Archive for January, 2010

Digital Photography - Understanding Light

Understanding light is the key to great photographs.  Here, Karl Taylor explains the four main types of light and how you can improve your digital photography.  Enjoy the video, and be sure to stop by www.shuttermomuniversity.com for more photography business tips and coaching, and www.naturallightproject.com for more info on natural light portraiture.

Studio Lighting Portrait Tips

When choosing a lighting setup for your particular subject, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Silver reflectors will produce sharp and contrasted effects.

2. A softbox will usually provide a larger light source than an umbrella or reflector.

3. A larger light source will produce softer light
(larger = softer).

4. A white umbrella will produce less contrast than a silver one.

5. Soft light (like that from a softbox) is best for portraits, since it will soften the skin.

6. Umbrellas will produce a round catch light in the eyes, where a softbox will produce a square one.

Here is a portrait done with just one light source: a large softbox. Notice the interesting shadows and soft lighting it produces.  In this case, I used a black muslin background.  The softbox was approximately 4 to 5 feet away from the subject.

Your Photography Business: The Pre-Session Consultation

The best way to ensure good communication with your clients is by conducting a pre-session consultation.

The consultation should take place either at your studio, the client’s home, or other mutually-agreed upon place (preferably someplace quiet where there aren’t a lot of distractions).

Benefits of a pre-session consultation:

  • You and the client(s) can get to know one another
  • You lay out your expectations and requirements
    • Contracts, deposits, etc.
  • You can give tips on clothing and makeup choices
  • The clients can ask questions
  • Photographic styles can be discussed
  • Samples can be shown
  • Ideas for props can be discussed
  • Number and types of poses to be included can be discussed
  • Packages and pricing may be discussed

The consultation does not have to be long. Usually 30 minutes is enough time to go over all expectations and questions for a portrait session. The wedding photography consultation may need to be a bit longer.

By building good rapport with your clients, everyone involved is more at ease and clear about expectations. Happy clients then become repeat-clients, and you will also receive good word-of-mouth advertising for your photography business.

For more photography business tips, be sure to visit www.shuttermomuniversity.com

Studio Setup for High Key Portraits

I wanted to quickly share the studio setup I use for high-key portraits with a bright white background.

Getting your white seamless background paper to be a bright white can be tricky. Too little light and your white background will be gray. Too much light and your image will be overexposed.

However, once you find the right settings for your camera and your studio lights, you can achieve a pleasing, bright white effect.

The key to getting that bright white look is properly lighting your background. I find that seamless background paper works best because it is free of wrinkles and blemishes. It is also fairly inexpensive.

In addition to your main light and fill light that will fall on your subject, you must have adequate background lighting that only falls on your background. To get that bright white look, the background lighting needs to be 1 to 1 and a half full stops brighter than your main light.

Take a look at the diagram below:

Another good tip is to use plexiglass underneath your subject. This will cause additional light to bounce up and help light the lower half of your subject, giving a pleasing result. You can usually find plexiglass at your local glass dealer or home improvement store.

It is best to just play around with your camera and light settings until you find the ones that work best. For me, here is a rundown of my equipment and settings:

Canon 20D set at 160th of a second and f5.6
Alien Bees B800 with softbox for main light at 1/4 power
Alien Bees B800 with umbrella for fill light at 1/8 power
2 Alien Bees B800’s pointed at background approx. 1 stop brighter than main light.

Tip:  Be sure you have good separation between your subject and the background lights (you don’t want any background light spilling onto your subject).

Here are a few of my high key images using this setup:

Pricing Portrait Photography

I’ve received a couple of comments in the suggestion box from people wanting to know about pricing their portrait photography.  The following is an excerpt from my book The Portrait Photographer’s Ultimate Pricing Guide.  I hope you find it helpful.  For more info on the pricing guide, check out  www.shuttermom.com/pricing.htm

One of the most common questions I receive is, “Cindy, how should I price my photography?” Most of you are afraid of pricing too high or too low, and if you are on the higher end, many of you are “ashamed” of your prices and don’t know how to justify them. In other words, you find it difficult to quote your prices with a “straight face.”

If you have been guessing at prices, you may be surprised to find that you have no profit to show at the end of the month.

Other common questions are “Should I show my prices on my website?” and “How do I create a price list?”

It can all be very confusing. Well, get ready to finally understand how to quickly and accurately price your portrait photography! You are going to be amazed at how easy it really is!

To survive in the portrait photography business, you MUST have an accurate pricing strategy in place. You can’t guess at this – it has to be right, or else your business is going to fail.

Remember, people do not buy because of price. People buy for quality and service. In most cases, you do not want to do business with people who are basing their decision on price. In the minds of most clients, price is equal to value. Therefore, something that is very inexpensive becomes “cheap” in the mind of a client, and something that is very expensive becomes “valuable.”

So…let’s get you started!

#1:  You Must Know The Cost Of Doing Business

3 main things to consider:

1. Your Capital Expenses (High Ticket Items)

Equipment, real-estate, car, furniture, etc. (these items depreciate over time)

2. Your “Cost of Sales”

EVERYTHING that goes into making a sale – including your time (post processing time/labor, lab costs, flash cards or film, frames, packaging, etc.). Ideally, you wan to keep your “Cost of Sales” at 25% to 35%. What does this mean? It means that for every dollar you take in, you should not be spending more than 25 to 35 cents on your “cost of sales.”

