Image copyright Mark Toal. All rights reserved.
"Mirrorless Mark" (Mark Toal) is back today with two stunning images. He was out and about in Las Vegas with the GX9 and the Leica 10-25mm lens. I love these short posts he shares because Mark is staying in tune with his surroundings and sharing his "adventures" during his never-ending travel, usually for business. If you've met Mark then you know photography runs through his veins and he's never without a camera.
Panasonic's tagline is "Changing Photography," and they've stayed true to that commitment with every LUMIX camera and lens they've introduced us to. Check out the GX9 and Leica lens with a click on either thumbnail below. And to see an even larger image, click on either one Mark's sharing today and view in the SCU Lightbox.
Looking for great images along with ideas and tips to be a better photographer? Check out Mark's blogs. You'll never be disappointed in the content he shares. And as I always suggest check out the LUMIX Ambassador team. They're an incredible group of artists and focused on helping you raise the bar on your skills set and the quality of your images.
by Mark Toal
Once in a while I’m lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. A while ago I was handed an early version of the new Panasonic Lecia 10-25mm f/1.7 lens and walked the Las Vegas strip with it. I’m a little biased since I work for Panasonic, so I’ll let the images speak for themselves. The camera body was a Lumix GX-9.
Yes, it is a little large, but to be able to shoot at 10mm, f/1.7 with auto focus makes it all worthwhile for me. I think this might replace the Lumix 7-14mm as my favorite Micro Four Thirds lens.
Black Iris from Georgia O'Keefe's Garden
LUMIX G9 with LUMIX Vario 14-140mm lens - f5.6 @ 1/500 ISO 200
It's a pretty typical Sunday morning. The house is incredibly quiet; Sheila's still asleep, and I'm sitting here trying to decide if what I want to share is relevant. The issue is how my perspective about time has changed as I've gotten older. I've run into so many situations lately that leave me shaking my head and realizing how many people simply treat "time" as if they had an endless supply.
I went looking for a great quote about wasting time and so many of the quotes referred to spending time on the wrong people. I'm not talking as much about people as wasting time on things that are meaningless in the long run.
Here are a few examples:
And while this might sound like a contradiction - recognize there are times when you need to recharge and kick back and just relax. Too many people think taking a break from the chaos of a tough day is wasting time.
Time you enjoy wasting isn't wasted time.
Bertrand Russell and John Lennon
That brings me right back to the beginning. Time is the one thing we will never have enough of. You don't need to be productive every minute of the day, just stop wasting time on things that don't matter. Most important of all, like drinking that bottle of wine you saved for a special occasion, savor time with special friends, working on great projects, and following your heart.
Wishing everybody an outstanding day ahead and opportunities to get the most out of time with friends and family. Take the time for those eleven-second hugs because they're therapeutic. And, during those long hugs, think about how much that person means to you and how much they've enriched your life.
I rarely post on Saturdays, but today is special. I want to share my experience over the last thirty minutes, and remind you of just how special the career path we've all chosen is.
It's June 29 and would be my parents 72nd wedding anniversary. Sheila and I are also celebrating our 9th wedding anniversary. When Sheila and I decided to get married, we chose the same day my parents were married believing it would be good karma. Well, we were right, and even with Mom's Alzheimer's the first couple of years we were married, we still celebrated together.
But our anniversaries aren't the topic this morning, but the fun of a Throwback Thursday on a Saturday. I knew I wanted to write something this morning about my folks - so I started out looking through a couple of old albums. I found the picture above of the two of them on a mini-vacation in 1948. They were with their friends at the Lakeside Hotel in Eagles Mere, PA.
I scanned the images and did a little post-processing on the contrast and sharpening in Luminar and couldn't help but notice a few different "signs of the times."
That brings me full circle to the fun of this morning and a reminder to all of you. The joy of our industry is all about the memories photographs help people capture. But it's also about the fun of the search! Hunting for an old photograph to share this morning put a smile on my face that will be there all day. I found everything from old school pictures to Mom and Dad to my old report cards, and in the process thinking about how lucky Sheila and I were to have my folks around to 88 for Mom and 93 for Dad.
During that time, we were able to share and appreciate their incredible zest for life and the love they had for each other as well as the two of us. I remember thanking my Dad once for keeping an open heart regarding my relationship with Sheila and getting remarried. His response, "When you love someone, you always keep an open heart!"
So, Happy Anniversary to my honey. What an incredible trip it's been and continues to be. Sure do love ya! And, here's to you Mom and Dad - for your love, and all the incredible memories, as well as a big thanks for Mom's never-wavering habit to write on the back of every photograph!
And to all of you - take the time this weekend to pull out an old album and take a stroll down Memory Lane. The older the photographs, the more you'll appreciate the true beauty of imaging - capturing memories and turning them into tangible moments we can hold in our hands and cherish!
Each week I like to do an intro to whatever dish is being served as the special for the day in the SCU Diner.
I started the series to help you with things to build a stronger business. Too many of you are sitting on little gold mines if you'd only pay more attention to the marketing and business side of your career path.
A great skill set is a necessity to growth and survival, but equally important is making sure people know who you are; designing effective promotions; paying attention to your pricing, profit and building a strong brand.
At least a year ago I wrote a Fast Food Friday about getting help when you need it, and there's a little of that same "seasoning" in today's blue-plate special. Specifically, I want to talk about a program Marathon Press has in place for Family Marketing. It couldn't be more grass-roots in the approach, but it has so much potential for many of you, and hits on expanding your reach to the right target.
Getting Help with Family Marketing
What I love most about this program is Marathon's focus on doing everything for you. As an artist you don't have the time or staff to put together all the aspects necessary for a valid promotion, but Marathon does. They'll help you with design elements, identifying your target audience and all the components for a successful mailing.
