Pack the Punch! Tips to
go from How? to Wow!
First Dance 101 Want to know the secret to marketing? This is it!
cover image by Andrena Photography
in Photoshop Plus: DWF Featured Member interview! Great discussions from the forum
NOTE FROM THE
FOUNDER Oh, how I wish there had been a DWF when I shot my first wedding. There sure as heck was a DWF one week AFTER I shot my first wedding! But the day she walked down that aisle, I had no help. Wow, was I ever alone.
Our members like to hang around. Jay Philbrick, DWF member since 2005
My first wedding was an $800 shoot back in the spring of 2000. I had convinced the bride and groom to let me shoot by promising two things: that I’d have their proofs online 24 hours after the wedding, and that I’d let them pay me AT the wedding.
Become a DWF member 2
I mage Courtesy of Philbrick Photography
And what a wedding it was! Held in a public-housing project, it featured an incredibly happy bride in a secondhand dress, six attendants, and a groom who was glowing, despite obvious financial problems. They were counting on a disability payment to make the wedding happen. That payment never came. Despite the financial burdens, it was a moving ceremony. There were a couple hundred guests who shuffled to the reception hall where there was soda, but no food. The chicken dinner had been canceled for lack of funds. The best man’s speech focused on the love between my bride and groom. “Shame on anyone talking trash about how much food is on the table,” he thundered. “This is about the love!”
If there had been a DWF in the days before that wedding, I would have learned that you don’t create drama by accepting payment on the wedding day. I would have learned that you don’t go insane producing a proofset within 24 hours, because it crushes a client’s anticipation. If there had been a DWF, I would have learned how to be a more effective photographer. But there was no DWF. It didn’t arrive until the following week (under the name, “Digital Wedding Forum”), and thank goodness it did. It’s where professional photographers gather in a unique and honest environment and talk shop in a serious way that you won’t find anywhere else on the Internet. When you first log in, try to avoid being overwhelmed by the wealth of information. More than 3 million posts! Active discussions about our industry, about business, about new marketing ideas, and about software. Check out the product reviews and everything that makes the DWF the first read of the morning for wedding and portrait photographers all over the English-speaking world. And if you can figure out a way to get me my $800, drop me a note? Jeff@digitalweddingforum.com
I tried like mad to capture that love. I tried harder to capture the balance due, but 12 years later I’m still waiting for the money.
1) interfering with the timeline; 2) managing the job with authority; and 3) knowing how to handle any technical situation that might be thrown at you (such as having to do all group shots—or even the ceremony—after dark).
Andrena Douglass DWF Member since 2004
Q: What inspired you to start, and how long have you been in business? How did you become a professional photographer? A: I was actually drawn to photography as a child, and got my first good camera—a Canon AE-1— when I was 12 years old. I spent the majority of my teen years in a darkroom, processing my own film and making my own prints.
own studio, and nine years later, I have never looked back. Q: People rave about your color. Can you tell us about a few of your color techniques? A: I use a wide variety of techniques to enhance color, and create color where none exists in the original capture. I generally use a combination of levels, hue/ saturation, selective color, and gradient maps with various blending modes. Keep in mind there can be more than 30 individual settings in one color layer, so it’s quite a bit of offer selective work.
I ended up doing the corporate thing for a number of years, and when the company I was working for went out of business, I decided If you to see if I could swing back to my original high-quality love: photography. I was lucky to find two work... different studios that took me on as an occasional second shooter. One studio did the bookings will come. not pay me, but did let me use the images I created. The other studio paid me, but did not let me use my images. I am a perfectionist by nature, so I knew that I needed to study up and really spend time learning about weddings before I could feel comfortable taking on the responsibility of a wedding myself. So being given a chance to second-shoot was invaluable, even when I wasn’t able to keep or use my images. After one year of working for others, I launched my
My secret is that I prep my files before I do my color work. This is the only way to ensure that your blacks don’t block up, and you don’t lose detail in your whites. My new action set (available at www.colorpop.com) includes prep actions that you use before you use any of the color or toning actions. These actions just speed up the process of what I used to do much more slowly.
Q: Can you tell us more about how you shoot intricately detailed weddings? What was the craziest shoot you’ve ever been on? A: There are three keys to managing huge jobs:
I suppose two “crazy” weddings that come to mind are a recent wedding that involved 43 hours of shooting over three days, and another wedding that involved six days of shooting. I’ve shot weddings in India, Morocco, Serbia, Turkey, Indonesia, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, and the British Virgin Islands, and most of those jobs have involved multiple days of shooting under intense time pressure. Q: What do you feel is your biggest asset that is knocking your bookings out of the park? A: I offer high quality. Period. When people see my work and the care we put into our albums, they see a difference. People with good budgets really do their homework. If you offer high-quality work, and make your brides look as beautiful as possible, and you know how to do lighting and can control any situation a wedding might throw at you, the bookings will come.
