Monthly Archives: March 2017

Simple Tips to Start Photography Business

Starting a photography business can be a stressful, time-consuming task.

But do it right, and you can build a business that is successful for years to come and provides you and your family with the income you need to lead a good life.

There’s a lot that goes into making a business successful, and if I’m honest, the cards are stacked against you.

It’s a fact that most businesses fail within the first year. Heck, not that many survive past two years, and fewer still are in business a decade down the road.

As with anything, building a successful business requires a ton of preparation.

The groundwork that you lay now will be a crucial element of how successful your photography business will be.

Though this isn’t a comprehensive guide on jumpstarting your photography career (that’s available here), what’s included below are a few simple and quick steps you can take to be sure that you’re starting things off on the right foot.

Let’s have a look!

Goals, Goals, Goals

I’m not really a goal-oriented person in my personal life, but you can bet that I learned how to set goals in business.

Having something to work towards gives you and your business direction. In the short-term, goals can help you sift through everything that needs to be done just to set up a business (i.e. creating a business plan, securing financing for a studio or office space, setting up a website, having a logo developed, etc.).

Long-term goals help frame everything you do in the short-term in terms of how they will help you achieve success in the future.

Basically, having tangible and attainable goals helps you develop a roadmap for success. Achieve one goal, then move on to achieve the next one, then the next one, and so forth.

It’s easy to become overwhelmed by everything you have to do as a business owner. It’s also easy to get stuck on the little details when you should be looking at the big picture.

Developing goals for your business will help you avoid both of those things and focus on what you really want – developing a successful business.

Efficiency is Key

Here’s a newsflash that many beginner photographers don’t want to hear…

When you start a photography business, the vast majority of your time will not be spent taking photos.

Instead, you’ll be managing your books, answering phone calls and emails, scheduling appointments, sending invoices, and so forth.

In other words, you’ll be as much (if not more) of an office manager as you will be a photographer.

Granted, those tasks are a necessary part of business, but they don’t have to consume all your time.

Efficiency is key here, and outfitting yourself with the right virtual assistant can help you build a streamlined operation.

For me, the best option to get your photography business in order is Iris Works.

To start with, Iris Works keeps you organized so you minimize the amount of time trying to keep track of what needs to be done and more time actually getting those tasks completed.

Iris Works features a dashboard (shown above) with your calendar, a to-do list, and even an overview of all your current projects.

And that’s just the beginning…

Iris Works also includes something called “Workflows” that allows you to set timelines for projects, create the aforementioned to-do lists, and even send invoices to clients so you’re sure you don’t miss billing anyone. You can also create messages to clients and schedule the messages to go out at specific times. Timely, consistent communication with your clients really has never been easier!

What’s more, Workflows has pre-loaded templates for many of these tasks, so you can save time not having to build your own (although, Iris Works lets you build custom templates if you want).

Yet another primary task that Iris Works can handle for you is doing all of that documentation…

You know, creating contracts, sending invoices, and collecting payments.

Build your own custom contracts right within Iris Works, and send them electronically for your client’s signature. Do the same with model release forms too! See how to create and send a contract in Iris Works in the video above.

When it comes time to bill your clients, just send your invoices through the Iris Works platform, and you can easily track which clients have paid and which ones haven’t. You can even send an electronic receipt once payment is received.

If it seems like I’m gushing over Iris Works, it’s because I am! And I’m not alone…

This is a game-changer for self-employed photographers – believe me!

Check out Iris Works and see all the other incredible features it offers to help you streamline your workflow and develop a strong, successful, long-lasting business.

Spend Time on Marketing

You can take the best photos in the world, but if you aren’t able to market yourself and your work, it’s going to be tough for you to stay in business very long.

One of the behind-the-scenes tasks you’ll need to tackle is marketing your business.

Now, this can mean a lot of different things, but at its heart, your marketing strategy should serve to not just get your name out there amongst the buying public, but it should also be geared toward differentiating you from everyone else.