And yes, it's old school direct mail, which is also one of the very best ways to get through all the noise and reach "Mom." Remember, women make 98% of the purchase decisions to hire a professional photographer in the portrait/social categories. That's from an old Kodak study over twenty years ago, and I don't believe it's moved even a point!
Their family marketing program is in three parts with an optional fourth:
There's also a level of exclusivity build into the program which limits activity to only one studio per marketing area. As a result, ZIP Codes are protected on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Here's the point to think about with anything you're doing to build your brand: Back in my Polaroid days, the analysts used to say you needed to hit a consumer 2 1/2 times before they remembered you. Today that number is 7-12 times. Doing a little research on Google on consumer recall, I came across the Rule of 7.
The Rule of 7 is a marketing principle that states that your prospects need to come across your offer at least seven times before they really notice it and start to take action. Your prospects can be exposed to your offer significantly more than seven times, but they need to see it at least seven times. From Google.
That doesn't mean you have to do seven mailings, but a direct mail campaign combined with a texting program, a well-designed website, publicity and community involvement is going to get your name out there and build awareness.
Marathon is just a phone call away at 800-228-0629 for more information. Just remember, your success and growth isn't based on who you know, but who knows you!
"Those we love don't walk away, they walk beside us every day.
Unseen, unheard, but always near. Still loved, still missed."
Intro by Skip Cohen
The fun of Throwback Thursday is often as much about what you find on the "hunt" as it is the photographs you want to share. And, today's Throwback is a memory-maker for many of us and a history lesson for those of you relatively new to the profession.
Don Blair was one of the finest portrait artists in the industry, and I've written a lot about him over the years. Best known as a leading educator in classic portraiture, it was his passion for the craft combined with his love for each of us that made him legendary.
I used to say he was the older brother I never had. Our "adventures" redefined the meaning of the word awesome and friendship. The first book I wrote was with Don. Together with two other partners in crime, Terry Deglau, and Tony Corbell, we created a classic "how-to" book and a long list of memory-making moments, not to mention a week of non-stop laughs!
Looking through a box in my garage last week, I came across a disc loaded with old images. On the disc was this piece I wrote for Rangefinder Magazine after "Big Daddy" passed away. It was the first article I ever had published in a magazine, and I remember the pride I felt at the time. It wasn't about being published but about the honor of speaking for so many of us in a eulogy for my best buddy!
And, to my point in my article below - he may have physically left us, but without question, his spirit lives on in the work of so many artists whose lives he touched!
"I'm going to show you what I do in order to save time in post-production."
by Skip Cohen
One primary ingredient in being a success as a wedding photographer is all about being a great storyteller. The wedding album isn't just a collection of beautiful photographs but the story of the couple, their wedding day and capturing the details, especially in the bridal gown. Remember, a well-done wedding album is the first family heirloom of a brand new family! (You should be able to hear angels blowing trumpets at this point! LOL)
It's "Wednesdays with Westcott," and this new video featuring Will Cadena is loaded with wisdom! His quote above says it all - if your images are clean right out of the can it's going to save you time. Time is your most valuable commodity and rather than sitting at your computer cleaning images up in post-production, if you do things right from the beginning, you're going to have more time to market yourself!
One of the things I love most about this video is Will and Westcott's, additive approach to lighting. After you watch the video check out the article, which will take you through each ingredient being added to create the final portrait above.
"If you want to make money, do it in the camera!"
That's Will's other quote that hit me hard. So many of you think you're saving time with a fix-it-in-post attitude when the reality is your wasting time. So, take three minutes now and check out Will's tips on capturing the details in the wedding dress!
Interested in raising the bar on your skill set? Will's teaching at ClickCon in Chicago in August. It's going to be an event that for many of you could be life-changing. If Will can pack this much information into just a short film, imagine how much he can pack into his classes?
For more information on what's destined to become the best new boutique photography conference of the year, click on the banner below. And if you're joining us register through the link below and use "ccskip" to save $50 off your registration.
Westcott never slows down on sharing great content to help you raise the bar on your skill set. And, they manufacture/distribute some of the finest lighting equipment in professional photography.
Check out their YouTube channel for 375 videos covering virtually every aspect of lighting, and WestcottU is always loaded with great inspiration.
For the rest of 2019, when you purchase anything from Westcott through the "door" below or through the link on the Rapid Box Switch to the right, 10% of your purchase price goes to one of the industry's most recognized nonprofits, Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.
Thanks for helping SCU give back and I'm looking forward to catching up to many of you in Chicago. What a kick!
I'm honored to have been a guest on Lyn Morton's EOS Photographer podcast last week.
He chose a topic near and dear to my heart - getting the most out of a conference. With ClickCon coming up as the next big show in the US, it's essential for you to have a plan if you're attending.
And if you can't join us in Chicago, Lyn and I talked about a long list of tips to make sure you're always getting the most bang for your buck at every workshop, conference or convention you attend.
To grow as an artist and a business owner, you need to build your network, skill set, and get the very most out of every class you choose at a conference. Having a plan guarantees you'll head home when the event is over with something more than just a lot of stories about hanging out with friends, seeing new equipment, etc.
If you're not registered for ClickCon yet, the link is below. Use "ccskip" in the discount box and save $50. Register through the banner below, and you'll also be helping Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. As a speaker affiliate I get a 10% commission on registrations through my link - well, I'm not keeping any of that, but sharing half with NILMDTS and the other half in a cash rebate right to the attendee right at the show!
And, follow Lyn on the EOS Photographer podcast. He's got a lot of depth in understanding and support for the photographic industry and always does a great job in his interviews!
