Archive for tips
The main light-
Raise your light to a 45-degree angle for more flattering light. Placing the light at the subject’s eye level and too close to the camera makes for flat lighting equivalent to a passport.
Use a reflector for a fill instead of a fill flash. A large silver reflector will do a nicer job and not leave a second, unnatural catch light in the eye or over expose the shadows.
Use a hair light, or kicker light, for separation between the hair and the background. Make sure this is not brighter than your main light. A stop less (depending on hair color) is a good place to start.
Behind the subject-
A background light is a must to create depth in the image. A quality background will come to life with a light a stop less than your main. If you don’t have room directly behind your subject for a flash unit, pump it in from the side. It still looks good.
The right lens-
Use a portrait lens instead of a normal or wide angle for nice compression. I like to shoot between 150mm to 200mm.
Not too sharp-
Use a shallower f-stop to keep the emphasis on the subject’s eyes. Too much background in focus, especially outdoor scenes, detracts from the image being a portrait. I like to use f5.6 or wider.
Meter it right-
Record the correct exposure at the time of capture. Do not rely on “fixing it in post”. This is not only unprofessional but time consuming and detrimental to the file’s quality.
Correct color temperature is critical for printing images with pleasing tones. This is especially critical for portraits.
Depending on your camera, you may still need to do a little tweaking in your imaging software like Photoshop. If you have done all of the above, you shouldn’t need to spend too much time in front of the computer. I find, however, my files need a little contrast and deepening of the blacks.
I always start a portrait session telling my subjects that I am very good at posing and will totally help them. I assure them that they can not do anything wrong and I will always tweak everything. Every body moves and bends differently and not all poses look good on all people.
Observe your subject-
During the consultation and any other time you meet your clients you can watch their body language. How they sit, how they position their arms and hands. Do they tend to cross their arms a lot, cross their legs, put a finger in a pocket, or hands on hips? Take note of this.
Watch for natural poses-
During the actual photo shoot a person tends to relax and let down their guard as you change backgrounds, lighting, or batteries in your remotes. When you see them doing something fantastic all on their own say, “Freeze! I want to use that pose.”
I recommend telling them before the session that you might do this when you catch them looking amazing, they will less likely to be startled and move out of the position you liked them in! Then just tweak any details to make their natural pose most photogenic.
Demonstrate a pose-
To get your subject started in a pose, show them what you have in mind by demonstrating from their point of view in the spot you want them to be in. Showing them from behind the camera, all of your movements will be reversed and confusing.
Always reinforce that they are doing a great job and that you are capturing amazing images. Showing them one image (just one!) on the back of the camera early in the session can greatly increase their confidence and help them relax.
It can be very difficult to see our business from the customer’s perspective. After all, we know our business so well we take so much for granted. Or maybe, you are new to business and are still struggling with some of the common problems.
This past weekend I had an experience that might help you see your customers from their perspective. And once you see your customers from a fresh perspective, your frustrations with challenges can melt away.
This particular challenge is how do your first time callers feel and what might we do better to convert them into a customer?
Here’s a recent experience I had that might be a good example for you to get an idea how a prospect might feel. I was at a large horse fair trying to learn more about what feed to use for my horses. (I have only had horses three years and still find feeding them properly is complicated.)
I stopped at a booth that I thought would be the answer. I found myself tongue tied at how to start the conversation. (This is where a good salesperson or representative could have been a great help.) I was so unsure what to ask first that I almost left the booth.
Tip one: some prospects will not try very hard to get information.
The real question in my heart that I could not verbalize was, “How do I find out about horse feeding options and more importantly, is this the right feed for my horses?”
That is when it hit me! So that’s how our prospects might feel when they call our studios! They do not know how to say, “how do I select a photographer and are you the right photographer for me?”
So naturally our prospects start with “how much does it cost?” This question right out of the shoot makes most of us cringe. Most of us are unprepared on how to handle this smoothly.
We all know that cost is really irreverent when it is a product we want or need (within reason of course). Look at all the money you spend on your hobby. Answering the question of cost does not have to be the first topic addressed.
Tip two: help your prospect get the information they really need.
I was not going to start the process of learning about horse feed by asking the price first. Not only is that not my mindset, it would not tell me what I really needed to know. Your customers could be the same way.
So I, the introvert, struggled and felt weird until the other man in the booth, the nutritionist, took over the conversation from the untrained salesman who did not know how to interact with new people.
Tip three: learn how to interact with new people especially if they are more introverted and need a little help expressing themselves. Be careful who you put on the phone when new prospects call for information. An untrained person can loose many sales for you.