3. Your “Fixed” Costs:

These are things such as rent, utilities, insurance, advertising, office supplies, postage, equipment maintenance, telephone, Internet access, employee’s salary and benefits, and YOUR SALARY AND BENEFITS (yes – you need to pay yourself). You want to keep your “fixed costs” at around 30% to 40%, meaning that for every dollar you take in, you spend no more than 30 to 40 cents on “fixed” costs.

So, think of it this way:

Total Sale – Cost of Sales = Gross Profit
Gross Profit – Fixed Costs = Net Profit

Let’s see how this works out in a hypothetical example:

Let’s say that you just sold a package for $100.

Total Sale: $100 (this is what the customer paid you)

Cost of Sale: $25 (this is how much it cost you to produce this sale – assuming 25%)

Gross Profit: $75 (this is your profit BEFORE taking out fixed costs)

Fixed Costs: $30 (assuming 30%)

Net Profit: $45 (this is what you actually made on the sale)

So, in this example, you are making $45 for every $100 in sales (assuming that you are keeping your cost of sales at 25% and your fixed costs at 30%).

Stay tuned…more on pricing to come!

Q and A With Shuttermom: Get more photography clients

The other day, I asked for you to comment and leave suggestions as to what kinds of things you’d like to read about on the Shuttermom blog.  Here is the first question that I’m answering having to do with finding more clients for your photography business.  Hope this helps, and be sure to join in with over 400 other photographers at www.shuttermomuniversity.com for more photography business tips and coaching.  Thanks!

Q:  I would love to see some help on finding new clients. Thanks for all the great info so far =)

A:  Start with who you know.  Everyone has some sort of “in” with a particular group.  For example, your co-workers (who need business portraits and family portraits), the parents and kids from your child’s school (who need family portraits, kid’s portraits and senior/teen portraits), people from your church (more of the same), the bakery or local coffee shop or restaurant where you are known as a “regular” (who may need promotional food photography), Your doctor or dentist (who needs business portraits and pictures for their website) etc.  You get the idea.

EVERYONE you know should know about your photography business.  They should all have a copy of your business card (or a magnet to stick on their refrigerator).  They should be on your mailing list.  They should be on your email list.  People you already know and have a relationship with are much more likely to do business with you than with someone they don’t know.  Whenever they think about photography, they should think of you.

Think about a group that you have an “in” with.  Make it a goal this month to get to know some of the people in this group and tell them about your photography.  Give them a business card magnet to stick on the fridge.  Get them to sign up for your email list.  Get them on your mailing list.  Run a “special” for the people in the group (a group discount or a free 8×10 with their session, etc.).  Trust me, once one or two people in the group use your services, they will start talking about you to others in the group (as well as showing off their portraits), and you will start getting more calls.

The other side of this coin is the people you DON’T know.  You should always have business cards with you.  Every time you meet someone, try ending your conversation with this:  “By the way, I’m a professional photographer.  Keep me in mind if you need any photography services.”  And hand them your card or magnet.  You never know when they will say, “Oh!  I’ve been thinking about having a family portrait done,” or something similar.  This gives you the opening to talk more about your business and set an appointment with the person.  Don’t be shy…just try it!

I’ve used www.vistaprint.com for my business cards and magnets and have been pleased with the results.  Of course, it goes without saying (although I’m saying it anyway):  your business card should contain one or two of your best images, along with your phone number, website address, and email address.

Have a suggestion or question for Shuttermom?  Be sure to post it in the “Suggestion Box” at the top left of this page.  Thanks!

More to come!

Bryan Peterson shows us how to shoot after sunset

Bryan Peterson (author of Understanding Exposure), demonstrates how to take a photo of a cityscape after the sun goes down.  Enjoy the video, and be sure to stop by www.shuttermomuniversity.com for more photography business coaching.

Suggest blog topics for Shuttermom

Hi There!

What topics would YOU like to see on this blog?  Please make your suggestions for topics, videos, questions, etc. in the “Suggestion Box” on the top left side of this page.  I look forward to seeing your suggestions and tailoring the content on the Shuttermom blog specifically to your needs.  Thanks!

Cindy

Moms Starting Photography Businesses

This article came out a few years ago, and discusses how moms with a passion for photography are starting up their own photography businesses.  Enjoy the article, and I’ll see you over at www.shuttermomuniversity.com for more photography business resources.

From the article:

“AFTER Natasha Cuevas’s daughter, Dakotah, was born in 2003, she wanted to capture every moment of her babyhood on film. A year and many hundreds of prints later, Mrs. Cuevas decided that it was time to invest in the new high-end digital camera she had been coveting.

The pictures were luminous — so detailed that she could count Dakotah’s long eyelashes in them. Soon, women in her moms group in Fort Myers, Fla., were asking if she could take pictures of their children.

“I realized that I could actually get paid doing what I loved — photographing babies and newborns,” she said. So when her daughter was 18 months old, Natasha Cuevas Photography was born.

Click here for the full article

New Year’s Photography Resolutions

It seems like I have been a photographer my entire life. Every year I vow to make improvements in just this one area of my life. This year I have prepared my Top Five New Year’s Resolutions for Photography.

1) My first New Year’s resolution is to bring a camera with me everywhere I go. You just never know what you are going to see. Whether or not it is a rainbow that magically appears after a ferocious Georgia storm, an elderly couple walking hand in hand surrounded by azaleas at the Town Green, or a glassy-eyed cat peering over the green grass, there is always something to capture. After all, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

Click here for the full article

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