Here’s why…

Photographers are a dime a dozen, and as the new kid on the block, you need to prove that what you offer is better than everyone else, including the photographers that have been at it for awhile.

When you market your business, be sure you have a consistent message.

That message should focus on your personality. Why?

In a sea of photographers, you are the only you! It’s the simplest and most effective way to differentiate yourself from the crowd.

Who you are impacts everything you do, from the style of the photos you create to the manner in which you interact with clients.

The question is, how do you incorporate your unique personality into your branding?

It’s simple – use mediums that allow you to showcase who you are.

Post photos to Instagram to showcase your artistic style.

Make YouTube videos to introduce yourself to your clients and show them who you are as a person.

Write frequent blog posts talking about your workflow or offer educational tips about taking photos or processing them.

The point is that putting an ad in the paper saying, “Hey, I’m a photographer, and I’m open for business” isn’t going to do much for you.

Instead, focusing on getting your name, your face, and your personality out there will get you started off on much stronger footing.

Check out more tips for boosting your photography brand in the video above from Vanessa Joy and B&H Photo.

7 Beginner Photography Tips

If you ask me, photography is just about the best hobby anyone can pick up.

Not only does it get you up and moving, but it compels you to be creative, master technical aspects like exposure, and interact with others who love photography (or who want their picture taken).

And just about everyone loves a good photo, right? So photography is a great way to bring people together for the common purpose of taking great photos (and appreciating them too!).

Of course, when you’re just starting out in photography, it can be a little confusing as to where to even begin.

That’s where this guide comes in.

If you’re a brand new photographer, consider these tips as the ideal place to start your photography journey.

It Will Take Time

I cannot emphasize this enough – mastering photography will not happen overnight.

Sure, that’d be great, but that’s just not how things work.

It’s hard to look at photos from the masters and not be able to replicate what they do.

But with time and practice, you’ll develop the understanding of photography and the requisite skills needed to create better photos.

So, the first thing you need to do is grab your camera, head out, and start taking pictures.

By putting yourself out there and into a position to take photos, you’ll learn about everything from camera settingsto composition to lighting and everything in between.

Back up your practice in the field with research and learning beforehand, and you’ll be surprised at just how much your photography improves.

Utilize Free Tools

One of the great things about photography is that it’s so accessible.

That’s been the case for decades, but today that’s especially true given that you can start learning photography with nothing more than your smartphone and a few photography tutorials like this one.

Though there are plenty of photography courses out there that you can pay to take, don’t think that spending money on learning opportunities is the only way to go.

Start with free lessons like this one. Peruse YouTube and see what sorts of tutorials you can find. Join a photography website like PhotographyTalk so you can get inspired by other people’s photos, get feedback on your own photos, and talk shop with other photography enthusiasts.

By focusing on the free tools at your disposal, that frees up money to spend on other photography-related things, like getting a better lens or investing in a set of good filters.

Read the Owner’s Manual

One free resource that’s vastly underutilized is the owner’s manual for your camera. This is particularly true if you have a DSLR or mirrorless system.

I realize that owner’s manuals are not enjoyable reads, but that notwithstanding, they have a ton of critical information about the features and functions of your camera that allow you to take better photos.

Think about it like this – if you’ve never taken a photo in your life, how can you expect to learn how if you don’t know how your camera works?

Taking up photography without learning how to use your camera is like taking your driver’s test without ever having learned how to drive – it’s just that much more complicated!

Make it easier on yourself and spend a little time reading the owner’s manual. Trust me, it will pay off!

Never Be Without a Camera

Sometimes, beginner photographers mistakenly think that they have to have the perfect subject to get a good photo.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Often, good photos come about because the photographer was simply prepared to take the shot.

Part of being prepared is to simply have a camera with you at all times.

That doesn’t mean you have to lug around all your photography gear wherever you go, either…

Simply having your smartphone with you gives you a camera that’s ready and capable of taking a good shot. All you need to do is get into the habit of photographing subjects on your way to work, at lunch, on the weekends, as you walk the dog, and so forth.