Once the nutritionist was helping me, things went great. He was friendly, an expert, and only looked at me while he talked. He did not try to get to the next person in the booth until he felt that I was completely done and understood on his product.
Tip four: pay attention to your prospect and listen carefully. You will have plenty of time to make suggestions and influence the sale later.
It made more sense for me to purchase feed in my local area. The nutritionist made sure I knew where to go and what type of feed I needed to get. He gave me his card in case I had any additional questions.
Tip five: be helpful and invite them to continue the conversation later if necessary.
So, next we need to talk about how you specifically apply this experience to your studio. We’ll talk about that next week, come join me. Meanwhile, I encourage you to pay closer attention to interactions you have while you shop and see what you can learn.
(c) 2012 Barb Gordon Photo Coach
Most photographers wear all of the hats in their business and the position of sales person is one of the critical ones. You can create all of the beautiful images in the world but you will starve if you can not sell them.
Find ways to not to let your preferences or assumptions get in the way. Here are a few ideas to consider.
Be aware that everyone has their own money personality. Do not assume other people respond like you do. Some people are driven to hold onto money for security. Some people are spenders, some are savers. Others are risk takers and some do not really think about money at all. (A great book: First Comes Love Then Comes Money http://www.amazon.com/First-Comes-Love-Then-Money/dp/0061649910 )
Don’t take it personal. When you work for yourself, especially if it is for the first time, it is a personal undertaking. I was fortunate to work for many retail companies and photography studios before I started my own business. Working for a successful studio with substantial pricing helped desensitize me to pricing sensitivities. It helped me see those prices as normal, correct, and valid. When I started my own studio the prices felt right, I did not have to get comfortable with them. Try and take yourself out of the numbers.
Do not assume what someone is willing to spend. If someone really appreciates your work they might even save up or use a credit card to be able to use your services. A family that is losing a member or has lost a member may be more willing to invest in portraits than a family that has never considered a tragedy striking.
Do not assume what someone is able to spend. Have you been ignored in a fancy store if you are dressed down? I sure have. You are not alone if you have ever misjudged someone’s ability to spend money. Sometimes the most unlikely person will surprise you with a substantial order. Have you ever read the book The Millionaire Next Door? The insight it provides about who people with money really are is good business information.
Remember that not all people are going to be good clients. Sure we believe that everyone needs a family portrait but we certainly do not want to deal with all people and the headaches they bring. It is okay to pre-quality customers to find the right ones for you.
Next week we will discuss some action steps you can take.
One tip I have for you when photographing family groups is to photograph mom and dad together. Actually I make this a habit for each family group I do. I usually pose the mom and dad first as I am setting up the family pose anyway, so I pause and take a couple photographs of just them before I add the children to the pose. I don’t even ask them anymore if they want me to or not because they would just say “no, that’s okay.” I just do it.
So many couples are used to putting the kids first all the time. They typically do not think of getting their own portrait made unless it is a monumental anniversary. So this is a great time to do something nice for them whether they know they will want to order one or not. Again, I don’t make a big deal of this, I just shoot a few frames and move on.
It takes me about two minutes to capture this pose and the children like it too. I have them help me get their parents to smile.
I used to have a session that included breakdowns for a higher price. Very few people wanted that session; they went with the one family pose session. You see, they don’t know how much they will really like a portrait of the two of them until they see a nice one. And if they don’t order one, I am not out anything at all.
I actually have more sales this way than when I had an actual session for break down groups and it is fast, easy and fun for them. If you become good at selling large images and framing, this can be a dramatic sale for you.
© 2011 Barb Gordon Photo Coach & Gordon Photography & Gallery, Inc.
Personally, I am not a big fan of using templates. My personality likes to have each creation look different. That is not to say that templates are bad, they are really cool and a big time saver. It is more of my own personal hang up and part of my maximizer personality trait.
Not using template does mean time consuming computer work. You have probably read in previous articles that I am becoming a more efficient business person. What is one to do?
I mix it up. I have one product that is a template that every client who orders that product, gets the same look-exactly. Everyone is happy.
I have another product that involves eight images on an 11×24 framed piece and I sort of can not use a template for. This product feels like it should be different for everyone. The different images for each subject also call for a different feel, size, and format. But what I did was save my own design as a template for myself. Now I pull up my template, drag and drop the images, change the background color under the overlay (like we talked about two weeks ago), change my stroke color and I am done.
Christmas card templates never seem to work for me either. My clients want customization as well. I take parts of different templates to create my own custom card to fit my client’s photos. This saves me hours of design time, gives the client a visual of the idea, and I end up with a cool new design.
