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November 23, 2014
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How to survive as a professional photographer

Times have never been harder for professional photographers. They are being attacked on several fronts. The main assault is from:

  • Camera manufacturers – They are making better camera bodies, with more bells and whistles, cheaper every day. I just wish they would make the pro-lenses less expensive.
  • Digital – When an industry goes digital it get eviscerated. Look at the record, movie and TV industries. They still don’t know how to make money on the digital frontier.
  • Amateurs – Those wonderfully talented photographers that shoot for fun. They don’t care if you pay them $1 to use their photo on the cover of a national magazine and don’t have to support themselves with their photographs.
  • Clients – Who want photographs that are ready to use the instant they are made, pay less every day and want unlimited rights to an image for eternity.
  • General attitude – Both providers and consumers now have a mindset of “good enough.” Photographs don’t need to be great, just good enough. High quality professional images aren’t sought out by many buyers, because lower quality and cheaper images will work just fine, thank you.

It’s tough out there, but that’s been the story of people trying to make a living from their creativity as long as there have been creative people. Only now, the Internet lets us all hear about the trials and tribulations of professional photographers.

So what’s a pro-photographer to do? Actually, there are several things they can do to make a living and fight off the evil hordes they face every day.

The first, and most important, thing they have is their imagination. It allows them to shoot photographs in a unique way, creating a “style and look” that is different than other photographers. For example, whenever I see a photograph by Magda Wasiczek http://www.magdawasiczek.pl/ I instantly know it’s one of hers.

Imagination can be expressed by subject matter, lighting, composition, photo manipulation and more. Combine these in your own special way to make unique images that others can’t create.

Creating and marketing new revenue streams is also a great way to express your creativity. I go to Renaissance Faires, yes, in costume. For several years there was a photographer, also in costume, who would take attendees photographs as he walked around. After he took your picture he would drop a leather flap that was covering a bulge at his waist. The back of the flap had print prices on it, and the bulge was a wireless printer. For $10 you could get a 4×5 print of yourself at the faire. I’m guessing that he made $200 a day. Not a lot, but it paid for his, food and gas, and still have some spending money.

He was able to enjoy the faire for free and he promoted himself to people who may want to get more prints later or have him do their family portrait. Of course, he handed out business cards with every print.

Other revenue streams can be found in my ebook, “25 Places To Sell Your Photographs” at www.CreativeCauldron.com

Pro photographers can also do things that amateurs can’t, due to time or money. While an amateur can attend the occasional class, workshop or convention, pros can attend more of them. And pros can attend higher priced ones than amateurs, for the most part, can’t or won’t.

A pro can also gather more knowledge and experience than an amateur who’s tied to a 40+ hour a week job. Those are hours the amateur can’t spend learning about photography or hiking and traveling to hard to reach locations.

The amateur also doesn’t have the extra money to buy studio space, loads of lighting equipment or high-end gear. I really want to hear the amateur trying to explain to their spouse how they have to buy that $5,000 lens. “And honey, I will never sell enough photographs to pay for it, or any of my other equipment. I mean, isn’t this lens more important than getting your transmission replaced? Ouch! Hey, honey that hurt.”

Forget the old way of doing business, stop complaining about digital and amateurs and start forging a new trail in your photography career. The rule of survival is adapt or die.

To get ahead, and stay ahead:

  • Master your craft
  • Harness your imagination
  • Be unique
  • Constantly learn more
  • Create multiple revenue streams, both passive and active

Doing this will keep you going. And when the pendulum swings back, and clients want great photographs again, you will be perfectly positioned to take advantage of this gold mine.

Have Fun,
Jeff

November 10, 2014
by admin
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How To Take Photographs On A Windy Day

Most of my photography is done outdoors, and living in Arizona gives me some great shooting opportunities. However, northern Arizona has one drawback, wind. It’s windy here, a lot. I went out to shoot aspens changing color recently in the Flagstaff area, but when I arrived there were constant 40 MPH winds with 50 MPH gusts. The leaves were really dancing, which is not what I wanted.

