Sunday, December 12, 2010

Do I really need a mobile friendly website?

Here are some StatCounter stats about ways that people are viewing some of my websites, based on the last 500 visits. While we tend to think we need to move quickly to the next biggest thing because it's always flashing across our TV screen and other people are freaking out about it, we're better served by analyzing the hard data of what's actually happening:

From AnneRuthmann.com - audience is generally people interested in hiring me.
Browser Statistics

From My Blog - audience is mostly people who find me via google searches, and through referring links from other websites.
Browser Statistics

From PhotoLovecat.com - audience is mostly photographers and people searching through google.
Browser Statistics

My guess is that the few iPhone and Android user hits I get, may actually be other photographers, rather than clients doing their photographer shopping on their cell phone. That doesn't mean I don't plan to pursue a non-flash version of my site in the future, but that I'm not over-eager to make major changes right now while the market is still young and mobile views are still quite low in comparison. If I see the mobile device figures jump to 10%- you bet your butt I'm switching. My guess is that by then, there may be an even newer technology which allows flash to be viewed on mobile devices, or creates an entirely new platform. Is this helpful to you? Do you ever notice what people are really using to view your website?

Anne Ruthmann is a lifestyle & wedding photographer from Boston, MA. She spent 10 years practicing marketing & management in corporate and non-profit businesses before pursuing her passion for photography as an independent small business. She loves helping others find creative and low-cost solutions to business problems. Follow her on Twitter to see her daily adventures and thoughts.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Review: Shootsac

Continuing the trend of my reviews of camera bags, I figured I needed to add my favoritest bag of them all, Shootsac. I use this sucker more than any other bag and I have to say that (bag cost only... we need not discuss my shameful cover habit) this product may have the greatest return of interest out of any product that I've purchased for photography.

Item: Shootsac

Product Website: Shootsac

Price: $179.00

What I Bought Bag For/What I Expected: I purchased this bag because from the get-go in my career I knew two things, one - that I'm klutzy as all heck so I knew there was NO way I could carry two cameras and not drop/bash/break one in the course of the day and two - that I love changing lenses and being forgetful, I'd be apt to leave one behind if I continued my method of leaving the lenses in convenient places. I loved the ads and the raves I heard online about how wonderful it was to carry lenses on you and how easy it was to use. I purchased this bag in early 2008 and have used it on practically every shoot since.

Expectation Met: YES! *wahoo*

Pros:
+ The bag very easily wraps around your body, making it less cumbersome than more traditional camera bags.
+ With the introduction of the shoulder pad (a MUST buy!) it became much more comfortable and easy to carry.
+ The lenses are secure. Two + years later and my lenses still don't wobble or fall out, even though the neoprene has stretched.
+ Cute, cute, cute covers. I try to match my weddings (color wise) and the brides always notice and comment.
+ Cover comes in handy when asking bride to sit anywhere that may mess the dress up.
+ Easy to get in and out of during a wedding.
+ Getting in/out of the bag during a wedding is silent, unlike other bags that have velcro, zippers etc.
+ There are often sales and perks through various times of the year.

Cons:
- The bag is not cheap, nor are the covers and the shipping can be steep (they often have free shipping sales though!).
- Some people have had issues with the 70-200 falling out, personally I haven't *knocks on wood* but it's been talked about enough that it is a concern. I believe though with the newer model the pockets are deeper and that helps the issue.
- It doesn't hold a SLR. I've seen it done but I could never make mine fit.
- You cannot put a lens in with the hood on facing out, can sometimes get the lens in with the hood backwards but not easy to get in/out.
- While it's becoming a bit more male angled with some mantastic covers, it's still a smidge feminine (according to my hubs anyways).
- Some do complain about the bag not sitting up when set down. This isn't a problem that bothers me but is one you should be aware of if this could be a problem for you.

Picture of me shooting in Punta Cana with the Shootsac:



What's in the bag? Nikon 70-200 VR (which is in use here), Nikon 24-70 2.8, Nikon 60 macro, Nikon 85 1.4, CF card wallet, extra camera batteries, iPhone. During the wedding I also will carry my SB-900 and battery backup (with the battery backup going into a pocket with the flash on the camera).

Corey Ann is a wedding & lifestyle photographer from North Canton, OH. She is a mix of everything - fashionista (runs Clothes for Pros, clothing suggestions for photographers), travel guru, deal hound and geek rolled into one. She's had a website online since 1997 and a blog since 1999. When not plotting world domination or her next trip, she can be found reading one of the 100+ books she reads a year. Follow her on Twitter.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Why You Need to Watermark Online Images

You would think this is common sense.

However, there are still people out there giving away their work and their rights to anyone who knows how to right click or screen capture. Some of it has stemmed from blogs who love publishing work from photographers, but insist on only publishing your images if you're willing to submit them without any logo, branding, or even copyright info on them. They promise crediting your work in the text and with a link, but that doesn't protect your work once it leaves the blog with the click of a reader who loved the photo and wants to store it elsewhere.

Please don't screw yourself over.

You deserve credit for your work! Anytime it appears online in an easy to grab format (flickr, smugmug, blogs, etc.) it really needs, at the very minimum, a reference name for the original creator somewhere on the image. If people go out of their way to crop your info out without your permission, than you have the ability to take action and charge them for the use of your work (especially if you've uploaded and linked to your image on flickr where it states the permission for use as a creative commons or copyright license.) However, if you never attach your name to a photo, than you are unintentionally giving up your online rights to claim that work. You could still take action against someone, however, it would be much more difficult for them to claim they KNOWINGLY did anything wrong if they didn't have a way to get in touch with you to credit the work properly.

- If putting your name into the "I'm feeling lucky" search on Google turns up your website on the first try, than you can totally get away with just your name on your images
- If you have a commmon name, use your website instead, for example © anneruthmann.com
- If you have a common website or business name, use your logo/branding to avoid confusion with other brands or similar website names

There are ways to include copyrights and logos without interrupting a visual aesthetic- it's really not that difficult to find a solution that works for the blogger and for the photographer. It's also GREAT marketing if people love your images so much that they are downloading them to their hard drives or using them on other websites! I'm all about making it easy to share my work, as long as I get credit for the work I've created!! After-all, it's some of the best free marketing available! So, fly free pretty photos, but make sure people have a way to find your creator no matter where you end up.

Anne Ruthmann is a lifestyle & wedding photographer from Boston, MA. She spent 10 years practicing marketing & management in corporate and non-profit businesses before pursuing her passion for photography as an independent small business. She loves helping others find creative and low-cost solutions to business problems. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook to see her daily adventures and thoughts.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Black Friday Sales for Photographers

Who doesn't love Black Friday deals??? I know that I do! When I was looking for the deals I was hoping to nab I thought I'd list some of the items that photogs may want to snag on Black Friday as well. I didn't list computers etc. because that would take up PAGES! If there's a store or a deal you're hoping to nab, let me know and I'll see if I can find it!

I will update this if any more stores release their ads with something pertinent to photogs!

