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Family portrait sessions should be fun! As photographers we can do more than just create beautiful images for our clients – we can make sure they enjoy their time with us. Ultimately, the experience families have while they’re with us is what determines if we are gaining clients who will want to come back to us again and again.
Growing up, I hated getting our family pictures taken. Uncomfortable clothes, stressed-out mom, cranky kids, and someone almost always ended up crying.
Until a few years ago, I dreaded taking my own kids’ pictures. I was the stressed-out mom, they were the cranky kids, and if someone was crying it was usually me. Why I decided to pursue family photography after all the itching and whining and the poking and the crying is anybody’s guess, but I’ve learned some things over the years, both as a mom and as a photographer, that have completely changed the family portrait experience. Now, I love family portraits – I love shooting them, I love being in them, and I adore looking at them after the session. My clients and my kids look forward to them. I’ve found that taking the time to prepare parents for their family portrait session can turn a potentially stressful situation into one that’s a lot of fun.
Make sure your clients know exactly what to expect from a session. Explain what will happen from the time they arrive at the session until they leave. Remind them that their children don’t have to be perfect at the session. The camera captures 1/250th or less of a second at a time – in between the wiggles and the goofiness and even the “I don’t want to!” there are always sweet moments. Ask them to trust that you can capture those.
I frequently tell my clients that I hope their family portrait session doesn’t cause them any stress, but if it does, all of that stress should happen before the session. Stress and tension have no place at a portrait session. Thoughtful selection of their photographer, their wardrobe, and a session date and time that works with their family’s schedule will definitely lead to beautiful images. However, once the session starts there isn’t much more parents can do to ensure success, other than having fun and showing affection to their kids.
Kids have minds of their own. Let clients know that you’ll try something for a while, and if it’s not working out you’ll move on to something else. Reassure them during the session that their child’s shyness or silliness is age-appropriate and that they’re not misbehaving.
Bribing a child before a portrait session almost never works. I explain to parents that by offering a reward to children before a portrait session, they’re often sending the message, “This is going to be painful. So painful, in fact, that I’m going to have to take you to ice cream/buy you a toy/let you play video games to make it up to you.” The problem with bribes is that children under the age of 5 don’t understand delayed gratification, thus the reward is ineffective and can quickly turn into threats, “Uh-oh, no ice cream!”
I believe a child over the age of 5 is completely capable of participating in the session without the promise of a reward. Ask parents to please not mention any rewards before the session. Find out prior to the session if they’re comfortable with you offering a small treat or prize to win the child over to get that last shot at the end of the session. Let everyone know that the session itself will be fun – no one needs a reward for having fun!
Remind parents that comments like, “This is really important to Mommy, we really want you to cooperate,” instantly gives the child complete control over the session. Instead, I encourage parents to say something like, “We’re going to go see Jessica today. She’s going to play some games with us and take our picture. It’s going to be so much fun!”
As the mom of many highly sensitive children, I encourage parents to make sure they’re not setting themselves up for unnecessary difficulty by asking their children to do things that make them uncomfortable. Sessions should be scheduled, as much as possible, when children will be well-rested and fed. Ask parents to make sure their children have tried on clothes before the session so that any problems resulting from uncomfortable clothing can be addressed prior to the session date. I also let parents know that we can always take a break from shooting if children just need a drink or a snack, a snuggle, or time to play for a bit.
Practice makes perfect. Ask your clients to make sure they let the new big brother(s) or sister(s) hold the new baby every day. If the older sibling is too little to hold the baby, he should be lying down next to the baby, kissing the baby, or at least talking to the baby every day. This gives the toddler or child a chance to get used to the baby. It also gives the parents an idea of how much cooperation they can expect from their older child or children. The clients will then come to the session with a much more realistic idea of just how cooperative the older children will be, which is especially important if the new big sister is still pretty much a baby herself.
Giving them just a little bit of guidance, we can help our clients avoid some of the common causes of family portrait stress. The less stress at the session, the more time there is for fun, and the more likely you are to win over a client for life.
Jessica Washburn’s images are pure, intimate, and above all beautiful. Finding and accentuating the beauty of her clients is always the inspiration for every session. While she enjoys photographing families and children of all ages, Jessica’s attention to detail, patience and absolute love for her subjects has made her especially gifted at newborn portraiture. Her newborn images display a unique sensitivity and sense of peacefulness.
To see more of Jessica’s work visit her website.
After all the lead-up to WPPI in Las Vegas last month, it seems strange that it’s really over. But as I look into the rear view mirror, I see it getting smaller and smaller as we drive our brand forward toward new product launches and what will likely be a healthy wedding season.