I’m used to this in northern Arizona. I don’t like it, but I’m used to it. I’ve checked webcams on the afternoon before going to shoot changing colors, and everything was beautiful. But when I arrive the next morning, all the trees are bare. A strong wind had come through the night before and sent every single leaf to Neverland.

If you go out to shoot, and encounter wind, don’t despair. You have several options that will let you get great photographs.

Go home

If you’re shooting close to home, and coming back another day won’t be a problem, then do just that. Why deal with the frustration? Now if you can’t come back because of distance or some event, like leaves changing colors, that won’t be there in a few days, then you can do the following.

Use a flash

A flash can help to freeze the action giving you the sharp photos you want. You may want to do some experimentation with your shutter curtain. Set your digital camera to first curtain, and the flash will give you good illumination, but won’t do much to freeze the action.

Set your camera to second curtain, and you’ll still get blurred motion, but the flash will also freeze it. You will get a nice sharp image of a leaf, but it will also be surrounded by the color of the leaf as it was moving around.

Be careful to set your flash properly, so the photograph doesn’t look like a flash was used. For nature shots you still want that natural look.

High shutter speed

This will require some experimentation, depending on how hard the wind is blowing. Usually, a shutter speed of 1/500 of a second will do a great job of freezing the action.

Peak of action

Think like a sports photographer. Many times it’s easy to freeze action by taking your photo at the peak of action. At the height of a jump, the end of a swing and similar actions, motion stops.

That’s how I shot this agave. It was a windy day, and this 12 foot plant was swaying back and forth, covering about a foot each time. I positioned myself at the end of the arc and framed my picture, then at the peak of action I fired the shutter. In that brief moment the agave was perfectly still. This technique has worked for me many times.

PLANT1088

Macro, close to the ground or stiff things

It’s not uncommon to have little or no wind close to the ground. I often look for tiny plants that are low to the ground because they are usually not affected by the wind as much as larger plants. Getting low and shooting macro can solve your wind problem. It may not be what you came to shoot, but at least you’re shooting and getting some nice photos.

There are also some stiff plants that don’t move unless there’s a gale outside. Some cactus, dry plants and others barely move in the wind.

FCOL0810

This leafless tree wasn’t moving much

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And this 2″ plant wasn’t moving either

Plant holder / Plamp

Engineering can also come to the rescue by clamping a plant or flower in place. You can buy a Plamp or make one with a DIY project. I made one with a $2 clamp from the hardware store, a piece of stiff electrical wire and a Velcro strap I had in a kitchen drawer.

The simplest solution is to put your camera on a tripod and hold the plant in place with your hand. I do this often.

Slow shutter speed

Your last option is to embrace the movement. I shot this aspen in a 40 MPH wind and used the slowest shutter speed I could get. I put a 0.9 (3 stop) neutral density filter on the lens and shot this photograph at 0.3 seconds.

SUNSETC0290

Don’t let the wind ruin your day of shooting. Embrace it or control it and get the photographs you want.

Have Fun,
Jeff

October 16, 2014
by admin
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Decorating With Photographs – Selecting Colors To Set A Mood

If you are in charge of selecting photographs to decorate your home or business, there are several things to consider about the photographs. These include:

  • Size
  • Mounting – Frame, glass or no glass, adhered on a sheet of clear acrylic, on metal or canvas, etc.
  • Subject matter
  • Dominant colors

Selecting photographs with subjects that match the theme you want to create is important, but pay attention to the dominant colors too. Is there a big section of sky? Is that sky a mid-day blue or sunset red and orange? Do you have underwater photographs that have a blue tinge or winter scenes with lots of white?

My wife used to work in a picture framing shop. Some customers would bring their pictures in along with instructions from their interior designers as to what color mat to use. The interior designer wanted the mat to complement the room’s color scheme, ignoring what would look good on the photograph. Generally, their choice clashed with the colors in the photo, resulting in a piece of art that looked bad, and made the room look bad.

The dominant color of a photograph can be as important, or even more so, than the subject of the photograph. That’s because colors make a strong impact on our psyche. You wouldn’t paint the walls of patient rooms in a hospital bright red, but you would paint them blue or green.