Best Buy

Canon Rebel T2i Digital SLR Kit (incl 55-250 lens, 8 GB SD Card, bag) - $999.96 *Doorbuster
Nikon D3000DX Digital SLR Kit (incl 18-55 VR lens, camera bag, gadget bag, manual) - $629.95
PNY 8GB SDHC Card - $19.99 *Doorbuster
Sandisk 4GB SDHC - $7.99
Sandisk 8GB Ultra SDHC - $19.99 *Doorbuster
Seagate 2TB Free Agent Go Flex External Hard Drive - $89.99 *Doorbuster
Western Digital 1TB Internal 7200 RPM SARA Hard Drive - $59.99 *Doorbuster

Costco

Western Digital My Book Elite 1 TB External Hard Drive - $84.99

Meijer

Memorex 100 Pack CD-Rs - $9.99 *Doorbuster
Sandisk 4GB SDHC Memory Card - $6.99 *Doorbuster
Western Digital 2TB MyBook Essential External Hard Drive - $99.99 *Doorbuster

Office Depot

APC Back up UPS XS Series 1500va Battery Backup - $99.99
CD-R 100 Pack - $5.99
DVD +/- R 50 Pack - $5.99
DVD +/- R 100 Pack - $16.99
Memorex Black 50 Pack CD-R - $6.99
Sandisk 4GB SDHC Memory Card - $7.99
Sandisk 8GB SDHC Memory Card - $12.99
Seagate 1TB Internal SATA Hard Drive - $49.99
Seagate 500GB Expansion External Hard Drive - $59.99
Seagate 2TB Expansion External Hard Drive - $89.99
Seagate 750GB Expansion External Portable Hard Drive - $59.99
Seagate 1TB FreeAgent GoFlex Home Network Storage System - $129.99
Verbatim 640 GB Leather Wallet Portable Hard Drive - $89.99
Verbatim 1TB Acclaim External Hard Drive - $99.99

Office Max

Hitachi 1TB X-Series Desktop Hard Drive - $49.99
Hitachi 1TB LifeStudio Desk Plus External Hard Drive - $99.99
Hitachi 500GB X-Series Portable Hard Drive - $49.99
Magnavox 100 CD-R Pack - $9.99
Magnavox 100 DVD +/-R Pack - $14.99
Sandisk 4GB SDHC Memory Card - $7.99
Sandisk 8GB SDHC Memory Card - $14.99
Seagate 640GB Expansion Portable Hard Drive - $59.99
Seagate 1TB FreeAgent External Hard Drive - $59.99
Seagate 500GB Momentus XT Internal Hybrid Drive - $139.99

Radio Shack

Gigaware 50 Pack 52x CDs - $4.99
Gigaware 50 Pack 16x DVDs - $6.99
Iomega 500 GB Portable Hard Drive - $49.99
Sandisk 4GB SDHC Memory Card - $8.99
Sandisk 8GB SDHC Memory Card - $16.99

Sears

Canon Rebel XS Digital SLR Kit (includes 18-55 & 75-300 lenses) - $579.98
PNY 4GB SDHC Memory Card - $6.99 *Doorbuster
Sandisk 4GB SDHC Memory Card - $7.99

Staples

HP 500G Simple Save Portable Hard Drive - $49.99
PNY 8GB SDHC Memory Card - $17.99
Sandisk 4GB SDHC Memory Card - $7.99
Sandisk 4GB Ultra SDHC Memory Card - $12.99
Sandisk 8GB SDHC Memory Card - $14.99
Sandisk 8GB Ultra SDHC Memory Card - $19.99
Sandisk 8GB Ultra Compact Flash Memory Card - $24.99
Seagate 1TB Expansion External Hard Drive - $49.99
Seagate 1TB FreeAgent Go Portable Hard Drive - $89.99
Sony CD-R 50 Pack - $1.99
Sony CD-R 100 Pack - $16.99
Sony DVD +/-R 50 Pack - $16.99
Sony DVD +/-R 100 Pack - $24.99
Staples DVD +/-R 100 Pack - $9.99
Western Digital 750GB My Passport Essential Portable Hard Drive - $69.99
Western Digital 2TB My Book Essential External Hard Drive - $99.99

Target

Lexar 8GB SDHC Memory Card - $14.99
Western Digital Elements 2 TB External Hard Drive or 1 TB Portable Hard Drive - $69 *Doorbuster

Wal Mart

Canon Rebel XS Digital SLR Kit (includes 18-55 lens, 2GB SD Card, instructional DVD and bag) - $479 *Doorbuster
Seagate Free Agent 1.5TB Desktop Hard Drive - $70 *Doorbuster
Western Digital Essential 500GB Portable Hard Drive - $39 *Doorbuster



Corey Ann is a wedding & lifestyle photographer from North Canton, OH. She is a mix of everything - fashionista (runs Clothes for Pros, clothing suggestions for photographers), travel guru, deal hound and geek rolled into one. She's had a website online since 1997 and a blog since 1999. When not plotting world domination or her next trip, she can be found reading one of the 100+ books she reads a year. Follow her on Twitter.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Why You Need To Fail

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” - Robert Francis Kennedy

Think about some of the things you've learned how to do in your life: how to ride a bike, how to cook, how to tie your shoelaces. Most likely, you had to fail a few times before you really felt like you could do these things well. I'm still learning how to cook and making plenty mistakes along the way. We were really good at making mistakes and accepting them as children, but somewhere along the trajectory into adulthood, we started to become afraid of making mistakes. For some of us, that fear is so paralyzing that we might not even start to try because we are overwhelmed by the idea of failing.

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.” - Confucius

When money enters the equation, we're even more afraid of failing, because money represents our personal freedom and security. We become bound by our own set of "gold handcuffs." We imagine a certain lifestyle full of material comforts, and then become bound by that idea. We decide we can't afford to fail, which also means, we decide that we can't afford to take risks.

“The majority of men meet with failure because of their lack of persistence in creating new plans to take the place of those which fail.” - Napoleon Hill

A really good batter with a .300 average, fails 7 out of 10 times at bat. That 30% success rate might not look good on the high school report card, but for an inventor, even a 1% success rate could equal a nobel prize. Successful people become comfortable with the possibility of failure because they don't believe they're failing, they're just learning how to be more successful. If something doesn't work, they investigate how and why it didn't work, and then build on that new knowledge to get closer to successs.

“A man can fail many times, but he isn't a failure till he gives up.” - Unknown

There's no replacement for making your own mistakes. You can read for years about what you should avoid and what you should plan for, but there's always so much more to be learned from actually attempting something on your own. Different people yield different results. Rather than trying to go in with all of the answers, allow yourself to uncover the answers as you go. Go in curious and willing to be flexible when things don't work out the way you had hoped. The important part is starting. The hard part is not giving up.

“If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.” - Unknown

Anne Ruthmann is a lifestyle & wedding photographer from Boston, MA. She spent 10 years practicing marketing & management in corporate and non-profit businesses before pursuing her passion for photography as an independent small business. She loves helping others find creative and low-cost solutions to business problems. Follow her on Twitter to see her daily adventures and thoughts.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Review: Selling to the Millennial Bride Workshop

I took the Selling to the Millennial Bride workshop in Houston, Texas. It is part of the Startup Strategy series. I paid for the workshop; an early-bird discount was in effect when I registered.

Website: Startup Strategy - registration through Fisheye Connect

Presenters: Jeff Jochum, Me Ra Koh

Date: September 10th, 2010 (Another one will take place in New York on October 14th, 2010)

Location: Hotel Zaza, Houston TX

Price: $199 (Early Bird Special was $149)

Included: 4 hours with Jeff Jochum, after dinner questions with Me Ra Koh.

Bonuses: Free year subscription to Smug Mug, access to Startup Strategy Forums.

What I Expected: Tips on selling to brides between the ages of 21-30 years old.

Expectation Met? Yes, and blown away.

Who This Workshop is For: Anyone in business, at any level. Information is geared to reach all.

Summary: I have met Jeff Jochum in the past, and heard about other's experiences working with him. I went into the workshop knowing that he is a straight-shooter, tell it like it is sort of guy. Seriously, if he thinks it he will say it. I've been watching his Startup Strategy account on Twitter since it first launched, so when I discovered he was doing a workshop in Houston 5 days before it took place, I checked it out. When I saw that it cost $150 with the early bird discount, I signed up immediately and told everyone I could think of.

Jeff definitely rattled some people during the workshop. He said up front though that that was his goal. He shared a TON of information, starting with a high-level overview of tips on getting clear with your business. (He did mention that this was a topic of one of his other workshops, but it was only mentioned in passing and not a sales pitch to go to anything else.) He shared stories of his experiences with both Pictage & SmugMug. He talked about Goals and true goal planning, and how the words you use can impact your sales & your brand.