PocketWizards, along with a rolling stand bag with four light stands, sandbags, and umbrellas. My second shooter brings a bag of gear as well, so we’re wellcovered in case anything fails. Q: Is there any particular technique or piece of equipment you can’t possibly live without? A: Equipment-wise, I couldn’t live without my 70-200mm lens. Software-wise, I couldn’t live without Photoshop. And tool-wise, I couldn’t live without my ColorPop actions, which I use for a lot of my work. Q: Finally, what’s next for your studio? A: For the past four or five years, I’ve received tons of e-mails asking how I do my color, so I finally put my head down and created a comprehensive action set that features color, toning, and prep actions. Early reaction to the ColorPop Actions Volume I set (available at www.colorpop.com) has been great. We’ll be releasing other products under the ColorPop banner soon, and I’m really excited about being able to help other photographers while saving them all the painful trial and error that I spent years going through.
Q: How do you use light to enhance your color? Can you tell us how you light your subjects? A: For location or studio work, I generally use Alien Bees strobes or a multi-flash setup. Use of off-camera lighting really helps pop colors, and if you use the sun as your rim light, you can get a beautiful effect without too much effort. Q: What’s in your shoot bag? What do you typically bring on shoot days? A: I generally bring the following Canon gear: Two 5DMKII bodies, a 70-200mm 2.8 II, a 24-70mm 2.8, a 16-35mm 2.8, a 100mm 2.8 IS macro, and a 14mm 2.8. I also have a 50mm 1.4 and an 85mm 1.8, but I rarely shoot with them. My bag also includes 200 GB of compact flash cards and a video light. We also bring a lighting bag with three Alien Bees monolites and
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Bruce Hamilton Dorn
Over the years, I have standardized these based on two basic approaches that are illustrated in the accompanying graphics.
tions or, preferably, one of the piggy-backed rangeextending radio repeaters like the Pocket Wizard Flex or, my preference, the Radio Popper PX system.
These simple lighting designs work beautifully for such clearly defined area as the wedding reception dance floor. Two well-placed slaves—and perhaps a tiny amount of on-camera bounced fill—will give you beautiful lighting for anything that might occur within the area. And, when we think about it, we quickly realize that this same approach can be upscaled to work for the entire reception area.
Once the lights are in place—and I always do this before the reception begins—I simply grab a handy waiter and shoot a few test frames to establish my baseline ISO, shutter speed, aperture, and speedlite output. I usually set both my camera and speedlites to manual mode for the most predictable results.
DWF member since 2003
One can place the slave speedlites on light stands, (either “meat” or metal), but I strongly prefer to mount my slaves on a nearby wall or column with removable adhesive hooks.
Many of the most important events we need to cover at a wedding reception are staged around the dance floor. Speeches, toasts, and the all-important first dance take place within this space. This area is generally predetermined and well-defined. One can, of course, shoot everything at the reception with a “foofed” shoe-mount speedlite that never leaves the camera’s hot-shoe or crank the ISO to nosebleed elevations and go with an Available Darkness approach. My preference—and I suspect one of the main reasons my clients hire me—is to light the dance
Give this way a try! My guess is that you’ll never go back to your old approach.
I avoid light stands with the same enthusiasm that I avoid personal injury lawsuits. Guests at wedding receptions are often (A) drunk (B) old or (C) drunk and old. At any rate, well-lubricated wedding guests of any age are notorious for their ability to find some-
served to create good dimensionality and helped to separate the actors from their background. The second light was generally placed in one of two locations—either 180º or 90º from the backlight. From one direction the 90º placement serves to gently continue the backlight’s “wrap.” From another angle, the 90º placement serves as a handsome “crossing backlight”. The 180º placement offered a dramatic and
You can find my Plastic Slipper (and other nifty speedlite accessories) here.
thing to trip over. My goal is to avoid being the guy who provides it. floor as I would light a simple theatrical scene but with nothing more than a couple of radio-slaved speedlites. I had the great good fortune to spend the early part of my career as a commercial director and in this capacity I had many opportunities to work with a group of extremely talented directors of photography and cinematographers. When lighting a scene, almost all would begin by placing a bounced or direct Backlight. This light source
classic “opposite side” 3/4 front-side key-and-backlight combination from any of the four sides of the dance floor.
The wall hooks I use are manufactured by 3M and sold under the brand name Command Strips. If you choose to use these easily removable plastic hooks, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to the letterdamage to wallpaper or paint can occur to the mounting surface if you don’t. To facilitate mounting via the Command Strip hooks, I’ve developed a lightweight mounting plate that I call the Plastic Slipper. My Plastic Slippers will work with the speedlite’s proprietary foot and the speedlite’s built-in light-based communica-
If you’re interested in hearing more of my highly subjective opinions about lighting, please check out my free tutorial series at the Canon Digital Learning Center.
Click for more from Bruce H. Dorn
blast the music. Make sure the song you use is between three and four minutes long. Needs to be a popular song. Why? Popular songs are popular for a reason— people like them. If the song is good they will like the slideshow or video even more. Don’t overthink this.