No matter how educated, talented, rich or cool you are,
how you treat people ultimately tells all.
Integrity is everything.
Every morning I share a quote on Twitter. It started as a suggestion to gain followers but grew into a moment of inspiration each day before I plunge into work. Well, this morning, I ran across the quote above about "arrogance," and wanted to share it.
Recently I had a run-in with a well-respected photographer who decided it was appropriate to tell dozens of us how we should run our business. The backstory isn't important; nobody has the right to bully anybody into any direction.
For most of us, our love for this industry has come out of many different people and companies who have believed in us and as sappy as it sounds, loved us unconditionally.
This is just a short post today with a reminder to anyone who's starting to believe their own press releases. Don't forget your roots. Take the time to give back to the photographic community by helping with sound advice, suggestions, sharing your experiences, staying humble, and above all, to thine ownself be true.
Humility will open more doors than arrogance ever will!
Intro by Chamira Young
Have you stepped outside of your comfort zone lately? Photographer Douglas Croft did, and discovered a new passion for photographing whales he didn't know he had. You never know where inspiration will come from, and being open to new experiences is a prime opportunity to rejuvenate your photography passion and learn about subjects previously unknown to your own personal "bubble".
It was by deciding to go on a whale-watching tour that photographer Douglas Croft discovered his passion for capturing breathtaking images of the behemoth mammals. And ironically, it was right in his own back yard of Monterey Bay! He's been hooked ever since. By using Tamron's 18-400mm VC HLD zoom lens for his adventures, he's been able to capture his giant subjects whether they surface right next to his boat or hundreds of yards away.
Check out his work below, as well as the fascinating backstory and process!
By Jenn Gidman
Images By Douglas Croft
For the first 15 years that Douglas Croft lived in San Jose, he had no idea that Monterey Bay existed. Then, about eight years ago, he went on a whale-watching tour, and he was hooked. Since then, he's served as a volunteer on the Whale Entanglement Team with the Marine Life Studies group, working to rescue large marine mammals that get caught in fishing gear and marine debris. He also works several times a week with Blue Ocean Whale Watch, which leaves out of Moss Landing Harbor to take spectators to see whales, dolphins, sea lions, and other marine life.
Douglas says his experiences in these local waters have been eye-opening. "Monterey Bay is such a vibrant ecosystem that it really boggles the mind," he says. "I went to Africa twice, and then I came home and discovered the Serengeti of the sea was right there in my backyard. The first time I saw a whale breach from a boat, I didn't even remember I had a camera in my hand until it had splashed down; I was in such awe. It still awes me like that. I've since seen hundreds of whale breaches, but it never gets old, and it's almost always surprising, because you never know where or when it's going to happen."
That surprise factor is what's drawn Douglas to the Tamron 18-400mm VC HLD zoom lens for his adventures on the water. "That's what makes this lens outstanding," he says. "Because you often can't anticipate where or when photo-worthy moments are going to happen, if a breach starts happening 200 yards from the boat, I can zoom out to 400mm and be right on it. Then, if something takes place right next to the boat, I can pull back in. It's such a versatile lens. Plus the autofocus is awesome, and it's a light-enough lens that I can shoot all day with it. The moisture-resistant construction is handy as well, since we go out on the boat even if it's raining—the whales are out no matter what."
Although participants on his whale-watching tours are able to see whales 365 days a year on Monterey Bay, some species are seasonal. "Humpback whales, for example, are migratory," Douglas explains. "We usually have them up here from early April through November. Then most of them head down to Mexico to the breeding and birthing waters."
Gray whales, like the mother and calf Douglas captured playing in the kelp by Big Sur, are seen in the fall and in the spring. "These two were doing their migration past Monterey," he says. "When they're not here, they're either down in Baja in the birthing lagoons or they're up toward Alaska feeding. The gray whales swim very close to the cliffs along Big Sur, because they want to avoid killer whales—swimming close to the cliffs reduces their acoustic signature so the killer whales can't hear them. So if you're on the cliffs, you can look straight down on them. On the day I captured this photo, the water was really clear, and there was a lot of kelp hanging around in the kelp forest because there hadn't been any storms in some time. These whales got right in there."
Although Douglas doesn't consider himself an expert on animal behavior, he's learned some tricks to anticipate better what's going to happen on the water. "There are always clues on what the animals are going to do," he says. "Sometimes a whale will breach completely out of the blue, but a lot of times, if they do it once, they'll do it again. And so you watch that area. On the humpback whale you see breaching here, that whale easily breached 50 times over the hour we were watching. I had plenty of opportunity to try and grab a photo."
The lunge-feeding humpback whales Douglas often photographs have their own particular "tell." "If we see congregations of diving birds, we know that schooling fish are near the surface," he says. "And if whales are in the area, the likelihood is that they're going to feed close to the surface. So if you see where the birds are diving, you can anticipate the whales will come up right where those birds are."
Even if you know what the marine animals may do, you still don't know when it's going to happen. "It always takes your breath away," Douglas says. "You can only somewhat anticipate it and be zoomed in to where you think you'll see some action, with your finger on the trigger. My hands get so sore after a day on the water, because they're clenched on the camera all day."
Read more and enjoy additional images from Douglas...
Be sure to check out Tamron's events schedule. Their team is on the road with great programs/events throughout the entire year!
A week ago I announced a very special promotion in support of Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, and teaming up with Westcott. SCU is a Westcott affiliate, which means 10% of whatever you buy from Westcott when you go through the SCU gateway is our sales commission. But we're NOT going to take it.
With everything you buy, when you click on a specific product in a blog post or when you go through the door above, 10% of what you spend, for the rest of 2019, is going to one of the industry's best-known nonprofits, NILMDTS. I've been a NILMDTS Ambassador for many years and couldn't be more proud of the help their photographers have provided families having to deal with the worst kind of pain - the loss of a baby.
