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10 ways to use photography to promote your business

  • Posted on January 25, 2011 at 2:25 pm

Excellent article on how images can help sell your product or service:

http://www.thecreativescorner.com/

It’s official!

  • Posted on October 28, 2010 at 9:49 am

As of the latest issue, I’m now on the mastehead as a staff photographer for the NUSA Sun magazine! Check it out:

http://nusasun.com

You can view the full magazine online, but it is a print publication in 11×14″ format.

“Hey, you’re coming to our event, why don’t you bring your camera and snap a few photos?”

  • Posted on September 30, 2010 at 1:24 am

I get this all the time, and I thought, for the benefit of those who ask, I’d go into some detail about why I rarely do this, and under what conditions I have and/or might consider doing this in the future.

First, let me separate things into two types of events: Business events and Social events. I’ll further divide Business events into Networking and Corporate, and Social into Public and Private. I’ll define these, for my purposes, in greater detail as I go along.

Let’s start with a Business Networking event. I have, and in some cases will continue, to work some of these events without charge – as long as I’m not paying to be there. It’s a plus, to me, to be able to demonstrate my work and how I work to people who will then either use my services themselves or refer me to others that will. I’m there to market myself, and naturally showing my services is better than telling people about them.

This also includes charity events or similar events, where I have something to gain for my business OR it happens to be a cause I STRONGLY support – like the Humane Society, which I’ve done work for many times. I also do some work for organizations like this at extremely reduced fees if my costs are more than I can absorb. It should not be assumed that I’ll work the events for free, for networking events it’s an investment for which I expect some return, and I can’t afford to donate to every charity – I’d have no time for paid work – so I limit my involvement lest I need to become someone relying on said services myself.

Corporate events are those where there is no significant networking reason for me to be here. It would include a trade expo for most industries, or a company party. Standard rates vary depending on date, day of the week, hours to be worked, use of the photos, need for post-editing, etc. Free dinner is not a factor, you might have paid $60 a plate but I would likely be just as happy – or happier – with $5 of fast food.

Public social events are those I would attend for non-business purposes, like a singles dance or picnic. In some cases I am specifically banned from promoting my business, in other cases I’m simply not promoting my business because it’s not what I consider an appropriate venue. Private social events would be the birthday party of a friend or wedding of a relative, for example. So why not just bring along a camera and take photos?

Let’s ignore the business reasons, those have been discussed ad infinitum on posts like this one: http://rising.blackstar.com/photographers-excuses.html I’m not going to reinvent the wheel and duplicate that post.

But there are also personal reasons. I’m there to enjoy myself, not work. If I bring a camera along, I’m going to fall into work mode. If it’s a singles event, I’m there hoping to meet someone, not spend time taking photos – that’s work, not play for me. I’m not going to be participating as fully as I would, and I’m likely to not be in the photos myself. It’s also a matter of equipment. Yes, I do have a pocketable point-and-shoot camera that has its uses, but it’s nothing I’m going to use if there’s any possibility that others seeing the photos might think they are my professional work. So I’ll more likely be lugging around an outfit that looks like this:

Fido is a sizeable cat...not usually brought to events.

That’s a DSLR with an expensive, fast lens, a dual battery pack, and a pro-level on-camera flash unit with a diffuser. Weighs about 10-12 pounds. Does not fit into my pocket. Cost me considerably more than my point and shoot. I get nervous leaving it with other people or sticking it in my trunk because, just like a mechanic, it’s the toolkit I use to make my living with, and if it gets stolen or damaged it could cost me more than just replacing it. So I usually don’t take it anywhere unless I’m planning on using it the entire time I’m there.

If I show up at a private event with my camera without being paid, it’s a gift that I’ve chosen to give to the person who invited me. So if I don’t bring my camera to yours, don’t be surprised!

“Oh, my (sister, cousin, uncle, etc.) is going to shoot our wedding!”

  • Posted on September 21, 2010 at 9:45 pm

“And she’s pretty good with her camera! So we’re going to use that part of our budget for something else!”

Ahem. Okay, I’m not going to be snarky and ask why you aren’t going to let her deliver your baby too, since she has a scalpel, or demean her abilities. But I would like you to think about, and find out about, a few things before you make that decision final.