He spent a lot of time encouraging each of us to discover what was unique about ourselves. It was a very insightful discussion. He shared experiences about people that he has mentored in the past, and how their businesses grew.

After a break, we got in to the meat of the sales portion and talking about the Millennial Bride. He started with statistics - Jeff teaches theory, but it is based on facts. He shared tips on trends, groups, communities, things that are most important to the Millennial generation. He then went from the statistics to the exact things that you can do to increase your sales to them. (I would share more here, but I don't want to give it all away!)

I took over 20 pages of notes, and Jeff provided us with a copy of the slides that he used as well. His slides were well put together, and while the Houston workshop was the very first one, it went pretty smooth. I was surprised because I've learned from past workshop experiences that the first one is usually full of hiccups, but Jeff is such an experienced trainer in marketing and sales it was never a concern.

Jeff did not offer up any type of exact outline for how you should do things in a sales meeting. You do not leave with a list of "spend 20 minutes doing this, then show your albums, then a slideshow, now hand them a contract." How you do things like that is unique to everyone.

The only problem we had was at the end of the workshop for our dinner break, we probably should have stayed in the room and ordered food to be delivered. The website that Jeff used to reserve the room stated that the hotel was in the Galleria area, which is full of restaurants. It wasn't; it is in the museum district and the only option was the hotel bar & restaurant. It was expensive and slow, which cut in to our time with Me Ra Koh.

Me Ra was in town for an event with Sony the next day, so she joined us for dinner and questions afterwards. When there were 12 people at the table at the restaurant it was hard for us to hear her so the conversations split into two. By the time we left there and returned to the suite where the workshop was hosted, we were all really tired so we didn't get to talk as much. I think everyone still got all of their questions answered, but I'm sure if it had been earlier we might have had more questions come up.

Both Jeff & Me Ra were more than willing to answer questions, and I think it is an added bonus to have access to the forums afterwards. That way, if you have something you didn't get to ask in the workshop itself, you can ask it there and discuss it with others.

I expect that as future workshops work themselves out, and Jeff is possibly able to coordinate with city hosts, the problems with dinner will be avoided in the future.

Recommend? Absolutely! Jeff was an excellent instructor who is extremely passionate about the topic of helping our businesses grow, and Me Ra Koh was an open book and a wealth of information as well.

Please note: These are my personal opinions of the workshop. I was not compensated in any form for this review.

UPDATE 9/22/2010: For another perspective on this same workshop, check out Jen Armstrong's review on the SOAR Blog.

Christine Tremoulet is a Houston, Texas Hot Mama Boudoir photographer and wants you to have a Business of Awesome. She also runs Wholly Matrimony, a destination wedding blog. She is a creative geek, having blogged since 2000 at BigPinkCookie. When she isn't taking photos or knitting, she is busy devouring all the info related to Marketing & Social Media and its powers that she can find online. Follow her on Twitter.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Not Getting Inquiries?

Have you noticed that your inbox isn't as full as it used to be? Are you slim on weddings for next season? Maybe you're just starting out and not getting the inquiries you are desiring. Whatever the reason, here are 5 quick things you can do (FOR FREE) to help ensure that traffic is flowing your way!

1. Contact Form: Make sure it is working!!! SO often I read online that such and such photographer didn't realize that their form wasn't working for xx amount of days (usually a large number) until someone called about the issue. If you aren't getting inquiries that's the first place to start!

2. Traffic: Pay attention to your traffic! Are people GETTING to your site? How long are they staying? Where did they come from? Are they in your market area? Knowing and understanding your traffic is a vital part to figuring out where you need to work to get more visibility to clients. Sign up for free site analytics (Google, Stat Counter etc.) and keep an eye on how people are coming to your site. See what is working and what isn't.

3. Pricing: To each their own when it comes to how much or what you list, but I can tell you from a past bride's point of view that if you don't list some sort of number there, the client is highly likely to keep on looking rather than taking the time to call. Many clients are looking for photographers online - and often during working hours - and often want to make sure they are spending their time on vendors that are going to be in their budget. You don't have to list the entire offerings on your site but trust me when I tell you that a starting number will help the inquiries rise up!

4. Portfolio: We are all guilty of this but how up-to-date is your portfolio online? I'm not talking about blogs - your gallery on your website. Often the galleries only get revamped when changing websites or at most once a year during your slow time. How often do you look at your gallery and gasp at how much you've grown since you used those images? Get those suckers out of there and keep it fresh! Try to make sure to add and delete things as you grow at least once every couple months.

5. Engaging: Are clients going to get emotionally attached to your photos? The first images a client sees of your work should be a a positive image, something that's going to make future clients want that feeling that's being emoted in the scene. Laughing, smiling, adoration. Save the stoic and serious images for after you capture the clients heart.



Corey Ann is a wedding & lifestyle photographer from North Canton, OH. She is a mix of everything - fashionista (runs Clothes for Pros, clothing suggestions for photographers), travel guru, deal hound and geek rolled into one. She's had a website online since 1997 and a blog since 1999. When not plotting world domination or her next trip, she can be found reading one of the 100+ books she reads a year. Follow her on Twitter.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tips to Make Flying a Breeze

It's summer which means that some of us are traveling for vacations or destination weddings. Most of the time, the easiest route to go is via plane but sometimes even thinking of all of the ins and outs of flying is enough to make your head spin. Here's some tips to help you navigate the (not so) friendly skies with a bit more ease!


Before You Fly

• Make sure that the bag you are using can carry enough gear for what you are planning to shoot. Sure the over-the-shoulder bag is great, but can it carry all of your gear PLUS your backup equipment (if traveling for a paid gig).

• Think twice before you choose a backpack, walk around your house with your gear on your back before committing to a full trip with it, it gets quite heavy!

• Purchase/use a bag that is well within the carry on size limits (size AND weight) for the airline that you are traveling. If you aren't sure of the limits, check the airline website.

• If you aren't sure if certain items can be carried on, check the TSA and airline websites. Typically tripods and monopods aren't permitted on most flights as well as some batteries.

• When booking your flight, be mindful of the size of the plane. Many commuter jets will not allow ANY bags with wheels on the plane. If you cannot avoid flying a commuter jet (I often have no choice as my local airport is small) try and either book an exit seat or use a bag that will fit beneath the seat.

• If flying out of the country, be sure to know of all of the laws for working in that country and have all visas if applicable. Be prepared and carry documentation of everything. Ever read the horror story of what happened to one Canadian photographer in Mexico? Don't let that be you and know all the laws ahead of time, even if no visas are required.

• Have a list of your equipment with serial numbers and dates purchased to carry with you when flying. If your gear gets stolen or duties are questioned, it will be invaluable to have this information on hand.

• Subscribe to and read Flying with Fish. Bar none, the best flying advice for photographers on the net.


While Flying

• Carry a bag that is inconspicuous. While you may be a proud owner of your Canon, having the logo all over your gear is just making you a target for theft.

• Don't take your eyes off your bag for a minute. Don't trust that the nice person next to you will be honest and watch it while you run to the restroom.

• With all of the crazy fees for checked baggage, people are carrying on more than ever before. Even if your plane can fit your rolling bag in an overhead bin doesn't mean that there will be room by the time you board if you have a later zone or row. When you get to the gate, go to the counter if you aren't in the first group to be called and explain that you are a photographer with valuable gear and ask if you can board early to ensure that your gear is near you. It never hurts to ask and almost ALWAYS the answer is yes.

• Never ever EVER check your bag unless you don't want to have equipment when you get to your destination. Sometimes you'll have to check some of your gear that isn't permitted on carry-ons (tripods etc.) but never check your camera, lenses or memory cards.

• Never ever EVER plane side check your bag either. I don't care that it locks. I don't care that they promise they put it right on the plane and take it right off. Stuff can and will get stolen. Don't believe me? Read Rachel's story. Don't let Rachel be you.

