doing the same thing.

Keith was able to separate himself from the crowd due to access. There were two things that gave him access to these sports: 1) he was one of them and 2) they trusted him.

Today you are very likely to pick up a magazine that has rock climbing or skateboarding and find Keith’s byline below the photo.

Dave Black is another photographer who was able to separate himself from the pack of sports photographers to become one of the most premier sports photographers of the industry.

Before becoming a photographer, Dave was a gymnast. He and his brothers were all world class gymnasts. 

After college Dave was coaching and doing photography of his students.  His brother was working with the Olympic committee in 1980 and asked Dave to come and help them with the photography to promote the US Olympic Gymnast team.

It was Dave’s knowledge of the sport that help separate his photography from the competition. Dave knew the gymnast routine so well that he would be able to anticipate the exact moment that showed the athleticism and art of the moment. I forgot to mention Dave majored in art. Can you see this all coming together for Dave?

For a gymnast to do well on the world stage they practice over and over a routine to where it is all muscle memory when it comes to the performance. This work ethic is what separates Dave even today from all the competition. Dave was the first person to show up at the Kentucky Derby each day. He was there when the trainers would arrive and there when everyone left.

Dave showed up at the Augusta National Tournament the same way catching the lawn crew at sunrise preparing the course each day.

Dave’s Blue Ocean was his knowledge of the sport and the understanding of preparation. He is so well prepared that he can isolate the moment that will capture the beauty and excitement in a way not seen before.

Strategy for a Blue Ocean

  • Be the expert in a subject to help separate you from the pack
  • Get access to something difficult for everyone to access
  • Photograph subjects that hobbyist cannot because of their day job
  • Once you find a Blue Ocean–Look for another because your competition will follow you.