One of the most read SCU guest posts about NILMDTS was published in 2013, only a few months after SCU launched. I wanted to bring it back today because it gives such a strong perspective on the gift these photographers provide each family.
In response to Aurora Daley Olmstead's guest post about photographing baby Dora, the mother of the child responded directly as a comment. I'm not sure there's any higher honor than for a photographer to hear back from the client directly, especially when it's the mother of a child who's died!
Westcott is manufacturing some of the finest and most diverse lighting gear in professional photography. And, if you're headed to Chicago for ClickCon in August, swing by the Westcott booth and meet some of the crew. They're always looking for ways to help you through the challenges of capturing stunning images...and now we're adding support for NILMDTS to the focus!
The Real Definition of the Ultimate Image
by Skip Cohen
When I asked Aurora Daley Olmstead if she'd do a guest post about her experiences with Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep several years ago, I had no idea the significance of my request. Typical of most photographers, Aurora got busy, and it was at least three weeks before she was able to find the time to send me something. Even when I first read her guest post, while it obviously touched me, I still failed to recognize the true impact. But read what the baby's mother posted as a comment to Aurora's blog just a day or so later:
When I asked Aurora Daley Olmstead if she'd do a guest post about her experiences with Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep several years ago, I had no idea the significance of my request. Typical of most photographers, Aurora got busy, and it was at least three weeks before she was able to find the time to send me something. Even when I first read her guest post, while it obviously touched me, I still failed to recognize the real impact. But read what the baby's mother posted as a comment to Aurora's blog just a day or so later:
Thank you so very much for the beautiful blog. My tears are pouring reading it and reliving the most precious moments in our lives! I also want to take a moment to thank all the photographers from the NILMDTS who volunteer their time to help families like ours walking through the darkest moments of their lives.
I also want to let you know how much we cherish the pictures you took. I carry Dora's picture in my wallet everyday. It reminds me not only of her beautiful face, but all the wonderful people she brought to us, including her aunt Aurora. I know my little girl is just as happy as we are now to see her little brother grow everyday, and to see more people like you bringing light to other people's lives.
Love and kisses to your little princesses!
Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
The ability of the baby's mother to open her heart and publicly comment on the meaning of Aurora's work and NILMDTS as an organization represents the rarest of feedback and affirmation of what everyone hopes to accomplish as a photographer. There could be no greater "thank you" than to receive a comment like this from a subject, a client who has now become part of Aurora's life as a professional photographer.
I've said it at the end of virtually every workshop, class or program where I've ever spoken and in dozens of blog posts. "Except for modern medicine, no career field has given society more than professional photography! "
Everyone dreams about capturing the ultimate image - that one shot nobody else could get that becomes your signature. Sometimes the ultimate image is a moment in time when you're given an opportunity to use your skill set or as Weihau put it... "help families like ours walking through the darkest moments of their lives."
Aurora said it best in one of her comments on the blog, "...my life and my heart are fuller for having given what I can to these families - it always fills my heart to know I've been able to help them even in some small way!"
Image copyright Bob Coates. All rights reserved.
It's "Mirrorless Monday" and the perfect time to share not only an image captured with a LUMIX G9, but part of a body of work that resulted in a good buddy being named the cover artist for next year's Festival of the Cranes.
Bob Coates is in the spotlight with a stunning image at Bosque del Apache. Over the years I've written about being one of the luckiest guys in the industry - well, part of that feeling comes from hanging with so many talented artists, and Bob is one of them. He's no stranger to SCU and has shared dozens of guest posts with great "how-to" content.
Bob captured the image above with the LUMIX G9, and 50-200mm lens. Click on the image to view it in the SCU Lightbox, and click on either thumbnail below for more information about some of the finest equipment in imaging! For more incredible photographs being shared every day by LUMIX photographers as well as the LUMIX Ambassadors, Check out their forum on Facebook.
by Bob Coates
This image was made at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Preserve last November at the Festival of the Cranes in Socorro, New Mexico. It was the first time I used this lens, and it is one clean piece of glass.
My usual go-to wildlife lens is the Leica DG Vario-Elmar f4.0/6.3 100-400mm lens. With the proximity of the birds being so close I didn't need quite so much reach so I used the 50-200mm. Both are fabulous wildlife lenses. The camera was the LUMIX G9. It's the flagship stills camera for Panasonic's micro four-thirds line.
As a side note, some artwork I created from the trip was submitted for the featured artist of the Festival. I was named the cover artist for the fest and will be on site selling my Lens Based Art.( https://coatesart.net ) I look forward to seeing you there!
The 32nd annual Festival of the Cranes will be November 20th - 23rd.
I hit the computer about half an hour ago without a clue of what to write about for Sunday Morning Reflections. Part of my routine is to scroll through my home page on Facebook and catch up on what's been shared over the last day or two. In the process, I ran across a short video from Karen Kuehn of her ranch, and the peacefulness of the video hit me along with her comment, "Blessed I love my life."
As one of the industry's most outstanding artists, Karen came into my life in the late '80s when one of her images was featured in a Hasselblad campaign. We only met for a minute back then, but we caught up to each other two years ago, and here we are today as good friends.
Last month in New Mexico, we finally caught up to Karen and spent part of an afternoon on her ranch, and it couldn't have been more peaceful. Surrounded by giant willows, she planted over twenty years ago; it's a haven for creativity and stillness.