After all, you never know when an ideal photo opp will present itself!

Enjoy the Process

When I was learning photography, I was constantly frustrated because I couldn’t seem to make my camera and lens do what I wanted them to do.

There were plenty of lose it moments when I just gave up, and you’ll probably have plenty of those moments too…

But what I can offer in terms of advice now that I’ve gone through those experiences is that getting mad and frustrated doesn’t do you any favors.

Instead, enjoy the process of learning.

Focus less on what you can’t do, and more on what you’re able to do.

You’ll be surprised at how much you learn and how quickly you learn it. And if you can focus on those positives, you will find that you enjoy photography much more.

Get Inspired

Photography, like any art form, certainly relies on your knowledge and skills.

But getting inspiration is a huge component of your success as well.

This doesn’t mean spending hours each day poring over the photos other people post on Instagram.

Instead, getting inspired means really focusing on what it is about certain photos that you like.

Is it the way the portrait subject has been posed?

Is it the lighting in a landscape photo?

Is it the colors or the textures in an abstract photo that catch your eye?

By looking at what other people do, you can start to form your own ideas about your personal style and photography aesthetic. And once you do that, you’ll start to see your own take on photography begin to emerge in the way your photos look and feel.

Set Some Goals

Though photography is art, and there’s something to be said for a relaxed approach to creativity, when you’re just starting out, having a few goals will give you the direction you need to become a better photographer.

These don’t have to be enormous, life-changing goals, either.

For example, you might endeavor to shoot at least 10 photos a day. Maybe your goal is to try one new type of photography each month for a year. Perhaps you can challenge yourself to become more familiar with your camera’s settings.

Even simple goals like these can give you the structure you need to maintain focus on what needs to happen for you to get better! Get more insights on setting photography goals in the video about by the Art of Photography.

Why Your Images Aren’t Sharp And How to Fix Them

I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that we all want to take photos that are sharp.

The bad thing about sharpness is that a lot can go wrong that diminishes the sharpness of your photos. This includes culprits like a subject that’s moving, camera shake, noise due to a high ISO, and plain old bad focusing.

Some of these errors are self-explanatory – if your subject is moving and they appear blurry in your photo, it could be because your shutter speed is too slow. If there’s a lot of digital noise in your images, it’s because the ISO is too high.

On the other hand, some of these problems can be harder to figure out. Camera shake, for example, could be the result of a number of factors – a slow shutter speed, not using a tripod, windy conditions (even when using a tripod), or simply having hands that are a little on the shaky side.

The same goes for bad focusing. There are a variety of issues that could cause poor focus, including being too close to the subject, having your focus point in the wrong area of the image, being too quick on the trigger and taking a photo before the lens focuses, or having a depth of field that’s too shallow for the subject to be nice and sharp.

But the great thing about sharpness is that there are a lot of ways to combat these problems so that you can create an image that is tack-sharp.

Let’s have a look at a few of the best solutions to the problems outlined above. And don’t worry – they are all solutions that beginners can handle!

Get a Tripod and Use it

I’ll be the first to say that I don’t always enjoy carrying a tripod around…

But using a tripod is far and away one of the best ways to reduce blurriness in your images.

By giving your camera a stable base, you increase the likelihood that you’ll get a sharp image.

That’s because instead of depending on your hands, arms, and body for support – all of which move no matter how hard you try – you can put your camera on a tripod that isn’t moving around.

Better still, you can enhance a tripod’s ability to get a sharp image by improving its stability:

  • If the tripod has metal spikes on its feet, use them to give it more stable footing.
  • If the tripod has a center column hook, hang your camera bag, your backpack, or even a sack of dirt or rocks from it to anchor the tripod.
  • Remove your camera strap so it doesn’t flap in the wind.
  • Use a camera remote so you don’t have to physically touch the camera to fire the shutter.