Joe Switzer DWF member since 2012
Q: What inspired you to start, and how long have you been in business? A: Funny that this all started with a local wedding for $150. The first-ever video job was to record a friend’s wedding and put it to VHS. Times have changed since then... WOW! In 2012 Switzerfilm is looking forward to our ninth year in operation. The first three years were part-time. It was a side business but now we have five of us holding full-time positions. Q: Photo/video fusion still seems relatively new, and sometimes scary to a wedding photographer. Can you tell us how you balanced the two and made a harmonious business? A: The word “video” is scary to photographers. They feel like they already can’t keep up with the world of photography; adding video is scary because it’s something different and they are already overwhelmed.
Q: Can you talk to us about the “same-day edit”? It seems like a lot of work; how do you pull it off in a day and make it look so seamless?
Want to know the secret to marketing? This is it...
How did we do it? We added photography so we hired a photographer. That move created a ripple effect that increased our revenue by about 180% in two years. The moment we started doing photo/video weddings we turned down business
with any photographers. Why? To maximize weddingday photo/video quality, you need to be in control of the wedding day. No offense to other photographers but let’s face it: A random video guy and a random photographer are not going to work in harmony together. Wedding days are smoother than ever now because we are a team that is together and have worked with one another for years.
A: You want to know the secret to marketing? This is it: Think about 300-400 individuals seeing the video at the reception. They see your company, the logo, impact, and magic. You post this online and those 300-400 are passing this around to all their friends because they’ve “never seen anything like this.” You could get 1,000 hits on that video the moment you post it. The sameday edit, or “SDE,” can be a slideshow set to music, or a highlights video.
The SDE presentation is key. You need to announce it. Get the wedding party and couple seats in the middle of the dance floor. Bring your own projector and screen (at least 9 or 10 feet wide). Get all the lights turned down. Have the DJ
Q: You’re a naturallight enthusiast. Can you tell us the challenges and advantages of working with natural light? Any tips to make a lessthan-ideal situation beautiful? A: Follow the light. Find the shade. Scout your locations. Bring the bride or groom to windows. Don’t just settle for where people are. In your meeting with the bride and groom, stress the importance of their getting ready in a room with tons of natural light. On a wedding day we bring one battery-powered LED light to receptions because most reception light isn’t good enough to shoot in. Q: What do you feel is your biggest asset that is knocking your bookings out of the park? A: Two things. First is the Switzerfilm five-person fulltime team. Our gang is fun, creative, and united. Our other biggest asset is our music videos. We believe that the three-minute to four-minute music video is the reason for our success.
Q: Is there any particular technique or piece of equipment you can’t possibly live without? A: Two things: Popular music and the Glidecam HD2000. Most professional wedding videographers, 90% or more, still can’t use this tool effectively. Learn to balance it before you use it. If you need extra confidence in using the Glidecam, check out “The Art of Flying” DVD on our website. We show all our secrets for using it. The only way to use popular music is with Songfreedom.com. Our videos would be lame if we couldn’t use songs from One Republic, Jason Mraz, Train, and Colbie Caillat. Every photographer and/or videographer should be using Songfreedom.com for all of their music. Q: What’s next for your studio? A: Something big. Can’t talk about it. You will see something special soon. Let’s just say an AMAZING video with breathtaking scenery in a remote location! Stand by!
Q: Switching gears to talk about your beautiful imagery: What’s in your shoot bag? What do you typically bring on shoot days? A: Four Canon 5Ds. Lenses: 50mm, 14mm, 200mm, 135mm, 24-70mm, 100mm macro, 70200mm, and 85mm. Tools: Glidecam HD-2000, Glidetrack, Monopod, and Tripod. Yummy food: CLIF Bars and 5-hour ENERGY.
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DWF member since 2007
KEEP YOUR CLIENT
All happy brides are alike; each unhappy bride is unhappy in her own way. Why am I getting all Tolstoy on you? After about 250 weddings as a primary photographer, I’ve learned a few things along the way that surprised me, and one I wish I’d known from the start is that unhappy clients are a tremendous business opportunity.
for you to prove your skill and professionalism by saving the day. Because as nice as it is to have clients who like you, it is far more valuable to have clients who are your evangelists. You want your clients to tell their engaged friends, “Look, hire whatever florist you want, use whatever venue you want, but if you don’t hire our photographer, I will slap some sense into you.”