• If forced to plane side check your bag, make sure you have a backup bag that you can place all of your gear into to carry it on. I carry this bag with me just in case on flights - it rolls up to be about the size of a chapstick and can easily carry what I need it to in a pinch.

• Don't tell authorities in other countries that you are taking pictures for a "friend's" wedding or are there for pleasure unless you really are. Have the proper visas or documentation ready when going through country and be prepared to be grilled or denied entry if they don't believe your "friend's wedding" story.


Do you have any tips to add? Any flying tales of woe you'd like to share?





Corey Ann is a wedding & lifestyle photographer from North Canton, OH. She is a mix of everything - fashionista (runs Clothes for Pros, clothing suggestions for photographers), travel guru, deal hound and geek rolled into one. She's had a website online since 1997 and a blog since 1999. When not plotting world domination or her next trip, she can be found reading one of the 100+ books she reads a year. Follow her on Twitter.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Review: Making Things Happen Workshop

I took the Making Things Happen workshop in Las Vegas under a partial scholarship.

Website: http://www.laracasey.com/mth2010/

Presenters: Lara Casey, Jeff Holt

Date: March 7th, 2010

Location: The Signature at MGM Grand, Las Vegas, NV

Price: $700 (I had a partial scholarship and did not pay this price)

Included: 6 hours with Lara and Jeff, snacks and water, MTH branded moleskin.

Bonuses: Special area at the Lasers and Airhorns party later that evening (more on this in a bit).

What I Expected: Learn how to bring my business to the next level, one-on-one review with Lara and/or Jeff to see what I should be doing to accomplish this.

Expectation Met? No.

Summary: The first thing that happened was they changed the times from 12PM - 6PM to 10AM - 4PM about a month or so before without any emails or notices going out. I was trying to come in on an early flight Sunday that would have had me landing at 10AM, great for a 12PM class... not so great when they changed the time. Luckily I happened to come across the change on the website and booked accordingly.

On the flight to Vegas Saturday afternoon, my husband asked if I had yet to get any information for the class the following day. I used the in-flight wifi (woo!) to check all of my emails and I still had nothing. I eventually checked my paypal and WPPI spam only email (HIGHLY recommend this for WPPI peeps by the way) and there was an email from earlier in the week stating that info would be sent out on Friday for where to report on Sunday but no follow up email. Keep in mind I used my main email for all correspondence and contacts with MTH - so the fact they used my rarely checked email I never use save for paypal was troubling.

We get to our room (The Signature is awesome!) and wander about Vegas for a bit, with me checking my email off and on - still nothing on ANY accounts. Finally at about midnight I get really frustrated and check to see if anyone’s heard anything on Twitter. They sent the room information via Twitter instead of emailing it.

The next day I got up bright and early (for me, hey I’m a photographer and a night owl, 10AM is my normal wake up time!) and headed up to the room for the workshop. When I got there (right on time) it was a bit chaotic. Lara wasn’t anywhere to be seen and random people were running all over. There were some people sitting in the living room area of the suite looking kind of intimidated so I assumed that’s where I was to go. If I had to guess I would say it took about a half hour for everyone to get their act together, for the random people milling about to leave and for things to start. It may have been longer. There were 4 people (I think?) that didn’t show up and some time was spent trying to find them/figure out what was going on.

At the beginning we had to go around the room and tell who we were, what we did and how we got to this point. Straightaway, there was crying. LOTS of crying. Lara mentioned that there is a lot of crying at MTH. I told my story. That part of the workshop ended with Lara’s story on how she got to where she is, inspiring others and also running Southern Weddings.

Everyone was handed a notebook with “Making Things Happen” stamped on the outside cover. Lara then began having us write random things like our biggest fears, highest dreams, ideal day, etc. and then we’d go around the room and share what we thought. It was basically an inspirational type thing workshop for this portion of the day. Lots of writing, visualizations and "downloading" onto paper what is going on in your head. This is what made up the majority of the workshop time.

I quickly found out that a lot of the people in my class were very religious when we would share things that we had written and religion became a major focus of the workshop. I wondered how an Athiest, Jewish or Muslim person would feel about this part.

While most of the day was spent on the inspirational aspect of things, there was a small portion of the day that was spent on business advice. General tips on being aware of social media and how to use it effectively, some basic time management tips and how to enhance your brand. I wished that this would have been covered in more detail.

One part of this that I did take a bit away from was learning how to break down your to-do list into manageable bits. While there are some things with my job that I’m great at, there are always the things that take more time and I put off because they are such a big task. I realized with this workshop that breaking it down into chunks is better than not doing it at all.

At the end of the day we were rushed out of the room as they all had to get ready for their party that evening, which was a topic that sent many exercises off on a tangent through the entire workshop. I was the only one there who had not purchased tickets for Airhorns & Lasers. They kept referring to it all day but wouldn’t give any specifics - including the location. You know how you feel when people have inside jokes and you’re with the 3 people that get it and you are the only one that doesn’t? It felt like that, especially since I was the only one without tickets for the evening. At the end though, Lara offered to give me a ticket for myself and my husband and got my email and said that she’d email me all of the information I needed to go.

She never did.

To lay it out honestly, I feel I have to include this mortifying tidbit because it influenced my thoughts about the entire experience - and Lara. While I’m sure that she didn’t do it on purpose it still hurt.

When I got back and had discussions with other MTH attendees, they all raved about how wonderful Lara was to them. They mentioned how they had a one-on-one session with both Lara and Jeff about their images/work etc, heard direct advice how to improve, how she keeps in contact and makes check-up calls to them to make sure they’re keeping on track. Unfortunately, none of this happened for me. I haven't received any follow up emails or follow up calls. The only thing I’ve received or heard from MTH since the workshop was a shipment with a Paloma’s Nest square with Making Things Happen on it and a Southern Weddings magazine from Lara.

Recommend? I believe they are doing another tour, although I am not certain. I would not recommend it, based on the experience that I had.

Note: I want to reiterate that this is my views on MY experience and I realize some other attendees had positive experiences with Making Things Happen.

Corey Ann is a wedding & lifestyle photographer from North Canton, OH. She is a mix of everything - fashionista (runs Clothes for Pros, clothing suggestions for photographers), travel guru, deal hound and geek rolled into one. She's had a website online since 1997 and a blog since 1999. When not plotting world domination or her next trip, she can be found reading one of the 100+ books she reads a year. Follow her on Twitter.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Review: Lowepro Pro Roller X100

I've been asked a LOT about my rolling camera bag preference lately so I thought it would be a great thing to review for PLC. Please note that this item was not given to Photo Lovecat for review.

Item: Lowepro Pro Roller x100

Product Website: Lowepro

Price: $359.99 (I paid $200 @ WPPI)

What I Bought Bag For/What I Expected: I bought this bag when I got frustrated with the umpteenth flight where my Think Tank International was forced to be plane side checked. Since I fly in/out of Ohio where we have virtually no hubs, I often fly in smaller commuter jets which means that the overhead bins are tiny and do not fit the Think Tank, no matter what. I have no choice BUT to check. Then there are also the times that I've had to plane side check because of the overhead bins being full due to excessive carry on items since the bag fees have taken over the airline industry. Often I plead my case when getting to the gate to be allowed on early (I highly suggest doing this!) but it doesn't always work or sometimes my connections are late. Then it's a hurry to stuff everything that was in the Think Tank into my purse and/or backpack and try and pad it as well. Why even bother using it when I have to take everything out anyways?? When I first got it I trusted that it would be safe plane side checking it, but after a few scary stories of people having gear stolen doing this, I've stopped doing it (and I had lens caps stolen when checking it once). I bought the X100 in hopes that it would fit on, no matter what and stop the plane side checking nightmare.