This was my first WPPI and everything that I was told to expect turned out to be true. The crowds were massive, the energy was high, the sessions were informative, and Las Vegas was the perfect town (and the MGM Grand the perfect locale), to host the event.
Unlike Imaging USA in Atlanta last January, Pinhole Pro’s presence at WPPI was as an integrated brand beneath liveBooks, Inc. and alongside Fotomoto. For the most part those who were looking for us managed to find us just fine, and when they did they were pleased to note that all of the Pinhole Pro products they’d come to love were on display to touch and feel.
You Asked. We Delivered.
WPPI also marked the unveiling of our brand new Horizontal Panoramic album, which is now available in Pro Studio. Log on to check it out now. You can even save 25% off it and all other Pro Studio product through April 15th when you use promo code PROWPPI. Enjoy!
All-Star Speaker Lineup
We were fortunate enough to have a wonderful lineup of speakers at this year’s event, including Wedding Photographers Stacie Kirkwood, Barrie Fisher and Jared Platt, commercial photographers Michael Grecco and Mark Wallace, and liveBooks CEO Andy Patrick. Our own Patrick O’Connor walked attendees through all the great custom tips and tricks available to all of us in Pro Studio, and Fotomoto Product Manager Piam Kiarostami spoke about the benefits of Fotomoto. Speaking of which….
Start Selling with Fotomoto
Trade shows are nothing if not an opportunity to sample and demo product, and one of our major points of discussion at WPPI was the integration of Fotomoto into liveBooks websites. It was great to see booth attendees’ faces continually light up as we showed them how they can sell photos through their liveBooks websites for free. Think of it as an extra source of revenue that you can set and forget.
For a sample of what I’m talking about, visit Jared Platt’s site and click the ADD TO CART button at the bottom of the screen. If you like what you see, and I think you will, I’d be remiss if I didn’t let you know that you can now save 50% off a Professional predesigned liveBooks website, which includes the integrated Fotomoto shopping cart option, by visiting liveBooks.com and entering promo code LBWPPI at checkout.
Our next major industry event will likely be the PhotoPlus Expo in New York in October, but we are looking into creating a trimmed down booth experience for smaller shows throughout the spring in summer. Please be sure to ‘Like’ us on Facebook and check our Events tab to stay abreast of our upcoming appearances.
Joe Franklin is the Director of Marketing at liveBooks and Pinhole Pro. When he’s not sending emails, optimizing landing pages and organizing events, he’s running the trails of the SF East Bay Regional Park district or shooting photos of whatever catches his eye.
Writing a photography proposal is a learned process. I still learn something new every time I need to write one. Everyone has a slightly different way of doing things, so you have to figure out what works best for you.
Writing an estimate is essential for large advertising jobs. Editorial jobs for magazines and newspapers often approach you with a predetermined budget. Wedding and portrait photographers often structure their form and fees differently. No matter what type of photographer you are, being able to appropriately charge for your time and expertise is essential. These tips will help you think about what, and how much, to charge a prospective client.
I try to keep everything simple by dividing my estimates into three sections: project description, usage rights, and fees. Here is my proposal writing process. First, I describe the project I have been asked to work on. I try to get as much information from the client as possible by asking the following questions:
Then I take this information and write a brief project description, so everyone involved in the project is on the same page. This also protects you from getting asked by the client to shoot more shots than you originally agreed to, etc.
The second section is about usage rights for the images. Be sure to ask the client where the photos will be used. Will they be used on the web only? Print? A national billboard ad campaign? Obviously, the usage fee should be higher if it’s a national ad campaign vs. an email blast promotion.
After you discuss where they’ll be used, ask them for how long they’d like to purchase the rights to the photos. I usually provide 1-year, 5-year and full buyout options. Most companies assume they want a full buyout, but in reality they probably won’t be using the same photos in 5 years anyway. However if they want it for say a 6th year, they can renegotiate with you at that time. fotoQuote and BlinkBid are good programs for getting some estimated numbers for usage fees. It probably errs on the high side, but it’s a good starting point if you have no idea what to charge! In the third section of my proposal I list all the fees I will be charging the client. A general fee list includes:
Be sure to list out and charge for everything! If you’re involved in model casting, charge for it! If you’ve been asked to location scout, charge for that, too! You may want to consider using higher-end estimates so that you have room to negotiate and cover additional expenses that may come up at the last minute. It’s never a bad thing to come in under budget!
When thinking about budget, I usually try to get an estimate from the client up front. That way I know what I have to work with. Sometimes it’s not appropriate to ask, so use your best judgement. Also, consider the type of client it is. Is it a start-up company or a well-established brand? Just know there is not always a correct set amount to charge, because every project is different. Ask your photo community what they think, and realize that at some level writing a photography proposal is more of an art than a science.