There are a lot of different ways to save the day. The one I encounter most commonly involves a wedding whose schedule has gotten way off track, and my job is to put it back on schedule by doing the portraits in much less than my allotted time. There’s being able to deal with unexpected weather, wardrobe issues, problems with other vendors, relatives whose sole mission seems to be to stress the couple out, and on and on. In all of these, the keys to being a day-saver are skills and attitude. There’s no substitute for experience to develop these, but you can find your way to it faster than others by working smart and working hard. Actually pressing the shutter is generally the easiest part of taking a photo. It’s not too hard to learn f-stops and shutter speeds, but learning how to deal with human nature can take lifetimes. So one of the most important skills in wedding photography is learning how to present a calming demeanor when inside you’re screaming, “Oh no! What do I do now?!?” One of the things I’ve learned from my study of long-term documentary photography is that it’s often less about what you can do with a camera than who you are behind the camera. Can you make people comfortable? Do they feel they can trust you? Should they trust you? The photo at left is a good example. It’s a fine photo, and Cathy and Glen love it, but the story of how it happened is more important. Take a couple whose families are flying in from all around the world to see their wedding, and add the expense of a Central Park Boathouse reception. You have a natural recipe for stress. It gets worse when it rains. All day long, from the limo getting stuck in the middle of Manhattan, to the ceremony, to the portraits around town, Cathy keeps a nervous eye on a rumbling sky. “ Don’t worry, ” her friends tell her. “ It will blow over. ” And it does hold off for a while. The ceremony is gorgeous, we get all sorts of fun photos around Manhattan, and now we’re headed into the reception. There’s just one little quirk—the Boathouse is located inside Central Park, where the limos and buses for all the guests can’t go. No problem, since that just means a short walk through the gorgeous park. But as all the limos and buses line up at the park’s edge the sky opens, all the pent-up rain pelting the street and soaking the guests.
I don’t mean unhappy with you—if you got drunk and fell on the wedding cake, you’re on your own. But we all know that weddings are ripe targets for Murphy’s Law. Things go wrong, stress levels rise—and this is the perfect opportunity
Have cheerful clients with a great day, and get some great images for them? Congratulations; you have clients who like you. Have clients whose day almost fell completely apart, but you swooped in to save it? Now you have evangelists.
So here is poor Cathy, trapped in the limo until the rain passes, and all she can think about is what’s going to happen to her poor grandparents in the rain, and will this spoil the mood of the reception, and why did this have to happen? No good. My primary thought right now is that I have to occupy her while the transportation company and the
venue work something out. I lean in and show my sympathy (which works because it’s real): “Hey, Cathy, I know this really stinks. They’re going to fix it; don’t worry. But for the next few minutes you’ve been served some lemons. The good news is that we can make lemonade. How would you like to use this rain to make an amazing picture?” She brightens immediately. I grab my camera, my assistant, a flash, and my PocketWizards, and quickly put everything into place. I don’t have time to find extra umbrellas or Saran wrap; I have work to do. So my assistant and I are getting soaked, and I know from experience that I have about three or four minutes before the flash starts to short out. I get my settings right where I want the couple for a backlit shot, with my SB-900 a nice and strong 1/2 power. No time for stands—my assistant ducks behind them, hidden by her dress and the darkness of the scene. Even here, I try to make things a little more difficult for myself and try new things, so in the darkness I’m shooting with a 45mm tilt-shift on my D3s, wanting to make the raindrops and the city even more surreal and focused on the couple than the backlight alone. We take four photos and we’re done. I show them to Cathy and Glen, and she lets out an excited cry. The worry is gone; the party can begin. As businesspeople, we need to think about what we can offer our clients that has real value, things that their friends or Uncle Bob can’t match. Experience—the ability to solve problems because you’ve seen them all before—seems like a no-brainer. If a wedding goes perfectly, frankly there are a lot of friends and Uncle Bobs out there who could do a perfectly good job. But if a couple knows that you can do a great job even in bad conditions, not only are you providing the value of great photos every time, but you’re taking their stress away. In Manhattan in particular, you can do pretty well if you can make your clients less stressed-out. In the space of one month alone, I had to jury-rig a lighting system for a ceremony that needed one, shoot two wedding portrait sessions in can’t-see-your-hand-in-front-of-yourface darkness, and shoot a wedding at which a long list of portraits the couple had scheduled two hours for had to be done in 15 minutes. Problems happen; anticipating them and overcoming them is all part of the fun. The night of Cathy and Glen’s wedding, I stumbled back into my apartment at 2 a.m. My phone had a text message on it, from Cathy. It read:“Ryan, thank you so much for being part of the wedding and turning ‘lemons into lemonade!’” Evangelist, made.
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DWF member since 2004
Turn the Ordinary into the
Extraordinary At his seminars and workshops, DWF member Jerry Ghionis teaches how to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. Jerry is a master of taking bland, depressing shooting locations and transforming them with incredible, opulent photography. Here Jerry shows some examples and explains his wizardry.
While walking over a bridge, I noticed the sun
coming through the grate on the right and asked my model to sit on the ground with her back against that grate. This allowed me to turn her body away from the light, which was important so that she didnâ€™t appear broader than she is. I then asked her to turn her head toward me so her face would be turned back into the light.
I cropped in very tightly to remove any distractions and any hint of our surroundings and exposed for the beautiful pattern that appeared on her face from the sun coming through the grate.
Camera: Nikon D3S Lens: 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VRII Focal length: 135mm ISO: 200 Aperture: f2.8 Shutter speed: 1250 Light source: Sunlight
We continued walking through a construction site and I saw this ordinary sign mounted on a temporary wall on the side of a building.
While walking through an area filled with corporate buildings, I noticed a small patch of tall grass nearby. I posed my couple in front of it, cropping out all of the other distracting elements of the sign, and it appears as though I asked my couple to sit at the edge of the tall grass and had my assistant hold a translucent diffuser just over their heads. this were taken at night with a full moon or strong spotlight behind them. Youâ€™d never know from the final image what This softened the light on them and by using a shallow depth of field, I was able to create a very romantic environment that certainly the background actually looked like.
doesnâ€™t seem to be in the middle of a corporate park.
