Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sample Wedding Album Design

I was just tweeting about how I sent my first wedding album order in yesterday and it brought me back to when I was first starting to try to design this album. Album design is a scary and difficult thing to do. You want to try to tell the story of the wedding day the way that you saw it through your lens. You painstakingly shoot details, anticipate moments, and capture heartfelt emotion on the wedding day. Then you rush back to download correct and process all off your images.

Then, one of two things happens. Either you get to the album design bursting with ideas or you stare blankly at the screen and feel dread creep up into your guts. I am contemplating the idea of outsourcing my album designs because the thought of doing the designs does bring out a bit of dread in me, but for this particular album I did the design myself. Now I know that I can do it and the fear is a little less. When I was staring blankly at the computer screen I was really wishing that I could have seen what other people were doing so that I could get some ideas. In that spirit I have decided to post my layouts here for all of you to see.

A few things to note: the wedding was done with a second shooter so I did not push the shutter for every image that you will see. I thought it only fair that I throw that out as a disclaimer. A lot of photographers use second shooters and many of them do not tell you whose pictures are whose but unless you specifically request a second shooter, if you hire me, I am the one taking every single shot.

Next, this is not a sample album. This is a real album for a real bride. Why do I point this out? Because sample albums are not reality. Real brides want pictures of everyone in the wedding in their albums. For a sample album I would not include 80% of the family pictures. Why? Because a prospective bride does not care about pictures of someone else's grandparents. I would also be more selective in my sample albums and choose the images that I feel will appeal to the target client I want to book. In real albums bride's will like some pictures that honestly are not very stunning for emotional reasons (which is great because it means that I am doing my job right!) but someone who does not have that emotional connection just see the photo as an okay image. Just something to keep in mind when selecting images for samples vs. client albums.

Lastly, I am showing you two covers. The tan one is the one that I designed first. The blue one is the one that the bride selected. Keep in mind that it is not your wedding and what you want often gets shelved. Try not to take it personally.
Here we go! Let me know what you think!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Picture Monday - Referral Cards

Happy Monday morning to you all! I hope that everyone had a great weekend and is gearing up for an equally great week.

Today I wanted to do a quick show and tell about a new incentive that I am launching. Now when you receive the prints from your session you will also be receiving 50 referral cards. These cards feature an image from your session or event on one side and my business card information on the reverse along with an offer.

If you give the card to a family member or friend who brings it in to me when the book their session they will receive a complimentary 8x10 print from their session. Just for coming in.

That's nice for them but I thought that you should get something out of the deal, too. So for every one of your referral cards that makes it's way back into my hands you will also get $5 worth of studio credit good towards your next session or any additional products that you would like to add from your current session. Just think, if all 50 people you refer book sessions that is $250 worth of free stuff for you. Pretty cool, huh?

Thank you to all of my clients who have booked me so far this year and here's to a great holiday season!

Friday, September 25, 2009

The new Wacom Bamboo tablet

I do not have an iPhone. Sad, I know. But, I do know people who have iPhones and one of the things that I really liked about them is that you can use gestures to zoom, scroll, etc.

With the introduction of the Wacom Bamboo it looks like you will be able to do the same thing and still have the option of using the pen (which I use everyday and love). There are three models the Bamboo Touch and Pen for $99 (you can also get just touch or just pen for $69), the bamboo craft for $129, and the Bamboo fun for $199. The difference appears to be the amount of screen area. For $99 this sure looks fun and I might just need to get one of these. Christmas is coming you know...

Check it out here:

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Preventing Memory Card Corruption

I woke up Sunday morning excited to do a family shoot for a great family. We went over to the park, got the shots, checked them out in camera, and I headed home to download. The first disk downloaded fine, but when I hooked the second disk up to the computer nothing happened. Now, I have had one or two files on a disk come back as corrupted before, but this was the ENTIRE disk with all of the more formal group shots on it (a.k.a. the reason that they booked the shoot). I didn't panic (okay I panicked a little bit) and I headed straight to google to try to find some software to fix my problem ASAP so that I didn't have to call these nice people back and tell them that we had to shoot again - which would pretty much be my nightmare. What I found was It looked legit so I downloaded it and hoped to God that it wasn't going to infect my computer with some terrible virus. Well not only did it not infect my computer, it recovered all of my files from the disk, plus some files from almost a year ago that were still lurking on there as well.