Lastly when presenting a finished estimate to a client, make sure it has an organized look and feel on a branded document. If they ask, explain your fees with confidence, educate them on how costs are broken down and how you are worth every penny!
Kelsey was born and raised in Dallas. She received her B.F.A. in photography at the University of North Texas, and afterwards moved to New York City. She was named one of “Adorama’s ones to watch” in 2008, and also participated in several group shows. Recently relocating back to Texas, she continues to shoot for editorial and commercial clients by splitting her time between NYC and Dallas. Her portrait work can be seen on PinholePress.com and on her website. In addition to photography, Kelsey also loves snow, traveling, and playing her banjo.
Being able to manage and grow your contact database is essential for all working photographers. In part 3 of a 4 part series, liveBooks Inc. CEO Andy Patrick discusses some effective ways to manage and grow your database.
One of the greatest challenges new photographers face is learning to bridle their excitement to show everyone, everything they shoot. The difference between a good photographer and a great one is not what they shoot, but what they choose to show the world. Learning to edit your work is paramount to being a great photographer.
In the last century, there was a buffer between the amateur photographer and the rest of the world: the science of photography itself and the cost of production and distribution. Expensive labs, chemical heavy darkrooms, and the complexity of publishing one’s work made it difficult to publicize. Those who were willing to make the effort and spend the money did so very carefully, with assistance from industry professionals to insure their work was well received. These hurdles to publication slowed photographers down and forced them to reflect on their work before displaying it to the public at large.
Today, you don’t have to go through a gatekeeper to have access to the world. With the advent of Facebook, blogs and Instagram, the public is only a click away from seeing your latest shot. A photographer can snap a shot, alter it in Snap Seed and post it to the world in a matter of 60 seconds, for free, without any oversight, second opinions or editorial review.
And the world will act as your editor by following and un-following your feeds. Now you (the photographer) need to learn how to be a photo editor. You can do it, you have the skills, but you now need the discipline to be your own harshest critic and to accept nothing but the best, even when it hurts to hit the delete key.
After all, photography is the art of selection. When you are out in the field photographing, you have an infinite number of frame options available to you, and with your photographer hat on, you choose the location, the angle, the moment and even the exposure settings for each image you capture. When you get back to the Lightroom, you now have a smaller number of frame options available, but it is still the same act of selection that occupies your attention. The only difference is that the decisions you make in the computer can be contemplated over and are not as permanent as missing the shot in the field. If a photographer approaches the act of selecting in the computer the same way she approaches selecting at the camera (with confidence), the act of selection will be far less intimidating and much more fruitful.
I offer a few suggestions for being a better photo editor:
First, photographers select in the field by reviewing options in comparison to one another. In the old days, we used to make our selections in the darkroom using a contact sheet with 15-36 images being compared to one another at the same time. Reviewing images one at a time will never yield quick or informed selection decisions. The art of efficient, accurate and quality selection begins with this comparative review principle: we make better decisions when we see our options in comparison to each other.
Second, photographers in the field take an infinite number of options and select images from that infinite set. When options are placed before you in comparison, one option will catch your eye and that is the option you will explore. Back in the studio, the selection process is hindered when photographers scrutinize every possible image. Instead, determine what you are looking for (i.e. children in action, brides dressing, politicians lying, etc) and set those images in front of you. As you compare them to each other on the screen or in print, let the great images jump out and grab you. Those that do not are unworthy of your attention.
Third, you must be willing to “kill your darlings.” Too many photographers keep too many images because it cost them time and money to produce. But if the image is not impressive, it should not be shown. Your goal as a self-editor is to promote your great work and, like the gatekeepers of the 20th century, deny entry to the rest. Shakespeare’s character Polonious reminded his son that “brevity is the soul of wit,” and I am reminding you now, that brevity is the soul of a potent portfolio. Protect your brand by protecting your portfolio.
Don’t just think of your portfolio as the book you show your clients, or a website for potential clients. Your portfolio is anything and everything you put out into the public’s eye. This includes your printed products, magazine publications and advertisements, your Facebook pages, blogs, image galleries and Instagrams. This is where you make your impression on the public, which is why it is so important to be more critical of your own work.
Fourth, find someone you trust to review your work on a regular basis. This could be another photographer, a mentor, your print lab, a portfolio review session at a trade show, a camera club or even a password protected web forum. You don’t want a “yes” man to butter you up, but an honest and harsh critique. The public will be more than happy to critique your work, but getting that critique means that you have to show the world your mediocre work. Henri Cartier-Bresson said “showing your contact sheets is like taking your pants off in public.” Don’t take your pants off in public – it’s not good for your brand!