Sure, using a tripod can be less convenient, but if your images gain sharpness, that inconvenience is worth it, is it not?

Get the scoop on other benefits of shooting with a tripod in the video above from Adorama TV and Mark Wallace.

Get a Grip on Your Camera

If you find that you’re in a situation in which you can’t use a tripod, your best bet is to learn how to hold your camera in such a way that you maximize its stability and therefore maximize your ability to get the sharpest photos.

That means you need to use both of your hands to support your camera – one firmly grasping the camera grip and the other underneath the camera and lens to lend it additional support.

What’s more, if you bring your elbows into your chest, you can form a sort of a tripod with your hands, arms, elbows, and your chest working together to keep your camera still, just as you can see above.

There are plenty of other ways to keep your camera still. Check them out in this comprehensive tutorial.

Use Image Stabilization

A lot of cameras and lenses today come with an image stabilization feature that won’t eliminate blurry images, but it can certainly help.

This is especially true when you have to hold your camera because image stabilization can get you an additional two or three stops of working room.

That means that you can use a shutter speed that’s two or three stops slower than you could normally use, and do so without worry of added blurriness due to camera shake.

When used in combination with a solid grip on your camera, image stabilization can make a great deal of difference in the level of sharpness of your photos.

Check Your Exposure Settings

As I noted in the introduction, a lack of sharpness can be due to the aperture, shutter speed, or ISO settings.

In the case of aperture, if your depth of field (the area of the image that’s in sharp focus) is too shallow, you might find that your subject isn’t sharp, as seen in the image above.

To rectify matters, use a smaller aperture.

For example, if at f/2.8 your subject is blurry, change the aperture to f/5.6.

The problem with using a smaller aperture is that it restricts the amount of light entering your lens, which requires a slower shutter speed or a higher ISO.

But when you slow the shutter speed, you run the risk of getting images that are blurry because of the movement of the subject.

Naturally, to avoid a blurry subject that’s moving (as seen above), you have to use a faster shutter speed. But, the faster the shutter speed, the larger your aperture or the higher the ISO will have to be.

And again, the higher the ISO, the greater the amount of digital noise, which can also cause your photos to look less than sharp. Reducing your ISO from, say, 400 to 100 will help minimize noise, but the lower the ISO, the slower the shutter speed and the larger the aperture you’ll need to use.

You can see the Catch-22 that comes with making adjustments to one of these settings: address one to get a sharper image and you might have to change one or both of the other settings to compensate, thus creating other problems for sharpness. Get more details about the relationship between these settings in our tutorial on theExposure Triangle.

When it comes down to it, the logical way to approach this is to prioritize one of the settings. For example, if you’re taking a portrait and you want a certain depth of field, work the aperture first and make changes to shutter speed and ISO accordingly to get a well-exposed image, as was done above.

On the other hand, if blurriness due to motion is a concern, prioritize shutter speed first, and make necessary adjustments to aperture and ISO.

Of course, you can always shoot in an advanced mode like aperture priority, shutter priority, or program mode, which allows you and the camera to work together to get sharp, well-exposed images.

Work on Focusing

Cameras today have excellent autofocus systems that, more often than not, work pretty well.

However, they can sometimes be tricked, which means you need to understand how to adjust focus yourself.

The easiest way is to simply check the focus when you take a shot.

Using live view, zoom in on your subject and see if it’s sharp. If it is, you’re good to go. If it’s not, you have some work to do.

To obtain the right focus, place the active autofocus point on your subject and depress the shutter button halfway. That locks the focus in place.

Then, recompose the shot, press the shutter button all the way down, and the resulting image will have the focus on the spot you previously chose. In the image above, you might place the center focus point on the most distant mountain peak, press the shutter halfway, then recompose the shot as seen above.

Essential Mistakes to Avoid as a Beginner Photographer

It’s human nature to make mistakes, especially when you are still new at something.

We should use mistakes to learn and evolve, and this is true for pretty much anything we do in life.