Everything was done in-camera.
Camera: Nikon D3S Lens: 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VRII Focal length: 185mm ISO: 200 Aperture: f4 Shutter speed: 640 Light source: Sunlight
Camera: Nikon D3S Lens: 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VRII Focal length: 122mm ISO: 200 Aperture: f2.8 Shutter speed: 2000 Light source: Sunlight with a translucent diffuser
Further along in that corporate area, I noticed a small area with a few trees in it. I liked
Camera: Nikon D3S Lens: 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VRII Focal length: 122mm ISO: 200 Aperture: f2.8 Shutter speed: 2000 Light source: Sunlight with a translucent diffuser
the look of all of the trees, but the lighting was quite dappled and wouldnâ€™t work for a portrait. So I posed my couple at the edge of the trees and again pulled out a translucent diffuser and asked my assistant to hold it over their heads.
This created much softer, even lighting on my couple that was very flattering to them. Because the sun was coming from high above, I needed to find poses that would allow my bride to keep her chin up and let that
beautiful light hit her face.
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Camera: Nikon D3S Lens: 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VRII Focal length: 155mm ISO: 400 Aperture: f2.8 Shutter speed: 500 Light source: Sunlight with a translucent diffuser
Our members chase rainbows.
I mage Courtesy of PStudio Impressions
Marcus Bell, DWF member since 2004
Become a DWF member 18
Dave Cross DWF member since 2010 WORK SMART WITH
TEMPLATES The latest couple of versions of Photoshop offer the option to create and use Smart Objects. A Smart Object is a different kind of layer that pretty much changes the rules. One of the best ways to think of a Smart Object is as a container—a special magical container. You can manipulate the container (make it smaller, apply filters, and so forth), but the contents of the container remain unchanged. At any time you can edit (or replace) the contents of the container, and whatever effects you’ve applied to the Smart Object will update. The contents of the Smart Object are embedded into the document: That makes the file size larger but gives you many options for editing.
Tip: Hold down Option (PC: Alt) and click on the Layer
Mask to be able to view the mask itself.
Step 4: Since the layer is a Smart Object you can also apply Smart Filters, as shown here. (Smart Filters are editable: You can change the settings, mask the filter, or change the blend mode and opacity of the filter.)
Step 5: Now your “template” is complete—just save
as a PSD file to preserve the layers and the Smart Object. (Note: Photoshop doesn’t call this a template; it just acts like one).
It’s easy to apply a new photo to the template: Right-click on the Smart Object and from the pop-up menu choose Replace Contents. As long as the replacement photo is exactly the same size as the original, it will fit the template perfectly.
You can use this simple method to create all kinds of reusable templates.
Of course you can take this to any level you want. Here’s an example that creates a template you can use to display client photos on a DVD case and disc—a great way to sell a high-priced add-on to your portrait package:
Smart Objects are a great way to speed up your work through the creation of reusable “templates.” Do the work once and save a ton of time by simply replacing the contents of the Smart Object. First, let’s look at a basic example that serves as a great start to understanding the power of Smart Objects:
I grabbed a stock photo of a blank DVD and case and want to turn that into a template. In this example I’m using Raw files, but the technique works equally well with JPEGs.
Step 1: Open a document, right-click on the
Background layer, and choose Convert to Smart Object. Now the layer can be edited in many nondestructible ways.
Step 2: Make a selection and add a Layer Mask. Step 3: Use a combination of filters and/or painting to
create an interesting edge.
Step 3 20
It’s important that the first image you use to create the template is the typical size you will always be using. Also, if you’re using Camera Raw files, make sure to use the Workflow Options to set the resolution to the number you’ll use consistently.
Optional Step 2: Hold down Option and click on
Step 1: Choose the image you want to use to create the
the Add Layer Mask button.
template. Use File>Place to bring the file into the photo of the DVD case. That will create a Smart Object.
Optional Step 3: Use the Marquee tool to make a Step 2: Press Command-J (PC: Control-J) to duplicate the Smart Object. Duplicating a Smart Object means that if you edit the Smart Object, both copies will change.
thin selection and fill it with white.
Optional Step 4: Use the Masks panel to apply a Feather to the mask
Optional Step 4 Step 2 Step 3: Use Free Transform to make the photo fit the shape of the DVD case.
As in the first example, save as a PSD file to preserve the layers and the Smart Objects.
Tip: Lower the opacity slightly so you can more easily match up the photo to the corners of the DVD case.
Tip: Hold down Command/Control to manipulate each
corner of the photo independently.
Step 4: Move the second Smart Object over the disc. Step 5: Temporarily hide the Smart Object. Use the Quick Selection tool to select the disc. Show the Smart Object and add a Layer Mask.
To create a new layout for your next client, just right-click on any copy of the Smart Object and choose Replace Contents. (Once again, you can tweak the results by moving the photo inside the disc.)