The world knows that you are putting your best foot forward. So, when you share images that are merely good, you are telling your potential clients that this is the best you’ve got. If you are not willing to reject the good that is mixed in with the great, you will be seen as mediocre at best. If you won’t judge your own work harshly, the world will.
Jared Platt is a professional wedding and lifestyle photographer. He has lectured at major trade shows, photo conferences and universities on photography and workflow. Currently, Jared is traveling the USA and Canada teaching photography and post production workflow.
Developing a brand is crucial to the success of any business. In part 2 of a 4 part series, liveBooks, Inc. CEO Andy Patrick discusses the value of branding and how to develop your personal brand.
The About section is an important part of your website. In part 1 of a 4 part series, liveBooks, Inc. CEO Andy Patrick discusses the value of a great About section and how to go about creating one.
Editorial and commercial photographer Kelsey Foster gives us some ideas on what you can do to revamp and tweak your photography brand, keeping it simple and consistent.
A good logo is very important and should be easily remembered by whoever sees it. Because it should be memorable put it on everything and don’t change it frequently. People often make the mistake of changing their logo because they find something that they like better or think it’s good to always be new and fresh. Don’t make this mistake! Clients might get confused and think they have the wrong photographer, especially if you have different logos on different things. Having a consistent logo is part of having a consistent brand. For example, don’t have an older logo on your website and a newer one printed on a portfolio.
Make sure your photos are sized correctly for the web to ensure a fast load time. People have short attention spans and I promise they will click out of your site if it takes too long. You should keep the design simple so that your imagery stands out. In regards to social media just be consistent. For example use the same logo, colors and branding on all your social sites. Simplifying your website and keeping all social media branding consistent is something you can easily throughout the year.
iPads are great and can be a very useful portfolio tool, but nothing beats hard copies of images. If you want to sell products you need to have your photos printed for the client to actually touch and experience. A huge portfolio can be too heavy to carry around so the little hardback books from Pinhole Pro are great. They are impressive in appearance and print quality. Small books are so easy to always have on hand and they fit easily in my purse! Notice I picked a neutral binding because it matches my photos best.
Again when putting together a portfolio you have to be consistent. Use the same logo, typeface, and colors. Always ask yourself, “Is this part of my brand?”
So, my advice would be to make your brand simple and consistent in regards to your logo, website, portfolios and promos. Ultimately your photography should speak for itself. The more consistent you are with your brand the more professional you will appear to a client, thus resulting in more business!
Kelsey Foster was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. She received her B.F.A. in photography at the University of North Texas, and afterwards moved to New York City. She was named one of “Adorama’s ones to watch” in 2008, and also participated in several group shows. Recently relocating back to Texas, she continues to shoot for editorial and commercial clients by splitting her time between NYC and Dallas.
Make your post processing workflow as efficient as possible. Shoot with intention. Set a goal of getting it right in camera. Minutes spent correcting the exposure and adjusting the temperature are minutes that could be spent with your friends and family.
To obtain proper exposure practice makes perfect. I shoot manually and use flash for consistency. This makes post processing more efficient because you can generally apply the same changes to images with identical exposure settings.
To obtain accurate color utilize tools like ExpoDisk, X-Rite ColorChecker Passport, or the SpyderCHECKR. These tools will help get the color right in camera by minimizing the guesswork.
Cull smarter. The question is, do you eliminate the bad or include the good? The thought process is different and can keep you from providing your clients with too many photos. If there are very slight differences in similar images include only the best one… not 8 of the same photos.
Shoot less. It is not necessary to take 68 frames of the bouquet, edit them, and include them in the gallery. I’ve been there and done that. Know what you are photographing, how, and why. Keep these questions in mind to keep you from over-shooting. So make it easy on yourself. Get the shot and move on. That way you won’t have to waste time culling or editing images that will serve no purpose to the bride and groom.
As the owner of a photography business, there are many things that take up the precious minutes of your day. These include administrative duties such as contracts and invoicing, organizing finances, client interaction, creative duties and marketing. So how can I do all this without compromising the quality of work?
I started looking for opportunities to outsource some of my administrative operations. I discovered ShootQ and now my administrative work is a breeze. You know the saying “you never know what you have until it’s gone…” Well, I never knew what time I had until all of that extra work was gone. Granted, it took a very long time to set up, but once it’s done, you are golden.
