Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Finding a Mentor

Having a mentor in this crazy business is a real advantage.  If you can find someone willing to impart to you their knowledge and experience you will be one step ahead of the competition.  It's a great opportunity to learn from the mistakes of someone else and not waste time making some avoidable errors.  It is important to keep in mind that your mentor is also has a business to run and some secrets to keep.  Here are some ideas for how to find, and keep, a mentor and avoid drama.


1. Look for people that have the skills that you desire.  I have mentors of my own, and I have mentored a few new photography business owners as well.  I have a mentor that is really good at the technical aspects of photography in general, and she's a master business owner.  She also happens to be a wedding photographer, so while I turn to her for technical questions and marketing ideas, she is not my go to person for newborn and child photography related questions.  I have a couple of other people that I respect and admire that help me with the specifics of my specialty.  As far as mentoring others, I make sure I can really help the person that has come to me.  If I don't have a handle on the areas they need help with I will send them to someone else.  Just because they like my work doesn't mean I am the best person to give them advice.

2. Respect their time.  This is so important.  You may have a million questions for your mentor but I promise they do not have time for all of them.  Not at once anyway.  Have a system that works for both of you.  Maybe a weekly email with a list of 2-3 questions you need help with.  This gives your mentor time to answer you thoroughly when it is convenient for them.  Don't just show up at their studio and expect them to be able to talk to you.  Ask if you an second shoot, assist at a session, or watch them work.  I was always happy to have a newbie watch me work and assist with a shoot if it was planned in advance and okayed with the client. Just showing up is pretty bold and quite disrespectful. 

3. Listen! In the name of everything good, if you want a mentor and want to keep them as a friend and colleague, listen to them.  You are the one that came to them for help and advice. They are the one with the experience and if you are lucky they are willing to share it with you.  If you ask them a question, listen to the answer.  This may seem annoyingly obvious but trust me, listening is becoming a lost art.  Your mentor does not want to have a question asked and then be interrupted every 2 minutes by your opinion on what they just said.  They are telling you what works for them.  It is not a debatable point.  If you want to ignore the advice after it has been given that is certainly your right, but be respectful and wait until you are alone in your own studio to do it.

4. Pay it forward.  Someday you will be the one with the experience and the tried and true  methods.  Remember the ones that helped you get there.  Be like them.  Be as generous as you can with your time when someone new to the business needs your help.  You shouldn't mentor everyone that comes to you but you can certainly help them find someone else that may be a better fit.  Remember how hard it was for you to find the right people willing to help you.  Be patient and kind.  We all start from the beginning and can benefit from the experience of those who came before.






Wednesday, May 21, 2014

How To Get People To Read Your Photography Blog

Disclaimer:  While I am a believer in the value of a blog to build your business and communicate with your clients, I do not currently have my 1000 Words Photography Blog up and running.  I am very much enjoying contributing to the KEH Blog for now. That being said, I have learned a lot over the years, mostly by trial and error, about what kinds of posts attract an audience.

1. Catchy post titles.  I know you have clients that want to see their session on your blog, and you should cater to them of course.  It's great for business to show your work off.  But if every one of your blog posts could be titled "Here are some photos I took of some clients" then you are missing an opportunity.  Try finding something quirky about each session and using that as the post title.  "Adventures in Babysitting" for a sibling group with a crazy toddler that wants to crawl all over everyone else might make a reader stop and pay attention more than "The Smith Family".  Something along the lines of "In This Week's Episode of What Not To Wear" should draw attention to your article about dressing for a session. And that leads me to the next tip...


2. Articles with information that is helpful to the client.  What to wear is a great place to start.  What to expect at your newborn session is always popular because it is a relatively new specialty.  Other helpful (to the client) post ideas: Choosing the perfect location.  Best wedding reception venues in your area.  Why hire a professional photographer.  How to store and backup your digital images.  Basically these posts are short classes for your clients and potential clients.  They will appreciate the information and look to you in the future for their portrait needs.