It happens all the time. Joan Doe (or her brother John, gender doesn’t matter but we’ll use Joan in this example)  gets a camera and decides she loves taking photos.  She gets a better camera and starts showing what she’s done to all her friends, who tell her she has a great eye. She uploads some colorful sunsets, maybe a few flowers, candid shots at family gatherings, some “artsy” black-and-white portraits; since she loves taking photos, her DSLR is always with her, and even though it’s not actually a professional level camera, it looks enough like one that most of her friends don’t know the difference.  She gets to be know as the family photographer.  And then some friend or acquaintance, having seen her photography, asks her if she’d be interested in shooting their wedding. If she’s smart or recognizes the potential issues involved, she says no, but if her ego and the couple’s finances conspire to override that, she might say yes. And then disaster strikes, usually. Sure, depending on her dedication and the standards set by the couple, it might be okay. She might actually get some great shots.  But before letting her give it a go, here are a few things you might want to consider:

1. Is everyone going to be happy if she’s missing from most of the shots? That might not be a problem if it’s a distant relative, but family photos without the bride’s brother or groom’s sister? A self-timer is a useful but limiting tool, requiring both a tripod and everyone’s full and complete cooperation – and about 50% more time allotted for taking the photos.

2. Is she going to be happy watching instead of participating? When the latest dance tune hits or the conga line starts and everyone including her boyfriend is trying to get her to put down her camera, will she be willing to stand up to them and do her job? Especially if she’s not being paid?

Okay, let’s assume those first two issues aren’t going to be a problem. No boyfriend, everyone’s used to her being more on the outside looking in, and she has no other role to perform. So let’s talk about what type of a job she can do.

1. Equipment. How much, and how much range. I know there are even professional photographers out there who talk about how they have shot entire weddings using a fixed-lens point-and-shoot camera and done just fine. Well sure, you CAN do that, if you accept the limitations of the gear and have years of experience working around them – but even then you might have missed some shots. Here’s a minimum list of the equipment she should have:

At least two DSLR camera bodies, preferably 10MP or higher. I’m not going to get into brand arguments or even note the differences between consumer and pro level gear; plenty of wedding have been shot quite well with the right amateur gear and a knowledgeable photographer.  Two bodies are required because they do fail, and if she only has one, it’s over. Three is even better, or a compatible film camera body will work. I say 10 MP because that allows for significant cropping without losing the quality required for use in albums or wall portraits.

Lenses covering the 35mm-equivalent range of 16-200mm. And overlapping, which might mean a 16-35, a 24-70, and a 70-200, plus a 20, 50, 100, and 200 fixed, or just multiple zooms. If she’s using cameras with an APS-C sensor, that means roughly 10-135mm coverage; or 8-100 if using the 4/3 system. This allows for photographing groups of people in tight quarters of getting overhead shots on the wide end while allowing for close-ups from a reasonable distance on the long end.  She can get by with the equivalent of a 28080 range (I did for years) but as I discovered once I could afford them, the extremes on both ends open up creative possibilities I just couldn’t do with the mid-range only.

Flashes, at least three (they are what malfunctions most often) shoe-mount (the pop-up one on the camera doesn’t count) with either a bracket or a diffusion system to minimize red-eye and shadow issues.

Twice as many batteries and memory cards as she expects to need. For all camera bodies and flashes, if they use different ones.

Okay, she’s properly equipped: great! Now a few more questions: How well is she able to direct and organize people in order to get them together for the formals and the events? How well does she work with distractions? Will people pay attention to her because she’s the photographer, or will they ignore her because she’s just Joan with her camera as usual? The old saying “familiarity breeds contempt” has never been more true than when a photographer tries to get her/his family to cooperate for photos. Trust me, I know whereof I speak, my family is no better nor worse than yours, and I’ve been doing this professionally for over 25 years!

Does she know the plan for the wedding, where to stand when to get the best angles, whare not to be to avoid being in the way? Only experience teaches that, though classes and seminars can help.

But let’s assume she’s completed the wedding, took every photo you wanted and did them well. Now what?

If she’s a professional photographer, she can design an album for you and order it from any one of dozens of professional album companies. If not, then your options are limited again. Perhaps she has the skills and time to devote to designing your album in Photoshop or its equivalent, but if she’s not a professional photographer with an account, the wedding album manufacturers won’t sell to her. So maybe she’ll give you a DVD with the images, maybe even her album pages designs, but your options are limited – as of my knowledge at this writing – to the consumer book publishing services, whose books are both lesser quality and much more limited in options. Your only page options are likely to be press-printed, similar to a textbook, not bad but nothing like the depth and archival quality of photographic processes on something like metallic or linen paper. Binding options are similarly limited, you’re not going to find solid wood, metal, leather, silk, or other covers. Most likely you’ll have a covered cardboard cover, or perhaps linen-like look.  Again, not necessarily bad, just not what one would call heirloom quality. If that doesn’t matter to you, then you’re set, but if it does, then I guess you’ll be giving me a call after all – just like those signs I’ve seen that say “we fix $6 haircuts,” I can try to fix $500 weddings!