For some photographers, outsourcing creative aspects may be the best solution. Companies like Colorati, Fotofafa, and PWD Labs can cull, color correct, apply creative actions and design album layouts. Outsourcing this facet of your business definitely takes a lot of courage, but if the thought of culling through 3000 images and editing 1000 of them sounds dreadful this will save you lots of time.
Another option is to hire an office manager to help you manage the day-to-day aspects of running your business.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to make your clients happy. If you set realistic expectations of how long the images will take for you to process there will be fewer phone calls and emails asking when these images will be ready.
Under promise and over deliver. Always set expectations so you can meet and exceed them.
Lastly, to avoid burn out you must make time for yourself.
Two years ago I would stay up all night every night editing because that is when the house was quiet. As a result I was not feeling my best and my personal relationships suffered. My priorities needed to be checked. I sat down and made a list of what was important to me and what I could do to make my life more enjoyable.
I try to exercise regularly. I find that maintaining an exercise regimen throughout the week keeps me happy and focused.
I limit business matters to set business hours. This is a work in progress. But keeping a schedule from 9-5 or 7-3 has helped me create boundaries between my business and personal life.
Don’t get bored with your work. Create projects to reinstate your love for photography. A different subject or even a different kind of camera can rejuvenate your creativity. Doing this will sharpen your technical skills and the creative stimulation will spill over into your work.
Owning a business is a lot of work but there are many benefits to being self-employed. Why do we do this? For many it’s because they love photography and being creative. Others love the business aspect. And some, like me, may love all aspects of owning a photography business – the creativity involved, the business planning, and most of all the freedom. The freedom to have a flexible schedule, the freedom to make as little or as much money as my efforts provide, the freedom to do what I love. If you are not deriving joy from owning your business then try and make some changes. Let’s make 2013 the best year yet!
Thu Tran is an Atlanta-based wedding photographer that has an affinity for details and all things pretty. She seeks to capture life and love with style and flare.
From the launch of our very first portfolio website for New York studio photographer Ric Cohn in 2003, liveBooks has consistently focused on innovating products and services that allow creative professionals to express themselves while more effectively running their businesses. In the early years this came in the form of re-imagining how photographers could leverage the latest web technology to reach a global audience and ultimately book more jobs.
Informed by modern design principals we strove to provide a visually striking, yet simple and intuitive user experience for both the photographer, and those viewing images. Our websites intentionally placed the viewer’s focus on the image, with as few visual distractions as possible. The photographer could easily update images using an online interface that was equally free of clutter, relying on a simple drag and drop tool reminiscent of arranging transparencies on a light table.
Over the years we have spoken with tens of thousands of photographers, and other creative professionals, about their businesses. These conversations have informed many decisions around our products and services, and helped us evolve into an even more valuable resource for passionate image makers. We developed greater design flexibility which allowed for more interesting ways to integrate creative vision and brand. Countless months were dedicated to developing the most search engine friendly sites in the industry, along with personalized SEO consultation services to help assess a client’s current situation and devise a strategy to rise above the competition. As video gained importance in the world of the photographer, so did our support for a wide range of display options. And of course, the proliferation of mobile web viewing was met with dedicated interfaces designed specifically for those devices.
2012 saw the acquisition of Pinhole Press and Pinhole Pro, which further extends our range of products past the web and into the world of print. It also expands our team to include more top talent and innovative thinkers. So what’s in store for 2013? I think it’s safe to say that the coming year may be the most exciting yet! Inspired strategy meetings are buzzing, white boards are being filled and refilled, designs are being circulated, and prototypes are being tested and improved upon, all in an effort to translate a decade’s worth of experience and passion into valuable tools. As liveBooks clients, your needs and experience with the brand will be invaluable as we shape our path forward. We look forward to hearing from you as we evolve our new platform in order to meet your needs from web to print. What is the next generation of liveBooks? Of Pro Studio? How can we expand our product offering? What additional revenue opportunities can be gained from greater exposure of your work? These are just a few of questions we’re working hard to resolve and we welcome your input along the way.
We are grateful for all the committed liveBooks and Pinhole Pro users. In a very short amount of time, Pinhole Pro’s small brand has carved out a nice place for itself, combining high quality press products with an easy user experience. And, we’ve just begun. If you are not yet part of the Pinhole Pro community, please give us the chance to demonstrate why so many working photographers choose us as their most valued partner on the web and beyond.
Here’s to an exciting and prosperous 2013!
Matt Bailey is a senior-level professional with 20+ years of experience in creating and executing on growth strategies that build long-term, sustainable value. As Co-Founder of liveBooks, Matt has been with the company since 2004 and has been instrumental to the development of product and strategic direction.