I still wasn't sure what to write about, so I grabbed one of Melody Beattie's books and for today read:
"Stillness is different from solitude, different from aloneness, different from turning off the stereo or speaking softly. Stillness is a place. You can find it in the desert or in the mountains. You can find it when you're alone or when you're in the midst of people. You can find stillness wherever you are, whatever you're going through. Stillness is a place within you. Slow down. Breathe deeply. Get quiet. Become familiar with stillness. Take time to learn its power."
And there it was - the perfect topic for today and why I enjoy writing Reflections - it's about the stillness of a Sunday morning. It's about the peacefulness as the sun's coming up. Those first morning rays bring a deep appreciation for my life, Sheila, family, great friends like Karen, and so many memories. It's stillness that allows me to savor so many moments that through the noise and craziness of any typical business day I'd miss.
Finding stillness is an art form. It takes practice to shut off the noise, block the stress and have complete control over wherever you'd like your head and heart to wander. At that moment there's no particular purpose other than to savor time.
I have yet to find a consistent recipe for stillness, but the basic ingredients are always the same, and it starts with learning to cherish what's really important...love. I know it sounds sappy, but I'm not just talking about love for those people most special in your life, but a love for yourself, and the passions that have you getting out of bed each morning with a smile on your face. It's about the love for your life, even if it's not quite where you want it yet.
As always, I wish everyone an incredible day ahead, and time to enjoy the stillness. Nothing beats one of those eleven-second therapeutic hugs while surrounded by the peace of stillness. And to our friend Karen, who started this thing today...thanks, buddy! Sure do love ya and glad to see the second round of knee surgery has you on the mend.
PS The images I grabbed for today's post were all taken at Karen's, where the beauty of stillness abounds. She's got this funky little garden surrounded by roses and at either end are two chopped up old cars. It makes absolutely no sense, but at the same time, it's brilliant. I was traveling with a LUMIX G9, and Karen grabbed a shot of us in the garden.
by Skip Cohen
I'm still going strong on topics for this series! Every time I think I'm out of ideas, somebody asks a question in a Facebook forum, and it sparks a new post.
Remember, I started this series to plant ideas on things every photographer should be thinking about to build a stronger business. Most of you are right-brain creative types, and you hate thinking about the operational side of the business. Sadly, the things you often ignore are also the things you need to raise the bar from macaroni and cheese every day to taking the family out for a steak dinner!
Today's post is number sixty-one in the series, and it's a topic, so many of you need to think about - let's help you with your addiction for new gear!
Great gear is always a benefit, but without the skill set, a good camera will NOT make you an impressive artist! But while I'm going to talk about your need for more equipment - I'm more interested in giving you ideas on how to get what you need without screwing up your cash flow!
Stop the Madness!
Stop being a gear hound!
If you've followed me for even the shortest amount of time, then you know I always call it like it is. When it comes to gear, a great camera won't make you a great photographer any more than buying a Porsche makes you a race car driver! That means your skill set has to have priority over everything else. If you don't have the skill set, then you're not going to meet the mindset of each client. Any moron can get their first customer - the challenge is getting them to come back and to insist their friends check you out as well!
Okay - let's get to the point - ideas to help you get the equipment you need to build a stronger business!
Get to know your camera dealer! From cameras to lenses to lighting, the camera dealers are at the hub for all the manufacturers of the products they carry. This is all about "Relationship Building 101," and somebody at your local camera shop needs to be in your network!
Rent it first! Joe Buissink told a great story about a tilt/shift lens he thought he needed to make his work look different in his early days. Well, he bought it, and it tied up his cash. He barely used it, and eventually sold it for a loss.
Most of you know the essential gear you've got to have, but you get gear fever and go out and buy. That might be fine for the necessary equipment, but often you're tying up your cash flow and purchasing the more exotic equipment before you've really used it. Most of the retailers have a rental program, and often you can apply the rental cost to the purchase later on.
Shop for rebates! Don't buy anything these days without at least checking for seasonal rebates and promotions. If you don't immediately see a rebate or promotional program on whatever you're about to buy, start by checking with the manufacturer. Also, pay attention to professional services where a manufacturer might be offering additional discounts to its registered users.
Check out convention specials! A lot of exhibitors offer trade show specials, making it an ideal time to buy gear. Identify your needs before you hit a convention. I know it's tough, but do your best to stay out of the impulse purchase mode and stay focused on what you need - not want!
Consider used gear! From career direction changes to turning over gear because of new technology there's a lot of previously owned equipment available. It's worth keeping your eye out for some great deals. But, know what you're buying and who you're buying it from! You've also got some great used gear at the dealer level which often comes with a short term service warranty.
Lease it! On high ticket items, you don't need to always OWN it. Leasing can be incredibly affordable, give you the same tax benefits and allow you to "utilize someone else's assets without depleting yours!" That was the tagline for a leasing program we offered at Hasselblad over twenty years ago! Before you go to any convention, check your credit line for a commercial lease, so you hit the trade show floor knowing what you've got for financing if you need it.
Bring in a partner...or two! On some of the more expensive gear, consider sharing the cost with another photographer! For example, let's assume you want a large format printer. Why not buy it with another photographer or two and all of you share the use. I've written a lot about partnerships, and they apply to everything from gear to studio and office space. Share the cost and reduce the pain!
Know your reps! One of the biggest reasons to attend any convention is to build your network. For every piece of gear you own, you should also have met and talked with the rep at the manufacturer or vendor.
Going back to my Hasselblad days, it wasn't unusual for a photographer to need help on a project or want to try out a specific camera or lens. Each sales managers had a complete sample kit and would often assist photographers in the field. They were especially helpful in those moments where Murphy's Law took over, and somebody had an emergency over a weekend shoot, for example.
Having reliable gear is a necessity, but stay focused on building your skill set first and keep the expense on equipment to smart decisions.