If you run a high power, high energy company, red would be a good choice as the dominant color in a photograph because of its high energy, whereas an environmental company would use green or blue to mimic nature and to have a calming effect.

The same color means different things in different countries too. While red means warmth or anger in the United States, it means good luck in Africa and Europe and strength in Japan. To have a better understanding of the meaning of colors around the world, go to Information Is Beautiful http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/visualizations/colours-in-cultures/ and check out their infographic.

A person’s personal experience can also change the way they feel about a color. While a room with a lot of green will make most people feel calm and relaxed, some people may feel anxious or ill.

Here’s a breakdown of the meaning of popular colors in the United States.

Black is a power color that also represents evil, mystery, elegance and formality (black tie event). I’ve heard that we get about 90% of our knowledge about the world around us through our vision. Black represents the night, where we can’t see, which brings out fear in many people. Black also makes colors pop because of the contrast. That’s why many photographers use a black mat around their prints.

Blue is most often seen in the sky and ocean. It creates the feeling of trust, loyalty (true blue), intelligence, spirituality and truth. Blue creates a calming effect and can slow down a person’s metabolism.

A color’s shade can affect how it’s perceived. Light blue is often associated with health and tranquility while dark blue represents knowledge, power and seriousness.

 

GDEL0283

Image GDEL0283

 

Gold has reflected the feeling of wealth for thousands of years. It represents prestige and wisdom. Most people also associate it with high quality.

Green is the color of plants and nature. When people see it, they feel growth, fertility, health and harmony. It represents safety as much as red represents danger. People think of money when they see this color, but it can also represent security and growth.

Dark-green is associated with jealousy and greed, while a yellow-green makes people think of sickness and cowardice. When you’re sick, do you look a little “green around the gills?”

Orange shares the qualities of red and yellow. People feel joy, enthusiasm, creativity, success and vitality. Overall, it stimulates the body and mind. Orange is also the color of some foods and fall, so it works well to represent healthy food and helps to stimulate appetite.

Purple is seen as a royal color, and has been worn by royals for a very long time. It also represents wealth, luxury, power, wisdom, dignity, creativity and magic. While light purple can feel romantic, dark purple can be gloomy.

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Image Plant0460

 

Red has two distinct and opposite meanings. It not only refers to war, anger, danger and strength, but also to love, passion and desire. It increases a person’s metabolism and can also raise blood pressure.

While snorkeling in Hawaii, I got too close to a rather large octopus. He stood up on the tips of his tentacles and turned bright red, and I swam away. I didn’t feel like tangling with the guy 40 feet underwater while holding my breath.

Pink and light red symbolize love, romance, joy and sexuality, where dark red is more indicative of rage, courage and leadership. It’s a good color to use to promote sports and sports related items and other activities that are highly physical.

White is the color of purity (pure as the driven snow), sterility, virginity, goodness and innocence. It represents safety and cleanliness and people feel positive about it. People in a hospital may like it because it represents sterility, or hate it because it reminds them of hospitals.

SWNTR1116

Image SWNTR1116

 

Yellow is a sunny color, and represents energy, hope and happiness and stimulates the body and mind. Like other energetic colors, you don’t want to use too much of it in a room as it can make people a little jittery.

A dull yellow gives a feeling of caution, sickness and jealously while a light yellow represents joy and intelligence.

Plant1555

Image Plant1555

 

Keep this color information in mind when selecting photographs for décor, especially if you want to set a specific mood in a room.

Have Fun,
Jeff

October 5, 2014
by admin
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Fall Colors Across The Country

Fall colors have arrived in many places, and are spreading across the country. Reds, yellows, oranges and other colors are popping up everywhere, so grab your camera and take some great photographs of Mother Nature’s big show.

To help you get the most out of your shooting, I’ve updated my annual list of links about Fall colors and where to find them. Since I live in Arizona, I’ve put together a special section for my state.