Step 6: Unlink the Smart Object from the mask so
that you can reposition the Smart Object within the disc if necessary.
Optional: Add a small highlight on the disc case: Optional Step 1: Duplicate the case Smart Object
These are just a couple of the many ways you can take advantage of Smart Objects to save time. For a video tutorial that shows these techniques, visit davecrossworkshops.com.
and change the blend mode to Screen.
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Todd Reichman DWF member since 2006
Q: What inspired you to start, and how long have you been in business? How did you become a professional photographer?
We also figured that we’d better understand the numbers side of things if we were relying on those numbers to pay the bills.
A: We [Reichman and his wife, Jamie] decided to take So with respect to business, it just seemed like we up photography in 2005 and went full-time in 2006. couldn’t afford not to dig in as far as we could and Jamie decided to go full-time and we bought a figure out how to make things work. Good news is commercial building; she quit her job and I was that finances and managerial accounting aren’t as hard supposed to support us while we got established. to learn as you might think, and the business side can Instead, my tenure as a horrible employee caught up actually be as fun and creative as the photography if with me, and two weeks after Jamie you let it. quit, I got fired (on my birthday). What our So for better or worse we were both Q: I know one of your big full-time professional philosophies is not to compete on competition photographers. We always wanted price or product but to laser-focus can’t take from your brand. Can you tell us more to do something creative and something that we could do together; it us or copy is our about how to handle a flooded just happened a little more abruptly market full of less-experienced core brand. than we expected! photographers? Q: Building a solid business is your thing—you’re like a business guru! Tell us more about that. A: When we found ourselves in the position of having to make a living with a camera, it seemed to make a lot of sense to figure out how that works. What has become clear is that the impulse to want to create something and the work necessary to make that something attractive to a buying public are two different things. Some people like to think that business is luck, but in all our research and experience we’ve found that you actually can consistently influence the buying habits of your target client and that there are die-hard methods of making your business attractive to the right people.
A: Price and products are the things that someone else can always beat you on. Since we don’t have control of other people we only get to worry about what we can actually influence. What our competition can’t take from us or copy is our core brand. What they can’t take away is what we believe and our unique ability to deliver on that. Photography is like any other market: When there are few options we can afford to be broad and earn a lower-to-middle sum. As the competition increases we necessarily have to lessen our expectations with respect to market share and we have to be more specific and distinct in what we offer. Oh, yeah— that usually means you have to ask for more per job, too. It is kind of like television. When there were three to four channels you had to make an effort to appeal to
the broad market. Now there are a thousand channels and in order to stick around and get viewers, you have to specialize. You have to be perfect for a given person and you have to help someone say something about themselves by being a fan of your channel.
Q: Is there any particular technique or business practice you can’t live without?
A: A solid understanding of what branding is, how it works, and how to implement it. Many people think that branding In a way we’ve had to is all about logos and packaging So the real answer to the and things like that. In reality forget traditional question is that you have to get that’s the last 5% of branding. For client-to-client more specific, more polarizing, us, branding is really the and more personal. You have referral chains and compelling, client-focused reason to know what it means for your that a client should hire you—the focus more on vendor work to be on someone’s wall thing that they want to be or sitting on their coffee table. associated with, the thing that relationships. You have to stop thinking like a they want to be true about photographer and start thinking like a client, thinking themselves that your work can help make true. about why clients want photographs. It’s not because they want to remember but because they want to see themselves in a certain way. They want to believe that After you figure out what that is, you align everything something is true about them. If you can help them else behind it. Simple idea, difficult in execution…but actualize that belief then you’ve got a great chance of it is the engine that makes a successful business being meaningful to them and booking the job because sustainable. of it. Q: What’s next for you and your studio? Q: Can you tell us who your ideal clients are and how you like to interact with them? A: Survival! Just kidding. We moved from the Midwest to Atlanta, Georgia, last year, so we’re working on A: My ideal wedding clients tend to be a little older, establishing our company here, trying to book the more mature, and they are usually upper-level right people and refine the brand to the point that it professionals (accountants, lawyers, doctors, financial works smoothly. So far we’ve been more fortunate than guys with jobs I don’t understand, etc.). Their we deserve, though it hasn’t been a cakewalk. weddings are family events and the parents and grandparents are being honored as part of the That, and we’re taking the things that we’ve learned and festivities. As such they care more about family than trying to help other people to not make the mistakes friends, more about tradition than partying. They we made starting out. Our SEXY BUSINESS also trust coordinators and industry experts instead workshops are all about helping photographers get of friends. So in a way we’ve had to forget traditional one-on-one help to define a sustainable business plan, client-to-client referral chains and focus more on a compelling and client-focused brand, and a profitable vendor relationships. price list in three days. We’ve got a personal goal of making a certain amount of money from our Our clients want a certain type of respect and photography and a goal to help other studios make a treatment, so we’ve had to focus more on professional- certain amount of money through our workshops. ism instead of being personalities and being the life of Really, we’re constantly trying to understand what the party. Just goes to show you that there are different value we have to offer and continue to find ways to types of clients and they are all looking for something communicate it and deliver on it. specific. So whenever you hear about a given tactic working or not working, you have to really think about whether it aligns with your core brand and whether it fits with what your core client is looking for in a vendor.