Again, a great resource for professional use templates for photographers is http://www.mylilcreations.com/
Google “professional use templates for photographers” and check out your own color lab. Many labs are providing or selling templates too.I can’t believe I used to start from zero each time. How inefficient of me!
Many of you do dances and proms. Do you have a system for that? Do you feel prepared or are you scrambling at the last minute?
My system starts with a file folder, backed up with electronic copies on my computer.
- The first step is making sure I have a team to assist me. I don’t have employees right now so I call the ones I used to have to help out at this event.
- My checklist of things that I need to take to the Prom which you will read below.
- My original order form that I need to make copies of.
- Extra copies of last year’s forms we did not need. Provided there are no price changes, then I am good to go.
My dance checklist is similar to my Camera bag for going on location checklist which you can find in my “Photography Studio Must Haves” available at http://barbgordonphotocoach.com/blog/products/musthaves
Here is my list I will need for dance night:
Photo session notes with contact names and cell phone numbers and my location.
My camera bag will include: Camera, Lenses, Digital media: Compact Flash Cards, Batteries, Grey card, Business cards
The accessory bag will have: Camera battery charger, Flash meter, Radio slaves: both parts and their cords, Back up synch cord: In case the radio slaves quit working. Extra batteries, On camera style flash unit: As a backup. Lens cleaner.
Lighting: Flash unit and cords, Softbox, Light stand, Reflectors
Supply bag for all of the non-camera gear: On location light stands, Collapsible soft box, Small background light stand, Flash umbrellas, Three prong adapters: For older homes and buildings with only two prong outlets.Binder clips, Background clamps, Duct tape, Extension cords, Power strip
Taking a background: Pole system, Background, Clamps
Event/Dance supplies: Change: If collecting money at the event (get the day before). Order forms: Prepare the week before. Pens, Calculator, Business cards, Bank bag: To carry all of the above in.
Be sure to give a last call for your photography services so you get everyone photographed who wants to be! This should eliminate the stress of being asked for a photograph as soon as you get your first light packed away.
It’s 1998, we are shooting film, and we are putting specially designed black and white paper through the color processing machines. It is cool looking, fast, and cheaper to do this than hand processing large black and white prints in the darkroom. The look was as nice as most black and white images.
Now it’s 2011 and these pseudo black and white images are now coming back to haunt us with visible color shifting in certain tones of the print. Little did we know thirteen years ago that there was going to be a stability issue with this process.
I had my first (and hopefully only) client call to ask about her strange looking portrait. I was so worried because I had no idea what was going on. I thought I had goofed in some way – until I saw the image. I found out that this was not really uncommon with images printed with that process and a few other photographers were having the same experience. My images had been printed in a professional, high end color lab too!
In case this happens to you, don’t panic. Just find your negative, get it scanned on a high quality film scanner, and have a new print remade for your customer. I was very pleased to see the new image was actually nicer than the original and my customer was happy with the customer service I was able to provide. (It was a good thing that I keep files for a long time.)
The color shifting showed up best on a close up I took of the print that was returned. I hope that you can see the orange looking cast in this section of the image. It will help you identify this problem if you come across it.
Photography is all about recording reflected light. Many beginners and amateurs are not yet familiar with how to see light and know what to look for yet. It can be quite a challenge to find locations that are suitable for outdoor portraits but there are some things you can use to your advantage. Here are five getting started tips:
- Photograph in the shade. Raccoon eyes, squinting eyes, deep dark shadows, and images with no catch lights in the eyes do not make a pleasing portrait. Place your subject in the shade with open sky as your main light source. This takes practice and deliberate study to find this kind of light. Going deep into the woods in too thick of shade is not going to give you a nice lighting pattern. By staying closer to the edge of the shade you will have great light coming from open sky.
- Photograph late or early in the day. This is often referred to as “Sweet Light”. An hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset is really beautiful light. The light is more even light and shadows are long and soft.
- Use a reflector. Reflectors work great to fill shadows and give a little kick of sparkle in the subject’s eyes. I personally use the gold side the most.
- Use a fill flash. When working in brighter conditions or wanting to include dramatic sky in your portrait images a fill flash is required to balance the lighting conditions for a proper exposure.
- Watch for color reflections. Color from items like green trees and red paint on a building, for example, will reflect into a person’s skin tone and shadows. This is not a desired outcome and will look unnatural. Be careful how close you are to strong color reflections. You can also correct minor color shifts in the artwork stage of your final image.
Of course you still must meter correctly, white balance, and process your files. But the more you get right in your camera first the easier the rest of the process is.