Years ago Vincent Laforet spoke at Skip's Summer School. He talked about his early days and how often he didn't have the gear he needed. He asked the audience, "Do you know what you do when you don't have a long enough lens?" He answered almost immediately, "You move in closer!"
I know that's simplistic and it doesn't always work that way, but Vincent's point was simply it's your skills that will make you great not your gear!
Image copyright Daniel Venter. All rights reserved.
by Skip Cohen
One of the most significant benefits of the Internet and in turn, social media, is how small the world has become. Facebook is often my greatest resource for meeting new artists and often seeing images I love to share.
Meet Daniel Venter, an accomplished photographer from Czechia. We met through the Facebook Wedding Photographers forum. I had shared a post about the importance of your "About" page as an element to help build trust. Daniel made the comment below:
I don't have one. It was my least visited page of my site since the advent of social media, so I stopped implementing it on new sites. Most people don't care about it because they want two things only: price and how awesome the photos are. The trust factor can be built on how often you show your photos to the world. When people see awesome photos they trust that you do the job well. Tell them through your photos that you are the one to go to! In this day and age where content is king, and social media is top layer, speed it key. People want to read less and see more because info is hitting them every few seconds, so even your website becomes less important when there are tons of reading to do. People don't wont to read, they want to scroll, get engaged by an awesome image and buy the service.
At first, I was ready to go into defensive mode, but then I went to Daniel's site and looked at his images. While I don't agree with him completely, his work is beautiful, and his point is definitely valid. He gave me another perspective to my original point in the post.
As I looked through his galleries, I loved the image above and contacted him for permission to share. I appreciated Daniel's comment, feedback and most important of all enjoyed the consistency of the work he's sharing. Click on his image above to visit his website, and to see what Daniel's sharing on Facebook (and in English) check out his Facebook page.
Daniel also has an educational site with support for the photographic community. Click on the banner below for more information.
Images by Cantrell Portrait Design
While I won't deny there isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about Molly, this post isn't meant to be another episode of me missing my dog. In fact, it's light on sadness but heavy on an idea for a few of you to consider as a product/service.
Molly was by my side every day for 13 1/2 years. The only exception was when traveling. Going to work with me every day she became the office mascot at Rangefinder/WPPI. From late 2007 until I left Rangefinder in May of 2009, I was going through a divorce and lived in an apartment in Playa Vista, near Culver City.
Molly was probably one of the most photographed pups in the industry because every artist who came to town photographed my girl! On one of her trips for WPPI print judging, Bambi Cantrell spent an afternoon photographing Molly and me. She captured some of my most cherished photographs. Pay attention because there's a great product idea here.
Bambi did a Day in the Life shoot and captured Molly and me in three different settings. I found the disk of her images recently, and these are all right out of the can. My apartment had a small patio, and Molly would hang out with me just about every night as I pondered the meaning of life.
So the question is - how many of you offer clients a Day in the Life shoot? It's the perfect album capturing the story of kids, families and obviously pets. Remember, the top three reasons people hire a professional photographer in the portrait/social categories goes brides, babies, pets.
Well, a Day in the Life for a bride is already covered with a wedding album - but what about babies (kids too) and pets, especially the interaction with other members of the family? Done right it's got the same kind of potential for exceeding client expectations as a well-done wedding or event album. Plus, it doesn't have to be seasonal, giving you the ability to be a storyteller all year long.
And, back to Molly for a second...everybody who's ever lost a pet knows the feeling of loss, but great photographs keep those memories alive, and for me, they're finally starting to create more smiles than tears.
"When I needed a hand, I found your paw."
Happy Throwback Thursday!
Don't talk, just act. Don't say, just show. Don't promise, Just prove.
In March of 2014, Photofocus and SCU teamed up to produce a podcast series called "Mind Your Own Business." I remember trying to think of a good name for it, and asking my wife Sheila, "Help me come up with what to call this!" She's my muse, and within seconds, she responded with, "Mind Your Own Business!"
Well, it's almost 5 1/2 years later and what Rich Harrington and I started, later morphed into a series with Scott Bourne as my co-host and over two years ago, Chamira Young. Chamira and I have done fifty podcasts together, with thirty of them episodes in the MYOB series. All along the way, the concept and quality of the content have grown more and more.
I ran across the quote above and couldn't help but think about the guests we've had on "Mind Your Own Business." Each artist has built a reputation to ALWAYS deliver.
These podcasts are unscripted, although we always have a general topic in mind. What's making them so worth listening to is the willingness of each guest to share their "secrets." Each one has shared their experiences, wisdom, and insight into areas of business, marketing, technology, and always under the photography "umbrella."
Since this is June and the close of the first half, if you missed any of the last few episodes, I put together everything since the start of the year. And since it's hump day, you might find some great wisdom being shared to help you get over the hump.
Just click on any of the episodes below to listen to that particular podcast.
Images copyright Marcie Reif. All rights reserved.
"Good things happen when you set your priorities straight!"
by Skip Cohen
Welcome back to Tamron Recipes and Part II, our conversation with "Chef" Marcie Reif. Marcie shares so much great insight in this conversation. Her passion for the craft, along with her clients, comes out loud and clear. Her goal with each client is to exceed their expectations, and as I've written in the past, make herself habit-forming!
We're having a lot of fun with this series. "Fun" is too often a mystical word that gets lost in business today, buried under the stress of decision making, interruptions, and priority setting. But, the quote by Scott Caan seems to define at least one aspect of Marcie's outlook on life, her priorities. On her about page, she leads with a description of herself as simply, "wife, mother, artist." That pretty much says it all, establishing those three hats she wears that are a big part of the foundation of who she is.