But even though all mistakes have educational potential, most of you will agree that avoiding some of them just makes life easier.

It’s always better to learn from someone else’s mistakes before you make them yourself. It is the way of the wise, but that’s not to say you won’t have your share of slips on your journey to becoming a better photographer.

As always, our mission is to educate and inspire photographers, be they first time shooters or seasoned professionals looking to constantly learn something new. With that in mind, here are a few mistakes you could easily live without making.

Not Looking at Enough Photos

With so much visual content all around us, it’s virtually impossible to live a modern life without being bombarded with all sorts of images.

Just think about how much time you spend on social networks like Instagram looking at other people’s photos…

But spending hours each day looking at popular Instagram accounts isn’t enough for developing your sense of aesthetics. Writers read a lot of books, filmmakers watch countless movies, and good photographers study the work of others.

Spend some time studying full bodies of work. Curiosity is of the essence!

Once you stumble across an inspiring image, do a bit of research, find out who took the shot, and dive into their portfolio. The chances are that you’ll find more fascinating work.

Do this again and again. Finding your personal style has a lot to do with how you interpret your influences, and this is something often neglected by aspiring photographers.

Not Shooting Enough

This should be a no-brainer, yet it is a path very easy to slip on.

A day without shooting turns into a week, which later becomes a month, and so on. Real progress should not be expected without serious work.

Talent has a lot to do with being a successful photographer, but in the overall scheme of things, it has a lot less to do with getting where you want to be than good old hard work.

Shoot as much as you can and turn uninteresting subjects into creative challenges because, ultimately, you have to nurture your imagination.

Choosing Poor Subjects

With billions of images being taken every day, it can be extremely challenging to find interesting and inspiring subjects.

Finding the motivation to pursue something that has been photographed countless times is also part of the equation, but the trick is to not let it get to you.

Always push yourself to photograph any subject in a personal manner, and try to stay away from subjects that have been exploited over and over by previous generations of photographers in your area.

Not Acquiring Editing Skills

Editing is an essential part of the creative process, and ignoring it and relying on your camera to do all the work will take away a lot of the potential from your images.

You don’t have to become a Photoshop guru, but mastering the basics of editing will greatly benefit your portfolio.

YouTube is full of awesome tutorials that will get you started, so spend some time experimenting and learning new things on your computer.

In the meantime, check out the in-depth video above on developing a post-processing workflow in Lightroom by Elias Sarantopoulos.

Over-Investing in Gear

This is by far one of the most common beginner mistakes.

It’s natural to feel insecure about something you don’t master, but trying to compensate by purchasing too much gear or getting the most expensive items on the market will not make you a better photographer.

Making smart decisions when it comes to buying gear is the best way to invest in the long run. You don’t want to end up with items you don’t actually need or to make costly investments that will bring you no return.

It’s very easy to get carried away, and this is totally understandable. But here are some of the basic items you actually need to start working on an impressive portfolio.

Camera

A good mid-range camera is a safe long term investment.

Entry-level models often limit photographers after a couple of years, but something a little more advanced will work just fine after you develop a decent skill set.

The good part about buying a mid-level camera is that you have a lot of options, especially if you are not yet committed to one system or another.

You can even go for a secondhand camera, and this will allow you to dip your toes into professional camera land.

Some great professional cameras are now available for a lot less than they used to cost when they were new, and the image quality is still very good in most of these cameras. Just think how long it took the Nikon D700 to truly become obsolete!

A Good Shutter Release

All photographers should carry a remote shutter release, but up until recently, the more capable models were very pricey.

A company called Alpine Labs has changed this with what is perhaps the most revolutionary product in its class that we have seen in years.

Pulse is a wireless shutter release (seen above) that can be fully controlled by your iOS or Android device.

The great thing about is that it gives you complete control over up to three cameras.

That means you can change exposure settings, ISO, and aperture, but you can also review your photos on your device in real time.