Expectation Met: YES! *happy dance*

Pros:
+ The bag fits in most overhead bins.
+ The bag fits underneath the seat!!!!!!
+ The wheeled part of the bag unzips from the case making it two bags, one a backpack and the other a standard wheeled carry on roller. So if worse comes to worse, you can bring on the backpack and check the wheels (or if you overpack!).
+ Fits two camera bodies.
+ The handle turns into a tripod.
+ The bag locks.
+ Lots of little compartments.

Cons:
- Wish it fit just a smidge more.
- Wish it could fit a laptop bigger than a 15"
- Wish you could lock it TO something like the Think Tank International.

Picture of the bag loaded up on my trip home from Punta Cana:



What's packed? (2) D700's, 24-70 2.8, 70-200 2.8, 10.5 fisheye, 50 1.4, 85 1.4, 60mm macro, SB-900, SB-800, (2) Pocket Wizards, SB-8A battery pack, (2) CF card wallets, (2) Sto-Fens, AA batteries, (5) Nikon Batteries, sync cords, Canon G11 charger, Canon G11, (3) bottles of Ron Barcelo Rum and (2) Mamajuana Rum Spice packs (HA!).

Corey Ann is a wedding & lifestyle photographer from North Canton, OH. She is a mix of everything - fashionista (runs Clothes for Pros, clothing suggestions for photographers), travel guru, deal hound and geek rolled into one. She's had a website online since 1997 and a blog since 1999. When not plotting world domination or her next trip, she can be found reading one of the 100+ books she reads a year. Follow her on Twitter.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Social Media - It Isn't Just a Fad



Want to know where your clients are at? Just look to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr. Especially Facebook. They are there - are you? Facebook gets more traffic daily then Google. YouTube is the #2 Search Engine for people in the world.

What are you doing about it? How are you creating experiences that will allow your clients to find you? To connect? To help them spread the word about how fabulous you are?

Everyone's decision is personal because you have to do what is right for you & your style. What is it that fits your brand? For me, I've been on Twitter since 2006. I've had my Twitter account and Facebook account linked for years. I give clients a web-ready sized DVD of watermarked images with permission to post them online anywhere they want. I ask them to please link to my site or at least add a note on the photos that I took them.

I sometimes create my sneak peeks on Facebook and tag them in the images so that all of their family & friends will see the photos. I prefer to leave this in their hands though because people are more likely to look at them and comment on them.

I want my images to be seen - if they are hidden away under lock and key, my next client might not ever discover me. If I set them free in web-ready format, they are passing them along and sharing them. Most importantly - they are talking about me & my work, and the experience of working with me.

It is what works for me & my brand. What works for you?

[Thanks to Liene of Think Splendid for the link to the YouTube video above!]

Christine Tremoulet is a Houston, Texas Hot Mama Boudoir photographer and wants you to have a Business of Awesome. She also runs Wholly Matrimony, a destination wedding blog. She is a creative geek, having blogged since 2000 at BigPinkCookie. When she isn't taking photos or knitting, she is busy devouring all the info related to Marketing & Social Media and its powers that she can find online. Follow her on Twitter.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Review: Mike Colon Workshop

This workshop was Mike’s last 4 day intensive, which has now transformed into the “7” workshop which is 7 hours for $700.

Website: http://www.mikecolon.net/, Maui Workshop

Presenters: Mike Colon

Dates: December 7, 2008 - December 12, 2008

Location: Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

Price: $2700 (I did not stay in the house and got $100 off with the b school)

Included: Workshop classes, 3 live shoots, portfolio critique and all meals.

Bonuses: Mike's price list, prizes for the daily winning photos of the shoots from the day before.

What I Expected: A class that would expand upon the ‘teaser’ Plus Class at WPPI.

Expectation Met? No.

Summary: I had mixed feelings about my Plus Class experience with Mike Colon in Las Vegas at WPPI. I love his work and his approach to things but the class wasn’t as smooth as I was hoping and I thought that perhaps it was due to the environment so I’d been kicking around going to a workshop of his. Hawaii has always been on my list of places to go and the dates were right so I pulled the trigger when I got a discount for being in the b school.

I found a great deal at the Hyatt so I decided to stay there instead of the house because my husband was coming along and the cost to have him at the house and not take the classes was crazy high. I LOVED the Hyatt in Maui. I highly highly recommend it. In retrospect I’m still glad that I did this because I like having my downtime away from everything. The resort was a beautiful oasis away from the classroom for me. The view of the ocean from our room also was a nice perk!

The classes were for 4 days, the first three were morning classes with a late afternoon shoot and the last day was all day classes. The classes were pretty much repeating the topics from WPPI with a bit of expanded info but not enough for me to feel like I ended up learning that much more over the Plus Class workshop with him. The thing that he mostly expanded upon was Aperture, which I do not use (I prefer Lightroom). However, I realize that is my own mistake for essentially retaking a class and I don’t fault Mike for that. What I did take away from the classroom part of the workshop is a better grasp of shooting in manual, which after this class I was able to switch to shooting in all of the time.

The shoots were one engagement shoot and two bridal shoots. During the Plus Class, Mike was pretty hands on teaching the class what he was seeing and what he was looking for when shooting. I was disappointed during the Maui class that it was essentially a free for all and while he did lead us to locations that was it and there was no on location teaching. During the shoots, Mike asked us to use our telephoto lenses so that no one was 'in the faces' so to speak of the models, ruining the shot for the others. This wasn't followed at all, particularly by one person that informed us that they do not shoot with their telephoto and proceeded to use their shorter primes for most of the shoots. While I didn't mind the occasional "do you mind if I get in close for a shot I want" person, it got aggravating when one person tended to always be in the models faces, making it hard to get any shots without them in it. In the end, I have just as many shots of that person in the frame as the models. I ended up getting frustrated with the whole shootout in general and either tended to shoot the class or scenes around me. I can't really complain too much about this though as during one of my fed up episodes I ended up seeing a Hawaiian Monk Seal on the beach and taking some pictures of it. As I'm an animal lover, seeing this endangered species in the wild made all that frustration worth it since that's what it led to. I realize that it's not Mike's fault per se that the shootouts tended to revolve around one person shooting but I wish I'd spoken up at the time and asked them to step aside. By the last shootout, I would zig when the other person zagged so that I was far away from anyone when getting my shot and it worked out for me. I wish I'd done this earlier in the workshop.

The portfolio review was kind of a let down. We basically went over my website and he said “I like that” to a few pics and that was it. I had about 5-10 minutes with Mike for this as there was a PUG party taking place and we were rushed for time. I’ll admit that I don’t take well to criticism but I would have liked a few pointers. By this point (the last day) I was so frazzled and over everything I was just wanting it all to be over and to leave it all behind me.

To be completely honest, after the second day my husband had to pretty much FORCE me to go back to the class. I honestly can’t even pinpoint why I wanted to quit, but that’s how much that I wasn’t into the experience - I was willing to essentially give up $3000 to just be done with it and go on to enjoy my time on Maui. I did finish out the workshop but it wasn’t without a struggle.

I met some great people at the workshop. I will forever smile every.single.time I think of Natalie and Ritchie Norton as they are just flat out good people. She’s mad talented to boot. I adore her. I am glad that I went just for meeting her alone. Gee I sound like a stalker!! I swear though, you’ll understand if you ever meet Natalie. There were some really wonderful people at the workshop and I'm glad to have met them, even if they were only in my life for a few days.

Am I glad I went? Yes. Without this workshop, I highly doubt that I'd have Maui marked off my bucket list of places to see. I now shoot comfortably in manual. I nail exposures now and my post-processing time is minimal. I bought a Mac after being embarrassed of being the only PC in the group. I learned how to play poker (and didn't come in last!). I saw a Hawaiian Monk Seal and Humpback Whales in the wild. I had Hawaiian Shaved Ice IN Hawaii. I had numerous experiences in Hawaii that I wouldn't give back for anything, even if the workshop wasn't quite what I expected.