So, if you should find yourself in need of disk recovery software this one worked out pretty well for me. I am also linking to some articles about how to prevent corruption in the first place. I don't know what caused my disk to go bad. I did accidentally shoot all the way to the end of the disk, but it also could have been heat, or static, or who-knows-what. There is a lot of scepticism swirling around the articles that I linked to and what they suggest (as you will see in the comments) but personally I would rather do something that might be silly and be safe then scoff at something that is easy to do and be sorry. I choose not to ask myself "what if doing this stuff has nothing to do with helping prevent corruption" and instead say "But what if it does?" Better safe than sorry as they always say.

Have a good Wednesday!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Picture Monday - Costumes!

When I was growing up in Iowa I remember always being so excited for it to be summer. Summer meant getting to wear shorts, swimming in the creek by my house with my friends, and seemingly endless hours of daylight to run around in. As I get older, I am afraid, Summer has started to lose a bit of it's appeal. First, there is no summer break. Next, "office appropriate" shorts really are more like capris and being outside when it is in the 90's with 90% humidity just isn't that much fun. Then there are the mosquito's...

So, I am now really very excited that it is Fall. It may not be full on Fall yet, but you can catch hints of it in the cooler air in the mornings and a few leaves on the sidewalk. With Fall comes my favorite holiday, Halloween. Now, some people may find this cruel but every Halloween for the party we dress up the pets in costumes. Why? Because it is so freakin cute. This is a picture of Lily last year. Notice that she is really, really not very happy with me but she looks adorable. I have yet to pick the theme for their costumes this year. Any suggestions?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday Site of the Week - Going to the Dogs

This weeks sites are really fun. I don't know about you but people in general fall into two categories: Pet people and baby people. Don't get me wrong, babies are great. But when I look into a dogs big brown eyes my heart just melts. How can you not love something that cute? The sites that I have for you today are both from Erin Vey, a lifestyle pet photographer. This will put you in a good mood for your weekend for sure. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

How to take Great Panoramic Photos

Since I posted my Panoramic images on Monday I thought that I would give some tips and advice about shooting panoramic photos today to tie in. I will give you my two cents first and then I also linked to a couple of articles if you want to read about it in more depth.

I will admit that I was not super careful or technical in creating my panos for a couple of reasons.

1) There was absolutely no way that I was lugging a tripod around up and down mountains while backpacking. This trip made one thing pretty clear to me. Either take a vacation to hike or to take photos. You can not do both at 100% at the same time. For me, backpacking was the main event and looking back I probably could have taken just as good of pictures with the point and shoot without having to lug 15 pounds of gear around. It's all about priorities.

2) For at least one of those panos I was too tired when we got to the spot to remember to set my camera to manual (I am not telling which one it was). This did cause me a tiny bit more work in post but if you do forget it is not a huge disaster as you can see so don't freak out.

So, my technique was to find my start point, hopefully remember to set my focus to infinity and program my manual settings, take a snap of holding out 1 finger to mark the beginning of the pano, shoot the rest of the sequence hand held while trying to overlap about 30% of each frame, snap a photo of holding up to fingers to mark the end of the sequence. That's it. I didn't even take a consistent number of photos for each of the three. Then I had photoshop merge them together.

If I had been on a photo vacation rather than a backpacking vacation I would have used a tripod and done the series in HDR. Maybe next time. Anyway, here are your links and the last is a great place that will print large panos on canvas for a decent price. It is still expensive, but reasonable, especially for a gallery wrap. Be sure to check it out and have a great Wednesday!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Picture Monday - Glacier National Park Panos

Because a promise is a promise, here are the panoramic photos from Glacier National Park that I left out from last weeks picture Monday.

This also happens to be my 100th blog post! Is anyone else as excited as I am? To celebrate this milestone, if you mention my blog or the 100th post while booking you will receive a $50 credit towards your order. Why? Because I love you guys.

Now, on to the pictures. Panoramic images are the way to go with a landscape as big a Glacier. We only covered a small portion of the park and there is just so much there. The whole place really is larger than life.

The first image is just before you hit Piegan Pass coming from Going to the Sun Road looking back towards the road.

Second is the Highline Trail.

Third is looking down on Hidden Lake.

Cash Flow Projections

I hope that everyone had a great weekend. I was hoping to post the panoramic photos that I had from Glacier this morning but the stars were not aligned properly and it did not happen before I made it out the door today so look for that later today.

In the mean time, if anyone is feeling really motivated on this Monday morning this is a great article about understanding and projecting cash flow for your business.
Worth the read. Until later...

Friday, September 11, 2009

Friday Site of the Week - Blue Lily Photo

I wanted to try to find something patriotic today since it is 9/11 and we just celebrated Labor Day but I am also prepping for a client meeting so I failed horribly. Please just take a minute to remember that the men and women who serve us - be they police, fire, military, or whatever - do so as volunteers and often at great peril to themselves. They are not the politics. They are people and the deserve our support and recognition. Say thanks to someone you see today and make their day a little better.