I'd add one more hat, "friend." With each podcast, both Chamira and I have found the start of new friendships with our guests. Marcie's not just part of the Tamron family, but ours as well and that's one of my most favorite things about this industry - the friendships we all share that come out of everyone's love for the craft.
In wandering through Marcie's galleries, I wanted to pull a variety of my favorite images. You'll notice a universal theme - people! I doubt there's very much Marcie can't photograph, but it's her relationships with her clients that's demonstrated in great expressions in every image. Click on any photograph in this post to visit Marcie's website.
One of Marcie's most favorite tools is Tamron's new 35-150mm F/2.8-4 Di VC OSD lens. But it's not just about the quality of the optics, but the focal length. With a 35-150mm range she can be close to her clients and a director when needed, as well as a journalist's approach and back farther to observe. She talks very openly on her approach and why this lens is ideal for working with families and kids.
"Chef" Marcie's recipe is a click away if you missed it last week. Check out the 35-150mm lens with a click on the thumbnail to the right. And, visit your Tamron dealer to check this lens out for yourself and make sure Tamron's schedule of local events and trade shows is on your radar. You'll find their complete schedule below with an almost endless number of workshops, shows and dealer programs all year long.
I'm not sure I've ever shared a post as loaded with content as this one today. And, while I know blog posts are supposed to be short, and singular in topic, it's tough to do when there's a lot of good stuff to talk about.
Giving Back Campaign With NILMDTS
If you've followed me over the years then you already know I'm a big fan of finding ways we can use photography to give back. For me, in terms of the industry, it started with selling Ansel Adams Cadillac to raise money for Photographer + Friends United Against AIDS in the early 90's and later Ansel's camera gear to shock jock Don Imus for $100,000 with the proceeds going to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation and the Center for Creative Photography.
Over the years there's been a growing list of non-profits we've talked about here at SCU, including my involvement with the Senior Friendship Centers in Sarasota who are responsible for providing health care to thousands in the community along with over 250,000 meals each year to the elderly...and the list goes on and on.
For the last few years, I've been honored to be an Ambassador for a very special non-profit, Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. NILMDTS has a pretty remarkable team of dedicated photographers and staff focused on helping families deal with the loss of a child. We've shared a lot of great posts thanks to members of the NILMDTS team.
And, here's where the fun of a blog like this comes into play.
Teaming Up With Westcott
SCU is a Westcott Affiliate. That means for every piece of gear you buy through the SCU/Westcott portal; we would normally get a 10% affiliate credit (commission). Effective immediately and at the very least through the rest of 2019, ALL of that commission is going to NILMDTS. Looking for great lighting gear? Here's an excellent and easy way for all of us to help the NILMDTS community and at the same time, raise the bar on the quality of your images!
Great Expressions? Yeah, we've got that!
I can't think of a better way to launch our new giving back campaign than with Peter Hurley's latest video and a great list of gear he's helped design working together with Team Westcott!
I do hundreds of website reviews each year, and when it comes to looking at galleries, there's an immediate quality in the images that tell a lot about each artist - the expressions on their subjects. Natural expressions are a sign of exceptional quality in an artist - the ability to build trust. And, when you're doing a headshot, your time to build trust is often so limited.
In the words of Carly Simon's old hit, when it comes to Peter Hurley, "Nobody does it better!" The video below is jam-packed with great content and includes Peter's set up for this particular sitting. He shares a lot of great insight. But think about it, his advice is perfect for all kinds of people photography, including weddings! So, don't think just because you're a wedding photographer, for example, you won't learn a few new tricks to bring out the very best expressions with your bridals and "groomals."
And, when you purchase any of Peter's gear through the SCU portals, 10% of everything you buy goes back to helping NILMDTS!
All of you are looking for ways to make your work stand out from the competition. It takes more than just great marketing - you've got to be able to walk the talk. There's no better way than making sure every image in your galleries is a "wow" print - in other words, they're so good you'd only have to show one to get hired.
Images copyright Peter Hurley. All rights reserved.
I love the way Peter brings out the best in his subject, Kerstin. He shares a whole series of images of her in the video, but listen to his comments, especially when he finds out her father is in the studio. And, all along the way, he's giving us great tips on how to make it all happen.
But maybe most important of all, Peter and his clients are have fun in the process. Remember, "fun?" It's a word so often lost in business today and buried underneath the day in day out stress of decision making. However, being fun to work with and capturing images that exceed client expectations are two of the very best building blocks for your reputation and brand awareness.
Check out Peter's primary gear from this video with a click on any of the products below. And, if you make a purchase through the SCU portals below 10% goes to NILMDTS.
Peter Hurley is one of the finest and most recognized educators in professional photography. Check out why by attending the newest boutique conference in photography, ClickCon. It's all happening in August in Chicago - use "ccskip" in the discount box and save $50.
Last week, I shared a post in Fast Food Friday, which was all about getting the most out of a convention, starting with the upcoming ClickCon in Chicago. There were a few emails and comments made on Facebook with questions about my comment on business cards and a leave-behind handout.
I'll be the first to admit; I'm an old fart when it comes to communication, especially when you're face to face with a vendor you work with or hope to. Yes, we live in a digital world filled with the need for instant fulfillment, and I'm a huge fan of mobile texting, but let's talk about everything in reference to a busy trade show or convention.
Going back to my early days at Hasselblad, then to Rangefinder and WPPI and on to my own company today, I've spent a lot of time talking with photographers who want to show me their work. Most often it's at the most inopportune time - on the floor of a busy trade show. For those of you who insist that it's easier to show somebody your iPhone, iPad or email them - here's my argument.
And that brings right back to the beginning - suggesting a leave-behind printed piece for a couple of great reasons. First, when meeting a vendor, it's nice to have something to jog their memory later on after the show when things have quieted down. Second, we're a tactile industry, and a printed oversized postcard gives you a chance to show your skill set.