*Adding this in because I've been called out about the 'now I shoot in manual comfortably' thing. I shot about 60% aperture priority (with exposure compensation)/40% manual before the workshop. I know how to work a camera and I never have shot a pro gig on program. After this workshop I went to 100% manual. Mock if you will, but there are some great photographers out there that shoot Aperture Priority and seem to make a living at it. ;)

Recommend? n/a as this workshop isn't offered anymore.

Note: Feel free to add your own comments about the workshop!!

Corey Ann is a wedding & lifestyle photographer from North Canton, OH. She is a mix of everything - fashionista, travel guru, deal hound and geek rolled into one. She's had a website online since 1997 and a blog since 1999. When not plotting world domination or her next trip, she can be found reading one of the 100+ books she reads a year. Follow her on Twitter.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Photography Website Best Practices



Hi! I'm Lara Swanson, and I'm a couple of things:
These three hats have brought me to an interesting place: I've seen a lot of wedding photographers' portfolios, and I know how to make them better. :)




The Typical Photographer Portfolio
The average wedding/portrait photographer excels at developing an online presence and actively promoting their site across the web.
  • s/he typically has a BluDomain site and a ProPhoto Theme on her blog.
  • s/he connects with her clients by posting personal (often quirky) information in her bio.
  • s/he tweets and incorporates her Twitter feed into her site.
  • s/he owns a rockstar-branded camera or lens bag.
  • s/he has some sense of how many website visitors she gets per month.
  • s/he semi-regularly reads other photography blogs, particularly those who are in her area.
  • s/he has been reviewed on a wedding website (The Knot, WeddingWire, etc.).
  • s/he is working on SEO for her online presence.
  • s/he has a set dozen images that are her absolute favorite images, and posts them across social media sites.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am nearly all of those things. :) And, having seen those things everywhere else, I've decided to combine my web design knowledge and how tired I am of looking at them into some best practices for you!


The Process
As cofounder of a wedding resource for same-sex couples, I look at a lot of wedding vendor portfolios to review them to be on our site. I've inspected three dozen of them in March alone. Interestingly, we have more photographers on our list than all of the other categories combined.

As a web developer, I've studied the user experience, information architecture, SEO, and generally how people use websites. There are a ton of interesting articles to read (like how web users scan websites, they don't read them) but I'll focus on our portfolios for now.

Your online portfolio is something that should get clients excited and inspired, and help them connect to you on a personal level. I've been taking notes of what I've seen - both good and bad - and wanted to share with the community some best practices to follow when building your site that will help you achieve these goals.


The Key
Most of these best practices fall into the same category: don't do something for the user that they didn't choose on their own. Did they ask to play that music? Did they ask to have their window resized? Did they ask for a list of every single city that you work in? If the answer is no, well, read on:
The Best Practices
  1. Organize your images by category. Your portfolio should make it clear to the potential client what kind of work you do; having multiple galleries with a spectrum of work in each will just be confusing. They want to see your aesthetic, and they want to see it based on the type of photography (weddings, portraits, commercial, etc.). If you just do weddings - just have one gallery. Think like the user will think - do they want a maternity session? A session for their dog? Wedding photography? Organize your galleries by what your web visitor is looking for.
  2. Do not resize their screen or force the portfolio to open in a new window. It may seem like a good idea to force the user's window to be as big as it can be, but this is incredibly annoying for the user. Often users really like to be in control of their window sizes, what opens in new tabs, etc. See The Key above.
  3. Do not play music automatically. Turning on music automatically will annoy the vast majority of users, since it's not something they chose, and it's often difficult for them to figure out how to turn it off quickly. If you really want to have music playing, make sure that the on/off button is visible on the page, and the user won't have to click multiple times to get there.
  4. Be succinct on your About page. Well I guess we should start with: you should HAVE an About page. On it should be some brief sentences on who you are and why you do what you love. It should also help you stand out from the crowd - why do people want to work with you? What makes you different? But this page should be no more than two paragraphs long, and definitely shouldn't scroll.

    Quirky here is fine - it's what engages you with your prospective client. But don't put things that others put in their bios - look around at your competitors to see what they said. Empty phrases like "I love what I do!" don't help; give concrete information ("I am also an EMT", "I love grasshopper pie").
  5. Make sure the Contact page is clickable from any other page. You want people to be able to get in touch with you. I also recommend that you include your email address and phone number directly on that page, and don't force users to always submit a form to get in touch. This breaks too often, and it's good to provide a backup in case one of your current clients has lost your contact information.
  6. Make sure a link to the homepage is clickable from any other page. This is one of the most basic pieces of usability - people are trained to click a logo in the top-left corner of a website to return home. Make sure it's there, or they'll exit.
  7. Your navigation should be easy to use. This is a more subjective guideline, which you can test by asking a few people to check out your site on their own and giving them goals. How difficult is it for them to get to your second gallery of images? How difficult is it for them to find information about you or your prices? Do the colors of your links blend in with the background once they've been clicked? (I've seen three this month that become unreadable!)
  8. Use gender-inclusive language. What if a groom is perusing your site, and finds language about how this is the bride's day, how you make bride's dreams come true, and you request the bride's name on the contact form? There are many grooms out there whose responsibility it is to find their wedding photographer. Similarly, same-sex couples may value the effort in inclusive language. Use "clients" or "couples" - they flow just as nicely as "my bride and groom".
  9. If you don't include your entire pricing information, mention where your pricing starts. This is an item that's up for much debate, but potential clients will value having at least an estimate of what your price range is. I've heard from a lot of couples that they won't contact a vendor who doesn't give any information just because it makes them work for it. (When thinking about usability, remember "Don't Make Me Think"!)
  10. Don't write obviously-for-SEO language. If you start getting keywordy, you start looking spammy. Plus, search engines will notice anyway (in a bad way) - they value content that is obviously written for your user to read. This means listing out every state you've photographed a person in, using the phrase "destination" everywhere, etc. I've written other articles on good SEO for photography portfolios if you're not sure where this leaves you.
Those ten best practices will yield a usable portfolio and a very positive experience for your prospective client. Be sure to also track the number of people who contact you after you implement them, as well as the visit length and depth (number of pages per visit) so you can make informed decisions about how to make your portfolio the best it can be!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

5 Essential Facebook Tips for Photographers

We received a great guest article from Nikole Bordato Photography , sharing her essential facebook tips for photographers!  Check out her quick & easy tips:


1)      Get a fan page instead of a group. Fan pages (now known simply as "Pages") are a place to share your latest news, events and promotions. Fan pages also publish new fans and content to news feeds. But the biggest benefit over a Facebook group is that fan pages are fully indexed by Google. You can never have too much search engine optimization opportunities.

2)      Secure your unique username for your fan page. Once you have your first 25 fans, you’ll be able to register your unique username which will allow you to personalize your Facebook URL. To register your username visit www.facebook.com/usernames.

3)      Insert keyword-rich text throughout your fan page. Because fan pages are fully indexed by Google, there is an opportunity to increase your search engine optimization. Make sure you have you taken advantage of all the places to enter text – write your bio, fill out the information sections and put tons of keywords in that little box under your profile picture. Also make sure that you are updating your page regularly to keep the content rich.

4)      Create a profile picture that will utilize your available space. As photographers, our profile pictures will be an important contributor to positive first impressions. To help create a profile picture that stands out utilize the entire space. The ideal size for a Facebook profile picture is 200 pixels by 600 pixels. Your Facebook avatar will be a teeny tiny subsection, so you may need to play with the picture to get a photo that works as a profile picture and your page avatar.
  
5)      Import your blogs posts. Use the Notes application to pull in your blog feed. This will help automate posting new content to your page and will be published in your fans new feed. Notes will also allow your fans to read and comment on your blog posts without actually checking your site out. This is handy because people who log on to Facebook every day, may not be checking your blog daily (the horror!).