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DWF member since 2006
BOUDOIR to have the client come back for viewing and show your samples then. I only meet with clients once since I shoot on location, so I bring my sample albums with me.
Besides showing what you want to sell, the easiest way to sell an upgrade is by starting with smaller packages with just 10 images and then selling per image rather than per page in the album. Most photographers are used to selling per spread, so when they start shooting
different light all help you get a wide variety. When shooting boudoir, don’t forget the little details: These are great for the album and also make for upgrades when selling per image. Take photos of the client’s lingerie, shoes, and jewelry, and details of body parts. These are also great for your portfolio when a client only wants to share images with no face.
Make it, don’t fake it:
Whatever you can get right in-camera will save you tons of time afterward. With boudoir you spend enough time retouching anyway so why not move some clutter and optimize the light instead of fixing this in Photoshop? Be sure to fix that stray hair, polish or clean off a table that is in your shoot, remove any spots from the windows…it only takes seconds. Tell your clients to be careful with tanning close to the shoot, and to watch for tan lines because they will want you to fix it afterward. This takes a lot of extra time so try to help yourself by giving the clients a heads-up. Also ask clients to wear loose clothes when coming to the shoot so that you do not have to deal with pressure marks in retouching. And have them cut those labels off the lingerie!
I know you have heard this before from many other photographers but I will say it again—show what you want to sell. I start with a simple package that includes a 5x7 book. Almost every client will choose this package without actually seeing the books in person. On the day of the shoot I take several books with me, including a 5x7 sample album, a few 8x8s, and two custom-sized albums, to show my clients. They always upgrade to the 8x8 or custom-sized albums. Everyone sells differently so if you have a studio you may choose boudoir they stay with the same format they use for their wedding albums. However, with boudoir most clients will say they only want a few images, but once they see them they will want more. Start your base package with a small album with limited images to give the opportunity for upgrades.
Shoot to sell (and to please):
The key to making your clients want more is variety. Different outfits, different angles, different poses, and
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of myself as a business person and as a photographer than I am today.
QUIARA What is your DWF username? SarahQuiara What is your full name? Sarah Quiara What is your business location? Austin, Texas What is your website URL? http://www.sarah-Q.com or http://www.sarahQblog.com What is your Facebook page URL? https://www.facebook. com/SarahQPhoto How long have you been in business? Six years --------
Q: Was there life before photography or has this been a lifelong passion for you? A: I’ve loved photography for as long as I can remember. I was always the kid in high school taking pictures of everything going on (with a film camera, not a cell-phone camera!). After high school I was a photographer for the local newspaper, which I loved but made no money doing.
always loved photography and had worked as a photographer for the newspaper, but never thought there was any way to make real money doing it. That’s when I discovered wedding photography. I knew wedding photography existed, of course, but I had no idea it existed in such a fun, creative, nontraditional way. A local wedding photographer had posted an ad on Craigslist looking for a second shooter/assistant. I visited his website and was blown away by the creativity of his photos. Then I saw how much he was charging! Most people on DWF know all the time/work/money that goes into running a business, but at the time I had no idea. All I saw was a photographer (which I’d always wanted to be) taking really creative, fun photos (which I knew I could do) making what seemed to be really good money. I decided then and there that I was going to be a wedding photographer. I realized pretty quickly that it wasn’t that easy and that to be successful I’d have to work my butt off. I charged too little and made lots of mistakes. I literally sat at my computer crying and exhausted and overwhelmed. It was tough, but I refused to give up. I read as much as I could (yay DWF!) and raised my prices and learned how to be the
I remember as a kid asking for a “real camera” for Christmas, but not knowing how to explain what a “real camera” was. I wanted an SLR, but had no idea what to call it! I’ve always loved photography and can’t imagine doing anything else. Q: How did you become a professional photographer? A: When my second child was born, I decided I needed to help out with the bills a bit and get a part-time job. I’d
best photographer I could be so I’d have less post work to do later. I still make mistakes and I still get overwhelmed sometimes, but I’ve never been more confident and proud