Here's how it all comes together. I'm suggesting an oversized postcard on heavy stock paper with 3-5 of your very best images and your contact information. It's the perfect leave-behind. Follow up with a hand-written note or email thanking the new contact for their time and letting him know you're around to help on anything they need in the future. At that point, you can include a link to more of your images.
This is NOT a new concept. I went digging through old files, and the two promotional pieces below are at least twenty years old. Gene Martin, who sadly passed away at much too young an age, shared his images of jazz musicians. Joe and JP Elario used to do the card on the right as a mailer, but it serves the same purpose as a leave behind.
It's time for you to meet Lenworth Johnson. I met Lenworth in Cyberspace during one of my guest appearances with Scott Kelby on The Grid. Lenworth won a website/portfolio review, and we spent an hour on the phone together a week or so later. At PhotoShop World two weeks ago, we got to meet face to face, and he shared his leave-behind piece, and it's stunning!
His leave-behind piece starts with a pebble grain clear plastic cover followed by fifteen images and a back cover with his contact information. And, had he met with anybody who he felt might want to see larger images he had a small portfolio with him. All old school, but incredibly useful and perfect for the application of making sure people remember his work.
Plus this is a 4x6 spiral bound handout with beautiful images. A big thanks to Lenworth for giving me permission to share in a post like this.
My apologies for the quality of these images, but I'm shooting copy work on the fly, handheld with window light, so I've got something to share in this post.
And here's one more to share, also at least twenty years ago. There were originally 35mm slides that Tony Corbell put together for me when we were both still at Hasselblad. They were in my "Hall of Fame" marketing folder because they were so well done. The two images below were from a staple-bound booklet Lois Greenfield put together for her mid to late 90's book, Airborne.
That brings me full circle to get you thinking about a leave-behind piece you can use when networking. And, if you hate the idea, remember to at least pay attention to the timing of when you're sharing images with anybody you're hoping to get to know better or get them to know you.
When you're working a booth at a trade show, the noise is incredible - you're being pulled in different directions and have little or no time to think about who you need to speak with next. A leave-behind piece gives you control with better timing. It's something you're leaving to invite people to visit your website at a more convenient time. You want their attention, and the best approach is to be soft-sell and plant that seed of interest for them to check out more about you when they're out of the craziness of a convention.
Intro by Skip Cohen
It's Mirrorless Monday with a special guest post by one of my favorite people, the "mad scientist of imaging," Don Komarechka. Some of the most incredible images ever shared in the SCU blog have been thanks to Don, and over the years, even though we've still never managed to meet in person, our friendship has grown.
Today's guest post is unique and remarkable because Don captured the image below with the new LUMIX S1R and without a macro lens. Thanks to his love for sharing and education, he takes us through each step of the process.
The tagline for Panasonic's LUMIX family of cameras, "Changing Photography," has never been more accurate! Check out more of Don's work with a click on either image to link to his website, blog, and newest projects. And for more LUMIX images, meet the Ambassadors. They're a fantastic group of artists with an unmatched love for imaging, education, creativity, and mirrorless photography!
NEW! LUMIX S1R Kit, Digital Mirrorless Camera with 47.3MP MOS Full Frame,
24-105mm F4 L-Mount Lens
Click on any thumbnail for more info
by Don Komarechka
Our gardens are filled with Forget-Me-Nots, such a delicate and tiny string of flowers, so small that they would make a great companion to a water droplet. Walking around the flowers between rainstorms gave me the idea!
This image is shot with a novel approach: using the high-resolution pixel shift mode on the Lumix S1R to create a 187MP image, and then cropping in on the central area of interest. This has a few benefits, one of them being that a macro lens is not required. This was shot with the Lumix S 24-105mm F/4 lens! No extra attachments, no extension tubes, just a high quality crop in from a very high resolution image.
Another benefit is that shooting from farther away from your subject will yield a greater depth of field. Focus stacking an image such as this would normally take me around a dozen images, but only five were required here. The end result is an image around the 30 megapixel mark, so the crop is significant but even still I have more than enough detail to make large prints of this.
The high resolution mode of the S1R takes multiple images, each with slight shifts to the sensor to create a final image with four times the resolution than the camera would normally have. This could be useful for a number of things like landscape photography, artwork reproduction or product photography, but macro photographers can benefit as well. Since the depth of field in your image becomes shallower as you get closer to your subject, intentionally being farther away with all other things being equal will increase the amount of depth you have over your subject. Sure, I’m throwing away a lot of pixels in the process, but it’s a valuable technique!
The droplet was placed very carefully with a small gauge hypodermic needle, and it held on just long enough to take these images. The flower inside the refraction might appear to have a line running through it – this is actually the surface of the water with the flower half-way submerged, and you’re seeing the top of the flower reflected to mimic the full flower. The position of the forget-me-not flowers gives the droplet space, and the bottom blue flower is deliberately touching the surface of the water so that the surface tension creates a different angle to reflect more of the magenta petals of the gerbera daisy placed in behind.
The entire scene is lit with a bright LED flashlight positioned over my right shoulder, continuous light being required for the high resolution mode. This is also one of the rare times you’ll find me using a tripod for this type of photography, because it is easier to find the right angle than hand-holding the camera. Different techniques require different equipment, and this high-resolution mode is a real winner!
Skip's Note: All the secrets of water droplet refraction photography as well as most other aspects of macro imaging will be covered in Don's upcoming book Macro Photography: The Universe at Our Feet, currently being funded on Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/donkom/macro-photography/ - if you’d like to support the project and help the book be an even better final product, you’ll also get a copy of the book in time for Christmas at a price much less than retail