*Please note: Facebook is CONSTANTLY changing, so please check with facebook FAQ for the latest information.

About Nikole Bordato: "I am a reformed program manager who loves to wrangle light and help people understand how photogenic they really are. If I have spare time, I spend it thinking about trips, books, more photography and Halloween"

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Review: Love Affair Workshop

Please note that this review is from the February 2008 edition of the Love Affair Workshop, which was the second week of the very first workshop. As with everything, workshops change over time, so my review is only from my previous experience.

Website: LoveAffairWorkshop.com

Presenters: Millie Holloman, Davina Fear, Lauren Clark, Kelly Moore

Dates: February 25 - March 1, 2008

Location: Bald Head Island, NC

Price: $2750 (as of 4/6/10)

Included: Transportation to & from island, shared room (private available for additional cost), breakfast, lunch, & dinner each day, workshop classes, models & directed shooting opportunities, critique sessions, and one-on-one mentoring time.

Bonuses: Availability of all marketing and promotional materials from presenters, a take-home book with images and camera settings, fuzzy robes, a journal, finale night of girlie indulgences.

What I Expected: An all inclusive retreat to help me relax while exploring different angles on my photography business.

Expectation Met? Yes.

Summary: The location was absolutely gorgeous and we had pretty much free reign of the island with our own golf carts for exploring due to the fact that it was February on an island typically reserved for summer getaways. Waking up in the morning to the sand and ocean on your porch is a pretty awesome way to wake up. All of the presenters had different things to offer, and their abilities complimented each other very well. Millie's strength was in running a business efficiently and organizing a team of people. Davina's strength was in creating a life balance between work, family, and personal time. Lauren's strength was in using in-camera settings and photoshop retouching techniques. Kelly's strength was in creative posing and lighting.

The schedule for each day was loose enough to allow plenty of socialization among attendees, yet with just enough structure so that everyone was able to participate regularly in some kind of structured activity. Of course, no one was forced to attend or participate, and with just around 40 attendees, you rarely felt someone's absence unless you'd developed a close friendship with them. There were about 6-12 people in each house, depending on the size of the house, and after a night or two, certain houses became known for staying up late and "partying" well into the night. For the most part, the houses had enough separation between the social areas and the bedrooms for this not to cause many problems.

There seemed to be some difficulties with the golf carts and some of the management on the island that was communicated a few times, which seemed to make things a little difficult on the presenters. I imagine this is why the workshop is now held in hotels which are a bit more suited for conferences and workshops of this type.

I'm pretty sure there were sponsored giveaways throughout the workshop, in addition to the workshop bonuses, however I don't recall winning anything personally, so I'm not sure I could tell you what they were.

The one-on-one was the most valuable, and since my one-on-one was with Millie Holloman, she had done her research on me and what I was about before I met with her. I had heard from other attendees that not all presenters had looked into their one-on-one person before meeting. I honestly didn't know much about Millie's strengths before I attended the workshop, but after a few days of learning more about her, it was clear that she was able to answer quite a few organizational and business management questions for me. I think that I was assigned a mentor, rather than being able to choose one. If I had ended up with someone else, it might not have been a good fit, so I'm glad I was able to get what I was looking for during my one-on-one.

Outside of the scheduled workshop activities, shooting times, and planned meals, the presenters were scarce. Perhaps they were planning for the next day or just getting some alone time for themselves to take care of business, but it would have been nice for just a few more unstructured encounters. I don't think this in any way took away from everything they offered, but rather it would have been a nice added bonus.

This is not a workshop for men, and men need to stop whining about that. Women have unique challenges in their lives and feel more comfortable expressing them when there isn't a Y chromosome in the room. While it may be discriminatory to host an all female workshop, there is also something truly unique about it that allows women to be more open to who they naturally are. There were quite a few mentions of "Faith" and "Prayer" throughout the workshop, however it wasn't overly Christian in nature and it seemed to allow room for multiple faiths and forms of meditation.

Recommend? Yes. While the price may be higher than most, the all inclusive experience was well worth it, as well as the quality of instruction and quality of other attendees at the workshop. Each workshop has a different audience and flavor, but I felt like this was a good fit for the place I was in my business at the time. Beginning photographers may find it to be a little too fast moving and not enough hands on, while more experienced photographers may find it to be a little redundant and pedantic, but you'll get that with just about any workshop that doesn't qualify its audience to be in a certain part of their business first. However, what it does succeed in, is providing a little something for everyone no matter what stage of your business you're in, and giving you a rich experience that you can act on when you return. I liked it so much, I wouldn't mind going again.

Note: Feel free to add your own comments about the workshop!!

Anne Ruthmann is a lifestyle & wedding photographer from Boston, MA. She spent 10 years practicing marketing & management in corporate and non-profit businesses before pursuing her passion for photography as an independent small business. She loves helping others find creative and low-cost solutions to business problems. Follow her on Twitter to see her daily adventures and thoughts.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Advertising In Blog Comments = Brand Damage

I tend to avoid writing negatively worded articles, but after encountering yet another poor attempt at marketing, I think it's time to address a marketing tactic that will ultimately do more damage to your brand: Advertising in Blog Comments. Whoever thought that posting advertisements in the comments of blogs clearly is not a blogger or familiar with the whole "social" aspect of social media.

Example:
"Thanks for posting such a nuice articles....you can hire lenses from our company for photo shoots..." (company name omitted)

I'm sad to say that this was an actual comment posted to our blog, and it's just one of many that has annoyed me and made me run for the "delete" button. First off, it's misspelled, which comes across online as stupidity. Secondly, a compliment followed by an advertisement basically reveals the insincerity of the compliment. Thirdly, the comment was made on a blog post that had low relevance to the brand of the company. What the company actually accomplished in their blog comment was that I now associate stupidity, insincerity, and annoyance with the company brand that was attached to the blog comment. I do feel bad that there's probably an actual person behind that comment, but I also think they need to learn that this isn't an acceptable form of marketing.

Solution:
There is a "right way" to utilize blog comments as a form of marketing, but it requires genuine interest in the content being shared by the blogger. It requires you to actually read and post a question or idea that's relevant to the article's topic. If your comment is interesting or engaging, people will naturally want to know more about the person or company posting the comment, which will result in a higher click-through rate and greater brand recognition. By genuinely engaging in relevant topics with people who care about things that affect your target market, you create a stronger brand. It takes more time and energy, but the results are much more positive and long-lasting.

Anne Ruthmann is a lifestyle & wedding photographer from Boston, MA. She spent 10 years practicing marketing & management in corporate and non-profit businesses before pursuing her passion for photography as an independent small business. She loves helping others find creative and low-cost solutions to business problems. Follow her on Twitter to see her daily adventures and thoughts.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Review: Kelly Moore Bag

We've had some meetings in the past months and one of the things we wanted to start doing here at Photo Lovecat is review things being sold that are aimed at photographers. This is going to include workshops, books, DVDs, products and more. Is there an item you want the skinny on? Let us know in the comments!

The first item I'm reviewing is the Kelly Moore Bag. I chose it basically because I had just got it when we started discussing reviewing products for PLC and I have put it through its paces in the past month so I feel that I've used it enough to give it a full review.

Kelly Moore Bag Review

I love my Shootsac. No, you don’t understand me. I REALLY love my Shootsac. I don’t even want to confess to the amount of covers I have, but let’s just say that it’s a hefty number. However, the one thing I do not love about my Shootsac is that I don’t have the ability to put my camera in it. Sometimes, you just don’t want a camera hanging from your neck. In comes the Kelly Moore Bag, which offers lens holding and camera holding in one stylish bag. I bought one after seeing someone else’s and getting Moore Envy.

Here’s my thoughts on the bag. Remember, this is just MY thoughts for MY use of the bag.

Use of the bag:

I think that it is important to know what I bought this bag FOR when reviewing the product. It helps you have an idea in mind of what I’m reviewing it on.