3. Make it personal.  Use examples from your own experience.  We all do things a little bit differently which gives us all the opportunity to post on the same topic with completely different points of view.  Don't copy and paste information that you've read somewhere.  Put it your own words with your own personal spin.  You don't have to have a revolutionary, completely original idea to post your thoughts on your blog.  Share you own personal experience with the topics you find interesting and it will make for more enjoyable and informative reading for your followers.  





Thursday, May 15, 2014

Photoshop Tips: Spot Healing Brush

Editing Tips

I have become so accustomed to using the clone stamp that I overlook the spot healing brush way too often.  So I thought I’d provide a little plug for the spot healing brush today in case some folks have overlooked it as well. 

The spot healing brush works much like the clone stamp, but there are a few key differences.  First, it is much quicker and easier to use.  With the clone stamp, you have to first select the area that you want to clone from, but the spot healing brush makes that decision for you based on the surrounding area.  (You can change how the tool decides this by adjusting some of the settings if you want).  Another way that the spot healing brush is easier to use is that you don’t have to worry about setting opacity like you do with the clone stamp.  Finally, a difference worth mentioning is that whereas you can clone stamp large areas of a photo, the spot healing brush is meant more for small spots (hence the name).

Below is a shot of the Photoshop Elements screen.  The spot healing brush is along the left hand side, circled in red (just above the clone stamp too).  Also circled in red (at the bottom) are other important factors to help you…the size of your brush and different settings by which the tool matches the surrounding area. 


Because the spot healing brush is meant for small spots, I find it most useful when I’m working with people, particularly editing faces.  Below is a before/after example of using the spot healing brush to minimize some acne. 


The above example is a great time when the spot healing tool comes in so much handier than the clone stamp.  I think I did start out trying to use the clone stamp in this picture but still ended up with spots due to differences in skin color/shading of where I was pulling from.  With the spot healing tool, I just clicked on each individual acne spot and didn’t have to worry about opacity, color, texture, etc. 

The spot healing brush is an amazing tool for skin blemishes and other small spots that you want fixed.   The tool is also so simple to use.  I encourage you to keep it in mind the next time you have an editing job like the one above instead of going for the clone stamp.

Next week we’ll discuss some other useful editing tricks in Photoshop Elements that might make your life a little easier.

Do you have any success or horror stories?  Feel free to post your comments and questions to this post and I’ll be happy to discuss them.  Happy shooting!


Bryan Rasmussen owns Chiseled Light Photography and is also a freelance photographer for a local newspaper.  Follow him at www.facebook.com/ChiseledLight.  He is also on Instagram, Flickr, and Fine Art America.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Why New Photography Businesses Fail

I am not trying to suggest that any of you who choose to start businesses are going to fail, because you are NOT going to fail.  I just think that exploring some of the reasons that other photographers fail at business takes some of the anxiety and fear out of the process.  Pay attention to these important aspects of your business and you will make it!  So here are four of the most common reasons that new photography businesses fail:

1. Not promoting yourself.  This is an area where you cannot be timid or shy or modest. Think about your favorite products and services.  How were you first introduced to the businesses that provide those products and services?  Most likely it was shameless self promotion.  Television commercials, magazine ads, and social media marketing are designed to make products and businesses shine.  They never emphasize the negative.  They sell you the positive.  This gets you to try the product and see for yourself if it lives up to the hype. If it does, you go back.  You should think of your studio the same way.  Sure, you won't always be doing the best work of your life.  But sell yourself using the best work of your life. Then live up to the expectations of the client.  They will see for themselves that you live up to your self promotion and they will come back.


2. Worrying too much about what everyone else is doing.  This is the biggest waste of your time.  You will only succeed in the saturated photography marketplace if you stand out from the crowd.  How can you set yourself apart if you spend all of your time and creative energy trying to be like the studio down the street?  You can't.  The time you spend looking at the work of others on Facebook and Pinterest would be much better spent with a sketchbook and your camera, coming up with your own ideas and finding your niche.