As you go to these sites, you will often find many links to other sites. You could easily spend an entire day following link after link, or just go to the main pages I have listed here.

I hope you get some fantastic photographs this year. Feel free to leave a comment with a link to your images of changing colors. I’m sure everyone would love to see them.

Have Fun,
Jeff

Changing colors

Image # FCOLO975

Arizona

Finding Fall Color in Arizona – An About.com site with lots of links to information about changing colors in Arizona.

Fall Colors on the Coconino – This Coconino National Forest site explains why leaves change colors, what trees produce what colors, and hikes to see this wonder of nature.

Fall Colors – Current Forest Information – You can find up-to-date changing color information here.

Fall Colors in Payson – Here you’ll find information on hikes in this area with Fall colors.

 

The Rest Of The Country

Current Fall Foliage – The Weather Channel has a map of the U.S. showing where the leaves are changing colors by region.

The Weather Channel Fall Foliage Maps – Similar to above, but there’s an extensive list of states, and areas in those states, where you can get more detailed maps.

Fall Color Report – Wisconsin – Detailed information on color changes, and when the colors will peak.

The Foliage Network – Lots of information on Fall Foliage for the Midwest and East.

Fall Color Report – Minnesota – Detailed information on where the leaves are changing color in Minnesota.

Fall Colors – The Great Smokey Mountains – A National Park Service site with detailed information about leaves changing color in the Great Smokey Mountains, as well as hikes and drives to take.

National Fall Color Website – See a national map showing color changes and select a state or forest to see events in the area.

State by State Guide to Fall Foliage – An About.com site with information on changing colors in many states.

There’s a National Fall Color Hotline too, 1-800-354-4595. Call this number and choose the area of the country you’re interested in and get information on leaf color, scenic drives, peak times for the colors and other fall activities.

September 17, 2014
by admin
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How To Sell Your Own Stock Photographs

Stock photography used to be a great source of income for many photographers, and some made all of their money from stock. But things have changed over the past few years.

The stock photography industry had gone through major changes due to five main factors:

  1. Photography went from film to digital.
  2. Microstock sites came into being.
  3. Royalty free images were offered.
  4. Getty Images’ embed feature lets people use images on blogs and social media for free. Some claim this was meant to put the small stock agencies out of business as their main income is from sales to blogs and social media sites.
  5. Everyone, and their cousin, putting photographs online.

These changes have reduced the income from stock sales for most photographers. I know of some photographers whose stock sales used to be 80%-90% of their income, but now make up only 10%-20% of their income. They’ve had to totally redesign their photography business model to generate income from other sources.

I never focused on stock sales, but I did get occasional sales over the years. But for the past ten years I haven’t had even one enquiry about stock usage.

It’s tough out there, but stock sales can still be a viable revenue stream, and you have three options to do this:

  1. Sell through a stock agency. Prices here are usually set by the agency and you don’t have a lot of say.
  2. Sell through sites like 500px.com, where you set the price.
  3. Sell images on your own website, where you also set the price.

I’m going to explore the last option here. The first two are topics for future blog posts.

Unless you have some unique kind of photographs, which are in demand, like American Eagles, icebergs, erupting volcanos or movie stars, you will most likely sell few if any stock images. The competition is just too steep, and too many people are giving their images away. If all you have is generic images, like landscapes, travel images from Hawaii, etc. you may be out of luck.

When selling from your own website you will need some things.

  • A form on your website where clients can tell you what images they want and how they will be used. You can see mine here http://www.jeffcolburn.com/StockOrderForm.html
  • A contract between you and the client stating all the details about how the photograph will be used. I email the contract to them as a PDF (already signed and dated by me) and have them sign it and email it back. After I get the contract and payment to my PayPal account, I send off the image.
  • A spreadsheet or database to track sales and clients. You want to stay in touch with the companies who buy from you.