* Use for travel for non-professional trips. I fly in/out of a small airport and my Think Tank International always has to be checked, ALWAYS. I have a backpack but that sucker gets heavy. This would be used for those trips that are just for fun.

* Use to take to parties, holidays and family events where I know I’ll eventually have to bring my camera out but I don’t want to have it out in the open for kids to grab and use.

* Use for portrait sessions where I don’t use as many lenses as I do during a wedding shoot.

* Flash bag for weddings (right now I use a Coach tote bag and would like to have dividers).


Pros:

+ VERY stylish, offers the ability to be a camera bag & purse.

+ Love all of the color options.

+ Ability to hold camera bodies.

+ Dividers come out (they are velcro) to make more room.

+ Many pockets for small camera gear, accessories, keys etc.

+ Strap is adjustable, allowing you to strap across the body if need be.

+ Allows you to covertly carry gear without screaming I have thousands of dollars of equipment in here!

+ Love that there is a zippered pocket to keep things super secure (cf cards, keys etc).


Cons:

- Nikon 70-200 VR sits too high to allow the bag to close properly allowing the content of the bag to be seen by anyone that gives a curious look your way, kills the “covert camera bag” thing.

- The lenses do sit inside the compartments, but still move around a lot. I wish that they were able to be snuggled a bit tighter.

- Cannot move the dividers, just take them in/out.

- Needs a padded shoulder pad.

- Not sure what the super tiny pockets on the side would hold other than business cards.

- Magnetic closures don’t seem to hold well. The ones on the front seem to pop open pretty easily.


Final Thoughts:

During the test period with this bag I traveled to/from/around Las Vegas and also used it for a portrait shoot. While the bag was exactly what I wanted for the portrait shoot, the bag doesn't work for what I want and need it for during travel. The bottom line is I want a bag that looks good and also can carry my gear covertly and since the snaps don't close on top, my gear is still open to be seen. Another issue with the top not closing is that when I have to put the bag in the overhead compartment when flying, I have to worry about my gear sliding out. The simple solution would be to just not carry my 70-200 when using this bag but it's my go-to lens so that's not a solution for me. I plan on selling my bag.

If I were a Canon shooter (or didn't love my Nikon 70-200 so much) I would probably be completely sold on this bag as I really do love the design. I can't say enough how beautiful it is and how much I love the detailing on it. However, it doesn't do what I need it to do and at that price ($200+) it's really too expensive of a bag to keep for eye candy! If you are a Canon shooter, I am jealous that you can use this bag for everything I want it for!

While at WPPI I did talk with Kelly about what the future plans are for the bag. She said that she did realize that there is an issue with the Nikon 70-200 and she went off the specs on the Nikon website when designing the bag and taking the end cap off should help (it doesn’t and I think that may be for the 70-200 VRII). She is already designing a new bag with room for the Nikon 70-200 and the top will have a zipper in lieu of the snaps. She also plans on releasing a mens version. So, if you're Nikon gal like me, you may want to wait on buying but if you are a Canon shooter, feel free to buy away!

Corey Ann is a wedding & lifestyle photographer from North Canton, OH. She is a mix of everything - fashionista, travel guru, deal hound and geek rolled into one. She's had a website online since 1997 and a blog since 1999. When not plotting world domination or her next trip, she can be found reading one of the 100+ books she reads a year. Follow her on Twitter.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

WPPI 2010 Review

Thanks to all of those Lovecats that made it out to our mixer on Sunday, it was great to meet you guys!! I hope that you were able to meet other people that you will keep in touch with for many years to come! Did you take any pics? If so, email them to us - we'd love to share them!

Now that you're home, caught up on sleep and can think straight... what were your thoughts about WPPI 2010??

Favorite presentation?
Favorite thing at the trade show?
Favorite restaurants?
Favorite parties?
Who did you meet that surprised you?
Any other thoughts??

Corey Ann is a wedding & lifestyle photographer from North Canton, OH. She is a mix of everything - fashionista, travel guru, deal hound and geek rolled into one. She's had a website online since 1997 and a blog since 1999. When not plotting world domination or her next trip, she can be found reading one of the 100+ books she reads a year. Follow her on Twitter.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Survival Tips for WPPI

In past years, Anne has shared some really excellent posts about how to survive WPPI. This year, I thought I'd share some of the things I've learned too!

First, repeat this to yourself over an over again: "You can not possibly do it ALL."

Now that we've got that out of the way, here is the rest!

General:
- Bring your most comfortable walking shoes. The MGM is *huge*.
- Bring another pair of shoes in case you you need to switch them up.
- You'll be indoors most of the time, and they keep the temperature pretty even in most places, so if you're cold natured, bring a sweater or something easy to carry around to put on when you need it.
- Bring a lot of business cards to swap with people you meet.
- Notebooks, pens, ready to take notes.
- If you can't afford a full registration, there is a LOT to be learned on the tradeshow floor. Different booths have speakers presenting all the time.
- Go to the grocery store, or even hit up the Walgreens down the strip from the MGM, for snacks to keep in your room.
- MGM has more room specials in effect - keep an eye on Twitter for people posting room specials.
- Heavy iPhone user? Bring your charger with you during the day. Your phone won't hold a charge long enough with you texting your friends about meeting up with them. (Mine never does, and I have all the battery saving features turned on.)
- Wondering what to wear? Dress ranges from business-like clothes to jeans to whatever. It is a conference with your peers, so wear what makes you comfortable in that situation.
- If you're tired, go to your room and take a nap. It is ok. You'll miss something, but you'll be more receptive to learn more later.

Platforms / Business Institute / Plus Classes / Master Classes:
- Sometimes the descriptions are exactly what they are covering, and sometimes they aren't as accurate. Ask other people if they have heard people speak, they might be able to give you tips on who to check out.
- If you have a hard time deciding between two panels/platforms, sit near the door and if you don't like the one you chose, slip out and go to another one. You won't be the only person to do it.
- My first year in business and first year at WPPI, the Business Institute was the best money I spent. I learned SO much, and met several great friends there too.
- If there is a speaker you just *have* to see, be sure to get there extra early to get a seat. Lots of platforms closed last year when the room was full.

Tradeshow:
- I always bring a tote bag to carry around the tradeshow and put all my goodies into. Some booths will also have totes to pass out in case you need another one.
- I always pick one thing I want to be intentional in researching at the tradeshow. My first year it was getting hands on albums. Last year I was on a mission to find the canvas prints I love the most. This is a great chance to see products in person without having to order samples later. I ask if I can take photos with my iPhone so I remember what I liked. (Include a company sign so you remember where to get things!)
- There will be a LOT of tradeshow specials. B&H normally has a gear sale. Album companies offer specials. There is something at almost every booth. Set a budget before you walk in and stick to it!
- I try to bring a sack lunch to the tradeshow, or snack food, so I don't have to walk over to the food court area or stand in the long food lines (with limited options) in the convention center.

Parties:
- You might want to bring a few "party" outfits if you want to dress up for the evening social events.
- There will be multiple parties every night. [b] school. Pictage. Finao. Airhorns & Lasers. David Jay. The list goes on and on. Lots more will be announced as the date gets closer.
- Meet new people. Step out of the usual.


My BIGGEST tip - again:
You can not possibly do it ALL. It is impossible. There will always be a conflict. Another speaker at the same time, another class, another dinner, another party. You just have to chose which one you want to do the most. It is ok. (This is really hard for me.)

Can't wait to see you all in Vegas for WPPI 2010!

Christine Tremoulet is a Houston, Texas Hot Mama Boudoir photographer and wants you to have a Business of Awesome. She also runs Wholly Matrimony, a destination wedding blog. She is a creative geek, having blogged since 2000 at BigPinkCookie. When she isn't taking photos or knitting, she is busy devouring all the info related to Marketing & Social Media and its powers that she can find online. Follow her on Twitter.
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