On to the site for you today. I really like the style. Take a look at the photos and try to figure out the actions used...I have been thinking that I need to use actions more and this is great inspiration.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Help Google (and clients) find your website

Today I want to talk about Googling. Everybody does it. Go ahead take a second to google your business, I'll wait. Hopefully your website or blog shows up when you google your business name. Now google your business category, for example "wedding photographers in Pinehurst". Do you show up on the first page? At all?

A super easy way to be sure that you are coming up front and center is to create a Google local business listing. It is fast, free, and pretty cool. Since you just googled something you should be at a screen that looks something like this:

I show up under the local business results because I already have a listing, but lets pretend that you don't. Click on the headline "local business results for...". At the bottom of the next page you should see this:

Click on it and it will take you to a screen where you can enter in details about your business like contact information, website, hours, and it will even let you add pictures and video. I found the picture interface to be a little buggy so if the picture thumbnail comes up as "image not available" save it anyway, navigate to another page and then navigate back and it will probably show in your listing. Once all of your info is entered save it and it will bring you to your dashboard, which looks something like this:

As you can see, the details of your listing are shown at the right and on the left side of the screen it shows you a nifty graph of how many people are seeing your website and how many of those people are acting on what they see. Since I set my page up a little over a week ago I have gotten 67 impressions (the number of times people have seen my page as a result of a search) and 13 actions, including 10 clicks through to my website. That tells me about 20% of the people who see my page click through to my website. Not bad! It also tells you what words people are using to search for you so that you can use that knowledge for SEO or improving your ad. I have already gotten a client inquiry this week from my local google page. One thing to note, this page is not so easy to locate once you navigate away from it so it may be a good idea to bookmark it. The whole process takes about 15 minutes and it is a great resource for helping people find you. Have a great Wednesday (090909)!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Picture Monday - Glacier National Park

As I am sitting here this labor day enjoying my extra day of rest (which actually involves working, but anytime you can work while wearing your sweat pants it feels a lot less like work) I decided this would be a good time to share some vacation pictures while many of us are in a vacation frame of mind.

We went to Glacier National Park in Montana in July and spent 7 days backpacking. This was my first backpacking trip (previously we were day hiking and not carrying everything around on our backs). One of the first things that I learned is that gear and food are heavy and it is amazing how many things you can find that are not "essential", a.k.a. can get left behind, after your first day with a pack that is 40% your body weight.

After that my next best tip is "don't be cheap, get a rental car". Yes, it will sit in a parking lot for much of the time that you are hiking, but it is a great place to cache food and gear so you only have to carry what you need. Another point is that it gives you options. Our first planned day was 15 miles and 5,000 feet of elevation gain. Somehow when I was sitting in our living room planning the trip that seemed acceptable. After getting there and seeing the terrain, not so much. A rental car allows you to do an alternate day hike instead and then drive to the trail head the next day. Glacier has a great shuttle system, but none of the campsites are right next to the shuttle stops and that extra mile or two from the campsite to the trail head and back again can make a big difference. Suddenly your 12 mile hike become a 16 mile hike...nobody likes that.

For our trip we started at Lake McDonald and spent two days at Fish Creek campground. Either be sure to bring your own food or plan to eat at Eddie's because it is the only place in Apgar Village to eat. The food and the service or just so-so, but to make up for it the folks at the Back country Permit office very incredibly helpful and accommodating. We did a day hike during that time to the Hidden Lake overlook, which was amazing. That hike is for sure the biggest bang for the buck with great views and tons of wildlife (albeit mostly marmots, dear, and goats) all in a pretty easy three mile hike. Next we stayed at Reynold's Creek Campground to kick off our backpacking and made a side trip over to St. Mary falls and Virginia Falls. Next day we climbed up to Piegan Pass, which had great views in all directions, and after lunch with the squirrels made our way down to Many Glacier. Many Glacier was my favorite area of the park, but while the larger hotel was really nice and had great views of the lake, they are not very friendly to hikers (especially if you are dirty and look like you are about to fall over since you just hiked 15 miles). We stayed at Swiftcurrent Motor Inn and everyone there and at the attached restaurant we super nice. And it is the only place in the park that have laundry facilities. From there we climbed (and climbed, and climbed) up Swiftcurrent Pass and stayed at Granite Park Chalet campground. The next day we hiked the highline trail back to Logan Pass where our car was parked to finish out our trip.

I hope that the pictures communicate just how BIG the park is. There is a reason that they call Montana big sky country. Hope you enjoy and have a good Monday!