Stock pricing is pretty complex. It depends on the image:

  1. Size
  2. Placement
  3. Circulation
  4. Number of uses
  5. And much more

To decide on an industry standard price, you have three choices:

  1. If you’re a member of an organization like ASMP, you can use their price calculator https://asmp.org/links/32#.VBI1JmPqXe4
  2. You can purchase price calculating software and services like the Stock Photo Price Calculator http://stockphotopricecalculator.com/ and fotoQuote pro http://www.cradocfotosoftware.com/fotoQuote-Pro/index.html
  3. You can use free online price calculators like:
    1. http://www.humanistic-photography.com/pricing/pricing.htm
    2. http://photographersindex.com/stockprice.htm
    3. http://www.pacificstock.com/pricecalc.asp

On your site you can have set prices, but you need to be able to negotiate too. You may want $1,000 for a cover image, but if they want to buy additional images for inside the magazine, they may want a discount.

If a nonprofit wants free images in exchange for offering you great exposure to people who will hire you, which almost never happens, ask them this:

  • Do you have a salary?
  • Does the CEO have a salary?
  • Is the organization’s rent and utilities current?
  • Then why can’t you afford to pay me?

I do provide a 10% discount to nonprofits, but you need to decide what you want to do.

Since your sales will likely be small, don’t invest much money in a website and shopping cart until you see a consistent volume of sales coming through. When sales start to grow, you can invest in a site that has a built-in shopping cart and fulfillment, like http://www.Photoshelter.com. Or you can buy your own shopping cart from places like http://RedCart.com.

I wish you the best of luck.

Have Fun,
Jeff

August 28, 2014
by admin
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Do you need photographs for your business? Then you need to know this

Your company needs a photograph of your town for a brochure you’re going to use to promote your business. You contact a photographer who supplies you with the perfect photo. When you get the brochure printed up, the photograph looks so good you decide to put it on your website.

A week later you receive a bill from the photographer for several hundred, or thousand, dollars for the right to use it on the website. But wait, you paid the photographer to use the photo; you should be able to use it any way you want, right? Wrong. It all depends on what rights you purchased. It can be an expensive lesson for you and your business.

The first thing you need to realize is that when you pay a photographer to use one of their photographs, you are leasing it, not buying it. And you don’t own the copyright, they do. You can only use the photograph according to the contract you signed. It’s the same as if you rented a moving van for the weekend. If you decide you really like it, you can’t keep using it for the next five years, or even one more day, unless you pay for that additional usage.

When leasing a photograph, or hiring a photographer, you need a contract. In that contract it’s essential that you spell out exactly what rights you need and how the photograph(s) will be used. This prevents confusion on both sides, and keeps you from getting a surprise bill, or lawsuit.

Don’t only think about how you want to use the photograph today, but how you will want to use it in a month, or a year.

You want to have a very clear picture in your head of what you need, what you need it for and for how long. Know that the more you want, the more it costs, so don’t ask for rights that you aren’t going to use. You can always lease the photograph at a later date for any new project you may have.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Where will it be used? In a brochure, flier, magazine article (local, national, international), advertisement, billboard, newspaper, website, trade show, etc.
  • How long will you need it? Is this something you want for a one-time ad in a local newspaper, or will it be on your website for years?
  • How large will it be? Do you need a 1″ x 1″ image, or something big enough for a billboard?
  • How many people will see it? A photograph used in a small community newspaper will cost less than that same image in a major national newspaper.
  • How exclusive do you want the photo to be? You can get exclusive use, so no one else can use it while you are. Or you can get it exclusively for your industry. If you lease a photograph to promote your bakery for a month, no other bakery can use it for that month, but a butcher shop could use it because they are in a different industry.

This will give you a good head start on what you need in a contract. Right and usage can get pretty detailed, but if you know what you want you’ll be miles ahead of most businesses.

Have Fun,
Jeff

August 9, 2014
by admin
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August Computer Wallpaper Is Ready

I just put up the computer wallpaper for August. After several days of rain, mushrooms popped up everywhere at the Lamar Haines Wildlife Area near Flagstaff. These tiny mushrooms were growing out of a fallen log.

Head on over and get your copy of this month’s wallpaper at www.jeffcolburn.com/wallpaper.html

Have Fun,
Jeff

Wallpaper-2014-08