Q: What has been your biggest business challenge? How have you faced that challenge? A: My biggest business challenge has always been saying no! When you’re the one paying all the bills in a home with three kiddos, turning away business is tough. But when you’re trying to be a mom, a wife, a friend, and a sane person, having time off is important. It’s been hard finding the right balance of “paying bills” and “not going completely insane,” but I think I’m getting better. The one rule that I absolutely never break is the “One Weekend Day Off ” rule. If I shoot a wedding on Saturday, I take Sunday off to spend time with family/friends or to just lie around and be lazy. If I shoot a wedding Sunday, I take Saturday off. No exceptions! Q: What’s the most effective way you’ve found to market your studio? A: I don’t pay a penny for advertising. I’ve found referrals from other photographers and wedding planners to be so much more beneficial than paid advertising. Austin is a very friendly town and we have a pretty great network of photographers willing to share leads and help each other out. My other marketing secret: photo booths! I know, I know; photo booths aren’t anything new. But the way I do photo booths is a bit different than most—I do them for free! Every one of my weddings includes a complimentary reception photo booth. Why? Because we love shooting booth photos, our clients love getting booth photos, and our clients’ guests love taking booth photos! It’s a win-win-win! Plus, who needs 10,000 drunk-people-dancing photos? I’d much rather my second shooter be over at the booth getting guest photos than roaming around the dance floor with me all night. I’ve just started uploading booth photos to Facebook, too, which has brought all kinds of comments and tags and “likes” to my business page. It’s like word of mouth on speed! Yay for that! Q: How do you set yourself apart from your competition? What makes you unique and how do you communicate that to prospective clients? A: My motto is, “Photography for Happy People,” and that’s how I market myself. I love dramatic poses and lighting just as much as the next person, but my style is all about happiness. When people look at my photos I want them to see people who have never looked happier or more in love. I
want the joy and excitement of a wedding day to really show in the photos. The moment should always be the most important part of any photo— more important than the background, the bokeh, or the off-camera flash you used to capture it. Q: What are your three favorite pieces of equipment or workflow tools, and why? A: 1. Lightroom changed my life. I absolutely love how easy it is to edit these days—99.9% of the photos I’ve posted in the last two years were Lightroom edits only, with no Photoshop. I still love Photoshop, but I’m happy I don’t have to use it very often! 2. My 50mm lens ... and it’s not even the 1.2! I’m the opposite of an equipment snob. I hardly ever buy lenses and I use my 50mm 1.4 all the time—probably too much, actually! In my bag I have a Canon 5D Mark II, a 50mm 1.4, a 16-35mm 2.8, and a 70-200 2.8. I had an 85, which I loved, but I broke it and never got it fixed. Did I mention I’m not much of an equipment person?! You definitely don’t need $20,000 worth of gear to get great photos. I like that. 3. My 5D Mark II. You don’t need a ton of fancy equipment to get great photos, but it is nice to be able to shoot at ridiculously high ISOs! Q: What advice would you give to an aspiring photographer? A: My number-one piece of advice: It takes more than a love of photography to run a photography business. A lot more. For every minute you take to learn about photography, take two minutes to learn about business. For every onehour photo shoot you do, you should be reading two hours’ worth of business books. Start with the E-Myth! Q: What has the DWF done for your business? How do you use the DWF? A: It’s hard to even put into words all the knowledge that exists on the DWF. Business, marketing, posing, lighting, advertising, products, sales…there isn’t one single subject that hasn’t been talked about. Being able to learn from other people’s experiences—both good and bad—has been huge for me as a businessperson! Q: Optional, but come on, be a sport: If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why? A: Hmmmm…how about invisibility? That would be cool! Can I have an invisible camera, too? I could get some pretty great candid shots that way!
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k c i l C , em!
DWF Great THREADS Why pay for hi-res images ?
Do you offer high-resolution image files to your clients as part of your regular pricing packages? DWF members discuss whether it’s best to build printable files into their prices or to offer them as an add-on and which option provides the best returns. Turns out it’s not just that you do it, it’s how you do it.
Available magic-lighting on location
CREDITS Founder Jeff Caplan Articles
Favorite photos of 2011
How-To Articles Supervisor Mark Lutz Contributors Bruce Hamilton Dorn Ryan Brenizer Dave Cross Critsey Rowe
Most financially successful photographer
Q&A Supervisor Elizabeth Atkins Contributors Andrena Douglass Joe Switzer Todd Reichman
This thread on supplemental lighting options for location shooting, started by the inimitable Bruce Dorn (page 6), has stretched to become a virtual volume, and it’s still being added to! With 3,000+ posts and nearly 200,000 views, it’s easily the most popular thread on the DWF.
This popular thread contains DWF members’ favorite photos taken in 2011 along with what they consider to be their best image. It’s inspiration meets admiration as this thread delivers the WOW factor, post after post, page after page!
A DWF member wondered who the most financially successful photographers shooting weddings and portraits were. Spirited debate ensued as to what success really means, with no agreement on who was making the most money. The original poster found the answer to her question right in the DWF! Yep, one of our own members is the most financially successful home-based photographer in the country (according to the PPA)!
How do you price your prints for profit?
Confused about how to price your prints for more sales? Trial and error can yield results, albeit painfully. Getting answers from other experienced professional photographers? Priceless.
A story about starting over
One member took a hard look at his business, made some big changes, and shared his journey with the DWF. One of the most informative and inspiring posts on business we’ve ever had.
What makes you a great photographer?
Jerry Ghionis: Before and After Supervisor Jeff Caplan Contributor Jerry Ghionis Featured Member and Great Threads Supervisor Ingrid Spangler Contributors Sarah Quiara www.digitalweddingforum.com
Project Manager and Designer Copy Editor
Elizabeth Atkins Delicia Honen Yard
Before you start to market, you’ve got to know who you are. This thread asks DWF members to self-assess and think about how they present what makes them unique to clients.