On the way up to Piegan Pass

Nearing Swiftcurrent Pass looking back towards Many Glacier

Lake McDonald from Apgar Village

Looking down on Hidden Lake

Marmot taking a nap

The goats at Hidden Lake walk right up to people like they are not even there. I just keep hoping that one was not going to gore me as I walked by.

Bridge to Reynolds Creek camp ground, or as we started calling it "Mosquito Creek"

Saint Mary Falls. All of the water in the park was so blue. My theory is that the water is so cold that nothing can live in it which keeps it looking so blue.

Piegan Pass looking towards Many Glacier

View from Piegan Pass back towards Going to the Sun Road

Friday, September 4, 2009

Friday Site of the Week - How to be Inspired

I think that this is a good link for a lot of people to think about right now. It was posted on digital photography school, which I featured before and it talks about how to be inspired by other photographers without being intimidated. One thing that it didn't cover is how to be inspired by other photographers without becoming a hater.

It is a pretty common tendency, especially when sales are down and the economy is slow, for people to get a little touchy about competition. Being the new kid on the blog I have felt it a lot. Some photographers feel that they more people hanging their shingle the fewer clients that they will get because there are only so many people to go around. Fact of the matter is, if a certain client doesn't like your work they aren't going to like it whether you have one competitor or fifty. The opposite is also true. If a client sees your photos and something clicks for them and you are "the one" for them it won't matter how many other people that they had to look at to find you.

That said, doesn't it make sense to try to work together and make local photography friends? They can help you out if you get in a bind, you can compare slide show programs with them when you are deciding which to get the idea. Everyone out there has something of value to contribute and fear is no reason not to get yourself out there and learn from each other.

If you are still concerned about losing business maybe you should focus on the things that you can change. You can't (legally) control the number of people who are charging for photography in your area, but you can work on honing your marketing efforts to your target market. Still not sure who your target market is? Market research can give you the facts you need to feel more confident. And of course, practice!

Hope that you all have an amazing Labor Day weekend!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Variations on a theme...

Getting dressed in the morning is usually a matter of finding something clean in my closet and then pairing it with some pants. Morning is not a creative time for me which is why I generally spend my mornings responding to emails and doing paperwork.

My creativity does not usually kick in until around 10am. So, it was rather surprising that yesterday I got dressed in a very cute outfit of dove grey trousers, an embellished white tank, coral long sleeved cardigan, and cute red flats with a snake skin toe with very little effort. About half way through the day I was looking in the mirror and thinking to myself that my outfit would make a really good color scheme for a wedding. I started daydreaming about a vintage-mod wedding with a Hollywood glamour satin gown with a coral sash and a little caplet with a net veil over one eye. I started picturing bridesmaids dresses that were all knee length coral but all different designs. Coral flower stud earrings for bridesmaids gifts... Men in dove grey tuxedos with matching ties...

I could go on. I plan weddings in my head all the time. So I had this idea rolling around in my head already when I saw a post on Style Me Pretty (link here) showing a honeymoon inspired bridal shower. Then the thought struck me - because I like to hyper organize things - wouldn't it be cool to have all events relating to your wedding follow the same theme.

Let's assume for my example that you are having a vintage-mod wedding with cream, coral, and dove grey as your colors and you are going to Napa on your honeymoon. Then you can have your engagement photos taken at a wine bar and have your wardrobe coordinate with your wedding colors. You can use a photo from your engagement session (which already matches your theme and colors) for your save the dates and photo guest book. Your bachelorette weekend can be a wine tasting and a trip to the spa (complete with cream terry robes and little silver wine charms for your girls). Then you throw the Napa themed bridal shower and host a rehearsal dinner that features regional food and wine. You can use photos from your engagement sessions again as decor for these events. I love the idea of your engagement shoot, bridal shower, bachelorette weekend, wedding, and honeymoon all coordinating. Then, with all of your events around a theme your guests really get more of an experience when they attend your wedding and it gets them more involved. Many of your friends and family traveled long distances and took time off work to come celebrate with you so it is nice for them to feel like they are really a part of the whole event and not just a bystander to your party.

Another thing you should keep in mind is if you are not going to have a photographer at all of these events you should keep the details from the events so that they can be photographed with your wedding. Details are key to telling the story of your wedding, especially if you are hoping to have your wedding published. You should also be sure to communicate any special details with your photographer. They do not know that you made every single wedding favor by hand unless you tell them! Is your wedding ring the same ring that both your mother and grandmother wore? Tell them and they can design a page in your album that features the ring with pictures of you, your mother, and your grandmother. For your photographer to be able to tell your story they have to KNOW your story so don't be shy telling them all about it. This is an event that is all about you.

Hope that gives you some things to think about for your Wednesday. Have a great one!