P.S. One more thing to consider: Let’s suppose things don’t work out, and your sister, brother, cousin, whichever totally screws up your wedding photography. Are you – and they – prepared to deal with that tension in the family for the rest of your lives? How might that affect your relationship if your spouse’s relative ruined your wedding? Most professionals actually refuse to do weddings for their relatives because they don’t want to risk it – do you?

Been busy…

  • Posted on June 8, 2010 at 11:04 am

Shooting hotels, grand openings, even doing a trash the dress session…

Hiring a professional photographer

  • Posted on May 2, 2010 at 5:05 pm

Professional Photography Tips: http://ping.fm/Rppmr (Note to those looking for a budget photographer: Here’s your guy!)

Latest published photos – Tampa Tribune

  • Posted on May 1, 2010 at 10:49 pm

Though they only credited the New Tampa Chamber of Commerce for these, as you can see, the originals – four of six – are mine.

Photos taken by myself featured

Article features four photos I took

Why experience matters more than you think

  • Posted on April 30, 2010 at 2:35 am

Lately I’ve been returning to my roots in a sense, shooting real estate jobs from homes to high-rise hotels. Today brought a great example of why experience, not just in photography but in the world, can make a world of difference.

I was assigned to take photos of a high-end high-rise timeshare unit on the beach; let’s call it “Unit 666.”  I called the resort and made arrangements to arrive at 12:30, when the contact person/concierge assured me that the unit would be unoccupied. So I arrived (after an hour-plus drive) and was promptly informed that there had been a mistake, the front desk had screwed up and the unit was now occupied, and I’d just have to come back another day!

Not acceptable! First, my clients want to get the property marketed quickly, especially a difficult-to-show property like this one. Second, I’d have to bill my clients for the wasted trip, though it wasn’t their fault. Finally, it would discombobulate my schedule.

So I asked if the units were identical inside. After some wrangling it was finally admitted that there were, yes, certain standard floor plans, and more investigation revealed that a unit that was identical on the inside was indeed available – unit 662, just two doors down! Problem solved; I took exterior photos of 666 without disturbing the guests and interior photos of 662.

When I contacted the agent who had given me he assignment and told the tale, her response was “Good thinking!” Yes, that and the experience of knowing that timeshare units have to have identical furnishings, linens, etc. to keep the staff from going crazy trying to hunt and match different styles, gave me an advantage over the photographer who would have simply given up.

UPDATE: Here’s an irony for you. Without knowing it nor ever having read his book, apparently I was just applying something Stephen Covey wrote about in his book called the “90-10 Principle.” To make a long story short, he says 10% of what happens to you cannot be controlled, but your response to it often determines the other 90%. That’s pretty much what happened here. Like the guy in his example would have done, I could have stormed off, ruining my relationship with that client, that apartment complex, negatively impacting my bottom line, etc. Instead I sought a solution that worked, making for a much better day for everyone. I’ve been following this principle for most of my adult life, something I merely thought was logical and reasonable turns out to make someone else a bestselling author – maybe I should write a book! LOL!

The move begins…

  • Posted on April 27, 2010 at 9:31 pm

Okay, right now I’m sitting in what will be my new residence in Land O’ Lakes, FL. Spent about 9 months living in Lithia and that was enough, at least where I was at. Actually in Keysville, I was about ten miles away from a decent grocery and more from high speed internet access – the real killer in my business. It wasn’t just the extra two hours average daily drive to get into Tampa Bay, and the gas and car wear spent doing that, but the only net access was via BlackBerry tethering, maxed at 115K data transfer, often significantly slower and unreliable as I was on the fringe of cell service.

So tonight begins a new era. It’ll take some time for the move because I’ll need to disassemble my computer network, multiple dives, etc. but in the long run it will save me at least ten hours a week of time I can use more productively.

Speaking of which, have been spending a lot of time in Caliente lately; my latest foray was to take photos of my friend Tom Baptist playing in their piano bar…and write a profile article which should be appearing in the NUSASUN magazine (see the latest two issues for my photos of Pam Oakes in there – http://www.nusasun.com). So I’m drawing on my writing background now as well, might as well make use of the BA and MA I have in writing!

Tampa Bay's Smoothest Jazz Vocalist

http://www.tampabaysmoothest.com/

Progress!

  • Posted on April 23, 2010 at 9:37 am

Well, of sorts. The spam comment engines have apparently found my blog! Yep, a dozen comments trashed in the last two days – woohoo!

Anyone who responds to a spam ad should have their butt kicked for encouraging these jerks.