3. Not knowing what you are worth.  Do not, I repeat, do not under-price yourself.  You cannot be successful if you price yourself based on an average of what every studio in town is charging for similar services.  You have to take into account what it costs you to run your business.  Your rent will be different than another studio's.  Your product costs will vary.  Your skill level is yours alone, and the product you offer should be unique.  Your prices should reflect all of these factors.  And please don;t think that you should price lower to get people on the door, or do giveaways on Facebook.  This sets a bad precedent and makes it hard to retain clients when you raise prices in the future.  It is going to take some time to build your client base.  Make sure you are attracting the kind of clients you really want right from the start.


4. Getting stressed out and overwhelmed and not getting help.  It's okay to feel those things.  We all do.  Running a business is hard!  The problem is when you don't get the help you need to get it back under control.  If it's finances or taxes get a good accountant. The money spent is well worth it for the peace of mind.  If you need an assistant get one. Maybe it's your mom or an older child, just get one.  Whatever the problem area, there is someone out there that specializes in that thing.  Find someone you trust to help you through the tough parts.  You may just need the help temporarily and it is not a reflection on your abilities.  It might just make the difference in your success or failure.



You can do this.  I mean it.  If I can do this, you can do this.  Work hard and get the help you need.  Make sure the world knows how awesome you are and that you offer something that no one else can.  Good luck!


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Lightroom: Lens Corrections & Profile

Post 23

Series: Introduction to Adobe Lightroom®


Show Me Your Profile


In the Develop Module of Lightroom, under Lens Corrections, you have four tabs. These tabs are Basic, Profile, Color, and Manual. We covered what you can do in the Basic tab last post. This post is all about the Profile tab.



Go to the Profile tab and click Enable Profile Corrections. Notice the Lens Profile section is now highlighted.



Save Me

Under Enable Profile Corrections you will find a line that says Setup. You can go with the Default, or Auto, or set up a Custom lens profile. Saving a profile of your camera and lens enables automatic corrections that can be applied to batches of images. Very helpful.



You may need or want to make custom settings. You may be working with different cameras, lenses, etc. Be careful that one lens profile is not being applied to all images within a batch if you do not want them to be.

Customize Me Baby!

Any changes below the Setup will change your settings to Custom. The Lens Profile should automatically show the metadata about your camera Make, Model, and Profile.  Just in case it doesn’t, you can also select 
these on your own.

Select the make of your camera. If you choose a different camera, your image will alter slightly. It’s fun to see the differences in each when applied to your image.



Select the model of your lens. If your camera is Canon, then the only available lenses you will have to choose from are Canon lenses. I changed the lens to the 15mm in the image below and got some funky warping. You could use this tool in artistic ways as well as functional ways.



If your lens is not supported and does not show as an option, the drop-down will say “none”. In this case, you have three options: You can wait until Lightroom releases a profile for your lens, you can create a lens profile yourself (“How to add a missing Lens Profile using Lens Profile Creator” will be covered in a future post) or use the Manual tab (also to be covered in a future post).

Deep Distortion or Sweet Vignette

Need further Distortion or Vignetting corrections (or additions)? These sliders are ready and waiting. 

When you move the Distortion slider, a grid temporarily appears you you can see what sections are correcting/warping and how much.



The Vignetting slider goes from a very white feathered edge to a very black feathered edge. Set this for the best results in your particular image or batch of images.




Next post: Lightroom Lens Corrections & Color
  


These posts are part of a series: Introduction to Adobe Lightroom®

Jennifer Apffel is a photographer with over a decade of experience in portrait, event, and product photography. She also does freelance graphic design and fine art. For more check out jenniferapffel.com, albaphotography.net or look for her on fineartamerica.com.
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